May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and observed in communities all across the country. For the past 63 years National Bike Month has showcased the many benefits of bicycling — and encouraged more folks to giving biking a try. Lately, one of the reasons more folks are willing to give cycling a try is because of complete streets, an approach to street design that integrates landscaping to achieve safety objectives and improve a rider’s experience.
So what is a complete street? It’s a street designed for everyone. Complete streets enable safe access for all users including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and people of all ages and abilities. Complete streets make cities a better place to live. Not all complete streets are the same, or even have the same elements but, they often include sidewalks, bike lanes, bus lanes, public transportation stops/shelters, cross walks, medians, curb extensions, vehicular lanes, roundabouts and landscaping features like bio-swales, rain gardens, and tree plantings.
By including landscape elements in complete streets, designers are able to create physical separation of cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicular traffic. This makes streets safer for cyclists and the most vulnerable users. Landscaping elements also reduce noise pollution and lower the temperature of the street and the city as a whole. And, there’s still the added benefit of shade and comfort that is enjoyed by those using the street’s gathering spaces and dining areas.
Town Branch Commons, a 30 million dollar project currently underway along Midland Avenue and Vine Street in downtown, will be Lexington’s best example of a complete street once completed. It will include bike lanes separated from the street, landscaped buffer zones, and linear green ways, just to name a few elements that will appeal to cyclists.
When you’re celebrating National Bike Month this May, take a ride down one of your favorite streets, and make note of how the landscaping incorporated into the street’s design effects your safety and experience and how it makes for an all-around more relaxing ride.