Cities around the world are looking for sustainable solutions. One such concept has developed rapidly over the last two years. Pop-up bike lanes, often in place of roads intended for automobiles, have appeared in more and more cities with some sticking around. While some urban centres are vastly improving cycling networks there is notable push for roads entirely without cars.
The Berlin Case
In Berlin, a movement called ‘Car Free Berlin’ has been gaining traction. They are an initiative that works to change the German capital aiming for a car-free city centre. Creating awareness of the benefits of a car-free city the group are pushing for a referendum on the matter.
Car Free Berlin argue the benefits of fewer cars in city centres under:
- Climate Protection
- Safer Streets
- More Space
- Healthier Citizens
However, the push for a more cycle-centric Berlin was already well underway. In 2021 bike traffic rose by 25% in response to new temporary bike lanes being established. Starting in Kreuzberg over 8km of new ‘pop-up’ bike lanes were established in 2021, with many of them now a permanent fixture. Although it may not seem like much, these types of changes usually take much longer to be implemented. What’s more, the idea of new bike lanes is gaining momentum and popularity, coinciding with initiatives like Car Free Berlin.
A Growing Idea
The expansion of new bike lanes has also been adopted by other prominent European cities. In Paris, new bike lanes called Coronapistes were implemented in 2020. The pandemic pushed Paris to tamper down on car usage at a much faster rate than previously planned. Now, there the 50 km of new bike lanes are no longer temporary and there’s more to come.
Luxembourg has also adopted cycling boulevards since 2021. These thoroughfares connect the current biking lanes to encourage less driving in the centre. They also have special rules to give priority to cyclists. It is prohibited for any motorized vehicle to overtake a cyclist who can use the full width of the boulevards. The popularity of the boulevards has grown and there are plans for expansion.
Barcelona has also introduced new measures for bike-only sections. As a city rigidly but elegantly designed with series near equal size city blocks, they were in an advantageous position to develop this new concept. Nine of these blocks have been grouped together with traffic re-routed to create a car-free ‘superblock.’ The city’s design has made this a much easier task with six superblocks active since 2020. The results so far have been good with a sharp reduction in noise pollution and an economic boost for local businesses.
Taking the World
It’s not just Europe, many cities in North America are also moving toward cycling-only streets. Montreal currently has 3000 km of permanent bike lanes. However, in June 2020 officials closed major streets to cars. Although it was temporary it had a marked effect on connecting cyclists to commerce and parks and has inspired the development of new permanent bikeways.
Similarly, the Meat Packing District in New York City has seen positive results. Several blocks have closed the streets to cars during certain hours, while others only allow delivery vehicles. Closing down streets to automobiles showed to have a 15 – 30% increase in visitors to many areas. Some businesses even had an increase in sales – one business even reported a 140% increase.