What is a protected bike lane?

Protected Bike lane demo
Protected bike lane demonstration in Portland this past February

The League of American Bicyclists established a catchy meme to remind folks about the elements that go into a bicycle friendly community. They called it the 5 E’s. When one or more of these elements are absent from a city’s transportation scheme, the numbers of those who commute by bike suffer. In Bend, one could argue that we’ve fallen behind the times with a couple of these E’s, most notably the engineering one, evidenced by Bend’s guesstimated anemic 2% bike commuter rate.

The LAB’s 5 E’s

  • education
  • enforcement
  • encouragement
  • engineering
  • evaluation and planning

Bend Bikes has a vision that someday in the not-too-distant future, we will have next-generation bicycle lanes that span major transportation corridors in all four quadrants of the city and a network of low-stress bike routes that feed them.

They are often called protected bike lanes, but you’ll also sometimes hear them referred to as separated bike lanes or cycle tracks. Whatever label you put on them, the premise is the same: place a physical barrier between moving automobile traffic and someone riding a bike and you’ll get more ridership.

The barrier separating a rider from a driver can be as simple as a cone, but can also include more permanent bollards, reflective posts, a curb (which can take many forms), jersey barriers or even parked cars. Here’s a link to an article with a much longer list (as well as costs) from People for Bikes.

In Bend we currently have two examples of protected bike lanes:

  • One on SW Reed Market Road between the roundabout on SW Brookswood to Mt. Bachelor Drive. It uses a sloped curb for about a mile to elevate the bike lane above the car travel lane.
  • And, the second, albeit a very short one, is on NW Riverside Drive just past Drake Park, covering about 200 feet between NW Brooks Street and NW Wall Street. The buffer between a cyclist and a motorist is a line of parked cars.

What this town needs is a whole lot more of our 80+ miles of bike lanes to be converted to protected ones. To that end, we’ll be demonstrating just how useful a protected bike lane can be at the First Friday Art Walk on June 3rd. We’ll be setting up a temporary protected bike lane to help move folks from downtown to the Maker’s District as part the Future Fair, being put on by Bend Livability Project.

Stay tuned for more details.