Skip

Intersection Protection
June 22, 2014 8:08 PM   Subscribe


 
There are some good ideas in there like bike-friendly signal phasing.

But the designers seem to believe that bicyclists are a mystical breed of inherently trustworthy magical road sharers. Bikes will "yield" to pedestrians where the bike lane crosses a crosswalk (where pedestrians have the green)? Turning all bike signals to "green" at the same time?

It would be interesting to see studies of these sorts of things in practice (or actual simulations)
posted by sparklemotion at 8:31 PM on June 22 [4 favorites]


This is why the cycle lane should be to the left of the right turn lane. (In RHD countries)

...and why failure to signal is not a bullshit ticket. If you are signaling and a cyclist passes you on the right, they are a jackass, and in the wrong in many states. If you didn't signal, you're a jackass that needs remedial driver training.
posted by wierdo at 8:41 PM on June 22 [14 favorites]


wierdo: If you are signaling and a cyclist passes you on the right, they are a jackass, and in the wrong in many states.

A cyclist should just plain never pass a car on the right. It's improper, and a vehicle turning right into a driveway or parking lot (or pulling over) will never check for traffic passing them on the right, from behind. After all, there isn't a lane of traffic there.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:45 PM on June 22 [3 favorites]


Mitrovarr, you need to check the article--it suggests putting a bike lane to the right of parked cars. We have these already in Evanston, IL. They take some getting used to.
posted by hyperizer at 8:47 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


Here's an intersection that roughly resembles the ones in the video for vehicles turning right (what the blue SUV is doing). It has a high-radius sweep, rather than a sharp corner.

At this particular intersection, the right-turning cars, which are required to stop at the white line when the light is red, blow through at full speed. When they do this, the driver is always looking to the left, ignoring both the first and second crosswalks. Every morning I sit in that bike lane and every car that passes me on the right does the same thing. I don't know if any pedestrians have been hit here, but I have seen a lot of near misses.

It's all well and good to design intersections that are safe when everyone uses them correctly but nobody does that, and they never will.
posted by klanawa at 8:51 PM on June 22 [7 favorites]


Oh, I thought he was speaking in general.

Anyways, the idea that drivers don't check for traffic approaching from behind and to the right is still valid. That's why I don't really like bikes lanes. That, and they're never maintained, they're never cleaned, they're frequently obstructed, and they're usually too narrow. But more importantly, the creation of a bike lane strips you of the right to be in the road (at least in the minds of drivers), which is a major problem if the bike lane is useless for any of the reasons listed above.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:52 PM on June 22 [5 favorites]


That intersection design looks great but getting US motorists to keep their cars stopped way back before the actual cross will be difficult I think.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:52 PM on June 22


sparklemotion-- I'm not sure I understand your point; the bikes and the pedestrians will follow the same lights, so everyone should stop and go in tandem.

Most cities will--if they do anything at all--simply paint a dashed line a few feet from the curb, stencil on a bike symbol every now and then, and call it a "bike lane." Which is ridiculous. For it to be a true bike lane, it needs to be separate from car traffic.

This video is pretty instructive on the matter.
posted by zardoz at 8:59 PM on June 22 [3 favorites]


Christ, in Philly we can't even get cars not to roll into the crosswalk. Even when people are in them. Buffered bike lanes are great, buffered intersections even better, but I'll take any bike lane as a start.

I think that bike-specific signals (maybe that respect Idaho stop principles) would get people to follow them more, but who knows.

I keep thinking longingly back to biking in Amsterdam trying to come up with what would make bikers, pedestrians, and cars here act more like that. All I can come up with is "better urban planning, more expensive gas". Fat chance on both.
posted by supercres at 9:01 PM on June 22 [12 favorites]


Unless I'm missing something, this looks fantastic. I wish they would introduce it in Australia. Because that's the only way you're getting me to bike to work through the fuckwit drivers on our roads.
posted by Salamander at 9:03 PM on June 22


Also, I think city centers are the last place that need bike lanes, because the traffic is slow (so getting run down from behind is very unlikely) and the abundant opportunities to make right turns make riding in traffic safer anyways. Highways are where you need the bike lanes.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:04 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]


That intersection design looks great but getting US motorists to keep their cars stopped way back before the actual cross will be difficult I think.

Getting US cyclists to not run red lights will also be difficult. (And before you squawk - I bike myself, and am astonished how many other bikers blow right past me when I'm stopped at a red myself.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 PM on June 22 [20 favorites]


Cyclists need to learn to claim the lane they are riding in. They are vehicles with the same rights to the road (and the same rules of the road) as any other vehicle.

Automobile drivers need to learn to stop being assholes when it comes to slower-moving vehicles that they regard as obstacles impeding their privilege to "not be last" to whereever the fuck they are in such a hurry to get to.

There is a lot of "we are all beings living lives and deserving respect" education and attitude adjustment which needs to take place when it comes to how humans use the roadways.

As someone who has been a delivery driver for the past decade and more, I am constantly astounded by the selfish, harm-threatening behavior I see from others. That includes cyclists, bikers, cars, and semi truck drivers.

My rule is, hang back, be patient, make a move only when it is clearly safe, give respect to anyone else on the road, and realize that you're never actually in a hurry, no matter what. I've not been in an accident in well over two decades. It's easy if you simply stop being so fucking impatient.
posted by hippybear at 9:14 PM on June 22 [56 favorites]


If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that no matter where you are or where you're from, you will regard the drivers of that locale as uniformly awful.

If there's one more thing I've learned, it's that this is very rarely not true.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:15 PM on June 22 [9 favorites]


So in order to let bicyclists cross the road, all auto traffic has to merge from two lanes down to one, at every intersection, everywhere, all the time. And then they want to add extra time between red lights for autos only.

Not going to happen. It should be obvious that the purpose for intersections is to allow vehicles to make turns, not impede them. And with street barriers, you can't even stop people from crashing their autos into light rail trains.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:21 PM on June 22 [4 favorites]


A cyclist should just plain never pass a car on the right. It's improper, and a vehicle turning right into a driveway or parking lot (or pulling over) will never check for traffic passing them on the right, from behind. After all, there isn't a lane of traffic there.
This is about as tautological an argument as I can imagine. "Improper" begs the question, and there isn't a lane of traffic there because cars are not required to act as if there is a lane of traffic there. There's no inherent reason why that has to be the case.

E.g. In Germany, cyclists going straight on in on the inside lane have right of way over cars turning right. Cars turning right must wait for cyclists to pass, exactly as they must wait for cars coming in the opposite direction before they turn left.

And there's absolutely no reason why this couldn't work in the US apart from inertia and a failure of imagination. The US is special but it's not that special.
posted by caek at 9:22 PM on June 22 [15 favorites]


Maybe it's cause, maybe it's effect, but it's not a coincidence that cycling is more common in countries where techniques like this are used. Yes, they may well diminish the rights and flexibility of drivers at the expense of other road users. That's the point.

If you're going to argue that ideas like this won't work, you need to explain why ideas like this demonstrably do work in countries where cycling is more common.
posted by caek at 9:26 PM on June 22 [11 favorites]


When I was a county deputy, most fatalities where caused by motorists who either: failed to yield the right of way; motorists who exceeded the speed limit by 7+; and by motorists entered the intersection when the light was red -- tried to run the yellow light, or sometimes ran red lights, also motorists who did not understand the rules of a four-way stop.

I've also dealt with motorists who ran down and killed or maimed bicyclists because "they did not see them" and/or believed they could hit them 'legally'. 10x that attitude for pedestrians.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:32 PM on June 22 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand your point; the bikes and the pedestrians will follow the same lights, so everyone should stop and go in tandem.


At about 2:23, when the narrator is discussing the Forward Stop Bar, the video shows cyclists (who have the red) crossing the crosswalk of the pedestrians (who have the green) to pull up to the forward stop. The narrator says that cyclists will yield to pedestrians in that situation. I think that that is overly optimistic, but it would be cool to be proven wrong.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:36 PM on June 22


My rule is, hang back, be patient, make a move only when it is clearly safe, give respect to anyone else on the road, and realize that you're never actually in a hurry, no matter what. I've not been in an accident in well over two decades. It's easy if you simply stop being so fucking impatient.

The addendum to that is to assume, and act as if, that everybody else around you is going to sprint forward, move even when it isn't safe, be in a hurry and disrespectful and impatient.
posted by cacofonie at 9:36 PM on June 22 [8 favorites]


Yah, I arrested a motorist who was completely convinced she did not have to stop for, and subsequently killed, a pedestrian crossing at an intersection that didn't have a painted crosswalk. She told me "I can legally hit people who aren't in a real crosswalk".
She blew 2x.5 and continued to assert her right to run people over with her car because "they weren't in the right place" and pedestrians did not ever have the right of way. She insisted in court that it was her legal right to run people over.

Well, our DUI laws weren't the way they are now, and motorists continue to get away with murder.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:40 PM on June 22 [29 favorites]


The beautiful thing about these Dutch-style intersections is that they're not about hoping that everybody does the right thing always and forever, they're about assuming people suck and designing around that.

Buffers between different kinds of traffic (just ending the specter of dooring for all time would make these lanes/intersections worth it). Separation of flows. Wide, slow right turns so that drivers are looking at the crosswalk before they pass over it. I can't remember where I saw it, but a Dutch commenter on another site mentioned that they position the lights so that cars can't see them if they're too far forward, handily solving the problem Shakespeherian mentioned.

Every dumbass thing drivers do at conventional intersections has been analyzed and made more difficult by this sort of design. Not impossible, but you have to try a lot harder to kill somebody.

I want these intersections so badly that I will gladly move to the Netherlands to get them. If any Dutch mefites are taking applications for sham immigration marriages, hit me up. I want to go to there.

If American drivers are really so horrific that their insatiable urge to drive dangerously would render urban safety design pointless, maybe we should reconsider private car ownership entirely.
posted by zjacreman at 9:43 PM on June 22 [32 favorites]


Also, I think city centers are the last place that need bike lanes, because the traffic is slow

The mind fucking boggles....
posted by Inkoate at 9:56 PM on June 22 [14 favorites]


Most of the drivers I meet up with here in King County, and elsewhere in Washington state are total, ignorant dumb fucks.

Too many drivers have zero clue about how to: merge on the freeway; use their turn signals; understand that 2-5 car lengths is not an acceptable distance when waiting at a traffic light.
Did any of you folks absorb the questions on the written test you had to pass?

I meet a lot of immigrants who somehow got their licenses but don't understand the rules of the road.
I also cite a lot of 'natives" who also have no fucking clue. Also a lot of wealthy white people who tell me to "go catch real criminals.:

Yeah, blow into this. Except if you have a specialist attorney, you will just get away with your shitty behavior...
posted by Pudhoho at 10:03 PM on June 22 [8 favorites]


Inkoate: The mind fucking boggles....

