Are Protected Bike Lanes in our Future? [U]

In Seattle, the bike is king. On some streets, dedicated bike lanes are being installed to provide a safer alternative to bikes sharing the road with cars. The idea is a good one as many bicyclists and car drivers are nervous when cars and bikes are sharing the road. Car/bike accidents are on the rise, possibly due to more switchers choosing to ride rather than drive.

The safety benefits of protected bike lanes should be significant. Unfortunately, the cost will be high both in terms of dollars and in the loss of parking and movement of all other non-bicycle traffic. 

Mercer Street improvements include separated green bike lanes

The Mercer Street bike lanes in Seattle (shown above) have bi-directional bike lanes on one side of the road separated by a berm and marked in a bright green paint. 

A far more ambitious design can be seen in the photos of Copenhagen below. In this new, planned green community, transportation modes are separated by type and delineated not only with changes in paving, but also in grade. In the photos below, note how cars, bikes and pedestrians all have their own dedicated pathway, separated by changes in grade and paving materials. One immediately knows when one has crossed the line and is entering another pathway. This system is impressive but also takes a huge amount of space. Buses share the road with cars. Overhead to the right in the photo, a raised light rail line follows the corridor as well. 

Needless to say, such a system cannot very well be shoehorned into a densely populated area with existing infrastructure. You won't find such protected pathways in downtown Copenhagen as they simply would not fit in the narrow roadways.

Copenhagen's bike culture is unique to its environment, society and topography.

A bike parking lot stands in front of a metro station in Copenhagen

Will Kirkland see protected bike lanes? One expects it is coming sometime in the future where feasible (and possibly even where it may not be feasible. Define "feasible."). Such a system would be welcomed by many, including this writer, if made as a part of a comprehensive transportation plan including additional parking and road improvements aimed at moving traditional, non bicycle traffic too. Admittedly, things work differently around here. We seem to have a more piecemeal approach. Nonetheless, this is food for thought on a possible future.