The case for physically separated bike lanes

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
By Yokota Fritz


Watch the video and let me know what you think. Via Streetsblog.

The Case for Physically Separated Bike Lanes
A Streetfilm by Clarence Eckerson
Running Time: 8 minutes 30 seconds



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Comments:
How do you make a safe right or left turn from the protected lanes?
 
Yeah, the intersection issues are there, but other folks (Bogota, Netherlands, Copenhagen) probably have some pointers for us on that.

I'm recovering from being hit a couple weeks back, and it was of course, crossing a street where I had the right of way. So it is a huge issue.

Penalosa's quip about bike facilities being safe only if they're safe for children really resonates for me. Here in Portland, there's a lot of testosterone around the issue, that you should ride in traffic, you are traffic, etc. And I do do that.

But I also know as a driver that it's easy, too easy, to make a mistake, it can be a big deal. In talking to a coworker, she said that hitting a bicyclist was the most devastating thing that she had ever done -- it was worse than losing parents or jobs or lovers. So the effects on drivers are also profound.

I love Clarence's work, thanks for showcasing this, Fritz.
 
Good video with many issues raised. My personal view is that bike lanes, if two-way, should have protected borders and be in the MIDDLE of a street.

Two-way bike lanes on one side of the street create many problems for drivers and pedestrians. Ideally, bike lanes should be in one direction on each side of a street. of course every street has certain nuances that makes generalizing difficult.
 
An excellent video and great food for thought. Clarence does great work. But...

The driving behavior of cyclists on bike paths is equally erratic especially by those who have never ridden on a road before (kids). A buffered bikepath means drivers often have to stop twice in a short distance before entering an intersection or cyclists have to yield everytime they encounter a cross street which is annoying and slow. Also, the speed cyclists travel at varies more than car traffic which means people are always weaving around other cyclists. I've had more accidents on bikepaths than I've had with car traffic. For these reasons, it doesn't take many cyclists on bikepaths before I prefer to move over and ride on the road instead. Some areas mandate cyclists use bikepaths if they exist which isn't a good trend either. One last point, bike paths are not as well constructed or maintained so it doesn't take long before trees roots start protruding and are often filled with more debris that normally gets pulverized by car tires or removed.

Having said all that, buffered bike lanes my be the best solution for the kind of traffic shown in the video.
 
It almost lost me with the "gotta be safe for children" idea - was the motivation that assumption that cycling is for children? THe rest of it gave lots of room for thought, and made me wonder about the hidden confounding issues.
For starters, even if the buffered lanes weren't safer because of conflicts and speed issues, would the perception that they were lead to more use... and would that be a good or a bad thing? Would there be more accidents on the path and/or fewer accidents with conflicts because cyclists became more expected? WOuld there be enough more cyclists to have more clout?
 
Thanks for the comments, all.

Sue: I think the stated purpose of facilities like those in the video are to encourage more cycling by making cycling *seem* safer. I have children and while I have them ride with me in most traffic conditions, there's no way I'd let them play in this traffic by themselves. My wife and both of my children are behind me (out of the frame) in this photo.

Steve: Yeah, "annoying and slow" is my typical experience with facilities like this. I don't know if you've been to Santa Cruz, but we have them there. Since these are MUPs you won't have pedestrians issues, except in my experience walkers will use the space anyway. And mopeds, and motorcyclists and probably smaller cars. See this photo.
 
I'm just thinking that he may have been categorizing cycling as being somethign a little faster than walking but having similar needs, and having that approach to facilities, too.
There is a lot to be said for making things seem safer, especially if it's not making them seem safer than they really are, but bringing perception closer to reality.
 
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