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Crossposted: ... the world can't end today, it's already tomorrow at Docudharma

Over on the European Tribune, where I crossposted a couple of these bike blogs, asdf asked:

If bikes are the most efficient way to get around--at least for distances up to a few km--then why do we not have proper bikeways? Smooth pavement, gradual hills, and COVERS to keep the snow/wind/rain off? Imagine a countryside with little bike tunnels going here and there, with cozy, dry riders efficiently making their daily trips...

This is a lovely image. Indeed, a system of bikeways of this could even qualify as a dream. But there's always a catch.

See you over the fold ... and remember, as always, this is also a general cycling open thread.

NB. Ain't the picture purty? Probably not the kind of cycleway being described below, though

If we start to dream this dream, we have to be careful that we do not fall into the familiar bad habits of the fading age of Auto Uber Alles ... which is to use bikeways as a mechanism to get those pesky cyclists off the road.

If a system of bikeways is done right, then it will create far more bikes on the road of most cities, towns and suburbs of American than we have ever seen ... indeed, than most of use have ever imagined. Which means, directly, that any system of bikeways intended to get those pesky bikes off the roads will be bikeways done wrong.

What I am not arguing about

First, what I am not arguing about. I am not arguing about safety here. Head off to Forrester's site or Ken Kifer's site, you can find plenty on how the typical "bikeway", a dedicated lane on the margin of a road or street, is a recipe for increasing accidents for cyclists.

However, that is not a dedicated bikeway. If there are no cars traveling in the lane to the left, there is no danger of a bike heading straight getting caught by a right hook from a turning car. If there are no cars traveling in the lane to the left, there is no more difficulty in executing a left turn than there is for a car on two way street with nothing but automotive traffic.

So, what am I arguing about?

What I am arguing about is how a system of dedicated bikeways integrates with the existing transport system. If a dedicated bikeway is going where you want to go, with pavement, preferably shaded (I personally prefer trees to a roof or sailcloth, but whatever) ... that is great. However ... what is the likelihood of getting a cycleway extended to each and every household in a suburb, or town, or city, in a way that is completely disconnected from the road network?

Well, unless it is a very small town and one of the handful of mega-gazillionaires did it as a pet project, the likelihood is bugger all.

And yet we have a massive network of cycleways that already do, in fact, extend to almost every household in the country. They are called "streets".

Indeed, at least here in Ohio, no city or village ("town" is not a legal entity in Ohio) can take away my right to ride on the street. They can offer me the right to ride on the sidewalk, if they wish ... but they can't take away my right to use the public right of way.

Now, a substantial number of death cage riders, aka "motorists", are either unaware that I have that legal right, or consider it to be something short of a "real", bona fide right ... but they are not a real serious obstacle on an ordinary suburban street. With effective cycling, it is possible to manage them on an ordinary suburban street, because they are not 100% sure that they have the right to drive on ordinary suburban streets without sharing the road.

But I get the distinct impression ... and, no, I cannot cite incidents, this is based on what must be hundreds of brief passing interactions since June, over more than a thousand miles of transport cycling, so its just a distinct impression ... that the higher the speed limit goes, the more convinced they are that the cyclist has no right to be there.

And here's the thing ... suppose that there was a brilliant bikeway for the last five miles of my ride into the industrial park to get to work. And suppose that more people started riding their bikes using that bikeway. Some of them will then start using the bike for more chores and trips, and some of those trips will be beyond where the bikeway ends ... and that will create cyclists on the road.

The Auto Uber Alles Bikeway Ideal

The ideal bikeway from an Auto Uber Alles mindset is one that, one, shuts the damn cyclists up for a while and, two, keeps them off the damn road. So the ideal bikeway is probably a hike and bike trial. It is put into place by a coalition including joggers and dog owners that want somewhere pleasant to walk while their dogs take a crap ... and so it is often strung from one parking lot to another, being primarily designed to go from point A back to point A again, in pleasant surroundings.

And, indeed, many of the cyclists on the bike trail drive their car to a parking lot, ride one way, turn around and ride back, reload their bike on their car, and go home.

I have nothing whatsoever against Bike and Hike trails ... indeed, I hope to cycle on quite a number of them over the summer ... uh, some summer, in some year, when I can afford that kind of bike holiday. But that is not a transport route. And it creates a community of users who would cry "foul" if anyone came along trying to turn it into a serious transport route, since that would involve paving it, and for many of its users, paving it would be a step backwards.

