Bringing People To The Center Of Bike Planning
Updated: Jun 12
On 5th Avenue by 15th Street in Manhattan, New York, 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. Sounds fancy, right?
While it is presented as elaborate, upon trying the facility out one can see it is actually unpleasant and scary 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*
The not ideal 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.
The Bicycle User Experience (BUX) approach to street design is a practical and effective way to do this. It 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 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.
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 will gain a more significant place in people's lives and bike planning will become more relevant. It starts with putting everyday people at the center of the planning and design process.
*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. The buffered lane now resembles more of a protected bike lane.