There is something similar occurring today in transportation planning.Many urban specialists openly propose that their cities spend funds and devote road space for a transportation mode that would be usable by only an average of 1.2% of commuters, and probably a lot less during the numerous inclement weather days. Add to that, those who do travel this way put their lives at risk.Object to that proposal at your own political risk, because advocates of the concept—the establishment of bike lanes—are one of the most organized, outspoken, and active pressure groups in city planning today. But a number of voices are starting to be raised, urging a more careful, and far less emotional, examination be done. Earlier this year, an article in the Washington Post noted:
As it turns out, bikes are the most dangerous way to get around with the exception of motorcycles…Nationwide, you’re more than twice as likely to die while riding a bike than riding in a car, per trip, according to a 2007 study led by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Laurie Beck. Bike riding is also about 500 times more fatal than riding in a bus. In addition to accidents, cyclists face another major health risk: air pollution. Bike commuters inhale about three times as much air pollution as drivers, according to a 2015 study conducted in Fort Collins, Colo.
Supporters of biking as a city-supported transportation option often point to Europe as an example of what should be done in the U.S. A closer inspection, however, reveals that the comparison does not work out the way they want it to.
American cities are sprawling affairs, not like their more compact counterparts in the Old World, many of which are derived from ancient, walled cities. A British article reports that:
That is even more obvious in geographically-large U.S. cities. Consider New York, for example, which rests within 305 square miles. The major job center rests in downtown Manhattan. The majority of the city’s population lives in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx. While many residents work in their home boroughs, many do commute to Manhattan, and the distances can be significant. Even a relatively small distance, say, seven miles, turns into a fourteen-mile round trip, which can be extremely challenging. In winter cold and summer heat, it could be quite an ordeal.Author and futurist Syd Mead, writing in The Los Angeles Daily News provides this analysis:
Cycling is not practical for the transportation or commuting needs of most people.
While the bicycle has many virtues, it also prompts people to go overboard. It’s often lauded as the transportation of tomorrow and the savior of cities. It is not. It is called transportation. It is not … It … operates under rigid limitations: the physical condition (and therefore age) of the rider, seasons and weather conditions, and terrain … Today there is an almost messianic insistence that bicycles should be a part of the urban transit mix. … In large urban centers … using a bicycle to traverse 10, 15, or 20 miles one-way is simply not a feasible proposition … A typical busy lane gets used by dozens of automobiles per minute. A bike lane is lucky to be used by dozens of bicyclists in an hour. Imposing bicycle accommodations onto an existing vehicular culture and street alignment is prohibitively complex and preposterously expensive on a per-mile basis. Given the relatively small number of commuters who would use such lanes in comparison to car drivers, any cost/efficiency formulae that purport to justify such infrastructure enter the realm of pure fantasy.