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Posted by on Mar 19, 2013 in Encouragement | 85 comments

The Stories We Tell – Part One

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting the challenges for encouraging bicycling in America.

Part 1: Origin & Influence of Our Stories

The stories we tell are a product of the experiences we have. Our experiences are the product of our choices and behavior. There’s a saying popular among pilots: “Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, the experience usually comes from bad judgment.” In bicycling, the journey to good judgment is complicated by inhibiting beliefs and social norms.

Test Your Recognition of Potential Conflict

The image below is similar to one we use in the CyclingSavvy course. It’s a participation exercise to engage students in spotting conflicts they have just learned about in a previous section on crash causes and prevention. Test yourself in Tab 1. Tab 2 shows the potential conflicts faced by the cyclist in red (practicing edge behavior). Tab 3 shows the potential conflicts faced by the cyclist in green (practicing driver behavior).


click images to enlarge

Count the conflicts faced by each of the two cyclists on the left side of the picture, then click the tabs above or below for highlighted conflicts and explanations.


There are numerous mid-block conflicts:

  • Door zone: every parked car is a potential dooring conflict.
  • Parking pull-out: every parked car has the potential to pull out when there is a gap in traffic. The edge-riding bicyclist may be in the drivers’ blind spots.
  • There is a wrong-way bicyclist weaving in and out of parking spaces. He will be a head-on conflict for an edge-riding bicyclist.
  • Beyond the intersection is a pinch point where the lane is too narrow for a bicyclist and a truck or bus to fit.
  • Buses entering or leaving the bus stop are a problem for the bicyclist. He is likely to be in the blind spot of the bus drivers.

The driveway offers several crossing conflicts:

  • The driver of the green truck could suddenly decide to turn right into the driveway.
  • The driver of the yellow car may pull out and go in any direction—if he is working a gap, to turn left or get to the left-turn lane, he will be focused on the cars and unlikely to look at the edge of the road.
  • The driver of the turquoise SUV is looking for a gap to make a left turn. The green truck screens the edge bicyclist from view.

The main intersection offers several crossing conflicts:

  • The pedestrian may try to cross before the light changes. He will step into the edge of the lane before proceeding.
  • The tractor trailer might turn right. It will look as if it is going straight because the driver needs to steer wide. He will need to navigate the turn slowly to avoid off-tracking over the sidewalk, allowing plenty of time for the edge-riding bicyclist to enter his blind spot.
  • The driver of the red truck wants to turn right on red. He may jump the light, or be looking for a gap.
  • The driver of the yellow car is planning to turn left. If the red cyclist is fast and that driver runs the stale yellow, they would be on a collision course and invisible to one another.

The frequency of potential conflicts on the edge requires managing multiple threats at once… and that’s if the bicyclist even recognizes the conflict potential. Many bicyclists who ride this way don’t. They suffer constant close calls. Their trips are full of unpleasant surprises because they are frequently invisible or irrelevant to other drivers. But unlike the pilot, most don’t have the training to recognize the root cause of their bad experiences or how to eliminate them.



The green bicyclist is clear of all of the mid-block edge conflicts. She is well outside the door zone. She’s easily seen by drivers pulling out of parking spaces. She also has plenty of space to avoid them. She won’t be bothered by the wrong-way bicyclist.

Drivers of all vehicles face potential conflicts at driveways and intersections. Like a motorcycle driver, this bicyclist has positioned herself for the best vantage and visibility—she can see conflicting drivers and they can see her. She simply needs to be aware of a potential moving screen: cars to her left screening her view of left-turning drivers.

With only a few potential conflicts to monitor, the driver bicyclist has a virtually stress-free ride. She prevents most right-of-way incursions just by being visible and relevant. She knows where to place her attention and the value of communicating with others. She encounters almost no surprises.


To learn more about the types of bicyclist behavior and how they influence crash risk, see Bicyclist Behaviors & Crash Risk in the Engineering section. In this post, we will explore the cultural influences and social implications of bicyclist behavior. 

The Distorted Lens

The two bicyclists above not only have vastly different personal experiences, but the people with whom they interact also have a dramatically different experiences. For better or worse, we are all ambassadors. A close call or crash involves two people: the bicyclist and the motorist. They both leave the encounter affected by it. They also influence their families, friends and co-workers with the stories they tell about bicycling and bicyclists. Those stories become the lens through which the people around them view bicycling.

