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Are bike paths more dangerous than roads?

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Are bike paths more dangerous than roads?

Old 06-07-14, 02:09 PM
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Are bike paths more dangerous than roads?

I didn't used to think so but I'm gradually changing my mind. A few thoughts:

1. Since there aren't any cars, many users don't seem to think there should be any rules. I'm not just talking about dog walkers and folks with kids either. How about a little situational awareness. I can understand when I come up from behind you but, if I'm riding toward you from half a mile off, how about yielding me a lane?

2. Maintenance of trails is sometimes inadequate. We have a hilly trail near St Louis with several pretty tight turns. Wet leaves in the fall lead to a lot of falls.

3. Trails aren't totally car free. There are road crossings and the like. I think a lot of the interfaces are dangerously designed.





FWIW, I know this could be posted in Safety and Advocacy. I posted here because I'd like to hear 50+ opinions.
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Old 06-07-14, 02:23 PM
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I think they are at least just as dangerous..

I avoid certain parts of my local bike paths that have a lot of foot traffic.. Many times saying 'on your left' simply makes the people step to their left and right in front of you..

I've had almost as many accidents on bike paths as I have had on the road..

People don't bother reading the rules of the bike path, even though here at least, there are signs posted every so often.

Bike path dangers:
1) Clueless walkers
2) Clueless walkers with dogs
3) Clueless walkers with dogs who are not on a leash
4) A group of clueless walkers spread out and taking up the entire pathway
5) Parents who don't control or watch their children
6) Skateboarders with headphones in swerving all over the pathway..
7) Crazy freaking squirrels who want to try and jump through your spokes.

I can go on and on but you get the idea.. I really do not like taking any of the bike paths locally.. Some areas of the bike paths are further out and have less foot traffic..
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Old 06-07-14, 02:24 PM
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I darned near totalled my bike at the only busy path crossing Tuesday. I failed to do the "left-right-left" and suddenly a big potato chip delivery truck was kissing close. Thankfully the kid was mindful of the path crossing and was watching me. I looked left and right and was proceeded to cross when he came off the highway and was on my left. Totally my fault for not looking left a final time.

I gave everybody a great performance, though. As an panic reaction I grabbed a handful of left side brake and with a stiff alu fork that back wheel popped up like a whack-a-mole. Suddenly my instincts took over, my left foot flew out of the toe-clip and went into rodeo mode. I moderated the brake and hit it hard one more time but with my left foot reaching for the ground and the seat hitting me in the middle of my back....I came to a halt. I grinned, pointed and said thank you toward the driver. Best 8sec bull ride ever.
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Old 06-07-14, 02:34 PM
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A bike path almost killed my wife, here's why: the curves can be much tighter than your expect. I know that doesn't happen on most bike paths, but it took us a while to realize what was going on on this path in Redding:



The curves here were much sharper than on the average road. If you don't expect that, you can crash.

The X is where my wife crashed. We assume she was going too fast for the curve, but don't know for sure because she got a concussion and has no memory of it.
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Old 06-07-14, 02:45 PM
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My last two crashes were on MUPS - the most recent being just yesterday, on a darkened, tree-shrouded area that had flooded the previous day. The mud was wet, and the same color as the asphalt. I had just rounded a corner, and both tires lost skidded out from under me.
I am constantly riding past people on the MUPS - both head-on and from behind - who cross right into my path prior to my passing them (regardless of whether I call out plenty of time ahead). Other riders and walkers constantly refuse go single-file, taking up 80% of the width of the path, even with me bearing down on them at 15-20 mph.
i will continue to use these paths for A-B convenience, but I consider them to be no safer than riding on the stupid sidewalk.
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Old 06-07-14, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by raqball View Post
I think they are at least just as dangerous..

I avoid certain parts of my local bike paths that have a lot of foot traffic.. Many times saying 'on your left' simply makes the people step to their left and right in front of you..

I've had almost as many accidents on bike paths as I have had on the road..

People don't bother reading the rules of the bike path, even though here at least, there are signs posted every so often.

Bike path dangers:
1) Clueless walkers
2) Clueless walkers with dogs
3) Clueless walkers with dogs who are not on a leash
4) A group of clueless walkers spread out and taking up the entire pathway
5) Parents who don't control or watch their children
6) Skateboarders with headphones in swerving all over the pathway..
7) Crazy freaking squirrels who want to try and jump through your spokes.

