It’s a common argument that we’ve all come up against: drivers point the finger squarely at bike lanes causing traffic congestion and delays.
The argument goes that on routes where there were formerly (say) two car lanes there is now only one car lane and the bike lane. So in this they are correct; the vehicular traffic capacity has basically been halved and therefore congestion and delays (for them) have been increased. When I counter that those bicycles would often otherwise be a car and that bike lanes are therefore taking vehicular traffic off the roads they counter that they hardly ever see a bicycle in those lanes so my argument is null and void. This is something that I can’t really argue against as I don’t have the data on that. It is of course completely possible that they are correct and that the main thing that these bike lanes are doing is delaying traffic and causing congestion. (Of course, in my eyes that is not a bad thing as that alone will encourage people take public transport or to ride.) The only argument I can come up with is that there will be a point where the amount of traffic on the bike lanes first equals the amount of traffic taken away by the vehicular traffic lane that has been removed, and then surpasses it. Perhaps this has even been achieved on some roads but again I don’t have the data. Obviously we proponents of cycling want to encourage it so we see bike lanes as a positive thing, or indeed a very positive thing. But I guess I’m starting to realise that bike lanes are fuelling anti-cyclist sentiment and even antipathy towards cyclists amongst the motorist community, and let’s face it, that’s still a large majority of people. How to address this problem? There are probably many ways to do so but the only one that comes to mind is that some routes (such as Albert Street in East Melbourne) are poorly implemented and quite simply done on the cheap. If we could implement proper kerbside lanes by 1) using the space taken up on footpaths by street furniture and light poles, along with 2) the space taken up with gutters, and 3) some space from the vehicular traffic lanes (i.e. narrowing them) we could allow motorists to keep their precious lanes and get a great win for bicycle infrastructure as well. We wouldn’t achieve the immediate result of reducing driving by squeezing cars off the roads but we would generate a lot less opposition to bicycle infrastructure and perhaps that in the long run would achieve a better result for the adoption and uptake of cycling across our city.