Bike to Work 3: Separate or Equal?

Bike to Work 3: Separate or Equal?

In recent years, there has been a worrisome trend in the U.S. to advocate for separate bike paths (“cycle tracks”), or at least some visual barrier between bike and car lanes. An organization called “Bikes Belong” advocates for “protected bike lanes.” Recently in Seattle, guerilla cyclists installed pylons to separate a bike lane from the car lanes. Why do I call this worrisome?
At first sight, separate bike paths seem appealing. You are away from cars, riding by yourself. (The photo above shows that some riders still don’t feel safe on blacktop and prefer the sidewalk.)
Unfortunately, this idyllic view hides some very real dangers.
To understand bicycle safety, it is important to look at the actual, rather than perceived, dangers. The danger of being hit from behind or being “clipped” by a car passing too close is very small. It accounts for less than 5% of car-bike accidents.
Most accidents involving bikes and cars occur at intersections. Leaving aside accidents that are the cyclist’s fault (and thus more easily avoidable), there are three common scenarios:

  1. A car pulls out of a side street and doesn’t notice the approaching cyclist who has the right of way.
  2. A car is about to turn right and doesn’t realize that there is a cyclist traveling in the same direction in their blind spot on the right. The car cuts off the cyclist, often with fatal consequences.
  3. A car turns left and doesn’t notice an oncoming cyclist. The car turns into the cyclist’s path.

In all cases, the driver did not notice the cyclist. This is the greatest danger for cyclists: being overlooked in traffic. Since drivers usually scan the road for cars, cyclists are safest if they ride where drivers look for cars. To be safe, cyclists must be an equal part of traffic.
Look at this view from a car windshield. You plan to turn right at this intersection. You see a car far ahead, but otherwise, everything appears clear. Will you realize there is a separate lane coming toward you, on the far right? Even though the cyclist is wearing a yellow vest, he is not in your immediate field of vision. A few moments earlier, the cyclist was completely hidden behind the parked cars. (At least the city doesn’t allow parking close to the intersection here.)
This photo also shows how misleading the term “protected bike lane” is. The protection ends right where you face the greatest danger: at the intersection.
Any barrier that separates the cyclist visually from other traffic effectively hides the cyclist. This is counterproductive to safety. Moving cyclists out of the roadway altogether, on separate bike paths, is even more dangerous, because drivers don’t look for (or cannot see) cyclists off to the side.
Imagine planning a right turn in the image above. You approach the intersection, the light turns green, you go. If you are vigilant, you can barely see the cyclist behind the parked car. Now imagine if the cyclist was still a bit further back. She’d be invisible. You’d turn right into her path. Let’s hope she has good brakes!
These are not hypothetical concerns. The police department in Berlin, Germany, found that on streets where “protected bike paths” were installed, the frequency of cycling accidents greatly increased. (The results are significant even when corrected for various factors, such as an increased number of cyclists traveling on these routes.)
In addition, this particular separate bike facility is counter to what we’ve taught cyclists for decades: it is dangerous to ride facing traffic. Doing so remains dangerous, even if the bike lane asks you to do so. And if you refuse to ride there, you incur the wrath of motorists. While riding around to take these photos, I had one elderly lady lean out of the window of her Buick and yell: “Now get in your bike lane!” 
A little further down the hill, the city hasn’t constructed the bike path yet (above). Riders ride on the street, where they are visible and expected. This is much safer than the separate bike path. If I were a driver planning a left turn into a driveway here, the cyclist would be right where I look for oncoming traffic. (Moving a little closer to the center of the street would make him even more visible.) I use this street frequently, and I am not looking forward to being pushed onto a segregated bike path on the wrong side of the street!
Separate paths are useful and safe where there are no intersections (above). Cross-country paths can provide a relaxing and safe alternative to busy highways. Trails like these also can be a good place to ride with children who are not yet in full control of their bicycle. (As long as there is little foot and bicycle traffic – busy trails with erratic users are the worst place for novice cyclists.)
On streets with frequent intersections, separate paths only make cycling less safe. I wish those who advocate for them would look at the data and stop asking for facilities that will cause more accidents.
An on-street bike lane (above, on uphill right side) is a much better solution to separating bicycles and cars. It keeps cyclists on the roadway as a legitimate part of traffic. To novice cyclists, it may be disconcerting to be passed by fast-moving cars, but it is safer to be an equal part of traffic than to pop out from unexpected places as you cross intersections on a separate path.
Separate cycle paths are appealing to many cycling advocates because they exist all over Europe. And in Europe, more people cycle, and cycling is safer. So it’s easy to think that the cycle paths are the reason for cycling’s success in Europe.
Having lived in Europe, I believe that cycling there is successful in spite of (and not because of) the bike paths. It may help to know that separate bike paths originally were not introduced to make cycling better, but to clear the road for cars during the 1930s (by the car-obsessed Nazi government in Germany). For that reason, cyclists were required by law to use the bike path, whether it was well-designed or not. Other European countries quickly followed this “innovation.” It spread to yet more countries when Germany invaded much of Europe during World War II.
As early as 1936, the French Cyclotouring Federation lobbied for bike lanes painted on the road, instead of mandatory, but dangerous, bike paths. In Europe, that battle still is going on more than 75 years later, because the Nazi-era laws remain on the books to this day, even in cycling-friendly places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. (To be clear, I am not implying that those advocating for separate paths should be in any form compared to Nazis. I only included this for a historic perspective on why European cyclists are required to cycle on segregated facilities.)
As North American cyclists, we are lucky that we retain the right to use the road. Let’s not give it up!
Addition: The discussion in the comments was summarized in another post.
Further reading: The most common bicycle accidents.

Share this post

Comments (266)

  • Alexander

    Clap Clap Clap!!! Thanks Jan! You put all important arguments very succinctly! Chapeau for putting this piece together so fast!

    May 15, 2013 at 1:24 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I’ve been thinking about this piece for more than a year, ever since the city started construction on the separate lanes.

      May 15, 2013 at 5:30 am
  • Ben

    Jan, great summary and thanks for taking this up!
    I live in a small swedish “cycling city” (in the city 28% of the voyages are by bicycle, vs 39% by car), and they still build a lot of intersections where someone going straight (we cyclists) is positioned right of someone turning right (a motorized vehicle), sometimes even with some obscuring bushes in between. At least as a result No 2 in the city’s priority list for the future development of bicycle traffic is “securing intersections”. No 1 is still “correct separation of car and bicycle traffic”.
    In fact, even the most prominent example Copenhagen suffers from this design mistake. Although there they painted the bike lanes very prominently at intersections and the sheer amount of cyclists has made car drivers more aware of the problem.
    Americans, please learn from our european mistakes, when looking at how we tried to “copenhagenize” our cities.

    May 15, 2013 at 2:32 am
  • Robin

    Interesting. David Hembrow recently argued very much the opposite case on UK radio show The Bike Show. His blog has a link to the interview in which he argues that segregating bicycle and car traffic should be the guiding principle of cycle infrastructure. I’d be interested to hear Jan’s take on Hembrow’s arguments.

    May 15, 2013 at 3:26 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      David Hembrow says that “subjective safety” is important to get people onto bicycles. I don’t disagree with the fact that many riders don’t feel safe when riding on the street. I wonder whether we should create facilities that make people feel safe even if though they are very unsafe. I will discuss this in a future blog entry.

      May 15, 2013 at 8:18 am
      • InvisibleHand

        Part of the argument is that whatever decrease in safety on the margin due to increased conflicts is that “safety in numbers” more than compensates for it.

        May 15, 2013 at 10:01 am
      • Heather

        Subjective safety is more likely to mean hand holding. Because UK cyclists did so well last year, there is a big push in cycling, and a desperate desire from government to get people active. It could turn into a dithering coddled affair if I recall how overzealous they can get with safety.
        The boy in the bike to work article photos looks very confident and experienced on a bike. I am a small petite woman, afraid of many things, but I have been riding for transportation for 20 years since my teens. I was biking 2 wheels by age 4 and quickly realized bicycles meant freedom. I know my rights, I know the rules of the road and stick to it. I am not likely to ‘take the lane’ where I feel unsafe, and stick to shoulders on busy roads and highways. I get out of the way and give vehicles right of passage in various circumstances as I want to show that I am paying attention and accommodating as well.

        May 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm
      • solihullcyclist

        They are unsafe? May i direct you to this post->
        “About half the population of the NL rides a bike once a day.
        And the average distance traveled by bike per person per day was 2.5km in 2006.’ Even with this extraordinarily high proportion of cyclists “Nationally the total of bicycle accident deaths hovers around 200.”
        And this one->
        “A mere 20% of all accidents involving cyclists concerns motorised vehicles, and numbers are falling steadily”
        The facts speak for themselves! I am what most people would call a ‘confident and assertive cyclist’, yet I do not feel comfortable sharing the road with cars, buses. And would not would not feel the slightest bit comfortable encouraging those near and dear to me to take risk their lives roads as they are in much of the US and UK. My thoughts: .

        May 16, 2013 at 9:32 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Nationally the total of bicycle accident deaths hovers around 200.

          That is a huge number, considering that the total of traffic fatalities in the Netherlands is less than 700 a year. So almost a third of traffic fatalities in the Netherlands are cyclists! I am surprised that anybody would use that statistic as proof that cycling in the Netherlands is safe!

          “A mere 20% of all accidents involving cyclists concerns motorised vehicles, and numbers are falling steadily”

          This means that 80% of cycling accidents are cyclists crashing on their own, into each other or into pedestrians.
          Even in the U.S., more than half of cyclist’s accidents do not involve cars. That is one reason why many cyclists feel safer sharing the road with cars than sharing a path with other cyclists and pedestrians. But we get off-topic here.

          May 16, 2013 at 12:57 pm
      • Bob

        “I am surprised that anybody would use that statistic as proof that cycling in the Netherlands is safe!”
        The Netherlands are just safer on the road in general, by orders of magnitude.
        We’re not in much of a position to tell them what’s up.

        May 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm
    • Brent

      “So almost a third of traffic fatalities in the Netherlands are cyclists!”
      I might point out that rougly one-third of trips in the Netherlands are made by bicycle. As such, fatality rates are in-line with mode share. In the States, by contrast, fatalities among vulnerable users are far in excess of mode share.

      May 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        You make a good point. However, when you look at the per-mile accident rate, it doesn’t look so good, since the average bike trip in the Netherlands is very short.
        Cycling in the U.S. is not as dangerous as it may first appear. A large number of cycling fatalities are people who lost their license due to DWI, and who are riding at night, under the influence, without lights and helmets… The fact that most cycling fatalities occur after dark is telling – and it’s not randonneurs who make up the numbers. Also, a majority of cyclists who die don’t wear helmets, despite the majority of cyclists on the road wearing them. So clearly, a large number of the fatalities occur in a small, non-representative sub-group of bicycle riders.

        May 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        For the 18-40 year olds, fatality/km is the same for drivers and cyclists (or at least that was the case in 1996). 0-18 year olds don’t drive, so they shouldn’t count when a comparison is made (or only marginally, to make up for the 0,3 passenger/car). Why those over 40 fare worse on bicycle tha in cars may perhaps be explained by the fact that elderly and old people in general are accident prone and perhaps distracted in traffic, but that they’re better protected in a car than on a bike.

        May 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm
      • ladyfleur

        The best safety comparison measure between modes should be time, not be distance nor number of trips. In other words, measuring what’s your risk per minute.
        That said, I would love to see overall traffic deaths drop to 11,698 vs 32,000 here in the US (the proportionate equivalent based on population).

        May 20, 2013 at 11:08 am
  • Alex

    I agree completely. I live in Berlin (D) and the city is slowly but surely getting rid of separate bike lanes wherever they can, and either doing nothing on the road or adding a full cyclists-only lane, even if it’s at the expense of a motorist’s lane (which it usually is 😉 )
    Another topic, but touched in this and a previous blog: one item i notice about accidents in a very busy city like New York is how often cyclists are thrown into the path of following cars by car doors opened in front of them. In Germany, cyclists are allowed/required to ride a meter away from parked cars, and motorists are required to ride a meter away from cyclists, so all in all 2 meters, which is designed to prevent this sort of accident. Needless to say, if you ask a New Yorker to drive at least 2 m away from the cars parked on the right, he/she will look at you askance . . . but that’s what it takes to assure safety in a busy urban environment.

    May 15, 2013 at 4:12 am
    • Eugene Bicyclist

      Well, that’s because they have no idea what a “meter” is? 🙂

      May 15, 2013 at 9:42 pm
      • Jonathan B. Horen

        Not true! They know full-well that a *parking meter* is about 7-inches wide; so, “two meters” equals a foot-and-a-half :-p

        May 16, 2013 at 9:04 am
      • NYC Fixer

        Wrong! We in NYC know exactly what a meter is…it’s that thing sticking out of the sidewalk that I have to my $$ into, after I cut off the cyclist in my way as I scramble for an empty parking space.

        May 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm
    • ianbrettcooper

      Car doors open up to 5ft (1.6 meters) or even more, so a 1 meter clearance from parked cars is nowhere near enough. In the US, US League of American Bicyclist instructors advise cyclists to ride AT LEAST 6ft (2 meters) from parked cars, not just to avoid an opened door, but also to counteract the tendency to swerve away from an opening door. Riding so far away from parked cars also adds the safety factor of placing the cyclist well into the lane so that following drivers must change lanes to overtake..

      May 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm
    • Christian Bernhard Hagen

      Conditions for cyclists vary wildly in Germany. In some places, bikepaths are just a part of the sidewalk, in other places they’re of Dutch standards (or at least Copenhagen ditto).

      May 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm
  • cbratina

    Having cycle toured in Europe, Canada, and the US; commuted: and just plain cycled for 40 years, I agree. The worst cycling experiences and surface conditions are on separate bike paths. They simply are not built as well or maintained, even in Europe, as a road surface for cars. We thought tandem touring across the Netherlands would be a piece of cake, but after twenty miles we had to pull our heavy jerseys out of our panniers and stuff them into our shorts to bear the horrible paving block and brick surface.

    May 15, 2013 at 4:14 am
  • Erik

    Living in Belgium I must strongly disagree with you on this point. I can see why you think cycle paths are more dangerous but I think that the more cyclers there are, the less your arguments are true. I’ll give my viewpoint to back this up:
    -(Almost) All drivers in Belgium are very aware of cycle paths and crossings, mostly they are clearly indicated with red markings, accidents do occur, but mostly at low speeds which gives a much higher survival rate.
    -On a cycle path childeren ride much more safe especially when they are still learning to keep their balance.
    -When overtaking other cyclists on a painted bike-lane you often have to go on the road, something most drivers don’t expect.
    – There is no risk of ending up in a blind spot of a truck. Because of the greater distance of the trucks cyclers are visible in their mirrors.
    – In traffic jams the risk to be hit by an opening door or car changing lanes is way smaller.
    I fully realise that we are both biased by the surroundings we live in. For me a cycle path is something very common which I will find in almost every non-residential street. During morning rush hour some important cycle paths are so packed with bicycles that the lanes in both directions are full and you have to take the average speed (which is slow 😉 ).
    To backup my viewpoint I gladly refer to the blog of David Hembrow: Who has dedicated a part of his live to fight in favour of cyclepaths.

    May 15, 2013 at 4:54 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Thank you for taking the other side of this discussion. It’s important that we hear different points of view.
      I have lived in Germany for more than 18 years, and cycled there extensively, so I am fully aware of the benefits and risks of separate bike paths. To address your points one by one:
      – I am glad that European drivers are aware of cycle paths and crossings. That reduces the risk, but doesn’t eliminate it. Drivers also are aware of other cars on the road, yet they still crash into each other. Anything that makes a cyclist less visible is a bad idea. Your point that accidents on bike paths are less severe is not backed up by the data. On the contrary, the little data that exists indicates a higher fatality rate on bike paths than on streets with no bike facilities (even when adjusted for the greater number of cyclists).
      – I agree that children best learn to ride away from traffic, with room to swerve. A bike path isn’t wide enough to provide that. A quiet neighborhood street is a better place to teach your children to ride.
      – When overtaking cyclists, whether on a bike path or in a bike lane on the road, you should of course check behind you for traffic before changing out of the bike lane. You look behind before changing lanes in a car, too.
      – Avoiding blind spots on trucks is a concern. However, on a bike path, you are hidden all the time, and there is nothing you can do about it.
      – You should stay out of the “door zone” at all times. You can do this in a separate bike lane as well as on a separate path.
      David Hembrow’s argument is a different one – that more people will ride on separate paths because they FEEL safer there. I don’t argue with that, but I am not sure that building unsafe facilities is ethical, even if people demand them.

      May 15, 2013 at 5:44 am
      • Frank

        I think, it is important to think about bike paths in a bigger context. I grew up in Germany in the 70s and 80s, where I lived in a village about one mile from the German-Dutch border.
        Because of this I could directly compare two different approaches to cycle paths. On the Dutch side, there always were these luxurious separate paths that often followed completely different routes from the car paths. The bicycle policy here was not just removing cyclists from the street, it was actively creating a welcoming environment for cyclists in general – even by making life harder for car drivers. This policy encouraged cycling, and you can see the result in the numbers now: The Dutch are cyclists.
        My little German village however didn’t have any cycle patchs at all in my youth, which was fine, because it was and still is a much smaller town then the Dutch counterpart on the other side of the border.
        But in the late 80s, there suddenly was money to get from the German state, which was funding the building of cycle paths. The result: Where I was allowed to cycle on the street before, I was now forced to cycle on the sidewalk which had been declared a subsidized cycle path by red paint.
        As you know, in Germany it is obligatory to ride on all marked cycle paths – even on the dangerous ones. Many German cycle paths still reveal this as their intention: to make way and remove obstacles for cars – very much in contrast to the Dutch approach, which has been to remove obstacles for cyclists – including cars.
        In my opinion, it’s not the cycle path that is bad by nature. I’d love to have more well built paths like the Dutch ones. Things like the German “Radwegebenutzungspflicht” however, the obligation to use cycle paths, are something that has to go, murderous paths need to be removed and integral concepts should be developed for traffic in cities need to encourage cycling and to restrict car use. Cycle paths can be a valuable approach to this.

        May 15, 2013 at 6:25 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I agree that in a rural setting like the one where you live, where a cycle path can take a separate route from the car traffic, separate paths are a great idea if done well.
          The post addresses the situation in urban environments, where it is impossible to construct a separate path without crossing streets frequently.

          May 15, 2013 at 6:35 am
      • Erik

        Dear Jan, thanks for keeping this discussion open and rational! As you said, data are hard to find. After some googling I bumped into a study on bicycle accidents in Antwerp, Belgium, my hometown. Apparantly it is one of the few cities that keeps a record on cycle accidents and the circumstances in which the accidents occured. I’ll give a summary of the most relevant findings (if you want the full presentation, I can email it, it’s in dutch, but with you German, you’ll probably be able to understand most of it).
        -there is no relevant difference between man and woman involved in cycle accidents.
        -the speed limit for cars on a street is directly proportional to the severeness of the injuries.
        -as you stated correctly most of the accidents occur at intersections (1/3-2/3).
        -at intersections 39.3% of the accidents occured where there was no cycle infrastructure, 27 % where there are painted cycle lanes on the road, 33.7% on roads with separated bicycle paths. (this are raw data, without taking in account the number of intersections of each type.
        -the most interesting table gives the relative chance to have an accident on a type of infrastructure in relation to the speed limit for cars in that street: (I only mention no-infrastructure (NI), painted single-direction lane (PSL), separated single-direction lane (SSL)):
        — speedlimit 20/30 kmh: NI 0.61 – PSL 2.90 – SSL 3.79
        — speedlimit 50 kmh: NI 0.81 – PSL 0.87 – SSL 0.99
        — speedlimit 70 kmh: NI 1.04 – PSL 1.11 – SSL 0.55
        — speedlimit 90 kmh: NI 0.18*- PSL -,– – SSL 0.33 (*: knowing the area very well I doubt whether this is very relevant since almost all roads I know without separated cycle lanes are not used since there is always an alternative)
        – So one of the conclusion of this study is that shared space is better in residential area’s with low speed limits (typical the “zone 30”), while separated bike lanes are equally well or better when there is a higher speedlimit.
        -Furthermore: T-junctions are the safest, junctions with 5 or more streets are the most dangerous and in Antwerp there appears to be a problem with the design of roundabouts, because data from the Netherlands show it is the safest design, while in Antwerp it is the most dangerous.
        So obviously there more to it then just being pro or against :-).

