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Green Lane Project

Protected Bike Lanes 101

Protected bike lanes are a simple concept, really: they're like sidewalks for bikes.

Because they use planters, curbs, parked cars or posts to separate bike and auto traffic on busy streets, protected lanes are essential to building a full network of bike-friendly routes. Once that network is built, it makes riding a bike a pleasant and practical way for many more people (not just the bold or athletic) to make trips of a mile or two.

For decades, protected lanes were a missing tool in the American toolbox. But as you can see in the video above, that's changed. In 2011, we created the Green Lane Project to help U.S. cities build them.

We write about the news and practice of the protected bike lane revolution a few times a week on our blog. But for this page, we've gathered the essentials: a handful of basic resources that will help get anyone interested in protected bike lanes up to speed.

1) Why better lanes matter: Academic research shows that the many people who would like to bike more, but don't, are particularly concerned about safety. Protected lanes create the sense of "subjective safety" that helps change that behavior.

2) 14 ways to make bike lanes better: We made an infographic with photos of the most popular ways of separating bikes and cars. It briefly explores the costs and advantages of each.

3) Recent history: "The Rise of the North American Protected Bike Lane" is a 2013 Momentum magazine cover story with an excellent account of how this idea returned to North America and began to spread.

4) What to call them: Cycle tracks? Separated bike lanes? Green lanes? We did empirical research to figure out the best language for these facilities and settled on "protected bike lane." (We also have a complete style guide, including the precise definition of a protected lane.)

5) The Danish model: We talk about Copenhagen a lot, and lead study tours there, because it's a mid-size city (about the size of Columbus, Ohio) that was quite auto-oriented in the early 1960s but successfully reversed course with the help of protected lanes.

Ready for more? Check out our resources page, featuring full-length reports, dozens of useful statistics and an inventory of every protected lane in North America, to move to the next level.