Best. Bike Lanes. Evar.
On June third, Alderman Reilly announced that the City of Chicago was going to copy an experimental form of bike lane currently in use in New York. It was a slow news day the next morning, so pretty much every media outlet made mention of it.
However, since the lanes hadn’t yet been constructed, no one had any pictures. Here’s one sent out by the alderman showing one of the protected bike lanes, sometimes known as “cycle tracks” in New York:
Some of those lanes are now in place in Chicago, and they are certainly… different.
Not being a cyclist, and only very rarely a motorist, I can’t say if they are good or bad. But it’s not hard to figure out that the new road configuration certainly does a superior job of protecting cyclists.
In the old configuration, cyclists had to worry about both being run over by cars, and getting doors opened in front of them. On the reconfigured streets, it’s just the door problem, and even that’s only passenger doors, which open far less frequently than driver’s side doors.
Even better, the more cars that are parked along the street, the more protected the cyclists are from moving traffic, as the parked cars serve as a physical barrier between the steel-encapsulated motorists and the spandex-encapsulated cyclists.
There are some problems, though — the traffic pattern can get a little confusing at intersections. Especially when the junction isn’t at right angles, or there are more than just four corners, or the bike lane goes across a bridge with a steel grid deck.
Here’s the summary from Reilly’s office:
“Cycle Tracks” provide bicyclists with exclusive space in the roadway by separating bicyclists from motor vehicle traffic with raised medians, on-street parking or bollards. Cycle tracks offer a higher level of comfort to bicyclists and encourage more people to bicycle. Cycle track advantages:
- Increases perceived safety and comfort of bicyclists
- Eliminates over-taking crashes with motor vehicles
- Reduces dooring crashes and eliminates driver-side dooring crashes in which bicyclists are at danger of being run over by a motor vehicle
- Prevents double-parking in the bike lane
- Encourages more people to ride, reducing vehicular traffic congestion
By separating cyclists from motor traffic, cycle tracks offer a higher level of security than bike lanes and are attractive to a wider spectrum of the public. Cycle tracks are successful in Europe and have been recently introduced in the United States, including New York, Portland and Washington, D.C.