Few areas in the United States have the traffic volumes, parking demands, population densities, and pedestrian movements found in the Big Apple. This reality, combined with fleets of taxis, jammed busses, and miles of subways would make New York seem like the last place on earth to integrate bicycle lanes into it’s transportation grid. Yet, they are one of the first to successfully do so and it seems to be working out just fine.
Our annual Thanksgiving week trip to Manhattan and Brooklyn gave Peg and I the chance to inspect a few miles of the 200 miles of new “protected” bike lanes which have been installed in New York over the past four years by the Bloomberg Administration.
The protected bike lanes have been installed on major streets next to the curb, with protective guidance barriers at each intersection, protective spacing between the marked bike lanes, and pushed out parking bays, traffic, and turning lanes. This design protects bikers from being struck by car doors or vehicles themselves.
While we were in New York last week the Times ran an article that said the bike lanes had become controversial. But everyone I talked to including police officers, business owners, and cyclists (including my son who lives in New York) loved them and hope more will be built. By most accounts ridership has increased significantly since the protected lanes have been installed.
A police officer explained serious cycling injuries have dropped and more people seem to be cycling. An 8th Avenue retailer and life-long New Yorker told me as only a New Yorker could or would “anyone who doesn’t like them is crazy, older people need ways to get around and exercise too. ” A 30-something woman cyclist stopped at a traffic signal simply said “I just love them” as she sped off on a 35 degree morning.
I am pleased that this November the Village Board has retained two firms to help Oak Park plan the future of 3 key grid links here in Oak Park, which includes looking into the feasibility of better integrating safe bike lanes into our grid, as called for in our 2008 bike plan.
The Lakota Group will continue to work with the Village on future design improvements to South Marion and South Oak Park Avenue in our Central Business District as we pursue the vision of truly becoming a Transit Village.
Last Monday, Altamanu Inc., was selected through a Request for Qualifications and Proposals competition (over 14 competing firms) to help layout the future of Madison Street from Harlem to Austin.
Can Oak Park figure out a way, and have the will, to take our grid to the next level? Will “safe” bike lanes have a future in Oak Park?
As we begin the process of planning our future on these important corridors I ask all to keep an open mind and consider participating in the public discourse of these strategic quality of life and community building initiatives. Your ideas are welcomed, examples from around the country are appreciated. We may not be able to copy NYC but I am hopeful and confidant we can better integrate and tailor “safe” bicycling routes into Oak Park’s transportation network.
New York City has lots of show and glow and is a great city. We here in the mid-west are practical. But what could be more practical than having the option to get around town safely on bikes. In today’s world, practical seems pretty great too!