Bike Skylanes

Terrific ideas for separating bikes from cars and pedestrians, from City Journal.

An excerpt.

In Here Is New York, his 1949 love letter to the city, essayist E. B. White called Gotham “the concentrate of art and commerce and sport and religion and finance, bringing to a single compact arena the gladiator, the evangelist, the promoter, the actor, the trader, the merchant.” Since New York’s earliest days as a Dutch trading post and throughout its three-century history as a global city, density has been its defining characteristic. The city’s streets, “with their powerful throbs,” wrote poet Walt Whitman in the mid-1800s, produce an “endless and noisy chorus.” Depending on your point of view, New York is either a vibrant, churning bouillabaisse or a caffeinated bumper gallery where death and misadventure lurk around every corner.

New York’s crowded streets remain today just as White and Whitman described them: a chaos of distracted jaywalkers, hyper-aggressive bike messengers, veering taxis, outmatched suburban drivers, curb-hugging buses, plodding pedicabs, double-parked delivery trucks, and even the occasional horse-drawn carriage. But along with the ferment and creativity that this human crush enables comes the possibility of tragedy. According to official statistics, someone is seriously injured or killed every two hours in a New York City traffic accident, mostly in collisions between cars and people. Last year, 170 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents on Gotham streets. This year, in just ten months, 200 have been killed, including 17 bicyclists. An average of one pedestrian per day is struck by a car in midtown. But if midtown is bad, the wide “arterial” boulevards of the outer boroughs are worse. A recent study found that Brooklyn and Queens were both more dangerous for pedestrians than Manhattan….

Other cities think big. In London, famed architect Norman Foster has proposed an ambitious, 136-mile elevated bike path, to be suspended above the city’s suburban rail network. Foster’s “SkyCycle” plan—which could accommodate 400,000 bike commuters daily—has the support of former mayor and potential Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson, as well as the local government agencies responsible for London’s public transportation system. Architect David Nixon envisions a floating bike lane in the Thames River that would allow a car-free commute from the city’s residential areas to the financial district.

In Melbourne, Australia, a consortium of investors has proposed attaching an enclosed, mile-long “Veloway” to the side of an existing rail viaduct running through the city. “[C]ars, bikes and pedestrians just don’t mix well,” Committee for Melbourne CEO Kate Roffey told a reporter earlier this year. “This would solve the problem of separating cars and cyclists moving east-west across the city, and pedestrians can go under or over roads.” A similar approach would seem well suited to New York’s outer boroughs, where, unlike midtown Manhattan, elevated rail viaducts remain the norm. Many commuters in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx would likely take advantage of an option that would get them from home to work in about an hour, safely and free of charge, with a little fitness thrown in.

In Denmark, bike-friendly Copenhagen cut the ribbon this past summer on its Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake—an elevated lane providing cyclists with a much-needed traverse over a pedestrian-heavy corner of the central city. “It is one of those rare occurrences in Copenhagen where seemingly everyone is happy,” wrote Classic Copenhagen blogger Sandra Hoj. “Cars have not had to budge an inch, the lower level has been returned to pedestrians, and cyclists love it. Besides easing the transition from highway to bike bridge, it is a pure joy to ride.”

Retrieved October 17, 2014 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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