Although National Bike Month has come to a close, there's good news for bicyclists and motorists in six cities today: the Green Lane Project from Bikes Belong is underway. And last week in Chicago, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez was on hand for the official launch.
What exactly are green lanes? They are next-generation bike lanes carefully separated from vehicle lanes by a buffer of curbs, thin posts, attractive planters, or even parked cars.
Bikes Belong has selected six cities as pilots for the Green Lane Project. By working together and sharing resources and best practices, these cities hope to develop world-class bike networks on busy city streets. Bikes Belong will provide them with strategic and technical assistance and will work to share the lessons learned with other communities interested in supporting bicycling as a means of transportation.
DOT and the Federal Highway Administration like traffic-separated lanes because they increase safety. And bicycle infrastructure is much less expensive to build and maintain than either transit or roadways, so communities get a bigger bang for their buck.
The FHWA has been working to revamp some of its guidelines to make these projects easier to develop. As Administrator Mendez said, "The work of cities like Chicago and the other Green Lane Project communities will help us improve our future design recommendations."
Bicyclists also like green lanes because they do protect riders from motor vehicles and make them feel safe. For novices, they are more inviting than regular bike lanes. That means that adding green lanes can increase the number of people using pedal power to get where they're going. In fact, in Washington, DC, since traffic-separated lanes were installed down Pennsylvania Avenue and up 15th Street, bicycling on those roads has tripled.
But, perhaps the most interesting thing about green lanes is that they also help motorists.
And, the more people who choose to ride instead of drive, the less congestion motorists experience as they make their way through town. Green lanes even benefit pedestrians and children; by inviting more bicyclists, we reduce the burden of tailpipe emissions on the air we breathe.
We know from the FHWA's Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program that investments like green lanes work. Interested communities can make significant change at low costs in just a few years.
We also learned that this is something that residents and community leaders want. A new study shows that 83 percent of Americans support current or increased spending on biking and walking.
So we're excited about Bikes Belong's innovative push, and we wish the six pilot cities the best as the Green Lane Project proceeds.