What it Takes


 Velib - Paris' Bicycle Transit System

Velib – Paris’ “Bicycle Transit System”

San Francisco is finally getting around to updating its 1997 bike plan. It plans to add 34 miles of bike lanes, almost doubling what it currently has. And to do it, they are looking at removing curbside parking and traffic lanes in some cases. That’s what it takes to make a system that the masses are willing and able to use. Squeezing drivers and bicyclists onto streets that are already narrow compared to other cities, using sharrows, and narrow bike lanes are half measures only. But that’s old news. Meanwhile world class cities such as London and Paris not only see biking as a critical measure for reducing GHG emissions, but they see it as an economic engine. London unveiled its plan to encourage more bicycling last month and last year Paris launched Velib, a self-service “bicycle transit system.” The system includes over 20,000 bikes, at 1,451 stations that are no more than 900 feet apart. What’s it going to take in Seattle? Ideas abound, but leadership doesn’t.

4 Responses to “What it Takes”

  1. Matt the Engineer

    Street parking seems like a terrible waste of space to me – even if nobody biked or rode transit. We take what could be perfectly good driving lanes and park in them? Almost everywhere throughout the city? Why stop there – there’s at least 3 more lanes you can park on in most downtown streets. Or maybe go for all 4 and make the whole place a parking lot.

    For car-head cities: remove street parking, and magically see traffic dissolve and new garage construction blossom – including nice parking-under-building designs. Maybe even require parking-under-building designs in areas that you want easily accessable by car.

    In non-car-head cities: do the same thing! Except make these new lanes into transit or bike lanes.

  2. quilsone

    One thing I’ve never understood is the American emphasis on bike lanes integrated with car lanes (as in, half a car lane to the right reserved for bikes), versus the European emphasis on building bicycle lanes separated from traffic (a full car-lane for two-direction bicycle traffic, separated from the car lanes by a curb or small divider). It seems like this method uses just as much space, but it feels so much safer to ride a bike when the cars are walled off from you.

    I feel certain that building bike lanes in this manner would go very far in encouraging more people to bike, and to bike more. Are there reasons that you don’t see this type of arrangement here?

  3. espalier

    Removing curbside parking can be a disaster for pedestrians and walkability. Cars parked in the street along sidewalks not only help to slow down vehicular traffic, they are also a significant buffer between moving cars and pedestrians. As an example, try walking down 23rd Ave in the Central District during rush hour. It feels dangerous and it is dangerous because you have cars zooming by, literally feet away from you. Contrast that experience with a walk down Broadway or any street downtown that has street parking. It feels much safer because of that physical barrier created by the row of cars separating the sidewalk from the street.

  4. michael

    Of course, if you replace the parked cars with bicycles, this oft cited point becomes moot…

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