As a biker in Charlottesville I am always interested in the many ways the city can improve bike infrastructure, increasing safety and convenience for both motorists and cyclists. While many improvements may be slow to arrive due to time, expense or feasibility, I was recently made aware of one such improvement that may require relatively little time and expense, and is certainly feasible.
Bike friendly cities such as Amsterdam and Portland have already implemented painted bicycle lanes and even cities not known to be particularly bike-friendly, such as New York City, have started to paint bicycle lanes (see the street in Brooklyn pictured above). Incidentally, New York City has even begun to add bicycle lanes physically separated from the street (9th Avenue being one of the first), a step that Charlottesville may eventually look to employ, though not necessarily using the same style or method. Though physical separation requires investment that the city might not be prepared to make at this time, painting the bike lanes might be an easy step to make the lanes more visible to drivers. A study from Portland (see here) shows that prior to painting bicycle lanes 71.7% of motorists properly yielded to bicyclists whereas post-painting the percentage increased to 92%. It certainly seems that this relatively inexpensive step might return real benefits in improved safety and awareness.
Finally, small improvements such as these are the first steps to drawing more citizens to cycling. While Charlottesville already boasts a bronze award for being a "Bicycle Friendly Community," safety is still an issue on my mind as well as, I'm sure, other cyclists. I would wager that the more community members see the city taking small but serious steps towards improving bike infrastructure, the more willing they would be to venture out and experience the benefits of cycling. Painting bicycle lanes is one easy step the city can implement to show our community it is serious about safe, alternative transportation.