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Bringing People To The Center Of Bike Planning

Updated: Aug 15, 2023



This mini lesson shares the motivation behind BUX through the case of a "buffered bicycle lane" in New York City. Note: since our original critique in 2018, there has been movement within the bicycle planning field towards a more people-friendly approach.


On 5th Avenue by 15th Street in Manhattan, New York City, there is a buffered bike lane. This is a class 2 facility and is considered somewhat innovative in North American bike planning because it introduces a diagonal painted buffer between the conventional bike lane and the motor traffic lane.


However, while it is presented as elaborate, upon trying the facility out one can see it is actually unpleasant and scary for an everyday person to use. It is a battle with motor traffic filled with constant uncertainty and danger throughout the route.


Despite the amount of thought that was put into this bike infrastructure, it is clear that the thought was not on people and their experience. This has resulted in a bike lane that most people would never actually ride a bike on. Unfortunately, this is all too common for bike lanes throughout the United States. 

Riding a bike on 5th Avenue by 15th Street in Manhattan, New York* (video by author)


The situation sheds light on an opportunity. If we start to think about people and their experience in the planning and design process, we can make progress towards creating bikeways that people of all ages and backgrounds choose to use. 


This is motivation behind the Bicycle User Experience (BUX) approach to street design. The BUX approach is a human-centered, contextual way to intentionally design for how everyday people feel while riding a bike. By applying user experience design and usability to urban mobility planning, BUX studies people's needs and desires and fits riding a bike into their lives. It aims to make biking the first choice to get from Point A to Point B for people of all ages and backgrounds. 


Intersection near the center of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (photo by author)


There is much to gain from this approach: bike planners will be more effective at their jobs and create facilities that people will actually use. For the profession, bikeways can gain a more significant place in people's lives, and bike planning can become more relevant a a profession. It starts with putting everyday people at the center of the planning and design process.


Want to put people at the center of your planning process? Check out our online and in-person courses. Want guidance to help you make it happen in your context? Check out what we offer to help you make the transformation.

 

*Note: Since this footage was taken, the NYC Department of Transportation has changed the street design by moving the bike lane to other side of the parking lane, creating more separation for the bicycle user.

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