Of Goals and Point of View

Long-time Carbon Trace reader Robert (also a professional bicycle advocate and educator) asked this question in the comments to my post on the recent deadly right-hook crash in Boston: Do you think that bicycle facilities can be designed in such a way as to eliminate the dangers and delays? My short answer: No.

He was asking, if I understand him correctly, because many of the vocal readers of this blog are traffic bicyclists who do not think bicycle lanes and tracks are safe (among other reasons to oppose them). I understand him to be seeking solutions. I’m glad he asked the question for a number of reasons, one of which is certainly that many of my readers are smart people who like to contribute their thoughts in the comments. Some of the best stuff published on this blog has been cogent comments by readers. But I’m also glad he asked because it gives me the opportunity to essay about something that I have mentioned but never spent much time explicating: How my point of view about bicycling and bicycle infrastructure is determined by my goals.

I have often stated it negatively: I am not a participation advocate, i.e. a person who wants more people to ride bicycles. What I am is a traffic bicycling advocate. I am primarily interested in my own rights/privileges to drive the streets on my bicycle. I’m not a completely selfish asshole. To understand where I’m coming from it’s important to understand my goal: make life on the street better for me.

I’ve never written a mission statement for Carbon Trace, but if I were to do so I think this would be a part of it: The mission of Carbon Trace is to help those who wish to be traffic bicyclists learn how to drive their bicycles safely in traffic as traffic. I am always ready to help anyone who wants to learn. I became a CyclingSavvy instructor as part of my willingness. I spend a lot of time advocating for bicycling, following the bicycling scene, and writing about it here as part of my willingness. You can test this. Do you want to learn to drive your bicycle (and gain all the great benefits that come from it)? Call me (just visit the MSU website and search for me). Send me e-mail or a message on Facebook. Leave a comment on this or any other post. Shout from your rooftop. I’ll help you. I’ll ride with you. If you want it, I want it for you.

But if you’re the kind of person who just won’t ride a bicycle without special facilities, then have fun with the hassles, dangers, and expense of driving your car. I’m not interested in ruining the streets to make it easier for you.

And, yes, I mean ruin. Because another reason I’m not interested in helping you is that I am not interested in putting you in danger. I cannot participate (by advocacy or any other means) in putting you in danger while fooling you into thinking you are safe.

Bicycle lanes/tracks are dangerous — more dangerous than traffic — because they are pasted on to a system already designed to safely (and with minimum delay) move you from point A to point B. When a separate system is added, then conflicts with the old system necessarily follow. I have yet to see any examples of bicycle infrastructure (qualification: lanes and tracks) anywhere in the world that don’t create some conflicts with the system of traffic or conflicts among bicyclists (e.g. Amsterdam, where far too many people are crammed into far too little space).

While it’s cognitively easy to divide the world into dichotomies, by doing so I do not mean to suggest an unrealistic simplicity. But, generally speaking, it seems to me that bicycle advocates whose goal is primarily to increase participation are far more likely to promote bicycle lanes/tracks than advocates whose primary goal is safe movement within the well-establish system of traffic. I respectfully suggest that participation advocates ask themselves tougher questions about what it is they want and what they are willing to do to achieve it. Are you really willing to send that novice bicyclist into a door-zone lane or gutter lane for a few more percentage points of participation?

Painting lanes may lead to greater participation, but I don’t care. The cost is too high for me.

Convincing people they need bicycle education seems quixotic, but I’ll keep trying. The potential rewards are too great.

I’m perfectly happy to see more people use bicycles for basic transportation. And I am here to help. We’d all be a lot better off if our mode share were higher in the streets we already have.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments 87

  1. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    Thanks for this, Andy. It’s great to see your goals written down. I share your focus on many issues, so it’s nice to see them explained in such a concise manner.

    “…to help those who wish to be traffic bicyclists learn how to drive their bicycles safely in traffic as traffic.”

    I agree wholeheartedly and I don’t think it could be said any better than this.

    And I share your view that bicycle facilities ‘ruin’ streets. This is what ‘bicycle (facility) advocates’ just don’t seem to be able to understand or accept. Road design has a hundred years of development history, and it often seems to me that bicycle facility designers are dismissive of the design decisions that were made by their predecessors, as well as being ignorant of the fact that injecting complication into the system tends to make it less safe. I feel there is just not enough thought going into ensuring that new designs are at least as safe as the older ones.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 9:39 am
  2. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Good essay, Andy. Thank you. I’ll mull it over before I shoot from the lip.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 9:54 am
  3. Steve A wrote:

    OF COURSE bicycle facilities CAN be designed to avoid the dangers and delays. The existing Interstate highway system provides a model. It eliminates crossing conflicts, stops, and mixed mode conflict. Are we likely to want to pay for such a system in terms of money or added concrete all over the place? Not any more bloody likely than we’ll put roads built to Interstate standards into every neighborhood. Still, a few bicycle freeways with no cars, stops, bad grades, sharp turns, rough pavement, or crossing conflicts would be pretty sweet. And bicycle education would help get people to and from these bike freeways in reasonable safety, just as the driver licensing is supposed to do for motorists and the Interstates.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 10:03 am
  4. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve … Thus, why I qualified my argument 😉

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 10:56 am
  5. Brian wrote:

    ” Are you really willing to send that novice bicyclist into a door-zone lane or gutter lane for a few more percentage points of participation?”

    Yes, I am.

    We need to transform cities NOW, to change the way they are built in the future. All transportation modes involve some danger; the costs of NOT making a clear statement that bikes are expected and encouraged are much greater than the costs of encouraging some slightly-more-dangerous infrastructure. So basically, you want us to keep building the idiotic cities we’ve already built. Sorry, but I don’t.

    “I’m not a completely selfish asshole. To understand where I’m coming from it’s important to understand my goal: make life on the street better for me.”

    Well, um, I’ll leave it to others to determine whether the reason supports the claim here.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 11:09 am
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    Brian … It’s a fer stretch from being against bicycle lanes to being pro-megadeath-city :-)

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 11:33 am
  7. Khal Spencer wrote:

    1. What Steve said in #3.

    We built interstate standard highways to connect cities, so we can clearly eliminate those crossing points, etc. When we build streets to connect within cities, we perforce must have plenty of places to turn and cross. The old style of city of the 1950’s Northeast with a grid city system, for example. These should work fine without added fixtures, in some cases by removing onstreet parking.

    In cities like Albuquerque, we have built roads that are single-minded, to wit, to get six lanes of motorists across town as fast as possible. Its crazy to say one can just stripe a bike lane in as an afterthought and have it work safely, which is what some would suggest. In these cases, one has to ask whether cyclists have the same right of passage as motorists and if so, how do we accomplish that? To its credit, Albuquerque is grappling with that task with separate facilities that truly are separate, bicycle boulevards, and a strong ed program.

    The question isn’t whether we can do it, but are we willing to pay to do it right? Are we willing to forswear solutions in search of a problem?

    None of this eliminates an education program. On the contrary, it would require one.

    2. Sorry, but unlike those French generals of WWI who threw fresh troops at machine gun lined trenches long after everybody knew that was folly, I have no interest in throwing cyclists to dangerous facilities like so much machine gun fodder. That was immoral then and it is immoral now. There are better ways of transforming cities than by killing naive cyclists.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 11:48 am
  8. Brian wrote:

    No, actually, it’s not. Obviously, density is the real key, and I think we probably agree on that. But I really don’t think we can change the idea that “roads are for cars” without some indication that they are also for other uses, and I don’t think we can get other uses without honoring what people actually want. If what they actually want is a little bit more dangerous than the current system — which gives them NOTHING — then I’m cool with that.

    Face it, you’re a stooge of the suburban developers. Hope you’re happy with that.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 11:51 am
  9. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    Andy: ” Are you really willing to send that novice bicyclist into a door-zone lane or gutter lane for a few more percentage points of participation?”

    Brian: “Yes, I am.”

    Thomas More: “Why Richard, it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . but for Wales!” – A Man for All Seasons.