        May 16, 2013 at 2:43 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          That is interesting data. It supports my idea that with increasing car speeds on a road, the degree of separation should increase:
          – On neighborhood streets, it’s safest with no facilities at all and speed limits of 30 mph or lower.
          – As speed limits get higher, you first want a painted bike lane.
          – Once the speed limit goes above 30 mph, you really need to separate bikes and cars.
          That makes a lot of sense, but as we all know, when it comes to safety… In the U.S., people buy guns and SUVs to feel safer, despite all the data to the contrary.

          May 16, 2013 at 6:01 am
        • Brian Ogilvie

          Erik: Thank you! You provide exactly the kind of data that are required for a reasonable discussion.

          May 16, 2013 at 6:26 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “- I agree that children best learn to ride away from traffic, with room to swerve. A bike path isn’t wide enough to provide that.”
        Then your bike path is not wide enough. Here in Copenhagen they keep making them wider and wider. Some places they are as wide as a slim car lane is. This gives enough room for a child to learn to bike, and for older children to be able to ride their bike in rush hour.

        May 18, 2013 at 4:12 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Why not teach your children on a quiet residential street in the evening or on the weekend? Seems like a better choice to me.

          May 18, 2013 at 4:20 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “Why not teach your children on a quiet residential street in the evening or on the weekend? Seems like a better choice to me.”
        Did you fail to notice the part of older children being able to use the bicycle path for transportation?
        “Here in Copenhagen they keep making them wider and wider. Some places they are as wide as a slim car lane is. This gives enough room for a child to learn to bike, and for older children to be able to ride their bike in rush hour.”
        It takes many hours and miles to learn to ride good, something you can not learn by riding up and down your residential street. You need to try bigger roads too.

        May 18, 2013 at 6:15 am
  • Kent

    Totally agree. Be seen, be safe.

    May 15, 2013 at 5:27 am
  • Rod Bruckdorfer

    I suspect you will not approve this post.
    “At first sight, separate bike paths seem appealing. You are away from cars, riding by yourself. (The photo above shows that some riders still don’t feel safe on blacktop and prefer the sidewalk.)”
    How can you draw that conclusion about the cyclist on the sidewalk based on one photo and without citing statistically valid survey data?

    May 15, 2013 at 5:45 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      “Some cyclists” indicates that at least 2 cyclists prefer to ride on the sidewalk. The photo shows one. I met the other a few months ago.
      If I had written “a significant number” or “about half” or “most”, then I would have to provide data and statistical analysis to back it up. In any case, it’s not really relevant to the point of the article.

      May 15, 2013 at 5:50 am
  • Andy

    Jan, this is the best explanation I’ve seen written to explain these problems – Well done!
    I was on the local bicycling advisory group for a few years, and constantly ran into complications where members of the group would not blink an eye at the prospect of adding a bike lane. They would share articles about protected lanes , and try to find a place to install it. The problem was that they only had hopes that a new design would improve cycling, without any experience with these designs, or research into the many layers of complications that arise with relegating cyclists off the main road. It’s simple to see a protected lane and assume that no cars crossing the path makes it safe, while completely ignoring the intersection issues.
    You seem to advocate for bike lanes still. I’m not even sure that I care for them after the city installed a few here. We have uphill bike lanes which are placed alongside a row of parked cars. While dooring is a significant concern at speed, it’s not really a problem here because most cyclists are going<10mph up the bike lane anyway, and all of the cars remain parked here because it's student residential and their only driving trips are to the grocery store at 11pm and home for school breaks. But since the bike lane went in, the city has put no effort into maintenance. The lane is constantly full of debris including metal shards and broken recycling bottles because drivers are not going over it and slowly clearing debris to the side. The annual paint job fades in about 6 months too, so all winter the lane lines are essentially gone, and they haven't repainted the bike symbols frequently enough to keep them visible.
    My favorite places to ride are in the countryside, on roads with no lines at all. Drivers don't feel a need to squeeze by to avoid crossing the yellow line, and I don't need a bike lane to force me to ride where there's likely more debris and crumbled pavement. Intersections are few, and I can just focus on enjoying the ride instead of wondering what awkward maneuver will be required at the next intersection to remain visible and predictable to the drivers that likely aren't paying much attention to those outside of cars.

    May 15, 2013 at 5:54 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I agree that small country roads are my favorite place to cycle. But for transportation, most of us need to cycle in the city. In the city, I believe that a combination of on-street bike lanes and “sharrows” is the best solution, as I discussed here. Perhaps your bike advisory group should take the city to task for keeping the bike lanes clean?

      May 15, 2013 at 5:59 am
      • Andy

        I think I firmly hate sharrows when used instead of a bike lane. That was the city’s way of saying, “We hear that you want safer bike routes, but we still prioritize on-street parking higher. Here’s some paint on the road. Good luck!” We just have one street maybe a half-mile long with sharrows. I sat on the corner of the park once while I was killing time, and saw about 15 cyclists go by. They ranged from beach cruiser riders to serious looking bike racers. Zero of them rode on the sharrows. They continued to weave (to various degrees) around the scattering of parked cars, which defeats the purpose of the sharrows: to facilitate riding a safe and predictable path that keeps cyclists clearly visible in the road and away from potential car door opening collisions.
        Like all things bureaucratic, bike lane maintenance is such a low priority for the city. There is so much deferred maintenance that keeping up with critical road maintenance is tough enough. They sweep the city streets once per year, which this year was before the last snow storm. Pre-bike lane, my commute up the hill was on a nice clean road, and cars could easily pass. Adding the bike lane did shift the yellow centerlines a foot over, but effectively requires cycling 2-3 feet farther left if you want to avoid flats.
        Possibly there is a place where bike lanes or sharrows can be effective, but in general I find they cause more confusion and hassle than without them. The most effective solution is removing on-street parking in certain places. There is an 8ft wide lane, on public space, that we let people use as long-term personal storage, even if every house on the road has a driveway.

        May 15, 2013 at 6:42 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I think it’s unfair to blame sharrows for the problem of riders weaving in and out of parked cars. Sharrows legitimize riding in the lane, rather than hugging the curb. That, to me, is their main purpose, and I greatly appreciate that. If there had been a sharrow on the road when I took the photos for the blog, the lady in the Buick probably would not have yelled at me to get into the bike lane. (In some places, the city actually has done this – provide alternatives with a separate path and sharrows on the road!)
          For the “weaving riders,” we need more education. Perhaps more education can also make riders more comfortable on the road.

          May 15, 2013 at 7:06 am
  • Edwin Williamson

    I agree with Hembrow on this one: SUBJECTIVE safety is what gets all of those people from 8 years to 80 years old out and on a bike. For confident, strong fast cyclists like your Seattle Randonneurs, I think it is better to be on the street. I grew up biking in New York City before the recent addition of bike lanes and I still favor the fastest and most direct routes over the more protected. But I recognize that I am a minority of mostly guys, mostly between 25 and 55 who are comfortable on the street all the time.
    That said, I think you and Hembrow would agree on a lot.
    One thing I agree with is: ” it is dangerous to ride facing traffic” I think cycle paths that are counter-intuitive (riding facing traffic) are probably not a good idea.
    One thing I do not agree with is your characterizations that riding on the street is “much safer” than on a separate path. You, the data lover, should quantify that. Same goes for “but I am not sure that building unsafe facilities is ethical, even if people demand them.” Would you characterize the separate pathways in the Netherlands that Hembrow points to as “unsafe?” Really?
    You have some good points, you do not have to exaggerate to make them.
    As I see it, you read the data to show that riding on the streets is somewhat less likely to involve and accident than riding on separate pathways, so you support that style, since you like riding in the street and don’t like to be “pushed” into separate paths.
    The way I would look at it is separate pathways make people feel safe, encourage more people to ride bikes, which in turn gives society great benefits in population health, decrease in car congestion, decrease in pollution and a more pleasing environment in which to live. How many more accidents would I take to have more cyclists? That is for the public policy wonks to figure out, and I don’t think we have the numbers yet to accurately weigh those two options against one another.
    So for now, we will have 25-55 year old fast, confident, male bicyclists advocating for everyone to ride in the street, and most of everyone else hoping for a safe feeling experience while biking around town, such as you might get in the Netherlands.
    Thanks for writing the article, it made me think a lot about how not all of our newer bicycling infrastructure is accomplishing the goals we had hoped for!

    May 15, 2013 at 6:33 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It’s surprisingly hard to find good data on bike path accidents. I cited two statistics (links are in the post):
      1. Being hit by a car that approaches from behind is a very unlikely event.
      2. Accident data from Berlin, Germany, that showed that cycling accidents increased dramatically on streets where separate paths were put in.
      I am unaware of any study that shows separate bike paths being safer than on-road cycling. Momentum Magazine mentioned a study from Vancouver BC as showing that “only separate bike paths are safe” (quoting from memory), but unfortunately, they didn’t provide more details or a reference.
      I do agree with you that getting more people on bikes is crucial, and that having to cycle in the street is a big obstacle for many people. I think the reason may be found in evolution: As a hunter-gatherer, the only “thing” that would approach you at high speed from behind was a predator. And a sabre-tooth tiger would not zoom past you with just enough room to spare, but it would pounce you. Maybe that is the reason why inexperienced cyclists are so concerned about traffic from behind – even cyclists who pass them unannounced.

      May 15, 2013 at 6:42 am
      • Josh

        It’s not just Germany, Copenhagen has seen increased accident rates, too. According to “Road Safety and the perceived risk of cycle facilities in Copenhagen”:
        “A decline in road safety at junctions has undoubtedly taken place after the construction of cycle tracks. If the figures for the road sections are combined with those for the junctions, an increase of 9-10% in accidents and injuries has taken place. [….]
        The increase in injuries due to the construction of cycle tracks arises because there are more injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, and moped riders at junctions. There has been an increase of 28%, 22% and 37% respectively for these three road user groups. [….]
        From table 1, it can be deduced that the construction of cycle tracks has resulted in three important gains in road safety…. These gains were more than outweighed by new safety problems: more accidents in which cyclists rode into other cyclists often when overtaking, more accidents with cars turning right, more accidents in which cars turning left drove into cyclists as well as more accidents between cyclists and pedestrians and exiting or entering bus passengers. [….]
        Taken in combination, the cycle tracks and lanes which have been constructed have had positive results as far as traffic volumes and feelings of security go. They have however, had negative effects on road safety.”
        The table 1 referenced in the text shows a 201% increase in bike-on-bike injury accidents, 161% increase in car vs. bike right-hook injuries, 84% increase in car vs. pedestrian right-hook accidents, 61% increase in left-turning car vs. bike injuries, and 1,762% increase in injuries from cyclists hitting passengers entering and exiting buses.

        May 15, 2013 at 7:21 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Josh, that study isn’t exactly scientific in its standards. It doesn’t tell of relative risks, and it doesn’t tell of the severity of accidents. There’s a Dutch study out there telling about the severity, and it leaves no doubt: Segregated bike paths will give you more small accidents, and a lot fewer fatalities.

        May 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Do you have a reference for that study? The data from Berlin seems to indicate an increase in fatalities, too. Perhaps the Dutch system of slowing down all traffic is the reason for the reduction in fatalities, but that could also have been achieved by slowing down traffic without separate facilities.
          Unfortunately, there is little political support for slowing down car traffic in the U.S.

          May 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Jan, I can’t find it at present. What I can find is this: and it tells that “On 23% of the 50 km/h routes on the regional cycle network, a physical separation between vulnerable road users and motorised traffic doesn’t exist. There are twice as many road-traffic accident victims on these routes.”
        (Which is a lot more bike path safety than found by the paper I spoke of)

        May 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm
    • Greg

      “You have some good points, you do not have to exaggerate to make them.”
      Agreed. Jan, I was reading intently up until Godwin’s Law kicked in (pre-emptively?). I think the use of the N-word detracts from your argument. I do not hold a clear position on any side of this discussion, so I am happy to read the post and all of the responses, in order to try and better understand this complex issue….

      May 15, 2013 at 7:36 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        I was quoting a historic fact, not making a comparison between those advocating for separate bike lanes at different times in history. I am sorry if this wasn’t clear.

        May 15, 2013 at 7:45 am
  • Mateo

    Jan, I also respectfully disagree with your general position. I live in Austin, Tx, where I know you have spent some time. Our city bike program has been putting in cycle tracks at a good clip over the past few years. Although I agree that these intersections are potentially dangerous, I don’t think one study in Berlin (by the police…?) that you have heavily cited, is the end of the story. How the traffic (both bike and car) is controlled and the method that both use these facilities greatly influences the risks involved. In Austin, cycle tracks are ONLY put in locations where traffic was fast and uncomfortable for bikes and cars, not on small n’hood streets. Locations where a transportation route needed to be enhanced. They often take out a parking or driving lane, and function to slow down traffic. In my experience riding on them pretty much everyday all over the city, they increase cyclists on the road (they feel safer) and they increase the prominence of bicycle transportation as a significant player in our growing city. I think that they are far superior to crammed in bike lanes, where many of the risks you note in your post are VERY real (cars don’t see bikes in bike lines, right Mr. Forester?). I prefer to ride in the middle of the lane, where I know cars see me, but as you know, cars don’t really like that, and neither do most of the potential cycling population. The idea of the vehicular cyclist can only go so far, particularly in the US, and I think it is time to recognize that in order to take our mode share up to 10%+, we need to embrace separate facilities in whatever form we can get them installed. Although I appreciate that you base your argument on some empirical data, I am disappointed that you have taken such a clear and contrary position to what has been shown to be a very productive direction for bicycle infrastructure (higher mode share, more young riders, more women riders). I think not seeing the forest for the trees might be an apt metaphor.
    Mateo Scoggins.

    May 15, 2013 at 6:40 am
  • Brian Ogilvie

    I have mixed feelings about this issue. When I was younger, I was a committed vehicular cyclist, shaped in part by my experience returning to transportation cycling (as an adult) in Berlin, where mandatory cycle paths were often terrible. (One of the local cycling organizations published a very useful map of the city showing side streets that did not have mandatory paths; I used it to plan my trips.) My experience with quasi-separated bike facilities in the UK has also been bad.
    On the other hand, I know cyclists who don’t have the stamina to cycle effectively with motor vehicle traffic on all but the slowest roads, especially if it’s necessary to change lanes in fast-moving traffic (e.g., to make a left turn). Vehicular cycling looks a lot more appealing to those of us who can ride fast (or at least fast-ish, in my case) than it does to weaker riders. If our goal is to increase cycling’s modal transportation share, vehicular cycling won’t get us very far.
    I think you should take a look at the Netherlands, which complicates matters, because the Dutch have a separated infrastructure that seems to be effective (in built-up areas and near high-speed intercity roads). I spent a week cycling around the IJsselmeer, which changed my formerly wholly negative view of separated infrastructure. The reason was that potentially dangerous intersections generally have their own, separate signals that eliminate conflicts between bikes and motor vehicles. It’s expensive, but it seems to work. Of course, Dutch drivers have also been taught to be attentive to cyclists.

    May 15, 2013 at 6:45 am
    • Robert Cooper

      Vehicular Cycling is the practice of riding in the lanes exactly like an under-powered motorcycle and obeying the same rules. Perhaps, because in a lot of situations, cyclists who are following the rules of the road can keep pace with a 1200 cc BMW, Vehicular Cycling has accrued some confusion in its public-relations image. The confusion concerns the public perception that it’s only good for the fit, fast, bold commuters and sport cyclists like Jan and his cronies.
      Most people who don’t cycle, and most people who do not cycle in the vehicular manner — which cohort numbers about 300,000,000 persons in the US alone, i.e., virtually everyone — assume that since “bikes are different” there must be some mysterious, different set of rules that apply to cyclists. These different rules being profoundly mysterious is the source of the problem: No one seems to know what they are.
      Imagine that there were some mysterious, different set of rules that applied to drivers of Buicks. Or of gravel trucks. Or of cars with four doors. Or on streets named for trees like Elm Street or Oak Avenue. “The Traffic System” only works at all, because there is something that we all recognize as “The Rules of the Road.”
      If Jan Heine, or Miguel Indurain, for that matter, realizes that he’s late for an appointment and needs to get across town in a hurry, the fastest, most courteous and safest way for him to do that is to follow the rules of the road.
      Now here’s the rub: If a 65-year-old nun with a heart condition riding in full habit on a three-speed with a wicker basket on the front needs to get across town and has allowed plenty of time for the journey, the fastest, most courteous and safest way for her to do that is to follow the rules of the road.
      Following the rules of the road is called Vehicular Cycling, regardless of who is doing it.
      The hammerheads do it, because it’s the only way they can make any decent time. The decent nuns do it, because, well, they know how to follow the rules. They are just going slower. If they violate the rules, or if they make up their own rules, they will proceed more slowly and less safely and less courteously. And they will serve as a bad example to others.
      The point is that Vehicular Cycling is not just for aggressive, sporting types, but that only Vehicular Cycling will serve those who want to get across town in a hurry. It serves everyone else, too. The fact that most of the people who ride this way are fast and fit is irrelevant.

      May 15, 2013 at 11:52 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        You make a good point, and I agree mostly.
        However, it’s much easier to ride with the flow of traffic, if you go nearly as fast as most traffic. Years ago, I cycled with a relative who was visiting Seattle. As usual, I went into the left lane a block before turning left. Except we were going at half the speed, and quickly accumulated a long line of cars behind. It was a bit harrowing to block the left lane for an extended period of time. The alternative, to ride on the right until the last moment, then try to dart across traffic, also isn’t a good option. This example shows that it’s not a case of black-and-white.
        Perhaps the best analogy are the truck lanes you see on freeways during steep uphill stretches. Bike lanes in effect provide a place where cyclists can ride at a different speed from other traffic.

        May 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm
  • TFan

    I commute into Washington, D.C. where I utilize on-road (mostly local roads except for one road in the city), on-trail (Mount Vernon Trail) and cycletracks inside the city (15th St Cycletrack). You’re certainly right about the dangers of intersections and right/left-hooks, but I think the cycletracks encourage more cyclists and that in turn makes it safer for the whole. Moreover, they’re most heavily used during rush hour when traffic is at a near stand still meaning you have to salmon with traffic between cars/tourist buses/Metro buses/etc etc. And in rush hour, most turns are prohibited on red…not that they have anywhere to go as “blocking the box” ends up being the biggest vehicular concern and also cyclist concern because then you have to jut out into the road when you’re not expected to.
    We also have on-street bike sharrows and lanes. I don’t care as much for them probably because of their designs. On 14th Street, the lane runs you right against parked cars (dooring) and you’re frequently interrupted by our local Metro (mass transit) busses moving into the lane without warning. Not to mention folks turning off onto side streets. I actually find it far more dangerous here than on the neighboring cycletrack a block away.
    Now in the country, I definitively prefer on-road riding. Even in suburban areas I prefer it. I think it’s easier and safer. But in the urban areas during dense traffic, I do believe the cycletracks are safer.

    May 15, 2013 at 6:47 am
    • Robert Cooper

      15th Street in Washington DC
      Turn the sound down, if you are at work. Music only.
      Now replay and imagine a fit commuter trying to get though here at, say, 18 mph.

      May 15, 2013 at 8:13 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Oh my! That video shows the problems better than 1000 words. It becomes clear that at any speed, riding on the wrong side of the road is incredibly dangerous.
        What I found most noteworthy are the cars that are proceeding very cautiously, but still move into the path of the oncoming cyclists, because they aren’t looking for oncoming traffic during a right turn. (Usually, during a right turn, there is no oncoming traffic, at least in countries where traffic moves on the right side of the road.)

