A new bicycle project is bringing some big changes to Denver and to the city’s biking community. PeopleForBikes’ Green Lane Project seeks to help cities build better bike lanes to make cycling safer and to encourage greater use of bikes. The focus of the project is to create protected bike lanes that are separate from lanes of traffic used by vehicles. Protected bike lanes are on-street lanes separated from traffic by various means, including curbs, parked cars, planters, posts or other markers. Such lanes make a clear division between motor vehicle traffic and bike traffic, leading to greater safety, lower numbers of bike accidents, and less stress for drivers and riders alike.

Protected Bike Lanes

The creation of protected bike lanes has been shown to have plenty of benefits in other respects. When cyclists have dedicated lanes, there are generally fewer incidents of cyclists riding on sidewalks, which also helps to protect pedestrians. Lanes make traffic flow and pedestrian movement more predictable overall and reduce the number of bike-versus-car accidents and collisions between bikes and pedestrians. Cities that have experimented with protected bike lanes have found that such lanes can increase the overall vitality of city streets, encouraging businesses to move into those areas. Like pedestrians, cyclists are more likely to shop or browse local stores. Installing protected bike lanes increases the visibility of businesses along the street, encouraging more businesses to move into areas with bike lanes and boosting business for existing stores as well. A greater number of pedestrians and cyclists will help to encourage the creation of communities, making areas where people want to spend time in, not simply drive through to get to somewhere else.

The Green Lane Project

PeopleForBikes is a national organization that works to make bicycling better for all riders through a number of measures, including political work, national partnerships, and provision of resources to help people become better, safer cyclists. The group launched the Green Lane Project in 2012, which has worked with six U.S. cities in its first two years to plan and build protected bike lanes. For 2014, the Project selected six new cities to begin working with. Along with Denver, the newly chosen cities include Atlanta, Boston, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

When discussing Denver’s involvement with the program, PeopleForBikes Vice President of Local Innovation Martha Roskowski expressed that Denver has “ambitious goals and strong vision” for pursuing projects to make the city more bike friendly. In conjunction with the Green Lane Project, these projects serve as a good example for other cities who are considering making similar changes.

The first protected bike lane in Denver will be installed in spring 2014, with the addition of vertical separators to the downtown 15th Street Bikeway. The city is also beginning serious planning efforts to identify other areas where such lanes can be installed. These efforts are part of a longer term plan to make alternate modes of transportation more appealing to commuters, with a goal of having 15 percent of commuting trips made by either cycling or walking by 2020. Increasing the number of people who travel by bike or walking, it is hoped, will reduce the number of cars on the road, lower the risk of bicycle accidents, and ease congestion while also contributing to a cleaner environment.

Studies in other cities show that people go out of their way to use protected bike lanes when available, which is good news for retail stores along those routes and also potentially good news for cities interested in renewing downtown areas and creating stronger communities. Denver’s efforts to begin adding and planning new protected bike lanes may become part of a larger trend of people moving toward alternative forms of transportation, as well as creating tangible benefits for city residents in both the short and long term.