Saturday, May 21, 2011

Life in the Bike Lane

I'm always a smidge amazed at the logic behind bike lanes in the United States. I live in Austin, TX, which is a Silver Level Bike Friendly Community as awarded by the League of American Bicyclists. Yet even in this relative haven of bike-friendly policy, it'll be the day when someone doesn't cut me off, attempt to side-swipe me, park something in the bike lane, or some other similar indignity.

The designated bike lanes here appear and disappear alarmingly quickly. As a for instance, as previously mentioned, on my route to work I cross a freeway. The road I take is fairly busy - 3 lanes of traffic on each side of the road, overpassing a major freeway. It accomodates bikes right up until the freeway bridge, where it suddenly just vanishes. You are expected to merge into traffic to cross and from there forward, occupy the right lane.

My question is largely.....why? I appreciate the bike lane so much, but right at the busiest area suddenly my protection, and in the view of many drivers, rights vanish. Which brings me to me next point - I'm realizing more and more how much I have created my lifestyle to agree with my preferred method of transportation, and why bike commuting is intimidating to novices. Particularly women.

In areas where safe, practical cycling is heavily supported by infrastructure, women often make up the majority of cyclists. However in areas where cycling is perceived as an impractical mode of transportation, men by far make up the majority. Thus, women are considered an "indicator species" of abundant, practical cycling facilities and friendliness.

If people wonder why we harp so hard for proper bike facilities, they should try one day of riding to work. It can bring you to life, and it can bring you down. But it definitely will wake you up.

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