By Mary Velan
Across the country, the number of people choosing to bike to work and other places – rather take a personal vehicle – is growing steadily. To accommodate this blossoming population, many cities are adopting new policies and amenities to ensure bicyclists’ needs are met.
Seattle has becoming a popular city for bicycling residents, and has offered a bike sharing program for more than a year now. Seattle was awarded a$10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand its bike sharing system – which will be managed by the city in the near future. Rather than keeping the bike share program in the hands of the private company, the city is planning a takeover that will reduce overhead costs and ensure the program is extended into low-income neighbors to serve underrepresented populations, KPLU reported.
In a city full of hills, Seattle roads can make for a tiresome bike ride. Seattle plans to use some of the federal grant as well as the city’s $5 million matching grant to add more stations as well as electric-assist bikes into the mix. These bicycles have a motor and battery that help riders peddle when they are taking longer trips or tackling steep terrain. By adding electric-assist bikes, the city expects more residents to take advantage of the bikes as they will be equipped to handle longer distances in shorter periods of time, KPLU reported.
In addition, Seattle is teaming up with Alta Planning to utilize high-tech bicycles to assess a trails upgrade plan. The goal of the project is to reduce emissions by making bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure more commuter-friendly. To determine what pathways throughout the city need improvements, Seattle is using high-tech bicycles to gather key terrain data, CityLab reported.
These bikes have sensors attached that can gather road and environment data such as:
- Pavement abnormalities
- Non-ADA-compliant concrete lips
The volumes of data generated by the bikes can be used to help city planners prioritize new path projects and maintenance work.
There is a zigzagging route in San Francisco known as the Wiggle that can be difficult for cyclists to navigate if they are required to stop at every stop sign along the way. In response, bicyclists protested the requirement for them to stop at these stop signs rather than treat them as yield signs like drivers do. Because stopping and starting a bicycle is a slow and laborious process, the city’s cyclists would like to able to roll through these signs slowly, and stop if necessary, The New York Times reported.
Prior to the protest, local law enforcement was cracking down on cyclists failing to make complete stops throughout the Wiggle – issuing 204 citations in two days in August. In response, new legislation has been proposed that would permit bike riders to yield rather than stop at stop signs, while still requiring bikers stopping completely at red lights. The introduced bill has created conflict in the city among drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as tensions among city lawmakers. If the bill passes, San Francisco will be the largest U.S. city to pass a stop-as-yield law, while Paris adopted a similar law this summer, The New York Times reported.
Those opposed to the bill feel San Francisco streets are already crowded, and don’t need riders passing through, not stopping at stop signs. The riding number of cyclists in the city is creating swarms of cyclists that, at times, impede regular car traffic flow.
Those in favor of the bill argue allowing bikers to roll through certain stop signs would free up police officers to focus on more serious violations in the community. Many cities across the country are interested to see how the San Francisco proposed bill will fair, awaiting the outcome before trying to impose a similar law locally, The New York Times reported.
The Maryland Department of Transportation recently announced $14.9 million in grants would be allocated to communities throughout the state to increase walkability and bicycle-friendliness. The goal of the grant program is to build a connected framework of bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use trails across the state that would support a more balanced transit network. The Maryland Bikeways Program offers municipalities with grant assistance to expedite the development of bicycle infrastructure. This funding is intended to:
- Correct inefficiencies
- Increase multimodal travel
- Spur economic development
- Boost safety
By providing municipalities with financial incentives to improve bicycling amenities in the community, the state hopes to make it easier for bikes to be used for both recreation and everyday transportation. As a result, more cities are embracing the bicyclist culture with new programs, MD Coast Dispatch reported.
For example, Berlin was awarded $30,000 through the Bikeways grant program and has used the money to engineer three bike trails and draw up a plan to make the city more appealing to bicyclists in the years to come. Salisbury received $50,000 through the program to erect signs, kiosks and maps that identify bicycle routes for commuters. The city also passed a law that would allow bike lanes along major streets to make the downtown district more accessible without a car. Now Salisbury has four miles of dedicated bike lanes and nearly four miles of single track trails in city parks, MD Coast Dispatch reported.