Every time I see a road sign that says, “Share the Road” with a picture of a car and a bicycle, it strikes me as a sad reminder that we, as car-drivers, see the road exclusively as the domain of automobiles. Roads are made for transportation, and that includes more than just motorized vehicles, as difficult as that reality may be for us to accept.
I am an avid year-round commuting cyclist, but when I drive my car along Shelbourne Street and come up to a cyclist, I am frustrated because I find it awkward and dangerous to negotiate my way around them, especially in the dark or during heavy traffic. However, the answer is not to force cyclists off Shelbourne onto other routes, the answer is to give them their own lane.
Having commuted for more than 20 years, I used to regularly ride my bike along Shelbourne. However, it has become busier and honestly scarier to ride along, so now I weave a route through residential streets, which includes hills and extends the time it takes for me to get to and from work.
Most days, I take the longer route and remind myself I’m getting a bit more exercise and sparing myself some stress (and possibly serious injury). However, when I am late leaving work, feeling tired from a long day and I just want to get home to my family and dinner, I do ride on Shelbourne because it is the fastest, flattest, most direct route home. I ask you, which commuter does not do that? Why should cyclists have to choose between an efficient, direct route and a safe route? I don’t have to make that choice when I drive my car.
The problem isn’t the size of the road, or the number of lanes, or the cost of the project (although we should expect fiscal responsibility from our council); the problem is the mindset of the citizens.
We currently have a system of four lanes for cars and zero lanes for bikes and we’re looking at moving to two or three lanes for cars and two lanes for bikes. We may be surprised to find that with dedicated bike lanes, more people might try cycling instead of driving, which could alleviate some of the congestion feared to occur from the loss of one lane.
My wish for 2017 is for citizens using Shelbourne Street to start thinking beyond the current convenience for vehicles and learn to truly and safely share the road.