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Old 01-12-03, 06:18 AM   #1
iluvbiking
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Is biking really possible in USA?

Hi,

As u might be knowing i am form india and i am always surprised by one question: with so many bike riders in this forum, why do i see such a large number of cars on the highways and expressways in USA?

My friends who are there in the USA say that its almost impossible to ride in the cold season and only seasoned cyclists and the ones who have a good stamina and alertness for slippery surfaces and skidding cars during snow can survive.

The other valid reson they gave was in mountainous states such as TN, KY, VA, CO and CA it's almost next to impossible to to use the bike for shopping, commuting and fun riding.

I like to add here that many of these firends of mine had done a lot of cycling in India and i just wanted to know if all of these reasons are for real?

But they all stood by one point, they said that almost all of the motorists were courteous and yielding and added that US is one of the safest haven for cyclists(i dunno how much of this is true since i can understand that locals are always friendly to aliens, especially if they are students and are not very well aware of road rules).

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srinipartha
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Old 01-12-03, 09:29 AM   #2
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Hi iluvbiking!

I'm from TN and this end of the state is mostly flat land with some rolling hills, the real reason most here don't use bikes is, there lazy. Americans have gotten use to getting into their car and going 3 blocks to get anything! Heaven forbid that even my children should have to walk to the movie rental or local market that is 3-4 blocks away! I will add that many people here live in rural areas and don't see a bicycle as a viable resource for anything other than recreation. Most of the bikes sold in department stores here are destined to clutter up some one's porch or garrage and never be ridden except for some recreation and that usually doesn't last long. Why do you think that diseases that are assoatied with a sedentary life style and over eating pleague our nation?
I ride mostly for fun and fitness and plan to do some commuting this spring and summer to see how it goes. I also noticed that in areas that have more congested trafic and more cyclers that people don't seem to "live by the clock" as much as in other areas, so their always pushing themselves to "be on time" somewhere. Many Americans commute by auto 30-40 miles to their jobs and think nothing of driving more miles than that to work. Small towns and cities often make no effort to encourge bike riding and often riders are looked on as a nusance to autos that are trying to "be somewhere"! Almost all the street lights are activated by some sort of magnetic sensor imbeded in the road so a cyclist will wait all day and the light will never change to allow a bicycle to pass! More and more stores are located off major roads and cyclist have to contend with high volume, high speed trafic and motorist that have many distractions. I will add that I have had very few issues with hostile motorist, most of the time they just don't see you or they aren't paying attention to what they are doing.
I work in a college town and most of the student riders I see are Asian and do use the bicycle as a means to run errands and trips to the store. Why do American kids think that they are too good to ride a bike? When my son wanted a car the first thing I did was make him ride a bike back and fourth to work and earn his money. I realy sours my stomach to see so many of the kids in this country driving cars that cost $20,000 and I know that most haven't earned it. WE ARE SPOILED!
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Old 01-12-03, 10:09 AM   #3
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I would agree with most of that except to say that I have gotten fairly good at triggering those lights it feels good to trip a light and see the looks on drivers faces when a lonme bicycle comes across the intersection. usually if you find one of the strips and ride right on it from the beginning to end it will trip the light. But yes Americans have gotten lazy! I work with a guy who lives 4 blocks away from work and in the winter he spends more time between warming the car, scraping the windows, find a parking spot and walk from there that i can commute by bike faster! still I get called crazy and a big dummy and in general treated as second class citizen on the streets. This does not even take into account the $200 a month for his car payment that I save.
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Old 01-12-03, 11:16 AM   #4
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I have cycled in Europe several times to compare how cyclists are treated in the US.. Strange, we have had cyclists/exchange students visit us.. They are impressed with the US because our roads are so wide. Often, bike lanes on our roads are minimal- no margins.. Bike lanes are not always consistent on major highways. To plan a bike trip local bike/county authorities publish maps to let cyclists know where the bike lanes are.. Think the reson European visitors are impressed with the width of our highways- urban centers in Europe are so congested and roads built hundreds of years ago when planning for automobiles was not a concern..
California, at least San Diego County seems to be better at putting in bike lanes. Many US cyclists train out here because of our climate.. The US cycling camp in now south of the City of San Diego.. Often you will find significan cycling lanes going up our mountains- which is great for training.. But our traffic and speed on our highways can be intimidating..
But then, often California is thought to travel to a different drummer(Hollywood and all that)- so bike commuting is not unheard of and you will find lots of cyclists about these areas. The terrain/climate is too good for cycling to not be popular. Yet, local cycling advocates would think we are pretty cycling unfriendly, I am sure.
I can not speak for the rest of the US- but motorists are not surprised to find packs of cyclists cluttering the road. I am sure bike club membership in San Diego County is in the 10,000 of thousands..
Now, to the other issue of how motorists treat cyclists. As someone who has cycled/toured in Europe four times.. Americans are emotionally, unprepared to see cyclists on "their" highways. Lots of hostilities for the most part.. Just my personal comparsion..
Quite unlike Europe when you are greeted with applause and cyclists are as popular as our football/baseball sports figures..
I have seen figures as to how many Americans commute by bike to work. As I recall it was like 2 %. Europe would be significantly higher, with the Netherlands over 50 %. That makes a strong statement..
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Old 01-13-03, 04:06 AM   #5
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Originally posted by cyclezealot
...Quite unlike Europe when you are greeted with applause and cyclists are as popular as our football/baseball sports figures....
I think that is one of the distinctive "emotional" (?) differences between Americans and Europeans.

