If you’re as frustrated as I am with the state of bike lanes you’ll hopefully excuse the pun. Because, despite more dedicated cycle routes being built than ever before, the devil still looms large in the details.
In the United States campaigners are warning of a dangerously planned route in New York which stops suddenly at a hair-raising junction.
In Winnipeg bike lanes littered with potholes remain unmarked and cyclists face harassment from drivers who don’t actually believe they should be on the road. How hard is it to weigh up the cost of painting a bit of highway with the emotional and financial burden of a fatal accident?
In Los Angeles another path is labelled an eyesore – in a city cloaked in ugly – and potentially fatal – smog.
In Canada Quebec‘s most successful bikepath needs a revamp, but no one wants to pay for it.
Then there’s the lack of enforcement of lanes the world over. In Toronto a bluntly worded blog tracks all the motorists parking in lanes “just dropping off/ picking up/ in a hurry”, or whatever today’s lame excuse is.
There are several points on my own commute from Bristol to Bath in the UK where the same cars park daily on the cycle lane, forcing me to pull into the heavy traffic I’m supposed to be protected from.
Elsewhere in the country, villages beseiged by traffic and the accompanying pollution seem blind to the fact that cycle paths could actually reduce congestion in their communities.
People living in the Wye Valley recently challenged plans for a riverside route after “fears” it could link up with the National Cycle Network of low-traffic and car free paths. Why is that something to be so afraid of?
In St Albans a new path has been opened before all the signs are up prompting warnings that staying on the road is actually safer.
And in York one of the shortest bike lanes ever could work as a safety measure – if only people understood what it was for.
Okay, so the overall picture is encouraging. The National Cycle Network those Wye residents are so terrified of is expanding all the time thanks to the dedicated work of UK charity Sustrans.
Although there has been some local opposition, London should soon see cameras used to stop cars straying into lanes, with drivers fined for crossing the line. In Holland, the number of cyclists killed on the roads has dropped by about two-thirds in three years, thanks to strict separation of bikes and motorised vehicles.
While New York’s latest path may be dodgy, Mayor Bloomberg remains committed to increasing the number of bike lanes.
While New York’s latest path may be dodgy, Mayor Bloomberg remains committed to increasing the number of bike lanes. And despite the political row the paths have provoked Melbourne‘s leaders remain committed to giving the Australian city its own bike lanes.
But it’s the fine details which matter – because they make the difference between a route that’s worth cycling on and one that causes more harm than good.
© BikeRadar 2007