Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to encourage people to ride bikes

Two bicycle lanes are to be added to Rudisill Boulevard. This isn't really necessary, since there are already two trails that run parallel to the street. They are called "sidewalks".

Technically it is illegal to ride a scooter or bicycle on the sidewalk, though this law is rarely enforced. County Commissioner Bill Brown rides a Segway downtown, and nobody has bothered him about it. I don't think Brown should be ticketed. I just think that if he gets to use his $5,000 scooter on a sidewalk, I should be allowed to ride a $100 bike on that same sidewalk.

Though the law is rarely enforced, people obey it anyway. This time of year you see a few brave souls riding their bikes in the street. Since most people seem unwilling to risk their lives to save on gas, the city can go a long way towards encouraging bike riding by opening up sidewalks to bicycle traffic.

Pedestrian safety would have to be considered. Bicyclists should be required to dismount their bikes when approaching a pedestrian. This is a perfectly reasonable restriction since there is very little foot traffic in this city.

29 comments:

MichaelK said...

What?

Bicycles are vehicles - we should take the lane. Riding on the sidewalk is just asking for a collision with a pedestrian, or increased chance of getting hit by a car at a crosswalk. It's just not a good idea for an adult to be riding at speed on a sidewalk.

http://bicyclesafe.com/

http://bikeportland.org/2008/02/13/bikes-on-sidewalks-could-washington-county-be-held-liable-in-tragedy/

Bobby G. said...

In my part of town (the southeast side), the SIDEWALK is (apparently) FOR bike-riding, as the STREET is used exclusively by local pedestrians (as well as speeders...on mopeds OR in cars).
Thank God the city vehicles use the streets!
Oh, and those mopeds DO use the sidewalks as well.
No law-enforcement down here...come ride with US!
...Live the adventure!

;)

B.G.

Robert Enders said...

MichaelK,
If houses are close to the sidewalk, then that sidewalk should be off limits to bicycle traffic because someone would risk getting hit as they leave their house. But if you can see for a block away that there is no one on or near the sidewalk, then there is no reason to prohibit bike traffic on that sidewalk.

If it makes you feel better, we can impose speed limits on the sidewalk.

MichaelK said...

@Robert

You clearly didn't take a moment to read anything at either of those links did you?

Robert Enders said...

I did. The top link only reaffirms my point that riding in the street is dangerous.

The bottom link says that:
1. The Federal government thinks riding on the sidewalk is unsafe. But the Federal government thinks a whole lot of things are unsafe.

2.A municipal could be held liable for an accident. So the city could simply consider liability insurance if that happens to be cheaper than building a bike trail.

MichaelK said...

No, riding in the street isn't 100% safe. The point is, riding at speed on the sidewalk is even *less* safe.

1. Sometimes, even the government is right.

2. They are worrying about their liability insurance. Even with insurance there are deductibles and such.. and shouldn't people be more important than the money, anyway?

Shouldn't we be asking how to make riding with traffic safer, instead of just giving up?

The roadway does *not* belong exclusively to cars.

nb said...

so many people seem to have such a huge problem with bikes, but why? is it because those of us that ride bikes like to save a little money? is it that we are in better shape than than most of you sloppy fat suv drivers? or is it that everyone always seems to want something to complain about? why would anyone be against bike lanes. if we are going to talk about safety, lets point out that a bike lane would keep bicycle riders safe, in turn the pedestrians on the sidewalk would be safe, and cars would not have to worry about the bikes in "their" lane and they would be safe. look at that...everyone is safe.

Robert Enders said...

MichaelK,
If they are riding at 20 to 30 mph, they belong on the street. If they are riding at 5 to 15 miles an hour, they belong on the sidewalk.

nb,
To answer your questions:
1. I don't have a problem with people who ride bikes. I ride my own bike from time to time.
2. I like saving money too.
3. I happen to be a sloppy fat
subcompact driver, but I am happy with who I am and I'm not jealous of anyone else's figure.
4. There is always something to complain about.
5. Since I like saving money, I would be against spending money on creating a bike lane. Also, creating a bike lane usually means either closing off a lane for motor vehicle traffic or eminent domaining a bunch of front yards.

Anonymous said...

nb,
I don't like bike riders because it damages my car's finish everytime one of you bounces off my hood.

Anonymous said...

Im fat and now I ride a bike everywhere.... its one of the greatest things I have done. I have saved money, enjoyed the outdoors, and lost 30lbs.