Anyone who has spent any time on bike blogs, forums and comment sections has encountered many, many “motorists are idiots” stories. These are predominantly stories of the unsuccessful bicyclist practicing edge or pedestrian behavior. He gets buzzed and cut off frequently. He wants new laws requiring motorists to move over, or yield to him when he’s passing on their right. He loves PSA campaigns that tell motorists to look for bicyclists, but it hasn’t occurred to him that there are things he can do better. He’s riding the way he believes he is expected to. Good thing he’s tough. Bicycling on the edge of the road is only for the fearless, fast and thick-skinned warrior.

Under the bravado is a disempowered, unsuccessful road user who needs other people to change so bicycling can be less frustrating. Most of us know this guy, or we’ve been him. He has been the face of American bicycling for decades.

If he never learns there’s a better way, he gives up and goes back to driving a car.


The Stories of the Unsuccessful Bicyclist

I’m a second class citizen.
I’m at the mercy of others.
Most motorists are careless and mean.
Bicycling is difficult and frustrating and won’t be safe until other people change and we have special facilities.

The majority of American bicyclists are locked into this cycle of conflict and frustration. In fact, the beliefs of our culture are designed to hold them there.

Get Out of the Way or Be Killed

Throughout history, dominant cultures have held their norms in place with stories, symbols and ideas designed to discourage deviation. This is called control mythology. It is insidiously woven into the culture so that it is not recognized as anything other than “the way it is and always has been”—an unchangeable fact of life. It is the underpinning of beliefs, customs and laws. It is the root cause of many intractable problems throughout the world. Tragically, it is often held in place most strongly by the subordinates it is intended to suppress.

The plight of the unsuccessful bicyclist is the product of the control mythology by which motordom, and its culture of speed, came to dominate our public roadways. Our current beliefs about the road date back only to the 1920s. As the motorcar entered our cities, it quickly ran up against the dominant pedestrian culture—a culture that had believed for thousands of years that streets were for people. The speed of the motorcar was incompatible with that culture’s customary use of the streets for socializing, commerce and movement of people and goods by human and animal power. The resulting clash—and death count—threatened to curtail the usefulness of the motorcar.  So began a deliberate effort by a wealthy minority of motoring interests to reframe the purpose and preferred users of our streets.

The Great Reframing resulted in the creation of a control mythology designed to clear the roads of anything that slows motorized traffic. To control by fear, it changed the perception of cars from vehicles being driven by people who are responsible for safe and competent operation into traffic—a faceless force of nature which must be avoided. That alone has had repercussions for safety, civility and justice for all road users. The reframing dissociated higher speed from greater responsibility, foisting upon us the utterly false belief that it is dangerous to be slow. But fear alone isn’t enough. Being slow and in the way is also socially unacceptable. Thus, if you shake off the imposed irrational fear, your peers will try to keep you in your place.


After almost 100 years, the beliefs that inhibit successful behavior have been accepted unquestioningly by most people. The forces that deliberately reframed our roads are long gone. Tradition now holds their legacy in place. Worst of all, the mythology is now so thoroughly perpetuated by the stories of unsuccessful bicyclists, the status quo would seem to have little to fear.

We Shall Overcome

Understanding these beliefs is essential to the task of encouraging bicycling in America. These beliefs are the root cause of why bicycling seems difficult, dangerous or impossible to most people. These beliefs have inhibited bicycling for decades.

These beliefs are a false construct that can be overcome by individual bicyclists. Even with all the imperfection of motorist behavior, the physical issues of land use, street design and other ills of our culture’s diversion into motor-centric transportation priorities, the individual can be empowered to thrive as a human-powered vehicle driver… right now. Not just the strong, brave, fearless….whatever. Anyone.

