Seeing is Believing—a study from Salt Lake City
Seeing is believing. We’ve been guided by this idea for years, first through the Bicycling Design Best Practices Program (yes, we needed a shorter name) and now with the Green Lane Project, as we host elected leaders, transportation engineers, planners, and advocates from cities across the country on trips to experience world-class bicycling environments. If they see it, learn about it, understand it, and most of all, RIDE it, they will bring back sufficient knowledge, inspiration, and excitement to build it, right?
Well, yes, but change can take time. So a bit more than a year ago, we decided to give a little push. Create an external incentive. Offer a carrot, if you will. Partnering with REI, we offered grants to cities that had participated in our trips to implement something—a facility, an amenity—that came directly from their study tour learning. And voila! We started to see some really cool stuff.
One of the first to finish was Salt Lake City. Inspired by the green lanes that city Bike/Ped Coordinator Becka Roolf saw in Portland, OR, Salt Lake City developed a pilot to install a similar lane for half a mile along one of the city’s very wide streets. The idea was to look at how communities deal with driveways and other potential conflict zones, experiment with their own solutions, evaluate with the help of researchers at a local university, and develop a prototype that they can replicate throughout the city.
Salt Lake City held its grand opening of the 300 East Cycle Track on July 26, 2012 with Mayor Ralph Becker presiding. REI threw a party and everybody celebrated. But the opening was just the beginning as the city continued to evaluate the design and survey bicyclists and residents about their experiences on it. Significantly, 82% of people riding bicycles on 300 East felt the green lane made the street safer to ride on. Nearly 60% said they would feel comfortable riding on a protected bikeway with a child of age eight, even in a downtown area with moderate traffic.
So what did Salt Lake City learn from this effort? Lots of things about dealing with driveways, parking habits, communicating with bicyclists and residents, plowing around bollards, and which green product works best on snowy streets. They learned even more about how important it is to get something on the ground so discussions of how and where to incorporate bicycling into a transportation plan is not purely abstract but based on something tangible. They can look at it, film it, test it, RIDE it. Seeing is believing. But experiencing, that’s really where it’s at.
Zoe Kircos is the Grants Manager for PeopleForBikes.orgblog comments powered by Disqus