A victory for local democracy
I have ridden my bike work for 20 years in Boston, and I enjoy it. I think the recent pandemic bike lanes go way too far. Every road should not be bikable, it would be safer for everyone to segregate traffic and leave major roads for cars. The recent bike lanes in Boston are on roads that few ever rode their bikes on. A new bike lane near my house used to be safer without the bike lane (I was one of the few that would occasionally ride on it). It had a wide shoulder, and if you did not mind cars going fast, it was one of the safe roads in Boston to bike on (Boston has lots of narrow streets). Now they have removed a lane for cars, it is crowded, drivers are frustrated, and caught in unnecessary traffic. As a city cyclist, one of the worse things to encounter is a frustrated driver - they are unpredictable. Sure enough on this road, random drivers will get frustrated enough to pull into the bike lane and fly up the road - someone will be killed. The bike lanes are not about encouraging riding anymore, they are used to discourage driving - and cyclists will pay.
I appreciate bike lanes in theory, especially where I live, which has congested high speed traffic with narrow shoulders between me and all practical destinations. But whoever decided I wanted to bike with the traffic, ride in a bike lane for a half mile, then merge into the traffic again. Like passenger trains, to get the point of bike lanes you need to travel abroad.
Being from Holland, bike-lanes and bike-infrastructure more generally are of interest to me.
I imagine most people know bike-infrastructure is great in Holland- in big cities as well as in rural areas. But you can't just like that export this to the US (or anywhere else): the infrastructure is embedded in a culture.
Two things are important in this regard: obviously Holland has a bike-culture, meaning the bicycle is embedded in the fabric of everyday life: most people ride a bike regularly and most bicycle-rides are for getting from A to B, not for recreation. Apparently Holland has more bicycles than inhabitants (personally I own three of them). The other component is a culture of government on all levels designing public spaces and trying to improve them continuously. This together makes for a great infrastructure and a great bike-riding experience (and a hefty tax-burden as well, unfortunately).
Sometimes amazing stuff is created: for example the 12.500 place bike parking station at Utrecht Central Station, or the bike roundabout above an intersection in Eindhoven (see picture). A great monument to the bicycle but very expensive so this will remain a one-off most likely.
I’ve used a fair share of usable and well-designed bike lanes but much of the stuff getting installed today causes more problems than they solve- especially the so-called “protected” bike lanes. They also send a message that bicycling doesn’t being on roads without them. In most places, people are legally allowed to travel via bicycle on all surface streets and with a few techniques it’s possible to do safely. Programs like Cycling Savvy and the “biker’s ed” courses put on by the League of American Bicyclists teach these skills.
On top of the high cost per mile and the reduction of parking spots and/or general use travel lanes, their designs often cause more crashes. The blind spots of left-wing planners are real- they tend to believe that people will ditch their cars and switch to cycling if more and more of these facilities are built. While it’s bordering on cliche to say, it’s akin to a religion- the usual “unconstrained vision” that drives much of left-wing and progressive ideology. “Safetyism” had proliferated the movement as well.
I live in NYC and NYS has a strict environmental review law (SEQRA) that calls for extensive public involvement. Where I live, on the UWS, bike lanes faced lots of opposition both from local businesses and the public but this opposition was ignored by the Bloomberg administration. The loophole they used is called a negative declaration where the project sponsors declare that the project will have de minimus negative consequences and therefore is exempt from environmental review.
Bloomberg did a lot of good things, but he was also arrogant, high handed, and certain he was right about everything.
What problems or "suffering" do bike lanes cause?
I would support a bike lane on the street so live, depending on what had to be traded off for it. I would rather they did not take my own nature strip, but even that would be acceptable.
I think you are falling behind the FITs with this post. 'Left wing planners' - is their politics relevant? Do they ask feedback differently for bike lanes than any number of other 'improvements'? Is this different from NIMBY on anything else? Locals oppose lots of things that are in the wider public interest, and misunderstand cause and effect. Extra capacity for cars is popular because people think it cuts congestion (it just increases capacity); does that mean they are really for or against? Drivers think wide straight roads are safer, but they're more dangerous (they just drive faster). I vote Charles Marohn for FIT - this book doesn't say much about bike lanes, but much else of relevance to this debate: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confessions-Recovering-Civil-Engineer-Transportation/dp/1119699290
Arnold, in your community can you explain why they were proposed and what the alternatives to them would be if not present?
I live downtown Toronto Canada where many of our busiest thoroughfares have had a bike lane installed on the right most lane (often in conjunction with or taking away what used to be street side parking spots). Toronto has been trying to disincentivize cars downtown and I would suspect the addition of bike lanes (also adding public bike services) has had a positive impact on downtown traffic. I cannot speak to whether injuries have reduced or increased as a result of these bike lanes but my personal experience would be that they're a benefit.
We as a city are lucky in a geographic sense with the city bordering Lake Ontario as we have a really good walking/bike path along the water with bike paths branching off up the main streets into the city from there. Many people have converted to bike commuting as a result.
In a more suburban/rural or inland town I can understand why a bike path's validity could be questioned. I guess the better question to ask a developer is "What is the idea behind the proposed bike lane?" Is it a solution to a problem or a novelty?