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  1. #1
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    Dr. Vehicle & Mr. Bike Path

    A gorgeous spring day today in Boston and running a little late so I take the streets and roads route downtown- about an 8.5 mile ride.

    I ride this route in what could be called a model vehicular style- call me Dr. Vehicle. I ride right in the center of the right lane for much of the route, stop at traffic signals, pass buses only on the left. I make great time and the route is direct. However, in addition to the countless interactions with automobiles on this route I pass through 88 intersections, pass dozens of parked and double parked cars, ride through construction zones and encounter packs of jaywalking Boston University students who think nothing of stepping off a curb and into the path of an oncoming vehicle of any type but seem to particularly favor cyclists.

    My ride home tonight at 10 pm I went the alternate route- the bike path (an MUP along the south side of the Charles River). I ride about a mile to get onto the path and then ride 8.5 miles on the path and then another mile home. So a little longer ride. Riding at 10pm I encounter only a handful of couples walking along the path, a few joggers and one cyclist going the opposite direction. Long sections of the path are completely my own little private road. The magnolia and dogwood trees are in full bloom, the river an inky black, owls swoop over my head, the lights of Harvard University reflect in the mirror-like surface of the water- in other words it's spectacularly beautiful. Because the path is empty and is intersected only 6 times on the entire route I can hammer along at a brisk pace if I want.

    After 30 years living in Boston finally this bike path has received some improvements and not necessarily due to the advocacy of cycling organizations but because of bike/ped coalitions and the Charles River Conservancy. In fact, many of our most vocal bike advocates have downplayed the significance of this bike path, often pointing out it's poor condition as an example of it's failure as a transportation infrastructure.

    My question is how does it serve a cyclist like me when cycling advocacy organizations put their primary focus on our rights to the road and either ignore, oppose or downplay the significance of bike infrastructure? 30 years of that kind of advocacy has changed absolutely nothing about riding on the roads in Massachusetts. It is no different. No better. No worse. But advocacy for infrastructure actually makes a noticeable difference.

    So please tell me why I shouldn't put my advocacy time, effort, support and money for bike/ped coalitions like Livable Streets instead of supposed bike advocacy groups that stress cyclist education and road rights? I currently support both but seriously question the efficacy of the second in accomplishing anything tangible.

  2. #2
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    Typically the MUPs/off road bike paths are considered as more of a recreational, rather than vehicular, use for bikes. They often don't connect well (at least a good portion of the ones in Columbus) with the infrastructure around it and allow access only at designated trail heads.

    Each group, because of their definitions and goals, will view infrastructure in different ways. Infrastructure to a group stressing education and road rights would probably push more towards marked lanes on road, better detection at traffic lights, share the road campaigns, bike boulevards and such. This type of infrastructure would be much more on road and connected with the community.

    The best thing is to find out the mission of each and their goals. Work with both if you want and push for change in leadership, if thats what it takes, to see some of the accomplishments you want.
    Andrew

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  3. #3
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    I think there's always going to be pressure, no matter how irrational, to get bikes off the road completely, so, while it may not be making things better, supporting the right to use the road will hopefully stop it getting worse. There's nothing wrong with supporting both. If nothing else, cyclists competent in riding on the road are also going to be competent path users.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  4. #4
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    communities that support bicycling thru infrastructure typically incorporate a mix of on and off road bike infrastructure including MUPs and roadway bike lanes in addition to wide lanes and totally unaccomodated/unmodified streets.

    The realistic stance of most moderate bicycling advocates recognize the merits of mixed infrastructure enhancements including MUPs and on street bike paint.

  5. #5
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    In my daily commute I use a combination of roads and multi-use paths. The roads can be a bit intense but the multi-use paths are very pleasant and appreciated by my fellow Seoulites.

