Separated Cycle Paths: Who Asks the Cyclists?

intersection_1

In the discussion about separate or “protected” cycle tracks, it has been surprising that planners and decision makers don’t seem to want input from those who actually ride bikes.

copenhagenize

In some cases, there is open disdain for those who have been cycling in North America for many years. Now that cycling is becoming popular, largely through the example and tireless efforts of these cyclists, we are labeled “a frustrating deterrent to mainstreaming cycling” on the popular “Copenhagenize” blog. The author even suggests that we hit our children, and insinuates that we prefer to mix with cars and trucks on freeways rather than ride on a separate path. (We don’t, the photo in the blog shows a location where a cyclepath actually makes sense.)

Those are extremes, but the tenor isn’t much different when you talk to many bicycle advocacy groups who have jumped onto the cycle path bandwagon.

intersection_2

Why this animosity? Because many experienced cyclists don’t want to ride on segregated cycle paths (except in the very rare instances where they actually make sense). For the most part, they prefer to share quiet streets with slow-moving cars, rather than ride on “protected” paths that put them in harm’s way at each intersection. And if they have to ride on busy streets, they prefer on-street bike lanes that keep them visible and predictable to other traffic.

On the other hand, if you ask non-cyclists what they would be afraid of – if they were on a bike – many will tell you that it’s cars. To those unfamiliar with riding in traffic, it can make apparent sense to “separate” cars and bikes in order to provide “protection.” But many non-cyclists don’t understand the real risks of riding bikes… which occur at intersections.

cyclist_street

What about those who actually have ridden their bikes for many years? Even in Berlin (above), where cycle paths were mandatory until recently and remain deeply ingrained in the culture, more and more cyclists prefer to ride on the street, rather than use unsafe cycle paths (the path is on the right in the photo above).

Even more experienced cyclists in North American are opposed to segregated cycle paths. When “physically separated cycle tracks” were mentioned on the popular Bike Portland Blog recently, the vast majority of comments was by cyclists voicing their dislike of these facilities – even though the blog post only mentioned the cycle paths in passing.

So why doesn’t anybody want to listen to those who actually ride bikes for transportation? It’s true that some experienced cyclists aren’t exactly welcoming to newcomers. So it’s easy to see them as “obstacles” that stand in the way of recruiting more cyclists. But most cyclists are genuinely interested in getting more people on bikes. However, their experience tells them that the “solutions” proposed right now won’t work well in North America. Yet their experience and concerns are dismissed without further discussion.

The push for “protected bike lanes” comes mostly from well-meaning architects and planners. Architects and planners tend to see the world through a lense of facilities. That is their job – designing and building things. When they see a problem – getting more people on bikes – their reflex is to design something to make this happen.

And that points to the next problem: There is real money in segregated cycle paths. Money for consultants. For example, the author of the “Copenhagenize” blog makes a good living by consulting cities on how they can become like Copenhagen – by building cycle paths. There is money for engineers and architects who design the actual facilities. (The contractors may be least to blame, since roads will be built no matter what.) It appears that a whole industry has sprung up around this.

Take the most-often-quoted studies that purport to show that cycle tracks are safer than riding in the street. They are authored by an architect with a background in designing cycle tracks. That alone does not disqualify her, but when her studies are seriously flawed in almost all respects, one wonders about the conflict of interest. Yet those studies are accepted at face value, because they are what decision-makers want to hear. It’s a clear case of group-think, and anybody who stands in the way will be ignored.

That means ignoring actual before-and-after studies of streets where cycle paths were built in Denmark. There are several such studies, including this one from Copenhagen. They all show that bicycle accidents and injuries increased when cycle tracks were installed, because more accidents occur at intersections. (And yes, the studies did account for increases in ridership that occurred with the new facilities.) So when experienced cyclists say that cycle paths are not safe, their assertion actually is supported by the data.

Instead of fostering an open discussion about the infrastructure of the future, we have seen a back-door push for separated cycling facilities.

proposal

Now the federal government is “quietly circulating” a proposal to consultants (above), to design guidelines for separate cycle tracks. The proposal mentions:

“There is a growing body of research on cycle tracks in the U.S. and Canada indicating that, when they are designed well, they do not increase bike crash rates. There is also growing evidence that cyclists prefer cycle tracks over other design treatments that require them to operate within or near motor vehicle traffic.”

That “growing body of research” are the flawed studies mentioned above. Even the well-designed Danish cycle paths cause an increase in bike crash rates. It’s unlikely that we’ll do better in the U.S. than the cycle paths of Copenhagen.

And it does not appear that “cyclists prefer cycle tracks”, either. Most current cyclists understand the risks they pose. The proposal assumes that the matter has been settled, and that the only thing left is to implement the segregated cycle paths.

It is time to voice our opposition. This policy change is happening now – the deadline for the government proposals is today (August 14). Instead of blindly adopting cycle paths, we should have an open discussion of what needs to be done to create an environment where cyclists feel safe and are safe.

I suggest we start by e-mailing the contact for the federal proposal above at Geopardi.Bost@dot.gov. Ask him to forward your comments to the person in charge of setting policies.

This blog has over 4000 readers. If the Federal Highway Administration gets 4000 e-mails opposing the wholesale adoption of cycle paths, they may realize that there is a “silent majority” out there that has been overlooked.

Here are some talking points:

  • Cycle paths make cycling more risky, because cyclists arrive at intersections without being visible to car traffic.
  • The “intersection risk” makes cycle paths a poor choice for most North American cities, with their many intersections, and relatively poorly trained drivers.
  • The grid layout of most North American cities allows for a separate network of “Bicycle Boulevards,” where cyclists can cycle on low-traffic streets, rather than fight for space on the main arterials used by cars.

seattle_bike_plan_comments-4

I wrote about this in more detail in comments to Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan. You can find that 5-page pdf document (1.6 mB) here.

The next step is contacting your local bicycle advisory group, and ask them how they stand on cycle paths, and what they think about the intersection risk of cycle paths. If they are unwilling to consider these points, don’t support them. (I cancelled my membership in the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.)

What we need is a measured discussion of the best way forward. We need to develop solutions that work for North America’s unique geography and culture, rather than try and copy Europe. Most of all, we need to make our voices as cyclists heard in the back-room meetings of those who are trying to implement a policy that profits them, but that may not be in the interest of those actually riding bicycles.

Further reading:

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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167 Responses to Separated Cycle Paths: Who Asks the Cyclists?

  1. Gert says:

    I wish You Good Luck.
    Because one consequence of Bicycle paths, as I have experienced in Denmark is that bicyclist become “second rate” road users. Bicycle paths in poor quality, Cars get right of way in crossings and round abouts etc. etc.
    I especially love that the word “Copehagenize# is used. When I lived there I could daily see a stuck cannonball from the bombardment of 1807 where the term originally gt its meaning: terror-bombard a city into submission and plunder its values

  2. I’ll admit, this is my second year riding and my first seriously on the streets daily, so I don’t have the experience some people do; but I don’t see why cyclists should have to ride with traffic (95%+ of the route) to be visible at intersections (5%- of the route). Obviously you’re less visible if you’re way off to the side, just like riding on the sidewalk, but that doesn’t mean the whole idea is flawed just because of intersections.

    Perhaps the best idea would be a compromise of having protected routes that bring cyclists back into traffic when approaching intersections.

    Further I haven’t read any studies, but I think the basic correlation between cities with protected lanes and number of cyclists is pretty irrefutable. I can’t speak for others but I know cyclist-friendly infrastructure makes me want to ride a street.

    Comment cross-posted from The Chainlink Community (a Chicago cyclist social networking site).

    • I don’t see why cyclists should have to ride with traffic (95%+ of the route) to be visible at intersections (5%- of the route)

      My concern is that 90% of accidents happen at intersections. So it makes little sense to improve safety in the places where 10% of accidents happen, but make it worse in the known danger spots.

      Beyond that, I think the dichotomy of riding on busy streets or cyclepaths is a false one. In most U.S. cities, there are many quiet streets that allow comfortable and safe cycling. The intersection risk can be dealt with by giving these “Bicycle Boulevards” or “Neighborhood Greenways” the right-of-way over cross streets.

      • Thank you for the reply. Even though I respect your point, I still strongly disagree and I have taken the time to email the address provided in opposition to your efforts. Regardless though, this debate is positive for cyclists and I appreciate the work you are doing.

    • I too, commute via bicycle. I have ridden bicycles regularly for 35 years. I love the cycle paths. I want more and more access points. When we are talking about getting your average person (non-athlete lycra clad racer) to switch over to the bicycle, we need infrastructure that is safe and EASY. I hate intersections, and I have a mild disdain for the elitist peloton, whom Copenhagenize refers to as, “a frustrating deterrent to mainstreaming cycling” – there is a reason for that. It is annoying as hell, but also dangerous when some spandex jockey comes barreling down a cycle path through a family ride ignoring speed limits and scuzzing us off for no apparent reason. This type of cyclist is a straight turn off. Most people will be hesitant sharing the road with cars, but mostly intimidated by the proverbial peloton. I have a feeling the author of this article may be guilty of having no interest in the normal person taking his precious title of road cyclist. Well, if that is the case, I am sorry to bear the bad news, too bad, we are coming, plain clothed working class/family types with heavy bikes and pedaling slow. Get a bell, haha.

      • My bikes are equipped with bells. Here is a typical ride.

        Instead of denigrating one another, we should try and address the concerns that each side brings up. I understand the need to create an environment in which everybody, whether novice or avid rider, whether young or old, feels comfortable and safe. It would be nice if the “other side” could address our concerns, that cycle paths in urban settings, have serious problems.

        What you seem to refer is a multi-use path, usually on an abandoned rail line. Those are a totally different thing to cycle paths, which basically are bike lanes that aren’t on the street, but on the sidewalk, or next to it.

  3. chillikebab says:

    Interesting post – many thanks. I used to think like this too, but I changed my mind. You can read something about it here (worth also reading the comments):
    http://chillikebab.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/paying-a-price-for-a-mass-cycling-culture/
    I guess the point is that separated cycling infrastructure gets people onto bikes – even if that infrastructure is of lamentable quality. Most non-cyclists are simply not going to ride on a road, under any circumstances.
    Of course, really good separated bicycle facilities are better than riding on the road. There’s only one country in the world doing this well, and that’s Holland. Bike paths are wide, fast, direct and have priority over other traffic.
    However, we’re not going to get that type of infrastructure without there being a mass of cyclists to ask for it. And we won’t get a mass of cyclists without separated infrastructure, even if (to start with), that infrastructure is pretty lousy.
    It’s a long view – and for confident cyclists like you (and me) it means making some sacrifices whilst cycling culture changes.
    (As a final aside; the bike path safety thing is really a furphy (as we say in Australia). Riding a bike is actually pretty safe, whether you do it on the road or on a bike path, and a comparison of the two is about as helpful as saying seafood is more dangerous than steak. It is (you are more likely to die from food poisoning after eating seafood than after steak), but that’s hardly a reason to campaign against seafood. Similarly, campaigning against cycle paths because, although safe, they are not quite a safe as riding on the road is to focus on a mostly irrelevant side issue, and to miss the bigger picture. Throw your efforts into campaigning for well-designed bike facilitates instead – perhaps send some of your politicians to Holland!)

    • Most non-cyclists are simply not going to ride on a road, under any circumstances.

      I am not sure about this. For example, Seattle has seen a huge increase in cycling in recent years. All the new bicycle facilities (until recent months) have been on-street bike lanes and sharrows.

      The surveys that are being used to show that people prefer separate facilities ask questions like whether they “are confident to ride on all roads with traffic.” Of course, any thoughtful person will answer NO. Even experienced cyclists aren’t confident to ride on urban freeways. A better question would be: “Are you confident riding on a) a quiet neighborhood street that has the right-of-way at intersections; b) an “arterial” with moderate traffic and a painted bike lane; c) a major road with lots of traffic and no bike facilities?”

