The Importance of Bike Lanes in Cities

Written by Brendan McCarthy-Belonizekov, ESLLC 2018-2019

The volume of bicycle commuters varies from city to city. Cities such as Denver, Boston, and Washington D.C buzz with bicyclists while others cities such as Pittsburgh are novices in the field. There are many reasons why some cities prosper with cyclists and others lack. Pittsburgh’s geography greatly impacts the number of cyclists. Pittsburgh is hilly city with a street map resembling a plate of spaghetti rather than a cross sectioned grid. The street layout in downtown Pittsburgh makes cycling significantly more dangerous because the streets twist, rise in grade, and there have historically been no bikes lanes. Therefore, cycling is not popular in Pittsburgh. Many suburbs are disconnected from the city by mountains and tunnels, impenetrable for cyclists. Driving is the most common mode of transportation. It is easier for residents who live across the river to bike to work over the bridges and along the river than it is for anybody else. There are bike trails along the rivers because biking is seen more of a hobby in Pittsburgh than as a mode of transportation.

More and more white collared workers are opting for the park and ride option, available at most metro stations. Recently however, the city has introduced rentable bikes, and created bikes lanes in some districts, especially the cultural district. Although the bike lanes are not always crowded, the occupancy continues to increase. Ever since they created the bike lanes, people have used them. Many cyclists ride on the sidewalk because the intersections/streets are hazardous. Even if the bikes are only ridden in Downtown, they still eliminate traffic. Once I got to Denver I realized that so many people commute by bike because it’s a sustainable lifestyle and it’s easy to do with flat, gridded streets. Bike lanes are crucial to cities.

There are countless reasons why cities need bike lanes. The government of Redmond, Washington compiled a very credible, online list of twenty-one reasons in favor of bikes lanes. Bike lanes themselves encourage biking. The sight of bike lanes can be motivating for people searching for alternative ways of getting around. Bike lanes remind drivers that the roads are shared and to perhaps drive more cautiously. Bikes lanes have been shown to have calming/ slowing effects on drivers which leads to safer roadways. Depending on the geography of the city, bike lanes can improve traffic flow and define space better. Sometimes if vehicle lanes seem too large, bike lanes may be created to help keep order. When bikers ride in the street it can be very stressful to keep up with traffic; bike lanes allow cyclists to travel at their own pace. This is significant because more people will bike if they can get to work and not be all sweaty from keeping up with cars, it also removes slow bikers from the roads. Bike lanes act as a protective barrier between traffic and pedestrians on sidewalks: useful for children, impaired and clumsy individuals and individual under the influence. The Redmond government states a great point that bike lanes are utilized by people in wheelchairs when there is no sidewalk, or a sidewalk that impairs mobility. Bike lanes provide extra space for emergency vehicles, and increase turning radius and sight distance of drivers. Debatably, the most important reason for bike lanes in cities is the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. One bike equals one less car., City of Redmond, 21 Good Reasons to Mark Bike Lanes, October 01, 2018.


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