Biking has always been a popular mode of transportation, but many communities are only just now taking steps to tailor transportation infrastructure to cyclists' needs.
With the number of regular bikers on the rise, cities are starting to realize that people need safe places to ride. Bike lanes, trails and paths are being built by the mile. Forward-thinking cities know that making it easy for people to ride goes beyond the creation of healthy citizens; it provides a cost-effective way for people to get around.
Unlike conventional bike lanes, cycle tracks combine the biker's experience of a separated path with the on-street structure of a bike lane. Cycle tracks provide space exclusively for bicycles and separate the bike lane from vehicle travel lanes, parking lanes and sidewalks by various barriers including trees, curb cuts and parallel parking spaces. Good designs are pleasing to the eye and provide the safest pathway for riders.
They're already popular in Europe (below), and here in the U.S., New York, Portland and Washington, D.C. (right) are a few of the cities to boast cycle tracks. Fueled by its commitment to being a truly livable community, Montreal has developed award-winning cycle tracks. "The vision behind Montreal's transportation plan was to meet the mobility needs of all Montrealers, making the city a great place to live and an economic center that is both prosperous and environmentally responsible," the city's leaders recently wrote. "To this end, Montreal wanted to reduce dependency on cars, through massive investment in active and collective modes of transportation such as streetcars, subways, green buses, trains, bicycles and walking."
Biking and other forms of active transportation allow residents to engage with their communities in a healthy and cost-effective way. AARP and the Partnership for Active Transportation advocate for "Safe Routes to Everywhere" - safe and pleasant places for Americans to walk and bike that connect people to their communities and common destinations.
By installing cycle tracks that designate a portion of the road that is safe for biking, community leaders can ensure that residents do not lose any access to specific areas of town because they choose to ditch their cars. While cycle tracks ensure that bikers are safe and secure, they also help integrate biking into the overall culture of a community.
If communities can make biking a more viable option for residents of all ages, more people can safely experience the health and financial benefits of active transportation.