      In Seattle, what is missing most is guidance for new cyclists where to ride. When I see 70-year-old people riding on arterials because their doctor told them to ride, it saddens me. I try to tell them that there is a quiet street just a block away, where they may find a much more enjoyable (and perhaps even safer) alternative route.

      • somervillebikes says:

        “I am not sure about this. For example, Seattle has seen a huge increase in cycling in recent years. All the new bicycle facilities (until recent months) have been on-street bike lanes and sharrows.”

        Yes, but you don’t distinguish which led to the other, the huge increase in cycling being the causative agent for development of on-road infrastructure, or vice versa. Seeing more cyclists on the street empowers new cyclists to ride on the streets.

        The argument that empowering cyclists to ride in traffic by creating the *illusion* of safety ultimately leads to safer cycling by increasing driver awareness is quite valid, IMO.

      • chillikebab says:

        Many thanks for your thoughtful reply.
        Your characterisation of how surveys ask non-cyclists does not gel with my experience – perhaps they have been conducted less well in the US. In Sydney, for example, the city asked non-cyclists what type of facility would most likely get them riding by showing them various images of possible approaches – from streets with sharrows, painted lanes to separated cycleways. The separated cycleways overwhelmingly were chosen as the preferred approach.

      • Edwin Williamson says:

        Bike Portland has a nice post about this today.
        http://bikeportland.org/2013/08/16/why-our-focus-on-safety-holds-us-back-92432?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BikePortland+%28BikePortland.org%29
        He asks the question – why should safety (or what we are talking about, collision likelihood) be the deciding factor in the design of bike infrastructure.
        I think the top one would be attractiveness to “bike riders,” however you would like to define it!

    • Rob Brown says:

      The real answer for family style cycling is not unsafe infrastructure rather it is Greenways and real (dedicated) Bike Boulevards. Those are existing streets with limited or totally restricted motor vehicle access. Such a network will provide cyclists of all ages a safe place to ride and the means to use a bicycle for transportation.

      Seattle Neighborhood Greenways -> http://seattlegreenways.org/

    • The real question is, How many additional cyclist fatalities is it worth to get more people riding? The answer is different for individuals and society.

      As an individual who is already cycling, I prefer no facilities that increase risk. As a parent, I prefer no facilities that lure my children into higher accident risk.

      As a society, though, most people are driving, not cycling. And there’s fairly compelling evidence that cycling’s health benefits hugely outweigh the accident risk. Bicycle commuters have 40% lower premature mortality than motorists. So it’s theoretically possible that a facility that increases accident risk by 50% could have a net societal benefit if it got enough motorists out of their cars.

      Cycletracks increase accident risk significantly more than 50%, however, so they’d have to get more than 100% of motorists out of their cars to have a net safety benefit.

      • But would a 50% increase in risk of riding on a cycle track vs. riding on the road be worse than the risk of riding in a car for that same trip? Putting your kid in a car is the single most dangerous think you can do statistically, so maybe the “evil scary cycle track” is still safer than that.

      • OK, where are these additional fatalities, in cities with separated cycle paths? The additional risk may seem logical to those who “know” about riding in traffic, but…

      • Fortunately, cycling is relatively safe no matter what. So it’s hard to get statistically significant data. If you have three cyclists killed in a city in a year, and that goes to four, it doesn’t really mean that cycling has become 25% less safe…

      • Josh says:

        “Where are these additional fatlities…?”
        In trying to prove the safety of cycletracks, Lusk et al have done us a service by documenting the increased accident rate of urban cycletracks. They bury that risk in a pool of suburban sidepaths, but the underlying data are still available.

        In an urban street grid, putting cyclists out of sight and out of mind drives an accident rate an order of magnitude higher than the paths with few intersections — 7.0 accidents per million km cycled vs. 0.6 accidents per million km.

        http://bicycledriving.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/AJPH20137406_Schimek_2nd.pdf

    • Erik Nilsson says:

      “There’s only one country in the world doing this well, and that’s Holland. ”
      My recent visit left me disappointed with Amsterdam. Motorcycles are now allowed in bike lanes. Result: many crashes.

      Contrast with Chioggia, Italy. West is a play beach. Tourists promenade on a cycle track along the beach. East is a working port. Bikes are just traffic: mothers with children, office workers, anybody. Town people bike to the beach side, they mostly don’t use the cycle track, but I don’t know for sure why.

      Italy has the highest European per-capita ownership of both cars and bikes, yet one of Europe’s lowest bike injury rates. Italy more resembles America than does Holland. Holland is small and flat, and people like to follow a plan. Italy is big and mountainous, and people like to tell you where to shove your plan. 20 years ago, cycling in Italy was quite dangerous, but today an Italian’s chances of dying in a bike crash are almost half that of a Dutch person’s. Italy is hardly perfect, but we can learn from the Italian experience.

      In any case, while copying another country’s success won’t always work, copying failure will seldom work.

      • chillikebab says:

        I’m glad Italy is also having success – although it’s worth noting that Amsterdam has probably the worst bicycle infrastructure of any city in Holland, and is quite atypical of that country’s approach to bikes. Unfortunately it is the city most people experience when they visit the Netherlands.

    • Andy Morris says:

      A couple of points:

      By building separate facilities we are re-enforcing the perception that cycling on standard road is inherently dangerous.

      We risk people trying to ride on substandard facilities and finding the faults render the experience (especially at ‘innovative’ junction designs) still scary and confusing.

  4. Tom Knoblauch says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the TOPR 6501-13020. I contacted the FHA at the posted e-mail address. I hope my comments & concerns help to make an impact.

  5. Jan, I have tons of respect for you as a cyclist, author, and researcher, but I think there are some serious flaws in your argument here. For one, you are purposely showing photos of some of the most egregious examples of bad separated cycle tracks in order to argue against the concept in general. You’re also misrepresenting the “Copenhagenize” position as wanting to build cycle tracks everywhere, when in fact they share essentially the same nuanced view of appropriate facilities for a given type of road as you do (e.g. http://www.copenhagenize.com/2013/04/the-copenhagenize-bicycle-planning-guide.html). You cite some studies, insinuating a conflict of interest, ignoring others which can’t be tarred with that brush (e.g. http://cyclingincities.spph.ubc.ca/injuries/the-bice-study/)

    Finally, you say we should ask “existing” or “experienced” cyclists in North America what they think, but, at least if we’re talking about transportation modal share rather than recreation, this is an infinitesmal fraction of the population. I’m sorry, but we don’t build bicycle infrastructure for randonneurs, nor do we build it for less superhuman people who are already capable or confident enough to ride to work, school, or shopping. We build it to attract new cyclists, not to make existing ones happy. Of course correlation is not causation, but it’s irrefutable that where this kind of infrastructure has been built, even in North America (for example, Montreal, Madison, or Davis, California), bicycle mode share is much higher.

    Just as a matter of opinion, I also think it is dangerous to argue against building physical bike infrastructure, as governments are eager to find an excuse to do nothing. Fore example, here in Montréal the city has created a category of “bike facility” called a “chausée désignée”, which basicaly means “we painted a bike symbol on this street, now go ride on it”. It’s not even a bike boulevard, just a way for the city to say they have constructed N kilometers of bike routes without actually doing anything.

    • The author of the Copenhagenize blog actually linked his post when I first posted about poorly designed cyclepaths in Seattle. So I don’t think I am misconstruing his view here.

      I don’t think cycling facilities should be designed only for people who can maintain 20 mph… But on the other hand, designing something for people who aren’t using it based on surveys is questionable, too. After all, if you ask people whether they’d work out if the gym was $ 5 less per month, most will answer yes. But when you reduce the fee, you will find that words and actions are two different things.

      Of course correlation is not causation, but it’s irrefutable that where this kind of infrastructure has been built, even in North America (for example, Montreal, Madison, or Davis, California), bicycle mode share is much higher.

      All the places where cycling mode share is high are also places where using cars is very inconvenient. Using a car in Paris or Copenhagen is completely pointless – you’ll be stuck in traffic and when you finally get to your destination, you can’t find parking. In places where parking is relatively easy (like Berlin), cycling mode share is much lower, despite having plenty of cyclepaths. I know that you aren’t saying this, but many argue that the infrastructure alone caused the increase in cycling mode share. They are overlooking other, more important factors.

      • Scott S. says:

        “designing something for people who aren’t using it based on surveys is questionable”

        I disagree. It is necessary to design according to study and forecast. Bridges are not designed according to the number of people currently swimming across the waterway.

      • I got a chuckle out of that analogy. ;-)

        If bicycles were the only way to get around, then your analogy would be correct. But people already are using cars to get to their destinations. We want them to switch “products” from cars to bikes. Surveys are very unreliable in predicting this “switch.”

      • Bob Hall says:

        1) You did misrepresent Copenhagenize’s position, and them linking to your page has nothing to do with your misrepresentation.

        2) The percentage of people willing to ride in normal traffic isn’t based solely on surveys. That mode share increases when safe facilities are built also points to that conclusion.

        3) Your point about driving/parking being a hassle in some European cities has nothing to do with the critique offered by David. He stated: “Of course correlation is not causation, but it’s irrefutable that where this kind of infrastructure has been built….” and then you said “So to argue that the infrastructure alone caused the increase in cycling mode share”. That’s exactly the opposite of what David asserted. You consistently argue against people by totally mischaracterizing their original positions. Please stop.

      • 1) It is my impression that Copenhagenize does not advocate riding on streets.

        2) You are right that cycling mode share increases where facilities are built. But it also increases where no separate facilities are built (e.g., Seattle in recent years). Only a comparative study of several similar cities, some which build separate facilities and others which don’t, would show whether the facilities caused a mode share increase beyond what was happening anyhow.

        3) It was not my intent to misrepresent people’s positions, and I changed my reply to David’s comment.

  6. Rob Brown says:

    Very good article! Building cycling infrastructure that only provides the illusion of safety is just wrong on many levels. Not only will poorly designed and implemented infrastructure waste a lot of money they will lead the less experienced and uninformed cyclists into harms way.

    Check out IAmTraffic.org -> http://iamtraffic.org/

    and the Facebook Group -> Cyclists are Drivers -> https://www.facebook.com/groups/cyclistsaredrivers/

    Both support bicycling as other traffic and oppose implementation of facilities that place cyclists in danger such as Door Zone Bike Lanes, Door Zone/Misplaced Sharrows, and poorly designed Cycle Tracks.

  7. Scott S. says:

    A few years ago, I attended a presentation by NYCDOT with regards to the bike lanes. A photo of one of the key slides can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottsnelling/6409506215/

    NYCDOT divided the city population into “Four Types of Transportation Cyclists”
    1) Stong and Fearless – These are the pre-existing cyclists that are willing to cycle on open roads without any cycle specific infrastructure. This group amounts to ~1% of the city population. In other words, this group is considered negligible and safe to ignore.
    2) Enthused and Confident – This group is reckoned to be ~10% of the city population and to be comfortable riding in painted bike lanes.
    3) Interested But Concerned – This group is reckoned to be ~60% of the city population and in need of protected bike lanes and paths in order to be comfortable cycling.
    4) No Way No How – ~30% of the city population is reckoned to never be willing to cycle, no matter what encouragement or cycle infrastructure may be provided.

    I initially didn’t like the bike lanes (painted or protected), but after an adjustment period, I now like them. I cycle to work nearly everyday and could easily route myself to avoid the protected bike lanes, but I prefer to route thru them. I certainly like your idea of bicycle boulevards, but am not sure that Manhattan has any North-South Avenues to spare, maybe some East-West Streets. In general, as a pre-existing cyclist, I have been very pleased with NYCDOT’s attention to Transportation Cycling, even if they aren’t particularity interested in the pre-existing “Strong and Fearless”-type cyclists.

