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Monday, May 08, 2006

Bike boulevards

In a gesture to cyclists, Berkeley has designated a bunch of streets as bicycle boulevards. The roads are mostly noted for having signs and markings everywhere so you know it's a bike boulevard, and don't you forget it. Seriously, there are a whole lot of reminders – purple street signs, purple "Bicycle Boulevard" signs, purple direction signs, and notices on the ground, perhaps to remind cyclists that they may become roadkill at any time.

The planners have generally tried to put these routes on calmer, slower roads when it's possible, but most of the roads are basically unmodified beyond all the signs. (The city notes that "[a]dditional bicycle lanes are not planned for any bicycle boulevard streets".) What's so great about these streets, if they don't have special features?

One reason to use them is that they are actually pretty good streets for riding. For instance, north of campus Virginia is designated as the bike route. This just makes sense, I think. You could take Hearst or Cedar to get up the hill, but both are steeper at points, and both are pretty busy. So you might as well take the advice.

There's a more subtle reason why the signage is important, as well. Basically, having reminders that the street is good for bikes affords biking. Seeing that the activity is officially approved makes cyclists more comfortable riding, and that goes further when they're joined by others on bikes. Moreover, noticing that the street is zoned for bikes and seeing lots of bikers tends to make drivers have a little more courtesy. A lot of people seem to think bikes belong on the sidewalk, and generally act like dicks when there's a bike in the road, despite that bikers have the right to the full lane. Of course, another issue is the morons who bike on the sidewalk and run stop signs with abandon, making us look like jerks in general. I think the bike boulevards do something to counter that.