On Bike Infrastructure, Cities Can Do Better
Slate writer Henry Grabar blasts cities for bike networks that leave cyclists unsafe and uninspired. Drawing on his experiences as a bicycle commuter in New York, he illustrates common "design flaw[s]" that are "born of politics but compounded by disinterested policing."
On the design front, Grabar describes bike lanes that are poorly protected from traffic and paths that end abruptly, creating gaps in the system: "The network is only as strong as its weak points, which can be very weak."
He attributes those weak points to the fact that power over New York’s bike lanes goes to community boards—resulting in a patchwork governance process that de-prioritizes holistic planning:
Transportation planning is the quintessential issue that should not be left to local determination. But bike lanes, for some reason, are subject to the whims of neighborhoods.
Nor, he suggests, can New Yorkers expect action from the police on cars that park or drive in unprotected bike lanes, forcing cyclists to swerve into traffic or ride on the sidewalk.
"If the NYPD can’t keep the lanes clear, there’s no point in having them," he writes.