Tuesday, September 9, 2008


just in case you haven't gotten around to picking up the current issue of the C-ville, their feature story is about Bikes vs Cars. i was going to copy and paste some of the article on the blog but, i decided to post this video i found on the C-ville website.

go get you a copy of the paper and read it.


James said...

I read it this morning over a Bodo's bagel. Quite a bit of coverage.

I want to know who this Bruschi guy is though??

Andy Kinley said...

I think his name is Buschi and I've been told he would rather eat at Mr J's vs. Bodo's.

James said...

um, did anyone notice that mayor norris is quoted as saying:

The best thing the city can do now for the future, says Mayor Norris, is limit the number of bikes on the road. “Take them off the road to designated bike trails so that they don’t share the roads with cars.”

Wtf?? I'm actually a fan of Norris but this is way off the mark. But hey, its not like bikes are vehicles or a legitimate form of transportation, right?

-j said...

So, I saw this post the other day, and wanted to write something. I actually typed up 3/4ths of a post, and decided that until I'd actually read the article, that it was unfair of me to assume I knew what it might contain and what it might not. So, I canceled my post, read the article, and now I'm back.

Unfortunately, the article was almost exactly what I feared. It was a comparison of C'ville to other cities, and reported one person's "experience" commuting around town. Most of this was comparison based on the miles of bike lanes per capita and the perceived fear of an inexperienced commuter.

A few things bother me about this type of article.

1) How in the world does this ENCOURAGE people to commute around town? If it's so bad and so scary, no one is going to try it. It might even scare some people who are tentitively doing some commutes back into their cars! If things are so bad and scary that no one is out there riding, what incentive is there to for the city to make things better? Why build expensive infrastructure for a fringe group of people who are crazy enough to be riding in traffic? This really isn't the message we want to be sending to people or the government.

2) Comparing miles of bike lane per quantity of X isn't fair. Lots of quite community streets are GREAT to ride on (the ones that comes to mind is Ricky road from Barracks to Hydraulic/Commonwealth or Melbourne road and cut through Greenbriar Park.) Yet, these don't have bike lanes and so they don't "count" in the statistic about how great/horrible a city is for biking. Bike paths, the ability to combine biking and mass transit, and the "friendliness" and awareness of the drivers to cyclists seem to mean a lot more.

3) The equating of bike lanes to bicycle safety also bothers me. Bike lanes on a busy road are likely much more dangerous than NOT having bike lanes on a less busy road. For example, a friend of mine was recently hit by a taxi while riding IN the bike lane. Another example is that debris from the road often accumulates in the bike lane and can take a tire out in now time. If that puts you on the ground in a heavily trafficked lane, that's bad news. I often feel safer when there's simply a wide enough lane that a car and a bike can share the lane. That way, the debris gets pushed away from the area where the bike travels, yet cars can still safely pass the cyslist.

4) Noting that bike lanes "go nowhere" seems to be unfair as well. Lots of streets have a bike lane for half a mile, then no real need for a bike lane because the street is nice and wide. For example, Willard/Cherry St. from Harris to 9th/10th has no bike lane, but is a great way to ride because traffic is light and the lanes are wide. It doesn't matter if the bike lane connects 9th/10th to Harris or not.

5) Reporting the "fear" the a new cyclist has on the road seems counterproductive. Yes, commuting can be dangerous and you will, even in the best circumstances, find yourself in a scary situation. A road that you probably shouldn't be on, a driver who's too eager with the horn, etc. We have to remember we all had this fear when we started DRIVING on the roads too. Luckily, cycling on the sidewalk is legal in virginia, and when you do get in that situation, you can (carefully) make your way down the sidewalk to the next place to get safely away from the traffic. This is something I do all the time. For example, when commuting through The Corner, I stay in the traffic lane down the hill, then slow down and carefully switch to the side walk to climb up to JPA. This makes riding through the "danger zone" of the corner a piece of cake.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think that things in c'ville are rosy and need no improvement. We clearly _DO_ need improvement in terms of wider lanes in some places (it'd be great on the corner, for example. As well as Cherry St between 9th/10th and 5th st.), friendlier and more aware drivers (especially coming into/out of town where traffic is at higher speeds), better lighting and parking facilities (all over!), and MAJOR improvements in traffic signals that can detect bikes. I hate waiting until a car comes up, debating whether to run the light or not.

I just think there HAS to be a better way to bring these issues to light than saying how hard and scary bike commuting is. It is _not_ hard or scary with a few tidbits of knowledge about town, and how to safely ride in traffic.

Okay, I'm returning my soapbox now. Sorry about that.


James G. said...

Excellent thoughts -j, especially pt 1. I hadn't really thought of that perspective.

You should consider sending those into the C-ville.