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Going with the Contra-Flow

April 6, 2012

Peter Furth, a professor of transportation engineering at Northeastern University, responds to complaints about a contra-flow bike lane in Brookline, Massachusetts.  It’s a highly local issue, and I’m only paying attention because my dad lives in the area, but what struck me were his thoughts on the frequently heard idea that cyclists and motorists should always use streets in exactly the same way:

It rubs some people the wrong way that bikes should be allowed to do things cars aren’t allowed. Well, on every one-way street I know, pedestrians are still allowed to walk two-way; should we outlaw this exception, too? Streets are made one-way for reasons do to with motor vehicles — to keep traffic from cutting through a neighborhood, or because a street is too narrow for a pair of cars to pass. Those reasons don’t apply to pedestrians, and most of the time they don’t apply to bikes, either; so why not limit the restriction to where it’s needed? Based on the same logic, we sometimes apply restrictions to trucks that don’t apply to cars.


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