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April 23, 2011

Today’s Wall Street Journal enlisted “hard-core, regular cyclists” to frame a debate about the city’s investment in separated bike lanes. (I’m a regular cyclist, but am fairly certain that my upright Dutch-style bike and baby seat immediately disqualify me from being “hard-core.”) Without explicitly using the term, the story echoes past arguments about vehicular cycling, focusing on riders who prefer the free-for-all nature of open streets over separated bike lanes that one rider describes with the kind of hyperbole typically used by members of Seniors for Safety.

“They’re death traps and they’re very poorly designed,” said Mr. Durller. He said he got tired of dodging pedestrians, turning cars, slower cyclists and trucks loading and unloading.

As Howard Wolfson tweeted today, the number of cyclists killed in protected bike lanes remains at zero – I don’t know what the threshold is for calling something a deathtrap, but I think it has to be higher than one. I can’t deny anyone their opinion of riding in separated bike lanes versus open streets, but my experience is that no matter where you ride you still have to dodge pedestrians, turning cars, and trucks. Maybe the only advantage the street has is that a veteran rider never has to worry about getting stuck behind this jerk.

Still, I can’t fault the riders quoted in the piece that much – it’s the writer, Andrew Grossman, who sets up one of the article’s more baffling pieces of logic:

But a cadre of regular cyclists say that while they like City Hall’s pro-bike bent, its efforts to separate them from traffic can backfire.

Christopher Baker, a triathlete who lives on the Upper East Side, said he got stopped by police a year ago after hopping onto the sidewalk to try to avoid a pedestrian in the Ninth Avenue bike lane. A few months later, Mr. Baker was stopped on Second Avenue for riding outside of the lane there.

Are Baker’s understandably frustrating experiences the fault of bad bike lane design and the DOT or the fault of, say, NYPD officers who are unfamiliar with the law, unwilling to use due discretion, and ordered to crackdown on cyclists no matter how benign the offense?

Interestingly, the article focuses on conflicts and frustrations with “lanes in denser parts of Manhattan,” but is illustrated with a rather serene picture of a lone rider on the Prospect Park West bike lane, perhaps confirming Dmitry Gudkov’s theory that PPW is only as “controversial” as the media’s search engine optimization needs it to be.

  1. krstrois permalink
    April 24, 2011 7:52 pm

    Boy, I have no time for that self-identified triathlete. Then, I don’t much like drivers who try for Mario Andretti on city streets, either.

  2. Jeff permalink
    April 25, 2011 1:01 pm

    Bike lanes are dangerous because they confine you without effectively sheltering you from pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic. I would much rather be out in traffic with the freedom to make any evasive maneuver at my discretion than be trapped in a narrow lane that attracts all sorts of obstacles like iron to a magnet.

    Here’s the huge caveat: I am a fast cyclist. I am in pretty good riding shape, and I like to travel at speeds that are comfortable for me (and lawful, I might add) but are not comfortable for all cyclists. I think bike lanes, even with their magnetism for double parking, pedestrians, shopping bags, car seats, etc., are safer for slower cyclists whose speeds are much slower than vehicular traffic.

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