"Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn't block traffic."
- Dan Rather
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Cyclists tend to blame motorists or road engineering for cycling accidents, and rarely consider that the problem may lie from within. The persons causing most cyclist accidents are cyclists themselves, so by far the most effective method of reducing cycle injuries is learning to drive a bicycle as a vehicle using virtually all the same rules as driving an automobile.
Panaceas will not solve cyclists' problems. Bike paths and helmets were yesterday's panaceas; today's are bike lanes. Bike lanes are being promoted without considering their adverse effects, and in the absence of any evidence to support the claim they are "safer" for cyclists.
-- Avery Burdett
by Christine Code
If you cycle regularly, there is probably somebody in your life who's just itching to tell you that the city ought to put a bike lane on every major street.
"It will be safer," they proclaim. Are they right? No. Bike lanes only do two things:
1. they make life worse for cyclists, and
2. they allow politicians and uninformed advocates to feel that they've "done something for cycling."
Here are some of the problems that bike lanes create:
* Bike lanes cause turning and crossing conflicts for cyclists and motorists thus encouraging cyclists and motorists to drive in an unsafe fashion.
* Bike lanes contain additional road hazards for cyclists.
* Bike lanes lead to discrimination against cyclists.
* Wider curb lanes would be better than bike lanes for cyclists.
Turning and crossing conflicts
The presence of a bike lane encourages cyclists to ride in the bike lane, even when it is not appropriate to do so.
Most cyclists will remain on the "right turn only" lane, and will ride straight through the intersection. This puts these riders at great risk, as right-turning motorists are likely to pass such cyclists while turning right.
The presence of a bike lane makes it less likely that a motorist will carefully merge into the bike lane before turning right; motorists tend to stay to the left of the bike lane until the last moment before the turn, then turn sharply across the bike lane.
With left hand turns, when bike lanes are present, inexperienced cyclists tend to remain in the bike lane until they turn left. This means that the rider then has to cross several lanes all at once, which is just about impossible to do safely.
When debris, such as broken glass, is deposited on the roadway, motor traffic sweeps this debris to the side of the road. Since automobile drivers tend to stay out of the bike lane, debris gets swept into the bike lane, and it stays there. That's why bike lanes are notorious for collecting bits of mufflers and broken glass and other unwanted objects. Sure, you can have the city crew come along and sweep it up, but how often is this likely to happen? And is it worth spending tax dollars on sweeping that wouldn't be necessary if there was no bike lane?
A cyclist who rides safely and in a vehicular manner will face discrimination on a street with bike lanes. When a cyclist plans to turn left, that rider must first merge across a couple of lanes of traffic to get to the left turning lane. A competent cyclist does this smoothly and without incident every day.
When there is a bike lane on the street, a cyclist who merges left in preparation for a left hand turn is likely to face honks and comments from motorists. Once a bike lane exists, many motorists think that cyclists must use that bike lane, and only the bike lane.
Wider curb lanes are better
Bike lanes aren't the answer, but there are engineering solutions that will make life easier for cyclists. For example, a wider curb lane (with no stripe designating a bike lane) will make it possible for cyclists to share the lane with automobile traffic. For more information on curb lane width and other engineering issues that affect cyclists, refer to "Bicycle Transportation" and "Effective Cycling" by John Forester.
Christine Code is a CAN-BIKE Instructor and National Examiner.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
As many of you know, one of my primary complaints with bike lanes is that they rend the fabric of common sense (and Common Law). They break the basic centuries-old understanding of "right-of-way", the understanding which all of our traffic principles are based upon. They set a bad precedent that can't be universally applied, and therefore nothing can be predicted involving the interaction of bicycles with automobiles.
And now it gets worse. Idaho, that wacky state of free-thinkers, passed a law allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs (and roll through them), and stop lights as stop signs (allowing them to continue through a red light after "stopping").
That's bad enough in mostly unpopulated, strictly law-abiding Idaho, but imagine if you will, applying this "logic" to a densely urban area, one that isn't really known for being strictly "law-abiding"... someplace like the San Francisco Bay Area, in California.
The result will be predictable.
Oregon, the world's foremost proponent of Magick Paint™, is seeing similar attempts.
