A study by a group of epidemiologists attempted to measure relative crash rates for cyclists using different types of facility. Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study; Teschke et al; American Journal of Public Health, for publication after October 2012. This paper has been widely disseminated in the cycling world because it claims that cycle tracks have by far the lowest crash rate. However, several results, including that one, have been made misleading because of the authors' combination of incompetence in traffic engineering and their bikeway ideology. Review of Teschke report
For decades American society accepted incompetent operation by cyclists as a consequence of keeping cyclists out of the way of motorists. The acceptance was tacit instead of explicit; nobody really wanted to admit it, and the laws, contradictorily, both required and prohibited operation in accordance with the rules of the road. Now government demands, as a patriotic measure, that bikeways be installed specifically to encourage a greater volume of incompetent cycling. This puts traffic engineers in the difficult position between conflicting demands of politicians and traffic-engineering knowledge. The best that they can do in these circumstances is to work for repeal of those laws that prohibit proper operation. This will enable cyclists to operate properly and safely no matter what bikeway is installed. Traffic Engineers and Incompetent Traffic Operation
In June of 2009, the Transportation Research Board issued Volume 18 of NCHRP 500, which I have reviewed: Guidance for the Reduction of Collisions Involving Bicycles. This document does not seek out the most important types of collisions and figure out ways to reduce each type. Instead it uses a clumsy and inaccurate classification system based, apparently, on the location where corrective action might be taken. This classification system lumps together collisions that have entirely different causes, and hence need entirely different countermeasures. A far better job was done thirty years ago by Ken Cross and me (see my Bicycle Transportation). Many of the recommendations are only speculative. Would reducing the number of driveways in a length of roadway, without reducing the traffic using them, really reduce the number of driveway-associated car-bike collisions? And the document spends inordinate amount of space concerning bike lanes, which have never been shown to reduce car-bike collisions, while actually recommending two dangerous types, the bike box that entices cyclists into overtaking on the right-hand side of traffic that can turn right, and the colored bike lane that persuades cyclists to ride directly into conflict with motor traffic without using judgment. In short, this document is the same old incompetence based on the same old superstitions of the exaggerated danger of same-direction motor traffic and promotion of cyclist incompetence.
Urban planners can generally be divided into two types: those who oppose motoring and plan to reduce it, and those who accept motoring and plan for its use. Publicity favors the anti-motoring planners, while those whose plans assume motoring get less publicity while working in highway or developer organizations. Therefore, the public view, whatever its accuracy, considers urban planners to be generally opposed to motoring. However, while many planning documents mention the desirability of more bicycle transportation, they don't go into details and their authors don't make a career out of it. However, one professor of urban planning has made a career out of anti-motoring bicycle (and walking) advocacy. And he has become, rather naturally, Forester's principal academic adversary in the bicycle transportation controversy. Part of their debate is given in the following paragraphs and hyperlinked articles.
John Pucher, professor of planning at Rutgers University, is a prolific publisher of bicycle-advocacy papers in journals of planning, transportation, and environmentalism. It is not too much to say that he and his works are adored by bicycle advocates. In this field he has one mode of operation: collection of favorable descriptions and statistics from European societies with high bicycle mode share and comparing these against unfavorable statistics from the the U.S.A. One of Pucher's favorable descriptions is that German law requires every motorist to assume that any child or elderly bicyclist is going to violate traffic law. But Pucher can never demonstrate why or by how much this reduces car-bike collisions or, even more distant, how or by how much this increases bicycle modal share, and he totally ignores the other effects of such a law.
Professor John Pucher's new paper is titled Making Cycling Irresistible, Transport
Reviews, Volume 28, 2008. Pucher has improved his paper since the prepublication
version that was first available. The paper is still no more than a collection
of statistics regarding transportation and city planning, but Pucher has got
over his former arguments that doing this or that will make cycling popular and
safer, when he has never been able to show why or how doing this or that would
produce the effect that he claims. This present paper presents a long list of
actions taken by European governments, ranging from the mundane provision of
bicycle parking to the radical rebuilding of cities, and says that if we in
America do as the Europeans have done we will achieve similar effects. However,
Pucher has no means of determining how much result is produced by each
characteristic of the urban or social fabric, or even whether or not he has
listed all the relevant actions, only that the sum total of the actions that
have been taken, whether listed or not, is correlated with the sum total of the result.
I have criticized Pucher's earlier papers, which are much the same collections of statistics, for emphasizing some aspects, as bikeways, while ignoring others, such as urban pattern, and claiming to have demonstrated causation rather merely correlation.
