Would you build a garage on your house without taking measurements beforehand to make sure your two cars fit? No? Well it seems many planners and designers have taken this approach to building bicycle infrastructure.
Bike lanes like this are beyond useless, they are actually dangerous. These get built because road engineers read standards calling for minimum width of bike lanes to be 3 feet. So they measure 3 feet from the curb’s edge and call it a day. The greatest irony is that by today’s increased traffic and faster road standards, engineers would never design a street so narrow that cars would be forced to drive in the curb gutter, yet this is perfectly acceptable for bikes.
Even if they did, the uneven paving surface that occurs at the asphalt-concrete seam would be no problem for a car, so its not even given a second thought. But for a bicycle, this seam can be as dangerous as riding parallel along in-street train tracks. A newly paved lane like this is marginal at best. As soon as the pavement is subjected to the temperature changes of s few seasons, potholes will form around the seam, making it even more treacherous for bike riders.
Curb gutters also the natural collecting place for road debris—gravel, wet leaves, or broken glass—that’s not very conducive to bike riding. Furthermore, large storm drains like the one in the photo not only create dangerous changes in surface grade, but they make virtually assured that the bike lane will be underwater during anything but the lightest of rain showers.
The problem of deficient bike infrastructure extends beyond public facilities. Well-intentioned businesses often buy “bike racks” which are more a waste of space than any help to bike-riding customers.
These “grill” bike rack can be seen many places around the city. They give most non-cycling business owners and community members a false sense of bike-friendliness. Yet any bike rider will tell you how aggravating and generally useless they are. You can see in the picture, this rack ostensibly has slots for eight bikes. Even if that were the case, this rack is placed too close to the wall to use the back side of it properly, so four spaces are already lost.
Furthermore, eight spaces assumes that you can simply put your front wheel into the grills, which doesn’t allow a bike owner to lock anything but their front wheel to the rack, unless you use an rather long cable lock. These sorts of long cables are notoriously quick fodder for the bike thief’s bolt cutters, or impractically cumbersome because of the extremely heavy gauge required to resist theft.
A correctly designed bike rack always provides a simple way to lock your bike’s frame directly to the rack with a U-lock. With a rack like the above, in order to lock bikes securely, a rack “designed” for eight bikes, only accommodates three and takes up as much space as five “staple” racks (pictured below) that securely park 10 bikes would.
Fortunately as more people, businesses, and governments realize that biking is an overwhelming rational mode of transportation, they will be forced to correct their misconceptions about what constitutes sufficient bike infrastructure. In the meantime, it helps to remind elected officials and business owners what’s functional and what’s not.
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