In my last post I questioned Ann Arbor City Councilman Mike Anglin’s votes on a couple of transportation-related items at City Council’s April 2 meeting.
For the vote on parking minimums in the Downtown Development Authority’s district, Dave Askins helpfully summarized Mr. Anglin’s objections in a comment. Meanwhile, the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition shared a link to the an AnnArbor.com story on the proposed road diet for Jackson Road. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link and scrolled down to see what the site’s commenters were saying.
I’ve found the commenters on AnnArbor.com, as with most other mainstream news sides, are predominately right-leaning in their politics, which in turn carries with it a bias toward single-occupant driving and against alternative forms of transportation. As I anticipated, there were plenty of commenters who, like Mr. Anglin, opposed the road diet for various reasons. The strongest argument against was one I hadn’t considered — namely, that this stretch of road is a bus route, so traffic would no longer be able to pass on the left in either direction when the buses stopped, as they do frequently.
Depending on the frequency of the bus, I thought that was a pretty reasonable objection. While I ride the bus myself, I drive Washtenaw Avenue often enough to understand the significant delays drivers experience when driving behind a bus. It turns out the Jackson route, the #9, only runs every half hour during peak weekday & Saturday traffic hours, and only hourly on Sundays. On this schedule, a road diet would probably be disruptive to 9-5 weekday commuters, but minimally so for drivers during the rest of the week.
Conceivably, this could be a feature of the road diet rather than a bug: that some rush-hour drivers, frustrated by the delays, would be able to switch to alternate routes or schedules, reducing the congestion. Even more likely, the addition of the bike lanes could make people more likely to consider cycling along this route and leaving their cars at home. However, if you are the kind of person who spends a lot of time commenting on AnnArbor.com (i.e. an older person who considers himself a “conservative”), you are also likelier to depend entirely on driving to get around, and hence will not be convinced that you’d benefit from these alternatives.
An alternative to bike lanes that popped up on the comment thread was the idea that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk in the absence of a bike lane. I’ll devote my next post to recounting my own philosophy on that topic.