    I sought out an on-line bike advocacy group about 18 months ago when I was considering moving back to the States. My goal was to align my skills and experience as a civil engineer with my passion for cycling. What I was hoping to find on the bike advocacy site were connections that could help me make this career shift. Instead, I found that the group was totally opposed to spending money on infrastructure for cyclists. So I remain in this city of 20 million people who've constructed nearly 1000 kilometers of multi-use paths in the last ten years, without a public complaint, and who've taken up cycling by the tens of thousands.

    Cheers from Seoul,

    Tom

  6. #6
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Today i chose to ride a longer, more pleasant route along a MUP on my morning commute near the center of a metropolis of 4 million; much more pleasant than the direct yet more tedious (more road "chatter" and potential conflict) route.

    I took a pleasant, meandering river MUP path, under trees along the canal, under a drawbridge. On the MUP I rode past ships against a mountain range skyline that I was able to enjoy, versus being intensely focused on the traffic and road environment.

    I see great improvments to cycling via well thought out bike infrastructure. the accomodation model for cyclists wins versus the bicyclist education model, hands down, time and time again, more and more every day, around the world.

    ...more bicyclists, safer bicyclists, reductions in bike accident rate per rider, greater participitation across gender, age, and all socioeconomic brackets...

    Uber-VC and Dr. Vehicle, as well as timid schoolmouse and the elderely schoolmarm, can take advantage of well thought out on-road bike lanes and MUPs.

    anti-accomodationism is folly.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 04-25-08 at 01:16 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I am not a big fan of MUP for commuting/transportational cycle use. They are great for families out with the youngsters and other slow riding. The ones around here have a tendency to get clogged up with 3-4 abreast walkers, strollers, wandering dogs with owners attached etc. I would like to see infrastructure along the lines of what exists in Denmark and The Netherlands where you have dedicated bike ways and pedestrians stay off. Mixing with automotive traffic has it's own issues. Most of the roads I ride are not particularly sharing friendly. Then you have the total lack of education and tolerance of both motorists and bike riders/cyclists (I would hope that someone that calls them self a cyclist is cognizant of the rules and regulations and follows them)

    We have a long way to go; until we can get a major/single lobby group and a set standard for cycling facilities, including parking at all locations.

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzman View Post
    So please tell me why I shouldn't put my advocacy time, effort, support and money for bike/ped coalitions like Livable Streets instead of supposed bike advocacy groups that stress cyclist education and road rights? I currently support both but seriously question the efficacy of the second in accomplishing anything tangible.
    Because, there will be many times when the paths will not be a realistic option for cyclists either based on their destination, safety, or congestion. If all the money, effort and advocacy goes into these paths, and we get pushed of the roads more because of it, (especially in states that require cyclist to use paths where available),we will have nowhere to go when the paths aren't a good option.

    Where I live, those bike or MUP paths will often be filled with pedestrians, dogs on leashes that stretch across the entire path like clotheslines, or, dogs running loose, or groups of people walking 3,4, or 5 abreast who won't move out of anyone's way. The worse scenario is getting robbed on the path. At least the paths I've been on, I wouldn't ride at night unless I was with at least one other person, for fear of someone jumping out of the woods and stealing my bike. It’s happened before.

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    Around here, most MUPs cross a lot of streets. The two I use often each have a special advantage. One lets me skip a bit of tricky road layout. Without it, I'd have to ride up one side of a triangle, use an unpleasant intersection, and ride down the other side to get to my local yarn shop. The path intersects with several major roads, so I can always redirect on streets or use a mix to get where I'm going. The other path is along an old rail bed, so it provides a flatter route towards the mall. Again, there are plenty of intersections with major streets - and without them I couldn't *get* to the mall.

    Both routes have flaws. The first (the Wingra Creek Path) has a "pedestrian only" signal at every intersection, since the lines of sight aren't always good. It would be clearer if the signal didn't imply the path was pedestrian only. Also, right turn on red is allowed at the intersections, which is dangerous. Just removing the turn on red would go a long way towards improving the layout (but I think that applies to almost all intersections in Madison).

