Special Streets Make Way for Bicyclists
Experienced bikers always know the quiet side streets that offer a safe, pleasurable ride. Now some of these streets are being officially designated as ‘bike boulevards,’ where cars are allowed but two-wheelers get priority. These residential streets pass near popular destinations and offer convenient access across busy avenues but feature a low volume of cars traveling at low speeds. Many are designed with special pavement colors, decorative vegetation or signage to identify that the streets are optimized for bicyclists. Some also feature diverters, which permit riders and pedestrians to pass through but route motorists to adjoining roads. Studies conducted by Portland State University show that bicyclists, especially women, will travel out of their way in order to ride on low-stress bike boulevards. Bike boulevards are an especially cost-effective way to complete a bicycling network — on average they cost 25% as much as an off-street path.
Bike boulevards aren’t just for bikes
Portland features 36 miles of bike boulevards, locally called ‘Neighborhood Greenways’ to emphasize that it’s not just bicyclists who benefit. Many projects include vegetation that collects rain runoff that would other otherwise enter the sewer system, making the street more beautiful and reducing the need for costly water treatment facilities.
(left) Bicycle-preferred streets like this one in the Netherlands use features like colored pavement, special bricks and traffic diverters to make the street welcoming to bicycles but limit car travel to local traffic.
(right) Neighborhood Greenways — sometimes called Bike Boulevards — are quiet local streets with inexpensive modifications to optimize bicycle travel. Cars are permitted, but the street design makes bicycling the most comfortable and convenient mode of travel. Photo: Tucson Velo