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Bicycle Brilliance and the Greening of America's Streets

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page.

 You can glimpse the future right now in forward-looking American cities-a few blocks here, a mile there where people riding bicycles are protected from rushing cars and trucks. 

Chicago's Kinzie Street, just north of downtown, offers a good picture of this transportation transformation.  New bike lanes are marked with bright green paint and separated from motor traffic by a series of plastic posts.  This means bicyclists glide through the busy area in the safety of their own space on the road.  Pedestrians are thankful that bikes no longer seek refuge on the sidewalks, and many drivers appreciate the clear, orderly delineation about where bikes and cars belong. 

"Most of all this is a safety project," notes Chicago's Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein. "We saw bikes go up from a 22 percent share of traffic to 52 percent of traffic on the street with only a negligible change in motorists' time, but a drop in their speeds. That makes everyone safer."

Klein heralds this new style of bike lane as one way to improve urban mobility in an era of budget shortfalls. "They're dirt cheap to build compared to road projects."

"The Kinzie project was discombobulating to the public when it first went in," notes Alderman Margaret Laurino, chair of the city council's Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee. "Business owners had questions. But now people understand it and we're ready to do more."

"Protected bike lanes are not just for diehard bicyclists-they offer a level of safety and confidence for less experienced riders," adds Rey Col√≥n, a Chicago alderman who first saw how well these innovations work on a trip to Seville, Spain.  



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