Friday, November 11, 2016

Paint protects only from corrosion

You might have sensed some disturbance in the Force recently and that's likely because we have elected the President of The Divided States. This resulted in a series of unforeseen events - stock market went downhill, Canadian immigration site crashed and cows stopped giving milk. One thing is sure though - the next year America will be so Great, we won't even recognize it.

I'm sure that the new President will put us on path to Greatness by building thousands of new bike lanes in American cities. Yes, bike lanes! (And no, sharrows won't cut it, since we all know that sharrows are shit). The new bike lanes should be obviously protected to avoid situations like these:
(I stole those pictures from Jonathan Fertig's Twitter feed. You know him as the guy who "fertiged" half of Boston with orange cones.)

The lanes in pictures above are not protected, i.e. there is no buffer separating them from the traffic lane with fast moving cars. Bicycling advocates have been calling for protected bicycle lanes in Boston for a long time and not too long ago, they finally started popping up. Unfortunately, when that happened, we all learned one important lesson - paint protects only from corrosion:
Apparently, the city of Boston left the job halfway done and didn't bother to install any real protective barrier between the lanes and the street. This made hundreds of drivers think those lanes are some kind of fancy new on-street parking, even though they had proper parking spots painted right next to them (see picture above).

Clearly we need a bit more than a bucket of paint. It turns out that a few orange cones take care of this problem:
I don't have an answer why cones or other barriers were not immediately added to the new lanes. Some people pointed out that the city may be reluctant to do so, as it would make snow clearing in winter difficult.
With a physical barrier from the street side a full-size plow can't be used to clear the bike lane. Other equipment needs to be employed. (By @sadbikelane)

It essentially all comes down to willpower. Many cities manage this problem well because they want to. In fact, they give clearing sidewalks and bike lanes in winter a priority. In Boston though... well, let's just hope that we reach Greatness by a vast network of connected and protected bicycle lanes very soon. Fortunately, things are getting better:
Bicycle Use and Cyclist Safety Following Boston’s Bicycle Infrastructure Expansion, 2009–2012 F.E. Pedroso, F. Angriman, A.L. Bellows, K. Taylor, 12/2016, Vol.106, No.12 AJPH

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