    If it wasn’t for Weiner-gate, we may have been stuck with the Mayoral candidate that promised to have ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the removal of all the Bloomberg/Sadik-Kahn bike infrastructure.

    Transportation Alternatives is our local cycle advocacy group, and they are generally excellent and making a positive impact.

    • NYC (or at least Manhattan) is an interesting case, because most streets are one-way, traffic speeds are generally slow, and there are many pedestrians, meaning that drivers don’t ever expect to do a right turn without stopping first to let pedestrians cross.

      Those factors combine to greatly reduce the intersection risk. Cycle paths may actually work well in that environment.

      Compare that to Houston, where my family almost was hit once when we crossed a street with a green light. The first right-turning car stopped, but the driver behind, not realizing why the car in front stopped, honked and sverved around the stopped car, almost crashing into us… In that scenario, I’d rather not be on a cycle path.

      3) Interested But Concerned – This group is reckoned to be ~60% of the city population and in need of protected bike lanes and paths in order to be comfortable cycling.

      That statistic is used almost everywhere in the U.S. I have serious doubts whether 70% of New Yorkers will ride bikes if only we provide infrastructure. That would far eclipse the mode share in any European town! Designing facilities for those 60%, who haven’t ever ridden a bike, in the hopes that they’ll get out of their cars, is likely to prove elusive.

      Furthermore, these categories aren’t fixed. Maybe we should work on moving people from the “Interested and Concerned” to the “Enthused and Confident” category? After all, if you had done this survey in the 1960s, the “No Way No How” category would have been 99%.

      • Eliot says:

        Like many of my compadres involved in cycling education, I reject these hard classifications. Instead, I believe that folks are on the Cycling Behavior Spectrum that Dan Gutierrez explains in “Bicyclist Behaviors & Crash Risks“. I believe and have seen first hand people move to becoming fully empowered, solely through solid education and guidance. The hard classifications provide no opportunity for individual change and improvement. The Cycling Behavior Spectrum believes in our ability to improve themselves, but the so-called “Portland Categorization System” puts the responsibility on the state to improve the environment.

      • somervillebikes says:

        “Designing facilities for those 60%, who haven’t ever ridden a bike, in the hopes that they’ll get out of their cars, is likely to prove elusive.”

        NO, but in this case you want to appeal to the largest target demographic, the idea being that recruiting only 10% of a 60% target would be a greater success than recruiting 50% of a 10% target.

      • It actually comes out to roughly the same: 10% x 60% = 6% and 50% x 10% = 5%.

    • Where does NYC’s scheme put me? I used to be young and fearless, I was happy zipping past stopped traffic in the door zone, figured I was fast enough to avoid most hazards, didn’t mind cars passing with a few inches to spare…

      Now I’m old enough to break things, I have kids at home, I’m not nearly fearless enough to ride in door zone bike lanes or cycletracks with increased intersection hazards.

      Most of the bicycle-specific facilities being built in Seattle are designed for the fearless and the clueless. The fearless, who don’t mind the added risk if it lets them go faster, and the clueless, who think cycletracks and door zone bike lanes are safer than riding with adequate clearances on the street.

    • Bob Hall says:

      Jan & Eliot — The Portland classification system doesn’t imply any of the things you say it implies (again, you’re continuing to mischaracterize). It does not imply that building segregated facilities will result in a 70% modal share for bicycles. That’s something you made up, not something implied by the classification system. It’s saying we should target that group in the hopes that safer facilities will resonate with them. It also doesn’t imply that the categories are rigid and stagnant. Eliot, who says these are “hard classifications” besides you?

      Proponents of this classification mostly use it as a way to quickly illustrate the need to switch the target demographic for cycling infrastructure away from a small group of enthusiasts to a larger “interested but concerned” group. The 1%, 10% 60% numbers aren’t mean to be taken too literally — it’s more like a ballpark order of magnitude thing.

      • I understand this, but the 60% has been bandied about so much that it has to be taken as some kind of target, if only implied. My question is whether millions of dollars are better spent trying to appease the 60% with facilities that may seem safe, until they have the first almost hit (let’s hope it’s almost!). Or should we spend the same money teaching people how to ride on streets, where to ride, etc. A mile of cycle track costs a huge amount of money…

        Most people in these surveys probably would move out of the group of “will never ride on the street” if I took them on a ride on the streets I use in Seattle. Non-cyclists tend to think they need to ride on the roads where they drive. I agree that that can be a scary prospect.

  8. Waco says:

    Well said Jan. Thank you. I’ve emailed them as well.

  9. I got the following “out of office” reply to my email to geopardi.bost@dot.gov:

    “Hello,

    I will be out of the office through Friday, August 16, 2013. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jennifer Johnson at (202) 366-0904 or via email at jennifer.johnson@dot.gov.

    Thank you”

    The jennifer johnson email address prompted an “invalid address” response in my email client.

    The cynic in me says “that’s one way to not get any opposing viewpoint statements,” but I try to think better of folks than that.

  10. John says:

    We will not get any form of ‘protected cycleway’ in the shires, so to most of us it a waste of time pushing it.
    We have got well used to sharing any form of road ,with all sorts of traffic, by asserting ourselves & rights to be there.
    What is top of most cyclists requirements is enactment of ‘Strict Liability’, like the sensible countries of mainland europe

  11. Tom Scott says:

    The trouble is with thinking of bicyclists as merely another form of pedestrian, as opposed to viewing bicycles as one of many types of vehicle in traffic. We need to convince the public that bicycles are vehicles, and not just fast obnoxious pedestrians. Advocacy is important, but doing our best to be out there and seen as vehicles in the flow of traffic is crucial. And that must be done on the road, not in segregated bicycle infrastructure.

  12. David Pearce says:

    I’m with you. That Copenhagize July 1, 2010 post was so over the top and hateful! Who knew?!

    You know my personality: “I’m a biker, not a fighter”. People should ride the way they want, abiding by common rules, etc. “Do they hit their children?” hyperbole should be thrown right in the dustbin of history.

    Bike lanes should be made with the best safety in mind. I think your idea, that I call “see and be seen”, is very good. Thanks for all your effort in this regard.

  13. One more thing to think about.

    Off-road cycling paths can be very nice, but they open the way to new problems. For example, there is a MUT in the New Haven area that runs near my home, and I often use it–but precisely because it *is* isolated from the road and low-traffic, it opens the possibility of users being waylaid. One recent assault and attempted bike theft made the New Haven papers, and I was personally witness to an incident in which dental floss was strung across the trail at neck height.

    There are some problematic people out there, but they’re less likely to act (or act successfully) in more public places. I like the trail and use it at times, but increasingly find that I prefer the road.

  14. Martin Pion says:

    I generally support the thrust of your article except when you wrote: “many experienced cyclists …. if they have to ride on busy streets … prefer on-street bike lanes that keep them visible and predictable to other traffic.”
    As an on-road cyclist for over 40 years, the last 16 years as a League of American Bicyclists Cyclist Instructor, and “I Am Traffic” supporter, I am totally opposed to bike lanes.
    I want to be integrated into traffic. Bike lanes require me to stay to the right of motor vehicles where I’m constantly at risk from turning motorists, primarily at major intersections, but also at minor intersections and commercial driveways, for example.
    I live in Ferguson, North St. Louis County, Missouri, which last year passed an ordinance repealing its original Far To the Right law based on state law, replacing it with one allowing a cyclist, at his/her option, to share or control the lane. That is far safer and more equitable, and removes the second class road user label from cyclists, in my view.
    I’ve posted a video demonstrating how this works on my own blog at BICYCLING Made SIMPLE: Gerry Noll Shows How (http://tinyurl.com/akbljq8)

    • I think Bike Lanes can work. After all, interstate highways have several lanes, too. The right one usually is for slower users, like trucks.

      However, cyclists need to be allowed to exit the bike lanes when they consider it more prudent to be in the general traffic lane. As you point out, at some intersections, this is desirable, if you go straight and other traffic is likely to turn right.

      • Andy says:

        But that is precisely why I don’t like most bike lanes – every intersection is a potential right hook. By riding in the lane, there is zero chance of a right hook. The bike lanes are only effective away from intersections, which is the exact same problem you identify with protected tracks and sidepaths. Add in the door zone bike lane problems, constant debris issues, and being a few steps closer to the curb where clueless pedestrians step into the road because they don’t hear us coming, and we are now talking about far more than just another lane.

      • If you take the lane at all times, even if the lane is wide enough to be shared with a car, you are pretty inconsiderate. That breeds resentment, and makes cycling much less safe.

      • Greg D says:

        “That breeds resentment, and makes cycling much less safe”

        This is an old rehash of the old “model minority” myth. Cyclists will be resented as long as they are considered part of the out group. The old ‘ultimate attribution error’ that all humans make.

        These attitudes change because groups start to be part of the in-group, not because they are polite and being a “model minority” never ends up in you being viewed as an equal.

      • I agree that simply being a “model minority” isn’t going to get you respect. But being inconsiderate also isn’t going to get you respect. Most of all, being inconsiderate is just that – inconsiderate. (I am not advocating to move over at all times, especially when it’s unsafe, but I also don’t think it’s polite to make people wait when there is no need to do so.)

  15. chucke says:

    I understand that using only using cycle tracks would be terribly one-sided, but there are a variety of treatments being suggested in the BMP. Along with separated facilities there are low volume greenways that align with your ideal solution. Why can’t we have both?

    When you look at the current discussions about 75th and 65th street reconfigurations it is less about adding bike facilities and more about creating a safer street for all users. Slowing down cars, creating easier street crossings and at the same time adding bike specific infrastructure.

    The BMP is a living document that will be continually improved as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t. Remember how many sharrows were in the 2007 plan? Those have been found to be a less ideal solution moving forward and are now replaced with better alternatives. I thing this will continue to happen as the city learns and cycling becomes more popular.

    Just as the residents and businesses of 65th street we have to understand that none of the BMP has been designed yet and as the city moves forward with these improvements there will be meetings and community outreach to help guide the projects. The BMP is a master plan used as a guideline and framework for projects not a “ready to build” set of instructions.

    I enjoy and use both the new Linden cycle track and quiet neighborhood streets to get to my destinations and don’t feel trapped by either. We must be extra aware at any intersection, wether it is controlled with a bike spacific light or an uncontrolled neighborhood intersection. This will most likely not change. But the more people we can get riding means more a greater awareness of bikes and for those that also drive a broader prospective on driving with and around bikes.

  16. Karl says:

    Excellent post! I’ll be contacting the gov’t today and hope more do too. The only thing I would add is that in my experience, cycle tracks often just become a second sidewalk, clogged with people walking dogs, pushing strollers, and driving Little Rascals, forcing cyclists into the street anyway, which irritates drivers because they are angry that cyclists aren’t using the facilities built for them.

  17. Steven Goodridge says:

    My letter to the contracting officer:

    Dear Geopardi Bost, Contract Specialist,

    As a bicyclist and cycling educator, I wish to provide comments to the sponsor and reviewing team for TOPR Number 6501-13020: “Cycle Track Planning and Design Information.” Please forward these comments if this is allowed under your contracting process.

    As a cyclist who has cycled regularly on urban roadways lawfully for decades and has never experienced a car-bike crash, I am deeply concerned about the recent popular promotion of cycle tracks in urban street corridors with many junctions. I am concerned that crashes will increase for bicyclists who use them; it is apparent from the wording of the RFP that FHWA has similar concerns. I am also concerned that ticketing and harassment will increase for bicyclists who operate with greater safety and convenience using the general purpose travel lanes, as is happening now in NYC along corridors where cycle tracks have been installed. Many proposed future cycle track installations also involve narrowing of the adjacent roadway in ways that can only increase social friction between motorists and the bicycle drivers who use them.

