Cyclists want to spend millions of dollars out of highway user fees to build new bicycle infrastructure, including bike paths and lanes. But a recent survey by a bicycle advocacy group found that the most important reason women don’t bike is not lack of infrastructure, but because it is not convenient for them to do so. As a Seattle blogger points out, women spend twice as much time doing housework as men (including the time spent cleaning men’s cycling clothes), they are twice as likely to do trip chaining (combining multiple destinations in one trip), and they are twice as likely to take children with them on their trips. All these things make it unlikely that building a few bike paths will get lots more women on two wheels.
Meanwhile, in Gainesville Florida, a cyclist challenged the head of the local Republican Party to a bicycle vs. car race. The car won by 45 minutes–probably because the race was a stacked deck, requiring participants to wear business clothing, make multiple stops, and carry such things as groceries and a 2×4 (which proved to be impossible).
Of course, once cyclists get legislation passed forcing all businesses to have showers available, there won’t be any need to wear business clothing on cycle trips. (However, the time required to shower and change might have to be counted against the cyclist.)
Speaking of bike infrastructure, the Antiplanner was struck by a claim that Washington DC is bike-friendly because it has “56 miles of bike trails, 44 miles of bike lanes, 64 miles of signed bike routes, and thousands of bike racks.” Bike racks do not make a place bike-friendly (partly because they are usually poorly designed and there are generally plenty of posts around anyway). And 164 miles of bike routes is pathetic in a city that has 33 miles of freeways, more than 400 miles of arterials, more than 1,000 miles of collectors, and 1,500 miles of local streets.
Provided they don’t face too many stop signs, the Antiplanner likes the idea of signed bike routes (“bicycle boulevards”), which are usually on local streets, because the cost is low and they can be pretty safe without reducing the capacity of arterials and collectors for moving cars and trucks. But don’t brag that your city is bike-friendly when it is not: from my experience, the most important thing Washington can do is fill the potholes that prevent cyclists from safely using many of the city’s arterials and collectors.
When trying to improve bike safety, don’t forget that most bike-motor vehicle accidents happen at intersections. You can even get killed at an intersection by following the directions of traffic officers. This means taking lanes away from cars and giving them to bikes won’t help much; improving intersection designs alone should be sufficient to improve safety.