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Friday, April 17, 2015

No Bike Lane for Old Men

Bike lanes get mixed reviews from seasoned transportational cyclists. They define boundaries and roles, invite cycling, create a false sense of security, calm lanes, make car lanes unnecessarily narrow, ask anyone. They're great, they're horrible, they're meh.

Casey Neistat did his own stunts (sans helmet, brave lad) to illustrate the limitations of New York City's bike lanes. And I'll just say, in case any of you don't know, it's always an asshole move to park your car in a bike lane. It's as wrong as parking in a handicapped spot when you're able-bodied, as wrong as parking on a sidewalk. Don't be that guy.

So my commute includes one of Kansas City, Missouri's handful of bike lanes. Credit where it's due, they must have quadrupled their miles of striped bike lanes in the last year or two, but four times a mile doesn't make Portland. They're moving in the right direction even if they're moving so slowly it feels like being stuck behind that dork riding his bike uphill on Broadway, taking the lane like he belonged there.

I decided to make a 311 complaint about the bike lane on Beardsley awhile back. I'm Facebook friends with Deb Ridgway, KC's bike-ped coordinator, who has the pretty near impossible task of dragging Kansas City out of 1967 on this subject. She'd posted something on Facebook about making 311 complaints and I was ambivalent to hostile to the idea.

My first 311 complaint was after I ate a grate and met my soulmate. I broke two fingers, one required surgery and has permanent disfigurement/disability, was concussed, had contusions on my shoulder, knee, knuckles, etc. Ruined my bike frame, too. I presented a 311 complaint at the time and the reply was basically, 'So sue me.' I think the exact words were, 'You have a responsibility to look where you are going.'

I did sue, and ultimately prevailed though not against the city. I didn't realize the extent of my damages when I made the 311 complaint, so they could have bought me off super cheap if they'd been inclined to do the right thing. So the city did me a big favor by being shits when it came to my 311 complaint, but they were still shits about it.

But, I thought, give it another chance. There's brush growing out in the bike lane on Beardsley basically to the white line for a stretch of maybe 75 yards at one point, then intermittently as you go down the hill. It's a two lane road and one of those wide open stretches people drive 20 over the speed limit on. It's posted 35mph, but I'll bet half the cars are going over 50. I guess I could make a video like Casey's if I was inclined to get all scratched up, but that bike lane is fucking useless on the northbound side of the street. Some speed humps and/or some actual law enforcement would be helpful too, and I did go through the police department's form on that subject, telling them if they want to meet their quota, just set a cop with radar up at 12th & Beardsley, the harvest will be plentiful.

But when I went through the 311 site, it gave me an error. I was tired, probably had a beer or two more than I should have, went to bed pissed off. Tried again the next night, it still wouldn't work.

Then I'm riding home and there's not just a forest in the bike lane, there's a rock slide of enormous boulders taking out the bike lane plus a car lane. You'd think this would slow the cars down, and maybe it did but not by much. It was nervy just photographing the damage. There was already caution tape around the rocks (as if you need a caution bigger than a few tons of giant rocks in your way) so I figured the city knew about it, but damnit, I was going to try that 311 thing again.

Nothing doing. So finally I messaged Deb Ridgway on Facebook. I tried to be civil because I know it's not her fault. She was actually great about it, got with their IT people about the website not working, thanked me for letting her know, and gave me a detailed update on the removal of the boulders and the planned brush trimming (apparently the equipment needs repaired so it'll be another week before the bike lane can be reclaimed from the woods).

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