Bike lanes: A rare harmony between cyclists and drivers

WASHINGTON — Conventional wisdom follows that motorists and bicyclists are at odds over sharing the road. But when it comes to road improvements and traffic safety, there appears to be surprising harmony: Build more bicycle lanes.

“The city has become very bike friendly, so I think there needs to be more bike lanes,” says Althea Hayden, a District resident who takes Metro in her daily commute.

Hayden and others offered comments about road safety after being told about a study conducted on the West Coast.

Transportation researchers at the University of California at Berkeley questioned drivers, pedestrians and public transit users in the San Francisco Bay Area about roadway design that might boost traffic safety. Installing more bicycle lanes was ranked first by respondents in all three groups.

While Jamal Baskins of Largo, Md., uses Metro during the week, he enjoys being at the wheel of his car on weekends.

“Some more bicycle lanes, because people don’t share the road with the bicyclists, they cut them off and it causes accidents,” Baskins says.

Visiting Washington for a chemistry conference, Michela Brumfield of Denton, Texas is also in favor of more bike lanes.

“Absolutely, and make those clear to drivers that they should not cross into those lanes,” she says.

The California researchers found that respondents overwhelmingly support four other ideas for boosting road safety: improved pedestrian crossings; slowing drivers and improving their behavior; more traffic signals and stop signs and better street lighting.

“One of the problems I see downtown a lot is you got people, pedestrians that don’t pay attention to the signals and actually walk across in front of cars,” says Mike Zielinski of Chevy Chase, who bikes, drives and uses Metro.

Bob Lane, a professional truck driver, visiting Washington from Erie, Penn., offers another simple recommendation for improving everyone’s safety.

“I think there should be more enforcement on the rules of driving, you know, turn signals just simple things like that,” he says.

In announcing the results of their study indicating support for more bike lanes, the California researchers concede that some cities aiming to expand bike lanes have been hit by protests and lawsuits. But they say their scientific sampling of what the public wants speaks for itself.

Stepping off a Metrobus at Friendship Heights and lending her voice to more bike lanes, Althea Hayden reflected on the prospects of having more bike lanes in the nation’s capital.

“It’s good exercise and maybe I’ll start riding a bike,” she says.

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