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The Simple, Inexpensive Breakthrough That Is Transforming American Cities

The Green Lane Project brings bicycling into the 21st century -- with positive results for the nation's health, economy, environment and commutes.

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Mayor Lee Leffingwell declares, "As one of the most congested cities of our size nationally, bicycling is certainly a realistic way to address this problem. But I also value the contribution to the economy that comes with the provision of smart transportation options that attract major employers to Austin."

*Portland -- As the large American city with arguably the best network of on-street bikeways and undeniably the highest ridership, Portland looks to Green Lanes as the best way to make sure the number of bicyclists continues to grow. "The more separation you create between people on bikes and fast-moving cars, the more people you will see on riding," says city bicycle coordinator Roger Geller. "And the more people biking the more benefits everyone gets in terms of health, community, safety and the environment."

Portland inaugurated its first Green Lane downtown and recently completed two others in the Northwest and Southwest quadrants of the city with more to come.

*Washington D.C. -- Washington striped its first on-street bike lane 40 years ago, but bicycling in the city really took off with the advent of the Capital Bikeshare program in 2010 and the protected bike lane on 15th St. NW, which connects to a popular buffered bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue leading all the way to the U.S. Capitol. Another Green Lane on L Street is up next. Overall, Washington has seen an 80 percent increase in bicycling since 2007.

Capital Bikeshare is currently the nation's largest with 1200 bikes (2800 by the end of the year) available for short term rental at 180 stations, which average 6000 rides a day by DC residents, commuters and tourists. (New York is set to launch a system this summer that will number 10,000 bikes by next year.)

"This is the time of the bicycle," observes Ellen Jones, chair of Washington's Bicycle Advisory Council and a director of the Downtown Business Improvement District. "People want to live and work in places where they have a lot of choices for how to get around. That makes you feel great about a place like Washington."

*Memphis -- Mayor AC Wharton Jr. is behind the push to make Memphis a bicycling leader among Sun Belt cities. "We believe in the power of bicycle facilities to enhance the health, economy and safety of our community," he says.

Work on the city's first Green Lane, a 1-mile connection between a popular park and a well-traveled rail-trail, starts soon. Bikeway/Pedestrian Coordinator Kyle Wagenschutz, says, "We're not building trails just for people who already bike-we want to energize the growth of cycling in the city as a legitimate sources of transportation."

Memphis, like most cities, does not promote bicycling simply as a transportation policy, but also as economic development strategy. "The job recruiters at FedEx and our medical centers talk about the importance of being a good place to bike in attracting talent here," Wagenschutz says. "Recently I met with a partner at the law firm, Bass, Berry & Sims, who told me he did not ride a bike and was not interested in riding a bike, but he wanted to tell us how appreciative he is for how helpful all the bike improvements have been in recruiting young lawyers to their firm."

 

 

Jay Walljasper, author of The Great Neighborhood Book and All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons, chronicles urban life for a variety of publications. His website: www.JayWalljasper.com.

 
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