While American cities have increased the number of bike lanes, aiding commuters and causal riders, city planners and bicycle advocacy groups note there is much to be done. For many riders – especially those with children – a need remains for greater separation between traffic and bike lanes.
Now progress is being made. Transportation officials from around the country, along with Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, headlined the launch of a new initiative to bring protected bikeways to six American cities at a national kickoff event last month.
The Green Lane Project was created by national bicycling nonprofit Bikes Belong Foundation and the group is working with Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Washington, D.C. to support development of the program.
“We are seeing an explosion of interest in making bicycling stress-free on busy city streets,” said Martha Roskowski, Green Lane Project director for Bikes Belong. “The selected cities have ambitious goals and a vision for bicycling supported by their elected officials and communities. They are poised to get projects on the ground quickly and will serve as excellent examples for other interested cities.”
The separated facilities that the Green Lane Project is seen as essential for the non-hardcore cyclists and could help get mainstream America on two wheels.
“We refer to this group as the ‘interested but concerned’ and the group consists of the sixty percent of Americans who like the idea of bicycling and would like to bicycle more, but are concerned for their safety,” Bruno Maier, vice president of Bikes Belong, told BikeRadar. “They feel uncomfortable riding with traffic, and no matter how much we market bicycling as a good choice, if those individuals have a bad experience then they won't chose bicycling again. Green Lanes help improve the bike riding experience by making bicycling stress-free for the majority of Americans.”
And this is just the beginning of the project, and eventually could even more out of major cities.
“Our mission is to put more people on bikes, including the suburbs,” said Maier. “However, given the percentage of people that live in urban environments, the levels of congestion, and staff and budget limitations we're focusing on cities to make sure that our programs influence the greatest number of Americans. We did chose cities with different population levels and geography to show that bicycling can be part of a healthy solution in all communities.”
Bikes Belong have also issued grants for suburban projects in the past and Maier noted that the group will continue to consider good projects in the future.
“I also anticipate that the Green Lane Project will live on beyond its two year schedule,” added Maier. “And picking a suburb as part of our program expansion could be considered as long as that community had the public interest and political will to support bicycling and active transportation.”