I am talking about the downtown grid, where there are tons of lights and traffic. Usually those don't have traffic over 35 mph, and often not even that high. But maybe I'm just thinking of here.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:06 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


a vehicle turning right into a driveway or parking lot (or pulling over) will never check for traffic passing them on the right, from behind.

In Portland if you don't check for bike traffic on the right, you're gonna kill someone. I nearly hit cyclists twice within a week of moving here. I learned quickly, and from what I can tell, most drivers around here have also learned that lesson. Not to say it's always safe or legal, but if you have enough bicycles, drivers will be far more on the lookout for them.
posted by surlyben at 10:07 PM on June 22 [6 favorites]


just ending the specter of dooring for all time would make these lanes/intersections worth it

And it would get me to bike in the city. Because as it stands? Nope.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:10 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. Admittedly, it's been 30 years since I had driver's education, but didn't these people get the same, repeated, lectures that I did about pedestrians ALWAYS having the right of way, even if the pedestrian in question is doing something wrong? And that you should assume the same with bicyclists, even if they aren't following the rules, because, hey, you're the one in the bigger, far more dangerous vehicle, and you can easily totally fucking KILL people? I can't emphasize enough how many times I was told this. 30 years on, and I still vividly remember it.

I got a new bike a few months ago, after a couple of decades of being mostly a pedestrian/public transport user, and it's not getting much use, because drivers scare me so much. I'm not at all reckless, and I follow the rules strictly, but it's like there are enough drivers who resent my using the roads at all to put me off riding a bike I really adore, and which I use responsibly. So, really, I want to know: did driver's education change that much in the years since I took it, or what?
posted by skybluepink at 10:14 PM on June 22 [7 favorites]


Ladeez an gemmuns, I give you the bike lanes of East Melbourne. Look upon their glory and weep. Bike lanes are out of the way of traffic, and the only doors you need to watch for are the passenger-side ones. Mind you, there's not much room to move out of the way, but you can't have everything.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:17 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


If you're going to have a special cyclist light anyway, why not ditch the special intersection and just have a protected all-green phase for cyclists and pedestrians.
posted by Pyry at 10:20 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


My father was struck by a cyclist while he was crossing the street on foot and very nearly killed. I now know that bike lanes are extremely dangerous and am not comfortable as a pedestrian or as a driver with bikes on the roads at all.

(also I agree with Pudhoho that the drivers in King County WA are bad at driving.)
posted by palegirl at 10:25 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


sparklemotion: But the designers seem to believe that bicyclists are a mystical breed of inherently trustworthy magical road sharers. Bikes will "yield" to pedestrians where the bike lane crosses a crosswalk (where pedestrians have the green)?

The main axis road through the Melbourne (Aust.) CBD is Swanston Street, and some time ago they put in a limited set of Copenhagen style separated lanes at the northern end. You can see the design here. They appear similar to what is in the linked video, although without these amazing corner pocket things. I thought they might be relevant to your question anyway.

On these lanes, pedestrians always have 'the green' and bikes must yield to anyone using one of the mini-crosswalks that dot the lane. Cyclist compliance with pedestrians crossing is generally pretty good - I have only seen one "accident" where a cyclist slapped their brakes on and then a bunch of other cyclists (including me) ran up the back of them - nobody was dismounted or injured, but that may have been more luck than anything else. There is a problem with pedestrians getting out of parked cars and stepping backwards (why do they do this?) down into the bike lane to e.g. unload a bag. In a perfect world, the areas the car users stand in would be wider, but there's generally only so much you can do retrofitting existing streets.

Further down, in the area of Swanston Street which is mostly off-limits to car traffic, they have an even more bizarre arrangement for cyclists - what are called tram super stops (have a look at the photos here). As you can see the bike lane - the corridor with the horizontal stripes - passes over the inner part of the platform where people get on or off their tram.

People getting on or off are generally not a problem, as cyclists are required to stop behind any stopped tram, but pedestrian compliance with the stop structure could be a lot better - people not infrequently amble along (instead of across) the bike corridor, despite the signage that has been subsequently added. Still, it is a lot nicer than mixing it up with traffic generally and tends to represent only minor inconvenience for the cyclist instead of danger for either party.
posted by curious.jp at 10:32 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


And it would get me to bike in the city. Because as it stands? Nope.

Dooring is one of the reasons I like the bike lanes in, of all places, downtown Dallas. Their solution has been to paint bike route signs in the middle lanes of certain low-speed urban core streets, so that cyclists are sharing the lane with motorists. They put up lots of "share the road" signs, too.

Non-cyclists think I'm crazy when I say I prefer this to right-hand-side dedicated bike lanes, but non-cyclists don't understand dooring or that when you're in those lanes you might as well be invisible for all the notice drivers are going to take of your existence.

A distressingly common maneuver is for a driver to pass you and then immediately turn right into a shopping center, across the bike lane, directly in front of you. I know a lot of people who have gotten hurt t-boning SUVs that way.

When you're riding in traffic, not alongside traffic, that's a much more difficult bit of fuckery for the driver to pull off. Not having a bike lane at all is often preferable to a right-hand dedicated lane with no buffer. I had more close calls on the north side of Clear Lake, TX, which has bike lanes, than I ever did on the south side, which doesn't.
posted by zjacreman at 10:38 PM on June 22


That being said, I would take Dutch-style lanes over Dallas-style lanes any day. And the Dallas lanes don't have the effect of encouraging normal people to ride in town. Perhaps the opposite.
posted by zjacreman at 10:41 PM on June 22


Mitrovarr: "
I am talking about the downtown grid, where there are tons of lights and traffic. Usually those don't have traffic over 35 mph, and often not even that high. But maybe I'm just thinking of here.
"

As a pedestrian, I was hit by a car going that speed (in my neighborhood) and very, very lucky to get away with a busted arm, head injury and soft-tissue injuries, because the car threw me a distance rather than knocking me down and going over me. 35 is plenty fast enough to kill someone, from the side or from behind.


charlie don't surf: "It should be obvious that the purpose for intersections is to allow vehicles to make turns, not impede them."

Intersections are there because two or more streets come together. If you mean lit intersections, their purpose is to allow pedestrians to cross safely, and to time traffic to minimize congestion. Autos are not privileged above all other forms of transportation.
posted by gingerest at 10:54 PM on June 22 [9 favorites]


The beautiful thing about these Dutch-style intersections is that they're not about hoping that everybody does the right thing always and forever, they're about assuming people suck and designing around that.

Exactly.

I get so tired of the 'drivers suck' 'no, cyclists are assholes!' debate (despite being guilty of it myself upthread). You're never going to get everybody to behave reasonably, so my logic is that I'd rather not be the one on a bike if there's a collision. Hence I drive my car almost everywhere, in a climate where I'd be more than happy to bike.

The only way to encourage people to bike more is to physically separate cars and bikes as far as possible.

With traffic congestion, the world population, and pollution all on the rise, I don't think we have any alternative.
posted by Salamander at 10:59 PM on June 22 [6 favorites]


My rule is, hang back, be patient, make a move only when it is clearly safe, give respect to anyone else on the road, and realize that you're never actually in a hurry, no matter what.

Something that changed how I drive was an article I read on how speeding will not significantly cut down on your travel time. Even over a long distance, if you go 10 or 15 mph over the limit, which is pretty darn fast, your arrival time is cut short by like 5 minutes. Or, without getting into the math weeds, it's just not nearly as fast as you think. You can shave off that time by simply leaving the house five or ten minutes earlier, and driving leisurely.

After reading that, it completely changed my way of thinking about driving and speeding. The impulse to speed is a very natural thing, it's something that almost everyone does, unthinkingly. But it's really, truly unnecessary, and if people were more aware of this, I think they would change their habits as well. Not to mention the fact that if those fucking tailgaters would stop it already, traffic jams themselves would pretty much go away.

If a bike is in front of you and you have to slow down, well under the speed limit? Take it easy, and slow the fuck down. That bike rider has as much right to the road as you, and going faster--or slower--will not really make a big difference.
posted by zardoz at 11:09 PM on June 22 [28 favorites]


Mitrovarr: In Oregon, at least, passing stopped cars on the right by bicycle is legal, with or without a bike lane (according to the BTA's bike law class I took some years ago). It's really nice not to have to sit behind a hundred stopped cars and add to everyone's frustrating commute.
posted by freyley at 11:34 PM on June 22 [3 favorites]


gingerest: As a pedestrian, I was hit by a car going that speed (in my neighborhood) and very, very lucky to get away with a busted arm, head injury and soft-tissue injuries, because the car threw me a distance rather than knocking me down and going over me. 35 is plenty fast enough to kill someone, from the side or from behind.

It's not the different risk of injury that's the reason I prefer no bike lanes, ride in the road downtown and bike lanes or wide shoulders on the highway. It's different mechanisms for accidents.

There are two main ways you get hit by a driver on a bike; you either get hit by someone turning, or you get run down from behind. Being hit by someone turning is far more likely, but being run down by behind is much more likely to kill you if it happens. The reason I prefer riding in the road downtown is that speeds are lower and most people are at least sort of paying attention, so there's very little risk of being run down from behind. However, people are overloaded by stimuli and there's a lot of turning, so your risk of being turned into is very high. I think that riding on the road minimizes those risks.

On the highway, there's almost no turning and there are long lines of sight, so being turned into is very unlikely. But drivers who are not alert are at high risk of not spotting you at all when overtaking from behind and running you down (the speed differential is also a lot higher, so they approach you faster). So, I'd rather be off the roads on the highway if it's possible, so a driver that doesn't notice you at all still doesn't hit you if they're paying enough attention to still be in their lane.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:42 PM on June 22 [4 favorites]


> Turning all bike signals to "green" at the same time?

It would be interesting to see studies of these sorts of things in practice (or actual simulations)


Have a look at this.

> That intersection design looks great but getting US motorists to keep their cars stopped way back before the actual cross will be difficult I think.

Only because in the US traffic lights are placed so weirdly. This would be really easy to change when rebuilding an intersection.

> So in order to let bicyclists cross the road, all auto traffic has to merge from two lanes down to one, at every intersection, everywhere, all the time.

That’s not necessary if you make the streets between intersections narrower as well.

And then they want to add extra time between red lights for autos only.

To make the streets safer, yes.

It should be obvious that the purpose for intersections is to allow vehicles to make turns, not impede them.

But that’s exactly what this does! It makes it much easier for people on some vehicles to make left turns, for example.
posted by wachhundfisch at 1:00 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I live in Sweden, but I used to live in the US. "Bicycle infrastructure" discussions are always really interesting to me because they bring out all the unquestioned assumptions of American cyclists; ones which I also used to have.

