Protected Bike Lanes Are A ‘Lost Cause’

Background Reading




Very soon now we will once again enter the season of winter here in Chicago. And once again the lunacy of having pretty green painted lanes with PVC bollards to provide a visual cue for automobiles will be exposed. You can have this kind of infrastructure design in place anywhere in the world in the summer. All bets are off in the winter.

Buddhist Sand Mandala

Buddhist Sand Mandala

Imagine if your living room floor were covered with piles of brightly colored sand which formed a beautiful picture if left untouched. Now imagine what your living room would look like if you introduced cats, dogs and your infant children.

There is nothing wrong with sand mandalas. They are gorgeous and require infinite patience to create and a mindful audience to enjoy them. But they are the wrong idea for a busy floor.

Buffered Bike Lanes Work Best

Not only do buffered bike lanes keep cyclists closer to the crown of the road, they are the safest design when it comes to avoiding collisions with car doors. We need to get over having pretty lanes which we think provide ‘Bicycle Comfort‘ and ‘get real‘.

If you are not plowing and otherwise keeping a lane cleared in the one season of the year when cycling is the least practical way of traveling, then you are being stupid. And cyclists are to blame for this because they both want the ‘sand mandala‘ (i.e. Bicycle Comfort) while at the same time wanting the damn carpet vacuumed (i.e. Snow Removal).

The problem is you cannot have both simultaneously. Pretty green lanes are for viewing pleasure. They soothe, they create confidence that all is right with the world. PVC bollards are another matter entirely. They are there to give motorists the visual cues to stay out of the bike lane. But they are the very root cause of the inability to keep lanes plowed. Besides if you plow a pretty green lane you scrape away the paint. So you lose the viewing pleasure and sense of comfort and are left with PVC bollards, ripped out by their roots and a very ugly, scraped paint surface.

Would Someone In The Urban Cycling Movement ‘Grow A Pair’

This is one place where having the cojones to speak up would be appreciated by all. The taxpayers don’t like having to continually refurbish these lanes with fresh paint. It is wasteful and impractical. Buffered lanes are just the opposite. They are quite usable and safer than their companion lane types in many respects. And while not as pretty as a green lane, they work better in a dirty grimy city environment.

However if your personal esteem rides on having pretty green lanes, then fine. Just don’t complain that the damn lane never got plowed all season. Or if it is plowed, please do not whine about the number of broken bollards and the status of the painted surface. You simply cannot have both simultaneously.