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Old 11-29-11, 08:11 PM   #1
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UK: Slower motorists greatest safety gain for cyclists

From road.cc:

Slowing motorists down, especially at junctions (to reduce collisions), and improved surface treatments (to reduce single-vehicle accidents) are the most effective means of increasing cyclist safety according to the UK's DfT (Department for Transportation).

Strikes me that this should be the #1 priority of Advocacy and Safety people: slow the motorists down in places where there are cyclists. As several people have pointed out, e.g. Hagen2456, there is an exponential relationship between impact speed and mortality.

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The report which brings together all the existing data on cycliing infrastructure in the UK also says that it will take decades of sustained investment to achieve a functional urban cycle network across the country and a willingness to prioritise cycle traffic the report also warns that piecemeal implementation of cycling infrastructure "is unlikely to be satisfactory".
Click the link above to read the whole thing before your knee breaks your chin.
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Old 11-29-11, 08:28 PM   #2
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From road.cc:

Slowing motorists down, especially at junctions (to reduce collisions), and improved surface treatments (to reduce single-vehicle accidents) are the most effective means of increasing cyclist safety according to the UK's DfT (Department for Transportation).

Strikes me that this should be the #1 priority of Advocacy and Safety people: slow the motorists down in places where there are cyclists. As several people have pointed out, e.g. Hagen2456, there is an exponential relationship between impact speed and mortality.



Click the link above to read the whole thing before your knee breaks your chin.
Location doesn't matter. Slow motorists down, period.
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Old 11-30-11, 12:22 AM   #3
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Lower the speed limits to the cities average speed less motorways of course.
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Old 11-30-11, 09:35 AM   #4
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This has been my position for a long time. The biggest safety, and comfort for cyclists comes in on roads where there isn't a huge volume of high speed motor vehicle traffic. And this is true whether or not you have fancy bike infrastructure in place. I know that I find low speed, low volume roads the most comfortable to cycle on (certainly more so than high-speed, high volume streets, even with bike lanes or sidepaths added to the high speed ones). I'd rather share a lane with lower speed motorists than have a "bike lane" at higher speed, and I know that I'm not alone in that regard because most of the "timid" riders just ride the sidewalks at walking speed on the high speed roads.

I think that the biggest things that are needed are not an expansion of bike lanes and cycle tracks (though those may be appropriate where it's not feasible to create viable alternate routes away from major arterials). Instead, I think we mainly just need to provide good bike connectivity to a wide variety of destinations through slower low volume streets, in order to provide an alternative to riding on high volume arterials (one way might be to create many more small connector trails between dead-end streets). Then, we need heavy enforcement of speeding rules in the low speed zones, with something like the equivalent of a reckless driving charge for violations there. Basically, some places should be "safe zones", psychologically and physically, for bicyclists, pedestrians, children, etc, while other areas would continue to operate as they do now. We need to somehow get the population to buy into the idea that there are some places where it's not appropriate to speed, and then make it stick.
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Old 11-30-11, 10:20 AM   #5
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this has been my position for a long time. The biggest safety, and comfort for cyclists comes in on roads where there isn't a huge volume of high speed motor vehicle traffic. And this is true whether or not you have fancy bike infrastructure in place. I know that i find low speed, low volume roads the most comfortable to cycle on (certainly more so than high-speed, high volume streets, even with bike lanes or sidepaths added to the high speed ones). I'd rather share a lane with lower speed motorists than have a "bike lane" at higher speed, and i know that i'm not alone in that regard because most of the "timid" riders just ride the sidewalks at walking speed on the high speed roads.

I think that the biggest things that are needed are not an expansion of bike lanes and cycle tracks (though those may be appropriate where it's not feasible to create viable alternate routes away from major arterials). Instead, i think we mainly just need to provide good bike connectivity to a wide variety of destinations through slower low volume streets, in order to provide an alternative to riding on high volume arterials (one way might be to create many more small connector trails between dead-end streets). Then, we need heavy enforcement of speeding rules in the low speed zones, with something like the equivalent of a reckless driving charge for violations there. Basically, some places should be "safe zones", psychologically and physically, for bicyclists, pedestrians, children, etc, while other areas would continue to operate as they do now. We need to somehow get the population to buy into the idea that there are some places where it's not appropriate to speed, and then make it stick.
AMEN! +1000 Applaud!

