It’s dangerous sufficient to should ask how a dead rat bought painted into a motorcycle lane on Martin Luther King Drive. But it surely’s worse to should ask whether or not that’s speculated to be a motorcycle lane within the first place.
”If these are bike lanes, I wouldn’t recommend anybody use them,” tweeted the Bicycle Coalition of Higher Philadelphia’s Randy LoBasso once they first appeared. The slim lanes are peppered with drainage grates and at instances put cyclists mere inches from highway-speed visitors. One southbound portion pins riders between MLK and the I-76 Expressway for 2 full miles, earlier than ending abruptly and forcing a merge with visitors.
The town says they’re bike lanes, however just for “skilled” riders who really feel “comfy” tangling with automobiles. The BCGP calls them “shoulders” and has warned cyclists to remain out of them when MLK visitors returns.
So possibly they’re lanes. And possibly they’re not. Both approach, after I noticed them, I believed, that’s it; if the bike lane is attempting to kill me, then the bike lane should be useless.
After which I believed: You realize what? Good riddance. Sufficient with bike lanes.
I’m uninterested in pretending that they’re the answer once they’re not. They’re too small and too harmful. There aren’t sufficient of them and there by no means will probably be, regardless of who promises what.
And why not? After a lifetime of using, my conclusion: Bikes aren’t helpful sufficient to sufficient individuals. Hills, distances, climate, deadly traffic — these aren’t minor considerations. Philly is residence to 900,000 jobs, however solely about 14,000 people bike to work frequently. We’ll by no means enhance these numbers by a lot when all we now have are skinny little paint strips crammed with parked automobiles and potholes.
So I suggest we join the Battery Age.
It’s time to cease speaking about bike lanes, and begin speaking about e-lanes. Or b-lanes. Or bike-and-battery lanes. Or Private Transit Lanes, or Multi-Use Lanes. Name them no matter you need, however get extra People into them: on their scooters, on their motorized skateboards, on their folding minibikes, on something that may assist us drag Philadelphia into the 21st century.
It doesn’t delight me to say this. I really like my bicycle. I experience lots of of miles a 12 months for work, errands, and (a number of) pleasure. I’ve been doing it for the reason that Schuylkill River Path was a weedy gravel path. Battery bikes are new on the scene, and fact be advised, to this point they don’t make nice path companions. E-vehicles are inclined to roll sooner than most of us experience. They’ll snout up silently behind you, then whir previous, usually whereas the rider stares at a cellphone.
So yeah: annoying. However the extra I see of those increasingly popular vehicles, the extra I’m in their potential, and I’m clearly not alone. People now purchase an e-bike every minute, greater than double the pre-COVID price. In Philly, Indego riders select e-bikes three times more frequently than old style bikes. Throughout the town, I now see residents of each race, age, and mobility stage experimenting with bikes and scooters of every kind. They are often highly effective sufficient to hold you throughout city, and nonetheless small enough to fold up and carry as much as an condominium.
They’re not simply leisure. These automobiles can cheaply and reliably get individuals to work or faculty. That is game-changing transit tech: reasonably priced, accessible, highly effective, and versatile.
Make no mistake: Any type of bike is helpful in Philly. From my residence in West Philly to something in or close to Middle Metropolis, biking is quicker, cheaper, and extra predictable than driving or public transportation. Parking, visitors jams, stalled trolleys, late buses — not my downside. What number of Philadelphians can say that?
Biking in Philly can also be extremely enjoyable. It’s a delight to discover our neighborhoods, parks, cemeteries, riverfronts, and the unequalled Fairmount Park trails. Our area’s transit advocates deserve all the credit for making the town as comparatively bike-friendly as it’s.
However biking requires time, cash, and health. These issues aren’t evenly or equitably distributed in our city.
Additionally required: braveness. I left three enamel on Logan Circle final fall, courtesy of a driver behaving badly. Thus far this 12 months, 44 people have died in Philadelphia visitors, together with 15 pedestrians and four cyclists.
So for many Philadelphians, bikes function occasional recreation at finest. Meaning assist for our bike lanes has at all times been restricted, and that helps clarify their sorry state. I not too long ago chatted about all this with a health-care employee I do know: lives in Fishtown, commutes to Middle Metropolis. She bikes often, but it surely’s harmful — “automobiles are loopy,” she mentioned — and in addition laborious work.
However an electric bike or scooter can be excellent for the three-mile commute, she mentioned. You possibly can zip previous clogged visitors and thru dicey intersections. You possibly can cruise pleasantly alongside the waterfront. On most days, she mentioned, using an e-bike can be sooner, cheaper, extra dependable, and way more nice than driving or taking SEPTA.
“I want I may experience one to work,” she mentioned. “That might be superior. And my boyfriend needs one too.”
Sure, there must be velocity limits. No, they shouldn’t be allowed on each path. And no, they’re not essentially lowering anyone’s carbon footprint. However batteries are the longer term. We have to construct for them, and never simply because these scooters and skateboards are going to make use of our bike lanes anyway.
It’s as a result of they will help our metropolis develop.
Invoice Hangley Jr. is a contract journalist primarily based in Philadelphia. @hangleyjr