I can go on and on but you get the idea.. I really do not like taking any of the bike paths locally.. Some areas of the bike paths are further out and have less foot traffic..
This , with two exceptions ----- Only on Sat and Sun afternoons; and, you can't blame the squirrels, as they can't read.
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Old 06-07-14, 03:02 PM
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A local professor died riding on a MUP here when a small dog crossed in front of his path causing him to crash and strike his head.
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Old 06-07-14, 03:13 PM
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I began riding mainly bike / walking paths after some bad experiences with automobiles on the road and I initially thought they were safer… However, I may need to reconsider as I am currently sidelined with an AC shoulder separation injury I recently sustained on a path. The accident involved a walker and I must confess I was partly to blame. It was a fairly windy day and I had started the ride against the wind and was trying to make up time on the return. As I approached a turn a walker who had ear buds in and not paying much attention appeared in the middle of the path. I didn't have much time to react but I slowed slightly and tried to take the turn wider than planned. However, I was still going too fast and I went off the path slightly. The path I was riding on is paved and fairly well maintained. The maintenance crew even saw fit to add some loose (non-compacted) rock on the outside corner of the path where the incident occurred (nice touch - right ). Well you know what happened next… the wheels slipped out from under me and I quickly found myself riding the concrete. The good news is the walker who originally appeared unaware came over to see it I was alright. The better news is I broke the fall for the bike and it is in better shape than I am. In fact, I took the bike to my LBS and had it checked out. It passed with flying colors and I went ahead and had them replace the chain and perform a tune up so it is ready to go as soon as the shoulder doc okays me to start riding again.
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Old 06-07-14, 03:15 PM
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The worst time to ride our paths in the Miami Valley is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Seems that a lot of walkers, rollerbladers, and walkers with dogs don't seem to pay much attention to what they are doing. And if you say something they get all upset. The best time to ride is early in the morning when it is cool and out away from cities. Country trails are usually pretty safe at that time of the day, and don't pick up much traffic until later in the afternoon. Walker's with dogs and folks with earbuds listening to their tunes are the most dangerous. I do like the large amount of trails we have here so it isn't hard to find a less crowded one. Stay alert out there.
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Old 06-07-14, 03:26 PM
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For the audience they're built for -- casual riders -- they're much safer than roads. However, they're not built for experienced riders who often ride faster than the design speeds of the curves, and with increased speed, greater awareness is needed.

I'm very comfortable riding roads, and find them generally safe, but they have their own hazards, and you need to be able to hold a line, know how to negotiate busy intersections, and be aware of road hazards like potholes, sand, gravel, steel plates, etc.

I've always objected to the notion that things, like bike paths or road design, determine safety. To me safety is about one's decisions, skills, and adjustments to conditions. In short it isn't things that are dangerous, but people.
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Old 06-07-14, 03:29 PM
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I think most will agree that the potential to fall, and sustain a fall-related injury on a recreational Multi-Use Path is quite close to that same potential on the road.

The potential to be crushed by a 3200 lb vehicle, on the other hand, is much much much lower.

The overall risk, which might be expressed as (number of ways to be hurt) X (magnitude of the injury) must be less, because the road includes a larger set of potential adverse events (threats) and many of those events present a significantly higher potential for death.

Doesn't imply a MUP is a "walk in the park," as we all know. Accidents happen and cyclists do get severely - or mortally - injured. But I'd rather see a neophyte on a MUP than a highway...
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Old 06-07-14, 03:41 PM
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Most of the bike paths that I have seen have fatal (literally) intersection flaws. They simply aren't designed adequately. I think this comes about because they are put in as a way to keep cyclists out of the way of motorists, not as an amenity for cyclists.
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Old 06-07-14, 03:45 PM
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Yes I think they are more dangerous but it's not as much the actual path but the perception by the rider that is is supposed to be "safe".
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Old 06-07-14, 03:53 PM
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Around here I think bike paths in the public parks are extremely dangerous. You have grandparents out walking their baby granddaughter in a stroller and they are taking up pretty much the whole paved walkway. Like it was mentioned and quoted a few times above, you have numerous people, kids on skateboards, dog walkers, etc...etc... The serious thing that I have seen more than a few times are the "weekend warrior" MTB guys who go whipping in and out of trees on the MTB trails (which strangely enough, criss cross the paved walkways a few times too), and they go flying over the paved walkway, onto the next section of dirt singletrack MTB trail!
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Old 06-07-14, 03:55 PM
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So most of us agree with Retrogrouch. I do.