    “We need to transform cities NOW, to change the way they are built in the future.”

    Well Brian, if the future is built on today’s half-baked infrastructure that ends up injuring and killing more people, it’s a future with no cyclists, because when people find out that you and your ‘bicycle (facility) advocates’ are willing to kill them for Cycling Utopia, they aren’t going to trust any cycling advocates ever again and the bicycle, despite its many benefits, will be consigned to history’s dustbin.

    The road to Hell is paved with the intentions of folks who are willing to sacrifice people on the altar of a promised Utopia.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 1:21 pm
  10. Brian wrote:

    “The road to Hell is paved with the intentions of folks who are willing to sacrifice people on the altar of a promised Utopia.”

    Yes. And so is the road to a workable future. But if you don’t try to do anything, you won’t go anywhere at all. We’ve had close to 40 years of that, and frankly, it sucks.

    I think a more apt comparison would be the ongoing struggle for LGBT equality. First we had Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It was not perfect, and in fact it was kind of insulting, but it started the process of changing public discourse. Then we had (and still have) civil unions, in some states — again, coming short of full and necessary equality, but making it clear that LGBT folks would not be ignored. Then, state by state, people started coming around to the idea that everybody’s family deserves full and equal legal recognition. It’s happening now for lots of reasons — lots of individuals standing up and demanding to be counted — but one major reason is that Bill Clinton started the process with a sub-optimal compromise, back in 1993.

    The same has been true with bike lanes. The striped lanes are not ideal — far from it — but they get people out on the road and build support for the idea that roads are not just for cars. As that idea grows — and more people get out there, demanding to be counted — leading cities are now moving on to separated cycle tracks (NYC, Chicago, Portland…). And as the dominance of the automobile in people’s minds fades, we’re starting to see real changes: developers and planners actually building cities that take non-motorized transportation as the NORM. More density, lower speed limits, less concern for automotive through-put and free parking. The stuff we really want. I do think that striped lanes, with all their problems, are an important first step — one that many communities (like mine) haven’t even taken yet.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 2:53 pm
  11. robert wrote:

    One challenge to having an open and honest discussion about these issues is getting past the deeply entrenched beliefs.

    For example, there is research demonstrating that bicycle lanes and “cycle tracks” can increase the safety of bicyclists. There are also studies showing just the opposite of that.

    However, I’ve noticed on this website that many/most contributors have an almost religious faith that all facilities are always more dangerous. This faith is so strong that any research to the contrary is disregarded without the benefit of even having a serious conversation.

    It’s as if you went to a Southern Baptist convention and wanted to have an honest discussion about a new bit of research showing that the earth was not created in seven days.

    I understand where Andy stands, and the Pope has nothing on his faith and fervor. I was hoping to figure out where other people stand.

    Is it possible to have a serious discussion on Carbon Trace where we at least consider that facilities can be built to improve the lives of non-drivers?

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 2:55 pm
  12. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    Robert, I think Andy addressed that question in the blog essay. I think the answer is a qualified yes, if we want to spend the enormous amounts of money and waste the space to create a bicycle version of the Interstate system, even at a microcosm level within the town in question.

    Such a system by necessity would have on- and off-ramps, and intersect with the existing street grid, just as the Interstate system does for motor vehicles.

    People cite studies that “demonstrate that bicycle lanes…can increase the safety…” without reading the studies in question, and seeing the glaring flaws in their supposed logic (as Ian Brett Cooper has compiled such a list on his blog). Many of those studies show exactly what they were designed to show, rather than show how someone who feels that we already have an over-priced existing infrastructure network sees things.

    I won’t go so far as to say all bike lane facilities are always more dangerous, but I will say that the vast majority of the ones I personally have seen are more a detriment to society than a benefit. They seem more about “getting bikes and riders out of the way” of what is thought more legitimate traffic–a sort of “separate but unequal” that didn’t work well for this country in another sort of fight.

    As for the canard that “we’ve had decades to try the educate the cyclists, and it hasn’t taken yet” argument, have a look at the data being compiled as folks take this test: http://www.geico.com/information/publications/newsletter/2010/road-sign-quiz/

    We have a lot of educating to do to the general population.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 3:47 pm
  13. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    With apologies, I cited the wrong driver’s test. I meant to use this one: http://www.gmacinsurance.com/SafeDriving/

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 3:49 pm
  14. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    And that test is no longer working. When I took it a couple years ago, I saw some interesting stats, including that barely 70% of Kentuckians (I live in Louisville) who took the test passed it.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 3:51 pm
  15. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… I wouldn’t say all bicycle infrastructure is more dangerous than the street. I would say all that I have seen/experienced so far is more dangerous with the exception of a fully separate bit I experienced in a suburb of Amsterdam.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 4:21 pm
  16. Khal Spencer wrote:

    My goal, since we are supposedly discussing goals, is that a “reasonable bicyclist” (remember the “reasonable person standard”?) should be able to use a bicycle for transportation without enduring risks that are out of proportion to other common modes. One should look at infrastructure, planning laws, and human behavior from such a lens. Looking at infrastructure alone is myopic.

    Perhaps when Andy said he was interested in whether *he* could use a bicycle for transportation, that is a good place to start. Andy sounds like a reasonable bicyclist to me.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 4:27 pm
  17. Michael wrote:

    Yeah, what Steve A said.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 4:56 pm
  18. Brian wrote:

    The major problem with Andy’s argument, as I see it, is that he feels that if bike lanes are more dangerous than no bike lanes, then bike lanes are unacceptably dangerous. But that’s not how people operate, in the real world — we all make choices based on overall risk, not comparative risk. It’s true that streets with bike lanes are less safe than streets without, but that doesn’t make their risk unacceptable. Both are fairly low-risk situations. It happens that most people prefer the slightly riskier version. That’s OK.

    Honestly, Andy reminds me of the folks that promote abstinance-only sex education for teenagers — rather than helping people make low-risk decisions about something they want to do, he’s telling them they shouldn’t want to do what they really want to do. Then they end up ignoring that advice and making _really_ stupid decisions (salmon, sidewalk riding…). That doesn’t work.

    Here’s my position: Most people want to ride bikes in their own lane; the best thing to do is give it to them and make it as safe as possible. No, it’ll never be as safe as vehicular cycling. But then, almost nobody likes or wants vehicular cycling.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 5:39 pm
  19. Khal Spencer wrote:

    If we are going to resort to abstinence-only analogies, here is another one. A school decides to hand out condoms to its students to encourage responsible, safe sexual activity. However, the school decides to go with a low bid provider even though their condoms are known to have much higher failure rates than the other, higher bid provider. The school wants to give the appearance of encouraging safe sex, but is too cheap to do it right.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 6:26 pm
  20. Brian wrote:


    Well, yeah, that’s what poorly planned bike infrastructure is like — good approach, bad execution. But that’s not what Andy is saying. He’s saying that everybody should be virtuous like him and take the safe-but-not-enjoyable route. He’s right, but he’s completely out of touch with what 99% of Americans consider reality.

    (Keep in mind that I’m part of the 1% of vehicular cyclists, too — but I recognize that the chances of getting significant numbers of other people to join us are pretty much zero.)

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 6:40 pm
  21. Robert wrote:


    I certainly doubt that bike lanes are “usually” or “always” more dangerous. It depends upon the situation but outside of this website, most believe just the opposite. That’s particularly true when you consider the increase in bicyclists and the reduction in risk that the sheer numbers deliver to everyone.

    Regardless, I’m a car-free bicyclist who has ridden practically everywhere including interstates and rural highways at night. Just like I rode the shoulder on the Interstate, I prefer the bike lane on arterial streets. I’m hardly a newbie or uneducated on bicycling.

    No offense to anyone here but the KKK has more broad based support than this group of hardcore VC advocates. Please don’t read this and think this is the mainstream.

    That’s not to say that these folks aren’t sincere…or even right (although I doubt it) but I wouldn’t take it as fact just because its the views expressed here. They are really confident that they are right, but so are hundreds if others who think the exact opposite.

