Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bike and Bus Lanes

What do you see when you look at the picture above? A street car lane perhaps?

I see something else: wasted potential. Street cars are swanky. I like street cars. But I don't see any advantage that a street car has over a bus. They might be cheaper to operate over the long run because fuel costs are less, but buses are more easily replaceable as their are more producers. Buses can also leave the lanes if need be, adjust their routes more easily, and go even around each other if an express line wanted to be created. A broken street car blocks the entire lane, they are stuck on a single route, and get backed up 3 or 4 at a time all too easily.  

The worse part is: those metal rails keep bikes from using the exact same space. A pedestrian died earlier this year when his tire got caught in an old, unused street car rail. From full speed to stop instantaneously launched him (and his head) straight into the concrete. Many others have less tragic tales, but injuries still do occur. It's not safe for bikers.

Why do I bring up bikes? A new study of Toronto and Vancouver bike safety shows that dedicated bike lanes that are separated from the major streets can reduce biking injuries by 90 percent. The most dangerous place for bikers are major streets with parked cars, which unfortunately is also one of the most common places that so called "bike lanes" are at. Even without the parked cars, it is not particularly safe. Multi-use or bike only paths are much preferred. Residential streets are much better than even that. 

But here is an idea: Take out the streetcar rails. Turn those secluded lanes into bus and bike only lanes. Both can use the green-yellow-red light signals and therefore guarantee that they do not run into cars or get stuck in traffic because of cars. Buses are always in the right lane. Bikers are usually in the left lane.  Bikers can see an oncoming bus and switch lanes to avoid accident.

If this doesn't sound safe enough, then make users of these lanes attend a 1 hour safety seminar before given a special license to utilize these "public express lanes".

I am sure this will speed up transit and promote higher bike usage in the city. I would even consider getting a bike if I could be this safe moving around. 

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