Should Cities Have "Bicycle Highways"?

hardwicke bike highways image

Velo-City: Cycle Tracks Will Abound in Utopia: Toronto architect Chris Hardwicke's proposal for a separated elevated bike highway system for Toronto, map here

Over on Slate, Tom Vanderbilt of Traffic fame asks the question Should cities build specialized roadways for cyclists? It is a discussion of the merits of separated bicycle lanes, (discussed recently in Are Dedicated Cycling Lanes Better For Cyclists? Or Should We Share The Road?)

Vanderbilt thinks that fear keeps people off bikes, and that separate bike lanes make people feel safer. He quotes a planner and researcher:


Velo-City in New York
"I do believe the separate facility is the best," says Jacob Larson, a researcher at McGill University who recently completed a study of Montreal's bicycle infrastructure. "Not only in terms of actual safety performance but in terms of encouraging people who are less likely to ride their bikes. These people shouldn't have to be some kind of breakneck radicals that are really diehards--it should be a clear and safe option, and I think separate facilities give the perception that it is, and often do provide a truly safer alternative."

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Modern Mechanix, 1928

Vanderbilt notes that in the Netherlands, every new road comes with a new bike lane, 8 feet wide and 5 feet away from the road, complete with its own traffic signals. He also notes that they have been at it for decades. (In fact, over a century) In America, cities like Portland are building bike boulevards, designed to provide easy biking but that limit non-local motorized traffic.

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Me, riding in Chris Hardwicke's Velo-City

To the sceptics who think that Americans will never get out of their cars and that Europe is somehow different, he says:

One sometimes hears, in critiques of bringing bicycling in a bigger way to American cities, something along the lines of "that might work in Europe, but it will never work here." But the preponderance of cycling didn't just happen in Amsterdam or anywhere else--it was the result of a politically nonexpedient, concerted effort. Now, that refrain has often shifted to something like, "Well, that might work in Portland, but it wouldn't work in a city like (insert your city here)." Who knows where it won't work next?

The key is to do it right, not just a strip of paint in the door zone, but lanes that are wide enough to pass, separated from cars by either distance or actual physical separation, and real enforcement to keep cars out of the bike lanes.

More in Slate
More on bike lanes and bike superhighways:
Are Dedicated Cycling Lanes Better For Cyclists? Or Should We Share The Road?
Velo-City: Cycle Tracks Will Abound in Utopia
Velo-City in New York
You Shall Have Bike Lanes Wherever You Go
Are Blue Bikelanes Better than Black?
Wire Bike Lanes in The Sky Are Faster, May Be Safer, Certainly More Badass
Batman in the Bike Lanes: Guerilla Bike Activists Fight Back
Cycle Superhighways, or BlueWashed Bike Paths? (VIDEO)

Should Cities Have "Bicycle Highways"?
Over on Slate, Tom Vanderbilt of Traffic fame asks the question Should cities build

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