What happens to a city when the mayor is a bicycle fanatic?
Our honorable mayor, Adrian Fenty, now 3 years into his term is changing the city inside and out to become bike friendly. In some brilliant ways, hilarious ways, and scary ways.
First the brilliant. The city now has borrow-a-bike stations where you can check-out and return bikes. The program is called SmartBikeDC. (claim: “America’s first self-service public bike rental program”). The main trouble with this system is having enough bike stations (like metro stops) to make it easy to get around. Building each station is costly, although cheap to operate and maintain.
The word is that Fenty and his team are coming up with the “start-up money” to build new stations anywhere they can, 3 million here, 60 million there (stimulus money in partnership with Arlington county). Once built the operation pretty much runs itself with Clear Channel somehow operating the stations and advertising (?).
I think its a masterful way to turn the already pedestrian friendly DC into a bike friendly place too. Drive another stake into the heart of our driving culture and reducing all the pollution and noise that comes with cars.
Of course, this provides another problem, DC is not a bike friendly city. Every year people die from biking, accidents occur daily, and there are/were no bike lanes. The problem seems quite intractable in such an old city since you can’t pave a bike path very far when the road abruptly ends or turns into a one-way street. To fix this you have to go block by block paving new lanes and its expensive.
This is where the hilarity ensues. The other day I was crossing Pennsylvania avenue and noticed that new “street lanes”. The road went from six driving lanes to four for cars and four for bikes. That’s right four bike lanes, two each way. I guess its a slow lane and fast lane? Maybe bikers need a left turn lane too?
Check out this photo of another one of these awesome new bike lanes. Notice (1) upper right fellow doing something obnoxious, (2) the confusing array of lanes, (3) the parking lane?, (4) and what would the picture be without a fake tree on either side.
Finally, the scary part. You know this story wouldn’t be complete without some overspending ridiculousness. Ours comes complete with a super futuristic space station modeled after a bike helmet so union station folks can…park their bikes? Actually, I’m still not sure what the point of an advanced bike station at a train station is, especially considering that the trains aren’t bike friendly. Regardless, this thing is a beautiful monstrosity. First the design concept:
Yes this thing is crazy and scary looking. It only cost us 4 million dollars too. Even stranger a local company runs/operates this 1700 square foot location charging $2/day to park your bike. I just hope that our beautiful new bike helmet space station was on the up-up.
Anyway, I hope the cyclist are enjoying our new bike friendly city thanks to Mayor Fenty (I sure am) and you car people consider yourself warned…
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