One of the ever-more-threadbare assertions the NIMBYs drag onto the stage every time there’s a discussion of road diets (especially if they dare to include omigod bike lanes!) is the claim that “They will Impede emergency vehicles! They are unsafe! We’re all gonna die!”
Of course, what’s really killing people—and killing far more of them than terrorism worldwide—is cars, and far too many of the emergency vehicles mentioned are on their way to car wrecks.
In any case, it seems that road diets with bike lanes actually provide more room for emergency vehicles. When the sirens howl, the cyclists move over into the parking lane, the cars move into the bike lane, and the firetrucks, cop cars, or ambulances have two half-lanes plus the center left turn lane to themselves, giving even the most extravagant of fire trucks plenty of room.
I actually saw this illustrated for me in real life yesterday. Now, I know real-life experience is much derided these days, especially among the NIMBY-American community, but really, in this world what you see is very often what you get, and this is what I saw&helllip.
I was pedaling along York Boulevard in its much-derided bike lane, when I saw a flutter of red and blue lights, accompanied by the whoops and yelps of a police car’s siren. I dutifully pulled over behind a parked car, and, like magic, all the moving cars pulled into the now-empty bike lane, and stopped. (Well, most of them; some drivers are insistent boneheads who won’t stop even for lights and sirens.) A cop car soared past, moving very very fast.
Two blocks later, it was lights and sirens again, and the cyclists and motorists repeated their dutiful dance. This time two cop cars whooshed past in tandem, again moving really quite fast.
Another block, and a fourth one roared past, howling and blinking, again entirely unimpeded by the existence of bike lanes. (I don’t know what was going on towards the east end of York, but it must have been unpleasant in the extreme.)
And as if that wasn’t enough, over in Hollywood a half-hour later, I was riding west on Santa Monica when I came to the intersection with Vine Street, when I heard—yes, indeed—sirens, and saw the red and blue lights. Only this time, there was no road diet, and there were no bike lanes. Cars filled the road edge to edge, and the cop car got stuck in traffic! Eventually the traffic on the opposite side of the street dribbled far forward enough that the cop could swerve into it and salmon eastwards towards the call—after having been, in fact, impeded…by car traffic.
This was what I saw yesterday on Planet Earth. It might be different where the NIMBYs live…but probably not.