Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dedicated to Hurting Cyclists

We still have a long way to go, folks.  

It's disturbing that this page exists in the first place, but it's more disturbing that more than 20,000 people have become fans.  Take a second and report the page to the Facebook authorities. 

This, for me, reinforces the need for good bicycle infrastructure.  When space is designated for bicycles in the roadway, both bikes and cars are encouraged to stay in their place--which means it's less fashionable to tell them to get on the sidewalk or on a shared-use path.  And as the bike lanes pile up, drivers become increasingly aware of both the need to drive safely around bicycles and the strategies required to maintain road safety.  Still, an increase in bicycle facilities doesn't necessarily mean motorists become more tolerant...In Amsterdam, there were heaps of drivers publicly hating on the bicycle riders.   

Another thing also becomes a bit more clear when bicycle infrastructure is created: who is at fault in bike/car collisions.  Unless of course you're riding through an intersection in Portland which doesn't have a dashed line that signifies the continuation of a bike lane.

Keep those wheels turning...and don't forget to shake them haters off. 


  1. I've almost finished reading "The Cyclist's Manifesto" by Robert Hurst. Instead of advocating for separate bike lanes he inclines towards sharrows. His reasoning that while some paint on the side of the road makes everyone feel good there are still dangers involved, like Portland, makes sense, epecially when we think of the bicycle as More than the car; we can go more places and do more things via the bicycle so we shouldn't be subjected to the same laws or even a separate but equal designation as traffic. I'll post something on my blog when I finish reading it.

  2. Did you read the discussion board on that fan page. It is quite interesting.

  3. Anthony, I still don't think you're making your argument. I guess I don't see the logical progression between: make bike lanes -> drivers become aware of cyclists -> drivers recognize need to drive safely. Doesn't the segregation of cyclists from abundant infrastructure just allow motorists to ignore them and become even more angry when they are not in their place? I'm with you in support of more cycle infrastructure, but I'm not sure this line of reasoning is solid or very convincing in the long term.

  4. Gawd, sorry to strait up hate right there. I didn't mean for that to sound so combative. Yikes.

    Anyway, Mia's right, the comments are interesting. I would venture that a strong proportion of the 20,000 "fans" just joined the group to voice a contrary opinion in the comments.

    Peace, bro. Glad you're back at your computer.

  5. Infrastructure will not cure stupidity, especially not on the Internets.

  6. Bicycle infrastrucure is not a cure-all, and it is no substitute for driver education. Let's be clear about that.

    But think for a second about bike lanes located inside of parked cars. There is a lot of debate about whether these work well or not. On the upside, cyclists have increased perceived safety because they aren't passed by speeding cars: they're protected by the parked cars. The downside is that right turning cars (or in the case of OZ and UK, left turning cars) often don't see the cyclists because they've been traveling behind parked cars.

    Yet in Copenhagen, motorists always stop to make sure that no bicycles are traveling in the bike track before taking a right hand turn. They come to a complete stop before turning, look, yield, and the turn. The reason they do this, in my opinion, is because they have been trained to look. Not just through formal driver education, but also because they practice this method almost every time they take a right turn. And they practice it often because almost every major street in Copenhagen has placed bicycles in protected lanes.

    My point is this: infrastructure *can* serve as an educational tool, but it is not *the* educational tool.

    Not to mention if I come up with brilliant and perfectly reasoned arguments every time I made a post then none of you knuckleheads would comment on the blog. Then I would suffer from intellectual isolation, and that would be tragic for all of us (most especially me).

    So Josh, that's why it's especially important to bust my chops. It builds character. :)

  7. 4,000 lb barriers do seem nice but we'd have to tear up a lot of street in America to make that a reality.

  8. Hey Cort--

    Not true. Check out the Swanston St. Copenhagen style lanes here in Melbourne:

    No concrete was torn up here, there are no 4,000 lb barriers, and the perceived safety factor is as good in these lanes as the raised bike tracks in Copenhagen.

    New York did some similar work on Ninth Ave:

    It doesn't take 4000 lb barriers...It just takes some well-executed advocacy aimed at creating the vision for why such infrastructure is important and harnessing the political will to make it happen.

  9. The 4,000 lb barriers are the cars. Making the Swanston St. lanes a reality in Memphis, for instance Cooper, would mean eliminating one lane and adding a median, which means money. More money than painting a bicycle and some chevrons. And how fast do people ride on Swanston St., because I know that you sometimes like to haul.

