Despite the common assumption, bike lanes and paths are not built for lycra-clad men. They are built to improve our streets and usher in a better tomorrow. Building more bike lanes and paths moves us towards a safer, more inclusive city. A city with–gasp!–less traffic than today. Better bike infrastructure improves Quality of Life even for those who do not currently ride a bike, and may never ride a bike.
Athens has become a Bike Friendly Community without the aid of a robust bike network. Athens ridership is high for the region, but lags behind cities with similar national reputations. Improving Athens street grid for people walking and biking will, of course, benefit those of us who already ride. Bike lanes, however, are not just for “bikers.” People who do not currently ride, and even those who plan on never riding, also benefit from improved bike lanes and paths. This is because “bike improvements” are simply street improvements. Public streets are most likely the largest source of public land in ACC. We all benefit when we improve them and make them accessible to more people.
Georgians already recognize better street design helps us all. Georgia Bikes! polling reveals overwhelming support for Complete Streets policies. Athenians, in particular, realize better street designs benefit those who are not the typical “cyclist.” We all want streets to provide safe routes for kids to get to school, connect people living in isolated communities, and create safe neighborhoods for all of us to enjoy. Inefficient and dangerous high-speed roads cannot meet these needs. Streets must work for more than one type of user.
Ensuring our streets work for people walking, riding, and driving takes vision. Many bike improvements do not target current riders. The improvements target people who want to walk or ride more, feel they have no choice but to drive. When BikeAthens sets up our table at public events, the most frequent comment we hear is, “I would love to ride my bike, but I don’t feel safe.” Bountiful research backs our anecdotal data. A large majority of us are interested in walking and riding more often, but only if the streets make it feel safe and comfortable. We all know how building new lanes and roads induces demand and creates more car traffic. Similarly, building safe comfortable places to walk and bike empowers the 60% of us interested in active transpositions to embrace our choice. It creates demand for walking and riding, and it reduces car traffic.
Even if you never ride a bike, the benefits continue: Comfortable streets that provide us true transportation choices are safer and better for business. Streets designed for people (not cars) boost the local economy by providing mobility to more people. They also free up money to be spent right here in Athens. Streets designed to promote walking and riding are safer (and healthier!) for all who use them, and they free up space for those who have no choice but to drive. But those topics deserve their own posts…
Ultimately, support for bike infrastructure goes well-beyond support for “cycling” or “cyclists.” Creating better streets will create a better Athens.