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Guest Blogs

Bike-Friendly Cities Should Be Designed for Everyone

Urban cycling investments tend to focus on the needs of wealthy riders and neglect lower-income residents and people of color

This narrow street, lined with parked cars but devoid of people, is both unwelcoming and unsafe for cyclists. Image credit: Anne Lusk CC BY-ND Anne Lusk, CC BY-ND

Designing for bikes has become a hallmark of forward-looking modern cities worldwide. abound, and advocates promote cycling as a way to reduce problems ranging from .

But urban cycling investments tend to focus on the needs of wealthy riders and neglect lower-income residents and people of color. This happens even though the single biggest group of Americans who bike to work live in households that , and studies in lower-income neighborhoods in and have found that the majority of bicyclists were non-white.

I have . In a newly published study, I worked with colleagues from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston groups focused on health and families to learn from residents of several such neighborhoods what kinds of bike infrastructure they believed . Some of their preferences were notably different from those of cyclists in wealthier neighborhoods.

Cycling infrastructure and urban inequality

Bike equity is a powerful tool for increasing access to transportation and reducing inequality in U.S. cities. Surveys show that the fastest growth in cycling rates since 2001 has occurred among . But minority neighborhoods have fewer bike facilities, and riders there face .

Many U.S. cities have improved marginalized neighborhoods by investing in grocery stores, schools, health clinics, community centers, libraries, and affordable housing. But when it comes to bicycle infrastructure, they often add only the easiest and least safe elements, such as painting sharrows — stencils of bikes and double chevrons — or bike lane markings, and placing them next to curbs or between parked cars and traffic. Cycle tracks — bike lanes separated from traffic by curbs, lines of posts or rows of parked cars – are more common in affluent neighborhoods.

Compared with white wealthier neighborhoods, more bicyclists in ethnic-minority neighborhoods or are involved in collisions. With access to properly marked cycle tracks, they would have less reason to ride on the sidewalk or against traffic on the street, and would be less likely to be hit by cars.

In my view, responsibility for recognizing these needs rests primarily with cities. Urban governments rely on public participation processes to help them target investments, and car owners tend to speak loudest because they want to maintain access to wide street lanes and parallel parking. In contrast, carless residents who could benefit from biking may not know to ask for facilities that their neighborhoods have never had.

Substandard bike lanes, like this one in Seattle, expose cyclists to unsafe passing motorists and collisions with cars turning right at intersections or pulling out of driveways. [Image credit: Joshua Putnam CC BY]

Protection from crime and crashes

For our study, we organized 212 people into 16 structured discussion groups. They included individuals we classified as “community-sense” — representing civic organizations such as YMCAs and churches — or “street-sense,” volunteers from halfway houses, homeless shelters, and gangs. We invited the street-sense groups because individuals who have committed crimes or know of crime opportunities .

We showed the groups photos of various cycling environments, ranging from unaltered streets to painted sharrows and bike lanes, cycle tracks, and shared multi-use paths. Participants ranked the pictures according to the risk of crime or crashes they associated with each option, then discussed their perceptions as a group.

Studies have shown that awareness of criminal activity along bike routes , and this is an important concern in low-income and minority neighborhoods. In a study in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, I found that African-American and Hispanic bicyclists were more concerned than white cyclists that their bikes could be . Some carried bikes up three flights of stairs to store them inside their homes.

From an anti-crime perspective, our focus groups’ ideal bike system was a wide two-way cycle track with freshly painted lines and bike stencils plus arrows, free of oil or litter. Conditions around the route also mattered. Our groups perceived areas with clean signs, cafes with tables and flowers, balconies, streetlights, and no alleyways or cuts between buildings as safest. They also wanted routes to avoid buildings that resembled housing projects, warehouses, and abandoned buildings.

For crash safety, participants preferred cycle tracks separated from cars by physical dividers; wide cycle track surfaces, colored red to designate them as space for bicyclists; and bike stencils and directional arrows on the tracks. In their view, the safest locations for bike facilities had traffic signals for bikers, clearly painted lines, low levels of traffic, and did not run near bus stops or intersections where many streets converged.

Rules for the road

We compared our results with widely used bicycle design guidelines and principles to see whether those sources reflected our participants’ priorities. The guidelines produced by the and the provide engineering specifications for designing bicycle facilities that focus on road elements — paint, delineator posts and signs — but do not describe design features that would protect vulnerable humans bicycling through an environment at night. Our study asked people about what kinds of surface markings and features in the surrounding area made them feel most comfortable.

As an example, our groups preferred street-scale lighting to brighten the surface of cycle tracks. In contrast, tall highway cobra-head lights typically used on busy urban streets reach over the roadway, illuminating the road for drivers in vehicles that have headlights.

