From the Boston Globe, 04.20.08:
Gone are the days when cycling advocates bickered about whether bike lanes actually improve safety for cyclists. Studies prove that bike lanes and other markings boost bicycle use, reduce vehicular traffic and speeding, and in many cases, decrease car-bike collisions.I've written in the past about the welcome demise of vehicular cycling (VC) among bicycle advocates. As a practical approach to individual cycling, VC makes great sense: "drive" your bicycle as if it were a vehicle, claim your space, signal your turns, ride with traffic.
"A handful of people are opposed to bike lanes on a philosophical or practical basis," wrote Chris Porter, chair of the MassBike Metro Boston chapter, in an e-mail. Many of this minority are holdovers from the days when "vehicular bicycling" thinking --folding bikes into the regular flow of traffic with no special accommodations--held sway. MassBike and other major bike advocacy groups support bike lanes, as long as they are designed properly. But bike lanes aren't the only option.
"Not every street is right for a bike lane, but there are plenty of alternatives, like bicycle boulevards, "sharrows" [or] "Share the Road" arrows, and signage," said David Watson, MassBike's executive director...
Roads often need to go on "diets" to either remove or narrow a lane of traffic or parking to make a little room for bikes. This is what happened on Mass Ave in Central Square, said Cara Seiderman, transportation program manager for Cambridge.
Eleven feet is a generally accepted minimum width for a busy urban travel lane such as on Mass. Ave., said Seiderman. Cambridge has found that even 10-foot lanes, like on Hampshire Street, are as safe as wider lanes. One reason: they slow traffic.
Most engineers design at least five-foot-wide bike lanes, but not every advocate agrees about appropriate widths. Some believe that even standard widths "encourage bikes to ride too close to parked cars," said Porter. In other words, raising the threat of getting "doored."
But a 2003 study by the city of Cambridge found that bike lanes and pavement markings actually encouraged bicyclists to travel further from, not closer to, parked cars, compared with their behavior when no markings were present. Motorists also cited bike lanes as a big reason why they noticed bicyclists.
In short, bike lanes work. (Read more.)
However, as a basis for bicycling advocacy, VC is negative, pessimistic, and counter-productive. Essentially, VC proponents conceded bicycling's marginality and didn't believe the roads could be changed to better accommodate cyclists. Instead they encouraged bicyclists to accept their minority status and adapt to roads designed for high speed vehicle traffic.
In contrast to this nonsense, the success of "complete streets" advocacy in cities such as San Francisco, Portland, New York, and Chicago has clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of infrastructural enhancement. These cities all have strong bicycling advocacy organizations, which have successfully pushed for enhanced bicycling infrastructure, such as bike lanes, "sharrows," signage, bike paths, and secure parking. Friendlier streets have led to more bicyclists, which in turn has increased safety as motorist awareness improves.
And now Boston is finally moving to improve the streetscape to better serve bicyclists and other non-motorized travelers. I couldn't agree more with this new Boston Globe columnist: Bike lanes work.
Image: Web capture.
Visit: Bike czar creates buzz just gearing up, Boston Globe
Visit: Boston improves as a bike city, Boston Globe
Visit: Josh Switzky Interview, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Brooklyn: Bike Lanes Save Lives, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site