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.
As protected bike lanes arrive in American suburbs, some city builders are making an unexpected discovery.
Not only are protected bike lanes by far the best way to make biking a pleasant transportation option for shorter trips — sometimes they can also significantly cut the cost of constructing new roads from scratch.
In the central cities where protected bike lanes first arrived, brand-new roads are rarely built. But now that many suburbs are upping their own game on bike infrastructure, a protected bike lane is being planned into streets from the get-go.
“It’s definitely something that we’re seeing more of,” said Zack Martin, engineering manager at the Washington State development consulting firm MacKay Sposito. “It’s coming up on I’d say most of the new arterial roads we’re looking at.”
In a blog post last month, Martin explained the unexpected reason protected bike lanes can save construction costs: rainwater.
Curb-protected bike lanes, his firm realized, can reduce the huge cost of managing rainwater that falls on pavement and then flows into streams and rivers. That runoff is a major source of water pollution, which is why the federal Clean Water Act requires local governments to minimize it. But in rainy parts of the country, preventing excess runoff from pavement that cars are driving on has also become a major cost factor in road construction.