In higher-income neighborhoods, cyclists might choose bike routes on side streets to avoid heavy traffic. However, people in our study felt that side streets with only residential buildings were less safe for cycling. This suggests that bicycle routes in lower-income ethnic-minority neighborhoods should be concentrated on main roads with commercial activity where more people are present.

Decisions about public rights-of-way should not be based on how many car owners or how few bicyclists show up at public meetings. Our study shows that city officials should create networks of wide, stenciled, red-painted, surface-lighted, barrier-protected, bicycle-exclusive cycle tracks in lower-income ethnic-minority neighborhoods along main streets. This would help residents get to work affordably, quickly and safely, and improve public health and quality of life in communities where these benefits are most needed.The Conversation

 

is a research scientist at This article is republished from under a Creative Commons license. Read the .

40 Comments

  1. Lance Peters | | #1

    If bicycle lanes can be added to city streets without reducing or impeding the flow of car traffic, both at today's traffic flow rates and those projected for the next 10 years or so, without increasing the risk of car/bike collisions, without reducing the number of car parking spaces, and without costing the city a crazy amount of money, then I'm all for them.

    Bike lanes are easiest to add where traffic flows are lighter, streets are wider, and car parking space is not as much of an issue. Since that generally describes more "affluent" parts of a city, it should be no surprise that bike lanes are a better/easier fit in those places. Did you really need a study to confirm that wider, segregated, well lit bike paths in areas with nicer scenery were more desirable to cyclists? Come on.

    The picture at the top of this article is a great example of where a bike lane should not be; on a crowded street where there's no room for it. A bike lane there would require eliminating car parking along one side, which is probably not practical for those living there. Reduced parking on main roads leads to added pressure on local business and eventually to more vacant buildings, exactly the type of place your surveys described as undesirable for cyclists to pass through. Thriving business needs parking.

    Also, I live in a city like many others that has long winters, and has in recent years expanded the network of bike lanes dramatically. All of that priceless roadway is dedicated to bicycles 12 months out of the year, but is only usable for 6-7 months of the year. Even in the best weather no bike lane is transporting nearly as many people as a car lane does, even on crowded city streets. Actually, I need to admit that since bike lanes have been added, car traffic flow has been choked so much on some streets that bike traffic moves faster. We lost many right turn lanes where cars would wait for pedestrians to cross, and are now blocking traffic waiting for both pedestrians AND cyclists. The solution created the problem.

    Until there's a mass revolution in public transit (or transportation in general), we will continue to have more and more cars that need to drive and park. As our populations grow there will be more cars, and more pressure on our fixed-size roadways. It makes little sense to put more pressure on that system. In many places our roads can't cope with traffic as they are now.

    Cars are not a bad habit like tobacco that people can just quit, they are a necessary part of our lives. I wish we would not pretend to be forgetting that. Most of this continent's city development has been during the age of the automobile and has been tailored to it, yet bicycles have been around forever. You can't just all of a sudden change that. If new developments want to PROPERLY incorporate bike paths that are completely separated from car traffic I'm all for it, but there's little you can do practically in the midst of infrastructure that was established decades ago.

    1. W Ramsay | | #7

      There are several problems with your analysis.

      1 - A bicycle rider requires 1/17 - 1/9 as much space as a car*. A 10' wide bikeway can transport about 8x as many people as a 10' wide motor lane. Taking a lane to build a protected bikeway increases capacity.

      1a - Studies in NYC, Portland, London and elsewhere have shown that taking a vehicle lane to build a protected bikeway does not significantly increase travel times and often reduces travel times.

      2 - Once enough of a protected bicycle network is in place that a significant number of people can ride bicycles instead of drive cars the number of cars in the remaining lanes declines as do travel times.

      3 - A corollary to this is what would happen in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm and other cities if bikeways were replaced by vehicle lanes. If even just half of the people riding bicycles began driving instead, there would be gridlock - just like in U.S. cities.

      * 1/17 for parking & queuing, 1/9 for travel since travel requires more spacing.

    2. W Ramsay | | #8

      "The picture at the top of this article is a great example of where a bike lane should not be; on a crowded street where there's no room for it. A bike lane there would require eliminating car parking along one side, which is probably not practical for those living there."

      If they had safe protected bikeways for their local transportation then how many of the owners of those cars would still need them? How many of those are two car families that could easily become one car families (and eliminate the costs of owning and maintaining that car)? How many are uni students or young people who could easily survive with just a bicycle?

      Owning and driving a car is quite expensive and an expense that many people, even many middle class, really cannot afford. We can layer on top of that our increased healthcare costs due to our lack of daily activity - activity that people elsewhere get by walking or bicycling for their transportation.

