Bicycling Super-Highways

The genesis for this post comes from an article on Slate Magazine.  This online magazine is running a series of related articles under the moniker, Nimble Cities.  Slate’s article, Bicycle Highways, discusses a question facing urban planners, “Do I make accommodation for cyclists on the street with cars or do I separate them from automobiles?”

The article discusses the relative costs between just painting bike lanes on an existing street versus the larger expense of building a separate bike pathway system.  European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the gold standard for the development of bicycling highways, but other European cities, such as London, are coming on strong.   In the US, Portland, OR has claimed the lead, but also mentioned were Austin, Minneapolis and Rochester, NY.  The question remains, which approach, bike lanes or bike paths will most cost effectively, get the most people out on their bicycles?  The article points out that a driver will drive closer to cyclists in adjoining bike lanes than cyclists on roads without them.  That thin white is cold comfort versus a cell phone distracted SUV driver, but bike paths are way more expensive than paint.

In the Saint Louis area we have both examples of these two choices facing urban planners.  The City of Saint Louis as elected the bike lane approach.  On the east side in Madison and more recently Saint Clair counties, IL, they have chosen the bike path approach.  Both sides of the river had their decisions heavy influenced by their respective topography.   Saint Louis is a mature city, its road network was developed for a much larger population than it now supports.  Bike lanes were the low-cost entrance fee for citywide cycling.  The east side is more rural, it is crisscrossed with abandoned railroad right-of-ways and it was blessed with better leadership.  I propose the following thesis topic for some enterprising graduate student, a comparison of these two competing Saint Louis area approaches.  Here in the middle of America, is it more cost-effective to build bike paths or paint bike lanes?

The pictures with this post are a bit eclectic.  Anne was cleaning pictures off of her iPhone.  While I was in California last week, Anne and Joanie went to see Circus Flora.  The second photo is from Rochester.  Dave and I are going through the Order of the Engineer.  The original photo was a very high contrast picture.  I’ve edited out the brilliant white tent above our heads, so we are left will us low contrast subjects below.   The iPhone was one photographic attribute, it is usually there.  The final photograph shows a pair of turtles sitting on a tamarack stump in Oak Knoll Park.  Today’s header is also a blast from the past.  It shows the top of a teepee at Shaw’s Nature Preserve.

1 thought on “Bicycling Super-Highways

  1. I would probably resurrect my bike if I felt safer riding around traffic. I think bike lanes could work but there needs to be a *lot* of space. (Also, here on the planet a2, there are roads that have bike lanes that disappear without warning.) Like you say, it’s a very complicated issue and there are probably different answers for different places depending upon the terrain, existing infrastructure, and political leadership et al.

Leave a Reply