In the age where buzzwords like “global warming,” “environment,” and “green planning” have become common jargon for discussing forward thinking in urban design, the majority of innovative thinking has been to invent methods to produce plans that promote environmentally friendly values. In San Francisco, the incorporation of elevated bike lanes may be a prime example of a collaboration between simplicity and green.
Following in the footsteps of cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, and Bend, Orgeon, San Francisco is making plans to promote bicycling by building raised lanes on the sides of automobile traffic lanes. The lanes will be raised two inches to discourage automobiles from swerving into the lanes, but will not be as obvious as bike lanes which are level, but separated by planters or bollards.
The lane effectively gives cyclists a space to use on the streets as their own, without having to find their place amongst pedestrians and automobiles. The project will begin by incorporating these lanes in areas with histories of high cyclist-injury incidents. Though these will only a handful of streets, cyclists are hoping that this experiment will encourage more cyclist-oriented design. Tyler Frisbee, the policy director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, explains the benefits of the lanes: “Like all protective bike lanes, they help people feel safe on the road, create more predictable traffic patterns, and encourage people who otherwise might be nervous to ride on busy streets.” Planners and cyclists alike are rejoicing at the prospect of coming closer to solving the issue of coexistence between cars and bikes sharing the road.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials has recently added raised bike lanes as a viable method for incorporating protected cycling lanes into their Urban Bikeway Design Guide, validating this new design and allowing planners easier access to approval to construct.
These lanes have slowly been making their way into American cities, after being commonplace in Europe for years. As Americans become more environmentally conscious and automobile use decreases, the demand for bicycle oriented traffic design increases. This case highlights the influence of urban design on culture; if something is built, and built well, people will use it. The sleek and simple design of raised lanes is a solution which is aesthetically pleasing and practical. Continued incorporation of simple design elements like this will promote health and environment, seamlessly planning for a better standard of living in the US.