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  1. #1
    Mad Mike mulvamj's Avatar
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    Campus bike lanes on road or separate?

    Hello everyone,

    I am on the Auburn University campus bike committee and have been working on a subcommittee to propose new bike paths on campus. I commute everyday, rain or shine, cold or heat, 3 miles round trip, plus extra rides whenever i can, so i feel that i know about riding on campus.

    So here's the thing: Which is safer: Bike lanes as part of the road (let's call them "wide curb lanes," or "WCL") or separate, dedicated bike lanes ("BL"). One person (a Ph.D.) says that there's a load of literature saying that WCLs are safer, but that seems counter-intuitive to me.

    The following is the exact text of her post-meeting email, in which she spells out her argument. If you're not into the specifics, skip the following and please just let me know your thoughts on the matter.

    Thanks.




    "As I said at the meeting today, all of the research on the safety of bicycle facilities supports the fact that on-street bike lanes are MUCH safer than off-street paths, particularly when those paths or sidewalks will be shared with pedestrians. I understand that some people might feel more comfortable riding a bike on the sidewalk/bike path, however, I feel that out concern for the safety of the students and others riding bikes on campus, it would be irresponsible to plan for bike facilities on the sidewalks/bike paths where they are located next to roads. A better route to go would be to begin an educational program to educate people about how to bike safely in traffic (or, with the rest of traffic), and riding in the bike lane, which perhaps the new bike shop/community bike space in the student union can accomplish.

    There are several estimates about how much safer bike lanes are over sidewalks and bike paths - the most recent estimate being that they are at least 5 times safer. A summary of that study is here: http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/insight...facilities.htm. John Forester, one of the most influential bicycle planners, found that bike paths were 2.6 times more dangerous per million bicycle miles traveled than major or minor highways.

    This study: http://www.enhancements.org/download/trb/1636-001.PDF is widely cited and well documented, indicates that multiuse trails have a crash rate of about 40% higher than would be expected, whereas streets with bike lanes have a crash rate of 38%, streets without bike lanes have a crash rate of 56%.

    Here are a few links to research about the dangers of off street bike paths/sidewalks as opposed to on-street bike lanes.

    http://www.enhancements.org/trrtoc.htm (The Transportation Research Board is Congresses transportation research group - part of the National Academies of Science)

    http://www.enhancements.org/download/trb/1705-017.pdf this is an analysis of colored on-street bike lanes, which Lindy talked about today.

    http://www.enhancements.org/download/trb/1636-011.PDF This analysis (1) discusses the dangers of riding a bike on a sidewalk and (2) finds that sidewalk cyclists have higher accident rates on roads than nonsidewalk cyclists.

    Should the bike committee continue to support bikes on sidewalks/off street paths, the minimum width needs to be at least 12 feet wide (http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/bikecost/primer.cfm), which is the width for a shared path with substantial pedestrian traffic (which I believe that Auburn has) under the AASHTO Green Book. this width would consume much more green space than most people would be comfortable with, but it is the only safe width that would accommodate pedestrians and bike traffic. It would also create nore impervious surface coverage, which I am sure that the sustainability committee would be against. Nonetheless,bikes on multi-use paths that are as wide as 12 feet are still not as safe as on-street bike lanes because of cars making right turns and cars entering and exiting curb cuts. The simple fact is that motorists do not look for fast moving vehicles (bikes) on the sidewalk when they make right turns or exit curb cuts, and bikes can not react fast enough to avoid a turning car.

    Given the known safety issues involved with bicyclists riding on shared sidewalks/bike paths, I think that it would be irresponsible for the bike committee to recommend anything but on-street bike lanes for those places that are alongside a street. Of course, this is not a huge issue on campus because there are so few streets, but some streets, such as Donahue, are a big concern.

    The instillation of off-street bike/sidewalks alongside roads puts those bicyclists who choose to ride safely on the street in more danger from cars who come to believe that streets are not where bikes belong. This reinforces the idea that streets are for cars, and sidewalks are for bikes.

    I hope that this can generate some more discussion on this issue and perhaps change some of your viewpoints about bikes on off-street shared paths. Because there is such a huge body of research to support this idea, I feel very strongly that bikes belong on bike lanes on the street where possible."

