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  1. #1
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    Will they really come if you build it?

    A few comments that are recurring features here in A&S got me wondering if there really is a direct, provable correlation between building bike-specific infrastructure and people changing their primary means of transportation over to bikes from, well whatever it is noncyclists use. Obviously, completely answering that is a bit beyond my pay grade, to quote a famous person. However, I thought I would start by looking at the city that almost everyone agrees is THE leader in infrastructure building in the U.S., Portland, Oregon, and see how that is going.

    After digging through an immense, if expected, amount of PR, here's where we find ourselves:

    From the U.S. Census American Community Survey, here's the percentage of Portland residents riding bikes to work:
    2006: 4.2%
    2007: 3.9%
    2008: 6.0%
    2009: 5.8%
    2010: 6.0%
    2011: 6.3%
    2012: 6.1%

    Let's put that together with a little something from the Portland city government:
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Anderson, Portland Bureau of Transportation
    Today more than 60% of Portland homes are within a half-mile of a neighborhood bikeway; in 2006, only 29% were.
    Unless this build-out all occurred between 2007 and 2008, there seems to be a flaw in the story the bike infrastructure fans are telling. First of all, after an initial bump from about 4% to 6% between 2006 and 2008 (Great Recession?), there hasn't been any growth in bike use. NONE. ZERO. What happened to build it and they will come? Here's where I find my skeptical self:

    1. Portland built everything in one year, 2007, so the story holds.
    2. There is a cap on bike use that is around 6%. Anything higher is unachievable. This really puts a damper on Portland's plans to get to 25% by 2030.
    3. The "next bin" of riders (thank you Brian Ratliff) needs infrastructure that is closer than a half-mile from their homes in order to ride.
    4. Possibilities 1-3 are garbage. Infrastructure may be helpful, but building more beyond a certain point is barking up the wrong tree. There is some other ingredient missing. (Yes, I've said what I think it is many times here in A&S.)

    What's your story to explain this?

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    I've said form decades that bike infrastructure is (in economics terms) a lagging rather than a leading indicator.

    In plain language, decent numbers of riders lead to infrastructure, but that in turn leads to only marginal changes.

    IMO- what drives urban bicycle use are external factors like economics, demographics and trendiness. Right now we're on the third ripple from the WWII baby boom, so there are larger numbers of young single adults, and young childless couples. This is the age group that is most likely to live downtown and go carless. Some years down the road (no pun) many of these will have kids, move to the burbs, and buy some sort of car.

    Economic factor like a slow (no) real growth economy and high fuel, and insurance costs are also making people delay buying cars. Lastly, while bicycling, especially urban cycling seems cool right now, this has happened before and if history is any guide will blow over to an extent.

    I hate to be so pessimistic, and actually expect that discounting cyclical trends, that cycling will remain a larger part of the urban landscape.

    OTOH- many of the stats being trotted out to show that infrastructure leads to ridership, are only showing a parallel, not causative relationship.

    I might also point out that, like many things, bicycling suffers from the success plants the seeds of failure mode. Greater number of bicyclists, lead to greater numbers of accidents. Actually not only do the number rise, but for a while so do the rates while the percentage of newer riders is higher. These accidents eventually catch the eye of the media who start reporting them creating the illusion of an epidemic. Eventually the message gets out that bicycling is dangerous (despite the fact that as more riders gain experience the accident rate is actually declining) and politicians feel they must do something (doing meaningless unnecessary things is how they get re-elected). Eventually the numbers revert to a more historical level setting the stage for the next generational cycle.

    My only hope is that this particular cycle doesn't reach the point where folks talk seriously of things like helmet regulation.
    Last edited by FBinNY; 12-18-13 at 10:09 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    ...Right now we're on the third ripple from the WWII baby boom, so there are larger numbers of young single adults, and young childless couples. This is the age group that is most likely to live downtown and go carless. Some years down the road (no pun) many of these will have kids, move to the burbs, and buy some sort of car...
    I guess you haven't been to Portland, OR. It's not so much a city as it is a contiguous suburb. Almost all of the residents of Portland are living in the same housing you would see in any bedroom community suburb across the nation, except that some of the housing stock is a bit older than is typical for a suburb in the western U.S. The young adults who seem to comprise a significant percentage of the cyclists in PDX can have their kids, live in suburban houses and not even bother to change addresses from their current locations.