Monday, July 21, 2008
This is the picture of a bicycle for sale on the local craigslist. It's not uncommon to see low-mileage bikes for sale with the seatpost and handlebars so out of whack.
When I see something like this, it's little wonder people give up on riding bicycles. If I had to ride a bike set up like this, I'd get discouraged pretty quick, too.
However, in all fairness to the seller, I suppose it could have been used by a circus for a chimpanzee to ride.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
San Antonio is struggling how to accommodate bicycling into their transportation mix. The San Antonio Express-News did an interesting story on the situation, but I came away thinking they never saw the trees for the forest (at least as the story was published). Much of their problem stems from recent development in the low population density northern suburbs that make retrofitting special bicycle facilities extremely difficult.
In the picture above, what would work better? A 3' paint stripe shoulder (masquerading as a bike lane), or a better educated and trained cyclist who rode 4-6' out from the curb (essentially taking the lane)? TxDOT recommends the 3' shoulder option (if the travel lanes can be maintained at 11', which they usually can't). To install AASHTO standard bike lanes on the street above, 12' of right-of-way would be required. That's one whole travel lane of a busy thoroughfare. Where do you take it from? What would be the traffic impact? And what would be the true benefit?
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Miles of completed bike lanes, paths and routes
Total street miles
Miles of bike lanes, paths and routes per 100 miles of all city streets:
San Antonio: 131 -- 4,018 -- 3.3
Houston: 345 -- 6,729 -- 5.1
Austin: 276 -- 2,308 -- 12.0
Dallas: 529 -- 3,523 -- 15.0
Note: Dallas' figures includes roughly 400 miles of signed but un-striped bicycle routes. Mileage totals for Austin and Houston also contained significant signed, un-striped bike routes.
Preliminary data compiled by the San Antonio Express-News.
See what's happening here?
Rather than take away pedestrian space for parking bicycles, Vancouver B.C. removed an on-street parallel parking space for a car, built it up as a curb bulb-out, and installed bike racks. Immanently sensible.
But I would like to see a big steel post blocking a car's ability to drive straight over the curb.
This is from the New York City Department of Transportation's website on Cycling Safety Tips.
More and more, the items I highlighted are coming back in regards to bike lane installations around the country (mandatory side-path laws... brought back to life by mandatory helmet laws). When you make a deal with the Devil, expect him to exact a price.
Riding in Traffic:Use bike lanes when available.
Keep right when possible. However, when the road is narrow and cars cannot safely pass, you have the right to ride in the middle of the travel lane. You also have the right to ride all the way to the left on a 40-foot-wide, one-way street.
Ride predictably. Use hand signals, ride in a straight line and do not weave in and out between parked cars. The more predictable you are the more drivers will respect you.
Establish eye contact with drivers. Seeing a driver is often not enough. Make sure drivers see you before executing a turn or riding in front of a turning car.
Look for drivers in parked cars. Being aware of drivers in parked cars can prepare you for the possibility of a car door being opened in your path.
Be visible. Wear brightly colored clothing for daytime riding. At night, use reflective materials and lights.
Must obey all traffic signals, regulating signs and pavement markings
Must come to a complete stop at stop signs and red lights
Must always have at least one hand on handlebars.
Must use a bike path or lane if provided.
Must stop and give name, address, insurance information, etc., if involved in an accident resulting in death or injury to a person or damage to property
Cannot wear more than one earphone attached to a radio, tape player or other audio device while riding
Must ride on a permanent seat
Must have feet on pedals
This underscores my point that bike lanes are bicycle control devices, not bicycle enabling installations. They are rolling ghettos to keep bicycles under control and out of the way of "real" vehicles. Can't happen here? Don't bet on it.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Whether they are public (local, state, federal) or private (bicycle advocacy groups, safety committees, media outlets), the preferred way to deal with percieved deficiencies in promoting bicycling as a viable part of the transportation system is to put a band-aid over the "wound". Bike helmets, bike lanes, bike paths, bike plans, while good in and of themselves, are not cure-alls, and tend to be used as an easy "fix".
