The increase in bicycling in the U.S. is not a trend; it’s an evolution. No, not a revolution, an evolution. Sheesh, relax. It is progress, despite the fact that an automobile and all the infrastructure that goes along with it is vastly more complicated. Complexity, after all, does not mean better.
Now, as I understand it, the word progress somehow insights fear in some circles, so it is my hope that this post will travel the world over if only to deliver the good news to those people that “progress” actually means improvement. You know, like, to make stuff better. So, rejoice that there are a whole bunch of people out there trying to make this progress stuff happen. And hey, join in. Because along with this progress comes change and sometimes that can take a little work and getting used to.
Planners and their clients, for instance, are going to need to come together and work toward making the adaptations needed to accommodate this evolution in transportation we’re seeing with the increase in bicyclists. The current infrastructure was designed for the movement of cars. This is a very different principle than the movement of bicycles, which is why the two—bicyclists and motorists—so often seem at odds.
Bicycles, as some motorists may have noticed, are powered by people, and although people have enormous stores of energy when necessary, they also have a superb internal mechanism that makes them want to be as efficient with their energy output as possible. It is also important to understand that a bicycle is at it’s most efficient when it is already in motion, so coming to a complete stop is something that people and bicycles as a team pretty much want to avoid in terms of productivity and efficiency.
On the plus side, bicyclists can be very agile when necessary, and have an awareness of the world around them that, relative to a car, is exceptional. With a few unfortunate exceptions, bicyclists are not listening to music or DJs, talking or texting on their phones, and have an unobstructed panoramic view.
On the plus or minus side depending on the circumstances, bicyclists are traveling at a slower rate than cars and are exposed to the elements.
Because of all these differences, things associated with driving like stop signs, uneven grade, wide intersections (including driveways), heavy traffic, exhaust, street trash, and more than just the occasional moron make cars incompatible with bicyclists. (You won’t find a bicyclist falling asleep behind the wheel.)
There is a popular effort underway to assimilate bicyclists and the existing roadways, which … you know … is sweet and everything, but let’s be realistic. Cars and bikes just don’t get along. There needs to be a dedicated system for bicycle transportation.
More on this next post.