    The second route (the Southwest Path) has a spectacularly bad intersection. The path runs through a 4 way light at a 45 deg. angle, and there are no signals for path traffic. There are pedestrian controls for use on the streets, so if you're willing to walk your bike to deal with the bad design it is manageable. And if you're on any of the streets and turning, it's manageable. It is not the worst intersection I've ever seen, but it's not a good one either. Since the intersection needs major road repairs, I'm hoping that they'll try to improve the design when it gets repaired.

    On weekends and at weekday rush hours both can be quite busy. If I treat it like a busy road (eyes open, speed matching the flow of traffic, watch for people being careless) things are fine. If I try to treat it like my own personal bike highway, it would be very dangerous. Rush hour is rush hour, even when it happens at noon on a Saturday *g*. Since both paths connect residential areas, parks, shopping areas and business areas it's silly to expect low traffic.

  10. #10
    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzman View Post
    So please tell me why I shouldn't put my advocacy time, effort, support and money for bike/ped coalitions like Livable Streets instead of supposed bike advocacy groups that stress cyclist education and road rights? I currently support both but seriously question the efficacy of the second in accomplishing anything tangible.
    First rule of politics - put your support and money behind whomever will help you to achieve your goals of the moment. Remove and restore as needed.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  11. #11
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    The types of advocacy I strongly support are:
    1) cyclists' continued right to use our public roads;
    2) traffic calming or safe, efficient bypasses for dangerous intersections;
    3) strong prosecution of DUIs;
    4) individual accountability for every road user;
    5) education of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians;
    6) opportunistic construction of MUPs where they make sense, such as along rivers, railroads, or freeways.

    The organizations to which I belong, such as the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, have won some significant fights for safe accommodations. I am currently working with a group of private citizens who have a decent shot at greatly enhancing cycling safety along Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia.

    My favorite personal MUP-vs.-road example is the San Luis Rey river MUP vs. the Hwy 76 expressway. Eastbound, I'll take the MUP every time, to avoid a couple of nasty free merges and diverges, but westbound I prefer the straighter and faster expressway shoulder.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    The types of advocacy I strongly support are:
    1) cyclists' continued right to use our public roads;
    2) traffic calming or safe, efficient bypasses for dangerous intersections;
    3) strong prosecution of DUIs;
    4) individual accountability for every road user;
    5) education of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians;
    6) opportunistic construction of MUPs where they make sense, such as along rivers, railroads, or freeways.
    I do not believe cyclists should have all the same roadway rights as automobiles. Many car drivers agree with me and "education" will not change that opinion. MUP's (your ironic last choice) seems to be the only safe solution for bicycle riders. I have never had life threatening issues on the shared path, maybe a minor inconvenience of moving out of someone's way, but that is preferable to taking on 3000 lbs of steel!

  13. #13
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by david7700 View Post
    I do not believe cyclists should have all the same roadway rights as automobiles. Many car drivers agree with me and "education" will not change that opinion. MUP's (your ironic last choice) seems to be the only safe solution for bicycle riders. I have never had life threatening issues on the shared path, maybe a minor inconvenience of moving out of someone's way, but that is preferable to taking on 3000 lbs of steel!
    Until MUPs are able to reach every home and shop as the regular streets do, then cyclists will and should have the same access to roads as motorists.

    I have seen a situation where paths did go everywhere... but it will never occur here. In Oulu Finland they had an extensive network of bike paths that had the same coverage as their car street network... in fact, in some ways it was better, as cyclists could get right into the center of town (where cars were restricted) and the cycle paths often were more direct and shorter then trying to get to the same location by car using streets.

    The best solution here, where whole cities have been designed around the car, is traffic calming and dedication of some streets as bike boulevards and the use of paths, where possible. A few bike freeways would also be nice. But cyclists here will always have to share some roads with motor traffic... of some sort.

