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Old 02-19-14, 11:05 AM   #1
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PhD research: Where do you feel safe biking?

Hi everyone,

I'm a PhD student researching bicycling and urban change at UC Berkeley (website) and focusing on Oakland. In Oakland, as well as places like Portland, Washington, DC, New York, LA, etc., more and more people are riding bikes for transportation and/or lifestyle and moving to/riding through urban areas often considered dangerous or sketchy. I'm curious how people experience urban space and relative safety by bike. I'd like to get a discussion going among people on here to complement my research data and help my understanding.

Where do you live and work? How long have you lived there? Do you feel safe riding through your neighborhood by bike? Why? Would you feel equally, more, or less safe driving or walking?

Any and all responses are welcome. Please give your ZIP code and any other information about yourself that you'd like to share (age, race/ethnicity, gender, occupation, education). Also tell me whether or not you'd be comfortable with me quoting your thread in published work, but feel free to comment even if you don't want to be quoted. Responses from the Bay Area especially wanted.

John Stehlin

PhD Candidate
University of California, Berkeley

Last edited by bicyclestudies; 02-20-14 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 02-19-14, 12:33 PM   #2
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Good luck with that .. first fix your link .

I'm not willing to put up much private info on a open public website.

I was born in Napa over 60 years ago.

it was better before it became too expensive to live there .
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Old 02-19-14, 12:38 PM   #3
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Cambridge, MA. Feel safe when cars pass with enough room, don't when they don't. Have painted bike lanes for about half my 3 mile commute. Correction, painted lanes for about a mile.

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Old 02-19-14, 12:50 PM   #4
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I think you might get a better response if you made one of those online surveys. You can have text boxes so not just multiple choice options but a lot of the questions you have above could be rated on one of those 1-10 scales. Have a yes or no multiple choice on permission to use quotes and name, etc. I'd love to give feedback, but like fietsbob said, I'd prefer not to post about where I live, income, race, etc on a public forum. I'll give you anything you ask for other than my SSN on a legit survey site that won't let the world see it though.

When I lived in San Luis Obispo (moving between 93410, 93405, 93401) I always felt safe on a bike on fun rides, at night, commuting, etc. I never wore a helmet and never really had any close calls and I rode a ton around town. I lived there five years.

Now that I live in Visalia (have lived in 93277, 93292, 93291) drivers aren't nearly as used to seeing cyclists on the road. I've had more close calls in the past year here than 5 years in SLO. Now I never ride without a helmet and basically try to get out of the center of town as fast as possible. Even (embarrassingly) ride on the sidewalk sometimes because the road is so sketchy. They are working on getting better bike lanes and signage but if the drivers don't think to look for a cyclist before a right hand turn and cutting you off, it doesn't matter if there was a bike lane or not.
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Old 02-19-14, 02:32 PM   #5
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Being far out in the burbs, I'll just mention that like me, most all the cyclists I know ride as an end in itself and not for commuting, running errands, or anything practical. Feeling safe is not binary. When on the road I always feel at risk, but to varying degrees dependent on the circumstances.
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Old 02-20-14, 07:35 AM   #6
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I pretty much stick to MUP's because at 65, I'm no longer interested in having cars in my rides. Hearing in my left ear is impaired so safety is an issue. Beyond that, too many drivers have an attitude. Unfortunately, when my safety is on the line, I have one too. This carries a real risk of "not working out well" someday.

Then there is the problem of drivers who are in a hurry (all of them?) and aren't paying attention. Recently a bicyclist was killed about three blocks from my house, in the bike lane of a main street. The driver was on the phone. Because I used to ride there, this officially ended my street riding. OTOH, the best MUP in the county is two blocks away from home. Beautiful riding with no cars. Yes! bk
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Old 02-20-14, 08:32 AM   #7
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I don't feel safe walking sometimes.
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Old 02-20-14, 09:09 AM   #8
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I've been thinking about this, and I wasn't even going to answer because my knee-jerk reaction was "nuts to that. I feel safe everywhere I ride." I'm riding every day (in Alpharetta GA) commuting, on errands when I feel like it, long recreational/training rides on the weekends. Mups, streets, suburban, wherever I'm going. But on second thought I don't actually feel safe anywhere on the bike.

There's not enough risk to give me pause, but no feeling of safety either, because I'm always aware that a moment's inattention or lapse in judgment in the wrong circumstances can result in injury.

Relative to walking, on these streets I'm safer on a bike in traffic due to local driver behavior at intersections. Safety relative to driving is situational depending on the location, traffic density and weather conditions. In inclement weather during rush hour for example I can select a biking route to avoid traffic and I'm far safer than I would be driving in the heavy traffic.
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Old 02-20-14, 10:07 AM   #9
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I understand fietsbob's concerns--at the same time, conversations about riding in sketchy areas pop up on here quite frequently and people can be pretty candid. My goal in this was to get a conversation going. Posting no information is fine. Have already done some surveys on this but I thought it would see what an open thread would bring. At any rate, my specific interest was not in people's sense of road safety but what they thought about riding through what they see as dangerous neighborhoods in cities they have lived in.
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Old 02-22-14, 01:17 PM   #10
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I think you need to be more specific about what you mean by "dangerous neighborhood" and "feel safe". In neighborhoods where there's a lot of gun violence, gangs, drug dealers, etc, of course I feel less safe, although I feel more safe on a bike than on foot. But there are also neighborhoods where I don't feel more likely than average to be mugged, shot, attacked, etc, but I do feel much more likely to get hit by a car. I think the likelihood of something bad happening to me biking through a neighborhood with lots of drunk college kids with cars is higher than the likelihood of something bad happening to me biking through a neighborhood with lots of drug dealers with guns, even if the presumed "something bad" is not the same thing. And were I on foot instead of on a bike, my feeling of which is safer might well be reversed.

And in neither case is the perceived danger the result of hostility toward cyclists or even necessarily the absence of common forms of cycling infrastructure. If you are just talking about total perceived danger from all causes, you're going to get results that really don't tell you anything you can apply very easily.
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