Friday, December 30, 2005

My mind is in the gutter

There is a segment of the bicycling community that opposes the creation of bike lanes. One of the main gripes against bicycle lanes is practical: Bike lanes become repositories for road debris, which is particularly damaging to bicycle tires. Another argument is more philosophical: Bicycle lanes segregate cyclists to separate facilities. This is a slippery slope, they fear, ultimately leading to the exclusion of bicycles from streets without bicycle lanes. Some folks say, bike lanes are bike ghettos. It's a compelling argument.

I use my city's only north-south bicycle lane on a daily basis, except the portion that runs along Lincoln Street. Lincoln is a one way street running north, making it completely inappropriate for a bicycle route. I quickly learned that riding my bicycle with traffic (as state law requires) would place me on a collision course with a relentless parade of wrong-way cyclists. No thanks.

Lately I'm becoming sympathetic to the first argument against bicycle lanes. South of Victory Drive, the Habersham Street bicycle lane is full of leaves. Some of these leaves have fallen directly from trees. Others have been moved from the yards of homes (including the yard of one prominent local official) into the bicycle lane.

These leaves don't pose much of a problem for me, as I usually ride on the left edge of the lane. However, they are a potential hazard for nighttime and rainy weather cyclists. Admittedly, this situation is seasonal. Once the trees have ejected all their leaves, the danger will diminish. However, in the spring the leaves will surely be replaced with mounds of grass clippings.

Other objects can be found in the bicycle lane at all times of year. I'd like to think that this truck was parked this way in an attempt to leave a portion of the bike lane clear. But I'm doubtful of good intentions in this case. The end result is that this truck is blocking a portion of the bicycle lane and all of the sidewalk. A police officer could have cited the owner of this truck for two different violations. I wonder how many police cruisers passed this location while the truck was parked there.

On a more positive note, while I was waiting at a traffic signal this morning a cyclist pulled up behind me. I turned around and said good morning. Not only was she riding on the correct side of the steet, but she also waited for the light to turn green! These two actions placed this cyclist delightfully at odds with most of the other bicycle operators I see every day. It was an after Christmas miracle!


Ed W said...


You've hit on one of the perverse secrets of cycling - we NEED motor vehicles on the roads to sweep them free of debris. When they don't use a section, debris accumulates quickly.

But there are a host of other problems with bike lanes, many of them revolving around poor design or non-existent maintenance. I wish I had the URL for the one in PA that varied from nothing to about 18 inches wide, and included potholes, debris, and other hazards that could cause a crash. When mandatory sidepath laws require us to use such substandard or dangerous facilities, why is it a surprise when we refuse?

Think of it this way - if we built a meandering highway full of sharp chunks of metal, potholes, and blind turns, would anyone expect that motorists be required to use it? Of course not! Yet cyclists are presented with some poorly designed, cheaply built facilities, and we're supposed to be thankful.

I pay taxes too. I don't want my tax money wasted on some piece of crap that has little or no value as a transportation corridor. a pretty trail that leaves the parking lot, winds around a lake, and returns to the parking lot is all some cyclist want. And that's fine. But don't build it with transportation funds, and don't expect that ALL cyclists will have to go there to ride their shiny toys.

My bike isn't shiny. It isn't a toy. It's a tool, one that takes me to work and back every day on public roads. And there ain't a bike lane in sight.

Dan said...

Debris in the lane is pretty common on my town's paths as well

Click for photo

aaron said...

the buffered bike lanes i've experienced in northern european cities are great. they make me think that bike lanes could work here too. in nyc where i live, i fully expect painted, unprotected bike lanes will eventually evolve into better-engineered, safer ones. It's just going to take time.

Jill said...

It is best when bicycles and cars can mutually coexist in the same place. But since cyclists are always the losers in a collision, it's nice to have a little separation.