The nation’s transportation sector accounts for about a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it a prime target for emission reduction strategies. In dense cities in particular, biking and walking are realistic transportation alternatives to automobiles.
An upcoming—and much needed—refurbishment of the Longfellow bridge will provide Boston with an opportunity to make biking and walking both a safer and more viable choice. The project will be financed from the state’s $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program, a fund created to repair crumbling public structures.
Massachusetts highway officials are considering a major renovation of the bridge that would reduce the number of automobile traffic lanes, making the bridge more accessible to bike and foot traffic. Since the Boston-bound side of the bridge sees more traffic than the Cambridge-bound side, the latter is where the proposed changes would take place. The plan is to reduce this side of the bridge from two car lanes to a single one and use the remaining space to provide a lane for walkers and bikers. This plan—and a number of alternative proposals—were generated by a state task force. The task force included members from Massachusetts General Hospital, TD Garden, WalkBoston, and the Charles River Watershed Association.
We’ll keep you posted when transit officials pick a design early this year. Before that happens, the state must submit its Environmental Assessment to the Federal Highway Administration. Other cities have been working to become more bike-friendly as well. Portland and Minneapolis are the nation’s leaders in bicycle ridership and commuting. However, other cities are also generating their own replicable strategies. The City of Chicago, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation have collaborated to put together a Bike Lane Design Guide. This document shows how municipalities overcome the design challenges associated with integrating bike travel into busy urban traffic.
Despite these efforts, US cities still have a ways to go (via http://bostonbiker.org/tag/bike-lane/). Clearly, public buy-in and motorist respect for bike lanes is an essential hurdle to overcome. So is ensuring proper lane demarcation. Take a look at some examples of bike lanes in other cities, via StreetsBlog.org :
Notice the physical separation from traffic in this Montreal bicycle lane, as well as the buffered, two-way lane below (also in Montreal).
Germany goes even further by integrating bike lanes into part of the sidewalk, complete with a difference in color for clear indication of bike traffic (in Berlin):