Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


“We are very good, but we want to be better,” said Brian Hansen, the head of Copenhagen’s traffic planning section.
September 19, 2012 10:54 PM   Subscribe

In Bike-Friendly Copenhagen, Highways For Cyclists: 'Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back. And city officials want even more people to commute, and over longer distances. So a network of 26 new bike routes, dubbed "the cycling superhighway," is being built to link the surrounding suburbs to Copenhagen.'
posted by the man of twists and turns (58 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I shudder to think what kind of cyclists the commuters on my route would make if a chunk of them started riding. But I could handle it if it meant that the road was fixed.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:03 PM on September 19, 2012


When I lived in Austria, I was flabbergasted at the quality and scope of bicycle paths/roads.
It felt so civilised- Of course you have roads for bikes! How else are bicyclists going to get around?

Feeling pretty bummed we don't have anything of the kind here in the US. But what do you expect from a pariah state?
posted by dunkadunc at 11:03 PM on September 19, 2012


*swoon!*
posted by mazola at 11:08 PM on September 19, 2012


Related (Bicycle Rush Hour) and the 2011 version.
posted by unliteral at 11:09 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Cope. Sigh.
posted by bz at 11:11 PM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was biking after work earlier today, on a rail-to-trail path outside Washington, DC, and it occurred to me that (at least during rush hour) the bike trail -- which parallels a major highway at one point -- is probably a much faster way of getting out to the far suburbs than the arterial roads. But I doubt that many people who hadn't biked it themselves would believe that if I told them.

Because bike paths, at least in the US, are just not built for true transportation; if they are useful for commuting it's as an afterthought. Mainly, they exist for recreational purposes; they are basically public fitness facilities built on scrap land for which no other purpose can be devised. However, even then, sometimes they turn out to be better than the multi-billion-dollar road networks.

There's a very neat documentary currently on Netflix called Urbanized, which spends a bit of time talking about cycle lanes (in addition to other issues affecting urban planning). The Danes and the Dutch are really on the forefront, in part because they have had some failed experiments with how to do cycle lanes wrong. (Wrong is putting the cycle lanes adjacent to traffic, stuck between moving cars and parked cars; the safer alternative is to move the parked cars out from the curb and use them as a barrier to protect cyclists in the curbside cycle lane.) In the US, we haven't even gotten to the "doing it wrong" point yet.

Dedicated cycle highways are the next logical step, just like limited access motorways for cars. Unfortunately, I feel like there is a Sid Meier-esque ladder of achievement that a society must climb before they can obtain cool stuff like cycle highways, and breaking out of the idea that the car is the pinnacle of transportation is a necessary precondition. It's worth noting that in the article about the new Danish cycle routes, most people seem (reading a bit between the lines) to be transferring not from driving cars into the city, but from taking the train every day. That is already an order of magnitude more efficient, and probably a generation of urban planning away, from anything in the US, with the possible exception (due mostly to historical and geographic accident) of NYC.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:18 PM on September 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


Kadin2048: " Unfortunately, I feel like there is a Sid Meier-esque ladder of achievement that a society must climb before they can obtain cool stuff like cycle highways, and breaking out of the idea that the car is the pinnacle of transportation is a necessary precondition."

It's really difficult, because so many Americans are so fat and unhealthy. There's a lot of people who would literally die if they had to bike to work. I saw grannies in Austria riding bikes who, in America, couldn't have traveled 10 meters without their Crown Victoria. The difference in public health is astounding.

This is what happens when a country doesn't invest in its own people.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:30 PM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


My last visit to Copenhagen co-coincided with a heavy, early morning snowstorm. Tram services were disrupted and cars skidded into each other. What amazed me was that there seemed to be no disruption at all to the commuting cyclists. Good luck to them with their superhighway.
posted by rongorongo at 11:34 PM on September 19, 2012


What is the 'similar project in London' mentioned in the last link?
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 11:35 PM on September 19, 2012


Barclays Cycle Superhighways, which 'look like a clock face,', which have seen an 83% increase in riders since opening.

How Do London's And Copenhagen's Cycle Superhighways Compare?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:42 PM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back.

