Cedar Rapids' protected bike lanes experiment
Cedar Rapids multimodal transportation planner Brandon G. Whyte led a demonstration Sunday afternoon of the protected cycle lane that will be part of the reconstruction of 3rd Avenue when it is completed in October. The lane will run from 6th Street SW to 3rd Street SE, at which point it will connect to the traditional-style bike lane that continues to 10th Street SE.
The temporary striping was completed with the help of what Red Green would call the Multimodal Transportation Planner's Secret Weapon:
A protected bike lane is one that is separated from car traffic by some sort of physical barrier, such as a curb, bollards, or, as in this case, parked cars.
Sunday's demonstration took place in the 200 block of 3rd Avenue SE. Whyte explained the protected-lane concept as well as the city's plans, and volunteers illustrated by riding through the demo section and around the block.
|3rd Avenue and 3rd Street SE|
|3rd Street SE approaching 2nd Avenue, no left-turn box|
The protected lanes on 3rd Avenue will be Iowa's first when they are completed in October. They will be followed in 2016 by a pair of protected lanes on 1st Street SW. After that... we'll see. The promise is that the city's considerable effort to improve cycling infrastructure will encourage more people to cycle, particularly those who currently find riding in car traffic off-putting. That means more people getting exercise, fewer cars using the streets and gasoline, and more activity supporting a vibrant downtown, not to mention a critical presence of cyclists that will in itself make cycling safer.
In a post today on the Strong Towns blog, activist Daniel Herriges suggests another positive outcome. Even if protected bike lanes remain rare and weird in our state, the creation of even these few shifts the center of conversational gravity on this issue--what he calls the "Overton window"--making other types of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure more politically possible.
Finally, I hope that, by incorporating cyclists into traffic design, the city has created a structure into which cyclists can comfortably fit. You don't have to be a die-hard bike hater to notice the crazy things some people will do on bicycles. Lori Hasselbeck of Brownsburg, Indiana asked on the CBS2 website:
Will these wonderful new bike lanes keep people from riding on the sidewalks? Going the wrong way on one-way streets? Riding through stop signs and stop lights? Weaving in and out of traffic?As we spent time hanging out Sunday in the 200 block, I was astounded at the number of cyclists who came down the sidewalk, ignoring the demo lane, us standing there (there was at least one near-collision), and these handsome signs:
I attribute this behavior to long-standing practice in traffic design that has favored cars to the exclusion of bikes, leading to a sort of outlaw behavior--not among BikeCR folk, of course, but among a lot of other people. In the case of sidewalk riding, it's also due to the streets that resulted from this design practice being (or at least feeling) unsafe for cyclists. Bike lanes on heavily-trafficked streets, particularly lanes that are protected or buffered, give cyclists space to behave as part of a community instead of being radical individualists. I hope they will. It won't help our cause if they don't.
NEWS VIDEO: Steffi Lee, "Cedar Rapids Unveils Protected Bike Lanes," CBS2 Iowa, 2 August 2015, http://cbs2iowa.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/Cedar-Rapids-Unveils-Protected-Bike-Lanes-179430.shtml
|Your faithful blogger rides the demo lane; photo by Ben Kaplan|