Given that I have not been involved in "cyclist advocacy" for very long, it
still continues to surprise me how much of the discussion of bicycle-related-engineering
in my area (the Triangle area of NC) is based on the idea of converting car users to
The facilities proponents claim that special facilities are needed to reduce traffic
congestion and pollution by converting motorists to bicycling, and the fiscal
conservatives threaten that people had better use those expensive new facilities for
commuting or there won't be any more money allocated for bicycle transportation in the
future. The conservatives demand per-commuter cost comparisons of road improvements for
increased car-carrying capacity versus bike paths for bicycle commuting.
Thus the unproven promise of greatly increased utilitarian cycling from new paths and
bike lane stripes threatens the availablilty of funds for those things most needed and
desired by existing road cyclists.
I do not believe very many motorists will switch to utilitarian bicycling from motoring
unless they already enjoy cycling a great deal. The factors that I see strongly correlated
with utilitarian bicycling are:
- Lack of ownership of or ability to drive a car.
- Great fondness for cycling for exercise or enjoyment.
- High cost or time penalty for operating or parking a car.
- Roads and culture that promote cyclist-motorist cooperation.
- Any combination of the above.
Most non-cyclists I know do not meet conditions 1 and 2, and oppose changes that will
bring about 3. Number 4 can promote #2 over time, but is not as strong a factor as 1 and
The best argument I have found to win the support of fiscal conservatives is
that road improvements that reduce car-bike friction are essentially capacity/level of
The bicycle facility is, according to law, already there, but desired motor vehicle
speeds and volumes may not be compatible with full-lane occupation by bicyclists. Attempts
to discourage cycling to increase convenience for motorists will be successfully
challenged by cycling organizations on constitutional grounds, and will be unpopular with
a significant portion of the electorate who support bicycling even if they don't do it
Wide lanes improve capacity and convenience for motorists.
Simply making the bicycle a design vehicle by default is the
most straightforward way to protect the constitutional travel rights of bicyclists and
convenience for motorists when building and improving roads.