        May 15, 2013 at 8:24 am
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        I wonder how old that bike path is. That design was abandoned many years ago in Holland and Denmark except along highways where they of course don’t cause any of the problems that you’ll find in urban areas.
        But the waiting… There’s no difference there for cyclists or drivers. The moron drivers block most traffic, be it cars or bicycles. Same thing happens in bike path paradise Copenhagen. It’s easier for cyclists to get around such obstacles than it is for cars, so it’s more of a nuisance than a real danger.

        May 17, 2013 at 12:30 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The bike path is brand new. It’s not quite finished yet. It’s consdidered a blueprint for many others the city wants to build. Hence my concern.

          May 17, 2013 at 7:06 am
        • InvisibleHand

          As Jan wrote, it’s relatively new. 2010 or 2011. It was installed (at least) months after these photos of 15th ST were taken which are labeled April 2010.

          As I point out elsewhere, after the cycletrack was installed both the SHARROWs and Bicycle May Use Full Lane signs were removed. Based on conversations between local advocacy with DC DOT — I heard about them second hand — they were removed specifically because they wanted cyclists to use the cycletrack.

          May 17, 2013 at 7:59 am
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Jan, if that path is brand-new, I can understand your concern. It’s rather weird that, in spite of the opportunity to look to the Dutch experience with bike paths, traffic engineers all over the world insist on making the same mistakes that the Dutch made 25-40 years ago.

        May 20, 2013 at 4:58 am
  • Robert Cooper

    Another knockout article by Jan. I would only suggest that the expression “A car turns left and doesn’t notice…” be changed to read “A motorist turns left and doesn’t notice…” It’s those pesky motorists who occasionally crash into cyclists, using their cars as tools.

    May 15, 2013 at 6:57 am
  • Andy

    I think one thing to keep in mind is that there is no easy way to fairly compare cycling facilities in the US to other countries. Europe was developed long before cars were the dominant transportation method, and in general is far more compact than the US. We also have effectively built up our urban areas to the extent that adding an off-street cycling path is just not feasible anymore without some rather major urban restructuring. That leaves precious little space available to adding cycletracks, unless lanes of roadway are changed over.

    May 15, 2013 at 7:04 am
    • Robert Cooper

      I have also heard that drivers in Europe are trained and qualified before being given a driver’s license. In the United States, any such training is a mockery of the concept of competence. Even the instructors don’t know what to say about cyclists.
      Although I believe that the right to travel by human power is universal, and I therefore oppose licensing cyclists and pedestrians, it would be a step forward if a national standard of cycle training were at least available to all those who wanted it.
      At the same time, it would be a step forward, if we had a national standard traffic code.
      Crossing state lines and municipal boundaries here is a legal nightmare, for those who choose to follow the state and local law to the letter. Ride on the sidewalk. Don’t ride on the sidewalk. Ride in the bike lane. Don’t ride in the bike lane. Stop at stop signs. Yield at stop signs (Idaho).
      In my neighborhood, there is even a “stop” and a “slow” sign, both signs bolted to the same pole facing the same direction, the two signs almost touching. Can you spell “schizophrenia”? There are no standards. Is it any wonder that cyclists and motorists alike don’t know how they are supposed to behave?

      May 15, 2013 at 7:38 am
    • Christian Bernhard Hagen

      That’s not entirely correct, really. Sprawl is of about the same extension in most modern cities.

      May 20, 2013 at 8:14 am
      • Robert Cooper

        I live in an American city that was founded in the early 19th century, when canals had not yet been superseded by railroads and railroads by autos. Today I will drive 12.4 miles round trip to the grocery store and then 12.8 miles round trip, in the opposite direction, to the beer store. I’m thinking, if I did that in Tuscany, I would be in another town. Children here ride the school bus for an hour or more a day. For many children, cycling to school is out of the question. That’s sprawl.

        May 21, 2013 at 7:46 am
  • Tom

    Excellent. I currently reside in Illinois near St. Louis where much is being spent on dedicated bike paths but it seems very little attention to integrating even basic safety measures into regular streets and roads with regards to cyclists. A great first step would be to educate the general population as to which side of the road is appropriate for bicyclists as well as pedestrian travel.

    May 15, 2013 at 7:09 am
    • Greg

      Hear, hear! Riding the wrong way is (I believe, still) the #1 cause of cyclist fatalities. (Am I correct)? I cringe every time I see a young ‘wrong-way’ cyclist in my neighborhood. Obviously they were told by an uninformed but well-meaning parent to do so. Particularly on our 25 mph-limit streets, it’s borderline insane. It can potentially reduce a motorist’s time to react by a factor of three!

      May 15, 2013 at 7:46 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Fortunately, around here, wrong-way cycling has decidedly fallen out of fashion. Seattle has made huge progress in every respect in the two decades I have lived here. That is also why I am concerned to see new facilities being put in that seem like a retrograde step. It seems like we are trying to emulate Europe, without realizing that in many ways, we were ahead of them already.

        May 15, 2013 at 7:51 am
      • John S. Allen

        The #1 cause of fatalities varies depending on location and on how categories are defined. Riding the wrong way is very dangerous but it is not common enough to be the #1 cause of fatalities. What I am noticing in newspaper reports is that increasing numbers of urban fatalities, by now probably the #! type, are right-hook collisions, most often with large trucks. To a large extent, these are encouraged by construction of bike lanes to thr right of right-turning motor traffic.I don’t know whether this has been analyzed formally, though.

        May 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm
  • Ed Carrillo

    Great post. Very well thought out. I live and ride in a moderately bike friendly community (Sacramento and Davis, CA) yet it takes a quite a bit of diligence and an “heads-up” attitude to ride safely. So much so, that I’ve taken to dismounting and walking my bike across the busier intersections (especially in Sacramento) using the cross-walk. Not very sexy, I admit, but effective. And I really don’t lose much time. Given the law of averages and the probability of an accident involving a car, cyclists need to consider every safety alternative.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:17 am
  • Demetri

    Article rehashes old concerns. Biggest problem is confounding protected bike lanes and bike paths. One must decide as separate issue if it worth installing bike lanes. Then decide if worth protecting those bike lanes by barriers. If not worth installing bike lanes, then no decision necessary if those bike lanes should have barriers. If worth installing bike lanes, then decision if worth installing barriers, considering extra width necessary, cost, etc. Bike paths are more separated from roads, may or may not parallel roads, and may or may not be intended alternate to the roads. Last presumes there are bike paths; in practice, virtually all bike paths soon after installation become multi-use paths, used by bicyclists, pedestrians, roller skaters, skateboarders, and others, which in itself makes them different from protected bike lanes.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:31 am
    • Jon Bendtsen

      “Last presumes there are bike paths; in practice, virtually all bike paths soon after installation become multi-use paths, used by bicyclists, pedestrians, roller skaters, skateboarders, and others, which in itself makes them different from protected bike lanes.”
      Then make (proper) sidewalks too. In Denmark the sidewalk and cyclepath and road are often on different level and with a kerb to separate them. This makes it clear for everyone where their mode of transportation is to go.

      May 18, 2013 at 4:19 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        In theory, that works well. In practice, pedestrians aren’t always very attentive when they are off the street, because they feel safe when they are away from cars. And then you have the issue of bus stops, where riders have to cross the cycle path.
        Those issues exist in Copenhagen, too. The city government acknowledges them and is trying to find solutions.

        May 18, 2013 at 4:24 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “In theory, that works well. In practice, pedestrians aren’t always very attentive when they are off the street, because they feel safe when they are away from cars.”
        Then make them learn the painful way.
        “And then you have the issue of bus stops, where riders have to cross the cycle path.
        Those issues exist in Copenhagen, too. The city government acknowledges them and is trying to find solutions.”
        They know what solution is, but there are not always space for doing that. The solution is to put a little area between the bus and the cycle-path where the buspassengers can step into the bus or down to from the bus so they dont step directly on the cycle-path. The dutch does this too.
        When there are such a space, the passengers must yield, when there are no such space the cyclists must yield. This system works quite well.

        May 18, 2013 at 6:19 am
  • GuitarSlinger

    IMO Jan I think both are needed . On the majority of streets a simple designated Bike Lane is by far and for many reasons ( including money ) the preferred option . But on a few … especially on high speed ( 40 mph + ) urban corridors etc a protected bike lane is called for . So from my point of view being here in Bike Lane/Path central … I don’t see it as an either/or question but rather a case by case decision as to what will keep bicyclists safest . BTW lest we forget …. there are those drivers out there … much as we may try to pretend they do not exist …. that do in fact intentionally aim for bicyclists … I dealt with them in KCMO .. still deal with them here in Denver … and know for a fact they’re out your way as well … at least up in the Bellingham area.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:35 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I agree that in some places, separate facilities are great. If you can design a bike path that doesn’t have intersections at every block, it can be a huge asset. In Seattle, they even built two underpasses so the Burke-Gilman Trail can pass under two major roads without intersection.
      Regarding drivers who want to “teach cyclists a lesson” by passing very closely – fortunately, those are becoming fewer and fewer all the time as more cyclists are on the roads. These days around here, a cyclist no longer is “one of them,” but could be the driver’s doctor, their cousin or somebody else they know. That humanizes the cyclist and changes attitudes (which, as somebody pointed out, is an argument for doing anything that gets more people onto bikes to improve safety.)

      May 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm
  • David Feldman

    The most absolutely terrifying thing for this cyclist? Not traffic, nor speed, nor bad pavement–but sidepaths that are separated with a concrete strip as on one of the above illustrations. Worse yet–tried years ago and abandoned in Vancouver, WA and recently installed in Portland, OR for no good reason, is the bike lane between parked cars and the curb! Nobody exiting their parked car is in a habit of looking for cyclists on their right unless they just moved here from the UK. On-road cycling needs some better press. American drivers also need to be regulated more tightly–speeding, DUI, and electronics use while driving are all grossly underpoliced and underpunished.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:39 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The reason the bike lane on the wrong side of parked cars is being considered is that many people advocate for them. When I visited the “commuter forum” at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Portland a few years back, I was stunned that many of the people on the podium argued that “anything between moving cars and cyclists was a good thing – trees, hedges or at least parked cars.”

      May 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm
      • bgobie

        Seattle has had a bike lane between the sidewalk and parking on Alki for many years. I hate it and ride in the street. Pedestrians treat it as an extension of the sidewalk, car passengers open doors without looking, and since there is no curb drivers often back into it when parking.

        May 16, 2013 at 10:26 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “Nobody exiting their parked car is in a habit of looking for cyclists on their right unless they just moved here from the UK”
        Car lane, parked cars, cycle path, sidewalk is working very well in Copenhagen and has for many years.
        “Pedestrians treat it as an extension of the sidewalk”
        You have to separate it by level and a kerb, or just make the sidewalk wide enough to accommodate all the pedestrians.

        May 18, 2013 at 4:22 am
  • Steve Palincsar

    By far the best thing about a genuinely separated bike track or path is that it prevents cars from using it as a parking space or driving in it.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm
  • Heather

    Well, there’s a tidbit of information for the shared road brigade, Hitler developed separated bike lanes to get you OFF THE ROAD! Paved roads were in fact developed for bicycles before the automobile ever arrived. I am of mixed feelings about bike lanes. I follow the rules of the road as much as possible, but every ride involves frustration and darted evil eyes at fast moving giant big man trucks. Drivers seem to be getting more and more impatient, break rules, speed and disregard cyclists or pedestrians. Many people where I live ride mountain bike trails to get around instead of the highway, but require some serious xc bikes which are difficult to ride once on pavement.
    I have found the 2 way separated bike lanes in Vancouver, Canada to be fun, and think, wow great. But then, you’ve got riders weaving back and forth on the wrong side, people in electric scooters think they can use them and are much faster than even bike couriers…and then the bike couriers breathing down your neck! Even separated bike lanes require that people ‘share the road’. Vancouver has long had a very good bike route system with quiet roads mapped out as bike routes throughout the city and surrounding areas. They are not bike laned, but it is well marked that they are for bikes, and cars are supposed to give bicycles priority. Bike lanes also require that everyone follow the rules, and have not had problems in regular shared traffic bike lanes. In the nearest town to my home, some poorly designed bike lanes were put in and I feel unsafe at intersections, and people use the bike lane as a turning lane, so I prefer to ride smaller side roads where possible.
    Another issue is cyclists using one way bike lanes the wrong way. They think, oh there’s a bike lane, I will ride on it in the opposite direction. Many casual cyclists are terrified and think they are more safe riding against traffic. What they fail to realize is that if they get hit because a car did not expect them, they will be found at fault for not following the law. There is a mishmash of bike lanes where I live on various rural roads, but they are very misused and poorly designed in the first place. Quiet residential roads should not need bike lanes Busy highways need bike lanes or at least enough space for cyclists to ride safely out of the way. People jog on them, adults salmon and do not make way for cyclists coming towards them riding the right of way. I’ve seen scooters and motorcycles salmoning on them! Those type of bike lanes are for one way bike traffic. I only use them if nobody else is around, and see them as glorified rural sidewalks and places for children to ride. Also, bike lanes such as these are poorly made and not maintained so it’s safer to ride on the road.
    For years I lived in a very bike unfriendly city. It had a great deal of green space and paved multi use path trails all over the city linking areas, so I created my own network of quiet safe routes and parks to ride though. I was able to avoid the main roads clogged with buses, traffic, parked cars, have less stress on quiet streets and parkways and enjoy the ride.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm
    • Jon Bendtsen

      “There is a mishmash of bike lanes where I live on various rural roads, but they are very misused and poorly designed in the first place. Quiet residential roads should not need bike lanes Busy highways need bike lanes or at least enough space for cyclists to ride safely out of the way. People jog on them, adults salmon and do not make way for cyclists coming towards them riding the right of way. I’ve seen scooters and motorcycles salmoning on them! Those type of bike lanes are for one way bike traffic. I only use them if nobody else is around, and see them as glorified rural sidewalks and places for children to ride. Also, bike lanes such as these are poorly made and not maintained so it’s safer to ride on the road.”
      Joggers are rarely a problem. Motorcycles uses the road in Denmark, both by law and by rider choice. Small mopeds (30 km/h) has to use the cycle-path, larger mopeds (45 km/h) has to use the road.

      May 18, 2013 at 4:27 am
  • svenski

    Accident statistics from much-quoted Berlin, Germany show that a large number of the cyclists killed by cars turning right were elderly, all riding on a seperated bike lane. Obviously feeling pretty safe there. Compared to the low percentage of elderly people amongst cyclists, they are sadly overrepresented here. So, it remains crucial you be seen on your bike and you see and perceive all of the traffic around you.
    One point crucial in Germany, and thanks for the history lesson ;), is the 2010 sentence from a federal court, stating that cyclists belong on the street. If a cyclepath is being made mandatory to use, there needs to be a local reason to oblige them to use the cyclepath. This only slowly sneaks into local administrations’ practice, but after time will result in a situation where you can choose to use the cyclepath or the street, according to your travelling speed and perceived safety. It will be interesting to see how this is going to develop as cycling greatly increases and cyclists demanding more and more space.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The Federal Court decision is very good news! German cyclists, including myself when I still lived there, fought for this for decades.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm
  • Travis Newhouse

    I agree with the comments about mode share. Increasing mode share will improve safety for all cyclists. I think cycletracks can improve mode share and provide actual – not perceived – safer facilities for the 8-to-80 users who mostly travel 8-12 M.P.H. – as opposed to the current super-commuters and athletes who travel at much higher speeds, and may always prefer to ride in a lane at speeds more similar to cars.
    The examples you provide appear to be North American facilities. I certainly understand the lack of visibility at intersections that you raise as a primary concern. I have experienced many of them. I think the safety of cycletracks depends on proper engineering and how people use them, particularly at intersections.
    If a cyclist want to blindly ride in the cycletrack, without paying attention and yielding at intersections, then there will be collisions. A cyclist must be vigilant at intersections and driveways, and know where to look for approaching vehicles. Similarly, motorists must recognize that the intersection a a place where they will be crossing cycletracks. This issue is similarly present for pedestrians who use a sidewalk, where both pedestrian and motorist must observe their surroundings at intersections and driveways.
    Engineering is critical to making the cycletracks safe. The Dutch engineering approach is to keep the conflict in front of the motorists, not over their shoulder. They also use separate signal phases for vehicles and cycles that minimize conflict. Please refer to the following descriptions:
    You mentioned lack of data. Here are some links to some recent safety studies in North American cities that you may want to read (unfortunately, I have not had time to digest them myself).

    May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I agree that design is crucial. All too often, the cycle tracks are fit into an existing street, as they were in Seattle. Having separate light cycles for cars and bicycles can help with safety (it would solve much of the problem shown in the video from D.C.), but at the expense of increasing congestion and wait times at the lights.

      May 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm
      • John S. Allen

        Jan, the Washington, DC 15th Street cycle track does have separate signal phases for cyclists.Travel is very slow, especially in the contraflow direction (fighting the traffic-signal progression) and many if not most cyclists disobey the signals. There are other issues — conflicts with pedestrians and with other cyclists on this narrow,two-way path. I invite readers to view the videos in this album of rides in both directions and at various hours of the day:.

        May 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm
  • Dave

    I don’t disagree with you that separated infrastructure can increase the danger for cyclists, but as many other people, you seem to be implying that separated infrastructure *cannot* ever be a good thing, based on examples of bad separated infrastructure.
    Having seen some of what is in Amsterdam, I feel like it greatly differs from what you are describing here. They specifically design for visibility and cyclist priority at intersections by many different means. Most cycle paths are elevated from the roadway, and there is almost never on-street parking to block the view of people driving down the road. In many places, the cycle path and sidewalk are continuous through an intersection, and the person driving, in order to cross them, essentially has to go over a speed bump. They also utilize signals on different cycles for cars and bicycles so that different modes are not crossing complex intersections together.
    So, I agree with you that separated infrastructure as an afterthought or without thorough planning can make things more dangerous, I disagree that this is simply how it has to be. And I think the safety record of the Netherlands speaks to that, at least to some extent (of course there are other factors as well, such as law and education).
    I also, to some extent, disagree about the safety of riding in the road for all types of bicycle users. For someone who is very skilled and confident, on a bike which is meant for some level of speed, riding in the road is probably just as safe as anything else. For someone who is not particularly skilled, or not as confident, or on a heavy bike meant for carrying and comfort, etc – those people are, for one, more prone to aggression from drivers, because for obvious reasons, they are more frustrating to people who want to move faster, and who are scared by a vulnerable person who may appear unsure of their own ability to ride well. The stress from having a revving motor 3 feet behind you can also exacerbate that insecurity, and cause a person to do things they might otherwise use good judgment to avoid.
    In any case, I think it’s a bit more complex an issue than just an absolute statement that ‘cycle paths make intersections more dangerous by making cyclists less visible’.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I think you misunderstand. I agree that infrastructure can be good, but it needs to be applied with good judgment. What I see here these days is many people advocating for “protected routes” that are anything but. At least in principle, the Dutch system looks a lot better. Part of this may be because the Dutch are willing to take away convenience from car traffic – something that is difficult even in Seattle, where bike facilities are usually designed only if it doesn’t affect “freight mobility” or “commute times.”
      My main concern with the Dutch system is that it does not work for covering significant distances efficiently. Where cars just go straight, cyclists have to turn right, left and right again. It’s worse for left turns, where you go straight, then wait another light cycle to cross the street on which you came. Considering that light cycles in Europe can be very long (multiple left turn arrows and such), you can spend 3 minutes at each intersection, where you would have turned left without stopping if you had been in the traffic lane.
      When I rode to the train station with my son during my last visit to Germany, the 10-mile, hilly ride to the edge of town took less time than the 2 miles to the train station near the town center.
      But perhaps that is a small price to pay for getting more people out on bikes. Ideally, you’d give cyclists a choice of the path and the road – just like car drivers aren’t forced to take the freeway, if they prefer the “surface” streets.

