6th Street NE protected bike lane by Union Market by airbus777 licensed under Creative Commons.

Bicycling in cities before the days of protected bikeways was either terrifying or exhilarating, depending on your level of risk aversion. As protected bikeways have proliferated, they've made cities safer for cyclists and pedestrians — and for motorists, too. They can even help neighborhoods thrive economically, as highlighted in this Vox piece about New York's first parking-protected bikeway.

 

Back in 2007, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan introduced America's first on-street parking and signal-protected bikeway. It wasn't easy to convince people that the change to infrastructure was for the better. There was a lot of resistance, especially because the change would take away already limited on-street parking.

“Taking away parking spaces,” Sadik-Khan laments, “is not for the faint of heart.”

However, reducing the share of road space for cars didn't usher in the apocalypse, and the protected bicycleway turned out to be a boon for the local economy. Businesses along 9th Avenue saw a nearly 50% jump in sales. There's data from other cities that backs up the economic argument for adding more protected bikeways in cities as well.

Of course, bicycle infrastructure has not been equally successful in all areas. New books such as Bike Lanes Are White Lanes by Dr. Melody L Hoffmann and Bicycle/Race by Dr. Adonia Lugo discuss how installing bike lanes in some cities has been used to displace and overpolice residents, rather than tie communities together.

Nonetheless, having designated turning lanes for motorists and bikes with staggered traffic signals for each eased traffic tensions and significantly reduced crash-related injuries. Protected bikeways are good for cities, good for business, and better for public transit, according data quoted in this video.

“If you want to build a better city, you can start by building bike lanes,” Sadik-Khan says.

Matthew Koehler is currently a stay at home dad who formerly worked as an ESL teacher in Nagano, Japan and Washington, DC. When not chasing his three-year-old daughter around, he chronicles he fathering experiences in blog form and is always on the look out for obscure beers. For the time being, he resides in the ever-changing Southwest neighborhood, just down the street from Nationals Ballpark.