Bike Lanes Are More Than Just Annoying, They’re Hurting Cities, People, and Businesses

A leading environmentalist opposes city accommodation of cyclists, claiming that promoting cycling in cities is incredibly costly, damages local businesses, hurts city revenues, increases pollution, increase traffic, and leaves cyclists suffering black lung.

The only things worse than cyclists are tandem riders. 

According to Lawrence Solomon, an executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and one of Canada’s leading environmentalists, cycling used to be a great benefit to cities. In an op-ed for the Financial Post, Solomon claims that in the 1980’s, the bicycle “blessed cities with economic and environmental benefits,” as it reduced the number of cars on the road which in turn, eased traffic.  

Solomon also writes the bicycle, “saved wear and tear on the roads, easing municipal budgets; it reduced auto emissions, easing air pollution; it reduced the need for automobile parking, increasing the efficiency of land use; and it helped keep people fit, too.”

Today, however, cycling is more negative than positive. 

Excluding the obvious problem of Lycra, Solomon explains that bike lanes “now consume more road space than they free up, they add to pollution as well as reducing it, they hurt neighborhoods and business districts alike, and they have become a drain on the public purse.”

In the United Kingdom, London is a great example of how cycling has become a detriment cities. 

The former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, created a “cycling revolution” in the form of a public bicycle hiring scheme. The scheme saw rentable bikes in docking stations spring up around the city. Although the concept was well received, it has now proven to be a large source of congestion for daily commuters due to the many bike lanes, which the Transport for London (TfL) call “cycle superhighways.”

These bike lanes, which are mostly underused, have forced traffic to move at a snail’s pace as cars are unable to use the entirety of the road to maneuver. 

According to a City of London report, cited by Solomon, “The most significant impact on the City’s road network in the last 12 months has been the construction and subsequent operation of TfL’s cycle superhighway … areas of traffic congestion can frequently be found on those roads.”

The damage of the bike lanes was even brought up in a parliamentary debate when Lord Nigel Lawson said they have damaged London more than “almost anything since the Blitz.”

Due to the immense amount of traffic caused by bike lanes, the pollution levels of the city have risen. The main victims of this pollution, ironically, are cyclists. 

Solomon, who cites a study by the London School of Medicine, explains that cyclists inhale 2.3 times more soot than people who walk. This is because cyclists “breathe more deeply and at a quicker rate than pedestrians while in closer proximity to exhaust fumes … Our data strongly suggest that personal exposure to black carbon should be considered when planning cycling routes,” the London School of Medicine report suggests. 

Not only are cities spending a large amount of money on cycling schemes, Paris aims to become the “cycling capital of the world” by spending 150 million euros on the issue, bike lanes cost businesses money as they typically replace lanes that accommodate street parking, which can heavily impact businesses that rely on street parking to operate. 

Oregon, which has a large number of cyclists, has attempted to fix the problem by implementing a sales tax on new bicycles. The senator who co-wrote the bill explained that legislators “felt that bicycles ought to contribute to the system.”

“In the U.K., cyclists are mocked as “mamils” (middle-aged men in Lycra); in U.S. inner cities they’re seen as the preserve of “white men with white-collar jobs” furthering gentrification,” Solomon writes. “Almost everywhere they’re seen as discourteous, and as threats to the safety of pedestrians.”

Granted, mocking cyclists is something every motorist has done since the first Model T.

Featured Image Via Flickr/Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

Sources: Financial Post



  1. zxq9

    December 6, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    This one is a bit tricky to tackle. If you invest heavily in bicycle infrastructure but actual use of it never becomes part of the local culture (which can be for many reasons — in England weather is the greatest culprit) then yes, of course it does more harm than good.

    But we have strong counter-examples as well such as the Netherlands, a few fair-weathered American cities, some parts of China and Taiwan, etc. Interestingly this is not the case in Japan, where bicycle use is quite heavy but not very much extra effort has been spent on making cities “bicycle friendly” (this is perhaps the ideal case, but also may be entirely dependent on the nature of the population and local culture — meaning it may not be very easily repeated elsewhere).

    It is good that an actual evaluation of the effect can be engaged these days. For decades it has been heresy to do anything other than echo cooing support for cycling. (That said, I really enjoy cycling — but not as a primary means of transit, mostly because its one of those activities that permits you to enjoy yourself like a 10-year-old without attracting undue attention.)

  2. BDR

    December 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    As a [thick skinned] cyclist, I feel the need to give my $.02.

    The biggest problem is most US governments and cycling advocates all want to model their bicycling infrastructure on Holland (capital of the bike) and Denmark. The problem is Holland is built very differently, both infrastructure and culturally, to attempt to retrofit their models into US cities. In the US, every advocate and government wants a half-ass attempt to copy their cycling infrastructure paying zero care or attention to the fact cultures and education are completely different. They want to spend, spend, spend on infrastructure but not fix or spend on the core problems of education and enforcement.

    Where I different than most fellow cyclists is I believe cycling infrastructure is a colossal waste of money…that money could go to better resources, such as better driver and rider education, training, law enforcement, etc, with regards to cycling traffic law. Most existing roads can function just fine sharing between cyclists and automobiles, the issue is lack of knowledge and training

    Lastly, I would hesitate to brand cyclists as one collective group of broke hippy Leftists – the kind you see on fixies in NYC or San Fran. Truth is, cycling is the new golf; barrier entry is quite high if someone that wishes to compete against friends. Most of the MAMILS (middle aged men in Lycra) tend to be well off individuals, who pobably are Right-leaning.

    I could get into registration, insurance road tax, but that’s a completely different can of worms. My rebuttal on that subject: Would you/motorists treat cyclists any different if they were registered? Probably not…

  3. Bike Hater

    December 7, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    I support whatever gets these a$$holes off the road.

  4. jc

    December 7, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Seems like for every three good articles this website posts, they post one seriously intellectually bankrupt article. This is one of those. OMG… London can’t freaking manage their bike Lanes (or car Lanes, for that matter), so they must all be terrible…am I right? Go check out the majority of other major European cities where they figured it out. This author doesn’t understand the concept of benefits vs costs, and that sometimes you give some to get some. A completely idiotic one sided article.

  5. Nick

    December 11, 2017 at 9:02 am

    After reading this article I get the feeling that the real problem is all the cars.

  6. Wearyman

    December 11, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I think that we here in Buffalo NY have it right. Rather than have a bazillion “bike lanes” sucking space from the roads, we recognize that bikes and cars do NOT belong together on main roads and have instead invested in an extensive bike trail system that is largely separate from the road systems other than the occasional crossing and short stretches of shared space. Not only is maintenance of this separate space reasonably inexpensive, as the pavement lasts for years without major maintenance, but the cyclists benefit by having green space and fresh air to breathe and the motorists benefit by not having road space constricted. It also has allowed us to convert much of the old and now disused rail lines and right-of-ways into bike and walking paths that everyone can enjoy.

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