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Advocacy & Safety Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Discuss your bicycle advocacy and safety concerns here.

View Poll Results: In general, traffic flow speeds are too high today.
I agree. In general, traffic flow speeds are too high today. 54 59.34%
I disagree. In general, traffic flow speeds are NOT too high today. 37 40.66%
Voters: 91. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-04-07, 01:01 PM   #1
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In general, traffic flow speeds are too high today.

For years, Genec has been contending that, in general, traffic flow speeds are too high and driver behavior needs to change so that everyone slows down for the sake of safety. Do you agree?
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Old 09-04-07, 01:12 PM   #2
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Yeah I agree in the context of non-highway roadways. I believe highway speed syndrome is the cause...you know, how when you get off a stretch of high-speed highway and feel that you are just creeping along if you abide by the measly 35-45mph speed limit. People have gotten so used to driving at higher speeds, for longer stretches, on highways, that they continue to attempt to drive at those speeds on all roads. At least that's my theory. Of course the impatience/rushed factor is probably another contributor.
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Old 09-04-07, 01:43 PM   #3
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Really depends where you live or cycle.

I'd say so for most of metro-Phx with 45mph arterials that flow faster than that rate. But now I am visiting Austin, TX and flow is much more subdued with most roads inside the loop being 35-40mph posted and actual, a pleasure to cycle on.

Obviously for dense urban areas motor traffic flow is actually slower than cyclists.

On rural (bicycle restricted) freeways in AZ SL is 75mph resulting in 85mph traffic. Fine for straight flat freeways like I-10/8 going to CA, but for the hilly curvy freeways like I-17 this is too fast even for me (and the many who crash every day on this freeway) in a car.

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Old 09-04-07, 01:54 PM   #4
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newer cars can often handle much greater speeds than the limit allows. better suspension, handling, less road noise, better brakes, etc. all indirectly push up the "speed comfort level". people usually drive at whatever speed feels safe, irregardless of the posted limit.
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Old 09-04-07, 02:12 PM   #5
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High speeds, (especially higher than posted) coupled with dense traffic, and poor driving habits (unsafe passing distances, no signals, use of distracting devices) I believe all combine to create a somewhat hostile environment to both cyclists and peds.
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Old 09-04-07, 02:21 PM   #6
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I think high speeds are a hazard for peds, rollerbladers, cyclists and motorists.
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Old 09-04-07, 02:21 PM   #7
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Is the real question: "drivers are traveling too fast for the roadways/conditions" or "roadway design speeds are too high?"

I think some drivers are definitely driving too fast for conditions. I am often a passenger in a car where a self-described "safe" driver will substantially overdrive his or her sight distance, making it hard to brake in time if stopped traffic or pedestrians were in the roadway just beyond view. I often see drivers pass at full speed perilously close to pedestrians, cyclists, disabled vehicles, etc. where this leaves no room for error on anyone's part. I believe that this behavior results in a higher crash rate than is otherwise possible, and creates a less comfortable environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

I also think some road designs are (a) overdesigned for their intended speeds, and (b) intended for higher speeds than appropriate for the surrounding land use. An example would be a mixed-use activity center centered around an important intersection, with residential on more than one quadrant and retail/commercial on more than one quadrant, often with at least one quadrant featuring a mixture of the two. The architects will design the buildings and site plan concept as "walkable" on all four quadrants. But the two roads making up the intersection will be designed by the state as 4-6 lane 50 mph thoroughfares with high-speed deceleration lanes for right turns, and long distances between adjacent intersections, making it difficult for pedestrians to get from one quadrant to another. Retailers want to locate on thoroughfares in order to have traffic exposure, and so this is where the commercial zoning goes, but the modern roads traveling through these high-intensity use areas are much faster than the traditional urban streets where high development intensity used to be located.

Last edited by sggoodri; 09-04-07 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 09-04-07, 02:59 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
For years, Genec has been contending that, in general, traffic flow speeds are too high and driver behavior needs to change so that everyone slows down for the sake of safety. Do you agree?
Well, I believe traffic fatalities (especially those not involving alcohol), per mile traveled, are down in the past few decades, so I'd say no.

Now, is your next question is, 'should we modify speed limits downwards so that the roads are more convenient for cyclists (who make up far less than 1% of the traffic in most areas)'? You're going to have a hard time making that contention. Outside of urban areas where cyclists are more prevalent, it's not going to happen. If you try to press the issue, you're more likely to get cyclists banned from high-limit roads than the limits dropped to accomodate us.

In non-urban areas, the better idea is to work with communities to establish bike routes that use less travelled, lower-limit roads and make them very bike friendly. But I'm not going to start riding my bike on a 55 limit road, that is engineered quite safely for 55mph traffic, and try to say that the limit should be dropped because it's not safe for me. The obvious response you're going to get is 'don't do that.'
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Old 09-04-07, 03:05 PM   #9
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It's not a matter of lowering speed limits, it's a matter of getting drivers to obey them, or adjusting the speed limits to fit the conditions. I'm quite comfortable cycling on 55mph roads, as long as the traffic is actually keeping at or below that speed, rather than 70+
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Old 09-04-07, 03:10 PM   #10
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I voted too fast...I want to take mine back from 'Too Fast'
to 'Not Too Fast'.........