      May 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm
      • ianbrettcooper

        My biggest problem with Dutch facilities is that in many cases their use is mandatory. When faced with a poor quality bike path or track, you do not have the option of using the road.

        May 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        The longest time I’ve ever spent at a traffic light is (and i’ve counted it because it feels like forever) 1 m 10 sec. And you know, in Holland as well as Copenhagen, you certainly can cover significant distances efficiently. Check with Google Street View. Only when you’re close to the center, (like 3 km) you have to slow down. And yet getting through central Copenhagen during rush hours is a lot faster on a bike than in a car.

        May 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I was referring to the “Copenhagen Left,” where you convert a left turn into two separate street crossings. Separate bike paths force you to do this, and depending on where you ride, this can double your ride time compared to riding on the street.

          May 16, 2013 at 5:13 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        The “Copenhagen Left” (used in most intersections in Holland, too) does have one interesting little addendum to it: You don’t have to wait for a green light when you change direction. The law only demands that you make the left turn part of the maneuvre without causing inconvenience or danger. As a child I twice saw cyclists being killed when making vehicular left turns. The REAL Copenhagen Left is a lot safer, and almost as fast in most cases.

        May 17, 2013 at 12:46 am
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Yes, at least here in Denmark, you may cross on red when making a left turn. Most cyclists don’t, being too timid and having an in-grown respect for traffic lights (I’m not kidding you), but I’m certainly not alone in taking advantage of the possibility. I do tell my 12 and 14 year olds NOT to do it untill they’re a lot faster and more aware of traffic than they are at present, but my two eldest sons aged 21 and 23 do it. (Well, the 21 year old is a bike messenger, so he has very little respect for red lights in general…)

        May 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm
  • M.J.

    Hmmm… If the problem is intersections, then why not address the problem at the intersection rather than throwing our hands up in defeat? Separate signals for example.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      That is a potential solution, but it has costs in money and reduced traffic flow that few cities want to incur. Another solution would be to put cyclists on the road, and reduce the speed limit to 20 mph.

      May 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm
      • Andy

        I think this is the true solution. If drivers could cross a city at a consistent 20mph, it would be much faster than the current system where you usually accelerate hard to 30mph but then come to a stop again in one or two blocks. Not only would it allow cyclists to make it many blocks at 20mph, or multiple blocks if going 12-15mph), but it would reduce the need for drivers to reach the critical speeds at which collisions are more likely to be fatal.

        May 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm
        • InvisibleHand

          Indeed, lowering speeds to 20 mph is a good solution. Long story short, we want to design neighborhood roads for lower speeds that require drivers to pay attention to successfully navigate.

          May 15, 2013 at 7:19 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Almost agree about the speed. It would still depend on how heavy the traffic is, though.

        May 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm
    • Glenn Ammons

      The protected bike lanes in NYC have separate signals at some intersections. There is one green for cyclists and another for cars in the turn lane. These do reduce conflicts but they also mean that turning motorists and all cyclists get half the green time that motorists traveling straight receive. And conflicts aren’t eliminated because some cyclists and motorists go on the wrong green (this might improve as awareness improves).
      The busiest intersections (I’m thinking of one across from Penn Station) don’t get separate signals because separate signals reduce traffic flow. So it’s exactly where there are the most conflicts that the planners give us no help.
      Not all of the problems are at intersections. In NYC, the protected lanes are usually right next to the sidewalk and inevitably become an extension of the sidewalk. So cyclists have to be constantly vigilant for pedestrians who step into the lane without looking. And, because the lane is protected by a barrier, an emergency move into the next lane over is not an option. Oblivious pedestrians are a much smaller problem on streets without protected lanes because the parking lane is a buffer and because people pay more attention when they might be stepping in front of a ton of speeding steel and glass than they do when the danger is someone on a bike.

      May 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        It’s a common misperception by pedestrians that a cyclist does not pose a risk. If you had a choice of being hit by a bike or a modern car (not pickup truck or SUV!), both going 20 mph, the car would be your better choice. Bikes have many sharp and protruding parts that will cause serious injuries or death when the impale a pedestrian. However, we are conditioned to fear cars, and not other traffic.

        May 15, 2013 at 7:36 pm
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “Not all of the problems are at intersections. In NYC, the protected lanes are usually right next to the sidewalk and inevitably become an extension of the sidewalk. ”
        Then the sidewalk is not wide enough. Or maybe the cycle-path and sidewalk are not separated from each other by level and a kerb.

        May 18, 2013 at 4:44 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          A kerb rarely is enough to keep pedestrians off the bike path – unless there is so much bike traffic that they don’t have much of a chance to step onto the bike path. Maybe we should think about “protected” bike lanes that are protected from pedestrians? We could put a line of parked cars between the bike lane and the pedestrian sidewalk…

          May 18, 2013 at 4:53 am
          • Jon Bendtsen

            “A kerb rarely is enough to keep pedestrians off the bike path – unless there is so much bike traffic that they don’t have much of a chance to step onto the bike path. Maybe we should think about “protected” bike lanes that are protected from pedestrians? We could put a line of parked cars between the bike lane and the pedestrian sidewalk…”
            Look, if the pedestrians are so many that they need to walk on the cycle path, then clearly the sidewalk is not wide enough.
            Not cars, but you can put a line of parked bicycles between the bike path and the pedestrians. Or simply let the pedestrians learn by pain that they should look where they are going by cycling into them.

            May 18, 2013 at 5:50 am
  • Jim Gourgoutis

    My big fear about segregated bike paths is that, over time, we cyclists will lose our right to use the normal/main roadway. Jan’s quoting the old lady “Now get in your bike lane!” shows this is already the mentality. Indeed, in may municipalities, it is a requirement for cyclists to use a path instead of the adjacent roadway if such a path exists.

    May 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm
  • Bill

    In cities whose street layouts are compatible (mostly residential grid), Bicycle Boulevards can provide routes that are fast for fast cyclists and low-stress for apprehensive cyclists. A BB is a residential street that is prioritized for bikes: stop signs only for cross traffic; signals that detect bikes; smooth pavement. Cars are discouraged by barriers and right-turn-only features, and slowed by obstacles, such as circles and chicanes. No lanes, no sharrows; bikes _belong_ on a BB, cars are tolerated. I almost never see salmoning or sidewalk riding on a BB. Women and children are major users.
    For some data on the dangers of sidewalk and wrong-way riding in Palo Alto CA, see

    May 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm
  • David

    You make some good points. It is helpful to reassess how we stay safe; the common bicycle accidents website you referenced has some useful tips. I think your series on safety seems to emphasize that there is no one dogmatic principle to follow and that we have to do what is sensible in each situation.
    One thing about riding to work is that if you ride the same route every day, the cars and buses on the route will get to know you. After all you are both doing the same commute. Drivers seem to follow what they see other drivers do. If the first car in a line gives you a wide berth, usually the other ones behind will follow suit.
    I try to ride safely, and enjoy myself at the same time. Being militant is no fun. It doesn’t really impede the progress of a car to pass a bicycle; they can easily make up the time. A slow car is much worse for holding up traffic. I don’t slow down traffic. There are many times that traffic slows me down.
    I would say that it is probably wise to avoid riding on roads that see heavy truck traffic. Large trucks are used to having the right of way because of their size, and they have a hard time controlling their position on the road.
    The other point is that many minor crashes, maybe most, don’t involve cars. They happen when something on your bikes breaks, or when you exceed the ability of the tires to stay on the earth. The expert bicyclists who read this blog probably take these things for granted.
    I am optimistic that safety will improve as more cyclists are seen riding on the roads and more drivers become cyclists themselves.

    May 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm
  • Robert Hoehne

    meanwhile back in Germany they are reporting on the mixed chaos of London.

    May 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm
  • VFerreira

    “1. Being hit by a car that approaches from behind is a very unlikely event.”
    I have seen this statistic many times. In most studies it is followed by something like:
    Being hit from behind is one of the major ways that cyclists are killed or very seriously injured.
    Yeah, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. 8-))
    Other than that, I agree with you.

    May 15, 2013 at 4:46 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Certainly, for me, getting hit from behind has been the major cause for injuries – it’s happened twice. The simple reason is that it’s one of the few accidents that are hard to avoid. However, when you look at actual fatalities, you realize that the reason experienced cyclists tend to get hit from behind is that they tend to avoid all the other accidents – making them much safer than statistics indicate.

      May 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm
      • Tom

        The talk about “experienced” cyclists and accident rate brings to mind the education system for vehicle drivers in the US which teaches the laws, rather than actually learning how to drive a vehicle. Following the rules might be achieved while pointing the vehicle and texting or entertained by loud music, but in France or other european countries an emphasis is put on handling, attention to the road and emergency maneuvers. Experienced cyclists or drivers know there is plenty to think about in traffic without the need for self imposed distractions. What is it, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

        May 16, 2013 at 5:33 am
  • Mike Beck

    Jan, if you don’t like the added infrastructure to make the interurban a connected, largely protected route N/S out of Seattle, you can simply choose to ride Greenwood or Aurora Ave N if you’re convinced you’re more like a car than a grandma on a bike.
    as for grandmoms on bikes, mine would like you to know you can take your disdain for protected class routes for the less abled, and stuff it, while you play in traffic on aurora.
    Seattle needs a network of well protected routes. this route, with limited E/W traffic across it, makes sense. Should the interurban traffic corridor continue to be improved for strong cyclists like Jan and Myself? Absolutely. the street should have sharrows added to it, similar to the beach drives in town that front the bike paths there.
    this stretch Jan is grousing about has likely seen an increase in ridership, of riders willing to negotiate that stretch of SEattle by bike. Jan, you should be ashamed of yourself for bringing hitlers’ germany as a critique of bike master planning that’s intended to get more people to ride bikes in Seattle.
    Cyclists in Washington state are not required to use bike infrastructure, thanks to a few activists committed to protecting washington cyclists road rights- where was Jan’s voice when cyclists truly faced being suborn to bike facilities? absent. Now, when the city of Seattle goes about making the city safer and easier for families and workers to get downtown, to the zoo, etc, out comes the proud and the fearless, to tell everyone planning for bike traffic is akin to nazism, and that the 8 year olds and grandmas simply need to get grandma to ‘take the lane’ on the way to the Denny’s on Aurora ave.

    May 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      If you don’t like the added infrastructure to make the interurban a connected, largely protected route N/S out of Seattle, you can simply choose to ride Greenwood or Aurora Ave N if you’re convinced you’re more like a car than a grandma on a bike.

      “Love it or leave it!” is an argument that is used by those who are afraid to engage on the specific proposals. You know as well as I do that neither Aurora nor Greenwood are suitable or safe for cycling. In any case, I am not too concerned for myself – like you say, experienced cyclists can look out for themselves – but concerned for novice cyclists who are led to believe these facilities are safe.
      I have no disdain for your grandma or for true “protected routes.” However, I think it is a complete misnomer if you offer a “protected” route with protection that is interrupted whenever you need it most – at intersections. If I offered you a bullet-proof vest that has a big hole right where your heart is, you wouldn’t call it “protection,” would you?
      I am all for making cycling in Seattle safer, but I don’t think that putting cyclists on the wrong side of the street achieves that goal. Nobody says that grandmas and 8-year-olds should take the lane (although my 8-year-old son confidently did), but putting them on a seemingly safe trail that spits them right into the path of turning cars doesn’t seem the best option, either.
      As to my voice and community engagement – I volunteered for years at the Bike Alliance. I used to be the vice-chair of the Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail that advocated for – gasp – a separate path through Ballard. These days, Bicycle Quarterly is promoting cycling for transportation. We’ve worked hard on figuring out how to make bikes more useful and safer for everyday transportation, through our research into fenders design, lights, load carrying and other technical issues. So please leave your polemic at home.

      May 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm
      • Bob

        Right, but your chain of logic goes like this: SDOT built separated facilities without proper design for the intersections. Therefore, separated bicycle facility advocates are misguided. Ummm???
        It’s so telling that you advocate for a combo of bike lanes and sharrows as the solution to bike safety. It’s very reminiscent of Linux geeks who says “What? I’m a able to use it – everybody else just needs to learn how!” Right… No consideration given to User Experience. Some poor mom towing her kid says “Gosh, this road is dangerous” and you respond with “That’s just perceived risk, stupid! You most likely won’t get hit by that truck whizzing past you! Look up the stats!”

        May 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I think you misunderstand. What I am saying is that in the U.S., there currently is a trend to advocate for “protected” facilities everywhere. As a result, Seattle and other cities put in “separated facilities without proper design for the intersections.” (To Seattle’s credit, they tried by limiting parking near the intersections, etc.) And then everybody congratulates each other and says: “We are well under way to become the Copenhagen of North America.”
          I think the Bike Boulevard concept has a lot of potential, by designating streets as dedicated to bikes, with stop signs for the cross streets. I think the poor mom towing her kids will feel safer and more importantly, be safer, there. And all cyclists can relax, because they know they have the right-of-way at intersections. Of course, this means that these streets will be removed from the car traffic grid, and unfortunately, there is resistance to this.
          The Bike Boulevard concept is uniquely suitable to North America with its grid pattern of streets, which has multiple streets paralleling each other. European towns and cities have a more organic pattern, and usually there is only one street going to each destination. This would make it harder to implement Bike Boulevards there.
          Beyond that, my children cycle on the streets. They take neighborhood streets with no bike facilities at all, and as long as they keep their speed in check at the intersections, this is relatively safe.

          May 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm
  • Anthony King

    I believe that data has been collected on the bicycle boulevards installed in Manhattan showing driver, cyclist, and pedestrian safety improved substantially along the boulevard routes. However, I am not sure if the speed limit along those routes was also reduced.
    The study referenced in Momentum Mag is here:
    My standard is that a person (even, say, a pregnant woman) should be able to travel with small children on their bicycle and feel safe. This isn’t possible if they are expected to “share” the road with automobiles traveling over ~30mph. One obvious solution is to reduce speed limits on all residential roads and selected arterials, but there seems to be less political will for this change than dedicated bicycle infrastructure.

    May 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm
    • John S. Allen

      For a firsthand look at Manhattan bikeways, please check this out:
      Quick summary: I don’t think that it is accurate to paint with a broad brush.
      The part of the bikeway on the left side of 9th Avenue which is separate from the travel lanes is rather well designed, and with a separate signal phase for bicyclists at every intersection. There are no driveway crossings. It is also one-way, and 10 feet wide. Its main downsides are the shorter green time to allow left-turning motorists to turn across it (though bicyclists can easily and safely but illegally avoid the delay by merging across the stream of left-turning motor vehicles — something the designers apprently didn’t consider), and that getting to destinations on the other side of the avenue is awkward. New York City has a mandatory bike lane law, and any cyclist unfortunate to crash when not on the bikeway — for example, heading for a destination on the other side — is in jeopardy of being held negligent.
      The Grand Street bikeway is much poorer. The two videos and photo gallery linked from the URL above show multiple conflicts with pedestrians, turning vehicles and vehicles parked in the bikeway. At times it was necessary to leave the bikeway. This bikeway also causes major confusion and delay to motorists. Because there is now only one travel lane, a bus loading or unloading backs up traffic for blocks. Average bicycle travel speed when obeying signs and signals, as shown in the videos, was 5.5 miles per hour.
      The Hudson River Greenway (also see video and photos is a good path along a waterfront but in some places becomes a pillar-to-post sidepath. Problems were especially difficult in December 2099 where the Greenway — no longer a greenway at all — passes the World Trade Center construction site. These problems are emblematic of what occurs whenever a construction project meets a sidepath. There have been fatalities: one where amotorist turned across the path and another where a drunk driver mistook it for a roadway and drove on it for a mile before striking a cyclist.
      The bikeway on Broadway between Times Square and Union Square is between a pedestrian plaaza and a sidewalk. Conflicts with pedestrians are rife. At the time the video was shot, the pedestrian plaza extending the full width of the street had not yet been installed, but videos I’ve seen of it show bicyclists weaving around pedestrians.
      The speed limit on New York City streets is 30 mph, and unless congested, motor traffic moves at this speed past the synchronized traffic signals on the one-way avenues. Bicyclists encounter a red light after every few blocks, more often the slower they are. One issue I’ve rarely seen raised is the effect of such delay in encouraging bicyclists to run traffic lights.

      May 16, 2013 at 6:30 am
  • Erik Nilsson

    Data from Copenhagen suggest that cycle tracks also dramatically increase the rate of head-on bike-on-bike collisions. These collisions are often underreported in the US, and even when reported, are not included in the statistics for car-on-bike collisions. The theory is that, because cycle tracks are narrow, bikes are forced into conflict with other bikes, particularly when overtaking another bike.
    Separate bike trails in The Netherlands, where they follow canal tow paths and not roads, work well. Similar paths in the US on old rail grades also seem to sometimes work well. But because they are narrow and have a wide mix of traffic, they are still dangerous places to ride compared to roads. I know several people who have been in very serious or even life-changing collisions on trails made on old rail grades.
    The roads have belonged to the people, not just to cars, since the beginning. Bikes are in some ways the last holdouts to surrendering our roads entirely to cars. We should hold the line, for us and for anyone who wants to move about their own land without surrendering to an automobile.

    May 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm
    • Christian Bernhard Hagen

      What data from Copenhagen? The only data I know of show that bike paths will produce slightly more accidents and a lot fewer fatalities.

      May 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm
  • Eliot

    Bravo. Perfectly stated.

    May 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm
  • KarynC

    Perhaps instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and throwing your hands up in exasperation, you’ll pitch in to advocate for better cycle track design. Yes, intersections are a concern. I ride a cycle track regularly, and I’m experienced enough to avoid the potential right-hook, though I clearly see that others may not be. Should we tear it out and give up? Paint some sharrows and call it good? I submit: HELL NO. Let’s demand that the city do better. Add bike signals. Signals are too expensive? Or are we — our city leaders — just willfully underbudgeting?
    I hear all the time this excuse that these projects are too expensive, often from people who want to frustrate implementation. Actually, I think our priorities are skewed. We’ll spend billions of dollars on a useless tunnel, but we won’t spend a couple hundred thousand on a signal? We’ll spend billions on a bridge across Lake Washington, but we have to fight tooth and nail to get a bike lane of travel on it and safe connections off it? Sure, paint is cheap, but my life isn’t. It’s high time for Seattle to invest in a proper network of cycle tracks, protected bike lanes, neighborhood greenways and trails so that people — people I have to say unlike you, Jan — are welcomed into the bicycling fold. The demand is there. Maybe you haven’t been noticing.
    It’s funny that you have photos of Linden Ave as examples of this blight of infrastructure. Too bad you don’t have some before shots. What a pit that street was! Now look — people are walking, running, bicycling. There are stop signs. It’s calm. It’s not bad looking. It shows that our public rights of way are for people, not simply for cars. And isn’t it interesting to compare and contrast the TYPES of people who are using it vs. the type of person who is using the uphill bike lane/sharrow combo in your other picture.
    If anyone is claiming Seattle has been Copenhagenized, well, I wish for the day. I wish for the day that I, and my bike-curious but not yet biking friends and my children and my inlaws, are riding a network of protected bike infrastructure, regularly and with joy. You fears are unfounded though. Seattle isn’t going to turn into a cycletrack utopia. We will likely, at best, have a small network of protected bike lanes. I hope I’m wrong, but see above: skewed priorities.
    Jan, you can take that lane of traffic, pedaling hard in your big gears. Have fun out there with the cars. Been there, done that. I’m with Bob above. It seems like you’re willing to accept the status quo and keep us stuck in this place where only those fast and aggressive like you will ride regularly. And when you say things like, “My children do it, so can you,” I wish you could hear how condescending you sound. But I’ll offer this: riding in a cycle track isn’t so bad. You might need to slow down a bit. That’s alright. My 8 year old did it. You can, too.
    PS: They’re Neighborhood Greenways here — streets for people. No one calls them Bicycle Boulevards here. Have you not noticed this happening in Seattle, because it’s kind of a big deal.
    PPS: If the Polite Seattlites are reading this: I <3 you. More please!

