Environmental groups urge Lansing to explore installing protected bike lanes, which are becoming increasingly popular nationwide.
Julie Powers, executive director of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, said protected bike lanes increase safety because they allow motorists and bicyclists to share the roads, but there may not be room in Lansing to build them.
“We don’t currently have any protected bike lanes [in Lansing],” Powers said. “If we had more protected bike lanes, it would encourage people to continue biking.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 677 fatalities nationwide due to bicyclist-related accidents on the roads in 2011.
Powers said there have not been an increase in protected bike lanes in Lansing, but an increase in sidewalks for safe biking.
“If you were to ride on the Lansing River Trail, you are technically protected,” she said.
According to an article in People for Bikes, there was an American protected bike lane movement in the early 1900s.
The bicycle came before the automobile, and people wanted a section of pathway separate from the road for bicyclists, according to the article. Maintaining these protected pathways, however, were difficult once interest in bicycles declined.
“Putting in a protected bike lane could be expensive,” Powers said
Powers said 100 years ago bikes in urban areas like Lansing were once a great deal to the public for safety and sharing the ro
ad, however people are now more reliant on their cars.
“Probably the cheapest thing you can do is just paint down a white line,” said Tim Potter, general manager of the MSU Bikes Service Center.
After the dawn of the automobile, people wanted better roads for cars, Potter said.
“Now that the urban environment in Lansing is built out, there’s no feasible way to carve out protected space,” he said.
Potter said if Lansing decided to implement protected bike lanes, the public would still need education on bike safety.
“Protected bike lanes encourage families with smaller children and new bike riders,” he said.
Potter said he has noticed cyclists are more comfortable biking on sidewalks in Lansing than between white painted lines along the roadways, which can still cause accidents.
“Bikers have to be careful and observant and be visible to motorists,” he said. “As soon as you get to an intersection, you have that point of conflict.”
Powers said the Lansing Complete Streets Ordinance takes into consideration non-motorized vehicles on the roadways; however she also said 50 percent of residents in Ingham County do not drive cars.
Powers said the Lansing community sees the area as a metropolitan community, but the chance of protected bike lanes is unlikely because the roads are not wide enough to install protected bike lanes with barriers between the motorists and bicyclists.
“Certain roads and certain locations are out of the question,” she said.
Powers said the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council likes to see the future with really good ideas that come from the past.