    I believe that FHWA has an opportunity to apply good science to the study of cycle track safety and roadway operation. I urge the FHWA to carefully select a contractor who does not have a profit-based conflict of interest in favor of cycle track endrorsement, and who is capable of doing an unbiased scientifically sound assessment of the effects of cycle tracks on crash rates and bicyclist trip times compared to use of the roadway.

    I also urge the FHWA to examine the difference between cycling at the edge of the roadway, e.g. in a door zone bike lane, at the edge of a narrow lane, overtaking on the right, etc. versus cycling closer to the center of the shared travel lane, aka “bicycle driver behavior.” In urban areas with many junctions, the safest position for the bicyclist is often in the center of the lane serving his or her destination. Unfortunately, the current RFP calls for comparison of cycle track safety to riding in a marked bike lane, which being at the edge may not be as safe as riding in the center of the general purpose lane where door zone, right hook and sight obstruction hazards are reduced.

    Sincerely,
    Steven Goodridge

  18. sam says:

    Jan, that study has been ripped to shreds. Digging down John Forester found that the only cycletrack present in either city at the time of the study was on a bridge. So duh it was safe, no intersections, driveways, curves or problematic sightlines etc.
    When these facilities are found to be dangerous, speed limits will be imposed on them, because if you go slow enough almost anything is safe.

  19. Joe Murano says:

    Another disadvantage of pseudo-protected bike paths is that cyclists that ride on the safer, parallel street are perceived by drivers as antagonistic.

  20. I want to echo what chillikebab and David Huggins Daines said. As someone who’s a mostly fearless cyclists that will ride pretty much anywhere, what I want to see out of cycling infrastructure is unlikely to be of much interest to anyone who isn’t also that type of rider. I do support bike lanes and protected cycle tracks, but generally not two-way side paths or schemes that seem bent on getting bikes “out of the way” and treating them like pedestrians or recreational riders who have to stop at every crossing and get detoured all over the place.

    That said, I don’t think anything less than protected cycle tracks will encourage more people to ride. Bike lanes are fine for the already mostly fearless, but sharrows are useless feel-good wastes of paint. Even if those things can double bike ridership, it’s just going from squat to squat and a half, which isn’t really impressive. Doing more than a little painting is a tough sell though, because it invariably takes space away from cars, whether moving or parked. That’s really what it’s going to take though to build good infrastructure. Yes there are flaws in Danish and German bike systems, so it’s important to learn from those deficiencies to avoid replicating them here. Both those countries are struggling with flat bike mode share, while the Dutch continue to improve. They seem to have the designs figured out, so look at what they’re doing and learn from that.

    I’d also be curious to see just how unsafe these cycle tracks are supposed to be compared to riding on the road. The author indicates that safety studies did account for increased usage, but what of the severity of the accidents? Can they factor out the increase in bike/bike or bike/ped accidents that aren’t going to be as severe as bike/car? Having 10x more slips, scrapes, bruises, and sprained wrists is still preferable to getting run over by a car speeding down a straightaway. That’s exactly why most people don’t bother riding on the road at all, because of the proximity to fast moving and dangerous vehicles. Even if the cycle track is technically more dangerous, it doesn’t feel like it, so people are more likely to use it.

    • The perceived risk is important, especially in our society, which has a hard time evaluating risk. (People are concerned that their children will be abducted, but don’t worry about other, much more real risks.)

      However, I am doubtful that cycling mode share will increase to Dutch levels unless cars become very inconvenient (or expensive) to use. Cars not being a viable alternative is why Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Paris have such high mode shares of cycling (Copenhagen and Amsterdam) and public transit (Paris).

      Most people chose their transportation on what is most convenient. You can build as many cyclepaths or run as many buses as you like, if you can drive and park from your home to your destination and save time and hassle, most people will just get into their car.

      That leaves the people who cycle because they like riding, but they already are existing cyclists.

    • Steve Palincsar says:

      “Bike lanes are fine for the already mostly fearless, but sharrows are useless feel-good wastes of paint.” I disagree. I’ve seen changes in driver behavior towards cyclists over time since the sharrows were placed. Motorists seem to me to be much more accepting of bikes being out in the middle of the lane now that they can see that’s exactly where city government expects them to ride.

      • I think sharrows are a great tool for driver education. They legitimize bikes on the road. The idea that bikes have no right to ride on the streets is the biggest impediment to cycling comfortably and safely in the U.S.

      • Robert Cooper says:

        Are sharrows intended to be placed in the center of the lane? In my town, they are off center, a kind of pseudo bike lane.

      • Here in Seattle, sharrows are placed where it’s safest to ride. Often, that is in the center of the car lane. Sometimes, where there is enough room to share the lanes, the sharrow is off to the right. There are a few cases, where the sharrows and I don’t agree, but for the most part, they are spot-on.

      • Andy says:

        Sharrows are just a way for our municipalities to say “We understand that you want to bike safely here, but we’re not willing to remove this overabundance of cheap or free parking.”

      • I see sharrows as saying something different: “Everybody listen! Cyclists are allowed to ride on the road. They are even allowed to take the lane.”

        To me, that is important. In Seattle, sharrows actually are positioned so that when you ride over them, rather than hug the curb, you are out of the door zone. Most cyclists, of course, prefer to ride in the door zone, to the right of the sharrows. Perhaps we need more education?

      • Rob Brown says:

        Sorry Jan most of the SHARROWS in Seattle are totally misplaced. SHARROWS are NOT designed to show a cyclists where to ride. In fact they are designed to 1. indicate that there is not enough room or other reasons a cyclist should control the travel lane and 2. to indicate to motor vehicles they should watch for cyclists in the travel lane and that the cyclists have a right to be there.

        Seattle bizarrely adopted its “where to ride” nonsense due to the influence of pedestrian groups on the Master Plan. The MUTCD has guidelines for placement and Seattle is not even following the minimum standards. Added the MUTCD also encourages those minimums to be exceeded whenever possible.

        SHARROWS should be placed in the left center or center of the travel lane. If there is not enough room for a Bike Lane (usually only 5′ wide) or other reasons that motor vehicles and bicycles should not ride side by side in the same travel lane why on earth would you promote placing symbol encouraging the unwary to do exactly that? We have SHARROWS in Door Zones, next to curbs in very narrow travel lanes (such as Beacon Hill), and even some that weave in and out of traffic or run cyclists directly into parked cars.

        Although there are a few areas where SHARROWS are properly placed in Seattle most of them are abysmally placed and create excessive conflicts and hazards for the unknowing cyclists.

        Well placed SHARROWS can really help to keep cyclists safe while poorly placed one actually cause more injuries and deaths. Cycling infrastructure should actually offer a safer riding environment and not just the illusion of safety.

      • If there is not enough room for a Bike Lane (usually only 5′ wide) or other reasons that motor vehicles and bicycles should not ride side by side in the same travel lane why on earth would you promote placing symbol encouraging the unwary to do exactly that?

        I’ve seen them in spaces where there is enough space for a block (long enough for the cyclist to move over without weaving in and out of cars), but the stretch of available space isn’t long enough to put in a bike lane. The sharrow is a more flexible piece of infrastructure than a lane.

        Well placed SHARROWS can really help to keep cyclists safe while poorly placed one actually cause more injuries and deaths.

        As always, one should use one’s judgment regarding what is safe… I am sorry to hear about the poorly placed sharrows in other parts of town.

        Cycling infrastructure should actually offer a safer riding environment and not just the illusion of safety.

        I totally agree, which is why I am opposed to most cycle paths and the so-called “protected” bike lanes.

      • Rob Brown says:

        Jan said , “…..I’ve seen them in spaces where there is enough space for a block (long enough for the cyclist to move over without weaving in and out of cars), but the stretch of available space isn’t long enough to put in a bike lane. The sharrow is a more flexible piece of infrastructure than a lane.”

        Again Jan, according to the MUTCD a SHARROW’s purpose is NOT to indicate where to ride in place of a Bike Lane. Instead it indicates to a cyclist they should control the lane while warning motor vehicles to watch for bicycles in the lane and legitimizes their being there. SHARROWS purposed for any other reason are not standard and in violation of the principles of the MUTCD.

        Anyone wishing to know more about proper SHARROW use as well as other infrastructure
        (and most are totally against Cycle Tracks/Protected Bike Lanes) should check this Facebook group :

        https://www.facebook.com/groups/cyclistsaredrivers/

        (BTW other cities have experimented with improperly placed SHARROWS as does our SDOT and all failed miserably since they put cyclists in the most dangerous spots on the road.)

      • Clearly, sharrows are a new technology and still somewhat poorly understood – including by myself. I had assumed that the “arrow” shape of the sharrow indicated that it was suggested to ride there. It appears that this is also how they are used in Seattle, since they clearly are NOT all in the same spot in the lane.

        So we have two choices – either change the MUTCD (which I assume is some kind of standard) or change where the sharrows are put. I vote for the former, but I do think that some consistency across the country (or even better, the world) would be desirable.

      • Rob Brown says:

        Jan the MUTCD – Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

        http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/index.htm

        SHARROWS should be used to help a cyclist avoid Door Zones and other travel lane obstacles as well as ensuring that cyclists and motor vehicles DON’T try to share the travel lane when there is not enough room for the safe operation (side by side) of both.

        From the MUTCD :

        A.Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist’s impacting the open door of a parked vehicle,
        B.Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane,
        C.Alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way,
        D.Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists, and
        E.Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling.

  21. Billy C says:

    I just moved to Seattle in May. Where is there a list of these ‘secret’ bike routes through town that aren’t on the Bike Map? I’d love to know where they are!

    • The Bike Map is a good starting point. However, it doesn’t distinguish between directions of travel. Seattle is hilly, and different routes are useful for up- and downhill directions. What we really need is an online route planner, like there is for Metro transit, where you input your start and end points, select whether you prefer side streets or the fastest route, hills or not, and then get a route suggestion, which you can download to your smartphone to act as a GPS to guide you on the road.

      • Steve Palincsar says:

        How good is google map routing, selecting bicycle as the mode of transportation, for that job?

  22. Jan,

    I’d like to talk with you about why you canceled your membership in the Bicycle Alliance of Washington over cycle tracks. Every member of our staff recognizes and would tell you that every form of infrastructure (including city streets, the single largest installation of infrastructure used by bicyclists) carries collision risks; we’ve definitely had discussions about the very points you raise concerning intersections. Like any group of people who ride we might vary in our preferences and comfort levels but one person’s opinion doesn’t represent a policy position.

    We look at all kinds of research, including the interesting emerging approach to measuring “low-stress connectivity” as an infrastructure evaluation tool, as one example, and with four master’s degrees and a PhD in the house we definitely question the validity and design of any study and don’t just take it at face value.

    I’d describe our position as supporting both quality and quantity: an increase AND design improvements in all types of bicycle infrastructure, including greenways, separated paths, lanes, boulevards, and anything else that is appropriate to context and will get more people riding. A major contributor to reductions in collisions is an increase in ridership (more driver familiarity/expectation of riders, more drivers who are themselves riders). An increase in ridership means an increase in people who are less familiar with maneuvering through any kind of interaction with drivers in any kind of infrastructure, which is why we also work on education and enforcement.

    Our advocacy work on behalf of every element of bicycling, from better laws to increased investment in the transportation budget to support and resources for local advocates who know what they want in their own communities to Safe Routes to School for the next generation of riders, all contributes to the growth of bicycling. Just as you point out that separated paths aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution, our work is not one-size-fits-all.

