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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why bike lanes are not cool [Calgary Herald]


Calgary Herald archive
Bicycling isn’t cool, which isn’t to say that it can’t be. It simply doesn’t matter. Sewer pipes and water mains aren’t cool. They’re logical. What does the logic of bicycling and moving human excrement and water have in common? Perhaps surprisingly, through the right lens of analysis, they’re the same thing.
Introducing bicycling infrastructure into cities is becoming a popular topic of city planners and bicycle advocates. The narrative has been largely constructed around the appropriateness of catering the design of roads, and cities in general, to the additional requirement of bike lanes. The debate is not without controversy. Questions have been raised about the impacts to local commerce when vehicle lanes are turned into bicycle lanes – as though bicycling versus driving will affect the exchange of goods and services. Other vocal opposition concerns the viability of cycling in cities that have seasons. “It snows here!” Perhaps to lessen the negative feedback, the conversation about bicycle infrastructure needs to be looked at through a wider-angle lens.
Roads, sidewalks and the utilities under them are predominantly a part of the public infrastructure. Their role, in the most reductionist form, is to move what they are designed for, be it people in vehicles or data in fibre optic cables. In this light, it becomes an exercise in stating the obvious that bicycle lanes, like roads and sidewalks, are for the movement of people and, therefore, should be part of the public infrastructure. This doesn’t reduce bicycling to a utility (nor does it driving or walking), but rather recognizes the purpose of our asphalt and concrete planar environment.

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