Jennifer Toole, a Columbia resident and bike system consultant, spoke about how some other communities became bike friendly. She explained that the miles driven in a car per capita in the US has actually peaked in 2006. This was the first time this happened since the invention of the car.
Jennifer highlighted Boulder Colorado because it has about the same population and demographics as Columbia.
"Bike paths criss-cross Boulder County like spiders’ webs. If you can’t find a road to get where you’re going now that has a big, fat shoulder — or if there isn’t a dedicated multi-use path to lead you where you want to go — there will probably be one in the near future. The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, which outlines the vision for how the county should be developed, calls for a network of regional trails connecting all the towns to one another. Check out more information on the regional trails at www.bouldercounty.org and check out a map of the city of Boulder’s bike paths here."
Boulder has even closed off some of its streets downtown and made them walking mall areas.
Portland Oregon was the second city profiled as bike friendly.
As you can see above the bikers in a heavily traveled street have designated "green areas" that permit safe separation from the cars. Bike safety can be designed into heavily traveled areas, such as our Town Center and Route 175.
One of the reasons many of us are afraid to ride on our roads is the closeness of the cars passing us. Having a car pass you at 45 or 50 miles per hour with inches separation is a scary experience. Some cities like San Francisco have created a buffered area for some separation.
So how do you take our existing road layouts and create bike lanes? One way is shown in the following picture.
Taking a 4 lane road like the picture on the left and converting to a single left turn lane for each direction as in the picture on the right creates space for bike lanes in each direction. We have many of these types of roads in Columbia. Does Brokenland Parkway, Twin River Parkway, Dobbin Road and Oakland Mills Road need to be four lane just to accommodate left hand turns? The traffic volume on these roads could be handled by one lane traffic in each direction.
So where does this leave us in Columbia? As you can see much of the changes need to be done to our road system. Roads are the turf of Howard County government so that is where these changes need to be championed. The County has plans this year to develop a Bike Master Plan in conjunction with the Columbia Association "to identify barriers and prioritize projects for implementation." Having our community develop what you have seen in the communities above would greatly enhance our community as "a great place to live." Maybe we could give Eden Prairie Minnesota something to think about next year.