I used to cycle in San Diego, which is a car city if ever there was one. The key to staying alive in such a place is to cycle hard, cycle fast, and make yourself visible. You have to get out into the lane enough that drivers don't feel like you're hindering them on purpose (otherwise you'll get hit), but enough so that they're not quite comfortable passing (so you don't get mashed against a parked car). When at an intersection waiting for a light, the best defense is to be fast and early; start pedaling before the light turns, and be strong enough to get up to speed before traffic starts moving. When approaching an intersection on a green, you do have to claim the entire lane, even if it annoys drivers; otherwise you will be cut off or crushed; cycling at the speed of traffic (fast) helps to be able to do this relatively safely.

Cycling slow makes you invisible, cycling too far to the right makes you invisible, being invisible is dangerous.

In Sweden, there are still asshole drivers and unaware drivers, but the economy is structured in such a way that cars are expensive, fewer people own the, and even fewer still use them for transportation in cities when there is reliable public transportation. So, from the get-go there are better conditions for cyclists. We don't uniformly have this protected model of bike lanes; many streets lack bike lanes at all, but there are usually bike corridors through town which offer protected lanes or sometimes even wholly separate bike routes (i.e. not connected to any street at all). In practice, this means that riders can choose a route through town which has a minimum of crossings with traffic, though it might not be the most direct one. If you are old or slow or just don't want to ride with cars, this is usually acceptable and makes riding a bike a potential alternative to taking public transit.

Finally, since riding is an alternative, more people own a bike and have ridden a bike in cities, both as children and as adults. So, even if they are driving a car today, they are much more aware of and sympathetic to cyclists. I notice this primarily when riding on roads which do not have a bike lane at all; cars will slow down when approaching, they leave a gap between the car and my bike when they can't immediately pass, and when they do pass they give a wide buffer, usually a whole car-width. This is much more pleasant than cycling in the US, and can work even for average-speed cyclists (that is: slow cyclists who would die on US streets).

When I first arrived here, I defended the American model of aggressive cycling as a means to remain alive in dangerous traffic. It does work, even in Sweden, but the reality is that it's not necessary. You can get from A to B using protected lanes, usually with a minimal detour. Finally, the American model doesn't work for those who aren't physically or mentally fit for competition with cars. If you're accustomed to American-style cycling, you will feel like you are cycling slow and that you have to start and stop more often and this is initially annoying, but overall the environment is much, much better for everyone.
posted by beerbajay at 1:06 AM on June 23 [21 favorites]


A cyclist should just plain never pass a car on the right. It's improper, and a vehicle turning right into a driveway or parking lot (or pulling over) will never check for traffic passing them on the right, from behind. After all, there isn't a lane of traffic there.
As caek said, there isn't really a good reason for this to be true, and yielding to bikes before turning right can work.

Moreover, there is a lane of traffic there. The bicycle lane.

What exactly is a bike supposed to do when traffic in the rightmost auto lane slows down? If traffic slows to approach a red light, should the bike slow with it even though the lane isn't blocked, and stop several car lengths behind the line? Cars don't do this.

If a car slows to stop to turn right into a driveway, should a bike in a different lane slow down and stop, yielding to a car? Cars don't do this. A car stopped in one lane to turn doesn't stop traffic in lanes to the right of it.

If the bike's in the same lane as the car, then yielding makes sense. If the car in front of you slows down, don't swerve to the right of it to pass. But when there's a bike lane, the bike isn't in the same lane anymore. That's the difference that maybe drivers in the US aren't used to.
posted by cotterpin at 1:23 AM on June 23


charlie don't surf: I don't think the traffic is going down to one less lane, I think that outside lane is for parked cars. So it's the same number of lanes, they're just adjusting the corners of intersections. I think.
posted by nushustu at 1:27 AM on June 23


So in order to let bicyclists cross the road, all auto traffic has to merge from two lanes down to one, at every intersection, everywhere, all the time

I don't think so. In the video on the FPP we see what looks like two car lanes with a cycle lane to the right. This gives the initial impression that both car lanes would be required to merge down to one just before the intersection. However the commentary later reveals that the right hand line of traffic denotes parked cars rather than moving ones.
posted by rongorongo at 1:34 AM on June 23


, and a vehicle turning right into a driveway or parking lot (or pulling over) will never check for traffic passing them on the right, from behind

I have no idea how driving lessons go in your nation, but thats not what I was taught in the UK. Mirror Signal manuever is pretty key.

The solution to this seems to be roundabouts, which are pretty demonstrably safer than four way intersections in most cases.

Whenever I think about overtaking someone, even on the motorway, I do a quick calculation as to how much it will get me. Sometimes I'll be sitting in the leftmost lane behind a lorry, and going at 55. If I overtake I can go at 70 (or faster I suppose), which makes me 70/55 faster. Over an hour, there will be a difference, although actually quick marginal, but over a few minutes its essentially pointless.

I think there is a feeling for some drivers that they want to go fater: it does feel better. I find this especially in 30 zones, where I will never break the speed limit, as vunerable road users are around, and often have a tail behind me of impatient drivers who want to do so.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:34 AM on June 23


I recently had the unique (for me anyway) experience of riding a bike through Shanghai for several hours on a Saturday. Many areas of the city have dedicated bike lanes, often on the right side of parked cars.

It was a pretty harrowing ride at times, but not because of cars...rather because scooters also used the bike lane and those guys would zip around the cyclists with nary a warning.

Then I got back to Salt Lake City and went for a ride on a Saturday again. Turns out that, even with all the craziness of a city like Shanghai, biking there felt 100% safer than biking in my suburban neighborhood in SLC.

I'm sure I'm wrong but it sure felt like 90% of the drivers I encountered had no clue that

1. Bikes are allowed on the road
2. How to operate a vehicle in the presence of bikes

It's a very discouraging thing to feel like you're some kind of horrible obvious Bad Thing that people must over-correct to avoid you or rush past you as soon as possible so they don't have to think about you or whateve-the-fuck it is that's going through their minds. Oh and then there are the folks who literally honk and yell "get off the road!" at you.

I love cycling but I hate doing it in the US.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:45 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]


nushustu: What exactly is a bike supposed to do when traffic in the rightmost auto lane slows down? If traffic slows to approach a red light, should the bike slow with it even though the lane isn't blocked, and stop several car lengths behind the line? Cars don't do this.

Well, if there isn't a bike lane, bikes should be in the rightmost lane (if it's not a turning lane). If traffic slows down or stops, you slow down or stop with it. Resist the impulse to ride up the right side of the line of cars, because nobody will check before they dive right into a parking lot or open their door to drop someone off. Even if that doesn't happen, you'll end up to the right side of a car in the intersection, and you'll have to go through it to his right. This is a bad idea because he might make an unsignaled turn (a truck, especially, might have no idea you are there at all). Plus, after that, the line of cars you just passed will have to pass you, which will annoy them and defeats most of the point of passing the line of cars anyway.

If a car slows to stop to turn right into a driveway, should a bike in a different lane slow down and stop, yielding to a car? Cars don't do this. A car stopped in one lane to turn doesn't stop traffic in lanes to the right of it.

Well, that highlights one of the reasons I don't like bike lanes in city cores. In all other situations, cars always turn right from either the rightmost lane, or a lane where all lanes to the right are mandatory turning lanes. Cars turning right never have to deal with a lane to their right where traffic might go straight, and because of that, drivers are simply not expecting traffic coming up from behind them and to the right. Drivers do look right because of pedestrians, but they're not used to looking back and to the right, because traffic is never, ever coming from that direction when they're turning right. Combine that with bikes being rather small and hard to spot and you start to see why so many bike-car accidents are caused by a car turning right.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:17 AM on June 23


As a slow, out of shape bicyclist, the right hand turn lane is a nightmare for me. The bike lane cuts left, between the lines of cars, and suddenly I'm having to merge over while pickup trucks going 3x my speed attempt to run me down in their hurry to wait at the light and turn. All of my close calls have been in this situation.

I understand this is safer than getting broadsided by idiots who refuse to check their mirrors, but damn. If I know there's one of those on my route and it's a busy road/time of day, I'll just go ahead and get on the sidewalk and cross at the crosswalk. If there is no bicycle lane and I can't find a route that has one, I ride on the sidewalk. I don't feel like dying today, thanks. I feel like having to choose between becoming road pizza and potentially hitting pedestrians is probably bad design.

Protected bike lanes would do wonders for not having to ride in this fear, and it'd make it much more accessible for people who don't want to (or are unable to) keep up with cars simply to get around. Maybe someday we'll grow up as a culture and realize that cars are not the only form of transportation that has rights, but given that you can murder bicyclists and get a fine, I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Feyala at 2:53 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I'm curious, do bike-friendly countries have right-turn-on-red? It's relatively recent in the US and rolling it back may open up more design possibilities.
posted by klarck at 3:02 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Most of the drivers I meet up with here in King County, and elsewhere in Washington state are total, ignorant dumb fucks.

Too many drivers have zero clue about how to: merge on the freeway; use their turn signals; understand that 2-5 car lengths is not an acceptable distance when waiting at a traffic light.
Did any of you folks absorb the questions on the written test you had to pass?


Everything about this post resonates with me. People usually try and rope me in to their thinking that it's either the "everyone else is a bad driver except for me" chestnut, or something else along those lines when i say no one can drive in seattle.

But seriously, drive an hour in any direction out of town and it instantly improves. Everyone drives 50mph on the interstate here and blocks people in the passing lane. No one understands how to turn when a crosswalk is involved. Every other city i've visited had markedly better drivers in every way.

I've cycled basically my entire life, and rode my bike to work rain or shine every single day for quite a while. The idiocy i saw on a daily basis was somewhere between "jesus wept" and sounding like an exaggeration.

The exact bike lanes pictured in this article were recently installed on broadway. People park in them. People ignore the "no right on red" signs and nearly flatten people riding in them. People drive down them 40mph in their mercedes.

It's a really great example of "this is why we can't have nice things". If you try and make any improvement to safety by design, people will just misunderstand it abuse it and keep running people over.

As a random tidbit about how no one here can drive though, and cycling, one of the coolest bikes i owned was basically totaled... while i wasn't even riding it. I was riding the bus, and some moron after second guessing themselves several times decided to try and floor it and cut off a bus. a 60 foot, articulated, 60,000lb bus. Going 30mph. Seriously. The bus tore the wheel off the car, in a way that looked like the hulk did it.

My bike was on the front rack of the bus. interestingly, the rack seemed undamaged mostly and folded back up correctly and everything... but the bike, eugh.

That kind of "oh i can make it, #YOLO!" stuff is what makes cycling here so sketchy. And no amount of right turns not allowed intersections with protected "dutch" bike lanes will change that. People here just can't fucking drive.
posted by emptythought at 3:08 AM on June 23 [7 favorites]


This proposal makes complete sense, which is why I never expect to see it in the U.S., where apparently the goal is to make roadways as much like a thunderdome as possible.
posted by odinsdream at 5:09 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


In Portland if you don't check for bike traffic on the right, you're gonna kill someone.