    We work on behalf of all kinds of riders for all kinds of reasons and every day are reminded again that saying “cyclists do/do not want X” is a broad oversimplification no matter what X is. People who ride bikes are as diverse as any other grouping of people with something in common.

    I’d love to have a cup of coffee with you to talk about this in person. We might not see the advantages and disadvantages of a particular form of infrastructure exactly the same way, but it’s bound to be an interesting discussion! My email is barb-at-bicyclealliance.org.

    Barb Chamberlain
    Executive Director
    Bicycle Alliance of Washington

    • I look forward to talking to you about this. I forwarded the previous discussions to you with requests for comments, and got no response… As you know, I used to volunteer a lot for what was then NOWBIKE, and I want you to succeed in making Seattle even better for cycling. I agree with your philosophy in general, but I have to say that I am a bit miffed that a major policy change is happening without Bike Alliance, League of American Bicyclists et al. letting their members know about it.

      • I’ll follow up to schedule. I don’t recall the earlier one but that’s probably because the first year as executive director has brought me hundreds of emails every week (not an excuse, just my reality). There’s also amusing occasional confusion between previous ED Barbara Culp’s email (which had a C in it) and mine; same first name/same last initial has been an entertaining transition.
        What major policy change do you mean? The federal RFP for design guidelines isn’t a policy shift, it’s to develop what they already have for every other recognized form of infrastructure. If done right it should address head on the concerns you raise.
        There’s certainly no state policy shift toward cycletracks; we fight just to protect the funding that might yield wider shoulders on state highways and local resources for city-level plans, and no city in Washington has announced anything that would indicate they’re only doing cycle tracks. Adding them, yes, in a few places and really only in a handful of cities.

      • Well, in Seattle, the poorly designed two-way cycletracks seem to be cropping up everywhere. Not just Bitterlake, but also underneath the Alaska Way Viaduct. There, they even wrote on the pavement “SLOW” in the hopes that this will defuse the situation somewhat. Considering that we didn’t have any cyclepaths for the longest of times (I moved here in 1992), there must have been a policy shift.

        Nationwide, it seems that suddenly “protected bike lanes” or “cycle paths” are being touted as the solution to getting more people on bikes everywhere I look.

      • Brock says:

        Representing the other major bicycle organization in Seattle, I also extend the offer to meet for coffee.

        Reducing the stress of bicycling is one of the key factors for increasing ridership. Due to it’s geography, Seattle has limited opportunities for routing bicyclists through the city to get them to where they want to go quickly. Arterials are frequently the quickest or only way to get somewhere, and as a result we need to build infrastructure that reduces bicyclists’s stress levels on those streets. Protected or separated bike lanes are an essential way to do that. I haven’t seen research that suggests that the overall number of collisions increase as a result of protected bike lanes, but I’m certainly willing to reconsider the issue if that’s the case.

        Brock Howell
        Policy & Government Affairs Manager
        Cascade Bicycle Club

      • Rob Brown says:

        To Brock Howell,

        Stress levels are not even close to the reality of being dead or severely injured. The data is out there so all you have to do is look for it. Cycle Tracks (Protected Bike Lanes) do help prevent collisions along a traffic corridor where the likelihood of accidents are rare at the cost of dramatically increasing them at ALL intersections, driveways, and alleyways.

        Sorry, however since you are in the Bike Advocacy business as Cascade Bicycle Club’s Policy & Gov’t Affairs manager, and many thanks for being there, you do not have the right to plead ignorance on such an important subject.

        We should not be showing you, you should be showing us!

  23. barefootmeg says:

    I just sent my email. :-) I not only encouraged safe planning of bike paths (uses under passes and overpasses when possible and relying on bike lanes in more urban environments) but I also encouraged wider bike lanes (to protect from dooring as well as to allow bicyclists to pass each other safely).

  24. It’s my view that basing transportation policy in America on projections that more people will cycle only if infrastructure is built for them is a flawed approach.

    Americans don’t cycle, because that would require effort, and there’s no place on the bike to carry the flat-screen TV just purchased on the trip, not to mention the bushel of sweet potatoes, and it’s raining most of the time.

    For those who are already cycling, almost all of whom are doing it badly, some effort could be made to reduce the delays (increase the convenience) and reduce the number and severity of the injuries. That can be done in only one way: Skill Development.

    If one knows what one is doing, cycling is not that hard, and it’s quite safe, even on city streets with semis, Corvettes and buses. Safer per-mile than walking.

    • Steve Palincsar says:

      “Americans don’t cycle, because that would require effort, and there’s no place on the bike to carry the flat-screen TV just purchased on the trip, not to mention the bushel of sweet potatoes, and it’s raining most of the time.” Not all of us live in Seattle, thank goodness. And I wouldn’t carry a flat screen TV on a bicycle, either; but then, I commuted to work from Alexandria VA to downtown DC for 28 years and never once needed to carry anything like a flat screen TV. There weren’t all that many bicycle commuters back when I started in 1980, but these days bicycle riders are all over downtown DC and Metro DC’s Bikeshare definitely gives the lie to your statement that “Americans don’t cycle.”

  25. David Thomson says:

    I also cancelled my membership with LAB (over 20 years) because of this issue.
    One of the most frustrating things about the discussion to me is the insistence that we must have separated facilities to attract additional people to cycling. In fact the growth in cycling has been fairly constant over the past 20 years with no real signs that it is slowing. As people see more people like them cycling, and as cycling becomes “normal”, more people decide to give it a try.

    • Tim says:

      I quit LAB years ago after it got taken over by lobbyists looking for a paycheck, instead of being run by and for cyclists.

  26. Joe Murano says:

    Also, for the group of people that will ONLY ride on pseudo-protected paths, if we built a network of these paths that does not include both their origin and their destination, they wouldn’t use it.

    • Andy says:

      This. I hear it all the time that people want separate sidepaths, but there’s no easy way to retrofit any urban area to have a fully protected path to all destinations. If someone isn’t able to ride on roads at least occasionally, then they will remain a recreational cyclists that can enjoy MUPs and off-road trails.

  27. Todd Morris says:

    Geopardi Bost is a her, not a him. FYI.

  28. Jim Parkin says:

    It is the same over this side of the pond. My commute is 12-miles each way and there is little chance I’d do it on slow (and poorly maintained) cyclepaths, as opposed to on the road. The right of way issue you raised is another reason. I just need vehicles to give me sufficient berth when passing, which *most* do.

  29. Dana PointCyclist says:

    Western cities, newer SW US cities/suburbs in particlular, have cul-de-sacs, collectors and arterials, artelial speed limits in my area are between 45mph and 65mph, most of the time when going between destinations like home/school/work, almost always ONLY WAY IS THE ARTERIAL, its also the flattest and quickest, they have long block length, and cyclists are currently frequently hit from behind on straightaways, bollards/curbs/walls would make this less frequent, and with modern dutch style intersection treatmentm those would not become more dangeours than now.

    • If the intersection density is low, then a cyclepath can be a great solution. But that is not what I am seeing around here, where they are put in on streets with high intersection densities, and often even put half the cyclists on the wrong side of the street.

      • Dana PointCyclist says:

        I haven’t ridden much in Seattle area, so this points to the real issue, US, especially west, is too diverse for one size fits all, if interested in OC, CA conditions, check out Laguna canyon road, it’s currently classified as “bike route”, narrow unprotected bike lane, 65mph speed limit, only way between coast and 200k person city, multiple deaths, it seriously needs some type of cue for driver when they drift onto the bike area. Ie. more protection than paint

      • Low intersection density can result in concentration of crashes at the few locations where there are at-grade intersections. In a study in Flagstaff, AZ in 2006, 25% of all reported crashes along a stretch of Route 66 (with a busy sidepath) involved cyclists, many of which happened at the few signalized intersections where an arterial crossed the sidepath.

  30. Dana PointCyclist says:

    In Orange County California, in many areas with relatively high number of commuter cyclists, for example disney land area, most commuter cyclists ride on sidewalks, this should be sufficient as a survey of EXISTING CYCLISTS PREFERENCES, they would take the protected bike lane if it existed, education has not made those often hispanic utilitarian cyclists to want to take the 50mph arterial and I see no appetite for speed limit reductions, demand for protected bike lanes as seen in Long Beach is there.

  31. Another of Martin Pion’s videos: Before watching, have two boxes of Kleenex handy. I went through three boxes, drying my tears.

    Instead of teaching children how to ride properly, American parents buy the bike, buy the helmet and say, “Stay out of the way of cars.”

    The universal, five-second, cycling-training event is non-actionable. How do children “stay out of the way of cars”? What is the technique for that?

  32. Todd Morris says:

    I think the answer isn’t infrastructure as much as it is education. Have a set of national cycling laws, educate, then enforce. If drivers know what to expect, and cyclists know whats expected of them, safety improves. If instead the rules change depending on where you are, or are unclear, or people are unedcuated, then safety worsens. A federal law that stated bicycles are to be ridden on the road and vehicles must provide a minimum of 3 feet when passing, that along with a nationwide education campaign so people know would go miles for safety. I’m not one for the Fed to be getting involved in things like this normally, but we need some standardization to provide safety for current cyclists and improve conditions for those who want to start. I think this is a way to do that.

    • Jeremy Mott says:

      Totally agree with the first sentence. And do not necessarily disagree about the rest regarding cyclist education. But I would argue that DRIVER education is what is most lacking. Instead of being divided over infrastructure/facility issues, I think money and political capital would be best spent on attempting to get driver education increased. (An obvious win-win as both motorist and cyclists injuries/deaths could be curtailed.) People are driving less, young people are less interested in cars…possibly the auto lobby (but not the oil lobby!) has lost a little clout.

      Jan has experience in Germany and I currently live here. I get his argument over infrastructure…Germany has some nice, well-designed paths and some not-so-well-thought-out facilities. I’ll use the former but tend to avoid the latter (even though use is compulsory). But the difference that most strikes me as a cyclist between Germany and the U.S. is the training and skill of drivers. Germans love their cars and love to drive (unique in Europe in that regard) even though all facets of driving are stupendously expensive. Mandatory driving school is rigorous and expensive. The German system would simply be politically untenable in the U.S. But if we could manage to split the difference between the (relatively speaking) rubber stamp from American states and the significant training required of Germans, I think actual cyclist safety would markedly improve. And sharing the road with well-trained, attentive drivers would help on the perceived safety front too.

      • There are many points made about improving drivers’ skills. The same can be said about improving cyclists’ skills. In Germany, children learn traffic rules and how to ride on the street in 4th grade (at least I did in the 1970s). They even pass a mock driving test, complete with police officers, street signs and a street grid painted on the recess space of a school.

        Regarding German cyclepaths, when I studied in Würzburg, I knew which streets had cyclepaths. I avoided them as best I could. But there were a few for which there were no alternatives. I still rode in the street, but I incurred the ire of drivers, and I knew that if I got hit, I would be considered at fault simply for riding on the street.

      • Jeremy Mott says:

        True, cyclists’ skills could be improved too. But I would feel much safer if emphasis was placed on drivers’ skill. After all it is much easier to veer around an untrained amateur cyclist on an inconvenient/slow/generally dangerous/segregated cycle path than it is to dice it up with inattentive, undertrained motorists. That comparison may present a bit of a false choice but if motorists are ignorant and/or downright hostile, dedicated cycle paths will have a place. If sharers of the road (motorist and cyclist alike) are more enlightened, I agree with technical points regarding intersection obstacles and overall (illusions of) safety of cyclepaths.

    • Transportation, almost by definition, implies that the cyclist or motorist will be crossing jurisdiction lines, so a national standard makes sense here, more so than in many other legal areas. Wheeled transportation implies travel.

