Cultural ignorance about safe roadway bicycling has created the misperception that bike lanes are a good idea. Bike lanes are not a good idea. Bike lanes should not be used in Portland.
While it is true that bike lanes are bad operational design and they tend to make bike-lane-delimited space less useful for best-practice bicyclists, increased danger and wasted paved roadway width are not the primary problems with bike lanes.
The primary problem is that bike lanes validate existing poor behavior and existing false beliefs about bicyclist roadway use.
If Portland paints bike lanes, the immediate need will be to educate police officers not to harass best-practice bicyclists, who tend to avoid bike-lane delimited space.
Longer term, the whole culture needs education. In that way, increased interest in bicycling will not lead to calls for bad and wasteful facility design.
Bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. The roadways drivers share must be designed using sound principles. The idea of a vehicle type-specific lane runs counter to basic tenets of sound roadway design.
Copyright 2009 by The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. All rights reserved.