Bike lanes are, to mix another transit metaphor, a third rail in politics. There are fights about them everywhere; where I live in Toronto, Canada, hundreds showed up to protest the late crackhead mayor for removing a bike lane and now we are fighting his replacement about another one. And we certainly aren't alone; Scott Calvert of the Wall Street Journal writes that these fights are happening everywhere, that anywhere there is a bike lane, there is a bikelash.
Bikelash isn't a new phenomenon; there is even a video about it. They are fighting in Baltimore, to rip up a bike lane installed two years ago, with people saying "Put it back the way it was!"
Baltimore is hardly alone. Similar fights have broken out from Philadelphia to Seattle, Boulder to Brooklyn. At issue are protected bike lanes that use barriers like parked cars or bollards to separate bikers from moving cars. Creating such lanes often requires eliminating parking or a lane for cars, changes that affect people’s daily lives.
Calvert notes that one of the big reasons for installing bike lanes is safety; only 3 percent of cycling fatalities happen in bike lanes, compared with 61 percent in roads. Separating cyclists from cars works.
The main objection to bike lanes appears to be that they take away space that would otherwise be used for moving or storing cars. And these drivers are loud when they are angry; In Boulder, Colorado, a bike lane got ripped out after only three months. And this is after it reduced collisions per week by 38 percent.
You really don't want to read the comments on the Wall Street Journal post, it is Bikelash Bingo by about the fifth one. These stories are endless. In Seattle, after a truck crashed on the highway during a snow flurry, the newspaper blamed, yes, bike lanes, for reducing road capacity.
In London, members of the House of Lords recently claimed that separated bike lanes cause congestion and worsen pollution. Quoted in the Guardian, Fran Graham of the London Cycling Campaign noted:
The real cause of London’s congestion is unnecessary car journeys – over one third of all the car trips made by London residents are less than 2km. To ensure that our roads don’t crawl into gridlock, we have to enable more people to choose to walk and cycle, and one proven way to do that is to build more physically protected cycle lanes.
And in fact, statistics show that cycle superhighways have reduced congestion.
In Toronto, where I live, its the same story; fewer people are driving, more are taking transit, walking or biking. Yet improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure is impossible because of the war on the car and the instant bikelash.
Calvert's article in the Wall Street Journal is profoundly depressing, because I really thought we were getting to stage 3 of the progression that April described a few years ago:
According to Kit Keller of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, bikelash just signals that we are moving through the three stages of social change, in which a new idea or concept is 1) ridiculed; 2) violently opposed, and 3) gradually accepted. Keller also said there's a fourth phase in this arc, in which people who either ridiculed or opposed a movement do an about-face, saying they thought it was a great idea right from the start.
I have been covering this and predicting it for years. Slowly citizens are waking up to the true cost of the cycling community’s organized political lobbying.— GregoryKline (@GregoryKline) April 18, 2018
Bikelash is long overdue. https://t.co/H6btObXesG
Alas, no, even as the roads get more crowded, the air more toxic, the death toll rising, the Bikelash just gets worse.