By Dom Nozzi
July 24, 2003
It is common for bicycling advocates to call for a citywide bicycle path system that is physically separated from the roadway system.
One small problem with this idea, though.
A separate bicycle path system in American cities is an academic debate, since it is completely impossible for existing cities in America to retrofit a comprehensive network of separated paths for bicycles within the city. Oh, sure, we can build a decent SPINE of off-road paths, as is found in Boulder, Colorado. But as any bicycle commuter knows, a spine STILL requires the bicyclist to be off the bicycle path spine to get to or from the spine to various destinations — very few of which are directly linked to the spine.
Building a COMPREHENSIVE network of off-road paths in a city is, of course, completely unaffordable It also means that we have given up on making the street more livable and rich in transportation choice — we have given in to the status quo in which our streets will always remain car sewers. Because the idea is totally unaffordable, it is an academic argument only.
While the issue is academic, perhaps the most serious flaw of this “common sense” idea is that a large number of intelligent, motivated officials and designers can squander a LOT of their precious efforts to improve quality of life by fighting a hopeless, losing battle — thereby burning out in the process and being
lost for other fights that might make a difference.
We don’t have enough troops to lose some of them this way.