The little compromises that can ruin your bike commute

Gaps in bike infrastructure can add up to big problems for cyclists. Photo by Tom Babin.

If you commute by bike, you’ve come across the little compromises. These are the little bits of missing bike infrastructure – a lane that ends prematurely, a painted lane instead of a separated lane, a gap between two bike paths. In many North American cities, these little compromises are everywhere.

On their own, they are no big deal. But when you’re trying to get around a city on a bike, these little one-offs add up to a system that, frankly, sucks. On a practical level, they can be dangerous. On a philosophical level, each one is like a little poke reminding you that, as a cyclist, you aren’t as important as other road users.

Here are two little compromises on my regular commute that illustrate just how irksome they can be. On their own, they are nothing big. But taken together, they are part of a pattern that makes riding a bike unnecessarily difficult.

Check out more in the video below:

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Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling. 


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  1. Tom

    I naively felt that the bike lanes had a momentum and that new construction of lanes would continue after the pilot project was made permanent. We don’t need lanes everywhere, but, such as extending 5th ST south of 17th Ave is a no-brainer, and more logical than having a lane on 2nd St. However, YYC City Council seems to have lost interest in new lanes, and with Chu on the Pathways and Bikeways Project Steering Committee, we are risking going backward. I too, was “holding out hope” for better and more bike lanes, but I think our wheels need to get squeaky to make it happen.

  2. Tom
    I’ve noticed the same problems as you mentioned also. There’s been times when I’ve been on a busy road with vehicles coming up fast behind me. Or the bike lane would suddenly disappear as I came upon an intersection, making it dangerous when cars tried to turn right.
    It just seems that bicycles aren’t very important even though they cause less pollution, noise, traffic jams, and accidents as long as cyclists respect the road and follow traffic laws.

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