    I reject that “bike advocates” are trying to get bicyclists hurt. There is research which shows crash reduction factors for well designed facilities.

    That said – Im the first to criticize poor facilities and if anyone cares, you could google an article that I wrote criticizing Portlands bike lanes. Google “spokesman bike friendly city hooked on dangerous intersections” and it will appear.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 7:18 pm
  22. Kevin Love wrote:


    By the unambiguous “count the dead bodies” measure, roads in The Netherlands are the safest in the world. See:


    I will be the first to condemn unsafe, badly designed infrastructure. But, as the Latin proverb has it, “abusus non tollit usum.” The abuse does not take away the proper use.

    Properly engineered and designed cycle infrastructure built to the Dutch CROW standard results in the safest roads in the world. And also the highest rate of cycling. This is not a coincidence!

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 8:47 pm
  23. Khal Spencer wrote:

    “…No offense to anyone here but the KKK has more broad based support than this group of hardcore VC advocates…”

    Just about fell out of my chair laughing.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 9:02 pm
  24. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kevin and Robert … You’ve both said that you criticize poor infrastructure. Yet when I have demonstrated the recent poor infrastructure we’ve built in Springfield (e.g. out of AASHTO compliance) you always give me crap about it (with good humor, of course). Can I get a little critical commentary from you guys — here, publicly — about our new gutter and door-zone lanes. Or do those not qualify as “poor”? And if they don’t qualify as poor, what does?

    As a side note, Robert … since when do numbers of believers make an argument? I’ll gladly stand alone against sending novices into door-zone and gutter lanes and letting them believe they are safe.

    Posted 08 Dec 2012 at 11:48 pm
  25. Keith wrote:

    I agree totally. I refuse to ride in the bike lanes (MO law does not require me to do so AND I don’t like fixing flats). So the other day, I went for a ride. I was riding to the left of the bike lane. I had someone lay on the horn for almost a whole minute with no traffic coming in the other direction. As he passed, he yelled at me to get off the road.

    Bike lanes are not there to make cyclists feel safer. They are supposed to get cyclists off the road. No person, in their right mind, would ever create bike lanes to increase the safety of cyclists OR the number of cyclists OR the illusion of safety.

    In many ways, sharrows work wonders. It is a reminder to motorists that cyclists have the right to be on the road. Why do city planners not know how much more effective they are. Do any of them actually ride on city streets?

    Personally, I have had to change where I ride in order to avoid roads that have bike lanes. They do not do what they are intended to do. Enough with bike lanes. Sharrows are the way to go!

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 12:51 am
  26. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    “No offense to anyone here but the KKK has more broad based support than this group of hardcore VC advocates.”

    No offense to anyone? How could anyone NOT be offended by being compared to the KKK.

    Doesn’t a comparison to the KKK fall under Godwin’s Law?

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 5:35 am
  27. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches”

    I suppose that falls under the “appeal to ridicule” fallacy as well.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I suggest cyclists reject the installation of facilities that do not meet, at minimum, sound engineering standards. Even some of those are pretty questionable.

    What DZBLs and other suspect facilities endorse is the marginalization of bicyclists by pushing us to the side. Rather than riding safely in proper destination and speed position on a civilized road, one is relegated to a narrow strip on “the other side of the tracks”, (since someone above resorted to civil rights analogies). It would be as though someone provided more minority housing in Buffalo back in the ’60s by building substandard shacks downwind of Bethlehem and Republic Steel.

    I endorse sharrows over bike lanes in the urban landscape because first of all, urban streets should not have high speed limits, with the exception of limited access freeways. Secondly, if done right, sharrows endorse equity rather than rote segregation, and it gets around the problematic destination positioning bike lanes create, i.e., coffin corners and suicidal left turns from the bike lane. Not to mention, being harassed for not being in the bikelane.

    I suspect we see more of the following problem in the Sprawling Southwest, but wide, fast arterial roads festooned with curb cuts are pretty common here. Cyclists in places like Albuquerque learn their way around by parallel side streets that function as either official or unofficial bike boulevards. Where connectivity is problematic, Albuquerque has been building bikeways that provide alternatives to riding on some of its more egregious examples of what I call urban superhighways (for example, Paseo del Norte). While I hope and pray that eventually these urban superhighways will become obsolete through higher costs of driving, until then, the need to navigate around such politically immovable barriers is a good case for a special bike facility–in this specific case. Not because, as a planner once quipped to me, “…the answer is a bike facility, now, what was the question?”

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 8:38 am
  28. John Schubert wrote:

    Astonishing point of view, Brian.

    Have you ever watched your own child die? The breeziness with which you assign that task to other people, all in the name of advocating unsafe bicycle infrastructure, is scary.

    You may not find that argument appealing. So here’s another:

    Do you want people to KNOW that cycling is safe, so they actually DO it?

    Picture yourself….. a young urbie in a “bicycle friendly” city. Most of your friends have been doored, and some have gotten significant injuries. You hear about the fatalities too.

    Then…. your life changes. You have a child. You have a new responsibility.

    And as far as you know, cycling involves being doored. You drunk the Kook-aid, and have no idea that cycling with zero risk of dooring is even possible.

    The kid’s grandparents don’t want you to cycle anymore. Your spouse doesn’t want you to ride anymore. You have your own doubts.

    So what do you do? You quit cycling, even if you never tell yourself why. You continue to mouth the platitudes that “bike lanes are safe,” without adding up all the evidence that they aren’t. And you may quit indirectly — by getting a different job or moving to a different house.

    This is the future I predict for the 20-somethings who are cycling in dangerous facilities now.

    Many of us know how to make cycling attractive without resorting to the dishonesty of dangerous facilities. Get the hell out of our way. And be ready to answer to those grieving parents. Think of what you owe them.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 11:23 am
  29. John Schubert wrote:

    Have any of you ever spearheaded a public works project? Run for elected office, gotten the votes, the bids, the designs, the public hearings, the political process? If you had, you’d know that the discussion of “bicycle freeways” makes zero sense. It’s a waste of time to discuss it. We live in a country that can’t even agree to fix its bridges. You are talking about trillions of dollars worth of construction to build useful networks. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Besides… they would suck once you got them. If they were elevated, they’d be just as ugly as the elevated trains in Philadelphia (not to mention invasive to the privacy of people who live in second-floor apartments). If they weren’t elevated…. where would they go?

    (Actually….. we do have a few excellent bicycle freeways. They’re called rural rail trails. I love ’em.)

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 11:27 am
  30. Kevin Love wrote:


    I have regularly criticized on this blog and elsewhere bike lanes in door zones and other violations of the CROW engineering standards that result in dangers to the public.

    Do you really want me to go through previous posts to quote my own words and the date and time of posting?

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 12:42 pm
  31. Kevin Love wrote:

    To all that have written “its so expensive” I have good news: cycling infrastructure is not only quite cheap, but pays for itself through reduced health care and other expenses.

    Even the world-class Dutch cycling infrastructure costs a not-so-whopping 30 euros (about $USA 38) per year.



    Meanwhile, car infrastructure is insanely more expensive. One example is Boston’s “Big Dig” project that cost over $24 billion. Due to the phenomenon of induced demand even that huge spend did not relieve car traffic congestion, but only changed the location of the bottlenecks. This left many car drivers worse off.

    $24 billion spent on cycle infrastructure could have completely revolutionized the city of Boston. What a waste.

    Source for “Big Dig” cost:


    Source for “Big Dig” futility:


    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 12:54 pm
  32. John Schubert wrote:

    Thanks for posting the information.
    Boston’s “Big Dig” isn’t a good example of much of anything. On that, I think there is widespread agreement. And that’s precisely why it’s a strawman argument when discussing more normal expenditures.
    Your comment that “cycling infrastructure is . . . quite cheap” dodges the question that I was lampooning — that of “bicycle freeways.” They would be prohibitively expensive, which is why they aren’t worth discussing. You didn’t state which infrastructure you meant, so I don’t know. (The article about the Netherlands is interesting. It would be informative to know more about the definitions they used to include or exclude expenditures from the “bicycle infrastructure” category.)
    The infrastructure isn’t what makes people healthy. What makes people healthy is exercise. One specific point I’m disputing is that dangerous bicycle facilities such as door zone bike lanes (which you yourself condemn) are necessary to encourage people to exercise. Brian Glover seems to think so.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 1:18 pm
  33. hokan wrote:

    John Schubert,

    Cycling Freeways shouldn’t be dismissed completely. I can’t imagine a substantial network of them being built, but as opportunity projects as rail lines are abandoned they can be wonderful.

