There’s an old line about cycling, often apocryphally attributed to H.G. Wells, that goes something like this: “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
The same could be said for when we read your comments on our week of articles about bicycles. Here’s a roundup of some of the best CityLab readers comments from our site, as well as Twitter and Facebook.
David Dudley’s When Will Bikes Rule the City?
The chatter about the introductory post for the week got a little out of control, but it began with a nice idea from FrancisKing, who proposed to split roads into fast lanes and slow lanes.
With the inefficiencies in traditional road engineering removed, congestion is a thing of the past. The real problem is that people's notion of cars and bicycles is fixed, and very hard to change. Everyone knows that cars must always be driven at 30 mph or more. Everyone knows that cyclists have to huddle the edge of the sidewalk, and can never do more than 15 mph. There's no problem with the engineering—the problems are all to do with ambition and culture.
Meanwhile, elelsf reminded us to take a more holistic view about the modes of transportation:
It’s people who make a city better, not a machine. And automobilists are people and people add vitality. A dark street at night with automobile traffic feels safer to a pedestrian than a street devoid of traffic. Making simplistic either-or arguments about individuals’ daily civil behavior does nothing to add value to our daily lives.
Matt had a few thoughts about the weather being too prohibitive for cyclists in some cities.
Bikes will never rule the city in Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, etc. The snow and cold mean they’ll always be seasonal there. The heat of Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, etc. mean they’ll be seasonal there too, just different seasons. Bikes only work in mild climates.
This opened the floodgates for readers from colder climes. Here’s betty barcode from Buffalo:
Hate to burst your bubble, but here in Buffalo, we have year-round cyclists.
You DO! That’s astounding! How do you ride a bike at 20 degrees across ice and snow? That sounds incredibly dangerous.
Perennial CityLab commenter Vooch:
not 1/2 as dangerous as operating a hulking death machine across ice & snow
To you (and some other commenters) cars are “hulking death machines.” To most Americans, they’re comfort zones, protective shields, and useful cargo carriers.
The full thread lights out for cars vs. bikes territory—complete with commenters debating public health and car emissions, a grim comparison of how many people die while driving and while biking, and a wonky lesson in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and Bicycle Miles Traveled (BMT). “God Bless Jane Jacobs” is used to spike a Robert Moses comparison. Then comes this very well-executed bit of contrarianism from ytzpzvgk:
I've got some bad news for bike lovers: bikes are dangerous. They're much more dangerous than football—and parents are already starting to pull their kids out of football. If bikers were honest about the dangers, they wouldn’t ride. If Ralph Nader didn't toe the liberal party line, he would fight to ban the things because they're much more dangerous than the Corvair.
Here's some other bad news: only a small fraction of society is fit enough to tackle the hills. Bikes discriminate against the young, the old, the handicapped and the differently sized. By my estimate, only 3-5% of society is even capable of riding more than a few miles. What? You bike scolds think that people should just get into shape? Try telling that to a 50+ year old with a heart condition.
After that, well, it’s on.
Linda Poon’s The Balancing Act of Learning to Bike as an Adult
John Metcalfe’s If Bikes Ate Smog
This is a really interesting idea. I wonder what the cost would be to add it to all bikeshare programs? Outside of the hardware buy/installation itself, what is the cost for maintaining the filters? Is there extra expertise needed to clean them?
It's a really cool idea, but I just wonder how realistic application would be.
Laura Bliss’s Is Montreal Still North America's Cycling Capital?
Speaking of wintertime riding, the conversation about bike utopia Montreal falling behind in terms of infrastructure took an useful turn when Giovannino Panderino raised another form of transportation tired of being forgotten: wheelchairs.
The city is a prison for wheelchair users.
It's an absolute shame that this has been ignored for so long. Particularly in a city where it is winter for half the year, way too little has been done to render more access for disabled citizens.
There is always a tradeoff. In the case of Montreal, its reputation as a cycling-friendly city has come at the cost of great neglect for wheelchair accessibility.
Rather than obsessing about developing a Bike City, let’s maybe take a break and focus on those who have been neglected for far too long.
Gleberes had a respectful counterpoint:
You are creating a false dichotomy. There is no reason that Montreal can't improve its bike infrastructure at the same time as it becomes more accessible. The funding can come from any number of sources--the roads budget being by far the largest pot.
If nothing else, bike infrastructure tends to slow traffic and make drivers aware of others. That is good for cyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair users alike.
But Giovannino contended that it was not a false dichotomy when discretionary capital for infrastructure investments have tradeoffs, noting that this issue arose during budget processes in the City of Montreal.
This city has done enough to create a landscape of leisure that is pleasant for hipsters. It's time to catch up and address the more vulnerable members of this city that cannot take part in day-to-day activities the rest of us take for granted.
It is an insult to them to say that they can piggyback on bike infrastructure as a way of addressing serious gaps in accessibility.