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    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    ..... After digging through an immense, if expected, amount of PR, here's where we find ourselves............
    ..........there hasn't been any growth in bike use. NONE. ZERO. What happened to build it and they will come? Here's where I find my skeptical self:

    1. Portland built everything in one year, 2007, so the story holds.
    2. There is a cap on bike use that is around 6%. Anything higher is unachievable. This really puts a damper on Portland's plans to get to 25% by 2030.
    3. The "next bin" of riders (thank you Brian Ratliff) needs infrastructure that is closer than a half-mile from their homes in order to ride.
    4. Possibilities 1-3 are garbage. Infrastructure may be helpful, but building more beyond a certain point is barking up the wrong tree. There is some other ingredient missing. (Yes, I've said what I think it is many times here in A&S.)

    What's your story to explain this?
    1. It's called the saturation point. It applies to many if not most trends and/or products. No matter how fine, desirable, or valued a product you make... there is a limit to what percentage of the population will buy it. Is the bicycle commuter limited to 6, 8, or 22 percent the population? Honestly... NO ONE knows. But there is a point of saturation... where nothing will cause a continued increase.

    2. Profit centric organizations have been reporting a drop in cycling sales (and use) since the peak of the 2009 great recession. The number I saw was 43 million cyclist in 2009 down to 39 million in 2012. That's a drop of roughly 7%. Yet every city in America that has "invested" in alternate transportation reports continued increases in usage. There is a math problem for you!

    3. The numbers are fudged! If the politician that favored... and associated their name with... a public expenditure wants the project to look successful they will do what they can to cause that to happen. Of course... nothing lasts forever. But if you are compiling numbers and spitting out stats and your boss thinks the numbers should look... better. With a lack of provable data... the boss gets what he wants.

    I've never been to Portland... but I have heard great things about the city... and I am sure it's a fine community. But in the Midwestern city [near] where I live I've seen alternate transportation "investments" that seemed very suspicious. Even the most dedicated cyclists make comments regarding the soundness of the infrastructure.
    Last edited by Dave Cutter; 12-18-13 at 11:31 PM.

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    So, since a few folks here love to point out how there has been a massive increase in cycling in New York City, let's have a look at the Big Apple. When Janette Sadik-Khan was appointed to head up the New York Department of Transportation in 2007, New York City was decidedly pedestrian in terms of its cycling; the percentage of commuters using bikes was at the national average of 0.6%. Two years later, in 2009, it was still mired at 0.6%. So much for the powerful bike lobby.

    Between 2009 and 2012, the percentage has inched up to 1.0%. That's hardly a boom; four times as many people work from home as ride bikes to work.

    Again, what we see is the big oversell. If one were to read all the glowing reports of massive increases in cyclists that we see every week here from the segregationists, one would think that their chosen cities of paths and paint were becoming bike meccas at Haj season. Instead, we see marginal or negligible increases in bike usage compared to national trends, even after years of colored thermoplastic and little barriers being placed.

    I don't think this should be interpreted to mean that all infrastructure is a waste of effort. On the contrary, I happen to like some of what has been done and I do think it has had a positive influence. It's just that the positive influence has been much smaller than advertised and the negative by-products of religiously supporting segregation-style builds has been ignored by its fans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
    1. It's called the saturation point. It applies to many if not most trends and/or products. No matter how fine, desirable, or valued a product you make... there is a limit to what percentage of the population will buy it. Is the bicycle commuter limited to 6, 8, or 22 percent the population? Honestly... NO ONE knows. But there is a point of saturation... where nothing will cause a continued increase.
    If we're going to top-out at 6%, then we're in big trouble. Sure, it's possible that we are seeing a cultural cap, but if that's the end of the show, I sure wish the folks singing the praises of the segregation style that has been popularized these past few years would admit that they are not going to lead us to the promised land of better than 30% modal share.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
    2. Profit centric organizations have been reporting a drop in cycling sales (and use) since the peak of the 2009 great recession. The number I saw was 43 million cyclist in 2009 down to 39 million in 2012. That's a drop of roughly 7%. Yet every city in America that has "invested" in alternate transportation reports continued increases in usage. There is a math problem for you!
    Look again at the numbers provided. Portland isn't seeing a continued increase in bike usage. It has been flat for five years. I live a bit south of Portland, and my city has seen ridership decline since 2009.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
    I've never been to Portland... but I have heard great things about the city... and I am sure it's a fine community. But in the Midwestern city [near] where I live I've seen alternate transportation "investments" that seemed very suspicious. Even the most dedicated cyclists make comments regarding the soundness of the infrastructure.
    The infrastructure in PDX is likely the same that your dedicated cyclists are questioning. I ride to/through PDX a couple times each year on business and some of what they have done leaves me shaking my head. They have a dedicated PR machine that does a bang-up job of convincing those who haven't looked carefully that they know what they are doing and all is well, but that just isn't the case. They also have a small number of routes that get extensive usage, but they fail abysmally when it comes to making those key connections that will help them achieve their stated goals. Of course, the low-hanging fruit is picked and it will be necessary to impinge on the speed and convenience of motorists to make headway from here out. I'll be an interested observer.

