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Old 01-29-07, 11:54 AM   #1
JohnBrooking
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Sharing car lanes practical as number of cyclists rises?

Here's something that bothers me about the anti-BL position, even though I tend to lean in that direction. (See, I'm not a total idealogue!) It's been obliquely referenced in other threads, but I wanted to see if I could formulate the question as directly as possible and get your responses.

Is sharing the car lanes something that remains practical no matter how many bicyclists there are? What if 25% of all vehicles on the road were bicycles? (Unfortunately, even this is probably too optimistic of a number, but let's use it for the sake of discussion.) Would a mix of 25% bikes and 75% cars be able to successfully share the same lanes? Does an increasing ratio of bikes to cars lead to an overall increased or decreased ability to share the same lanes, or both at different ratios and depending on other variables?

I think this is a weakness in the anti-BL position. ("Well, duh!", I can hear many of you saying. ) As many of you no doubt will point out, requiring completely vehicular cycling and lane sharing with cars does inhibit many potential cyclists from engaging in the activity, if an informal poll of all of our family and friends means anything. And even if drivers are willing to be held up for a few seconds by maybe one cyclist every few miles, what if it were a continuous stream of cyclists, with varying levels of ability and willingness to abide by the law? Could that be tenable? Does that mean that some form of bike lanes will eventually be required should the ratio of bikes in the traffic stream reach a certain threshold? And does that mean that advocating for more people to cycle but opposing bike lanes are incompatible goals?

Oh my, I seem to converting myself!

Sorry if this sounds like trolling, but as someone who does not have many bike lanes and has learned and believes in vehicular riding, I'd like to hear, especially from the other vehicular advocates here, if and why that position is still practical past a certain threshold of cyclists, and what you think that threshold might be.

Also welcome would be opinions from people who have actually experienced cycling in other countries that have a ratio of bikes to cars that approaches or exceeds 25%. How do they handle their infrastructure? Do any of them attempt to have the two kinds of vehicles use the same lanes?

Last note: Let's try to avoid the debate about if bike lanes are the cause or effect of increasing the number of cyclists. I know that's a controversial area, and I'm not interesting in arguing the studies and statistics on it on this thread. What I'm asking is, if cycling were somehow to increase signficantly in an area without bike lanes, would it still be feasible to have them all sharing the lane with the cars, or would some separation eventually become inevitable?
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Old 01-29-07, 12:14 PM   #2
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I think that at a certain, relatively low, threshold (lower than 25% for sure) bicycle traffic would become a significant (an increase from non-existant where it is now) burden for a motorist who only uses narrow two lane roads. On those roads, the constant passing of cyclists would become a hassle and I imagine they would eventually plan their routes to avoid these roads. On roads with more than one lane in each direction, the lowered level of traffic combined with the ability of cyclists to easily share a normal width narrow lane would leave plenty of passing room for faster moving traffic.

As more cyclists used the roads, those who didn't abide by the laws would stand out and they'd eventually learn to comply for their own safety. With so many other cyclists' leads to follow, teaching vehicular cycling would be as easy as teaching vehicular motoring is now, just getting out on the roads and following everyone else.
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Old 01-29-07, 12:15 PM   #3
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I see the point of your question, John, and I think, using your hypothetical mix of 25%/75%, the lanes could be shared. Although, I also think it would take a near apocalyptic event to pry that many drivers out of their cars. Nonetheless, it would have a traffic calming effect, slowing the average speed of traffic, and the remaining drivers would initially be perturbed, but over time this would become the new norm.
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Old 01-29-07, 12:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Here's something that bothers me about the anti-BL position, even though I tend to lean in that direction. (See, I'm not a total idealogue!) It's been obliquely referenced in other threads, but I wanted to see if I could formulate the question as directly as possible and get your responses.

Is sharing the car lanes something that remains practical no matter how many bicyclists there are? What if 25% of all vehicles on the road were bicycles? (Unfortunately, even this is probably too optimistic of a number, but let's use it for the sake of discussion.) Would a mix of 25% bikes and 75% cars be able to successfully share the same lanes? Does an increasing ratio of bikes to cars lead to an overall increased or decreased ability to share the same lanes, or both at different ratios and depending on other variables?

