The edible bike lane is one of the great low hanging fruits for community transition toward edible biodiversity benefits. Let’s look at why the bike lanes that already cross our communities should be at the forefront of this movement. Increasing their network should intentionally look for opportunities to expand on the concept.
Consider the myriad ecosystem services of diversified greenspace in general: from reduction of storm water surges during intense rain events via better root pathways, to drainage and soil water storage from increased micro and macro pores in the soil. Or, reducing the urban heat island effect by increasing evapotranspiration during scorching days.
And, of course there is the habitat for pollinator species!
But what we really like to talk about is the food! Although these ecosystem services can occur in all edible ecosystems planted in cities—parks, yards, etc.—edible bike lanes have the unique layout to provide connective corridors between home and friends, work and home, home and recreation and more.
And what is better than connective corridors of human-scale transit that proffer up an abundance of food? Kids could stop and get an extra apple for the teacher (and themselves) as they bike to school, and you can harvest a bushel of pears into you e-bike basket as you return from work.
Plus consider the tourism benefits.
The lakefront trail I surveyed in Chicago has space for at least 10,000 fruit trees; accounting for large plantings in attached linear parklands brings that number to well over 100,000. That’s not even mentioning the potential millions of berry bushes and billions of herbs!
With ~18 quarts of fruit from a dwarf fruit trees, 40 quarts from a semi-dwarf and over 60 quarts from a standard, we are talking millions of pounds of tree fruits, millions more in berries, and still more yield in herbs. Again, this is on top of all the other ecosystem benefits.
An Easy Transition
There are some key aspects unique to bike lanes that make them so transition-ready to edible biodiversity!
First, let us consider that, because bike lanes are more or less linear, their establishment will be straightforward. Surveying, earthworks, planting and other key tasks are assisted by their simple layout alongside a long route of travel, facilitating access by equipment for all work.
Because the greenspace median common along bike lanes is usually in grass or just a few ornamental trees, the space is available. Some bike lanes run through neighborhoods and offer tree cover, but there is still ample space for understories of berries, herbs and replacement canopy trees that can wait in the partial shade to grow upward when a larger trees senesces.
Those bike lanes that aren’t added to existing roads but have been built intentionally in former railroads and other unused greenspace are especially devoid of most trees. They have lots of opportunity and often very wide linear parkland for planting many rows of fruits, berries and herbs.
Bike lanes are also easy for maintenance. Setting up irrigation would be simple along these linear routes and easy to check up and maintain. Harvesting would also be simple, with easy accessibility.
When it comes to transitioning greenspace to food, bike lanes, walkways and linear parks are low-hanging fruit (yes, pun intended). But this is very serious business for our cities, so don’t laugh. Just get planting!
Zach Loeks is conducting a survey for transitioning greenspace on bike, longboard and foot across entire neighborhoods and cities. Keep posted on youtube.