Dear League of American Bicyclists:
I am writing to you to clarify a few things about your Bicycle Friendly Community certification, as I believe the metro-Atlanta suburb-city where I live is going to pursue this in the near future and I have a couple of areas of concern. I know that bike riders in cities that apply are asked to fill out a survey during the application review process. Your answers to my questions below will help me to do that with a clear conscience about what is actually the rubber-hits-the-road truth here.
(1) I notice that many suburb-cities where I live in metro-Atlanta claim the too-narrow unprotected bike lanes in their city as part of their total miles of bike infrastructure and promote themselves as bike friendly as a result. However, these lanes do not meet NACTO guidelines, they often stop suddenly, and they do not provide safe or equitable access for all (based on what we know about what seniors, women, families, and those with disabilities deem safe as bike infrastructure, as well as the data showing women are passed more closely in non-protected space). See my video below during a commute from my home to the transit station* last week as an example.
This paint-on-the-road seems like an easy way for a city to “check off” bike lanes, even though they are, in reality, mere Lipstick-On-a-Pig (LOP Lanes, perhaps?). I am wondering what the League’s position is on these LOP lanes when cities apply for Bicycle Friendly Community status. Do you count them, or discount them? In particular, did you count them recently when awarding the metro-Atlanta suburb-city of Alpharetta its Bicycle Friendly Community certification? If so, then perhaps my suburb-city should include them as well. They do have one practical use, and that’s when the motor vehicle traffic is bumper-to-bumper, as shown in my video below from the same morning commute (although any benefit of this disappears as soon as the cars start moving again).
(2) Additionally, many cities are building multiuse paths, often through woods or parks, that have signs posted on them indicating they are closed from dusk to dawn. These time frame constraints eliminate the legal use of these paths for those who use bikes as transportation to travel to and from work, school, and other commitments during dark hours (which, right now in Atlanta, is during traditional commute hours as well as the overnight hours during which those in hospitality and healthcare jobs may be riding). There is typically not an alternate route on the roads that replaces the multiuse path access during dark hours. Additionally, they often flood after rains, rendering them unusable.
Do you take this into consideration when determining a Bicycle Friendly Community designation? Once again, did you count them recently when awarding the metro-Atlanta suburb-city of Alpharetta its Bicycle Friendly Community certification? If so, then perhaps my suburb-city should include them as well. They can be lovely as recreational use and for use during daylight hours, so there is a value. However, their isolation and lack of safety features such as emergency call boxes can limit access specifically for women and girls (who are underrepresented in our public spaces, are often blamed when victims of crimes, and are cautioned not to go places by themselves). Plus, their inability to be used from dusk to dawn, with no alternate safe route, destroys the possibility of a complete, connected, usable bike network.
Thank you. Any insight you can provide as to your criteria will make it easier for me to be supportive of my city’s application or to share objective reasons why I am not.
Trust the journey,
(League Cycling Instructor #5382)
Author of Traveling at the Speed of Bike
* 3.5 flat miles away, during which I typically do not see another bike rider, no matter what time of the day or weather conditions
Note: I am riding with BikeNoodle in both of those videos, so the clearance I am given by motor vehicle drivers may not be indicative of what a bike rider without a 3-foot pool noodle sticking off the back of their bike might experience.