Someone that I haven’t seen in like three years has crossed my path now twice in the past four days. We talked for a minute in a shop the other day and then this morning I saw him and he acknowledged me out on the bike trail. He was bringing up the rear of a large bike group, presumably out of towners. Those mass of riders at 7:30 am looked intimidating this early in the morning until I saw they were riding Nice Ride share bikes. The swarm slowly made its way out of downtown on the Cedar Lake Trail, noteworthy as the super highway of bike trails in the United States. My suspicions were raised when these folks passed. I suspect they were bike advocates for more such trails. In a recent post on Copenhagenize a relentless chant for building more infrastructure is heavily weighted to European statistics, but make very little sense to the street scene in American cities.
Using this photo as an example of a separate lane for biking the whole idea is overkill for American bike riders. First, there is the upkeep of paint, secondly ice ,snow and the nighttime obscure this type of infrastructure. Thirdly, if bike riding is to be normalized then give them an entire lane to travel in not some weird engineered mash-up that requires costly maintenance.
Back to the super highway. The Cedar Trail goes through a desolate area of the city and St. Louis Park, a suburb. On the past two morning commutes, low 60’s blue skies, the impression I have is that it’s nice to have this alternative route other than city streets. The trail though has not increased significant numbers of commuters since its completion in 1995. Bike ridership has fallen in America in the past 16 years from 53 million to 39 million users and in Minneapolis commuter numbers show less than 4 percent ride bikes for transportation. So even on a perfect day like we had today, the Cedar Trail is lightly utilized. The trail is the first federally funded commuter trail in the country. Advocates for more infrastructure can take note that before more asphalt gets laid there has to be a need.
When bike riding is promoted by the bicycle industry as transportation, which is integrated into normal traffic patterns then there will be change. For all of those that say build it and they will come quit fooling yourself. Advocate for change with normal bike riding where motorist have slower speeds and liability toward bike/auto accidents.