I haven't lived in Portland in a long time, but I go there frequently and keeping an eye on my right side mirror for bicycles is something I have to be conscious of. Bicyclists there take that awareness for granted but I've seen a lot of close calls (and had some ugly confrontations when I rode there).

A distressingly common maneuver is for a driver to pass you and then immediately turn right into a shopping center, across the bike lane, directly in front of you.

That's partly a poor road design issue. I'm super aware of bicycles (since I also ride) but I dislike how roads with inadequate turn space and poor sight lines force me to choose between blocking traffic (to protect the bicycle) or to pass in a way that crowds the bicycle more than is good. Add in bicycles riding side by side, or just veering out unexpectedly, and those situations become more fraught and dangerous than they should be.

I don't get it. Admittedly, it's been 30 years since I had driver's education, but didn't these people get the same, repeated, lectures that I did about pedestrians ALWAYS having the right of way, even if the pedestrian in question is doing something wrong? And that you should assume the same with bicyclists, even if they aren't following the rules, because, hey, you're the one in the bigger, far more dangerous vehicle, and you can easily totally fucking KILL people? I can't emphasize enough how many times I was told this. 30 years on, and I still vividly remember it.

I've been a licensed driver for more than two decades and I've never received any formal training other than from my parents when I was 14 and 15. I passed one very cursory practical test when I was 16 and have never been retested (other than basic multiple choice tests when moving between states). I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of people driving had received no or very little driving instruction, and the testing is a joke. It's a catch 22 -- our infrastructure is totally car centric, so taking bad drivers off the road would be a huge crisis, but there isn't pressure for other transportation options and better urban design because everyone has a license and a cheap car.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:12 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]


No formal training ? Don't you have driving schools in the US ?
posted by Pendragon at 5:27 AM on June 23


No formal training ? Don't you have driving schools in the US ?

They're optional. Just pass the driving test and the written exam and you're off to the killing fields.
posted by odinsdream at 5:31 AM on June 23 [13 favorites]


We're fortunate to live close to some good, nearly arterial bike paths. In Toronto, most of the urban bike lanes are of the painted line kind, or are 'designated' sidestreets. At intersections, the bike lane usually fades into a right-turn lane, so the cyclist needs to confidently take their place in the lane, and where possible moving to the left edge of that lane so that cars can make the right turn. Toronto downtown traffic is so slooooow, and there are enough cyclists out there, that our regular urban car drivers are slowly getting used to bikes.

Separated Amsterdam-style bike lanes would be awesome... but they're not coming here in my lifetime.

Requiring right-turning cars to yield to bikes passing them on the right... is dangerously nuts, in my view. It breaks the pattern of passing on the left, and it doesn't seem to foster the idea that bikes and cars are equals and subject to the same rules, and have to share the road.

A few cyclists in Portland were killed doing this, yes?
posted by Artful Codger at 5:31 AM on June 23


They're optional. Just pass the driving test and the written exam and you're off to the killing fields.

I'm speechless....
posted by Pendragon at 5:33 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I'm speechless....

Don't forget that my no-training, almost-no-testing license is perfectly valid as a tourist in Europe.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:42 AM on June 23 [14 favorites]


This is a really simple solution that my city has installed. There's a nice bike path along the river, but it's forced to share with the road for about a quarter of a mile, including this one kind of busy intersection.

The way it works is that the bikes are supposed to collect in the green area, in front of the cars, at the red light. It's the same idea as having the cars set back/bikes set forward in the video: it makes the bikes visible, and gives them a head start. It be great to see more of these, and it would probably cost significantly less than what's proposed in the video. Not quite as effective, but better than the alternative.

Only problem is, a lot of my friends who bike- and I have a lot of them, who bike nearly everywhere- had no idea that that's what that green area was for until I told them, and I only knew because my city-planner husband noticed it and told me. The city has done a terrible job advertising how that intersection is supposed to work, and it loses its effectiveness.
posted by damayanti at 5:44 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


maybe they should hire that gorilla to spread the news
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:28 AM on June 23


hippybear: "Cyclists need to learn to claim the lane they are riding in. They are vehicles with the same rights to the road (and the same rules of the road) as any other vehicle. "

This is absolutely, and positively untrue.

Bicycles are not cars or pedestrians, and (shockingly), most traffic codes actually address this.

Granted, there are a lot of overlapping rules that all road users have to follow, but it's very dangerous to spread the notion that bikes and cars are subject to the exact same set of rules as cars. The worst part about these arguments is that everybody has their own, completely-uninformed opinions about what they think traffic laws are.

(It's far too common to hear people complaining about cyclists "breaking laws" that don't actually exist. A fairly common attitude is: "Cyclists are cars, except for when I want them to be pedestrians, except for when they go too slow or do something else that gets in my way.")

The League of American Bicyclists have done the hard work for you, and have compiled a state-by-state summary of traffic laws that govern bicycles. (If you're in the DC area, WABA has their own guide, which is particularly fantastic. There's a ton of variation just between DC, Maryland, and Virginia).

As a general rule of thumb, it is absolutely a good idea for cyclists to take their own lane (assuming they don't encounter a reckless or aggressive driver), but taking an entire lane can be mandatory, optional, or prohibited, depending on the road and jurisdiction. Generally speaking, it's best to allow the cyclist to use their best judgement.
posted by schmod at 6:45 AM on June 23 [9 favorites]


A distressingly common maneuver is for a driver to pass you and then immediately turn right into a shopping center, across the bike lane, directly in front of you. I know a lot of people who have gotten hurt t-boning SUVs that way.

I am sure there are plenty of pissed-off SUV drivers who complain that some careless cyclist scratched their paint. "The guy drove right into me! I mean, how blind do you have to be to miss an Escalade right in front of you?"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:06 AM on June 23


It seems that drivers have no idea how the traffic laws work, even the ones without bicycles. Maybe it's time for the state/federal transportation departments to start putting out some PSA's for the most common misconceptions. I think we get it already with the seat belts and drunk driving. It's time for some other dangerous behaviors to be called out too.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:11 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


How much of the hate against cyclist is because hills and elevation? I don't see a lot of bikers flying down the street in Philly, largely because its all flat and no one can come barreling down a hill that doesn't exist. but in SF, different story.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:12 AM on June 23


They're optional. Just pass the driving test and the written exam and you're off to the killing fields.

In my state, they're mandatory, but my driver ed instructor was a bozo who honestly believed that a white line on the right side of the road meant the speed limit was 55 mph. Yup.
posted by dorque at 7:23 AM on June 23


The main axis road through the Melbourne (Aust.) CBD is Swanston Street, and some time ago they put in a limited set of Copenhagen style separated lanes at the northern end. You can see the design here. They appear similar to what is in the linked video, although without these amazing corner pocket things. I thought they might be relevant to your question anyway.

This video isn't about protected bike lanes. They aren't new and I've seen those in multiple cities (and think they are awesome). I mean, obviously the video spends time talking about them but that's just to lay background to explain the innovation.

The video is about the "amazing corner pocket things" which seem to be all about making things easier for cyclists while at the same time making things more dangerous for the most vulnerable people in an intersection (pedestrians).
posted by sparklemotion at 7:27 AM on June 23


The video is about the "amazing corner pocket things" which seem to be all about making things easier for cyclists while at the same time making things more dangerous for the most vulnerable people in an intersection (pedestrians).

I'd like to know what data you're drawing off of to arrive at this conclusion.
posted by gauche at 7:30 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


It seems that drivers have no idea how the traffic laws work, even the ones without bicycles. Maybe it's time for the state/federal transportation departments to start putting out some PSA's for the most common misconceptions.

This, absolutely. It is amazing how much more efficient driving in an urban area is if you understand traffic laws. Things like 4-way stops, right-of-way, etc. So simple, yet effective.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 7:36 AM on June 23


I love the design of those roadways, but how are cyclists to use the road if you don't have any sensible infrastructure in place right now?

This past weekend, I travelled out to the suburbs east of Toronto via bike and Go (commuter) train and lived to tell the tale (obviously). The one consistent thing I did was not to misread the Highway Traffic Act and hug the right curb at all times. I took the full curb lane almost everywhere.

For those of you in Ontario, or who ever intend to travel to Ontario, here's the Ministry of Transportation guide to cycling in this province. I'm seriously considering making some laminated cards highlighting some of the important items regarding where cyclists are legally permitted and ENCOURAGED to ride in the road.

Note that the first page quotes the HTA to say that "any vehicle moving slower than the normal traffic speed should drive in the right-hand lane, or as close as practicable to the right edge of the road except when preparing to turn left or when passing another vehicle."

Many people read don't notice that driving in the right hand lane -- no position specified! -- is perfectly legal, and that driving as close as possible to the right edge is required when "practicable", not possible.

The riding in traffic page it says that "cyclists should ride one meter from the curb or close to the right hand edge of the road when there is no curb, unless they are turning left, going faster than other vehicles or if the lane is too narrow to share." Further down the page, in the taking a lane section, they repeat: "In urban areas where a curb lane is too narrow to share safely with a motorist, it is legal to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it."

Sadly, Ontario does not have any explicit regulations specifying what that width is, but the curb lane in most 4+ lane roads in Toronto is too narrow to share, assuming that the bike is positioned at the standard distance of one metre from the curb and that cars should allow a safe passing distance of another metre. Any car driving two metres from the curb would be riding in the center lane.

In the page on intersections, the MoT again tells cyclists to take the lane: "At intersections, it is usually better to take the lane before the intersection so that right-turning motorists stay behind you."

So this past weekend, in the "car-crazy" suburbs, I took the full curb lane all the way (riding more slowly than usual because I was carrying a lot of stuff) when the roads were 4 or more lanes. No one right hooked me at intersections because I stayed right there instead of moving right to be "polite". I may have blocked one or two cars who were hoping to turn right on red, but they didn't honk.

In the residential streets, with 2 broad lanes each way, I stayed about a meter from the curb, and cars passed me (moving slightly into the other lane as needed) with plenty of room to spare every time.

Coming back to Toronto, I rode several main streets with and without streetcar tracks (mostly empty due to the Portugal game) where again I took the entire curb lane. After using the West Toronto Rail Path, I moved to a street with bike lanes which I used everywhere BUT at intersections.

It can feel weird to deliberately move out of the lane made specially for you at intersections, especially when drivers want to turn right and many think you're breaking the law. I usually pull out of the lane and line up behind drivers in the curb lane at a red light, but it's a hard decision to make sometimes.

Please note that your jurisdiction may have slightly different laws. For example, New Yorkers have to stay in bike lanes. Idaho cyclists live in stop sign heaven. It's worth checking out what is actually required in your area versus what you assume is required.
posted by maudlin at 7:41 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


...seem to be...

