The green-painted protected bikeway 1st Street NE in Washington DC by BeyondDC licensed under Creative Commons.

We first published this post on December 9, 2013. We still love green-painted bike lanes and protected bikeways, so we're sharing it again!

Green-painted bike lanes make cycling safer by reminding car drivers to watch out for cyclists when driving across bike lanes. That’s a great benefit, and it works, but it’s not the main reason so many cyclists get so excited over a little bit of color.

Green paint on Seattle’s Broadway cycletrack.
Image by BeyondDC licensed under Creative Commons.

The real reason cyclists love green-painted bike lanes so much is simple: they send the clearest-possible message that roads are not only for cars.

Despite a century of sharing roads, and despite the fact that people walked and biked in streets long before cars came along, there’s a strong mentality among entitled drivers that roads are for cars. A five-second google search turns up plenty of examples.

Green-painted bike lanes accomplish what a white stripe next to the parking lane cannot. They proclaim loudly and clearly that streets are not merely sewers for car traffic, but fully multimodal public spaces. They send the message that drivers are welcome to use roads just like everyone else, but must not expect to have roads completely to themselves.

These painted lanes are public relations features as much as they are safety features, at least as far as cyclists are concerned.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado and lives in Trinidad, DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post. Dan blogs to express personal views, and does not take part in GGWash's political endorsement decisions.