Well, seems there is a lot of interesting debate going on concerning VC.
I would first like to say that for the most part it appears that most of you at least agree that cyclists don't have a right to run red lights. Stop signs seem to be a little more "loose" with at least a few thinking that a cyclist only need to slow down (parent A&S forum). Up here in Montana we call that "Californian-ing a Stop Sign" and it is usually motorists that do it (Apparently Montanan’s are trying to say something about the driving habits of those that learned to drive in that other state).
Long story short, there is not very much "infrastructure" for cycling up here. There are a select few big path routes positioned and suitable for commuter use which almost laughably have a few stretches with the pavement laid down but apparently they ran out of money to build the bridges over the streams and rivers so they just dead end on either side of the river bank and you have to “cross country” up to the regular road to use that bridge to cross over. There is every great once in a while also a bike lane that is basically just some extra paint added to the existing shoulder of the road labeling that area as the bike lane.
Our state law code does require bicyclists to FRAP while using the highways if they are unable to match the speed of traffic with the usual list of exceptions and does require “safe passing” for motorists going around bicyclists.
So, now that I have set the stage as far as the physical and legal environment. My biggest and most serious complaint is that the significant majority of cyclists in my own personal observations of at least the areas where I ride have nearly zero respect for the rules of the road. To date I have never seen another cyclist stop at a stop sign unless they would be committing suicide not to do so and they are stopping to not get run over not because of the stop sign. If no one is coming (or more correctly they think no one is coming) the other way they run right through; they do not even slow down. What gets even scarier is that about half maybe a just a little less then half do the exact same thing with red lights not just stop signs.
It gets worse, there are a few, two of which in my local area I know as regular repeat offenders to the point where I know what they look like and what bikes they ride that do “kamikaze runs” with both stop signs and red lights forcing motorists to brake and let them through sometimes severe braking and or skidding emergency type stops. Of course there are also plenty that ride on the wrong side of the road, the scary part is that I have witnessed a few cases where they were riding on the wrong side of the road and were not curb hugging but right out in the road (in light traffic obviously or they would be squashed pancakes).
There is part of me that doesn’t care that they misbehave to such utter and down right disgusting extents since sooner or later they are going to pay dearly for their misbehavior on the wrong end of a motor vehicle bumper, their problem not mine. The reality of the situation is though that they tick off the motorists and make the motorists hate cyclists and then I get to bear the brunt of the ensuing road rage as well even though I choose to behave myself (okay I might slip up a little bit every now and again but I don’t run red lights and stop signs or ride on the wrong side of the road and play chicken with oncoming traffic).
I personally think that both VC and FRAP cyclists do have valid points and that which method of riding is preferred and provides the best overall benefits for both cyclists and motorists depends considerably on the specific road conditions under which one is riding.
For me personally, in almost all in town roads in 25mph or lower speed zones I use the VC cycling method with the considerably rare exception of roadways that are wide enough to ride FRAP without putting myself in the “door opening danger zone.” Under these conditions I have no problem keeping up with the flow of traffic, in fact I am a little too good at it and have to keep myself from tailgating the person in front of me since I have already had one at fault collision where I rear ended a motorist in traffic when I was following too closely and they stopped suddenly. I used to even occasionally switch to the left hand land to pass slower moving motor traffic in the right hand lane, but have stopped doing that even though it slows me down because even though it is completely legal if I really am moving faster then they are it tends to upset some motorists when they get passed by a bicyclists and they can respond by speeding up after you have passed them and now are tailgating you.
But, on the high speed roadways I absolutely ride FRAP not VC unless it is a narrow roadway without a shoulder which are roads I only cycle on if absolutely necessary and will choose an alternate route if at all possible. I’m sorry if this gets under some of the VC guys skin but there is no way in hell the average cyclist riding the average cycle under human power only or even electric and motor assisted cyclists has the slightest chance in of keeping up with the flow of traffic on a high speed roadway with motor traffic zipping along at speeds of 55 to 75 mph. If you are out in the roadway, and especially if it is a two lane road you are going to p*ss the living h_ll out of the motorists and sooner or later your going to p*ss off the wrong one and they are going to kill you.
