The Dilemmas of Bicycle Planning

Editor's Note: Interesting read, although a little dated.


In the 1970s, bicycling became a motherhood issue for U.S. transportation planning. No one could possibly oppose increased use of these non-polluting, energy-efficient, quiet, and fitness-promoting vehicles. However, when one considers the use of bicycles for transportation, there are a number of dilemmas facing bicyclists and the bicycle planner. The first dilemma is that the public has many misconceptions about bicycling, including the skills required, which places are safe for riding, and the rights of bicyclists to use public roads. Second, professionals have often ignored bicycling, failing to consider bicyclists in roadway design or traffic enforcement. Third, the locations where bicycling is the most useful for transportation are also some of the most challenging, especially for the beginner. Fourth, the bicycle is not generally a design vehicle, so roads are not routinely designed with bicyclists in mind. Fifth, transportation funding emphasizes capital spending over maintenance, although the latter is often more important to cyclists. Sixth, traffic enforcement officials in many localities routinely ignore even the most flagrant and dangerous violations by bicyclists. Seventh, designated bicycle facilities often do not serve the purposes their advocates propose, and sometimes can create dangerous conditions. Eighth, bicycle education has not yet become available on a wide scale, in part because advocates, funding programs, politicians, and public opinion focus on building facilities.