06 July 2012

Why Aren't You Riding In The Bike Lane?

The other day, I was riding along 21st Avenue in East Elmhurst.  A driver made a careless turn in front of me.  I yelled a few things not allowed in PG-rated movies and flashed the one-fingered peace sign.

The driver--a woman a few years younger than me--rolled down her window.  "You shouldn't be riding here," she yelled.  "You should be on the bike lane."

"There's none here," I shouted.

"Well, there's one on 20th Avenue."

"But it won't take me to where I'm going."

"You still should use it."

"Would you drive along a street that doesn't take you where you want to go?"

She then started to lecture me about how riding on a bike lane is safer than riding on a street.  Mustering all of the patience I could gather within myself, I explained that bike lanes can be more dangerous than the streets for cyclists.   "Some drivers seem to think the bike lanes are for passing or double-parking."  

Her eyes widened.  "I don't do those things!"

"I wasn't accusing you. I said some drivers do them. "  I was about to tell her that I have been "doored" twice, and on both occasions I was riding in a bike lane.  But she had to go somewhere, so that debate didn't come to pass.

Afterward, it occured to me that her misconceptions about bicycle safety are considered "common knowledge" and guide the decisions of too many urban planners.  That is the reason why so many bike lanes are poorly-conceived and -constructed, and people like the driver I confronted simply cannot understand why we don' t use them. 


  1. Too many non-cyclists think cyclists should stick to bike lanes, no matter how ill-conceived those lanes are. Some places go so far as requiring it. Somerville, MA, has a local ordinance requiring use of the bike lanes when present. They also have some pretty terribly placed lanes, and I barely missed getting doored the other day, only by riding on the left edge of the lane.

    If you have to pass a law requiring use of your bike lanes, that's a good indication that your bike lanes could stand improvement.

  2. What is doubly sad is how many people consider themselves cyclists share those same misconceptions, sometimes despite their own experiences to the contrary.

  3. "But it won't take me to where I'm going."
    "You still should use it."

    LOL! Do these people ever listen to themselves? I'm guessing in the heat of moment, they don't. You are right that this driver's beliefs are pretty common. We have a long way to go, don't we.