The green-shirted bicycle driver in the illustration at the top of the page is not unique by any physical characteristic, age or gender. That bicyclist is simply someone who has learned the same defensive driving skills taught to the drivers of another common narrow vehicle: the motorcycle. What’s less simple is that she had to overcome the baggage of the control mythology before she could learn the behaviors that allow her to have a successful and conflict-free experience. A future post in this series will discuss strategies for belief change.

diana_3The reward for the bicyclist is tremendous: empowerment for unlimited travel. But the reward for those of us wanting to encourage bicycling is also significant. This bicyclist tells stories, too. She tells stories about all the places she goes on her bike, how much better she feels when she arrives at a destination, how easy and rewarding it is to use a bike for transportation and how courteous her fellow road users are. She’s positively connected to her community. Her enthusiasm is infectious. It inspires her friends to dust off their bikes and try a trip to the park or the store, too. If they implement her style of riding, they, too, will be empowered by success. New positive stories will begin to edge out the old negative ones.

The Stories of the Successful Bicyclist

I’m a first class citizen.
I’m in control of my safety.
Most motorists are safe and courteous.
Bicycling is safe, easy and a great way to connect with the community. I don’t need special infrastructure, but there are some ways better infrastructure could enhance my travels.

Imagine a community where this is the dominant story. At I Am Traffic, we believe we can make it so. But first, there are some common advocacy strategies we need to reexamine. That will be the topic of part two.


  1. A claim was made:

    “(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

    3. When reasonably necessary to avoid …[a] substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

    Based on this law, if the road is wide enough for a car to pass a bicycle by giving 3 feet, if the cyclists is riding on the right edge, then it is illegal for a cyclist to ride in the middle of the roadway and “take the lane” per this statute.”

    Three feet is NOT what determines narrowness, speed differential also matters. If a bicyclist is on a road with a high speed limit, then 3 feet is way too close for a safe in-lane pass at a high speed differential. Thus the interpretation of the FTR law as being coupled to the three foot minimum distance passing law mistakenly leads to the bad argument that shareability is only based on a minimum passing distance rather than a safe passing distance for the conditions present. The FTR law, as bad as it is, does have the CA exception for substandard width lanes which specifies safe shareability not minimum three foot shareability.

  2. “I am unpersuaded that cyclists should be in the middle of Interstate 70 or Interstate 95 or limited access highways where the speed limit is 70 mph. Do I understand IAT’s position to support that cyclists should be legally allowed to ride in the lane on these roads. Or is there any road where IAT says, “too dangerous”.”

    Are the two interstates cited controlled access highways that restrict cycling? The conceptual problem is that some people view roads in a simplistic and static way, rather than seeing the road and its users as a system. For example, an unskilled user can make even low speed residential streets hazardous even though vehicle speeds and traffic volumes are low by making bad or unpredictable maneuvers. At the other extreme, highly shilled bicyclists can control lanes on high speed roads by using a left of center lane position and making early highly visible lane changes to reach left turn lanes, etc. So the question is not one of whether a high speed road is “too dangerous” in an absolute sense, rather it is whether a bicyclist has the requisite traffic skill to use such a road.

    • Comment

  3. Chris, you are describing the basic issue surrounding the marginalization of bicyclists. For an exploration of this issue, please see the article that Dan Gutierrez and I just published in the Equality section of <a href=""The Marginalization of Bicyclists: How the car lane paradigm eroded our lane rights and what we can do to restore them

    • I’ve read it several times. I have talked to the LAB and understand they disagree. I understand the Alliance for Biking & Walking disagrees. I understand People For Bikes disagrees. But I am also trying to make my own judgment. It appears you are a minority for sure, but I am attempting to consider your points on their own merit. What I read seems to suggest what I said or will elaborate.
      1. You support no restriction on bike travel on roads, including high speed roads and limited access roads.
      2. You support no edge riding.
      3. You support no restriction on the age of a rider who can be on the fastest roads.
      4. You support repeal of the 3 foot law because it assumes edge riding.
      5. You support no usage of sharrows.
      6. You don’t support or at least see no benefit to rail trails and multi-use trails.

      Am I wrong on any of the above? Thanks.

        • Keri – with all due respect, we have been in touch with Andy Clark at LAB, who favors bike lanes, separated bikeways, and bike paths. Here is the written policy on the Alliance of Biking & Walking website. IAT’s website opposes “complete streets”. The LAB site favors it and bicycle infracture and says:

          Complete Streets
          Complete streets policies require that street design consider the safety and needs of all potential users including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit and the disabled. Many Alliance organizations have undertaken complete streets campaigns and won local policies, and others are currently working to win complete streets in their communities. Find model complete streets policies, complete streets campaigns, and checklists for ensuring complete streets policies are effectively implemented.

