Here’s an interesting perspective on bicycling and the Research Parkway bike lane issue.
By Janine Hegeman
President, Colorado Springs Cycling Club
What has cycling ever done for this country? Besides pneumatic tires, ball bearings, differential gears, aviation, automobiles and roads?
Yes, that’s right. Roads.
In the 1830s, railroads became the preferred method of travel, and stagecoach operators (who had a vested interest in maintaining roads) gradually went out of business. Local roads fell into disrepair. Then the bicycle arrived on the scene, and cyclists, being the first group in a generation to use roads for long distances, organized for better roads – not only for recreational pursuits, but also in the interest of the US economy. Moving goods, people and mail from rail station to towns off the line was becoming difficult. Shortly after forming in 1880, the League of American Wheelmen (now known as the League of American Bicyclists) started the Good Roads Movement. A petition with 150,000 names on it was presented to Congress requesting the creation of a Road Department. This eventually became the Federal Highway Administration.
But also in the late 1800s, the automobile (a motorized extension of the bicycle) started to gain popularity. Conflicts between cyclists and drivers over road use arose as mass production of faster and faster automobiles cranked into high gear. “Road hogs” (originally the description of cyclists) screamed for more roads suitable for high speeds. In 1907, Punch Magazine summed up the attitude of some drivers:
“The roads were made for me; years ago they were made. Wise rulers saw me coming and made roads. Statutory limits were made for me. I break them. I break the dull silence of the country. Sometimes I break down, and thousands flock round me, so that I dislocate the traffic. But I am the Traffic.”
With all the hoopla over the Research Parkway buffered bike lanes demonstration project, I feel like I’ve been whisked back in time 110 years or so. Is it really possible that some of this city’s citizens have their heads stuck so firmly in the sand?
The fact is, traffic was moving much too fast on Research prior to the demonstration project. I drive that stretch for work; it was like the freeway. I have a bumper sticker on my work truck that says “I drive the speed limit for safety” and I abide by that. I was left in the dust constantly. Research Parkway traffic counts through the corridor range from 20,000 to 22,000 vehicles per day depending on the location. The capacity of a 4-lane roadway with limited access like Research Parkway is 38,000 vehicles per day. Minimal traffic on multiple lanes encourages speeding. Everyone needs to remember the first goal of this project is to manage traffic speeds.
Another point to consider is that this right-sizing of Research will help improve the quality of life for people in all stages of life, in Briargate and neighborhoods beyond, by providing recreational and alternative transportation options. Those who drive cars are not assigned exclusive use of this corridor. Cyclists and pedestrians have every right to make use of this road. I have a bicycle and I have a car (like the overwhelming majority of cyclists); I paid taxes when I bought my bike and pay taxes on my car annually, and my natural expectation is to be able to use both modes of transportation on public roads as I see fit. But before the buffered bike lanes were put in, it was frankly too dangerous to ride a bicycle on Research Parkway. Now it is safer and more people are out there riding.
And more will be riding, if we are smart. At least four public outreach meetings were conducted before the temporary striping was applied. The City did provide opportunities for locals to provide input about the project, and explain how this project fits into the greater scheme of things. Investing in our communities and making them friendlier to active lifestyles, to include walking and cycling, makes these places enjoyable for generations. Businesses earnestly take into account the quality of life (including alternative transportation) they can offer their employees when considering moving to Colorado Springs. When what they see is miles and miles of asphalt and speeding cars, and other cities our size offer great bicycle infrastructure and safer neighborhoods, where do you think they will take their workforce?
As the President of the Colorado Springs Cycling Club, I support this demonstration project and join the 400+ members of the club in praising the City of Colorado Springs for this step in the direction of urban modernization. Cycling has brought this country more than machines with two wheels, just as this project is not simply for the benefit of local cyclists; it is for the benefit of our beautiful City and all of its residents.