It has become a standard claim just about anywhere when bike lanes are proposed that they cause congestion by removing space for cars and even that they are bad for the environment because those cars caught in congestion are idling and polluting. So what if there are real studies that show that the opposite is true; people still complain. The Daily Mail recently headlined Cycle Lane Lunacy! and Peter Walker of the Guardian foolishly read the article.
Like the regular roads, he notes that crowds are bigger in rush hour.
It’s so silly that my first temptation was to ignore it completely. But there’s an argument for saying such myths and inventions should be challenged before they take hold. So here goes.
This is usually the point at which a bike lane naysayer points to a tweeted photo of an empty bike lane, often in the middle of the night. This is, if anything, more fatuous still. These are primarily commuter routes, and as with many roads, more used at peak hours. And they are massively used – a small part of my commute takes in the east-west cycle route, and at times the queues of bikes at red lights can be dozens deep.
Walker notes that there are lots of reasons for increased congestion, including more people driving, a construction boom, “ the Uber-fuelled explosion in private cab numbers” and vans delivering online purchases; it’s not just the bike lanes that are causing congestion, and that part of the answer is to get more people out of cars, not give cars more lanes.
And that’s the paradox at the heart of all this – cycling is one of the few easy wins for policymakers. Give over a small amount of road space for proper bike lanes and, as city after city has shown, more people cycle, thus freeing up space for cars and trucks. The bikes are the solution, not the problem.