The flow of traffic overall is generally slow and inefficiant in
most urban places but its the insanty that goes on in between each
stop light or 4-way that makes riding dangerous and undesirable.
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Old 09-04-07, 03:19 PM   #11
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I voted too fast...I want to take mine back from 'Too Fast'
to 'Not Too Fast'.........

The flow of traffic overall is generally slow and inefficiant in
most urban places but its the insanty that goes on in between each
stop light or 4-way that makes riding dangerous and undesirable.
LOL, I have to laugh as your "too fast vote" exemplifies exactly what I am talking about... poor decisions made at high speed that effects others besides motorists.

It comes down to this... as long as the road situation is perfectly homogeneous (cars and trucks moving at the same speed and about the same shape) motorists do fairly well... throw in a pedestrian, a few cyclists moving at different speeds, a Segway, a scooter, a motorcycle or two and then bad things start to happen. Decisions are made in split seconds regarding "the other users of the road" that may result in collisions.
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Old 09-04-07, 03:30 PM   #12
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Ill accept the laff-age, humbly.
What amazes me is that on the occasion I do drive my
car I go 35mph and hit all the lights green. Its really not
hard. Its comical what cars do to get around me and jump
in the gap in front of me. I can see them stop a block
ahead and by the time I get there the lite is green.
That is what Im talking about. The stoplite to stoplite drag races.
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Old 09-04-07, 03:30 PM   #13
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It really depends on the type of road. People tend to disregad speed limits and drive at a speed that "feels safe."

In a typical urban setting, if you have a divided road, with two lanes in either direction, with a posted speed limit of 30 mph, if traffic is light, I guarantee you that the average speed will be 50+, because two wide lanes feels safe and people will naturally speed.

If you put a two lane, narrow road in the same place, 30 mph speed limit, people will go at or even under the speed limit because it doesn't feel safe to go fast.

I see that most new road construction tends to be multi lane, so I would say that speeds are tending to get higher, and higher speeds when there are intersections, is a recipe for disaster.
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Old 09-04-07, 03:45 PM   #14
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I see that most new road construction tends to be multi lane, so I would say that speeds are tending to get higher, and higher speeds when there are intersections, is a recipe for disaster.
That really says it all in a nutshell. Very good point Sam.
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Old 09-04-07, 04:31 PM   #15
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Retailers want to locate on thoroughfares in order to have traffic exposure,
This alway struck me as fairly foolish. I know that when I'm in my car, I prefer not to get out of it unless I'm at my specific destination. Impulsive shopping and driving do not mix, and yet these idiots think they do. If they want 'drop-in' shoppers, they've got to catch them once they're out of their cars and on foot.

Apart from anything else, those shopping areas (I call it 'heavy retail') beside large multi-lane roads are some of the fugliest places I've ever seen, and they're not even all that good to drive to, especially if the place you want is on the other side of the road.
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Old 09-04-07, 05:46 PM   #16
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I'm not really convinced that speed is the killer. It's unattentiveness on the behalf of all road users in general and ignoring road conditions that can cause problems. If everyone was paying attention 100% of the time, I would imagine that traffic accidents would decrease significantly. Of course, this is unlikely to ever occur but that's my opinion. I'd rather not see the speed limits reduced in general, and certainly not on the interstate. It's irritating to attentive drivers like me who can safely travel at or above 70mph.

As for the city where I cycle, again, I'm just extra attentive. I've had several close calls, some related to speed. But if you're paying attention, you're doing all you can.
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Old 09-04-07, 05:48 PM   #17
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For years, Genec has been contending that, in general, traffic flow speeds are too high and driver behavior needs to change so that everyone slows down for the sake of safety. Do you agree?
Let's put it this way: ride against traffic to increase the speed differential and decrease the necessary reaction time. Then ask again.

Why ya pickin' on Gene? Pick on me, I agree with him.

But that doesn't make me afraid to ride wherever I want. You're barkin' up the wrong tree.

Vehicular cycling depends on cooperation between cyclists and motorists, just like vehicular motoring does.

I thought vehicular cycling was about "lawful" behavior. If motorists are exceeding the posted safe limit, they are not adhering to that principle.

But if you're suggesting that whatever motorists do is ok, then the same goes for vehicular cylcists, and anything goes.
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Old 09-04-07, 05:50 PM   #18
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Interstate or Freeways don't count... generally we don't cycle on those nor do pedestrians use them. Interstates are intersection free, have good sight lines and are banked for high speed.

My concern is surface streets... where there are intersections and where the roads are shared by cyclists and motorists.
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Old 09-04-07, 05:59 PM   #19
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What is the difference between getting hit at 45 mph vs. 65 mph? For a cyclist, I'm not sure there is much. I may be wrong, but it seems like you're going to be pretty dead either way.

