Bicycles may be part of the future of transit, and designers and city planners are constantly looking for ways to make cycling safer and more appealing to commuters. Here are a few innovations—beyond bike paths—that could make cities better for bikes.
Top image: The Netherlands' Hovenring.
There are a number of basic things that cities can do to make cycling safer and more attractive: creating a network of protected bike lanes, studying preferred transit routes, discussing the impact of helmet laws, implementing bike share programs, and creating better maps and signage for existing bike routes. But here are a few additional infrastructural ideas, some of them speculative, some of them already in place, that could impact the future of cycling.
Many bike-friendly cities have constructed—or are in the process of constructing—protected bike lanes that segregate bikes from motor vehicle traffic through curbs, planters, posts, or other means of physical separation. But even when bike lanes are protected, cyclists and motorists are still at risk of collisions at intersections.
Urban planner Nick Falbo has proposed a design solution to the problem of shared intersections, inspired by Dutch junction practices. Falbo's proposal involves having specific crossings and signal lights for cyclists—much like pedestrians have their own crosswalks and walk lights.
Elevated Bike Highways
Image: Foster + Partners.
While some cities offer bike lanes that are slightly elevated relative to motor vehicle traffic, a proposal for London's transit future goes much farther, imagining a bikes-only highway that would let cyclists cruise over existing rail lines. It's hardly the first time something like this has been proposed, however. Horace Dobbins envisioned a California bike highway all the way back in 1897.
It's not a full elevated bike highway, but cyclists traveling between Eindhoven, Veldhoven, and Meerhoven in the Netherlands have their own suspended roundabout, the "Hovenring." The roundabout keeps bicycle and motorized traffic separate even at this busy intersection, and it's quite lovely to boot.
Better Bike Parking
Image credit: Poom!
If bicycles start taking over the morning and evening commutes, your city will need a place to put all those bikes—like the parking garage next to Amsterdam's Central Station.
But there are other bike parking solutions to consider. For example, Copenhagen is home to 40,000 cargo bikes, which take up a bit more room than your standard two-wheeler. Cyclehoop and Copenhagenize Design Company have been developing special parking stations made specifically for cargo bikes.
Image Credit: Copenhagenize Design Company.
Here's another, rather simple, infrastructure idea from Copenhagenize Design Company. Their team put "love handles" on posts near intersections, so that cyclists could grab onto them for balance while waiting at intersections. They also put garbage cans at cyclist level along bike paths.
For those tough spots where a street's incline is greater than most casual cyclists can manage, a bike lift might be the answer. Trondheim, Norway's Trampe bicycle lift was originally built in 1993, and was then rebuilt as the CycloCable in 2013. You simply put one foot on the footplate and it pushes you—and your bike—up the hill, no peddling required.
Bike Detection Systems
Just because a city isn't as bike-dense as Amsterdam, that doesn't mean it can't implement small changes to help bikes and cars share the road. The city of Pleasanton, California, installed the Intersector bicycle detection system at all of their traffic lights. The system can distinguish between a bike and a motor vehicle and adjusts the traffic lights accordingly, giving cyclists enough time to clear the intersection.
Bike Maintenance Stations
Image credit: Dero.
If you find yourself in need of a bit of air in your tires or a quick seat adjustment, you might need to carry around your pump and your multitool—unless you happen to be near a bike repair station. These stations have pumps, screwdrivers, wrenches, hex tools, and tire levers handy for quick minor tune-ups.