As I checked out Hedding Street bike lanes today to see what all the fuss is about, I reflected on a recent editorial by Jordan Michael Smith for the Boston Globe called
“Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes”. I’d throw in more than a few so-called liberals as well.
Smith’s article is a must read for anyone who cares about bikes because he raises issues that go well beyond Hedding’s seemingly harmless bike lanes and a dash of green paint. Some Americans don’t like having their roads taken over, even if it is for a greater good. They see anything that disrupts their commute as downright evil.
Smith puts disgraced Toronto Mayor Robert Ford front and center as someone capitalizing on hatred of cyclists. That’s how an admitted crack cocaine user got elected mayor. He had support from commuters living in the suburbs. Ford doesn’t restrict his hatred to bikes. He also thinks public transit’s light rail is a “pain in the ass.”
Bikes have been hated by a vocal segment of the public ever since they became popular in the late 1800s. It’s a good thing the Wright brothers didn’t let that get in the way of their inventing air travel, using bike parts.
The battle is happening here: On Sunday, Gary Richards, Mr. Roadshow, of the San Jose Mercury news issued the top 10 hot spots for Bay Area commuters and Hedding Street bike lanes made the bad list at number five.
But back to Hedding Street and those hated bike lanes. They go from Guadalupe River to Hwy 101. The rub is that a lane of traffic had to be removed both directions and in place a turn lane was added. I think center turn lanes are safer, although when two cars going opposite directions want to turn left at the same location, it’s not so good. What bothers me about two-lane roads is when a car turns left and has to wait. Traffic stacks up and anyone stuck behind the turning car knows how dangerous pulling into the right lane can be.
I don’t ride on Hedding daily, so I’m not one to comment on the problems it has created for commuters. I have to believe what they tell the Mercury News though. It stinks.
In a year the San Jose City Council will revisit the Hedding bike lanes. Maybe by then commuters will have found better ways to get to work.
Hedding offers a convenient east-west corridor for bicycle traffic. The decision to choose Hedding for a bike corridor was not haphazard. I use it whenever I ride through San Jose, along with Taylor Street. While I can live with or without bike lanes, in the scheme of things they’re a minor annoyance for even the most ardent car commuter.
Not everyone has a fancy job and can afford to drive a fancy car. There are those whose only transportation is by bike or bus or light rail. They’re that class of people who do the dirty work that nobody else wants to do. Or they’re starving students. No, they don’t fill our city streets, but they’re out there using those bike lanes. Let’s give them a break.