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    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    People hoped and dreamed of human powered transportation centuries before Harry Lawson invented the “safety bicycle”. And not much has changed with the basic bicycle design since 1876. Back then... whether it was a Dandy Horse, or an Iron horse, penny-farthing, or safety bicycle... bicycles inspired the world.

    In Harry Lawson day immigrants to America spoke of smelling America a full day before their ship arrived within sight of port. That's how much odor the horse waste created. The fly populations were unimaginable to present day people. Residents of NYC wrote of not being able to smell food in summer months because of the overwhelming stench. Horse manure made its way into the drinking water. Life in the city with animal powered transportation was nearly unbearable.

    Replacing horses with machines... was a dream. And with the creativity and investments of people from around the world. Solutions were found, machines replaced the animals. Although many people loved the horses... others loved bicycles. Many loved the steam powered trains and boats. Almost everyone loved the gasoline powered cars.

    Some think we should turn back the clock and get a re-do for the bicycle. Since 600 million cars seem to have problems of their own. But... in my experience... going back... getting re-do's... living in a simpler time... doesn't ever happen. Iron... er.. mechanical horse-machines will always have a place in society. As much as I love cycling myself.... I also accept that human power will never dominate in the modern world.

    There will be new and creative solutions. Fantastic and fascinating inventions. Bicycle paths... won't alter that.

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    The macro view really does present a problem for the cherry picked micro data presented in the PR links.
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    I guess you haven't been to Portland, OR. ..... The young adults who seem to comprise a significant percentage of the cyclists in PDX can have their kids, live in suburban houses and not even bother to change addresses from their current locations.
    My reference to people getting married, moving to the burbs, and moving from bicycles to cars wasn't about what always happens, or what will happen, or a reference to particular cities. It's what has been happening, and continues to happen all over the USA. The fact that people can continue their car free lifestyle if they want to doesn't mean they will.

    In any case, my overall belief is that bicycle trends aren't driven by infrastructure changes, but by general lifestyle trends and outside forces.

    Contrary to the Field of Dreams concept, if you build it, they won't necessarily come.
    Last edited by FBinNY; 12-19-13 at 08:24 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Contrary to the Field of Dreams concept, if you build it, they won't necessarily come.
    Agree, since it depends on how the bicycle infrastructure is designed and built. In a number of cases, too many compromises usually end up making infrastructure undesired by both motorists and cyclists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    So, since a few folks here love to point out how there has been a massive increase in cycling in New York City, let's have a look at the Big Apple. When Janette Sadik-Khan was appointed to head up the New York Department of Transportation in 2007, New York City was decidedly pedestrian in terms of its cycling; the percentage of commuters using bikes was at the national average of 0.6%. Two years later, in 2009, it was still mired at 0.6%. So much for the powerful bike lobby.

    Between 2009 and 2012, the percentage has inched up to 1.0%. That's hardly a boom; four times as many people work from home as ride bikes to work.

    Again, what we see is the big oversell. If one were to read all the glowing reports of massive increases in cyclists that we see every week here from the segregationists, one would think that their chosen cities of paths and paint were becoming bike meccas at Haj season. Instead, we see marginal or negligible increases in bike usage compared to national trends, even after years of colored thermoplastic and little barriers being placed.

    I don't think this should be interpreted to mean that all infrastructure is a waste of effort. On the contrary, I happen to like some of what has been done and I do think it has had a positive influence. It's just that the positive influence has been much smaller than advertised and the negative by-products of religiously supporting segregation-style builds has been ignored by its fans.

    Could you please cite the source of your numbers? I would also keep in mind that NYC is a highly densely populated urban area with a larger percentage of pedestrian commuters and public transit users than the general population. It may be more accurate to make the estimates based on percentage of vehicles in motion on all infrastructure in the city. For example, the percentage of bicycles on some bike laned streets has become anywhere from about 3- 18% of all traffic.




