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Community Commentary:

We can’t undo evolution of bike lane

November 12, 2008|By Robert Phipps

In his Nov. 5 Community Commentary about the Chandler Bikeway (“Bike speed limit not required”), John Gaskill makes a number of assertions, most of which are wrong. Instead of a long fact-versus-fiction list, I’ll say this:

The Chandler Bikeway is a dangerous place. Its very design and creation guaranteed that. There are two primary reasons:

One, it invites and encourages a diverse and concentrated group of users, some of whom are traveling much faster than the others, and this creates an inevitable intermixing and colliding of the groups.

And two, although the place is called a “Bikeway,” the lanes are in the pathway to indicate use — not command it. No law requires people to stay between certain lines. The plan assumed goodwill and cooperation, which was pre-designed by the meandering shape, the soft curves with park-like lawns and trees that suggest a place of leisurely enjoyment, slow comfortable pace and social interaction — not speed. It assumed that speed-cyclists would stay in the street where they belonged and always were.

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Gaskill himself disclosed the true purpose and use of the pathway when he said he was driven from it “by increases in the number of pedestrians walking three abreast?.?.?.; groups of people standing and conversing?.?.?.; cruiser bicyclists riding in groups of two and three abreast?.?.?.; roller-bladers and scooter pushers?.?.?.; and last but not least, families attempting to teach young children how to ride bicycles with training wheels.”

Yes, he’s right. The place has evolved, and the groups he listed demonstrate the current primary use. He complained that each of the groups was not paying attention or was in his space, but the very design of the place has encouraged both a wandering mind and step. And, besides, it seems bicycle riders are fewer in number than walkers, and far fewer than all combined non-cyclists. Gaskill’s lament is similar to that of a homeowner who sees his neighborhood becoming commercial: Frustration, anger and ultimately sadness are all understandable; nevertheless, the genie will not go back in the bottle, and his practical options are to adapt or move.

Having bicycles and pedestrians in close proximity is inherently dangerous. That’s why the city has made it illegal for bicyclists to ride on many sidewalks.

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