Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why no bike lanes, Jim?

Sunday's N&R included two long pieces (not posted on the N&R site) on the state of bicycling in Greensboro: one by citizen-bicyclist Jody Deitrich, the other by GDOT-Director-and-bicyclist Jim Westmoreland.

Both are avid cyclists (Jim's also an amateur bike racer), and both told harrowing stories about being struck by cars and having insults and objects thrown at them by motorists. Both of them think that cycling should be safer in Greensboro, and offered concrete ways to make it so.

But among Jim's several policy prescriptions for improving safety for cyclists, one was notable for its absence: he made no mention of bike lanes.

Jody did, though, and she mentioned cities (Palo Alto, CA, and Portland, OR) where this strategy has been popular and effective. Adding bike lanes is also recommended by this policy paper posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.

Now, we all know that Greensboro ain't Palo Alto. But I've also seen a lot of bike lanes in towns like Iowa City, Iowa, and Madison, Wisconsin. Why not here?

Bike lanes not only provide a safer environment for cyclists, but also say to everyone, "bicycles are welcome here."

I think that's exactly the message GDOT should be sending to motorists and cyclists alike.


Kathy Davis said...

Couldn't agree more!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, why not start with Spring Garden, UNCG has already begun. All area colleges should be connected...

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a tendency among expert bikers to eschew bike lanes because "bike lanes suggest I don't belong everywhere on the road."

It's sort of a manly-macho biker thing, and I appreciate the argument, but it only caters to the brave, sometimes bordering on foolish, and policy based around this attitude deters biking by the larger public.

The education piece is important. Even here in Carrboro, where 5% of commuting is by bike, stupid motorists regularly yell "Get in the bike lane!" to people cycling through intersections, where of course, according to best engineering practices, the bike lanes have been removed to encourage bikes and cars to merge to limit blindside collisions.

So what's the solution?

It's easy. Paint bike lanes on the road. Label them "Bike Lanes." Label adjacent lanes "Bike and Car Lanes." This provides the education component the militant cyclists want, telling motorists to expect them everywhere, and also caters to the need for safety for novice cyclists.

Diane Grey Davis said...

Hey David,
In my campaign literature and in my dealings with the Greensboro City Council and the GDOT, I have advocated better public transportation and have promised to work to provide more bike lanes and sidewalks in the city.

These promises have been included in my platform for the past three city elections. For many years, even before I decided to run for city council, I attended many meetings and wrote letters and talked about these issues. They are important to me!

If we want better conditions for bike riders and walkers, we need to elect someone who cares about these issues.

Thank you for any help you can give me in getting the word out that I am pedestrian friendly and biker friendly.


Diane Grey Davis said...

I suggested that bike lanes be included when the Spring Garden corridor through UNCG was redesigned several years ago.

Citizens who want our city to be safer for pedestrians and bike riders need an advocate on the city council.

Please remember me when you vote.

Urban Review - St. Louis said...

Bike lanes do send the message that bikes are welcomed they are not, necessarily safer, than roads lacking bike lanes.

Bike lanes do one thing - keep you to the right of motorists. It is when you are just riding along that the least skill is needed (with the exception of watching for car doors).

Intersection are where most accidents happen either through the fault of the motorist, cyclist or both. In some cases accidents happen because a wrong-way cyclist his a with traffic cyclist.

Bike lanes just disappear at intersections leaving the cyclist on their own. The problem is the cyclist is often in the wrong position for their intentions. If the cyclist is planning a left turn they are to the right of traffic going straight. They are often to the right of right turning traffic - a dangerous place to be on a bike.

See my blog for a post on a bad situation here in St. Louis with a bike lane.

Bike lanes and how to use them are highly controversial within the bike community. They are not the end all solution people might think. They have some ups but they have many drawbacks as well.

BTW, I am certified by the League of American Bicyclists as a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) so I do know a thing or two about cycling and safety.

- Steve Patterson, St. Louis MO
LCI #1331

David Wharton said...

Thanks, Steve -- great information at your site.

I'm putting you on my blogroll.

Anonymous said...

I am a commuting UNCG student. I drive about 35 miles then use my bicycle on campus. On Sept 29,2005 I had two relatively minor incidents that reminded me that bike lanes can be dangerous.
I was travelling on Spring Garden, in the bike lane in the direction of traffic, when I met an oncoming cyclist travelling against traffic. I found a whole in (light)traffic and merged. But often, once you are in the bike lane, motor vehicles want you to stay there.
The second incident was also on Spring Garden. Motor traffic was stopped by a red light at Aycock, I was passing in bike lane on right, when vehicle pulled to the right to prepare, well in advance, for a right turn. I yelled and she moved back, but it reminded me of the danger inherent in mixing with 3000 pound vehicles.
I'll keep riding, but all my red flags are up.
John Oglesby