According to the US Census Bureau, in the cities with the most cycling commuters, only 3.1% of workers bike to work (on average). The average for the entire nation combined is a mere 0.6%. The #1 bike city in the country for 2018, Seattle, has 3.4% of workers bicycling to work. For Denver it’s a minor 2.3%.
We’re not suggesting these numbers are wholly irrelevant. If even 2.3% of Colorado Springs’ population biked to work, that would be over 9,000 bicycling commuters. (Note however that this is a percent of the entire Colorado Springs population, not just people working and thus needing to commute to work.) Still that would be, at most, around 9,000 bicycling commuters spread throughout the entire city. Compare that number to the roughly 10,000 vehicles per day that commute along just Cascade Avenue (see section 2.2 of this report).
Yesterday Cullom Radvillas of Bike Colorado Springs wrote a response to the Gazette’s editorial against traffic congestion. We appreciate Radvillas tone (both here and in past public statements) and respect several of his goals even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye on how to achieve them. However, like many others, Radvillas suggests that increased bike infrastructure will decrease traffic congestion. The idea is that if more people are biking, fewer people are driving, which means less automobile traffic.
This idea makes sense if we’re talking about expanding bike infrastructure by adding dedicated bike trails, creating bike lanes along sidewalks, or otherwise facilitating bikes without taking away infrastructure from cars. However when the controversy is about removing automobile lanes in order to create bike lanes, it seems a little silly to suggest this method will decrease traffic congestion. Replacing traffic lanes with bike lanes might decrease congestion if an extraordinary number of people switched from driving to biking, but as we can see above, even in the most bike friendly cities very few people commute by bike.
The bike lanes on Cascade are usually empty. We agree it’s possible they will see a bit more use as more people grow accustomed to the change (implemented last summer), however we see no reason to believe the lanes will be used so much that the number of new cyclists will even come close to negating the number of vehicles confined to a smaller space. In fact during the last City Council meeting, a group of citizens concerned about safety on Nevada Avenue presented data (starts about 42 minutes into the video) demonstrating that narrowing Cascade has pushed even more traffic onto Nevada, which was already the more heavily used road of the two. That’s not how decreasing congestion works, is it?