There is an abundance of road construction in Bowness right now. Particularly east of the train tracks, where a bike lane is going to be painted on the soon to be newly paved Bowness road! The construction has lead to some congestion, and yesterday I noticed it was as bad as its been all summer. Cars were backed up past where I could see from the shop, which only rarely happens. It reminded me of a few years ago when the city was repaving the west side of Bowness road and painting bike lanes.
Much of the west leg was four lanes, but reduced to two at either end and at several places along it. The plan and was to change it to a two lane road, with a shared center turning lane, plus bike lanes on either side next to the curb. There were some vocal detractors, but the city did go ahead with the plan. Almost immediately after the lines were painted, signs and picketers set up beside the road with the message of “get rid of the bike lanes, cars need the room” (to paraphrase).
One afternoon a few weeks after the lines were painted a perfect storm of traffic occurred. A combination of construction and traffic accidents all but shut down the main highway bordering Bowness. Traffic that would normally by-pass Bowness started pouring into the four entrance points into the community as people tried to avoid the gridlock on the highway. This of course created a bit of gridlock in its own right.
This situation is not unheard of in our community. I feel like we are good for one of these occurrences a year. The detractors of the newly painted bike lanes saw this particular traffic jam as an opportunity to highlight how detrimental the switch from 4 lanes to 2 had been. They doubled their efforts. They were visible enough to convince me that in spite of the facts, there was a chance bike lanes might actually be removed.
Fast forward to now. Automobile traffic moves unencumbered through Bowness. The bike lanes are appreciated and used by many. Its safer for cyclists since many people still don’t recognize a cyclist as a vehicle and therefore don’t give them the same respect as they would another car. The simple line on the road reminds everyone that even a bike is entitled to a piece of the road. It has also slowed traffic down. People used to pass other cars on Bowness road, which has a 50 km/h speed limit and a lot of kids who live near and cross the fairly busy road. Now there is little opportunity for cars to pass each other, and everyone seems to be getting on just fine.
When ever there is change, not everyone is going to be happy. The opinion of a small minority convinced me that the bike lanes were hated by many. They were not. I was reminded that not all change is good, but resistance to change is not good either. Keep your eyes and ears open to the changes happening in your community and judge them on their merits, not on who’s voice is loudest.
PS- I have never seen a traffic jam in a bike lane. This narrow strip of asphalt can apparently transport an unlimited number of people! What a great problem that would be, to have too many people using a bike lane.