The path to nowhere
This article from Momentum Mag (Happier, Healthier, and Biking to School) got me thinking. How do the people in charge decide where to build cycle lanes? I’m not certain, but it seems that they pick busy streets that see a lot of use by cyclists and set aside a bit of the gutter or paint some lines for them. Sometimes (increasingly) they even do better. That makes sense, but do they consider the end destination? As more bike infrastructure is put in place, more people will be able to arrive at their destination via a cycle lane/path, but what about planning it specifically with a destination in mind?
“Los Angeles can make better and safer bike paths that don’t lead to a dead-end destination, but to schools,” shared Blackstone on what he thinks his city could do to help get more students on bikes.”
Hmmm. That makes a whole bunch of sense. From a 16-year-old. Build complete cycle networks to destinations that bunches of people need to get to, rather than just areas they need to get through (which is clearly still helpful). When I lived in the UK there was a ridiculous amount of green bike lane that ran for as little as – I’m not kidding – 5 meters, starting and stopping quite randomly. Sorry excuses for cycle lanes aside, even good ones bring you to… where?
Well, schools makes the most sense, from primary to university. Proportionally, they would have to have the highest potential usage per location. It also makes sense to get kids cycling rather than getting ferried for 5 blocks in a SUV, setting them up for a life where they won’t believe the default for travelling 5 blocks is by car, and will understand the value and relative ease of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The destinations might be pretty straight forward to pick, but the more difficult part would be figuring out where the route would lead from. A central university might only need a few strategically placed inroads to funnel cyclist traffic from 2-4 directions to have a useful effect. Local primary and secondary schools would be more difficult as they are more numerous, but at least for the schools in suburban areas designating space for safe cycling routes on more minor suburban roads would should be far less challenging, both politically and physically (speed and traffic volume would generally be lower in many areas).
Figuring where to direct cycle traffic to aside from schools may take longer and may indeed seem impossible, so perhaps routes through the inner city may be good enough, as long as there is a good interconnection of safe routes on hand. Outside of the city, safe routes leading to and from schools would be a great start and would help re-enforce the trend of young people eschewing cars and getting on their bikes.
See it happening here, and here. The interesting part of the second article, from Streetsblog.org, is the discussion in the comments that follow the article. It’s often quite a complicated thing to get right, a cycle lane is.
Header image: www.peopleforbikes.org