  33. Todd Morris says:

    Also, Ms. Bost is out of the office until Friday. New contact is Jennifer Johnson – jennifer.johnson@dot.gov

  34. Wayne Pein says:

    Bike lanes on a 2-lane road really mean that it is a 4-lane road, but 2 of the lanes are narrow and for bikes only.

    A 4-lane road with Shared Lane Markings in the center of the right lane is similar, except a bicyclist controlling the lane has a lot more space, debris free pavement, and motorists in front and behind.

    So long as we frame separation (bike lanes) or segregation (cycle tracks) as desirable, we are fostering the “us (cyclists) vs. them (motorists)” paradigm, and cyclists will continue to be marginalized by bad laws and bad facilities.

    • And motorists to the side as well. It’s basically being surrounded. Of course the cars in the other lane or up ahead aren’t that big a deal, it’s the ones behind that are the problem. Even with the laws made clear and enforced, the fact remains that you have what amounts to a multi-ton tank with much greater power and speed bearing down on you. That’s why shared lane markings haven’t done much to improve cycling numbers. They can help fearless cyclists with lane positioning (such as if the curb lane becomes a right turn only) or to mark a bike boulevard kind of situation, but on any sort of main street with speed limits over 25 mph they don’t really do Jack. It’s a cop-out requiring no engineering or planning, but it makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

      Besides, it doesn’t have to be an us vs. them kind of thing, but a spectrum in a sort of hierarchy. Is having sidewalks an us (pedestrians) vs. them (motorists) paradigm? No, pedestrians have different requirements than motorists, so their facilities have to be designed differently. Cyclists have different requirements too. They’re not as different sure, but unless motor vehicles are restricted to 10 or 15 mph then shared space will only be used by the fearless.

      • the fact remains that you have what amounts to a multi-ton tank with much greater power and speed bearing down on you.

        The “tank” is controlled by a driver. And the one place where they have a good view is straight ahead. I know that primal fears may be hard to overcome, but the danger isn’t the car coming from behind, but the one next to you, whose driver cannot see you as they prepare a turn. Or the one coming the other way preparing to turn left and not looking for the cyclist behind the row of parked cars…

        Accident statistics bear this out. Check out this link. Getting hit from behind is a tiny risk. Yes, it happens, but the vast majority of accidents that involve cars and bikes occur at intersections.

      • Yes but it’s those cars from behind that are the reason people don’t ride on the roads. It’s why they make their kids ride on the sidewalk, if they let them ride at all. Regardless of the statistics, it’s those vehicles coming up from behind that are scary and put people off. Even if there aren’t many true crashes, they’re the ones who routinely pass too closely, rev their engines, honk, or blast their exhaust as they pass.

        That’s why we need to look at what countries with the highest bike mode share are doing right. Amsterdam has already been noted as a poor example of Dutch cycling infrastructure (but still way better than the rest of the world). No it’s not apples-to-apples with the US, but outside the oldest historic core, which is quite tiny, these cities have street rights-of-way that aren’t that much different in size than what we have here. They just allocate the space a lot differently.

        The key there is a mix of good infrastructure and good laws. They figured out how to engineer the intersections AND the laws to make them safer for cyclists. This includes things like having bike signals that give a leading green, keeping those intersections clear of obstacles so motorists can better see cyclists, not allowing turns on red at all, and putting in tight turn radii and properly setting stop line locations for cars.

      • I agree with most of your suggestions, but I don’t see how allowing right turns on red is a problem. In fact, if all the right-turning cars do so while the light is red (for cyclists and cars), then they are out of the way when the cyclist gets a green light… The problem are the cars that turn right when the light is green!

      • Disallowing right turn on red (which is the de facto standard in Europe, while it’s just the opposite in the US) doesn’t do much for cyclists or pedestrians going in the same direction as traffic, but for ones traveling perpendicular. When a vehicle is turning right on red they usually creep over the crosswalk and/or bike lane in order to see the cross traffic, creating a conflict. It’s more of a factor for pedestrians or for two-way cycle tracks where people could be coming from the right side while motorists are only looking for traffic from the left. It’s just one more tool in the arsenal of making intersections safer.

      • I see the point about cars creeping into the intersection and making it harder for pedestrians to cross. But that is hardly dangerous. In fact, most European countries are adopting the “right on red”: France and Germany are two examples I am familiar with.

        You mention two-way cycletracks. They are a bad idea in every respect. For decades, we have told cyclists to ride with traffic, and now suddenly, we suggest that they ride on the wrong side of the street?

      • “Of course the cars in the other lane or up ahead aren’t that big a deal, it’s the ones behind that are the problem.” The statistical record shows that the ones in front are the problem. (You could look it up.)

      • Robert I was referring to moving vehicles in front not parked ones. They’re almost always going to be faster so they’re getting farther away. Even if they’re going slow they aren’t really of any concern.

  35. Steven Goodridge says:

    Also understand that Geopardi Bost is a contracts administrator, and most likely not aware of the technical or sociological aspects of the project. Reaching the actual sponsors and technical review staff for the project is required if one wants to influence what FHWA does with it, but one of the functions of the contracts administrator is to create a firewall betwen contractors and the sponsor and review staff prior to contract award. It is uncertain whether a contracts administrator will forward unsolicited public comments to the technical staff.

  36. Bryan Willman says:

    Another dynamic is to realize that one “goal” of separate bicycle paths is to get cyclists “out of the way” – both physically and politically. There’s more force behind that (especially outside of places like Seattle) than may realize. There’s also an issue that political entities want to do highly visible things they can campaign on – and “we’ve started a program to educate drivers and riders about safe traffic flow” isn’t nearly as electionable as “we built this great cycling and pedestrian path with bridges!”

  37. Steve Cook says:

    FDOT is resurfacing a segment of US1 in Fort Lauderdale. I went to a presentation yesterday. For about half of the project they are adding sharrows to the curb lane,next to the sidewalk. Do not have room for bike lanes. For the other half there is room for a bike lanes if they reduce the travel lane size, but they are not. What they are proposing is two 11 ft lanes and a 13 ft lane with sharrows, there is also 1.5 ft of curb. I do not know if that is a good idea. Motorist will never use the middle lane to pass and it will be hard to try and take a 13′ lane, 14’5 if you count the curb. I would like to know what you think. Thanks

  38. Jim Parkin says:

    For a British perspective and catalogue of poor cycle lanes, I like the Warrington Cycle Campaign “Cycle Facility of the Month” http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.meg/wcc/facility-of-the-month/

    Good pictures and sarcasm for example from August: “This month’s facility illustrates the importance of high quality design and materials. Too often, bollards in the middle of cycle paths are constructed to poor standards. However, no expense has been spared with this this one in the middle of national cycle route 55 outside Old Trafford footbal stadium. “

  39. This kind of debate is best had at the NACTO or AASHTO (national organizations that formulate design guidelines for infrastructure) level, NOT at the local level. At the local level, this kind of argument about the fine-grained details of intersections and bike lanes turns decision-makers and bureaucrats off the entire idea of bike infrastructure.

    It takes a ton of political will to keep going after public meetings full of people in fluorescent lycra yelling at you about longitudinal lines and curb cuts. Better for us (the bike advocates) to push for exactly what we want to be in design guidelines, then turn around and present our City Halls with those guidelines and then leave them alone.

    I (one, single cyclist) am not even totally decided about dedicated infrastructure or particular kinds of infrastructure, so we can’t expect every city everywhere to make all the right (according to us) decisions. I teach skills classes and push for infrastructure, because the hard reality is that skills classes are mind-numbingly boring (and thus poorly-attended) and don’t do enough to make people feel safer.

    Better that we push for infrastructure in general, then leave it up to professionals (with some input) to figure out how that works.

  40. Tim says:

    “In the discussion about separate or “protected” cycle tracks, it has been surprising that planners and decision makers don’t seem to want input from those who actually ride bikes.”

    Why is that a surprise? Separated bikes lanes aren’t built for cyclists. They are built for drivers to get the bikes out of their way and to return the roads to the province of the rightful users: drivers. It’s only in cities where a city council member or the mayor is a real cyclist where things are done differently.

  41. ouij says:

    The biggest problem isn’t in dense cities with grid-plan streets. There’s only so much room there, and cyclists in traffic actually work pretty well, since overall speeds are low and visibility is not awful. The problem comes in suburbia, where the cyclist is ~40 mph slower than overtaking traffic and intersections are designed to maximize the curb appeal of houses rather than visibility for road users. In suburbia, I don’t mind a segregated cycle path that much, provided it’s the functional equivalent of a tram line, w/proper intersections.

    • I agree, suburbia is a different matter. The plans I have seen in the U.S. mostly are about cities, though.

      • Dana PointCyclist says:

        OK Jan, that explains a lot, I did not realize by your article you only met that “inner city” is not suitable for protected bike lanes, parts of US that I have seen in detail of the american west, like SoCal, phoenix, denver, dallas, Albuquerque don’t much have anything that resembles “city”, few blocks in most cases, they are mostly all vast suburbs, with the cul-de-sac layouts, where protected bike lanes on arterials work well and neighbourhood greenways are not really possible.

  42. Harry Harrison says:

    I am currently living in Algiers, Algeria (North Africa) and would consider it suicidal to cycle here due to the extremely dangerous standard of the traffic and infrastructure. In the past month I have seen only one person on a bicycle, a teenage boy riding the wrong way on a dual carriageway (free-way). There are no bike lanes either intended or improvised and road use is unregulated and chaotic. In short, it ain’t happening.

    Prior to Algieria I lived in France and will return after my posting. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the conditions to be found there. It is a pleasure to cycle there, other road users are unfailingly polite, considerate and act in a safe manner towards cyclists, often embarrassingly so. Occasionally I have been followed -at a close but safe distance – by Monsieur et Madame for several kilometers until a suitable passing chance occurred whereby they crawled past with a cheery wave and a grin and were gone.

    City riding is not fraught with danger, confidence is required, but no more than is needed to ride the metro or queue in a Butcherie (sharp elbows). Even in Paris it is possible to JRA.

    In summary, bike lanes sharrowed, segregated, on street or not are not required. Consensus, mutual respect, backed by robust training and enforcement of the rules is.

  43. Alexander says:

    Excellent post, reflecting exactly my experiences here in Germany. Just some observations:
    the style and discussion manners of the Copanhagenize guy are just appaling, unfortunately he is a good designer so his blog is popular. But he for sure is not part of the solution, but part of the problem. Why?

    The “Copenhagenize” like infrastructure is appropriate for 0-3 km radius travel. In cities this is a distance you usually walk. You don´t use a car. So the Copenhagenize stuff replaces walking, not driving.

    For real commutes you need efficient infrastructure. This can not be cycle pathes in the traditional sense, (these pathes being somewhat narrower than streets -also the “Bicycle Superhighways” for sure are).

    The paradox of this kind of infrastructure is: either they are as wide and good as streets. Then why not use the street or make dedicated “Bicycle Boulevards”. Or, if really used, these narrow pathes become quite dangerous. Here in Regensburg (Germany) there is already an overflow of cyclists on bicycle lanes, with all kinds of risks included: too fast E-Bikes ridden at 25 km/h by un-/over-confident or uneducated seniors, “salmoning” (i.e. riding in the wrong direction induced by big detours you are forced to take on the bike path), uneducated “Sumer Bikers” who dont take themselves seriously as a vehicle and do all kinds of stupid things. Two fatalities in the last two years as a consequence.

    So: if “cycle infrastructure” is used, it does no longer work (not that it ever did). Also relatively well designed cycle infrastructure is not enough to take up the increase of bike traffic we all want to see. And bike traffic is increasing heavily (here) inspite of no substantial investment in innner city bike infrastructure. It is just fashionable right now among the Young (Fixies, Bike Culture etc.) the MAMILS and also seniors for whom E Bikes make cycling accessible.