That's a startling fact. If I understand it correctly, one-third of the people of Copenhagen commute to work or school on the moon.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:48 PM on September 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


Interesting, thanks tmotat!
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 11:52 PM on September 19, 2012


Wrong is putting the cycle lanes adjacent to traffic, stuck between moving cars and parked cars; the safer alternative is to move the parked cars out from the curb and use them as a barrier to protect cyclists in the curbside cycle lane.

Is that true? Having been doored once by someone exiting the passenger side of a car and being seriously injured as a result, I'm reluctant to believe that passengers in cars look in their mirror before opening the door. At least with cars up against the curb, there is a small chance of avoiding door collision by swerving out into the main traffic. But between a car and curb, there is much less room for error. Has this been studied somewhere and found to be safer?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:55 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally I'd rather try my luck at going over a curb vs. going into traffic in an emergency, but I also obsessively scan the insides of parked cars for movement while riding. I wonder if living in such a bike saturated city would lead to more drivers/passengers checking their mirrors when exiting the vehicle.
posted by mannequito at 12:08 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least with cars up against the curb, there is a small chance of avoiding door collision by swerving out into the main traffic. But between a car and curb, there is much less room for error. Has this been studied somewhere and found to be safer?

If you take a look at a photo of the "Copenhagen style" bike lane, it's not just a row of cars parked one door-length from the curb. It does feel safer and more insulated, and if a door starts to open, you have the option of moving towards the curb, which to me feels less terrifying than trying to swerve out into traffic and hope there's not a car right behind you.
posted by dubold at 12:15 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


In London in 2007 cyclists swerving to avoid car doors accounted for 8% of cyclists who were killed or seriously injured.

Volkswagen Protects Your Car Against Cyclist Onslaught
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:15 AM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Brocktoon: I shudder to think what kind of cyclists the commuters on my route would make if a chunk of them started riding.
Except that bike traffic is in many fundamental ways different from auto traffic. If a cyclist ahead of you has stopped randomly, you often have the time and space to go around him. You're not stuck in the lane while traffic keeps going on one or both sides of you without room for you to merge in with it. Braking works differently on bikes than in cars, so to my eyeball approximation, the propagation thereof through a mass of bikes has seemingly different properties. (I haven't done the math on this. I'd love to see it.)

mannequito: I wonder if living in such a bike saturated city would lead to more drivers/passengers checking their mirrors when exiting the vehicle.
I'm pretty sure I've seen this discussion before around here, but if not, in my experience in a medium-sized Dutch city, yes. The people who are in cars are generally people who bike at other times, so they have an awareness about the people who are biking around them. It's not just doors, but driving behavior in general.

I don't hear about people getting doored here, and in my social group here I know of probably hundreds of miles cycled per day.

A non-Dutch friend of mine with experience living in Canada & the UK wrote about the Netherlands:
"There is no excuse for a car beyond laziness and a lack of ingenuity. I've seen people biking from city to city, people biking in thick snow or driving rain, people giving rides to multiple adult passengers at a time, people ferrying multiple small children at a time to day care, people taking their bikes on trains, people folding their bikes to take on trains, people moving small and large furniture with their bikes, people biking while carrying other bikes, people dragging suitcases along behind their bikes, people walking multiple dogs from their bikes, octogenarians on bikes, people making business phone calls from their bikes, people smoking on their bikes, and yesterday, I saw a man in a FULL LEG CAST riding his bike using one leg (and outpacing my fairly high speed), while carrying his full-body-length crutches in hand. Need a car? Think again. Cultural change is possible! Build the urban bikepaths and they will come..."
posted by knile at 12:20 AM on September 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


If you take a look at a photo of the "Copenhagen style" bike lane, it's not just a row of cars parked one door-length from the curb.

Ah, there's a concrete divider like they have in Montreal. That's better, I think. I was thinking of something else much scarier.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 AM on September 20, 2012


Ah, there's a concrete divider like they have in Montreal. That's better, I think. I was thinking of something else much scarier.

The something much scarier was just being finished put in in my neighborhood in Chicago right as I left. I rode in some small stretches, but it felt incredibly claustrophobic and I remember being scared shitless that a car passenger will hit me. The distance between an open car door and the bike lane wasn't enough to allow a passenger door to open fully without getting into the lane. The bus stops were also within the bike lane, which scared the shit out of me because CTA drivers will stop for nothing. I'm also really interested to see how snow removal will work now. The snow may just get pushed from the main road into the bike lane.