Really this is what it all comes down to... stop treating roadways as the domain of cars and as "local freeways." Slow the F down. Somebody did a study to determine this?
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Old 11-30-11, 11:54 AM   #6
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AMEN! +1000 Applaud!

Really this is what it all comes down to... stop treating roadways as the domain of cars and as "local freeways." Slow the F down. Somebody did a study to determine this?
It's actually a literature review of other studies, attempting to compare the efficacy of different infrastructure strategies on actual crash rates. The empirical evidence supporting the safety benefits of lower traffic speeds and better surface conditions are huge compared to the thin support for other design changes such as separating bicyclists from the rest of roadway traffic. I read the report and found it interesting, though not surprising.
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Old 11-30-11, 12:58 PM   #7
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This has been my position for a long time. The biggest safety, and comfort for cyclists comes in on roads where there isn't a huge volume of high speed motor vehicle traffic. And this is true whether or not you have fancy bike infrastructure in place. I know that I find low speed, low volume roads the most comfortable to cycle on (certainly more so than high-speed, high volume streets, even with bike lanes or sidepaths added to the high speed ones). I'd rather share a lane with lower speed motorists than have a "bike lane" at higher speed, and I know that I'm not alone in that regard because most of the "timid" riders just ride the sidewalks at walking speed on the high speed roads.

I think that the biggest things that are needed are not an expansion of bike lanes and cycle tracks (though those may be appropriate where it's not feasible to create viable alternate routes away from major arterials). Instead, I think we mainly just need to provide good bike connectivity to a wide variety of destinations through slower low volume streets, in order to provide an alternative to riding on high volume arterials (one way might be to create many more small connector trails between dead-end streets). Then, we need heavy enforcement of speeding rules in the low speed zones, with something like the equivalent of a reckless driving charge for violations there. Basically, some places should be "safe zones", psychologically and physically, for bicyclists, pedestrians, children, etc, while other areas would continue to operate as they do now. We need to somehow get the population to buy into the idea that there are some places where it's not appropriate to speed, and then make it stick.
+1,000

Well said, very well said.
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Old 11-30-11, 01:00 PM   #8
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I'm not going to jump on this bandwagon. In my experience as a roadie, I don't perceive the speed of vehicles on the roads that I ride as being and issue. As a motorist, I think most speed limits are set too low,as evidenced by everybody routinely exceeding them. And roads are the domain of motorized vehicles. On the vast majority of roads in the US cyclists are a relative rarity. The reality is cyclists are secondary users.
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Old 11-30-11, 01:30 PM   #9
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I'm not going to jump on this bandwagon. In my experience as a roadie, I don't perceive the speed of vehicles on the roads that I ride as being and issue. As a motorist, I think most speed limits are set too low,as evidenced by everybody routinely exceeding them. And roads are the domain of motorized vehicles. On the vast majority of roads in the US cyclists are a relative rarity. The reality is cyclists are secondary users.
Could it be that the "secondary users" are such as everyone else thinks they own the road?

I'm still trying to figure out why a human in a big noisy polluting machine has some special priority over a human walking, or riding a pollution free machine. They are all merely HUMANS.
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Old 11-30-11, 02:02 PM   #10
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As a motorist, I think most speed limits are set too low,as evidenced by everybody routinely exceeding them. And roads are the domain of motorized vehicles. .
That may be for where you live, but round here most roads are 45mph posted multilane. While I am comfortable merging across several lanes of 45mph traffic it did take practice and was a bit intimidating at first. At 30mph such a merge is much more comfortable.
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Old 11-30-11, 02:05 PM   #11
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I'm still trying to figure out why a human in a big noisy polluting machine has some special priority....
The only thing I can figure out is that a considerable number of our local alpha male population gravitates towards owning such type of vehicle.

