I’m on the social media site “Nextdoor.” If you aren’t familiar, this is like Facebook/Craigslist/Angie’s List for your specific neighborhood. I don’t generally engage in discussions with my neighbors on social media, but this week I felt compelled to chime into a conversation about a new protected bike lane being installed nearby. This is my comment:
Like most comment sections for articles discussing bike infrastructure, this topic is quite polarizing. It has been my experience that these debates basically boil down to CARS v. BIKES. This is the wrong way to think about the topic. I ride my bike up and down East Street every day (yes, even in the winter) on my way to and from work. Some of you may want to sit down for this, but I also own a car. My wife owns a car too, and she drives up and down East Street every day on her way to and from work. Sometimes I even drive my car up and down East Street. Owning two cars and a house in the city limits means that my family pays all the taxes, fees, etc. that many people incorrectly believe cyclists (a/k/a “your neighbors who have jobs and families and just happen to ride bikes on the road”) do not pay.
From my family’s perspective, the East Street bike lanes are a welcomed addition to neighborhood. There has been quite a bit of research and planning done in preparation for this project, and some of you (those who actually use East Street) may recall that this summer the city set up car counters to monitor traffic volume. You can read more about some of the research and planning here: https://bikepgh.org/2015/10/27/mayors-of… and http://pittsburghpa.gov/mayor/release?id… and http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry…. Even though you might not have heard about the bike lanes until now, that doesn’t mean that the project has been a secret or was just an off-the-cuff decision by the Mayor meant to appease your neighbors who have jobs and families and just happen to ride bikes on the road.
Based on this research, results from other cities that have installed bike lanes, and my own personal experience using bike lanes, I’m confident that the East Street bike lanes: (1) will make the road safer for your neighbors who have jobs and families and just happen to ride bikes on the road; (2) will make the road safer for your neighbors who have jobs and families and just happen to drive cars on the road (Do you see what I did there? Does it make this issue less polarizing when you don’t consider them as cars/bikes, but as people?); (3) will only inconvenience people who drive cars to the extent that those people can no longer drive at unsafe speeds; (4) might even get more people to visit St. Boniface Church, Riverview Park and the Observatory Hill business district, which would be fantastic for your neighbors, regardless of whether they drive cars or ride bikes.
I don’t care whether you support the bike lanes, hate the bike lanes, or don’t even know where East Street is. What I want is this: First, I want everyone to have accurate information (for example, the money used to pay for bike lanes did not come from cutting the budgets of any other city projects: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/74511…). Second, I want everyone to forget about the CARS v. BIKES debate, because we are all people and neighbors. Third, I want everyone to pause, take a breathe, and then actually consider how (if at all) the East Street bike lanes will impact your daily life. And finally, I want everyone to share educated and constructive thoughts/questions/concerns about the bike lanes so we can work together to make the city streets safer for everyone.