I think this is a weakness in the anti-BL position. ("Well, duh!", I can hear many of you saying. ) As many of you no doubt will point out, requiring completely vehicular cycling and lane sharing with cars does inhibit many potential cyclists from engaging in the activity, if an informal poll of all of our family and friends means anything. And even if drivers are willing to be held up for a few seconds by maybe one cyclist every few miles, what if it were a continuous stream of cyclists, with varying levels of ability and willingness to abide by the law? Could that be tenable? Does that mean that some form of bike lanes will eventually be required should the ratio of bikes in the traffic stream reach a certain threshold? And does that mean that advocating for more people to cycle but opposing bike lanes are incompatible goals?

Oh my, I seem to converting myself!

Sorry if this sounds like trolling, but as someone who does not have many bike lanes and has learned and believes in vehicular riding, I'd like to hear, especially from the other vehicular advocates here, if and why that position is still practical past a certain threshold of cyclists, and what you think that threshold might be.

Also welcome would be opinions from people who have actually experienced cycling in other countries that have a ratio of bikes to cars that approaches or exceeds 25%. How do they handle their infrastructure? Do any of them attempt to have the two kinds of vehicles use the same lanes?

Last note: Let's try to avoid the debate about if bike lanes are the cause or effect of increasing the number of cyclists. I know that's a controversial area, and I'm not interesting in arguing the studies and statistics on it on this thread. What I'm asking is, if cycling were somehow to increase signficantly in an area without bike lanes, would it still be feasible to have them all sharing the lane with the cars, or would some separation eventually become inevitable?
I have to say, this made me laugh out loud. According to John Forester, it was exactly this thinking that lead to the first bike lanes in California in the late 60 and early 70s. As you probably know, there was a tremendous boom in the popularity of cycling at that time, and, in the meetings that Forester attended, the concern about the potential of so many cyclists everywhere "in the way of motorists" was what was being expressed by those who were advocating bike lanes: to get and keep cyclists out of the way.

Forester's response is that this concern is much ado about nothing, since he is convinced that the relative numbers of cyclists to motorists will never reach a level where it matters in the United States.

But I think that if bike lanes solve this hypothetical problems, then the same roads without the stripes (WOLs) would be almost as effective in terms of protecting motorists from behing slowed down. There might be a bit more slowing down by motorists in a WOL than in a lane adjacent to a BL, but I don't see how the difference would ever be enough to really affect motor vehicle throughput to any significant degree.

And at the point where there are so many cyclists that cyclists in WOLs do cause significant decline in motor vehicle traffic throughput, I don't see how BL stripes would help, because there would be so many cyclists that the cyclists would be outside of the BLs anyway.

In short, it's extra space that enables throughput, not one more stripe. That is, yes, stripes in general help: a 72' wide road divided into 6 marked lanes can move a lot more traffic than the same road with no stripes. But an 82' wide road with two marked 12' wide lanes and one marked 17' WOL in each direction (12+12+17=41; 41*2=82) moves just as much traffic as the same 82' wide road with three marked 12' lanes and one marked 5' wide BL in each direction (12+12+12+5=41; 41 * 2 = 82).

So the debate is not about stripes vs. no stripes. The debate is about stripes + BL stripe in WOL vs. stripes with WOL.
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Old 01-29-07, 01:02 PM   #5
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no, that's not the debate at all, mr head.

the OP is wondering what percent of riders would mandate a road design change to benefit cyclists and cars both, for the expediency of all road users.

I'd peg the number at less than 10 percent of road trips by bike.
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Old 01-29-07, 01:03 PM   #6
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cars and bikes still conflict, regularily, in wide outside lanes. particularily at traffic signals, where congested traffic is ALL OVER THE WIDE LANES.
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Old 01-29-07, 01:08 PM   #7
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cars and bikes still conflict, regularily, in wide outside lanes. particularily at traffic signals, where congested traffic is ALL OVER THE WIDE LANES.
When everyone is moving at the same speed (0 mph), how is it a conflict?
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Old 01-29-07, 01:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Is sharing the car lanes something that remains practical no matter how many bicyclists there are? What if 25% of all vehicles on the road were bicycles? (Unfortunately, even this is probably too optimistic of a number, but let's use it for the sake of discussion.) Would a mix of 25% bikes and 75% cars be able to successfully share the same lanes?
Yeah it should work, thats 25% less cars on the road. although I would imagine average rushhour speed will increase in from 18mph with less congestion... offset by slower speed on other areas.
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Old 01-29-07, 01:20 PM   #9
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I'm not sure what the outcome of so many cyclists would be. I mean, would they feel a need or freedom or desire or whatever to ride side-by-side, 2 or more abreast? Would you be allowed to do that? If not, how would that be prevented if it is not allowed? If so, what's to stop traffic as a whole from operating more like it does in say, India?