    Here in Minneapolis we have what is touted as America’s first bike superhighway, the North Cedar Lake Trail which connects the far western suburbs with Downtown. Also, the Midtown Greenway, a mostly grade-separated railbed that crosses South Minneapolis border to border and continues Southwest for some 20 miles.

    Both of these trails have few at grade crossings.



    Of course this is a minor point to the main discussion.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 1:23 pm
  34. Mighk Wilson wrote:

    This rather reminds me of the climate change arguments I’ve been having with a more conservative/libertarian friend. (I accept the science; he does not.) Last week I finally had to admit to myself and to him that I was violating some advice that I’d passed along myself at times. Some very smart person once said something to the effect: If you keep having the same problem, you’re the problem.

    In this case both camps — those who put cyclist education first, and those who put segregated bicycle infrastructure first — keep having the same problem; they keep putting out the same arguments expecting the other side to finally admit defeat if just the right piece of evidence or reasoning is presented. Neither side succeeds.

    I used to be on the infrastructure side (though I’ve always felt cyclist training was still essential).

    The arguments of the anti-bike-lane side did not convince me.

    What convinced me was cycling in bike lanes, observing other cyclists in bike lanes, observing motorist behavior in relation to cyclists in (and out of) bike lanes, and crash and census data.

    What we need to remember is that we — whether we’re talking about our respective camps within cycling, or both camps together — are a tiny minority compared to the rest of the population, and that convincing the “other side” is of relatively little consequence.

    I find I get a much better reception to my integrated cycling arguments when I present them to people who don’t have a dog in this hunt — non-cyclists, and people who ride bikes but don’t identify themselves as cyclists. And of course the best argument is the CyclingSavvy course, because it takes the abstract arguments and puts the cyclist out there in the real world to put them to the test.

    I will however disregard my own advice a bit here and make one point about the effect of facilities on ridership, and it’s relative, safety-in-numbers.

    That facilities increase cycling is a matter of faith. (Note: I am a bicycle planning professional and have been for nearly 20 years, but am now agnostic on that matter.) As with some many fallacious arguments, it confuses correlation with cause. Proponents point to before-and-after numbers and say, “See!?,” but dismiss confounding factors as irrelevant.

    Ironically, facilities proponent John Pucher gave us excellent evidence to show that other factors are having an equal or greater impact on bike mode share than facilities. In his latest paper he notes (and backs up with data) that climate, density, demographics, terrain, and most especially the presence of a college or university all have a very strong impact on bicycle mode share.


    Do places with bicycle facilities get more cyclists, or do places with more cyclists get more bicycle facilities?

    When we look at the places in the U.S. with the highest bicycle mode share, they tend to be cities with significant college student populations, high density, good street connectivity, a moderate climate (not too hot and humid). The real increases have been in the generations just leaving high school and college, as they are eschewing cars not only for bikes, but for transit and walking as well. We see this in supposedly bike-unfriendly Orlando too.

    So if facilities are not responsible for increasing cycling, then safety-in-numbers (if it is even real) cannot be attributed to bikeways, and segregated bikeways — because we all know they create unnecessary conflicts — then become totally unethical.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 1:29 pm
  35. John Schubert wrote:


    I appreciate the information.
    We may be struggling with no more than definitions here. Definitions are important, though, and even innocent-sounding imprecision in language can make a discussion useless. Not to pick on you, but I’ll use an example of something you said. You referred to “abandoned rail lines.” “Abandoned” is a legal term of art, and it means that the property is no longer owned by the railroad or its successors. The property reverts to the previous landowner. Because of that, a government can’t put a rail trail on an abandoned rail line without first regaining title to the land. Which costs money. There goes Kevin Love’s hope to do this for cheap.
    Another definition is “bicycle freeway.” Colloquially, I take this to mean a new-construction urban grade-separated right of way with no conventional intersections. I think that’s been more or less the common understanding on this forum.
    The examples you posted look like terrific rail trails. Is it a bit of title inflation to call them freeways? Maybe, maybe not. In any event, they’re great trails.
    Rail trails are indeed cheap infrastructure, and that’s because someone else paid for 99 percent of the work, long ago. You get all the engineering work, a roadbed and drainage system that can support heavy trains, the land and right of way, the grade crossings. . . . all for free! It’s a different story when you start out without a railroad bed to work with.
    One problem with rail trails is that we will at some point run out of railroad beds to convert to trails. And some of the same environmental forces that promote use of rail trails may push to put train tracks back on those rights of way.
    In short, I understand what it means to champion “continued use of unused railroad corridors, canal towpaths, and other similar rights of way for separated bicycle facilities.” And, pending a few details, I support all of that. It means something very different from “build bicycle freeways.”

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 1:47 pm
  36. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Hi, John. Just stepped down from eight years on my county transportation commission, almost half as its chair, and boy is my life simpler. Its been months since anyone has sworn at me! I’m taking a mental health break from politics and urban planning.

    Where right of way is available and can be obtained with low costs and small investments in repurposing (i.e., a rail-trail, parkland, flood control embankments, etc), these are good examples of where a bikeway with minimal conflicts points can be constructed as long as there is a good proposal put forward. Otherwise, if you are already working in the built environment, something else has to move to put in a “bike freeway”. That something is liable to be expensive and the tasks of obtaining clear right of way can become politically difficult. “Takings” costs vs. benefits to the community have to be included in any budget. In places where land is of high value, that is a consideration.

    So I would temper my enthusiasm for such projects to locations where there is no simpler solution, as Occam would say. As John said, we can’t even agree to fix our bridges, and some are literally falling down. I visited my brother in Buffalo last month. There is one railway viaduct near his house that rains rust whenever a train passes over. Priorities..

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 1:48 pm
  37. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    Regarding ‘bicycle freeways’, IF they could be built wide enough (minimum 10ft wide lanes), with no intersections with the road at all, and with underground tunnels so that you could build up and use kinetic energy to conserve energy and make cycling even more efficient, I’d be all for them. That would indeed be a bicycle utopia.

    The problem is, as John Schubert explains, that sort of infrastructure is extremely expensive. Motorists only want us off ‘their’ roads. They are not going to lobby for or fund massive public works projects to build a nationwide system of truly useful and truly safe bicycle freeways. They just aren’t. Hell, they even complain about taxes and reduced road space whenever bike lanes are striped – and bicycle advocates think they can ever get meaningful facilities? Give me a break!

    This is the whole problem with populist bicycle advocacy today – it’s all about self-delusion, pipe dreams and pie-in-the-sky projects. So instead of getting meaningful change, we get half-baked bike facilities that these self-styled bicycle advocates are scared to criticize. Not only that, but they’re scared to let anyone else criticize such facilities. So more bad facilities get built. It’s that sort of blind acceptance and defense of of bad facilities that leads to a bicycle DYSTOPIA.

    Because of the actions of people like Kevin, Brian and Robert, we’re headed for a future in which more cyclists are killed and injured on yet more half-assed specialized bicycle infrastructure projects, because anyone who suggests that there is a better way is shouted down with phrases like:

    “you want us to keep building the idiotic cities we’ve already built.”

    “you’re a stooge of the suburban developers”

    “if you don’t try to do anything, you won’t go anywhere at all.”

    “It’s as if you went to a Southern Baptist convention and wanted to have an honest discussion about a new bit of research showing that the earth was not created in seven days.”

    “Andy reminds me of the folks that promote abstinance-only sex education for teenagers”

    “the chances of getting significant numbers of other people to join [integrated cyclists] are pretty much zero.”

