Activists Form Chains of “Human Bollards” to Demand Protected Bike Lanes

An August demonstration in Manhattan demanded better protection for the bike lane on Second Avenue. Photo: David Meyer
An August demonstration in Manhattan demanded better protection for the bike lane on Second Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

Last weekend in San Francisco, bike advocates formed a human chain along the Embarcadero. They were calling for physical protection of a green bike lane that directly abuts high-speed traffic — using their bodies to shield the riders who use the route every day.

It was the third such protest in San Francisco in recent months, and it’s a tactic that’s inspired advocates in other cities.

New York City’s Transportation Alternatives organized a human-protected bike lane protest along Second Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, which lacks physical protection during the morning rush hour (at other times there is a row of parked cars). With nothing to stop them, drivers park and obstruct the bike lane, forcing people on bikes out into moving motor vehicle traffic.

To show the need for round-the-clock protection, about 45 people held hands and cheered everyone riding down the bike lane on their morning commute, documented by Streetfilms:

In San Francisco, organizers say more demonstrations with people-protection are on the way, and advocates in Boise recently staged their first human-protected bike lane downtown. Expect to see this attention-grabbing activism tactic in more cities in the future.

  • disqus_1pvtRUVrlr

    It’s dangerous to bike in the buffered lane, but people can stand in it safely?

  • dfiler

    They were in no danger. Did you not see the orange cones that effectively prevented use of the lane nearest to them? Or perhaps you’re against making the lane protected. Care to elaborate?

  • 1980Gardener

    A dedicated funding source would be best – perhaps a per purchase tax on bikes that is directed to these improvements?

  • Stephen Simac

    The most likely collisions for cyclists in this protected lane (except at intersections) will be with pedestrians stepping into it off the sidewalk. At intersections, they will expect motorists to see them, but that’s less likely being outside their cone of focus on oncoming traffic.

  • Corvus Corax

    What?

  • Corvus Corax

    Or maybe a bit of the taxes that even non-drivers pay for the upkeep of roads and streets.

  • 1980Gardener

    yes, but it would be hard to have that as a “dedicated” funding source.

  • Rafe Husain

    our 30lb ebike ride up nob hill

  • Corvus Corax

    And this has WHAT to do with the subject at hand? (Except to show that you are one of those giving cycling a bad name, breaking laws, riding recklessly – even on the sidewalk).

  • Corvus Corax

    Horsefeathers! It would be no harder than having ‘that’ pay for fixing a pothole, or putting in a stop sign.

  • Rafe Husain

    Im ebikes are a great solution to transit. They are looked down on by bikers and drivers for er cheating. Yet they are a free and workable solution

  • Corvus Corax

    And your answer has WHAT to do with my question?

  • Anthony R

    Regressive tax on the lowest impact street users? No.

  • Anthony R

    They are in danger, they are using their bodies to protect vulnerable street users.

  • dfiler

    Eh? Nobody was in danger during this demonstration. There were no motor vehicles near anyone during this event.

  • dfiler

    Sure, collisions with pedestrians can happen when when protected lanes are adjacent to sidewalks. But how many serious injuries or deaths are there from bikers colliding with walkers? Attention is better spent on where serious injuries and deaths are occurring. I currently have road rash. That is insignificant compared to people struck by automobiles.

  • Vooch
  • 1980Gardener

    I appreciate that few want to pay more, but a dedicated funding source would be the most consistent and reliable way to fund these improvements.

  • 1980Gardener

    Fear of diversion is always present – the goal is to minimize it.

  • Rafe Husain

    your lordship ebikes trump expensive transit. free no lic no reg no tax no gas. Why do road bikers always want complex solution and ignore solution at hand simply because they consider it “cheating”

  • Corvus Corax

    I looked at your posting history and saw that you have many times inserted this, and other ebike promoting videos, into threads that, as in this thread, have nothing whatsoever to do with ebikes.

    So I can only assume that you are some paid shill for the ebike industry, and that these videos are nothing bad (bad) advertisements. I will flag them as the spam they are. I hope others will join me in this.

  • Rafe Husain

    Corvus corax your lordship you know everyone who disagrees with you must be spammer including my plebian self. can your lordship ever forgive me?

  • Richard Campbell

    The problem is drivers not following the rules and endangering people on bikes. Thus drivers should pay as they are causing the problem.

  • 1980Gardener

    Bollards serve a broader purpose than merely protecting cyclists from lawbreaking drivers. Accidents happen even when drivers follow all of the rules. Bollards give a sense of safety to cyclists that encourage more use of bike lanes.

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Keeping cars out of bike lanes can seem like a Sisyphean task, particularly when a street design makes it easy for drivers to go where they shouldn't. But do-it-yourself attempts to stop automobile incursions have proven to be invaluable demonstrations of how simple steps can make a real impact -- from flowers in Boston to traffic cones in Brooklyn to human barriers in San Francisco.