The saddest part was how the city was trumpeting is becoming more bike friendly by putting in these "protected" bike lanes. They're planning to add about 100 miles of these things. I understand and appreciate the sentiment, but I honestly don't think how much they'll help since there will inevitably be more bike vs. car doors, bike vs. passenger collisions, and even bike vs. bus accidents.

That said, I want to move to Copenhagen after I'm done here in Hong Kong.
posted by astapasta24 at 12:38 AM on September 20, 2012


How I wish we had planners here such as they have in Copenhagen. Bikes here are completely an afterthought. San Antone is far, far worse, that's true, but it's no picnic here, nor Houston either.

Austin is trying to sell itself as a bike friendly city; what a joke. They painted some lines on a very, very few streets, right next to the traffic; you've got to be watching out for cars coming up behind you and also fools backing out in front of you. Oh, and how wonderful of them -- when the street narrows down some, you just know that they eliminated one car lane, right? Oh no, of course not -- all that happens is that the lines delineating the "bike lane" fade off to the right and now you're back into traffic. It's total bs.

So I ride on the sidewalks, any place that I can, any place where I'm in real danger on the street. I ride slow, I ride cautious, I'm not going to run anyone down. I'm not going to risk my life out on the streets. And yeah, a cop could easy ticket me, but guess what -- bike cops often ride on sidewalks also. You're pretty much insane not to do so, in many/most places here in town.

Best I've seen in the US is Boulder, they are at least putting forth effort toward making it right.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:44 AM on September 20, 2012


It's really difficult, because so many Americans are so fat and unhealthy.

True, although like everything else in America, health is not evenly distributed. There are certain cities where it seems on casual observation like everyone is popping Plavix like candy, and other places where it can seem like everyone is so damn healthy there must be mass graves just outside of town containing all of the fat people.

But even in those uber-healthy cities, there is very little investment in cycle infrastructure for transportation. Sometimes there is for recreation -- in fact sometimes there is substantial investment. But it's rarely in the form of trails designed to let people commute into and out of urban centers, unless (as in the case of DC) there happen to be old rail rights-of-way that lie along those paths.

I think this is largely due to the bicycle's status as a recreational device, rather than one for "real" transportation. This is changing, but very slowly. Motorcycles, scooters, even Segways (which I think are technically neat but pretty dumb as a mode of transportation) get more respect as 'legitimate' transport; bikes get pushed wherever there is least competition for space, frequently forced to yield to everyone else, etc.

Health is definitely part of it, and it's a chicken-and-egg problem that a lot of European countries don't have to deal with in quite the same way. But another big part of it is attitude, and figuring out how the bicycle fits into transportation in general.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:44 AM on September 20, 2012


Is that true? Having been doored once by someone exiting the passenger side of a car and being seriously injured as a result, I'm reluctant to believe that passengers in cars look in their mirror before opening the door.

I think the idea is that if someone opens a door in front of you, you (as a cyclist) at least have the opportunity to swerve, kick at the door, hop the curb, or do something to avoid the collision.

But if you're out in traffic and some jackass just doesn't register that you're there and rams you from behind at 30 or 45 MPH, it's organ-donor time and not much you can do about it.

I don't trust any of the drivers around me to notice bicyclists, but I'd rather deal with stationary cars that I can only run into, rather than giant roving hunks of metal that can easily make me into a hood ornament.

Also, the majority of cars are driven with one person inside them -- the driver. So the odds of being "doored" while riding along on the passenger side of a set of parked cars are vastly lower than when riding along on the drivers' side. Each car must, by definition, have a driver getting out of it once it's parked. But not so on the passenger side. So even in an apples-to-apples comparison, you're better on the curb side.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:55 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's really difficult, because so many Americans complain and protest and object and feel entitled to resist this sort of thing.

But hey that's just like my opinion man. I'm off now to ride my fiets around Amsterdam.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:18 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


superhighway

The Dutch and the Danes can have their bicycle lanes. Here in Stockholm setting the inner-city speed limit to 30kph (under 20mph) has made riding on the ordinary streets a lot less challenging.