Their heroes participate in activities that are accesible to pretty much everybody. Compare that to the US, where the "hero" is typically into something that just isn't feasible to the common man. The events in which they are active, are intended to be watched (spectator sports = oxymoron) and are not meant for an everyman to go out and do. Also, IMO, the heroes in Europe appear to be more accessible to their fans, than they are over here.
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Old 01-13-03, 10:54 AM   #6
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hi,

Thats what i have been hearing, that the roads in USA is pretty much very safe for cycling, due to their width and good attitude among bikers and drivers.

But i came across certain roads and avenues in chattanooga in some pictures and i wonder how they had marked bike routes on those roads, let alone cycling i think that even driving would be a difficult proposition.

Have you people driven on such dangerous roads? like the ones having a steep incline ending with a steep turn and speed breakers?

I would be glad to know how these obstacles are overridden.

regards
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Old 01-13-03, 11:26 AM   #7
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iluvbiking--

I don't know this for sure, but I'd bet that some localities designate roads as bikeways just to get state and federal road funding, regardless of the road's actual bike-friendliness. Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles is marked as a bike route but there's no way you could safely bike it.

This summer I was visiting LA for a week or so and tried to find a safe route between Hollywood and Santa Monica (about 9-10 mi). I consider myself a fairly competent rider in traffic but there was just no way. I ended up putting the bike on the rack and driving out to the water. So, I became yet another car stuck in traffic on the freeway.
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Old 01-13-03, 11:41 AM   #8
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Dangerous curves are almost always marked in advance with a sign in the US. You know to slow down especially if you are travelling down an incline on the approach. Bike lanes are scarce in most cities. You can't count on them to go everywhere that you want to go. The law allows bicycles to share the road with cars. If the lane isn't wide enough to share, the bicycle can take the lane. Motorists may or may not agree with this but they go along with it for the most part.
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Old 01-13-03, 11:46 AM   #9
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I live in one of them "hilly" states, and I've gotta say a bike can get over most all of the hills no problem. Richmond's (reasonably) flat, but I used to live in the Blue Ridge Mts. area and I don't recall walking my bike up a hill after I got off the Huffy I had as a kid. (I commuted to school on bike in that "hilly" area, BTW, all through grade school). I'll pedal down to shockhoe bottom here in town now and again, and although it's a steep, extended climb back out, I never have any problem as long as I'm riding a geared bike.
Perhaps it's because I've been riding so long, but I really don't see riding in the U.S. as that bad. Sure, you'll run into the occasional lunatic motorist, but on the occasions I drive my car, I notice you run into the occasional lunatic motorist then, too.
The real reason for this perception that biking is somehow unsafe, I think, is people look for reasons to rationalize their behaviour (in this case, driving their car). I'm constantly told by non-bikers that it's far too dangerous to ride on the streets so they can't do it (just how do they know if they've never done it, I wonder?). The car is so easy to use that most of them just use, and then try to rationalize their laziness... by denying there's any alternative.
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Old 01-13-03, 01:15 PM   #10
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I think biking in the USA, or at least, Atlanta, is more possible than most people here imagine.

