(LTBL:Chap 1) The Problem: Bike Facilities and One-Eyed Prophets
It breaks your heart. You try your best to make the world a better place for bicycling. And what is your worst obstacle? It’s not the entrenched motoring establishment, not skeptical planners and politicians, and not lack of public understanding and support. You find that your stiffest opposition comes from a most disheartening source: other bicycle advocates.
Different cyclists have different reasons for bicycling and different beliefs about what makes bicycling safe and fun. Some speed through city streets, keeping pace with heavy traffic. Some saunter along village sidewalks. Some prefer to drive their cars to the country or to a trail to ride where traffic is scarce. Some cycle solo, others join clubs and pedal in packs. Some ride for fun and exercise, others just to get somewhere. Being such a mixed lot, bicyclists naturally have their differences over how transportation planning should serve bicycling—and who it should serve.
Depending on your viewpoint, the Lycra-clad “advanced” cyclists represent the keepers of ultimate knowledge and wisdom about bicycling, or they comprise a cadre of athletic elitists who are out of touch with the wants and needs of the bicycling masses (in so far as there is such a thing as bicycling masses). Adherents of these opposing views have wrangled for decades over what to do, or not do, for bicyclists. The wrangling continues.
Bruce Epperson (1994), a senior transportation planner in Miami, Florida, says that the “elitists” who oppose facilities such as bike paths and bike lanes selfishly ignore those who need bicycle transportation most:
One reason bicycle planning is so messy is that, like many technologies, nearly every type of bicycle facility has both good and bad attributes. Neil Postman (1993) has examined how we, as a culture, have trouble dealing with technology’s dual nature:
In Listening to Prozac, Peter Kramer describes insights into depression and the biochemistry of the human mind that the medical community has gained from patients who have been put on Prozac, despite the ethical controversy surrounding that popular antidepressant. Like Prozac, bike lanes have been described as immoral emotional bandages that remove incentive for true knowledge and healing. Also like Prozac, bike lanes have been heralded as minimum-side-effect wonder remedies for all sorts of illusive ailments. In the spirit of Listening, I have tried to step out of the bike-lane fray to see what insights we might gain from our experience with these popular facilities.
To be as fair to the reader as possible, I will say right here and now that I am not an impartial observer of the bike lane saga. I am wary of bike lanes, to say the least. Nevertheless, I recognize that, as Postman puts it, “it is inescapable that every culture must negotiate with technology, whether it does so intelligently or not.” This paper is a quest for intelligent negotiation.
The next two chapters look at some of the car-bike crash statistics that people use to paint scientific-sounding facades on their arguments. The chapters after that cover bicyclist behavior. One describes what some prominent bicycling advocates consider to be ideal behavior. The other shows the ways cyclists more commonly get around in the real world. Next, a brief introduction to environmental design concepts precedes two chapters that examine the ways that physical settings affect bicyclist behavior and motorist-bicyclist interactions; the second of these chapters focuses on bike lanes and alternative bike lane designs.
The final chapter summarizes conclusions drawn from the preceding chapters and includes a list of recommendations for bicycle transportation advocates and planners. These are philosophical recommendations, not warrants for what kind of facility to use where. This is not an engineering guide, but rather a guide to help advocates and planners come to terms with the complexities and contradictions of bicycle transportation and to avoid the seductive, yet simplistic, path of the one-eyed prophet.
This paper mostly discusses issues related to bike lanes. But I intend that these issues illustrate a larger topic: the many ways in which bicycle transportation advocates, planners, engineers, and researchers fall prey to one-eyed beliefs. Perhaps because the bicycle seems like a most simple vehicle, perhaps because the act of bicycling is widely regarded as the quintessential example of something that learned once is learned for life, perhaps because of human nature not at all unique to bicycling, for some reason there seems to be a strong tendency among people who get involved in bicycle issues to want to reduce the entire field to a few simple solutions, often to a single, simple solution. I intend to show that bicycling’s simplicity is an illusion, that integrating bicycles into a environment dominated by fast and powerful motor vehicles is complicated business. My hope is that by seeing how even so-called experts on bicycle transportation limit their perspectives with dogmatic blinders, the reader will more likely approach bicycle issues with a fresh and open mind. In the end, this paper describes the state of our current understanding of bicycle issues. Those who want concrete solutions to specific problems may be disappointed to find that this paper is more about questioning answers than answering questions. I believe that the most important step toward moving beyond one-eyed prophecy is to realize that many bicycle transportation questions are far from closed.