I have a great snap shot of one such vehicle a few feet off my back fender, while I'm at speed, the front bumper of this behemoth looks like it came off a castle siege weapon from the days of the Crusades.
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Old 11-30-11, 02:31 PM   #12
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It's actually a literature review of other studies, attempting to compare the efficacy of different infrastructure strategies on actual crash rates. The empirical evidence supporting the safety benefits of lower traffic speeds and better surface conditions are huge compared to the thin support for other design changes such as separating bicyclists from the rest of roadway traffic. I read the report and found it interesting, though not surprising.
But are there any prospects at all of getting such obvious safety notions into the engineering standards? It's pretty disgusting that peak speed is so valued by those in charge of road design that we are forced to accept the predictable carnage when it would be so easy to do it right.
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Old 11-30-11, 02:47 PM   #13
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I've always found this graphic to be helpful to show if we could get cars to slow down, the death toll should drop
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Old 11-30-11, 03:02 PM   #14
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I'm not going to jump on this bandwagon. In my experience as a roadie, I don't perceive the speed of vehicles on the roads that I ride as being and issue. As a motorist, I think most speed limits are set too low,as evidenced by everybody routinely exceeding them. And roads are the domain of motorized vehicles. On the vast majority of roads in the US cyclists are a relative rarity. The reality is cyclists are secondary users.
As a roadie, you're not representative of all the people I see riding the sidewalk on high speed, high volume roads with bike lanes. Some current cyclists are comfortable nearly anywhere, but many aren't. Additionally, I think it's important not to forget that it isn't just speed, but speed + VOLUME. When I ride my road bike on country roads, I find it perfectly comfortable to have the occasional motorist pass me at 60+ mph. When I ride my hybrid commuter bike, I find it much less comfortable getting passed every couple of seconds by traffic going that speed while I ride in a bike lane (even though *I'm* not particularly scared, I can certainly understand why many others who aren't as experienced are). So I'm with you in that I don't perceive vehicle speeds as a problem on rural roads. I do perceive it as a problem on high volume suburban arterials where many motorists are driving 15+ mph over the speed limit despite the presence of cyclists and pedestrians. Context is important.

I definitely don't agree with you that roads are the "domain of motorized vehicles". That's just false, by all definitions of "road" other than freeways. For the vast majority of human history in which roads have existed, they have been shared by all kinds of different users. It's only been recently that motorists have tried to push everyone else off. I also don't feel that "everybody" (it actually isn't everybody, but it is the vast majority) exceeding the speed limit is evidence that the speed limit is too low. That just means that those people PERCEIVE the speed they are travelling at to be safe for the particular road they are using. But human perception is often wrong, especially when motorists aren't considering the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, etc. And some people are just anti-social, with little consideration for the rights and safety of others. So we do need laws, regulations, and enforcement to increase compliance with speed limits. Again, though, this is why I've argued for a strict delineation between "car centered" roads and "human centered roads". I don't think that all roads need to be designed around the needs of cyclists, but I also don't think that it's appropriate for ALL roads and streets to be designed solely around the needs of motorists.

And the rarity of cyclists is a chicken or egg thing. Cyclists are rare because they are not considered road users worth planning for, and they aren't considered worth planning for because they are rare. If we want things to improve, we have to break that cycle and create a real cycling transportation network.
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Old 11-30-11, 03:10 PM   #15
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It's actually a literature review of other studies, attempting to compare the efficacy of different infrastructure strategies on actual crash rates. The empirical evidence supporting the safety benefits of lower traffic speeds and better surface conditions are huge compared to the thin support for other design changes such as separating bicyclists from the rest of roadway traffic. I read the report and found it interesting, though not surprising.
Well, it's contrary to Danish and Dutch experiences. Cyclist safety was improved massively with the bike infrastructure way before anyone thought of slowing down the cars, even before planners became aware of intersection problems. But of course I'm all for 20 mph zones. The latest victim in the Copenhagen traffic was a 10 year old girl from the school my kids attend. A drugged, speeding psyko, at a crossing. It's terribly shocking. We HAVE to design the streets so that speeding isn't a possibility.
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Old 11-30-11, 03:17 PM   #16
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But are there any prospects at all of getting such obvious safety notions into the engineering standards? It's pretty disgusting that peak speed is so valued by those in charge of road design that we are forced to accept the predictable carnage when it would be so easy to do it right.
The prospects vary depending on region but in many urban areas it is getting serious attention. While I don't advocate that all roads be designed for slower speeds, I am encouraged by the interest shown by many traffic engineering professionals and citizen groups in reducing the speeds on many streets that are important for multimodal use. I also hope there will be more attention given to ensuring route redundancy with a diversity of performance levels, so that lower speed routes exist as alternatives for most useful trips by bike.

