City Green Bike Lanes
posted by August 21 at 17:17 PMon
Traveling south through downtown this afternoon, I was surprised (and a little confused) to see what looked like a golf putting lane in the middle of the bike lane on Second Avenue. I didn’t get a shot, but this is more or less what it looked like:
That photo was taken in Portland (and licensed, like all the photos in this post, under a Creative Commons license), and Seattle officials cite that city’s success with green lanes to support their decision to install green lanes here. “The idea behind the green bike lanes is they’re at intersections where we expect there to be conflict between motorists who are turning and cyclists who are going straight,” says Rick Sheridan, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation. “”It’s a visual cue to motorists to expect to see a bicycle.”
Biking through downtown, I could perceive absolutely no difference between riding on Second before the green lanes were installed and riding with them in place: Drivers still cut me off, turned left into my path, honked when I tried to move forward with the flow of traffic, and generally failed to acknowledge my existence. If they thought anything of the new lanes, they certainly didn’t indicate it by acting differently; more likely, those drivers who even noticed them just thought they were a weird art installation.
But they work in Portland!, fans of green lanes insist. That may be true, but Portland has a whole network of cool, colorful bike facilities that work together to get drivers accustomed to watching out for bikes; so far, we just have a few small green strips of pavement. To make small steps like the green strips downtown effective, we’d need to install lots of new bike infrastructure everywhere. Infrastructure such as:
Bike-only traffic signals:
Prominent signals telling drivers where to stop (and giving bikes priority):
Entire lanes striped a different color, not just a few yards at intersections:
A major public-outreach campaign aimed at drivers:
Bike lanes that are separated from car traffic:
Instead, we get this:
I’m not saying we should ban sharrows or not bother with green bike lanes; but it’s hard to see what good they’ll do in the context of a transportation system that consistently and overwhelmingly favors cars over pedestrians and cyclists. Safety for cyclists is going to take a massive, citywide transformation of our transportation network, not a few small steps here and there over many years, which seems to be the approach the city is taking.