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.
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.