A Non-recreational Bike Map

Note! There is a lot of whining here, but a good idea toward the bottom.

For the past 8 years, I've biked everywhere - to work and back each day, long treks to the nearest health food store, laundromat, friends, etc.. I think the planet has too many cars on it already, and have tried to not be a part of the problem. Although i finally broke down and bought one, i would never drive to work and intend to bike everywhere possible.

Unfortunately, modern cities are designed 100% with cars in mind. The common, unconscious attitude is that anyone who doesn't own a car (or two) must be very poor, elderly, handicapped, a criminal, or just plain stupid. This results in situations like modern Los Angeles, where public transportation is a joke and nearly 2/3 of the land area is devoted to cars in some way - freeways, roads, parking lots...

Bike lanes and pedestrian bridges tend to be an afterthought.   Each city has a handful of bike lanes - but they don't connect with each other!   Some obstacle-filled parking lot, narrow sidewalk or edge of a dangerous roadway must be traversed to get from one section of bike path to the next.

This contributes to a chicken-and-egg problem: people won't bike unless it's convenient, and cities won't make it convenient unless more people bike. The lone biker must fend for themselves and learn ways to get from one place to another.

"Bike Maps" sold at bike stores tend to show recreational trails outside urban areas, which often don't even show the roads you'd have to take to get to the trails. The one map i've seen that actually showed the location of urban bike lanes, several years ago, was amazing incomplete, inaccurate, and didn't have any indication of how to get from one stretch of bike lane to the next.

What the world needs is a map for each city that shows how to actually get from one place to another on a bike. The following should be considered:

  1. Show all bike lanes, indicating which are narrow, steep or poorly maintained
  2. Indicate which main avenues have a safe margin for bikes
  3. Show connecting information to get from one town to the next

I'd love your feedback!

Update 97.09.22

I found a map for my local town of Santa Clara. It's actually pretty good. It does seem to be fairly complete, though connecting information from town to town isn't present.

A sample of what it looks like is here. EVERY town should have one of these. Notice how bike paths start and end mysteriously without actually connecting. The dashed lines aren't even paths or lanes.. just streets considered navigable.  It's not a bike-friendly city, and it shows.

Update 98.11.06county_map.jpg (6881 bytes)city_map.jpg (5443 bytes)

There are actually two maps for my area: one for the City of Santa Clara (shown above), and one for the whole County.  I received both through my company's rideshare program, and i'm not sure yet how other people are supposed to get them.   It's amazing how dismal bike access is in this area.

Update 99.04.08
Got feedback from Victor Wren:

"I have to agree with you. Having lived in Santa Clara for about 2.5 years, now, I have to say that I've never lived in a city that is more bike hostile, including the similarly-sized San Antonio. All the residential neighborhood roads loop and twist around and dead end to force you onto arterial mains, such as Lawrence, where the speed limit is 50, and there seems to be an average of about 3 collisions per day per mile even between the cars (what chance does a bicycle have?)

I think that these terrible back neighborhoods also contribute to the clogged traffic on the main streets. People have no CHOICE about taking the main roads, because the secondary roads don't connect to anything but the main roads. Where there are bicycle paths marked on the roads, it is often only a widening of existing parking, so if somebody parks wonky, it pushes you out into traffic, not to mention the fun and games of people opening car doors in front of you.

I haven't lived in Palo Alto, but from what I've seen, it looks like they've done a lot more to make bicycling feasible -- bike lanes are actually separated from the main car lanes by asphalt dividers, there are turn-offs and alternate routes which are not accessible by car, and the back roads are not just loops off of a main street.

I tried to ride my bike to work several times. Drivers were hostile, my employer was hostile (they refused to provide any kind of adequate bike parking, ordered us to get the bikes out of the building -- even on weekends! -- suggesting we lock our bikes to trees and such -- but out of the way, where nobody would have to look at the bicycles, and incidentally where one of the bikes was stolen because there was no way to watch them.) and there was no way to get from point A to point B without riding on 4-lane or larger roads (the only way across the Cal Train tracks within 2 miles of where I need to cross is Lawrence, which is 8 lanes with no bike path marked [just sidewalks] and averages 60 MPH in the morning, not to mention being a major climb over the bridge -- unless I want to pick up my bike and walk along the tracks 1/4 mile to get around the fence that divides one side from the other).

If I wanted to take a bus, in order to go 6 miles, I would have to change busses 3 times, and it would take about an hour to get here (assuming they're all running on time). I've surrendered to the inevitable, and hardly ever manage to get out on my bike anymore.

You're lucky to have an employer who even gives enough of a damn to provide those booklets, or to even HAVE a rideshare program. If there are any laws encouraging employers to help their employees seek alternatives to polluting the bay, then those laws are pretty much useless."