Infrastructure Is The Urban Cycling Mantra
If you take the time to read the European view of cycling it differs largely from that espoused on this side of the pond in terms of “separation”. Europeans believe that segregating cars from bikes and pedestrians during their travels is safer.
Vehicular Cycling proponents take a dim view of bike paths (i.e. separated infrastructure) believing it to be dangerous when in intersects with motorist traffic. But perhaps the greater reason for staking a place on the roadways is to assure future generations that bicyclists have the option of traveling anywhere an automobile can (within reason).
The European view of infrastructure seems more akin to the American notion of bicycle paths than it is protected lanes:
“A reader pointed us to a forum discussion at a website called CycleChat.net regarding infrastructure for bicycles. A poster on the forum named Tommi published a post about the positive aspects of implementing bicycle infrastructure. He did so, we gather, as a counter to the tiresome rants of members of cycling’s secret sect who continue to oppose infrastructure for bicycles because it interferes with their testosterone thrill of ‘running with the bulls’.”
“Much of the rest of the world including quite a bunch of (presumably) smart people seem to have come to the conclusion cycle lanes and cycle tracks are very much worth every penny. Comparing the credibility between the camps I can’t say I’m surprised.
I firmly believe separated infrastructure is a fundamental part of a functional cycling environment and there’s plenty of research to support that theory. But if cycle lanes and cycle tracks really are as useless and dangerous as some try to claim then you should have no trouble proving with abundant research how omitting infrastructure leads to even more and safer cycling.
I’m looking forward to the research proving how the rest of the world is wrong.”
Infrastructure Separation Is Currently Problematic
Currently Right Hooks are a problem not just for boxers but cyclists in protected lanes as well. Debate has sprung up as to which position on a roadway the bicycle lane belongs. Some like the left-hand others the right-hand position. Each presents the cyclist with a difficult choice when either attempting a turn or dealing with turning motorists.
Some of the European cities have created pure bicycle super highways by installing miles of bike paths alongside the busier roadways into their central cities. American cities do not always have the luxury (nor the money) to try a similar solution. We cannot wait until every municipality has installed separated infrastructure. To do so would mean that cycling might not grow in the interim.
Painted “sharrows” are sometimes as much as one can hope for at the moment. The routes in the city that have gained recognition with their green lanes are a welcomed sight, but even they have their problems. Dooring is predictable in situations where a bicycle lane is adjacent to the parking lane. And even in those situations where the bike lane is against the curb keeping autos from parking there is difficult.
Larger metropolitan areas will have the luxury of testing the various configurations of lanes and intersections to see which ones work best. But the plastic poles along Kinzie here in Chicago seem a dubious solution. They are subject to breakage as cars mow them down. And I hesitate to think about the number of them which will be lost during winter snow plowing season.
Bicycle planners have their work cut out for them.