The "Copenhagen Model"
There is an idea for increasing bicycle mode share that seems to be catching on in this country. Of course, we're just catching up - it's been used in European cities for years. I've been calling it the "Copenhagen Model."
The idea is to change the location of bike lanes on streets. On many Minneapolis streets, the layout is: sidewalk, parking lane, bike lane, driving lane, driving lane, bike lane, parking lane, sidewalk. In the Copenhagen Model, the bike lane moves between the parking lane and sidewalk, for a layout like this: sidewalk, bike lane, parking, driving lane, driving lane, parking, bike lane, sidewalk.
New York City, again trying to catch up with Minneapolis, has recently proposed to install a very similar system as you can read about in this New York Times article.
I believe that this layout offers some important benefits. It removes bicyclists from direct contact with moving cars, prevents conflicts with cars parking or pulling from parking spaces, and prevents bicyclists from being hit by opening driver's side car doors (my Aide, Robin, a daily bicycle commuter, has been "doored" an astounding five times in Minneapolis since 2001, most recently last month). Some of Copenhagen's other innovations include specific pavement colorings for the portion of bike lanes that go through intersections and special bike-only signalization that gives bicyclists a head start to get through intersections and complete turns before the cars get the green.
This June, after a bicyclist constituent brought the idea to my attention, I pushed for the following staff direction to be included in the Council's action accepting the 10 Year Transportation Action Plan (look for it here):
"That staff be directed to explore new designs for bicycle facilities / treatments, including, but not limited to, bicycle lanes between the parking lane and sidewalk, curbed bicycle lanes and bicycle signalization, and identify appropriate locations, in downtown if possible, for testing these designs."
Reviewing some of the literature on bike lanes (which is a significantly more contentious subject than I had realized!), there seem to be some downsides to these "cycle tracks" as well, which I will be pushing for Minneapolis to avoid through a careful design. For instance, some studies point to an increase in accidents between bikes and turning cars at intersections when cycle tracks are in place. Copenhagen seems to have come up with a good solution with the pavement coloring that gives drivers a visual cue that they are intersecting with a bike facility.