    An act to give legal priority to human powered transit might change the face of things, but not quickly.

  14. #14
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Until MUPs are able to reach every home and shop as the regular streets do, then cyclists will and should have the same access to roads as motorists.
    Add to that no 'sidewalk' type intersections with roads. They not only would have to reach every place, they also have to be at least as safe for matched average speeds.

    Al

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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    Add to that no 'sidewalk' type intersections with roads. They not only would have to reach every place, they also have to be at least as safe for matched average speeds.

    Al
    There's a one scenic MUP in my area but it is useless for me (putting aside the fact that it doesn't go anywhere I need to go) because you might be lucky to average 10mph on them. Most of your time is spent riding the brakes due to tight turns and steep hills (the MUP is narrow too). When I can easily average 15mph on the road, I would need a very direct MUP to match that conveniece (and this MUP are far from direct) and probably some intersection priority which is hardly likely to ever happen.

  16. #16
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    I personally feel that both making the roads safer and providing nice off street riding are good goals. In our area a movement started nearly a decade ago to start connecting some of the various MUPS. We had lots of Bike paths (I like that they are still called BIKE paths) that went from pretty much nowhere to nowhere. By connecting these sections you can now ride from unobstructed from Amhest (SUNY at Buffalo university) all the way to down town Buffalo on some very nice paths. At the same time some of the roads that were listed as Red (aka avoid on a bike as they are so dangerous) have been rebuilt and now have nice wide shoulders. I know how the ride in traffic, but if there is plenty of room for cars to get by me without anyone having to squeeze over, I feel it is good for everyone.

    Yesterday was a good example how I can use both the paths and the roads for different reasons:
    We had to make a visit to one of our offices that is in the city. Since the weather was just about perfect (mid 60's with sun and only light wind) we descided to ride rather than send one of our coworkers with a car. It was an absolutely glorious 18 mile ride along the Erie Canal and Niagara River. On the way back We cut through the city to take a more direct route home. Along the way me co-worker headed towards his house, and I went back to the office the direct route. My ride through the city used "Orange" routes which are deamed good roads for cyclists (wide enough for busses and trucks to pass), but not officially marked with bike lanes, and also a bike route that connects the SUNY at Buffalo City campus with the one in Amherst where I work pretty much next door.

    The paths provided a wonderful scenic route to take and generally is farther away from cars so you can enjoy the scenery and nature. The problem is that you have to go around the city. The city route was more direct, but still very easy to ride even for someone with minimal VC riding experience. Neither one is clearly better, just different. I think that progress on both fronts is helpful. I see loads of families and riders usings the MUPS, yet far fewer people are brave enough to venture into city traffic.

    Happy riding,
    André

  17. #17
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    Add to that no 'sidewalk' type intersections with roads. They not only would have to reach every place, they also have to be at least as safe for matched average speeds.

    Al
    Agreed... the Oulu paths were well designed... the paths that we face here in the US are every thing from poor broken sidewalks with tight turns (and even stairs) to the MUP I ride from time to time that is perhaps 9-10 feet wide with turns one can easily take at 25MPH or higher and it is grade separated... with exit ramps for street connections. However, there is perhaps only about 5 miles of this... which means that hardly matches the network available to motorists.

    That is part of the whole problem with paths... there is no standard, and most are geared toward "park riders" moving at 10MPH or less.

    If bikes were looked upon as real transportation and there were standards for paths, then certainly this country has the means to create adequate and proper paths. We are just not likely to see such in our lifetimes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by david7700 View Post
    I do not believe cyclists should have all the same roadway rights as automobiles. Many car drivers agree with me and "education" will not change that opinion. MUP's (your ironic last choice) seems to be the only safe solution for bicycle riders. I have never had life threatening issues on the shared path, maybe a minor inconvenience of moving out of someone's way, but that is preferable to taking on 3000 lbs of steel!
    Interesting choice of words. So you think that automobiles (hunk of machinery) have superior civil rights to that of people (cyclists).