    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/download...n-the-city.pdf

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bic...e-counts.shtml

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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    Agree, since it depends on how the bicycle infrastructure is designed and built. In a number of cases, too many compromises usually end up making infrastructure undesired by both motorists and cyclists.
    That's possibly one explanation. But my contention is that even if bicycle infrastructure is perfect (short of banning cars) it will only make a marginal difference.

    The reality is that despite our belief that bicycling is wonderful, and that it works for us. It's not to everyone's taste, and even among those who enjoy it for leisure, there's no desire to make it a life style. The vast majority of urban and rural weekend warriers are obviously comfortable sharing the road, that they don't commute by bicycle isn't because of infrastructure.
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    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    .......there's no desire to make it a life style.....

    When US infrastructure designs are prioritized towards motorized transport, giving a good number of the general public little desire to change, even by a small amount.

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    "Providing for the greater good".... can be a real can of worms for government. Seeing a increasing need for a community you've worked hard to be elected to serve... isn't as easy as it might seem.

    Preparing a city's water supply for the next generation can be a much needed huge investment in basic infrastructure which can spread out miles past the city limits. Drilling wells, laying pipe, constructing reservoirs, even building dams and digging tunnels can be a part of a city's water supply-chain. Then... federal toilet laws, mandated low-flow showerheads, and halting urban sprawl..... can make most of those costly preparations unnecessary.

    Sometimes... cautious politicians get ahead of trends. Finding out where the masses are fleeing... so they can lead them there. Or... at least they try to do that. Spearheading legalized sales of illegal drugs, and supporting MADD, while raising cigarette taxes, and increasing the number of liquor/bar licenses in the tax revenue generating downtown convention area. It can be enough to make elected politicians look... directionally confused.

    Sometimes..... a politician will have a genuine commitment to an ideal, or popular movement, that exceeds (or identifies) their own political ambitions. That can provide the drive and leadership that gives a city individuality. Whether its a city's beautiful bridge, massive subway system, iconic sporting or convention areas, or expansive public, green, beach, or park-like areas..... or even just a prolific popularity of coffee shops... can all benefit a city's image. A positive image benefits the entire city.

    Portland's nationally recognized leadership in bicycle infrastructure. Is a benefit to the city... and the people of Portland and surrounding communities. Very likely in Portland more than most other cities.

    Don't confuse your love of cycling with corrupt political stats and programs. Only Kings and despots can successfully increase cycling usage by promotion.
    Last edited by Dave Cutter; 12-19-13 at 08:55 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dynodonn View Post
    When US infrastructure designs are prioritized towards motorized transport, giving a good number of the general public little desire to change, even by a small amount.
    There are those who believe "if you build it they will come" and those who don't. Count me among the latter.

    Before spending more on infrastructure, one might interview folks who are happy riding shared roads for sport, but not for commuting or errands and see what drives the decisions.

    There are hundreds of reasons that people don't commute by bicycle. Weather, climate, distance, terrain, dress needs, the need to drop kids of at school, health/fitness, and so on. All the infrastucture in the world won't change that.

    There are people who'll commute by bike with none or minimal infrastructure, and there those who won't commute by bicycle no matter what. In between there's a number that could be tipped either way depending on infrastructure. We could debate forever just how big that swing percentage is, but experience so far indicates it's fairly small.

    If you really want to see changes in auto use, I suggest shifting focus to how roads are built to where and why. One big difference between the USA and European cities is our segregation of home and work. European cities are residential and work mixes, whereas we have large commercial/industrial areas surrounded by bedroom communities. This endures long commutes, often beyond practical bicycling range.
    Last edited by FBinNY; 12-19-13 at 09:02 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    My reference to people getting married, moving to the burbs, and moving from bicycles to cars wasn't about what always happens, or what will happen, or a reference to particular cities. It's what has been happening, and continues to happen all over the USA. The fact that people can continue their car free lifestyle if they want to doesn't mean they will.

    In any case, my overall belief is that bicycle trends aren't driven by infrastructure changes, but by general lifestyle trends and outside forces.

    Contrary to the Field of Dreams concept, if you build it, they won't necessarily come.
    I'm going to guess most of this forum are older folk? 40s and up? Many of my hetro friends have had kids or are just starting to have kids. A few of the gay couples are seriously considering adoption but that is a long hard route so none have children yet.

