Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bike Priority Zone...?

I do like riding along and spotting one of these signs. Even if you are behind the wheel of your automobile, I imagine it must cause you to pause, for at least a moment and consider the words - bicycle priority zone. Of course the words would hold meaning if they could be taken literally. Priority: a thing that is regarded as more important than another. Bicycle Priority Zone: an area in which transportation by bicycle is the primary mode of mobility. Something like that. In a city such as Claremont, with its compact core, there is no reason why that ideal should not be the case. In practice of course, the ideal does not live up to the reality. Consider the photos below and you tell me where the priority lies:

In Claremont, the bicycle priority zone (BPZ) signifies an area in the downtown core, and extending into the surrounding neighborhoods where bicycles, as a mode of transportation, are given special consideration. The idea is, that by initiating some basic changes to the existing infrastructure, you encourage people to choose the human-powered, two-wheeled mode for local errands. I would suggest that the 100+ new bike racks are a huge success; during my trips into the Village, I normally find a majority of them in use. But, do these bikes belong to "new" riders, or to people who have always used a bike for transportation? Point is, it takes a lot more than infrastructure enhancements to create a true bicycle priority zone. You can line as many streets as you want with bike lanes, add sharrows to streets too narrow for bike lanes, let bike parking proliferate, but until a majority of people realize that the many simple tasks they do each day can be accomplished by bike, until they are willing to recognize the advantages of bicycle transportation in the form of improved health, lower costs, greater social cohesion, any effective BPZ will remain an ideal rather than a matter of practice. Clearly, the BPZ is a movement in the right direction. By providing opportunity, the city is doing its part, now it is up to our residents to follow through.

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