I am traveling during the holidays, so I am just now catching up on some of my reading. Just before Christmas, the New York Times hosted an interesting five-way debate on the Bike Lanes of New York. It is about New York, but the issues really are universal.
Sam Staley calls bike lanes A Subsidy for the Few:
The hard, cold December reality of bike lanes in U.S. cities is that they will inevitably be a small part, even tiny part in most cases, of America's solution to congestion and mobility. Bike networks represent concentrated, subsidized benefits for a small portion of the commuting public.Right. And roads, police enforcement, defence of international flow of oil and externalities like 40,000 killed in cars every year get no subsidy at all. But fortunately it gets better:
Alex Marshall thinks there are Better Ways to Help Bike Transit.
Promote biking on regular streets, and thus avoid "ghettoizing" cyclists into bike lanes. One problem now is that the bike lanes are usually put on larger streets and avenues, which means that cyclists are mixing with higher speed traffic and higher volumes of traffic. One solution is to make clear that bikes are appropriate on most city streets, even those without bike lanes.
Robert Sullivan sarcastically points out The Car Culture's Blind Spots:
On the idea that bikes ultimately can't coexist in a city with trucks and traffic, that restaurants and stores can't get goods: Too true! Moreover, what are we doing allowing those concrete swaths in that area between where cars drive and where the buildings are? Sidewalks, I think they call them. People really slow things down. Can they be put underground, or some kind of special lanes?
Caroline Samponaro claims that bike lanes are Creating Order Out of Chaos.
Last year, more than 75,000 motor vehicle crashes occurred on city streets and fewer than 4 percent involved a bicycle. Bike lanes make streets safer for pedestrians and drivers. It's the streets without bike lanes that New Yorkers should be worried about.
Felix Salmon, who is becoming one of my favourite writers, asks, Can We Please Be Patient?
Take a New Yorker, put her on a bike in Berlin, and she'll behave perfectly well, stopping at lights along with everybody else, and riding in the right direction on the street. It's not the people who are the real problem, it's just how those people behave when they're on the streets of New York.
Eventually, given time, New Yorkers will learn that a bike lane is not a convenient empty spot in which to park a baby. Cyclists will learn that it's unacceptable to ride the wrong way down the street. And drivers will learn to look first, before they turn left across a bike lane. But getting there from here is bound to be awkward and painful for many.More in the New York Times