      (What's really dumb is how much of our welfare payments go to pay for cars and gas for people to drive very short distances that could more cost effectively be done by walking or bicycling. And then we pay for the increased healthcare costs for these same people partially or even largely because of their low level of activity.)

      HOWEVER, you likely don't need a dedicated bikeway on that street anyway. If the street was 8' wide (cement curb to cement curb) with chicanes and parking bays then bicycle riders and cars could safely share. This is how residential streets like this in Europe are designed.

      "Reduced parking on main roads leads to added pressure on local business and eventually to more vacant buildings, exactly the type of place your surveys described as undesirable for cyclists to pass through. Thriving business needs parking."

      Several studies have shown that the addition of a protected bikeway, even with significant reductions in parking, increases business, not reduces it. The two best examples for us are probably those in NYC when businesses howled about how the elimination of parking and the new bikeways would kill their business. Reality turned out quite different in that the business along the protected bikeways consistently did better than those without.

      1. Lance Peters | | #12

        1. Yes, but only true when the bike lane is at capacity. I'm sure the level of effectiveness varies city-to-city and lane-to-lane, but I have yet to witness bike lanes at capacity. In contrast, during commuting hours, most city streets have their car lanes at capacity, 12 months/year.

        1b. How is this calculated? Is everyone's travel time reduced or just those using the bike lanes? If it's an average number, how much longer are the cars spending on the road vs the savings for the bikes? If the cars are spending longer they're also polluting more.

        2. This makes sense, however it depends on adoption, which varies with infrastructure. More later.

        3. Those cities are not like US cities, which is the problem. Many European cities are hundreds of years older than US cities and have evolved much differently. Many areas in those cities have streets so tight that car traffic is not, and never was, practical. The population evolved riding horses, pushing carts, and riding bikes. It's basically a cultural difference at that point, and adoption was never a concern because it was always there. Many people adopted cars into a system that didn't favor them, which limited their appeal and their use.

        People in European cities often live much closer to where they work, which is in stark contrast to our cities where everyone wants a slice of suburbia and works farther away.

        In our dense city centers it's not uncommon to work and live locally, and there it's also common to see local shops and services. In this environment, walking or riding makes a lot of sense. Public transit bridges the gap for things that are too far away or during winter weather.

        The problem is not so much city centers, it's the vastness of suburbia where things get complicated. People in suburbs rarely work within riding distance, and modern city planning that favors mega-malls over small local business ensures that shopping, eating and social activities are rarely within riding distance as well. This means more people needing to travel farther all the time. It's here where the impact of losing car lanes to bicycles makes the least sense because these bike lanes rarely have bikes in them.

        According to this article:

        there are about twice as many people living in suburbia as there are in "urban" areas. And since the housing density is so much lower in suburban areas, the geographical impact is huge. People continue to multiply and houses continue to be built, cars continue to be sold yet roads cease to grow. They shrink instead to facilitate bike lanes that seem to rarely get used. The 9:1 bike-to-car ratio looks great on paper, but I have yet to see it in the wild. I admittedly don't live downtown, but I still see plenty of near empty bike lanes and I do commute through an affluent area of a city center.

        Being in NYC, I'm sure you see the near complete absence of bike traffic in the winter months. I'm sure there are a few people who brave the elements, but people en-masse are not commuting by bike in Northern climates. This, yet the infrastructure to support bike traffic largely remains in place year-round. Any negative impact this has on vehicle traffic flow will be amplified as some percentage of those who were riding in the summer are driving in the winter.

        I will add that biking in winter conditions, especially in the presence of vehicle traffic, is ridiculously hazardous for both riders and drivers. Ice is difficult enough to deal with for a vehicle with four wheels, and is pretty much a recipe for disaster on two wheels.

        As I said, I'm all for dedicated bike lanes where they make sense. They make the most sense in warm climates where they were planned for early in the development of the infrastructure. I think bike lanes should be part of ALL current and future urban and suburban planning projects. Trying to jam them into existing roadways is not always a good idea, but our politicians seem more concerned with looking "progressive and green" than "practical".

        1. W Ramsay | | #15

          1. Yes, but only true when the bike lane is at capacity. I'm sure the level of effectiveness varies city-to-city and lane-to-lane, but I have yet to witness bike lanes at capacity. In contrast, during commuting hours, most city streets have their car lanes at capacity, 12 months/year.

          You have to remember that when a bikeway is at about 1/10 of its capacity, which is quite empty looking, it is carrying as many people as a motor vehicle lane. It's worse at junction queues where 17 people on bicycles takes up about the same space as one car - the bikeway is backed up for 16' while the motor vehicle lane is backed up for 255'

          1b. How is this calculated? Is everyone's travel time reduced or just those using the bike lanes? If it's an average number, how much longer are the cars spending on the road vs the savings for the bikes? If the cars are spending longer they're also polluting more.