If you share the road you don't need to build new ones.
posted by three blind mice at 1:30 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


three blind mice: "
The Dutch and the Danes can have their bicycle lanes. Here in Stockholm setting the inner-city speed limit to 30kph (under 20mph) has made riding on the ordinary streets a lot less challenging.

If you share the road you don't need to build new ones.
"
Kilometres cycled per inhabitant per day

The figure in Denmark and the Netherlands is 2.3 and 3.6 times that of Sweden. Try tripling the number of bikes in Stockholm and see if a speed reduction is still enough.

(Not that lowering the speed limit in urban centers is a bad idea, but it gets even safer if you remove cars altogether. I also understand there are geographical limitations to the practicability of biking in Sweden vs. more compact countries, not to mention worse weather conditions and lower number of daylight hours.)
posted by brokkr at 2:46 AM on September 20, 2012


Here in the UK we still haven't decided whether to encourage more cyclists on the roads or more cycle paths. The CTC (one of the UK's big cycling charities) tends to go for the former option because it reminds the drivers that cyclists are first class citizens on the roads and shouldn't be demoted to cycle paths that are often unclean, potholed and inefficiently routed.

The "compromise" that the councils most often use is to paint a white line down the side of the road and hope for the best. They should be over 1m wide (ideally 1.5m+) but are usually much less than that. One near me is only barely wide enough to cover the drains. So either you use the lane and be horribly trapped by the kerbs, running over the drains and all the detritus that collects there, or you ignore the line (as I do) but risk making motorists angrier because I'm "using their bit of their road". In the meantime, the council congratulates itself at the extra miles of cycle lanes.

Even the new Cycling Superhighway in London isn't perfect as it's mostly just painted road and IIRC there's no real penalty when cars use it or decide to park in it.

I'd love to go to Copenhagen to see their cycling infrastructure myself. As Kadin2048 says, they have got the mistakes out of the way and are way ahead of where we are. I'm not convinced there's room in London to install Copenhagen-style separated cycle lanes but London is doing ok with cyclists using the roads. It's the other cities with more space that should be concentrating on building proper cycling infrastructure.

I hope that the "Wiggins Effect" (with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France) and the Olympics High (where the British cycling team won tons of medals) has a lasting effect on cycle use in the UK. I firmly believe that if everyone who drives also tried cycling on the roads at least a few times then people will be more aware of the needs of cyclists and also see for themselves how fun it is.
posted by milkb0at at 3:42 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm reluctant to believe that passengers in cars look in their mirror before opening the door.

When I was a child, my parents taught me to always look over the shoulder before I open the car door. In driving school they told us to only ever open the door with the hand toward the middle of the car, just so you have to turn around a little and never forget to check for cyclists. And one of my mom’s “mean driving examiner” stories is about a friend of hers failing the practical exam in the very last minute by getting out without looking outside first.
posted by wachhundfisch at 3:45 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


knile Except that bike traffic is in many fundamental ways different from auto traffic. If a cyclist ahead of you has stopped randomly, you often have the time and space to go around him. You're not stuck in the lane while traffic keeps going on one or both sides of you without room for you to merge in with it.

And I see this as a huge problem because many arrogant cyclists don't look, don't signal, and will do all manner of stupid, dangerous things just to avoid breaking cadence.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:54 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


never forget to check for cyclists.

It's all a matter of speed and reaction time. Just open your door SLOWLY and give an alert cyclist the chance to avoid you. Just like driving slowly. If everyone moves at about the same speed, the ordinary rules of the road work for everyone. It's the fast, unpredictable, and too often illegal behavior of both riders and drivers that cause unrest.
posted by three blind mice at 3:59 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another thing about Copenhagen is that it's nut just bike lanes, there are separate traffic lights, which are timed differently than the lights for cars, often giving the bikes a head start so there's less likelyhood a driver won't see the cyclists.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:33 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile in Toronto, we would be almost grateful to keep the few darn painted line bike lanes that we have... we're in a state of regression.
posted by ovvl at 4:33 AM on September 20, 2012


RonButNotStupid: And I see this as a huge problem because many arrogant cyclists don't look, don't signal, and will do all manner of stupid, dangerous things just to avoid breaking cadence.
And where do you see this? Cities where bikes are sharing the road with cars? Or cities where there are dedicated lanes and paths? Why exactly do you call them "arrogant"?
posted by knile at 5:08 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


A few notes about cycling in Denmark based on spending some time there -- it's wonderful, but it's also based on a different cycling culture, part of which I think is a deliberate decision on behalf of the government. Firstly, Danish taxes on cars and gasoline are pretty high. My understanding is that there is a 160% tax on cars, and gas is not cheap. Therefore, pretty much everybody is a cyclist, even people with cars. People have grown up cycling, and as a result, are able to be considerate of the needs of cyclists. This is reinforced by what I am told is a traffic code that heavily favors cyclists should there be an accident.

