Sunday, June 17, 2007

Vermont: Cycling safety 101

Image of bicyclist on the Burlington Bikeway in VermontFrom the Rutland Herald, 06.17.07:

A common complaint of new or infrequent road cyclists and commuters is that they feel exposed and squeezed by auto traffic. In the absence of an extensive system of bike paths and lanes, sharing the road is something that we all have to get used to. That means mastering the fear of auto traffic, and knowing how to ride safely and predictably as it flows around you.

Fortunately it's easy, though it may not seem to be at first. There are times when the real dangers of bicycle commuting become all too evident, most often when you are first starting out, and not yet desensitized to being among a bunch of 3,000-pound projectiles with nothing but a piece of foam on your head to protect you. In the worst cases, an afternoon ride down a country road can begin to feel like a game of Russian Roulette.

More bike lanes would be nice, but how can we justify them without an already healthy flow of bike traffic in the first place? You don't have to be a victim of fear, constrained to closed paths and driving your bikes to the place where you can ride them. Once we all become comfortable riding on the road, the inevitable expansion of bike paths and lanes will be icing on the cake. (Read more.)
This article by a bicycle mechanic and racer in Montpelier, Vermont features the standard useful advice of vehicular bicycling: be visible, be predictable, pay attention, wear a helmet. It concludes with a reprise of the bike advocacy "chicken or egg" question: Does an abundance of bicyclists create demand for bike lanes; or do bike lanes create an abundance of bicyclists? (*In this case "bike lanes" means "bicycling infrastructure" including lanes, paths, routes, etc.)

As may be obvious to readers of this blog, I believe it's the latter, based on my experiences in San Francisco and Davis, where infrastructural enhancements have encouraged greater use of bicycles for transportation. As legendary septuagenarian cycling advocate Ellen Fletcher paraphrases "Field of Dreams": If you build it, they will come. And bike lanes are never "inevitable"; improvements for bicycling require advocacy.

What do you think? Do bicyclists create bike lanes, or do bike lanes create bicyclists?

Image: Web capture. Bicyclist on the Burlington Bikeway in Vermont.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's important to realize the "chicken and egg" isn't a paradox if you believe in evolution. Some chicken-precursor laid eggs that spawned something more chicken like, which in turn spawned more-chickeny eggs, and so forth. Had we held out on eggs before a perfect chicken, or held out on hatching until the eggs were modern, we'd have nothing. That's why the most adamant, "no compromise" stances usually turn stagnant. The SFBC does a great job of taking baby steps forward, and using them to hatch a few more cyclists, in a permanent cycle (no pun intended.) So demand creates improvements, and improvement increases use -- exactly two sides of the same coin.

clark said...

bike lanes have appeared here lately i suspect mainly because one of the project managers on a lot of the municipal road improvements is a bicycle commuter himself. and also because the average citizen is getting more used to seeing bikes, and because drivers don't want them on the roads and pedestrians don't want them on the sidewalks, bike lanes seem logical.