Still, a Bike and Hike trail is compatible with going without a car ... there is no substantial reason to load bikes onto a car to take to the Bike and Hike trail and back, other than the mindset that bikes are not meant to be ridden on the road, because cars commonly drive right over cyclists as if they were not there. Certainly, if the cyclists are adults with some training in how to ride on the road, they are safer riding their bikes to the Hike Bike trail than driving. Therefore, given nothing more than the mindset that its socially acceptable to ride the bike on the road, there is nothing else preventing the cyclists riding to the Hike and Bike trail, doing their circuit, and then riding home.

From the perspective of providing sustainable transport infrastructure, however, no matter that a Hike and Bike trail is a good thing in its own right, it represents an approach to cycleways that can very easily interfere with the design and construction of effective transport routes.

Funding Actual, Factual, Transport Cycleways

The way to address interference between two distinct things that are perfectly fine activities in their own right is to separate them. That is the reason for the original gaps of empty broadcast spectrum between television broadcast channels ... and the same thing is required if "Bike Trails" and "Cycleways" are not to interfere.

In civil engineering, the simplest way to avoid interference is to give different types of civil engineering projects distinct and independent sources of funding. So the most straightforward way to protect cycleways from interference from the quite different design goals of Bike Trails is with funding.

Now, I don't pretend that my argument goes any further than that. I've got a dedicated funding source, but feel free to trump it with an even better, with means more easily sold politically, idea. That is to dedicate 1% of all Federal highway outlays to dedicated transport cycleways. The rules would be, the cycleways must be designed to serve the same population and employment centers used to justify the outlay of the highway funding itself, and they must be dedicated, paved, cycleways, not "bike lanes", and not shared with hikers, joggers, and dogs taking a crap.

Supplementary to that, all highways receiving federally funds where it is, in fact, legal to cycle on the road must have a standard bike route designation located on every speed limit sign ... which may also be funded out of the 1% transport cycleway fund.


No conclusions this week, just this little piece of a transport cycling argument.

Originally posted to BruceMcF on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 04:12 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Some virtual chain grease? (14+ / 0-)

    ... to oil the chain that drives the wheel of imagination?

    Or, even more urgently, to help buy a better analogy? and Energize America

    by BruceMcF on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 04:13:47 PM PST

      •  Not virtual enough. nt. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        epcraig, Hardhat Democrat

        "nt" mean "aucun texte", so there is nothing here. and Energize America

        by BruceMcF on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 04:47:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That was my first thought. (5+ / 0-)

        Separating the funding is not enough. One must separate the cross-traffic as well.

        I was part of 'Citizens for Bikeways' back in the late 1970's. Actually, I joined CFB in order to destroy it. It was a misguided group who advocated for bikelanes in Baltimore. I joined in order to prevent a bikelane being constructed as part of the new Martin Luther King Blvd project. The bike lane was designed to be in the wide, park-like median strip of the new divided roadway that cut a swath through Baltimore leading to where the Camden Yards stadium was later built, starting in the Mt. Royal neighborhood. Anyway, try to imagine the danger of crossing each cross street without traffic signals for the cyclists. The idea was to tell cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes through the intersections! Idiocy.

        The bike lane was canceled from the project, and we instigators transformed the 'CFB' into an effective cycling group advocating cyclist education and sharing the roadways. Far more satisfying and productive.
        I winter in a Florida community with over 30 miles of bike paths. These paths parallel all of the major roadways, and I've cycled tens of thousands of miles on them (and the roads) over the years. Without them I'm sure far fewer folk would consider running their errands by bike. These paths, for the most part, in this community (mostly elderly and vacationers), work fine, because most users are slow-pokes. Even on the main drag where commercial driveways cross the path every few yards, there are rarely accidents.

        The problem is for those of us capable of cycling at a club pace of 15 mph+. We are damned on either the path or the road ("Get on the bikepath!!!!"). So the downside of a bike path/lane/cycleway, is that it's not suitable for sharing between the competent cyclists and average poke-alongs. And when the path or lane exists, it is an invitation for even more abuse by motorists. We used to call this 'the toy-bike syndrome'. [In my day the annual national bike show was held at Madison Square Garden concurrently with the toy show. I got Eddie Merckx' autograph there :–)]

  •  Good thing it''s winter (5+ / 0-)

    Now that I've twigged to the fact that the stroke a year ago October cost me enough balance to eliminate bicycling, winter gives me a chance to save up for a recumbant trike.
    Now to find someone to take my faithful mountainbike. I'll miss it after 25 (or so) years.