  10. Ah. Clarification duly noted.

    Your right Cort...I do like to ride fast, and fast riders typically don't like the Swanston St. lanes. But novice riders really appreciate them, and I think our bike policy should be aimed at increasing the number of miles traveled amongst novice riders and children.

    And as for the money thing, bicycle tracks have been proven to earn money for municipalities. While they are, of course, a small investment on the front end (compare the cost of one mile of bike lanes with the cost of one mile of car lane), in the long run they (literally) save money in public health costs and long-term road maintenance (cars are devastating on roads, bikes are low impact). Plus, bike tracks can generate money for municipalities as bike lanes and bike paths tend to increase the property values wherever they are located (see the article on my facebook page about bikes helping local businesses).

    And to put it into perspective, few people complain when a federal highway bill continues to dump billions into the the unsustainable development of new roads out of cities and into suburbs. Not only is this wildly expensive on the front end, it leads to increased costs for both motorists and municipalities over the long run.

    Investments in bicycle infrastructure are actually more fiscally prudent than investments in car infrastructure. So again, it's not that we are afraid to spend's about learning to invest money in infrastructure that provides returns.

  11. fixmemphis- Sharrows are one tool in the toolbox in how to better accommodate cyclists on the road. They should not be used as substitutes for bike lanes, but only where bike lanes are not physically possible due to right of way constraints or where political will doesn't exist to remove or narrow existing travel lanes. There is no cure-all treatment as Anthony suggests, it takes a mix of facilities plus work in all the other 'Es'.

    jmgorman- I'm still up for that coffee. I can also show you spots around DC where bike infrastructure exists that wasn't there a few years ago and discuss the HUGE impacts that's had on safety, motorist speed/attitude and the number of cyclists now using these streets.

  12. Jeff, I definitely agree that it will take a mixture of fixtures. And believe me, I'm all for reducing car traffic, be it through turning existing lanes (or parking spaces) into bike lanes or raising fuel prices. I think, though, that a logical first step is to use the cheapest, least impactful approach.

    I don't know if you've been to Memphis but Cooper St would be great for a bike lane, the retail shopping would greatly benefit, but a semi-thouroughfare like Central would be great for a sharrow, as it's a longer stretch of road without much retail, yet connects several universities and museums.

    People will continue to drive their cars, especially since a huge oil reserve that stretches from South America to Africa was just discovered, and in the US where gas is so cheap it's likely that our children will still be fighting this battle. But sharrows will put us in the eyes of car drivers, literally. Even if there's not a cyclist on the road they alert the driver to the possibility and accordingly the driver adjusts his/her driving. I just don't think that will happen with a bike lane.

    We can't make America like Copenhagen, but we can possibly make it better.

  13. No, I hear what you're saying, but sharrows aren't going to have the impact of slowing auto traffic or encouraging new cyclists the way bike lanes do. They're specific design considerations that should be taken into account that decide when each is appropriate.

    Its been awhile since I've been to Memphis other than the airport, so forgive me if my recollection is off, but I'd actually switch the facilities that you've assigned. Cooper as I remember it has a narrower roadway with stretches of only two lanes There's also really short blocks and lots of on-street parking turnover which is good for the businesses and aids in slowing traffic. In that case curb bulb outs, raised crosswalks and sharrows would likely be more appropriate. It would create a more Central Ave. is an overbuilt road with cars traveling way faster than the posted speed limit. A road diet that narrowed or removed the travel lanes with bike lanes added would work well. There are fewer businesses so less parking turnover posing hazards or blocking the bike lane- particularly the area just east of Highland. This would also serve as a fantastic commuter route. Choosing between Central and Southern is always a choice of lesser evils.

  14. I don't know, man. I see what you're saying about less parking turnover but Central is more heavily tafficked than Cooper. The object here is to make cars more aware of cyclists and pedestrians and to slow the speed at which the cars travel, not to make congestion worse. Narrowing the lanes is fine but when you take one out there will be a lot more idling. And while the goal is to get people active and healthy, a lot of people just aren't going to get out of their cars.

    But these are all hypothetical ideas lacking intensive study on traffic patterns and such. It could be that Central would need a combination of tools that we're not even discussing.

  15. I wasn't stunned or horrified by that facebook page - it doesn't compare to actual hate groups I have found online. There's more than one point of view and disparate content (Anti-Obama hysteria), some of which is yes, offensive.
    But I found a great deal of content sympatheticand interested in cyclist's safety on the road.
    Not the smartest thing I've read this week, but not a hate group in disguise, either.