I'd like to know what data you're drawing off of to arrive at this conclusion.

I'm not concluding anything. I'm just skeptical that it's safe to allow bicycle traffic to cross crosswalks when the pedestrians have the green. It's the same reason why cars are supposed* to stop before the crosswalk before making a right hand turn on red. I think the design here could be helped by requiring bicyclists to stop before the crosswalk on a red (and pull up to the "forward stop" after ensuring the crosswalk is clear).

*whether car drivers actually obey this law on a regular basis is of course debatable, and I won't claim that they do.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:42 AM on June 23


Speaking as a bicyclist, I find it a lot easier to be safe towards pedestrians when I am afforded the most infrastructure. I await the data to see if my experience is generalizable, but I would expect that anything that reduces bicyclists' constant fear of death from bigger, faster enemies will in turn help bicyclists act more civilized towards pedestrians.

Specifically, to me, any form of island in an intersection means I don't have to fight tooth and nail to carve out a spot where I feel I won't get run over.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:58 AM on June 23 [5 favorites]


I'm just skeptical that it's safe to allow bicycle traffic to cross crosswalks when the pedestrians have the green. It's the same reason why cars are supposed* to stop before the crosswalk before making a right hand turn on red.

And skepticism is healthy, but it should yield to evidence. There's evidence that curb bump-outs at corners have the effect of calming traffic, and there's evidence that giving bikes their own greens keeps bikes safer.

It's certainly possible that the combination of these things, in this design, will in fact decrease safety for some unforeseen reason, and as you seem consistently to think that it will have that effect, I'm interested to know where that insight is coming from.
posted by gauche at 8:05 AM on June 23


This is a really simple solution that my city has installed....

The way it works is that the bikes are supposed to collect in the green area, in front of the cars, at the red light. It's the same idea as having the cars set back/bikes set forward in the video: it makes the bikes visible, and gives them a head start. It be great to see more of these, and it would probably cost significantly less than what's proposed in the video. Not quite as effective, but better than the alternative.


They're called bike boxes.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:13 AM on June 23


I'm just skeptical that it's safe to allow bicycle traffic to cross crosswalks when the pedestrians have the green.

Every time bicycles get discussed here people talk about danger to pedestrians. Last time around someone posted the exact statistics, but vanishingly few pedestrians are killed by bicycles, compared to the carnage from car/pedestrian interactions. It's honestly just not that big of an issue; maybe it gets so much attention because of that rarity?
posted by Dip Flash at 8:17 AM on June 23 [8 favorites]


They've installed Bike Boxes at high-traffic bike intersections here in Portland, and sometimes people don't realize what they are, (no turn on red, no cars in the green portion). They work really well, from my experience. Every once in a while you get a out of state plate that hasn't a clue and pulls into them, and a couple of folks who insist they can turn on red, despite the signs to the contrary. But, overall they work really well. They exist in a few places that don't even have proper bike lanes, they're there to just manage the traffic at intersections.

There are also bike lanes like the ones mentioned in the article at PSU, and I think North Williams? Foster Blvd is debating between this style of bike lane and traditional ones. So…the question posed by smithsonian…uh, yes, they have come to the United States. There should be more of them. They're just confusing, because they're novelty at this point.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:21 AM on June 23


it suggests putting a bike lane to the right of parked cars

We've got one of these lanes one block up from me, it's pretty new and I don't see many cyclists on it. I wonder if part of the challenge with those is that now you have to worry about car doors from the passenger side, where people who are passively riding in cars and likely not thinking about it are opening their car doors into a bike lane.

2 blocks up from there, there's a 2-way bike lane separated from the road by a median, and it has its own traffic signals. That one sees a lot more use.

I sorta hate vehicles turning right on red. Period. I can't believe how often I have to shout or slap a hood because some jackass is looking for the opportunity to turn rather than paying attention to pedestrians trying to cross in the crosswalk he's trying to block off. It's bad enough these cars that aren't even turning can't seem to understand the purpose of the stop line, we also get cars fully blocking the crosswalk and paying no attention whatever to me pushing a stroller and standing in an intersection waiting for you as the signal changes.
posted by Hoopo at 8:25 AM on June 23


I'm just skeptical that it's safe to allow bicycle traffic to cross crosswalks when the pedestrians have the green.

Bicycle traffic is already crossing crosswalks when the pedestrians have the green. So can cars, if they're making turns. Most of the time - here that I can see in New York, anyway - it's the pedestrians that are responsible for a good deal of the traffic snarls in Midtown - because the cars trying to turn at an intersection are waiting for the pedestrians crossing with the light to pass (and seem to be doing so at the speed of "a low casual stroll", especially if they're tourists). So pedestrians crossing with the light are already encountering both bicycles AND cars crossing the crosswalk when they make a turn, because....that's how intersections work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Taking the lane is totally ok in Ontario and has been for decades. We should train more people to do it, frankly.

It's quite true that driver's education classes should focus more on bike-car interactions, but it's equally true that cyclist can do much more to improve their own safety too. Knowing how to ride a straight line (not a common skill), knowing the safe distances to ride off of parked cars, knowing and using signals and bells, and yes, knowing when and how to take the lane are all critical skills for safe cycling.

Drivers have a big responsibility, but cyclists frequently have no idea how to be safe on the roads, often knowing less about the laws and safe practices than drivers do. Safe cycling courses are attended by a tiny minority of cyclists. In Canada, btw, the CAN-BIKE programs are very good. I think we should be doing these as part of school gym classes, honestly.

This design isn't just about car-bike interactions after all: bike-pedestrian collisions are a real hazard to walkers too. Many cyclists are absolutely horrible about pedestrian safety. One thing I like about this design is the segregation of the three traffic flows.
posted by bonehead at 9:02 AM on June 23


it suggests putting a bike lane to the right of parked cars

We've got one of these lanes one block up from me, it's pretty new and I don't see many cyclists on it


My experience with those lanes as a cyclist, when the bike lane is only noted by a white line:

1. Someone inevitably doesn't understand that the bike lane is there and parks in the bike lane - which boxes cyclists in and forces them over the curb and onto the sidewalk if the rest of the street is parked up (Will one person park next to the curb even if nobody else is doing it? Yep.)

2. How do I safely turn left?

I really love a lot of the ideas for making cycling safer through infrastructure in the US, but my main worry is about the cost of upkeep and enforcement.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:04 AM on June 23


Basically, I think bikes don't belong on the road with cars and any "infrastructure" that involves painting lines on the ground while effectively changing nothing is bullshit.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:09 AM on June 23


Properly designed streets require a minimum of enforcement and worrying about the cost of upkeep of bicycle infrastructure might be the strangest concern I've heard yet.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:10 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


1) The infrastructure under discussion goes a lot further than painting lines on the ground, and 2) I don't think CARS belong on the road with BIKES so take THAT
posted by zjacreman at 9:11 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


No formal training ? Don't you have driving schools in the US ?

They're optional. Just pass the driving test and the written exam and you're off to the killing fields.


And the "test" literally consists of 4 left hand turns around the block where the DMV is located, plus the dreaded parallel park between two cones in the alleyway. Just don't hit the cones, or anything else, in your trip around the block and congrats, you're a licensed driver!
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:29 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Cyclists need to train themselves to watch for signals, and not overtake on the right if a car is about to turn. There is absolutely no guarantee that the driver will be looking for you. Frequently, if a car is slowing to make a right at an intersection (even if they are not signalling, you can usually tell), I will cut behind them and overtake on the left, returning to the rightmost part of the lane once I'm through.


That being said, I have been riding next to a vehicle, literally able to look right at the driver through the passenger side window, and been right-hooked by someone who suddenly decided to signal and turn without making even the minimal effort to turn her head slightly to the right to see if there was anyone next to her.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:29 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


1) The infrastructure under discussion goes a lot further than painting lines on the ground,

Yeah, I know. That's why I specified that this is what I've experienced in a protected bike lane. I'd be for protected bike lanes if they're well done, but the protected bike lanes I've experienced have been done on the cheap and are worse than no bike lane at all. If Hoopo's bike lane looks like the ones that I've been on, that might be why nobody was riding on it.

I really don't see why it's that weird to think that Americans really don't like paying for upkeep for transit options that aren't car related. Should they? Yes. Do they? No. And the fact is that blocking a bike lane isn't seen as a priority for traffic cops, in my experience. Or even painting the white lines to designate a bike lane where there is one (there's a stretch of road near where I live where the bike lane shifts position five times over five blocks - and the lane markers have nearly faded into oblivion).
posted by dinty_moore at 9:31 AM on June 23


There is no upkeep to speak of on bicycle infrastructure. It certainly pales compared to auto lanes, buses, and rail. Asphalt and concrete last a lot longer when it not being driven over by SUVs and semi-trucks. Perhaps you're referring to cost of street sweeping?

And for what it's worth, studies show that people are in favor of public transportation (one non-ideological study showed a three to one preference over road building) and that non-automobile transit is woefully underfunded in comparison to the amount of support it has.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:46 AM on June 23


dinty_moore, I was responding to a different post.
posted by zjacreman at 9:49 AM on June 23


I really don't see why it's that weird to think that Americans really don't like paying for upkeep for transit options that aren't car related.
posted by dinty_moore

There is no upkeep to speak of on bicycle infrastructure. It certainly pales compared to auto lanes, buses, and rail.
posted by entropicamericana


Entropic: I know that, you know that, and dinty moore knows that but does John "Tea Party Member" Six-Pack know that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 AM on June 23


dinty_moore, I was responding to a different post.

Sorry! got confused.

Perhaps you're referring to cost of street sweeping?

Well, snow and ice removal, for one. I live in Minnesota. This is a big deal. The thing that keeps me from biking in 0-40F weather isn't the cold, it's the icy bike lanes.

People say a lot of things about what they'd like to spend their money on, but fact is, a lot of the bike lanes I've been using have been really badly kept up.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:54 AM on June 23


When I recently moved to North Carolina they required I retake the written portion of the driving test to get my license (after having one in Virginia for many years).

While taking the test I was asked to identify road signs with the lettering removed (that is, what is a giant red octagon, that sort of thing). I hesitated on one, not immediately sure what it was. The test giver said "that's Railroad crossing. Move onto the next one."

Apparently I was allowed to miss some number and still pass, so she was just helping me along with one that many people miss. In other words: in order to earn my drivers license in NC, they required that I be able to identify most, but not all, of the signs on the road.

I live in a little town, and bike frequently. I try not to think too hard about how many questions my fellow drivers got wrong on their tests.
posted by jermsplan at 9:57 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Argh. There is a refreshing amount of bike commuting in Oakland and SF, and I participate nearly every day, but so many cyclists are assholes. I'm in the minority stopping at red lights and stop signs.

That's not to say that drivers are not also clueless and distracted.