In one sense Pucher's latest paper is more useful than his earlier ones, because in this paper he admits the wide range of characteristics that, by his view, are necessary for making cycling really popular. In this respect, any responsible person needs to consider the whole range of characteristics listed by Pucher as the minimum list of characteristics that need to be changed to make cycling really popular in the USA. Since a great many of these cannot be changed in reasonable planning time, it behooves the planner, and the bicycle advocate, to consider a practical plan of what might be done and what evidence exists for whatever results it might achieve, before taking significant action. Pucher's paper provides no assistance in this task.
Pucher's paper of 2008 carries a title specifically stating "Making ... Cycling Safer." The standard criteria for transportation are the safety and convenience of the traveling public. While Pucher's paper contains lists of actions by some European governments and statistics of cyclist crashes and bicycle modal share, there is nothing at all to demonstrate that any of these actions had any specific effect on these statistics. Normally a safety investigation examines types and frequencies of crashes, their causes, and considers measures that might ameliorate the causes. There is nothing of this type in Pucher's paper. It is no more than a list of actions that Pucher believes to reduce the cyclist crash rate, with no attempt at demonstrating why, how, or by how much, any of these actions might be effective. My first review of Pucher's paper, referenced above, started a public email discussion in which Pucher participated. In that discussion Pucher stated that there is no evidence for the validity of Forester's vehicular cycling view, which is obviously a false claim.
Pucher's claim that there is no basis for bicycle transportation engineering and its vehicular cycling view was obviously false, considering the documented history. Furthermore, those same documents demonstrate that known science contradicts the claims that Dutch-style bikeways reduce car-bike collisions or make cycling more convenient. Pucher's admission that he didn't know the literature got his editors' attention, so they agreed to accept a paper on the history of the bicycle transportation controversy. The paper appeared in Transportation Quarterly, Spring 2001, Vol 55, Number 2, as The Bicycle Transportation Controversy.
It is important to note that, so far as I know, this is only the second paper stating the vehicular-cycling view ever published in the scholarly journals of transportation, planning, and the like. Transportation Quarterly accepted my paper only because their own author publicly stated that he was ignorant of the long-existing literature. The previous paper is: The Dilemmas of Bicycle Planning by Paul Schimek, first presented as long ago as 1996, at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) Joint International Congress, July 27, 1996 in Toronto, Canada. The academics in these fields ignore vehicular cycling, while the professionals in traffic engineering and similar fields are paid to produce excuses for cyclist-inferiority cycling.
Pucher replied replied to my paper with one titled Cycling Safety on Bikeways vs Roads, published in Transportation Quarterly, vol 55 no 4. Pucher provided no answer to the traffic-engineering analysis and statistics used in bicycle transportation engineering that support vehicular cycling, but simply repeated his previous assertions that bikeways made cycling safe, together with a few other popular superstitions.
Pucher's second paragraph started: "Although Forester makes a number of theoretical arguments why bikeways are unsafe, his empirical test of the superiority of vehicular cycling is based on a sample of one -- a single bike ride he took on a new bike path in Palo Alto, California." This is just one more ideological lie. That particular test was to determine the level of danger produced by typical urban side-paths, and it demonstrated that use of such facilities was about 1,000 times more dangerous than using the normal roadway. Pucher's statement deliberately pretends that I had not observed and even use-tested many other kinds of bikeway, as I have done for almost forty years. Furthermore, Pucher's statement deliberately ignores the traffic-engineering knowledge and analysis, directly supported by robust statistics rather than Pucher's diffuse correlation, that supports the vehicular-cycling principle.
On Monday, 23 August, 2010, Professor John Pucher made a 1 hour 30 minute
presentation of his views on bicycle and walking transportation in the Board
Room of the San Diego Association of Governments, California. About 40 persons
present: planners, students of planning, some bicycle activists. He presented
what one might expect: we need more walking and bicycling to combat health
problems, such as obesity and heart disease, and social problems such as
transportational injustice. The tools to be used are a wide package of different
governmental acts. Strong emphasis on the recovery in some cities from the
initial burst of mass motorization that overloaded walking cities, without ever
mentioning the even greater proportion and volume of bicycle transport that had
existed before mass motorization. Car-free zones and traffic calming to 30 kph
(19mph). German motorists must consider all child and elderly cyclists likely to
violate traffic law. Then a few minutes for questions, most of which were
planning questions, except for two, one by Jim Baross, long active in the San
Diego County Bicycling Committee, and myself. Jim asked Pucher his view about
the laws that made the use of bikeways mandatory, where present. Pucher opposed
After announcing my name, I confronted Pucher with his statement from Cycling Safety (see above).
"Although Forester makes a number of theoretical arguments why bikeways are unsafe, his empirical test of the superiority of vehicular cycling is based on a sample of one -- a single bike ride he took on a new bike path in Palo Alto, California."
I asked him if it were still his opinion that standard traffic engineering methods and data were irrelevant to determining the safety and convenience of various traffic operations, and whether he preferred direct empiric comparison testing, as his sentence indicated. I did not need to get around to stating that he had never done any such direct empiric comparisons, but I suggested that since he had discarded standard methods of determining the safety and convenience of various traffic operations, all of his views about the safety and convenience of traffic operations were unsupported?
