Bike paths are controversial — even for cyclists

bikeferry
Photo by Erik Purins.

 

I have read lots about backlash against the miles of new bike paths in New York City and Chicago, even though all the research shows that separate spaces for bikes make everyone safer and can even ease traffic congestion. But what I didn’t expect when I heard that my town, Alameda, was getting a new cycle track along our most popular stretch of coastline: A backlash not just from drivers but from bicyclists as well.

Then again, when was a new city project ever met with universal praise, anywhere?

My story in this month’s Alameda Magazine, The Ruckus Over Alameda’s Shore Line Cycle Track, quotes not only a driver who’s worried about even slower traffic (our speed limit tops out at 30 on the island), but also a cyclist who feels the money would have been better spent elsewhere.

I expected to disagree with all the critics, but I found myself nodding my head when listening to everyone’s concerns. In particular, Art Medlar, an avid cyclist critical of the Shore Line cycle track, made all kinds of sense. Here is more of what he told me:

(W)hat most cities that have sensible, coherent bicycle infrastructure concentrate on doing is providing safe, direct routes between where people are and where they want to go. And aside from crossing bridges, this means between residential areas and business districts. Instead of that, what Alameda does internally is to stripe bike lanes in residential areas (for the “safety” of the “children” who don’t ride anyway) and to end those paths long before they reach Park or Webster or Southshore or cross Otis. Public policy should be directed towards getting bikes to and through the city’s business districts, not looping them around the outskirts of town.

What Art is describing is indeed one of our biggest frustrations as a family using bikes as our primary transportation: Getting from Point A to Point B. So many times, we find ourselves near our destination when the trail, path or sidewalk ends, and we’re forced to fight for space on the edge of a busy road or go around an obstacle.

In the end, I’m glad Alameda is putting this cycle track along Shore Line Drive, because the shared walking/bike path that exists there now is indeed super crowded. But I sure wish they would also do what Art suggests and connect up more of our existing bike lanes so we could actually get places, and I super wish they would make it easier to get on and off the island.