The local MUP is safe, until you populate it. More often than not I ride on the road parallel to it, which is way safer. On the MUP I go slow if there's anyone on it.
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Old 06-07-14, 04:00 PM
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I ride a local MUP in preference to the narrow highways with essientially no shoulder and 55 mph speed. The way to mitigate the dog walkers and strollers is to ride O Dark Thirty. I've wrecked on both, and they were solo accidents caused by my excessive speed. What has really taken me off highways are cell phones. Not interested in getting clipped by a teen gabbing or a trucker calling his dispatcher. Group rides are safer but still..no shoulders. A couple of other exceptions are local town/city side streets and state park roads where speeds are typically 20-25 and occasionally 35. Logging roads aren't as safe as some think as it's not unusual to have some 4WD hot dogger slamming a 3/4 ton truck around blind corners and...logging companies that own land are starting to charge $$. Weyerhaiuser just announced access to land in north county + cutting 2 cords of wood will cost $200-250 permit for 6 months! and if you want to hunt that's additional. A wash on the wood given the amount of driving and miniature slash now left. BTW, the typical rotation for Fir & Hemlock is ~37 years.
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Old 06-07-14, 04:14 PM
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[QUOTE=FBinNY;16830348]
I've always objected to the notion that things, like bike paths or road design, determine safety. To me safety is about one's decisions, skills, and adjustments to conditions. In short it isn't things that are dangerous, but people.[/QUOTE]

+1
I don't think they are more of less dangerous. They are what they are. When I'm on the road, I behave appropriately for the conditions on the road. When I'm on a multi-use path, I behave appropriately for the conditions on the path. Read back though some of the posts in this thread. "I failed to do the left-right-left..." "...I must confess I was partly to blame..."
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Old 06-07-14, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Dudelsack View Post
On the MUP I go slow if there's anyone on it.
Essential. Especially when kids are around. I even warn cyclists approaching from the opposite direction when kids are just around a blind corner.

We have a really great system of MUPs up here that are really advantageous in going from Spokane all the way into Coeur d'Alene Idaho (with 2 minor detours) and are well used by roadies. The speed limit is 15 mph but lots of folks break it on the many long wide open stretches in between towns where it's not populated by non cycling users......But when you approach those places you'd best not touch that liberal speed limit. It's unreasonable to expect strolling pedestrians and cycling families with kids to not get in the way now and then.

Most of us have seen the unreasonable kitted out cyclist become angry as if everybody is supposed to know to give their highness the right of way so they can blast past at 15 mph just because it's legal.

I get a lot of "thank you's" out there for slowing and feathering the brakes around inattentive kids. Makes me feel a lot better than being a jerk or worse: hurting some kid.

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Old 06-07-14, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Dudelsack View Post
So most of us agree with Retrogrouch. I do.

The local MUP is safe, until you populate it. More often than not I ride on the road parallel to it, which is way safer. On the MUP I go slow if there's anyone on it.
Agreed. We have the Little Traverse Wheelway that is a gorgeous ride and quite populated near Bay Harbor where you see all manifestations of ignorance imaginable. Yet, the best time to ride is a weekday when the weather is less than picture perfect. That's when I come out. I'll only ride it maybe twice this summer.
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Old 06-07-14, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by spdracr39 View Post
Yes I think they are more dangerous but it's not as much the actual path but the perception by the rider that is is supposed to be "safe".
+1 The few paths that I'vi ridden, there seem to be no rules to the road.

Originally Posted by OldsCOOL View Post
I darned near totalled my bike at the only busy path crossing Tuesday. I failed to do the "left-right-left" and suddenly a big potato chip delivery truck was kissing close. Thankfully the kid was mindful of the path crossing and was watching me. I looked left and right and was proceeded to cross when he came off the highway and was on my left. Totally my fault for not looking left a final time.

I gave everybody a great performance, though. As an panic reaction I grabbed a handful of left side brake and with a stiff alu fork that back wheel popped up like a whack-a-mole. Suddenly my instincts took over, my left foot flew out of the toe-clip and went into rodeo mode. I moderated the brake and hit it hard one more time but with my left foot reaching for the ground and the seat hitting me in the middle of my back....I came to a halt. I grinned, pointed and said thank you toward the driver. Best 8sec bull ride ever.
Can totally visualize this. So funny, yet serious at the same time.

