I would like nothing more than to see more people using bicycles for transportation, and fewer using motor vehicles. I understand the theory that bikeways attract new cyclists, though I have yet to see any hard evidence proving cause and effect.
I will happily ride in a well-designed, well-maintained bike lane when I encounter one. But bike lanes do not exist everywhere I need to go. Where they do exist, some are poorly designed, poorly maintained, or force me into a road position that compromises my safety and efficiency.
I will happily ride on a segregated bike path when one is available to serve my transportation needs. But on the rare occasions where such paths coincide with where I need to go, they are often poorly maintained, implemented as parkways rather than practical transportation corridors, and congested with unpredictable obliviots, again compromising my safety and efficiency.
So I must have the option of utilizing the public roadways if I am going to use my bicycle for safe and practical transportation. I don’t see this reality changing any time soon, certainly not within my lifetime.
I like to live and let live, and I wish this was the end of the story. You ride where you want to, and I’ll ride where I need to. But it’s not the end of the story. Because when the non-cycling taxpayers (the people who outnumber you 200 to 1) spend their hard-earned money building you somewhere special to ride your 2-wheeled toy, they tend to feel that they are within their rights to force you to use it. And along come mandatory use laws. This has happened where I live. Don’t make the mistake of believing it won’t happen where you live.
The other thing that bothers me about bikeways is that a separate set of rules comes with the package. One of the key survival strategies that has kept me alive on a bicycle for more years than I care to count is predictability. This means that other drivers can plan their actions based on their knowledge of what I am going to do, before I do it. And I can do the same with them. Are we all mind-readers? No – we’re just all working off the same playbook, called the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. With bikeways, we throw this single playbook out the window. If some motorists have such difficulty learning and following a single set of rules, what makes us think they will eagerly embrace a whole different set of rules that does not even apply to them? Score another blow to my safety.
If I support the creation of more bikeways in the na´ve belief that they will attract more people onto bicycles, I risk forfeiting my right to use the travelled way. My bicycle then becomes a much less viable transportation alternative.
If I favor reduced urban speed limits, stricter laws pertaining to inattentive and impaired driving, elevated standards for drivers license qualification, higher gas taxes so motorists finally pay the full cost of their atrocious habit, shareable width lanes, stepped up enforcement, and improved cyclist education over cycling-specific infrastructure and cycling-specific laws, then I’m branded as a filthy, elitist, VC obstructionist.
Seems like a no-win situation to me.