    “the KKK has more broad based support than this group of hardcore VC advocates.”

    Robert wrote:

    “Is it possible to have a serious discussion on Carbon Trace…?”

    Judging by the above quotes, apparently not. But the people unwilling to have a serious discussion are not the integrated cycling proponents, as Robert suggests. Instead, they seem to be the paint an path advocates. I’m all for a serious discussion, but the P&Pers always seem to want the serious discussion to be confined to the integrated cycling folks so that the P&Pers can engage in all the worst kinds of sophistry, ad hominem attacks and straw men.

    A serious discussion requires BOTH sides to honestly engage in it. If you folks aren’t willing, why should anyone else be?

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 2:08 pm
  38. Khal Spencer wrote:

    “The Midtown Greenway is a 5.7-mile (9.2 km) rail trail in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is considered under segregated cycle facilities. Used both recreationally and for commuting, the partially below-grade Greenway runs east-west about one block north of Lake Street. It provides cyclists, inline skaters, runners and pedestrians a virtually traffic-free route across the city.”

    Traffic free? Does that mean no one uses it? All kidding aside, it sounds less like a freeway than some of us would be willing to accept, and will instead have all the problems of a mixed-use facility. Not that this is necessarily a bad facility, but I wouldn’t call it a freeway.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 3:50 pm
  39. Andy Cline wrote:

    Bicycle “freeways” and typical American urban greenways are not the same thing. We have a great greenway system in Springfield — many miles of linear parks for walking, bicycling, etc. You can even use them to get to a limited number of destinations. But the greenways people are carfeul to note that the purpose of these parks is recreation, not transportation. That requires a different approach.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 4:09 pm
  40. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Back when I lived in Honolulu, I would routinely ride from the U of Hawaii to Downtown and back on King and Beretania streets. Both were multilane, one way streets. King went “Kokohead bound” and Beretania went “Ewa” (west and east, respectively, for haoles in the room). These roads, with something like three or four traffic lanes, worked pretty much as a bicycling freeway. Especially since during rush hour, onstreet parking was prohibited.

    Talk about making a small street that ran parallel, Young Street, into a bike boulevard was a disputable idea, since Young had stopsigns at every intersection. But its laid back character and small profile would be attractive, I suppose, to more risk averse cyclists. It would drive cyclists like me batty with the stop signs everywhere. King and Beretania were certainly busy, but a reasonable cyclist could navigate them just fine.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 6:29 pm
  41. Robert Hurst wrote:

    Denver has ‘bicycle freeways,’ more or less.
    Almost any city could as well. They cut right into the heart of the city, separated from the traffic grid, and are wonderful for recreation and transportation. These facilities are so powerful that the addition of just one or two will make a huge difference. There is no actual need to build a ‘network’ or ‘system’ of paths.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 7:32 pm
  42. John Brooking wrote:

    Sorry if I’m chiming in a bit late and redundantly, as I haven’t read all the many comments yet. But I wanted to respond to Brian’s comment #8:

    “But I really don’t think we can change the idea that “roads are for cars” without some indication that they are also for other uses”

    I agree, but I seems obvious to me that bike lanes, cycle tracks, and other such facilities designed to give bicyclists “their own space” actually REINFORCES the “roads are for cars” meme, by suggesting that the only way to accommodate bicyclists on the road is by giving them their own dedicated space. It suggests that motorists and bicyclists can’t share the same space; they must have their own. Drawing a line is not sharing the road. You draw a line when people have demonstrated they cannot share the same space, so you have to draw a line and say “this is yours” and “that is yours”. Drawing lines is the result of a failure to share.

    If you’re looking for on-road indicators that roads are for other users besides motorists, you could have shared lane markers (“sharrows”), Bikes May Use Full Lane signs, pavement markings indicating where bicyclists can stop to trigger the traffic light sensor, and various other bicycle related signs such as “Wrong Way Ride With Traffic” and warning signs about diagonal RR tracks.

    Other efforts to promote equality, aside from on-road markings, should include public awareness efforts and education for motorists, law enforcement, and cyclists, and equal law enforcement on cyclists who run red lights and ride without lights at night.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 7:50 pm
  43. John Brooking wrote:

    That should be “but *it* seems obvious”.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 7:51 pm
  44. John Brooking wrote:

    Regarding research purporting to demonstrate or invalidate the safety benefits of various infrastructure, I first have to say that I personally am limited by a lack of knowledge of the field of statistics. I do know, however, a few basics such as “correlation does not equal causality”, and the fact that statistics can be done badly, and/or distorted, such that they can say almost anything.

    From my limited understanding, and my reading of what others have said, it seems that the first problem of bicycle safety statistics is lack of a solid foundation and baseline, and lack of data points. A second is the great variety in quality of the reports out there, and a question of researcher neutrality. People who appear to know more about statistics than I do have published critiques of the methodology of many of these studies.

    As an example, there has been a lot of discussion recently of the Teschke study claiming that bike lanes can cut cycling injuries in half. (http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/10/dedicated-bike-lanes-can-cut-cycling-injuries-half/3654/) Among the critique of this study is that although Teschke mentions the “vehicular cycling” philosophy, she does not appear to understand it, showing pictures of dangerous edge riding as examples of it. So she is not comparing riding in bike lanes to “vehicular cycling”, she is comparing it to edge riding. Also, I have to say, comments she is quoted as making in that article certainly show her to be far from neutral in the outcome she was hoping to achieve. (“When my statistician finally finished doing the analysis for the injury study, I can remember sitting at the desk, and my heart was just pounding because I thought ‘what am I going to do if the injury results are the opposite of the preference results?'”)

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 8:29 pm
  45. John Schubert wrote:

    I disagree somewhat with Mr. Brooking’s statement that there is “lack of a solid foundation and baseline, and lack of data points.” The Ken Cross study and Carol Tan/ Bill Hunter study both studied the actual causal factors behind individual crashes, and then categorized the crashes into crash types and did statistical work on each type. This is far different from the Teschke study which Brookings mentions, because the Teschke study avoids actually analyzing even one crash. (The Lusk/Furth study also does not look at the factors behind individual crashes.)
    If one were to do as Cross and Tan did, and look at actual crashes, one could find some interesting trends. But right now, the statisticians are well paid to keep those trends secret.
    One example of keeping trends secret is dooring collisions caused by door zone bike lanes. Because doorings are not collisions with moving motor vehicles, they are not counted systematically. One is forced to rely on anecdotal evidence — like the number of lawyers in Chicago who make their living off of dooring collisions.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 9:36 pm
  46. Kevin Love wrote:

    Test message: my postings have not been appearing.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 10:23 pm
  47. Kevin Love wrote:

    The test worked. I’ve divided my post into two parts and that did not work. So now I am trying three parts. Here is a go at part one of three.

    I looked up sources and ran the numbers and even I am surprised at the vast piles of money that can be saved by substituting cycle infrastructure (and public transit infrastructure) for car infrastructure.

    A good example of not building car infrastructure is the City of Toronto. A US-style expressway system was proposed for the City, and a few bits built. But the Spadina Exptessway, Crosstown Expressway, Richview Expressway, Scarborough Expressway, etc, were all cancelled. And good riddance too!

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 10:25 pm
  48. Kevin Love wrote:

    Part three of three.

    I also see that the cost per single lane km of a car-only segregated expressway is $4 million, with interchanges costing a stupendous $42 million. So a four-lane segregated car-only expressway would cost $16 million per km plus cost of shoulders plus $42 million per interchange. WOW!

    Source for the above is page K3 of:


    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 10:28 pm
  49. Kevin Love wrote:

    Looks like part two of three did not post. After some trial and error, it appears that the problem is in posting the link to my reference. Here it is without the link:

    Turning to cost sources, I see that the cost per km of a four metre wide asphalt cycleway is $200,000.

    Source is page 94 of:

    (link deleted)

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 10:31 pm
  50. Kevin Love wrote:

    Here is the link that would not post, less an initial “cms” that the reader will have to put in.


