Let me get this out in the open from the go: most bike lanes and infrastructure aren’t built for me and I don’t often use them.
I’m often most comfortable riding in the general traffic lane in an urban situation, as I can keep up with the posted speed limit, I’m out of the door zone, and I’m not going to sneak up on others in the bike lanes.
But this doesn’t mean I’m against proper bicycle and micro-mobility infrastructure. In fact, I want more of this infrastructure – protected bike lanes, multi-use paths, dedicated traffic signals, on-street parking – because it will get more people riding bicycles.
I’m part of the outlier 8 percent – i.e. those riders who are confident and enthusiastic about riding a bicycle on almost any kind of road. I take the lane. I communicate with my fellow road users (and typically in a positive, non-confrontational way). To me a bicycle is the ideal way to get around the urban area I call home.
However, the majority of people who ride bicycles are more concerned and wary of traveling on the road without some sort of infrastructure, be it an unprotected bike lane or sharrow, or ideally a protected bike lane or multi-use path where it’s difficult for motor vehicles to encroach.
Many of my friends – including other everyday riders – are far happier with protected infrastructure. The reasons are many. Some have been traumatized by being struck by a driver or have had a close friend or relation struck by a driver. Others ride with peers or family members who are less confident or more vulnerable (examples: children, older family members, those with motor skill issues). And others simply fear going on the road when so many drivers are distracted – they simply don’t want to be injured or die on the road.
I leave the bike lane for the rider who needs its protection and security.
So I will keep fighting for properly implemented and protected bicycle and multi-modal transportation infrastructure. If it’s well made and I’m not in a hurry, I’ll happily use it. If I’m riding with friends who prefer this infrastructure, I’ll join them in their safer journey. If I’m taking a visitor on a bike tour of my fair city, I’ll take them on our bike lanes and paths to give them a journey with (hopefully) the least amount of conflict with other road users.
Neighbors take note: I realize that building protected bicycle and micro-mobility infrastructure will change the streetscape you’ve known for years. It likely will take away street parking, and that is perfectly OK! The primary role of our roads and streets is to allow for the safe conveyance of people from point to point. Storage of private property – i.e cars – is not the primary role of a street or road. If you live in an urban space, chances are you live within a short distance of necessary services, such as food stores, drugstores, restaurants, doctors, and post offices. If you own a car, there may be more scarcity of on-street parking space. If you happen to have off-street parking, use it rather than renting it to some non-local for a quick buck.
Again, to my neighbors: yes, the streets will change. But give the bicycle and micro-mobility infrastructure a chance. It will keep bicycles and scooters off the sidewalk. It will make for more predictable intersections. And who knows? You may even find these lanes useful in your daily life.
Politicians take note: this member of the community will continue exerting pressure on you to implement safe infrastructure whenever possible and with all speed. Like my peers, I’m tired of excuses, of talking around the problem, of saying “we’ll study that” when tons of data has already been accumulated, of overpromising and underdelivering. Where I live now (the District of Columbia) this has been the norm. Taking risks is not the way of politicians. Risk aversion is the safe norm.
So pols: take those risks. Yes, you may cost yourself a vote or two, but you’ll gain the support and votes of many others.
Bicyclists are courageous when they sit astride a bicycle and ride through a city. If only the politicians were equally brave: building proper, future-forward infrastructure for a mode that can, should, and will (especially during a climate crisis) become more prevalent.