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Peddling toward Utopia
November 5, 2007 10:49 AM   Subscribe

“Our intentions are to be as sustainable a city as possible,” said Mr. Adams, Portland's city commissioner in charge of transportation. “That means socially, that means environmentally and that means economically. The bike is great on all three of those factors. You just can’t get a better transportation return on your investment than you get with promoting bicycling.” Many city planners agree that bikes make sense, but after two riders recently lost their lives in Portland one must wonder, is there a better way?
posted by Toekneesan (69 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes, bikes are too dangerous! People should use a safe form of transportation, like cars. Cars never killed anybody.
posted by mullingitover at 10:55 AM on November 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


If city government want more people to ride bikes, they need to offer more legal protection to cyclists. They should not be the legal equivalent of any other vehicle. It makes no sense at all that a person on a bicycle should have the same legal status of a 6,400 pound H2.

For one thing, you are just not going to kill someone on a bike. I mean it might be possible if you're going really fast and you hit an elderly person or a child, but in a car you can kill someone very easily driving at normal or even slow speeds. The truck was barely even moving.

In particular, I think cyclists should be able to ride on sidewalks if they feel like it. It's much better for a cyclist to hit a pedestrian then for a car to hit a cyclist.
posted by delmoi at 10:55 AM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


posted by delmoi cyclists should be able to ride on sidewalks if they feel like it. It's much better for a cyclist to hit a pedestrian then for a car to hit a cyclist.

Fascinating logic, there.
posted by fandango_matt at 11:04 AM on November 5, 2007


In my experience, the behavior of drivers around cyclists is very similar to the way cyclists behave around pedestrians.
posted by wabashbdw at 11:07 AM on November 5, 2007 [10 favorites]


Has Portland had any hospital patients die? DOCTOR'S ARE KILLNG OUR CHILDRENS
posted by DU at 11:07 AM on November 5, 2007


as a new york city biker, commuter, bikes being allowed on the sidewalk just isn't sound policy - neither from a public spaces perspective, nor from a movement-building perspective.

we need to take space that is dedicated to the automobile, and turn it to better use - physically seperated bike lanes, green spaces, et cetera.

encouraging people to bike on the sidewalk, at least in new york city, will lead to pro-auto voices crying to keep bikes off the street, and normal pedestrians being pissed at bikers (even more!).

not the way to go - at least, not here. not at all.
posted by entropone at 11:09 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


"cyclists should be able to ride on sidewalks if they feel like it. It's much better for a cyclist to hit a pedestrian then for a car to hit a cyclist."

Riding a bike against traffic on the sidewalk is the method of travel that is most likely to get you hit by a car. Riding a bike on the sidewalk with traffic was also more likely to get the bicyclist hit by a car when compared to riding with traffic on the street.

(There was a link on the blue a few months ago to the statistical breakdown of bicycling accidents in Europe that as full of fun facts like this, but I can't find it at the moment.)
posted by 517 at 11:10 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Riding a bike against traffic on the sidewalk is the method of travel that is most likely to get you hit by a car. Riding a bike on the sidewalk with traffic was also more likely to get the bicyclist hit by a car when compared to riding with traffic on the street.

I guess crossing the street? I was actually hit by a car while riding my bike once. I was riding on the bike path (which is also used by pedestrians) which was to the left of the main road, so I would have been going "against traffic" When I came to the intersection, I plowed right through since I had a green light, and a driver tried to make a right on red right into me. Not too much fun.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 AM on November 5, 2007


In Beijing the cyclists are physically separated from the traffic via fences and guardrails. For five bucks you can get your cabbie expedite progress through all consuming traffic jams via bike lanes.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:19 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the footpath is far more dangerous. Dogs on leads, darting little kids, confused old people, and many other hazards. You can't be safe around them and achieve any kind of reasonable commuting speed. I always ride on the road where there's a choice.

That truck accident is a classic dangerous situation. For some reason, motorists often underestimate how fast bike are moving. If you challenge one after they cut you off they are typically aghast.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:22 AM on November 5, 2007


Here in Santa Barbara, we have miles and miles of physically separated bike lanes (well, it's a patchwork of independent bike lanes with no streets nearby, lanes separated from the streets, and simply designated bike lanes) that run all over the city. Cycling here is actually a viable transportation alternative, and you see people running errands, commuting to work, and going to the beach on bicycle, and plenty of tourists seeing the sights on rented bikes. Cycling is part of the culture of the city and it's surely created a feedback loop that encourages other people to join in. The city has helped out quite a bit by building and maintaining the bike paths, but they've also put bike racks on the local buses, have bike parking lots downtown for commuters, and give out free bike maps. I think it works pretty well and is definitely an example of how a city can be bike-friendly. A benefit of having such a huge cycling population is that the drivers here are more or less used to it and most will share the road quite courteously. Hopefully we'll see more cities push for better cycling policies and infrastructure.
posted by SBMike at 11:26 AM on November 5, 2007


Safe or not, it's entirely legal to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk anywhere in Portland, except for a small area of Downtown (see 16.70.320.E) . And even that's contestable.
posted by mumkin at 11:26 AM on November 5, 2007


Yes, bikes are too dangerous! People should use a safe form of transportation, like cars. Cars never killed anybody.

