To boost transit options, U.S. cities are revving up plans for something that’s long been popular in Europe — bike lanes protected from traffic.
Separated by curbs, planters, posts or parked cars, these “green lanes” are taking off in — among other cities — Austin, Chicago, Memphis, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C.
“We are seeing an explosion of interest in making bicycling stress-free on busy city streets,” says Martha Roskowski of Bikes Belong Foundation, a nonprofit touting the paths via its Green Lane Project. She says U.S. cities have had standard bike lanes for decades, but many riders don’t see them as safe enough.
Burlington is among communities that have been adding bike lanes, part of a push to promote more two-wheeled transportation in a city where traffic congestion is common.
“We’re promoting a more active lifestyle,” says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, adding many green lanes are receiving federal funds. In Chicago on Thursday, he joined officials from several cities to spotlight efforts:
» Texas’ Austin, which installed or upgraded 20 to 30 miles of bike lanes in each of the past four years, plans 50 miles this year.
» Memphis, dubbed one of the worst cities for riding by Bicycling magazine in 2008, finished 25 miles of on-street bike trails last year and plans 30 more miles -- some of them green lanes -- this year.
» Portland, Ore., has built 5 miles of protected bikeways since 2009 and is now working on 4 more miles.
» Chicago, which installed its first protected bike lane last spring on Kinzie Street, has budgeted $40 million to build 100 miles of green lanes by May 2015.