          These studies are done in two ways. The traditional way is for people to frequently drive a specific route and measure the total (and often intermediary) time. More recently data from Nav systems is used. TomTom use to produce gobs of data on this and now Waze, Google and Tesla provide this data. So, these are actual measurements of drive times.

        2. W Ramsay | | #17

          Just because someone else lives 25 miles from work doesn't mean that I can't ride 7 miles to work. You alluded to this but it's very true.

          Nearly half of people in the U.S. live within fairly easy walk/bike distance of work and amenities (IIRC they used 4 miles each way for this). Given proper infrastructure all of these people can walk or ride to work, grocery, pharmacy, school, etc. Many of these are in suburbs BTW but they're either 1st ring suburbs close to urban offices or they work in the same or adjacent suburb.

          Another 1/5 live within longer bike distance (4-15 miles) and similarly can ride if given proper infrastructure. For The Netherlands IIRC, all travel of less than 3 miles is by walking, bicycle or transit. There is some falloff beyond 3 miles but even at 17 miles I believe it is something like 8% or 9% of trips are by bicycle.

          Most of your issues are solved with good (CROW) infrastructure. Keep in mind that the #2 bicycle city in the U.S. is Minneapolis / St Paul. Oulu Finland is one of the top bicycle cities in the world. Good protected bikeways that are maintained throughout winter work very well. Most people that live in northern climates are acclimated to these temps and don't have significant issues with the weather - it's the lack of infrastructure (and that bike shops only carry recreational bikes instead of transportation bikes) that's the issue.

          I commute all year. Only when temps are below about -20°c/0°f does weather become a factor. This is all on protected bikeways (in Europe and MN) that are maintained well throughout the year. So, I'm not sharing the road with cars, which I don't like to do regardless of weather. I put a studded tyre on the front of a spare Omafiets for much of the worst of my winter riding.

    3. W Ramsay | | #9

      "Until there's a mass revolution in public transit (or transportation in general), we will continue to have more and more cars that need to drive and park. As our populations grow there will be more cars, and more pressure on our fixed-size roadways. It makes little sense to put more pressure on that system. In many places our roads can't cope with traffic as they are now."

      Firstly, you cannot build your way out of congestion. Nobody has ever done it. The only solution to congestion and traffic delays is to reduce the number of vehicles people are using. A car requires 9x to 17x as much space as a bicycle and 34x as much space as someone walking. Cars take up a huge amount of space to drive and park (there are 3.9 parking spaces for every car in the U.S., that's a lot of our land mass paved over with asphalt).

      You'll not have a revolution in transportation until you provide a foundation for it. You'll not get people to walk or ride bicycles until they have safe and comfortable places to do so that allow them to safely and conveniently walk or bicycle to their destinations. You'll not have increases in transit ridership until you have a reliable transit system that allows people to go where they want when they want.

      Good walkways and bikeways (built to CROW standards) that allow people to walk and bicycle instead of drive cars actually helps those in cars as they result in fewer people driving and so fewer cars on the roads, lower travel times and lower stress.

      1. Lance Peters | | #14

        Anywhere with winter conditions is not a favorable environment for bicycle commuting. Reducing the size of our roadways to make room for bicycles in July doesn't help in February.

        1. W Ramsay | | #21

          "Anywhere with winter conditions is not a favorable environment for bicycle commuting. "

          Some of the top bicycle cities in the world are winter environments. Oulu Finland perhaps the leader.

          Minneapolis / St Paul is either #1 or #2 in the U.S. with about 5% of commuters riding bicycles. A middle school near us has over 20% of kids riding bicycles in spring and fall but still about 9% riding all year. This is the result of protected bikeways that were built in the community but only about 1/3 of students have these safe bikeways. Think what it will be like once all students have this option.

          Stockholm Sweden has nearly identical winter weather to Minneapolis. About 14% of commuters now ride bicycles (this has been growing as the build new infrastructure).

          Groningen Netherlands gets about half the snow of Minneapolis yet has a bicycle modal share of about 44%. Walking is about 21% with the remaining 35% nearly evenly split between transit and auto.

          Winter weather is simply not a big issue if a city has proper infrastructure and maintains it during the winter. Bicycles are actually better as it's not unusual to see motor vehicle lanes clogged up with slipping, sliding and stuck cars while people are happily moving along on bikeways.

          1. Lance Peters | | #28

            There’s a bike route along one of the parkways I commute on. When the weather is nice there are lots of people biking to work which is great to see.