          Here is the policy of the Alliance:

          If your organization is working to improve local infrastructure for bicycling and walking, find information and resources here on bike/pedestrian plans, bike lanes, bridge access, maps, multi-use paths, bike-transit integration, and more.

          Here is the policy of “Bikes Belong”:

          “Why Invest in Bicycling?
          Supporting bicycling is a smart investment. Through savings in healthcare, absenteeism, fuel, congestion, pollution, and road maintenance, putting more people on bikes saves money. A proven way to get more Americans riding bikes is to build safe places to ride, which is why Bikes Belong works to maximize federal support for bicycling.
          Research has consistently shown that bicycling facilities offer a positive return on investment. For every $1 spent on bike infrastructure, cities save around $5. As an example: by 2040, the city of Portland, Oregon will have saved $3.40 in health care expenses alone for every dollar it invested on bicycling.
          To make it easier for advocates to communicate the value of biking to federal policymakers, we developed a series of 10 case studies on U.S. bike facilities. This project, titled “The Federal Investment in Bicycling: 10 Success Stories,” tells the stories of a geographically diverse group of bike facilities—ranging from bike lanes to singletrack trails—that were built at least in part with federal funding.”

          Here is the most recent study I could find from “Injury Prevention” in February 2013. Here is a quote:

          “Canadian and American cyclists are two to six times more likely to be killed
          while cycling than Danish or Dutch cyclists and American cyclists are eight to 30 times more likely
          to be seriously injured than cyclists in Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands. Road infrastructure that separates motor vehicles
          from bicycles is prevalent in the cycling countries of northern Europe but not in North America, which
          could explain some of the observed difference in cycling safety. We reviewed the evidence on route
          infrastructure and injury risk, and found evidence that bicycle-specific infrastructure (eg, bike routes,
          painted bike lanes and off-road bike paths) was associated with the lowest injury risks…”

          In addition, I found these additional studies:

          • A review of 23 studies on bicycling injuries found that bike facilities (e.g. off-road paths, on-road marked bike lanes, and on-road bike routes) are where bicyclists are safest.
          Reynolds, C., et al., 2009
          The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature, Environmental Health, 8:47
          • After two streets in Minneapolis were converted to be more bicycle friendly, bike traffic increased 43%, total vehicle crashes decreased, traffic efficiency was maintained, and parking revenues remained consistent.
          City of Minneapolis, 2010
          Hennepin and 1st avenues two-way conversion leads to fewer crashes, better access
          • When protected bike lanes are installed in New York City, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists) typically drop by 40% and by more than 50% in some locations.
          Wolfson, H., 2011
          Memorandum on Bike Lanes, City of New York, Office of the Mayor, 21 March 2011
          • Major streets without bike facilities are where the most bike crashes happen, followed by minor streets without facilities, bike paths, and then bike lanes.
          Moritz, W., 1997
          Survey of North American bicycle commuters: Design and aggregate results, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1578, 91-101

          In the first study called “The Impact of Transportation Infrastructure on Bicycling Injuries and Crashes; A Review of the Literature” in Environmental Health, which comprehensively reviewed the results of 23 other studies, the following statement was made:

          “The principal trend that emerges from the papers reviewed here is that clearly-marked, bike-specific facilities (i.e. cycle tracks at roundabouts, bike routes, bike lanes, and bike paths) were consistently shown to provide improved safety for cyclists compared to on-road cycling with traffic or off-road with pedestrians and other users. Marked bike lanes and bike routes were found to reduce injury or crash rates by about half compared to unmodified roadways. The finding that bicycle-specific design is important applies also to intersections with roundabouts, where it was found that cycle tracks routing cyclists around an intersection separately from motor vehicles were much safer than bike lanes or cycling with traffic. It has been suggested that the reason for high rates of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions at intersections is that motor vehicle drivers may be making “looked-but-failed-to-see” errors,
          whereby they search for oncoming motor vehicles but do not recognize that a cyclist is approaching because they are not looking for them.”

          • I think the above studies just all supported “FTR” which I am positive IAT passionately opposes.

