Follow @theurbancountry on Twitter Find us on Facebook Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via e-mail Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via RSS
Follow @theurbancountry on Twitter Find us on Facebook Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via e-mail Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via RSS

Ghettoize Me, Please 11

Amsterdamize me!

All Photos by Marc van Woudenberg / Amsterdamize

In an article in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen entitled “We’re not all hard-core cyclists”, writer Kate Jaimet explains that a proposal to invest in physically separated bicycle infrastructure in Ottawa is at risk of being quashed by a group of vehicular “hard-core” cyclists.

Vehicular cyclists are against bicycle infrastructure because they feel it is akin to “ghettoizing” bicyclists.

Ms. Jaimet makes a great point in the article:

Well, I have biked in downtown Ottawa, clenching my handlebars under the constant apprehension of being rubbed out by a taxi, mowed down by a bus, or sideswiped by a merging vehicle. And I have biked in Copenhagen, toot-ling pleasantly along a network of bike lanes reserved for me and my fellow non-motorized travellers.

All I can say is: If that’s ghettoization, then ghettoize me, baby.

Anyone who rides a bicycle in North America city will know of the exact feeling that Jaimet refers to. The feeling of being mere inches from being hit by a passing car.

It’s a terrible feeling, I can assure you.

Vehicular cyclists say the solution is to control or “take the lane”. I do take the lane on occasion, but I have also been met with angry drivers who were extremely offended that I exercised my right to take the lane for my safety.

I would much rather deal with a close-passing car, than a seething motorist.

But I would also much rather be on a segregated bicycle lane than constantly dealing with sharing the road with automobiles.

It’s the same reason I will take a quiet side street over a busy arterial whenever possible. It’s just more comfortable and safe to be away from automobiles.

All you have to do is look at other cities that have proper bicycling infrastructure. The photos speak for themselves.

Amsterdamize me!

Amsterdamize me!

Amsterdamize me!

Amsterdamize me!

Amsterdamize me!

All Photos by Marc van Woudenberg / Amsterdamize

Would you honestly still rather share the road with buses, cars and trucks?

Perhaps vehicular cyclists exist in North America because our bicycle infrastructure is often inadequate.

In her Ottawa Citizen article, Jaimet refers to studies in cities in North America that speak to increased safety that can result from adequate bicycle infrastructure:

Will segregated bike lanes improve cycling safety in Ottawa? Vehicular cyclists say no. But the evidence from other North American cities says yes.

New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told the Velo-City cycling conference in Copenhagen last summer that adding bike lanes to NYC streets decreased accidents by 50 per cent, and brought traffic fatalities to a 100-year low.

In Montreal, cycling on streets with segregated bike lanes reduces the risk of injury by 28 per cent, compared to streets without bike lanes, according to recent research by Peter Furth, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University, Boston.

If done properly, physically separated infrastructure can be safe – especially if traffic signals are re-engineered to accommodate bicyclists and prevent conflict with automobiles.

Physically separated bicycle infrastructure has already been built in Montreal, Vancouver, New York City, Portland, and many other North American cities.

And other cities are following their lead – including Toronto and Ottawa.

The time is now to “ghettoize” our bicyclists.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com.

Related Articles:

  • kfg

    “Anyone who rides a bicycle in North America city will know of the exact feeling that Jaimet refers to. The feeling of being mere inches from being hit by a passing car.”

    No, not much really. Mostly I know it as a crossing maneuver issue. The actual moment of impact kinda sucks too, nor are the months of physical therapy much fun.

    However, as I perceive the cars to be the intruding “undesirables,” why not ghettoize them?

  • Micheal Blue

    Separate good-quality bike lanes are the way to go for sure. Apparently, some road-racer-type cyclists don’t like separate bike lanes, as they cannot bomb along them as fast as they can on a street. I can kinda understand their point of view, as well. To them anything that moves at speeds below 30 km/h is an obstacle. Most commuters and recreational cyclists don’t bike that fast.
    However, I think that these road racers are in a great minority, and would benefit from biking outside the city. Load your bike on/in your car, and race outside, where it is safer and also no traffic lights to slow you down.
    To separate bike traffic from car traffic is intelligent, and trying to paint it as a negative segregation is simply stupid. The Dutch show the world how it is successfully done.

  • kfg

    “Load your bike on/in your car”

    Don’t have a car; don’t want one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04598267111382640345 Eneko Astigarraga

    It is really complicated to talk about segregation using the term “ghettoization”. I think it goes too far, even when it was a joke oriented way of talking.

    One thing is to separate “properly” cyclists from the rest of traffic in several cases (really few). And another different question is to try to isolate bicyclists in a parallel net of transport. This is an absolute mistake. And so is to try it.

    Most of the streets in a city are able to cycle amidst traffic with proper conditions. Only big avenues (multi-laned and/or high traffic rates) and hills must be aconditioned. But this is also another core question. What does it mean “If done properly”? Is a kind of wish? Or there are some universal criteria about it?

    The last (but not least) issue to face is how and when this facilities must be compulsory for cyclists.

    One tip: balance.

    http://bicicletasciudadesviajes.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12056080802746709323 Green Idea Factory

    Hmmm… no one mentions the too high speed of motor vehicles and everyone seems to imply that this is inevitable. Separation dogma is a result of automobilisation dogma. Motor vehicles ARE dangerous (objectively and subjectively) but instead of prioritizing a change of this we invent separation, “Complete Streets” and so on. I like riding my bike in wide lanes, and prefer a wide one with motor vehicles than a narrow one without, but I know that not everyone feels this way.

    But more specifically, my idea is that 20mph/30kph streets can have mixed traffic but the very youngest children and the very newest cyclists might still want to be separated.

    I have also written recently on Copenhagenize something like “the Dutch do bikes right, but motor vehicles wrong (or not so right)”: In the best designs in the NL there are intersections of big, 50km/h streets which allow turning left in one go and lots of places where only bikes can take a direct route. On the other hand cars everywhere are stuck in jams at certain times. This is a failure of motorized transport, but of course the emissions etc. affect everyone.

  • http://www.bikingindallas.com/ Chris Curnutt

    We’ve had the same “debate” between VCs and us regular folks for some time in my area (Dallas) too. We talk about the 8/80 rule – would you want your 8 year old child or 80 year old parent taking one of these lanes? This is where I think the VCs miss the mark, cycling is for EVERYONE and not just the middle aged guys who put chain lube on their toast for breakfast.
    -Chris

  • kfg

    “no one mentions the too high speed of motor vehicles and everyone seems to imply that this is inevitable.”

    Although I have addressed this subject over at Mikael’s and Hembrow’s blogs; even to the point of pointing out that there is no innate reason why cars, or at least “city” cars, even need to be capable of going more than 30 kph. A 30 kph car need not weigh more than a ton.

    Cars are designed around our desires. If we change our desires, we can change our cars.

    There are people who are not happy with that idea, and I’m talking about the anti car people.

    “cycling is for EVERYONE and not just the middle aged guys”

    I’m middle aged, so my mother is about 80. I chain lube her toast for her. I think I have a stake in that matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neptronixneptronix David Silva

    I love bike lanes. Grew up in California and they are awesome.
    But i love bike paths even better. No stopping. Usually by a lake or near nature. No smog to breathe in… how could you be against that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/neptronixneptronix David Silva

    I love bike lanes. Grew up in California and they are awesome.
    But i love bike paths even better. No stopping. Usually by a lake or near nature. No smog to breathe in… how could you be against that?

  • Pingback: Legislation For Bicycle Transportation ← The Urban Country

  • Pingback: Online Guide For Safe Bicycle Facilities ← The Urban Country