            However, on days when rain is expected you’re lucky to see 1/10 of the normal bike traffic. The same is true with hot humid weather, though to a lesser degree.

            I don’t doubt that providing well maintained bike paths encourages bike traffic, but I do doubt the willingness of the average commuter to brave any sort of weather. I’m sure some do, but most wont.

            Also, winter maintenance of bike lanes is fine, but those lanes don’t lead directly to most people's destinations. Travel to/from those maintained bike lanes requires travel on regular streets, which is downright dangerous for cyclists miked with traffic.

          2. W Ramsay | | #29

            "There’s a bike route along one of the parkways I commute on. When the weather is nice there are lots of people biking to work which is great to see."

            You say bike route. What kind of bike route is this? Is it a bike lane painted on the side of the road or is it a proper protected bikeway? Nobody anywhere really wants to ride on a painted bike lane when its raining or snowing because you get splushed by passing cars. This is usually not a problem with a protected bikeway.

            In many cities outside of the U.S. it's possible to ride from just about anywhere to just about anywhere else on a combination of protected bikeways and bicycle streets so as long as you can protect yourself from the weather you don't have to worry about problems from passing cars.

            Using myself in MN as an example. When it's sprinkling or snowing I'll ride to places that I can reach via protected bikeway which includes a grocery, pharmacy, school, and several cafés. Target on the other hand requires riding for a bit on a county road with just a painted bike lane which I prefer not to do when it's raining or snowing so I'll either delay my trip until dryer weather or drive my car. Hopefully this road will get a protected bikeway in 2022 and then we can ride to Target (and other places) even when it's raining or snowing.

            As to willingness to brave the elements, that will come with time. Many Americans think that being outside in less than perfect weather is something to be avoided. Once they try it, when properly dressed for it, they find that it's not so bad and actually quite enjoyable.

            "Also, winter maintenance of bike lanes is fine, but those lanes don’t lead directly to most people's destinations. Travel to/from those maintained bike lanes requires travel on regular streets, which is downright dangerous for cyclists miked with traffic."

            Agree. This is similar to The Netherlands in the early 1970's when, as in other countries including the U.S., a lot of people had stopped bicycling because proximity to car traffic made it uncomfortable and risky. This is when they began building the bikeways we are familiar with today. As they built them the number of people bicycling slowly increased but it took about two decades for there to be enough proper bikeways for a large number of people to be able to go where they wanted to go.

            We've experienced something similar in MN. We can ride many more places from our home today than we could 10 years ago. Last fall two neighbors learned that we could now, safely and comfortably, ride to a favorite café. We'd been able to do so for about 3 years but they didn't know that. Now they do and they now frequently ride bicycles there instead of drive.

            It takes time to build a network with enough links and then for mindshare to build so that people even think about bicycling as an alternative.

    4. Deleted | | #18

      “[Deleted]”

  2. Meyer Brendan | | #2

    Reform the codes and laws. Real punishments for drivers who do real damage. Today, you can kill a cyclist for $250 in fines. Society knows this so society doesn't care to be careful around cyclists. If Society knew that they'd go to jail for killing a cyclist or heaven-forbid lose their driving privileges for 10 years (a veritable "death sentence"), then Society would drive more careful around cyclists.

    No infrastructure improvements necessary. We'd be like Holland (bad weather and all) which achieves their bicycle numbers by having laws that presume drivers are guilty unless proven otherwise. Dutch drivers are therefore very careful around cyclists. These laws aren't ancient or cultural, they were put in place in the 1980s in response to cars killing too many kids on bikes. After that legal reform let loose the floodgates on cycling did the Dutch build separate infrastructure for bikes. They had too; there were no many bikes and no room for cars.

    1. W Ramsay | | #6

      Meyer, what you are referring to is called Strict Liability. It is a good thing to have in place and I do wish we had better strict liability laws in the U.S. but it has little to do with the how many people in The Netherlands (or Denmark or Sweden or ...) ride bicycles. Strict Liability does not cause people to feel any safer riding with 45MPH traffic. It only very minimally reduces crashes, injuries and deaths.

      Infrastructure, built to CROW or better standards, that provides a safe and comfortable protected way for bicycling is what makes the difference.

      We've seen this in The Netherlands. When a roadway is built to minimal standards, such as a painted bike lane rather than a curb protected bikeway, the numbers of people bicycling plummets - Dutch are no more comfortable riding on such roads as Americans. The number of cars increases and the number of vehicle-bicycle crashes increases, even though there are many fewer people riding bicycles. The same Strict Liability laws are in place.

      When this same road is rebuilt to CROW or better standards then things reverse; bicycling increases, the number of cars decreases (because people are riding bicycles), and the number of crashes decreases.

