There has been a lot of discussion about bicycles and their place in the greater streetscape. I certainly have a lot to say about it, but don’t have a lot of time to write about it just now – gotta get a post up before midnight, y’know – so I ask for some discussion in the comments of this post (try and keep it there, as not all of my followers are on Facebook).
When I ride my bike in DC, I tend to take the lane, toward the center, and ride like a car should drive – i.e. I am a vehicular cyclist. I realize that not everybody can manage that pace, or is that confident on a bike where traffic abounds, much of it not entirely friendly toward cyclists.
Because of that, I’m not always a fan of bike lanes, cycletracks, and the like, as I feel most of these things don’t provide cyclists the exposure they need to develop their skills and to allow motorists to adapt to the presence of bicycles in the roadway. Yes, I will use some bike lanes and cycletracks, but just as often I’ll ride in the general traffic lanes, as I can make better time, ride faster, etc.
I realize this flies in the face of many of the bicycle advocates and activists in DC, who pine for more lanes, more sharrows, more cycletracks. I realize that these facilities provide a sense of safety to the hesitant, beginner, or ultra-casual cyclist, and that they can help build a vibrant cycling community.
But I seldom see them done correctly, as I’ve seen in Europe and other U.S. cities. Instead, things are done with compromised designs. For example, the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack is far too easily crossed by drivers, who make U-turns with little chance of penalty. The zebra barriers, installed on one block of this track, were installed so far out of spec that it’s comically easy for cars to U-turn over them without incident. Another example is the L Street cycletrack, with bollards that allow cars and delivery trucks to block it with ease.
Not to mention the 15th Street cycletrack that is seldom cleaned, or the multi-use path in Rock Creek Park that is so narrow and poorly paved that its safety is compromised to the point where there’s no safety advantage to using it along most of its length. These are bicycle facilities that are lacking in complete execution, compromised in many respects and doing a disservice to cyclists (and in the case of Rock Creek, pedestrians and equestrians).
And the bike lanes on narrower, one-way streets put the cyclist right in the “door zone” of parked cars. I recently found myself doored because of this – it’s not fun.
So I posit this: why build more of these half-baked facilities that send a mixed message to all road use communities? Isn’t it all just good money gone to waste?
My stance: either build bike facilities properly (e.g. install the zebra barriers on Penn to manufacturer’s specifications, build a curb to create a proper cycletrack on L Street), or concentrate on consistent enforcement of traffic laws for all road use groups.
That’s a bit of an oversimplification. I will explain more in the future – deadlines, y’know…