Every situation is different. I notice your location is Burlington, IA... while I have never been there, I have been to many mid/small cities and towns across the midwest, and from my experience in those places I would come to the same conclusion as you. Streets I have seen there are often designed to keep cars moving at a brisk pace (40+ mph on arterials is not uncommon), so the difference in speed between bikes and cars can be significant (making "taking the lane" a much more frightening proposition. Also, most buildings have a parking lot or a driveway, so street parking is more rare (and when it does happen, is rarely as dense as you would find elsewhere).
Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
In much of Boston, however, the streets were laid out when cars were just a figment of our imaginations. The speed limits are rarely more than 25mph, and even if they were higher, the road layout doesn't let cars get much faster even if they want to. If you're on a moderately efficient bike, you can take the lane with only a 5mph difference to traffic speed, which really isn't much of an inconvenience to anyone, and not all that frightening for the rider. Also, just about every block is lined curb-curb with parked cars (main streets and side streets), so while the odds of any one car opening a door may be exceedingly low, if I pass 150 parked cars each way to/from work every day, that's 78,000 parked cars each year. Assuming the odds of any particular car opening a door as I pass in 1 in a million, then on average, one of the 13ish people that I work with who commute by bike should get doored every year. If I pass only 15 parked cars each way, one of us gets doored every 10 years, and most never do in our working lifetimes.
In the years I have been in Boston, there are only 3 traffic situations that made me fearful. One is doorings (the only time they got me was when a taxi passenger opened the passenger door while the taxi was in the left hand lane, freak situation, I just chalk this one up to Harvard Sq.). Two is cars creeping out from driveways or side streets trying to see around parked cars (never got hit this way, but had some close calls). Three is a roundabout that leads onto a bridge with a bike lane (BU Bridge from the Cambridge side)... exiting the roundabout can be cars and bikes riding parallel (normal lane + bike lane), but as the exit veers right, without fail drivers regularly cut the corner and put their wheels in the bike lane (I have been side-swiped multiple time here, never seriously hurt thankfully). In all of these cases, the times I got into trouble were times I was lazy with my lane positioning and wandered too close to the curb and out of drivers line of sight. The remedy that soothed these situations was to ride further into the lane... no doors there, cars peeking out to turn can see you (and you are clear of their bumper), and drivers approaching from behind can see you easier (and have time to, due to speed differentials being minimal).
I'm not quite sure of your intention in this post.
Originally Posted by igknighted
For one thing, I wouldn't assume that because ILTB lives in Burlington, IA he has little or no experience riding elsewhere. And, since you haven't ridden in Burlington you're making even further assumptions about its streets and arterials.
Right now I'm living and riding in NYC, so my location reads, New York, New York but I'll be back in Boston soon, my usual place of residence, and while I think much of your post is accurate parts of it may be unintentionally misleading.
Yes, much of Boston's road were laid out as cow paths and certainly this is most obvious in the area around State Street, Faneuil Hall and Downtown Crossing. In these parts of town a cyclist can certainly maintain traffic speeds no problem. But the fact of the matter is cyclists often exceed the speed of automobile traffic in these areas and so unless as a cyclist you wish to sit in the lane with the cars as they crawl through that section of town you will probably attempt to negotiate your way around the auto traffic by moving left or right of the line of cars, probably in or near a door zone.
One thing I appreciate in NYC as I cross town in a bike laned street (like 10th street) is that despite the fact that I could easily maintain the average speed of traffic I often far exceed that average speed and the bike lane gives me relatively clear passage on one side of the cars when traffic is stopped or slowed. Without the bike lane traffic tends to cram every possible inch and a cyclist is forced to move from one side of the road to the other wedging between bumpers of cars and trucks and jammed tight to the door zone.
Another problem is that though the average speed of traffic in a jammed up urban area can easily be maintained by a cyclist it does not prevent the jack rabbit starts and stops that many drivers engage in while on these narrow crowded streets and while we may "take the lane" confidently knowing we'll all arrive at the same stop light and have to wait some drivers don't see it that way. Unfortunately, there are a disproportionate number of drivers under the illusion that moving between stop lights at as fast a speed as possible somehow gets them there faster and they will ride right on your ass, often on streets with broken pavement, potholes, wet steel plates in the road and a myriad of other hazards threatening to bring a cyclist down.
All of these are reasons why cyclists, unless they wish to weave through traffic- a technique I am capable of when need be, seem to fare best when there is a bike lane present on city streets because they will more than likely be riding to the side of traffic and in and out of door zones in any case.
And, though Commonwealth Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue both date back to Colonial times they are straight roads with traffic that often, if conditions permit, far exceed the speed limit as cars literally race from traffic light to traffic light on their way in and out of Boston and Cambridge.
Buzzman is correct, my cycling has ventured beyond my present location and also includes decades of riding in Philadelphia, another city laid out prior to the invention of cars. Also 10 years of cycling in Germany. As well as cycling in other locations far from home.
Originally Posted by buzzman
The rest of Buzzman's post is also accurate in its criticism of igknighted misleading comments on the risks of urban cycling.