Social Media Does It Again
One of the primary reasons I have Facebook and Twitter accounts is to cast a wider net for subjects to write about. A quick glance at my timeline can reveal an article link or a discussion that I might have missed. This morning it was a FB friend reposting something from the LOBV asking questions about garbage bins placed in bike lanes for weekly pickup.
My initial reaction was to say that we probably have bigger problems to deal with (and I posted a comment saying just that). But it did trigger some mental connections. I have written about stuff in the bike lane before.
This has become one of my stock replies when arguing with motorists about where I should be riding. I have to gently explain to them (often using small words and visual aids) that I’m not required to stay within the lines of that little strip of pavement. Especially when there is stuff in that very lane, like broken glass, garbage, garbage cans, yard waste, miscellaneous car parts, cars, gravel, sand, rocks, bricks, large random pieces of sharp metal…the list goes on and on.
I also chide them about the cost of their vehicle. I finally figured out why motor vehicles are so expensive. They come with a vast array of spare parts that seem to serve no purpose. Apparently these parts can fall off a car or truck (and migrate into the bike lane) without significantly effecting the operation.
Are bike lanes important?
If we think that bike lanes are an important feature of our modern surface transportation system, then we should take care of them. I happen to believe that appropriately designed bike lanes enhance overall traffic conditions. It laterally segregates slower traffic to the side (one of several principles of public roads — along with right of way and superior/inferior streets). They help road users in anticipating actions of other users.
Are garbage cans placed in bike lanes during weekly pickup a nuisance or a true safety issue? Hard to say. Should we institute a restriction through ordinance? Not so sure. Garbage pickup is already a challenge. Well, if my street is any example. My neighbors continue to park their cars in the street despite large garages and driveways; making our neighborhood a slalom course during garbage day.
We would need to consider street and landscape design. Does the street have sidewalks? Is there a buffer strip between the sidewalk and street? What is in the buffer (grass, gravel, shrubs, etc.)? Do we want to put garbage cans on the sidewalk where they will now be a hinderance to pedestrians (arguably more at risk than cyclists)?
Any campaign or effort to remove this nuisance should be a larger discussion of how we treat bike lanes and where they are installed. And simply passing an ordinance (with attendant code enforcement efforts) will only serve to aggravate people who could be our allies. Widespread support must be helped by showing non-cyclists how much bike lanes help them as well. I mean a car parked on the street is in the way of all vehicles, right? Same goes for garbage cans and occasionally the random debris becomes a problem for cars.