Just finished watching My Commuted Commute, a video that I think everyone should spend five minutes to check out. A woman from New York City, Rachel Brown, shot helmet cam footage and offers commentary about what it’s like to ride in one of the new, green-painted, curbside bike lanes. For all the positive buzz NYC is getting lately, this video shows that it takes much more than paint to create a truly functional lane for bike traffic.
As you can see in the video, Ms. Brown illuminates many problems with one particular bike lane on her daily commute. These include wrong-way bike riders and walkers, delivery trucks and cabs parking in them, left-turning vehicles that do not adequately yield, and conflicts between riders of different speeds. Beyond showing an unfiltered view of how NYC’s bikeways are working in the real world, many of the issues Ms. Brown talks about have relevance for other cities.
As American cities continue to evolve in their thinking about how to move bicycle traffic more efficiently and safely, I think the lessons in this video are extremely important. Here are some thoughts this video brought up for me:
- We (the planners, advocates, and citizen activists that care about this stuff) must keep in mind that — perhaps unlike some European cities — American bike traffic is extremely diverse in terms of riding styles. Many people want to ride their bikes faster than some city planners have in mind and they possess the skills to do so alongside motor vehicle traffic. These type of riders should not be dismissed at “vehicular cyclists,” they should be encouraged and engineered for just as much as the “interested but concerned.”
- If you agree with the the above point, then we should work on two things. Installing more sharrows and signage so cars expect bikes to be sharing the lane and we should abolish all mandatory sidepath laws.
- Paint on the ground, while it might make for a nice press release from a city DOT, does not instantly make a good bikeway. Cities must give bike lanes the equivalent engineering and legal respect that they give other lanes. Marketing and law enforcement are also imperative when new lane treatments are installed (something I think Portland has done a good job on).
O.K., enough from me. Watch the video let us know what you think.