PeopleForBikes Announces the 10 Best New Bike Lanes of 2015

This year’s best new protected bike lanes gain points for safety, beauty, connectivity, and efficiency of construction.

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Three years ago, PeopleForBikes began compiling an annual list of the 10 best new protected bike lanes of the year. In each effort, the list of entrants grew. This year, the organization had over 80 protected lane projects around the US to choose from.

Staff writer Michael Andersen noted, though, that the biggest change this year was not the number of projects, but the quality. Of the 80-ish projects in the running, the overwhelming majority had bikes traffic separated from auto traffic with some form of permanent physical barrier.

Gone are the days when a line of paint on the concrete will suffice. US residents are recognizing the innumerable benefits of permanent, protected cycling infrastructure, and more and more, their demands are being listened to.

Also inspiring is the range of geography on this year’s list. Bike-friendliness is no longer confined to big cities on the coast, but is springing up in all corners of the country. So here are PeopleForBikes’ top 10 protected bike lanes of 2015, did your city make the list?

1. Western Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Protected Bike Lanes Cambridge

Photos courtesy of City of Cambridge.

Cambridge’s Western Avenue bike lanes takes the top this year for its attention to all of the details that make a bike lane truly great. People on bikes are separated from both auto traffic and the sidewalk by permanent, green barriers. Intersections have dedicated bike signals with leading intervals to give people on bikes and people walking a head start.

This one-way street lane required not only an upgrade, but a complete street redesign. Hats off to the change-makers in this underrated biking city for showing us what a truly great bike lane can look like.

2. 200 West, Salt Lake City, Utah

Biking in Salt Lake City

Photo courtesy of Salt Lake City

The number two spot this year goes to Salt Lake City, not for innovation in protected bike lanes themselves, but for taking it to the next level with the protected intersection.

One year after a video game designer-turned urban planner gave Americans a term by which to describe protected intersections, the Dutch-style protected intersection found a home in Salt Lake City. This massive street upgrade included street planters, dedicated signalling that gives preference to people on bikes and people walking, and permanent barriers in the intersection that make biking as intuitive as walking and greatly reduce the risk of crashes in the intersection.

    

3. Queens Boulevard, New York City, New York

The Queens Boulevard lane made it to the list not for its innovation, permanence or particular beauty, but for the speed and efficiency with which city planners got it installed.

Nicknamed the “Boulevard of Death,” Queens Blvd was the location of 185 traffic deaths between 1990 and this year. When city planners decided to do something about the hazardous street this year, they did it quickly. They announced plans to upgrade the street in January, began planning the week after, released their plans in March, and started work in July. Work on the permanent vision for the bike lane begins next year.

4. N Street, Lincoln, Nebraska

Biking in Nebraska

Photo courtesy City of Lincoln

This project takes its award in advance of its official opening – it’s slated to open in a few days. But the beautiful, garden-lined two-way lane wins kudos for major investment in signal phasing, and for connecting two important regional paths through the university district and downtown. Local developers have taken note, and are chomping at the bit to buy up real estate along the path for development aimed at “mobiles and millennials.”

5. Clybourn Avenue, Chicago

Biking in Chicago

Photo courtesy of Josh Greenfield

Clybourn Avenue, Chicago’s second curb-protected bike lane, creates a critical link in Chicago’s North-side bike network. While it may not be the most beautiful of bike lanes, it’s part of the reason why Chicago is a nationwide leader in creating not just functional bike lanes, but functional bike networks.

After Bobby Cann was killed cycling down Clybourn Avenue in 2013, city leaders realized the necessity of creating a safe route for people on bikes traveling across the North side of the city.

6. First Street, Washington, DC

Biking in Washington, DC

Photo by Mike Goodno

While the beautiful First Street protected bike lane – the Capital’s first – was initially constructed in 2014, PeopleForBikes had a few concerns that led to it being left off of the list. It was narrow, the buffer nonexistent, and was a 2-way bike lane on a one-way street.

It did, however, connect the massive transit hub at Union Station to the regional Metropolitan Branch Trail. So when the Capital followed it up with a short extension this year that shared none of 2014’s shortfalls, the First Avenue protected lane slid straight onto the list.

7. Arapahoe Street, Denver, Colorado

Biking in Denver

Photo by PeopleForBikes

Similar to the Queens Street Boulevard in NYC, the Arapahoe protected bike lane is not so much a feat of engineering but of efficient city planning, but this time with a citizen-inspired twist.

Inspired by a trip to Copenhagen and a surge in interest in better biking among downtown tech firms, the business advocacy group Downtown Denver Partnership began rallying public support for a protected bike lane on what was then only a strip of paint. They held a one-day demo event, and raised $36,000 in a crowdfunding campaign, which was enough to convince City of Denver leaders that the residents were in favor. City staff fastracked the project, cutting the ribbon the new protected lane only one year after its approval.

8. Fifth Street, Pueblo, Colorado

Biking in Colorado

Photo by Carlos Hernandez

Holding it down for the small cities. Pueblo, CO, population 108,249, is not exactly what you’d call “dense” or “urban.” But that didn’t stop this industrious town from getting ahead of the game on safe cycling infrastructure. “They are a rust belt type of community that is adapting to the modern economy with a new seven-block cycle track in their downtown,” said Carlos Hernandez, a consultant who worked on Fifth Street’s protected bike lane, in talks with PeopleForBikes.

The economical, 7-block lane is the showboat of a new 20-mile network of buffered bike lanes around the downtown. Already, the lane has won over a major business skeptic, nearly eliminated sidewalk biking and inspired a monthly “taco tour” by bike for restaurants along the route.

9. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach, California

Biking in Redondo Beach, California

Photo by Rock Miller

As if anything could be more pleasant than a sunny day’s bike ride along a beautiful beach, this two-way protected bike lane has the added benefit of providing a much-needed alternative to car-only beach access in this coastal community. Bonus points for the palm trees.

10. Clinton Street, Chicago, Illinois

Biking in Chicago

Photo courtesy of the Chicago DOT

While the Clinton Street two-way bike lane made it onto the list because of its importance to Chicago’s ever-expanding network of protected bike lanes, its position is significant for another reason. The lane is virtually identical to another one on nearby Dearborn Street,  a lane which earned PeopleForBikes’ number 1 spot when it was installed in 2013. Just two years later, the identical design with its post-protection and signal phasing barely squeezed in to number 10. Just goes to show how far the nation has come in safe, dedicated cycling infrastructure in just two short years.

2015 was great, but let’s see what kind of changes 2016 can bring!

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