“My voice: Bike lane concerns”
We ran across this opinion column from the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In it, a new county commissioner discusses his desire to separate bikes and cars. Read the full piece below. After getting through the anti-bike attitude, we got to thinking about what this means for everyone and what the future of cycling looks like. Do we all end up ditching the road bikes and head to whatever rural dirt/gravel roads that we do have accessible to us? Is it worth the fight for bike lanes if the number of riders hit still keeps increasing? Even if it’s ok and legal, do you even feel comfortable on the road or bike lanes?
What do you think?
What have your experiences been with bike lanes and drivers? Are you “John Q Super-Commuter?” If so, how do you feel about dealing with people like this new commissioner? Is there any common ground to even start from? We want to hear your thoughts – SHARE THEM ON THE RIDING GRAVEL FORUM THREAD HERE.
From the Argus Leader – October 4, 2015:
“I am Lincoln County’s newest commissioner. It’s been a very interesting year so far. Like many people, I had been pretty ignorant about the details and inner workings of local government. Sitting on several boards as part of my duties, I’ve been learning more about the new bicycle lanes that have cropped up around town. I couldn’t be more concerned about the hazardous conditions these create on our streets. Just as large a worry is the stealthy manner, fully intended or not, with which they’re being planned and built.
There are examples on Russell and West 41st Street. The design at the light, Tea Ellis and 41st Street, is astonishing to say the least. If creating a hazardous intersection was the goal, someone overachieved on that one.
As presented in our Urbanized Development Commission meetings, I can say for a fact there are plans to construct bike lanes all over town in the next few years, working them into reconstruction and expansion projects.
Folks getting out and enjoying a bicycle ride on quiet neighborhood streets or the multi-use paths is a good thing. People on an ultra-light bicycle wheeling along a 30 mph road next to Suburbans and F350 landscaper rigs is quite the opposite. I’ve been around enough to know the arguments before I even hear them, that safe drivers and safe bicyclists doing what they’re supposed to should make for a happy mix. That’s pure fantasy. EMT’s, police, fire fighters and funeral home directors deal in stark reality. So will the loved ones of John Q Super-Commuter exercising his right to use those lanes when something goes wrong. I’d shorten any argument on this with a simple illustration. Hold a can of soup in one hand and a raw egg in the other. Smack them together and my point is made. Bikes and vehicles shouldn’t share confined space, period.
I imagine that in crowded and slow moving major metropolitan traffic, cars and bikes might mix a little better than they do here. Vehicle operators who are used to bicycles in traffic might develop an awareness and caution that can prevent accidents. On paper, the idea likely pencils out well. On the streets of Sioux Falls, it remains a bad idea. Few things are certain in life, but I have no doubt the large majority of motorists in this area agree with me on this. Traveling the country extensively in my prior career, I saw plenty of issues we don’t have in South Dakota. That’s a huge source of pride for me. I’d hang my hat on the premise that South Dakotans employ a larger degree of logic and reasoning. Unfortunately, bicycle lanes are planned by a tiny group of elected officials and paid planners/consultants. There are specific federal funds available only for this use. I’d guess on the one side of the political fence, the side that doesn’t see very much daylight in S.D., there is also a very strong push to spend it.
I’m concerned that the vast majority of Sioux Falls motorists will have no idea they’re coming till they turn onto the new streets. I’m writing this in an attempt to let as many people as possible know that a large number of these new bicycle lanes are in the works. It is also a way that I can warn cyclists to take it steady the first few times they use the new system, should it comes to fruition. The drivers will be unsure of how to properly use it for a while so make it easier for them by cycling cautiously. If you are hit by a car and injured though then you may need to get in touch with a personal injury attorney to see if you can get compensation. The system may be new but that doesn’t mean it’s ok if you get hit.
The City Council and a host of city and state planning staffers have signed off on bringing these to our streets, raising both costs and safety concerns. Personally, I hold each person who votes for the new lanes or works to implement them responsible for the consequences. We should be better than the large metro areas on making sound decisions, imitating only some of their successes, not their horrible mistakes. I’ve raised my concerns, and probably a couple tempers voicing these thoughts in board meetings. I’ve hit a brick wall in doing anything about it myself. I’d just like to take this opportunity to let my fellow drivers know what’s coming. Be safe folks, on two wheels or several. Logic and reasoning were both left untouched in the toolbox on this one.
Dan King, 42, lives in Sioux Falls with his four children. He is an Independent Insurance Agent, Lincoln County Commissioner and Sixth Generation South Dakotan. My Voice columns should be 500 to 700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.
Send columns to Argus Leader, Box 5034, Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5034, fax them to 605-331-2294 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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