In July, the Star-Tribune had an article about bicycling in Edina that I felt really had all kinds of messed-up priorities — focusing on ‘dedicated’ bikeways instead of sensibly-design streets, people driving while using cell-phones, and attempting to engineer around the standard behavior of children (yeah, good luck with THAT).
Now, in November, the same news source is looking at the recommendations of Edina’s bicycle task force. The very article starts with a pet peeve of mine — a focus on the wrong thing:
Edina has no signed or striped bike routes. That’s an amazing fact when biking is booming in the Twin Cities and Minneapolis is ranked second in the country in the proportion of people who bike to work.
Again I must state: Striping and signs do not ‘create’ bicycle-friendly routings. In fact, many bicycle advocates believe that they create additional hostility toward cyclists. Some drivers perceive that such striping dictates bicycle road position and even roads that cyclists are ALLOWED to use. Reading letters to editors and online comments on various articles about bicycle issues emphasizes that this isn’t me or some tight-pantsed advocate who worries too much just thinking this. There’s evidence of this occurring.
Edina’s plan focuses on building several bike trails and striping a bunch of streets. Much of the proposed striping, in fact, is just wandering around with paint and not making any actual physical changes to roadways or traffic flow — they intend to paint bicycle markings on existing shoulders. Nothing presently prevents a cyclist from using these existing shoulders.
One task force argues that marking roads would prevent cars from honking and telling him to get on sidewalks, I think this is probably optimistic. I’ve had people tell me to ‘Get on the sidewalk!’ while both I and the car were within visual distance of a Share the Road sign. Signs and striping do very little to educate or reduce vehicular hostility. People who want to honk and intimidate are unlikely to undergo attitudinal shift because the shoulder’s been repainted and a sign erected.
That being said, it’s pretty ridiculous that the task force is having to suggest a complete streets policy aimed at improving roadways for multi-modal access during redesign or new builds. Even federal roadway policy already suggests that.
Bicycles fare best when they behave as, and are treated as, vehicles. ‘Separate but Equal’ treatment is not a good transportation or traffic calming strategy. Driver education that reaches both the drivers of automobiles and the drivers of bicycles is a much more needed strategy.