    "Think this through with me, let me know your mind." - Hunter/Garcia

    by epcraig on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 04:32:33 PM PST

  •  I never really liked bike paths (5+ / 0-)

    but I really hate bike lanes.  We have some here in town that are about 18" wide.  They also switch on that road between using the sidewalk and those tiny bike lanes.  The road is very wide has a 25mph speed limit, so I don't really understand why they think they need to get bike traffic off of it anyway.  Our bike paths are all posted that they have no winter maintenance.  Kinda makes them useless for about 1/3 of the year.

    I'm getting used to our bike paths though, a lot less yelling at the kids to watch for traffic, and a lot less interactions with psycho drivers.  And the paths go places that the roads don't.  I wish they would connect up the paths better though.

  •  I'd Kill For Bike Paths (4+ / 0-)

    Heck my little town has problems with just putting in sidewalks, much less "nice" bike paths. Since I've moved to where I live now (outside St. Louis) I don't hardly pull my bike out cause there are not even shoulders. Face-planting it once when a car flies by too close at 75 MPH was enough. It is pretty darn sad.

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 04:36:21 PM PST

  •  What is amazing ... (4+ / 0-)

    is that bike lanes keep going in, despite the ever growing documentation that this is actually dangerous.


    Okay, really want the 1% of funding to be serving the same "destinations" as highways?  Interstate transport?  

    Isn't this more an urban/suburban environment that you are seeking to tackle with the concept?

    •  Highway funding ... (3+ / 0-)

      ... I didn't restrict it to Interstates ... quite a lot of paved roads in the nation are "highways" ... indeed, the 35MPH exurban township road that I use when I get off the 45MPH county road is a "township highway" ... and the county road is a "county highway".

      Further, I will note that Interstates are primarily for urban/suburban transport ... if they were primarily for interstate transport, then "outerbelts" would not have exits other than the interstates that they connect to. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 04:46:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No, there is documentation that its safer. (5+ / 0-)

      The Texas DOT, for example, did a study where a cyclist was observed riding on one road without a bike lane and another with, and on the road without a bike lane ... same total width, the bike lane a notional decent distance, but in reality also including the gutter.

      Without the bike lane, more cars passed the cyclist giving safe, clear passing distance. Since this involved breaking the median line, it was counted as making the passing event more dangerous for the motorist.

      Mind you, in the study, safety for the cyclist was not taken into account ... that was neither here nor there. And, indeed, there was no documentation on whether the cyclist had ever received any training on how to ride effectively with traffic. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 04:56:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  At least I've never lived in Southern CA ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... so I don't have the trouble adjusting to normal winter weather that these folks seem to have ... and Energize America

    by BruceMcF on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 05:01:42 PM PST

  •  Inre: Bicycle access to Industrial Parks... (4+ / 0-)

    Definitely something that is sorely needed...

    I live in Portland, Oregon...which is certainly one of the more 'bike-friendly' cities in the US, but I've had two jobs over in Swan Island (a large industrial park in North Portland) of which was graveyard-shift, after the City Buses stopped running up that way (there's a privately-operated nighttime shuttle...but it was useless to me as it only runs on weekdays, and I worked there on Saturday and Sunday nights...).  Just walking from the bus stop to my work site was dangerous enough, especially on the 3rd shift job; I can't even imagine trying to ride a bike up there.  From my apartment in Northeast Portland out to the general area there is easy enough...either MAX to the 72 (or 85 during the day-shift job) bus, or MAX to the Yellow Line N. Prescott St Station...but from there, riding a bike the final mile or so is pretty much taking your life into your hands...

    Here's the official 'recommendation' from the Swan Island TMA -

    On Going Street and the Swan Island roadway network, the Swan Island TMA recommends use of the sidewalk. This is legal and at least during peak hours with trucks and anxious commuters, the place to be. Be sure to watch for pedestrians and vehicles turning in and out of driveways.

    The sidewalk?!  FWIW, even when I walked it, I almost got run over by cyclists twice.  

