Non-Arterial Bikeways: The Better Option.



Perhaps the biggest crock about these “Living Streets” projects is the push for bike lanes on busy boulevards. Instead of putting such bikeways on lower volume streets, where cyclists of all abilities can more safely and more comfortably ride, cities are creating hazardous conditions that set back the effort to make cycling more accessible.

So why the push to put bike lanes where car traffic is heaviest? Because bike lanes make a good smoke screen for the real agenda: Money. Adding arterial bike lanes lets cities qualify for federal money for their street projects plus it enables them to increase their tax base by turning small business districts over to high-density developers.

But really, do you know any cyclist who enjoys sucking tailpipe exhaust or dodging turning vehicles? Is it smart to put inexperienced cyclists — especially children — alongside heavy traffic? And does it make sense to route bikes through hectic business districts, where cars constantly pulling in and out of parking lots significantly raise the risk of bike/car collisions?

Most cities have plenty of low-volume streets running parallel and adjacent to arterials, where bikes can be more safely and comfortably ridden. Instead of taking away lanes on already overburdened streets and chasing the "all-commuters-should-bike" pipe dream, cities should shift their efforts to local trips, using funds to create grids of non-arterial bikeways based on the local destinations people visit most, and interconnected to enable longer distance rides for those who are able to do so.

Trips to school, the grocery store, social events… Those short-distance trips account for a huge percentage of traffic and pollution. Yet, unlike many commutes, they involve distances many people can manage. Instead of fostering animosity between cyclists and motorists — which is what the arterial road diet approach does — we’d like to see cities create those safer bikeways and incentivize local riding (e.g., offer vouchers and discounts for local businesses to cyclists; host school-wide contests to promote riding, etc.).

Get people out on their bikes for short trips, and perhaps they will try longer and more frequent rides. And — bonus points — when they are driving, they’re likely to be more courteous to and aware of cyclists.