Friday, January 6, 2017

About a bike lane advisory committee

A current news story in Pittsburgh has Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith proposing a bike lane advisory committee to review any proposed new bike lanes in the city. Ignoring the rather obvious problem that her district is devoid of any bike infrastructure -- there's hardly a bike rack to be found, let alone a lane -- the bigger problem is that it adds a layer of red tape where none is necessary and the equivalent functions are already covered by other departments' responsibilities.

If we are going to spend political capital on bike lanes, whose purpose is to get more people on bikes, then let's tackle what really needs to be done.

I like the idea of an advisory committee. I just don’t think I’m the one who should be on it. Aside from the fact I am not a city resident, a more salient concern is that I’m not a fan of bike lanes. I would rather we tackle the larger problem of intolerant motorists, something the idea of bike lanes addresses by separating motorists and cyclists for much of the time, except for when they do have to interact, and then the unsolved problem becomes a real-time problem.

In short, rather than worry about bike lanes and how and where to put them and what they should look like, I would rather we focus on the 99.8% of the lane-miles in the city that do not now and likely will not ever have a bike lane, but can be expected to have bike-car interactions. We accomplish that by:
  • Enforcing speed limits, particularly on streets cyclists should be able to use
  • Prosecuting drivers who endanger cyclists
  • Assisting cyclists with the knowledge necessary to video and report dangerous drivers
  • Establishing laws, at the state level if necessary, for a bounty system to reward cyclists for bringing dangerous drivers to justice
  • Educating law enforcement, magistrates, and others relevant to the justice system, to what the law truly means concerning best-practices cycling (so cyclists don’t get pulled over for taking the lane, as one example)
  • Forcing state, county, and city planning and engineering entities to design streets that make it less possible for drivers to have a chance to mow down cyclists and pedestrians
  • Getting road maintenance departments at municipal, county and state levels to address road surface hazards that endanger cyclists, such as diagonal rail crossings, longitudinal drain grates, unswept shoulders which cyclists are expected to use, etc.
Somehow, I do not think it is envisioned that a bike lane advisory committee would have the charter, let alone the teeth, to bring that about. But that is precisely what we need to get us to the next level of bicycle usage for routine transportation in both the city, and by extension, the metro area.

So, while I will not stand in the way of setting up such a committee within the city, I do not think its purpose is all that useful.

I cannot say it often or loudly enough: Make it possible for the average person to do anything other than drive.

1 comment:

  1. A bike lane committee will not solve the problems that need to be solved. Can we please address those instead?