          • Here are my personal responses as an IAT supporter and contributor:

            1. You support no restriction on bike travel on roads, including high speed
            roads and limited access roads.

            I have no problem with freeway prohibitions as long as there are local streets open to bicyclists that provide reasonably safe and efficient access to the same destinations.

            2. You support no edge riding.

            I edge ride on a frequent basis where it is safe and provides easier passing to motorists. It is not, however, a default position and should not be advocated as such by bikeway advocates due to operational issues discussed at length.

            3. You support no restriction on the age of a rider who can be on the fastest roads.

            I restrict my children’s road use on a street by street basis, based on their skill level and maturity, not numerical age, and I do not want the government making that decision for me. I am the parent, not them.

            4. You support repeal of the 3 foot law because it assumes edge riding.

            3 foot laws don’t need repeal, they just don’t solve the problem.

            5. You support no usage of sharrows.

            I support sharrows in the center of the effective lane width.

            6. You don’t support or at least see no benefit to rail trails and multi-use trails.

            I use paved greedways daily. I prefer pleasant local streets but I value greenways where they provide me a useful connection or alternative to an unpleasant high speed arterial. I also ride paved greenways with my family. Big greenway projects are not a high priority to me compared to using the local streets to get to my destinations, although I am working hard to advocate in favor of some short greenway connectors that can serve as short cuts, including providing better access to our local elementary school.

          • Engineering matters. But it doesn’t matter in the way bikeway advocates think it does. The typical bikeway advocacy study attempts to find supportive correlations through sample bias while failing to understand the actual underlying causation.

            Let’s take urban bike lanes. We know from many decades of crash data that the safest roads for edge riding have few junctions, no parking, and generous pavement width. That’s why, decades ago, when people started asking for bike lanes, ethical traffic engineers installed them on roads with characteristics known to be relatively safe for edge cycling, and warned against placing them on roads with more conflicts, narrower pavement, and so forth. So why should it be any suprise that the roads selected by bike lane striping (based on alreadly being inherently safe for bicycling) would have a lower crash rate than those not selected for bike lane striping due to greater conflicts?

            Another example is road diets. Decades of crash data shows that roads with fewer general purpose travel lanes are safer for people crossing the road. Sometimes a road diet project includes inclusion of new bike lane markings or an adjacent cycle track. Crash rates after the road diet often show a reduction in crash rates, mostly for people crossing the road, especially on foot. Then, the bikeway advocates try to claim that bike lane or cycle track improved safety. But the data clearly shows that this claim is bogus; it was the reduction of general purpose travel lanes that improved safety for people crossing the road. Bicyclists traveling along the roadway see little safety benefit from road diets, but sometimes the wider pavement and fewer lanes can calm speeds, provide greater passing width to edge cyclists, and make the corridor more pleasant.

            So by all means, lets make engineering changes, but let’s make the right ones for the right reasons, and not embarass ourselves as a community with junk science.

          • Thanks for those comments. Hundreds of local advocates are begging for bike lanes as a good solution to our dangerous environment in Jacksonville. Of course, Florida has the highest fatality rate in the U.S., Dangerous by Designs ranks Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville as the 4 worst cities in the U.S. for pedestrians, etc. Jacksonville is ranked near the bottom of every category by the Alliance Benchmarking Reports, including safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

            Is there a study that supports what you just said? Is there even 1 study that says that what IAT proposes is safer than edge riding? You and I realize there are numerous studies supporting separate bike facilities as being safest. You may disagree. You indicate you can poke holes by methodolgy. But is there a published study by IAT advocates or any other researcher that concludes bike facilities are less safe than “vehicular cycling”, or FTR is less safe?

          • Do you guys ever wonder why the countries with the safest cycling in the world continue to roll out dedicated infrastructure and continue to increase the amount of segregation?

            Does it ever make you wonder if you’re barking up the wrong tree? Do you HONESTLY think you know more then they do?

            You can claim that the safety record in NL etc has nothing to do with cycling infrastructure, but that would beg the question of why do they keep spending so much money on it, if it doesn’t help!?!

      • Agree with Keri. You have quite obviously not read any of the material on this site if you think that these things are true. Why should anyone spend time spelling it out for you if you don’t bother to read our actual writing?