I agree with the sarcastic sentiment, but did you actually click on the "better way" link at all? It's an eight-and-a-half-minute video about why New York City should go one step further in its bike lane campaign and start building lanes with physical separation from car traffic. It had nothing to do with reducing or abolishing bike use.

About sidewalks: in major metropolitan areas like NYC (but certainly not just NYC), it'd be impossible to bike on the sidewalk unless you installed giant people-shoving plows on the front of everyone's bike. Asking bikes to share space with pedestrians makes far less sense than asking cars to share space with bikes; anyone who thinks riding on the sidewalk is a viable alternative probably lives and works in areas where pedestrians are rare.

About separated bike lanes: sounds like a great idea if you could convince city councils to go for them, as the amount of road space they swallow up will inevitably have motorists and narrow-minded BIAs up in arms. But I don't know if they solve the specific problem of cyclists being crushed by trucks making right-hand turns, except possibly by taking bikes out of the blind spot of right-turning vehicles.
posted by chrominance at 11:28 AM on November 5, 2007


The thing that makes cycling work in Portland is conscientious city planning. For the most part, I pity the fool who lives in a poorly-planned, sprawling citie and has a 20+ mile commute. Cycling isn't a viable commuting option at that point.
posted by mullingitover at 11:28 AM on November 5, 2007


It's funny, because the example of the bike lanes in Montreal that they show briefly in the movie (last link) absolulety SUCKS!. It's extremely dangerous because a) some of the riders are forced to go against traffic b) cars and bicycles are basically "hidden" from each other (because of the parked cars), which raises enormously the chances of collision at intersections. In some instances, a driver making a left turn has to take into account two lanes of incoming traffic (car and bike), plus one lane of bicycle on his left going in the same direction.

I've ridden in many different cities (Montreal, Boston, Paris, Berlin) and invariably I found that "separate" bikes lane were extremely dangerous because of this problem of being "hidden" from traffic. I had to have farily good reflexes to avoid being skewered by cars turning into parking entryways or interesection, situations which probably not have happened I had been visible on a bicycle lane left of the parked cars.
posted by bluefrog at 11:31 AM on November 5, 2007


Keith Talent writes "In Beijing the cyclists are physically separated from the traffic via fences and guardrails. For five bucks you can get your cabbie expedite progress through all consuming traffic jams via bike lanes."

Are you talking about some other Beijing than the one in China? Because I was there for a week and never saw the cyclists separated from traffic by anything. It was surprisingly like Burning Man with people on jenky bikes running amok pretty much anywhere they pleased.
posted by mullingitover at 11:39 AM on November 5, 2007


That as pretty much exactly it delmoi.
posted by 517 at 11:41 AM on November 5, 2007


Hmmmm low start up cost, no cash spent on gas, loose weight, build muscle, enjoy nature?!?!? Sounds like we might have a winner here. Now all we need to do is get people to give up their SUVs....
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:54 AM on November 5, 2007


Are you talking about some other Beijing than the one in China? Because I was there for a week and never saw the cyclists separated from traffic by anything...
posted by mullingitover


Really? I specifically recall bike lanes around the area by the old Friendship store/Silk market, and in the embassy area of town. But Beijing is so huge it is unsurprising that two people can have totally different perception. Hell, if I went back I suspect I'd recognize nothing but Tianamen and the Forbidden City.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:58 AM on November 5, 2007


Now all we need to do is get people to give up their SUVs....

Just give them nowhere to park -- convert all of the on-street parking in the city into trees and bike lanes, and allow no more construction of parking garages. Control parking and you control traffic.
posted by pracowity at 12:22 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and they don't mention it in the NY Times article, but Sam Adams, the Transportation Commissioner quoted, is running for mayor as the odds-on favorite. Portland doesn't have a strong mayor system—in terms of direct influence on bike-matters, Sam probably has more mojo in his current position—but the mayor's office is definitely a bully pulpit. Not that Portland needs any more bike publicity, really, but Sam's a strong advocate for cycling, so the trend of ever-increasing ridership (it's doubled since 2001) and a growing bike economy is unlikely to falter in his administration. Time for some lunch.
posted by mumkin at 12:23 PM on November 5, 2007


In Beijing the cyclists are physically separated from the traffic via fences and guardrails. For five bucks you can get your cabbie expedite progress through all consuming traffic jams via bike lanes.

In my experience, cabbies will do this for free, whether requested or not. If they're really impatient, they'll lay on the horn while doing so, scattering cyclists left and right.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:26 PM on November 5, 2007


I got screwed out of a fiver?
posted by Keith Talent at 12:28 PM on November 5, 2007


Disclaimer: my opinions are only about cycling in the US and maybe Canada; I don't know traffic patterns elsewhere well enough to comment.

