Cycle lanes – learning lessons from the seriously car-centric USA

The Gosforth High Street battle of people versus cars is one to watch as it mirrors the painful decisions many high streets are facing. Will hard learned lessons in the USA cross to the UK I wonder. We don’t have the space to play with but we do have the same need.

Take the New York example where the bike community prevailed over the “not-in-my-backyard” crowd. Today, the Prospect Park West bike lane stands as a crown jewel in the growing network of bike infrastructure that has helped establish New York as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States.

In retrospect, it seems clear that the anti-bike lane coalition – dismissed as irrational and parochial by cycling advocates – knew how quietly revolutionary that strip would be. According to the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), the bike lane has reduced speeding rates from 74% to 20%. Meanwhile, since the lane’s installation, crashes and injuries of all kinds have dropped by 63%. Travel times for motorists did not increase and neither did congestion (source). Meanwhile, a NYC DOT survey showed more than 70% of neighbourhood residents supported the improvement.

Protected bike lanes like the Prospect Park West bike lane are upsetting the transportation status quo in more and more cities across North America. Similar treatments have transformed Dearborn Street in Chicago, IL; Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC; and Market Street in San Francisco, CA.

In fact, it’s getting to the point where if your city doesn’t have a protected bike lane yet, it’s being left behind. Last year alone, the number of protected bike lanes in the United States nearly doubled from 62 to 102. This year, the number is expected to double again. Protected bike lanes are now in place in 32 cities across the United States, according to Martha Roskowski, director of the Green Lane Project.

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