    Frankly, no one wants to move to the burbs. They are culturally dead. The parents want their kids to see cultural mix, go to museums and hear many languages. Those of us who have cars do so because we have to, not because we want to. I'm thinking that even if biking never really replaces the car that the era of common place individual cars is coming to a slow end. They are just too expensive and that is not going to change. Gas and energy prices are just going to get worse. Car economies need inexpensive fuel. Living in a suburb miles from a store doesn't work that well.

    Hell, my own sister wants to move from a stereotypically 'perfect' little town in a nice area into downtown NYC because she believe her child will fare better. Problem is that her partner bought the house before they met. So she's sort of stuck now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by katsrevenge View Post

    ....Frankly, no one wants to move to the burbs. They are culturally dead. The parents want their kids to see cultural mix, go to museums and hear many languages. Those of us who have cars do so because we have to, not because we want to. ....
    Hell, my own sister wants to move from a stereotypically 'perfect' little town in a nice area into downtown NYC because she believe her child will fare better. Problem is that her partner bought the house before they met. So she's sort of stuck now.
    People make choices based on balancing good with bad. In cities like NY, geographical barriers and distance severely limit bicycle commuting from the burbs.

    OTOH- those living downtown tend not to own cars, or keep them garaged out of town for weekend use. Cars just don't make sense for intracity travel here in NY. So folks are walking, bicycling, or using transit. Therefore changes to the infrastructure won't change car use.
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    A few comments that are recurring features here in A&S got me wondering if there really is a direct, provable correlation between building bike-specific infrastructure and people changing their primary means of transportation over to bikes from, well whatever it is noncyclists use. Obviously, completely answering that is a bit beyond my pay grade, to quote a famous person. However, I thought I would start by looking at the city that almost everyone agrees is THE leader in infrastructure building in the U.S., Portland, Oregon, and see how that is going.

    After digging through an immense, if expected, amount of PR, here's where we find ourselves:

    From the U.S. Census American Community Survey, here's the percentage of Portland residents riding bikes to work:
    2006: 4.2%
    2007: 3.9%
    2008: 6.0%
    2009: 5.8%
    2010: 6.0%
    2011: 6.3%
    2012: 6.1%

    Let's put that together with a little something from the Portland city government:


    Unless this build-out all occurred between 2007 and 2008, there seems to be a flaw in the story the bike infrastructure fans are telling. First of all, after an initial bump from about 4% to 6% between 2006 and 2008 (Great Recession?), there hasn't been any growth in bike use. NONE. ZERO. What happened to build it and they will come? Here's where I find my skeptical self:

    1. Portland built everything in one year, 2007, so the story holds.
    2. There is a cap on bike use that is around 6%. Anything higher is unachievable. This really puts a damper on Portland's plans to get to 25% by 2030.
    3. The "next bin" of riders (thank you Brian Ratliff) needs infrastructure that is closer than a half-mile from their homes in order to ride.
    4. Possibilities 1-3 are garbage. Infrastructure may be helpful, but building more beyond a certain point is barking up the wrong tree. There is some other ingredient missing. (Yes, I've said what I think it is many times here in A&S.)

    What's your story to explain this?
    The quality of the infrastructure is the next level. There are people that will ride separated park paths that still would not consider riding on bike lanes on the street...

    There are street riders that would never come near a park path unless they could ride it at 18-20 MPH. The next level of infrastructure is a well designed bike "highway" that connects to other infra and permits cyclists of all abilities to transition from one area of town to another with no interference from motorists at all.



    Note the path above, with signs, gentle radii curves, underpass at roadways and a center dividing line. This path is superior to paths typically found in the US; even Davis has nothing more than glorified park paths.

    Even in Portland cyclists still do not have the paths or stop light sequences to give this pollution free mode of transportation priority (or even equality) with motor vehicles.

    As long as cycling is treated as a second class afterthought in the transportation world, people will use some other form of transportation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    The quality of the infrastructure is the next level. There are people that will ride separated park paths that still would not consider riding on bike lanes on the street...

    There are street riders that would never come near a park path unless they could ride it at 18-20 MPH. The next level of infrastructure is a well designed bike "highway" that connects to other infra and permits cyclists of all abilities to transition from one area of town to another with no interference from motorists at all.



