Who Is Against Protected Bike Lanes?

By Brent Cohrs
Source: ChicagoNow

Kinzie Street protected bike lane, courtesy of City of Chicago

I received an email yesterday from People for Bikes reminding me to click over to the Active Transportation Alliance’s petition supporting protected bike lanes in the Loop.

If you’re for this type of progressive public policy that provides greater safety for those who choose bicycling as an alternative form of transportation (and you live in the city), please voice your support by signing the petition.

If you’re one to complain incessantly about hipsters on bikes blowing through stop signs, you might want to contact Mark Konkol at the Sun Times – he’s your sympathetic ear.  People for Bikes was kind enough to share one of his recent tirades against stereotypical city cyclists and I’d like to share it with you, just in case you missed it (I did).

I’m used to defending bicycling, so I was ready to rattle off a list of reasons why everyone should share the road.  After reading the entire comments section of Konkol’s rant, I realized that several people had already done that.  Nearly every comment was an articulate, polite, logical, and well reasoned response devoid of hyperbole, generalizations, stereotypes, and ad hominem attacks.

The “scofflaw cyclists” presented a more compelling argument than the “professional journalist.”

Without rehashing the seemingly never-ending debate or reprinting all the points made in the comments section of Konkol’s piece, I’d like to posit what I believe to be the true cause for the anti-bike sentiment that some possess; envy.

“When traffic is heavy and cars are stopped for blocks waiting for traffic to start moving bicycles keep moving slowly.

That’s what really aggravates drivers – how easily bicycles travel and aren’t kept waiting.” – Sweet Bob, commenter

Let’s face it, we live in a “me first” society.  We see it when a new checkout lane opens up at the grocery store and the “next customer in line” gets cut-off by the person three carts back.  It’s on display during the morning commute with drivers weaving in and out of every lane on the expressway.  It happens at every four-way stop.  It’s witnessed at every crosswalk.  There is always someone who doesn’t wait his or her turn and blatantly breaks the rules.

That seems to be what roils people – other people getting ahead.

If we’re honest with ourselves, our reactions to falling behind or getting outgunned, outmaneuvered, or outsmarted tend to be disproportionate to the actual offenses we suffer.  Pride is wounded.  Insecurity is revealed.  Anger is quick.

Rather than looking inside for why a particular incident infuriated us, we look outside to rationalize our unreasonable reactions.  We inevitably arrive at the issue of fairness.  From that moment on, the only virtue we possess that truly matters is justice.  That’s the issue and we’re sticking to it.

It is no irony that protected bike lanes are known as “traffic calming” devices. Calming is the operative word when sharing the road.  We all need to calm down when interacting together on the roadways, as well as when we discuss the concept of complete streets.

There is no justice-based argument against sharing the road.  Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, motorists, and commercial drivers are all legally defined road users with rights and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, all users are going to break the rules from time to time and jeopardize the safety of those smaller and more vulnerable than themselves.  Hence the need for protected lanes.

Protected bike lanes will encourage more individuals to take to two wheels and commute into the Loop.  In the process, these bicycling commuters will be taking responsibility for their own health and fitness while doing their part to cut down on congestion and vehicle emissions.  Their choice to ride benefits everyone.

The next time you start to get angry at a jaywalking pedestrian, a stop sign rolling bicyclist, a speeding motorist, or a bus that pulls away from the curve with no regard for your position on the road, take a deep breath, count to three, and ask yourself where the injustice really lies.

Maybe you should be the one benefiting from an alternative form of transportation…

UPDATE: Thanks for all the comments.  I will try to reply to each one individually.  In the meantime, read today’s followup post; Protected Bike Lanes and the Demand for Cyclist Education.

UPDATE 2:  A third installment on this issue can be found at What Can Cyclists Do About Our “Rogue” Element?  I used quotes from many of your comments!

If you found this post helpful, share it on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter by clicking the boxes below the article title.

If you like this blog, fan it on Facebook and follow me on Twitter by clicking the boxes below my bio.

Keep riding and be safe!