It was not that long ago that all cyclists really wanted in life was to be acknowledged as ‘sharers of the road‘. These days we have taken the bait and grasped at painted lines as a means of self-authentication. The problem with that approach is that when the paint wears off or the road gets resurfaced and the lines are not there we are suddenly faced with a loss of identity. This is silly!
The single biggest problem with these painted lines is that they offer a modicum of ‘bicycle comfort‘ and that stems from the misguided notion that the painted surfaces give us legitimacy. When Jim Crow laws were in effect here in the United States, African-Americans learned to cling to the notion that certain sections of town were permissible for them to live in. They could even buy homes as long as it was in the ‘color section‘.
We got our own water fountains and bathrooms as well. And even our schools though segregated were all that we had and we flourished in the knowledge that despite the fact that we could not buy homes in neighborhoods where we could actually afford them, at least we were allowed to own property. Those days are back and we now speak of them glowingly as the Age of Protected Bike Lanes. In fact we are told by CDOT officials like Scott Kubly have made some fairly paternalistic statements about church-goers in the African-American Community who did accept the notion that their Sunday parking space would be lost to a bicycle infrastructure design that few if any folks (excepting those from the University of Chicago area) in the community would be using.
We have gotten hung-up on the paint because it represents the kind of tangible ‘progress‘ that politicians love to point to come election time. But frankly these painted areas have become mental and emotional crutches for their users. We own the lane. In fact we own ALL the lanes! Either this is true or it isn’t. There is no middle ground.
Dealing With Exigencies
I am very happy that the League of American Bicyclists is publishing a series of Education Videos on topics dealing with Vehicular Cycling. We need to be reminded of our heritage and the fact that like the American Indians we are not to settle for living on a reservation. Bike lanes are a reservation. If we allow ourselves to get too comfortable on these reservations we will always be anxious when paint wears off or roads get resurfaced. Because for us our identity as cyclists and our right to be on the road seems to be (at least in the minds of people in the Urban Cycling Movement) to be intrinsically bound up with the presence of painted bike lanes.
We need to re-educate our cycling population that this is not true now nor has it ever been true. We own all the goddam lanes! All of them!
Shoving cyclists up against the curb in what are known as ‘Protected Bike Lanes‘ appear to be current rage amongst an ill-informed journalist crowd. But we own the lanes, all of them. The fact that these lanes have to be modified to allow safer right turns by automobiles speaks to the fact that we are poorly situated when using these kinds of lanes. They have acknowledged this fact in San Francisco.
We will never become meaningful users of Divvy bikes and city bikes if we are simply herded into these ‘bicycle ghettos‘ and told that while we believe them to be safe, what is far more important is that newbies experience ‘bicycle comfort‘.
That’s a bike like saying that while a condom can fail and you can suffer HIV infection, the presence of the condom should make you at least feel safer and that is after all the most important thing. Wrong!
Please stop pandering to the needs of the politicians to show ‘progress‘ and get back to basics where Vehicular Cycling is concerned.