Active transportation infrastructure is one of the most important things a community can build, but some so-called "bicycle amenities" barely deserve the title.
Last week, the good people behind the must-watch YouTube channel Not Just Bikes took to Twitter to ask their followers a critical question: what's the worst "bike-centered" road project you've ever seen, and what, exactly, makes it so bad?
The avalanche of lame lanes, shitty sharrows and substandard shared-use paths that followed is a testament to just how far communities around the world have to go to make streets truly accessible to people who walk and roll — especially considering that many of those monstrosities were built in perfect compliance with legal standards, as a few submitters pointed out.
"One of the things advocates for vehicular cycling cite is that bicycle infrastructure is often bad, and it's safer to cycle on the road than in bad bike infrastructure," said Jason Slaughter, the creator of the channel. "And to be fair, it probably is. But the solution is not to make everybody learn to cycle like a car, because that is an ableist position that excludes the majority of people from cycling. The solution is to build safe cycling infrastructure that does not have these issues."
Here are a few of the most common themes in the thread. And just for fun, we'll take a vote at the bottom to find out which is the worst of all; think of it as a mini-edition of the Sorriest Bus Stops Bike Infrastructure contest.
1. The Highway Bike Lane
The Not Just Bikes campaign kicked off with a photo of an unprotected bike lane running straight down the middle of a nasty arterial, which seemed pretty bad — until Twitter raised them a ton of unprotected lanes running alongside high-speed highways.
Like this one from St. Louis, where the speed limit is 45 mph but drivers usually go faster as they speed onto the interstate...
Or this one from Bend, Ore., which one follower called up from the archives:
2. The Micro Bike Lane
Some of the worst bike lanes in the world are barely bike lanes at all — whether because they're too narrow to fit a standard set of handlebars...
...Or literally the length of a single curb cut, like this English stunner.
Even in Legoland, bike lanes still aren't being built wide enough to fit a bigger bike — even if that supposed "wide load" is less than a centimeter.
3. Bike lane, interrupted
You can't talk about bike lanes gone wrong without talkign about all the stuff that can block an active commuter's path. Whether that's a lamp post smack in the middle of on an otherwise admirable off-street lane...
...or this "beg button" for pedestrians (because it wasn't enough to insult just one group of road users at a time)...
...or a really poorly placed bike rack...
...or that perennial car parked on top of a line of paint that's somehow supposed to protect a person on two wheels. (Granted, in America, that Smart Car would probably be a Ford F-150.)
4. Literally just a sharrow
Since we're talking about paint, check out this flock of utterly meaningless sharrows that friend of Streetsblog Don Kostelec spotted:
Fun fact: the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices says the purpose of a sharrow is to "assist the bicyclist by indicating assigned travel paths." Good luck with that on this road!
5. Malicious Mixing Zones
If you thought those sharrows were confusing, ask yourself where, exactly, you'd feel safe riding if you ran into this roundabout bike lane in the United Kingdom. (Warning: this video contains footage of a driver crashing into a cyclist, and may be disturbing).
This maze of bike scrambles in Hamburg, Germany might be more pleasant to ride in than it looks, if it has some next-level signals, but the aerial view still looks pretty gnarly.
6. Bike lane vs. transit
Riders will have to do a bit of bobbing and weaving in this bike lane, too. Worse? Once they're past the hairpin turns around the gates, they may even have to negotiate with oncoming trams and oncoming cars.
7. ... and of course, potholes.
Bonus points for flex posts that drivers can easily run over.
Cast your vote: which bad bike infrastructure is the worst of all? (And because we know it's hard to choose, feel free to pick more than one.)
Kea Wilson is editor of Streetsblog USA. She has more than a dozen years experience as a writer telling emotional, urgent and actionable stories that motivate average Americans to get involved in making their cities better places. She is also a novelist, cyclist, and affordable housing advocate. She previously worked at Strong Towns, and currently lives in St. Louis, MO. Kea can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @streetsblogkea. Please reach out to her with tips and submissions.
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