In the "old days", we used to talk about the Four Es of bicycle programs as part of the transportation mix:
- Engineering of facilities to better accommodate cyclists,
- Enforcement of traffic laws equally,
- Education of both cyclists and motorists, and
- Encouragement via promotion and policy to move more people into the bicycling mode. I personally still hold to this model. This method addresses the real issues that effect bicycling as being part of the transportation mix.
But now we are getting the "Four D"s seems like:
- Dumbing-down (treating cyclists like children for whom we must act in loco parentis),
- Dis-integration (because it's not safe to "play" in the streets, we must provide - and later force? - separate facilities for bicycles),
- Danger (by focusing on and exaggerating cycling fatalities, the specter of death can be used to scare cyclists off the roads), and
- Discouragement (all of the above).
"Let Mommy kiss the boo-boo and put a band-aid on it. There, all better."
Sunday, July 13, 2008
"Do the cyclists who use the street avoid the path because they don't want to put up with slower-moving traffic (like pedestrians), much the same way some drivers don't want to put up with slower-moving traffic (like cyclists)?" -- April Powell, Pegasus News
Someone sent me the comment above. It comes from a blog post last year on the Pegasus News site regarding bicycle/automobile/pedestrian conflicts around White Rock Lake.
The observation is worth a long, hard consideration.
edit: This post refers specifically to the fast recreational cyclists who use West Lawther and Mockingbird Lane at White Rock Lake Park, and not general cyclists (like myself) who prefer the road because the traffic is more predictable (for one reason). The usual apologies for seeming to use generalities as I concentrate on some narrow specifics.
Friday, July 11, 2008
The pictures (mostly local... can you pick the imports?) are of different types of cyclists. When you say "bicyclist", which of these cyclists comes to mind? Are any of these design cyclists that planners and engineers should have in mind? Are all of them?
A "design cyclist" is the model user that facilities are designed for, but just who is a design cyclist? Who should we be designing bicycle facilities for? How do we best serve all bicycle user groups? Children? Retirees? Racer-types? Hunks? Babes? Immigrants? Type I, II, or III cyclists? Clowns?
And... do we design roadways for people who don't know how to drive? Why do we design bicycle facilities for people who don't really know how to ride a bike?
The late (and greatly missed) Ken Kifer had some good thoughts on this topic.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Comments by John Forester, P.E.
I have used the term "cyclist-inferiority" in several applications, but these application all serve to describe aspects of the false concept that cyclists are inferior to motorists.
The political application is that it serves the motoring organizations, and therefore the highway organizations that they control, and in addition many politicians, to consider cyclists as inferior to motorists. By considering cyclists inferior to motorists, government can deny to cyclists some of the important rights that apply, in legal terms, to drivers of vehicles, but which are commonly supposed to apply to motorists, because cyclists and motorists are the only significant users of the nation's roadways. The rights denied are denied purely for the convenience of motorists. The most important of these are the right to use most of the width of the roadway, and the right to use roadways at all when bike lanes or bike paths have been produced, or those roadways which cannot be reached by driveways. The only reason for these restriction s that stands up to scientific analysis is the belief, on the part of motorists, that cyclists delay motorists.
The social application is the extension of the above political excuse to characterize cyclists. The official view is that 95% of cyclists are unable to learn how to obey the traffic laws. Of course, they conceal this behind propagandistic jargon, terming the ability to obey the traffic laws "expert skill" and those with it the "elite." Since cyclists are very little different from the population at large, that means that, supposedly, 95% of motorists must be incapable of driving properly. However, the meanness of that attitude is demonstrated immediately by the obvious reluctance of the same motoring organizations and motorists to restrict motor-vehicle driving privilege to those who demonstrate an expert, elite, level of skill. No, as long as you drive a car, only considerably below average skill is required to receive a driving license. It is absurd to consider that most adult cyclists are incapable of knowing how to obey the traffic laws when most adult cyclists, in the USA at least, have been certified by the government as having that knowledge and skill. The only excuse for this absurdity has to be the false idea that riding a bicycle makes you temporarily incompetent, an incompetence from which you recover the moment you get behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle.
