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Streets and Roads

Life in the Bike Lane

Tom Frady

There was a time early in the Covid-19 universe, the streets and roads around Lincoln were eerily empty. Few people were going to work, no one was dropping kids off at school and grocery shopping became grocery delivery. More good citizens, I call them patriots, turned into bike riders, maybe just to relieve some boredom, maybe to continue an exercise regimen because gyms were closed, or maybe because they finally had a chance to buy some tight Lycra shorts.

Now, several months later, cars have begun to return to Lincoln and the surrounding area. But to this rider/writer there seem to be more automobiles than before on many of the streets and roads on which we pedal our masses.

The reason, I believe (and most of you readers will say, “No, duh!”), is the development of new developments. You know, houses.

The good part of all this is: new streets mean new places to ride. For those of us who are interested in sticking to bike lanes through quietish neighborhoods, there will be many new ones. For those of us who travel a bit further, new streets mean new connections which mean new routes. Want to do hill repeats on Big Park? It was a 9 ½ mile ride in heavy traffic to get there. I can now get you there in 4 easy miles.

Of course, the cities of Lincoln, Roseville, and Rocklin all have an extensive network of traditional bike lanes, at least on the outskirts. The downtown areas not so much. The hillier the town, the more difficult it is to retrofit cycling infrastructure. Auburn and Newcastle, while favorite destinations for cyclists (donuts may have something to do with it) are bike lane-challenged.

My admittedly limited experience with committees planning for bike riders is that they are run by engineers, who start from a position of looking to make a trip in a car as quick and easy as possible. They are designing roads instead of streets. The primary purpose of a road is to allow us to get in a car, drive fast to a location and get out. A street should be designed to attract people (outside of their cars) to interact. That means, among other things, make streets comfortable for the everyday bike rider. It takes more than bike lanes.

Researchers have found while only 6 – 8% of new riders feel comfortable riding in a standard bike lane (separated from traffic by only a white line), that number jumps to 60% for dedicated lanes separated from traffic by some vertical apparatus, such as planters, curbs or even flexible plastic posts.

City planners who pay attention to bike infrastructure have found there is a sweet spot for trips by bicycle. It’s between two and five miles. Because it is so flat, Lincoln is a perfect town for commuting or running errands by bike. One can start from most anywhere inside the 23 square mile city limits and get to restaurants, stores and parks by bike.

With new houses come new school-age kids who will be riding bikes (we hope) to school. It is very important there are safe routes for them.

And wait ‘til Lincoln is built out. Currently, there are approximately 3916 new houses being built which will average 1.88 vehicles per house. 69.2% of all vehicles sold are pickups, and 31.1% of those pickups are white. That means there will be 1584.4 more drivers of white pickups who will yell at cyclists for no reason.

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