Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Build it and....they don't come anyway...

The Miami Herald ran a story about the growing network of bicycle lanes that remain unused. Naturally, this is viewed as a monumental waste of money. Local cyclists avoid the worst of them. But the remarks from Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, are particularly enlightening. She says it takes 10 years to build a cycling community that will regularly utilize those lanes. Ten years. If politicians or planners suggested that we build highways, water pipelines, or sewers based on the assumption that they'd be used ten years in the future, well, those good people would likely be looking for new jobs long before those years passed by.

If this argument were true, the ever-increasing amounts of public monies spent on bicycling facilities since 1990 should have produced a cycling utopia by now. Without going back over the statistics, I recall that the amount has increased by more than ten times, yet the number of cyclists remains relatively flat.

Somebody is making a boatload of money from these projects, but it surely isn't the bike industry or the local shops, and cyclists themselves seem to benefit the least.

Excerpts follow.


(LINK)
Mandated bicycle lanes are getting little use
RULES TO CREATE MORE BIKE LANES HAVE ENCOURAGED A GROWING NETWORK OF PATHS FOR CYCLISTS. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE BEING USED.

Posted on Sun, Feb. 03, 2008

BY DAVID SMILEY
dsmiley@MiamiHerald.com


A lone cyclist pedals east on one of the newly added bike lanes along Pines Boulevard between Hiatus Road and 108th Avenue in Pembroke Pines during an evening rush hour.
MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The morning commute on Pines Boulevard is a little less hectic for motorists these days.

Rush hour traffic often flows smoothly on the highway thanks to a fourth eastbound lane added during the past two years in the congested stretch between 136th Avenue and Douglas Road.

But the new bike lanes added during the same project are a different story: Mostly, they're empty.

...And although experts say bike lanes are the safest place for cyclists, Key Biscayne, North Miami and Hallandale Beach have all questioned whether cyclists will really ride next to speeding cars.

...''How do we view that area? Like the plague. We avoid that area at all costs,'' said Craig Sloan of the cycling group South Broward Wheelers.

...But while colored bike lanes and striped separators may make cyclists comfortable, they do little to stop accidents, said Dwight Kingsbury, assistant pedestrian and bicycle coordinator for the Florida DOT.

...Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor William Julian said from his experience, cities are better off saving their money than placing bike lanes on busy streets.

When Hallandale Beach added bike lanes to North Federal Highway in 2003, many said it was pointless, Julian included. His opinion hasn't changed.

But safety often comes in numbers and numbers come in time, said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

San Francisco is widely recognized as a cycling-friendly community and was called one of the top 10 cycling cities by Bicycling Magazine last year. But Shahum said cycling took nearly a decade of consistent advocacy and bike lane construction to really catch on.

That's why it is so important to build bike lanes now, even when no one seems to use them, Kingsbury said.

''If you build the roadway without the bike lane, you've locked yourself in,'' he said.

And eventually, as in San Francisco, bike lanes will catch on when traffic becomes unbearable and widening roads becomes impossible, Shahum said.

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2 Comments:

Blogger John A. Ardelli said...

Bike lanes not only do nothing to encourage cyclists to ride; they can be downright dangerous.

I talk about this at length on Cyclelicious in my post, Dangers of Bike Lanes.

3:36 PM  
Blogger fridrix said...

"he says it takes 10 years to build a cycling community that will regularly utilize those lanes"

---That's really not what the article said she said, and since she was paraphrased I wonder what she really said to begin with.

8:22 PM  

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