This video by Casey Neistat is getting a lot of plays across the web lately. Casey was given a ticket by the New York City police for violating New York’s mandatory bike lane law. You’ve probably already seen the video elsewhere, but if not, here it is (start watching at about 1:15 if you’re short on time, and mildly NSFW for language):
Casey’s tongue-in-cheek video points out at least two things:
- Videos of cyclists crashing into things (without getting hurt) are hilarious. I could watch them all day.
- Mandatory bike lane laws are problematic because there tends to be obstructions in the middle of bike lanes that can make them unusable (note: I don’t think the video is entirely accurate when it implies that the ticket was wrongly given – to the best of my knowledge, the New York State does have a mandatory bike lane law requiring cyclists to ride in the bike lane wherever one is present). While most mandatory bike lane laws also have a caveat that cyclists don’t have to ride in the lanes if they’re obstructed, defining obstructed is not always easy – especially if that obstruction is the police officer writing tickets.
The larger argument is that not all bike lanes are attractive to all types of cyclists, and they can make certain turning movements difficult or illegal for cyclists. In addition, some cyclists will argue that they don’t feel safe in bike lanes, and that they’d rather share the lanes with motorists.
Any time an engineer designs something and the intended user decides they’re better off without it, it should be a red flag. We know that we won’t ever find a design that will make everyone happy, but we would hope that cyclists choosing not to use the bike facilities would be a rare occurrence.
Readers, what do you think of mandatory bike lane laws?