7 urban innovations promote bicycle use

The path to a bike-friendly America is long indeed. Of the 4 million miles of paved roads, less than 200 miles include protected bike lanes. That’s 0.005 percent.

Despite that slow start, the League of American Bicyclists reports that bicycle commuting is more popular than ever in 43 of the 70 largest U.S. cities. This is surprising, amid stable gas prices and expanding commute distances. In several cities that popularity can be attributed to recent and current projects.
Urban bicycling is being promoted in several innovative ways.

Rail-to-trail conversion

In Atlanta, 22 miles of railway right-of-way is being redeveloped as a pedestrian and biking loop. The project, known as the Beltline, has boosted real estate values while providing a convenient way to cross the city. Civic leaders have allocated a further $1 billion toward a 25-year “Walk. Bike. Thrive!” campaign which will promote foot and pedal-powered transportation.

Another rail-to-trail project, the Dequindre Cut, will form the backbone of Detroit’s intra-city pathways. When the route joins the Inner Circle Greenway, the city will have a 20-mile network of bike paths and foot paths.

Cycling lanes

Bike riders in Chicago’s downtown business district, the Loop, will enjoy greater safety when protected cycling lanes are completed there. The work is a component of Loop renovations intended to relieve rush-hour traffic congestion. Chicago will be the first major city in America to have safe, dedicated bicycle lanes in its most popular downtown business district.

Electric bike

To tame Baltimore’s hills, electric pedal assistance with power 200 bicycles in its larger bike share program. The pedelec system will be the largest of its kind in either North or South America. A lightning bolt icon on the back fender will easily identify bicycles which will make steep climbs easier while increasing the practical distance riders can cover.

More bike-sharing innovations

In its first two years, Philadelphia’s Indego bike-share system has grown substantially. Both the number of rides and the number of bicycle docks have increased. The system’s dock mechanisms now accept cash, removing the prerequisite for credit card ownership. As the number of bicyle commuters grows beyond the current 2%, the city has funded 16 additional stations and 27 more miles of protected bike lanes.

Bike-friendly bridges

Tilikum Crossing, a Portland, Oregon bridge currently serves bicyclists and pedestrians only. Future public-transit will navigate one of the lanes. The 1,720-foot-long cable-stayed bridge crosses the Willamette River, providing a cross-town shortcut away from motor vehicle traffic.

An Austin, Texas bike bridge spans 1,100 feet across Barton Creek. In passing a recent bond measure, Austin voters further proved their support for bicycling. The measure designated $20 million for bike lane development.

Protected bike trails

The People For Bikes Foundation cited the protected lanes on Seattle’s Westlake Avenue as the best bike lanes of 2016. The 4% of Seattle commuters who travel via bicycle now have this convenient connection between the North Side and downtown.

Progressive laws

Beginning in the 1990’s, the City of Minneapolis designated and funded a 51-mile ring of freeways. The result, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, circles the city. Other progressive laws require bike storage to be provided in office buildings. In 2010, the city again supported bike share with its Nice Ride system. A full 5% of Minneapolis commuters defy harsh winters and commute by bicycle.

In the warmer climate of Florida’s Broward County, Complete Streets guidelines provide options for roadways that are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Alexa Stone
LEED AP, Sustainable Facility Professional, Envision Sustainability Professional - - Alexa has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable and Smart Cities development. Her strategic planning work has served local, state, and federal government, higher education, and private industry. Alexa founded ecoPreserve in 2009 as a team of 3 and has grown the company to over a dozen of the brightest sustainability and project management professionals in the industry.
Alexa Stone


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