Ariel Aberg-Riger’s Into This Chaos Came the Bicycle
Ariel’s monthly illustrated story always brightens up our theme weeks. We’re glad you like them, too.
This. Is. Everything. https://t.co/AP6et2YvmE— Eliza (@elizalmjackson) May 23, 2017
Commenter Kevin Love appreciated how little the bicycle has changed in the society it shaped.
What never ceases to amaze me is that the design of bicycles in 1896 was essentially the same as bicycles today. If I were to ride a bicycle made in 1896 down the street, nobody would give me a second look.
John Metcalfe’s How to Thief-Proof Your Bike
Bike theft can be a bummer but DJ saw an entrepreneurial prospect:
Bike theft is so low on the police priority list as to not exist. Prevention is the only way. After the fact, kiss your bike goodbye. Perhaps some innovative folks will start bike parking facilities that are protected, not unlike parking facilities for automobiles. Valet parking for your bike?
Another commenter, Prinzrob added that San Francisco actually has a bike valet service, while betty barcode suggested that bike lockers really work, and Vooch took a more cynical approach to the prospects of theft-proofing bikes.
I'll argue the best solution is use a beater bike for daily errands. Lock with a cheap lock around the frame.
If it gets stolen; you are out only $100. No biggie.
It’s less money & trouble to get a beater bike stolen every couple of years than to fuss with trying to fully secure your $3,000 beautiful bike.
When I use my nice bike, I never lock it. Because it never ever leaves my sight. If I go into a store, one of us stays outside with the 'nice' bikes.
Andrea Penman-Lomeli’s Meet Mexico City's First Bike Mayor
Feargus O’Sullivan’s ‘Guerrilla Bike Lanes’ Prove a Reluctant City Wrong
While some people argued about why politicians in Riga oppose divvying up the road differently between parking, bike lanes, and traffic, ckzs took umbrage with our headline. He describes the tactical urbanist practice of painting lanes as vandalism:
Adding ‘guerilla’ in front of the act of vandalism does not make it noble. Let’s do ‘guerilla shopping’ maybe and just steal stuff to “raise awareness”? Or maybe “guerilla driving”—driving without driver's license? Riga is a northern city with harsh winter climate and people mostly cycle only 6 months on average so reducing car lanes on main traffic artery for a few cycling enthusiasts is just not feasible. Can you imagine the scale of traffic jams if this bicycle lane vision will come true? Yes, there are some hardcore all-year cyclists but we are literally talking about 50 people here—mostly bike couriers and activists of different scale.
But Nauris wasn’t having it:
- Lanes were painted in accordance with technical drawings made for the Traffic Department, and approved by it. They just never went ahead with it.
- Climate in Riga is not harsh. There are around 100-130 days with precipitation, and that still doesn't mean it's raining cats and dogs all day long in those days. Average yearly temperature is well within positive side, around 7 degrees. This is comparable and in some aspects even better than Copenhagen or Amsterdam, while they both have higher average temperature, both over 10 degrees.
- This vision does NOT take away any driving lanes! You still get all of them!
- You are grossly mistaken with your numbers again. 2 years ago, in February, during one hour on the main bridges 407 cyclist were counted. But that was 2 years ago, and every year numbers go up.
Meanwhile on Facebook, there was this delightful burn.
Laura Bliss’s Trump's Budget Is Bad for Bikes, Too
The last straw for this reader with our current “four wheels good, two wheels bad” administration.
ok now it's time to impeach https://t.co/iYH2dar5Ny— Pat Dennis (@patdennis) May 24, 2017
Andrew Small’s The Definitive Rules of the Road for Urban Cyclists
A few people had some nice additional suggestions to my bikesplaining article, like prajnainbarrie who had advice on how to tame drivers:
Nothing beats eye contact. I have made it a habit to look back at every vehicle that I can sense is speeding up on me from behind. The second I glance backwards at them, they instantly slow and/or give me ample space, every single time. It’s almost like I'm faking them out that I will abruptly turn left, when I'm not. It seems to be the only way to ensure I'm passed legally (1 metre). If you're not in a dooring zone or around hazards, I suggest actively watching driver's overtake you as it happens, because it shows them that you actually care how close they pass and that their vehicle impacts your comfort as a road user.
Over on Facebook, there was this helpful diagram to think about where cars can see cyclists.
Or just commiserating over their fear of cars.
Some people were less than happy with the article’s bike-like-a-car advice.
“How to drive your bike through the city.”— Stephen B (@BicycleAdagio) May 24, 2017
“My city is so shitty for cycling I have to read crap like this”.https://t.co/lfLU8PMBdx
Other suggestions were a bit more policy-driven, like this call to arms from AdamReynolds:
1) Write to your local councillor/mayor/local authority and demand segregated cycle infrastructure.
2) Gather in groups and keep demanding. Organise yourselves. Make it a key election issue.
And of course, there’s the tweet I’ll probably consider one of my weirder accomplishments at CityLab: Earning the approval of parody account curmudgeon @Bob_Gunderson.