17 September 2012

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

H. G. Wells

There is a dangerous bike lane right outside my new apartment. It shares a narrow street with cars going in both directions. There is no painted line separating the bike lane from the traffic, just painted bicycles every 25 feet or so. When people double park, or a truck stops for a delivery, both directions of cars and bicycles need to pass through a bottleneck that only allows for one car or bicycle at a time. After living in my apartment only a week, I have already seen a near miss in the ongoing game of car vs. cyclist.

Biking in a big city has always been an adventure sport. My grandfather is an avid cyclist in Chicago, and soon after he started biking seriously, was hit by a cab, breaking his collarbone. Since then he has had many minor scrapes, and countless near misses.

While it's nice that bike lanes exist and give a designated space to cyclists, they have some major drawbacks. Oftentimes these lanes are between the street and the parking area, which means that cars are constantly driving through and opening their doors into the bike lanes. Additionally, there seem to be no penalties for people stopping or double parking in bike lanes.

I have a better idea. Instead of having bike lanes, why don't we instead have bike streets.

Take Manhattan as an example. Shut down 2nd and 8th Avenues, and turn them into bike streets. This will give people a safe area where they can bike all the way up or down Manhattan, without worrying about car traffic. The number of people who use a bicycle for transportation would explode, and being bike friendly would be a nice addition to the city's culture. Replacing the loud and obnoxious cars with bicycles would certainly be a positive move for most New Yorkers.

Every city could do this, and it would remove the biggest barrier in getting people to use bicycles, the dangers involved when bikes share the same streets as cars. I know a lot of people who, if the streets were safer, would definitely choose biking over driving.