The superstitious application of the phrase cyclist-inferiority refers to the feelings induced in people by the propaganda which has been used to promote motorists' interests. These feelings include the ones that cars own the roads, that cars don't look out for me, that I, when on a bicycle, am an intruder onto their range, from which they will eject me by either threats or death. One pervasive and effective form of that propaganda has been the traditional bike-safety propaganda program (it never was safe cycling instruction and cannot be called that), which taught cyclist-inferiority superstition, no matter how dangerous that was for cyclists. Thirty percent of car-bike collisions in the Cross study (mid 1970s) are caused by the cyclist obeying the precepts of bike-safety education.
The psychological application of the phrase cyclist inferiority refers to the cyclist-inferiority phobia, complex, or superstition, depending on severity of the case. This is the sense that:"I, the cyclist, don't really belong on the road, which is owned by the cars, and that I am unable to follow the traffic laws for drivers of vehicles, or that if I did I would quickly be smashed.
"The roads are very dangerous places where everybody is against me, and where I have no place that I can call my own to which I could retreat as a place of safety. Since the greatest danger is from cars, which operate to my danger, obviously the greatest danger to me is the same-direction traffic that comes from behind. To protect myself from this great danger, I must do all that I can to avoid same-direction motor traffic, to defer to it when it is present, to always give it the right of way, etc., including promoting bike lanes and bike paths to protect myself from this danger."
It suits motorists, which means most people in the USA, and therefore the various governments of the USA, to have cyclists considered inferior to motorists. That provides the excuse for doing things that clear the roads of cyclists for motorists' convenience. And it assists them a whole lot if cyclists cooperate by considering themselves to be inferior to motorists.
For all of these reasons (and there are probably more), it is accurate to apply the name of "cyclist inferiority" to the type of cycling and the associated feelings, superstitions, and political urges that carry out this program of motorist superiority
726 Madrone Avenue
Every city, large or small, has a bike plan. They may not be aware they have one, but they do.
The job of every municipality that wants to promote reality-based bicycling is to identify the existing network that has already been developed and tested for them (free of charge). It will need some improvements, and maybe even some modifications, but the basic design should not change. But as a rule, organizations like to hire consultants, and consultants (most of them) are too embarrassed to charge for something that was already there (like I said, most of them). So cities get consultant designed bike plans (often designed by landscape architects) that ignores the natural for the unnatural.
Bicycles are vehicles of convenience that can adapt to their surrounding environment easily. A city's street-scape is much like the farm pasture shown above. In that pasture, the various mammals (human, bovine, equus, feline, canine) choose their routes based upon what affords them a relatively direct connection between where they sleep and where they eat (live and work). They choose their different paths based upon their physical properties, and they choose them for safety.
A cow or a horse isn't too worried about safety. There are few predators they are likely to meet on the farm. They choose wide-open, broad paths (like trucks do). Ducks might choose a more concealed route system. Raccoons, cats, foxes, dogs, and field mice all choose routes that maximize their own safety and convenience in a trade off. They travel the same way, over and over, so that many small paths become visible over time.
So too street users. Trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians utilize the same routes over and over again, as they have identified them as the best way from Point A to Points B through Z. By a form of process elimination, cyclists choose roads and streets that get them to their destination in the more comfortable way possible, dependent upon cycling skills. This bicycle route selection is an organic and completely natural process that results is a "living" system that self adjusts to changes.
Problems crop up when a horse becomes a duck. The newly minted duck tries to use the same path he used as a horse, only now their are predators that can see him. Danger, danger!
When a motorist decides to shift modes and become a cyclist, he tends to want to use the same streets he drove his car on, even if it's not the most traffic-environmentally compatible route for a bicycle. Then come the demands for bike lanes.
In some places, it can not be avoided to direct cyclists unto a road designed for cars and trucks only. In those cases, bike lanes can be advantageous, even when the advantage is primarily psychological. Bridges are a good example, due to the psychological "channeling" effect that occurs.
A better alternative for the duck is two-fold. The duck should seek roadways and streets that are more compatible with their skill levels, but they should also work to develop better vehicular cycling skills. These two approaches make 90% of city streets and roads accessible by cyclists.
