No, protected bike lanes do not need to cost $1 million per mile

May 16, 2017

Michael Andersen, PlacesForBikes staff writer

Putting protected bike lanes on both sides of a street can cost $1 million per mile. The country's most physically beautiful protected bike lane network, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, cost several million dollars per mile.

Like most things in life, there are always ways to spend more money to make something more awesome.

But every once in a while, someone will acquire and share the mistaken belief that a protected bike lane, like a sidewalk, has to cost $1 million per mile. This is not true.

To explain, we'll share three infographics (from past posts) that together tell the story pretty well.

First, here is a visual explanation of the "quick build" method many U.S. cities are using to modernize their project delivery process. Instead of trying to plan something for perfection from the beginning, like you'd need to do if you were building a freeway, cities advance along a spectrum of decreasingly flexible and increasingly durable materials over the course of a decade or so, gradually tweaking a street toward greater safety and comfort and fixing small issues along the way.

Second, here's a breakdown of the relative costs of various types of bike lane separation. It's based on the numbers in this spreadsheet.

Finally, let's use a simple bar chart to put the cost of a high-quality protected bike lane in context with some other projects that cities regularly consider. (These cost figures come from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.) We'll let you draw your own conclusions.

bar chart comparing SF transportation project costs

PlacesForBikes helps U.S. communities build better biking, faster. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about building all-ages biking networks. Story tip? Write [email protected]

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