  2. #2
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    John Forrester has a political agenda-- to get bikes out in traffic. It doesn't surprise me that he thinks that segregated paths are less safe.

  3. #3
    Mad Mike mulvamj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    John Forrester has a political agenda-- to get bikes out in traffic. It doesn't surprise me that he thinks that segregated paths are less safe.
    Um, I don't know John Forrester, but he's certianly not on the bike committee. Are you familiar with Auburn politics?

  4. #4
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    What is the speed limit on campus? 25mph? If so, separate bicycle lanes are superfluous and counterproductive. I bicycled all over the UCLA campus, generally on narrow roads, and never felt the need for bike lanes.

    I have no anti bike lane agenda whatsoever, and I fully support them in many places, such as on prime arterials or between right-turn-only and straight-through lanes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mulvamj
    Um, I don't know John Forrester, but he's certianly not on the bike committee. Are you familiar with Auburn politics?
    No. John Forrester is an advocate of placing cyclists in the traffic lanes. If you read the A&S subforum, you'll see that there are a few cyclists who strongly agree with him, and a few cyclists who vehemently disagree with him.

    For disclosure purposes, I vehemently disagree with him. I think his theories are a crock, and his followers are intellectually dishonest. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the PhD who is advocating for traffic cycling is a Forrester disciple, without revealing his bias.

    OK, so now you know where I stand. I only read one of your links-- the one that talks about how dangerous bike paths are. The basis for that, according to the link, is a 1974 study done by, you guessed it, John Forrester. The link goes on to say that conditions have changed since 1974; thus, the statistics cited are no longer valid.

    As you said, it's counter-intuitive to place cyclists in traffic lanes instead of on bike paths. In my opinion, based on what i've read in the link, that intuition you have about which is safest is right on the money. A 1974 study based on statistics that no longer apply should not be trhe basis for any decisions about cycling facilities.

    Thinks about it this way: is a cyclist more likely to be injured and/or killed riding in traffic, or on a well=designed trail separated from traffic? The only problem I've heard Forrester disciples cite for problems with bike paths is that they are dangerous where they cross streets. That indicates two things to me:

    1) Streets are more dangerous than trails for cyclists; and
    2) The main problem with trails is inadequate safety features at intersections with streets.

    Don't take my word for what's best, though. Read the links you've posted and decide for yourself what makes the most sense.

    EDIT: It appears that the person who sent the memo is arguing for bike lanes instead of bike paths, which would mean he's not a Forrester disciple.

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    Is there a reason why driving is allowed on campus? Many campus I've been too, either ban or limit driving (low speed (5-15 mph) zones, no cars during peak campus hours, etc) on/near campus, since it makes it safer for the students.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    Thinks about it this way: is a cyclist more likely to be injured and/or killed riding in traffic, or on a well=designed trail separated from traffic? The only problem I've heard Forrester disciples cite for problems with bike paths is that they are dangerous where they cross streets. That indicates two things to me:

    1) Streets are more dangerous than trails for cyclists; and
    2) The main problem with trails is inadequate safety features at intersections with streets.
    My list of issues with paths:

    1) no traffic control at intersections (cyclists are forced to act like pedestrians in order to safely cross intersections)
    2) too narrow or intended usage (often paths are not sufficiently wide for two cyclists to pass at speed)
    3) design for only low speed riding (blind curves, too narrow, barriers at certain points)
    4) badly maintained (not plowed in the winter or cleared of debris regularly)
    5) poorly routed forcing cyclists to ride against traffic to enter/exit

    A lot of these issues are inherent problems with paths (at least those intended to keep cyclists off the streets) that cannot be remedied.

  8. #8
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Do not confuse bike lanes with WCLs. A WCL is a WCL whether or not it has a bike lane. Arguably, it is not a curb lane if there a bike lane, in fact, since it would end at the bike lane stripe, not at the curb.

