Politics: Battle Royale

By Jeffrey Bradley

Back in the day when we lived there, we waged war in concert with these FPNA “Fighting Flamingos” to move causes like the 63 Street Flyover and Baylink forward. And all of it done in bringing forth the New Urbanism of preservation, streetscaping and streetcars to enhance the pedestrian paradigm.

So imagine our surprise when we found them closing ranks over putting down bicycle lanes on Euclid Avenue!

“We believe that the public space needs to adequately accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and autos — in that order of priority!”   —Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association

Apparently afraid that adding a 5ft bicycle lane will create a streetscape that more closely resembles 16th Street than models Meridian, FPNA “favor[s] a bicycle route with bikes and autos sharing the roadway.” So, if we’re all agreed on a plan that “creates a better, cleaner, greener, safer, more pedestrian-oriented Euclid Avenue”, then where’s the beef? In the fine print, Gertrude: bikes and autos sharing the roadway. That means if you’re a Rring-rring, I am the Merry Mailman-type bicycle rider who doesn’t mind occasionally using the sidewalk then everything’s better than houses, but if you’re actually getting around on one—call it alternative transportation—than it’s bicycle lanes you want, because calling a street a “Bike Route” means nothing. Instead, it’s lanes, visible lanes that proclaim, ‘This is where I ride.’

And any flapdoodle about bikes “sharing” the sidewalk is simply the biggest imposture since Genghis Khan. They should be sharing it about as much as a shark should be sharing your pool.

Euclid is an unsafe, ugly avenue. Those double-wide travel lanes—17ft each—absent the bike lanes make it a speedway rivaling Alton. From 5th Street to Lincoln Road it’s a straight shot that you can launch a car down like a JDAM missile. Residential, with few signals or trees, it’s the ultimate autocentric wet dream, shimmering like Alabama blacktop, beckoning speed.

Actually, Euclid is par excellence for traffic-calming in the form of a bike lane, and so designated by the publicly-vetted Master Plan approved by the City Commission a lustrum ago (hardly some “last-minute” deal). With stimulus funding, improvements are suddenly available for the stormwater system under the street—and everything above it, too. Unfortunately, neighbors not wanting to reconstruct a 70ft roadway with dedicated bicycle lanes (as called for in that Master Plan) display terminal NIMBYism by making the bike lane the enemy.

How is it that advocates who fought tooth and nail to better their lot through historic preservation and consider themselves, rightly, as urban apostles suddenly balk at bicycle lanes?

Here’s how: parking. That’s the real enemy, and Euclid has 18 feet of it, almost half the roadway. Bike lanes would account for less than a quarter of the road, with parking. Here’s the crux—wider sidewalks and more green space are surely desirable… but add that from the parking, not take it away from a bike lane. Strange that a neighborhood that takes so much pride in its commitment to walking and bicycling should create this kind of stir over so easy a call. Misplaced effort like this can lead to project delay, or even derailment. And the underground work must be completed by end of year to claim the federal reimbursement.

BTW, do you know who “wins” the most with bicycle lanes in the roadway? Motorists! That’s because the more people riding bicycles means the less people driving cars. So for those who keep driving, traffic flows better. Oddly enough!

“We believe that the public space needs to adequately accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and autos — in that order of priority!”

The best way to “accommodate” them is by helping to put bicycle lanes down all over the City that don’t suddenly end in traffic or worse. It assuredly is not by putting up Bike Route signs, then wishing them Good Luck! while they’re out there “sharing the road”.

Snafus like these could be kept to a minimum if the administration would restore the Bicycle Coordinator position to the upcoming year’s budget. Cut several years ago, the position needs to be expanded to include pedestrian concerns and public transit—three mobility areas of particular need, especially as millions of dollars of unspent grant money are at risk because no one person is coordinating the City’s efforts to promote active and public transportation.

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