I’ve been lazy. Today was the first day this year that I’ve ridden my bike to the office.* After what was nearly a nine-month hiatus, it was interesting to observe things with fresh eyes. Here’s what I realized:
Riding to work is awesome. Why don’t I do it every day?
There are a ton of people biking these days. I doubt it’s the weather. Could it be gas prices? Or the more-crowded buses?
Seattle’s bike infrastructure is really improving. We’ve got generous newly painted bike lanes, bright “sharrows” on the roadway, some nifty new “green lanes,” and other goodies. For some reason—perhaps because of the better markings—drivers seemed exceptionally respectful this morning.
Bike lanes still aren’t treated like car lanes. On my five mile ride I encountered the following, smack in the middle of the bike lane: 1) a moving van; 2) construction equipment with a “cherry picker” bucket; 3) a delivery truck; 4) a car edging out to get a clear look in order to turn left; and 5) a hose clamp. Apart from those last two, it’s inconceivable to imagine these things planted in the middle of a car lane, especially during commute hours. They’d be ticketed and towed in nothing flat, and they might even be risking arrest.
In truth, it probably wouldn’t occur to most people to put a vehicle in the middle of a lane of car traffic; everyone knows that’s crazy. That it seems like an okay idea in a bike lane is evidence of what Alan calls “car-head” and, equally, that bike lane violations aren’t enforced well enough. That’s a shame because it’s dangerous and annoying (to both cyclists and cars), when a stream of riders is forced to swerve left into car traffic to avoid obstacles. There’s no reason this should be.
That’s not to say that city cops should be staking out my bike route. There are bigger fish to fry. (Though it doesn’t seem too much to ask that the cops who keep obstructions out of car lanes should keep an eye on the bike lanes too.) But I wonder why we don’t have parking enforcement vehicles dedicated to policing bike lanes. It seems pretty simple to patrol the few major marked bike routes — especially those heavily-trafficked ones that lead into downtown — and start handing out tickets. Add a steep fee for repeat offenses and I think folks would get the picture.
* I had a vacation day on Bike To Work Day. Honest.