Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Bucharest Bicycle Lane Scam

A year ago I wrote about being a bicycle rider in Bucharest. I complained then that there are no bike lanes and no one gives a damn about bicycle riders or the very law that should protect them. Things have changed, apparently, and now beautiful bike lanes are criss-crossing Bucharest's sidewalks. But it is all for show and appearance.

First of all, they serve no purpose on the sidewalk. Given the peculiar psychology of the majority of the population when they have to choose between walking on a nicely marked yellow/green stripe and the normal gray sidewalk, they will walk where the nice colors are. Even if they would somehow decide to think a little and ponder on the significance of the big bike signs painted on those lanes, there are children that have no idea what they are doing and could always jump in front of you. Normally, the population of the bike lanes in bucharest is comprised of mothers with babies, lovers holding hands, old ladies and people that just wouldn't give a damn. Very often I see young stylishly dressed women walking right towards my bike, ignoring me completely, expecting me to move aside. Do they even consider the damage that I would do if I'd just decided on a whim NOT to move aside? Not to mention places where there is space only for the bike lane and it would be stupid to expect people not to walk on it. And of course, the cars that park right on the lanes and about nobody does anything.

Second of all, the lanes were built close to autumn last year, a season not favourable to biking. Then, of course, winter came, and the plastic like stripes that mark the lanes were pretty much destroyed. So they had to put them again. However, during the spring they started working on fixing the streets. That meant scraping the asphalt (bike lanes on the street included) and puting it back on. But they did draw the lanes back on. Then they started changing the street border stones, usually placing them idiotically high right on the bike lane. And if it wasn't enough, they started placing all above ground wires under ground. That meant digging narrow, yet deep trenches in the sidewalk, interrupting the lanes from side to side, so that there is no way to go around, and they never filled them up! Basically every one in two bike lanes is now broken by this. And, as this was not enough, more often than not the lane is of worse quality than the rest of the sidewalk.

Therefore I will ignore these lanes completely, except the days when I am really tired and don't trust myself around cars, and risk my life and the paint on the cars around me rather than the lives of the people on the sidewalk. What a sham this all is. The Bucharest European mask is there only for outsiders, NOT for the people living in it.