Today, GGW pointed to a post on Mikael Colville-Andersen's Copenhagenize blog in which he called the Pennsylvania Avenue bikeway a failure, and called on whoever built it to be fired, after he saw a picture of it.
My main problem with this is that he doesn't bother to consider what "fail" means. Fail in what way? Does it fail to achieve its goals? What were the goals? Does it achieve its goals but create some large unintended negative consequences? We don't know, because he never bothers to ask those questions. He actually dismissed facts and numbers as "engineering" and thus beneath him. He's a planner - an artist - and he doesn't give a flip about what the numbers say.
But let's take on his reasons for thinking it fails.
Who would ACTUALLY choose to put cyclists in the middle of a street with speeding cars on either side?
Well, that's not what happens. On one side cyclists have "speeding cars" and on the other they have opposite direction cyclists. If being next to speeding cars is such an issue, why is this:
His example of good design. Good God, they're right next to a speeding car!
But to answer his question - lots of people. In fact, use of Pennsylvania Avenue more than tripled after the bike lanes were installed. 61% of surveyed cyclists said they thought it made them safer and according the Danish (yeah Danish, motherfuckers) Bicycle LOS scoring system, that section of Pennsylvania Avenue went from Unsatisfactory to Satisfactory after installation. By the way, increasing use was one of the main goals of the installation. So in that sense, it was not a failure.
But that's just facts and numbers. What about how a far-away filmmaker feels after looking at the photo of it for about 8 seconds? Did any of these engineers even think about that?
Looking at the photo from Washington, DC, my first thought is, "how am I supposed to get to a destination in mid-block"? Do I go up to the next intersection and walk my bike back?
Gosh, I don't know. It seems like an insurmountable problem. How do you get to a mid-block destination on the opposite side of the street in Denmark? I guess you could stop at the earlier intersection and then either merge into traffic or cross over to the sidewalk and then ride up to your destination. Or yeah, you could go the long way, inexplicably ride up to the next intersection and walk your bike back. It's not rocket science. He sounds like my kids when they don't want to get dressed so they pretend that getting their pants on is just too hard and fake fall down while grunting.
Why would I want to cycle with my kids or my grandparents on a barren wasteland as cars fly past?
Isn't that exactly happens in every single one of the 4 designs presented as the gold standard. In each case you have to ride your bike next to traffic. And, a "barren wasteland"? Please. It's one of America's most iconic streets. The Capitol on one end, beautiful architecture up and down it, plenty of bike and pedestrian traffic, trees etc...
One of the primary reasons why he calls it a failure is that it doesn't match what he considers best practices. What are best practices? Coincidentally, it is the practices identified in the Copenhagenize Design Co. produced Copenhagenize Bicycle Planning Guide. Well, that's not arrogant at all. But in that guide, it states that streets with a 25 mph speed limit (like Pennsylvania Avenue has here) need painted bike lanes on the right hand side. Now, it's not clear what's so magical about the right hand side, but it would seem that curb-and-flexpost-separated lanes on the left hand side would be just as good.
To make his point about how silly center bike lanes are, he shows this photo
Of course, we would never sit and drink wine in the center of the street. How absurd. So why would we ride our bikes there. Like that guy riding a bike just to the right of him - what an idiot.
Of course that does discredit one of the Four Acceptable Forms of Bike Infrastructure as handed down to us by the Copenhagenize Bicycle Planning Guide which has sharrowed lanes as the slow speed option (Why would I want to cycle with my kids or my grandparents on a barren wasteland as cars fly up from behind me?) But, the guy has a point and he's not going to let consistency or facts get in the way.
His real beef with the design is this.
One rule of thumb to consider is a simple one. If you don't see an infrastructure design in the Netherlands or Denmark, it's probably a stupid infrastructure design.
My Dad used to say that if you think the answer is simple, you probably don't understand the problem. The arrogance in MCA's statement is flooring. If an American were to say the equivalent they'd be roundly criticized. He reminds me of the westerners who would come in to Cameroon when I was in the Peace Corps there and say "Why don't they just do things like we do in France." [Oh, I don't know, about a million cultural and institutional reasons that you haven't bothered to understand and which I only barely grasp].
Colville-Andersen completely ignores several very important issues - like politics, path dependency and the unique qualities of this road.
The bike lanes are currently in a space that was a median. That's why DDOT was able to build them there. It is also a major parade route every four years and a National Park in its own right, so they were severely hamstrung as to what they could do. Originally they were to take out part of the center traffic lanes and make them larger, but AAA organized a community wide shit-fit over that and the Mayor felt the need to back off. So the choices were what we have or what we used to have. I don't see how that is the fault of the planner or engineers. If he has a bone to pick it is with the politicians and the voters. Calling, as he does, for Mike Goodno to be fired is stupid management. I can't imagine how that would make us better off.
Collville-Anderson's prescription is for DC to fire people who are very concerned about making DC streets more bike friendly and then fight for infrastructure that no decision-maker will agree to build. Maybe he should stick to taking creepy photos of young female cyclists in short skirts.