Jon Tevlin writes in a StarTribune column about some of the new bike infrastructure being created throughout Minneapolis. He wrties:
It’s hard to argue against creating safer biking paths in the cities, or against the fact that biking is good for you and the environment. I bought a new bike last year and like to ride it around town. I like the new lanes when I’m riding my bike.
But last week I kept track of the number of bikes I saw in the new bike lanes on my way to work. I counted three. All week.
He quotes an unnamed STrib commenter:
Sitting there in traffic, looking at a wide open empty lane next to me is frustrating. I think bike commuting is great, but the engineering of these new bike paths is ridiculous. It’s just not working. Traffic flow is in a dead stop.
And he recounts a story from City of Minneapolis employee Shaun Murphy:
One woman called to say she was stuck in a jam on Riverside, and there were no bikes in the bike lanes. “I drive and I don’t like to be stuck in traffic either,” said Murphy. “It’s part of the trade-offs. In some of these places, there have also been huge safety improvements for both cars and bikes. It’s a balancing act, and we have to compromise.”
He raises a valid question. The if-you-build-it-they-will-come argument isn’t very convincing when motorists stuck in traffic witness empty bike lanes on a daily basis. Obviously, tipping the scales on the chicken-and-egg problem with bike infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight, especially in cases where the bike lanes we’re building are still part of an incomplete network.
The long-term hope is that some of those motorists stuck in traffic will eventually choose to ride a bike instead, relieving congestion until travel times become equal across modes. In the mean time, how can an engineer or planner demonstrate (quantitatively) that constructing bike infrastructure by removing existing roadway space from use by motorists is a good idea? What tools/methods are available? How do we explain to those motorists stuck in traffic that their sacrifice is for the greater good of society (or should we even attempt such arguments)?
The Multi-Modal Level of Service idea recently enhanced in the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual is one option helps quantify needs for cyclists, but it isn’t particularly helpful at balancing needs across modes.
What are your ideas?