The Corner

Another Unintended Consequence of Bike Lanes

Downtown Washington is littered with bike lanes. In my experience, they are nearly always devoid of people actually riding bicycles. I can only assume that the city put them in place to encourage bike riding over traveling by car. Build the bike lanes, and the people will bike.

It won’t surprise you to learn that these lanes, like many technocratic schemes, come with unintended consequences. When it snows — and it does, from time to time, always catching the city completely by surprise — the plows can’t remove the snow from the streets because the plows can’t fit in the bike lanes. So the plows dump all the snow into the bike lanes themselves. This causes a problem for the two or three people who actually ride bicycles in the bike lanes. It also causes problems for motorists because the city, employing its micromanagerial genius, often uses the portion of the bike lanes near intersections as left-turn lanes for cars. Safety first.

Another consequence — unintended? — is that already congested streets lose an entire lane. I remember once it took me nearly thirty minutes to travel five blocks down L Street, NW. The road was down to one lane, effectively.

And today’s observation: Delivery trucks can’t fit in the bike lanes. So they load and unload not at the curb, but in the street. Safety first. Bottlenecks form. Commuters lose productive time at work or time home with their children. Welfare decreases because rage, or at least irritation, increases.

Build the bike lanes, and the people will bike? Maybe. But even if so, other stuff will happen, too.

https://twitter.com/MichaelRStrain/status/566241046158639104

— Michael R. Strain is deputy director of economic policy studies and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.

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