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Bike lanes: Pros, cons and debate


By Jeremy Elliott
Writer, Beat the Traffic
Monday, April 28, 2014, 6:09 PM

The third rail of urban civic discussions: bike lanes are a divisive topic. 

Just like highways, there never seems to be enough bike lanes to make everyone happy.

There are different types and designs of bicycle lanes with varying levels of success. The most common scenario throughout North America is a lane reserved for cyclists along the outside of an existing street or road. In town, streets are usually setup with the sidewalk, then a lane for parked cars, a bike lane and then the lane(s) for vehicles. These two designs are often the easiest to implement but end up with cyclists riding next to high speed vehicles or between parked cars and moving cars – not a comfortable experience for a cyclist at all.

A better implementation for in-town routes is to have the bike lane to the inside of the parked cars. 

So you have a sidewalk / bike lane / parked cars / moving cars. This aligns the movement of people and vehicles with less disparity between size, speed and weight.  Some cities have even added an extra buffer to have sidewalk / bike lane / buffer / parked car / through traffic.


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The ultimate solution preferred by all travelers is to have separated, dedicated bike paths.  There are various names and levels but these are most commonly a separate path dedicated to low speed and human powered vehicles.

Looking at bike lane solutions in other countries, it is important to factor in weather – some of the best cycle solutions are often in areas that have great weather.

Comparing your local infrastructure is not always an apples to apples discussion. Even the most hardcore cyclist will admit that pedaling on ice and snow is not fun, nor is it safe – you are, after all, on two wheels.

The other factor to consider when discussing infrastructure for building bike lanes is cost. Fuel taxes, vehicle sales taxes, registration fees and road tolls all help pay for the infrastructure we use to travel by car. While traveling by bike is great for exercise and reducing some emissions, it does not contribute to paying the costs of infrastructure.


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The development of permanent, dedicated bicycle infrastructure will take time and persistence. While funding is important, a dedicated engaged user base is vital to continued growth.

The success of places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen did not happen overnight. The current state of bicycle infrastructure throughout the Netherlands is the result of more than a 100 years of continuous effort.

Cooperation and respect is very important, expressing disdain for either cyclists or drivers does not benefit either group.

On the topic of groups and getting along – should dedicated bike lanes allow e-bikes? What about skateboards, longboards, roller blades and even mobility scooters?

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