Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Should some roads only be for cars?

From anniebikes blog:
North and South Winooski Avenue is a thoroughfare in Burlington that is marked for cyclists in various ways: sharrows, a wide lane, and without room or designation depending upon where you are in its 2-mile length. With piecemeal bike improvements its proponents want it to be the southbound bike route through the city. This road spans the North End retail district, to busy downtown, to quiet residential neighborhoods.

I pedal this route often, especially on the separate bike lane along a one-way half mile corridor. It's pleasant and I can let my thoughts wander to the pedestrians, trees, or businesses en-route.

Approaching the intersection. Bike lane disappears.
I wait in right lane, then go when light turns green.
At a traffic light in downtown where North Winooski becomes South Winooski, the one-way abruptly becomes two narrow alleys. Without a concession to bicyclists, I am propelled into lots of traffic. I take the whole lane because hugging the curb allows autos to squeeze by. I've considered riding on the sidewalk, though it is technically illegal as the walks are painted with "walk your bike" signs. Mind you, this is only for three blocks, but my senses are on 360 degree biker-alert.
In intersection. Notice how close the autos are. Two lane
traffic in each direction.
It was in this district that a car eased behind me. I checked my mirror. It wasn't dangerously close. The passenger leaned out the window and yelled "Get off the road. Roads are for cars!" This verbal slander doesn't normally phase me so I continued on, not giving an inch. The car cruised at a slow speed, fortunately, and went around when the left lane was free - oddly doing exactly what they should!. Interestingly enough, I saw the same altercation, with another cyclist, half a block further on.

Even if I take the lane cars zoom past. Notice the lack of green space between
lane and sidewalk. I've heard talk of reducing this 3 block zone to two lanes,
adding a bicycle lane. It won't come soon enough!
Later that day I mentioned the incident to my husband as we often share our crazy driver stories. He shook his head. "What about the safety of the situation? Cars are bigger. They win. Maybe some roads should only be for cars."

What? Those words came out of my husbands mouth? He's a fairly regular bike commuter too. With all our proclamations of "share the road" - and I am one of them - what if some cyclists would rather not share?  If my husband feels that way, how many other cyclists do? And, more disturbing, is this a defeatist attitude or is it just a practical viewpoint from an aging cyclist?

So, would my husband have chosen to not travel those three blocks? Would he ride on the sidewalk and risk a ticket, or go 4 blocks out of his way to avoid the area? We didn't talk about it. I'd like to think he'd stand up for a cyclist's rights, but as he ages he's become aware of his mortality, and he certainly has a right to his own opinion.

So, I leave you with these thoughts. As cyclists, we avoid some roads in favor of others - that's a given. But do particular road conditions push you over the edge? And, at what point do we allow cynicism to control our bike advocacy?


  1. Thank you for reposting my article. I'm flattered!

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