In the places I visited in India bike and motorized transportation is all mixed together. Nobody bothers to follow any of the lane lines. It's all every man for himself however you can get around everybody else.

From photos I've seen of China, cars and bikes are separated, but most of the roadway is given to the bikes.

To simply keep our roadway designs as they are and drop an India-like or China-like quantity of cyclists into them would have an outcome I don't think I can predict. Something would probably have to change. Not sure what.
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Old 01-29-07, 01:25 PM   #10
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we just had a discussion about splitting lanes of traffic, mr head. In a wide outside lane, even though the lane presents some extra space for riders, the lineup of congested cars in a wide outside lane causes cyclists to split lanes, weave stopped traffic. a bike lane allows bikes to ride by auto traffic backups.

Those physical facts about WOL/BL use bypassing stopped traffic backups is not even debatable, helemt head. I'm not going to endlessly debate your misconstruements of facilities; lets try to stay on topic, good sir. don't derail a potentially useful thread.

I'm pegging the numbers at about %10 percent of all trips on roads by bike as being a critical mass tipping point. Of course, even with less riders, facilities make sense to me, but that's beyond the scope defined by the OP.

Last edited by Bekologist; 01-29-07 at 03:12 PM.
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Old 01-29-07, 03:05 PM   #11
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I'd just about bet money that a large increase in the percentage of cyclists would raise an outcry by motorists, leading to stricter enforcement of laws that relate to cycling.

This would be a good thing, in reinforcing to motorists that cyclists are credible road users.
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Old 01-29-07, 03:44 PM   #12
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I agree with your assesment, CR. it would be so interesting to see what would happen.
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Old 01-29-07, 03:44 PM   #13
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I think that the number of cars will continue to rise more quickly than the number of bikes. The percentage of bikes will start to rise only when the duration of gridlock reaches the point when significant numbers of people find the car impractical for urban travel. The role of bikes will be as a safety valve, allowing more people to use overcrowded roads, rather than something that contributes to, or is felt to contribute to, congestion.

Whenever and wherever cars are more convenient than bikes, I think people will drive cars.

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Old 01-29-07, 05:30 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Is sharing the car lanes something that remains practical no matter how many bicyclists there are? What if 25% of all vehicles on the road were bicycles? (Unfortunately, even this is probably too optimistic of a number, but let's use it for the sake of discussion.) Would a mix of 25% bikes and 75% cars be able to successfully share the same lanes?
That's an interesting question. I won't claim to have an answer, but I can hazard a few guesses. First my locale: I would guess that in summer, Ottawa probably sees 15% bike commuting downtown. I may be a bit high there, but there are certainly a heck of a lot of bikes. However they are not all on the roads, many use the pathways to head out of downtown, sometimes creating fender-to-fender bike traffic. A big stretch of my commute is on Bank St. Usually two lanes per direction, both narrow - this street existed in 1906 (and probably earlier), so its not getting any wider. There are several bus routes using this as well as car traffic- its the main noth-south corridor to downtown. Another road I use less often (but still at least once a week) is Heron Rd. Heron has a "pinch area" of a few blocks, where the lanes narrow.

What I have observed on the above roads is that car drivers will pass a bike safely is they can change lanes (fully or partially) however if they can't change lane, they will pass anyway. When I have been in a string or 3-4 bikes, not unusual in summer, drivers will force their way past. While its not common, I've has cases of having to swerve toward the curb or get his by the passenger-side mirror. And once you get forced to the curb, no driver is letting you back on the pavement!

WOLs don't seem to help - drivers pass you much faster, but may well pass just as close. We have few true WIDE outer lanes here, and I don't think most drivers understand them. In a bike lane of proper width, however, I've never found passing distance to be an issue.

So to answer your question as best I can: I'm not a fan of the lane sharing concept in the first place, and I think it does break down when traffic reaches a certain volume. A greater ratio of bikes can, in my observation, make drivers more aggressive. And while taking the lane is fine in theory, you try that during afternoon rush hour and someone will try to force you to the curb sooner or later.

25% bikes might be the most uncomfortable ratio of all - at some point (say 60% bikes) cyclist would just own the outside lane.
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Old 01-29-07, 06:04 PM   #15
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We have few true WIDE outer lanes here, and I don't think most drivers understand them.
What's to understand?

