Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bike lanes don't stop motorists from being dicks

A few weeks (months?) ago, Dallas passed a bike plan. Now I don't full understand the bike plan and I haven't looked all that deeply into it but apparently they're extending all the existing trails, connecting a lot of them together and adding several (hundred?) miles of bike lanes all across Dallas.

This is pretty darn exciting. It's almost like we're turning into a real city. Special areas for bikes crisscrossing everywhere, especially downtown, apparently even with extra specialty lanes for crossing roads and whatnot. Again, I'm not totally clear on it. I just know that some people are pretty excited about it. Some are ambivalent. Probably what drivers who know about it are livid, seeing as how some of their precious car space is about to go away.

I'm not totally won over. As this guy proved so well, bike lanes don't stop drivers from being dicks. Kinda like how some studies show that motorists drive more closely to a cyclist wearing a helmet, some studies also show that motorists figure bike lanes are a cure-all that totally clears them of any and all responsibility to keep an eye out for two-wheelers (you know, other vehicles). So while I'm glad that the city is taking steps to recognize cyclists as legitimate users of the road and I hope that this will encourage more people to get some quality time in the saddle, I'm a little hesitant to give it both thumbs up.

In part, though, also because I wish some of that money could first address the heinous state of our roads. My trip down Royal is a ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk the whole way because none of the concrete slabs are level with each other, it's like riding down shallow stairs. The cracks and potholes make for an absolute minefield out there and the piss-poor lighting in the M Streets just adds to the fun. So yes, Dallas, I am proud of you for passing this bike plan. But fixing the roads does everybody good.

And last night I went to this amazing (free!) lecture at the DMA with Dallas CityDesign and a few other urban design studios (Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles). I got seriously hooked and I won't bore you with all the details but the greatest point they made was this: Somewhere just after WWII, cities stripped themselves of urban design and handed city planning over to the traffic engineers.

And now it all makes sense. That's why the U.S. is such a car-based society—we let the car people build our cities. But cars don't live in cities. People live in cities. And our cities have ceased to be people-friendly. I fell absolutely in love with their green streets and walking parks (a la the High Line, which is utterly spectacular). So come on, America! Let's take our cities back from our fascist car oppressors!

Because really? When was the last time a car enjoyed this?

The sunrise, not the highway.

1 comment:

  1. It doesn't matter much about bike lanes because the risk is low either way and cyclist expertise makes it even more safe. Aggressive honking I could do without, however.