From my experiences riding pathways, road bikes or anyone riding fast don't belong there. My wife and I will occaisionally take the "comfort bikes" on the path for a casual ride, where we ride slow enough to react to just about anything or anyone. In doing so we're not one of the hazards to walkers, roller bladers, etc. Please understand that this opinion is based on the paths that we have experienced. From the various ride reports I've read it seems like there may be different types of paths, yet all referred to in the same way.
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Old 06-07-14, 05:19 PM
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To touch on something said earlier and then ignored, not all safety or danger is equal.

You're probably more likely to crash on an MUP or bike path for all the reasons listed, so based purely on the risk of crashing, the MUP is more dangerous. However, though the likelihood of crashes is probably lower on the road, the severity of those crashes tends to be higher for a number of reasons including likelihood that the crash may involve a car. The plain fact is that most bicyclist fatalities occur on roads and involve cars one way or another.

So pick your poison.

IMO, paths are probably safer, but more inconvenient. They may also be more dangerous financially, because if a crash involves a pedestrian, especially a child, you're likely to be found at fault.
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Old 06-07-14, 07:45 PM
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A while ago, I got interested in this topic and did some casual, but pointed, research into this. The conclusion that seemed to come out of it was that the bike paths are something like 22x more dangerous than typical roads. The main problem appeared to be the bike path/road interface because drivers where not expecting a relatively fast moving vehicle to show up just past an intersection. I wish I'd saved the links, but unfortunately, I didn't. What I didn't find, I guess, was any indication that the bike paths are safer.
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Old 06-07-14, 08:08 PM
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Lots of good observations and wisdom in this thread. Lets face it - there are safety concerns whether riding on the road or on paths. Most people consider me to be safety conscious. Yet in my recent bike path incident I did not do everything I could have to stay safe. In hind sight it is much easier to see. I was riding on a week day, in the middle of the day and in a less than desirable weather. I had not seen and was not expecting much foot traffic. I allowed myself to "feel safe" and I wasn't as alert or as safety conscious as I should have been. For example, I should have anticipated to possibility of others on the path. Also, if I had been more alert I would have noticed the loose rock beside the path on the first part of my journey. I was also pushing the envelope - going faster than I should have been for a multi-use path. I adjusted my speed on the ride out (actually I should give the wind I was fighting credit for this) but I did not adjust (decrease) my speed appropriately on the return. I had a momentary lapse of good judgement and ultimately I paid the price. I say this not intending to discourage anyone from doing what we all love to do -ride our bikes as often, far and as fast as we can- but as more of a reminder (mostly to myself) to stay alert and make good and safe choices when riding.
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Old 06-07-14, 08:16 PM
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A few years ago, they converted an old rail bed to something referred to as "the bike path", it is really a MUP. One of the local politicians (who knows I ride a lot) was sort of boasting how he helped get the path done, I said it was great- for walkers, stroller, runners & kids - but dangerous for cyclists and I would rarely use it because of the danger non cycling activities caused for cyclists. I told him my normal cycling speed is around 22-24 kph, a walking person's speed is around 4 kph. So I'm going 5-6x faster than the walker. In a similar analogy, there is a piece of interstate I would like to take with exits about 3 km apart which is smoother and flatter than the road parallel to it which I ride on- bicycles are prohibited on the interstate. My 22-24 kph is 5-6 x slower than vehicle traffic on the interstate. Not sure if my analogy got past the politicians pride on bringing the path to life.
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Old 06-07-14, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by ksmoondoggie View Post
... Yet in my recent bike path incident I did not do everything I could have to stay safe. In hind sight it is much easier to see......
This points out the most significant difference between MUPs and roads when it comes to safety. On the MUP, you're the faster vehicle coming up on a variety of obstacles and moving targets. As such you're in charge of your own destiny and can (and must) make the necessary adjustments to keep everybody including yourself safe.

The opposite is true on the road, where you're the target being overtaken by faster moving vehicles, and to a large extent, your destiny is in the hands of strangers.

In short the shoe is on the other foot. There's also a bit of a teachable moment here. Riding fast on an MUP, you see pedestrians the same way drivers see bicycles. Everything that folks here say about the hazards of those unpredictable people is exactly what drivers say about bicycles. It also works the other way, what cyclists think about drivers, is similar to what pedestrians think when bicyclists hurtle at them shouting "get outta my way".
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