Great Thread from Cleveland Circle Google Group on Urban Cycling — Republished with Permission.
Note: My response in the thread appears below as a comment to this post.
On Thu, Jun 7, 2012 at 6:43 AM, Eva Websterwrote:
“Fifteen years ago Bicycling Magazine named Toronto North America’s best city for cycling. Now, Toronto is the bike collision capital of Canada, with more accidents per capita than any other major Canadian city.”
The above is a quote from the article below (see link):
War on the streets of Toronto: Motorists vs. Cyclists. | PRI’s The World
Note: the article has a number of additional links embedded in the text that are interesting.
I was driving near/through Cleveland Circle in the evening a few weeks ago, when I saw a man passing me on a bike who unmistakably “flipped the bird” in my direction — but I was perplexed; I couldn’t tell if it was directed at me or the driver behind me. Either way, I had no idea what the reason was, because seeing his obscene gesture was the very first time I saw that biker.
Then all the cars came to a stop on a red light — but he darted ahead, going right through the red light, as if the traffic lights didn’t apply to him. I thought to myself, “How can you think of yourself as a legitimate user of the road, when you don’t respect the rules that apply to all other users?”
That incident refreshed a secret fear I harbor that one day, I may, god-forbid, injure or kill a bicyclist. It started years ago, after my husband (who at that time rode his bike to work at Harvard Medical School), came very close to being killed when a motorist suddenly turned right in front of him — probably unaware of his presence on the road.
Fortunately, that close call was so scary and sobering that it made my husband quit biking in the city. We enjoy riding bicycles in right places, while away for the weekend or on vacation — in small towns, on country roads, or in nature preserves – but honestly, when I see bikers on major, congested streets in Boston, I think to myself “you guys must have a latent death wish”.
Every year, you hear about a bicyclist getting killed or seriously injured. Sometimes I see those little sad street memorials marking the place of a fatal bike accident. I remember at least two on Comm. Ave. And last summer, there was one behind Trader Joes’s in Coolidge Corner — a white-painted lady’s bike with a basket of fresh flowers that someone kept bringing every other day, in honor of a young woman. It’s almost always a young person, often a student. Once it was an extremely gifted doctor, a cancer specialist, killed on Beacon Street while bicycling to work in the Longwood area — like my husband used to years ago.
I know personally at least 3 individuals who were in serious bicycle accidents resulting in life-changing injury — and yet I don’t know personally even a single person who sustained comparable injuries as a driver or passenger in a car. The conclusion is clear: bicycling in the city is inherently dangerous; much more than driving or walking, not to mention using public transportation.
The prevailing wisdom is that installing bike lanes increases safety for bicyclists. Since we all like to feel virtuous by being supportive of safety measures, hardly anyone stops to think if that argument actually always holds true. Maybe, maybe not.
Bike lanes on major, congested streets, create — in my opinion — a false sense of security. Their presence might be encouraging more people to bike — people who are not necessarily in the best of shape, or with the sharpest senses (eyesight, hearing, ability to react fast). Some bicyclists are by nature dare-devils, and having them on the road is not at all conducive to safety. Anyone actually can hop on a bike and endanger themselves and other people — no driving license required (and no danger of losing a license, even if you happen to be a nuisance on the road).
More and more bike lanes get installed on busy streets — sometimes by removing a car lane (leading to greater vehicular congestion), or at the expense of badly needed on-street parking spaces — and yet bikers continue to die/get injured just the same, or even in greater numbers; plus countless close calls and minor accidents don’t even get reported.
When biking enthusiasts tell the rest of us not to drive, and bicycle instead, it ignores the reality that most people simply can’t do it — because of the distances they need to travel, because of their attire or age, because of various things they have to transport (groceries, children, yard or home improvement supplies, etc.), because biking in inclement weather is hard or impossible — and so on.
I do not mean to imply that bicyclists should not be accommodated. There will always be some folks who are willing to take the risk of bicycling in the city, or they do it for financial reasons (cost-free means of transportation). No one can stop them from using city roads. But how the City accommodates bicyclists should be perhaps subject to some more analytical thinking than is the case right now.
Most areas of the city desperately need on-street parking — for residents, visitors, and patrons of local businesses. Sacrificing parking for a bike lane is not necessarily a good idea.
Removing traffic lanes to accommodate bicycle lanes on important arterial streets that carry a lot of vehicular traffic (including emergency vehicles), inevitably worsens traffic congestion and contributes to aggravation and countless collective loss of time/productivity among many people who drive — many more than those who use a bike lane.
At the same time, in certain areas there are some quieter side streets where bicyclists would be safer and not interfere with the flow of traffic. But as long as the city provides them with bike lanes on major arteries, bicyclists have no incentive to seek/choose alternative routes on quieter streets.
If I am not mistaken, a bike lane is proposed on Market Street, and perhaps Chestnut Hill Ave. as well. I am not at all convinced that this would be an improvement. These are arterial roads that are already congested and need to be able to move traffic efficiently.
Just my 5 cents. If someone thinks I am wrong, feel free tell me why.
Rollin Crittendon Wrote
About two years ago, around Coolidge Corner on Harvard St I saw a guy do a bike maneuver that still “amazes” me. He was riding a fixed gear bike, no brakes, no helmet, and basically ran a red light. He did a speed-up break-skid, speed-up that was to-the-second on the money. Any more, any less and that guy would have been hit by a car. The man has the reflexes of a pro-athelete if you ask me.
My impression is in this country we want a lot of things in other countries but do not want to make the full sacrifice for them. As a result we have things that sometimes look or sound nice but are not the full deal. For example about 25 years ago I was in Amsterdam, a city that is about as bike-centric as it gets. They have dedicated lanes, as I recall many are curbed. As a pedestrian I learned to stay out of the bike lane!
Is the US ready to allocated even 3% of the federal funds used on highways etc for dedicated bike infrastructure? I recall that is sort of the figure given that would be needed for that to be a comprehensive system.
Alex Burke Wrote:
I disagree (I tend to only respond when I disagree with something). Biking in the city is very dangerous yet also a great perk of city living. I enjoy biking to get groceries when I’m not in the mood to walk or feel wasteful about making the short drive. If I have to bike downtown I know I can generally be faster than the T without worry of traffic. Sometimes, however, biking can be scary. A few weeks ago, while biking downtown Boston, a taxi pulled right in front of me, cutting me off, and stopped in my bike lane to make a pickup. As I swerved into a car lane, I punched the taxi on my way by to express my anger. In hindsight, I wish I’d punched through his windshield to make him think twice about doing it again.
So I could argue for more bike lanes (which I’d like), but this was a comfortably sized bike lane bordered only by green space. The problem is that cars think they own the road and don’t see bikes as legitimate transportation. I have had similar run-ins before and learned that a bike rider must be much 10 times as sharp as a car driver. I strongly disagree that we should give preference to car parking rather than make streets bike accessible. I have always had a theory about pockets, the bigger pockets you have, the more crap you will fill them with (also applies to pocket books, wallets, etc). By catering streets to cars, we will get… more cars, more noise pollution, more regular pollution, wear and tear. The city, by nature, should be easily accessible and should give preference to buses, bikes, zipcar,… taxi’s. Needing a car in a city should be a last resort and a failure of a city’s infrastructure.
. . . .