    May 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I’m experienced enough to avoid the potential right-hook, though I clearly see that others may not be.

      I think you inadvertently point out the conundrum: Experienced cyclists can use separate paths with relative safety. However, the whole idea is to get inexperienced cyclists to use them.
      I think it’s also condescending to say: “Women and grandmas are too timid to cycle in the street.” The same point was made when women started driving cars. Today, women drive cars with confidence and tend to have fewer accidents than men.

      May 16, 2013 at 5:48 am
      • Bob

        No, it’s not condescending. I constantly hear from parents who DO NOT feel safe riding on, say, 65th St NW in Ballard (on which SDOT stupidly installed sharrows). There is no room for a bike. Cars pass dangerously. A strong, non risk-averse, confident man like yourself saying that people of all ages and abilities just need to get with it and ride on dangerous roads is the epitome of condescending.
        Thank god Neighborhood Greenways are rapidly gaining traction. Karyn, thank you for your comments — you hit the nail right on the head!

        May 16, 2013 at 8:33 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          A non risk-averse, confident man

          I actually am very risk-averse, which is why I don’t like these bike lanes.

          May 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The same logic would apply to freeways: Novice drivers aren’t comfortable on them, so let’s get rid of them.

          65th St NW in Ballard (on which SDOT stupidly installed sharrows). There is no room for a bike.

          The whole idea of a sharrow is to encourage and legitimize cyclists to take the lane. There is plenty of room for a bike if you do that.
          I do understand that many riders aren’t comfortable doing this, so we should provide alternative routes. (In fact, they already exist on the parallel streets which are residential and see little traffic.)

          May 16, 2013 at 12:47 pm
      • KarynC

        >I think you inadvertently point out the conundrum: Experienced cyclists can use
        >separate paths with relative safety. However, the whole idea is to get inexperienced
        >cyclists to use them.
        No, I was quite deliberate in what I said. I was deliberate in acknowledging that all the new infrastructure being built is *not yet* ideal and urging that we should demand better instead of grousing about it on the internet and poking the VC hornet’s nest. I rather think the whole idea is to dedicate space to ride a bike separate from cars. It’s quite literally “taking the lane.” There is room on our roadways to do this, provided we have the political will to do so. This is what people not yet riding regularly (they probably don’t self-identify as “cyclists” FYI) are asking for. This is not a “conundrum.” It can be solved. We make political will happen with our activism and our votes.
        >I think it’s also condescending to say: “Women and grandmas are too timid to cycle in
        >the street.” The same point was made when women started driving cars. Today, women
        >drive cars with confidence and tend to have fewer accidents than men.
        I didn’t say that. I know plenty of men and women of all ages and fitness levels who won’t ride their bikes because they don’t feel safe doing so in Seattle. In fact, the majority of people I know fit into this category.

        May 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I am always glad to find that in the end, we agree on most things. Yes, taking the lane for the exclusive use of cyclists is a great solution, and one that I wholeheartedly approve of.

          May 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm
  • Flying Lizard

    Thank you for putting these thoughts in writing – I agree and have long held this view. There’s a key point to add to the discussion. I’m not sure whether this has appeared in other comments already written, but here it is: Not only are segregated bike paths more dangerous, but also they are also much more costly to build than on-street striped bike lanes or sharrows or the absence of any special bike-related infrastructure at all. Their high cost can further inflame the non-riding public’s sometimes unfavorable view of cyclists and cycling – something none of us want or need. In my opinion, urban bike riding can and should be not only easy, safe, healthy, fun, and beneficial for all parties and for the environment, but also inexpensive for the rider and the municipality!

    May 15, 2013 at 10:46 pm
  • Mikael (@copenhagenize)

    Cycling’s Secret Sect continues to push their quirky, unproved theory. Always amusing.

    May 15, 2013 at 11:53 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I think part of the problem is that those who have been using the streets for cycling – as they were originally intended – see themselves pushed onto separate facilities.
      Can you imagine if a country suddenly decided that all cars must drive at 30 mph on the freeway, so that novice drivers feel more confident? Many of us cover significant distances by bike, and as long as places like Copenhagen push all cyclists onto segregated paths, they aren’t the paradise that many make them out to be.
      The fact that in Europe, cyclists who are riding considerable distances for transportation basically don’t exist should give us pause.

      May 16, 2013 at 5:53 am
      • A. Ruston

        As expected, the copenh*genize cult continues to promote the idea that incompetence is the gold standard.
        It’s not.

        May 16, 2013 at 8:02 am
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Oh, but they do exist – and probably in as large numbers as in America, or even larger. It’s just that they make up a very small part of the total cycling. I personally know one guy riding 50 km x 2 to work (50 years old…), and you see them out there. They also typically wear lycra etc., ride very fast (mostly on bike paths) and are often into competitive cycling (clubs and everything).
        The fact that Danish and Dutch elite cyclists are quite well represented in the big professional races also show that of course you can ride fast in Holland and Denmark.

        May 17, 2013 at 12:57 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          They exist, but they are very few. You know one guy… In my parents village, there is one guy who rides 11 miles each way to work. In Seattle, I know dozens of people – men and women of all ages – who cycle that far and further.
          What I found in Germany is that those who ride for recreation and sport usually drive their cars for transportation.

          May 17, 2013 at 7:14 am
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        But you really can’t compare Germany to Copenhagen, or yourself to me 🙂

        May 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm
  • Tom

    There seems to be a lot of confusion here on this issue. The debate is not “calming traffic vs. separation”. I don’t think many people would take issue with the idea that separate urban tracks can carry risks when combined with excess speed and a culture of entitlement among those driving cars.
    However, cycling as transport is effectively dead on its feet in any nation that does not move towards high quality separation (the USA being the prime example of this). The options are if you are interested in bike mode share above 10%:
    1/ dramatically curtailing the ability of through motor traffic to move in or near “destination” streets (residential, shopping, employment).
    or 2/ dramatically curtailing the ability of through motor traffic to move in or near “destination” streets (residential, shopping, employment). AND providing hard kerb separation when cyclist desire lines become entangled with through motor traffic.
    If your local political culture is such that you can fix cycling for transport entirely via option 1 then by all means go ahead. If you have no interest in mass transportation cycling and just want to pursue your hobbies in peace then good luck with that.

    May 16, 2013 at 12:33 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You raise a good point that I will discuss in a later blog entry: All of us want to get more people on bikes. And people feel safer on separate facilities, even though they are less safe. What do we do? Do we give them what they want, even though we know it’s less safe? Do we try to educate them about riding in the streets, how it’s done safely? Do we do a mixture of both?
      Nobody favors throwing your hands. However, currently, I see a lot of money being spent on making cycling less safe, and it’s already dangerous enough. The accident rate among new cyclists seems staggeringly high in Seattle, just from people I know in my neighborhood. Consider what will happen when everybody knows somebody who tried cycling and got hurt?

      May 16, 2013 at 5:57 am
      • Tom

        Jan it goes substantially beyond that. In a society with mass car ownership there is no recorded means of maintaining high bike usage (by which I mean over 10% of trips) without separating different vehicles with different mass & speed. This does not have to mean bike lanes, if you have lots of space then service roads work well, or if you have little space then excluding cars does the job.
        In the UK we’ve spent the last 30 years trying training, exhortation (bikes, yay!) but nothing has worked. Our only cities to have maintained higher cycle use are those where by fluke of history you can’t get a car into the city centre. In the meantime the dutch and the danes have evolved exceptionally sophisticated systems for taming traffic and delivering separation. The cycleways are what everyone notices but their methods are far more complicated than they first appear. Read up on the Dutch concept of “Sustainable Safety” there is much you would find to agree with.
        Where I suspect that we’d find common ground is concern / ambivalence over the use of two way cycle tracks alongside urban roads. There are examples of these in UK cities and they have gone in for I suspect the same reason as in your part of the world, problems taking enough space from motor traffic. Some are now being upgraded as cycling rates increase so that they operate one way with a new matching track on the other side. Really they should be avoided in an urban environment and only go in where there are very few intersections.
        Campaigning for sharrows on streets with high speed / volume isn’t the way forward. Lets be blunt, anyone who rides a bike in that sort of environment doesn’t need the sharrow in the first place. If you can’t bring yourself to support cycle tracks then make common ground with advocates over speed reduction and traffic reduction.
        Tame the traffic & get the infrastructure right and yes you’ll have to put up with a lot of cycle tracks around the place but you’ll also get cleaner air, decent public health, good local shops, ladies with shapely calves on upright bikes, cycling cafe culture, many more people following cycling as a sport, economic growth, free range kids….

        May 16, 2013 at 7:57 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Yes, we agree on many things. I am all for separate facilities where they can be implemented well. That always will be my first choice, but poorly implemented, they are worse than nothing. Unfortunately, it seems the Seattle is bent on poor implementation. The next one planned is on Broadway, a street with multiple intersections, turning traffic and general mayhem. Not a good candidate.
          I think sharrows are very important to allow riders to make the next step to becoming a confident cyclist. They are new, but with time, they’ll become more accepted. Most of all, they are a reminder to drivers to “share the road” that is incredibly helpful.
          I do agree, though, that they don’t work on streets with high volume and speed – unless they are on downhills, where the cyclists ride at the speed of traffic. They are great on streets that see little traffic or in tight spots, where there isn’t enough space for a block or two to provide a bike lane.

          May 16, 2013 at 8:10 am
  • Mike Beck

    Jan -too much complaining, not enough action.
    Washington state cyclists certainly could have used your voice when we were facing mandatory shoulder and bikelane laws at the hands of the BAW; i suggest you expend your bike advocacy efforts focused on the legislative climate for bicyclists in Washington, and find another route N/S out of the city if you don’t like the enhancement of the interrurban trail.
    If you are genuinely concerned about limiting negative traffic experiences and collisions along the interurban – help the city improve the intersection treatments on the interurban. Restrict right turns at 140th, preferential signal for bikes at 145th, whatever you notice potentially endangering bike traffic. Many of those streets off to the east of this section of the interurban have very limited traffic on them, are discontinuous and a block or two long.
    What the city is likely to find on this route as it gains greater separation from traffic is many more cyclists, and reduced indexed collision rate. if an intersection merits greater treatment for bikes like improving sight lines, preferential signal heads, restricting right turns, by all mean, the interurban should be IMPROVED to be a quality riding experience for the 8 to 80 population .
    Without the added bike infrastructure, the interrurban north of 85th feels exposed, Cars encroach at the traffic planters, cyclists don’t know if motorists are going to respect their right of way in the absence of bike facilities on this route.
    I’m not sure why you don’t think aurora or greenwood aren’t safe for cycling. Aurora is the fastest way out of town for bicyclists once you get past 85th or so. It rides supersmooth past the city limits, where aurora has dedicated “bus, bike and RTO lanes”. Nonetheless, perhaps the car traffic makes most cyclists nervous.
    Maybe a little perspective is in order, Jan?
    Fearmongering about completing a fraction of a percent of protected bike lane miles in Seattle on a main N/S route in and out of the city isn’t populist or appropriate, Jan. Go ride Aurora or Greenwood if you don’t like the city’s treatment of a bike route for the rest of the cyclists.

    May 16, 2013 at 2:54 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      when we were facing mandatory shoulder and bikelane laws at the hands of the BAW

      I didn’t know the Bike Alliance favored mandatory shoulder and bikelane laws. If this is true, shame on them! I have been involved with bike advocacy for 20 years now, have attended many lobby days in Olympia, stuffed envelopes, etc.
      Regarding improvements to the “unprotected” lanes shown in the photos, I have a simple suggestion: Put the southbound cyclists on the right side of the street, where they belong. And move them into the sight line of cars, rather than hiding them behind the parked cars. Keep the curb, make it a bit higher, so that cyclists feel protected. And next time, before you spend millions on stuff like this, perhaps think about an education campaign “How to Ride Safely.” We get flyers about all kinds of stuff in the mail, like rain garden and such. Why not about how to ride a bike?
      My goal is not to criticize what has been built, and leave it at that. This blog post hopes to outline the problems, so that designers and planners think twice before embarking on such nonsense. As I have stated multiple times, I am not opposed to “protected” bike facilities, if they are truly protected. The Myrtle Edwards Waterfront Trail is a great example – a few miles of separate trails for cyclists and pedestrians, with only one (minor) intersection.
      It appears that too many urban planners have been dazzled by images of women in high heels cycling 0.8 miles in dense, flat cities, and now think if only they build separate trails, they can recreate that image in hilly, spread-out North American cities.

      May 16, 2013 at 6:11 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        @Jan, reading your article and most of your replies does not make me think that you endorse separated protected facilities.
        “As I have stated multiple times, I am not opposed to “protected” bike facilities, if they are truly protected. The Myrtle Edwards Waterfront Trail is a great example – a few miles of separate trails for cyclists and pedestrians, with only one (minor) intersection.”
        Rather, you come off as HELL NO, I WANNA RIDE ON THE STREET.

        May 18, 2013 at 4:50 am
  • Swanky Cyclist (@UrbaneCommuter)

    Your explanation is fine and dandy and appeals to all the strong young men who like to get out in the traffic, but your logic is deeply flawed. On road cycling results in a modal share of 2-3% of journeys or less. This is consistent, country after country around the world.
    However every congested city where proper infrastructure is implemented the modal share rises steadily to 10% or more. Seville, Bogota, Berlin etc. etc.
    And cycling doesn’t get more dangerous, it gets safer. The absolute test of a successful cycling policy is children cycling.
    The only place I see children cycling near me is off road trails and sidewalks.
    I know you love cycling superfast on the road and taking the lane, I do too, sometimes. However we are the 2%, and our preferences are not shared by normal people who want to get to the shops safely without the hassle of interacting with motorvehicles.

    May 16, 2013 at 3:09 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      As I said before, I think it’s condescending to say that only strong men can cycle on the road. Apart from the fact that I know plenty of strong women who do, perhaps we should embark on more training and education? If car drivers were thrown onto the freeway without training, they’d be terrified, too.

      May 16, 2013 at 6:13 am
      • Bob

        What SwankyCyclist and others have pointed out is that getting a > 3% bicycle ridership with non-separated facilities is *empirically* a bad idea. Nobody has ever done it. If Seattle accomplishes getting 10-20% of cyclists riding the way you do, it would be *unprecedented*. As in, it has happened literally zero times in a modern city where cars already dominate.

        May 16, 2013 at 8:48 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I cannot think of a single hilly, spread-out city in the world that has 10-20% cycling mode share – with or without separated facilities.

          May 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Hilly cities… The second largest Danish city, Aarhus, used to have a low modal share, and everybody explained it with it being a very hilly city by Danish standards (a typical Danish Ice Age tunnel valley landscape). Luckily, the municipality decided to take the chance anyway and start improving the bike infrastructure. And wow! Modal share increased from c. 12-13% to 20%, and still increasing.

        May 17, 2013 at 1:04 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “I cannot think of a single hilly, spread-out city in the world that has 10-20% cycling mode share – with or without separated facilities.”
        Maybe Basel or Aarhus?
        (I have to reply to this message and not the one just further below, because there was no reply link on the one below).

        May 18, 2013 at 4:52 am
  • Doug Culnane

    Separation is the future of cycling if it is to develop into the mainstream and out of the realm of a few selfish males who have learnt to cope with the danger on the roads.
    Data suggests that the Dutch have got it right, so maybe you should try to understand what works before you continue to advocate what has failed miserably.
    Thanks in advance,

    May 16, 2013 at 3:43 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      As a geographer, I have to point to numerous differences between the Netherlands and many U.S. cities. One is topography: the Netherlands are flat. Two is average commute distances. In Copenhagen, the average bike trip is less than a mile. You don’t get far in most U.S. cities within that distance.
      If you look at hilly European cities, like Stuttgart, you see that the proportion of bike commuters is about that you find in the U.S., and they tend to be riders who also ride recreationally.

      May 16, 2013 at 6:17 am
      • Doug Culnane

        Like I said maybe you should try to understand what works before you continue to advocate what has failed miserably.
        There are plenty flat cities with a low level of cycling so that is not it. If you look at the topography of European cities you will find them to be very similar but and there is one Country with consistently high modal share for bikes, so what is different about that country?
        As a geographer I hope you will understand that nature responds to different environmental conditions differently. Deserts good for sand, Rain forests good for trees etc… Maybe cycling infrastructure is good for cycling.
        I can understand it is hard to admit that all that the “Share the Road” bullshit did not work but it clearly did not work and will not work. It had a chance and failed so please lets move on and make the planet a better place for cycling by understanding and copying what does work. I understand that is difficult to do but it is important and it is time cycling had some success because it deserves it.
        Thanks in advance,

        May 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          you continue to advocate what has failed miserably.

          Calling all the experienced cyclists in Seattle “a miserable failure” is not nice!

          Like I said maybe you should try to understand what works

          I don’t doubt that cycling infrastructure, no matter how poorly done, will get more people onto bikes. SUVs made people feel safer in their cars, too.
          But when I learn that 1/3 of traffic deaths in the Netherlands are cyclists, despite cycling being nowhere near 1/3 of the transportation mileage, you start to wonder. And that is for the country with the best-designed bike facilities in the world.
          In the U.S., we are putting in “separate” facilities that come nowhere near the Dutch standards. We implement them without driver and cyclist education. We’ll see whether this is “what works”.
          With poorly designed and dangerous facilities, I am afraid the results will be this:
          – New cyclists hear about the many accidents and are discouraged.
          – Existing cyclists are less safe, because they are expected to use the poorly designed facilities.
          So in a worst-case scenario, we don’t get more people onto bikes, while making cycling more dangerous for those who already cycle.

          May 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm
      • Doug Culnane

        “So in a worst-case scenario, we don’t get more people onto bikes, while making cycling more dangerous for those who already cycle.”
        This is the current situation and I do not know what you call a ~2% modal share for bikes but I call that a Miserable failure.
        Yes the quality of the design is important as you point out very well but you are not advocating quality design you are advocating road design for cars. Maybe it is time to understand what quality design is (routing, road function, zoning, filtered permeability, various different junction designs for the different road types meeting combinations….) and advocate what does actually work.
        Lots of people die playing golf, and few base jumping. Is golf more dangerous than base jumping or is it played a lot more and by more vulnerable age groups? It is the same with cycling in the Netherlands.
        Please stop misinforming and corrupting common sense and let cycling develop in to a proper mode of transport for all people. Advocating road design for cars and all the Vehicular cycling shit that goes with it is selfish and why cycling is in a state of miserable failure now. You like to get in the way of cars and annoy drivers which is fine by me but it is not fine for you to get in the way of my kids cycling or grandchildren cycling.

        May 17, 2013 at 12:44 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I am not advocating road design for cars. The advocates of segregated facilities advocate that – give the roads over to cars. That is the vehicular equivalent of apartheid. I advocate road design that considers the needs of all users.
          The misinformation is mostly on the side of those advocating for segregated paths. They still claim that this is safe, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary – even from places like the Copenhagen.

          May 17, 2013 at 7:11 am
      • Doug Culnane

        Jan are you really seriously saying there is overwhelming evidence that a policy of separation is dangerous!!!! That is blatantly dishonest.
        This like arguing with the Pope about the existence of God. Evidence and fact are not the issue when religious beliefs have corrupted rational thought.
        Please go play with the traffic and let people who really care about ALL road users make a more livable, sustainable and safer world.

        May 17, 2013 at 7:27 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The evidence is pretty clear. Accidents increase wherever cycle paths are put in, even when adjusting for the increased ridership. This is true in Berlin, Copenhagen and many other places. There is a clear mechanism for why this happens – intersections, cyclists coming out of nowhere, etc.
          I don’t see the dishonesty, except on the part of those who don’t want to acknowledge this. One side of this argument looks at data, the other only cites “common sense” and “what everybody knows.” As a scientist, I put my faith in the data.
          If you have data that shows the contrary, please share it with us.
          A totally different issue is whether we need these facilities to encourage people to cycle more.

