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Old 10-17-13, 11:26 AM   #1
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The Debate About Bike Infrastructure Has Been Settled.....Hmmm.

The Debate About Bike Infrastructure Has Been Settled
by Angie Schmitt

For decades, cyclists bickered amongst themselves about the efficacy and safety of bike infrastructure. With the proliferation of protected bike lanes in recent years, however, everyone can see that predictions about bike lanes making streets more dangerous for cycling simply didnít come to pass. Network blogger Elly Blue at Taking the Lane says the debate has been settled......

http://streetsblog.net/2013/05/08/th...-been-settled/
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Old 10-17-13, 01:36 PM   #2
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And the comments show that she is FOS.

My favorite comment:

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With all due respect to the esteemed and lovely Elly Blue, the debate is FAR from settled. Even in her hometown, Portland, OR, bike lanes are the common denominators of deadly right hook crashes, all well documented by BikePortland.
And, no, it was not me.
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Old 10-17-13, 02:44 PM   #3
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Pretty slim evidence to make such grand, sweeping pronouncements.

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In light of these developments and similar evidence from Washington, Portland, and a growing number of other cities, the anti-bike infrastructure argument looks increasingly silly and out of date
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Old 10-17-13, 03:09 PM   #4
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There are problems, to be sure, but I have changed my view. I like them more than I did before. I also like bike trails much more than before. I'm fine on the road, but the trails are fantastic. I am surprised to like them so much, but there's nothing wrong with that.
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Old 10-17-13, 03:36 PM   #5
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Reminds me of the debate I had on talkbass with some motorcyclists that helmets didn't work despite numerous studies. They cited anecdotal one-time accidents as a counter or simply didn't want to believe. That said, I have only used the bike lanes once, and it wasn't on Pennsylvania Ave.
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Old 10-17-13, 04:21 PM   #6
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I guess I don't understand the counter-argument--are some of "us" arguing against proper bike lanes and/or infrastructure? I don't know much, maybe, but I feel a heck of a lot safer on the Burke-Gilman, or in the bike lanes on Rte 66... My current commute takes me through Glendora/San Dimas/La Verne/Pomona, and there is a notable difference in my perceived safety when I am in straight traffic (Arrow Highway/White), versus marked bike lanes (part of Rte 66/Foothill).
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Old 10-17-13, 06:25 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Erwin8r View Post
I guess I don't understand the counter-argument--are some of "us" arguing against proper bike lanes and/or infrastructure?
A lot of people in Portland are against bike lanes, and I think they have a good case. I live in the suburbs and I love my bike lanes, especially when they go along the back side of miles of cul-de-sac communities. In the city, however, there are many situations in which bike lanes aren't helpful and actually force cyclists into dangerous situations that they could easily avoid if the bike lane were not there.

For example:



http://goo.gl/maps/kgRhX

If you take a strict interpretation of the Oregon law that cyclists are required to use bike lanes when available (unless making a left turn or to avoid hazardous conditions), you'd say that cyclists must ride in this bike lane. Doing so puts them in the "door zone", exposes them to cars pulling in and out of parking spaces (including several hotel entrances in this stretch of road) and forces them to cross three lanes of traffic if they do want to turn left several blocks up the road. Is this not worse than simply allowing cyclists to occupy one of the three main traffic lanes?

A second example:



http://goo.gl/maps/V2b32

No canned image for this one, but if you click the Google Street View link you'll see a street with the above sign where automobiles turning right are instructed to drive across the bike lane mid-block at the same time that cyclists are shifting left. This one may not be as dangerous as it looks to me, but I still think the situation would be improved if the bike lane weren't there. Sadly, this occurs in the middle of a "buffered bike lane" which is supposed to be an infrastructure innovation.

Example 3, from my own commute:



http://goo.gl/maps/Blqt5

The Street View in this case pre-dates the "improvement" and shows the bike lane following the curb rather than starting at the curb before disappearing and then reappearing on the other side of an automobile lane. This is definitely easier to pull off than it looks, but it's far from comfortable. I'm not sure there is a good solution in this case short of getting rid of the right turn lane (which actually just loops around to effectively approximate a left turn at the intersection seen here).
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Old 10-17-13, 06:53 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by AusTexMurf View Post
The Debate About Bike Infrastructure Has Been Settled
by Angie Schmitt

For decades, cyclists bickered amongst themselves about the efficacy and safety of bike infrastructure. With the proliferation of protected bike lanes in recent years, however, everyone can see that predictions about bike lanes making streets more dangerous for cycling simply didnít come to pass. Network blogger Elly Blue at Taking the Lane says the debate has been settled......

http://streetsblog.net/2013/05/08/th...-been-settled/
I've ridden both of those bike lanes and without queston, you are much safer on them during rush hour. The commters are hardly on the street because it actually made traffic worse!! I could care less because the sidewalks are too narrow and the extra bike path gives you some more room for walking.