Every where I've ever been drivers tend (there are always exceptions) to drive in outside lanes a fixed distance from the lane stripe to their left, regardless of how far the curb/edge is to the right, especialy when they are "at speed". In other words, the left tire track tends to be about the same distance from the left stripe of the outside lane, regardless of the width of the the outside lane. I've never measured it, but I suspect it's always around 2-3 feet from the lane stripe to the left.
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Old 01-29-07, 06:11 PM   #16
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fixed distances? cars drive in outside lanes at a fixed distance....what kind of armchair absolutism is that, mr head?

You must not bike much, if you think cars always or with few exceptions drive 2-3 feet from the lane stripe. Cars turning right tend to move further to the right. some drivers like to block approaching bicyclists.

armchair cyclist...

doesn't most of your anti facilites spiel have to do with drifting motorists?
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Old 01-29-07, 06:38 PM   #17
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I almost would agree that the more cyclists the more aggressive or impatient the drivers would become.

However, in Isla Vista there is a preponderance of bike traffic. And none of them ever stops at stop signs. As a driver you just accept that in Isla Vista the bikes rule and you just give them the right of way at all times. It's not really a big deal. Nobody gets upset about it. Except the cops, but they get a little jack-booted at times out there.

Of course, some details about IV: All streets are 25 mph residential and business district streets. The one main artery on the perimeter of town would be a death trap to ride your bike on. But all bikes use the bike path there. On the 25 mph streets of the town, people ride very slowly on beaters and beach cruisers. There are bike lanes on some of the main streets. Cars will pass you, bike lane or no, however they can, with no muss or fuss. Basically, it's a polite little place to be.
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Old 01-29-07, 06:54 PM   #18
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It's really easy to widen the road in a place like India. You just get out the bulldozer and mow down all the slums. Problem solved. Same with China. Just flood the valley and everybody will move.

And how do the bikes and cars co-exist all mingled in the same lane? Honking. Endless honking. Nobody would put up with all that noise here in the West. Nobody would put up with the chaos, either. We like things orderly.
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Old 01-29-07, 07:34 PM   #19
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The problem isn't bike lanes or traffic lanes. Even narrow bike lanes could accommodate 100 times as many bikes as now exist. And BLs could become wider as the number of cars decreases and the number of bikes increases.

The problem is intersections. Most US intersections are already strained to the max with the current number of cars. Add a lot more bikes to the mix, and intersections will become even more chaotic and dangerous than they are now. Expect future turf wars between cyclists and cagers to center on the intersections.
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Old 01-29-07, 07:39 PM   #20
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They'd have to make all the intersections work for bikes, too, unless the increased mass can finally trigger the darn sensors.
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Old 01-29-07, 07:45 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Here's something that bothers me about the anti-BL position, even though I tend to lean in that direction. (See, I'm not a total idealogue!) It's been obliquely referenced in other threads, but I wanted to see if I could formulate the question as directly as possible and get your responses.

Is sharing the car lanes something that remains practical no matter how many bicyclists there are? What if 25% of all vehicles on the road were bicycles? (Unfortunately, even this is probably too optimistic of a number, but let's use it for the sake of discussion.) Would a mix of 25% bikes and 75% cars be able to successfully share the same lanes? Does an increasing ratio of bikes to cars lead to an overall increased or decreased ability to share the same lanes, or both at different ratios and depending on other variables?

I think this is a weakness in the anti-BL position. ("Well, duh!", I can hear many of you saying. ) As many of you no doubt will point out, requiring completely vehicular cycling and lane sharing with cars does inhibit many potential cyclists from engaging in the activity, if an informal poll of all of our family and friends means anything. And even if drivers are willing to be held up for a few seconds by maybe one cyclist every few miles, what if it were a continuous stream of cyclists, with varying levels of ability and willingness to abide by the law? Could that be tenable? Does that mean that some form of bike lanes will eventually be required should the ratio of bikes in the traffic stream reach a certain threshold? And does that mean that advocating for more people to cycle but opposing bike lanes are incompatible goals?

Oh my, I seem to converting myself!

Sorry if this sounds like trolling, but as someone who does not have many bike lanes and has learned and believes in vehicular riding, I'd like to hear, especially from the other vehicular advocates here, if and why that position is still practical past a certain threshold of cyclists, and what you think that threshold might be.

Also welcome would be opinions from people who have actually experienced cycling in other countries that have a ratio of bikes to cars that approaches or exceeds 25%. How do they handle their infrastructure? Do any of them attempt to have the two kinds of vehicles use the same lanes?

Last note: Let's try to avoid the debate about if bike lanes are the cause or effect of increasing the number of cyclists. I know that's a controversial area, and I'm not interesting in arguing the studies and statistics on it on this thread. What I'm asking is, if cycling were somehow to increase signficantly in an area without bike lanes, would it still be feasible to have them all sharing the lane with the cars, or would some separation eventually become inevitable?