Physically separated bike lanes suck. There are two main reasons: the first is that they become "recreational trails" full of small children, dogs, jugglers on tricycles, ... -- no place for a vehicle travelling at 25 mph regardless of how light and insignificant they (bicycles) look. The second is that to be useful bike paths need to cross regular streets, and often -- and this invariably means a stop sign on the bike path and nothing on the street that might delay the all-important autos.

Bicycles do not belong on the sidewalk. Bicycles are first class citizens on the road. Bicyclists fare best on regular streets travelling as regular traffic: all that's needed is a wide curb lane. (I'm opposed to bike lanes also because that line of paint means cars never drive there which means all the street debris collects in the bike lane.)

Every cyclist that plans to ride on the street needs to read and study Forester's Effective Cycling.

Perfect safety is an illusion and knee-jerk laws after an accident are the worst. If you travel on vehicles you have to realise there is a risk of serious injury and death, and that's true for bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, ... What we need is better driver/rider training and enforcement of the laws we already have.
posted by phliar at 12:34 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The thing is that bicycles should never be in the blind spot of right turning vehicles in the first place. It's one of the most dangerous things you can do as a cyclist.

Shortly after I first started cycling in traffic, I got clipped by a car at an intersection. We were stopped at a red light, me to his right. The light turned green, we both went forward, but he turned right (no signal) and I crashed into him. It was low speed and I was uninjured. I felt indignation for a while - I, a cyclist, was just hit by a car!! - but after doing some reading I decided I was in the wrong. The correct place for me to position myself was either directly in front of or behind that car, right in the middle of the lane. This way I am safe and visible no matter what the cars do - there is no chance I will be cut off. And I won't slow anyone down, either; once clear of the intersection I can move over again.

Read this article and tell me if it makes any sense to have a bike lane that points straight through the intersection to the RIGHT of a car lane that could make a right turn. Regardless of what vehicle you're driving, would you like to be driving in a through lane to the left of a left-turn lane? this baffles me completely - cycling advocates saying that vehicles should not merge into the bike lane prior to a right turn, but instead 'must' yield to bikes before turning? If I was a cyclist in Oregon and cars could turn right through my bike lane, I would merge into the middle of the road before every intersection so I'm riding with the cars.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:37 PM on November 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


phliar - i partly agree with you, but on the flip side, i don't think that physically seperated bike lanes are built for the types of riders who are hitting 25+ mph speeds. they are build for the protection of slower, more casual cyclists, who still make up a very large percentage of ridership (speaking from my experience in nyc), yet are intimidated by the traffic.

and it is the traffic that is intimidating. this is manhattan. it is absolutely out of control.

any real public space management strategy needs a plan to get cars off the roads. cough, congestion pricing, cough.
posted by entropone at 12:43 PM on November 5, 2007


Bike lanes on streets aren't enough. Bikes need their own grid, similar to what is found in parts of the Netherlands. Not cheap, but as we are moving toward an energy-poor world, there aren't many other choices (beyond bikes taking over the streets in 15-20 years when cars are sitting idle due to gas being $20 a gallon).
posted by MillMan at 12:46 PM on November 5, 2007


Having been the victim of similar accidents (although happily no serious injuries in my case) this really pisses me off. The story about the accident follows the usual pattern:
Police said both motor vehicles had passed the cyclist at the top of the hill. As the garbage truck approached the green light at North Greeley Avenue, it slowed down and started to take a sharp right turn. The cyclist, who had gained speed from the descent, was headed straight when the truck turned.
This is followed as usual by "She was in his blind spot" as though that absolves the dump-truck driver of all blame. The fact is the driver had just passed the cyclist coming up to the light. Did that driver expect the cyclist to have suddenly vanished into thin air? The dolt just wasn't paying attention. It's reckless endangerment at the least.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: a bike lane would not have avoided the accident. The right thing for the truck driver to have done would have been to move right in the lane before turning; this would have prevented the cyclist from coming up on the right, and she would have had to go to the truck's left. If there had been the painted line of a bike lane, the truck would not move over completely and the cyclist would still have gone to his right.

Incidentally peddling is to sell something; pedalling is the word you're looking for.
posted by phliar at 12:51 PM on November 5, 2007


I never heard of this... oh, that Portland.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:57 PM on November 5, 2007


posted by phliar The dolt just wasn't paying attention. It's reckless endangerment at the least.

The cyclist wasn't paying attention, either. The garbage truck driver signalled and then turned. Just because you're on a bicycle doesn't mean you can expect everyone to be aware of you at all times--it's your job to be aware of them and anticipate their movements, too.

posted by phliar The right thing for the truck driver to have done would have been to move right in the lane before turning; this would have prevented the cyclist from coming up on the right, and she would have had to go to the truck's left.

Except that's not the law in Oregon. Vehicles are supposed to signal and then turn across the bike lane. The garbage truck driver was obeying the law.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:57 PM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


The car problem will solve itself when the oil runs out, I think.

