Cycling in Hell
(Image from Wikimedia)
Those of you who read CycleDog regularly know that I'm not afraid to rub a cat's fur the wrong way. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm not a fan of the Copenhagen style bike lane plans, or their foaming-at-the-mouth, overly ardent admirers. If you want such facilities, move to Copenhagen, but don't make the mistake of believing that similar projects are possible here. There are simply too many differences between our cultures.
First, taxes in Europe are exorbitant by our standards. Sure, they get a lot of public services in return, but if Americans were taxed at similar levels we'd overthrow the government.
Second, fuel costs are staggering. A gallon of gasoline costs roughly the equivalent of eight dollars. Is it any wonder they drive tiny, fuel-efficient cars? Is it any wonder they use bicycles for short trips?
Third, the oldest parts of European cities are laid out on a pedestrian scale. Streets can be narrow, sidewalks almost non-existent, and parking is often some distance away. Some cities have had the dubious benefit of rebuilding their cores after seeing them flattened in two world wars. I don't know of any sane people who'd advocate total destruction as an urban redevelopment option.
Finally, they enjoy extremely high population density, getting to live cheek-by-jowl with the neighbors. "Hey honey! CycleDog is having sauerkraut tonight! Let's get out of here!"
Now, the admirers of the Copenhagen plan would have us believe it's a cycling utopia, and if only we'd build similar facilities here, we'd find our paths strewn with flowers by tall, tastefully dressed Nordic women in stylish footwear.
So imagine my dismay at seeing the following:
In a measure to protect their cyclists, the Danish city of Grenå is funding a large-scale project called “See Mi” that will make navigating the city’s busiest streets easier for both cyclists and drivers. The initiative will see the installation of battery-powered RFIDs in the steering columns of 300 bikes as well as receivers at seven of the city’s most dangerous intersections. The RFID from the resident’s bicycle will send a signal to the traffic light when approaching the intersection; in turn, the traffic signal will automatically flash a ‘cyclist’ sign to warn drivers that they should keep an eye out for cyclists before making a right turn.
RFIDs are usually passive and do not require battery power. But that's a minor point. A much bigger one it this - MOTORISTS DO NOT LOOK FOR CYCLISTS ON THEIR RIGHT, EVEN IN UTOPIA. And a bike lane system merely reinforces this behavior. Cyclists are 'safely' segregated, out of sight and out of mind.
So in order to make this supposedly Utopian system work as it should, another modification, another layer of bureaucracy, another layer of control, and another equally pointless layer of gold leaf has to be applied to Copenhagen's turd of a bike system.
Tell you what - put the cyclist and the driver in the same lane and treat both of them as responsible vehicle operators, and this problem will go away without resorting to another Band-Aid approach. No one questions the underlying assumptions of these segregated bikeways, that cyclists are incapable of learning to ride in traffic, or that it's even possible to ride safely on a city street, because there's too much money and prestige tied up in building more and more facilities. Thunderhead Alliance, Bikes Belong, and a host of advocacy organizations including my favorite, the League of American Bicyclists, turn away from any serious discussion of this.