Regular readers of this site will know that I can be a bit of a crank about certain types of bicycle facilities:
- Signage alone doesn’t make a route ‘bicycle-friendly.’
- Paint jobs sometimes just indicate what the knowledgeable already know.
- Bike lanes as backfill can create their own hazards.
Generally speaking, every type of bicycle facility has its own drawbacks. Frequently, the choice of implementation is based on familiarity or ease, rather than a real evaluation of the different drawbacks.
That’s why this article on Bikeway Network Recipes is interesting. The author rightly views all of the options as part of a toolkit. She specifically cites the Copenhagen cycling network – often held up as a model by others – and calls out the drawback found by some residents of that city: That inexperienced cyclists (and parents of small children!) are uncomfortable with them and thus don’t use them!
Her recommended recipe is to take advantage of the relatively easy-to-implement bike lanes and boulevards while also working on some of the high-profile, harder to implement and more expensive projects. In the Twin Cities, examples of this kind of split would be the Jefferson Avenue bicycle boulevard in St. Paul (fairly cheap, and really just a paint job indicating what locals already know to be true), and the Cedar Lake Trail extension (years in the making, fiercely expensive, but a needed piece of the network).
I especially like her thought to start wherever you can – and to keep going. The money quote, though:
…if there’s no reaction in the media, business community, or neighborhoods, you probably haven’t done enough – because you need to have the changes be visible enough to provoke a spirited conversation about bicycling as a mainstream form of transportation.
And that’s really what we need – a view of cyclists as the norm, and not freaks or fringe.