Monday, December 15, 2014

Lubbock on a Bike: No Love from the Mayor

An article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal this weekend has had me thinking about bicycling in our town. In the article, cyclists were minimalized by our mayor, Glen Robertson. "...cycling is a niche issue that concerns a small segment of the population." I also learned that the mayor feels that bike lanes are a waste of money. (To be fair, though, he was elected through a campaign based solely on saving money for our citizens - not on improving life, health, or safety for those who live here.)

Road Rage: Lubbock cyclists decry lack of safety

I have been a bicycle rider all of my life, but somewhat recently I turned into a bicycle commuter. I live in the center of town and my home is located five miles from my office. In case you are familiar with Lubbock, my commute requires me to cross Indiana Avenue, 50th Street, Quaker Avenue, Slide Road, and Loop 289 South. People who know my commute refer to me in terms ranging from brave to suicidal. I am surrounded by people who would love to ride, but they are too scared to ride in this town.

USDOT Survey: How Bike Lanes and Paths Make a Difference

I love riding and the benefits of riding; however, I am a fearful man and I have learned the most dangerous obstacles in my commute:
  • unleashed dogs
  • mothers in GM SUVs
  • men in F250 Ford trucks
  • anyone driving an Escalade
  • people who roll through stop signs
  • anyone on the phone while driving
And it is very clear that most of these resent my intrusion on their territory.  They bark, honk, flip me off, and occasionally swerve at me.

Outside of these groups, though, I find most of our drivers to be friendly and courteous. Protected Bike Lane Statistics

Memphis Ave south of 50th St
(You can see where the lane/stripe ends)

No stripe

I do not feel welcome on our streets. I do my best to stick to our infrequent bike lanes and nebulous bike routes. (If you are wondering about the difference, a bike lane has occasional signs and painted lines, a bike route has occasional signs only. In Lubbock, bike lanes are suspended as they near busy streets and public schools.) I mostly use the lanes and routes located on Flint Avenue, 42nd Street, and Memphis Avenue. (If you would like to experience the challenge of maneuvering a Lubbock bike lane, try crossing 50th street at Memphis on a bike. It's like being a mouse at the cat farm.) I try to stay on residential streets and avoid school traffic. I do my best to follow traffic laws and to be courteous, and I never ride in traffic on busy streets. I even use bike lights and a helmet. I love my wife dearly and want to return home safely to her every day.

Cyclists, please be safe out there and watch out for yourself.

May you live in a place where your elected officials view you as something more than an insignificant niche.