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Poll: Thoughts on Bike Lanes

Eastbound on Olive just before Jefferson the bike lane becomes part of the right turn lane
Eastbound on Olive just before Jefferson the bike lane becomes part of the right turn lane

Few aspects of the public right-of-way are as controversial as bike lanes. This may surprise you: bicyclists are deeply divided on them. One side argues bike lanes make riders feel for comfortable biking near traffic. The other side argues trained cyclists don’t need bike lanes. Both are correct.

For the poll this week I’ve listed diverse statements about bike lanes, I’d like you to pick which most closely matches your views. You may agree with more than one so pick the one that’s a better match or that you feel more strongly about. The poll is in the right sidebar.

Results and more on the subject on Wednesday December 18th.

— Steve Patterson



Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Like many urban design issues, there is no one, simple, “right” answer. In congested areas with significant bike traffic, giving cyclists their own lanes or dedicated paths make sense. But what’s really needed is identifying and addressing the physical barriers that make many lesser-used secondary streets (that would make great bicycle routes) unusable for longer trips, outside of individual neighborhoods. Living in the Lindenwood Park neighborhood, the biggest barriers are I-44 and the railroad tracks. It’s easy to avoid fighting traffic on the major streets (Manchester, Hampton, Chippewa, Gravois, etc.) by using parallel surface streets (that certainly don’t need any dedicated bike lanes), but getting into places like dogtown, Forest Park, Maplewood or Clayton requires using bridges/viaducts (Arsenal, Hampton) or sharing streets (Southwest, Hampton) that are either not cycling-friendly or don’t have a clear path to the serviceable sidewalks/”bike paths” on the viaducts. Fix those choke points and commuter cycling will become a lot more attractive.

  2. moe says:

    I have to agree with JZ…there is no one single correct answer in your poll. As a driver (and biker only for weekends/exercise/trails)….my view as a city person is that most bikers are safety conscious along Grand, Arsenal, Lindell and other major streets in St. Louis. HOWEVER…too many times there are…well…they’re just idiots on their bikes and scooters (note, not motorcycles) that think they can run through red lights (neighborhood stop signs I could see doing the slow roll), going the wrong way on the streets, riding at night with NO safety lights, weaving, etc. They have no concern for their own safety and think that somehow they will outlive a crash with a 3000 pound piece of machinery. They give good bikers a bad name.
    As for the bike lanes…the City is currently installing many of them and they are upsetting many people. For instance, Chippewa from Morganford east into the City…use to be 2 lanes each direction, problem is that the new bike lane, esp. at Gravois/Chipp is stripped incredibly stupidly …..they installed the parking lane, then the bike lane, then a much thinner traffic lane. This makes the drivers nervous as cars coming the other way are toooooo close to the opposing on-coming cars….and neighbors see the new ‘parking’ lane as wasted space since now it can’t be driven on and worse, traffic coming out of the neighborhoods is much tougher because all the traffic is squeezed down to a single lane choke point. Everyone that I’ve talked to doesn’t have a problem with a bike lane, it’s that they’ve installed a ‘parking’ lane that can’t be driven on and will never be used for parking…such as under the rail tracks on Chippewa at Meremac.
    So many drivers see many of these new bike lanes as taking up too much space when you are too close to opposing traffic, the parking lane is empty, and worse…the bike lane is always perceived to be empty…bottom line, wasted space and when people are backed up in traffic because of single lanes…..well sometimes you can’t blame them.

  3. Scott Ogilvie says:

    I wouldn’t say cyclists are deeply divided on bike lanes. Easily 90% of riders favor quality bike infrastructure. Quality bike infrastructure gets used, its safer, and it increases ridership. Those are facts supported by statistics. There is a very vocal minority of cyclists who don’t want bike infrastructure, but I think they’re ignoring facts. Also – to moe’s comment – that isn’t a parking lane under Meramec, its a future sidewalk. Narrow lanes decrease traffic speed. The #1 complaint from residents is speeding. Slower traffic is safer for everybody, drivers, peds, cyclists, etc. You get slower traffic primarily from design decisions, like narrow lanes, not enforcement.

  4. Matt Wyczalkowski says:

    There is no question there’s a difference of opinion in the cycling community about the role of bike infrastructure in promoting cycling and making it safer. As an experienced cyclist and commuter who appreciates bike infrastructure, I think the views of all cyclists should be considered, especially as they relate to rider safety. Some cyclists believe that the safest place to ride is in the lane with car traffic, and they certainly have the right to do so. Such riders may point out that badly designed bike lanes (like in photo above!) are rife with danger: they put the rider too close to cars and opening car doors, are often full of debris, and disappear where cyclists (and drivers) need their guidance most. Critics of existing bike infrastructure certainly do have a point.

    All the same, I think that riding in a bike lane is safer and much more enjoyable than with traffic, and there’s no question most cyclists feel this way. People really appreciate bike infrastructure, the more protected the better, and are more likely to ride their bikes if its there. (My neighbor, for instance, started commuting only after the Tower Bike Ave bike lanes were installed.) There’s also a lot of good things that come along with more people cycling. Riding is a great way to get exercise, and its a lot of fun. Riders and pedestrians lower crime rates in neighborhoods, increase economic opportunities, and raise real estate values. Very importantly, more riders make cycling safer for everyone, as drivers start to see riders as an expected user of the road rather than a surprising novelty.

    Finding flaws in existing infrastructure is easy, in part because engineering good infrastructure is hard. A new generation of engineering design guidelines, however, are sensitive cyclists and address many common bike lane flaws. St. Louis is making progress implementing such designs, and the Bike St. Louis Phase 3 project will put 100 miles of additional or improved bike infrastructure on St. Louis roads within the next year.

    As cyclists, I believe our energy is best spent not fighting bike lanes, but rather making sure future projects improve cyclist safety and accessibility. To this end, I’ve had conversations (here and here) with cyclists more critical of infrastructure to understand their concerns, and put together reviews of a few new bike lane projects in the city (including Chippewa, Tower Grove Ave, Arsenal, and Manchester). I believe most cyclists will agree that quality and safe bike infrastructure, alongside the education of both cyclists and drivers, are two critical components in building a healthy and broad cycling community.

    • BeetsBeansButts says:

      Yeah, I would agree. A well designed bike lane is better than the car lane. But well designed and maintained and respected bike lanes are rare.

      As a every day cyclist commuter in St Louis I find it very comfortable, and usually preferable, to ride in the road, but I am an advocate for more cycling infrastructure, here’s why.

      The most positive predictor in a decrease in cycling deaths in cities is the amount of people that cycle. Most people already believe cycling lanes are safer, and they will cycle more if there is more cycling infrastructure.

      More cycling infrastructure = more cyclists = cars expect cycles = less death.

      It doesn’t really matter if the cycling infrastructure is well built or not, because if we have more cyclists on the road our roads will be safer, and our communities healthier.

      To be sure my favourite type of bike infrastructure are the green bar sharrows, but I’ve never seen those in STL.

  5. Downtown2007 says:

    I would be satisfied with bike lanes painted green. Shows the driver that the road is not all theirs. It belongs to others too.


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