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.