    Note the path above, with signs, gentle radii curves, underpass at roadways and a center dividing line. This path is superior to paths typically found in the US; even Davis has nothing more than glorified park paths.

    Even in Portland cyclists still do not have the paths or stop light sequences to give this pollution free mode of transportation priority (or even equality) with motor vehicles.

    As long as cycling is treated as a second class afterthought in the transportation world, people will use some other form of transportation.

    I couldn't agree more. I'm sure you (and I) will be flamed for being a "utopian" and met with claims that this could never happen here. The thing is the US is a big place. There are certainly communities and regions where this kind of infrastructure is possible and should be advocated for- it would need a base of already active bicyclists to make it happen but I for one would love it if my entire state were covered with this kind of infrastructure. Dream come true.

    It's amazing how we have just accepted the presence and threat of the automobile as a given in our lives. Watching as pedestrians and autos share space during our recent snowstorms is a lesson in denial of what I think is an unacceptable reality.

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    Senior Member welshTerrier2's Avatar
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    As a "mostly lurker" here on BF, I see an almost endless stream of posts discussing the pros and cons of separated cycling infrastructure. Here's my take ...

    First, and perhaps foremost, I think before we start putting too much emphasis on success and failure metrics, we need to start with a good healthy dose of understanding that the US has been car-poisoned for more than one-hundred years. We are inundated and indoctrinated with car-centric advertising, infrastructure and outright auto worship. Before we take out our little cycling infrastructure scorecards, let's give the cycling insurgency a little time to prosper.

    Second, it seems to me we should never discuss separated paths in a vacuum. There are all sorts of factors that need to be planned for if we are to increase cycling. For example, our road designs are auto-centric. Our patterns of suburbanism are auto-centric. Our zoning that often isolates commerce from residential areas is auto-centric. In many cases, our employment centers are far from where people live. Our mass transit discourages and sometimes disallows bicycles to be transported. We need to have a more interconnected, multi-modal view of transportation.

    Third, it's not clear that measuring "commuter conversions", i.e. those who stopped driving to work and started cycling, is the ultimate test. A better bottom line is whether people are spending more time cycling and living more active lifestyles due to the increased availability of cycling facilities. To be sure, increasing bike commuting is desirable but if cycling can make even a small dent in America's obesity problem by encouraging more weekend warriors, it's a step in the right direction.

    One frequent argument I've seen on BF is that "real cyclists can't get anywhere on these short, disconnected bike paths." Well, that's true ... for now. Massachusetts, where I live, is currently working on a 104-mile path that will someday connect Boston to Northampton. There are numerous other spurs that have already been developed. It's true that today's roadies really can't go too far on segregated infrastructure but the times they are a-changin.

    And it's not all black or white either. Cyclists should never be forced off the roads just because there are segregated facilities. Same rights; same rules should be the guiding principle on the roads. Conversely, though, we should not fail to build off-road facilities merely because we are concerned they will both giveth and taketh away.

    In my view, the growth of cycling will be limited if cycling facilities are limited to merely striping the streets. The right argument is that one-size does not fit all cyclists and that a comprehensive infrastructure that serves the entire cycling community is what we should be fighting for. More cyclists means safer cycling and greater influence. We should never espouse an elitist view that leaves novices out of the planning process.
    Last edited by welshTerrier2; 12-19-13 at 02:15 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by welshTerrier2 View Post
    As a "mostly lurker" here on BF, I see an almost endless stream of posts discussing the pros and cons of separated cycling infrastructure. Here's my take ...

    First, and perhaps foremost, I think before we start putting too much emphasis on success and failure metrics, we need to start with a good healthy dose of understanding that the US has been car-poisoned for more than one-hundred years. We are inundated and indoctrinated with car-centric advertising, infrastructure and outright auto worship. Before we take out our little cycling infrastructure scorecards, let's give the cycling insurgency a little time to prosper.

    Second, it seems to me we should never discuss separated paths in a vacuum. There are all sorts of factors that need to be planned for if we are to increase cycling. For example, our road designs are auto-centric. Our patterns of suburbanism are auto-centric. Our zoning that often isolates commerce from residential areas is auto-centric. In many cases, our employment centers are far from where people live. Our mass transit discourages and sometimes disallows bicycles to be transported. We need to have a more interconnected, multi-modal view of transportation.