    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 10:33 pm
  51. Kevin Love wrote:

    AHA! That posted.

    Andy, any idea why your blog software took exception to that link?

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 10:35 pm
  52. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kevin … I’m sorry you’re having trouble with posting comments. I’m not sure why as you’re not posting more than the allowed number of links. I have WordPress set to moderate any comment with 5 or more links to cut down on spam. Please keep me informed if you continue to have problems. You may send me e-mail if you wish.

    Posted 09 Dec 2012 at 11:19 pm
  53. Khal Spencer wrote:

    If you think the cost of a mile of freeway is bad, try the cost of the F35 Fighter. Its hard to top that for boondoggles, but politics is not always logical.


    Of course a full expressway for heavy traffic is far more expensive than a bicycle freeway. The problem is, most Canadians and Americans see themselves using the motorized varieties. Its only now when we are broke, and when there is little cheap land to buy and too many other things to fix, that the price tag gets caught in the throat. I think these cost drivers will cause these facilities to be cancelled, but that’s no guarantee that the public will want to build a bicycle superhighway, unless our mode share rises by an order of magnitude. That may or may not happen. I doubt anyone’s crystal ball is all that good.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 7:46 am
  54. Mighk Wilson wrote:

    What makes bicycles useful for transportation is connectivity. The more connected a corridor or a facility, the more useful it is for trips to destinations along that corridor. But if you limit access to the facility (which is how freeways are planned and designed) you sacrifice local access for long-distance mobility. Just as freeways in the regular road system are for longer-distance trips, “bicycle freeways” would also be for longer-distance trips. But the majority of people aren’t interested in taking long bicycle trips (at least not for their daily transport needs).

    European cities have high bike use because their trip distances are shorter (less sprawl). They mostly use “bicycle freeways” for trips between (closely-spaced) cities.

    As for Robert Hurst’s claim that almost any city could build them, yes, but do’t forget the “almost.” You need a riverfront, a creek bed, or a lakefront that already provides grade separation.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 8:06 am
  55. Robert J wrote:


    Serious question.

    You broke the debate into two parts. Those who think we need education first and those who think we need seperate facilities first.

    Are you and Keri teaching enough people cycling savvy to a least keep up with population growth?

    To be honest, I don’t know what the United States population growth is but lets assume 300,000 per year. If not, there are actually LESS people educated on bicycling every year despite you, Kerri and every LCI in the United States best efforts.

    It doesn’t matter how awesome the PPT presentation, videos and even animations are…it’s damn hard to get people to take any class

    So I’d divide the argument into three groups:

    1. Those that say education is the answer but have yet to educate a meaningful amount of people.

    2. Those that say education is important but think its *very* unlikely to work.

    3. Those who think that bicyclists have no responsibility to be educated.

    We simply can’t continue claiming education to be an answer to our problem unless we begin educating people.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 8:53 am
  56. Robert J wrote:


    Here is the criticism that you requested.

    While I think that your beliefs are sincere, the arguments that you use are not.

    Once while having a discussion about the Benton Street bike lanes you called them “door zone” bike lanes. I asked you how wide they were and you said (I’m paraphrasing) that it didnt matter. Any bike lane beside a parked car was a “door zone”

    I ride in bike lanes that travel along parked cars all the time and once I even had a door open. It wasnt a problem because I was far enough away just like I would have been if the bike lane didn’t exist.

    So I have this sense that when you begin to talk about bike lanes in Springfield you would be better off if you were more honest and discussed specific things that you dislike about certain bike lanes.

    For example:
    -lanes that use a unlaced gutter pan for part of their width
    -lanes that are too narrow to avoid an opening door
    -lanes with endanger the user when it comes to the “right hooks.”

    Right now you would scream just as loudly about every bike lane and since most people have decided that bike lanes are Springfields future you’re not being listened to at all. That’s a shame because you could really add goths conversation by pointing outtye truely dangerous ones while continuing your push for sharrows, etc.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:03 am
  57. Mighk Wilson wrote:


    Of course you’re right; if we don’t teach many people we’re failing by that measure. And no, we’re not teaching a significant number, yet. But then, virtually all the money in cycling goes to facilities. CyclingSavvy was developed as a completely volunteer enterprise.

    I believe previous education programs failed due to bad marketing. And by marketing I mean:

    * Identifying your customer and understanding his/her needs and desires
    * Developing a course (or courses) that fits those needs and desires
    * Determining an effective pricing and delivery system
    * Developing and implementing an effective advertising campaign to convince people of the value of the course

    Previous education programs have failed on all of those points. We hope that we can get enough of the right people to see the value of our course and gain the capital we need to expand and advertise or course to the level that’s needed.

    We know from student feedback that we are delivering something of high value. Plenty of other high-value products and services have failed due to poor marketing and advertising. We hope to avoid that fate.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:04 am
  58. Robert Hurst wrote:

    “You need a riverfront, a creek bed, or a lakefront that already provides grade separation.”

    Canals, freeways and old rail corridors also work. Almost all cities could build at least one fully-separated ‘bicycle freeway’ which would make a huge difference for cyclists in that city.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:08 am
  59. Robert J wrote:

    John –

    Have you examined Chicago’s new infrastructure? I havent noticed these door zone bike lanes but when I travel into the City I usually only visit the loop and street space is far too valuable there to allow parking.

    On rare occasions I travel other parts and also haven’t noticed any, but I’m sure they exist.

    Anyway – just curious if you’ve visited the City of Chicago since the new Mayor was elected and brought in his new, and very progressive transportation team?

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:11 am
  60. Mighk Wilson wrote:

    It’s reeeeally flat here in Florida, so our grade-separation opportunities are very few and far between. But yes, most any grade-separation opportunity can work.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:12 am
  61. Robert J wrote:

    Mighk –

    Thank you for your answer.

    If you’re interested, the City of Columbia Missouri used a good portion of their 28 million dollar FNMPP grant on education. There were radio, tv and newspaper ads. Every bike shop in town also promoted the classes.

    In total, I think about 350 people took the 9-hour course and hardly anyone signed up for the shorter versions. Even when doing “brown bag lunch” seminars at various companies in Columbia hardly anyone would show up.

    It may have just been a matter of a bad marketing campaign. The company hired to do all of this is a professional marketing firm, however.

    Our evaluations were excellent as well. In fact, graduates reported a 24% reduction in automobile use 6-weeks after taking the class.

    Anyway – having led that effort I’m growing more and more skeptical that it can work well.

    In fact, I I were a billionaire I wouldn’t fund bike education and that pains me to say it because I know how life changing it can be for the people who take it.

    If I had a goal for these conversations it would be to stop using bike Ed for the answer to bring the average Joe into a hardcore VC rider when all of us know that’s practically impossible.

    Seems we need to either be like Andy (don’t care if people ride), accept some facilities or come up with a third idea that hasn’t occured to anyone yet.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:21 am
  62. Mighk Wilson wrote:


    If it’s possible to do it for a few hundred normal people — as we have here in Orlando — then it’s possible to do it for virtually everybody. The problem is figuring out how to sell what nobody seems to want. It’s been done…


    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:29 am
  63. Khal Spencer wrote:

    As Mighk said, the main benefit of bicycling for the general population is short term mobility. For that reason, i think our primary consideration should be that cities and towns examine their roadways and ensure that a reasonable bicyclist (I’ll keep harping on that) can ride the “one mile” solution. Or, for that matter, the “two mile” solution. When I visited Bremen, the city center to the airport on the edge of town was about two miles. Albuquerque is several times that size.

    That action would probably help considerably to getting people on bikes in the U.S. I really doubt we will put into place the other big European drivers:

    Extremely high gas taxes–untenable.

    Extremely high tax penalties on autos–politically untenable.

    Extremely short urban distances–too late, we have to work with the settlement we have and slowly change it.