          May 17, 2013 at 7:44 am
        • Ian Cooper

          Doug, the evidence is indeed overwhelming. I’ve looked at every collision study I could find on the internet. The folks who do collision studies are fairly unanimous – 85 to 90% of collision studies show that cycling on segregated infrastructure is less safe than cycling on the road:

          To call Jan dishonest when he is stating a fact is wrong. If you truly want a safer world for cyclists, you must study collision statistics. It seems clear to me that you have not done so, otherwise you wouldn’t be accusing Jan of dishonesty.

          May 17, 2013 at 7:52 am
      • Andy

        There are many factors beyond bicycle infrastructure and design that affect ridership. Our cities struggle to get more than a few percent mode share, but even if we did have the best cycling facilities in the world, I wonder if we would break 10%. Americans just love cars, the ability to text or call while driving, doing makeup while on the move, or jamming out to the radio while they travel. While I love venturing out on my own power, most people are content with minimal (if any) exercising, usually confined to a facility with showers and multiple types of equipment etc. I think those reasons affect ridership far more than complicated or potentially unsafe bike infrastructure, and even with “perfect” facilities, there is little chance on convincing people to change their habits if they just don’t care to exercise.
        Of course, we should have proper facilities for cycling, that are safe and do encourage those curious about it to try it out, hopefully to enjoy cycling and continue to do it. But the current approach of “add facilities no matter how bad they are” concerns me as much as it appears to concern Jan. I may be in the “strong and confident” category of riders, but my commute is 3 miles, and is often slow because I feel no need to rush to the next red light on my way to work. I have no bike lanes on my commute, so I take the lane when there are cars parked on the side. I get a few honks per year, but I ride safely and predictably, and won’t be changing how I ride because of a few drivers that don’t understand my deliberate reasons to ride in the road in most urban environments. I don’t give up my safety for the convenience of someone driving a car.

        May 17, 2013 at 7:32 am
      • Doug Culnane

        There are manipulative studies on both sides of this argument.
        We agree the Dutch Roads are the Safest for cycling or do you depute this too?
        Comparing the UK with an On Road strategy and the Dutch Sustainable Safety strategy per KM the Dutch roads are Safer per KM cycled despite the profile of the cyclists who tend to be vulnerable groups (young children and older people).
        Maybe you should go to The Netherlands and tell them what they have been doing wrong, or maybe it is time to admit they have been more successful than you guys and they maybe know better.
        It makes total sense to everyone out side of your religious sect that separation is safer.

        May 17, 2013 at 8:36 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I don’t think comparisons between countries are useful, as there are too many uncontrolled variables. The study you quote indicates that Dutch roads are safer than British ones. I have no reason to doubt that. However, there are many possible reasons for this, and bike paths are only one possible explanation of many. What about the popularity of SUVs in Britain? Cell phone usage while driving? Hedgerows limiting visibility?
          So you will have to do additional studies to narrow down the variables. That is what the studies from Denmark and Berlin do, which look at the same roads, before and after separate paths are put in. And those show that separate paths increase injuries.

          May 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm
        • Ian Cooper

          I’m getting kinda tired of people with an axe to grind labeling legitimate studies of collisions as ‘manipulative’, as if how a person died is a political statement. People died and people are trying to find out why.

          May 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Every Dane aged 10-84 cycles in average 1.5 km/day. As there are still a lot of Danes who do not cycle every day, and a considerable part who never rides a bike, that makes for rather longer distances, I’d think. The average trip seems to be around 3 km. That includes errands and leisure/free time (riding to sports, visiting friends etc.), as well as kids riding to school – trips that are typically quite short.
        I should add that Tom Boonen (I think it was him) mentioned that riding against a typical Dutch (or for that, Danish) headwind is comparable to climbing a loooong hill.

        May 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          According to the Copenhagen mayor’s office, the average bike trip in Copenhagen is 1 km (0.6 miles). Copenhagen cyclists on average cycle less than that daily, since not every cyclist cycles every day. For a good insight into the Copenhagen cycling culture, I recommend the book “Copenhagen – City of Bicycles.”

          May 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm
          • Brian Ogilvie

            Jan: That conclusion follows only if cyclists make only one trip daily. When I commute by bike, I make at least two trips, and often three or more if I am running errands in addition to the back-and-forth trip to work.

            May 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm
          • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

            Sorry, I wasn’t clear. The self-reported average daily distance is 2 km, on days when cyclists ride.

            May 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm
      • Brian Ogilvie

        Jan: thanks for the clarification on distance traveled.

        May 17, 2013 at 7:49 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The people in Europe are lucky to live in cities where everything is so close. Of course, many Europeans still commute long distances by car or by train.

          May 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm
          • Brian Ogilvie

            When I lived in Paris most recently (2011-12), my typical commute was 3-4 km each way, which I did on Vélib’ bike share bikes. Here in western Massachusetts, my commute is 5 km (3 miles) each way. Seen one way, it’s 25-60% more; seen another way, it’s only 1-2 extra kilometers. But I chose my house in part because it was close to my workplace. European cities are, in general, denser than US cities, but the choices we make also matter (constrained by what’s available, of course). My commute in Berlin (1995-96) was 8 km (5 miles), substantially longer than my commute in the US.

            May 17, 2013 at 8:40 pm
          • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

            You are right, it’s about choices. Even in the U.S., more people choose to live closer to work, school and entertainment. Berlin, by the way, is one of the most spread-out cities in Europe, since it grew out of many small towns.

            May 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm
      • Jon Bendtsen

        I am sure you can find plenty of flat cities with poor cycling infrastructure. I heard that Hamburg is one of them. Bremerhafen did not seem so good either when I cycled through.
        What about London? Sure they have Notting Hill, but the height of Notting Hill seems to be only about 30 to 35 meters in Google Earth. Which is not that different than some of the parts of Copenhagen, Brønshøj, Bellahøj, Bispebjerg,
        (other parts of London might be higher than Notting Hill, but it was the only one I knew.)
        The wind is worse than the hills, because the hills are short, where as the wind can be in your face for your entire trip.
        And if wind and hills is such a big problem, get electric assist.
        I have heard that there are a significant difference between the number of cyclists in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and both cities are flat.
        Hilly or not is not the problem.

        May 18, 2013 at 5:02 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        @Doug Culnane:
        “As a geographer I hope you will understand that nature responds to different environmental conditions differently. Deserts good for sand, Rain forests good for trees etc… Maybe cycling infrastructure is good for cycling.”
        Yes infrastructure is needed. But if there is one thing I learned from this thread is that infrastructure is more than roads, paths, lanes, paint, signals, … It is also the law, like “bigger/heavier vehicle gets the blame by default” or “no right turning on red, only on green”.

        May 18, 2013 at 5:06 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “But when I learn that 1/3 of traffic deaths in the Netherlands are cyclists, despite cycling being nowhere near 1/3 of the transportation mileage, you start to wonder. And that is for the country with the best-designed bike facilities in the world.”
        It is so unfair to compare the mileage when cars drive so much longer distances than cycles. A more fair could be the time spent doing the activity.

        May 18, 2013 at 5:07 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “The evidence is pretty clear. Accidents increase wherever cycle paths are put in, even when adjusting for the increased ridership. This is true in Berlin, Copenhagen and many other places. There is a clear mechanism for why this happens – intersections, cyclists coming out of nowhere, etc. ”
        That could be because they make a change, and it will take a while for people to realize that their commute has changed and that they need to change too.
        Or it could simply be that the Danish junction design is not good enough. The dutch junction design explained here and here seem to work very very well.

        May 18, 2013 at 5:10 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “The people in Europe are lucky to live in cities where everything is so close. Of course, many Europeans still commute long distances by car or by train.”
        And those that does commute long distances can not cycle (all the way). Some danes commute by cycle from home to local train station and then from central train station to the office by (another) cycle.

        May 18, 2013 at 5:12 am
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Jan, concerning distances: The Mayors office is wrong, or is quoted out of context. Here are the numbers – alas in Danish. They more or less confirm what I wrote, though distances actually seem to be longer.

        May 20, 2013 at 5:23 am
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Ian Cooper, I believe we’ve been through the discussion about safety before. The paper you keep referrring to is hopelessly inaccurate. But I’ve told you that before, and I’ve told you why, just as I’ve already written of it in the comments here. So could you please hold your rhetorical horses?
        Okay… I’m sitting right now with the PDF in Dansih. And I’m flappergasted. The numbers show the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you and a lot others (incuding the authors!) are claiming. Page 53:
        Anyway, there’s this, too:

        May 20, 2013 at 5:45 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I cannot read the Danish magazine article in your pdf, but it does not appear to be a peer-reviewed study, and it doesn’t seem to show original data.
          In the article, the first photo shows exactly what many of us fear: A cyclepath that puts cyclists going straight to the right of right-turning cars. Not only the risk of a right-hook, but also puts the cyclists out of the main field of view of oncoming, left-turning traffic.
          A yield sign (for the cyclists going straight?) that makes it your fault if you get hit. Bumpy pavement.
          These kinds of facilities are still considered “models” by many U.S. planners. I hope the article showed it as a bad example, to be replaced by better designs.

          May 20, 2013 at 7:17 am
      • Jon Bendtsen

        @Christian Bernhard Hagen
        “Okay… I’m sitting right now with the PDF in Dansih. And I’m flappergasted. The numbers show the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you and a lot others (incuding the authors!) are claiming. Page 53:
        That PDF is such a misleading way to list the data, it is very very wrong. It should be a criminal offense.
        The problem is the line Ændring with all the + % plus percentages, it is not actually calculated with the before number, no, it is calculated between the expected after change and actually observed after change.
        Tabel 1.
        line 1, column 1: “Alle Trafikantgrupper Kryds og Strækninger” means “All traffic types, crosses and roads/paths/…”
        line 2, column 1: “Før” means “before”
        line 3, column 1: “Forventet efter” means “Expected after”
        line 4, column 1: “Observeret efter” means “Actually observed after”
        line 5, column 1: “Ændring” means “change” and it is calculated with “Expected after” as 100%, not the Before number which I would use.
        *sigh* no wonder you non danish speaking guys actually thinks that the change increased the number of accidents, IT DOES NOT, and this article proves it.
        Tabel 2: Again the “ændring” aka the change, is calculated with the “expected after” as 100%.
        Tabel 3: Again the “ændring” aka the change, is calculated with the “expected after” as 100%.
        line 1, column 1: “Personskadeuheld” means “Person was harmed”
        line 1, column 2: “Knallertkørere” means “Moped driver” (probably only the small max 30 km/h mopeds”
        line 1, column 3: “Cyklister” means “Cyclists”
        line 1, column 4: “Fodgængere” means “Pedestrians”
        And notice that again the “ændring” aka the change, is calculated with the “expected after” as 100%.
        If you actually look at the numbers for cyclists and look at the “Før/before” (line 3) vs. “Observeret efter/Actually observed after” (line 5) then you will see a little drop in the number of accidents for cyclists, Yahoo.

        May 20, 2013 at 8:31 am
      • Doug Culnane

        @Jon Bendtsen It does not matter about real understanding or data when you are dealing with these manipulative religious sects. They are right because they say they are. If you question their God they say you are wrong because they are clearly right. It is pointless arguing with them you can only make fun of them and talk real sense to real people and hope to gain mainstream support for cycling despite the destructive influence of these religious fundamentalists.

        May 21, 2013 at 7:39 am
  • Mark in Beacon

    Like the helmet issue, this is a perennial argument among committed cyclists. I think it’s much more important than that issue, however, because it affects infrastructure, and changes our relationship with the dominant road vehicle, to something like “separate but unequal.” Beyond the safety issues Jan points out, this has behavioral ramifications (“Get back on the path!”), and the possibility of legal restrictions, at least in some cases. (“Bicycles Prohibited.”)
    I recently had the satisfaction of seeing Shared Lane Markings, or sharrows, in my community go from a Clearwater climate justice project to a proposal to my city council to a grant secured with help from Scenic Hudson to painted markings installed up and down our Main Street several weeks ago. I offered an educational class as part of the grant requirements, but it was poorly attended, and I don’t see too many cyclists yet taking full advantage and riding outside the door lane (Our Main Street in Beacon, NY is a textbook example of a sharrows candidate–narrow street, parallel parking both sides, speed limit 30mph or less.) I do feel the markings are positive in that having a stencil of a cyclist painted on the roadway every 250 feet is almost like permanently increasing the critical mass factor, as these symbols don’t get lost in the visual clutter of more traditional pole-oriented street signage.
    Unfortunately, it’s society’s relationship with cars that really must change before we make much headway in giving the bicycle its fair place on our roads. I sometimes think that, here in the U.S. at least, people believe they exited the birth canal clutching a set of keys to a 3,000-pound fossil fuel burning vehicle. At some point in the not that distant future, any civilization that forms from the remains of this industrial epoch will likely look upon the notion of propelling a human being around in such a contrivance with a mixture of horror and disbelief. From the League of American Bicyclists website: “According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.” I would hazard a guess that the majority of the remaining 18 percent are done by foot or subway by people living in large cities. In other words, we are completely ignoring the right tool for the job philosophy, at our great peril (As one would expect in a society that is salivating over the melting Artic ice, which will allow further oil and gas exploration as well as new trade routes.)
    The only reason we’ve gotten away with the massively inappropriate use of the car is because we’ve been living in the age of Cheap Oil. As the world now heads down the other side of Hubbert’s peak oil curve, and the remaining oil, mixed in tar sands, or deep under the ocean, or “tight” oil wedged in rock in North Dakota, costs more and more to extract, the fluctuating price of crude is in the process of destabilizing the various debt economies around the world. There is some evidence that young people, saddled with debt and fewer job prospects, are beginning to forsake the automobile. This trend will continue, voluntarily or not. While this will eventually clear the roads of most auto traffic, infrastructure upkeep will be long gone, as will relatively cheap imported goods, and rather than debating the suppleness of this sidewall vs. that sidewall, we’ll be happy to scrounge a tire to keep rolling. Welcome to the Long Descent, my friends. Meanwhile, enjoy being able to expend extra calories cycling on any surface available!

    May 16, 2013 at 4:52 am
  • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

    Several people have objected to my mentioning the Nazis as the first to introduce mandatory separated bike paths. I mentioned this to show that the separate paths of Europe did not originate as a design to encourage cycling, but to clear the road.
    I did not mean to compare those advocating for separate facilities to Nazis. I have expanded the section in the blog post to make this more clear.
    There are many European cycling advocates who want to repeal the laws that relegate cyclists on segregated trails, and I applaud their work. Separate paths should entice people to use them through good design, not force riders onto them by law.

    May 16, 2013 at 6:26 am
    • Jon Bendtsen

      “Several people have objected to my mentioning the Nazis as the first to introduce mandatory separated bike paths. I mentioned this to show that the separate paths of Europe did not originate as a design to encourage cycling, but to clear the road. ”
      As far as I know, the Dutch had separated cycle paths way before the Nazis. I heard that they result from Napoleon invading, then building wide boulevards between the cities which the Dutch since then did not upkeep, so it was covered with dirt, grass, … within some decades, where only the middle was used for horse carriages. But when the bicycle was invented, the middle used by horse carriages was far too rough, so they removed cleared the sides of the boulevards for cyclists, and to prevent horse carriages from using the good road and destroy it for cyclists, they made a law stating that the cycle-path was only for cyclists. And they left some of the dirt/grass to separate the cycle-path and the horse carriage trail.

      May 18, 2013 at 5:24 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Those early cycle paths indeed were made specifically for cyclists. They fell from use around 1910. The mandatory cycle paths used to clear the streets from bikes became popular in the 1930s.

        May 19, 2013 at 12:24 pm
  • Mike Beck

    ….and history rolls on. the US constitution originally treated blacks as property. both points are offensive.
    Bicycle planning nowadays has very, very little to do with clearing the roads of cyclists, its all about moving people by bike. Mixing car and bike traffic along transportation corridors. More equitably treatment of bicycling as a mode of practical transportation.
    This is a necessary perspective shift for strong riders convinced bike infrastructure is still being implemented to force cyclists out of the way. I think of the Hood Canal Bridge…. this has had a wide, ample shoulder space added, partly to facilitate safe bike traffic. Only the debased would call consideration of bike traffic on the hood canal bridge akin to nazism.
    Cheers and try Aurora Ave sometime if the dangers of the interurban are too much, Jan. You might find it thrilling. It’s remarkably easy for confident cyclists to vacate the cycletracks and leave those traffic corridors to the rest of the cyclists willing to deal with the horrors and dangers of crossing intersections along the interurban trail network.
    But….. if you want it the interurban to ride safer, lobby for improved intersection treatments, and sharrows in the main roadway. it might behoove everyone in Seattle. I have a sneaking suspicion the city is going to keep a path network N/S. Work to improve it.
    …..And keep alert for any restrictive legislation proposed in Washington state, the BAW crafted and endorsed the mandatory bikelane/shoulder law proposed in WA just 3 years ago. Its up to strong riders with a large presence in WA to thwart these issues, not a protected traffic network being implemented to facilitate traffic by bike in and around Seattle.

    May 16, 2013 at 6:44 am
    • InvisibleHand

      “Bicycle planning nowadays has very, very little to do with clearing the roads of cyclists, its all about moving people by bike. Mixing car and bike traffic along transportation corridors. More equitably treatment of bicycling as a mode of practical transportation.”
      It’s hard to know with certainty, but there are lots of examples around here that suggest otherwise. For instance, the SHARROWs and Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs on 15th ST were removed — the paint scraped off the road surface — once the cycletrack was installed.
      Why remove the SHARROWs if facilities are just about moving people by bike? Clearly, cyclists are being shuffled to the cycletrack.

      May 16, 2013 at 7:10 am
      • Robert Cooper

        New York State, section 1234, paraphrased:
        § 1234. A bicycle shall be driven either on a usable bicycle lane or, if a usable bicycle lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb to prevent interference with the flow of traffic except (and the statue goes on to list exceptions such as making a left turn, avoiding hazards, et cetera).
        Note the operative phrase: “to prevent interference with the flow of traffic,” an exact quotation, not a paraphrase.
        Courtesy? No. Safety? No. What’s important is “to prevent interference with the flow of traffic.” The only reason given.

        May 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm
  • dvenable

    With the huge difference in infrastructure quality in the USA, it is hard to generalize.
    When the road is wide enough, there is no need to do anything for bike travel. When the road is not wide enough, the situation is problematic, to say the least.
    I ride in a situation where the roads and streets are plenty wide and there is no bicycle infrastructure. I don’t think the local government thinks about bikes any more than they think about camels. I have no reason to think anyone objects to sharing the road with me since I don’t interfere with their going about their business.
    I really do not think I would enjoy being in the European cycle paths, or even the Portland’s, since I go much faster than the traffic in them would allow.

    May 16, 2013 at 6:45 am
    • Christian Bernhard Hagen

      In most large inner cities all over the world, car traffic moves slowly, and when it’s heavy, bikes will rarely be able to move faster. That is, unless on a separated path, like in holland or Denmark – though of course a fast cyclist can’t move at top speed in the inner city, given that there are countless other cyclists. Once you’re outside the city cores, you can ride as fast as you wish on Dutch or Danish bike paths. Check google Street View.

      May 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm
  • Steven D

    From the Seattle Times 5/16/13
    “Cycle tracks are the hot thing in American bike policy. They’re safer than “sharrows” or painted bike lanes, and a feeling of safety induces more to bike.
    The city loves them. It is finishing one on Linden Avenue North, and others are planned for the east side of Lake Union and on East Marginal Way South, where a cyclist was killed this month. They will be central to the 20-year Bike Master Plan, set to be released soon.”

