Monday, December 22, 2014

Commuting by Bike Begins to Roll, Lowering Emissions and Enriching Cities

Riders enjoy a newly fortified bike lane on a bridge in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. (Credit: Danielle Griscti, courtesy of Flickr.) Click to Enlarge.
An unfinished billion-dollar urban planning project set to connect downtown Atlanta with green spaces, affordable housing, and trails for biking and walking may already be paying dividends.

The Atlanta BeltLine project -- which began in 2007, is scheduled to finish in 2030 and has cost about $360 million in private and public dollars so far -- will string together 45 neighborhoods with a 22-mile transit loop encircling the city.  Employing abandoned railroad lines to carve new space, the designers have budgeted for 33 miles of trails and 1,300 acres of greenery.

Some of the prime movers driving this project appear to be local bicyclists, who have sparked a financial surge around the Eastside Trail, the only completed leg of the BeltLine. They have helped incite a $1 billion redevelopment boom, according to a recent planning report.

"That trail is driving the entire conversation that we're having," said Byron Rushing, the senior transportation planner for the Atlanta Regional Commission, an intergovernmental planning agency for the area.  "Everybody here in Atlanta is holding their breath."

More Americans live in urban centers than ever before, but cities have found their attractions dimmed by mounting traffic gridlock.  "We were the poster child for sprawl congestion and car commutes," Rushing said of his city.  Now, Atlanta and others have started seriously investing in biking infrastructure.
Atlanta; Memphis, Tenn.; Indianapolis; and Houston, cities not known for their environmentally sustainable legacies and policies, have all emerged as bike infrastructure leaders, with mayors leading local planning projects.  The city of Portland, Ore., which has invested $70 million in bicycle efforts, has so far avoided constructing another bridge because enough people bike into work.

Fortifying downtown bike lanes

Constructing "protected bike lanes" -- barriers delineated by curbs, bollards, planters, concrete bumps, posts, dining tables, painted lines or even parked cars -- allows riders to feel safe and signals to drivers where they should expect cyclists.

Bicycle trips in the United States jumped fro 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion by 2009, according to a survey from the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group.  In cities the organization calls "biking friendly" -- New Orleans; Lexington, Ky.; Denver; and San Francisco, among others -- the percentage growth of residents who commute on two wheels is even more stark.

Read more at Commuting by Bike Begins to Roll, Lowering Emissions and Enriching Cities

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