- Published: Sunday, 13 July 2014 08:24
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(Originally published in the 15th Tour of the Fireflies Newsletter 2013)
I will ride if there is a bike lane.”
When people find out that I‘m a bicyclist, I often hear them saying something like this: “Bicycling is really good; it does not pollute, it promotes health, it can retard the effects of climate change, it is quiet, etc. I would take up cycling (or cycle more) if only it were less dangerous and there were bike lanes.”
|Mon Fernan says,"Bike lanes, particularly those that are segregated from the road, give a false sense of security to their users. People who ride only on bike lanes pay little attention to proper riding technique and depend on the bike lane to convey them to their destination in safety."|
Update July 4, 2014: For other points of view regarding the pros and cons of bicycle lanes, please click on this link.
Many “sustainable transport” advocates have taken this sentiment at face value to argue that putting in bike lanes is the way to get more people on bicycles and create a “green world.” It is difficult to scientifically verify this assertion. Bike lane advocates point to Amsterdamas proof that bike lanes equates to more cyclists. Yet, it is not clear at all that that is the case. Historically, Amsterdamand many other places in Europehave long encouraged bicycle use and so it is difficult to say whether it was the sheer number of cyclists and the supportive bicycle culture that caused the creation of bike lanes or whether bike lanes per se encouraged more people to ride. What can be done objectively is to examine the effect of bike lanes on the behavior of people on the road.
Bicycle lane advocacy is supposed to encourage non-cyclists to ride bikes even without proper training. A separated bike lane or path is supposed to minimize the risk of being hit by passing traffic (from the rear). Transportation authorities like bike lanes because they inherently believe that the roads are for motorized vehicles and that bicycles should get out of the way of cars, something that inexperienced bicyclists may also harbor. Many think that traffic road rules do not apply to bicyclists. Nothing could be further from the truth: the rules of the road are there so that vehicles can travel safely while sharing the road, and a bicycle on the road is a vehicle.
Bike Lanes and a False Sense of Security
Bike lanes, particularly those that are segregated from the road, give a false sense of security to their users. People who ride only on bike lanes pay little attention to proper riding technique and depend on the bike lane to convey them to their destination in safety. Bike lanes do not compel cyclists to obey rules—they can ride any way they want to because they are segregated from other users. They do not help cyclists to develop the confidence to ride on the road among motorized vehicles, to develop the instincts and skills that will enable them to defend themselves against bad driving and other real road hazards. Bike lanes may attract more people to ride their bicycles leisurely, but they will not necessarily make them good cyclists and confident bicycle commuters, which is the prime goal of sustainable transport advocacy.
The sixth annual clean air forum of the Partnership for Clean Air, Inc., a network of clean air advocates, of which the Firefly Brigade is a member, showed that pollution is becoming ...
This false sense of security is not helped by badly designed bike lanes. Bike lanes on sidewalks are one of the worst ideas of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The Marcos Highwaysidewalk bike lane presents various hazards to cyclists who use them (whether they do so willingly or are forced to do so by traffic aides and cops). They vary from deep drop offs to large obstructions to uneven or cracked pavement, forcing them to take evasive action, even to get off the bike lane. Bike lanes on sidewalks also force cyclists to stop and even to walk their bikes when they get to intersections, an unnecessary impediment to cyclists’ progress. These impediments would not be tolerated in the case of motorized vehicles.
Cyclist Education, not Bike Lanes
Many commuting cyclists already ride on the road even without bike lanes; experience has been their teacher. The Firefly Brigade has always prioritized cyclist education to get more people into utilitarian cycling; education and proper training shorten and smooth out the learning curve on how to ride safely. Unfortunately, infrastructure is the big money ticket that attracts the government‘s transportation and traffic bureaucracy.
In many forums sponsored by these agencies, the agenda always includes bike lanes, never education. We also like bicycle infrastructure—secure bike parking facilities, showers and changing rooms for commuter cyclists, access ramps on stairways, etc. All these contribute to encouraging bike commuting. But only training and education will ingrain the confidence and the willingness that will enable cyclists to handle the myriad road conditions and the bad driving that they must deal with in their commute.
Read more articles by Mon Fernan and know more about his thoughts on cycling in the country in his blog "Padyakero".