Unknown, or unnoticed, by many people, there is a bike route along N Street on the sidewalks. The route is well-signed from 8th St, where it crosses over from the south side to the north side of N Street, to 12th Street. The route extends east along Capitol Park to 15th Street, and I believe it also extends west to 3rd Street, though it is not well signed at these ends. On the City of Sacramento bikeways map, the route is shown on both sides of N Street, as “Existing Off-street (wide sidewalk).”

The bike route allows bi-directional travel along N Street, which would otherwise not be possible. The city has recognized that N Street is a significant barrier to east-west bicycling.

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M62Just before posting “doubting protected bikeways” yesterday, I’d been reading Momentum Magazine, one of my favorites. After posting, I turned the page, and there was a 14 page article entitled “The Rise of the North American Protected Bike Lane” by Angie Schmitt (not yet posted to their website, so you’ll have to read the paper or digital copy). The article is a classic defense of protected bikeways, with the standard criticism of vehicular cycling.

The heart of the article is the “by the numbers” graphic which shows the increase in bicycling in seven different cities that occurred after installation of protected lanes. The increases are impressive. The text talks about Portland research on types of bicyclists, positing that such facilities are necessary to get the “interested and concerned” 60% onto bicycles. Though safety is mentioned several times, it is clear the greatest benefit proposed is an increase in bicycling mode share. I’m not in disagreement with any of this. What I am in disagreement with is the focus on increasing bicycle share as the most important goal of changes we make to our streets.

Bicycling mode share in the U.S. ranges from below 1% in some places to as high as 6% in a few cities. Andy Clarke of The League of American Bicyclists is quoted as saying we could increase this to 10% or even 15% with the use of protected facilities. Sounds great. The problem is that it leaves a whole lot of motor vehicles on the road, making our cities unlivable and threatening the lives of pedestrians.

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When 3-lane streets are narrowed to 2-lane streets, street width is recovered for other uses. Traffic lanes are commonly 12 feet wide, though they can be as narrow as 9 feet and as wide as 14 feet or more. Most streets in the downtown/midtown area that I’ve recommended for narrowing are really five lanes wide, […]