Get Ready To Start Seeing Raised Bike Lanes (And Killing Fewer Bikers)

San Francisco and Chicago are experimenting with a simple design innovation, common in Europe, that subtly separates cyclists from road traffic.

A smarter and safer type of separated bike lane that’s common in cycle-friendly European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen is now beginning to make its way to the United States.
Street planners already widely recognize that rather than simply painting a line on the road, physically separating bike lanes from car traffic provides a safer biking experience and increases the appeal of two-wheeled transportation. So far, in the U.S., this has taken the form of building protected bike lanes, which usually involves using bollards or barriers or building the lane between parked cars and the curb.
But these methods aren’t always ideal. Some people consider barriers ugly, and protecting lanes behind parked cars can make it harder for drivers who are turning right to see a cyclist. They can also confuse pedestrians and be harder to drain or clear snow from.
Raised bike lanes offer cyclists vertical separation from the road without these problems. They are usually elevated just a few inches above the street level to prevent cars from crossing over, but are below the sidewalk to demarcate the lane from regular pedestrian traffic. They offer a dedicated space for cyclists, but can be less expensive to build than other kinds of lanes when there’s new road construction anyway.
San Francisco will be getting its first raised bikeway next year. It will only be one-block long--part of a “showcase” project in the Mission neighborhood--but the city is planning to build more of them as part of other upcoming street improvements projects that will take place in the next few years. Chicago has also been building its first raised bikeway this summer. Smaller cities including several in Oregon have already implemented the infrastructure.
While we’re still hoping that one day our "raised" bike lanes are built far above street traffic, like this bright orange skyway planned for Copenhagen, at least the U.S. is starting to mimic some of Europe’s most sensible design innovations.
More renderings at FastCompany