More Bicycle Safety, Fewer Committees

(letter-to-the-editor-length version)

by Tom Burrows
November 25, 2013 (Final, for distribution)

Where I used to live, bicycle commuting was easier because roads did not have bike lanes.

On Monument Road motorists must swerve into the oncoming lane to miss cyclists "voting with their handlebars" against the bike lanes, presumably to avoid the inevitable debris wherever the sweeping effect of passing car tires is disallowed. Bike lanes guiding cyclists toward opening car doors are potential death traps. On mixed-use trails like the Riverfront in Grand Junction, pedestrians get buzzed by cyclists who don't give a proper passing warning.

Trails committees not only seem blind to these hazards, they hype this stuff as a panacea ("for the children") and even demand funding priority over, e.g., law enforcement agencies. Bike lanes and mixed-use paths are not substitutes for bikeable roads. They also do not reduce the knowledge and judgement needed to ride without harming oneself or others; and people who do not realize this get coaxed onto bikes they can't ride safely. We end up with more people (with and without spandex) cycling like confused wildlife—a danger to all and an embarrassment to safe cyclists.

For safer cycling: 1) Eliminate the opening-car-door traps ASAP. Warn children to avoid them. 2) Eliminate remaining bike lane markings, so car tires can sweep gravel from the full, shared width. 3) Money permitting, widen roads. 4) Remove bike lanes from the Urban Trails Master Plan. Instead, indicate wide, debris-free roads. 5) Minimize bike vs. pedestrian interactions by limiting mixed-use paths. 6) Related to all the above, get trails committees out of the bike traffic planning business—not just to save money, but to reverse their mistakes and pave the way for safer cycling.

© 2013 Thomas Burrows. All rights reserved.

An electronic copy of this article, along with a couple of other papers detailing why "bikeways" are not the solution, can be found at