    May 16, 2013 at 7:12 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It’s interesting that our local paper reports “cycle tracks” to be safer, when all the evidence shows they aren’t.
      The full opinion piece is here:
      The efforts of a few vocal local businesses to divert the bike route from Shilshole is nothing new. When I was the vice-chair of the Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail a decade ago, we battled the same proposal tooth and nail, because it put cyclists on the very busy and congested Market Street further up. The separate cycle track along Shilshole remains the best option. The industrial driveways mostly are disused, and the four or five big ones could be dealt with easily. They are used by professional drivers who would quickly learn to look for cyclists before pulling out of the driveway. (Generally, I am less concerned with professional drivers than with the general motoring public.)
      Cyclists already can go up Ballard Avenue, which sees little traffic and doesn’t need a bike facility. However, then they end up on Market (see above)…

      May 16, 2013 at 7:27 am
  • Gert

    A long discussion on the pros and cons.
    I have lived in Copenhagen for twenty years and commuted to and from work on bicycle, I was only hit once by a truck turning right without looking (no injury to me or the bike I managed to avoid most of the hit) But I have had some close calls, almost all of them because the drivers could not handle driving in the city in rush hour traffic. In the city I preferred the roads without bike lanes, because in rush hour the number of bicycles on the bicyclepath was so large that I could not pass. And in Denmark using the bicycle lanes or paths is mandatory, no matter which condition they are in.
    But I my view seperate bicycle paths have great advantages also for cyclist if they are designed correctly (Danish guide on how to do
    The solutions are though often poor because the guide is not followed. A good solution is often more expensive.
    If you use google maps and streetview on many danish roads You will see both good and bad solutions.
    Especially along major roads separate bike paths are good and increase safety. Drivers in Denmark are used to watch out for cyclist as they turn, but on smaller roads and in the towns they generally are a nuissance and in the guide above it is mentioned that they increase the risk of collission by 10 %. Covering a decrease along the road and and increase at intersections. Although a statistic also shows that the amount of injury suffered and number of fatalities is reduced by the bicyclelanes

    May 16, 2013 at 8:02 am
  • Sam

    I enjoy reading your blog very much but on this point I completely disagree. Having cycled widely in Portland, Seattle, London and Amsterdam, I am saddened to see you choosing your statistics so selectively. Here in the UK where segregation is still rare, cycling modal share is negligable and accidents per mile ridden are much higher than in the Netherlands or Denmark.
    There is a delicate combination of factors that make the Dutch and Danish cyclists not only statistically safer than British and American counterparts but also far more numerous and of a much broader demographic makeup. These include the subjective safety you mention but also a wide range of planning approaches that engineer OUT conflict between drivers and cyclists. Your example in your post of poor visibility due to segregation is addressed comprehensively and consistently in the Netherlands through measures such as automatic right of way for cyclists at junctions, early green lights or separate phases at stop lights and clear signage and visibility due to careful design of approach angles at junctions where modes do intersect. The Dutch also design a wide range of different segregated and non-segregated approaches depending on the traffic load and width of each road in question. Furthermore, they are continually improving their standards and implementation so current best practice is noticeably better than even a decade ago. The only cities that have high modal share (more than 25%) are those that also have a strong preference towards segregation where suitable. Furthermore, the only societies that can boast a broad cycling demographic (young, old, man, woman, poor, rich) are those very same societies that actively design suitable segregated infrastructure in combination with planning that discourages car use for short trips.
    I hope you will reconsider your position as I think there is virtually zero chance of achieving a transition to a high bike modal share in the US or the UK until we start to learn from the 40 years of trial and error that has been taking place in one or two countries in Europe with great success.

    May 16, 2013 at 8:59 am
    • bgobie

      “40 years of trial and error” undoubtedly included changing the driving culture of those countries. The problem in the US is what can we do now, given the driving culture we have now? Currently it is politically unfeasible to rebuild along European lines. If we build cycletracks that route cyclists to unsafe intersections then after the first grandma is run over the popular conclusion will be that bicycling cannot be made safe. If we are going to build cycletracks then more attention has to be paid to intersections than has been the case.

      May 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm
  • Steve Campbell

    Interesting post Jan.
    I think there are lots of locations in Seattle that would benefit from a well-designed cycle track. East Marginal Way where a cyclist was killed in a collision on May 1st would top my list. I’m not sure this street in Seattle, Linden Avenue, was a street that needed this treatment.
    I’ve had some of the same observations riding the Linden Avenue cycle track you show in the photos. The first time I rode it going north, I was stopped at one of the traffic lights with a car to my left. I was waiting to go straight, the driver was signaling a right turn. I realized I needed to make absolutely sure the driver saw me before going through the intersection. I wondered at the time how many children or new riders using a facility like this were going to recognize the danger. Seattle will have separate signals for bikes and cars at the intersections, but I would assume there are still going to be times both modes will have green lights.
    On other occasions when I’ve ridden through here I’ve noticed that in places where there are driveways crossing the cycle track, drivers pull into the cycle track before entering the main street because they can’t see past the row of parked cars. The end result, at best, is the cycle track being blocked by a car with a driver struggling to see if it’s safe for them to enter the road. Again I don’t think most novice riders will realize the potential danger this presents.
    I would also point out that I’ve also been harassed by drivers when I haven’t used the cycle track when riding through here (even though it was paved, it technically wasn’t open yet). Part of the reason is the street is now very narrow and the city has painted a double yellow centerline along the length of the street that parallels the cycle track. Apparently not crossing a double yellow is the ONE thing that US drivers remember from driver’s ed. Even though there’s very little traffic on the street, lots of drivers feel like they can’t pass a cyclist on this stretch without crossing the centerline and quickly get frustrated. I think anyone who says stronger riders should just “use the street” either doesn’t understand human nature or is being disingenuous. Any driver stuck behind a cyclist with obvious bike infrastructure not 6 feet away feels like the bike rider should be using it.

    May 16, 2013 at 9:07 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      East Marginal Way where a cyclist was killed in a collision on May 1st would top my list.

      East Marginal in Seattle is an interesting one. On the one hand, it’s extremely safe despite heavy truck traffic. According to SDOT, there have been two bicycle accidents in the last 10 years there, despite hundreds of cyclists sharing the road with trucks. One was a fluke (a trailer coming unhitched from a pickup truck), the other appears to have been avoidable as well. (It appears the cyclist rode underneath the trailer of a semi-truck that was turning.)
      The reason why this busy and dangerous-looking street is so safe is simple: No intersections. (The railroad is on one side, the port on the other.) There is a painted bike lane. So you have separation of cars and trucks in one lane and cyclists in the other.
      Of course, the lack of intersections also means that it be a great candidate for a separate facility that is totally off the roadway.

      May 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm
  • Dwight Brown

    Thanks for starting this discussion. I’m wondering if some of the perception of danger with cycling in the US might connect with the characterization from both the media and the judicial system that collisions are often accidents, with the implication that the crashes couldn’t be avoided. From your international experience, do you think that the vulnerable road user protection laws that are in place in some (many?) European countries contribute to their higher bike mode share by encouraging motorists to be more aware of cyclists?

    May 16, 2013 at 9:16 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      That is an interesting question. Generally, it does appear that the attitude to traffic accidents in the U.S. is more fatalistic. They just happen. Perhaps thanks to much more intense driver training (which starts at age 9 in elementary school when you learn how to ride a bike in traffic), Europeans tend to focus on avoiding accidents more.

      May 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm
    • Jon Bendtsen

      “Thanks for starting this discussion. I’m wondering if some of the perception of danger with cycling in the US might connect with the characterization from both the media and the judicial system that collisions are often accidents, with the implication that the crashes couldn’t be avoided. ”
      quite possibly, but there are no accidents, only humans that did not:
      * pay attention
      * think ahead
      * executed caution
      * design properly

      May 18, 2013 at 5:30 am
  • Mackenzie

    Frequently in case #2, though, what’s happening is that the driver cuts THROUGH the end of the lane next to them rather than pulling their vehicle fully into the intersection before turning. The curb prevents them doing this.

    May 16, 2013 at 10:03 am
  • bgobie

    When the Linden cycle track was under construction I noticed the street had been narrowed too much for cars to safely pass bikes. The northernmost block was finished first, and I have ridden it once. I encountered a pedestrian who thought the cycletrack was part of the sidewalk. The track felt too narrow for two-way bike traffic. At the north end (the fourth picture) I immediately realized the danger of being right-hooked. I don’t know that a separate bicycle phase at the signal will greatly increase safety given how many drivers ignore “No Right on Red” signs — we have a new green bike box at an intersection in West Seattle where drivers always ignore the no turn sign. I agree this section of Linden was bad before the rebuild, but the problem was traffic speed. There are other ways to slow traffic.
    After the recent fatal accident on Marginal I fear the call to Do Something! is building momentum for a poorly-considered cycletrack, while the real problem is how to help northbound cyclists safely cross to the northbound side of the road. (The bike route to Marginal puts northbound cyclists on the wrong side of the road.)
    Separated bicycle facilities sound great, but unless bike overpasses are built at intersections the facilities are not separated at the most dangerous points. We should be spending money improving intersections, not building cycletracks on streets that are already safe and which will expose unsophisticated cyclists to conflicts at intersections.

    May 16, 2013 at 11:27 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      After the recent fatal accident on Marginal I fear the call to Do Something! is building momentum for a poorly-considered cycletrack, while the real problem is how to help northbound cyclists safely cross to the northbound side of the road. (The bike route to Marginal puts northbound cyclists on the wrong side of the road.)

      You make a good point. The accident occurred at the intersection where the cyclist left the “protected” facility that put him on the wrong side of the road. Building more “protected facilities” only pushes the problem down the road a little further.

      May 16, 2013 at 1:11 pm
      • John S. Allen

        The cyclist in the Marginal Street fatal crash, in his 50s and experienced, was crossing Marginal street street and ran into the left side of a the trailer of a semitrailer truck that was turning right into that street, then went under the rear wheels. This qualifies as “weird”. An explanation which suggests itself is loss of control, possibly due to bad pavement (and it is very bad at this location) or to mechanical failure. I haven’t seen a full crash report so this is only speculation.

        May 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm
      • ianbrettcooper

        I suggest that the reporting of the Marginal crash may be flawed, perhaps due to the truck driver being the sole witness or due to the reporter being confused – or both. I have never heard of such an accident and I find it difficult to imagine how such a thing could happen. The fact that the truck was turning suggests to me that it’s more likely that the truck struck the cyclist. Often reports I’ve seen have claimed that a cyclist hit a motor vehicle when it eventually turns out it was the opposite way around. In my experience, subconscious anti-cyclist bias appears to be common among reporters. these people are usually drivers who have no idea how cycling works and they tend to go in with the assumption that all cyclists are incompetent road users.
        But who knows. Everything is speculation until the police report is released.

        May 16, 2013 at 6:49 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I wouldn’t count on the police report to be accurate, either. However, from what I have read, and knowing the place well, the cyclist did come from the left of a truck that turned right. It’s unlikely that the truck hit the rider in that situation. Everything is speculation, but on the bumpy pavement full of potholes, the rider may have lost control on the narrow tires of his racing bike. It happened to me once, but I was lucky to crash into the back of a delivery van, not under the side of a container truck.

          May 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm
          • bgobie

            At this time it is inappropriate to blame the driver for this incident. It may turn out to have been an accident in the true sense of the word.
            One person who was on the scene shortly after the accident has suggested the low angle of the sun played a role. The cyclist may not have seen the truck, or realized it was pulling a flatbed trailer. See the comment by Brian at 9:40 am here
            Many cyclists use the intersection at Hanford St to cross to the northbound side of Marginal. A few use the pedestrian light, most cross haphazardly during gaps in traffic. Hanford does not continue past Marginal, so drivers turning from Hanford do not expect traffic coming at them from across the intersection.
            I find riding on Marginal alongside heavy trucks unpleasant, but rationally this is probably one of the safer streets in the city because so many vehicles on it are driven by professional drivers.
            A tragic aspect is there has been a very good signalized crossing immediately south at Spokane St for several months. I only learned it about through comments about the accident. The city has done nothing to promote crossing at Spokane.

            May 16, 2013 at 11:22 pm
      • Ian Cooper

        I don’t think anyone here is blaming anyone. All I was saying is that reports are often inaccurate.

        May 17, 2013 at 7:27 am
    • Jon Bendtsen

      “At the north end (the fourth picture) I immediately realized the danger of being right-hooked. I don’t know that a separate bicycle phase at the signal will greatly increase safety given how many drivers ignore “No Right on Red” signs — we have a new green bike box at an intersection in West Seattle where drivers always ignore the no turn sign. I agree this section of Linden was bad before the rebuild, but the problem was traffic speed. There are other ways to slow traffic. ”
      In Denmark we do not even allow right turn on red for cyclists. Red means stop, and that is how it should be. We have lots of special turn signals for turning left or right. I heard that the Dutch even have turn signals that goes like this:
      * Green in one direction for all traffic
      * Red for all cars in all directions WHILE also green for bicycles in all directions
      * Green in the crossing direction for all traffic

      May 18, 2013 at 5:34 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Actually, the “right on red” improves safety, because it allows cars to turn before the pedestrians/cyclists cross the street. The dangerous part is the “right on green,” because the cars turn at the same time as the peds/cyclists go straight.

        May 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm
  • Terry Nobbe

    I firmly believe and practice that vehicular cycling is the sensible path. Why? It doesn’t require separate facilities of any type and as such is the least expensive and most sensible choice. There will always be some folks that abuse the facilities or their rights and you’ll find them in a motor vehicle or on a bike or on foot, they are in the minority. I ride in Portland Oregon USA 50-100 miles a week and don’t remember the last time I stimulated a motorist to act angrily.

    May 16, 2013 at 11:50 am
  • marmotte27

    What irks me most in these discussions is when people point to the Netherlands for an example how special bike infrastructure gets people cycling and use this as an argument for saying that any bike infrastructure, preferably a segregative one, is a good thing.
    They are overlooking one crucial thing the Dutch did first and before all: they decided to take away a significant portion of road space form motorised vehicles, to take away priority in many if not most cases from motorised traffic, and to give them to bikes, together with the most direct routes from one place to another. (They then went on to build exemplary bike infrastructure which they are still improving today, but that’s almost completely secondary)
    Nothing will be achieved anywhere, unless this firsts step is taken.

    May 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm
  • John Brooking

    Can we please do away with this false myth that only strong young males are capable of riding in traffic? It’s so disempowering. You don’t have to prefer doing so, of course, not many would. Most people don’t prefer to drive a car in traffic either, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. Driving a bike in traffic is well within the range of most people from young teens on up. I’ve found the hardest part to actually be psychological, just believing that it’s possible. All this talk of “strong young males” only holds people back.
    It’s not about “keeping up with traffic”. I don’t generally keep up with traffic. I don’t try. I don’t want to sweat when I’m commuting. It’s more about managing your space and communicating to the other drivers around you.
    Take a look at They are all comfortable riding with traffic, and not a strong young male among them.

    May 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm
    • InvisibleHand

      I never understood this whole “elite” thing. The people who ride according to the rules of the road often have very ordinary characteristics. We often ride in the community and our au pairs — decidedly non-sporting cyclists — have all learned to ride in such a manner.
      Two photos of us super strong “elite” cyclists.

      May 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Except that in places with very little bike infrastructure, most bike commuters are male, and young. In the Netherlands and Copenhagen (plus a few other Danish cities as well as some places in germany), all ages, both sexes and all social strata are represented.
        I wouldn’t dream of letting my kids ride the three kilometers to school through urban Copenhagen or visiting friends without the separated bike paths.

        May 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm
      • InvisibleHand

        @Christian …
        It’s really difficult to express the nuances in a handful of comments. Even this being Jan’s post, I see people reading past his words and arguing against a hardcore vehicular cycling position.
        FWIW, I think very few people expect the share of cycling to increase significantly without some reconstruction of roads or facilities; I’ll label both of these as infrastructure. I’d also argue that legislative changes regarding UVC are also needed; Jan did not discuss this but I’ll add it to the mix. I see the argument here as more about where we should push for improved facilities, when we should advocate for segregated facilities, our expectations for road users, and the efficiency-pleasantness trade-off. My personal complaint is that advocates are far too willing to accept sub-par segregated facilities in a “something is better than nothing” philosophy.
        Oh … UVC is Uniform Vehicle Code. I’m not positive, but it occurred to me that you might be from elsewhere in the world.

        May 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        “Invisible Hand”, you’re right: I live in Copenhagen. Regarding what the dutch (or the danes) did first, I think you can say that it’s hard to say. Bike paths, bike lanes, bike tracks, new neighborhoods planned to accomodate biking, old neighborhood streets being transformed with bumps etc. There was also a lot of trial-and-error about it. These things had not been done anywhere else before.

        May 17, 2013 at 1:18 am
  • Dave

    One of the big issues with Bike Boulevards, in my mind, is that you’re driving bike traffic AWAY from commercial areas. There are entire swaths of main commercial corridor in Portland that I would have no clue about if I rode only on Bike Boulevards. In fact, there is only really one main commercial corridor in Portland that I can think of that has any indications for bicycles at all though the main commercial area(s) (sharrows, bike lanes, cycle tracks, anything).
    Bike Boulevards are fine if you’re just trying to go *through* the area, but if you want to go *to* something on those commercial streets, you 1) have to know what’s there already and 2) have to go out of your way to get there. This is a *big* disadvantage to me, as having slow-moving bicycle traffic on the street would not only provide more drop-in business for the shops and restaurants on those streets, but would also make the street nicer for people walking up and down looking at shops and such.
    Honestly, I think this is a big problem with Portland’s bike network in general – it’s great if you want to meander, but much of it doesn’t go directly to places people actually want to get to. The biggest deterrent, it seems, to putting some kind of accommodations on commercial streets is (1 guess?) – yup, on-street car parking. It cannot be removed, even by an act of God. In fact, we even just added more on-street parking where it wasn’t before, in a neighborhood that is about 50% parking lots.
    Another thing I think most people miss about the cycle path network in the cities in the Netherlands, is that they generally permeate more of the city than the road network, so if you are on a bicycle, you actually have *more* direct access to more places than you would if you were driving a car (also, many roads are engineered as one-way except for bikes, so that if you’re driving, you have to go way around, where you can go directly by bicycle). This is one of the reasons why, when people from outside the Netherlands rant about losing their rights to the road, the Dutch come back with “who cares, the cycle path network is better”.
    And then there’s the other pieces that go with the infrastructure (I think, necessarily). Law which makes a person driving a car financially liable automatically in the case they hit a person walking or on a bike. Education from a young age of how to behave in public walking, riding a bicycle, and driving.
    That’s the problem, building a complete system would be such a reversal of what we have, that nobody in the U.S. is willing to do it, or even understands what it would take in most cases. So, we settle with “well, let’s *ask* people to drive slower and pay attention, and then just tell people to ride in the road with bright clothes on. It’s not a solution, it’s a bandaid. So are the afterthought cycle-tracks that are just thrown in haphazardly, poorly designed, and so are the painted bike lanes squeezed in-between street parking and moving traffic. Sharrows, in my experience, are nothing. They’re confusing, nobody knows what they mean (including people riding bikes), and they are used in different ways all over the place. There is almost no really good bicycle policy and infrastructure in the U.S. at this point, that I know of.

    May 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm
  • John Schubert

    Excellent post, Jan!

    May 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm
  • marc caruso

    The one thing I see people saying for bike paths is the risk of getting hit from behind is eliminated. Though if you have a legal driver who is not intoxicated. DUI or DWI not texting If they see you in enough time they will not hit you. Even if the driver is overcome with rage at the “so called absurdity” of seeing a cyclist “in their lane”. the intial flash of rage lasts only a second. After that they are in control and responsible for their own actions. they can choose to run over the cyclist or not. Most people know better than to purposely run someone over. Those that don’t usually find their car and themselves impounded.

    May 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm
    • Christian Bernhard Hagen

      Distracted drivers are a real danger out there. Have you noticed the number of people talking on a cell phone?

