In the video here, urban planner Jeff Speck looks at four ways. In planning parlance, he shows how roads can go on a “diet”–that is, reduce the amount of space given over to cars and trucks, so that active transportation can get a look-in. Speck, whose latest book is called Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, made the film with artist Spencer Boomhower of Cupola Media.
The first method is the “3-to-2 road diet” which involves taking a one-way, three lane highway, pulling a strip of parking away from the curb, and putting it between a new bike lane on the left and the middle traffic lane. The result is a two-lane street with cycling clearly separated from the rest of the road. Brooklyn did something similar near Prospect Park. It reduced speeding, cut crashes, and encouraged cyclists not to use the sidewalk.
The second way is called the “4-to-2.” It involves taking a classic two-way four lane street and making it two-lane, with a center lane reserved for making left-hand turns. The sides become bike lanes. The U.S. Federal Highway Administration says diets like these result in fewer crashes, “improved mobility and access by all road users” and “integration of the roadway into surrounding uses that results in an enhanced quality of life.”
Third, cities can create demarcated “cycle tracks” along one side of the road. “Bike lanes are good, a cycle track is better,” says Speck. “These are the sort of facilities that cause people to dig their bikes out of their basements and become cyclists again.”
Wider traffic lanes encourage people to speed, research shows, and often they don’t need to be so wide. On a 40-foot wide street, there’s plenty of space for two lanes, parking, and a bike lane. The solution is simply to narrow the lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet. “In many cases, the easiest way to make such a street safer is to stripe in a single bike lane, since a pair doesn’t fit,” Speck says.
Luckily, none of these changes seem that difficult to achieve. All you really need is some paint and a willingness to change.