|Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn: Bike Lane To Nowhere|
There's a planner who's sure he knows what cyclists need
And he's building a bike lane to nowhere
What he's finished he knows, if the mayor needs their votes
With a word he can get a grant for one more
Ooh, ooh and he's building a bike lane to nowhere.
If you're a Led Zeppelin fan, I hope you're not offended. But after riding on yet another "bike lane to nowhere," I found myself intoning the phrase to the tune of "Stairway to Heaven."
If you've read some of my earlier posts, you probably know that I'm somewhere between skeptical and ambivalent about building bike lanes. If they're well-conceived and -constructed, they can be a boon to cyclists. Sometimes it really is nice to be able to ride without having to worry about traffic and such.
But that "if" is a big one. Too often, I've ridden on bike lanes that seem to go from nowhere to nowhere or, worse, that begin or end abruptly.
The latter is what one experiences when cycling along Greenpoint Avenue from Greenpoint, Brooklyn into Long Island City, Queens, as I frequently do. Greenpoint Avenue is two lanes wide, with the bike lane on the side, in Brooklyn. But at the bridge over Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn from Queens, the roadway widens to four lanes, with no shoulder and a narrow walkway on which cyclists aren't allowed to ride (although cyclists do it all the time).
Worse still, on the Queens side of the bridge, the roadway crosses a very confusing intersection, which includes a street used mainly by trucks (It's mainly an industrial area) that approaches the intersection from behind. Also, car and truck traffic exits a nearby expressway and turns from Van Dam Street, into the point of the intersection a cyclist would approach when exiting the bridge. But the traffic is approaching from the opposite direction.
To me, it's a wonder that there haven't been more accidents in that intersection!
What's really disturbing, to me, is that it's probably not the worst-conceived lane I've ever ridden. But since I ride in the area frequently, it's one of my biggest safety concerns.
Perhaps just as bad as the poor conception and construction of bike lanes--and the biggest reasons for my ambivalence and skepticism--are the illusion of safety they give some cyclists and the misconceptions about safety they foster among non-cyclists. A lane that's separated from traffic but abruptly leaves cyclists in intersections like the one I described puts them in even more danger than riding on the streets would. This is one reason why John Forester (author of Effective Cycling, one of the best cycling books in English) has long argued that such lanes will ultimately hinder any efforts to get non-cyclists, planners and the rest of the public to see bicycles as transportation vehicles and not merely recreational toys.
When such things are pointed out, non-cyclists don't understand why we're "ungrateful" that their tax dollars are spent on bike lanes. And planners who don't understand what bike safety is continue to build bike lanes to nowhere.