I'm trying really, really hard to understand the bike/multi-use path proposed for the new 395 freeway extension. I like bikes and my husband loves bikes of all kinds. It's just that I have so many questions about the logic of the whole thing.
First off, there will have to be one heck of a cement berm to separate the vehicle traffic from the path traffic. Wasn't there just a story about half-a-dozen kids who were hit by a car while picking up trash off along the side of a road? Can there be enough liability insurance available to cover the potential law suits? Wouldn't the path have to be a totally separate entity that just happens to be using the same right-of-way (NOT like the photo of Hank Wessel riding in the path along Saliman Road)? Wouldn't that be like building a second road, with a whole second set of costs? And still, cars can jump dividers and banks when traveling at 70 mph.
No two path users move at the same speed, or even consistently at the same speed. Take a trip up to the Tahoe City and Squaw Valley area and check out their bike paths. It's a beautiful ride along the Truckee River on Route 89 North. At times it can be physically challenging and there is no cruise control to fall back on. But, there are also places to stop and take in the view (also, porta-potties). You need to pull off and get out of the way though. Rollerbladers, runners, walkers, bikers are constantly weaving in out and around each other. And, walkers rarely walk alone or in a single file. Lots of walkers are on the path along Route 28 in Incline Village.
No two bikers ride at the same speed. In fact there seem to be two general classes of bikers. The one is a family with Dad on his bike out front, child on his small bike with training wheels next, and Mom behind with another child in the "rear" seat. Their ride involves a lot of stopping and starting. Then there is the serious, Tour de France type. He only has one speed - fast, and he does not slow down. In fact, you can seriously test your patience while driving in a traffic jam on Route 89 south of Tahoe City as each car slowly edges past the speed biker in the traffic lane. The traffic lane, next to the bike path that the speed biker refuses to use.
Then there is the dirt and debris and maintenance. Up at Tahoe, snow and ice impede the use of the pathways for a good part of the year. But as soon as the stuff melts the public utility districts had better get out their special sweepers, because the users start using - in spite of the "closed" signs. A lot of sand and dirt accumulates on the side of a road. I still remember the day that my husband returned home from an encounter between his bike and a patch of sand. Thank God he had on a "brain bucket" and that skin grows back. Liability?
Then there is the question of on and off access and pick-up problems. Bikers and others like to be able to stop when they have had enough. You can stop and wait for Dad to go get the pickup and come and get you. How so on the side of a highway? Or, if the bike path is open access, then what happens to freeway access?
But my biggest question is, just who is this biker/multi-user? And, why is he interested in biking along a freeway? This route will not have a scenic designation. Parts of it will even be below the grade, in a trench. Sound walls are not pretty. Gasoline and diesel smells are not sweet.
As I understand it, the purpose of this new highway is to take the heavy commuter and tripple-long-truck traffic off of our main drives. If that be the case, and the downtown corridor becomes more pedestrian and tourist friendly, why not realign the downtown traffic arteries to include bike and multi-user traffic. There would at least be less contrast between the speeds of all of the users. These slower moving folks might just stop off at a cafe or a shop along the way, maybe as a destination.
Just a thought.