Monday, March 21, 2016

Bike Paths Are a Bad Idea

I've been reading and also copied in on a lot of email banter lately about Bike Path Etiquette.

We’ve had this debate for years back in Iowa. In Arizona, we Tucsonan’s don’t quite hit the mark calling these paths “bike” paths, when in fact they are “multi-use” paths. If they were limited to bicycles, the problem would be moot. Instead there are people pushing baby carriages, walking dogs on extending leashes, inline skating, loafing along on hybrids and beach cruisers, or people just coming on and off the path. In other communities, the intended use of a multi-use path is to provide suburbia with a place to enjoy being outside without walking on the roads. I always thought that's what sidewalks were for?

If we already have roads and sidewalks, my question is why do we need to spend public funds for a third chunk of blacktop anyway?

We don't need bike or multi-use path at all. Bikes should ride on the road and pedestrians should walk on the sidewalk.

But with that said, I think if a bike is on one of these paths, especially in populated areas like the Rillito, we should not be riding at training speeds. Even if the path appears to be clear. There are so many twists, turns, narrow bridges and blind entrances that we can’t know what’s ahead. The possible exception is a very rural path such as the Santa Cruz where it's mostly cyclists and you can see for miles.

Most “racer” types that I know use the paths to get to and from a training destination.

I think spending money on paths to move cyclists off of public roadways is misuse of public funds. Remember, fellow cyclists, we are not “in” traffic, we “are” traffic. We should be lobbying to use the entire lane where there are no bike lanes and not be forced to “single up” so that motorists think they can share the lane with us – putting cyclists in danger. Instead cars should be required to pass a group of cyclists just as they would another slow moving vehicle; by changing lanes. I drive a car more miles in a year than I ride a bike. Trust me, it's not hard to pass a bicycle, or a group of bicycles.

Somehow, here in Tucson cyclists are considered guests on the road. The only place we are tolerated is either on a path or in a narrow bike lane filled with gravel, glass, thorns and other road debris.

Once in a while I see a cyclist roll through a stop sign or fail to signal. So big deal. I see that all the time with motorists. How about we stop hating on cyclists for being human? Should we strive to be better than average? Yes. But why do we expect cyclists to be any more holy than the rest of the general public? Certainly no reason to relegate us to a multi-use path forced to navigate around some spastic Labradoodle on a 25' extend-a-leash.

Instead of building bike or multi-use paths, how about if we re-appropriate the funds and just fix the uber-crappy roads and bridges here?

Sometimes some things that seem to be "bike friendly" are in not very friendly at all.

Not sure why we needed to build another cement path when there is a perfectly good right next to it?

This is one of the bridges that were built to connect the North Rillito Path with the South Rillito Path.
Uhh, question: Why do we need duplicate paths? Was one not enough? And connecting bridges?
I wonder how many roads could have been fixed with these funds?


  1. Thought-provoking, interesting points, Lou.

    But let's keep in mind that the areas that Tucson's multi-use paths (MUPs) pass through are mostly parkland. That is shown in some of the names of these areas. MUPs and trails allow people to enjoy parkland. Paving enables people to travel around and through this parkland more easily, for example using baby buggies and bikes.

    I assume that MUPs are not built to prevent cyclists from using the public roadways. This does not seem to be the intention in the Tucson area, as there are many shoulders or lanes on roadways that are available and even marked for bike use, even though there is an alternative off-road paved MUP alongside them.

    Enjoyment of parkland allows humans a rather different experience than walking on sidewalks or riding in bike lanes alongside snarling motor traffic. Cities are enriched by their parkland. New York City has its Central Park, London has its Hyde Park, and many others besides. I applaud the Tucson area agencies in developing parkland by laying out an extensive network of MUPs that is becoming a significant life-improving asset for the city.

    If we allow money to be spent on paving only if it is on roads that cars and trucks also use, we get what we deserve: motor-dominated cities, along with their ever-present noise and air pollution.

    While most of the time I ride on the roads, I love the silence when I ride the river paths on my fixed gear bike. But yes, don't ride too fast on the paths, guys.

  2. Thanks for your perspective Roger. I don't completely disagree :)