That's going to be an interesting time.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:58 PM on November 5, 2007


PercussivePaul has it. Always assume you are invisible to the right of any vehicle and make sure you aren't to the right of anyone as you go through the intersection. Never pull up to the right of anyone at an intersection, or let them pull up to your left for that matter. This goes triple for trucks, as they can run right over the sidewalk (crushing you while you wait for them to turn) while rounding corners.

philiar: That's an interesting take, I read the description and thought to myself, "Why in heck was the cyclist passing on the right while going through an intersection?" To me, that's putting a lot of trust in the driving skills and awareness of someone that has relatively little to lose (health-wise) from hitting you...
posted by Hutch at 12:59 PM on November 5, 2007


Entropone: you don't have to be a racer (or elite cyclist) to hit 25 mph. If you ride a bike regularly for any length of time -- as in, for instance, you commute on your bike -- you will have absolutely no problem hitting 25 mph on any slight downhill or with a slight tailwind. In fact with no wind hitting 25 on a flat road is no problem. It's weekend cyclists who have trouble. (Unfortunately for cyclists all the legislators who make the silly laws are weekend cyclists. As one of the comments on Amazon says, "The safest way to bicycle on the road is not necessarily the one that educators, legislators, or law enforcement officers think it is."

Incidentally Manhattan is not so bad for riding -- because there are so many cars on the road their speed is quite low. The suburbs are the worst even though the roads tend to be wide and smooth -- car speeds are higher leaving much less reaction time for inattentive drivers.
posted by phliar at 1:00 PM on November 5, 2007


damn mondays. make that philar.
posted by Hutch at 1:06 PM on November 5, 2007


because there are so many cars on the road their speed is quite low

I think this applies in most big cities. Here in the bay area I have little issue biking the streets of SF (including the streets with no bike lanes), but down in the silicon valley cities, I'm unwilling to ride those big bike lanes when everyone is whizzing by at 60 mph in a mad zombie rush to get to work.
posted by MillMan at 1:09 PM on November 5, 2007


I was living in Izmir, Turkey for a year and some, and had a bizarre bicycle experience. I was taking a cab from point A to point B, and the cab driver was just flying along this two-lane road up the side of a mountain. A bicyclist was in our way, and the cabbie kinda brushed him and the cyclist went flying one direction...and his right leg went flying in another direction! I was horrified! The cyclist hopped over to his leg, picked it up, and raised it at the cab in anger and defiance -- a fake leg! Man, I was freaked the fark out for a minute there.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled comments. ;)
posted by jamstigator at 1:11 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


fandango_matt: I believe this proves my case that bike lanes do not make things safer for the cyclist. If Oregon law says autos must turn right across the bike lane (without moving into it), then it violates the basic tenet of road safety and predictability, that before turning right (or left) you must move into the extreme rightmost (leftmost) position on the road. Turning right from other than the rightmost travel lane is just asking for trouble.

I agree completely with you and Hutch that passing on the right through an intersection is really unsafe and the cyclist shouldn't have done it. However putting that bike lane stripe on the road indicates to cyclists that you must stay in there always no matter what. After all, an unbroken stripe in other positions on the road means no crossing ever. We see this in the unbroken yellow line of course; some jurisdictions change lane stripes approaching intersections, from dashed to solid -- indicating that no lane changes are permitted.

Let's get rid of bike lanes and do a better job of telling cyclists they must move into the traffic lane and pass right-turners on the left.
posted by phliar at 1:17 PM on November 5, 2007


I agree with fandango_matt. A defensive cyclist would have been lined up behind the truck or overtaking on the other side. I would never, never try to overtake on the kerb side of a vehicle. If you overtake, you do it just like a car, complete with checking behind to make sure you don't get in the way of traffic in the next lane over.

But the truck driver should have been aware too. A lot of accidents are because both parties slip up - if either one is on to it, they can deal with the other party. Placing all the blame on one party or the other is a fine game for lawyers but not really helpful for understanding how you avoid getting killed.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:20 PM on November 5, 2007


phliar, our comments overlapped: point taken.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:22 PM on November 5, 2007


Separated lanes are a terrible idea, but even curb side bike lanes are pretty useless.

The safest way to design a road for cyclists is to design curb lanes the correct width. Too wide, cars will try to create an extra lane. Too narrow, cyclists can't be passed or pass safely. If you get it just right, everything works beautifully.
In Toronto, ride along Danforth/Bloor from Warden to Bathurst and you will see it all. To the east, at Warden, the parking lane is too wide, and traffic tries to move in on you. Along "the Danforth", say Coxwell to Broadview, the parking lane is perfect, and if you stay to the left of the parking lane you have no door hassle at all. Even better, in much of that stretch there is a 3' wide median - not quite a turn lane - that gives cars a little room on their left when things get tight. From Spadina to Bathurst though, the lane marker isn't more than 18" out from the parked cars, and there is just no room for a cyclist at any reasonable speed.

You still get stopping and double parking in lanes that are a little wider than normal, but not nearly as much as you get in marked bike lanes.
posted by Chuckles at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2007


A defensive cyclist would have been lined up behind the truck or overtaking on the other side. I would never, never try to overtake on the kerb side of a vehicle. If you overtake, you do it just like a car, complete with checking behind to make sure you don't get in the way of traffic in the next lane over.