For riding on roadways with high speed traffic my most preferred situation is a road that has a wide shoulder on both edges with “rumble strips” just on the outside edge of the white line but not quite wide enough for motor vehicles to park in. In my opinion the shoulder area of such roads are the best possible places to cycle on a roadway with high speed motor traffic. That nice wide shoulder keeps me safely out of the way of traffic and they appreciate that which ultimately is good for me. In addition it allows me to avoid most problems with traffic entering and exiting the main highway from side roads and driveways since my position on the shoulder of the highway makes me more visible and allows me to safely assert my right of way along with the main flow of motor vehicle traffic without unduly p*sssing off the motorists that are entering and exiting the highway from side roads since there is much less confusion about who has the right of way as is encountered when a bicycle path that is separated from the main roadway intersects a side road especially if the bicycle path across the side road isn’t marked with paint on the roadway like a pedestrian cross walk (most aren’t). The significant benefit of having rumble strips separating you from the high speed motor traffic is often overlooked. Those rumble strips are a life saver for a cyclist that rides on the shoulder of a high speed highway, sometimes literally. A motorist that for whatever reason accidently strays out of their lane onto the shoulder area (fatigue, cell phone, distraction, etc . . . ) will be instantly alerted to their error when their tire hits those rumble strips and that almost without exception keeps them out of “your” shoulder riding area and out in the main roadway where they belong away from you since an impact even a slight nick on a close pass between a motor vehicle at high speed and a cyclist almost always ends badly for the cyclist. There is also a secondary benefit on your end of the rumble strips on the edge of the roadway serving as an audible early warning system for you as the cyclist when a motor vehicle approaching from behind strays towards you from behind whether their approach be an honest mistake or a deliberate attempt to run you off the road either way you can hear them coming when their tires hit that rumble strip giving you a chance to avoid being hit.
In my personal opinion the best way to build bicycle infrastructure would be to take all high speed roadways (speeds greater then 25mph) and build them with wide shoulders that are marked as being bike lanes with rumble strips in-between the bike lanes and the motor traffic lanes. That is where most of us cyclists who have a brain ride on high speed roadways that have a wide shoulder with rumble strips on the outer edge of the white line so why not just make it official and use a little paint to mark those shoulder areas as bike lanes. Obviously, this would involve widening a few roads that don’t have a shoulder as of present. Not a bad idea anyway. And of course no parking on the sides of those roads parallel or otherwise, even not considering cyclists parking along the sides of high speed roads is a bad idea anyway and an accident waiting to happen between high speed traffic and those pulling into or out of parking spaces.
On all low speed roadways (25mph or less) don’t make any bike lanes and instead put up signs directing cyclists to merge with traffic and for motorists to respect the cyclists as equal users of the roadway, or in other words officialize VC cycling on these low speed roadways. Most importantly in those low speed road areas VC must by officialized to the point of full and complete rules of the road enforcement against cyclists where if a cyclist runs a red light or stop sign they get busted and ticketed for it just like a motorist. Equal rights, equal responsibilities, law equal enforcement for on such low speed roadways where cyclists do have the ability under human power alone to keep up with the flow of traffic no problem.