I raise this because I actually feel much safer on some roadways where the speed limit is 60, but the lanes are very wide, there's a nice bike lane, and I don't have to ride in the door zone. There are other roads in my town where the speed limit is 30, but I'm on edge every second. And I'm not talking about freeways here. For example, on La Costa Ave., where I ride 4 times a week, traffic routinely gets up to 65 mph, but I feel reasonably safe there. On 101 in Leucadia, OTOH, I'm scared most of the time, even though cars only go 30 - no bike lane at all, parked cars everywhere, side streets galore, and lots of trees to hide your approach.
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Old 09-04-07, 06:08 PM   #20
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What is the difference between getting hit at 45 mph vs. 65 mph? For a cyclist, I'm not sure there is much. I may be wrong, but it seems like you're going to be pretty dead either way.

I raise this because I actually feel much safer on some roadways where the speed limit is 60, but the lanes are very wide, there's a nice bike lane, and I don't have to ride in the door zone. There are other roads in my town where the speed limit is 30, but I'm on edge every second. And I'm not talking about freeways here. For example, on La Costa Ave., where I ride 4 times a week, traffic routinely gets up to 65 mph, but I feel reasonably safe there. On 101 in Leucadia, OTOH, I'm scared most of the time, even though cars only go 30 - no bike lane at all, parked cars everywhere, side streets galore, and lots of trees to hide your approach.
If you're riding at 20 mph the difference between 45 mph and 65 mph is huge. 25 mph closing speed vs 45 mph closing speed. Getting hit with a 25 mph speed differential is at least survivable, especially since the motorist has more time to jam on the brakes before a run-over than at higher speed.

I also fear the 101 through leucadia southbound. Northbound isn't so bad, but their road quality stands out as subpar in addition to their poor cycling facilities.
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Old 09-04-07, 06:31 PM   #21
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If you're riding at 20 mph the difference between 45 mph and 65 mph is huge. 25 mph closing speed vs 45 mph closing speed. Getting hit with a 25 mph speed differential is at least survivable, especially since the motorist has more time to jam on the brakes before a run-over than at higher speed.
That's the main thing. At the lower speed, you've got a better chance of not getting hit in the first place.
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Old 09-04-07, 07:37 PM   #22
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A lot of good points here.

I also happen to think the reason we are seeing speeds increase is because traffic is getting worse! With more and more cars on the road, traffic engineers have no choice but to continue finding ways to increase vehicle average speeds. You see this all the time with traffic lights that will stay green forever on the main road unless another car (on the sidestreet) hits the sensor.

The whole traffic situation is insane.
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Old 09-04-07, 09:10 PM   #23
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Interstate or Freeways don't count...
I only brought them up as it is an extreme example of the excessive speeds and danger motorist put themselves in. I-17 in AZ (Phx to Flagstaff) is an example of a road with too high a volume sustaining dangerous speeds. 85-90mph is normal down quite winding steep roads (with no modern banking, etc.) Every weekend a few trailer pulling maniacs loose it and wreck. Many folks I've talked to find it uncomfortably dangerous to share this road with the typical driver on I-17. They have these concerns and are not even cyclists.

I also believe that the 65mph speeds on the many (true) urban freeways push the speeds on the surface streets. People driving 5-20mi to get across parts of town then exit onto 45mph arterials and have the 'mental momemetum' making it 'hard' for them to keep it below 60mph on roads posted at 45mph, but that should be at 35mph considering how many minor intersections there are.

But of course, except for the indirect effect on speeds and the expectation for speed, interstates or freeways don't count.

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Old 09-04-07, 09:33 PM   #24
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I've driven I-17 about a dozen times. In many streches I've been driving significantly faster than 85-90 yet I'm not a "maniac." Perhaps some of the folks that were puttering up the hill at 53 mph thought I was a maniac though.

Conversely, I've seen one dumbass move on I-17 while I was driving a mere 45-50 mph. Luckily, I was able to avoid that person when they spun off the road.

Driving fast does not automatically equal unsafe...
In the last 5yrs? It has gotten significantly worse. Interesting you've seen someone spin off the road on I-17 in a dozen trips. I've witnessed 4 cars leave the road in the last 20 trips or so. That's very unusual to witness so many accidents on the same road.
Yeah, there is a great variety of speed on I-17 due to the many climbs. Trucks, vehicles pulling trailers, etc. do slow down up those climbs to 50mph and much less, mostly the semi trucks which simply can not go faster, mixing it up with 85mph drivers. Those same trailer pulling idiots (not the semi drivers, the boat/ATV/camper trailer pullers) then push 85mph+ down the curvy hills.

Sure a well skilled driver like yourself on low to moderate volume traffic in a decent vehicle can go fast relatively safely, but that is just not what is happening on I-17. But the average driver on I-17 is several levels of moron above those 11/12 cyclists that crashed into the car that pulled in front of them in FL. Bumper to bumper at 85mph.

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Old 09-04-07, 09:42 PM   #25
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p.s. genec, I've driven many miles on interstates that do not have banked turns. Where are you getting your information from?
Banked turns are nice but they're totally unnecessary. I actually drive a peice of road that is banked the wrong way (old road), and I typically take this turn at about 60mph. It's not dangerous if you're paying attention.
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