I’ve seen it written that cycling infrastructure causes cyclists to appear. It is the sort of thing I half believed, but with nothing more than a passing interest in the topic I’d always left it at that. Recently however, Springfield has gone a bit crazy with advancing a great deal of minimalist nods to the bicycle; mostly sharrows, and bike boxes, but also many, theoretically exclusive, bike lanes.
Up until a month ago I would have had to admit that every trip I’d taken on my bike from my home of 10 years was either recreational in purpose or involved getting my bike serviced. In the last month I’ve made over 15 round trips involving the use of my bike as a conveyance to and from particular places for other reasons. I’ve mostly gone down to my scheduled physical therapy appointments, but I’ve also gone to the bank, and picked up food.
At a conscious level I’d say the infrastructure’s appearance and my fairly sudden utilization of the bicycle as a means of transportation, as opposed to exercise and entertainment, were simple coincidences, but that is probably not the case. Despite the fact I only ride over one sharrow on the way down, and stop on only one cyclist “this thingy” (Does it have a name?):
My observations are meant to assist other novices in urban cycling in places where the drivers are as ignorant as we are here of how to deal with someone on a bike actually trying to get where they’re going on the street, and (mostly) not on the sidewalk.
Firstly, young males in sedans don’t give a f#€£ what’s painted on the asphalt, they don’t care if you die, and they really want you to know it. The truth is I can accelerate fast enough and stop quickly enough to blend in at most intersections without inconveniencing anyone, but don’t assume any courtesy, though sometimes you’ll be proffered too much from some drivers (just not from young males in sedans…repeatedly).
Usually a more or less abandoned side road without any sharrow, bike beg button, or similar accoutrement is preferable to the aforementioned even if you have to go a block or two out of your way. In scanning the infrastructure as I’ve driven past in a car I can tell you that the bike lanes at the entrance of the city on Harrison Avenue are actually for standing while awaiting people popping out of work. I have been by a half a dozen times and NOT ONCE has the lane been clear of cars(I walked by yesterday to snap this picture and, right on cue, a car was stopped, just hangin’ out, in the bike lane):
I admire the moxie of those who had the courage to place sharrows in some rather intense locations. This one is my favorite so far (taken from Google Maps before the sharrows were painted on…no way I’m trying to get a picture there!):
This is the same area from above:
LuLu and I rode this stretch last year on our way to some dragon boat races at the North End Riverfront Park: We stayed on the sidewalk. If we were to do it again: We’d stay on the sidewalk. This roadway is almost indistinguishable from a highway entrance ramp, because it rises over the interstate it requires a 20′-30′ ascent. Doing that at a speed which won’t create anger and aggressive behavior around you would take an accomplished rider in excellent shape on a very responsive machine.
Leaving on my bike demands 100% focus from the off, but I can get anywhere in the South End or downtown in a matter of just a minute or two, maybe 5 minutes to get to a place that might take me 15 minutes on foot. Another bonus is that my walking ventures downtown incur a 50% chance of being asked for money. So far, while on my bike, I’ve never been approached for money.
I still see more of what in Springfield are traditional cyclists, i.e. poor people or kids riding mostly on the sidewalks, than I do of the helmeted and spandexed variety. I fall somewhere in the middle wearing cargo shorts with a t-shirt and a helmet. The “in and out”, “take what you can get” behavior of the old school and the “play by the rules” expectation of the new paradigm couldn’t be more at odds and most motorists are probably unaware that they’ve been trained to expect certain behaviors from people on bikes that those of the new orthodoxy don’t exhibit.
I happened to listen to an urbanism podcast this morning which was all about bikes as transit. The guest expert on cycling infrastructure described the worst places as having incoherent and incomplete bike infrastructure. He didn’t make clear if that was even worse than having no infrastructure at all, but it set me to wondering that very thing. Springfield has gone from being the latter to the former in a matter of weeks. I’ll keep you posted as to how this plays out and whether or not I continue to be a participant and not just an observer.