Seriously, the first week I was bicycle commuting, I kept stopping for cars based on my assumptions that if this were America, I would be right ... but dead. Cars kept looking at me funny. It's liberating, once you get used to it.

Also, the cycling infrastructure is incredible; separate, marked bicycle paths to pretty much everywhere you want to go, bicycle traffic lights, and free compressed air pumps.

Finally, though, I'll say that the weather is much more conducive to cycling in Denmark than in the South, where I am now. Even in summer, it was 60 - 70 degrees F. Cycling to work when it's 80 - 90 deg F is another thing entirely and probably involves a shower and a change of clothes.

Essentially what I'm trying to say is that it's about systems, not individual cyclists. If I tried to bicycle commute here, without many of these factors in play, I would be a) very sweaty and b) in an accident fairly quickly.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:22 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The figure in Denmark and the Netherlands is 2.3 and 3.6 times that of Sweden. Try tripling the number of bikes in Stockholm and see if a speed reduction is still enough.

Speed reduction and cycle-specific roads don't accomplish the same thing.

Speed reduction makes things safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and people in cars (basically, "everybody").

Building bike roads means that bikes aren't held up by auto traffic. In a city like Copenhagen, it means that the whole transpo network gets more efficient.
posted by entropone at 5:29 AM on September 20, 2012


I've had no less than three people over the past year or so tell me that they saw me pulling my bike into the office and thought that they'd give it a try. If you want more people to bike, then all they have to do is see that their peers are also doing it. Answer their questions, be encouraging, and maybe you'll see them on the bike path next week.

Be the change!
posted by backseatpilot at 5:51 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, the biggest problem I have as a biker in Brooklyn is pedestrians. Like the girl who walked RIGHT across the bike path as I was coming up, nose down in her iPhone; when I called out to her to look out, she just glanced up at me, glared, and didn't shift her course anway; she muttered "screw you" to me as she continued to amble on her way. Or the jogger in the bike lane who ignored my bells alerting him that I was coming up behind him; fortunately there wasn't anyone in the lane coming the other way, so I could pass him; I told him as I did that "you're in the bike lane," and he just said "I know!" and kept on.

And that's not even counting the scores of people who hesitate at the curb until the cars in front of me have passed, then look right at me coming up behind them and stroll into the crosswalk right in my way, assuming I'll either stop on a dime or that I'm made of pillows or something.

And before anyone snarks about this - I stop at all stoplights, I signal my turns, and I don't go fast. So all y'all about to complain that bikers don't obey traffic laws -- I do. There are plenty of pedestrians who don't, and maybe a dedicated bike superhighway would rid me of them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:55 AM on September 20, 2012


[Do not turn this into another long boring bikes vs. peds vs. cars ranty thread]
posted by jessamyn at 6:17 AM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


So all y'all about to complain that bikers don't obey traffic laws -- I do. There are plenty of pedestrians who don't, and maybe a dedicated bike superhighway would rid me of them.

That's really the issue at hand, here (and it reminds me of the NYC soda thread from last week). This really isn't about individual behaviors, it's about systems, aggregate behavior, and how the former affects the latter. Why is it that cities that build good bike infrastructure tend to have good comprehensive transit networks? There's a chicken and egg thing - something to do with cultural shift, but which one comes first? Unclear. What IS clear is that certain systems are safer, faster, more widely used, and more effective.
posted by entropone at 6:24 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


A salon article from 2004 has made a great impression on me over the years. I'll concede the Copenhagen has bright planners and you can't really fault them for making a genuine effort to build road for many forms of transportation. It is a success by any measure, but the above article makes a strong case for why unsegregated roadways make a lot sense.