Bring Bike Lanes To The Fort

Fr. Fozy Bear said...

I would rather have my sons walking or riding on the sidewalk rather than the street, any day. Sorry the sidewalk is safer! The issue is common mutual courtesy and respect not just pedestrians.

MichaelK said...

@Robert
I'm no big believer in bike lanes - but properly engineering them usually doesn't mean losing a lane or hacking into front lawns... not that hacking into a front lawn is such a terrible thing in the grand scheme of things.

But anyway, a line painted on the pavement doesn't magically protect the bike riders much better, just as riding on the street doesn't immediately mean you're dangerously mixing it up with traffic.

@Fozy
Big difference between say, a kid meandering down the sidewalk and 200+ pounds of me hammering along at about 20 mph.

Robert Enders said...

MichaelK,
You are a better bicyclist than I will ever be. That is a compliment. However, as gas prices rise, we will see an increased interest in bicycles as a mode of transportation. People who have not ridden a bike since they turned 16 will venture forth on two wheels once more. To force these novices to ride in the streets creates a hazard for everyone else.

Bicycles are versatile. You can ride them on dirt, cracked pavement, narrow paths, etc. Bicycles do need any special favors from the government.

Anonymous said...

i ride pretty much everyday and pretty much everywhere i go, on everything from sidewalk to lane to median and center turn lane. while i feel the center turn lane is the most comfortable, it's the one that gets you yelled at. the side walk along big busy streets is great, i don't mind slowing down for pedestrians, however, side streets and sidewalks intersections are not a safe juncture. the lane is like a kind of happy, kind of scary meet in the middle. so it seems like the lane is where it's at, and it's not just my opinion, it's the law. and that doesn't happen very often.

MichaelK said...

@Robert
So for you, this all comes down to perceived special favors from the government, that's it?

If simply having roads and sidewalks and nothing else everywhere was the 100% perfect solution, yes, bike lanes would be an "extra."

However, the reality is that engineering our roadways and streets doesn't have one solution that works in every instance. Some places benefit from having different infrastructure. Engineering the system to be better is not a special favor.

The way you state that you're against creating bike lanes because you might "lose" a lane of motor vehicle traffic implies to me that you believe that streets are for cars first and everything else second. That sort of car-centric thinking needs to go. And it will go now that the era of cheap oil is over. We're all road users, sometimes we're just using them through different means.

Though I see you've left that anti-bike comment up from anonymous, so I'm guessing that you're pro-car enough to find that amusing, and that gives some insight into your real attitude towards those not in cars.

Robert Enders said...

Ok, if a community had a large percentage of bike riders, then a bike lane would be in order. I'm not totally opposed to the idea, and I will use the lane myself when it's in place.

But go down Rudisill sometime. You'll see dozens of cars, maybe 5 to 10 pedestrians, and a couple bicycles. Even poor people drive in this country. Our nation's entire economy is based on people's ability to travel long distances in a short period of time on short notice. Drivers pay gasoline taxes and license fees to support infrastructure organized around motor vehicles. Would you support a bike tax to fund bike trails?

If gas prices do continue to go up, motor vehicle traffic will be so light that it shouldn't be that hard to navigate the streets on a bike. So even then a bike trail isn't needed.

Robert Enders said...

BTW, I have been hit by a car as a pedestrian. But I can laugh about that now. So that's why I left the comment up.

MichaelK said...

Well, chicken and an egg then. Do the lanes follow the bikes or bikes follow the lanes? I think a combination of both.

"Our nation's entire economy is based on people's ability to travel long distances in a short period of time on short notice."

And that is unsustainable and isn't going to necessarily be sticking around for long. Besides, just because it has been that way doesn't mean it always should.

"Drivers pay gasoline taxes and license fees to support infrastructure organized around motor vehicles. Would you support a bike tax to fund bike trails?"

Most common fallacy ever.

"Trier, like a lot of misinformed folks, seems to believe the only road taxes we pay are motor vehicle licensing fees and fuel taxes. But the truth is that those fees largely pay for state and federal highways, and even then only a portion of them. The rest of the costs of those roadways are borne by all taxpayers generally, including bicyclists, through local, property and sales taxes. Local roads, where you find most cyclists, are another story altogether.

"Indeed, most bicyclists in fact also own cars, so they're also paying the licensing fees and gas taxes as well. But by using their bikes in place of cars, the wear and tear (and subsequent maintenance costs) they inflict is exponentially less than that caused by cars and trucks."

...