The main problem I see is that planners and motorists don't think about cyclists sharing the road: it's considered the domain of the motor vehicle. So distances are long, design is not always bicycle-friendly and motorists don't have enough experience sharing the road with cyclists. Yet, I have found most drivers to be very careful around me.

In my opinion, even though the automobile rules the road here,
the bicycle is a strong contender for commuting, because like the motorcar, you can go wherever you choose, whenever you choose, even for the long distances we have. This flexibility is unlike mass transit, which takes you only where it goes, on it's own timetable.

Most people here don't realize how easy and enjoyable bicycle commuting is. I find it far more peaceful than driving.
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Old 01-13-03, 03:14 PM   #11
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iluvbiking - I've lived my whole life without a car. The cities in the US vary to a considerable degree as to their suitability for cycling. Even in the same state you will find horrible and good cities. For example, in Texas, Austin is wonderful for cycling, whereas Houston is awful, at least according to Bicycling magazine.

As far as doing things like getting groceries on a bike, that's what a back pack is for. Hills are irrelevant. When you live in a city like Seattle, if you can't climb a hill, you might as well move to Omaha.
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Old 01-13-03, 03:26 PM   #12
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OK, I don't live in the US, so I may be full of crap, but here's my $0.02 worth.

I tend to think a lot of it has to do with the "cycling is dangerous" myth that is perpetuated commonly by society and particularly by the media. On the Gold Coast in 2002 (a city of over 400,000) there were two cyclists killed. This was described in local newspapers as a "horror year for cyclists", with many suggesting banning cyclists from particular roads "for their own safety".

Now just think for a moment what the perception might be if every two motoring deaths received that sort of publicity? Or just think what the perception might be if the thousands of cyclists who survived the year unscathed (such as myself) received that sort of publicity.

My point is that cycling deaths tend to get more publicity with more journalists writing "cycling is dangerous" articles than virtually any other activity I can think of. Of course, this is what often leads governments to take other misguided actions like urban "bikepaths" or banning bikes from certain roads, but that's another rant. It also leads to people in general believing that if you ride on the road, you'll be killed in a matter of time. It aint necessarily so.
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Old 01-13-03, 05:48 PM   #13
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cycling in america is definitely possible, we have better roads better bikes made in America, and a happy populace,what more can you ask for a better cycling country
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Old 01-13-03, 06:56 PM   #14
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anything is possible, the automobiles that many citizens use to commute are far more dangerous than any bicycle ever built.

Perhaps it may be a easier task to be a cyclist living on the western half of the US, since many of the cities were planned with cars in mind (and congestion) and so the roads are much wider with shoulders. (All the BF.net people would be amazed when you saw how wide some of the roads here in vegas are.) When I visited my uncle in chicago last summer I did notice that there were many roads, yet they were a bit more narrow than I was used to, however it was still safe to ride (as long as the cars gave you some room )

anyhow, living in the desert is a great advantage, why? because I can ride year round, without fear of being snowed in. Little rain and plenty of sun make for a happy cyclist, and those mountains... yeah we have those too
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Old 01-13-03, 09:10 PM   #15
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I have lived all of my life in the coastal portion of southern California (west Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, and Encinitas) and have bicycled for recreation and for transportation since high school. The climate is benign, I love hills, and I can usually (but not always) plan an acceptably safe route.

I did not own a car before age 26.
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Old 01-13-03, 10:28 PM   #16
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As I said elsewhere, we have had French Exchange students.. They were surprised with the width and shoulders of the roads here in California.. Every part of the US is different. You come for a visit, i would check with cycling adovocacy groups to the location you are going.. Back east, the roads are older and crowded.
Every state is different. Some are reported to even be hostile to cyclists.. Cycling in the congested urban East, from what I have seen and recall would be impossible..
I think we think of ourselves as the land of the free and we are guaranteed freedom of choice.. So, cycling is transportation to those who choose to not have a car or can't afford it..
So to me, Cycling is a RIGHT and we should think of it as such.. IF we do not demand such, we will not be given the right of choice.
Related to this idea.. Many states bike rights groups are weak and can't compete with the power of the automobile and road lobbies.. That last Federal Highway Authorization was known as ISTEA.. It guarantees a certain funding formula for cycling interests.. If the pressure of the Federal Highway program does not encourage cycling interests- then most state's will care less... It is in our interests to follow what happens to Federal Highway funding programs.. Without federal funds, I know many nearby cities would not have built bike paths and lanes, that we presently enjoy.. They do not have the money..
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Old 01-14-03, 01:46 AM   #17
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hi chrisL,

u wrote

"I tend to think a lot of it has to do with the "cycling is dangerous" myth that is perpetuated commonly by society and particularly by the media. On the Gold Coast in 2002 (a city of over 400,000) there were two cyclists killed. This was described in local newspapers as a "horror year for cyclists", with many suggesting banning cyclists from particular roads "for their own safety".

send some of the press people to my city where they can see some real horror.