And then the car makes an illegal left turn just as you're overtaking it...

When your head hits his side window at 10-20 km/h you kind of realize that helmets are nice...
posted by uandt at 1:42 PM on November 5, 2007


"And then the car makes an illegal left turn just as you're overtaking it..."

I did say if you overtake. A lot of the time the smart thing will be to not overtake at all. But yeah, watch their mirrors, have an escape route, be ready to emergency stop.

Also, where I live, helmets are compulsory by law.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:50 PM on November 5, 2007


And then the car makes an illegal left turn just as you're overtaking it...
Well, you would only overtake on the left if the car is signaling right, making an illegal left pretty unlikely. Otherwise, same rules apply - don't overtake on side X if there is any chance the car might turn in direction X.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:51 PM on November 5, 2007


I've ridden in many different cities (Montreal, Boston, Paris, Berlin) and invariably I found that "separate" bikes lane were extremely dangerous because of this problem of being "hidden" from traffic.

I'm curious as to how you view the painted bike lanes in places like Chicago and Los Angeles, where there is no physical separation between cars and riders except for painted lines designating 1/3 (appx) of a normal auto lane to bicyclists.
posted by davejay at 1:59 PM on November 5, 2007


You guys have it all wrong. Separating traffic of all kinds is what got us into this mess. You need to get rid of all of the separations: Rip up the curbs, remove all lane markers, everything. Make the whole damn public space from storefront to storefront a general use area. Cars, bikes, people, hotdog carts, cafe tables, streetlights, shrubberies, busses and cabs, all in a big mess. It'll be chaotic, but it will be slow and safe.
posted by OldReliable at 2:00 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


It'll be chaotic, but it will be slow and safe.

And it'll keep the Hummer's in the garages.
posted by Bearman at 2:06 PM on November 5, 2007


I'll believe cyclists are serious about "sharing the road' and "safety" when I see them actually following the rules of traffic like they are supposed to. In my 15+ years of driving I have never, ever seen this. only reckless people flying through reds, doing dangerous L-turns in the middle of a crowded intersection and generally scaring the crap out of drivers. I dont know what the solution is, but putting bikes in the same lanes as cars is stupid.

It hurt someone close to me recently and killed a friend a few years back. I wish the loud-mouth smartass 'critical mass' crowd would be honest about the risks in reclaming the road from 'asshole drivers.' Long winded phliar-like rationalizations and criticisms of the system seriously fail to be convincing at a funeral.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:15 PM on November 5, 2007


I gave up my car back in 1999. I mostly rode public transit or biked anyway. I was t-boned by a red-light runner in 2005 with no serious injuries but a long struggle to get retribution for my totaled bicycle. (Just a brief FYI to state my perspective: bikes (or some similar human-powered invention) are the future of independent urban commuting.)

As tragic as this story seems (as almost all bike-car accidents are), I also must agree with PercussivePaul. It does seem like the bicyclist was at fault. Yes, ideally the truck driver would have waited patiently for the bike to catch up and pass before he turned right, but it seemed like he passed well before the intersection and signaled his turn. Yes, ideally he should have seen the biker in one of his mirrors and stopped immediately, but how fast was the biker moving down the hill? 25mph? Realize that we are much smaller than trucks. I don't like it either, but that is the situation.

So what's to be done? I agree with finding a solution to underpriced public parking, etc., but for the present, we all need to be safe out there and bike as defensively as possible. Also, PLEASE, always wear a helmet, even if it's just a five-block trip to the pharmacy. I was hit 3 blocks from home, flipped like a ragdoll, and I landed on my shoulders, head, and side. I cringe to think about what that would feel like without a helmet.

I also agree with OldReliable. When you add the risk of random pedestrians to streets, drivers are much safer. Unfortunately, our economy won't allow it. (You're killing American jobs!, etc.)

On preview, damn dirty ape is an ignorant asshole. Come ride with me sometime, jackass.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:16 PM on November 5, 2007


I've been fortunate to have never been in a car accident while biking yet (knocks on wood). My worst injury came when I was biking along trail that occasionally crossed a highway. I came up to fast on the rode and skidded sideways braking on the gravel. I felt so dumb.

Biking in the city (I bike to work as much as possible, usually at least 4 days a week even now), I always assume that people will do the most foolish thing they can at any given instance and bike accordingly (I drive my minivan the same way).
posted by drezdn at 2:22 PM on November 5, 2007


we need to take space that is dedicated to the automobile, and turn it to better use - physically seperated bike lanes, green spaces, et cetera.

Nicely said. Alas, urban planning needs to be complemented by a shift in consciousness (sorry for the new age rhetoric) on the part of drivers. When you're making a right-hand turn, you should look for and yield to cyclists just like you look for and yield to pedestrians crossing the street.

People argue that planning needs to compensate for stupidity and carelessness and that changing drivers' behavior is impossible, but it's not too much to ask that diver education include a unit on how to drive around bicyclists.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:22 PM on November 5, 2007


damn dirty ape, there are bad cyclists just like there are bad motorists. The debate gets tiresome when one side fails to treat the other with dignity.