  4. Thanks for your response, Dan. But I really don’t understand all of it. Partially, I was trying to ask a simple question to know where IAT stands on policy. Does IAT support a law that would allow bicycles to travel within the road (sharing the lane) on 70 mph roadways? Currently, Floridians are prohibited from cycling on limited access highways. Does IAT oppose that law? I understand IAT to support getting rid of any law that limits access by bicycles on roads, including high speed roads and limited access roads.
    The second issue is safety. I read you to disagree and believe “some” riders can be safe on such high speed roads. Do you support that it should be “legal” for any rider or any age to ride “in the lane” on high speed or limited access roads? Do you support 8 year olds riding even on 45 mph connectors roads, from downtown to the suburbs, such as we have in Jacksonville?
    I am a lawyer, and told the story of one of my cases where the 2nd vehicle hit the cyclist in the lane. That cyclist would not have been hit on the edge. What would be your response?

    • Sharing the lane on 70 mph freeways is a straw man argument. If the freeway is the only facility providing access to a destination, such as over a bridge, then provide a wide clean shoulder for bicyclists over the span, and allow the bicyclist to decide how to handle the junctions at each end, via driver behavior or otherwise. Much more common is the 35-45 mph urban arterial where bicyclists have a safer time operating as drivers in the lane, but local police and politicians attempt to force bicyclists to act as pedestrians, at greater risk and inconvenience. That is where cyclists’ opposition to roadway bans comes from.

      When I ride with my kids, I try to choose pleasant streets, but sometimes a 35 or even 45 mph road is unavoidable for a short section. Legally prohibiting my kids from traveling those roadways with me would either defeat our travel by bicycle or increase the hazard to us by requiring us to operate like pedestrians. As a parent, I make my own decisions about how to negotiate traffic with my kids effectively, and I am confident that I am much more capable of making good decisions on that subject than is our government.

      There are risks when utilizing driver behavior, as with any behavior, because no behavior is 100% safe. We endeavor to examine the relative risks, make sound recommendations on the best balance of safety and efficiency, and protect bicyclists’ right to make their own decisions. Our motivation is the welfare of bicyclists, and not marketing of bicycling by means that perpetuate common misunderstandings about effective traffic negotiation.

      • Thanks Steven. By the studies I have cited earlier, research tells me you would be safer with your kids in a designated bike lane, or even safer in a separated bike lane on a 45 mph street – Part of our biggest problem as cyclists is expectation. It will prevent right hooks if motorists expect us to be in a bike lane to their right, and they check for us. In jacksonville, we are such a small mode share, that they don’t expect us to be present at all. Right or wrong, bike lanes and paths and separated facilities make cyclists feel safer, numbers increase, and motorists expect cyclists because there are more. that’s not Chris Burns but what research studies say. If a road is 45 mph, no amount of education is going to convince a motorist to be happy about slowing down to 10 mph, or being on high alert for that bike at 10 mph in time to interact with it safely. That is according to my feelings…

        I respect your opinion and all of your compatriots.

        • Please see my remarks above on engineering. On the short segments of 45 mph road that I use with my family, we are moving between immediately adjacent intersections while preparing for a left turn, and have no opportunity for edge riding, bikeway or not.
          There are a number of high speed arterials in my town that I think would be more enjoyable and possibly more safe with wide bike lanes next to wide lanes between the widely spaced junctions. However, I would still merge in line with traffic to avoid right hook hazards at the junctions, and I think it’s unethical to encourage bicyclists to ride into right hook conflicts with the hope that motorists will eventually be conditioned to check their blind spots. I teach my kids to ride where they will be seen.

          But the bigger issue for me is, if high speed arterials are the only roads available for children to reach their destinations like school and the corner store, then isn’t the real problem a failure of land use planning and street topology to accommodate efficient, local neighborhood travel? Good local street connectivity allows people to get from home to the local elementary school, store, or park on pleasant local 2-lane streets. Such local streets don’t gain anything by adding bike lane stripes to them; they are often best left with no markings at all, and are just as popular with bicyclists. This is why I spent years on our Planning and Zoning board trying to encourage better local street topology and connectivity, and not promoting bike lanes.

