In a recent article in Slate, Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, makes the case for separated facilities.
Posted 7.3.10 in Policy & Infrastructure | Bookmark or Share
Slate is a totally new website to me. I checked it out, and was impressed.
Is bicycling a reoccuring subject in their articles?
They’ve been around forever–good stuff.
slate.com is always great, it’s been a regular read for me for years. They rarely “break” news, but they always have great analysis and the occasional hilarious feature like “Barack Obam’s Facebook Feed.” Dahlia Lithwick does a great job on legal issues (esp. the US Supreme Court), and Farhad Manjoo covers tech pretty well.
I’ve seen a few good cycling stories on Slate. Manjoo spent a few days with an electric-assist bike in May: http://www.slate.com/id/2253640/
He makes a good case for it as a compromise between those who love to cycle and those who don’t want to drive so much, but aren’t interested in biking everywhere (especially in SF hills in his case).
It remains difficult to choose between what could be called a kind of compromise, ie. bicycle lanes to help cyclist cycling without fear and the ideal city where streets are something intended to be shared between pedestrians, cyclists, public transportations and individual cars.
To my opinion, streets are not exactly roads. Streets are obviously found in towns, and therefore are often bordered by residential buildings. If we want to keep pleasant dense towns (those that provide a large variety of services, avoiding using a car), we must preserve them from car danger. Elseway, people will continue to escape from the center towns and look for an ideal home in surburbs. But surburbs are often build on a model that makes cars essentials, because of the distances. But the damage is often already done. Access restriction to center towns is not always understood by people who have to drive there for work. Moving backwards is often very difficult.
Growing up in D.C., living in Portland, and having ridden bicycles in many states and countries, I have to say that separated, dedicated cycling facilities is what will drive increases in cycling rates. Wherever there are separated facilities, you are instantly much more relaxed and you see more types of cyclists. Riding in the Netherlands, where separated facilities are the norm, is completely different than bicycle boulevards. I ride bicycle boulevards all the time here in Portland, and while it’s usually nicer than some of the nearby alternatives, you still have to contend with many more issues and dangers. Just because you don’t have a stop sign, and the autos on the incoming streets do, doesn’t mean you can stay where you are in the lane and cruise on through. On dedicated facilities, you know there are only certain times and places you need to worry about autos, and what they can do is limited. Boulevards are still a free for all. Cheaper, but not a real solution.
[...] it was Tom Vanderbilt arguing for “bicycle highways” in Slate, and now another prominent blogger is powerfully advocating for bicycle-specific [...]
From personal experience, I’m ambivalent about dedicated bike routes in cities (or *designated* ones — traffic-calmed bike boulevards). My remarks do not apply to long-haul bike paths in the country, e.g. rails-to-trails or greenways.
In Palo Alto, CA, we have a mixed-use calmed street (Bryant Avenue) which is mostly residential. Traffic on that street is light but very careless. Folks pull out of their driveways without checking first; kids run out to throw a football. None of this is safe, but seems supported by the idea that “nobody is coming; this street is mostly bicycles”. Also, deviating from the stereotypical cycling pattern (very low speed, primarily) is risky: drivers consistently misjudge the time they have before a recumbent rider going 18-20mph is on top of them. :)
Conversely, the presence of this street in our city has caused some SUV drivers to roll down their window and advise me that I should be on Bryant, not on some other street, because “that’s where the bicycles belong”.
Until there is some systemic change, I suspect vehicular cycling with extreme vigilance and alertness is my safest overall bet.