I do think in fact that dangerous car-cyclist encounters are far more likely to be caused by the cyclist than they are by the motorist. I attribute this to the large disparity in driver vs cyclist education and enforcement, and also the lack of a recognized standard of what constitutes safe cycling; see for example the link I posted earlier about Portland cyclist activists, advocating behavior I would consider unsafe. Nevertheless, I am convinced from experience that the safest place for experienced cyclists (and the motorists around them) is on the road, with the cars, except on very high-speed roads or highways.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:25 PM on November 5, 2007


posted by foxy_hedgehog it's not too much to ask that driver education include a unit on how to drive around bicyclists.

No, driving around bicycles is what leads to bicyclists being hurt and killed. We don't need education on how to drive around bicycles, we need drivers to respect bicyclists and allow us equal use of the road instead of thinking they own it and are allowing bicyclists to occasionally use it.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:29 PM on November 5, 2007


I'll believe cyclists are serious about "sharing the road' and "safety" when I see them actually following the rules of traffic like they are supposed to.

So what are we cyclists who've been discussing this upthread? Frivolous timewasters, perhaps?

I think you might have a little confirmation bias going on. You don't notice cyclists behaving well. That doesn't mean they're not there, just that you aren't registering them until they scare the crap out of you.

Personally, I resent this notion that road use is a right for cars, but a privilege that cyclists have to earn through good behaviour. The road is filled with arsehole drivers who nonetheless get to enjoy it as a right. Why the cyclist hate?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:36 PM on November 5, 2007


posted by i_am_joe's_spleen Why the cyclist hate?

Convenience.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2007


Ignorance.
posted by item at 3:14 PM on November 5, 2007


Do they have mandatory contraception and a two-child-per-family plan?

Because if they don't, it's hardly 'sustainable' in the long term.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:56 PM on November 5, 2007


Sharing or crossing the roads is dangerous. That's why in Dysmerica the fatality rate per mile on a bike is several times higher than it is for even motorcycles. It is the most dangerous form of transportation per mile. In Minneapolis, they have converted some old railroad beds into bike trails that go under or over most of the city streets. I refuse to ride my bike on city streets, but I like these bike trails. They seem safe and I can get from point A to point B as quick or quicker than using the road with my car. If only there were a trail from my home to work, I could commute by bike.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:58 PM on November 5, 2007


fatality rate per mile on a bike is several times higher than it is for even motorcycles
Do you have a citation for that?
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:03 PM on November 5, 2007


damn dirty ape, why the snark? I may be long-winded, but I only write from personal experience. I'm now on my fifth decade on this planet, and I've owned a car/truck for only 6 of those years. I've been a bicycle commuter in three US states (Arizona, Idaho, and California): in cities (San Francisco), suburbs (Silicon Valley) and western small towns (Arizona and Idaho). I've never ridden in Critical Mass (nice strawman, by the way).

All the times that I've been hit by cars it's been by turning cars. I never pass on the right; when in doubt I move into traffic, taking the whole lane. The right turners who accelerate and turn right directly in front of me are a little easier to deal with (you turn right also -- you might crash but you probably won't go under the wheels). The guy who turned left in front of me put me in the hospital -- I was probably doing about 30, and I probably braked to 20 before impact which meant I hit the side of the car and lived, instead of going under the wheels. I was obeying all traffic laws (just like I always do); I was even in the goddamned bike lane.

You've never noticed cyclists obeying traffic laws because they don't cause your blood pressure to shoot up.

I'm also a motorcycle rider, and I've encountered motorist inattention just as much on the motorcycle as on the bicycle. What's next, separate motorcycle paths?

And I bet I've been to more cyclists' funerals and ICU visits.
posted by phliar at 5:04 PM on November 5, 2007


Incidentally Manhattan is not so bad for riding -- because there are so many cars on the road their speed is quite low. The suburbs are the worst even though the roads tend to be wide and smooth -- car speeds are higher leaving much less reaction time for inattentive drivers.

actually i found riding in Manhattan to be wonderful, no car would go too fast too quickly because of all the lights. And, during the day, so many of the cars were cabs, who drive very attentively, if aggressively.

I have read this thread about 50 times in my life. but this comment doesn't come up often enough:

If city government want more people to ride bikes, they need to offer more legal protection to cyclists. They should not be the legal equivalent of any other vehicle. It makes no sense at all that a person on a bicycle should have the same legal status of a 6,400 pound H2.
posted by eustatic at 5:30 PM on November 5, 2007


Been riding bikes/scoots in traffic
in Greater Manhattan, North Jersey, Dallas, Memphis, Miami etc. for sixty years.
Only one thing on a bike terrorizes me. People slinging open their driver door without a thought or look.
posted by notreally at 6:37 PM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bike lanes on streets aren't enough. Bikes need their own grid, similar to what is found in parts of the Netherlands.

Davis has a semi-seperate grid and it is great. Years of commuting by bike left me much preferring physically seperated lanes. It's way safer imho, especially in bad weather when the bike lanes on the street fill up with water.

