Repost: Why I avoid bike paths

Bike paths and bike lanes aren’t evil by definition. Broken glass, natural speedbumps, forced bends, parked cars, turning cars, walking people, roadworks, gravel and traffic lights activated by a button (instead of a sensor) make them evil. All these things make it impossible to have a smooth and fast ride.

By trial and error I now know what to expect from the bike paths in Stockholm. I therefore always choose the road and bike among the cars.

There is a main problem with this though. The existence of bike paths has made car drivers think the road is for cars alone. If a cyclist shows up in “their” lane, the drivers act hobby-cops and honk. I often want to tell them “hey, why don’t you borrow my bike for a few hundred meters on this bikepath and then reconsider your opinion?” But the communication is oneway, like always when it comes to cars.

The other problem is that bike paths can lull less experienced cyclists into a false sense of security. What do these cyclists do when there is no bike path? They haven’t learned the basic traffic rules, since the bike paths always protected them.

If cars and bikes always used the same roads, there would be more reciprocal respect in traffic. No driver would get mad at a cyclist for momentarily blocking his or her way and all cyclists would have to learn some basic rules to bike safe.

The benefits for the cyclists are obvious: We would no more be second class road-users. We wouldn’t have to cope with the kind of bumpy symbolic bike path that is only a piece in the political jigsaw-puzzle. For the first time, the best way to bike would also be the legal way.

A parked car. Since the bike lanes on Hornsgatan always look like this, wouldn’t it be safer to bike among the cars the whole time instead of having to confront the car lane every 30 meters?

Another parked car. It’s gonna be hard to pass this one without crossing the line.

And yet another one. This time on the heightened bike lane of Sveavägen, which means you can’t just bike around it. Also notice the sand and the water drain near the bottom of the picture. A speedbump every ten meters.

Delivery. The sandy, bumpy, windy (at every crossing) bike lanes on Götgatan are separated from the cars, but not from delivery or …

… people! How could anyone consider this kind of bike lane safe? These pedestrians are waiting for the walk sign to turn green. The cyclists and cars still have a green light.

Let me end with a disclaimer: These opinions are about bike lanes and bike paths made for commuting, when the cyclist wants to reach the goal as fast and smooth as possible. I haven’t discussed recreational cycling at all, when the cyclist wants to see a beautiful scenery far away from cars. For that activity there are lots of great bike paths.

This was a repost from April 2002, triggered by this post by Rasmus Fleischer (in Swedish but there are pictures). Some of the same thoughts are discussed by Viktualiebrodern (also in Swedish).

5 Responses to Repost: Why I avoid bike paths

  1. Josh June 11, 2010 at 11:43 #

    This is a sensitive subject. Just as much as boys are :p

    I’m lazy, so I prefer trams over bikes (which is easy here since we have the largest tram network in Germany by far (except Berlin but Berlin is 10 times bigger than Leipzig so that’s natural) even ‘tho it’s a somewhat small city (500.000 people) so it’s pretty easy to go everywhere without a bike or car.

    I absolutely see your point anyhow of course but… meh! I don’t know about Swedish cyclists but the German ones are not really giving their best to attract my sympathy.

    I never ever saw someone on a bike who cared about a red light in a situation like in the last photo in your post. Even if the pedestrians have green the bikers would still speed through them like mad since they seem to think the red light is just for cars, not for the bike lane. It happens every few days that I get nearly hit by one these idiots -_-

    Not to mention that 90% of them also seem to think it’s perfectly fine to not have a light on your bike while you race over pavements at night *sigh*

    So, you see, we all have our complaints about the other side ;p

  2. Olly Newport June 11, 2010 at 12:30 #

    I’ve been hit by two cyclists before while travelling around London. Each time it was disrespecting the rules of the road and travelling through a red light.

    I always look for oncoming traffic, I wasn’t distracted and upon assumption of the cyclist stopping because it was a red light I crossed.

    Apparently it doesn’t apply.

    From reading your article it appears you fully appreciate road safety, and moreover would like to see a car/bike co-existence, but I think if your going to say that, just like cars, bikes should be given a road safety test or something similar to give uneducated cyclists a chance to become safer.

    Olly.

  3. Karl June 11, 2010 at 12:38 #

    I know, Josh, there are lots of stupid cyclists. Not necessarily the fast ones but also the slow ones winding from one end of the bike lane to the other while on the phone.

    Olly, I’m sorry to hear about your accidents. I’ve crashed with other cyclists myself because of them breaking the rules, which lots of cyclists do because they don’t have a driver’s license.

    But to paraphrase another discussion: No cyclist should have to represent all other cyclists!!!

    As for Germany vs Sweden, I sort of like the anarchy of the Berlin streets where bikers and pedestrians show mutual respect, in the best case scenario.

  4. Rimmer June 14, 2010 at 08:27 #

    I have long lamented the complete uselessness / pointlessness / waste-of-money of most self-important-looking cycle lanes, which are no more than white lines painted on footpaths (which are covered in pedestrians and clutter regardless) or roads (which are covered in cars and vans, stationary or moving, regardless). Obviously they are slower – the footpath ones ask cyclists to give way at every side road – but I had never really thought about them making the roads *more* dangerous. You are right, of course! Just as cycle-helmet laws make drivers more reckless and result in fewer cyclists and more cyclist deaths. The cycle routes that *are* worthwhile are the cycle commuter routes that take cyclists far away from motorised traffic, and sometimes even far away from pedestrians, along streets which are closed to traffic, or open only to local traffic, or through parks, and with special priority across otherwise-impossible huge road junctions. They are a delight, often with more than enough room for both cyclists and pedestrians. Who are the crazy non-cycling planners who waste money painting lines that nobody will ever use?

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