      May 17, 2013 at 1:21 am
  • David

    I think it is not fair to pigeon-hole Jan as only defending “vehicular cycling” because that is not the position he is taking.
    The series is about riding to work. If you actually ride to work in my city, there are no separated bike lanes. On my route I ride part of the way on a multi-use path ( which can be pleasant but is also probably my highest risk for crashing ), partly on a painted bike lane ( which works well because the street is wide and there is no on-street parking ) and partly on the good old road.
    In the downtown area in stop-and-go traffic I absolutely need to take the lane some of the time to be safe. On other streets I ride to the right to allow cars to pass, which I think may be the law in Ontario.
    The point is that you have to be pragmatic and work with what you have, in how you ride and also in planning infrastructure. I wonder if people who are rigid “vehicular cyclists” or rigid ” separated lane advocates” really ride to work; it seems in most places it would be almost impossible to do so while following a strict creed.

    May 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm
    • Bob

      Indeed, it’s hard to pigeon-hole him into any position. First, he said he support sharrows and bike lanes as a first priority, and has now switched to bike-boulevards. He thinks separated facilities are generally bad idea, only now he thinks they’re a good idea if implemented properly.
      It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell just exactly what he’s advocating for or against at this point. I’m moving on.

      May 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        What I am advocating is the best approach for each situation, rather than a blanket “We need separate facilities” or “We need to be on the road.”

        May 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm
      • Bob

        “In recent years, there has been a worrisome trend in the U.S. to advocate for separate bike paths”
        That’s the first sentence. Am I missing something?

        May 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The worrisome part is that these separate bike paths are advocated for locations where they cannot be implemented safely.
          Further down, it says that separate paths are wonderful when there are no intersections. There is even a photo showing an example inside Seattle. It’s actually the same corridor where they now built the silly two-way bike path.

          May 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm
      • David

        And one more point in the interest of beating this thing thoroughly to death. The Nazi history tidbit was amusing but actually germane. If you read the work of Ivan Illich, he talks in detail about how the development of superhighways has taken away our options to travel, and kind of caused people to believe that traveling by car is the normal and expected way to get around. And don’t forget that the autobahns were first conceived and developed in Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s. So the move away from human powered options does have political antecedents.
        Sorry, I’m done. 🙂

        May 16, 2013 at 3:59 pm
    • Jon Bendtsen

      “I think it is not fair to pigeon-hole Jan as only defending “vehicular cycling” because that is not the position he is taking. ”
      But with the article it sounds like he is vehicular cycling and vehicular cycling ONLY!. In the comments Jan writes so many opposing things that it is difficult to understand what he really means.

      May 18, 2013 at 5:36 am
  • marc caruso

    Not every road is a good canidate for a bike lane or cycletrack. A cycletrack or bike lane is basically no different than riding at the road edge. Riding at the edge has problems in many cases the most noteable is at intersections and driveways. Building a cycletrack or bike lane does not eliminate the driveways or intersections. It does though encourage a cyclist to ride at the edge maximizing the risk at these places. “Door zone bike lanes” or “Death Zone bike lanes” DZBL’s are even worse. They let you avoid taking the lane to a door shoves you into the lane instantly. Alot safer to be in the lane moving forward then to be thrust into the lane by a door suddenly with no warning to passing traffic that doesn’t have the time to react and avoid running over you.
    A bit of sarcasm follows.
    “Though we can fix these eliminate parking on the street edge. That cures the DZBL. What about intersections and driveways build a wall block off certain intersections put a sign on the cross streets dead end. Reroute driveways sure the people whose businesses and houses are there won’t mind you rerouted their driveway so they now have to enter their driveway 10 blocks down the road. It won’t confuse their patrons or friends that want to visit them or shop at their business.”

    May 16, 2013 at 3:11 pm
  • Christian Bernhard Hagen

    All the problems you describe are very real, but they’ve all been solved by the Dutch. Result: World’s safest cyclist – unhelmeted, even!
    And though hit-from-behind is a small part of all bike accidents, they represent a far larger share of fatalities. That’s quite logical, actually: They happen at a much higher speed than do right or left hooks.

    May 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Even of fatalities, the hit-from-behind is minor. Right hook and left turn into the path of the cyclist cause many more cycling deaths.

      May 16, 2013 at 4:39 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        I haven’t got the figures for the USA right here, but that certainly isn’t my impression. And I can tell you that in Denmark, the majority of fatalities ARE hit-from-behinds – on country roads without bike paths, where only very few actually bike.

        May 16, 2013 at 4:45 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Concerning the source: I’ll see if I can dig it out again. It will be in Danish , though (I don’t think it’s been translated into english).

        May 16, 2013 at 5:22 pm
      • ianbrettcooper

        I often refer to the following studies from Denmark:
        2007 Jensen: Bicycle Tracks and Lanes, a Before – After Study (Copenhagen, Denmark)
        2008 Agerholm: Traffic Safety on Bicycle Paths (Western Denmark)
        2008 Jensen: Road safety and perceived risk of cycle facilities (Copenhagen, Denmark)
        These studies seem to suggest to me that most collisions occur at intersections due to turning maneuvers. Of course it depends on how one classifies “hit from behind” – many right hook collisions could be classified as “hit from behind” if that type of accident was classified very broadly.
        Note that each of the studies finds that segregated cycling facilities impair traffic safety and increase collision and injury risk.

        May 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm
  • Christian Bernhard Hagen

    Jan, I won’t reproach you for the “nazi” thing – just want to inform you that though the Nazis did install bike paths in Germany, I don’t think they ever established any in Holland. They certainly didn’t in Denmark. And whatever bike paths the Dutch had before the late 50’s were more or less removed to make space for the cars. Bike modal share skydived. Only when huge demonstrations were rallied against “the child murders”, things started changing in Holland, and they began their transformation to a bike paradise.

    May 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I used to be under the impression that the compulsory use of bike paths was a German invention that spread across Europe with the German occupation. It appears that the countries that were occupied by Germany (Netherlands, Denmark, France) have compulsory bike path laws, while those that weren’t (for example, Spain and the U.S.) generally don’t.
      However, the paper on bike path history in Cycle History 5 doesn’t talk about this, and I don’t have any other sources. I recently found a reference to the French Cyclotouring Federation lobbying against compulsory bike paths in 1938 – long before the German invasion.
      However, the move to make bike paths compulsory can only be explained by the desire to clear the roads, whatever political persuasion the lawmakers had.

      May 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm
      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Yes, that was the idea when cars got faster and more numerous during the 30’s. However, very few bike paths were actually built, and a lot of them were removed during the 50’s and 60’s. Simultaiously in holland and Denmark, the aforementioned demonstrations in the early 70’s brought awareness about the huge number of fatalities, and bike paths were actually a request from the movements. The drivers were vehemently opposed to them, sensing that it would carve away at THEIR space.

        May 16, 2013 at 5:28 pm
  • David Thomson

    Great article Jan. I also think it says a lot about your site that your readers have engaged in a generally reasoned debate pro and con.
    Personally I would like to see USDOT fund comprehensive data gathering on bicycle crashes in all 50 states so that we could make infrastructure decisions based on facts rather than perceptions. Without good data most debates on cycling infrastructure turn into emotional arguments that no one can “win”.
    I also agree that there is a huge opportunity to educate people on how to ride safely no matter what infrastructure exists. Your articles on cycling to work are terrific, but if we could make sure every elementary school and high school student got factual and practical information we could eliminate a lot of the perceived fears about cycling. As a bonus we could counter the erroneous information that parents pass on to their kids, like the woman I saw yesterday carefully riding the wrong way down our neighborhood street with her 6 year old following behind.

    May 16, 2013 at 4:45 pm
  • Alex

    I believe there are ways to eliminate risks you mention by designing intersections carefully – for example like show in this video

    May 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Good design is key to traffic safety, and the Dutch have tried their best.
      The video is a bit misleading, because it assumes that both car and cyclist arrive when the light is red. If they arrive when the light is green, the cyclist still can be seen only “over the shoulder” of the turning car. However, if the cyclist was either ahead of the car or behind, then the turn would not pose a danger. I understand that not all cyclists are comfortable in that position, and that it is not feasible for some slower cyclists, but it clearly is the safest.
      Even in Copenhagen, the city found that installing segregated cycle paths has significantly increased injuries among cyclists and pedestrians.

      May 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm
      • Jon Bendtsen

        “The video is a bit misleading, because it assumes that both car and cyclist arrive when the light is red. If they arrive when the light is green, the cyclist still can be seen only “over the shoulder” of the turning car. ”
        No Jan, you are mistaken (again). Look at the video from 1m39s then you will notice that even if they do meet up then they do not have to look over the shoulder.
        “Even in Copenhagen, the city found that installing segregated cycle paths has significantly increased injuries among cyclists and pedestrians.”
        Because they installed the wrong kind.

        May 18, 2013 at 5:43 am
  • Mike Beck

    It’s interesting in the blog commentary that Jan DOES actually endorse a separated, quality cycletrack network in multiple places in Seattle. the Missing link in Ballard, and the west seattle/downtown connector past the port.
    Perhaps Jan’s geographical sense will lend him to recognize that N/S out of the city is another route that has a mostly protected path leading in and out of Seattle, that merits improvement.
    Perhaps the urban geographer in him will recognize arguments about distances and hills specious- average trip distances for commuting are quite low in the US, and trips outside the home are quite short. 40 percent two miles or less.
    The geographically minded should be able to recognize aspects of cultural geography, how some countries plan much more effectively for bike traffic. Kind of like the cycletracks Jan envisions for Ballard or SODO.

    May 17, 2013 at 5:15 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I think the most dangerous part of the N/S route is Fremont, when you are coming downhill. Giving Fremont the right-of-way over the cross-streets would make cycling there much, much safer.
      At Bitterlake, a bike lane (protected or not) on each side of the road would have done the job. (The road used to be wide enough.) The problem there was (and is) the many driveways and elderly drivers to retirement homes. The cycle path only exacerbates the problem.

      May 17, 2013 at 7:17 am
  • John Duval

    For more reading on this subject I suggest the book “City Cycling” from MIT press. It is full of statistics on many types of cycling facilities. I find it difficult to categorically condemn this type of facility, though I tend to dislike those in my city regardless of the drastic drops in accidents claimed. Without lights with separate phases they seem ill advised, like if China was to copy American freeways but use grade level intersections to save money, it is all in the details.
    Cycling as transportation in Long Beach is so new, and the typical skill level and attitude so poor, separation is almost bound to be safer in the short term.

    May 17, 2013 at 9:01 am
  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin

    Jan, I think that you make a good point about the flaws of separated bike paths at intersections, but it seems like the real issue is managing car traffic at intersections. If there were more speed calming measures, like speed humps/bumps, and turn restrictions at intersections with bike paths then cars would proceed more slowly and the chances of a collision are lower.
    The bike paths are essential to getting families and beginners cycling, because there is no way that most people will put up with the intimidation that car drivers put cyclists and pedestrians through.

    May 17, 2013 at 9:16 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      One thing that is unique in America is the grid plan of most cities. This provides multiple, parallel routes. So you have a choice of putting up with car traffic on the (faster) “arterial” or riding by yourself on the (slower) neighborhood street.
      In Europe, the organic city plan means that usually, there is only one route to a destination, and that route is full of cars. So to some degree we are lucky here that we can choose how much traffic we want to put up with.

      May 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm
  • Skip Montanaro

    Thanks for the blog post. It’s a very timely topic here in Chicago, as the city just installed a protected bike lane on Dearborn in the Loop. It generates a considerable amount of discussion on its own. I started a thread with a link to this post, hoping to generate some civil discussion about the topic of protected bike lanes.

    May 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm
  • Wayne Pein

    Because bicyclists are on the wrong side of the road facing traffic, conflicts inherent to the design are manufactured. If these conflicts are to be removed, separate traffic signals must be installed, which slows everyone to a crawl. Videos on cycle tracks in Montreal and Washington DC have shown the travel speed on cycle tracks to be 4 mph. What fun!

    May 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm
  • Atle

    >15th Street in Washington DC
    Look at 1:12, a silver car is creeping forward into the bicycle track while the footwalking light is counting down from 22-23, his light just turned GREEN.
    Why aren’t it RED until the counting reach zero?
    at 0:31 the same situation appears, but there’s not so many peoples so it can drive safely tru – I wonder how blind peoples reacts to a such system.
    At 2:57 it’s almost two accidents.
    the car wanting to right are allowed in the cross few seconds after footwalkers gets green.
    3:03 the same car is still driving in the bicyclelane, blocking for one, he/she don’t care about cyclist. It’s more than a nuisance for the cyclist and footwalkers.
    3:27 the car and footwalkings light turns to RED, a silver car is hurrying tru the bicyclelane while one cyclist is coming fast(?) toward it. I find this horrifying.
    Here in Norway there is never a such thing, there is NEVER GREEN when the footwalking light GREEN, it blinks a few seconds as a warning before changing to RED.
    Then it turns to GREEN for the cars, never ever before.
    I am shocked that cars in USA are allowed to drive over these poor footwalkers. 🙂
    Cars from left-right / right-left have a very short timeframe to get out of the cross before it’s allowed to walk, in Norway one have better time to get out of the cross.
    I see that the bicycle lane is dotted, telling the cars to cross it on their own choice.
    It’s not illegal to drive over it when the bicycle lane is used, and the bicycle/footwalkers are still in usage when crossing cars gets GREEN. No wonder why it’s a mess, and it’s culturally created.
    I wonder if the bus waiting in the beginning was allowed to drive over before the counting reached to zero?
    I wanna shout really loud on the person/company who mangage the trafficlight, why do they allow that cars can drive tru the footwalking lane when it’s GREEN?
    They have gived the car highest priority in their system, and I find it shocking that cars are allowed to drive in the footwalking on their own choice!

    May 17, 2013 at 6:54 pm
    • Jon Bendtsen

      “I wanna shout really loud on the person/company who mangage the trafficlight, why do they allow that cars can drive tru the footwalking lane when it’s GREEN?
      They have gived the car highest priority in their system, and I find it shocking that cars are allowed to drive in the footwalking on their own choice!”
      Yes, it is a horrible video. I had to pause it several times because watching it made me angry. I think this was deliberately designed to make the cycle-path fail. The city should be sued for being criminally stupid letting such a design loose when lots of european cities has tried – and failed that design.

      May 18, 2013 at 5:45 am
  • mike beck

    Make no mistake, Jan Heine is okay with context appropriate cycletracks and bikelanes that separate bikes from car traffic. Jan has identified two areas in Seattle that would and will benefit from a build up of cycletracks.
    He just wants to ensure they get done in the way he thinks makes sense. Fair enough. What were the confounding factors again, that counterindicated this cycletrack section of the Interurban trail, and not the ones in Ballard or by the port terminal – Nazis threatening to take away the right to ride on public roadways in washington?
    Got it – Nazis live in Bitter Lake. Avoid the cycletrack, ride nearby Aurora avenue instead.
    (intending a small amount of humor to be interjected into the conversation)

    May 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm
  • PeterT

    I don’t think anyone has posted this in the many comments on this post.
    This is a long running website here in the UK with a photo of the “Cycle Facility of the Month” (I am not connected with the campaign in anyway). If you want a bit of fun, I recommend perusing the photos to see examples of cycle infrastructure ‘engineered’ for the benefit of cyclists. One wonders what the designers were thinking, if indeed there was any design intent in most cases.
    Of course, there are examples of good design in the UK, but rarely in urban environments. The disappointing reality is that poorly designed cycle infrastructure is the norm in the UK. There must be so many candidates for facility of the month that it’s a difficult choice.
    From what I’ve read, I share Jan’s views in this topic.

    May 18, 2013 at 1:34 am
  • John

    1) I think Toms comments concerning ridership above 10% are right on target. We will never get high ridership until cyclists are further removed from hi speed chunks of steel weighing many thousands of pounds.
    2) Though collisions from the rear are a small percentage of total accidents they tend to be serious. When making a meaningful claims as to safety the degree of injury must be a part of the analysis; absent adjustments for that the claims of this is safer than that are meaningless.
    3) One has to be educated in how to use the infrastructure of choice whether it be in the auto lane, cycle lane or whatever. If one understands the types of threats attendant the use of separated cycle tracks or MUPs, and rides accordingly, then they can be used in relative safety.

    May 18, 2013 at 5:49 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      To 2): Even when factoring in the severity of accidents, being hit from behind is a relatively small threat. Since cyclist and car are going in the same direction, the severity of the accident often is much less than with a head-on collision at an intersection.

      May 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm
      • John

        I’ll try to find the study I read. It found, perhaps only in rural settings, that overtaking accidents contributed a very disproportionate percentage of severe or fatal accidents. People naturally fear them because they are generally difficult to detect and defend against. Potential accidents from the front are more likely to be seen and avoided or ameliorated. Columns of fast traffic from the rear is a very reasonable thing to fear and most folks aren’t going to take the lane on hi speed, high volume arteries. A twenty to thirty mph differential in the same directionl is common even downtown and its plenty lethal. Left turn encroachments, at least so far for me, have been easy to anticipate and manage; the car positioning and general attitude (and drivers hands on the wheel) pretty much telegraph the intent. My first job (3 years) out of college were spent investigating and reconstructing largely motor vehicle accidents. I remember several collisions between a vehicle mirror and jogger, relatively low speeds, all of them fatal.
        If training and skill are required to ride in the roadway then surely they are necessary to riding on all other types of infrastructure.

        May 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          People naturally fear them because they are generally difficult to detect and defend against. Potential accidents from the front are more likely to be seen and avoided or ameliorated.

          That is the same reasoning that used to lead many inexperienced cyclists to ride on the wrong side of the street, against the flow of traffic.

          A twenty to thirty mph differential in the same directionl is common even downtown and its plenty lethal.

          If you live in a city where cars drive at 40-50 mph downtown, then I suggest lobbying for a reduction in speed limits (and enforcement), rather than separate bike paths. On the separate paths, you’ll still face cars racing across intersections at high speed.

          May 20, 2013 at 7:00 am
      • Andy

        I don’t think that separation helps on the fast roads either, without some magic happening at intersections. I don’t have a huge study to reference, but from the crashes I hear of here, most seem to be from turning drivers, and many were at a high speed. I would much rather be riding along the roadway where I’m visible (even if that is on the side) than on a bike path where I am certain that drivers are not looking when making that turn.

        May 20, 2013 at 7:15 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Usually, roadways that allow high speeds don’t have many intersections. Even without cyclists, it’s neither safe nor convenient to allow high vehicle speeds on roads that have many intersections.

          May 20, 2013 at 8:06 am
  • Tim McNamara

    My goodness, that provoked some passionate discussion!
    I grew up in a suburb of Chicago where the streets were narrow and there was no cycling infrastructure whatsoever. When I was a kid, all the kids in the neighborhood rode their bikes everywhere. Everybody was quite comfortable riding on the streets as a result. To this day, I am more comfortable riding on streets then on bikepaths with other cyclists, walkers, rollerbladers, people pushing strollers, et cetera.
    I live in Minneapolis-St. Paul area now, and there’s quite a bit of work going on creating bicycle infrastructure. There are a number of “bike highways” that have been created, such as the Cedar Lake Trail, the Midtown Greenway, et cetera. These have promoted cycling as a transportation method very effectively, in part by creating the impression of safety because of complete segregation from the roads and in some cases more direct routes to destinations. On-street solutions have been less successful, however. Some of the bike lanes in downtown Minneapolis, for example, have been truly atrocious. On one street, the bike lane is a buffer between traffic going in different directions; on most one-way streets, the bike lane is on the left hand side where few people expect bikes to be. Many of these bike lanes come to an abrupt end at the edge of downtown stranding the bicyclist facing oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.
    In my opinion, the much simpler solution is simply to educate drivers and bicyclists how to coexist, using the same roads under the same rules.

    May 18, 2013 at 8:53 am
  • Voony May 21, 2013 at 7:46 am

Comments are closed.

Are you on our list?

Every week, we bring you stories of great rides, new products, and fascinating tech. Sign up and enjoy the ride!

* indicates required