A different type of bike ride is rolling across the nation. That’s the word from researchers who say more and more Americans are using bicycles for short, utilitarian trips, especially in urban areas.
Since 2000, bike commuting has grown 73 percent in the 70 largest U.S. cities. The share of bike trips made for utilitarian reasons increased 21 percent between 2001 and 2009.
To go along with this rise in bicycling for short trips, a growing number of cities are building the next generation of bike lanes. Often colored with green paint, these innovative facilities are called “green lanes.”
Green lanes are inspired by the roads in bike-friendly European countries such as the Netherlands. Unlike a regular bike lane, green lanes are physically separated from car lanes, making bicycling safer and less stressful. And, unlike a regular bike path, they are still part of the roadway, allowing riders to get to their destinations as directly as they would in a car.
Green lanes aren’t just green because of their color. They are good for the environment because they promote more biking and less driving. They also bring the green—as in cash—to local economies.
New research from PortlandState University suggests that customers who arrive by bike spend 24 percent more per month than those who arrive by car. Another study in San Francisco showed that bike lanes increased the number of customers arriving by bike and improved sales for local businesses.
“Cities across the country are discovering that green lanes are one of the best transportation investments out there,” said Martha Roskowski, director of the nonprofit Green Lane Project. “More people on bikes creates more vibrant places, which translates into additional business for neighborhood shops, restaurants and stores.”
Currently, there are about 60 green lanes in the U.S. Roskowski expects that tally to reach 200 by the end of 2013. As more Americans choose to bike for short trips, this next generation of bike lanes continues to grow.