What is a protected bike lane?

Protected bike lanes provide space for the exclusive use of bicyclists that is separated from both automobile and pedestrian traffic. Protected bike lanes are more than just a strip of paint on the road. These separated lanes create a physical barrier between the bike lanes and car traffic.

Separation types range from less permanent, lower-cost options such as flexible delineator posts, to mid-range cost options like pre-cast or cast-in place concrete curb, to full reconstruction of the street providing a separated bike lane at intermediate or sidewalk level.

A physically separated bike lane creates the sense of ‘subjective safety’. A 2012 study by Portland State University’s Jennifer Dill found that the majority of both people on bicycles and people driving cars prefer the separation between cyclists and motor vehicles, and a separated bike lane is the most important way to encourage bicycle use among would-be cyclists. Think of it as a sidewalk for bikes. Simply put, this type of infrastructure makes cycling more attractive for bicyclists of all levels and ages.

Existing conditions along Hogan Street, north of Bay Street.

Along Hogan Street, adding a protected bike lane can be implemented within existing curb lines by simply narrowing and/or removing a travel lane. This can be done in a cost-effective manner by using lower cost materials such as flexible delineator posts.

A proposal to add a protected bike lane along Hogan Street involves a variety of cost-effective lane reductions, each contextually sensitive to existing sections of the roadway

A ‘complete street’ doesn’t necessarily mean an ‘expensive street’. Hogan Street already features the widest sidewalks found anywhere downtown. Hogan Street also does not feature any metered parking spaces on the west-side of the roadway, meaning adding a protected bike lane would not remove any on-street parking or reduce parking capacity in any way. Additionally, the removal of a traffic lane would still leave adequate automobile capacity. Even the reduction of one travel lane would still provide traffic facilities that are able to accommodate double the amount of automobile traffic that currently exists.

Adding a protected bike lane along with coordinated sidewalk enhancements that engage pedestrians is an affordable way to create a vibrant cluster of economic activity in an attractive environment. This is the very definition of the type of ‘low-hanging fruit’ to create an achievable level of vibrancy downtown.

NEXT: Taking a look at the big picture- where does a protected bike lane downtown fit in?