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) has compelled transportation planners to give more weight to bicycle issues. This has created new opportunities for planning and funding bicycle facilities. But it has also made squabbles between bicycle advocates more public. At the same time, it has brought more non-bicyclists and more less-experienced bicyclists into the arena. I believe we will need minds that are not fettered by one-eyed dogma if we wish to make the best of the resulting cacophony of ideas. The alternatives are a bicyclist community so fragmented that it carries little clout or spawns projects planned and implemented with tunnel vision.
i hope you aren't just going to post a 15 year old essay wholesale into the forum, Barry. let others read it, and excerpt valuable tidbits, but posting a lengthy article verbatim without any of your personal commentary seems both an insult to the forum readers and contemporary bike planning.
this stuff is from a nearly two decade old perspective. bikeway planning HAS moved 'beyond the bikelanes' so to speak and beyond these false dichotomies that jeffery chooses to overemphasize in his moderately worthwhile treatise.
I've read it before, and i suspect some of the rest of the readers of the VC forum have also. its not new news, its not current and it does not reflect the current on the ground situation in america bike design guidance today. maybe he helped planners think beyond the bikelanes but its only mildly worthy today.
what do the rest of you think of Jeff Hiles 1996 treatise? interesting yet another transportation professional (Bruce Epperson from Miami as mentioned in the post) is ALSO critical of the elite vc anti-facilities crowd!
The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities is over a decade old and VC is older yet, so while there is some validity to your complaint about the age but on the other hand some things do not change that fast. So peoples thoughts on what's current and what's not I thought would be interesting or at least proved some entertainment in the VC section.
So far what I have posted is more or less just setting the stage for what's coming up. In the last thread a subject came up that I did not anticipate and maybe I will learn a thing or two in this and future posts. But anyway I think getting planners away from thinking just about minimum recommendations in AASHTO and more in line with VC is still a worthwhile goal. One thing we have been talking about locally is getting more flexible with sharrow placement.
FWIW This well be the most verbose op in this series.
should i start posting the FHWA design guidance for bicycle facilities wholesale into the VC forum?
you really should post the link and highlighted excerpts, not the article verbatim.
The perspective from the national academy of the sciences report to the transportation research board on planning for bicycles in an attempt to move beyond the false dichotomy overemphasized by hiles. 'A complicated business' - how understated of him.
"Bicycling has been a form of human transportation for hundreds of years and remains a
healthy and enjoyable alternative to today’s primarily automobile-centric transportation
patterns. Before the invention of the automobile, the League of American Wheelmen led
efforts to develop and improve America’s roadways, leading to our modern system of roads
and highways. Bicycle safety problems have a long history in the United Stated, dating back
to 1896 when a motor vehicle collided with a bicycle on a New York City Street—the first
recorded automobile crash. More than a century later, safety continues to be a primary
concern for modern bicyclists, with the challenges of traffic congestion, increasing distances
between destinations, larger vehicles, and higher speeds.
Bicyclists are recognized as legitimate roadway users. The Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) bicycle program provides guidance on numerous issues which include examples
of statutory language emphasizing that bicyclists are part of the transportation system and
concludes that bicyclists “should be included as a matter of routine” in the planning, design,
and operation of transportation facilities (FHWA, 1999). The American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) notes that bicycle use is recognized as “a
viable transportation mode,” and that “All highways, except those where cyclists are legally
prohibited, should be designed and constructed under the assumption that they will be used
by cyclists” (AASHTO, 1999). With any roadway facility a potential bicycle facility, it is
important to understand and accommodate bicyclists.
