Written By Rebecca Huval
On the upcoming holiday celebrating all things Irish and green, we should also pause to celebrate the green bike lane. These ribbons of color do more than brighten up an otherwise dull road—they give cyclists a sense of safety, create clarity for drivers, and announce to everyone on the road that bikes belong there. We’ve written about various colors in public spaces, including green bike lanes, in our past blog post “Rolling out the Green Carpet in San Francisco.”
In the past decade or so, these highly visible routes have rolled out in the United States, from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. Portland was a leader in the early days, implementing green lanes at a time when there were no clear federal guidelines on bike lane colors. Then, in 2011, the US Department of Transportation officially approved green to mark bike lanes. It was chosen because of its visibility.
That, and because all the others were taken—blue for handicapped spots, even purple for specific toll plaza approach lanes. Now, as one California city’s website explains, “Bright green painted bike lanes are sweeping the nation, and Santa Monica is no exception.”
We in the United States aren’t the first to paint our bike lanes, but we have claimed green as our own. Starting in the early 1980s, Copenhagen painted blue strips to mark the safe zone for cyclists to cross an intersection. On the other side of the spectrum, bike lanes are often red in Amsterdam and even in that country we celebrate with green: Ireland. But a few other countries, including France and Spain, share our green streak.
So on St. Patrick’s Day, let’s celebrate Ireland, the color green—and the growth of visible bike lanes across the United States and internationally.