Every single bike accident I've ever been in has been due to another cyclist breaking the rules and running into me, typically in a bike lane.
posted by fshgrl at 7:02 PM on November 5, 2007


I'll believe cyclists are serious about "sharing the road' and "safety" when I see them actually following the rules of traffic like they are supposed to.

I'll believe cagers are serious about "sharing the road" and "safety" when I see them actually paying enough attention to notice me on a bike or a motorcycle and give me the space I deserve while following the rules of traffic like they are supposed to.

In my 15+ years of driving I have never, ever seen this. Only reckless people flying through reds, doing dangerous L-turns in the middle of a crowded intersection and generally scaring the crap out of drivers.

In my 5+ years of biking I have never, ever seen this. only reckless drivers cutting me off, doing dangerous U-turns with no regard for pedestrians or bikers around them and generally scaring the crap out of bikers.

I dont know what the solution is, but putting bikes in the same lanes as cars is stupid.

I dont know what the solution is, but designing streets and cities for cars, then replacing cars with SUVs and giving them full priority on the road is stupid.

Goddamn hypocrite. The road belongs to me just as much as it belongs to you. I obey traffic rules, insofar as obeying them is the thing that won't get me killed. Be attentive to and considerate of everyone on the road and you'll see plenty of skilled, friendly bikers and drivers around you and spot the troublesome ones from far away. Be the asshole you make yourself out to be and you'll reap the reward. Want to make this less frustrating? Ask your government to stop designing streets that kill bicyclists.
posted by azazello at 7:06 PM on November 5, 2007


People slinging open their driver door without a thought or look.

I'd been in Chicago about a month or so when I first saw someone do that -- they just shoved the door wide open on the driver side without a care in the world, and leaned over to grab a bag or something.

...a cab took the door clean off, and kept driving. Didn't even slow down. Like it was just another pothole.

That's when I decided I wasn't going to be biking OR driving much.
posted by aramaic at 8:35 PM on November 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


In Denmark we have separate bike lanes anyplace it is at all feasible. The bike riders have right of way at intersections when crossing (though they still have to follow the traffic lights of course), so drivers are required to turn their heads and look before turning. In city cores, it is normal to have car parking between the road and the bike path, EXCEPT close to intersections, exactly so that bicyclists are visible to turning drivers. One of the reasons such a system works without a bunch of riders being run over is the drivers license exams, which place quite a bit of weight on the drivers responsibilties towards bicylists, and additionally some amount of public school education in the correct conduct when riding a bike. Generally, even though cyclists as 'weak' participants in traffic are favored with respect to rights, there is still a lot of emphasis on teaching school children to be aware and look when riding bikes.

I believe the interaction between drivers and bicyclists in Denmark is pretty close to the ideal, but it only works because there's a fairly high barrier to entry for driving licenses, relatively, and because historically, biking has been extensive. I don't think the system necessarily would work as well elsewhere.
posted by Catfry at 10:49 AM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish the loud-mouth smartass 'critical mass' crowd would be honest about the risks in reclaiming the road from 'asshole drivers.'

As someone who used to live in Washington Heights and got clipped (and cursed and spat at ) by bikers running red lights going up to the GW bridge, who used to see bikers nearly hit old ladies and young women wheeling strollers across the street, who used to see bikers lined up in a crosswalk waiting for traffic to let them run the light - forcing pedestrians to legally cross out into the street, let me tell you, my sympathy for bikers goes way out the window. I actually ran up and commended a biker for his good manners when he was waiting at a red light because it was so rare.

Have you ever walked a "shared" path in Riverside park on the Upper West Side? You take your life in your hands, bikers regularly ride two or three abreast and bully their way into the pedestrian part and let me tell you, they book!

Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but since there are a lot of walkers ranting about bikers in this thread, perhaps bikers ought to take stock, and take notice.

When you're making a right-hand turn, you should look for and yield to cyclists just like you look for and yield to pedestrians crossing the street.
If there isn't separated bike path (not a bike lane in the street) , you very much shouldn't. The biker should be behind you, just like a motorcyclist.

I have read this thread about 50 times in my life. but this comment doesn't come up often enough:

If city government want more people to ride bikes, they need to offer more legal protection to cyclists. They should not be the legal equivalent of any other vehicle. It makes no sense at all that a person on a bicycle should have the same legal status of a 6,400 pound H2.


I couldn't disagree with you more. That is an absolutely terrible idea! You could use that logic and say a motorcycle isn't the same as another vehicle since it is two wheels and not nearly as big as a Hummer. As long as you are in the street, you need to pay attention to the laws of the street. Thus while endorsing the strongest measures against motorists who disrespect bikes, bikers who run red lights, ride the wrong way down the street, or stop in the middle of a crosswalk or other things should be issued moving violations just as if they were drivers in a car - including getting points on their license. Since most biker shave drivers' licenses, then their *car* insurance would go up. Tough luck. That would encourage safe driving and safe biking.

