Monday, September 15, 2014

On Road Again

This post has more questions than answers, as I have been wrestling with some of these issues for a while. Take some time to read them and think them over. I'm interested to hear what your thoughts are…

Bike Lanes. Multi-Use Paths. Cycletracks. I’ve thought a lot about these different kind of facilities over the last few weeks, and recent discussions with some folks in the profession have pushed me to consider the implications of each. Both have their place, but I’m interested in what you have to say, riding reader. Why do you prefer one over the other? Is your preference for one kind of facility influenced by what kind of riding you’re doing:  Shared path for running errands or recreation riding? On-road bike lane when you’re out for a group ride or training for a race? Do you mind riding next to traffic or do you prefer some space? Where would you let your 8 year son or daughter ride? What would you think about your 80 year old mother, father or friend riding on this kind of facility?

On-road bike lanes are less expensive and improve the existing conditions for willing. However, the speed, volume and proximity of the vehicular traffic can really influence a rider’s feeling of safety or comfortability. How would you feel riding right next to traffic on Greenville’s Wooddruff Road? What are your thoughts about the bike lanes in the photo below?

Bike lanes in a sea of pavement. Would separated lanes have been better?
But how to accommodate the driveways?

Separated facilities, whether they are paths or bike lanes, have been shown to improve safety and are places where more folks feel comfortable riding. They are more expensive, typically take more time to install and can require a significant reworking of the existing landscape. However, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the most recent and well known example of this kind of facility, has been one of the most significant improvements in the region.
Swamp Rabbit Trail Users of all ages and abilities.
(Photo Credit:  Upstate Forever)

Part of a community’s responsibility is to develop facilities that folks will use. Over the last several years, as I have seen significant bicycle facility improvements in communities across the upstate, I wonder if we are doing the right thing. Are on-road bike lanes enough and will they provide the best facility for all riders? Or are we just doing the easy, convenient thing to say that we are bicycle-friendly? What more would it cost to build something that would address the folks who are “interested, but concerned” on two wheels? I then turn to consider the needs of the racing, spandex-clad crowd. What kind of facilities are preferred by a majority of this population? Is there a difference between men and women, experienced and novices?

There are some questions I've been mulling over. I wanted to get them out there, and I'm really interested in what you have to say. No matter how long you've been riding or what kind of rider you are, I'd really like to hear your thoughts on your preferences.

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