Tonight in Prince George, city council will vote on whether or not to ask staff to prepare a report on how best to come up with some new rules aimed at making it so bike lanes are left clear for bikes. At the moment there are no such rules, so oftentimes bike lanes are full of parked cars, causing bikers to have to have to ride on the road between the parked cars and traffic.
In the ever-reliable comments sections, there are a number of people saying this is pointless because of the lack of people they see riding bikes in the city. For example:
“Bottom line is that all day long as I drive around Prince George I see very few bikers. So where are they.???”
“Why pander to less than 1% of vehicle traffic? Why not do a count of how much the bike lanes are used before wasting so much money?”
“I personally do not see a big need for bike lanes to begin with. I see very few bike riders utilizing these bike lanes.”
The problem with all of these is they assume the current number of people riding their bikes is the maximum number of people who would ever ride their bikes, or at least close to it.
I can tell you right now that is not a fair assumption, because of the number of people I’ve had tell me they would like to ride their bike around town, but don’t feel safe doing so because of the lack of infrastructure.
Here’s the thing: many of this city’s main roads still don’t have bike lanes. Those that do often have parked cars, garbage cans, or a buildup of gravel in them. There are very few routes in this city where you can spend your entire time riding in a bike lane or bike-friendly roads. There are many places where you are just inches from traffic. For the most part, we don’t have bike lanes in the sense of lanes you can bike to and from places in, we have a random series of disconnected spaces where bike lanes may or may not exist, depending on whether people are parking in them.
If you REALLY wanted to measure the demand for bike lanes, here’s what you might to do: shut down all the roads. Choose just a few of them that cars are allowed to use – not direct routes, but roundabout side roads. All the rest belong to bikes. If cars want to use those roads, they have to wait for bikers to go by first. Or they can drive along train tracks where the trains may or may not stop for them. After a few years of this, see how many people are still driving cars, and there’s your demand for car-friendly roads versus bike-friendly ones.
Of course, it would be absurd to artificially decrease demand for roads that cars can use this way. But that’s basically what we’re doing with bikes if we think the current use of bike lanes represents how much use a properly designed bike system would have.
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