bike lane

Bike Lanes v. Vehicular Cycling?

I make no bones about being a proponent of vehicular cycling. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t embrace riding like a coddled child in a secure bikeway if my city magically became Copenhagen or Amsterdam overnight. It’s just that Seattle lacks the bike facilities to make anything other than vehicular cycling a safe way to ride in the city.

And all those miles of bike lanes Seattle city government crows about? Please. More often than not, what passes for bike infrastructure around here is something like the godawful 12th Avenue bike lane in the picture above.

Thanks, but I’ll just take the lane.

To its credit, the city does have some projects in the works – like the Broadway cycle track – that look intriguing. And they had the good sense to do uphill bike lane / downhill sharrows when repaving the top few blocks of Pine a couple of years back.

The Seattle Bike Blog, in its post on this topic, linked to a recent Canadian study that examined the relative safety and appeal of different places to ride. Graphed out, it’s an interesting data set:

This is pretty consistent with my experience. Note the outlier of the cycle track; one of the most preferred and far and away the safest. Although I rode once on the new cycle track that runs down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. and it was a bit terrifying, given how the police seem to find it very convenient for passing and U-turns.

And how about major streets with parked cars? This is what most of my commute is like. There’s a preference for having a bike lane, but only a marginal improvement in safety. This is no doubt due to the visibility, “door zone” and reaction time problems that riding in a bike lane alongside parked cars causes.

Finally, check out multiuse paths (like Burke-Gilman). Very high degree of route preference, but also one of the most dangerous places to ride, thanks to high usage and speed/skill differentials between users. Further confirmation that I’m safer on the streets, mingling with traffic.

At least until we connect Seattle in a web of cycle tracks . . .

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