I happen to walk the street next to that bike path almost every day and there are loads of cyclist using it for commuting. The only problem is gridlock traffic when cars block the "Box" and often the protected bike lane. Regardless, you are still safter than riding the street.
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Old 10-17-13, 07:21 PM   #9
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I started commuting in the Boston area in 1980 and in NYC in 1990. It's only been in the last 8-10 years or so that infrastructure has been a larger part of my ride. So, having ridden without it and with it I much prefer with it. I won't go into all the reasons as to why.

But between my personal experience with bike infrastructure combined with some substantial statistical evidence I'd say its a success. Is it perfect? No, it can undoubtedly be improved but pronouncements by many have proven unfounded.

I recall a particularly nasty campaign mounted in Cambridge by some "bike experts", who embarrassed themselves by handing out fliers at the inauguration of a new bike path by labeling it a death trap that will lead to multiple deaths and injuries on a regular basis. Well, it's been ten years or so since that prediction and riders have been safely and contentedly using the path ever since.

Not interested in arguing my point of view here in the Commuting Forum I'll save that for A&S- I have no wish to sully the integrity of Commuting threads with petty bickering over something that, for so many of us, has been such a positive.

I am very thankful to the efforts of those who have worked so hard to make so much of this infrastructure a reality.
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Old 10-17-13, 07:22 PM   #10
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A lot of people in Portland are against bike lanes, and I think they have a good case.
Oregon also has moronic laws for cars: they're not allowed to pull into the bike lane to make a right turn, but have to turn across the bike lane.
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Old 10-17-13, 09:02 PM   #11
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Are there infrastructure changes that enhance the safety and efficacy of cycling? Of course. Do all of the changes that have been tried fit into this category? Of course not. It is worse than useless to make sweeping generalizations about "cycling infrastructure" as though there is only one flavor.

For example, a protected lane, even grade-separated, may be an excellent implementation if it is wide enough for its anticipated use and doesn't have cross streets or driveways every few hundred meters and if it is implemented in such a way as to solve, or at least mitigate, the intersection conflicts that come with these nonstandard builds. (Such things as no right on red and giving the bike way intersection priority through either signal timing or sensors can go a long way.) However, squeeze one of those into a street full of driveways and 100 meter blocks and you've got a formula for real problems.

It's the same deal with bike lanes. If they are adequately wide, kept clear of debris, aren't placed in the door zone and handle the intersections well (either ending the bike lane 100 feet prior to intersections without right turn lanes or striping them right up to the limit line with the right turn lane "appearing" to the right of them, which clearly designates the bike lane as the thru lane and lets the turning traffic know they must change lanes and yield to the bike lane they are crossing), then they are great. Miss any of those details, and they can be far worse than nothing.

I guess I see us as a long way from the end of this discussion. We need to continue to press our politicians and engineers to get rid of bad, dangerous infrastructure (of all sorts) and replace it with good infrastructure and to not think that labeling the infrastructure as "bike-specific" is the same as making it good.
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Old 10-17-13, 09:03 PM   #12
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I think the pronouncement was meant to be cheaky. Still, I like bike lanes, and improved infrastructure in general. Sadly, I think a lot of it is stupid, and would be a lot better if it were done my way.

Last edited by CommuteCommando; 10-18-13 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 10-17-13, 09:06 PM   #13
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Oregon also has moronic laws for cars: they're not allowed to pull into the bike lane to make a right turn, but have to turn across the bike lane.
I suppose Oregon will finally change their crazy law after Arizona joins the other forty-eight states and leaves us as the only outlier. Even after thirteen years here, I still find it odd. It also encourages a lot of passing on the right by cyclists at intersections, with the full blessing of the law and the absolute right-of-way. My heart is regularly in my throat as I watch these interactions.
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Old 10-17-13, 09:11 PM   #14
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I think it has everything to do with WHICH lane; in Philly some lanes are terrific and some are dangerous. The downtown lanes are often plagued by double parking and sudden, confusing changes/mergers. The lanes on larger arteries are GREAT. A well planned lane is a definite advantage, but not all of them are. There are roads I now avoid because they have poorly planned lanes.
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Old 10-17-13, 09:33 PM   #15
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I'm a big fan of bike lanes done right, such as this one from my commute:



By contrast, there are others closer to home that are worse than useless because they suddenly end, forcing anybody riding on them to swerve out into traffic to avoid crashing into a tree or sign. As another poster mentioned, some streets are good candidates for bike lanes while others are not.
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Old 10-17-13, 09:58 PM   #16
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I don't think you can generalize. It depends on the street and the rider. On some streets, it is safer for all riders to be in the bike lane, than in the traffic lanes. On other streets, a confident, fast rider is safer with car traffic, but a slow, less experienced rider is safer in the bike lane. And some bike lanes are a lot better than others, the difference often coming down to available road width and available money. Not every bike lane is a narrow strip of rutted doorzone clogged with taxis and delivery vans, and fewer are physically separated boulevards with signalized crossings.

