Gear Prudence: I’m a regular bike commuter and have been riding the same route for years. Over the past few years, the number of bike lanes along my commute has grown, but I still notice streets that don’t have them that I think should. How do I get a bike lane put in or let the government know that I think they should add one? —Please Anyone Install New Thoroughfare
Dear PAINT: The answer is way more complicated than buying ski masks and taking to the streets under the cover of darkness with a yardstick and white paint. Guerilla bike lane painting might solve your issue, but it’s not exactly legal or long-lasting. Plus, bike lanes aren’t painted—they’re thermoplastic strips that are affixed to the roadway with the use of blowtorches. In conclusion, GP says no ski masks, no nocturnal legal subversion, and no blowtorches.
But if you’re a thrill seeker looking for an adrenaline rush, try a different kind of crazy adventure: local civic participation. There are a few different avenues by which citizens can advocate for bicycle infrastructure improvements. One is through your jurisdiction’s bicycle advisory committee. Even if you don’t want to join (membership rules vary), you should at least contact them to express your particular concern. They might be able to give you more information about future plans or help convey your concern along to those in the position to help. You should also contact the neighborhood civic association or local ANC representative. While they get a bad rap for anti-bike NIMBYism, this isn’t universally true, and some are quite receptive and supportive.
Another way to advocate for bike lanes is by going to meetings related to projects in particular locations. When there’s a major development in an area or general plans to redesign a road or intersection, there’s invariably a public meeting (or 12). Show up and say that bike lanes are important to you. Issues with the public right-of-way are always complicated, but speaking up for your preferences is vital.
Last, but not least, consider emailing the bicycle planner at the local transportation department. Lead with “I pay your salary, so here’s the deal.” Government employees really like that. (Editor’s note: This is sarcasm, in case you were confused.) Then inquire about the possibility of a bike lane in your desired location. There are a lot of engineering guidelines that dictate where bike lanes can and cannot go, but these are the professionals who know those rules and who make the long-term plans, so it never hurts to ask. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets at @sharrowsDC. Got a questions about bicycling? Email email@example.com.