In my city(combined with three districts) the total number of cyclists killed in 2002 amount to 135+ and 600+ for the entire state, now hows that when compared to the two cyclists(may their souls rest in peace) who died in your city.

I would say that 2 cycling deaths per year is all normal(still a loss of life is a terrible one, numbers does'nt count) for the city to be called bike safe.

I hope every city become bike friendly in the near future.


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Old 01-14-03, 02:05 AM   #18
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hi JDP,

yes, that was a valid point, even in my country with worst roads and worst of all drivers we have warning markers for curves.

But the question is how safe they are? for example if the narrow road is infested with heavy vehicle traffic, a slow speed of 20kmph(12mph) by a careless driver might inflict grevious injuries to the pedestrian/cyclist. The law cannot blame the driver as he was not overspeedng. I dont know how frequent this happens in developed countries but the numbers here are hard to digest.

I once tried to bring this issue with one of friends here, what can be done to prevent the appaling number of road accident deaths in india, i got a shocking reply he said atleast it aids in population control.

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Old 01-14-03, 02:11 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by iluvbiking
send some of the press people to my city where they can see some real horror.

In my city(combined with three districts) the total number of cyclists killed in 2002 amount to 135+ and 600+ for the entire state, now hows that when compared to the two cyclists(may their souls rest in peace) who died in your city.
It's difficult to say, because the numbers alone don't always mean that much. We need to take other factors into account, such as the total number of cyclists in that area, how long they actually spent riding, the total population etc etc. I believe the population (not to mention the population density) and the number of cyclists is significantly greater in India than in Australia.

However, the point I was making wasn't so much about whether the Gold Coast is or isn't a dangerous place to ride, it was more to do with the attitude of the media around here. Those two cycling deaths probably took up as much newspaper space as 200 auto deaths would have done. Then one has to look at the type of coverage they got. When I read about auto deaths I see no mention of banning cars from the road "for their own safety" regardless of how many are killed, yet every time a cyclist gets killed that's exactly the sort of articles that are written.

The sort of media coverage I described above might lead people to conclude that cycling here is unsafe (indeed, many I have spoken to have told me this) on the basis of two deaths in a year. I don't know if this is what goes on in the U.S or not, but it certainly distorts perceptions around here.
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Old 01-14-03, 09:59 AM   #20
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Originally posted by VegasCyclist
Perhaps it may be a easier task to be a cyclist living on the western half of the US, since many of the cities were planned with cars in mind (and congestion) and so the roads are much wider with shoulders. (All the BF.net people would be amazed when you saw how wide some of the roads here in vegas are.)
[/B]
I was amazed.
I especially noted, out on Charleston, where the far right lane is reserved for bikes and seems to be as wide as a regular lane. This was pretty nice except approaching intersections where many of the motorists think it is a right turn lane.
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Old 01-15-03, 08:02 AM   #21
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Every state is different. Some are reported to even be hostile to cyclists.. Cycling in the congested urban East, from what I have seen and recall would be impossible..
i disagree with this one point that has been made by 2 or 3 here from the West.

while i agree that in the West (and most of the South like Texas, Georgia) roads are wider, i don't think that has too much to do with biking safety. for example Houston Tx has very large and wide roads but b/c of the dominance of cars there and drivers' inattentiveness and often agressiveness to cyclists, it is less ideal than say downtown Portland or downtown Boston where streets are narrower. actually in many cases, narrower roads are BETTER for cycling as cars must slow down a little. usually some of the worst places to ride is on the shoulder of a 45MPH, 55MPH or 65MPH or higher multi-lane speedway... (often prohibited on highways like Interstates)

from my experience many "crowded" East Coast cities are very bikeable - to name a few from from my personal experience: NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal...

new automobile-centric exurban areas with wide multi-lane roads, high speeds and lots of traffic tend to be the worst --- true rural is OK b/c of low traffic, and urban b/c of slower speeds.