The safety interests of bicyclists are sometimes in conflict with the interests of motorists. This
conflict arises primarily from the substantially different characteristics of the two modes of
transportation. Although bicycles can be ridden on most types of roads, the design interests
of accommodating higher motor vehicle traffic volumes and speeds during peak hour
congestion may create conditions that are less safe for bicyclists. This guide includes road
treatments, countermeasures, and other options that support a balanced transportation
Safety concerns can significantly influence a person’s decision to bicycle for transportation
or recreation. Bicyclists inherently understand that they are vulnerable road users. However,
understanding bicyclist safety issues has proven difficult for engineers, planners, and facility
designers. Traditionally, safety problems have been identified by analyzing police crash
reports, and improvements have been made only after crashes have occurred. Such methods
are not sufficient to fully understand and effectively address bicyclist safety concerns;
waiting for crashes before responding with countermeasures carries a high price because
many bicycle crashes tend to be severe."
Almost all the threads I've started, start with a quoted article and no comment from me (initially.) Not to mention other have also used this style. And now you complain about the style? Become a mod so you can boss others around otherwise if you don't like it don't participate.
its a post of a 15 year old article verbatim into the forum, dude!
You don't think its a bit over the top if you want to have a discussion about Jeffery Hiles dated piece, listening to bike lanes?
I'm not trying to boss you around, i'm suggesting using widely accepted, near universal standards when using a source of others peoples work.
excerpts, not verbatim wholesale cut and paste.
fine. my rebuttal to jeffery hiles dated piece where he overemphasizes the dichotomy between facilities advocates and vehicular cycling advocates -
the FHWA has moved beyond the feud
Reducing the number and severity of collisions involving bicyclists requires strategies that are
targeted towards addressing the main factors that lead to collisions. Based on what is known
about bicycle-related crashes, the following objectives—targeted both toward locations where
crashes occur as well as toward the causal factors of crashes—are most likely to reduce the
number and/or severity of crashes:
• Reduce bicycle crashes at intersections
• Reduce bicycle crashes along roadways
• Reduce motor vehicle speeds
• Reduce bicycle crashes at midblock crossings
• Improve safety awareness and behavior
• Increase use of bicycle safety equipment
• Reduce influence of hazards
Each of these strategies can be accomplished through a variety of the 23 individual strategies
(i.e., treatments) presented in Exhibit I-3.Most strategies will work best when used at multiple
locations, so that they become standard and expected by roadway users, and in combination
with other treatments, so that multiple causal factors are addressed.
In addition, many of the strategies may help accomplish more than one single objective. It is
important for transportation professionals and others charged with improving conditions for
bicyclists to choose the right combination of treatments to accomplish the maximum desired
effect with the available resources.
Finally, those involved in transportation engineering, planning, design, education, and safety
should be aware of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs as a potential comprehensive
technique for improving the transportation safety for children traveling to and from school.
SRTS programs are comprehensive programs that involve making safety-related changes to the built environment, implementing extensive child bicyclist (and pedestrian) safety education,
and increasing traffic law enforcement around schools. SRTS programs are also intended to
increase the number of children walking or bicycling to school, so programs usually include
encouragement components as well. More about SRTS, including the full range of
comprehensive activities and projects, information about selecting appropriate activities, and
evaluation strategies can be learned from the National SRTS Clearinghouse (established by
the U.S. Department of Transportation) at: http://www.saferoutesinfo.org.