The most popular speed reduction design methods that I have seen are

1. Road Diets (4 thru lane to 2 thru lane (1 each way) conversions that tend to have a mid-block traffic calming effect on their own and also allow prudent drivers to set the prevailing speed

2. Single-Lane Mini-Roundabouts that reduce speeds at intersections and reduce serious right-angle collisions.

Most of these installations have been done primarily to benefit pedestrians, but many can benefit bicyclists if the final pavement width is adequate for passing at safe distance with adequate maneuvering room for the cyclist. Mini-roundabouts are especially nice for cyclists as an alternative to energy-sapping stop signs.

It is also possible for traffic calming engineering to have a negative effect on cyclists if done poorly. Chicanes, bulb-outs, long distances of too-narrow pavement, and inadequate space provided for door zone clearance can put cyclists in greater conflict with other drivers or present crash risks. Vertical features such as speed bumps or rumble strips can degrade enjoyment of the road for cycling. The devil is in the details.
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Old 11-30-11, 03:30 PM   #17
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Well, it's contrary to Danish and Dutch experiences. Cyclist safety was improved massively with the bike infrastructure way before anyone thought of slowing down the cars, even before planners became aware of intersection problems.
It is consistent with the American experience, that simply adding separated bicycle facilities to the existing road-using culture doesn't increase safety and may reduce it if it complicates junction interactions. The Dutch were able to compensate for the increased complexity of junction interactions only by undertaking a major, permanent, long-term education and enforcement effort aimed toward the entire motoring and bicycling culture there.

The Dutch were willing to accept the program to so condition the motoring and bicycling culture because such a large percentage of them were already bicyclists.

In the US and the UK, there are too few bicyclists to provide enough political will to drastically change the behavior of motorists at junctions in order to compensate for the increased conflicts of separated facilities. There aren't even enough pedestrians in some places to get motorists accustomed to stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks or to get police to enforce them to do so. As a result, incrementally adding separated facilities in such places doesn't improve safety, certainly not nearly as well as reducing motorist speeds does.
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Old 11-30-11, 03:37 PM   #18
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Well, it's contrary to Danish and Dutch experiences. Cyclist safety was improved massively with the bike infrastructure way before anyone thought of slowing down the cars, even before planners became aware of intersection problems. But of course I'm all for 20 mph zones. The latest victim in the Copenhagen traffic was a 10 year old girl from the school my kids attend. A drugged, speeding psyko, at a crossing. It's terribly shocking. We HAVE to design the streets so that speeding isn't a possibility.
I'm not convinced that it's JUST the bike infrastructure that has given e.g., the Dutch some of the safest roads in the world (for all road users, not just cyclists). It's also the cultural context in which that infrastructure operates. That's why I'm skeptical of Dutch concepts working when removed from that cultural context.
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Old 11-30-11, 03:43 PM   #19
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We HAVE to design the streets so that speeding isn't a possibility.
Making speeding an actual impossibility can't be done with road design. Only GPS-equipped speed governors on vehicles can do that. Otherwise there will always be straight segments of road that allow high speeds to be attained, and truck-friendly turn radii that allow speeding around turns.
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Old 11-30-11, 03:53 PM   #20
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I'm not convinced that it's JUST the bike infrastructure that has given e.g., the Dutch some of the safest roads in the world (for all road users, not just cyclists). It's also the cultural context in which that infrastructure operates. That's why I'm skeptical of Dutch concepts working when removed from that cultural context.
I tend to agree... I think a combination of at least working to make "complete streets" and less autocentric "urban highways" coupled with education at the public school level is the only way that cycling will be massively accepted in the US. Of course that could take a generation or two to work... and in that same time the introduction of robot drive cars may make many of the existing issues less of an issue.

