What do cyclists want?

A few years ago sharrows began appearing on our city streets as a friendly tip to everyone in cars that these lanes should also accommodate bikes. It caused all manner of fuss, mainly from drivers who seemed to think that giving something to cyclists (if “giving” is the proper word for someone using the public road)¬†would somehow take something away from them. Still, it was a reminder that cyclists are just like everyone else and need to get to all the same places.

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Although these sharrows were a good start, most of the bike infrastructure in my city has focused on recreational cycling rather than commuter cycling. Significant resources have been devoted to connecting the MKT Trail (our rails-to-trails project) to the various neighborhoods that border it. Even our bike boulevards tend to be focused on getting people to trails and parks.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that focus. It is nice to see more people from the neighborhoods walking or biking the trail now that they have easier access. So what’s the problem? Simple–while I like biking on the trial, sometimes I need to get to work, meet friends, or pick up groceries. These are all places I can’t access from the trail. In other words, we’re connecting everyone to the trail but are we connecting them to the city?

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It was likely a smart political decision. Everyone likes to walk or bike the trail so it made sense to craft a plan that connected everyone to our recreational trails. Even so, it still segregates cyclists into a few main routes rather than integrating them into the larger city street grid.

What’s a better approach? A bike map that’s identical to our street map.