Recent practitioner experience indicates that multi-faceted approaches are more effective
in achieving desired program outcomes, including creating safer walking environments
(Zegeer et al., 2004), meeting public health goals (Schieber and Vegega, 2002), and increasing
walking and bicycling to school (Raborn and Toole, 2006; FHWA, 2006). Although similar
research has not yet been applied to bicycling-specific outcomes, it logically follows that
what works for safe walking and increasing physical activity will also work for creating
safer bicycling environments. Many bicycle-related safety problems cannot be solved simply
by addressing one of the “three Es” (i.e., engineering, education, or enforcement) without
also addressing the others. Engineers, planners, law enforcement officers, designers,
teachers, public officials, and citizens should all play a role in identifying problems and
planning and implementing effective countermeasures and programs for improving
Particular attention should be paid to education. Skill levels vary widely within the bicycling
community. Novice riders may only feel comfortable on slow-speed, neighborhood streets
or off-street paths. Children may be more confident and want to bicycle to explore their
environment, but may also lack the skills and experience to ride safely under varying
conditions. Effective and sustained education programs, often neglected by transportation
agencies that focus on engineering solutions, can significantly improve safe riding behavior
for all bicyclists.
Bicycle safety issues should be addressed using proactive measures. Many of the solutions that
work for proactive pedestrian safety activities should also work for bicyclists. For example,
planners can host interactive public workshops, survey bicyclists and other roadway or
facility users, and talk with police and traffic engineers to identify safety issues in an area
before crashes occur (Zegeer et al., 2004). Bicyclist safety, both actual and perceived, and the
provision of appropriate infrastructure, will influence how many people will ride, as well as
the number and types of bicyclist crashes that will occur.
Finally, in making any decisions about program or countermeasure implementation, the
special characteristics and needs of the targeted population should be considered. This is
especially true with respect to education or enforcement interventions, but even road signs
and pavement markings can be affected. People of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds,
non-English speaking populations, those with physical impairments, and even children
and the elderly may necessitate modifications to the countermeasures to ensure that
improvements reach their intended audience and have the desired safety benefits.
i'd recommend the future use of excerpts in your next post about jeffery hiles if you want to be able to actually have a conversation about the dated information contained in listening to bikelanes.
its the 21st century now, FHWA design guidance and planning for bicycles in the transportation mix has already moved beyond the feud. Some of the particulars against thoughtful planning for road and highway bike traffic have not.
Highlighting crash types over the behavior that has lead up to the crash misses a huge body of understanding and potential fixes. For example we find a section of road with a huge number ROR events, so we fix that problem and then the death toll goes up on that road after the fix. If people would have taken the time to examine that the behavior was the result of drunk driving and when you prevent a drunk from running off the road, odds are they'll just hit someone on the road instead. Fixing the crash type does not always lead to fixing a problem or correcting behavior.
I will agree there is potential to interpret FHWA design guidance so it is in the 21st century but the kicker is there is also the potential to propagate the same old issues that are discussed in this paper. There is no requirement to force "the best interpretation" of FHWA design guidance. There is no requirement to even use the FHWA guidance, in fact some States write their own guidance.
The title of the companion discussion is Moving Beyond the Feud. That's real easy. Have bicycle advocates get the three anti-cyclist restrictive laws (whichever exist in each jurisdiction) repealed. Then those of us who know better won't be under the official persecution when we choose not to use the facilities advocated by bicycle advocates.
that tired canard?
how about recognizing that bicycle specific protections from bikes FRAP laws are more permissive for bicyclists than general SMV FRAP laws, and that a removal of these protections would lead to greater restrictions on cyclists.
Mandatory bikelane and shoulder use laws should be fought against. luckily there are in only a handful of states.
Bikeways planning needs to follow and develop in the directions 21st century design guidance (federal or states, barry) already has.
Build better bikeways along emphasized transportation corridors in communities so as to facilitate populist bicycling.
Plan for roadway bicycling on all roads except those bicyclists are prohibited.
Plan for all of the public rather than just the traffic tolerant 'expert' cyclists in a community, as they are both traffic tolerant and will always be the extreme minority.
"No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding." - Plato
If motorist and police did not order me to ride on the sidewalk (which is against the law) then I would say changing the law might have some merit otherwise I feel we need to look to other methods to better the understanding.
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