There has been so much talk about Complete Streets in recent years and most people don’t realize the benefits of the overall concept. Focusing on just one idea in this post will give you an inkling of the road Complete Streets could lead us on (pun intended).
Most of the discussions surrounding bicycle safety have focused on “Share the Road” and carving out sections of existing roads to use as safe haven bike lanes. In fact, as more studies show, having a shared use road which pairs a form of transport that weighs less than 30 pounds and generally travels less than 20 mph with one that weighs several tons and moves at 40-70 mph is a dangerous combination. Around the globe, groups are studying ways to implement segregated highways for bicycles.
More and more locales are building separate facilities for bicycles referred to as “Bicycle Highways” or “Veloways”. These are similar to bike paths, but are specific use for bikes. These highways can still be alongside existing roads, but include a buffer or barrier to segregate bicycles from cars.
Europe has been playing the lead with development of these separate roadways for bicycles. Copenhagen is developing a system of 28 Bicycle Superhighways that will connect all points of the city. It’s expected the city will realize substantial financial savings once the complete system has been implemented. This is based on the experience realized from the current highway system, which has drastically reduced the number of sick days taken by those that commute by bicycle.
In the United States, there is also progress being made in the development of the United States Bicycle Route System (USBRS), an initiative with plans to develop a numbered bicycle route system connecting the US. This is a plan that was first proposed in the early 1980s, but was mostly ignored until 2003, when the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) formed the Task Force on US Bicycle Routes. Beginning with Route 1, which was opened in 1982 and connects Virginia and North Carolina, the system now comprises of several routes and many miles of available trails and paths. Follow the links below to check the progress. We are fortunate to have BikeTexas working for us to integrate several historic trails in our state into the USBRS.
It is true that the culture in Europe and the view of utilizing the bicycle for transportation is far advanced to that of the United States, however even the realization of a small percentage of these benefits should go a long way to the justification of the construction of these highways in targeted regions.