      1. Meyer Brendan | | #19

        Dutch cycling existed decades before CROW. CROW is a response to a large number of cyclists and how to best accommodate that constituency of voter. CROW does not originate large numbers of cyclists. Applying CROW in the United States will not generate Dutch levels of cycling in America because the legal/social structure of America is/would still be hugely biased against cyclists. Legal reform is necessary either before, or in conjunction with CROW. I'll even leave the presumption that CROW produces universally good design.

        In thirty years of bike commuting in America I saw one period of dramatic growth in the number of daily cyclists. It wasn't from billions of dollars of new bicycle infrastructure. That was 2012 when gas nearly hit $5.00/gallon in Washington DC. The streets were flooded with cyclists those two years.

        1. W Ramsay | | #30

          Cycling existed in all countries, including the U.S., in to the 20th century and it declined in all countries, including The Netherlands. It did decline somewhat less in The Netherlands though which is often attributed to their being rather budget minded and preferring the less expensive bicycle when possible.

          By 1972 there were actually quite few people in The Netherlands riding bicycles - about 1/5 as many as today. There were two major movements, one called 'Stop The Child Murder', that called for making walking and bicycling safer.

          THIS is when they began building the bikeways we are familiar with today. And it was the building of these bikeways and walkways that led to the increase of bicycling (and walking).

          Most people, about 95%, are simply not comfortable riding on the road with cars and trucks. This goes for Dutch, Danes, Swedes and Americans. A truck passing 3' away going 45 MPH is no more comfortable when there are Strict Liability laws as when there are not.

          Denmark and Germany followed a few years later. Denmark watered down the CROW standards in a few areas (primarily narrower bikeways and not protected through junctions) and Germany watered them down a bit more. Their results followed suit with Denmark growing bicycling at about 70% the rate of The Netherlands and Germany at about 30%. Sweden and Oulu Finland were next and have seen corresponding results.

          We've seen similar in MN. The more and better the bikeways the more people ride. Two popular examples are Chippewa Middle School and Turtle Lake Elementary. Both had about zero people riding bicycles 20 years ago when the first protected bikeways were built. The numbers at both schools have steadily increased as bikeways are added.

  3. User avater
    Paul Kuenn | | #3

    The last thing we need is a bicyclist in the photo with no reflective bike/running lights or bright reflective vest. Darwinian or not, it does not help the cause. My wife and I ride every day of the year, and yes, even at -20F. But we are seen! 12 of the 15 bike/car deaths last year in WI were from the rear and almost all of those because of poor bike visibility. We as bike commuters have to be responsible too.

    We're all for bike lanes but they need to be in all locations so traffic knows we have a right of passage everywhere. Traffic fines have to be increased as well for both drivers and bikers who don't follow the rules.

    1. W Ramsay | | #5

      Paul, people in Europe don't dress up like construction workers with reflective vests or helmets. They wear normal everyday street clothes and which are often quite dark or black as that is the fashion. And yet they have many fewer crashes, injuries and deaths.

      Why is that?

  4. Deleted | | #4

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  5. Tom May | | #10

    All one has to do is pay attention. Look at some old films of cities with traffic, back when we all still had the right to travel any way we liked. You'll see trolleys, bicycles, horses, buggies, cars, pedestrians all moving along together. We share the planet, why can't we share a simple road. They are slowly taking away our rights to travel where and how we please. Articles like this should be questioned.

  6. User avater
    Paul Kuenn | | #11

    "people in Europe ....And yet they have many fewer crashes, injuries and deaths.
    Why is that?"

    Perhaps there's an intelligence factor there? You also don't have the road rage between vehicles like we do. We love biking in Europe and have certainly felt out of place with our bright vests on. I'm sure we'd feel out of sorts with those on if we headed to France right now..

    1. W Ramsay | | #13

      "Perhaps there's an intelligence factor there? ..."

      There is - with our poor U.S. traffic engineering.

      We have much greater conflict in our road system than Europe does, particularly vs northern Europe. Movements are much better choreographed on their roads which is why they have about 1/4 the deaths that we do. They also have less frustration/rage from things like people blocking the left lane on motorways or not getting up to speed before merging. Turn signal use there is better than in the U.S. but not by much.

      "I'm sure we'd feel out of sorts with those on if we headed to France right now.." :-)

    2. User avater
      Dana Dorsett | | #16

      >"Perhaps there's an intelligence factor there?"

      When living or travelling in Europe I've never been too impressed with the "intelligence factor" of the average European in the street, or even on the sidewalks. Once while walking in Amsterdam a driver followed me on the sidewalk for about 50 yards, and when he started honking it gave me the appropriate opportunity to practice some of the more vulgar Dutch vocabulary I'd picked up. :-) I asked him in Dutch if he always drove on sidewalks, to which he responded in Flemish-accented Dutch, "Yeah, so?". The polite discussion ended there...