What is the definition of practical or successful in this case? Not many accidents? You can probably look up statistics like that on line.

I'll try to find something on Rome. It's like riding in a blender.
There are plenty of cities in other countries where the 25% number is exceeded. There are tons of
places where the cars are not even 25%. More like 2.5%. Somewhere along the way when the population density and the economy make more bikes than cars in the road, (Not cycling culture, or acceptance of bikes) the traffic starts to travel slower. Not sure how dense that is, but it's pretty dense. There are plenty of places where there are a large percentage of bikes and the cars still go pretty fast.
Generally speaking all the traffic moves along a little slower. Not always.
They typically use the same lane. I don't believe this is a choice made by a traffic engineer. The road can't be widened and most people can only afford bikes. If you have to get a five year bank loan for a bike and that's all you can afford, there is no such thing as being inhibited from biking in traffic if you need to go far. If all the roads have cars and bikes mixed together where you live, there is no other option if need to go far. You just ride in traffic. You can't buy a car, neither can your neighbors.
There may always be a steady stream of cyclists with varying ability mixed in with the cars, in the same lane. But just like in the USA some places are improved with lanes or paths.
Most of them have the cars and the bikes in the same lane. There may be all bikes and a few cars moving slowly.
We are the new guys on the block, our towns and roads and cities are only a couple of hundred years old. We could design roads after cars were around and plan the cities that way too. Cities were sometimes laid out with a sidewalk and a front yard for the houses.
The USA in many places can widen the road. Or the road and traffic level could allow room for a lane.
Hard to do when the city is a couple of thousand years old. The houses are already in place close together around the path for the cart or just a walking path.
Plenty of streets are too narrow for a car. In the middle of the big and old cities it's mostly cars motorcycles, mopeds, cars and bikes in the same lane. Throw in a few peds for good measure. And take away the sidewalks too in some places. That is the only way it can be in some places.
But some places that are new are as good or better than the USA. There are good and bad bike lanes, and bike paths too.

In the middle of a big and old city there is no way to widen the road, it's impossible. Roads can be made one way, cars or bikes can be banned from some places etc. That's about it.
There is change just like there is here sometimes. It depends mostly on geography, age of the town, population density, and per capita income. The increase of bike riders and drivers accepting bikes is the
result of the amount of bikes, not the other way around. It's not always true either, some places you have all the problems of the USA, or worse.

Did I address what you were getting at? I'm not sure I did.
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Old 01-29-07, 07:52 PM   #22
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I'm not sure what the outcome of so many cyclists would be. I mean, would they feel a need or freedom or desire or whatever to ride side-by-side, 2 or more abreast?
If 25% of traffic were bicyclists, yes we would be riding 3 or 4 abreast in a lane. In congested city areas, car traffic would conceivably move more quickly because bikes take up less room than bikes. Freeway traffic, especially, would clear up for faster commutes.

Cyclists travel at a wide range of speeds and abilities, and the faster cyclists will feel hindered by the slower cyclists.

RFM
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Old 01-29-07, 08:01 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by sbhikes
They'd have to make all the intersections work for bikes, too, unless the increased mass can finally trigger the darn sensors.
Post like this make me wonder about the basis for your complaints about how the existing system for cars doesn't support bicycles, not something I'd expect from someone with the experience and knowledge of what works and what doesn't you tout.
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Old 01-29-07, 08:04 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Roody
The problem isn't bike lanes or traffic lanes. Even narrow bike lanes could accommodate 100 times as many bikes as now exist. And BLs could become wider as the number of cars decreases and the number of bikes increases.

The problem is intersections. Most US intersections are already strained to the max with the current number of cars. Add a lot more bikes to the mix, and intersections will become even more chaotic and dangerous than they are now. Expect future turf wars between cyclists and cagers to center on the intersections.
Good point, most of the problems are at intersections. The intersections in some places in the USA are stressed out too, very true. But nowhere near as much as some busy intersections in very old and big cities in Europe and other continents. There is just more chaos in many places.
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Old 01-29-07, 08:28 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
Post like this make me wonder about the basis for your complaints about how the existing system for cars doesn't support bicycles, not something I'd expect from someone with the experience and knowledge of what works and what doesn't you tout.
Al
I don't quite understand what you mean. I have trouble triggering the sensor at a lot of lights with my bike, and even with my Vespa which is made of metal, not plastic like most scooters.
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