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With the increased interest in eco-friendly transportation, many cities work hard to become bike-friendly. Successful cities draw even more bicyclists onto the roads, according to the League of American Bicyclists. They note that communities that support bike-friendly policies saw an 80 percent increase in riders versus the national average increase of 47 percent. Yet, some communities face a number of challenges in becoming a bike-friendly city that has a positive impact on the environment.
Community Acceptance, Education and Enforcement
Any effort to become a bicycle-friendly city requires residents to accept and adopt measures to keep all people on the roadways safe. Many education and public relations campaigns are used to describe the benefits of biking as well as the need for automobiles to share the roadways. There is also an element of sacrifice that has to be addressed since the roads will no longer be primarily for cars.
Nevertheless, in spite of all the education and policies a city puts in place, the enforcement of the rules is necessary to maintain a high level of safety. This can come in the form of fines for not obeying the laws, or even physical changes to keep motorists and bicyclists safe.
Aggressive city planning to support bicycling makes the roads safer for all. These changes cost the city and may result in changing existing throughways as well as building new routes. These physical changes can include a number of designs.
Bicycle paths – A designating part of the roadway for bicycle use creates a virtual separation between bikes and cars. This is a first step for creating shared roadways, but does little for safety.
Contrasting Lane Colors – Bike lanes can be painted in highly contrasting colors, so there is no mistaking the path for bikes for the path for cars. This increases the visibility of lanes, but still doesn’t prevent drivers/riders from crossing into each other’s paths.
Sharing Arrows – The outline of a bicycle with two arrows showing the direction of movement is meant to define a roadway shared by cars and bikes. This is more of a reminder to motorists that bicycles may be on the road with them.
Barriers – Concrete or heavy plastic curbs and barriers create a physical separation of cars and bikes enforcing not only the paths for each, but the safety of the drivers. The greater sense of safety can also increase the number of bicycles on the road. Rutgers University professor of urban planning, John Pucher, tells USA Today that cities can see around a 20 percent increase in bicycle traffic when implementing barriers.
Restricted Structures – Prohibiting cars from traveling through certain tunnels, over bridges and throughways can help to maximize both safety and separation. Building bike and pedestrian-only overpasses is another approach to dealing with busy roadways and congested traffic.
The extent to which any city implements these changes depends on their budget. However, community support is the key to this process since these projects may rely on the revenue from increased taxes. The level of change and safety implemented may be decided by how the community votes.
Other changes in the community can be done to support the biking community and increase the bicycle-friendliness. Again, these are budget-driven with many requiring support from individuals in the community, such as store owners.
Bicyclists and Public Transportation – Installing bike racks on buses and light rail can encourage people to take their bikes on longer distances through the city. This is helpful in connecting parts of the city that are bike-friendly through areas that are not.
Bike Parking – The use of rows of bike racks or bike lockers in commercial and retail areas may encourage people to ride their bikes to their favorite stores and back. With the potential of increasing customers, this needs the support of store owners to be implemented.
Bike Traffic Signals – Separate signals at busy intersections for bicyclists promote safety, and help direct the flow of vehicles and bicycles away from each other.
Success is a Joint Effort
For a community to be effective in creating a bicycle-friendly city, people must be in agreement and the funding must be available. The amount of money spent on education and infrastructure impacts the level of safety offered on the roads. In spite of this, many cities continue to strive to be a bicycle-friendly community.