Bargain bike infrastructure

A far cry from Amsterdam

Bike lane on Portland Ave...a far cry from Amsterdam

Those of us who have have spent any time in northern Europe are completely spoiled. Even “bike friendly” cities like Minneapolis are light years away from the gold standards of Amsterdam and Copenhagen. While we certainly want to encourage more cities in America to invest in bike infrastructure, the way we’re going about it is often quite asinine. My favorite infrastructure travesty are the dreaded “death stripes” painted on busy city streets.

The imaginary story of how the death stripe came into existance goes something like this (in my head). Some morbidly obese city planner named Steve Lundegaard was given a mandate to add hundreds of miles of bike paths in Minneapolis along with a budget of fifty-two cents. Since Steve the planner actually lives in the suburb of Blane and has never ridden a bike in his entire life, he figures he can just slop down some bike lanes on one way streets and call it done. These bike lanes terminate in the middle of intersections and put riders in the “door zone.” Maybe even worse, they piss of drivers and cause resentment of bike commuters by pitching engine against peddle. This approach of building bike infrastructure on the cheap is a sham and it’s killing people.

I see these ridiculous death stripes in Chicago too, so they’re not a unique feature to Minneapolis. Why do we continue to delude ourselves that death stripes are good idea? Bicycle infrastructure, when done right, is still a tiny fraction of the dollars spent to combat automobile congestion. Isn’t it worth the expense?

2 responses to “Bargain bike infrastructure

  1. Yup, quite silly. Death stripes is a good description. Most in Chicago are no wider than the door zone, so I always ride either on the white line or just outside of the line. I wish the city would ban parallel parking on major bike streets and use the extra space to create bike lanes with raised curbs. Never gonna happen, though.

  2. You’re so right about all that. It’s sad how traffic planners (obviously non-cyclists) don’t see this. We have a lot of bike lanes like that. Actually even worse ones called “Mehrzweckstreifen” which trucks and cars are allowed to use too in case their lane is not wide enough.. But even if it is wide enough, it doesn’t work, as you might imagine.

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