In short, remove the painted lines, lights and signs and expect people to pay attention to each other. Move at reasonable speeds, make eye contact and realize that the paved road is a shared resource. Marking off lanes has the side effect of making each lane denizen feel entitled only to their space and rate of movement, whether it be a motorist annoyed at the cyclist on the street or the cyclist annoyed at the jogger in the bike lane.
posted by dgran at 6:26 AM on September 20, 2012


I love riding my bike, but there are numerous opportunities to get killed every time that I do it. I've added miles onto my route just to avoid a couple of particularly bad left-hand merges where I've been nearly run down more than once by my fellow students who were rushing to get to class on time. And don't get me started on pavement quality here in New Orleans. Trust me, I know you folks in other cities have bad pavement, but it's truly a shock to me every time I leave NOLA how much better the roads are elsewhere -- our roads got seriously messed up in Katrina by ground swelling and most of them haven't been properly fixed since. Heck, some days it seems like half of the actual traffic lights don't even work.

I have had people open their doors at me. I have had people blast by at 45mph inches from my shoulder despite the speed limit being 35mph and there being an empty left lane that they could've moved into. I've been nearly crushed by streetcars and buses. I've had people actually try to run me off the road while shouting "you should be on the sidewalk!" at me out their window.

The best you can hope for in terms of a bike lane is a line painted down the side of the road, adjacent to the parking lane, taking up three or so feet of what used to be the right hand driving lane. Usually that's too much to hope for though, especially in poorer neighborhoods where people actually ride bikes out of necessity rather than as a lifestyle choice. If there's a bridge or some other narrowing in the road then maybe you'll get a sharrow, maybe not. If there's a bike lane you can be sure it'll be full of piles of debris, construction equipment, buses, pedestrians, and parked cars.

I love riding my bike but I understand why it's hard to get more people doing it. There's a perception of danger and many days I feel like it's probably a justified one. I can only dream of cities that actually have bikes built into their planning in a serious and thoughtful way. It's frustrating and saddening. Bike lanes. Fucking great idea. They're cheap (relative to other ways of reducing car use) and they save gas and they improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions and improve public health and help keep money in the pockets of consumers. But there's some kind of weird, ideological resistance to the idea. Because it'd be unamerican or something. Fuck.
posted by Scientist at 6:27 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


dgran, you're talking about ideas like Hans Monderman's work.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:34 AM on September 20, 2012


I was biking after work earlier today, on a rail-to-trail path outside Washington, DC, and it occurred to me that (at least during rush hour) the bike trail -- which parallels a major highway at one point -- is probably a much faster way of getting out to the far suburbs than the arterial roads. But I doubt that many people who hadn't biked it themselves would believe that if I told them.

I believe it. I used to drive 1.5 hours to get home from work, or bike it in under 45 minutes! Exhausting either way, to be honest, so I am glad I moved closer to work.

I don't get jealous often, but that article made me jealous.
posted by TinWhistle at 6:58 AM on September 20, 2012


knile And where do you see this? Cities where bikes are sharing the road with cars? Or cities where there are dedicated lanes and paths? Why exactly do you call them "arrogant"?

This is on dedicated bike paths such as the very popular Minuteman Bikeway.

Arrogant cyclists are those who have no respect for the abilities of others on the path (or even the right of others to use the path), and who think they are entitled to weave in and out of oncoming bike traffic simply because they don't want to brake. I've seen cyclists, going full speed, blow right past children on training wheels with mere inches to spare. I've also been in situations where I've almost been hit by cyclists coming from the opposite direction who enter my lane so they can pass slightly slower cyclists.

If dedicated bikeways are to catch on as a viable transit alternative, they need more regulations. Right now we're where automobile traffic was circa 1900, a chaotic free-for-all where everyone does their own thing.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:59 AM on September 20, 2012


The "compromise" that the councils most often use is to paint a white line down the side of the road and hope for the best. They should be over 1m wide (ideally 1.5m+) but are usually much less than that. One near me is only barely wide enough to cover the drains. So either you use the lane and be horribly trapped by the kerbs, running over the drains and all the detritus that collects there, or you ignore the line (as I do) but risk making motorists angrier because I'm "using their bit of their road". In the meantime, the council congratulates itself at the extra miles of cycle lanes.

