The newsletter of the Active Transportation Alliance

Volume 4, Issue 4


Neighborhood greenways make side streets a dream

Whether you're an 8-year-old child or 80-year-old grandmother, you should be able to ride a bike on the street without fearing for your safety. One key strategy to making biking on our streets safe and easy for everyone is by building "neighborhood greenways."

Also called "bike boulevards" and "bike/walk streets," these are slow-speed, low-volume streets that have been optimized for bike traffic.

People who bike in their neighborhood quickly learn which streets they feel comfortable on, and conversely, which intersections and streets feel intimidating. Many people find they feel comfortable riding on quiet side streets, even when there’s no designated bike lane.

They discover special routes that get them from one end of the neighborhood to the other without encountering much car traffic.

But often these routes are interrupted by hazardous intersections, frequent stop signs that keep cyclists from maintaining their momentum, or traffic that may still feel threatening at times. What if the city could help make these “special routes” even more ideal places for biking by removing some of those barriers? That’s where neighborhood greenways come in.

Neighborhood greenways use a handful of design strategies to encourage people on bikes to use a street as a through route, while reducing speeds and through traffic for cars. These routes can then connect to each other to create a city-wide network of streets where everyone from 8 to 80 will feel comfortable riding a bike.

These are some of the design elements that can be combined to create the neighborhood greenways experience (see the photos below for examples):

  • Signage: Wayfinding signs help people on bikes find these “special routes,” while reminding everyone that biking is a great way to get around!
  • Prioritizing bikes: Pavement markings (such as sharrows) make it clear that bikes are the priority on the street, and stop signs can be reconfigured to allow bikes to travel freely while controlling crossing traffic.
  • Intersection treatments: Scary intersections can be made more welcoming with bike boxes, special traffic light signals for bikes and crossing islands.
  • Traffic calming: Traffic circles, curb bump-outs and speed humps slow down cars with minimal impact on people biking. Lower speed limits can also help regulate safer, slower speeds.
  • Traffic reduction: Limiting crossing at intersections to just bikes and pedestrians helps to keep car traffic volumes low while encouraging non-motorized through traffic.

The great thing is that these strategies aren’t just for people who bike. Neighborhood greenways also create more walkable and livable streets. Many residents want traffic calming on their block to keep their street quieter and safer. Neighborhood greenways can help meet that need while also making biking a more desirable transportation choice for more people.

Neighborhood greenways will be included in Chicago’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. Join Active Trans’ Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign to help advocate for these types of streets in your neighborhood.

Want to learn more? Watch a video or download the Bicycle Boulevard Guidebook!

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