Bike Lanes Benefit All
To The Editor:
I am writing in response to a letter written by Mr. [Al] Volpe posted in your paper, "Save Skillman Avenue" (Gazette, July 2, 2008) specifically, and in regards to bike lanes in Sunnyside and Woodside in general.
I am not familiar with the intricacies of the "Safer Skillman" campaign or the particular merits of a bike lane on one avenue versus another. What I do know is that bike lanes make sense, and to fight against them is backwards looking. The premise of Mr. Volpe's vitriolic laments is that vehicles are the most important element in our community, and drivers' needs should be valued above all others. I beg to differ- our community should be welcoming to bikers and pedestrians as well.
As Mr. Volpe demonstrated in his letter, anyone can say "everybody hates X" or "those Xers cause all the accidents", and find anecdotal support for each statement. The reality is more complicated- I've seen irresponsible and downright dangerous actions by each group- pedestrians crossing roads without even glancing at traffic, bikers riding the wrong way down a one-way street, drivers running red lights. We can point to such examples of bad behavior and sound the call for eliminating access for that group- "Remove the Sidewalks! Pedestrians are a Hazard!"- why does that sound ridiculous? What would happen if sidewalks were removed? Would people still walk? Undoubtedly. Would they walk in the road, weave through traffic, creating more of a hazard for themselves and drivers? Absolutely. It's the same premise with bike lanes- give bikers a safe, clearly laid out section of the road to ride their bikes, and most of them will. They won't need to weave through traffic, edge around cars. Drivers, too, would benefit- defined bike lanes leave the rest of the road to cars. With each group knowing where the other is, sharing the road can be a better experience.
What would happen if the bike lanes are removed? Some bikers would be discouraged from riding their bikes, fearing for their safety and comfort. Others would continue to ride, at greater risk to themselves and others because they have no safe path. Is that a positive result? No. Let's do our community a favor and look ahead- gas prices are rising, congestion is becoming an increasing concern, and oh, let's not forget the environment. Resisting bike lanes in the interest of drivers is both faulty reasoning and backwards looking.
We should refocus this conversation away from what drivers may lose to the benefits of bike lanes. Safe and accessible bike lanes encourage biking (surprise), which promotes exercise, environmentally friendly transportation and exploration of the community (and its businesses). These are all positive elements that we should encourage, and I hope that our elected officials have the long-term interests of ALL the community at heart, and will support bike lanes.