    Third, it's not clear that measuring "commuter conversions", i.e. those who stopped driving to work and started cycling, is the ultimate test. A better bottom line is whether people are spending more time cycling and living more active lifestyles due to the increased availability of cycling facilities. To be sure, increasing bike commuting is desirable but if cycling can make even a small dent in America's obesity problem by encouraging more weekend warriors, it's a step in the right direction.

    One frequent argument I've seen on BF is that "real cyclists can't get anywhere on these short, disconnected bike paths." Well, that's true ... for now. Massachusetts, where I live, is currently working on a 104-mile path that will someday connect Boston to Northampton. There are numerous other spurs that have already been developed. It's true that today's roadies really can't go too far on segregated infrastructure but the times they are a-changin.

    And it's not all black or white either. Cyclists should never be forced off the roads just because there are segregated facilities. Same rights; same rules should be the guiding principle on the roads. Conversely, though, we should not fail to build off-road facilities merely because we are concerned they will both giveth and taketh away.

    In my view, the growth of cycling will be limited if cycling facilities are limited to merely striping the streets. The right argument is that one-size does not fit all cyclists and that a comprehensive infrastructure that serves the entire cycling community is what we should be fighting for. More cyclists means safer cycling and greater influence. We should never espouse an elitist view that leaves novices out of the planning process.

    Why do the "lurkers" make more sense than the regular posters?

    This is a well thought out post that embraces the complexity of a system that has tied our economic well being to the automobile with the nuances of the specific needs of the diverse regions of the US.

    As a Massachusetts rider who is "bi-coastal" (I live part time in the Boston area and part time in Western, MA) I would so welcome the 104 mile path that would connect Boston to Northampton for my rides cross state. It would impact my life so positively. I've been doing the ride from Boston (and originally from Providence,RI) since 1971 and still struggle to find the ideal route.

    A well designed separated path would rock my world.

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    Senior Member welshTerrier2's Avatar
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    Here's a link to a recent newspaper article about the status of the Massachusetts east-west path: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/ne...l-taking-shape

    This will probably be tied into the partially completed Bruce Freeman trail that will ultimately connect Framingham to Lowell. There is also a partially completed path called the Blackstone Valley Bikeway that will eventually connect Worcester to Bristol, RI.

    These bike paths are very much still in their infancy. If "we" show up, they will get built.

  23. #23
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by welshTerrier2 View Post
    More cyclists means safer cycling and greater influence.
    What do you base this offhand claim on?

    My experience has been that in areas with more cyclist, motorist have become more comfortable with passing closer and closer. This is especially true at night, now that all motorist understand a red little blinkie only means a cyclist is ahead.

    Years ago at night, virtually every driver would completely change lanes to pass, fearing the light was something that would total their car. Now I am lucky to get more than two feet of clearance.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    What do you base this offhand claim on?

    My experience has been that in areas with more cyclist, motorist have become more comfortable with passing closer and closer. This is especially true at night, now that all motorist understand a red little blinkie only means a cyclist is ahead.

    Years ago at night, virtually every driver would completely change lanes to pass, fearing the light was something that would total their car. Now I am lucky to get more than two feet of clearance.
    Experience based observation.

    Motorists only "see" hat they expect to see. Where there are few bicyclists or pedestrians, motorists scan the road looking for cars. Though their eye "see" a bicycle, they don't make a real connection, and don't register one. Also, if not used to sharing the road with bicycles they tend to totally misjudge speed, and pass without adequate room, commit left hooks or come into the road off stop sign thinking they have time.

    Where motorists are well used to bicycles, they adjust their driving accordingly. However, you're right that this cuts both ways. As motorists learn to read cyclists, they will pass closer and/or count on me to ride predictably.

    All in all, I'd far rather share roads with drivers who expect me to be there, and are comfortable with it.
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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Experience based observation.

    Motorists only "see" hat they expect to see. Where there are few bicyclists or pedestrians, motorists scan the road looking for cars. Though their eye "see" a bicycle, they don't make a real connection, and don't register one. Also, if not used to sharing the road with bicycles they tend to totally misjudge speed, and pass without adequate room, commit left hooks or come into the road off stop sign thinking they have time.

    Where motorists are well used to bicycles, they adjust their driving accordingly. However, you're right that this cuts both ways. As motorists learn to read cyclists, they will pass closer and/or count on me to ride predictably.

    All in all, I'd far rather share roads with drivers who expect me to be there, and are comfortable with it.
    Talk to bent riders. Because they are still odd, they still get way more passing clearance.

    And the harassment has increased as more cyclist are out there.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

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