Good times, good times.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:58 AM on June 23


So pedestrians crossing with the light are already encountering both bicycles AND cars crossing the crosswalk when they make a turn, because....that's how intersections work.

Right, but there's a huge difference between bikes and cars waiting to make a turn through a crowd of crossing pedestrians and a bike plowing straight through an intersection crowded with crossing pedestrians. The former is not a big deal safety-wise (in the case of the bikes i mean, as cars are always a nightmare) but the latter is fucking dangerous and terrible, especially on one way streets where cyclists decide to ride against the traffic. The places where the bike lanes have their own green light are a fucking godsend and I wish all intersections had them. (and of course i wish people actually obeyed them but i feel like we're moving towards that ideal situation better than before)
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 AM on June 23


(also obvsly a car plowing through a crowded crosswalk would be dangerous and terrible, i assume that goes without saying)
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on June 23


The thing that keeps me from biking in 0-40F weather isn't the cold, it's the icy bike lanes.

Our trails and roads get plowed pretty well in my part of Colorado, but I keep my studded tires on all winter long, since there's only so much plowing and salt can do (and patches of ice in the morning from a melt-and-freeze are serious business.)

Once I've got my studded tires on, I look forward to the times I can beat the plows to the fresh snow, because it is So Much Fun to be the first one through it. (Assuming it's not so deep I really can't bike through it, and I suspect that one's more of a problem in Minnesota.)
posted by asperity at 10:08 AM on June 23


Three more reasons for protected bike lanes that I haven't seen discussed yet:

- Drivers who swing into the bike lane when they're passing a car that is waiting to make a left turn
- Buses pulling into and out of the bike lane every few blocks
- Cyclists who ride without reflective gear or lighting (as a driver, this is maddening but I see it almost every day)
posted by desjardins at 10:17 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Assuming it's not so deep I really can't bike through it, and I suspect that one's more of a problem in Minnesota

It's not that the original snowfall will be super deep, it's that what's left in the bike lane is the dense, jagged brownish ice-snow of despair that's left over from plowing, and it will stay there, mocking you through at least three spring days where it is 65 degrees and glorious outside.

To be fair, they don't really plow the parking lanes either.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:20 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Yeah, for any parts of my trip where the ice-snow of despair (good phrase!) is a problem I take the lane and deal with it, but for the most part that stuff's gone quickly here. One of the benefits of a dry climate, offset by frequent nosebleeds.
posted by asperity at 10:25 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Buses pulling into and out of the bike lane every few blocks

With protected bike lanes (as in Sweden) bus traffic doesn't have to wait for cyclists and cyclists aren't going to get smooshed by busses, which is good. There is one small difficulty, which is that pedestrians now have to cross the cyclepath to get to the bus stop. This is more of a problem when people exit the bus since they are usually focused on moving forward out of the bus and not on what's going on around them, but it's also an issue for larger bus stops where crowds congregate and nobody wants to stand next to another living creature. It's not a big problem, however, and Swedish cyclists are generally so slow that it's not very dangerous even for people who are not paying attention.
posted by beerbajay at 10:30 AM on June 23


How do bus shelters work in that situation? Is the traffic island separating the bus lane from the bike lane just really wide?
posted by elizardbits at 10:32 AM on June 23


1) The infrastructure under discussion goes a lot further than painting lines on the ground, and 2) I don't think CARS belong on the road with BIKES so take THAT

I'm more concerned with the "infrastructure" we actually have in place most places, which does nothing whatsoever to make me want to bike in the city more. Also, take what? I don't like cars and think they are one of the worst inventions in human history, but right now we have a ton of them, and I don't think either mode of transport belongs around the other, much like I don't like mixed-use "bike paths" that get clogged up by pedestrians walking four abreast. Too dangerous. Given the choice I would get rid of cars, but that's not the choice we have, so I would vastly prefer they just be completely separated.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:56 AM on June 23


Here's a sincere question that's bound to be controversial: why are bikes treated legally like vehicles, rather than like pedestrians?

Even if you're biking 20 mph, if the pedestrians are going 3mph and the cars are going 40 mph, your speed is still closer to that of the pedestrians -- and your momentum and kinetic energy are even more similar to those of a pedestrian than to those of a car, and ditto your vulnerability. And the bicyclist has a much shorter stopping distance and tighter turning radius than the driver, so can more easily avoid collisions with slower-moving traffic. Also pedestrians can usually step off a sidewalk to avoid an oncoming bicycle in a way that bikes can't really clear off the street to avoid an oncoming car (if the street has curbs.) For all these reasons, bicycle-pedestrian crashes are both less frequeqncy and much less deadly than bicycle-car crashes.

Moreover, on American roads (outside of central cities) there are generally many fewer pedestrians than there are cars, so if there are sidewalks, they are likely to have a lot less traffic than the streets. In places where people walk a lot and the bikes can't weave through the dense foot traffic, I understand riding in the street, but in many places I've lived, the foot traffic is one person every two or three hours.

I live near a major regional trail, and have found the bikers, joggers, and walkers (some with dogs or strollers) can quite happily co-exist. Even if bicyclists do get annoyed at pedestrians being in their way due to somewhat higher density of pedestrians, well, so do drivers do at bicylists being in their way when the density of bikes is high.

Most intersections already have separate signals for pedestrians, and it seems to be that everybody would be much safer if bicycles would simply obey those, and keep to the sidewalk.
posted by OnceUponATime at 11:22 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Even if you're biking 20 mph, if the pedestrians are going 3mph and the cars are going 40 mph, your speed is still closer to that of the pedestrians -- and your momentum and kinetic energy are even more similar to those of a pedestrian than to those of a car, and ditto your vulnerability

There's still a lot of speed differential between a bike and a pedestrian - someone who has actually taken a physics class can jump in here, but it's not just a matter of (40-20) > (20-3). A bike will fuck up, if not kill, a pedestrian at 20 mph. They should not be in the same lane. In your example of peaceful coexistence, I'm guessing that most people are on the trail for recreation, not commuting, and that cyclists are not going 20 mph.
posted by desjardins at 11:35 AM on June 23


How do bus shelters work in that situation? Is the traffic island separating the bus lane from the bike lane just really wide?

The section of the curb devoted to the bus shelters is extended. Here's an example from Malmö for a rather busy bus stop. So you've got car lane, bus lane, bus shelter area, cycle path, sidewalk. Right up the street, you can see the confluence of pedestrians, cycles, busses and cars.

Note the combination of zebra-striping, colored lanes, advanced positions for cycles, separate cycle and pedestrian lights, and orange supports for cyclists to hold while waiting. Also pictured (but kind of hard to see) are a free city-run bicycle pump, a counter for the number of bicycles for that day, and an angled trash bin which runs along the cyclepath so you don't have to dismount to avoid littering.
posted by beerbajay at 11:50 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


desjardins: the momentum differential between an automobile and a person on a bicycle is orders of magnitude larger than the momentum differential between a person on a bicycle and a pedestrian. If you judge the consequence of impact to be so severe that bicycles and pedestrians should not share a lane on that criterion, then it should be *even more strongly true* that bicycles and automobiles should not share a lane.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:56 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


And because I mentioned it, here's one of the alternate routes which don't follow a road. Again, you can see a cycle counter (the tall grey thing) and a pump (the short grey thing across the cycle path from the tall one). Here's another angle of the same path, with another angled trash bin.
posted by beerbajay at 12:02 PM on June 23


A cyclist should just plain never pass a car on the right. It's improper, and a vehicle turning right into a driveway or parking lot (or pulling over) will never check for traffic passing them on the right, from behind. After all, there isn't a lane of traffic there.

Cyclist should exercise caution when passing on the right (especially if the vehicle is signalling a turn).

But I would've killed/maimed a great deal of cyclist if I didn't always look back/right before making a right turn, I'm passed on the right while signaling a turn quite often and I don't want to hurt anybody so I check.

My problem with cyclist is "the randomness", I'm nervous when I drive around them since I never know how they'll behave, will it stop or run the light? will it obey priorities at an intersection with stop signs? turn left when it's prohibited? and wtf is that guy doing reverse traffic in the middle of one way street at night without lights or reflectors on it's bike! (serious this happens to me at least once a week).
posted by coust at 12:05 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


it seems to be that everybody would be much safer if bicycles would simply obey those, and keep to the sidewalk

No, no, a million times no. Bicycling on the sidewalk is illegal in most places, and the reasons for that are very good.

There are lots of reasons - obstacles (posts, mailboxes, trash cans, grates, planters, etc), the fact that sidewalks don't have the same "rules of the road" regarding direction of travel that multi-use paths do, the fact that sidewalks aren't designed with lanes and passing clearance, the fact that curb cuts are not a given from intersection to intersection - but the most important just has to do with the fact that you're massively underestimating the kinetic energy of a cyclist.

For some perspective, Thor weighs about 210 lbs, which is about what I weigh on my bike. Imagine getting Chris Hemsworth up to a 20 mph sprint (actually not crazy, Usain Bolt weighs as much and goes faster than that). That much mass is not stopping on a dime, and a pedestrian who gets hit by that freight train is in for a bad day at the ER.

It's the same for bikes. They need more stopping distance than non-cyclists ever seem to give them credit for. Not as much as cars, but way more than walking humans. And sidewalks are full of blind alleys and driveways - when a car pops out unexpectedly, cyclists can't necessarily stop in time. This is the case even at lower speeds that are more realistic for sidewalk cycling. If a car pokes its nose out into a traffic lane, it risks getting t-boned; that holds just as true if the sidewalk is the traffic lane, except it'll probably mean a dead or injured cyclist.

Putting bikes on the road works better, because everybody's going the same direction, and you can reasonably expect that anything that comes into your travel lane is going to do so with enough time for you to slow or stop so that you don't hit it. Because cars require that, so roads are designed that way, and sidewalks aren't.
posted by zjacreman at 12:16 PM on June 23 [9 favorites]


Whenever a driver says that bicyclists make them feel nervous, I say good. That's the mechanism for the safety-in-numbers effect that makes streets safer for all modes, including for car-on-car collisions, because cyclists make drivers more vigilant.

Whenever you or I drive, we're piloting the most dangerous machine that we encounter in our day-to-day lives -- even more dangerous than most industrial machines that require special training. We should be cautious in the same way that we should be cautious when climbing tall ladders and when handling firearms.

Salamander -- For what it's worth, from a risk mitigation standpoint, the risk of death/injury from a car-on-bike collision is hugely off-set by the protection against death/injury by heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc, etc... that comes from a bicycling lifestyle.

Plus, you're contributing to others' safety through the well-documented safety in numbers phenomenon and you're no longer contributing to the externalized environmental and health problems that come from driving, such as the increase in childhood asthma attacks that we see is correlated with automobiles in any locality.

PLUS! You're going to save up to nine grand a year!