    • Jim Parkin says:

      ‘The “Copenhagenize” like infrastructure is appropriate for 0-3 km radius travel. In cities this is a distance you usually walk. You don´t use a car. So the Copenhagenize stuff replaces walking, not driving. ‘

      Indeed Alexander- I’ve used almost those exact words elsewhere. The number of bikes in central London has rocketed in the last few years and is mostly on the road, and does seem to have reached a “critical mass” (I visit infrequently, and noticed the difference).

      Also, as you say E-bikes are more suited t longer journeys on roads.

      • Edwin Williamson says:

        If you think people do not drive 0-3km, you must not have been to an American city!
        Here in Nashville lots of people drive for trips of less than 2 miles, as it is the easiest and safest thing to do!

  44. David says:

    How about getting fewer cars on the road?

  45. williamjacobfarrell says:

    Interesting point of view, but I must say that I strongly disagree with your thesis. I think that if cycle tracks were so much less safe and desirable than simply sharing the street, then you would find that the European cities with such facilities would have fewer cyclists and more collisions. In fact this is the exact opposite of what occurs. Of course a cycle track is not always necessary, or even beneficial, on roads with sufficiently low traffic, but i think that this is already accounted for in the planning stage. However it is not always possible to create a convenient, well-connected cycling network using only minor streets. For example, try picking a nice quiet avenue in Manhattan on which the average cyclist would have a calm, low-stress trip.

    When vehicular traffic exceeds a certain volume and speed, I cannot see how one could argue that a separated cycle track would not make cyclists more safe and comfortable. This is especially true in the case of attracting new cyclists to the streets, rather than maintaing the status quo for those are already comfortable. I think that even if an increased risk of collision at intersections were to exist, the increased safety-in-numbers and social visibility of cyclists would render it entirely negligible.

    • Europeans cycle despite, not because of, cycle tracks. Just like Americans drive cars despite the poor condition of our roads, not because of the potholes and cracks you find in our roads.

      Generally, the more cyclists there are, the fewer collisions you have. It’s both an issue of drivers looking for cyclists, and drivers accepting cyclists’ right to the road.

      Of course a cycle track is not always necessary, or even beneficial, on roads with sufficiently low traffic, but i think that this is already accounted for in the planning stage

      If that were the case, this blog post would not exist. Here is an example from Seattle that shows what is being built right now!

      When vehicular traffic exceeds a certain volume and speed, I cannot see how one could argue that a separated cycle track would not make cyclists more safe and comfortable.

      The key design concept is “intersection density.” Only roads with few intersections can have high speeds. And if there are few intersections, then a cycle path is a good option. We discussed this here.

      I think that even if an increased risk of collision at intersections were to exist, the increased safety-in-numbers and social visibility of cyclists would render it entirely negligible.

      Unfortunately, the numbers speak differently. Whether Copenhagen or Berlin, cycle paths did increase the numbers of cyclists on the road (or perhaps they were increasing anyhow), but accidents per rider went up.

      • “Europeans cycle despite, not because of, cycle tracks.”

        That’s a pretty bold assertion to make without citing any references. If that were the case, wouldn’t Europeans be clamoring to remove cycle tracks that they fought so hard to have built over the last 40 years or so? It really sounds like you’re projecting your biases, trying to say cyclists don’t know what’s in their own best interests.

      • Many German cyclists have been clamoring to remove the cycle tracks. They are having some success with it, see my report from Berlin.

        It takes some real problems to change something that is totally part of the culture. Cycle tracks in Europe have been around since the 1930s, and most people don’t even question the idea that bicycles belong on the sidewalk, and not on the street.

        I was born in Germany and lived there for the first 20 years of my life. My family is there, and I have many friends all over Europe, so I am familiar with the conditions there.

      • William Farrell says:

        My understanding of European cycling is that they have reached a critical mass of cycling that changes the perspective of their issues slightly. I mentioned them because I think it is fair to say that it was the dedicated infrastructure in the first place that was congruous with the rise of cycling in those areas. Perhaps at such high cycling rates, the issues surrounding cycle tracks manifest themselves differently, but in most of North America, cyclists are vastly outnumbered by automobiles, and for most, this is an obstacle that they are not willing to overcome in order to cycle themselves.

        For example, I am curious if you are familiar with the bike lane on 9th Ave in Manhattan. Of course the intersection density is quite high, however I think that most would agree that it is far less stressful to cycle in this lane than on an avenue without such a facility. In reality, there is no avenue in Manhattan that could reasonably be considered calm enough to comfortably cycle without some form of separation. Despite the high intersection density, I was impressed by what I thought was a rather clever solution. At streets where left-turning vehicles conflict with the cycle track, there was a left-turning slip with signalization that prevented their interference. Anyway, I think with proper design, cycling facilities can handle any potential intersection issues while simultaneously creating a more attractive environment for newer, less experienced cyclists.

      • Thank you for the feedback from New York.

        New York and especially Manhattan is very different from the rest of the U.S. I haven’t ridden bikes there, not even visited recently, but I can see that cycletracks may make a lot of sense there. Traffic in Seattle (or Dallas, TX or Lincoln, Nebraska) is very different in every way.

        As a geographer by training, I know that all solutions need to consider the unique conditions for which they are designed. I see this lacking when people say “It works in Copenhagen, so all we need is xyz to get as many people onto bikes in Seattle/Dallas/Lincoln.”

  46. Marcus says:

    Hi Jan, you mention “That means ignoring actual before-and-after studies of streets where cycle paths were built in Denmark. There are several such studies,” Could you link to the other studies please? I’m interested.

  47. When most people speak of “education,” they actually mean, “public-relations campaigns” in which billboards and TV spots tell motorists to give three feet and that sort of thing.

    In Contrast: When I use the word “education,” I mean an intensive, eight- or ten-hour training program (see link below) whereby cyclists learn the skills needed to operate Swiftly, Courteously, Confidently, Legally and Safely on the road.

    With 300,000,000 real and potential transportational cyclists in America, maybe a few hundred have had a useful, functional course in how to do it.

    Most crashes do not involve a collision with a motorist. We can’t even ride down a straight road in broad daylight without falling. (You could look it up.)

    Link — http://cyclingsavvy dot org/

    • GuitarSlinger says:

      Amen and +1 !

    • Andy says:

      Cyclists are not the dangerous ones killing 30,000 – 40,000 people each year in the US in 2-3 ton metal boxes. We need to educate the people nonchalantly driving these large vehicles with little training, so that those wanting to get around on their own power can do so with little training, fear, or danger.

  48. GuitarSlinger says:

    Having just finished reading ” In the City of Bikes ” as well as following/observing the bike culture in Copenhagen for the last five years … IMO the following needs to be accepted/understood before any reasonable , logical and intelligent solution for US bike commuting will ever be found . That being : We Are Not Amsterdam or Copenhagen ! Period ! Nor should we ever wish to be ( seriously … read the book ) but rather we need to work out solutions that suit our needs , roads . infrastructure and culture instead of trying to copy any other country’s who’s overall situation is irrelevant to our own .

  49. Heather says:

    While I appreciate separated paths in the right context such as a long stretch along a busy highway, I agree cyclists are not being asked about what they want with bike lanes. The local district has put in some bike lanes, but it’s so obvious not one cyclist was asked for imput. There is a local alternative transportation group, but I’ve never met them, they’ve never talked to me, and I know whom most of the local cyclists are. The bike ‘lanes’ are merely asphalt extentions of the road, very lumpy and uneven. Debris from leaves, dirt, gravel etc build up and make them unsafe to cycle on. They are not maintained in anyway. Residents use them as parking spaces, and the one new section on a local road that actually was well built and designed is being used as a local car for sale lot! Oh, and people on motorized scooters, baby motorbikes and hacked gas bicycles are using the bike lanes-wrong direction and all. So, for an experienced cyclist wanting to get somewhere the lanes are unpleasant, and I actually refuse to ride on them unless in spots where they were properly designed.
    Part time occasional cyclist residents are asking for unrealistic bike lanes, separated or not on roads that simply do not have the space. You know ‘marine drives’ along waterfront, built a century ago, endless drive ways, not an inch for a bike lane. They are residential roads, nobody is supposed to be going over 50 km/hour, so cyclists should be able to ride safely on them if everyone cooperates.
    As for separated bike lanes in the city, I had fun riding on the separated lanes in Vancouver, but you have people on them whom do not know how to ride, ride in the wrong direction. I watched a girl riding an old 70′s bike that was too big for her, well trying to ride. She could barely get on and off, kept stopping abruptly without even looking, getting off, dragging the bike across the lane without one inch of awareness. She wouldn’t be able to do that in regular traffic. So, this can mean very slow going, much slower than if you rode on the street with traffic.

  50. Robert Cooper says:

    Jeffrey: As Jan noted in one of his posts to this thread, the threat from behind is microscopic compared to the other threats, and I would add that a major threat is the inability of cyclists to ride down a straight road without falling. Segregated infrastructure good and bad is almost always justified by appealing to cyclists’ fear of what’s behind them and moving in the same direction.

    Uninformed, untrained, unskilled cyclists, of which there are several million in America, perhaps tens of millions, persist in looking behind for danger; but the lion’s share of the danger is in front of them.

    Now, one might say that this is a violation of common sense, motorists being fast and cyclists being slow.

    To that I answer, common sense = received wisdom = what everyone knows = folk lore.

    Tonight, on my way by motorcar to the grocery, I noted about twenty percent of cyclists on the wrong side. Common sense, they would say, to a man. The facts, gleaned from police reports and ER records do not agree.

    I defer to science.

  51. wayne w methner says:

    Hi Jan,

    Nice pieces on the cycle tracks. I like Portlands Idea that they use low traffic parallel streets and bike lanes.

    But has anyone ever proposed doing away with street parking and using the additional space for wider bike lanes and wider sidewalks??? Why do we subsidize free parking on public right of ways.

    wayne w methner

  52. NYC cyclist says:

    In Manhattan, segregated bike lanes are only safe and useful for those who ride at slow speeds, let’s say under 10 mph. Pedestrians treat the lanes as extended sidewalks and are difficult to see at night when they step off the curb in front of you. Deliveries from trucks to stores are made across the lanes, and cars turn in front of the cyclists without seeing them, because their view is obstructed by the row of parked cars in between. So one might say, “Big deal, just ride in traffic if you don’t feel safe in the bike lane.” I’d love to, but the problem is that wherever there’s a bike lane in NYC, cyclists are required by law to use it, and cops have ticketed me numerous times for riding outside one.

    I’ve had discussions with bike lane advocates who argue that cyclists shouldn’t need to ride faster than 10 mph anyhow. That may be true in a small city like Copenhagen, but not in a huge city like New York, where a round-trip commute of 15 or 20 miles within city limits is not uncommon.

    • Andy says:

      That’s the struggle I see with defining a “cyclist.” Many are just fine with going a leisurely 8-10mph on paths. Others are looking to use their full potential and keep up with traffic at 20mph or more. Segregating us to paths/lane/tracks that don’t allow reasonable flow at our potential speeds is annoying, which is why I normally stick to the road, but there’s also no enforcement of the mandatory lane laws here. The New York State law does “require” using this infrastructure, however it provides for exceptions such as when preparing for a turn, or when the lane is unsafe, and in my opinion, the bike lane is typically unsafe (door zone and debris).

  53. Todd says:

    Dear Jan, thank you so much for fighting the good fight on this. As a long time North American cyclist recently relocated to Paris, I have really come to see the downside of separated cycle paths. At one time, I advocated for them, but since several near misses with motorists making wide right turns without looking, and several more with pedestrians suddenly walking into the paths without looking or giving prior indication, I’ve come to realize that being visible in the roadway is far safer. It’s also more pleasant, as I can choose my own pace and pass other cyclists when needed, and don’t have to contend with other cyclists making sudden stops or coming down the paths in the wrong direction. Living here, I’ve really come to believe that education, and not infrastructure, is the key to making inexperienced cyclists more comfortable on the streets, and more importantly, to making their trips safer for both themselves and others.

