The paragraph below is a response to Steve Miller’s call for “better bike lanes” — separated on-street bikeways — on his blog. I also published the paragraph as a comment on his blog post.
The safest way to ride on today’s streets requires skill, assertiveness, an understanding of how the rules of the road work to reduce danger, independence of thought to apply those rules even when bike-lane stripes suggest otherwise, and a modicum of patience. This has worked for me for over 40 years. Steve, by caricaturing people who ride in this way as “risk-taking street warriors,” you make teaching this, already a hard sell, a harder one. I agree that bike lanes in the door/walk/out/drive out zone, don’t improve safety but I have said this since they first went in, 25 years ago. To promote them, then turn around and regard them as having been only a stepping stone to bigger and better things is a bit of a devil’s bargain. As to the new crop of separated bikeways, better? I’d say, different. I’ve had nice things to say about the one on 9th Avenue in Manhattan and I had what I consider a better plan for the one on Concord Avenue in Cambridge, but I’m unimpressed with what I see in the Boston area, due to issues with safety, capacity and convenience.