Despite a recent boom in the number of U.S. bicyclists, fewer than 1 percent of us regularly bike to work. According to the January 2010 Governing magazine, a number of city planners see that statistic as evidence “that some more radical bicycling strategies are in order.”
“It’s time to think beyond bike lanes, [the planners] say, and start using bike-only traffic signals, traffic-protected ‘cycle-tracks,’ and other street designs that are common in European cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where up to 40 percent of all trips are made on two wheels.”
Obstacles to achieving this sort of Scandinavian efficiency include red tape, legal concerns, and wariness about departing from the bible of urban street design, the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has been slow to adopt bike-friendly designs.
The good news is that forward thinkers at the National Association of City Transportation Officials, representing more than a dozen major cities, have banded together to launch Cities for Cycling, an information clearinghouse that allows municipalities to experiment with nonstandard designs and share best practices. Portland, Oregon, is already forging ahead with bike boxes, marked areas at intersections that allow bikes to wait at red lights in front of cars.