Friday, May 14, 2010

Bike Lane Blowback


I like the concept of Philadelphia's Center City bike lanes. Creating safe lanes for 'green' traffic appeals to the environmentalist in me. The efficiency nut in me though is appalled by the mess the nearly-empty bike lanes make of traffic.

Spruce Street has become a constant center of gridlock, with a solid lane of buses, cars and trucks queued from Old City to Rittenhouse. With an empty lane right next to it, begging to be used to fix the problem.

I'm not sure what the solution is. The mayor has made it pretty clear that the bike lanes are here to stay. The extra 10 minutes they add to my daily commute aren't too bad. I guess I could live with the whole thing if only people used the bike lanes.

And there lies the issue. The lane is empty 90% of the time. When it isn't empty, it's being used as a turn lane or simply stolen by taxi drivers. There seem to be the usual number of bikers on the sidewalks of the city, so I have to assume that the bike lane project is yet another urban transit failure in a city with a history of them.

Eventually the bike lane project will go the way of the Chestnut Street Pedestrian Mall, the Penn's Landing Light Rail line and so many other well-intentioned but poorly utilized ideas in Philadelphia. Until then I will sit in traffic, resisting the urge to floor it and race down the empty bike lane.

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