    Some people believe that a WCL with a bike lane is safer than a WCL without a bike lane. Others, including myself, will contend there is no significant difference in safety whether or not the bike lane stripe is there. People like myself oppose bike lanes because we believe they create larger problems for cyclists than they solve. I won't get into that now. See the bike lanes sticky if you're interested.

    John Forester (not Forrester), is the author of Effective Cycling (book) and the developer of the Effective Cycling bicycle training program. He is a major advocate for bike paths. I understand he has recently spent thousands of his own dollars supporting an appeal of a case in Los Angeles where the issue is whether or not the City of L.A. is responsible for maintaining a bike path to a standard, like it is with roads and sidewalks. The City is arguing a paved bike path is essentially a "wilderness trail", and therefore it has no obligation to maintain it. Forester, who believe this case hinges on the fundamental issue of whether cycling is to be treated as legitimate mode of transportation in our society, is supporting the plaintiff (who was injured on a bike path that was built contrary to established standards) against the City and its argument.

    Having said that, bike paths have their problems. First, they are anarchy. There are no rules that apply on them in terms of rules of the road. Certainly no one operates on them according to any such rules. And typically where paths meet the street it's very problematic.

    Cycling on roads is much safer than most people think.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    My list of issues with paths:

    1) no traffic control at intersections (cyclists are forced to act like pedestrians in order to safely cross intersections)
    2) too narrow or intended usage (often paths are not sufficiently wide for two cyclists to pass at speed)
    3) design for only low speed riding (blind curves, too narrow, barriers at certain points)
    4) badly maintained (not plowed in the winter or cleared of debris regularly)
    5) poorly routed forcing cyclists to ride against traffic to enter/exit

    A lot of these issues are inherent problems with paths (at least those intended to keep cyclists off the streets) that cannot be remedied.
    I'd agree that where those problems are present, they are problems. I disagree that the problems "cannot be remedied." That's just VC (Forrester) agenda propaganda. There's no reason whatsoever that any of the problems you have listed cannot be remedied.

    The biggest problem, according to VC propaganda, is intersections. It seems to me that when intersections aren't safe, the safest solution is not to place cyclists in with the motor vehicle traffic, but to make the crossings safe.

    The memo writer, however, is arguing for bike lanes, not bicycling in traffic lanes, so his proposal is safer than proposing placing all the students in with the motor vehicle traffic. And as one poster mentioned above, we're talking about low-speed on campus streets. Still, from what I've read about bike lanes on another campus, cars always park in the bike lane, forcing cyclists to ride in the motor vehicle lane; campus police refuse to ticket at least some of the offenders, because the offenders are campus police. Bike lanes would only work if the university prohibits parking in the bike lane-- and enforces that prohibition. Otherwise, the "bike facility' is riding in the lane with the motor vehicles. Another problem to watch out for is parking next to a bike lane. Even if cars aren't parked in the bike lane, if they're next to the bike lane, drivers will inevitably door passing cyclists, which will force the wiser cyclists to ride in the motor vehicle lanes.

  10. #10
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    I think there's a place for bike lanes and a place for riding in traffic lanes. I'm not familiar with Auburn University one way or the other, but you are and so are other cyclists. Research aside, what are people saying who ride everday? What conclusions do they come to about cycling facilities on campus? You want to have what works best for the place in question and the people who travel there.

    If I were a University wanting help in figuring these things out, I'd talk to these people. (I have no affiliation with them whatsoever, but I've met people who work there.)

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by donnamb
    I think there's a place for bike lanes and a place for riding in traffic lanes. I'm not familiar with Auburn University one way or the other, but you are and so are other cyclists. Research aside, what are people saying who ride everday? What conclusions do they come to about cycling facilities on campus? You want to have what works best for the place in question and the people who travel there.

    If I were a University wanting help in figuring these things out, I'd talk to these people. (I have no affiliation with them whatsoever, but I've met people who work there.)
    That seems reasonable. And open minded.

  12. #12
    Steel is Real. markw's Avatar
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    If it's a 25mph or less campus, and it should be, why not just throw out sharrow's on the road?

    http://www.labikecoalition.org/surve...ws_survey.html

    These seem to solve the problem with motorists hassling cyclists. At 25mph and less, it's like riding on a residential street. Bike paths suck unless they're void of pedestrians walking on the right, or left, or middle, and they suffer from pink bike syndrome, ie 5yo on a pink bike turning circle in front of you.

