It seems that some members of the Tucson/Pima County Bike Advisory Committee disagree that money on bike boulevards is well spent — they want to see the money spent on bike lanes. I’ve heard lots of arguments for this, some which I regard to be outright specious (“Bike boulevards will take people off the main streets and thus make cycling more dangerous because there will be fewer of us on the busy streets”) and some less so (“You get way more bang for your buck with a bike lane”).
In my opinion, and it seems to be shared by most cyclists who spend a fair amount of time riding their bikes in urban environments, the bike boulevard is pretty much the holy grail of urban bike infrastructure outside of bike-dedicated greenways. A bike boulevard may not go right where you want it to, and it may not be perfect (there is usually some minimal auto traffic permitted on a bike boulevard), but the bike boulevard offers people a way to use a bike safely in the city, and, hopefully, this will give them the experience and courage to branch off the boulevard and start using their bike more often.
Here’s fellow bike lawyer Bob Mionske on the subject in his current Bicycling Magazine column:
[I]f we want to get more people on bikes, we have to build the infrastructure that will help them feel safer while riding. As the great cycling cities of Europe have learned, when bicycling feels safe for children and the elderly, everybody feels safer, and more people ride—and that is a benefit for all cyclists, and others as well, since as the roads become safer for cyclists, there’s also less danger for both motorists and pedestrians.
And that’s the part that does it for me. We need places where people can feel safe when they ride, and those places need to intersect with each other and be in urban centers.
I don’t like to question anyone’s motives, but the pro bike-lane/anti bike-boulevard arguments sound selfish to me. We have bike lanes all over the place, some of which are extremely dangerous to ride in, and many of which have very few takers. The Speedway bike lane is never going to be safe to ride in. And it is true that bike boulevards serve a geographically smaller community. But they convey the message that bikes are a legitimate form of transportation that our city supports, and that we are not always simply to be shunted into the shoulder and protected by a painted white stripe.
On that subject, more and more cities are painting sharrows instead of white stripes. Perhaps even more than bike boulevards, sharrows tell drivers that bikes belong, and that they must make way for and accommodate cyclists safely. My friend L, a vocal critic of bike lanes like those on South Stone and South Sixth Avenues that confine cyclists right in the “door” zone of parked cars, pointed me to this article from the L.A. Times about the increasing use of sharrows. Tucson has a few of these — including some on South Sixth Avenue — but I’d like to see a lot more.
Please visit www.tucsonbikesurvey.com for more information on supporting bike boulevards, bike sharrows, and other bike infrastructure in Tucson.