Fourth Ave. Bike Lane Didn’t Make Sense

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There are two things I have not understood from the hop regarding bike lanes and rapid transit.

I’ll begin with bike lanes, which really means the bike lane on Fourth Avenue, soon to be deleted. I’m positive that my problem with this lane has occurred to many other folks, as well, which is that it was a lane wolf howling in the traffic universe.

I mentioned this in conversation with someone recently, and that someone said, “what does the city expect us to do? Throw our bike in the back of the truck, drive downtown and ride for a lousy five blocks from there?”

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? The lane went nowhere and connected to nothing. Its limited usefulness was to divide cyclists from vehicles downtown, but what if you didn’t work or play on Fourth? You still had to get to somewhere else, via no bike lane. 

If you don’t have a proper network of lanes, it’s not going to help people ride safely. It was intended to be a mini pilot project, but you’re not going to glean the info or the results you need from one lane (and a second short stretch.) Nope. 

In this case, it’s go big or go home. You must make a commitment to a cycling network that actually gets people places, reduces (hopefully) greenhouse gas emissions and provides a real, safe, functional alternative to cars and trucks. Developing such a network, of course, is the city’s ultimate goal; but having three “stretches” of protected lanes downtown isn’t going to do the trick. 

The issue has been returned to administration, and we likely won’t see a report for two years. What we need is a fully-developed, well-researched network plan, not a goofy pilot project that confuses drivers, messes up parking, looks like hell and doesn’t serve the cyclists, to boot. I personally didn’t feel they were all that safe, either. The entire thing was so visually weird and distracting, I was often madly looking around for peeps on bikes, which isn’t conducive to excellent driving. They were just so hard to see.

Moving on to bus rapid transit, implementing the new plan on Broadway Avenue continues to boggle my mind. Council decided to have bus-only lanes on First Avenue, but to have lanes shared with regular traffic on Broadway, in a sort of strange compromise. 

Isn’t that sharing lane thing what we’re doing now? I think so. I often see buses chugging down Broadway, along with cars. I gather that there will be two BRT stops — one on Ninth and one on Twelfth Street — and that makes sense to the extent that dedicated stops are required for those wanting to take the faster-service buses. But doesn’t sharing lanes — on a street that can barely accommodate traffic during rush hour as it is — kind of defeat the purpose? 

Furthermore, I’m having trouble envisioning this increase in activity when you add in limited street parking and plenty of foot traffic. I could be wrong, but we’re going to have to accommodate more buses, are we not? That means reconfiguring parking and probably some sidewalk areas, which will also impede pedestrian activity. 

I’m often on Broadway. One recent Saturday, I had several errands to run, including picking up my husband’s boots at Broadway Shoe Repair and a few specialty food pickups. Couldn’t get within blocks of my destinations for at least 15 minutes. I’m OK, usually, with walking a fair distance, but I was going to have a lot to carry. Maybe I’m over-reacting, but the last thing Broadway needs is less parking. 

Some will argue that if BRT catches on, more folk will take it to Broadway; and studies show that lots of people already bus it to the popular destination. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that kind of shift is years away, after we baby boomers and the generation after us are long gone. Kids these days have the right idea about getting around. The rest of us want to park right outside the door of the store.

Was there no other street for BRT? Lorne Avenue or Victoria? Granted, they’re skinny streets too, so maybe not. Maybe we should have made the Traffic Bridge wider (too late now) and put the over-river part there. 

I’m no transportation genius, so I hope the bigger brains prevailing downtown are actually planning ahead and doing this BRT thing, and the bike lanes, right this time. Sometimes, not doing it right has significant consequences; we all remember that the original Traffic Bridge was close to falling into the river due to poor planning and terrible maintenance. 

Let us please do it right on both counts. On all counts: I’m looking at you, arena advocates.