Friday, November 11, 2005

Build it, and they still won’t come.

Bike lane advocates like to use the argument that if only bike lanes were available between X and Y, many more people would use bicycles for recreation and transportation. They greatly fear riding in traffic. They’re afraid of all those motorists and all those cars. If only bike lanes were available, riding would be so much safer.


Instead of trying to lure hypothetical cyclists up off their couches and onto the roads, maybe we should be concentrating on existing riders, real cyclists who use our roads every day. Imaginary ones are OK if you’re playing computer games, but real cyclists need real solutions to real problems.

Nationally, we’ve spent ever-increasing amounts on bicycle facilities like bike lanes and linear parks with multi-use trails, yet the number of adult cyclists has remained relatively flat. The bike lane advocates would have us believe that if only we spent more money, the masses would give up their cars and use bicycles at least some of the time.

Fritz of Cycle-licious fame, rode in Austin, Texas over one weekend. His observations are hardly a scientific survey, yet they speak volumes about the state of cycling in Lance Armstrong’s hometown. Fritz wrote:

With two exceptions, every cyclist I saw was riding on the sidewalk, even roadies in full road kit and a whole pack of sweaty mountain bikers with hydration packs, helmets, and high-end full suspension bikes. Where do you need full suspension in Austin? The first exception was a recreational cyclist on a road bike. The other exception was a Latino going the wrong way and hugging the fogline.

I know a couple of people who say they really need to get out there on their bikes, if only for the exercise. They talk a good fight, but when it comes time to throw a leg over the bike and head out the door, they always have some more pressing business. As a result, the bikes gather dust. The tires go flat and they get pushed to the back of the garage or the shed.

We all know the ‘if only’ crowd. They’re the people who would ride more if only:
- There were a bike lane from the front door to every possible destination.
- Showers were available at work.
- Bicycling didn’t require so much effort.
- Flat tires were an impossibility.
- There were no headwinds, no rain, no cold winter days, or hot summer days.
- Covered, secure parking was available.
- Motorists weren’t so rude.
- Cyclists didn’t look silly, or worse yet, like poor people.
- Local dogs didn’t see them as prey animals.

The list is endless. Guess what? The ‘if only’ crowd will NEVER ride bicycles regardless of the amenities we put in front of them. So why pander to these hypothetical cyclists? At best, they’ll put their bikes on the back of some enormous SUV, drive to a trailhead, and then ride around in circles. They ride for recreation and couldn’t care less about road rights or vehicular cycling because they never intend to ride on the road. Yet facilities advocates would have the bulk of the transportation enhancement funds spent to please such recreational cyclists.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against cycling as recreation. It’s a wonderful way to spend a pleasant afternoon. What I oppose is the idea of spending most TE money to benefit just those cyclists who are terrified of traffic. Parks are lovely amenities, but they’re hardly a transportation facility. Why spend transportation money on them?


Blogger Fritz said...

Local dogs. A local dog scared the gastrointestinal putrescine output from me in a ritzy neighborhood in Austin. I haven't had that happen in a while.

11:17 PM  

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