Why Protected Bike Lanes Matter to Us All

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Erin Potter Tweet Us @BikeArlington@BikeArlington March 15, 2018

Erin Potter is the former Program Manager for BikeArlington.

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If you can ride a bike, you should be able to use that bike to go shopping, ride to school or work, and run errands easily and comfortably. Protected bike lanes help make this possible for more people.

In the last few years, bike lane design has evolved in cities across the United States, and the most notable change is the emergence of protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes are one of the improvements included in Complete Streets projects across the County which are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, transit riders, bikers, and motorists.

What is a Protected Bike Lane?

Protected bike lanes, also known as cycle tracks and separated bike lanes go above and beyond the painted bike lanes that we typically see on Arlington streets and provide physical separation between people on bikes and motor vehicles. The separation can be provided in a number of ways including:

  • Plastic bollards or “flex posts”
  • Landscaping and large planters
  • Curbs
  • Car parking

Why are Protected Bike Lanes Important?

Protected bike lanes are a big upgrade over traditional painted bike lanes and go a long way towards making getting around by bike a realistic option for the majority of people, including those that are not experienced cyclists.

Creates Confidence and Reassurance for All Users

Protected bike lanes contribute to making our streets calmer, easier to understand, and more use able for people from ages eight to 80. Well-designed protected bike lanes establish more order and predictability on the streets. Cyclists tend to behave themselves and do a better job of following the rules when they are using properly designed and separated facilities. Drivers also appreciate a sense of order and clarity that the separation provides.

Arlington has a great framework of off-street trails for biking and walking, but the trails can’t go everywhere. Protected bike lanes bring the separated trail-like experience to the streets and extend the network of comfortable, easy to use bike facilities to more places that people want to go.

Good for the Local Economy

Money talks and this is a benefit everyone can appreciate. Studies show that when an area becomes more bikeable and walkable, there is an economic boost to local business. Local stores become more accessible and appealing, plus saving on gas and parking costs means people have a few extra dollars to spend. Companies like to locate in areas that are walk and bike friendly, because it improves their ability to recruit and maintain talented employees. In general, protected bike lanes are quality of life improvements for everyone which leads to a strong local economy.

What are Arlington’s Plans for Protected Bike Lanes?

Arlington has protected bike lanes on portions of Hayes Street, Eads Street, Army Navy Drive, and Wilson Boulevard which were originally installed as pilot projects in order to test their effectiveness and evaluate their inclusion in future street designs. Currently, the Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation plan is being updated and the draft framework emphasizes a comfortable, safe, and connected network for people biking. Protected bike lanes achieve a lot of those same goals.

The Bicycle Element is moving into the next phase, so stay tuned for opportunities to tell us where the next protected bike lane should go in Arlington.

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