In the past few years, sustainable mobility has been revealed as an effective political tool to attract the vote of the more environmental conscious citizens in western world and more recently in Latin America. These are generally well known good news for the planet and urban life. The problem lies on the fact that this political eagerness sometimes turns into bad public policies which go against the same purpose they aim for.
Radicalism and non-agreed political direct decisions on urban mobility planning, especially bike boosting programs, must be taken seriously or they can be potentially dangerous. The basis of good urban planning and social comfort is coexistence and not confrontation.
Bike boosting programs, whose target is to promote biking as a real commuting alternative, were initially carried out by social organizations which pushed the political willingness afterwards. The conceptual basis of these initiatives was on the right track, looking for equity in the public space use and reclaiming the citizen right of equal opportunities for each citizen independently of his means of transport. Especially if that transport mode is more efficient at peak hours, how it happens with bike use over car domination.
Misunderstandings and repeated mistakes in bike boosting mobility policy
As the Spanish saying goes, “Humans are the only animal that trip over the same stone twice.” The problem does not consist in the goal, but the current methods. The defense of this bike boosting mobility policy is misunderstood creating the assumption that there is a war to be won against the car.
To think about mobility justice as giving the right to bikers and other users to share the space formerly dedicated to cars on main vehicular avenues is a large planning conceptual mistake that has terrible and sometimes irreversible consequences in bike use promotion.
First of all, the war “bike against car” loses its point considering that they are simply machines whose only purpose is to let us commute every day. Every citizen is as rightful as the next one to move as he considers most convenient, always following the logical convention of social civic behavior. In conclusion, a biker has the same mobility rights as a driver and this concept is important to bear in mind.
Secondly to classify driver and biker needs as the same pattern of needs technically is also a mistake. Moreover, if we consider the matter from the point of view of coexistence and street hierarchy for the different mobility alternatives, car and bicycle are completely compatible, in fact, they are complementary.
Thirdly, every mobility network, independent of the transport mode, has his primary, secondary and local streets. From the 50’s, cities have been planned having the car as its priority so this idea has been also established in the people’s idiosyncrasy, including the pro-bike social platforms.
The mindset that vehicular primary avenues are the core of the urban life has to change. Car use must be discouraged as well as land use and streetscape improved, but these avenues should not become more complex in terms of their mobility and road safety.
Implementing bike lanes or other bike infrastructure in vehicular avenues?
Vehicular avenues are vehicular priority streets, main car mobility connectors within the city. Their main planning objective should be to attract, concentrate and canalize car flows as fast as possible from their origins to the most important mobility attractors such as the city center.
For this reason, these avenues are generously wide with car dedicated lanes, each one of them 3 to 3.5 meter wide, having traffic light prioritization and lots of connections with lower hierarchy streets that are not always controlled by traffic lights.
On the other hand, cycle tracks or bike lanes are exactly the same for the bicycle network. This dedicated infrastructure is the “vehicular avenue” for bikers: High quality standard infrastructure which provides comfort, connectivity and continuity so as to attract, concentrate and canalize bike flows. Furthermore, the less noisy or polluted and the more beautiful the street is the more attractive it becomes for cycled mobility.
What do you think about the bike and car war in urban planning? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.