Bicycling Advocates' Bicyling Study Confirms Bicycling Advocates' Worldview

Categories: bikes
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Earlier this year, we published a cover story about Critical Mass and the state of cycling in San Francisco. With thousands of new San Franciscans anticipated to flood the city in the not-too-distant future, it stands to reason that thousands of future trips must be shunted to alternative means of transportation just to keep the number of cars at its current -- rather high -- level.

So, the city has a vested interest in putting you on a bike. The question is: How?

A big bike study funded by The Green Lane Project (and capably reported on earlier in The Atlantic Cities) essentially recapitulates most of the talking points being put forward by bike advocates -- but, now, provides them with a big bike study to quote.

See Also: Critical Mass' Long Ride From Relevance

In essence, the rusting-bike-in-the-garage sorts -- the Holy Grail/tipping point demographic for bike advocates -- would ride more, If only it wasn't so darn dangerous. Or at least they think it's dangerous.

In this city, 80 percent of respondents said that cycling was either unsafe or very unsafe. Even in Portland, the nation's cycling Valhalla, 69 percent felt the same way (of note: While a disturbing number of bike riders have been crushed beneath truck and bus wheels in San Francisco this year, no Portland cyclists have died in more than a year).

Bike advocates, however, feel they can build off these wretched perceptions. Naturally.

Their silver lining: Images of segregated green bike lanes -- specifically one on Market Street -- drew a 90 percent favorable reaction from those polled. A standard side-of-the-road bike lane between parked cars and moving traffic, meanwhile, drew an 87-percent unfavorable rating.

So, building more of the former instead of the latter might help get your Sunday cyclists out on the road more days each week. But green lanes cost money -- and, as San Franciscans know all too well, the removal of automobile parking can spark merchants' revolts in a process-heavy city.

Also, gaps in the green lanes are akin to the weak links in a chain. As we put it earlier this year:

For all the talk of the Bicycle Coalition's great influence, the city's investment in cycling has been modest and its bike network is disjointed and incomplete. Stretches of smooth, traffic-segregated lanes inviting to even novice cyclists are broken up by dangerous and bewildering segments. These swaths essentially render miles of cycling paths useless for all but the daring -- who were already on the roads. Rutgers urban planning professor John Pucher says the mark of a truly safe cycling system for young, old, and non-Lycra-clad riders is observable parity of the sexes. In San Francisco, however, only 28 percent of frequent cyclists are women. And, based on the city's own "Levels of Traffic Stress" assessment, only 10 percent of bikeways are suitable for everyone. Even large portions of Market Street are accessible only to strong, experienced riders.

Those dangerous portions of Market Street, incidentally, were only a few yards beyond the photo of the green lane everyone raved about.

As ever, the road to better cycling conditions in this and every city requires pedaling uphill.
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