just not feeling…

the new bicycle “guide markings” (a.k.a. bike lanes) along Chapel and John streets in downtown Charleston.

some of you may ask, “Don’t you ride a bike downtown often?”

and yes, i do. in fact, i ride along Chapel and John almost daily. i also realize the new “markings” are an attempt by the city to live up to and improve upon their new status as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community. doesn’t mean they aren’t a bad implementation of a bad idea.

first, they’re too narrow to actually be bike lanes. this is because the entire street is too narrow to support bike lanes, motor vehicle lanes, and parking.

second, they are going to be fairly inaccessible for much of their length, much of the time due to the aforementioned parking. for example, today i rode along John St. twice in a three hour period; for that entire time, there was a semi rig, a box truck, and a luxury coach parked along the sides of just one block of the road. needless to say, you couldn’t ride inside the “guide markings” there. this ignores all the SUVs and trucks whose owners are unable to park within a parking space, causing one to have to ride around them as well.

third, let’s assume it’s raining. yes, people do ride bikes in the rain. particularly when they use them for transportation. if it’s raining, and the cyclist has to move in and out of the “guide markings,” the wide white stripes – painted with highly reflective paint – will be as slick as black ice to cross. which will only add to the cyclist’s danger.

fourth, bike lanes (particularly as treated in South Carolina law) are terrible. in South Carolina, a cyclist is required to use a bike lane if one exists. instead of reinforcing the fact that bicycles are vehicles, this segregation makes cyclists second-class citizens relegated to the door zone. motorists assume, therefore, that they have primary rights to the roadways and that bicycles are merely toys, preventing the mutual respect that is needed between all road users. bike lanes should be like HOV lanes; reserved to their particular user, but not a requirement for that user.

an additional problem with bike lanes is the lack of directional markings; i can’t count the number of times i’ve encountered bike riders going the wrong way in bike lanes. once again, segregation (combined with a lack of education) causes problems. the unclear status of the lane (is it really part of the roadway) and the bicycle (is it legally a vehicle) makes it more dangerous than no lane at all.

this isn’t to say there aren’t good things municipalities can do; i love sharrows. they’re clear in meaning, provide directional guidance, and reaffirm the cyclist’s right to the road.

but bike lanes? literally, nothing is better.

quote of the day:

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx

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