      The accident rate probably more ascribable to expectations. Drivers who don't expect bicyclists & pedestrians to be sharing the street won't look for them as intently. When the street space is commonly shared by bicyclists & pedestrians drivers expect, look for, and avoid them.

      There was a notoriously dangerous intersection near the center of one Dutch town with a considerably higher than the average car/bicycle/pedestrian collision rate. The solution was to remove all traffic signs, lights, and other controls including lane markings, and lower the sidewalks to street level. It worked- collisions of all types became rare, apparently because it made everyone entering that intersection stay more alert.

      1. W Ramsay | | #22

        Yep, I've noticed the same thing. Dutch drivers are really no better, or not much better, than U.S. drivers.

        There was a notoriously dangerous intersection near the center of one Dutch town with a considerably higher than the average car/bicycle/pedestrian collision rate. The solution was to remove all traffic signs, lights, and other controls including lane markings, and lower the sidewalks to street level. It worked- collisions of all types became rare, apparently because it made everyone entering that intersection stay more alert.

        This was done by Hans Monderman. It worked well for a brief period but after a few years the people driving cars became less and less cautious and soon it was worse than before. All of the 'Monderman Squares' have one by one been removed and rebuilt to CROW standards. There was great hope for them and it was disappointing to see them fail.

        Similar Shared Space concepts were applied to Exhibition Road in London a few years ago. The results were similar but more compact time wise. It was great for a few weeks but within about 6 months the drivers had taken over again. Crash and injury rates are now higher than before.

        1. User avater
          Dana Dorsett | | #23

          Bedankt voor dat, hoor!

          Car free city areas and better self-driving cars may be the ultimate solution for the inherent conflict.

          1. W Ramsay | | #24

            It's funny how different something is written vs how it sounds. At least when it's not your native language. :-)

            I'm a fan or car-free areas or even well done congestion zones. There was a lot of screaming and gnashing of teeth before Stockholm implemented their congestion system but now people love it and there are even calls to tighten it up a bit.

    3. Meyer Brendan | | #20

      As I said, driver liability is different. A driver who harms a cyclist faces stiff liabilities and punishments. Not so in America. It's common sense. If the penalty for speeding was $10, would you speed? If the penalty for speeding was $1500 and 30 days in jail, would you speed? Penalty structures affect social behavior.

  7. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #25

    Goiing way off topic...

    >"It's funny how different something is written vs how it sounds. At least when it's not your native language"

    Isn't that the truth!

    I understand a fair amount of Dansk (och Svensk) when I hear it, but I'm often at a loss when it comes to the written form, or figuring out how to actually pronounce something I read. Seems the Danes happily trade any number of written consonants for a glottal stop. eg: "Jeg hedder Dana." sounds nothing close to the way a natural born 'merican speaker would read it out loud.

    At least in Dutch/Flemish there is reasonably consistent phonetic spelling (despite the range of accents), making it easier for foreigners to make comprehensible stabs at pronunciation once the basic rules are understood. I think that's by design- they have committees to keep track and argue about how things should be spelled or pronounced updating the "Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands" (= general civilized netherlandish) conventional spellings and updated vocabularies on a regular basis. Reading older texts it diverges (a lot) from current spelling.

    1. W Ramsay | | #26

      I can usually make out what most Dutch are saying and sometimes even communicate something back. Fortunately they almost all speak excellent english. Some years ago I determined that I was going to learn it better and so forced myself to read Dutch papers and translate word by word when necessary. That didn't last long.

      I know a lot of immigrants to the U.S. who force themselves to read only english and speak only english. Having tried it myself I have a great deal of regard for those who stick with it and succeed.

      1. User avater
        Dana Dorsett | | #27

        >"I can usually make out what most Dutch are saying and sometimes even communicate something back. Fortunately they almost all speak excellent english. "
        In the bigger cities when the Dutch hear almost ANY accent they tend to immediately switch to English. I even had a three year old try to speak English to me, and avid watcher of English language cartoons, apparently! It took something like half a year to develop something close enough to a Noord Hollands accent to keep most adults from instantly switching over. A few times people switched over to German upon hearing my accent. In smaller towns that's less common though (or at least that was true 30 years ago when I lived there.) Many high schoolers are completely fluent in both English & French.

  8. John Clark | | #31

    Outside of a couple of cities the US just doesn't have the urban density and climate to pull off large scale bike lanes.

    Climate wise approx half the United States has more in common with China and Southeast Asia in terms of heat/humidity than Europe. Americans are not keen on the idea of biking more than 1-2 miles to/from work when its 85 degrees outside and humidity is over 80 percent.