In a city like Portland, the strong confident rider can already cycle on most - not all - city streets in tolerable safety. That is due to a combination of sheer numbers of bikes, drivers who are mostly sensitized to bikes, car speeds that are mostly sane, and just enough bike lanes that are basic but better than nothing. So the target user of new bike infrastructure here is not so much the strong confident riders, but the beginning, slower, inexperienced rider. Basically, imagine granny who rides 10 mph on the bike path, or little Jimmy who just turned 9.

I think that for granny or Jimmy, a good bike lane is a lot better than dodging cars in the traffic lane; a marginal bike lane is still better than dodge-car; a physically separated bike path is great. Frankly, if you tell them "bike infrastructure is dangerous, ride in the traffic" they just won't ride.
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Old 10-17-13, 10:04 PM   #17
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A few weeks ago, I waited to turn left in Manhattan while driving my car. I waited for someone in the bike lane (on the left side of the street I was on) to pass me. He yelled THANK YOU to me!
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Old 10-17-13, 10:09 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jyl View Post
I don't think you can generalize. It depends on the street and the rider. On some streets, it is safer for all riders to be in the bike lane, than in the traffic lanes. On other streets, a confident, fast rider is safer with car traffic, but a slow, less experienced rider is safer in the bike lane. And some bike lanes are a lot better than others, the difference often coming down to available road width and available money. Not every bike lane is a narrow strip of rutted doorzone clogged with taxis and delivery vans, and fewer are physically separated boulevards with signalized crossings.

In a city like Portland, the strong confident rider can already cycle on most - not all - city streets in tolerable safety. That is due to a combination of sheer numbers of bikes, drivers who are mostly sensitized to bikes, car speeds that are mostly sane, and just enough bike lanes that are basic but better than nothing. So the target user of new bike infrastructure here is not so much the strong confident riders, but the beginning, slower, inexperienced rider. Basically, imagine granny who rides 10 mph on the bike path, or little Jimmy who just turned 9.

I think that for granny or Jimmy, a good bike lane is a lot better than dodging cars in the traffic lane; a marginal bike lane is still better than dodge-car; a physically separated bike path is great. Frankly, if you tell them "bike infrastructure is dangerous, ride in the traffic" they just won't ride.
Excellent analysis!
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Old 10-17-13, 10:10 PM   #19
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Oregon also has moronic laws for cars: they're not allowed to pull into the bike lane to make a right turn, but have to turn across the bike lane.
I actually like that law.
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Old 10-17-13, 10:34 PM   #20
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So the target user of new bike infrastructure here is not so much the strong confident riders, but the beginning, slower, inexperienced rider. Basically, imagine granny who rides 10 mph on the bike path, or little Jimmy who just turned 9.

I think that for granny or Jimmy, a good bike lane is a lot better than dodging cars in the traffic lane; a marginal bike lane is still better than dodge-car; a physically separated bike path is great. Frankly, if you tell them "bike infrastructure is dangerous, ride in the traffic" they just won't ride.
And yet, the only place I've really seen much of Jimmy and his grandma over the last several decades is on totally segregated bike paths and a bit on very quiet residential streets. They don't seem to venture out on the sidepaths (grade separated bike paths on multi-lane streets; often kind of a sidewalk) or cycletracks. It could be the lack of complete connections that is holding them back, or it could be that these implementations aren't as attractive to them as their proponents claim, or something else or both.
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Old 10-17-13, 11:10 PM   #21
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I see granny and Jimmy on the MUP along the Willamette, the Springwater MUP, and the 205 MUP. And, as you say, in quiet residential neighborhoods. I sometimes see them on Ankeny, a bike street. My son has been riding a bike to school since he was 11, on side streets. It is a start. But we have a long way to go.
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Old 10-17-13, 11:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
A few weeks ago, I waited to turn left in Manhattan while driving my car. I waited for someone in the bike lane (on the left side of the street I was on) to pass me. He yelled THANK YOU to me!
That is a good reminder. I think I will try to thank, wave at, smile at one driver a day, from now on. Just basic P.R..
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Old 10-18-13, 12:16 AM   #23
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Old 10-18-13, 01:07 AM   #24
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that's what passes for infrastructure over there?

and a little part of me inside just died.
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Old 10-18-13, 05:07 AM   #25
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Whenever ANYONE says "the debate has been settled" you know for sure that they are lying 100% of the time and rather are trying to stifle dissent by that statement. Basically trying to implement the old Soviet definition of "peace" which is "the total lack of any remaining resistance."

I don't care what the topic is, once someone uses that phrase you know what the game is. Not even worth talking with them usually because its like trying to "teach a pig to sing" (you waste your time and annoy the pig).
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