Know How To Tell When You’re Getting Screwed? – Just Watch (VIDEO)

Background Reading

Summary

Looking the other way. The camera was positioned over the right tunnel entrance (image Google Streetview) Note that the cycle tracks got a new smooth red asphalt surface after this picture was taken.

Looking the other way. The camera was positioned over the right tunnel entrance (image Google Streetview) Note that the cycle tracks got a new smooth red asphalt surface after this picture was taken.

We Yanks can argue until we are “blue in the face” over the value of the crappy lanes we are getting as “showcase” lanes in places like downtown Chicago. And then suddenly a fellow blogger from Holland posts some photos and videos of a protected bike lane and your jaw drops.

This particular lane takes you under a railroad overpass and looks quite nice. The buses and cars take the center lanes. The bikes and motor scooters take the two outside lanes. The bike lanes are elevated about several feet at the maximum point above the automobile traffic. And there is a nice iron fence that borders the bicycle lane.

Darned if it does not make Dearborn Street look downright shoddy. Then you realize this was built in 1956. Why on earth are we bothering to “showcase” something as primitive as Dearborn Streets protect bike lane when we already know that the “real thing” looks nothing like it?

Our Cycling Advocates have sold us a “bill of goods” and they know it. There is no way in hell that our PVC bollards and pretty green lanes have anything to do with this kind of infrastructure. Shame on us for being taken in by these shysters.

You can read the entire blog entry here. But just in case you doubt what I am saying try scanning this video and imagine what Chicago’s commute would be like if cycling infrastructure were built this well:

This about what you have just seen the next to you read a Chicago ChainLink Forum thread where someone offers that “Dearborn Street is better than nothing“. Why do we suffer fools so gladly?

Tell these knuckleheads at Active Transportation Alliance that “you know what six inches looks like and that what they are offering is only two!

A Similar Underpass Configuration In Chicago

You can get a better sense of how little of importance has been attached to our infrastructure where bicycles are concerned by looking at this underpass:
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Heading north along Canal you see this view to the underpass:

W Van Buren St & S Canal St Underpass Ahead - Bike Lane to the Right

W Van Buren St & S Canal St
Underpass Ahead – Bike Lane to the Right

There is no protected barrier down there. The cars and bicycles remain at the same street level. In summer when we use this area is it actually safer to head a block west to Jefferson and cross under the highway there. Chicago pays very little attention to its infrastructure design.

Using PVC bollards and green paint is not the recipe for effecting safe passage on the streets of our city. These are merely a visual “Band-Aid™” and a confusing one at that. What is needed is some original thought and design that equals that used in the redesign of the Lower Wacker Drive area, but that accommodates bicycles and scooters as well.

The pressure being applied by groups like the Active Transportation Alliance to simply “settle” for what I feel are “sub-standard” solutions is regrettable. Cyclists are starving for something truly innovative and safe. And instead we are being asked to press ahead with unproven designs for the sake of “progress“. It is little wonder that Europeans who visit our most highly developed bicycle infrastructure areas often come away unimpressed.

For all the millions of dollars that have been poured into these developments by the most affluent nation on the planet, “underwhelmed” as a reaction to our efforts should be unacceptable to us all.

Nørrebrogade, the western world’s busiest bicycle street.

Nørrebrogade, the western world’s busiest bicycle street.

In July I visited Copenhagen for the first time and, as advertised, it’s a biker’s paradise with mellow traffic, grade-separated bike lanes on all major streets and good-looking, stylish people on classy Dutch cycles everywhere you turn. I met up with Mikael, a bright-eyed, energetic man, at his flat in Frederiksberg, a town completely surrounded by Copenhagen. We sipped cans of Carlsberg as his young kids Felix and Lulu-Sophia practiced soccer and picked flowers in their lush back yard. Mikael and I discussed his views on helmets, the differences between Copenhagen and Amsterdam, why he’s underwhelmed by Portland, and why bikes should be marketed more like vacuum cleaners.

Beware the folks who are eager to get in more useless bicycle infrastructure. Ask yourself what is in it for them on a personal level. Are they trying to increase donations or get re-elected? The cost of what little infrastructure we have to date is far too expensive to be sidelined by poor design. What does it say when riders option out of Dearborn Street use in favor of other parallel routes?

We cannot make blind acceptance of poor design and development the price of being a loyal cyclist. That way lies madness.

1 Comment

  1. Discussing bicycles on your blog is a blood sport, and I am not up for it. But FWIW:

    Even after only brief visits to Denmark, The Netherlands, and Sweden, it is apparent to me that the biggest difference between us and them with regard to cycling is between the ears.

    In Amsterdam, I arranged for a guide to loan me an Oma fiets and then lead me on a tour of the city by bike. My recollection about the facilities in central Amsterdam is that they were a very mixed bag.

    BUT you aren’t in that country for very long before someone, knowing you are a visitor, tells you to “watch out for the bicycles”. We first heard it in the car on the way from the airport! Also heard it when leaving the hotel. Technically, pedestrians have the right of way, but in practice, bikes have right of way over everything, more or less.

    Wealthy people living in canal houses may have cars, but it would be pretty much impossible to use them in the central city. I think the canal ring structure came to be during their golden age in the 17th century. Not many cars around then.

    Cyclists are well-trained and behave in a predictable manner. Most American cyclists and pedestrians behave in an oblivious manner.

    But at the end of the day, the differences are mainly cultural. US culture is highly individualistic. Its everyone for themselves, zero sum game. If I give up something to you, it is less for me. This is the attitude on both sides in the bicycle discussion. It is a war.

    In general, in the N European countries, (and to some extent, in Canada) there is much more sense of what is the most good for the most people? What is the best thing for society as a whole? From this perspective, it is clear that cars have a lot of social costs, and bicycles have a lot of social benefits. Policies and facilities are the result. Appropriate, responsible behavior comes along with it.

    Our Dutch guide pointed out the alms houses that were built as soon as the country had some prosperity and a wealthy class emerged. We saw both early and modern examples of social housing. Wiki tells me it is much more than I thought:

    “The housing market is heavily regulated. In Amsterdam, 55% of existing housing and 30% of new housing is owned by Housing Associations, which are Government sponsored entities.”

    Contrast this social consciousness with the US, where the most basic safety net, arising mostly out of the New Deal, is under constant attack. Commitment to something as basic as public education is shaky. We do not have a public health care system. We have worse care at the highest price – the exact opposite of the most good for the most people.

    It is easy enough to copy a path in the physical world. But we are going to have to find our own _mental_ path to a country less dependent on cars. I do not think the low country mental path is culturally available to us.

    The older I get, having been young during a time when I thought we were changing things, only to end up with Reagan, the more it seems to me that change in the US comes from things you don’t expect. Demographics is huge. You have a lot of young people who are making less money than their parents did at the same age, who can’t afford a car, and who have other priorities. They are at a life stage where it is easier to incorporate cycling.

    You also do have pockets in some US cities where there is more of a social consciousness. You combine this with climate change, demographics, and economics, and you start to see some interest in cycling. But you also see that there is a tendency to design second rate facilities because they are cheaper. You also see poor cyclist behavior because they are clueless about what it really means to ride responsibly around other cyclists and vehicles. And because the every-person-for-themselves individualistic strain is present even among cyclists, you have push back from cyclists who don’t want facilities.

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