Transportation

Reasons Not to Install Bike Lanes

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 31, 2010

Here are some reasons not to install bike lanes on a street:

  1. The street is too narrow for bike lanes. They would encroach on the available space for car lanes and/or curbside parking.

  2. The street is too wide for bike lanes. There's already so much room for cyclists that bike lanes would be unnecessary.

  3. The street traffic volume is too high for bike lanes. Busy streets with lots of uses might be desirable destinations for cyclists, but there are already too many cars for cyclists to coexist safely.

  4. The street traffic volume is too low for bike lanes. Quiet, sleepy streets are not intimidating for cyclists, so there's no actual need for bike lanes there.

And finally...

  1. There are no other bike lanes on connecting streets. No one's going to ride a bike on a bike lane that goes from nowhere to nowhere.

Any questions?

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

17 Comments

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 16:22:35

Send this to George Smitherman. He's going to need some help, he can use this as a handy quick reference for the next 4 years.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 16:47:40

I call this the Goldilocks Syndrome.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 16:56:14

You forgot one- only hippies, losers and the unemployed travel around by any means other than car.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 31, 2010 at 17:45:44

You forgot one- only hippies, losers and the unemployed travel around by any means other than car.

Plus all children should be kept indoors or locked in the backyard until they are 21.

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted May 31, 2010 at 20:39:17

4 and 1 are sometimes valid, but I can't think of a time when the others are.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted May 31, 2010 at 23:20:47

There's a piece on Toronto bike lanes on the news right now... status quo! staus quo!

Comment edited by Meredith on 2010-05-31 22:22:31

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By Rawery (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 02:40:40

Personally, I wish that Dundurn Street was wider. Driving down it, you feel like you're going to hit bikes without crossing the yellow line... and biking down it you feel like you're going to get mowed over by someone who drives by as if you aren't there.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2010 at 08:08:57

I wish that Dundurn Street was wider.

In terms of actual safety (as opposed to perceived safety), narrow lanes are a Good Thing insofar as they make people more cautious. Narrow lanes, bike lanes, parked cars, overhanging street trees and so on all communicate the message: Slow down!

In contrast, wide, unencumbered lanes communicate the message: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! It's been interesting watching this dynamic play out in the suburbs, where traffic engineers have designed each iteration with ever-wider streets encompassing more and more lanes.

In response to the concomitant increase in high-speed crashes and collisions, the engineers have gotten more aggressive about introducing curves, bends, islands, crescents, courts and so on to try and counteract the psychological signals coming from those wide, enticing lanes.

Of course, the result is a mess. The abundant lane capacity is a strong incentive to live farther away from destinations and drive everywhere; while the long and winding roads themselves serve to push destinations farther apart - especially if you're trying to walk.

Good luck trying to walk - click to view larger
Click to view larger

I've ridden on Dundurn a few times since the bike lanes went in (most recently last night), and it's much friendlier for cyclists than it was before the lanes went in. As usage goes up and motorists grow more accustomed to the presence of bike lanes, the discomforts of the adjustment will work themselves out.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-06-01 08:54:06

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By Nords (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 09:29:40

I love the new bike lanes on Dundurn too. The city though should enforce the times when cars illegally park on the lane in front of the beer/liquor store. Last Friday evening at peak time (say 8pm), there were two cars parked directly on the bike lane so people could unload huge trunk loads of empties (and of course they didn't move the car until after then took the empties into the store, exchanged them, and bought more beer.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 11:25:52

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By another zookeeper (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 12:55:16

Haven't heard from "zookeeper" in a while so here goes:

"DON'T FEED THE TROLLS."

Thank you, that is all.

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By Mr. Lonely (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 13:43:04

Politically, cyclists seem to evoke an "us or them" landscape. Might gains be made by uniting with other human-powered or small wheeled vehicles, such as wheelchairs, skooters, roller blades, boarders etc. These all seem to me to increasingly be parts of the urban transportation landscape, but largely ignored in transportation planning. Oh, and the kids on bikes and trikes- them too.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 01, 2010 at 18:31:25

Personally, I wish that Dundurn Street was wider. Driving down it, you feel like you're going to hit bikes without crossing the yellow line... and biking down it you feel like you're going to get mowed over by someone who drives by as if you aren't there.

You'll be glad to know that the city's cycling plan calls for Dundurn North to become one lane each way with bike lanes each way. It'll be a perfectly balanced street with the new bike lanes providing some buffer between the narrow sidewalks and live vehicle lanes. Let's hope we can push this forward in the next 18 months and keep the trucks off forever.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 08:19:38

Jason proclaims that ...

the city's cycling plan calls for Dundurn North to become one lane each way with bike lanes each way.

For really? I missed that. That would be super. I generally take Breadalbane to bike from King W to York, but would rather take Dundurn since the former has stop signs. On hills (which make me choose between precious momentum and the law).

And I might note that the last two times I biked to the Dundurn LCBO, the bike lanes were clear! New high score!

Though both times I forgot about the mess of the Main St. W. reworkings and the disappearing bike lane (and the very helpful "cyclists dismount and use opposite sidewalk" sign) and ended up nervously shoulder checking for the whole ride over the bridge.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 08:31:27

I take the outré expedient of quoting myself ...

and ended up nervously shoulder checking for the whole ride over the bridge.

.. so that I can make mention of something that might not be obvious to non-cyclist readers of these threads: most Hamilton drivers are nice (to a fault sometimes) when it comes to cyclists ...

  • they very often move into the next lane to pass me
  • they give me plenty of room when we share a lane
  • they wave me through even when they have the right of way ∗
  • when I am stopped and signalling, they wait patiently to see what I'm going to do ∗ ∗

∗ which happens nearly daily and I really, really wish they would stop trying to be nice this way - it just introduced chaos for other drivers and if sometimes when I take the offered right-of-way I end up being scowled at or honked at by other drivers for being a selfish, anarchist, asshole cyclist.

∗ ∗ I've come to the conclusion that either a) no one knows their hand signals anymore or b) no one expects a cyclist to act rationally.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-06-02 07:36:05

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 09:00:25

most Hamilton drivers are nice (to a fault sometimes) when it comes to cyclists ...

Yes, that's my experience precisely! So if we're quoting ourselves...

Two years ago I wrote the following:

[M]y inclination is to assume that most drivers are aggressive and dangerous. It wasn't until I started observing interactions with motorists systematically that I discovered my own confirmation bias at work.

The results I found, on several different streets at different times of the day, are that: most drivers are reasonably safe and civil; some drivers yield the right of way when they're not supposed to, in a misguided but presumably well-intentioned effort to avoid me; and only a tiny fraction of drivers are actually aggressive and dangerous.

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By rrrandy (registered) - website | Posted June 02, 2010 at 13:44:05

My experience as well - it really is a small small minority who are total a-holes on the road. And of course, there are some who are just bad drivers and don't mean to be passing two cm from your elbow...

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