I catch myself wondering if and when Kim White gets up her gumption and takes a walk downtown as a pretty, unescorted woman among the increasing ranks of creeps, her eyes will fall on the bike lanes on her Broad Street stroll. As the River City’s leading proponent in our urban revitalization, she will see no bicycles. She will see a number of delivery trucks forcing traffic to just one lane, and in any store or shop she may pick, she can get a litany of the horrors these bike lanes have caused. But it’s not only us – the new word being used is ‘Bike-lash.’
Whoa, Kim, don’t take your eye off the real reason for your stroll. The website Wallethub just printed a list of America’s safest cities and, out of 182 ranking from best to worst, Chattanooga just checked in at 175. Stay alert because you can see somebody being rolled before your see a bike. Last week, when it was warmer, a couple of police officers were bicycling down Board Street. But they were not in the lanes (they are too dangerous – somebody may open a door that swings into a bike lane - my mercy).
An Internet friend sent me an article from the Financial Post the other day entitled, “Ban the Bike! How cities made a huge mistake in promoting cycling.” It was written by Lawrence Solomon, who is the executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute. In his article he listed benefits like no expenses to taxpayers, taking cars off the road to ease traffic, reduced auto emissions, and helping people to stay fit. But that’s not what has happened.
It turns out there are more negatives than positives. “In many cities, bike lanes now consume more road space than they free up, they add pollution (this from cars idling in traffic), they hurt neighborhoods and businesses alike, and they have become a drain on the public purse. The bicycle today – or rather the infrastructure that now supports it – exemplifies ‘inappropriate technology’ – a good idea gone wrong through the unsustainable, willy-nilly top-down planning.” (That would be something akin to Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.)
In a speech to Parliament not long ago, Lord Nigel Lawson said cycle zones have done more to hurt London “since the World War II Blitz.” There is a growing animosity by the public for cyclists. The overwhelming majority are wonderful people but the bike lanes, deplored in every setting, create an anger and resentment serious riders never see because – as a rule – it is safer in the street.
Several months ago I got a letter from a warm friend, begging me to come to North Chattanooga and look at the traffic nightmares bike lanes have caused. It turns out I don’t need to waste my time because she explained the situation far better that I ever could:
* * *
WHAT ABOUT NORTH CHATTANOOGA’S DISASTER?
I have read and enjoyed your columns for many years. However, you have mentioned the bike lanes on Broad Street twice but nary a word about North Market Street. The city has created a very confusing traffic pattern from the light at the Market Street Bridge all the way to the top of the hill at Dallas Road. Going up the hill, the first issue is at the post office, which now only has one lane of traffic and frequently creates a bottleneck at the entrance to the parking lot. This is compounded by the vehicles coming out of the shopping center across the street as well as from the rear parking lot behind the First Tennessee Bank, some trying to turn left across a bike lane and a turn lane.
When you get to the top of the hill, to the right by the old Northside Jr High, the bike lane mysteriously disappears after you go through the light. Keep in mind there is another street entering that intersection, coming up at an angle on the right. Those people don't know what to do. If you go through the light and continue up the hill (which is now Dallas Road), most vehicles are turning right onto Old Dallas Road to get over to Fernway and down to Hixson Pike.
BUT....the lane you are traveling in has switched places with the bike lane going up that hill. I see near accidents constantly as people need to turn right but realize they are in a bike lane and drivers-in-the-know are in the (now) travel lane and pushing them out on the right. I've only seen two bicycles in that stretch since the bike lanes were drawn in, and one of the riders was so confused that he had pulled his bike over to the right side and was just sitting there, waiting for traffic to pass and wondering how he got out of his bike lane.
Now, coming down the hill, when you get to the businesses across from the Publix, the bike lane suddenly gives way to 'street parking'....leaving even less space for vehicles. In the next block, from Kent Street to the bridge, there is no vehicle lane...only a bike lane and a turn lane. BIG MESS THERE with cars trying to get in and out of the building where Monica's Bridal Shop and other offices are location, cars trying to turn left into the post office, cars coming out of the shopping center and the Longhorn Restaurant wanting to turn both left and right, cars wanting to turn left at the bridge and realizing they cannot so they whip into the Post Office parking lot to go through to another street, further creating issues with the Post Office parking as cars are trying to back out of their parking spaces, cars wanting to turn left into Walgreen's. The turn lane is converted into a straight ahead lane to cross the bridge shortly before reaching the bridge, and the bike lane turns into a right turn lane onto Cherokee Boulevard. I think they must have let the kids at the school on the hill plan the traffic.
I have never seen such a traffic nightmare as North Market Street/Dallas Road. I beg you to drive this road, up and down the hill, also try to get off and on this road from the side streets and in and out the various parking lots during high traffic hours. You might possibly find it to be the biggest traffic onion yet.
Please help us get North Market/Dallas Road back to the way it was. They took that heavy traffic road and turned it into an obstacle course.
* * *
In a nice play on the famous Lao Tzu quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” In one week, Scott Stoll lost his job, his best friend, his girlfriend and his confidence. Disillusioned he asked himself a question: “If I only have one life, one chance, if I could do anything, what would I do?” The answer was a four-year and 25,742-mile cycle ride around the world.