To make bikers, drivers, and pedestrians safer cities should.

1) Vigorously enforce traffic laws for BOTH drivers and bikers, including points on a bikers drivers license when biker violates those laws.

2) very wide bike lanes, perhaps a visual signal in the bike lane before an intersection (sort of like a turning lane) to remind biker that cars turning right will merge in.

3) Congestion pricing

4) Perhaps bike only and pedestrian only streets.
posted by xetere at 1:24 PM on November 6, 2007


xetere, you might find it interesting to hear Vancouver BC's bike infrastructure. Cyclists do tend to run stop signs and red lights, and I will say without shame that I do this occasionally, but only when I know there is no cross traffic and I am not in danger of startling any cars around me. The reasons are obvious: coming to a full stop and restart consumes a lot of energy. It takes much longer to clear an intersection when starting from stopped than it does coasting through.

Obviously this doesn't work if you're biking on busy city streets. You can't expect cars to respect you if you break all the rules right in front of them and behave unpredictably. But at the same time, for biking to be a realistic transportation alternative, it should be possible to get across town in a reasonable amount of time without getting drenched in sweat, and frequent stops make that difficult.

Vancouver has a number of streets which are designated bikeways. They are ordinary roads which cars are free to travel on, but they have a few unique features:
1. they usually run parallel to major arteries, but a block or two away
2. they often have traffic calming in place (common throughout vancouver), such as prohibiting car entry from busy roads by placing a barrier, but leaving room for bikes to get through
3. the street signs have little bike icons to warn motorists that they're on a bikeway
4. they always provide a traffic light at busy intersections, with a pedestrian-style push-button which faces the street, so a cyclist can ride up and push it. In fact, many intersections are designed not as full traffic lights, but as stop signs one way and greed/red lights the other. Busy traffic gets the light, small streets get the stop sign. When there's no traffic coming, the small street is free to cross; but sooner or later a red light is guaranteed.
5. at minor intersections, they use small roundabouts where possible, so a cyclist can safely burn through without slowing down
6. if a roundabout doesn't work, they use a four-way stop where possible, which allows a cyclist to slow down but safely burn through if there is no cross-traffic coming

I like the bikeway system a lot. It provides a route with a relatively small amount of car traffic but elegantly handles the inevitable problem with any bike route - crossing busy streets.

In addition, bike lanes on various roads are usually set up so that bikes sit between lanes at intersections, so right turning cars are to their right (not left, thank God).
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:28 PM on November 6, 2007


fatality rate per mile on a bike is several times higher than it is for even motorcycles
Do you have a citation for that?

My bad. I need to learn to divide by 10, I guess.

Pedal cycles are ~3 times more risky to life per mile than cars (look 3/5 down the page, 1997 data), but ~1/7 the risk of motorcycle death per mile (look at p. 10, line for 1997).

So...I don't ride motorcycles either.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:51 PM on November 7, 2007


He Percussive Paul, I fully support any measure like that, but my beef is as a pedestrian

I do feel that since most North Americans come from places with a car culture, when they bike they are as forgetful, neglectful, and sometimes as disdainful of pedestrians as car owners. Indeed, and I mean no disrespect, your reply below illustrates that (I know probably unintentionally)

and I will say without shame that I do this occasionally, but only when I know there is no cross traffic and I am not in danger of startling any cars around me. The reasons are obvious: coming to a full stop and restart consumes a lot of energy. It takes much longer to clear an intersection when starting from stopped than it does coasting through.

What about the pedestrian waiting to cross the light or who crosses the light and doesn't expect a bike (as he or she wouldn't expect a car) to run the light? Problem is a ped can often see a red light running car or truck they're bigger, but a parked car on the corner can make an illegal light-running biker (like you) invisible to me when I am legally crossing the street. Peds are not expecting vehicles to run lights, and can't see bikers out of the corner of their eyes. Peds are also not expecting to have vehicles coming the wrong way down a one-way street so often don't look both ways, only to get clobbered by a biker riding the wrong way down a street. I note that in your reply, you never once mentioned pedestrians. As if they weren't even part of the picture.

This is in fact the big problem with bikers and pedestrians in New York, many bikers are young and not native New Yorkers, they(rightfully) want to get away from the pervasive mallrat car culture, so they bike. Good on them!! What they don't realize is that New York is almost unique in NA (Perhaps Boston, Toronto, Montreal, or SF) in having a very lively pedestrian culture, where walking to work or at least a subway and then a walk is a norm. New Yorkers walk more than any other North Americans. Since that wasn't the norm back home in the 'burbs, they are unprepared for pedestrians sharing the road with bikers, as unprepared as drivers are for sharing the road with bikers.

And contrary to many bikers' perceptions, peds do get hurt. A work colleague was hit by a biker when she was (legally) crossing the street and biker was going the wrong way down the street, got knocked down, broke her wrist, had a concussion and was out of work for two weeks. Biker got up cursed at her and sped away before anyone could stop him.

i guess we all, all three corners of the transit triangle need to respect each other.
posted by xetere at 4:50 PM on November 7, 2007


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