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Going beyond bike lanes

22 May 2010

I’m tired of hearing about bike lanes.

“Let’s put bike lanes on Yonge!” “Let’s put bike lanes on Queen!” What a waste of time and energy.

It’s not that I don’t like bike lanes. But they have problems.

Firstly, bike lanes usually put cyclists between moving motor vehicles and the dreaded door zone of parked cars, which isn’t safe for an inexperienced cyclist. Secondly, some downtown roads simply don’t have space for a bike lane. And thirdly, there are other, more useful pieces of cycling infrastructure we can be spending our energy on.

And yet, arguments about putting non-physically separated bike lanes on arterial roads make up 90% of the debate in this town.

The worst part about all this talk is that it gives the impression that cycling is only for the experienced, the brave, and the physically fit. And that’s the exact opposite of the impression we need to give.

Toronto needs a bike network that is safe and welcoming for all cyclists, whether they be young teenagers or senior citizens. Inexperienced cyclists are especially important, because every cyclist starts as an inexperienced cyclist.

I’m in favour of bike lanes on busy roads where:

1) They can be easily accommodated without too much of a political fight, and alternate routes are available for less-experienced cyclists.

2) They are the only possible cycling route through a particular neighbourhood. But in this case, we also need to provide a physical separation from moving vehicular traffic and separate bike traffic lights at intersections.

Apart from these cases, bike lanes aren’t worth doing.

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