On the high speed highways with the bike lanes on the shoulder edge divided off by both painted lines on the roadway as well as rumble strips which are an excellent passive defense mechanism for the cyclist. Laws protecting cyclists from motorist entering their lane should be strictly enforced. The legal right for a cyclist to exit the bicycle lane and enter the main roadway in order to enter the left hand turn lane, pass another slower moving cyclist, and/or avoid a problem in the bicycle lane should be preserved. How the bicycle lane is routed through intersections, especially intersections with a right hand turn lane would be very important. It is very dangerous for a cyclist (I know this from personal experience) to hold FRAP on the outer right hand edge of a right hand turn lane and then go straight across the intersection instead of turning right. Motor traffic turning right will not respect you and will side swipe off the road. If you are going to go straight through an intersection with a right hand turn lane when the right and turn lane starts you should proceed straight forward and depending on the width of the traffic lanes either ride with your tires right on top of the white line separating the right hand turning lane from straight through traffic or just inside that white line on the far left side of the right hand turn lane. The idea of course being to make your intention to proceed straight through the intersection clear to other road users and allow motor traffic on both sides of you to either proceed forward straight through the intersection or enter the right hand turn lane and turn right without you preventing them from doing so easily and swiftly and allowing you as the cyclist to maintain your safety and not have problems with being side swiped by motor traffic turning right or those turning onto the main highway not seeing you or not realizing you intend to continue straight through the intersection and coming at you from the side. A couple pictures are worth a couple thousand words and this is how I think the bicycle lanes should be set-up on a high speed highway for a win/win situation for both motorists and cyclists:
The intersection shown is a hypothetical traffic light intersection between a high speed four lane concrete divider highway with both right and left turn turning lanes and a high speed two lane highway without right or left turning lanes. Such high speed highways and such intersections are quite common where I ride. You can see what I am saying about the wide shoulder with the rumble strips between you and traffic being a good place to ride if you are riding FRAP. I can believe you can see what I am saying about the potential of being side swiped by motorists turning right off the main four lane highway if you continue to ride your bicycle on the shoulder when the right hand turning lane starts and you want to go straight across the intersection. Riding on the line between the straight through traffic and the right turn lane being preferable since it separates the two hazards into two steps. Namely the motorists traveling in the same direction as you are who want to turn off the road to the right. You deal with them and them only when you cross over from riding on the shoulder to riding with your wheels on the line between the through traffic and the right hand turn lane. The second hazard being the opposing traffic turning left in front of you and entering traffic turning onto the four lane taking a “right on red” (your light is green). If you do not take that line through the intersection you have to deal with all of those hazards all at once and usually it is the motorist next to you turning off the road to the right that will get you since they are the least visible to them and they are the least visible to you.
The intersection has been converted to be bicycle friendly in the second picture with only minimal addition of pavement. The shoulders of both roads are now officially marked as bicycle lanes with the rumble strips separating them from motorist traffic. The line I follow to avoid getting side swiped by motorist in the right hand turn lane when I am going straight is now an official bike lane for bicycle through traffic as well as the bicyclists having their own right hand turn lane. In addition just like a freeway ramp entrance system four bike path circles have been added to the four corners of the intersection which allow bicycle traffic to take a left hand turn in two steps when traffic is heavy and they cannot safely cross over to the left hand turn lane. They can simply go straight across the side road and go around the bike path loop and be lined up to go straight across again once the light changes significantly reducing the hazards and confrontations between cyclists and motorists for cyclists who need to make a left hand turn in heavy high speed traffic.
Concerning bike paths (separated from main roadway). I use two of them.
The first runs along a narrow winding high speed two lane road that doesn’t have any shoulder with alternating deep ditches and embankments along both sides and the motor traffic does 55 to 65 mph. The only safe way to ride a bike on that road way would be to “take the lane” otherwise you would be surely forced off the road into a deep ditch or sandwiched up against an embankment wall. That, however, would still be extremely hazardous since because of the way the roadway dips and winds there are many sections of the road where motorists could not slow down in time to keep from running into you even if they wanted to if they are moving at the speeds that traffic moves on that road. Personally, I think the speed limit on that road should be 45 mph maximum and strictly enforced just for the safety of the motorists alone not even considering bicyclists because at the current speed levels people are out driving their visibility distance and ability to brake in time to avoid hitting even a stalled out car on the roadway. Thus I use the bike path that has been built along that roadway although its route differs slightly and sometimes it goes around the other side of the hill then the road does but they both go in the same direction if you need to go out that way. It is missing a bridge in two spots so I do have to use the main roadway bridge to cross over. In my personal opinion trying to VC on that roadway instead of using the bike path would be suicidal.
The second runs through the edge of a park inside city limits and provides unique access. It does not follow any road but instead cuts through and connects two different parts of the town that to travel between by roadway would mean a couple extra miles of travel distance. That bike path is heavily used for the obvious reason that it provides a unique shortcut not offered by the conventional roadway network, unfortunately, many pedestrians use it as well (more on this later).
