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Archive for April, 2012

Like car drivers and passengers, cyclists deserve to be able to ride two abreast

April 17, 2012 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

Had that thought yet again (and it’s not a new argument) when I was trying to have a conversation with a friend this weekend in SF on my way to Sunday Streets. Every time I or my friend snuck up on the side of each other so we could actually have a discussion — or just point out something interesting — we got chased back into the bike lane by zooming motor vehicles. Being forced to single-file it everywhere can make biking a lonely experience — we deserve better.

Many of the harmful effects of loneliness are well-known, aside from the fact that being lonely just sucks. Depriving people of social contact is just one of the many ways we can effectively torture people. And we know that poor urban design can increase loneliness.

Being forced to ride single-file, and therefore being disallowed to communicate while we ride, is not torture, but it is a significant deterrent to biking when compared to driving and taking public motorized transit. If we care about putting more people on bikes, we need to advocate for the ability to ride two-abreast. And even if we don’t care about putting more people on bikes, we cyclists still deserve the right to ride two abreast, just like drivers and their passengers.

If I want to hang with a friend — all other things being equal — if I can’t talk to them while we’re moving about, I’m driving. That decision is simple. I want to be able to talk to my friends while we’re riding our bikes around. Cars do not deserve two to three times the asphalt just because they’re wider. If people are really dedicated to getting around by individual private motorized transport, they can go buy a Tango ‘single-file’ car:

'Single-file' cars -- not as space-wasteful

Drivers and their passengers don’t have to deal with this ‘single-file’ nonsense, why should we? And look where this single-file biking was being forced to happen - one side of the street even has two lanes for motor vehicles, so two sets of drivers/passengers can have a decent conversations with each other, while bikers are forced to ‘get in line’.

5 (fat) cars lanes, two (skinny) bike lanes

Shoot — even pedestrians on the sidewalk have to deal with this all the time - except most of the time it’s inanimate objects like traffic lights and parking signs and fire hydrants and trees and an assortment of other obstacles which force walkers to ‘single file it’ on the sidewalk time and again.

Pedestrian slalom course

The new Prospect Park West (PPW) street design in Brooklyn New York City is going to replace some unused, restricted road space — currently in line with a ‘parking row’ — with some pedestrian islands. The key benefit being touted is ‘increased pedestrian safety’. The islands probably will do that, if only slightly. If we were really concerned with pedestrian and biker safety, though, we’d two-way the street, and provide more room for people to bike.

Why would we want to allow cars to travel in the same direction, in separate travel lanes, while allowing bikers only single-file access?

And why would we want to continue to apportion the street 80/20 in favor of cars?

It doesn’t make any sense.

Maybe it’s not politically feasible at the moment to two-way PPW, but the proposal to fix this street fully and correctly should now be on the table, and that includes giving cyclists the ability to ride two-abreast. It goes without saying that walkers should be afforded this same luxury.

Here is the current PPW design:

Cyclists not able to ride two-abreast

Here is the proposed design (not much different):

Nice trees, but bikers still cannot ride two abreast


This is closer to what it should look like — a two-way PPW:

Now bikers can ride two abreast

And if we proceed apace we can imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when cars will no longer be tolerated. If any type of motorized mode of transport can be substantially shown to be in alignment with the goal of a Vision Zero policy, then we can consider allowing them to continue to be used among the population. That could be cars, trucks, trains, buses, NEVs, etc. The burden of proof of safety, of course, remains on those wanting to use these modes of transport.

p.s. In the last post on the need to push for weekday ciclovias, I meant to point out a post by that challenged conventional wisdom regarding traffic. The blogger writes: “Below is an argument that some people have used to complain about bicycles, slightly altered to reflect a bikers point of view,” and then provides this rant:

Today when I got on my bike to go to work there were a bunch of inconsiderate jerks clogging up the road in front of me. They were riding two abreast, sometimes three abreast (when there was enough room, the things they were riding were like 5-6 feet wide each!). I don’t know what the occasion is, but every morning around 7 and every evening around 5 they have some sort of massive group ride. It should be illegal for them to all ride at the same time, it fills up the streets making it impossible to go anywhere, don’t these jerks realize that people have things to do?! I am forced to ride around them as they rudely take up the entire lane just for one person. I don’t understand why they don’t just use the highways, I mean the highways are designed just for them. I don’t understand why they are even allowed to ride on the streets, get on the highway where you belong! The worst part is their behavior, if you try to tell them to get out of the way all they do is honk their horn or give you the finger, I mean how rude!

It makes sense. We should challenge every assumption.

pps. — Anyone seen bike directions on the iPhone yet?

Carrovia vs. Ciclovia — What about a weekday ciclovia?

April 12, 2012 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

San Francisco’s ciclovia event is held on Sundays, and is called Sunday Streets.

We and every city and town should seriously think about how to extend these ciclovias into the weekdays — i.e. hold them during the business week (which in some places might still include Saturdays, etc.).

Do any of these currently exist?

The only cases I can think of are cities that do a pretty good representation for World Carfree Day.

It’s just a one day trial — if we plan it carefully, we can make it work. As we know from real world examples, auto traffic often ‘disappears’ when major roads/bridges/tunnels are shut — temporarily or permanently — we can expect the same effect, and probably to a lesser extent, because the road will only close to car traffic, but open up to all human-powered traffic.

If you think businesses will freak, remember what it was like when we first pitched (weekend) ciclovias — sometimes it was serious ridicule and/or anger.

And now we have a built-in fan base which will include at least some businesses who will actually help us push the idea.

The message is simple — people being allowed to walk and bike and skate to and from their destinations makes our city a better place to live, work, and play. Ciclovias, thus far, have only been about play — we should work to change that.

And the best place to pitch this idea? Your ciclovia.

We pitch it the same way we originally pitched the weekend ciclovia — have an FAQ (like this one) with a bunch of the ‘tough’ questions answered, we get some quotes from some early adopter businesses who have bought into the weekday ciclovia idea, etc. Done. It seems most ciclovias run outside of rush hours already - so no issue there (though, we should work to change that, too).

First city to win a weekday ciclovia wins a gold star from yours truly.