Remember that is usually not even a solid line and has no legal force whatsoever. Vehicles can and do legally drive in those cycling lanes in most of Engand. I learned this to my great distress as I watched a West Midlands Transport Bus force my new-to-cycling wife off the road while she road on a cycle path.

It was incredibly frustrating to see these completely shit deceptive and meaningless "we must be seen to be something" gestures lauded by the local cycling groups who were thrilled to pick up random crumbs like starving ducks.

Paint is no protection.
posted by srboisvert at 7:04 AM on September 20, 2012


One of the interesting things in cycling policy is the effect of safety in numbers: as cyclists increase as a percentage of travellers, the incidence rate of cyclist collisions increases at a much slower rate (or even decreases). I think that the bulk of this is that drivers become aware of cyclists as a thing and start looking for them and thinking about them. I wonder if part of this is also -- in some situations at least -- the 0.5% most hardcore cyclists who are either bike couriers or ride like them, in super-aggressive, assholish ways get shamed into behaving like the rest of the pack.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:05 AM on September 20, 2012


Homeboy Trouble, I speculate that part of the reason is that the cyclists who are added when the numbers increase are those who are less likely to get into collisions.

Also, cycling increases when cycling infrastructure increases, so that could be a cause of lower collisions and injuries. I don't know whether there are studies that have controlled for cycling infrastructure though.
posted by entropone at 7:08 AM on September 20, 2012


From the project page: "and they offer extra services like green waves, countdown signals, bicycle pumps, and footrests."

Please explain! And/or provide pictures. (I get 3, but what are 1, 2, and 4?)

"My last visit to Copenhagen co-coincided with a heavy, early morning snowstorm. Tram services were disrupted and cars skidded into each other. What amazed me was that there seemed to be no disruption at all to the commuting cyclists."

My husband bike-commuted (in a not-very-bike-friendly US city) until he changed jobs recently; we had a huuuuuuge blizzard and he was literally the last guy out of the downtown who wasn't the news crew. So the news crew actually interviewed him because, "Dude, why are you still downtown?" They turned it into a little feature on bike commuting in the snow and he was one of the longest stories on the evening news. I guess because, "Yep, still snowing!" only takes so long to say, while, "Look at this guy riding a bike in a foot of snow! He's insane!" is at least human interest.

Anyway, yeah, it only took him a little longer to get home in the blizzard, and that was mostly because of wind. And he did think it was safer on his bike, because he had a lot more choices about roads and routes, and about where on the road to be, and a much easier time avoiding ice. And if he had no traction, it wasn't any big deal to get off and walk until he had traction again. He commuted on his bike in the winter on days when he would have hesitated to drive.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2012


don't get me started on pavement quality here in New Orleans.

Word. Your city is awesome but your roads are FUCKED.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:14 AM on September 20, 2012


This pretty much convinces me that I want to live and work in Copenhagen.

You know that quote going around about making sure you aren't surrounded by assholes before deciding you are depressed?

I feel that way about living in America sometimes.
posted by roboton666 at 7:18 AM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Homeboy Trouble: "I wonder if part of this is also -- in some situations at least -- the 0.5% most hardcore cyclists who are either bike couriers or ride like them, in super-aggressive, assholish ways get shamed into behaving like the rest of the pack."
Not the case in Copenhagen from my experience. Bike couriers basically ride like they please.
Eyebrows McGee: "From the project page: "and they offer extra services like green waves, countdown signals, bicycle pumps, and footrests."

Please explain! And/or provide pictures. (I get 3, but what are 1, 2, and 4?)

1) Surfing the green wave in Copenhagen. Along certain routes, the traffic lights are set to allow traffic to pass through at 20 km/h (12.4 mph), which fits nicely for not-too-fast biking.

2) Countdown signals are installed at some traffic lights to show how many seconds before the light turns green again. Cuts down on the number of bikes running red lights, since people know how long they have to wait. Also works for pedestrians. Here's an example.

4) Footrest. That is all.
posted by brokkr at 8:02 AM on September 20, 2012


It's really difficult, because so many Americans are so fat and unhealthy. There's a lot of people who would literally die if they had to bike to work.

