City hall reporter Jon Murray got out and actually talked to cyclists who use the bike lanes. And to the surprise of some, it includes both praise for the bike lanes and criticism. Murray lets the people in his article make their points, and they are points that need to be made.
We could all make huge, long lists of why motorists are idiots and inconsiderate of cyclists, or how some asshole cyclists are jerks that break the rules of the road. But that's really a separate discussion about how cycling and alternate forms of transportation can co-exist with motor vehicles, and distracts from the discussion of bike lanes specifically.
Some of these bike lanes are just not very easy to understand. If "education" is needed for a bike lane, it probably needs to be put back on the drawing board rather than slapping it on the road and hoping for the best. And if the lane does fit the road, maybe the road needs to be re-paved and regularly swept so it doesn't become a perpetual ditch or bump.
The article also highlights something I've suspected for some time: No one really knows how many people are using these bike lanes.
And as someone who has only started cycling in the past two or so years, I have to admit: Making the transition from cycling only for athletic purposes to riding as a mode of transit was a mental leap I had to make. For a new transit cyclists, it can be intimidating hopping onto a road. Even if most of the route you've planned out uses greenways and neighborhood streets, those few minutes on the road can make a new cyclists nervous.
And I don't think those new, more casual cyclists, are going to make the jump from athletic/recreational biking to transit biking just because bike lanes are installed. Bike lanes are still on the road and all the same rules still apply.
So I think bike lanes should be seen for what they are: It makes the bicycling community more visible, but the amount of people cycling isn't necessarily increasing. Those that are cycling are more visible, and they might be doing it more often. But the raw number isn't increasing by all that much.
At least that's what I suspect.
And if that's fine, then good.
But I think the goal should be to get more people cycling more often.
And we could go a long way by improving the greenway multi-use trails that already exist in our city.
We made a good step over the winter by expanding the Monon Trail's hours.
A good second step would be to re-pave the White River Trail. The part along Cold Springs Road already has been.
Another idea is to expand the Canal Towpath and possibly pave it. As it stands now, it is difficult for multiple cyclists or joggers to pass each other if they're going opposite directions because some parts of the trail can get very narrow.
I think investing in greenways would lead to a greater benefit, even if the overall mileage of greenways is a fraction of the mileage covered by bike lanes.
But hey, that's just me.