Sparklemotion: Bike-on-pedestrian incidents are tragic. As sad as these anecdotes can be, it's important to realize that both physics and practice show that cars are the biggest threat to everyone. http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/faq_details.cfm?id=31

A two ton car at city speeds easily has more kinetic energy than a shotgun. A 300 pound bicyclist at 10 MPH has kinetic energy comparable to a 90 mph fastball. Not great, but I'd face off Stephen Strasburg with a baseball over Dick Cheney with a shotgun any day of the year.

If that seem like an apples and oranges comparison, consider that year after year, we see that on-duty police officers are at equal or worse risk with regard to automobiles compared to guns. Thankfully better design over time is lowering automobile-related death rates for police and for the overall public.

Which is also to say, Pudhoho, you are doing great work. Stay safe out there!
posted by Skwirl at 12:18 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


So you've got car lane, bus lane, bus shelter area, cycle path, sidewalk.

Good lord, that's brilliant. I don't know why US cities keep pretending it's impossible to do these things.
posted by elizardbits at 12:18 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Turning all bike signals to "green" at the same time?

No need for skepticism since this is already a thing in the Netherlands.

Most intersections already have separate signals for pedestrians, and it seems to be that everybody would be much safer if bicycles would simply obey those, and keep to the sidewalk.

Biking on the sidewalk is demonstrably more [HTML] dangerous [PDF], not only because of pedestrian-bike collisions but even more so because of car-bike collisions in driveways, as zjacreman already mentioned on preview. (There's also other problems: a lot of sidewalks are unsuitable for biking at any speed, or even worse, may be totally suitable in some parts while unpredictably changing in others; property owners can interfere with the sidewalk and prevent plowing or de-icing; and finally, most cities are not particularly well-connected by sidewalks anyway.)
posted by en forme de poire at 12:27 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


Whenever a driver says that bicyclists make them feel nervous, I say good. That's the mechanism for the safety-in-numbers effect that makes streets safer for all modes, including for car-on-car collisions, because cyclists make drivers more vigilant.

I guess, but as a driver I wish there were a separate bike lane, because like coust said, most of the time I don't know what the fuck they're going to do. I don't want to hit someone any more than they want to be hit. I get that the onus is on me because I have the deadlier vehicle, but should it really be so nerve-wracking? I pass bikes as soon as safely possible; I don't want to be anywhere near them if I can help it. I've had so many dart in front of me, sneak up behind me, ride the wrong way down the street, etc. I almost wonder if they should be licensed if they want to share the road.
posted by desjardins at 12:27 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Whenever a driver says that bicyclists make them feel nervous, I say good. That's the mechanism for the safety-in-numbers effect that makes streets safer for all modes, including for car-on-car collisions, because cyclists make drivers more vigilant.

I disagree, drivers should be vigilant and alert at all time, more-so than some of them are right now. But they shouldn't be nervous, nervous is not the same.
posted by coust at 12:43 PM on June 23


Good lord, that's brilliant.

I know, it's almost like... logical, right?
posted by beerbajay at 12:46 PM on June 23


Drivers should be vigilant and alert, but that's an absolute fantasy. I'll take nervous over oblivious. Nervous is at least paying attention and not texting (one hopes, but I don't know if anything will make drivers stop texting) for long enough to safely pass me.
posted by zjacreman at 12:53 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


"(40-20) > (20-3)" has to do with the frequency of accidents. The more different the speeds are the more likely collsions are to happen. But the bike/car difference in speed is usually equal to or greater than the bike/pedestrian difference is speed.

How severe the collisions are likely to be depends on the kinetic energy available. I estimate that a car going 40 mph has about 44 X more kinetic energy than a bike going 20 mph, if the car weighs 2500 lbs and the bike + person weighs 225lbs. It also depends on how well cushioned the people are. Bicylists are almost as vulnerable as pedestrians in that respect (more likely to have a helmet, I guess.) Cars with steel frames and seat belts and crumple zones are a whole different beast.

(I will mention in this context that I have a physics PhD, and that I am aware that I am oversimplifying in the above. It matters if the car and bike are going in the same direction or opposite or at right angles, etc.)

On every measure, it seems to me that a legal definition of "bicylist = pedestrian" would be safer and more logical than a legal definition of "bicyle = vehicle = car" and I don't understand how the latter became the actual law.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:06 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I will mention in this context that I have a physics PhD

well then
posted by desjardins at 1:09 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I know, it's almost like... logical, right?

Yeah, that alone makes it less likely to fly here, we hate logic.

Also I feel like there is a nonzero chance of some prunemouthed municipal bureaucrat looking at that and thinking something like

separate lanes for each kind of traveler --> everyone is equal --> OHNOES COMMUNISM
posted by elizardbits at 1:11 PM on June 23


I would expect that anything that reduces bicyclists' constant fear of death from bigger, faster enemies will in turn help bicyclists act more civilized towards pedestrians.

It might help to remember that cyclists are also drivers, usually, and that the behaviours you see in cyclists are pretty much identical to those you see in drivers.

I used to drive like I was being chased (according to one friend), until I had a bit of an epiphany and now I obey the law strictly. But then I realized that I hadn't modified my behaviour on my bike on multi-use trails, where I was still behaving just like an asshole driver. And once I tackled that issue, I realized that all the other cyclists were doing the same thing -- passing aggressively, not giving adequate space to pedestrians, turning without signalling and just plain speeding (etc.) I think I've even defended that sort of bullshit here on metafilter.

The problem isn't really drivers or cyclists or pedestrians or infrastructure (though it could be much better). It's humans.
posted by klanawa at 1:11 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


On every measure, it seems to me that a legal definition of "bicylist = pedestrian" would be safer and more logical than a legal definition of "bicyle = vehicle = car" and I don't understand how the latter became the actual law.

My best guess? Think about how fast cars were going when we codified our traffic laws. It's probably that easy and dumb.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:11 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


The more different the speeds are the more likely collsions are to happen.

Except this assumption is wrong. As one of en forme de poire's links pointed out, cyclists are twice as likely to get hit by a car if they're riding on the sidewalk. Speed difference is not the primary contributing factor in collisions, and the design of sidewalks leads to more car/cyclist collisions. Passing a slower-moving vehicle traveling in the same direction as you is just not that hard, if you're paying attention, which is apparently a tall order.

On every measure, it seems to me that a legal definition of "bicylist = pedestrian" would be safer and more logical than a legal definition of "bicyle = vehicle = car"

It has been explained to you why, despite the mass and kinetic energy differences, this is not the case. Bicycles are vehicles because they travel at vehicular speeds and require vehicular stopping distances that sidewalks are not designed to accommodate. It's not "on every measure," it's on this one measure that you're stuck on.

And bicycles AREN'T treated exactly like cars by the law; there are typically rules about where a bike is supposed to travel, and how much clearance cars have to give when passing. A much better comparison is to horses, or horse-drawn carts.
posted by zjacreman at 1:27 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


zjacreman and en forme de poire -- I somehow missed your posts while composing my second post. You make good points, but it still seems to me that if you're going spend money on "bike lanes" -- you ought to put those lanes on (or adjacent to) the sidewalk where possible. Crappy sidewalks can be fixed. It would cost money, but so does adding (decent) bike lanes to the street. "There's a lot of crashes at intersections" is addressed by the "obey pedestrian signals" rule.

desjardins I didn't mean to make you feel like disappearing Homer. I think I kind of said that like a jerk...
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:29 PM on June 23


Ha, no, I just realized I was going to be way outclassed on anything involving math or physics so I should just save myself while I could.
posted by desjardins at 1:33 PM on June 23


This is a bike lane like what you're describing, lines painted on a wide sidewalk. That is also where I was nearly hit by a car coming out of that parking lot for a right turn, too fast, without once looking in my direction (because it's a divided street and he only expected traffic from the left). I have similar stories for other driveways on that same stretch of road, too.

And that's pretty much the best case sidewalk-riding setup - good surface, well-kept, low-traffic. Yet it was vastly safer to ride with the cars on that road, even though the limit there is 55 mph. In a regular lane I am exactly where drivers are already watching for traffic. Anywhere else, including conventional American unprotected right-hand-side bike lanes, I'm not.

Which is not to say I don't support lane separation. But the sidewalk is not where bikes belong. That is a zombie myth (I've had people scream that at me as they pass me!) that needs to finally die.

The correct answer is almost certainly the design in the video in the OP.
posted by zjacreman at 1:47 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


> Bicycles are vehicles because they travel at vehicular speeds and require vehicular
> stopping distances that sidewalks are not designed to accommodate.

What kind of conveyance is a bicycle that isn't being ridden, but instead is being pushed by a pedestrian walking beside it? Probably not codified anywhere. But that's how I cross intersections where there is the remotest possibility of my getting flattened by the car beside me, the driver of which is turning right while looking left as I attempt to go straight ahead. I get off the bike, drag it up onto the sidewalk, and walk it across the intersection in the crosswalk among the other pedestrians. (Still bearing in mind, of course, that when there is a dispute over right of way between a pedestrian or a bicyclist and 5000 pounds of hot metal, the 5000 pounds of hot metal wins. In practice that means peering cautiously at the driver of the car beside me while I wait for the go signal, in hope of getting some clue that he/she is aware of me.)
posted by jfuller at 3:13 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


"There's a lot of crashes at intersections" is addressed by the "obey pedestrian signals" rule.

Unfortunately, this doesn't help in this case, since there are no signals for either cars or pedestrians at driveways.

There are ways to mitigate this problem if you're designing a separated "cycle track" like the one in the FPP, but just using existing sidewalks is not a safe solution.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:36 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Also, I think city centers are the last place that need bike lanes, because the traffic is slow (so getting run down from behind is very unlikely) and the abundant opportunities to make right turns make riding in traffic safer anyways. Highways are where you need the bike lanes.

I'd agree, except that the US standard is to make every street into a highway-- wide lanes, generous curves. In the name of safety, streets are designed to support the highest possible speeds. Hence the need for bike lanes.

If streets were actually designed for 20 mph traffic (and you really don't need to go any faster in densely populated areas), you wouldn't need bike lanes. But there are very few such streets.
posted by alexei at 3:37 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


btw, dinty_moore, my understanding is that in a protected bike lane with no special signaling for bikes, the safest thing to do is make a pedestrian left (i.e., go straight through the intersection, dismount and walk the bike across the crosswalk when clear, then enter traffic once you're on the perpendicular street).
posted by en forme de poire at 3:47 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


The subject of this FPP's a design proposal for intersections -- they're complicated and dangerous, what with the multiple kinds of traffic (auto, bike, ped, transit, etc) converging from multiple directions. So we've got elaborate controls on how to get everyone through them safely (or at least that should be the idea.)

