Does it matter?

The sausage has been made in D.C., and now we get to see it.  The new conference transportation bill apparently eliminates some funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, which has organizations like Adventure Cycling, American Bikes, and League of American Bicyclists up in arms.

Does that matter?  Well, in my town, we’ve seen signed bike routes go up.  One goes across the second-worst (IMHO) crossing of a major north-south artery.  One was well known as the best bike route across town by most local cyclists before the signs went up.  A couple of other routes have white lines painted up to the difficult intersections, where you’re supposed to take a transporter beam across the right turning traffic to go straight, or they stop with a “Bike Route XX ends.”  Not very helpful.  All in all, besides the expense of the signs and paint, no changes were made to the roads, and certainly there’s been no education of law enforcement.

Oh, we have a new bike path!  It goes from a parking lot on the north end of town across a field and up the hill.  There is stops.  In the middle of the woods.

Call me an old grouch, but I don’t like bike paths or bike lanes.  In my experience, most have at least one of four major shortcomings:

  1. They are poorly engineered.
  2. They are poorly maintained.
  3. They go places that aren’t useful for transportation or touring.
  4. They are flat out unsafe.

One might add #5, it costs an awful lot of money to do a good job building and maintaining a bike lane, and these are fiscally restrained times.

I would say the only decent, useful bike path we saw on our TransAm was the one through Breckenridge, CO, and the quality plummeted when we left the town limits.  Alma to Fairplay was unrideable because of poor maintenance, and the Frisco bike path was unsafe because of steep climbs, limited sight distance, and of course the fact it turned into a driveway.  Neither would ever be considered for a safe cycling route except for the fact that somebody called it a bike path.

So we’re not building any more of these monstrosities?  Whew, what a relief!

The part of the bill I really regret is that managers of federal roads can now ban bicyclists far too easily.  Where were the major organizations when that was considered?  AC’s advice was to lay low, they and LAB were doing quiet lobbying.  It was completely ineffective.  Why are we all staring at bike paths, anyway?  Look at Adventure Cycling’s routes.  Out of 41,000 miles of routes, I’d guess 37,000 miles are on ordinary streets and roads.  (2,500 of the difference is the Great Divide mountain bike route, which is apparently a mix of dirt roads and trails, connected by — wait for it — ordinary streets and roads!)    Give us back our access to the roads, and let anyone who wants to ride in a bicycle ghetto lobby for it locally, I say.