Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business

Spring 2014
Protected bike lanes like this one in Portland, Ore., can increase real estate values and boost retail sales, according to a report by PeopleForBikes.

Cities are beginning to recognize that America’s love affair with cars, particularly urban America’s, is declining. One recent indication of this is the 60 applications that the Boulder, Colo.-based PeopleForBikes, a group sponsored by the bicycling industry, received in late 2013 from cities across the U.S. for the second phase of its Green Lane Project, a program that provides assistance in building protected bike lanes, also known as “green lanes.” (The project began in early 2012, with the selection of the six cities listed in the table below for its first phase.)

headshot of Martha Roskowski

Martha Roskowski

The group typically works with each city’s transportation department, furnishing it with about $250,000 in services over a two-year period and a $25,000 grant to help buy supplies. PeopleForBikes’ January 2014 report, “Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business: How 21st Century Transportation Networks Help New Urban Economies Boom,” describes what the group has learned about how these lanes benefit cities from its experiences with the project’s first phase.

“For the past 50 years, cities created bike lanes using a stripe of white paint on the right-hand side of roads,” says Martha Roskowski, vice president of local innovation for PeopleForBikes. “By looking at what our counterparts in Europe have done, we have learned that adding a physical separation between cars and bikes can be game changing.”

These physical barriers can be as simple and inexpensive as plastic cones, but many cities around the world are going much further, using concrete curbs, planters and even parked cars as barriers. Roskowski notes that cities also are rethinking bike riders: they no longer view them as a small special interest group, but rather see them as an integral part of their mobility strategies. Cities are realizing that they can handle more people as companies fit more workers into less space, but they cannot deal with more cars. They need transportation alternatives, and they are looking at bikes as one of those alternatives.

The new report presents experiences from cities selected to participate in the first phase of the Green Lane Project to explain the following four ways that better bike lanes help urban economies. They:

  • Increase real estate values by helping more people reach a property without jamming streets;
  • Improve the recruitment and retention of valuable employees and employers;
  • Improve workers’ health and productivity by making exercise a part of daily life; and
  • Boost sales in retail districts by bringing in shoppers who visit more often and spend just as much money as those who arrive by car, but don’t need parking spaces. 

For more information: “Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business,” PeopleForBikes, January 2014

a table with information in it