Pucher replied with a long answer giving his usual correlations, but when pressed for a real answer he replied: "I don't care what traffic engineers say. I do what is popular."
Forester criticizes the document that describes the methods by which the present governmental policy and programs for bikeway design were developed. This document is the basis for the manual for designing bikeway systems, Selecting Roadway Design Treatments to Accommodate Bicycles, FHWA-RD-92-073, and it is quoted from extensively in the document that describes the scientific basis for the government's policy and programs for cycling, Bicycle Safety-Related Research Synthesis, FHWA-RD-94-062. These documents use the bikeway standards contained in the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. It is assumed that these documents provide the scientific basis for the government's bikeway program, but in fact these documents provide no such support, being merely compendiums of anti-cyclist superstition.
This is an early study that pretends that the superstitious fear of same-direction motor traffic reflects objective reality, but it also pretends to be a scientific policy recommendation.
This is a system for rating roads that tries to reflect the actual hazards of each kind of road, but simply boils down to guesses about the speed and volume of same-direction motor traffic.
This is a collection of studies that simply demonstrate that cyclists are frightened of same-direction motor traffic, with no correlation with objective reality. However, government wants to use this type of system to justify its bikeway program.
We know the items that make sidepaths so dangerous: crossing motor traffic, cyclist speed, chaotic other traffic. Government wants sidepaths so badly that it paid for a study of how to design safe sidepaths, a study that said how to do it without ever considering the sources of sidepath danger. It is a statistical vision that has no connection with reality.
Analysis of the car-bike collision aspects and the traffic operations aspects
of sidepaths demonstrates that, when compared to rules of the road operation on
the roadway, sidepaths create more, and more difficult, car-bike collision
situations and require more skill from both cyclist and motorist. Their
traffic-control features, praised by the ill-informed, are merely expensive
attempts to ameliorate the added dangers at the cost of delaying all road users.
This measures cyclists' behavior in cities with different types of bike-lane system. The differences demonstrate that bike-lane system design affects the types of errors that cyclists (and motorists) make, that bike-lane systems delay or prevent cyclists from learning how to ride properly, and that good club cyclists have learned to ride properly despite the systems' errors.
This the section of Forester's Bicycle Transportation that criticizes the government's bikeway policy.
The Highway Safety Research Center of the University of North Carolina has recently published two documents whose comparison unwittingly reveals the emptiness of the bikeway theory. King's Bicycle Facility Selection attempts to combine documents from many nations to produce a system for selecting the type of facility according to the intensity of same-direction motor traffic,. Aside from his own mistakes, his unquestioning assumption of the validity of that criterium discloses its contradictions. Chicago's Bike Lane Design Guide shows that, even after proper selection, bike lanes neither produce room for the cyclist, protect him from traffic, nor reduce the level of skill required.
At ten bike-laned intersections which apparently were unusually dangerous, Portland OR painted the bike lane blue where motorists crossed it. The object was to persuade motorists to yield to cyclists, even though that was the opposite of normal traffic law. This installation was investigated by the Highway Safety Research Center of the University of North Carolina. Their report demonstrates that they know nothing at all about proper traffic operation, at least when the think of cyclists.
The Federal Highway Administration compared traffic operations with wide curb lanes against those with bike lanes, but it failed to make either valid comparisons or to collect pertinent data. As a result, its investigators reached the conclusion that their study tells us nothing that is useful. Of course, they considered only the behavior of typical, untrained cyclists, and ignored traffic law, so they did not consider the other features that make wide curb lanes better than bike lanes.
The Florida Dept of Transportation made a big study of the lateral positions of cyclists and motor vehicles operating in wide outside lanes, and some other characteristics. However, they failed to measure, and therefore to determine, how close the cyclist ought to ride to the lane line on his left to persuade motorists to change lanes to overtake. All that work for nothing.
The present system for calculating the time to be allowed for traffic to clear an intersection after a signal turns yellow, before the opposing green appears, does not allow for lone cyclists to clear wide intersections. This paper discusses the traffic laws that apply and provides formulas for determining the proper clearance interval.
The Federal Highway Administration has desired bikeways from 1972 or before, despite not having evidence that bikeways made cycling safer or more convenient. Therefore, it searched for evidence, and each search was rewarded with evidence that bikeways did not do what was claimed for them. It has now been reduced to the excuse that bike-lane stripes reduce cyclists' fear of same-direction motor traffic. So it commissioned a study to measure the reduction in fear. Since it could not give that as the real purpose, it camouflaged the study as a study of the ability of different roadway designs to accommodate bicycle traffic. This review exposes the lies.
Facilities page last changed: 01-Nov-12