Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Raised Bike Lanes Can Protect Bikers and Drivers Alike

September 29, 2014
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How Raised Bike Lanes Can Protect Bikers and Drivers Alike
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Inspired by European cities, this design could be coming to a city near you.

Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have long been recognized for their bike-friendly streets, and now Chicago and San Francisco are looking to their European counterparts for tips on road safety for cyclists.

Next year, San Francisco will unveil its first raised bikeway, a one-block long “showcase” project as a part of the Mission Valencia Green Gateway project, which includes other street improvements like wider sidewalks. Chicago also began building its first one-and-a-half block of raised bike lane this summer, and if the pilot is successful, it will lead to more stretches of the separated path throughout the city.

Raised bike lanes are a subtle way to protect cyclists, separating bikers from cars without the physical bulkiness of barriers. Protected lanes involving barriers can also sometimes make it difficult for drivers who are turning right to see a biker. Barriers can also prove to be confusing to pedestrians and hard to drain or clear away snow.

But the elevated bike paths, which are typically raised by just a few inches above street level, easily prevent cars from interfering, while also remaining separate from the sidewalk. Aside from aesthetic differences, raised bike lanes can also be less costly, according to Fast Company.

Chicago and San Francisco are not the only two cities to experiment with elevated bike lanes. The Oregon cities of Bend, Portland and Eugene, as well as Atlanta and Denver have also incorporated the smart design into their streets.

As more cities recognize the benefits of supporting cyclists, it’s good to see American cities embrace infrastructure that’s proven successful elsewhere.

MORE: What Has Two Wheels, Two Pedals and Can Boost the Economy?

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