    Peak oil? I thought that would have driven the price of gas through the roof by now, but as we can see, no one’s crystal ball is very good. Hydrofracking and other new techniques are on the path to making the U.S. a major producer again. Don’t get into a fight with me about climate change because you are preaching to the converted (Ph.D., Geochemistry, 11 years on the graduate faculty of a geoscience school at a Carnegie I). But no one has the political will to put a stop to it. Sooooo…..what do we do? We make bicycling easier for short distances and worry about “freeways” after the mode shifts.

    I think adding segregated bicycling facilities adds political warfare to the equation, to wit, you are robbing Peter the Motorist to pay Paul the Bicyclist. Unless there is a compelling reason to do so (I’ll leave that to the planners in areas that wish to justify it), I think the main consideration should be “pacifying” our existing streets and changing zoning and planning codes so we stop building arterial and cul-de-sac developments that almost beg the use of a car. In existing badly planned developments, as homes are foreclosed or demolished, cut-throughs for bike and ped travel should be installed in order to allow people to avoid the existing arterials, which as anyone here would have to admit, tend to put cyclists off.

    Like Andy, I am tiring of being Johnny Appleseed and trying to convert the world to bicycling and walking. I’ll go as far as Andy might be willing to–to work so that the….drum roll…reasonable bicyclist is not iced out of the equation by dumb, 20th Century planning.

    Jeeze, Andy, 61 posts. Is that a record? We should move this discussion to the upcoming Bike Summit.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:35 am
  64. robert wrote:

    Mighk –

    I hope that you are successful.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:39 am
  65. Khal Spencer wrote:

    “short distance”, not “short term” in my last post…sorry.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:40 am
  66. Mighk Wilson wrote:

    While some minimum amount of money is certainly necessary to effectively market cyclist education, having a huge sum will not necessarily result in success. One need only look at the myriad marketing failures over the years by Fortune 500 companies to see that’s so. Good marketing is about understanding how to communicate effectively, not throwing money around.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:44 am
  67. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Mighk, do you think CS and TS classes can create the “reasonable cyclist” in enough numbers to act as local role models and get others involved?

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:49 am
  68. Mighk Wilson wrote:


    I think it’s as much about which particular individuals you reach within a community as the number. Once one has a high-quality course, getting community leaders of all types to take it is key. Police, elected officials, local media, local celebrities, business leaders…. (time to re-read The Tipping Point).

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 9:53 am
  69. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Up here in BombTown, Neale and I have kind of throw up our hands. Lack of interest by the public and both Neale and I are utterly swamped lately with other stuff. Its hard to have a really good course unless you are teaching regularly.

    I put the Traffic Skills class and a short lunchtime version on the laboratory training curriculum. Actually, in retrospect, maybe that was a dumb idea. Training at LANL is synonymous with time sink. Sadly.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 10:19 am
  70. Andy Cline wrote:

    Re: What Robert Hurst wrote: “They cut right into the heart of the city, separated from the traffic grid, and are wonderful for recreation and transportation. These facilities are so powerful that the addition of just one or two will make a huge difference. There is no actual need to build a ‘network’ or ‘system’ of paths.”

    Yes! And this is one of the reasons I have been a member of Ozarks Greenways for many years and continue to promote the building of greenways in Springfield. I believe I have seen exactly this phenomenon here. But, again, the greenways people will caution that these are parks, not transportation corridors. You can certainly use them as transportation corridors. I have. But one must keep in mind that you’ll encounter all manner of park users.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 10:29 am
  71. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert J… I criticize bicycle lanes to varying degrees as is plainly seen on CT. I get the feeling that you are loathe to criticize ANY lanes at all. Perhaps we are talking past each other. And, again, goals play an important role in POV. I do not care one whit if participation increases if its cost is painting lines on the street. I’d prefer participation to increase through education.

    As you have cogently pointed out, that’s problematic. I accept that. Since increases in participation play such a minor role in my goals, I’m totally OK with that.

    So, OK, you’ve criticized in your comment lanes in which the gutter pan constitutes a significant width of the lane. Would it have killed you, then, to have supported me in these postings:




    All three of these entries show gutter lanes that are 1) out of AASHTO compliance and 2) the gutter pan is, along much of these routes, half the width of the lane.

    But what few comments you made either dismiss my criticism or continue your canard that I am marginalizing myself.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 10:49 am
  72. Andy Cline wrote:

    Khal… Yes. I do believe we’ve hit a record number of comments for a single CT post. An no matter what the POV, I am honored by and appreciate all of the participation.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 10:54 am
  73. robert wrote:


    That is good criticism of my criticism. : )

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 11:20 am
  74. robert wrote:

    Another question for you guys:

    Why are so many of you wanting to draw such a distinction between a “trail” and a “bicycle highway.”

    The only “bicycle highway” that I’ve used were in Minneapolis. Admittedly, they looked like a wide paved recreational trail to me.

    Just because a pathway follows a creek, flood plain, abandened rail line or other easily buildable route doesn’t mean that it lacks usefullness for the transportation bicyclist.

    Why are we going to such pains to clarify one as awesome but unattainable and the other as child’s play. (My interpretation of the conversation).

    Further, if you were blind folder and taken to a trail/bicycle highway somewhere and then had the blindfold removed…what visual clues would you use to categorize the facility that you were on?

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 12:19 pm
  75. robert wrote:

    Sorry – classify not clarify.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 12:20 pm
  76. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Robert, a couple reasons. One, to make sure we all agree on what we are talking about. As John Schubert mentions above, a “bicycle highway” may mean something quite different from a “trail” in the same way that a secondary rural route differs from limited access intercity highway. A trail does not preclude intersections with other facilities such as roads or multipurpose use from walkers, joggers, skaters, etc. A bicycle highway, as discussed above, would be a purpose built facility for the exclusive use of bicyclists and would presumably have limited intersections with facilities that would slow cyclists down or introduce added hazards.

    I don’t think many of us get heartburn over trails and opportunistic use of right of way that can be obtained and put to use as a rail-trail or other such facility. Some of us are reticent to support a facility that would have a much higher cost per mile basis unless such could be justified.

    Perhaps someone could come up with a scenerio where a bicycle highway would connect two hubs with a single high speed spoke where an equivalent connection does not exist. Thus would be justification.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 12:52 pm
  77. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… OK, so next time gimme a little love when we actually agree :-)

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 2:37 pm
  78. John Schubert wrote:

    Robert raises a good question:

    “Why are so many of you wanting to draw such a distinction between a “trail” and a “bicycle highway.””

    And…. he gave an example of how easy it is to have a language problem.

    The discussion was about “bicycle freeways.” “Highway” and “freeway” have v-e-r-y different meanings. I don’t think Robert meant to do a shift with words and meanings, but this is an illustration of something that can matter.

    “Bicycle freeway” is essentially a slang term. It means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. I responded to it by thinking of the utopian (and, in my expert opinion) absurdly unrealistic descriptions I have heard of grade-separated freeway-like separated corridors for bicyclists. My mental picture is of something like the elevated trains in Philadelphia. (Of course, other cities have them too.)

    I was not aware that the trails in Minneapolis were called “bicycle freeways.” Based on the photos I saw on the web, I concur with Robert that they look like . . . trails.

    What I’ve heard people claim for their vision of “bicycle freeways” is that you’d be able to go real fast on one. The New York Times Magazine once published an article predicting a future in which you’d go 50 mph on these things to commute to work (on your fully faired recumbent projectile, of course).

    Now…. let’s come down to reality. I’ll use as examples my four favorite separated trails nearest my house:

    — The Saucon Rail Trail connects Center Valley with Hellertown.
    — The D&L Trail connects Cementon with Bowmanstown
    — The Perkiomen Creek Trail connects Green Lane with Valley Forge
    — The Lehigh Canal Towpath connects Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown

    Here are some qualities they all share:

    — Grade crossings are infrequent.
    — None of them are paved.
    — Both because of the trail surface and because of the nature of other trail users, maximum safe speed is 15 mph or less, and when I see people walking their dogs, it’s a lot less.
    — All of them were built where the right of way was available, which affects how many people use them as transportation corridors. I doubt many people commute from Cementon to Bowmanstown. But the canal towpath is handy for several people I know, who live in one of those communities and work in another.
    — I think the people who use them would laugh if you called them “bicycle freeways.”

