While most of the focus at Huntsville City Hall last Wednesday night was on the budget hearings, I sat in on a Bicycle Advisory Safety Committee (BASC) meeting being held across the plaza. There, representatives of the Planning Department were presenting a bicycle infrastructure concept known as a "cycle track."
Cycle tracks are facilities completely separate from the travel lanes and, unlike your usual 4-foot bike lane is buffered from auto traffic by markers, raised curbs, or in some cases on-street parking. Cycle tracks are a fairly new concept for the United States despite being used in bike-friendly cities elsewhere like Montreal and Copenhagen for decades. New York City has built several of these cycle tracks in recent years with some success. In one especially controversial case in Brooklyn, a one-way street lost a travel lane to a cycle track. Speeding has decreased along the corridor while traffic volume and travel times have remained roughly the same (Source: NYC DOT).
Huntsville plans to place two 6-foot one-way protected cycle tracks on a proposed connector road between Governors Drive (at Harvard) and Lowe Avenue. This would link to Big Spring Park and allow for connections throughout downtown. It would also go through the proposed Councill Court redevelopment. Another route that has been discussed is Holmes Avenue, which would link Downtown and Five Points to Research Park and UAH.
What do you think about this proposal? Where would you like to see cycle tracks in the future? Check out some pictures of model cycle tracks in the links above and below.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has created an easy-to-read Urban Bikeway Design Guide with a section about cycle tracks: http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/cycle-tracks/