The Importance of Bike Lanes

Urban Utrecht
Last night, while scrolling through Twitter, I came across a post with a picture of a bike lane in New Orleans. It was a post celebrating Bike to Work Day. Great, right?

Noooooooooooooo!

As I looked more closely at the photo, I realized that the very wide bike lane was in fact meant for both bicycles and buses. Yes, buses. And it turns out the lane can also be used by cars turning right at an intersection or driveway. It seems it’s the first combo bus-and-bike lane, but that implies that there might be more in the future. I hope not.

In looking at other photos of New Orleans bike lanes, there are a few lanes that are strictly bicycle lanes, but they do stop and start and it looks like they often are right next to street parking or have no separation from regular car lanes, presenting its own issues. For proper safety, they should be more consistent and they should never combine with buses! That seems like the worst combination. Ever! Big buses and little bicycles are an accident waiting to happen.

As you’ll see in my picture above, all of the lanes in the part of Utrecht near the theater and shopping mall are strictly segregated. One of the times in life when segregation is a good thing. Bicycles have their own wide lanes on each side of the road, with plenty of space separating them from the bus/vehicle lanes.

It’s not like that on every street here, or even exactly the same on that same street as it continues. In some areas where the street narrows, there isn’t the same gap between road and cycle lane, but there is still clear/raised definition between the two areas.
Street Life
On other streets, such as Voorstraat, there’s a segregated bicycle lane in one direction, though in the other direction, bicycles share the space with cars and deal with parked cars. Not ideal, but cars generally make way for bicycles.
Voorstraat
Of course, car traffic is also discouraged in much of the city center here in Utrecht. Many roads are one way or generally limited primarily to buses. But that’s not the case everywhere, and even just outside the city center, where car traffic is heavier, you still have separate bicycle lanes to keep cyclists safe and encourage them to keep cycling along major roads.

It’s great to see bicycle lanes showing up more frequently in New Orleans, as it would be a great city to cycle in. It’s a doable size in terms of distances and terrain, especially if there were consistent lanes to speed up the trips. I do hope the city continues to add more bicycle lanes, but I hope they rethink combining them with buses and other vehicles. They really should look to other countries where cycling is more integrated to better understand how to make it safe for everyone involved.

As always, if you’re interested in learning more about Dutch cycling, check out Mark’s blog, Bicycle Dutch. He’s got plenty of details, history, and information about how it all came about and how it can and does continue to improve.

Utrecht One of the World’s Most Bike-Friendly Cities

Bike Paths
A couple of days ago, CNN posted an article listing the most bike-friendly cities in the world. As they point out, the majority of the cities are found in northwest Europe, with the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark among those with the largest infrastructure to make cycling a safe, daily experience.

Obviously, the Netherlands was bound to have a city or 20 in the list, but amazingly, they focused on Utrecht, rather than Amsterdam. As they rightly point out, Amsterdam may often top these kinds of lists, but the number of tourists — on foot, and on wobbly bike — make cycling in Amsterdam much more challenging. On the other hand, Utrecht, which has no shortage of people cycling every day, doesn’t have quite the same influx of uncertain tourists. We do, however, have an extensive system of spacious, segregated bike paths, not to mention a reduction in the number of cars driving in the binnenstad (city center) itself. The car is being phased out and more support for bicycles is being developed.

As the article points out:

In its center, up to 50% of all journeys take place in the saddle and local authorities are building a 12,500-space cycle parking facility billed as the world’s biggest.

That 12,500 bicycle parking garage is hardly the only one in town. It’s going to be by the train station where there are already a number of massive bicycle parking lots. There are others located throughout the city, both indoors and outdoors, as I’ve posted about in the past. I think tomorrow my Wordless Wednesday post will be some of the outdoor parking by the train station. After all, many people take the train to work, but cycle to and from the station to their home and work.

As the article also mentions, people of all ages cycle here. Going to school, going to work, going shopping, going to see friends … everyone rides a bike. Men in suits, women in skirts and heels, and everything in between, with not a helmet to be seen. The system is set up to make cycling safe and easy, and obviously it works if half of all journeys here are by bike, rain or shine.
Convey Motion
Bike Lane
Winter Sunlight
Pretty as a Picture