Paint is Not Enough

Copenhagenize recently wrote a good post on bicycle lanes, paths, and general infrastructure, emphasizing how and why it is not sufficient to provide designated bike lanes only with paint.  You can find it here, and I highly recommend reading it, if you are interested in bicycle planning and safety.

For the most part, Bloomington's bike routes are designated by a single line or a sharrow. Bloomington has been also making an effort to increase bike paths that are off the road, or side paths along routes like the by-pass and East third street.  Most recently, the city painted a double-lined bike path on Third leading into campus.

I've written about the problems with this infrastructure many times. (Here, here, and here, for starters). I hate, hate, hate the sharrows. I find them dangerous and difficult to maneuver. They are located on the roads with heavy, high-speed traffic, where drivers are not paying attention.  Unfortunately, these routes also contain many of the shops and restaurants where cyclists may want to go. They are also the quickest and easiest routes for commuters to take to work or school. That makes these routes the most logical for lanes segregated by curbs with special turn lanes. 

On a few roads around downtown, you'll find the one-lined, bike paths (that come and go, randomly around downtown).  But nothing is continuous, and only a few are convenient.  While I do appreciate it, I often feel like the existing lanes and paths were a result of planners throwing a bone to cyclists, without really much thought on where cyclists are riding and where they need to go (hence the problem with the awesome bike box leading nowhere--not even covering two lanes, for those cyclists who need to turn left).

Then there are the side and bike paths.  The B-line is great, and it goes from southern neighborhoods to the west-side of downtown. But what about the rest?  They are for recreation--for the person who doesn't have a destination, just a desire to be active.  And the side paths? The side paths along the by-pass and the east side of Third Street are nice, well-paved and spacious, but how many people will be taking that route, as opposed to others that go downtown?  The side path on Third Street is particularly confounding, since it runs on one side of the road, and then ends at a massive intersection (the by-pass and Third Street) with no apparent connection.

Sigh. I just continue to dream that Bloomington government will magically understand why better paths are needed: lanes that are segregated (so cyclists are safe); convenient to where commuters are riding; and continuous and linking. But, then again, I'm not holding my breath.


Matt said...

Have you reached out to the city gov't to see what or if they have long term plans? I know one guy who's in on the planning is an avid cyclist who probably shares your concerns. Maybe if you knew what the bigger picture is some of the changes will make sense.

To me, the bigger threat to cyclists is the behaviour of motorists. It's totally bizarre around here. If you go to a place like Davis, CA, if you are walking down the side walk and you turn to face the street (as though you are going to cross) ALL lanes stop. It's truly amazing. I wonder if it will ever be like that around here.

I'm grateful (and I know you are as well) for everything the city is doing for us cyclists, even if it at times seems like it's not enough. Change will take a long time.

Eric N. said...

I highly agree that in circumstances dictate seperation, but sometimes, it doesn't make sense. Jan Heine has well balanced opinions, that may actually be slightly more nuanced than ol' Copenhagenize... If you read the blog there are several other articles relating to the subject.