  13. #13
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Anyway, I agree with John E. as to 25 mph roads. Bike lanes there are silly at best, dangerous at worse (because they push cyclists off to the side of the road where they can be right-hooked and where they are less visible to cars). Striped lanes can work on high speed roads with few intersections.

    The sharrow idea might be a compromise if some people feel that cyclists must have some kind of additional official recognization on the road.

    Here'a a critique of some of the studies that some claim show the benefits of lane striping. Before citing a study that purports to support either side, read the study and criticisms of the study. Google is great for that.

    For example, some cite this study as showing that bike lanes work better than wide curb lanes, but in reality, the study shows that striped lanes on wide less-travelled streets are safer than wide curb lanes on narrow highly-travelled streets.

    As far as I can tell, no one has been able to come up with a study that conclusively demonstrates the safety or dangerousness of striped lanes. You are left to piece together a little information from here a little from there to come up with an informed opinion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    John Forrester has a political agenda-- to get bikes out in traffic. It doesn't surprise me that he thinks that segregated paths are less safe.
    Everyone involved in advocacy has an agenda. So what? Advocating for cyclists to use roads is not exactly radical. Can you point out any flaws in the studies the OP cited?
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 09-19-06 at 06:01 AM.

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    I believe I can find a study that concluded that there was no significant difference in safety between WCL and BL if you are in a real need for this I’ll go digging. There are some technical points to conceder in choosing between a WCL and a BL. If there is no routine street sweeping BL tend to collect debris and render them unusable. WCL can encourage speeding so if speeding is an issue consider BL or Sharrows as a traffic calming device.
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  15. #15
    Tiocfáidh ár Lá jfmckenna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mulvamj
    Um, I don't know John Forrester, but he's certianly not on the bike committee. Are you familiar with Auburn politics?
    Um you referenced him in your orriginal post

    fwiw I have been in more accidents in "Bike Paths" then on the road. I agree with others that say if the limit is 25 just forget about it. I commute through a large college campus everyday and typically it's the cars that slow ME down. I do still use one section of bike path because it's a nice short cut and hardly any one ever uses it. But if there are people on it then I pretty much slow down to a walking speed when I pass them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    I'd agree that where those problems are present, they are problems. I disagree that the problems "cannot be remedied." That's just VC (Forrester) agenda propaganda.
    Blue Order, please try to refrain from making assertions in areas about which you have no knowledge. The fact that you cannot even spell Forester shows how little legitimate material you have read about or by him, and, therefore, have no business asserting what he does or does not believe.

    Further, I don't know of anyone who has ever argued that bike path problems cannot be remedied. Forester and most other VC advocates that I know support paths to be designed and built in a safe manner, so they can be used as legitimate and safe transportation by cyclists. Such advocacy would make no sense if we believed the problems could not be remedied.

    Anyway, I don't want to highjack this thread with another pointless squabble, but you've made some outrageous assertions which have no basis in reality. As near as I can tell, you're confusing the problems that Forester and others have pointed out regarding onroad cyclist facilities (bike lanes) and applying it to all facilities, but I'm not sure. Regardless, why doesn't matter; but your assertions, at least in this thread, are confused, wrong and misleading.
    Last edited by Helmet Head; 09-19-06 at 12:01 PM.

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    A good source here is John Forester's book, "Bicycle Transportation" (2nd edition).

    In particular, Chapter 26, "Improving Bicycle Facilities" describes the advantages of Wide Outside Lanes (a.k.a. Wide Curb Lanes), explains why bike lanes are not recommended, and devotes several pages to bike path design considerations.

    To suggest that the author of this book that devotes an entire section on how to remedy bike path problems contends that bike path problems "cannot be remedied" is sheer lunacy.

    Also, there is a section in this same chapter that specifically addresses "University Campuses" issues.

