Do We Really Need an Interconnected Bike Network?

Last week, The Observer wrote about the raging debate over bike lanes and what the City Council seems to think about it. Among the quasi-opponents, at least of the current bike lane plan, is outer-outer borugh council member Lew Fidler, who said he is in favor of lanes–“build them and they will come”–but questioned the need for a fully interconnected network. In an email, he elaborated on this point further:

Had I had the time, I would have added to this nonsensical opinion about connectivity, that all biking except for the rare biker who actually LIVES on a bike lane, dumps people off of her [DOT Commish Janette Sadik-Khan’s] connective system. I would venture to say that next to no one would use the bike route that “connects” Eastern Parkway to Shore Parkway down two nondescript residential streets in Canarsie. However, if they connected a lane down Paerdegat Avenue along Paerdegat Basin, through Canarsie/Seaview Park and out again up East 108th Street along the other side of the basin, biker riders would use it significantly. The fact that the lanes terminate and are not connective is irrelevant. Everyone leaves the lanes to travel home somewhere.

Well, one reader certainly disagrees:

What Lew Fidler, with his windshield perspective, apparently fails to grasp is that not everyone who hops on a bike wants or needs to commute to Manhattan. We want to shop, visit friends, attend a meeting, ride to our nearby, non-Manhattan jobs or ride to the subway to commute to Manhattan. And we don’t want to have to get into cars to do all that. But we want to feel that we’re reasonably safe when we’re on our bikes, and bike lanes and traffic-calmed streets go a long way toward accomplishing that.

So which is it? Do we need an interconnected bike system covering the entire city for it to be truly effective? Would not having one be like building a bridge to nowhere? Or is our time and money better spent on a system that will get a lot of use from a high concentration of riders while leaving gaps in the broader system? Should every street in the city have a lane? Should we ban cars all together? What’s your solution?

mchaban [at] observer.com | @mc_nyo Do We Really Need an Interconnected Bike Network?