Unfettered is Better
Urban cycling is easy, but one can make it difficult.
Urban road riding is ever so easy.
Today I rode down Orange Ave with the flow of traffic. Sometimes I passed the cars that were in the other lanes, sometimes they passed me. I was casually pedaling a single-digit speed into the headwind. Just slow enough to pace the lights and glide easily from Robinson to Jackson. I experienced no conflicts or incivility.
At Church Street a guy on a bike turned onto the northbound sidewalk as the light turned green. I passed him. Approaching Central, he passed me on the sidewalk as the light ahead changed to green. The van in front of me was turning right. It pulled forward and stopped abruptly, part way into the turn, as the driver avoided hitting the cyclist who had ridden out of his blind spot into the crosswalk. There was enough room for me to ride around the van to the left. The car behind me had to wait behind the van as the cyclist crossed. At Washington, that cyclist pulled up beside me and rode in the street to Robinson. I just smiled and exchanged greetings with him.
An urban sidepath (now conveniently rebranded as a “cycletrack”) functions the same as a sidewalk with regard to traffic movements, unless you create separate signal phases at every intersection and eliminate all driveways.
Freedom from fear is freedom to choose.
While I enjoy riding on quiet residential streets, those routes to downtown funnel me onto bike lane streets like Ferncreek and Livingston. Those almost always offer some form of annoyance (today the Ferncreek bike lane was obstructed by organic debris, trash cans, trash bags and 100 feet of broken glass. I also had a drive-out from one of the side streets). To keep my sanity, I regularly ride from Audubon Park to downtown using bigger roads such as Maguire, Colonial, Primrose, Robinson and South. I never have conflicts or close calls on those roads and rarely get honked at. Anyone can do this, it doesn’t take any special physical skill. It just takes a little road knowledge, which we teach. It’s so easy, and it’s incredibly liberating. Plus, the more we ride on the those streets, the more we will normalize bicycling as a useful mode of transportation.
If you want to promote any activity, why wouldn’t you embrace a method that offers it at its best? Recognizing how safe and easy urban bicycling is right now offers bicycling at its best — the possibility of unlimited travel.
We’re in a crisis of economic turmoil, reduced tax revenue, backlash against any kind of government spending and we’re facing the prospect of $5/gallon gas. But the dominant bicycling advocacy organizations are pushing for facilities that:
- can cost $3 million for 4,900 feet;
- make cycling less safe and more difficult than just using the road;
- reinforce the belief that cyclists don’t belong on the road;
- pander to the fear that inhibits people from choosing a bike in the first place;
- create dependency on separate facilities;
- send a message that cycling of limited usefulness until cash-strapped governments build special facilities to serve every destination.
Urban cycling is easy. We can demonstrate how easy it is, or we can make it difficult.