Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is Ann Arbor bike friendly?

Bike friends

At admitted student day, I was asked if I thought Ann Arbor was bike friendly. After a pause I replied, "Well, we are ranked very highly in several national studies." It got me thinking, how bike friendly is Ann Arbor? How do you even judge "bike friendliness?"

On one hand, it's pretty easy to bike most places in town. We have numerous bike commuters. We have bike lanes and those new sharrows. Drivers are generally courteous if you follow traffic rules.

On the other hand, the bike lanes sometimes seem lacking. The potholes can be pretty bad. And I've heard several reports of cyclists being shouted at by drivers.

I guess in general I would say Ann Arbor is pretty bicycle friendly. That's not to say it doesn't have substantial room to make improvements. What do you think, gentle readers?

UPDATE: A2politico is covering a similar topic today: MSU But Not U of M/Ann Arbor On League of American Bicyclist Ranking of Bike-Friendly Campuses


  1. It seems a hell of a lot better than Austin, TX... I was just there and bike lanes were notably lacking, at least downtown. On the other hand they have a lot of pedicabs so maybe drivers there are better about sharing the road.

  2. As an adult, I have lived in DC, NYC, SF, and A2.

    The only place I have not been afraid to bike in is A2.

  3. Potholes? In Michigan....surely you jest. I have never seen a pothole in Michigan. They are just figments of our collective imaginations.

    And it's not just bike riders that some drivers are rude to. I will admit, I have been tempted to yell at some bikers but generally that is when they are not following the traffic laws.

  4. Bike friendly? Are you kidding? This is the land of the auto and EVERYONE is going somewhere more important than you are. And they are running late. (Not to mention talking on their cell phone while they are driving.)

  5. I think Ann Arbor is bike friendly. I appreciate the bike lanes, as well as the new markings on the roads downtown. I understand that sweepeing the bikelanes and fixing the potholes aren't the highest priority, and are mostly due to the weather.

    I've been yelled out a few times on my bike, but I don't see the problem as bikes vs. cars, I see it as reasonable people vs. assholes.

    There seem like a lot more assholes driving cars, but that is probably due to the much higher frequency of cars. The rate of assholes on bikes is probably about the same.

    If someone wants to act like an asshole, they will do it regardless of the mode of transportation.

  6. There are a lot of cyclists that don't necessarily treat cycling as seriously as they should. I feel like being a good cyclist means respecting the rules of the road and communicating with drivers. i.e. hand signals and/or eye contact.

  7. Why should cyclists be any different than people in cars (other than the obvious reason)? I mean some asshole blogger had to post a history of turn signals....

  8. don't some of the bike lanes just end suddenly?

  9. There are no bike lanes on State Street, William, Liberty, or either University Street. There are no bike lanes on the streets through the Medical campus. There are no bike lanes on the streets through North Campus. There are sidewalks. Bikes and sidewalks don't mix very well. John Hieftje floated the idea last year of banning bikes from sidewalks.

    Bike lanes do end suddenly, miles of them are maintained badly and are not plowed in winter. Garbage and recycling bins are placed curbside in, yep, the bike lanes.

    There is a commitment to parking and cars in Ann Arbor. Alternative transportation is political window-dressing for a Mayor who bikes to his meeting with the editorial board of the Michigan Daily, wants to get the buses out of downtown, and has a parking spot just for him, under the old City Hall.

  10. For those that say Ann Arbor is not bike friendly, I have to ask: In comparison to what?

    There is a bike ban for sidewalks in Traverse City, where I grew up. There also are very, very few bike lanes. In fact, while I'm sure there are some, I can't imagine for the life of me where they are right now. I'm tempted to say that there are none, actually.

    We are incredibly privileged to live in a city that makes life easier for bikers than other cities do. To complain about it - I hate to say it, but it makes us sound naive.

    I'm not saying that criticism isn't welcome. I think the question should be, "Does Ann Arbor's attitude toward biking reflect how Ann Arbor's citizens feel about it?" If not, then focus on that. But saying that Ann Arbor isn't bike friendly just makes it sound like you've never biked your ass anywhere outside of the city limits. For how cultured a lot of Ann Arborites consider themselves, that's pretty embarrassing.

  11. When a city accepts awards for its bike amenities, that's great (keeping in mind that the editors who give them are 1. trying to sell magazines 2. not visiting the cities, as a rule).

    Comparisons should be made between not where, but between what is said by those who accept the awards, and what is done by those same folks.

    I lived in Rome, Italy for 3 years and biked there. Rome has 100 miles of bike lanes now, and the government is subsidizing bike purchases to get people out of their cars.

    Ann Arbor had 8 miles of bike lanes in 2000 and has 35 miles now. The real question that gets asked in bike friendly communities is about the percentage of trips made by bike, not how many miles of bike lanes there are. How is alternative transportation encouraged?

    It's not naive to ask the question; it's naive to use simple determiners when answering the question.

    Think about this: Ann Arbor cannot, literally, afford to have fewer people park downtown because elected officials are relying on revenues from parking to pay for services (police, fire, etc...). If the number of trips made downtown by bike significantly reduced (say by 35 percent) the number of people who park, it would be a financial disaster.

    Thus, lip service to alternative transportation (bus, bike, walking) politically and financially.

  12. Well, for what it's worth, I'm not happy about the obnoxious drivers when I'm walking either. Or actually, when I"m driving....maybe I'm just irritable...?

  13. I think it is bike-UNfriendly, not to say downright bike-dangerous, myself. And here is my "compared to what": Having just returned from 9 days in Nice (France) where the drivers are courteous and understanding to cyclists on the narrow uphill routes AND the bike paths are clearly marked and definitely separated from the roads in the downtown areas, I cannot see any friendliness at all in AA's shared car/bike lanes (complete with "share the road" signs--as if!) and the so-called bike lanes that suddenly stop. And the potholes all over the place (already mentioned above) and debris along with trash cans left in the bike lanes (ditto). I do admire people who are not afraid to bike in AA. I am.

  14. There are many areas of possible improvement, not the least of which are the endless potholes but I'd like to share this website for your review. Half way down the page you can see the original application for Bicycle Friendly Community from 3 different years.

    We can always use additional help with making Ann Arbor more bicycling and walking friendly.

    Ride on!

  15. I think Ann Arbor could use more bike lanes (I don't even ride my bike here because I find it a tad bit scary). However, when I'm driving my car, sooo many bicyclists fail to follow simple traffic rules which just pisses me off. I think it's a give and take. If more cyclists would follow the traffic rules, motorists would be more courteous as well.