There are two bike paths that I refuse to use and there used to be a third before they tore it out because it was creating more problems then it solved:
The first is a bike path alongside a four lane divided roadway that has a wide shoulder with a rumble strip as previously described above as my preferred place to ride on a high speed highway. The bike path is separated from the roadway and creates several extra intersections where the bike path crosses major roads that connect to the highway creating dangerous conflict points between motorists and cyclists. Riding on the shoulder of the main highway is much better since the motorists coming in and out of those major side roads are much more likely to see you and much less apt to run you down when you are riding on the shoulder of the main roadway instead of on the bike path. In addition that bike path is missing a bridge as well so even those who use it have to come up on the shoulder of the main highway to cross the river.
The second is also along a main high speed highway a five lane highway with middle turning lane that has a wide shoulder with a rumble strip as previously described above as my preferred place to ride on a high speed highway. The bike path is separated from the roadway and once again creates several extra intersections where the bike path crosses major roads that connect to the highway once again creating dangerous conflict points between motorists and drivers where the bike path crosses those major roads that connect with the highway right before the main intersection. In addition, there is a community college campus right in that area and during certain parts of the day that bike path is clogged up with massive numbers of pedestrians who prefer to walk side by side blocking the path and refusing to yield to bicycle traffic and usually verbally assault and sometimes even physically assault bicyclists who are “on their walking path” even though it is clearly labeled as a bike path the same problem to a lesser extent does exist on the path I do use that provides the shortcut mentioned earlier that I still use despite this problem because it provides such an advantage.
The third bike path that used to exist but was torn out had all the problems that I have mentioned previously with both of the paths that still exist that I refuse to use (dangerous traffic conflict points when crossing side roads and militant belligerent pedestrians who insist on walking side by side and taking up the whole path) but with the additional problem that the in town road it ran along side didn’t have a shoulder edge that would allow cycling on the roadway without “taking the lane”. They tore it out and widened the road shoulder instead and labeled the new wide shoulder as a bike lane. An action that was a significant, welcome, and very beneficial improvement and correction of a serious and dangerous mistake in my opinion.
The other two bike paths that still exist are wasted public funds in my opinion and they should have just spent one tenth of the money they cost on paint and turned the shoulders along both sides of those highways into official bike lanes. A wide shoulder with a rumble strip separating it from the main flow of high speed traffic is the best place to ride along a high speed roadway in my opinion as I explained earlier.
In conclusion, with respect, I think in reality for true advocacy we have a lot bigger fish to fry with self policing and educating our fellow cyclists about the most basic rules of the road (red lights, stop signs, and which side of the road to ride on) and VC vs. FRAP along with a lot of other debates that are active and ongoing are secondary to that.
When it does come to what I believe would be the best choice for adapting the road ways to better accommodate cyclists I believe that on low speed roads (25mph and below) where cyclists can keep up with traffic. The policy and the law should be VC all the way. But for high speed highways repainting existing roadways with rumble strips and wide shoulders to make those shoulders officially bicycle lanes is the way to go. And then you need to add rumble strips and a wide shoulder to high speed roads that don’t have them to accommodate the same set-up and then the intersections need to be slightly updated to accommodate these bicycle lanes in the design of the intersection to relieve the conflicts between motorist and cyclists in those intersections.
As for bike paths that are separate but built along the side of existing roadways they do not relieve but rather exasperate the conflicts between motorists and cyclists at the intersections. On roads without intersections or as stand alone paths that don’t follow the roadway, yah, they work fine but when built along existing roads and intersecting side roads just slightly back from the main intersections they create a double intersection which only exasperates conflict between motorists and cyclists at those intersection points.
P.S. ~ Since I know that this section of the forum is mainly a “debate” section and this thread will certainly result in such and create tension. I feel it is important to point out that I am not one of those guys who goes around picking internet fights on forums. I do not enjoy fighting or love a good argument (that would be my woman not me; opposites attract). Normally, I generally shy away from conflict. But on things that are truly important to me I do stand my ground.
I am just making this clear so that I don’t end being seen as the FNG Troll for starting a thread like this when I am so new to this forum.