EDITORIAL: Rose-colored pedals

Bike lanes in NYC show nothing but promise

Blog Entry October 08, 2014
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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I’m sure there is still some dashboard yelling going on, but so far the bike-lane strategy in New York City is not showing any signs of having the life expectancy of one of those car air fresheners.

The latest research out of the Big Apple shows it’s going to be around for a long, long time—maybe forever. NYC first started adding protected bike lanes back in 2007, and there are now more than 30 miles dedicated to the two-wheelers, and the plan is to add five more miles each year. The numbers back up the enthusiasm, especially when you are talking about seconds and even minutes. Travel times have improved, partly due to an engineering enhancement. Cars turning left use an area separate from mainline traffic, eliminating the back-up effect the maneuver can create on city streets.

“Having that left-turn area, where you’re able to get out of the flow, you can see the cyclist, the cyclist can see the turning vehicle . . . that’s a major, major safety feature of these types of bike lanes,” said Josh Benson, director of bicycle and pedestrian programs for the New York City DOT.

Pedestrians also are major winners here. Due to shortened and highlighted crosswalks, injuries to those on foot have dropped about 9% on streets with bike lanes. Businesses, in turn, are seeing a rise in receipts. The study claims that the bike lanes have improved the retail activity in the neighborhoods. If you ask me, it all adds up to one sweet smell of success.

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