    The fact that "Many car drivers agree with me" is like saying that because a group of people, who are largely ignorant of the laws pertaining to both themselves and cyclists, should therefore have their ignorant views accepted and the views of experienced and knowledgeable cyclists whould be ignored is somewhat illogical. As for "education will not change that opinion", this is either an acknowledgement that US drivers are ineducable (aka stupid) or a craven submission to their ignorant prejudice. Since drivers in other countries manage to avoid treating you the way that too many US drivers seem to, it would appear that education is not the impossible dream you appear to believe. Unless, of course, your driving tests continue to be as inadequate as may think - and, having seen someone taking the practical part of the Florida test, they are grossly inadequate to test a driver's ability to drive safely on the highway.

    While there are a good few examples of poor law making, the vast majority of the legislation that has been referred to on this site is reasonably well-drawn up. And that vast majority of legislation acknowledges the rights of cyclists to use the public highways which they have helped to pay for.

    MUPs can be a useful addition to cycling infrastructure, as long as they are well designed and built. It is unlikely, however, that there is sufficient room to put them in position to provide "safe" routes for all riders. That being the case, your argument leads inevitably to the conclusion that cyclists should be banned, for their own safety (a dubious argument) from highways.

    There are dangers in riding on the highway, but knowledgeable riders experience very few life-threatening incidents. I have no experience of US traffic conditions, but found that Toronto traffic very little different from that in the UK and so coped safely enough, even tho' North Americans all seem to drive on the wrong side of the road

  19. #19
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atbman View Post
    ...even tho' North Americans all seem to drive on the wrong side of the road
    No mate, the drivers are OK, all the bloody roads are in backwards...

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by tinydr View Post
    This may be somewhat of an aside, but I wonder whether it really makes sense for Metropolitan Boston bicycle advocacy groups to focus on the MUP's... in part because advocacy related to the paths is often handled by other interest groups, and additionally because the MUPs serve a limited # of users for commuting purposes. In that light might it not make more sense for bicycling advocacy groups to spend their limited resources lobbying for better conditions for cyclists on the road? Not that advocacy will get rid of construction zones or the urban college students (I don't really remember BC kids being that much of a problem, but I suspect that there isn't that much call for them to cross Commonwealth or Beacon (and it's when there are a flock of students all obliviously jaywalking at the same time that they really become a problem, although even one can be problem enough).

    good question.

    But to be honest, and I've been around cycling and advocacy a long time, the "threats" to our right to ride on the road in Massachusetts are few and far between. Certainly when they occur, and they sometimes do, is a time to rally and be prepared to defend our rights. But I think it's wise to pick our battles- to spend the lion's share of our advocacy energy in that arena seems a bit of "the sky is falling" or the "little boy that cried wolf!". Cry wolf when the wolf is really there but the fear mongering mantra of- "We'll lose our rights to the road!" has often felt like knee-jerk reactionism not always tied into reality. So to devote the resources of bicycle advocacy groups with such a narrow minded almost paranoid agenda seems wasteful to me.


    The MUP into Boston from Watertown, which runs on both sides of the river is used by a substantial number of commuting cyclists year round. In the warmer months a fairly high percentage of cyclists on the path are commuting. As has been pointed out in some other recent threads in A&S recreational cycling can be a starting point for many commuters. My informal surveys of riders in Boston and New York support the contention that a spring day ride along the river to Harvard Square or a ride uptown along the West Side bike path has been the initial impetus for many commuters that eventually become at least 3 season commuters on a partial or regular basis.

    Finally the path's maintenance, some widening, repaving, relighting has begun in earnest and it makes a difference. The broken pavement, tree roots, narrow, overgrown sections were a discouragement. Any infrastructure requires a commitment. The bike lanes of Cambridge are a prime example. Poorly implemented initially, opposed by some pretty vocal advocates they've been left to fade and now exist as a neither here nor there network of half-assed lanes that are dangerous. Rather than take responsibility to redesign, update, modify or remove them if necessary that infrastructure remains in a kind of purgatory.