The thing about biking on sidewalks is that you add a ton of uncontrolled intersections to your route. Every single driveway, alley, and side street is a potential place where you and someone in a much larger vehicle might want to be in the same place at the same time -- but you're much less likely to be seen on the sidewalk, and have a much harder time keeping tabs on what the cars around are likely to do. And being honest with ourselves, we're not gonna just stop at every single one of these points to look in all directions unless we're, like, five years old and wobbling slowly next to a pedestrian caregiver.

Danger to pedestrians when people on bikes and pedestrians are sharing space on sidewalks or MUPs is frequently overstated (though it's not nonexistent -- I've talked to at least one person who was severely injured that way.) Danger to people on bicycles when they're on sidewalks is frequently understated, though, and that's a real problem. I recommend the ever-useful How Not to Get Hit by Cars as a resource for what it says on the tin.
posted by asperity at 3:48 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


Bicyclists on sidewalks making the assumption that can jump out of the way when the come up behind you are far more distress-inducing than drivers on my typical walk home. And I'm usually not not walking with a dog on a leash or a small child or have limited mobility. Bicyclists, if you must go on the sidewalk for whatever reason, get off your bike and walk it until you can get back on the road.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:59 PM on June 23


It's actually illegal in some places to bike on the sidewalk (and I get incensed whenever I see a cyclist doing it around here, but I just have feelings about scofflaw bikers in general)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:47 PM on June 23


I ususally am walking on the sidewalk with a small child or children, and I'm often thinking that in 5 years or so when they're riding bikes, I'd rather them not ride on the road. I know riding in the sidewalk is usually illegal -- I just think those laws are bad laws.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:51 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I think the exact law (in New York City, other municipalities will vary) is that children 12 and under can ride on the sidewalk.

Chinese food delivery guys and manic pixie dream boys on fixies, not so much.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:57 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


I rode on the sidewalk when I was a kid, too, when I was on anything other than slow-moving, high-visibility side streets. I was taught to stop and look at every single place where auto traffic could potentially come anywhere near me, and that's pretty much what you have to do when you're riding a bicycle on a sidewalk at any age.

A lot of people in the US live in places where there are few pedestrians, so the danger-to-pedestrians and illegality arguments for avoiding bicycling sidewalks don't apply (sidewalk biking's frequently only illegal in city centers, where pedestrians are more common, and there are usually exceptions for kids on kids' bikes.) The dangers to people on bikes always apply, though, whether there are pedestrians around or not, and whatever local ordinances apply.

It may help a little to bike on the sidewalk in the same direction as traffic. That gives motorists a bit more time to maybe see you (but not the same way they see things that matter to them when driving. This would be the same way we see billboards and stuff while driving, as a point of interest.)

Also, be aware that you can encounter random things like rutted patches of dried mud that will grab your wheel and send you flying into the fence to your right if you're lucky and traffic to your left if you're not. (That's what happened last time I tried a no-driveways stretch of sidewalk to avoid a nasty stretch of road. No auto involvement on that one, but I got some excellent road rash all the same.) That example's sort of overly-specific, but it's important to remember that sidewalks aren't maintained the same way roads are (they may be better or worse, but unpredictably different is generally bad all by itself.)
posted by asperity at 5:07 PM on June 23


The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of a two-way separated bike lane in the middle of the street. It would solve so many problems.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:07 PM on June 23


Autos are not privileged above all other forms of transportation.

Actually, yes they are. The road system is built with lanes that correspond to the width of cars and trucks, not bicycles. The road system was specifically built to withstand the weight and traffic of autos, not bicycles. And most of all, they are privileged by physics, they have one thing lesser modes of transportation generally do not: force. As in Force equals Mass times Acceleration. In a collision, whoever has the most force wins. Unfortunately this also applies to bicyclists vs. pedestrians.

In my town, at the most dangerous, busy intersection, they built a pedestrian/bicycle bridge crossing East/West and at the base, an underground tunnel crossing the other street North/South. By City ordinance, it is illegal to ride a bicycle on this road. You must use the bike path set back from the road, and the bridge and approach sidewalks are wide enough for pedestrians and bikes to share.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:08 PM on June 23


Autos are not privileged above all other forms of transportation.

Actually, yes they are.


Actually, in my town, they are not. Our town has adopted a Complete Streets policy that explicitly (.pdf) levels the playing field so that all users of the streets will be taken into account.
posted by ambrosia at 7:24 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


The US city I most recently lived in (Seattle) has also adopted such a policy.
posted by gingerest at 8:40 PM on June 23


The US city I most recently lived in (Seattle) has also adopted such a policy.

I've never been to Menlo Park, but I was driving in Seattle just a few days ago and cars were very much privileged, just like anywhere in the US. Hopefully those resolutions will drive good planning and regulatory decisions going forward, but the practical reality at the moment is otherwise.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:55 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: In a collision, whoever has the most force wins. Unfortunately this also applies to bicyclists vs. pedestrians.

Sort of, but it's not really the same as with vehicles. A bicyclist that hits a pedestrian at high speeds is in for a nasty, violent crash and is about as likely to be injured as the pedestrian. Not exactly like a bike vs. a car, where the car driver is probably going to be fine.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:38 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


"The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of a two-way separated bike lane in the middle of the street. It would solve so many problems."

Meh. Pennsylvania Ave, the one and the same Pennsylvania Ave that President Obama lives on, does this and it is alright but with plenty of its own problems. U-turns from drivers are a big danger. Waiting at the light feels really unprotected. Getting on and off the bike lane is a pain. It is not nearly as easygoing and inviting to noobs as the protected bike lane on 15th in DC. But Penn Ave is better than the gawdawful merge-every-block/interrupted for hotel loading zone/inexplicable twists and turns/FedEx parking lane of the new over-engineered bike lanes on M and L.
posted by Skwirl at 10:37 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Plus, ain't no plastic bollards or zebra humps going to protect you from a run-away drunk. One thing that I like about having the parking lane as a barrier to a segregated bike lane is that there's some actual metal between me and the drunks.
posted by Skwirl at 10:43 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


I do like the idea of the two-way bike lane in the middle, but I think it would work better on a street that's narrower than Pennsylvania Ave, where there's only one additional general-purpose traffic lane in each direction instead of two.

I think it would work particularly well on Valencia St in San Francisco-- a major bike corridor, but which has significant problems with double-parking in the bike lane.
posted by alexei at 10:59 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Dip Flash: "I've never been to Menlo Park, but I was driving in Seattle just a few days ago and cars were very much privileged, just like anywhere in the US. Hopefully those resolutions will drive good planning and regulatory decisions going forward, but the practical reality at the moment is otherwise."

In my original comment, I really was simply trying to say that - despite America's stupid, suicidal love affair with cars - the roads are supposed to be for everyone, since we all pay for them and we all need them (and I am including cargo trucks in my "we", not just vehicles intended for personal transportation). We all have a right to the road. This is what Seattle is trying to recognize, with its Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, the transit program, and the Complete Streets policy. Cars are certainly privileged in the sense that it's possible and even likely that in any big city in the US your life and health are at risk from them if you are in any shared public space. But the purpose of an intersection isn't just about drivers of private automobiles, and many people recognize that.
posted by gingerest at 11:44 PM on June 23


The thing is that when a multiple-use thoroughfare works, it can be a totally blissful experience. I've said it before, but one of my favorite urban biking experiences is taking the Williamsburg bridge - bikes, cars, pedestrians, and the freaking J/M/Z, all mutually visible but grade-separated and co-existing peacefully.

This is where I find myself parting ways with some of the hard-line vehicular cyclists, incidentally. I still do what I have to in order to be visible and predictable in traffic, of course. But the older I get and the more dumb near misses I experience and see, the more I like the idea of more physical barriers between bikes and cars [and peds, and rail], especially if they're done as cleverly as they are here. Vigilance alone can't protect vulnerable people from drunk/tired/distracted drivers nearly as well as concrete, steel, and distance.

(Plus, you know, as beerbajay outlined above, I don't want cycling in the USA to be limited to just the uber-fit and uber-risk-tolerant. I don't want to have to do an alleycat just to pick up a prescription. I want people like my parents to be able to get around by bike safely. More Copenhagen, less old-school Los Angeles.)
posted by en forme de poire at 11:33 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


(More of a tangent but I wonder if part of the love affair with city driving has to do with having "private" space in an environment that strongly curtails it through the cost of rent, population density, etc.)
posted by en forme de poire at 11:41 AM on June 24


They implemented separated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver, BC and I can testify that they are glorious.

The implementation was such:
- choose one north/South and one east/West one way street for conversion (Hornby and Dunsmuir respectively).
- close one curb lane to car/truck traffic by erecting a concrete separator between cars and bikes
- no parking on side of street with bike lane
- paint the bike Lane as two-way
- provide custom bike signals in both directions (traffic lights are in one direction only and supplement the bicycle signal).
- prohibit right turn on red for cars. Special right turn signal for cars is provided. Cars may turn right only when bikes are stopped.

Now this system is not perfect, the signage and turn protection to/from these routes could be improved. That said, I live 4 km from downtown core and this is without question the fastest way to travel.

I rent a stupidly expensive place in Vancouver and I am convinced that my TCO, once transport is factored in, is lower than for my home owner friends in the suburbs. It is precisely these kinds of facilities that lower my TCO.

until Americans get rid of the tax breaks for home ownership and renting in the city becomes a real option for people, this situation is unlikely to change in the US. if you have to own a car anyway, you'll want to drive it.

Also, Vancouver has piss poor highway infrastructure, limited snow and ice, limited streetcar track, and a famously outdoorsy culture so they can get away with this. Not many cities can say the same.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:08 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


But Penn Ave is better than the gawdawful merge-every-block/interrupted for hotel loading zone/inexplicable twists and turns/FedEx parking lane of the new over-engineered bike lanes on M and L.

I ended up on the hood of a U-turning car once while biking on Penn Ave, and I still think it's better respected than the L & M St lanes (a.k.a. the express lane for narcissist-motorists).

What still baffles me is getting honked at by someone who wants to drive past me in the standard bike lanes... is the solid white line really that invisible?
posted by psoas at 12:45 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Getting US cyclists to not run red lights will also be difficult.

Especially since in several states it's perfectly legal, so long as the cyclist yields to traffic in the intersection or close enough to present a danger. Laws allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs are even more common.
posted by wierdo at 4:00 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


> Good lord, that's brilliant. I don't know why US cities keep pretending it's impossible to do these things.

One of the recurring responses, especially in New York, to attempts to add bike infrastructure, is "This isn't Amsterdam." American cities are apparently somehow special, in some nebulous way, compared to cities in other countries.

> in several states it's perfectly legal [for cyclists to run red lights], so long as the cyclist yields to traffic in the intersection or close enough to present a danger

There may be a handful of cities where the law is something like this, but only one state, Idaho, has such a law, 49-720—and that law still requires cyclists to stop before entering an intersection with a red light.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 8:21 AM on June 25


« Older Garbage Everywhere   |   "A pantry full of ingredients" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post