Ergh.
I'm just going to ignore the tone (it is impossible for me to not hear those words in an exaggerated German accent, i.e., ZAH AHMERICANS, DEY AH SO FAHT ANT UNDHEALTEE)) but I wanted to double back here to write some words of encouragement to people who are actually overweight and are interested in cycling -

Please do! It is REALLY not as hard as you might think!

When you ride a bicycle, your center of gravity does not change, which means that riding at a fairly high rate of speed is a lot less difficult than, say, running at a full out clip. In fact, if you are a larger person, you probably already have pretty developed muscles, and cycling will let you use them without you getting as out of breath as jogging might. You don't need to go get a whole Spandex road kit or anything, just put on a pair of work pants and get a sturdy bike (Kona actually makes extremely strong bikes; a six-foot-something, 200 pound friend of mine recommended them as "bikes for big dudes").

Cycling is a really great way for people to get their heart rates up, and commuting via cycling is even better - when I worked in an office, I did not have time to go to a gym (now I don't have the MONEY to go to a gym) but I was able to become somewhat fit just from riding to work. The difficulty curve is not that hard compared to, say, running, and it's actually (from what I understand) easier on the knees. There are safety considerations, but if your city is even somewhat cycling-conscious, you may already be able to commute to work, school or the grocery safely and at your leisure.

Cycling is fantastic, and cycling is for everyone. It may actually be the one thing I do that is an unequivocal good - I am getting where I need to go, getting exercise and not harming the environment. And encouraging other people to cycle is actually a pretty selfish act on my part, because the more of us there are, the more it becomes necessary for city planners and politicians to actually take us into account - and if getting larger people to bike helps pop the stereotype of bikers as rude Italian-greyhound-style skinny people on $5k track bikes, well, good!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I made the mistake of riding on a hastily-patched tire and had to leave my bike chained to a fence in Red Hook. Please allow me to serve as a Goofus-style reminder to nascent cyclists to carry some extra tubes and a set of tire levers.
posted by 235w103 at 8:28 AM on September 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Transport in cities: Vive la révolution - "A cycling renaissance is taking place in America"
posted by kliuless at 8:42 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


And don't get me started on pavement quality here in New Orleans.
Oh man, tell me. I just moved here and I picked up an old steel-frame Schwinn to ride. These streets eat cars for breakfast, no telling what they'd do to lighter weight bikes.

Also, back to Copenhagen. When I was there, it was summertime, so the snow wasn't an issue, but friends report that the street sweepers clear the bike lanes before they clear car lanes!
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:54 AM on September 20, 2012


brokkr, Thanks! The footrests are cool! The picture I saw just showed the footrest, not it in use or in context at an intersection, so I wasn't quite sure what "good" it was. Now I get it!

We have countdown lights here, I guess I hadn't realized they make an urban space more bike-friendly, since they're usually talked about w/r/t pedestrians and elderly pedestrians here. (There is one that I sometimes drive past at a limited access highway intersection, and it counts down from SEVENTY-NINE ... but always changes when it gets to somewhere around 62. It's very strange.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2012


I feel the same way about this as I felt when I read about the purpose of the government of Bhutan existing, constitutionally, to maximize the happiness of its people. Why the fuck does any other way of living exist?
posted by cmoj at 10:59 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I shudder to think what kind of cyclists the commuters on my route would make if a chunk of them started riding.

Cyclists in the US often seem to embrace the marginal status that wider society imposes upon them, and I don't think that's necessarily productive. A healthy bike culture has less lycra, clunkier bikes and a lot less "here I am CYCLING ON MY BIKE" to it.
posted by holgate at 10:49 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interview: Vulnerable road users:Jon Sutton interviews Ian Walker about how psychology can assist non-car drivers, The Psychologist
It certainly often seems that cyclists are the poor relation in terms of infrastructure.


Yes… I can’t help suspecting (but again, nobody’s really studied this) that one of the problems is that cyclists are neither one thing nor the other: they go faster then pedestrians, and so make pedestrians feel uncomfortable when they get close; but they go slower than cars and drivers don’t like to share space with them either.

Given neither of our major road user groups wants to share space with cyclists, what to do?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:32 AM on September 23, 2012


Why You Hate Cyclists: Partly because of jerks like me. But it’s mostly your own illogical mind.
posted by homunculus at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2012


« Older The campaigns they chose to run, and the way they ...  |  Having dealt with the pressing... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments