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Protected Lanes Preview: Boston, Detroit, Indy, Minneapolis, Denver & More

Shelby Street in Indianapolis is a model for that city's two latest protected bike lane projects.
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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Spring is three weeks away, and that means it's time for one of American cities' newest rituals: announcing the year's protected bike lane construction plans.

Every few days over the last month, another U.S. city has released plans or announced progress in building protected lanes. Even more excitingly, many are in downtown and commercial areas, which tend to have the highest latent demand for biking. Let's take a scan from east to west of the projects that popped onto our radar in February alone, to be built in 2015 or 2016:

Boston is "heading toward" a firm plan for protected lanes on the crucial Commonwealth Avenue artery between Boston University Bridge and Brighton, Deputy Transportation Commissioner Jim Gillooly said February 9. In column the day before, the Boston Globe's Derrick Jackson endorsed the concept on the strength of a trip to Seattle, where he rode a Pronto! Bike Share bicycle down the 2nd Avenue bike lane.

"I did something here I am scared to death to do in Boston," Jackson wrote. "I bicycled on a weekday in the city’s most bustling business district."

New York City is on track to upgrade several blocks of Columbus Avenue near Lincoln Square with greater protection, improving connections to the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown, after a February 10 thumbs-up from the local community board.

Columbus, Ohio, said February 2 that a 1.4-mile bidirectional protected lane on Summit near the Ohio State University campus is "just the beginning" of plans for biking improvements, thanks to advocacy group Yay Bikes and a receptive city staff.

Detroit is installing southeast Michigan's first protected lanes this year on a "very short segment" of East Jefferson. Advocacy group Detroit Greenways says it's "precedent setting and could serve as a model for all of Detroit’s major spoke roads."

Indianapolis said February 25 that it's adding protected lanes to New York and Michigan streets this summer, modeled after its 2011 project on Shelby Street.

Minneapolis announced February 26 that it's planning to add one-way protected bike lanes on 32 blocks of E. 26th and 28th streets. The projects will repurpose general travel lanes or remove peak-hour parking from the streets. This is a particularly important step for the city because the routes run parallel to the celebrated Midtown Greenway off-street path, meaning the city is working to add comfortable bike routes that connect to its important commercial destinations instead of just running nearby them.

Houston began painting its first protected bike lane on February 8, a 10-block bidirectional track on Lamar Street downtown that'll connect two existing off-road paths to one another.

Denver started to formally tackle its proposal for protected bike lanes on Broadway, the crucial cross-cutting street that runs north and south through downtown, the Denver Post reported February 25. "Anything that increases traffic and access to the area is helpful for us economically," Sweet Action Ice Cream owner Chia Basinger told the newspaper, explaining his support for the proposal.

San Francisco is adding concrete islands that will physically protect bike lanes on Oak and Fell streets, Streetsblog SF reported February 20.

Klamath Falls, Oregon, is weighing its first protected bike lane on Oregon Avenue between Moore Park and downtown, with financial support from the Sky Lakes Wellness Center.

On February 11, the local Herald and News newspaper interviewed the Wellness Center's Katherine Jochim Pope: "While the potential health benefits are exciting, arguments in favor of protected bike lanes seem stronger for economic improvement and safety, Pope said."

And Seattle announced in a February 26 open house that protected bike lanes or a dedicated bus lane are both options on Rainier Avenue, one of the main commercial corridors of the city's southern neighborhoods. Who knows -- maybe that Boston Globe columnist will be able to check out Rainier Valley on his next trip west.

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