          • Steven:

            I specialize in representing injured cyclists in accidents. The most typical comment I get from a defendant in a lawsuit after hitting a cyclist is – “the biker should have been on the sidewalk.” I’ve had police officers say that cyclists have a death wish to be riding on the road. I’ve had the Jacksonville Sheriff tell me he used to think bicycles should ride opposite of traffic. We have a problem with motorist acknowledging cyclists. Segregated MARKED lanes matter to tell them that with authority. Now we are relevant. We may still be hated, but we are noticed. Otherwise, motorists will continue to believe we have no right to be on the road. Having designated bike lanes with markings, having sharrows, all these facilities tell the motorist, day in and day out, cyclists DO have a right to interact with the motorist. Without markings, the motorist just continues to believe cyclists don’t belong, and the rare cyclist like yourself, who takes the middle of the lane, is positively loony to them.

  5. Is there even 1 study that says that what IAT proposes is safer than edge riding?”

    I’m not sure what you are asking. The safety of edge riding depends on the location and traffic conditions. There have been plenty of publications showing the ridiculously high rate of dooring collisions for cyclists in San Francisco and Chicago, and the wide reach of parked car doors. There are publications showing the increased rate of right hooks after adding bike lanes and bike boxes curbside at intersections, and the increased rate of intersection collisions for sidepath and sidewalk users. There is exposure data and crash rate data showing that overtaking car-bike collision rates are very low for lower speed streets regardless of width, and increase for higher speed roads with narrow lane width when bicyclists are riding at the edge. Most of the mid-block overtaking collisions involve a motorist who sees the edge bicyclist well in advance on a high speed road but thinks he has room to pass without changing lanes, but has misjudged, and sideswipes the bicyclist instead of slowing down at the last second. Crashes involving cyclists riding in the center of narrow lanes are very rare. Getting exposure data on them is hard, but we do have a lot of bike clubs in my area, who ride two abreast on high speed arterials with narrow lanes. Motorists are always complaining that they feel inconvenienced by them, and threaten that they are a hazard, yet these cyclists don’t get hit. Why? because they are visible and motorists can see from a long way back that they need to change lanes to pass.

    Drunk, distracted and reckless motorists will occasionally hit bicyclists acting as drivers just as they occasionally hit everybody else. It is difficult to prevent these rare collisions without increasing the risk of the more common collisions. The best we can do is provide cyclists with a realistic description of the relative risks and allow cyclists to decide for themselves when they feel comfortable allowing other drivers to pass within their lane, and provide additional pavement width where practical.

    • You wrote: “There are publications showing the increased rate of right hooks after adding bike lanes and bike boxes curbside at intersections…”

      Can you please cite me that study? I am not aware of a single study concluding that adding bike lanes has increased overall rates of crashes. Does this study take into account just the number of accidents, without regard to whether there was a dramatic increase in the amount of cycling?

      I look forward to reviewing this study.


      • You wrote: ” Having designated bike lanes with markings, having sharrows, all these facilities tell the motorist, day in and day out, cyclists DO have a right to interact with the motorist.”

        Designated bike lanes do NOT tell motorist I have the right to interact with them. To the everyday motorist it tells them I have to stay in the bike lane. I can’t tell you what to type to find the specific videos, and yea they aren’t a study, but it’s still viable data. Through viewing many many cycle related youtube videos I’ve found many where a cyclist is getting yelled at for being in the lane instead of the bike lane. Some bike lanes are designed very poorly and it’s more dangerous to use them than it is the actual lane. But the motorist see’s that bike lane and assumes that the cyclist must use it.

        I think the number one answer to all of this is improved education on both ends. I’m not opposed to a cyclist competency test. And the whole license testing needs overhauled. Driving is a privilege not a right and you should really have to earn it.

      • Portland’s own report to FHWA on the aftermath of their bike box experiments show increase in crash rates at some such installations; extraordinary measures such as prohibiting right on red and separate signalization are needed to make bike boxes safe due to the inherent right hook conflict on green and permitted right on red.

        Similar historical crash patterns are why California’s bike lane standards recommend dropping or at least dashing the bike lane stripe on approach to intersections, and why California law requires motorists to merge into the bike lane, if present, before turning right. Oregon, on the other hand, mandates that bicyclists stay in the bike lane all the way to the intersection, and prohibits merging in line the way bicycle driving advocates teach cyclists to negotiate intersections.

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