Bicycle infrastructure is a pretty hot topic these days. Here, in Kingston, there has been a lot of consultation, with consultants and with community members, about building infrastructure for cycling on a stretch of one of the main corridors slated for redevelopment, the Williamsville section of Princess street.
At a recent public meeting with the city, one cycling advocate stood up and spoke about how education and confidence is what will help cyclists better share the road with other road users, automobiles. This is known as Vehicular Cycling and holds its basis in outdated laws developed several decades ago when streets were calmer. I might even go as far to call it an exclusive approach to bicycle transportation, leaving cycling to only fit, confident, brightly coloured people, who are usually men. Don't get me wrong, education is a critical factor in building a culture of bicycle use, but it alone does not replace the opportunities developed by implementing specific infrastructure, or remove barriers perceived by many community members.
The resistance to building bicycle lanes or cycle tracks is that it will affect the ability for cars to make use of the streets, and that nobody will ever be able to park anywhere ever again. (I exaggerate some, yes.) In Williamsville, the cycle track proposal could mean removal of parking spaces from one side of the road in order to share the space with other users, as demonstrated in this document. Personally, I prefer Option 5, where complete "cycle tracks" are built, protected by automobile parking rather than being used to protect the parking, and cars would not have to cross the bike lanes in order to quickly park and visit local shops, also frequented by those who travel via bicycle or transit.
We don't build Bike Lanes and Cycle Tracks for Vehicular cyclists - they already cycle often, and are quite happy among the steel beasts. I don't need them either. I already bike regularly on a 10km work commute, and move in and out of traffic comfortably. I feel cycling is so safe that I am the guy who doesn't wear a helmet, because I want people to see cycling as the safe, sexy and fun, and not as a potential injury. It also helps that I am a young, tall, athletic, white male. I don't need bike lanes, and I can play the vehicular cyclist game, however, the reason we need to build cycling infrastructure isn't for me, it is for everyone else, who isn't already riding a bike on a regular basis.
Bike lanes, or cycle tracks, as proposed in Option 5 are for all of those community members who want to get on a bike, but are terrified to share the same space as large, metal, quickly moving objects, accompanied by their rising unpredictable nature due to the (statistical) increase in distracted driving. Cycle tracks become spaces that parents feel comfortable to ride with their children, that seniors can pedal leisurely, that young women can dress fashionably and not have to worry if they are ""bright" enough or if they will have helmet head. Cycle tracks make it easy.
This morning, I saw a quote that sums it all up very nicely:
"...separated infrastructure is a fundamental part of a functional cycling environment and there's plenty of research to support that theory. But if cycle lanes and cycle tracks really are as useless and dangerous as some try to claim then you should have no trouble proving with abundant research how omitting infrastructure leads to even more and safer cycling." (source)