Decorahnews.com readers want to talk about bike lanes andbike sharrow markings. After BillKuhlman called the bike lane markings "a waste of money," several other readersfired off e-mails:
From Kristen Underwood--
"I'm surprised to read this comment from Bill Kuhlman. I ridemy bike now and then, both for transportation and recreation, and when I sawthe "sharrows" I was grateful, as nearly every time I ride anywhere downtown, I'm uncertain about where I'm supposed to be riding. Not on thesidewalk, obviously. Often it seems I'mnot welcome on the street, if the driver who sped around me (where Water Street turnsinto College Drive)is any indication. And setting aside my own experience as a Decorah resident, Iwas grateful on behalf of the cycling visitors we are encouraging to come toDecorah to use our new trail and (admit it) visit our downtown businesses. What a welcoming sight and a consistentmessage: "We care that you're on your bike in our town and here's where toride."
From LeRoy and Roxane Holm--
I thought the idea for the bike signs on Main Street was to send the bikes off Water Street to helpmove traffic better. I have to admit that having a bike going 5 miles an hourin front of me ticks me off a bit so sending them down a side street soundedlike a good idea. I like the idea of biking but let's be honest--if you cannotbike the speed limit, please do not ride in traffic and not expect to have somedrivers upset at you. If we want bikes down town great, let's get rid of parking onthe north or south side of Water Street and make a bike lane."
From HP Jorgensen--
Bill, the real purpose of the "sharrows" is togive drivers aiming marks so as to avoid simply maiming the odd bicyclist. With sharrows, drivers can target the cyclisteasily and really nail `em!
But,seriously, whether they are a waste of money can be debated. One benefit is that it might make somedrivers a little more watchful for bicycles. And bicyclists can understand which streets are preferred by the cityfathers and mothers to be used for biking. I love to bike for the exercise and spend 90 percent of my bike time on theterrific new trail. Additionally, Iagree with Stan Fullerton about Water Street. Ifind it too dangerous and usually avoid it if I can by approaching businessesfrom a side street and walk it from there. The only problem with Main Streetis the portion east of Day Street is so rough it's hard to ride on. Maybe that could be resurfaced?
From Dennis Ohlert--
While I agree with Stan Fullerton's suggestion that bikersbe encouraged to use Main Streetas a primary route, I have reservations about the street markings. I feel they only serve to clutter thestreetscape. And too, bikers, likemotorists, are going to go where they need to go, regardless. I have observed that some streets in Decorahhave become a mish-mash of signs and I question whether anybody even pays themany attention anymore.
From Steve Hildebrand--
If they want to make Main Street a primary biking street, they needto make it safe. East Main Street is posssibly the worststreet in Decorah and isn't safe to ride on. I wouldn't be caught dead riding a bike on it, but then again, maybe Iwould be caught dead on it.
From Elly S. Lensch--
I think they are a great idea. They help remind people thatbikes are to follow the same direction of travel that cars do. They alsopromote responsibility on the part of the cyclist to follow the rules. As aparent of an elementary school student, it is a good way to help me teach her howto participate on a bike safely in the city. As the recreational trails getcongested and cyclists spill into the city looking to further their experience,I applaud the idea.
From Meghan Scheidel--I have been known to voice my opinion regarding bicyclistson busy county roads with commercial truck traffic, concerned with the safetyof the motorists and bicyclists. But, inregards to Bill's comment that the sharrows are stupid and a waste of money,what is the harm in having a path designated for bicycle traffic? Of course, people will argue that we have anew bicycle trail, why not use that? Butwhat about those individuals who use a bicycle to get to work, the grocerystore or across town? It seems as thoughno solution is going to make all parties happy, but in a day and age with ahigh instance of obesity and diabetes aren't we the wiser by promoting wellnessand exercise? In a day and age of highpollution in large cities, isn't Decorah a greener community by encouraging alesser carbon footprint? Not to mention,the cost of gas alone! The reality is,there will be bicyclists on the roadways and they are entitled to bethere. If a route is designated andutilized by bicyclists, then motorists on that route should anticipate theirpresence and avoiding those routes is a simple as turning down a differentstreet.
From Kevin and Carrie Lee--
Cycle tracks are safer than streets. Bicycling advocates have long sung the praises of cycletracks, biking lanes that are separated from auto traffic by a buffer of parkedcars, trees, or a raised curb. They give cyclists a line of protection moresubstantial than street paint and also move them away from the disturbinglyharmful effect of tailpipe fumes.
But are they any safer than biking in traffic lanes? A newHarvard School of Public Health study in the peer-reviewed journal InjuryPrevention examined nine years of crash records from Montreal's extensive cycle-track network toaddress that question. It found that injuries were 28 percent lower on cycletracks than on comparable roads without protected lanes.
The study was a response to the counterintuitive belief thatcycle tracks lull riders into a false sense of security – they still have tocross intersections, after all. It's also a response to the AmericanAssociation of State Highway and Transportation Officials' "Guide for thedevelopment of bicycle facilities," which discourages engineers from usingcycle tracks.
"A long-standing, and yet not rigorously proved, philosophyin the USAhas suggested instead that 'bicyclists fare best when they behave as, and aretreated as, operators of vehicles,'" says the report, led by Harvard bicycleresearcher Anne Lusk. "Our results suggest that two-way cycle tracks onone side of the road have either lower or similar injury rates compared withbicycling in the street without bicycle provisions."
The national engineering guide has been one reason Americancities have been slow to roll out cycle tracks. They're commonplace in thecycling meccas of Denmarkand the Netherlands,naturally. They've been sprouting up in New York City too. On the West Coast, Portland,Eugene, Ore.,and Vancouver, B.C. have tried them out, though Seattle scuttled a planto add one to the heavily biked Dexter Avenue last year.
The study looked at six cycle tracks in Montreal and found that cyclists preferredthem to unprotected roads – those tracks received 2.5 times more cycle trafficthan comparable roads. And the threat of vehicular traffic is a key reason moretravelers, especially women, children and seniors, don't ride bikes, the studysays.
That's not just a perceived risk – the injury rate forcyclists in the U.S. is 26times higher than in the Netherlands.Addressing that danger will be essential for getting more Americans out oftheir cars and onto bikes.