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BFC Steve: Top Win-Over Projects

Yesterday, I talked about the “WOW” of Bicycle Friendly Communities. Perhaps the most important part of that “WOW” factor, is the “win-over projects.”

I call them “win-over projects” because they tend to cause people to turn their heads (maybe even scratch their heads) and get them thinking that maybe bicycling could start working for them. The communities that are really seeing growth in bicycling have done something big and beautiful that people can’t help but notice. I’ve pulled together some of the best “win-over projects” I saw during my trips to Memphis and mutli-city tour of California.

The Bike Gate at Overton Park in Memphis, TN

Let me start by saying even without the new Bike Gate, Overton Park is an amazing historical, cultural and natural gem.  This is the only place in the United States where a freeway was stopped by a small group of citizens — and it went all the way to the Supreme Court.  

But now this wonderful 342 acre park is connected to a popular off-street system (Shelby Farm Trails) via protected bike lanes (which began as a DIY citizen’s initiative) on Broad Street that has already helped revitalize this entire commercial corridor.  The icing on the cake though?  The WOW factor?  Here it is, the Bike Gate leading into the park from the new protected bike lanes.

More on this piece of art here.

Green Lanes on Market Street in San Francisco, CA


What makes the new Cycle Track on Market Street especially a win-over project is, well, it’s Market Street, where all the action is (BART stations, City Hall, United Nations Plaza, Bike Sharing stations….).  Also, it’s not just a buffered  green bike lane (protected in some areas) but for those of us that love immediate feedback and that sense of belonging –- a bike-o-meter! During my recent visit, there were 941 bicyclists by 9:30 AM on a Tuesday morning according to the Bike-o-meter!

Streets replaced by Linear Parks in Davis, CA

Back in the late sixties and early seventies, Davis was experimenting with bike friendly designs that even today seem pretty radical.  My favorite are the linear parks that replaced streets. What a treat to ride through these parks largely taken care of the people who have homes here, even tending gardens right to the edge of the paths.  

Davis figured out a long time ago how to get more people on bikes: make it more pleasant and advantageous to bike than to drive. And they’ve largely done it! Sure, there are lots of cul-de-sacs but all the ones I witnessed had cut-thru trails for cyclists.

Yes, this trail is too narrow for two way traffic but a replica of this exists on the other side of the trees for cyclists traveling the other way! Hard to imagine that this was ever a standard street!

Buffered bike lanes in Sacramento, CA

Lots of things in Sacramento inspired me, but I especially smiled (okay it wasn’t quite a wow!) when I saw this fine example of a buffered bike lane that once had been a wide travel lane.  Good engineering with the buffer zone next to the parked cars, also allowing better sight lines for the motorists pulling out from driveways and side-streets. 

Bold, Green Experiments in Oakland, CA

Oakland, CA, has been a leader in pioneering good bikeway design for years. Before road diets were commonplace, they placed one on Lakeside Drive, with traffic volumes exceeding 25,000 vehicles a day. They were also the first city to adopt a stricter minimum standard than the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for the placement of sharrows next to parked cars (center of sharrow 12’ from the curb instead of 11’) to ensure cyclists would be out of the door zone.  So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they are now a leading NACTO city, implementing green lanes in very smart places.  This photo shows one such place where a road diverges into a freeway entrance ramp.  Perfect place for the green to provide strong messaging to motorists and bicyclists where the cyclists can be expected.  To maximize width of bike lane, all travel lanes were reduced to 10’ widths. It works!

Bike to School Efforts in Palo Alto, CA

So many good things are happening in Palo Alto right now it makes a person think that this could be the next community that leaps up to Platinum.  The biggest wow for me though was watching all the kids happily coming to school (or at least happily departing school!) on their bicycles.  The last time I saw so many people using bikes for transportation I was in the Netherlands. One of the schools in Palo Alto has a 70 percent mode share!  How do they do it? Smart Safe Routes to School paid coordinators working at the city; safe cycling training beginning in the third grade; lots of parent volunteers, solid infrastructure (but keep in mind these kids are largely riding in bike lanes next to significant traffic), a fun incentive program and totally secure and convenient bike parking.  Another ‘you have to see it to believe it’, as no single photo can do it justice.

At this intersection, a crossing guard helps the children cross the street (sometimes even diagonally) during the busiest after-school hours.

Next set of visits where I’m expecting to see some great things: Madison, Milwaukee, Kenosha and Highland Park; then onto Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver,  Aurora and Wheatridge.  Thanks Trek!