At this month's Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night, I got in a bit of a heated discussion with some of the other members. Many members of the committee are, as far as I can tell, primarily interested with improving the quality of recreational cycling within the city. That's all well and good, and I of course understand the joy of a good bike ride, but (as my readers know) I'm much more interested in using bicycles as a tool for sustainable transportation- to get people out of their cars and into a healthier, greener lifestyle. I've talked about this divide before, but it was very much on display last night.
The Committee proposed setting up a system of bike routes that could be compiled into a map book, signed and promoted by the City, and possibly be given priority in maintenance. A good thing, certainly, except for one detail- most Committee members saw these routes as loops or "rides" that people could follow in order to spend a day out on their bikes. Loop rides are great if you want to enjoy a bit of fresh air and exercise, but ultimately rather problematic if you want to do that on the way to somewhere of consequence.
I argued that what the City needed was a grid system of bike routes. Such a system, with lines stretching across the City, would be easy to understand, easy to follow, and could then serve as the basis of a way-finding system for more complex routes. Despite assurances that my ideas were good and valid, I think I was nearly alone in this opinion. However, the Committee Chairman asked to see the sort of grid network that I would propose, so here it is:
View Riverside Bikeways Network (proposed) in a larger map
The network is inspired in part by the Backbone Bikeway Network that the LA Bicycle Working Group came up with, and that was eventually largely adopted in LA's Bike Plan. Numbering was inspired by San Francisco, but Long Beach also has a similar system.
The driving idea behind the map is to link neighbourhoods across the City, primarily by using existing bicycle infrastructure. Every route except for #6 substantially follows existing or soon-to-be-built (Route 8) facilities. Nearly everyone in Riverside is within a mile of a numbered bike route, and in most cases could access one via low-traffic, neighbourhood streets. (The biggest exception to this is much of Woodcrest and Washington St., which lack bike facilities at present.)
While the lines look complicated, and in some cases have strange jogs in one direction or another (Route 7 at California, or route 2 at Kansas)- but ideally each of these routes would be signed on the street. Rather than having to memorise the safest route through an area, cyclists could simply follow the signs for their route. The network would not obviate the need for more local, neighbourhood bike facilities, but it would answer questions like "How do I get to downtown from Tyler Mall safely?" (Answer: ride up Magnolia, catch Route 10 at Van Buren to Route 1, and take that to Route 2.) It would also, as I mentioned before, create a framework upon which to build more complex loop rides. Want a quick family ride near UCR? Try the triangle created by routes 2, 5 and 7, all on at least Class II bike lanes. How about a ~15 mile ride on the south side of the city? Take 3 to 12 to 5 to 8. Want to do the ride that the BAC chairman mapped out as an example? I'm extrapolating from memory, but I'm pretty sure it'd be something like 7-5-3-12-1-2. Rather than having to try and guess which streets are safe and go from there, cyclists new to the area would have simple cues to direct them to safe, simple bike routes between any two points in the city.
So... what do you all think?