Rather than painting useless sharrows on roads designed mainly for cars, or spending all of our time as activists fighting for segregated routes that non-European drivers cannot be trusted to yield to at intersections, I believe cycling would profit, right now, if more attention were given to completing networks of bike paths along rail corridors (both past and existing), waterways and parklands. While these don’t take people to places that people currently need to be going, they often link up the brownfields that are earmarked for urban renewal. There is an opportunity, this means, to bring cities to bike tracks. Doing it the other way around—bringing bike tracks to cities—would seem more logical, naturally, but at the current rate, it will take decades.
Right now though, demand for affordable housing on urban industrial wastelands, means we can bring a city of sorts, to where we have bike routes, or can easily build them. Where can we build bike routes? Anywhere, it seems, that voters who drive don’t object: waterways; rail routes; and across parks.
So let’s get busy winning, not merely fighting. Let’s forget about stupid sharrows and pipe dreams about generating a critical mass, and for the moment not be quite so absorbed either, in getting segregated bike lanes working in established places where people naturally want to go on their bikes. For the next 5 or 10 years, let's focus most of our efforts on what I’m calling the brownfield-to-bikefield phenomenon. Let’s build what at first might look like recreational bike routes, but which will quickly look more like bike transit routes, once we start clustering new buildings around them.
Above left is an image taken from a rezoning study undertaken in Minneapolis, when they realized one of their railtrails warranted increased densities one block either side. "Midtown Greenway" now means a precinct, orientated around bicycle transport. This ongoing project has not met with the kinds of protests seen, for example, along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West (above right), where most voters just can't accept that a road is for anything other than cars.