Fragmented bike networks don’t take people where they need to go

People are much more likely to ride on streets with bike lanes and other bike-friendly facilities, but these lanes and corridors must actually lead somewhere to be useful and protective.

In a post on Seattle Bike Blog, the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways group draws this point in describing the current state of that city’s disjointed biking network.

Bicyclist Shirley Savel writes:

“When I bike home from North Seattle I follow the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway south but don’t bike to the end because I value my life. I choose the greenway because it has all the elements I love in a slow street: speed humps, flashing beacons, low-grade roads and all-around less cars.

“SDOT has a way of ending this. It ends in a protected bike lane to Franklin High School and the Light Rail Station. Ha-ha, just kidding. It dumps you right into Rainier Ave. THE MOST DANGEROUS ROAD IN SEATTLE. I made this 53-second video to show you.”

While Seattle has designated greenways and protected bike lanes that provide safe, stress-less routes for riders – especially families – many of these exist in a vacuum, not connecting with each other or with other nearby neighborhoods, as Seattle Neighborhood Greenways demonstrates in this map.

It’s an all-too-common problem for safe bicycling in cities. In Washington, D.C., the northern section of the green-painted and concrete-buffered bike lane on 1st Street NE through NoMa – arguably the most stress-free on-street ride in town – ends blocks south of a 6-lane triangular intersection teeming with high-speed traffic. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is currently advocating to unite more trails in the D.C. area, supporting National Park Service recommendations to extend, connect and improve several trails and protected bike lanes.

Encouraging more bicycling means not only designing streets around people, but also ensuring that those streets connect with where people need to go.

Thanks to People for Bikes for originally highlighting the video and post.

Photo, top: A family rides on a neighborhood greenway in Seattle (Seattle DOT, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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