Good News: Bike Lanes Work, Even If You Don’t Believe In Them

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The Anti-Bike-Lane crowd reminds me of the Anti-Vaccination crowd. Both feel like there’s some kind of vague conspiracy out there, forcing some kind of agenda on them, that they need to fight against otherwise we’re all lost.

Just like anti-vaxxers, anti-bikelaners all have anecdotes:

  • they have a cousin, that had a friend, that got hit by a car once;
  • they don’t know anyone who benefits from bike lanes anyways;
  • the whole idea has a whiff of evil to it.

And just like stories about vaccinations, the media the need to find an opposing viewpoint, to give the semblance of balance, even if it doesn’t make sense.

The new bike lane on O’Connor just opened up. I rode down it. It’s great. It was covered by the media.

On CTV, I was surprised that the coverage included comments from drivers that was totally pro-bike lanes. The only thing that suggested that there was a controversy was a cyclist that was cut off by a pedestrian. That’s a pretty rare occurence, so it probably took them a long time of filming to capture, but it let them make it look like it was the wild west out there and they had their story.

CBC’s coverage (skip to the 5:05 mark) was much more disappointing. They tried to show that there was a controversy by emphasizing the perceived drawbacks of the bike lane, including angry complaints from taxi drivers, and talking about the “clear danger” that was present. If you replace the words “bike lanes” with “vaccines” the pattern suddenly becomes obvious, and trite.

One of the “dangers” was that the driver now has to check for bikes before turning left.

Driving is a big responsibility. If you’re a driver, and you don’t know what’s going on around you, then the problem isn’t the bike lanes. It’s you. So put down the Egg McMuffin and the coffee, and pay attention to what you’re doing.

One of the other complaints was that traffic would slow down and be congested. Well, which is it? You’re complaining that you’re stuck in traffic yet you also don’t have time to look over your shoulder?

If it’s still too difficult to turn left, you can turn right – and double back around. Or you can go on to Elgin St. and turn right. None of these is difficult and both are safer. Drivers at this point might yell “WAAAAAHHHH THAT’S SO FAR TO GO” then if you think that it’s better to get rid of the bike lane and for cyclists to go back to going along the canal as their only safe route, you’re a hypocrite.

Sound urban planning policy decisions are not based on the angry complaints of taxi drivers, but on facts and science. These show, time and time again, that bike lanes provide a solid return on investment. Spending on bike lanes cause more dollars to flow into the economy overall, because more people bike, which in turn means that less money is spent on the costs directly related to driving (gas, collisions, police), health care (lower heart disease, strokes, arthritis, etc), and infrastructure costs (repairing potholes, clearing snow, cheaper cost to build). People spend that extra money that’s sloshing around on restaurant meals, Christmas presents, and other things that actually benefit us overall.

Taking people out of cars and onto bikes has been shown to reduce traffic congestion. No, you’re not taking away a lane of the road, you’re just using it more efficiently.

Whether it’s Calgary, or Montreal, or London, or Paris, the data are clear: bike lanes work, and there’s no “controversy”.

People can go ahead and not believe in vaccines, they’ll still get measles. And no matter how much you want to not believe in bike lanes, and think that there’s a “controversy”, there’s not. The time for that is over, Ottawa.

PS Thanks to Hallie Cotnam for letting me use her picture

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