Please be careful what you ask for, that is.
There’s a movement afoot at the Bicycle Friendly Springfield group on Facebook to have Springfield bicyclists send postcards to the mayor requesting more bicycle friendliness in Springfield. The post cards are available at local bicycle shops. Fill it out. Send it in. Be heard.
Except I ask one thing of my fellow Springfield bicyclists: Please be careful what you ask for; please re-think asking for more bicycle lanes.
Four inches of paint cannot think for you. Four inches of paint is an illusion of safety, not real safety.
Driving your bicycle as as normal part of traffic is already safe.
What is the purpose of a bicycle lane? As far as I am aware there are two:
1) To keep you from using the road that is rightfully yours. Car drivers use the road by privilege after receiving permission from the state (driver’s license and license plate for the car). Bicyclists use the road by right. No permission is necessary. And no bicycle registration fees are necessary because our bicycles do no harm to the road. Our bicycles also do not kill 35+ thousand people per year. Lanes are an effective way to keep you shunted to the side so that car drivers can ignore you.
2) To encourage more people to ride bicycles. Notice the interesting contradiction between these two reasons. Some bicycle advocates want more lanes because they want more people to ride bicycles. Some novices like bicycle lanes because they have yet to learn how to effectively and safely drive their bicycles in traffic. A big problem arises, however, when lanes are painted that are actually more dangerous than the road — door-zone lanes for example. Just watch the following video.
Now, how excited are you to go riding in the new bicycle lane on Benton between Drury U. and Commercial St.?
Despite some door-zone lanes here, the City of Springfield has done an excellent job mitigating the traffic conflicts lanes sometimes create at intersections. Our practices here provide an example of how to do it right. Be proud.
Your everyday lane that hugs the gutter — we have several miles of these — is serviceable enough if you like riding on all the broken glass, rocks, and road debris that cars sweep into the lane.
Springfield is already a remarkably bicycle-friendly city. That says nothing about the attitude of car drivers. I find most to be very polite. Every now and then you run into a jerk. So what. Their anger is their problem. We have a flat terrain, a grid street system, and generally slow speed limits through much of the urban core. In other words, without doing anything more we have it very good already. And we are doing more. Just this summer we have seen the beginning of The Link. Work is moving forward on numbering and re-signing the Springfield bicycle route system. And there’s a new bicycle parking corral downtown at Walnut and South.
I’ll leave you with a little inspiration…