as to the original question: i agree with most posts that the dangers of biking are exagerated. i also agree that most people are just too lazy and would rather sit in a car even though they could bike. finally, the attitudes towards and awareness of cyclists is low so driver's don't watch for cyclists or often know how to share the road. and yes, planners and sprawled development often do not think about the bicylce with such things are high-speed interchanges and overpasses and multilane raods as the only entry and exit points to a mall or shopping center (to make auto traffic efficient and safe, but also usually makes it difficult and unsafe for cyclists)

outside of Europe, cycling in the US is one the safest places in the world... just most Americans don't see it that way "do you really ride all the way to work?" meaning a whole 4 miles! "and during rush hour with all those cars?! wow, you're really brave! but you better stop once you have a family b/c they wouldn't want to lose their father to a cycling accident."... when driving a car is just about or maybe even more dangerous (cycling statistics are biased b/c they include children and untrained cyclists - think if kids and the untrained drove cars and added to the motoring collisions and deaths!)
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Old 01-15-03, 09:41 AM   #22
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hi JDP,

But the question is how safe they are? for example if the narrow road is infested with heavy vehicle traffic, a slow speed of 20kmph(12mph) by a careless driver might inflict grevious injuries to the pedestrian/cyclist. The law cannot blame the driver as he was not overspeedng.
There is no minimum speed on most roads so yes the law would blame a car that runs down a slow moving cyclist. The interstate is an exception. It usually has 45mph minimum speed and bicycles are generally excluded from travel here.

Besides if a bicycle has to slow down for a curve, a car will have to slow down just as much if not more.

Generally you want to avoid narrow streets with heavy, high speed traffic. It's pretty easy to do with the road network that is established in the US.

Also, statistically speaking not many cyclists are run down from behind in the US. Instead, they are hit because of moving violations like running stop signs, not yielding, etc. Visibility is sometimes an issue in these cases so lights are very helpful.
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Old 01-15-03, 11:15 AM   #23
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Originally posted by nathank


new automobile-centric exurban areas with wide multi-lane roads, high speeds and lots of traffic tend to be the worst --- true rural is OK b/c of low traffic, and urban b/c of slower speeds.

Agree completely with this statement. Exactly the case you find in the Sacramento area. The newly developed parts of the sprawl-urbs to the south and east of the city have nice wide bikelanes alongside 3 and 4 lane boulevards. The posted speed limits on those is often 35 but the prevailing speed seems to be 50-60. Thirty years ago, roads like that would be considered highways. Now they're just surface streets.

Still, I do appreciate that developers are being forced to include bikelanes at all. Some progress has been made at least.
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Old 01-15-03, 08:41 PM   #24
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An American advantage--freeways have drawn traffic away from many surface streets and rural roads. An American disadvantage--noticing the ever lower level of speed limit enforcement. US politicians and cops become stone ******* when addressing any law violations or social/environmental/health problems caused by our grossly excessive auto use.
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Old 01-16-03, 02:53 AM   #25
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Traffic congestion has gotten out of control here, due to a incredible rate of home construction.. From Central San Diego County to mid-Riverside County home construction has to be over a 10 % growth rate.. Winchester, Calif. population has grown from 1,000 to 8,000 in about five years..
So, with road construction going nowhere- roads are horrendous.. Traffic is not moving during peak commute hours..
The comments I hear from co-workers- so many incidents of irrational drivers going nuts, verbal threats and potential physical violence, chase scenes caused by conflicts as cars almost colide when cars illegally pass one another.. One worker had a crazed motorist follow him to work and told guards to not let the 'crazy' into the plant- as Bob passed through the gate.. The fuming Nut Case waited quite awhile outside the gate before leaving. The guard pondered about calling the police..
So anyway- and we cyclists think we are unsafe? Where bike lanes are wide- I feel we are out of the battle zone?
Nathank. I do not know about Boston, Philadelphia- but urban Michigan comes to mind- and I can't imagine riding the main arterial highways into Detroit, Grand Rapids or Toledo. No margins exist- last I knew.. Dallas looked pretty bad. But, yes- many of the traffic/cycle accidents are not adult cyclists, certainly, raising accident rates from the older, hard core cycle commuting community..
I wonder around the world- do you hear comments about physical violence errupting between motorists over traffic conflicts.?
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