"The amount bicyclists overpay leaps out when you look at the costs of local roads, the roads cyclists use most. Litman found that only a third of the funds for their construction and maintenance comes from vehicle user charges; local property, income and sales taxes pay the rest. Automobile user fees contribute only about 1 cent per mile toward the costs of local roads but simultaneously impose costs more than six times that amount."

And then you talk about a tax for bike trails... already built with tax money aren't they? And those aren't bike lanes.

So no, the common "gas tax/license fees" argument isn't going to fly.

BTW, I've been shot in the face by jerks with a BB gun driving an SUV while riding. Violence directed at any of us isn't something to laugh at.

Karen Goldner said...

This has been an interesting discussion. I did want to let you know that partly because of this post I have been asking people what they think of changing the ordinance. The response is VERY mixed - not too different from this thread.

The City is beginning to look at adding bike lanes on major streets. No, it's not the same as a brick wall between the bike and the cars, but it would be a huge step forward in safety and it's something that this Councilperson (and I'm sure others) will support.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that someone is paying attention to what you are saying.

Robert Enders said...

Karen,
Thank you for addressing this issue. It just occurred to me that different bike friendly solutions can be used in different neighborhoods. A neighborhood with little foot traffic may opt to allow bicycles on sidewalks, while a neighborhood with a lot of small children might prefer the ordinance as it is now. Some homeowner might even opt to donate part of their front yards for a bike trail. Would it be feasible for different neighborhoods to have different rules?

MichaelK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MichaelK said...

Thanks, Karen.

There are a number of places that only prohibit bicycles on sidewalks in the downtown area. Portland is one, though it has its own nuances.

I don't think bike lanes are a cure-all for bicycle/motor vehicle interactions, but I do think they can be a good idea on major streets where the speed differential is great enough. I do have the concern that adding bike lanes in too many places will encourage an attitude that bicycles should only be allowed where those lanes exist, however. That's why I feel the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis and not made to be an automatic yes-or-no thing.

[edit: failed at link in earlier comment]

MichaelK said...

Ah, one more link then:

Getting a cyclist on your hood isn't a great idea, after all. Unless you like sitting in jail, I guess.

Karen Goldner said...

The City's ordinance already says that bikes are prohibited on sidewalks "in business districts" so my neighbor, the 7-year-old, riding on the sidewalk on our street is fine.

Although it might potentially be possible to have an ordinance that distinguishes among different kinds of neighborhoods, in my opinion that would be very confusing both for citizens to follow and for police to enforce.

Robert Enders said...

Of course, for such an ordinance to be obeyed and enforced, signs would have to be posted stating any regulations specific to a given area. Traffic rules do vary from street to street, and there are signs posted to indicate these rules. If bicycles are to become the mainstream mode of transportation, bicycle routes will have to be clearly marked.

Anonymous said...

i don't think anyone advocating riding a bike on a sidewalk has ever done so on say.... east state or numerous other places in fort wayne where riding on the sidewalk is like riding down a staircase. I personally have invested more money into my bike than my car and i think its silly to expect me to be forced to ride over curbs and broken glass and tree roots, and to completely avoid anything north of coliseum or west of swinney park where there are no sidewalks. I would also like to point out that when riding on the sidewalk i have not been safe from having fireworks and trash thrown at me, and the only times i have ever wrecked my bike were when i was on the sidewalk. I agree that riding on the street is not safe, but then again, neither is driving on it.

Robert Enders said...

Anon 1:46
You think it's silly to ride over curbs? I think it's silly to spend more than $1000 on a bike. But it's your money. If you had spent that much on a boat, would you expect the city to provide you with a canal?

If people are assaulting you because you are on a bike, get a gun. They cost less than what you spent on a bike.

Anonymous said...

The reason bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks is that they go too fast to be allowed to use pedestrian rules at intersections. A driver starts to turn right, and then, ZOOOM, a bicycle comes up behind him and rides off the sidewalk into the crosswalk. The rider gave the motorist no time to react.

Bicycles are prohibited from sidewalks because of this, not to protect pedestrians.

Anonymous said...

I'm doing a persuasive paper on the subject of whether riding bike should be illegal on side walks, so I am well researched in this subject. My complaint is: We want to make more bike paths but if you don't live around these paths then you have to drive your car to it just so you can ride your bike. I live in northern Fort Wayne and there arn't many side walks on major roads like Coldwater or Three north of Washington Center. Getting from one addition to another is dangerous for children and adults.