My commute to work by car involves Garland Road, East Grand, R.L. Thornton Freeway or Columbia/Main. My commute by bicycle involves Lawther Drive, Westshore Drive, La Vista Drive, Swiss Avenue, and then Canton Street. I could use my car route (except for the I-30 part). It saves me a little less than a mile travel distance, and maybe 15 minutes of travel time. I prefer Swiss Avenue, as I am a leisurely rider. But I am as safe going either way.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The City of Dallas is in early discussions with the McKinney Avenue Trolley Authority to install compressible filler all all their tracks in Dallas to make them safer for bicycles (and wheelchairs). MATA has agreed in principle (informally), but now the City has to start locating a funding source. No small hurdle.
I mainly wanted an excuse to post this picture that few outside of the city would recognize as Dallas.
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) Safety Facts
NHTSA 2003 Pedestrian Safety Facts include:
- 4,749 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes
- 70,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes
- On average, a pedestrian is killed almost every 2 hours and injured every 8 minutes
NHTSA 2003 Pedalcyclist Safety Facts include:
- 622 pedalcyclists were killed in traffic crashes
- 46,000 pedalcyclists were injured in traffic crashes
- 23 percent of all pedalcyclists killed were under age 16
The recent UT Austin/TxDOT funded study of bike lanes had several interesting findings.
Bike lane advocates (the test group) will tell you they prefer bike lanes over wide outside lanes, even though:
- Cyclists ride closer to the curb in a bike lane than on a wide outside lane (WOL).
- Motorists pass bike lane (BL) cyclists closer than they do wide outside lane cyclists.
- Motorists pass bike lane cyclists at a higher rate of speed than they do wide outside lane cyclists.
The WOL cyclist takes up more of the travel lane (3 - 5 feet from curb face), in most cases causing motorists to slightly reduce their speed and shift their lane position away from the cyclists they are over taking (even changing lanes at times).
The BL cyclist (2' from curb face) stays out of the way of motorists, so the motorists don't shift their lane position, or reduce their speed.
The result is they pass the cyclist with less clearance and at a greater speed.
This was the preferred (and designed in) result of the study. TxDOT has long opposed WOL treatments as a hindrance to automobiles. Bike lanes provide (as was their original intent) a means to segregate cyclists onto a narrow "roadway ghetto" (with poorer maintenance).
By pre-selecting bike lane approving cyclists for the study, the results were predictable. Bike-lane cyclists and motorists prefer bike lanes over wide outside lanes. This isn't a scientific study, it's market research. It's also the Bicycle Inferiority Complex in effect.
Friday, July 04, 2008
|Activity Fatalities per 1,000,000 Exposure Hours|
|Data compiled by Failure Analysis Associates, Inc.|
When the City of
From a traffic engineering perspective, a
Most urban thoroughfares and collectors in
On a typical
To install bike lanes of the recommended 5’ width, the street cross-section now looks like this, 5-14-14----14-14-5, dropping a full lane of traffic in each direction. When you consider that people tend to ask for bike lanes on streets that are already overcrowded, you can see how the problems are exacerbated by the attempts at alleviation.
I haven’t even mentioned the problem with banning all on-street parking on streets with bike lanes and the resulting backlash from homeowners and businesses.
So rather than install a few miles of bike lanes, what Dallas did was create a 400 center-line mile signed bicycle route system on local, low volume streets that parallel thoroughfares. Where a thoroughfare (or bridge) is required, the City committed to build wide-outside-lanes to create extra room for cyclists and motor vehicles to share the road. On new road construction (and reconstruction when right of way is available), depending upon posted speeds, the roadway will look like this; 14-11-11----11-11-14, or 15-11-11----11-11-15.
So, long answer, instead of striping 50 lane-miles of bike lanes (.05% of the City's streets), the City signed 800 lane-miles of bike routes (10% of the City's streets), resulting in a far more comprehensive bike plan than a simple bike lane system that improved real conditions for cyclists without degrading conditions for the dominate motorist traffic. Mind you, this approach works best in a city with a complex street grid system dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Suburbs have a more difficult task.
This is the mid-block crossing for the Santa Fe Trail at Beacon Street in East Dallas.
These "squiggles" have been incorporated into the design for two purposes.
- To force higher speed trail users to slow down as they approach the intersection,
- To also force trail users to look to their right and then to their left to observe automobile traffic on Beacon Street (a four lane divided thoroughfare).
These are good squiggles, but I really wanted to see goggles. More on that later.