Certainly insisting that cyclists ride in a strict VC manner while "sharing" 50MPH roads with aggressive motorists isn't doing much to promote cycling in the US.
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Old 11-30-11, 03:58 PM   #21
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Making speeding an actual impossibility can't be done with road design. Only GPS-equipped speed governors on vehicles can do that. Otherwise there will always be straight segments of road that allow high speeds to be attained, and truck-friendly turn radii that allow speeding around turns.
It might not be possible to prevent speeding completely via physical road design, but it might be possible to seriously curtail it through a combination of social norms and enforcement. That's one of the reasons I support a distinction between slow speed roads and high speed roads: we might not be able to completely change the American road culture overnight, but we might be able to make more progress if we concentrated efforts on certain areas where it would make a bigger difference. Attempting to strictly enforce speed limits on interstate highways seems like an exercise in futility to me (as well as being mostly pointless), but trying to strictly enforce speed limits in residential neighborhoods and along designated bike routes might not be (especially if these areas were clearly marked and penalties were increased there). If we could get some cultural buy-in for the idea that cars shouldn't rule the road IN SOME PLACES, then you would see a gradual building of social stigma against speeding there (just like there is now for school zones, although that too is increasingly falling away as fewer kids walk or bike to school and police enforcement vanishes). People would then be less afraid to bike or let their kids bike there, which in turn would increase the social stigma against speeding further.

This is the kind of dynamic that I think exists in some of the bike friendly countries, and it's something we need to somehow establish here in the U.S.
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Old 11-30-11, 04:25 PM   #22
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I'm not convinced that it's JUST the bike infrastructure that has given e.g., the Dutch some of the safest roads in the world (for all road users, not just cyclists). It's also the cultural context in which that infrastructure operates. That's why I'm skeptical of Dutch concepts working when removed from that cultural context.
I agree. I also think the quickest and most effective way to change the culture is to get local police departments to get serious about traffic law enforcement. This has some added benefits. First of all, folks who are not criminally inclined will fairly quickly comply with the law when faced with real enforcement, which means the criminals will be easy to find. When I lived where traffic laws were seriously enforced most of the burglaries were solved through traffic stops. Second of all, if the fines are set high enough it is a program that can pay for itself.
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Old 11-30-11, 04:37 PM   #23
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I agree. I also think the quickest and most effective way to change the culture is to get local police departments to get serious about traffic law enforcement. This has some added benefits. First of all, folks who are not criminally inclined will fairly quickly comply with the law when faced with real enforcement, which means the criminals will be easy to find. When I lived where traffic laws were seriously enforced most of the burglaries were solved through traffic stops. Second of all, if the fines are set high enough it is a program that can pay for itself.
Conversely, I think that local police departments failing to take traffic law enforcement seriously has been one of the major contributing factors behind the development of what I think can fairly be described as a culture of lawlessness among motorists in many parts of the U.S. "Everyone" speeds, rolls stop signs, rolls through right turns on red, etc, because "everyone" knows that the chance of there being a penalty for doing so is virtually zero. Police budgets have either been cut, or failed to keep up with needs, or been diverted to buying expensive toys for SWAT teams, instead of going to basic traffic law enforcement. The result, predictably, has been an erosion in law-abiding behavior among motorists. And that drives social norms in the wrong direction.

The power of the police isn't just that they're going to pull over the dangerous drivers and stop them from driving dangerously. It's also that they help to shape people's ideas about what is and isn't acceptable behavior. People obey the laws more when they know that society disapproves of what they are doing. The police are a visible way of showing that disapproval.
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Old 11-30-11, 04:52 PM   #24
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Making speeding an actual impossibility can't be done with road design. Only GPS-equipped speed governors on vehicles can do that. Otherwise there will always be straight segments of road that allow high speeds to be attained, and truck-friendly turn radii that allow speeding around turns.
Do yuo realy think even that will make it impossible? Radar detectors have been out for years, disconnecting a GPS shouldn't be that difficult (and there is more than one reason to not want others to know where yuo have been or are going).
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Old 11-30-11, 04:56 PM   #25
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I'm still not jumping on the band wagon. I generally don't see people speeding, rolling through stop signs, etc. as a major problem. Where I do run into problems is with oblivious or distracted drivers, both when I'm riding and when I'm driving.

And yes, there were trails before there were paths before there were roads and roads before there were motor vehicles. But the roads in this country have been built up and funded to support motor vehicular transportation, which is what the vast majority of people use to commute and in their daily lives. It's also what moves the vast majority of food and goods. It's nice that we go out and play on our bikes, and a few even commute and/or run errands, but we are in a very small, self righteous, and holier than thou minority.
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