Op-Ed: Shouldn’t bicycle planning and facility design experts at least ride bikes?

When I go around New Jersey talking about the importance of advocating for better bicycle amenities I’m often told by other bicyclists that they are frustrated, fed up and don’t bother even trying anymore. These bicyclists often complain that when they have petitioned for facilities in the past, if something was built, it was entirely unsuited to their needs. The typical complaint I hear is, “Why bother?!?! If something actually does get built, it will just get designed by someone who has obviously never even ridden a bike!” (I’ve honestly heard close to this exact complaint from several cyclists.)

While I can say with confidence that things are indeed changing for the better here in New Jersey, the unfortunate reality is that these bicyclists’ frustrations are well founded and their misgivings are all too often manifested in the concrete, asphalt, paint and steel of many of the facilities designed for bicycle use around the State. And while the professionals that plan and design these facilities may be very well intentioned and completely sold on the idea and wisdom of accommodating bicyclists, the reality remains that if the expert is not an experienced bicyclist themselves, they may continue to be blind to the potential hazards unintentionally incorporated into their designs and plans.