    Yeah, and for pedestrians or cyclists - one of those 'turning vehicle crossways' that they fail to mention is the offramp from N. Interstate Avenue onto Going, which hosts an acceleration lane for cars, trucks and buses where they do not have to stop...and even our (Trimet #85) bus takes that turn at about 30 miles an hour.

    And that's not to mention that once you get off of that 'approved bike route', you're back on 4-lane pseudo-highways (Anchor, Channel...) with tractor-trailers (doubles and triples here in Oregon), and apparently no enforced speed limit.


    Yeah, we need to definitely start seeing bicycle paths as viable commuting options , in addition to 'recreational opportunities'.

    Federal (and state, county and municipal...) funding definitely needs to be a priority here.

    •  A big part of dedicated bikeways ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... is getting the hell around interstates ... exits, in the way, only direct transport corridor ... there are a wide variety of scenarios where those damn I-states are nothing but headaches.

      Indeed, the primary determinant of the route that I take to work is which one of three potential routes I use to get from one side of the Turnpike to the other ... and the one I use, while the best of the three, is the worst part of the whole trip in terms of interactions with cars.

      Heading home in the arvo, I am riding right to an embankment that is the Turnpike, then the road swings around and rises so that it can go over. A cycle subway under the Turnpike at that point would be brilliant.

      However, even though it is the Turnpike that creates the obstacle, the Turnpike is not responsible for removing the obstacle. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sat Jan 05, 2008 at 10:05:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Cycle subways under highways is a great idea... (4+ / 0-)

        especially for urban areas back in the Northeast, where I originally come from...most of the North Jersey / NYC-area Interstates, Parkways and Turnpikes are above ground anyways...and towns and cities like Clifton, NJ have long ago built underground passages for pedestrians to 'cross' busy roads (the pathway from the Clifton middle school that goes under the hideous and dangerous Route 46, for example...).  Why can't they do the same for bikes?  That little solid white line a few feet from the curb doesn't offer much physical protection, eh?

        You know, I read about this in a magazine (I think it was "Good" magazine) back in maybe March or April of last year, and I can't remember which country it was...but it was in Europe, and they set up their bike lanes so that auto traffic traveled in the middle of the road, and then there was parallel-parking for cars on the side along the travel lanes; and beyond that were the bike lanes, and then finally the sidewalk.  That just makes so much sense to me, that I don't understand why we don't do that here?

        •  However, better to just get rid of the parking .. (3+ / 0-)

          ... and have a wider lane where the cars have room to pass the bikes within the lane. And of course, with no parking, there will be fewer cars.

          Oops, wait, those're not outside words. Those are inside words. A transport cyclist is not supposed to say them, only think them.

 and Energize America

          by BruceMcF on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 12:26:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, I like the idea of a 'buffer', though.. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            epcraig, BruceMcF

            the parked cars between the travel lanes and the bike lanes provide sort of a 'buffer zone'...and in these sorts of arrangements, the cyclist won't have to worry about that SUV coming up on them at 35 or 40 mph and passing within 18 inches (or less...) of their left elbow; and also this leaves the sidewalk for pedestrians, outdoor cafe tables, street vendors, etc...of course, right now something like this is only plausible in urban cores; but we've got to start somewhere, eh?

            And of course, with no parking, there will be fewer cars.

            Oh, I'm all for that.  And fewer cars will be the reality soon enough, no matter how much collective wishful thinking the masses of current exurban and suburban commuters and others can gather...there will be no hydrogen / electrical / ethanol / prayer, etc...'cure' that will allow our current living arrangements in the US to continue for much longer.  

            A lot of people of all political stripes are going to be in for quite a rude awakening within the next 10 years or so, when this becomes apparent.  And they'll get angry (and quite possibly very violent, too...); but those of us trying to sound the 'alarms' right now, and warn them of what will soon happen...well, we're dismissed as 'quacks', or 'doomsdayers', or even 'urban elitists'...

            Sometimes, I think it'd probably be easier to not have this foresight, eh?

            •  That SUV coming up behind is ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              epcraig, Hardhat Democrat

              ... where I wish I had Effective Cycle training ... but the key danger areas are intersections, and if going through the intersection, it is sometimes necessary to take the lane to avoid getting caught in a right hook.

              And big SUV's running 45mph are not a permanent problem ... in another decade, any SUV's left on the main roads will be going well under the speed limit, to conserve gas.

     and Energize America

              by BruceMcF on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 01:43:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

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