How to Spend the Public's Money
Richard Risemberg (December 1997)

In the ongoing debate over bike stripes vs. bike paths vs. wide curb lanes, let us throw our two cents' worth in and vote for none of the above. If we're going to spend public money on bicycle facilities--and we do think it permissible--let's put it into structures that will actually be useful without being redundant. The roads are already there, but oftentimes the part we bicyclists use--the rightmost lanes of every street and roadway not a limited-access highway--are seriously degraded from the pounding that bus and truck traffic gives them. Using money allocated for bicycle projects to repair and repave the rightmost lanes of roads typically used by commuting bicyclists in a city will not only facilitate bicycling, but will make bicycle use of those roads extremely attractive to motorists and their lackeys in government, since the bicycle improvements will also augment driver comfort. Bicyclists on the road will then be seen as magnets for roadway improvements, and at least tolerated if not cherished by motorists. We'll make life easier for ourselves both physically and politically by doing this. The most difficult part of the task will be identifying roads most often used by bicyclists, but that could be done by a combination of counting bicyclists on roads and interviewing active bicycle commuters.

Another bit of bicycle infrastructure that would attract more people to utility bicycling would be secure, sheltered lockups at destination facilities such as shopping areas or office centers. Sheltered from the rain and snow, because you like to take off your foul weather gear before you present yourself indoors, and because even in wimpy Los Angeles, we saw numerous bicyclists out yesterday, pedaling through the frigid aerial wateralls of an Alaskan storm (ourself among them, dry in our British poncho!). In fact, a roofed wave-type bike rack with some small lockers for helmets and so forth would be ideal in the lower-crime areas of our cities. Also, bicycle money could be used to subsidize bike parking inside office and shopping complexes--perhaps. It would be easy to get ripped off in trying this!

Lastly, we recommend trying to get the Universal Vehicle Code, or at least local codes, changed to include a statement such as this one: that the rightmost traffic lane of any road on which bicycles are permitted be considered a bicycle lane when it is occupied by a bicyclist, and treated accordingly by drivers. Crowding, harassment, brushbacks, and so forth would be treated as infractions. This will instantly build a network of bike routes throughout whatever region enacts it at very little cost. Perhaps it could be packaged with the roadway improvement proposal of the first paragraph as a one-for-me-one-for-you sort of deal.

The Bike People