  9. W Ramsay | | #32

    Outside of a couple of cities the US just doesn't have the urban density and climate to pull off large scale bike lanes.

    How did you measure this? What density is needed to pull off large scale bicycling?

  10. W Ramsay | | #33

    Climate wise approx half the United States has more in common with China and Southeast Asia in terms of heat/humidity than Europe. Americans are not keen on the idea of biking more than 1-2 miles to/from work when its 85 degrees outside and humidity is over 80 percent.

    There are a few problems with this statement. The first is that China and SE Asia have quite high levels of bicycling. As do other hot & humid locals around the globe. I don't think you've chosen a very good negative example.

    Next is how many days per year in any locale are not conducive to bicycling? It's actually quite low except for the extreme southeast U.S. And just because someone doesn't want to ride their bicycle in 95°f high humidity weather in Naples FL doesn't mean that I can't ride in 80°f moderate humidity in Huntsville AL.

    Finally, riding an upright Dutch bicycle at a moderate pace produces less sweat than walking. If I ride my bicycle from a house in the middle of Marco Island FL to Wake Up Marco for one of Oscar's excellent cappuccinos I'll sweat less than if I drive there in my air conditioned car and then get out and walk across the parking lot. We've actually tested this at various times during the year.

    And importantly, I've not used any fossil fuels, created any pollution, created any traffic congestion, nor created any danger for others (yes, people driving cars are rather more dangerous than people riding bicycles). I've also gotten a bit of activity, fresh air, and burned some calories - I'm a bit healthier, I feel better, and I'm less likely to get dementia or alzheimers or bad joints or have a stroke or most other diseases.

    Oh, and I've saved about $2. Or actually more... Since we ride bicycles for most of our transportation on Marco we have only one car there so we save the costs of an entire car + insurance on top of the costs for each mile driven.

    1. W Ramsay | | #34

      I do agree with you that many Americans will not, at least initially, ride a bicycle on days when the weather is not absolutely perfect. This regardless of how good of facilities are provided. (My Swedish wife frequently jokes that Americans won't eat outside unless it is within 2° of 76.3°f, 42.5% humidity, and mostly sunny with 34% cloud cover.)

      But many people will ride in a variety of weather and I think over time many more will overcome their fear of non-perfect weather. We may be an overly coddled bunch of people but we can change. And we'll have some impetus to change as doctors are increasingly telling their American patients that they need more moderate activity every day and more time out of doors in fresh air.

    2. John Clark | | #36

      Yes, SE Asian cities do have high levels of cycling because the people largely too poor to afford an automobile or motorbike and the cities are extremely dense.

      As someone who has spent their life living in the southeastern US I assure you that unless you work outside you're not going to commute on a bike 10 or even 5 miles each way living in Huntsville Alabama. You're just not going to do it.

      1. W Ramsay | | #38

        I know two people who are scientists at Redstone who do so all year and another who's a chef at Cotton Row. If you visit Redstone you'll actually see a fair number of people riding bicycles within and from/to the facility.

  11. W Ramsay | | #35

    Finland is a fascinating example of weather, facilities and bicycling. Oulu FI built a fairly good and extensive network of bikeways (I think beginning in the late 80's). Today they have a quite high level of bicycling all year with about 32% of people bicycling to work in summer and 17% in winter. Something like 75% of children in Oulu bicycle to school throughout the year and only 2% come by motor vehicle with the rest walking or using kick sleds. And many of these kids are traveling 5 - 10 miles or more each way.

    Helsinki has done less. They've mostly got painted bike lanes rather than protected bikeways and these only on about a third of streets that should have something. About 11% of people ride bicycles for transportation during the very pleasant summer but this drops to about 4% during winter.

    Helsinki have recently begun building some better protected bikeways and they are seeing an increase in the number of people riding bicycles summer and winter though the uptick for winter is slightly greater. They have considerably milder weather than Oulu and are hoping to achieve better results than Oulu.

    How do you think the health and academic performance of the kids in Oulu compares to kids in the U.S.?

    1. John Clark | | #37

      I'm not interested in Finland which is comprised of 6 million culturally/racially homogeneous people. They're lucky if it gets over 80F in the summer. In any case what's this fascination with kids and cycling? Kids always ride bikes because they're always getting dirty and sweaty. It's part of being a kid.

      The health and academic performance of kids in the US has zero to do with whether or not they ride a bike to school.

      1. W Ramsay | | #39

        "The health and academic performance of kids in the US has zero to do with whether or not they ride a bike to school."

        Really? You're sure about that?

        1. John Clark | | #40

          100 percent.

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