Indyv8a asks: "Are the goals of "separate facilities" and "vehicular cycling" mutually exclusive?"
Unfortunately, I think so. The goal of the vehicular cycling movement is for those who choose to cycle to operate competently and safely. The goal of the separate facilities movement is to persuade a transportationally significant proportion of motorists to use bicycle transportation for a transportationally significant proportion of trips.
The different goals produce different strategies.
VC works largely on the pattern of the standard industrial safety program. It looks at physical items (facilities, bicycles, cars), operating procedures (rules of the road), operator skills (driving skills), accidents (type, frequency, cause), to produce remedial measures. It also works as a standard transportation program, looking at how bicycle transportation can best be used and making recommendations about improvements to the road system.
The separate facilities movement looks to what would most strongly persuade motorists to take up bicycling, and has concluded that bike lanes and bike paths are the strongest available motivators.
These two different strategies and ways of operating produce conflicting results.
The VC movement has concluded that the best program for the welfare of cyclists is instruction in cycling according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. Associated with that instructional program there has to be public advocacy of what has been forgotten in America, that cyclists should operate according to the rules of the road and such operation should be accepted and accommodated.
The separate facilities movement advocates bike lanes and bike paths because the typical American believes that these facilities make cycling safe for him or her without having to learn the supposedly difficult and dangerous art of vehicular cycling. Innumerable surveys of public opinion demonstrate this. The typical American believes that these facilities make cycling safe and easy by providing protection against same-direction motor traffic. Indeed, these facilities look as though they provide such protection, and they probably do so to a considerable extent.
These two different strategies and results conflict in ways physical, operational, instructional, political, and philosophical. I discuss bike lanes here because bike paths have a different set of problems. The bike lane operating principle is that cyclists stay to the right of the stripe while motorists stay to the left of the stripe. However, there are many occasions, unpredictable at design time, in which the rules of the road require the opposite positioning and the movements to reach it. It should be obvious that violating the rules of the road creates conflicting movements that increase the risk of collision. Nobody has been able to design a bike-lane system that eliminates such conflicts, and geometry provides good reasons why such a design is not practical.
Operationally, the same conundrum arises. Both cyclists and motorists are faced with bike-lane stripes that tell them that, for reasons of cyclist safety, cyclists should be to the right of the stripe while motorists should stay to the left of the stripe. However, both motorists and cyclists are also faced with the safety need and legal obligation of obeying the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. Which does each obey, when, and why? All managers of operations in potentially dangerous processes, be they military, railroad, aircraft operation, chemical refineries, mining, or whatever else, all agree that conflicting instructions often lead to disasters. Furthermore, analysis of collision statistics and the rules of the road demonstrates that bike-lanes cannot make cycling safe and easy, and the confusion they cause may increase collisions.
The two different strategies produce instructional conflicts also. The vehicular cycling movement holds that changing from the typically incompetent cycling to vehicular cycling produces a large reduction in crashes, based on several different groups of crash statistics. Vehicular cycling instruction also teaches that the cyclist should ignore the bike-lane stripe and ride properly, that the bike-lane stripe does not provide protection and ought to be considered insignificant, except to the extent that most motorists, being not as well-instructed in cycling matters as is a trained vehicular cyclist, are more likely to be confused by the stripe and, therefore, are more likely to make driving mistakes that the cyclist has to watch out for. On the contrary, the separate facilities movement relies on the public superstition that such facilities enable safe cycling without further instruction in vehicular cycling. The separate facilities advocates disapprove of the need for vehicular-cycling instruction because they see it as an impediment to getting more motorists out of their cars.
The two different strategies produce political conflict also. The separate facilities advocates want government to provide bike lanes and bike paths while downplaying the need for instruction and the need to obey the rules of the road. The vehicular cycling advocates want government to improve the roads in the ways beneficial to vehicular cyclists, to accept that cyclists are obliged to operate according to the rules of the road, to base law enforcement on that basis, and to provide some official imprimatur for instruction in vehicular cycling.
jAs for philosophical considerations, the two could not be more different. One advocates operation in the ways appropriate for roads, while the other advocates operation in a childish manner. One goes for safety and competence, the other for incompetence and danger. One accepts that bicycle transportation in America is likely to be only a small part of urban personal transportation, while the other bases its strategy on the hope that bicycle transportation will make a major difference in American personal urban transportation.
You state that "Separate facilities are generally needed only on higher speed and volume arterials." On what analysis do you base your statement? What is the traffic-engineering basis for this statement?
You state that: "Cycling conditions are also substantially different in older 'pre-automobile' urban areas and newer 'post-automobile' suburban areas, so a 'one-size fits all' solution is nearly impossible to arrive at." Under what conditions is another operating system better than vehicular cycling? Please describe that system.
Sure is a lot to think about before we ride our bikes.
I would be happy in my city if they paved a few major roads properly (smooth and wide), kept them clean, and enforced drunk driving laws aggressively. Then, install a Whack-a-mole game at every DMV. You walk in, and BEFORE you even take a number for service, you should have to reach a decent score on the game before being allowed to even THINK about getting an operators license to drive a motor vehicle. If you have no hand-eye coordination, catch a bus.
As for separate bike lanes. No thanks. That typically reinforces the notion that we do not belong on the road. The few we have where I live are full of broken glass and never get cleaned, yet I am expected to use them.
"For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY
Although I'd like nothing better than to have all drivers treat cyclists with respect and give us the same consideration on the road; (since we're basically required to comply with the same rules and regulations) that's not going to happen in my lifetime.
Given the choice of fighting for road rights and fighting for BL's, I've chosen the BL path. BL's may not be needed everywhere...there are no absolutes. It's just makes more sense, to me, to try to improve conditions for cycling in a way that has shown progress.
VC may be the ultimate right way to ride but it offers nothing 'tangible' to fight for for improvement.
Indyv8a, of course the goals of separate facilities and vehicular cycling do not need to be mutually exclusive. You're right- better facilities, better cyclists and better drivers is the goal of many of us. But we've been labelled a "separate facilities movement" if we support some bike lanes and paths- wow! now I'm part of a movement I didn't even know I was a member of because I think that separate facilities are sometimes appropriate!
But keeping it divisive, contentious and as dogmatic as possible keeps these threads far more entertaining than genuine honest and open dialogue that brings us to consensus. Pronouncing these things as polarizing concepts is much more fun for those with a strong desire to be right 100% of the time.
Besides, the motorists that facilities are supposed to be attracting to bicycling theoretically already have operators licenses and know the rules of the road, right? they are not childish, and they know exactly what the risks and benefits of operating a bicycle in traffic are, and they want facilities because they know how motorists typically behave from their own driving experience, and they don't trust them.
Why the Foresterologists are against more motorist education is completely beyond me. Portland is now 'educating' motorists with 'bike boxes'. Personally, I agree with the education part but disagree with the intent and design of the facility being installed in this case.
Last edited by randya; 03-24-08 at 12:26 AM.
bike lanes are not sidewalks nor are they 'seperate' facilities, most are integrated into the road grid, better ones are wider, swept, buffered, and accomodating of right turning traffic at major intersections.
As an assertive, lane splitting vehicular cyclist I create my own 'bike box' but my technique helps no one but myself; however, well implemented bike infrastructure can assist both the diehard vc and the more casual (but still competent) cyclist.