  54. Matt says:

    Jan, I couldn’t agree with you more. Keep up the fight.

  55. Pat says:

    Just FYI, a contract administrator’s job (Ms. Bost in this situation) is basically to collect proposals from the engineering firms and put them into the FHA hopper for evaluation, selection, and contract award. I’m not sure if they’re obliged to forward any emails to a policy maker. I suspect not. If Ms. Bost is not required to forward non-proposal comments, they’ll likely end up in her Outlook trash folder very quickly.

    Since this solicitation has been sent out, it’s probably too late for anyone below the head of the FHA to stop the contract evaluation and award. I’d suggest your (U.S.) readers send their comments to their congressmen (or women) instead, perhaps with a note of “If the federal budget is so tight, why don’t you stop this waste of money?” appended. A bit of congressional oversight may be able to stop this in its tracks, especially since the transportation bill looks like it’s going to be a transportation continuing resolution this year.

  56. Bart says:

    We’ve done some thinking on this. R Geller’s figures stack up in surveys in Australia too – about 60% of the population want to ride and have a bike but don’t due to fear of death. Beware though that this usually refers to adult transport cyclists and most cycling done is by children and for recreation. The type of cycle facility required depends on the speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic and the type of bike rider you expect. If its mostly adult commuters then they require less separation. But if we want families and children to ride, full separation is required. And you MUST get the intersections correct, including driveways and cross overs. See http://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/general/bike-futures/11472/. We’ve found that even on inner city routes with adults the % of females goes up when separation (and/or reduction in traffic speed to 30km/h or less) is provided.

  57. moises07 says:

    I would rather ride on a cycle path as it puts my safety in my own hands. I do not have to rely on drivers not to rear end me. When riding on the road you don’t have any control of a distracted driver. When approaching an intersection you can always make eye contact w motorists and cross when you think is safe. I have to cross an intersection a total of 12 times daily and I still feel safer doing that than riding on the road when my trail ends. If I had a kid I would rather have them ride on bike paths than next to traffic buzzing them at 45MPH.

    • marmotte27 says:

      ‘Rear ending’ never happens. Getting overlooked at intersection when ‘appearing out of the blue’ (i.e. from a segregated cycle path) happens all the time. Which one is more dangerous in your opinion?

      Not to speak of the fact that having to give way at each and every intersection (your way of doing it amounts to that) is extremely tiring after only a little while, when you can actually exercise your right of way quite naturally by riding on the road.

      • moises07 says:

        Again, I can control my safety at an intersection something I can’t control while riding with traffic. And rear ending, and side swiping do happen. I hear stories all the time at our county’s Bike/Ped meetings. You still didn’t address minors riding on a bike lane or is bike riding as tranportation reserved for adult only rides? Would you feel comfotable w your 14 year old riding on the road? Or would you feel better if you knew your kid would be extremly cautious at intersections while continuing to ride the path? I’ll take my chances w teaching my kid the principles of intersection crossings.

      • I can control my safety at an intersection something I can’t control while riding with traffic.

        We may think we can control your safety at intersections… but if neither we can see the cars, nor they can see us, our control may be illusionary. Yes, we may stop and walk our bike across every intersection, becoming a pedestrian in the process, but part of the appeal of cycling is its convenience and speed.

        Would you feel comfortable with your 14 year old riding on the road?

        Yes. My son was only 12 when the photo in this post was taken. He often goes on rides by himself in Seattle. If he weren’t mature enough to ride in the street, I certainly wouldn’t want him riding on a cycle path, where much greater skills are required to avoid accidents (see above).

      • moises07 says:

        The problem is that no matter how much you push for people using bike lanes next to traffic average cyclists will rather ride on the sidewalk. I see this every day; a bike lane next to a State Road with cars going over 40MPH and cyclists skipping the bike lane to ride on the sidewalk. I’m sorry but I can have the most mature 13 year old but I’m not going to feel comfortable with trucks driving a couple of feet next to her. If people are going to bike on sidewalks because they don’t feel safe and are still going to cross the same intersections then might as well have protected bike lanes. The chances of me getting right hooked at an intersection is ZERO because I am not pulling forward until I’m 100% certain. Is it going to delay my ride? Yes, but I’m in no hurry to bike to my death. Put safety in the hands of cyclists, not motorists.

        On Sun, Aug 18, 2013 at 5:00 PM, Off The Beaten Path wrote:

        > ** > Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly commented: “I can control my > safety at an intersection something I cant control while riding with > traffic. We may think we can control your safety at intersections… but if > neither we can see the cars, nor they can see us, our control may be > illusionary. Yes, we” >

      • It’s great that you are stopping at every intersection until there is no car anywhere near. If you ride in areas with light traffic, that may be an option.

        However, statistics show that few cyclists are willing to do that (or have the time to do so). Thus, the “right hook” is a real problem that gets worse when “protected” facilities are installed.

  58. I found this quotation; the whole thread is fascinating and too long to summarize:

    “I am now so unconcerned of overtaking traffic that I have discarded my mirrors. Seeing traffic behind me is simply a pointless distraction that diverts my attention from where my real hazards lie — in front of me!”

    - See more at: http:// commuteorlando .com/wordpress/2009/04/06/law-enforcement-bias-and-the-3ft-law/#sthash.61SIyizs.dpuf

  59. svenski says:

    Not being able to read through 100+comments, just one more thought: Having been riding in Berlin and Barcelona vor well over 20 years altogether, I fully support Jan’s ideas about the intelligent mix of different facilities that could make for a sensible cycling infrastructure.

    The idea of segregated cycle paths as encouragement for more people to cycle has two downsides:
    1. Taken that as a general design guideline, you offer an infrastructure to those new cyclists, that is far from being the safest alternative – and therefore are somehow resposible for the lives this sooner or later will cost.
    2. You might not attract as manyx people to cycling by mainly offering on-street cycletracks, but as these are way cheaper than segregated cycle paths, you can build many more kms of cycling facilities this way, attracting really more people to cycling.

    And last, but not least: Hardly a cyclist visible in the street will be hurt, compared to the many ones that are not present in car drivers’ minds because they are cycling behind parked cars or hidden in “dead angles” but suddenly turn up at intersections.

    Riding on segregated cycle paths requires A LOT more attentiveness on the side of the cyclist, and therefore makes cycling way more susceptible for making mistakes

    I hope cyclists in the U.S. don’t need to make the experience parts of Europe are just recovering from.

  60. Alexander says:

    Cyclists going over 10 km/h belong on the road. All others: behave. I know it is hard to do. To children and grannies we are trucks.
    http://road.cc/content/news/90448-six-year-old-girl-knocked-over-cyclist-newly-opened-%C2%A321m-festival-way-near

  61. Piglet says:

    I’ve been commuting 5.5 miles (each way) in Manhattan for the last 3 years. I advocated for the Columbus Ave. bike lane extension, and am THRILLED that it is finally here. My commute is shorter, WAY safer, and I sweat less (fewer adrenaline rushes). They did ask a biker.

  62. stronglight49d says:

    My city (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA) has been experiencing very rapid growth – up 24% since year 2000. And cycling is also growing and is increasingly being considered a viable option by many unlikely (older) commuters and neighborhood shoppers. Beyond earlier scenic recreational bike trails, there is a continual growth of more purposeful bike trails and marked street routes. Perhaps because this region has very little rain (under 8″ / 20cm. annually) and relatively warm temperatures most of the year, a lot of public funds are being directed to new bike trail construction which now often avoids all contact with traffic via excellent underpasses.

    I have been commuting daily on the streets by bike for many years, but I now have increased off-street options for some longer rides across town. Most importantly, these offer both safer and FASTER travel. This is VERY different from any other US cities where I have lived and cycled in the past. Obviously, choosing not to own a car but with numerous bikes, I hope this trend continues!

    Here are a few relevant photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stronglight/sets/72157610607623317/ I have discovered even more new trails nearby and will be adding images to this album soon.

  63. Larry T. says:

    There was a time I’d have agreed with the post 100%. But they built a multi-use trail (paved) just a few hundred meters from where we live in Iowa. During our time in Italy, riding on the road is not an issue, I avoid any type of bike path there, but I find myself using this trail in Iowa which (sort of) connects to another one to make a nice loop ride of 40 km, and also when I want to go downtown on my shopping bike.The rest of the loop ride is two lane road with little traffic, save a section where lots of gravel trucks race by at high speed. I find myself enjoying the “no motor vehicles” sections of this loop a lot more these days, though the dangers (dogs on leashes, kids wobbling around, roller skaters, etc.) are there, including a couple of dicey intersections with busy, main roads, I’m starting to think a mix of these ideas is best. Designate bike lanes where separate cycling paths are impossible, but don’t ditch entirely the “no motor vehicles” routes in places where they can be built and enjoyed.

    • If you are talking about a “multi-use path” that is separate from motor vehicles, with only occasional street crossings – yes, I love most of those. The “cycle paths” we are discussing here are in urban settings – basically bike lanes that are part of the sidewalk instead of part of the street.

  64. runwild says:

    I see lots of comments about cycling in Holland or Germany, but has anyone looked at Sweden I have cycled there, and they use separated paths , in suburban areas. In Stockholm there are marked paths between the pedestrians and the cars. I believe they also have traffic.ights for cars and bikes! That is one way to alleviate the car, bike collision at intersections.

  65. Alex Merz says:

    Extremely useful discussion. Thank you, Jan, for initiating and facilitating it.

    Here is some more (that Jan will likely disagree with), along with a memorial to cyclists killed on San Francisco streets.

  66. Mr. Heine: the MUTCD is indeed a national standard in the US. It’s not easy to change the contents, but once something’s in there, it’s generally accepted. The NCUTCD Bicycle Technical Committee works on updates to the MUTCD for bicyclists – see http://www.ncutcdbtc.org

    But the MUTCD can’t contain all the details on how best to use the signs, markings, and other devices. Fortunately, there are other resources – for example, the new edition of the ITE Traffic Control Devices Handbook contains excellent advice on where to place shared lane markings (and other devices & treatments).

  67. But another reminder: when engineering collides with politics, politics often wins. It’s much easier to sell a vision of happiness and harmony than to bring up crashes & conflicts. And pathway advocates are very comfortable with taking the political route – even in influencing engineering policy (e.g. the recent FHWA request for info).

    The segregated pathway movement in the US also often uses Alinsky-style tactics – pick, freeze, isolate, polarize, and ridicule opponents (see the cited article) – while often avoiding discussing concerns. There’s also a belief component at work – an accepted orthodoxy, apologetics, and punishment of heresy.

  68. Josh says:

    Jan and others might find this look at Lusk et al’s recent data worth a closer look.

    http://bicycledriving.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/AJPH20137406_Schimek_2nd.pdf

    In short, Lusk et al conflate two very different types of facilities, off-road paths with minimal intersections (average 1.7 intersection per km), and urban cycletracks with high intersection densities (average 11.3 intersections per km).

    In an urban street grid, putting cyclists out of sight and out of mind drives an accident rate an order of magnitude higher than the paths with few intersections — 7.0 accidents per million km cycled vs. 0.6 accidents per million km.

    This fits well with data from Denmark and the Netherlands, D.C., etc. Segregated facilities can be safer on suburban arterials with minimal intersections, or along urban waterfronts, river banks, or other features that limit intersection density. When cars and bicycles must cross paths frequently in a dense urban street grid, segregated facilities are clearly hazardous, even if they have lower perceived stress among inexperienced cyclists.

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