By Rachel Dovey.
If you’re a cyclist, they’re the spots you dread, where your lane suddenly ends and you’re forced to veer into traffic and hope that you don’t die. And in many cities they’re all too common according to a Washington Post article that went viral earlier this month, showing bike lane grids in Washington D.C., Boston, Seattle and Miami that look like images from a partially erased Etch A Sketch.
“How hard is it to get across U.S. cities using only bike lanes?” the article’s title asks, and judging by the maps, the answer is “pretty darn hard.”
“It’s at least entertaining to envision possible scenarios for why this may have happened,” Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham wrote, referring to one particularly vexing lane on their own Washington, D.C., commute. “The city ran out of bike-lane paint. Or maybe the crew that striped the lane became suddenly incapacitated or distracted. Maybe they took a lunch break … during which it started to pour and so no one could finish the job.”
Maybe — but more likely it had something to do with zoning, or funds, or neighborhood opposition, or the ever-present political battle over street space.
As a complement to those maps (and because I like to get nerdy about disjointed walkways and bikeways), I asked several people familiar with the grids why it’s so hard to get across U.S. cities using only bike lanes. Yes, there’s the obvious our-nation-is-built-for-cars response, but those maps display four areas with dedicated bike/ped plans (and funds) that are busily respiring streets. So why not follow well-traveled routes start to finish? Or even start at the center and move out? Why the fragmented, piecemeal approach?