One-Day Protected Bike Lane Demos Have Swept America this Summer

A temporary demo during StreetsAlive! in Fargo, North Dakota, on July 15. Photo: Dakota Medical Foundation

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

This is what a tipping point looks like.

Around the country in the summer of 2014, community groups across the United States have been using open-streets events and other festivals to give thousands of Americans their first taste of a protected bike lane.

From small-town Kansas to the middle of Atlanta, communities (many of them inspired by last summer’s successful $600 demo project in Minneapolis) have been using handmade barriers and relatively tiny amounts of money to put together temporary bikeways that spread the knowledge of the concept among the public and officials.

“Every traffic engineer who touches a street in Oakland, they were all out on their bikes checking it out,” said Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay, who led the creation of maybe the year’s most beautiful demo on Telegraph Avenue there. (Click to enlarge — it’s worth it.)

“We wanted this to look awesome,” Campbell said in an interview. “People would see this and go, ‘That’s f—— awesome. I want that on my street.’

Here are some of the results from around the country:

Lawrence, Kansas: 9th Street, April 25

Photo: Matt Kleinmann

Oakland, California: Telegraph Avenue, May 8

Photo: Bike East Bay

That’s Oakland Mayor Jean Quan having a great time riding a bike share bike in a protected bike lane.

Advocacy group Bike East Bay also created a video of their impressive Telegraph setup, which used traffic chalk for the shark-tooth yield markings, plus one gallon of exterior green paint and a homemade bike stencil to mark the lane’s entrances. (Paint was possible because the local business district was already planning to pressure-wash the street afterward.) Here’s a full manual on how Campbell and friends did it.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lyndale Avenue, June 8

Photos: Nick Falbo, Alta Planning and Design

In Minneapolis, the advocacy campaign Bikeways for Everyone not only created a sequel to last year’s project, they added a demonstration of a protected bike lane intersection laid out personally by designer Nick Falbo of Alta Planning and Design:

Atlanta, Georgia: Auburn Avenue, June 21-22

Photo: Robin Smith

Denver, Colorado: Arapahoe Street, June 25

Photo: Bike Denver

Mountain View, California: California Street, July 24

Photo: ##http://www.greatstreetsmv.org/2014/07/25/cycletopia/##Great Streets Mountain View##

St. Paul, Minnesota: Wabasha, July 24

Photo: Matthew Dyrdahl

Oakland, California: Temescal Street, July 6

Photo: Bike East Bay

On both Temescal and Telegraph, Bike East Bay created simple, attractive barriers by flattening cardboard boxes, rolling them into cylinders with binder clips at the top and bottom and setting them on top of standard orange traffic cones. They also used 600 feet of four-inch-wide reflective white traffic tape, which cost 29 cents a foot, and (in lieu of green paint to mark the entrances) two 4′ x 20′ x 5 mm black rubberized floor mats, spray-painted green, for $170 each.

A few tips from the experts

Give people a reason to enter the demo lane. This is especially important at an open-streets event that doesn’t have car traffic on the street in the first place.

“Many people ignored the lane and stayed on the street,” wrote Alyssa Gullekson of the Dakota Medical Foundation in an email about a July 15 pop-up in Fargo, North Dakota. “At the next event in August, we will route bicycles into the lane so that that is the route assumed most appropriate. We will also have an individual directing people into lane to draw more attention to it.”

Try to encourage conversations as well as the demo itself. In Mountain View, Safe Mountain View engineered longer conversations by offering a bike raffle, a free ice cream voucher for people who completed surveys and bike-themed coloring pages to entertain children “so the parents could talk to us with fewer distractions,” organizer Cherie Walkowiak wrote.

Here are PDFs of the explanatory posters they designed and some photos of the assembly process. Also, here’s a tally of their expenses from three pop-up events in Mountain View.

Do everything you can to get city staff there. For Campbell of Bike East Bay, the most rewarding moment of one of his demos was when a city engineer working on a permanent protected bike lane came by to watch people using the temporary one.

“He’s been designing this and analyzing it and talking to other people,” Campbell said. “And all of the sudden he’s standing there living it for a moment. You could see his facial expression has changed.”

You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

  • dan5ki

    On September 21, Albuquerque, NM will have its first open streets event, ABQ CiQlovia. We will be having a protected bike lane as well. This article has some very helpful tips for us! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/abq-ciqlovia/x/8413305

  • BBnet3000

    I’d be very interested to see the protected intersection implemented on a permanent basis somewhere in North America. Intersections are where almost all conflict with cars occurs yet they’re the part we never design for comfortable cycling.

  • HamTech87

    Groundwork Hudson Valley (www.groundworkhv.org), along with a consortium of churches, Alta Planning and PlaceMatters, had a protected bike lane demo in Yonkers, NY a few weeks ago. It was part of an Area-Wide Planning process funded by the EPA and the Westchester Community Foundation. Some pics below:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.761856280522306.1073741865.155154734525800&type=1

  • Mayor Jean Quan riding a Bay Area BikeShare bike in Oakland…. Hopefully someday BABS will expand to Oakland and she’ll be able to check out a bike from a bike station instead of having someone cart one over from San Francisco for her to ride for the photo-op.

  • Prinzrob

    Oakland/Berkeley bike share is already funded, with planning meetings probably starting this fall to figure out where all the docks will go (stay tuned for dates). If everything goes smoothly a 2015 launch is doable.

  • Awesome. We can re-stage the photo with an eastside BABS bike.

    Though I suppose the 3-for-1 with a public official has it’s merits: photo op, protected bike lane demo, and bikeshare demo all rolled into one.

  • Prinzrob

    That’s exactly how we planned it. The carefree grin on the mayor’s face as she rolled by was an unexpected bonus.

  • Justin

    Wow this looks sooo cool! It would be better to see more cities do this like where I live in San Francisco, this is sooo badly needed on certain streets, pop up events like this would give citizens a great perspective of what PROTECTED bike lanes would look like in the REAL world rather than what it looks like in theory or some virtual world, the PHYSICAL PROOF is more important and gives that eye opening perspective and better understanding needed to make this a permanent every day reality.

  • 94103er

    I continue to be embarrassed about San Francisco tooting its own horn about its supposed cycle-friendliness. We have exactly ONE truly protected on-street bike lane in the city–in a freaking park–and the roar of disapproval was deafening. We have very few dedicated cycle paths and they’re crowded with pedestrians because the city can’t make room for all of us to coexist. All the other supposedly ‘protected’ lanes are not, in fact, protected, and for the most part the city just forges on striping door-me, park-in-me lanes and claims it’s ‘connecting the city.’ Despicable.

  • Justin

    Don’t forget the two blocks of Polk, but yeah I understand, this is why the city needs to do more of these pop ups and pilot a lot of these on our streets to give people that TRUE understanding, it would make it more possible, but no instead they do it through the traditional methods, or the method known to waste time and money, encourages red tape and bureaucracy, which is to do years of B.S studies and designing it virtually, the real proof is in the physical world, where people can see how PROTECTED bikeways function on existing streets NOT in the virtual world, but in REALITY.

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