  18. #18
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    Years ago I saw a study of what was safest for bikes. The 'funny' thing was that bike paths were both the safest and the most dangerous. How could that be? It divided bike paths into two classes. Dedicated use paths, bikes only no exceptions and Multi use paths. Dedicated use paths were the most safe, MUPs the most dangerous. My personal experience has been the same. I've never had an accident on either, but accidents seen (usually only as results) and close calls are much more common on MUP. Actually I can not remember even a close call on a dedicated path.

    The only school I know of that has some true dedicated paths is U.C.S.B. Otherwise even if called a dedicated path there ends up being pedestrian traffic. Pedestrians can turn or stop on a dime. They often do, with no warning. Accidents then happen. The U.C.S.B. paths that are truely dedicated come in to campus along storm channels.

    Final decisions always should deal with specifics. If you have roads that have the space bike lanes on the roads makes sense to me. But if you would lose a traffic lane the added congestion could make things both more dangerous for cyclists and also create a backlash. If there is space for paths that will not lead to high pedestrian traffic on the paths then they sound good. But if you put in a path that is the shortest route from the dorms to the classrooms I can promise you that pedestrians will use it in numbers and accidents will happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    I'd agree that where those problems are present, they are problems. I disagree that the problems "cannot be remedied." That's just VC (Forrester) agenda propaganda. There's no reason whatsoever that any of the problems you have listed cannot be remedied.
    Ok, I'll retract that statement if you can show me how a sidepath along a 4 lane highway intersecting with another 4 lane highway can be built such that cyclists aren't forced into pedestrian mode at intersections and are not forced to go against the normal vehicular traffic pattern to use the path.

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    Just to clarify... SIDEPATHs are considered by many, including Forester, to be the most dangerous form of cycling facility.

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    Want to add a bit more.

    Someone mentioned the right hook. That got me thinking. Almost any major college campus has some places where the major parking structures are and cars are turning right into one of several entrances. It seems entirely reasonable to me that this can be a situation where a little of each is the best way to go. E.g. a bike lane in the section or road leading up to this right turn shooting gallery and then having a true bike path that turns off and goes behind the parking structure. The important thing is avoiding this car bike interaction entirely. (Putting in a path along side the road back a few feet is worse than having a bike lane continue, it would just make it even harder for cars to see cyclists).

    Off street paths that are parallel to roads are very dangerous if there are cross roads or driveways. It puts cyclists where drivers are not expecting them and where they are seen at the last second or upon impact.

    BTW I think a college campus is one area where bike lanes make sense when they might not otherwise. One things bike lanes do is concentrate cyclists. This makes us more visible. So where in general I agree bike lanes are of no use in 25 mph roads I think they CAN BE useful in this situation. IF they are used to create a high bike density road. If you put them everywhere this value is lost.

    Also before any final decision consider the attitudes of drivers in the area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by donnamb
    I think there's a place for bike lanes and a place for riding in traffic lanes. I'm not familiar with Auburn University one way or the other, but you are and so are other cyclists. Research aside, what are people saying who ride everday? What conclusions do they come to about cycling facilities on campus? You want to have what works best for the place in question and the people who travel there.

    If I were a University wanting help in figuring these things out, I'd talk to these people. (I have no affiliation with them whatsoever, but I've met people who work there.)

    Absolutely, ask the people what they would want............and---Roll Tide!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Just to clarify... SIDEPATHs are considered by many, including Forester, to be the most dangerous form of cycling facility.
    Based on a 1974 study using statistics that no longer apply?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    Everyone involved in advocacy has an agenda. So what? Advocating for cyclists to use roads is not exactly radical.
    The point is that Forrester's disciples are disingenuous in the extreme. They pounce on the unwary bicyclist who asks for advice, without revealing to that unwary bicyclist that they are pushing an agenda that many experienced cyclists vehemently disagree with. The unwary bicyclist is led to believe that he/she is receiving unbiased safety information, when that is not the case. There's nothing wrong with alerting the unwary bicyclist to that fact-- is there?

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    Once again, you're displaying your ignorance Blue Order. The arguments against sidepaths are so well known, they are almost universally accepted by transportation engineers throughout the U.S. It's not a Forester thing at all any more (though he was one of the pioneers to point out the problems with them).

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