    I hereby renounce my earlier flippant comment comparing rural rail trails to “bicycle freeways.”

    I strongly suggest we stop using the term! It’s too easy to misinterpret to be useful communication.

    John Schubert

    P.S. Robert — I haven’t visited Chicago for some years. I do have a copy of the Chicago bike lane design manual, in which drawings that were purportedly drawn to scale were, in fact, NOT drawn to scale. (Cars in this book are 4 1/2 feet wide!) These drawings purported to show that non-door-zone bike lanes could be shoehorned into existing streets. The result: many miles of door zone bike lanes.

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 2:44 pm
  79. robert wrote:

    John –

    I appreciate your answers.

    About Chicago – Chicago is a City with a very strong role for the Mayor rather than the City Council. Change comes very swiftly when a new Mayor is elected and the new transportation Gabe Klein is certainly making sweeping changes.

    I’d say any comment about Chicago prior to May 2011 is not relevant…..other than it’s still cold and the taxes are insane.

    About the greenways/bicycle freeways/bicycle highways discussion. To me, this is a case of internet fodder that has no meaning to the outside world.

    For example, the fact that the safe speeds of a facility are over/under 15 mph matters to a very small % of bicyclist.

    Most of us are perfectly happy sharing a path with joggers, runners, walkers, kids and even the occasional deer wandering down the path. I’d rather do this than feel the breeze off of an 18-wheeler.

    In April I rode 40-miles per day from my suburb to another for a week-long writing seminar. About 30 miles of that ride was along bike/ped recreational trails and while I occasionally had to slow down because someone had a dog off of a leash or to keep from startling a jogger, I enjoyed it much more than the road portions.

    In fact, the only real part of that week that I remember was slowing to tell a 6-year old (ish) little girl that I thought her bike was pretty. She said thank you and then just when I was about out of hearing range I heard her say, “your bike is pretty too!” : )

    I know full well that most people on this board will not agree with me about the virtues of shared facilities, but I suspect that a lot of serious bicyclists do agree with me.

    I’m not sure I’d want to bicycle down a bicycle freeway or superhighway where the only point of the trip was to get somewhere as fast as possible. I’m also not sure that I’d want facilities where pedestrians and children have been vanquished.

    Slowing down is not neccesarily a bad thing.

    I suppose if the % of bike commuters starts to approach 10% then we will have such congestion on many greenways that we will have to reconsider their design?

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 3:41 pm
  80. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… You’re obviously well aware of the trails we have in Missouri (e.g. Katy) and the greenways we have in Springfield. They are recreational trails, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I use them when they lead to where I want to go. And while you sometimes have to dodge the occasional dog-walker (that always have mile-long leashes), the riding is really quite nice. We’re building more. We may even achieve something nearly like a connected system in the next 20 years. Hoo-ray for that!

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 3:50 pm
  81. Glenn wrote:

    I think your idea of vehicular cycling falls short of its true potential. I won’t pretend that a striped bike lane affords anything more than an allocated space on the road. However, most roads are “striped” to allocate space for cars, be it slow lanes, fast lanes, turn lanes or to differentiate opposing directions of traffic. By the very nature of the argument, we’ve established that we don’t need to allocate space for vehicles of differing velocities. To truly realize the potential sharing the road, we need to remove all road marking indicating allocated space on the road (with the possible exception of stop lines at intersections ). Until that happens, we’re being defeatist and admitting that the road is just for cars. I would include eliminating sidewalks as well – there’d be the added bonus of cost savings; concrete is very expensive in relation to asphalt. Separating pedestrian facilities just fosters a false sense of security. Just look at how indifferent most pedestrians are to 3000 lb plus vehicles. Removing sidewalks, and reallocating that space as part of the shoulder, would create more alert and safer pedestrians. If the road were just one big space, cars wouldn’t feel entitled to their lane and bikes could take their fair share of the road without being saddled with infrastructure built specifically for the automobile. Likely, traffic would slow down as a result as there’d be less confidence among drivers to speed through their “allocated” space.

    Anyway, just my take on improving on your concept. Comments?

    Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 8:20 pm
  82. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Is that a straw man, Glenn?

    Posted 11 Dec 2012 at 10:00 am
  83. Mighk Wilson wrote:


    Pavement markings work fine as long as they are consistent with the rules for vehicular movement. The point is to give good guidance to drivers (which includes bicyclists).

    Bike lanes do not give good guidance. They encourage (or force, depending on local laws) bicyclists to keep to the right of right-turning motorists and to stay in moving blind-spots. They also encourage left-turning cyclists to keep right until the intersection. They also encourage (or force, again depending on local laws) right-turning motorists to keep to the left of straight-ahead cyclists.

    No other type of pavement marking does that.

    Posted 11 Dec 2012 at 10:15 am
  84. Khal Spencer wrote:

    “Bike lanes” are lanes specific to a vehicle, regardless of speed or destination (in states with MBL laws). All other lanes are specific to destination and speed and vehicle neutral (except for some expressways that ban trucks from the leftmost lane. Hence the conflicts. Parsimony suggests keeping rules and operation as simple as possible. Complexity often creates conflict or more chances for error, i.e., so called “system accidents” and these have to be managed. By creating complexity and then creating ways to manage complexity, things get even more complex, i.e., Charles Perrow, “Normal Accidents”.

    I think that is borne out in traffic and why it gives some of us heartburn. KISS is a good principle.

    Posted 11 Dec 2012 at 12:49 pm
  85. Glenn wrote:

    RE: “straw man” – you’d think so, wouldn’t you? Maybe it was just a thought exercise on my part, but I was trying to determine how vehicular cycling could work better. A big issue raised in this forum is segregation. If we determine segregation is bad, why stop at bikes? We shouldn’t look at one aspect of the roadway without looking at the entire system. There are very wide roadways with no lanes, and despite my utter disbelief derived from my North American set of values, they seem to function. So maybe I’m being radical with my concept. If this is not about sharing the road and is just about spending zero dollars and leaving things the way they are, then I’ve obviously missed the point with my last post (still, the roads get repaved every so often and painting costs money). Personally, I don’t think the roads are fine how they are. The current road system is built for cars. Cars are at the cusp of becoming less relevant in the urban setting.

    If we determine perceived safety of sidewalks and lanes is a good thing, Why are we dismissing the perceived safety of bike lanes? Regardless of how safe I am statistically, I feel good when I think I’m safe. I feel good riding in a bike lane. I feel bad when there’s no bike lane. By that logic, bike lanes are good. The downside to perceived safety is that it encourages the road user to take more risks. Roads are designed for the perceived safety of drivers. If we remove some of that perceived safety, won’t people drive accordingly and improve the actual safety of all road users? Isn’t one of the problems of bike lanes the perceived safety which results in the cyclist, for example, feeling more comfortable passing other traffic on the right?

    It’s just a concept inspired by this post; I’m not saying it’s anywhere near perfect and I’d be surprised if anyone here agreed with it. But with the given speed differential in traffic, either more structure or less would be an improvement. Perhaps less structure in dense environments and more structure in sparsely populated areas where intersections are less frequent. I’m not a traffic engineer, nor do I play one on TV. If that makes me too open minded, so be it. 😀

    Posted 11 Dec 2012 at 1:51 pm
  86. Max Power wrote:

    Glenn’s “straw man” has been used with some degree of success in certain urban ares since the late 1960s

    Posted 11 Dec 2012 at 5:01 pm
  87. Glenn wrote:

    Max, great link! “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Not much original thought anymore, is there? Love it. Is this where I say so long and thanks for all the fish?

    Posted 11 Dec 2012 at 8:51 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 1

  1. From Your Monday morning after the second night of Chanukah Festival of Links « BikingInLA on 10 Dec 2012 at 2:25 am

    […] just instinctively flip myself off anytime I used it. A committed vehicular cyclist says he’s not interested in ruining the streets just so you can have a damn bike lane; yes, that’s what he really said. A Michigan man is […]