Articles on Bicycle Facilities

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Traffic-System Design According to the Feelings of Fearful, Ignorant, and Incompetent Road Users Produces Incoherent, Self-Contradictory Results

Professor Furth presents what could be a useful idea. Mapping all streets in the city of San Jose, California, showed that islands of easy streets were separated by a limited number of difficult connections. Making these connections easy would open up much of the city to easy cycling. However, Furth turns this idea into a scientific nightmare. He proposes various levels of traffic stress, which is something that he never defines or measures. He proposes to grade traffic stress by degrees of separation from traffic, which he not only fails to define but applies in various self-contradicting ways. He proposes a bicycle traffic system that applies Dutch feelings about traffic to Portland's groups of cyclists, using his own ideology to apply traffic stress ratings to various facility designs, and he completely ignores the traffic stress produced by knowledge of the situations that actually cause most car-bike collisions. The system is designed for a population of fearful, ignorant, and incompetent cyclists. The result is incoherent and self-contradictory. It can only be explained by Furth's obsession with a greatly exaggerated fear of same-direction motor traffic. Those cyclists who appreciate the advantages of obeying the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles must be allowed, and expected, to operate outside such systems.  Review of Furth on Stress

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Published Research by Unqualified Persons Misleads the Public about Cyclist Safety

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


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Traffic Engineers and Government's Demand for Incompetent Bicycle Operation

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

Government's Cyclist Safety Strategy

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.

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Professorial Bicycle Advocacy in Planning

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.

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And now Pucher has done it again, advocating actions for which he has no evidence of effectiveness.

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.

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There's no science to Dutch bikeways. At least Professor Pucher has none to advance.

Making Walking and Cycling Safer: Lessons from Europe

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.

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There's no science to Dutch bikeways. There's plenty of science supporting the vehicular-cycling principle.

The Bicycle Transportation  Controversy

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.

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Pucher again asserts bikeway safety

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.

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Pucher Repudiates Science and Engineering: "I do what is popular."

 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 such laws.

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."

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Articles About Bikeways

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The government's own policy statement about the design of bikeways exposes its failure to consider safety, its narrow limitation to the minor consideration of delaying motorists, and its failure to follow scientific knowledge.

Federal Bikeway Justification

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.

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The government's effort to make the fear of same-direction motor traffic the basis of national cycling policy

Bicycling Road Evaluation: Sorton's method

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.

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Bicycling Road Evaluation, Davis's formula

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.

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Bicycling Road Evaluation: methods of Noland, Antonakos, Sorton (1 & 2), Davis, Epperson, Landis.

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.

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Sidepath Programs, Again

Government wants cyclists on sidepaths so much it pays for rubbish about sidepath safety

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.

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Government promotion of Sidepaths (Cycle Tracks, Protected Bike Lanes) requires an analysis of their safety and operation

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.

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Ideology creates two claims: that Sidepaths (Cycle Tracks) reduce car-bike collisions; and that if women had participated when writing bikeway standards, sidepaths would have been included.

The authors studied 19 facilities they thought to be sidepaths (but only 14 actually were) and calculated the car-bike collision rates per million bicycle-km. The results showed high collision rates where traffic conditions were severe, low collision rates with easy traffic; no evidence of reduction. The gender argument simply showed why women who are ignorant of traffic-engineering, as is the lead author, have not been selected to create traffic-engineering standards.

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Bike-lane stripes adversely affect cyclists' learning and behavior

Effect of Bikelane System Design Upon Cyclists' Traffic Errors

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.

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The government's bikeway policy has no scientific foundation. Indeed, it tries to contradict scientific knowledge.

Governmental Justification for Bike Lanes

This the section of Forester's Bicycle Transportation that criticizes the government's bikeway policy.

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Comparison of Bike-Lane Documents reveals the absence of scientific basis.

Bike Lane Selection and Design Produce Absurd Results

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.

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Do Blue Bike Lanes Reduce the Dangers of Bike Lanes?

Report on Portland's Blue Bike Lanes

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. 

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The government fails to find ways in which wide curb lanes are worse than bike lanes

The Bicycle Lane versus Wide Curb Lane Study

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. 

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Traffic Engineering Study of Wide Outside Lanes Misses Its One Important Point

Outside Lane Widths to Persuade Motorists to Overtake Safely

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.

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Traffic-signal timing is one of the very few design defects in the non-bikeway road system

Traffic Signal Clearance Time for Cyclists

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.

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An Apologist for Bike Lanes Gets It All Wrong

Review of Jeffrey Hiles's Essay: Listening to Bike Lanes

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Fear of Same-Direction Traffic is Latest Excuse for Bike Lanes

Review of Development of the Bicycle Compatibility Index, FHWA-RD-98-072: BCI Review

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.

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Facilities page last changed: 24-Aug-14