    To, in a sense, reiterate my OP. I spend a lot of time riding on the roads of Massachusetts and virtually nothing has changed about road riding as a result of a constant drumbeat of "fighting to maintain our right to the roads". To claim we might not still have those rights seems disingenuous or a means of justifying years of marching to that rallying cry. But where I notice a real difference is in the work of Rails to Trails, Livable Streets, Charles River Conservancy. That has had a direct and noticeable impact on my riding and that of many other cyclists both transportationally and recreationally.

  21. #21
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Sounds to me like you've already made up your mind, buzzman.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

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    I would love to see nice wide, bike only paths, with controlled intersections, crisscrossing the city so no matter where I want to go I can go on a bike path, but that is not going to happen any time soon.

    Since the reality is that bikes will have to share the road with cars for a long time to come, bicycle advocacy should focus on making the coexistence of bikes and cars on the road as safe as possible for the cyclist.
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  23. #23
    Violin guitar mandolin
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    Quote Originally Posted by david7700 View Post
    I do not believe cyclists should have all the same roadway rights as automobiles. Many car drivers agree with me and "education" will not change that opinion. MUP's (your ironic last choice) seems to be the only safe solution for bicycle riders. I have never had life threatening issues on the shared path, maybe a minor inconvenience of moving out of someone's way, but that is preferable to taking on 3000 lbs of steel!
    1. Automobile drivers have no rights, only privileges granted by law.

    2. MUPs aren't safe for riders. They could be with proper design, construction, and education. Currently all the MUPs I've been on present serious hazards, very well known ones, including other users, blind sections, holes, off-perpendicular rail crossings, numerous intersections, etc. They're not much use on weekends in urban areas. Mix is dangerous in the extreme. Road bike 22 mph doesn't mix well w/ other users. Let alone a group of 4 at 26 mph. I can only think you're riding slowly. MUPs are fine for low speeds and poking along. And for regular riders at typical road speeds when other users aren't there.

    3. MUPs don't generally go where people want to go. We end up on the streets regardless.

    4. Lots of bad wrecks on MUPs. I even got hit by a drunk cyclist head on once - GWPkwy trail in Alexandria. I got hurt pretty badly, worst wreck I ever had, including my several with motor vehicles. I've personally seen more non-racing wrecks on MUPs than on the road, even though I hardly ever ride on them.

    5. Bikes work fine on roads.


    There's room for both, but neither is a substitute for the other. Family walks with dogs don't work on roads and road cyclists don't do well on MUPs when traffic levels rise.

  24. #24
    Dogs like me. Ajenkins's Avatar
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    Interesting. I must have lived not too far from where the OP does during my 12 years in Boston, actually West Newton. I rode the same roads and the same bike path, and frankly, I found the bike path useless for commuting. I found the drivers to be as courteous to me as they were to any other vehicle, which is to say, not at all; but the road was infinitely preferable to the MUP with its peds, dogs, kids, BBQs and general crapola. 10 mph on the MUP was a great speed.

    Give me the roads, and an advocacy group that supports their use, any day of the week. Give the MUPs to the rollerbladers.

  25. #25
    Banned Bikepacker67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allister View Post
    I think there's always going to be pressure, no matter how irrational, to get bikes off the road completely, so, while it may not be making things better, supporting the right to use the road will hopefully stop it getting worse. There's nothing wrong with supporting both. If nothing else, cyclists competent in riding on the road are also going to be competent path users.
    And in a way, a network of MUP's makes it even harder for the commuter/utility cyclist, because Joe Sixpack in his SUV just thinks that you're being an even bigger dink for having the audacity to ride the road (let alone take the lane!) when there's a perfectly good bikepath not going where you want to go!

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