Road Dieting Justified

Background Reading


© acme08 / flickr

© acme08 / flickr

The article begins:

San Francisco is moving forward with a plan to add protected bike lanes on Polk Street, one of the busiest cycling corridors in the city, but the decision didn’t come easy. The San Francisco Examiner reports that the plan endured about 2.5 years of debate. At the center of the dispute was an objection to the loss of on-street parking spaces by local merchants (our emphasis):

Some business owners had argued that a proposed loss of 140 parking spaces in the area would lead to financial losses, and they had pushed hard for studies on possible economic impacts in order to pause construction of the bike lane.

It’s perhaps natural for a shop owner to fear that losing a parking space means losing revenue. Drivers tend to be wealthier than alternative transport users, and cars have big trunks to hold lots of stuff. Cities can add a bike lane and still keep street parking by bumping out spots from the curb (a common practice in New York), but generally speaking more road space for cyclists means less for cars.

But here’s the thing about the “studies on possible economic impacts” requested by retailers on Polk Street, or really wherever bike-lane plans emerge—they’ve been done. And done. And done again. And they all reach a similar conclusion: replacing on-street parking with a bike lane has little to no impact on local business, and in some cases might even increase business. While cyclists tend to spend less per shopping trip than drivers, they also tend to make more trips, pumping more total money into the local economy over time.

So to put these debates to rest we’ve compiled an annotated, chart-filled guide to every major study we know of conducted on the subject to date. Here they are, in no particular order, for your public meeting pleasure.


To show just how slippery a slope Eric Jaffe is asking us to climb you simply have to think back to two recent controversies;

And suddenly you realize that the Urban Cycling Movement is ore than willing to cling to its idea of the benefits of following its ‘War On Cars‘ view of the world, where automobiles are systematically removed from the urban landscape and any revenues they might bring along with it.

Seriously, I wish that I could snap my fingers and give the Urban Cycling Movement an irrevocable return to the days when motor vehicles of all sorts were no clogging the streets. But I would include in the mix buses as well.

Perhaps I could see my way to removing elevated rail in Chicago because I simply cannot abide the noise these trains bring when in operation. I have spent countless hours sitting outdoors at the Wicker Park Native Foods Cafe trying to enjoy a meal and a conversation when a train passes overhead. The noise is deafening and it always makes me wonder why anyone would bother renting an apartment in the immediate area.

But in the fantasy world of the Urban Cycling Movement this sort of thing is just well, not to be talked about. There is no place in their world for the report that was released by the Governors Highway Safety Association. They flew into a rage upon its release and then settled into owning the reality of the report.

Even places like Seattle have finally agreed that the problem of safety is not going to go away merely by adding more bike lanes. So the next frenetic step is the remove what the Urban Cycling Movementknows‘ to be the root cause of the failure of their promises, automobiles themselves. Only I want to remove trucks and buses and elevated and even at ground mass transit rail so that we can have a clean slate.

The Fact Is, Bicyclists Are Cheap

This is not to say something that is negative about cyclists. I too am cheap. At least about most things. I splurge on bicycles but I do not buy a lot of other stuff, except maybe computer equipment. Ok, I guess I am not being honest. But few people are.

We have a terrible time in Chicago getting bike shops in poorer areas ‘to stick‘. Now it might be said that Chicago’s Urban Cyclists are simply poorer than their automobile driving counterparts. In fact if the look at the article above the notion is put forward that this sort of thing is so.

But when you examine certain businesses in the areas where these bike shops are failing you suddenly realize that if they sell booze (especially craft beers) businesses in Chicago can thrive. So the real issue here is whether Chicago’s Urban Cyclists are willing to spend on bicycle-related things like maintenance or would they rather drink. The facts point to the latter.

Red Light Camera Embarrassment

It turns out that something as simple and straightforward as the benefits of Red Light Cameras is likewise not so clear. Once again the Urban Cycling Movement looked at the assault on one of the cardinal beliefs and cried foul. But the really embarrassing thing was that the crowd supporting the removal of these lights were all Progressives. Imagine that!

Maybe another tenet of the Church of Urban Cycling is failing. The War on Cars is a cardinal belief. What does the world look like if Progressives are not really True Believers? My suggestion is to get over it.

You have been wrong all along. The world is not in favor of getting rid of cars. Everyone complained about traffic snarls, but that does not push them to ride buses. Trains, maybe. But bus ridership in Chicago is down (at least for the moment).

Inefficiency Thy Name Is Mass Transit

When I do an unscientific personal study of bus traffic it suddenly seems obvious that most of the time buses are running nearly empty. Even during Rush Hour they are far less utilized than one would expect. The studies done on this recently show that when it comes to ‘service‘ mass transit sucks.

Buses are slower than lava is how one write puts it:

And as if the fact that your fellow passengers are rude and smelly, some of the bastards have the gall to rob you at gunpoint!

So I go back to that wish to snap my fingers and have all those slow, under utilized buses removed from the streets along with the noisy disruptive trains overhead and we all move around in city limits by bicycle only.

Oh, and I want to stipulate now that the only bikes that will be allowed (in my vision of the Urban Landscape) are BikeShare bicycles. We already know here in Chicago that stealing a Divvy bike is next to impossible. But even more important is the fact that you never have to worry about on street parking issues.

These bikes have no additional footprint that the taxpayers have to deal with. I would allow of course for the addition of cargo bikes in the fleet. This would give shoppers and mommy bikers a chance to haul their loads in style.

Take This Reality To The Public

All of those ‘softball‘ questions meant to evoke puppies and bunny rabbits that appear on the questionnaires that keep getting thrust into the faces of people like me about how the general public shares in the vision of the Urban Cycling Movement should be updated to include the reality of what is desired.

Ask these young couples and senior citizens and middle-aged men whether they envision not being able to park their cars anywhere in the city. Ask the developers of housing whether they can sell the idea of no tenant parking to their prospective customers.

Ask the general public whether they can get by with just bicycles. Then come back to me with the results. We need to tell them the truth. Our vision of the real world is warped if we think that they will buy into this.