So, yeah, wrap your head around this: If novices will only ride if we paint lanes because they feel safe in lanes, are we not, then, defeating the purpose by correctly ending the lanes before the intersections and indicating central travel lane positioning with sharrows? Novices won’t command the street because they “need” a bicycle lane. So shouldn’t we, then, paint the lines right up to the intersections as they have done in Portland, Oregon (where right-hook crashes have been deadly)? More dangerous, yes, but novices apparently feel safer.

Conclusion: To increase participation and make novices “feel” safe, we have to build stuff that’s dangerous.

Thus another reason why I care more for safety and real traffic skill/knowledge than increasing participation.

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Comments 29

  1. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    Yeah, that whole “quality (or safety) vs. quantity payoff” thing.

    I want both, but I want those who join to be safe, not “mock-safe.”

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 9:08 am
  2. Khal Spencer wrote:

    But really, Andy. At the risk of being a sarcastic SOB, I gotta ask. You teach journalism so you must be familiar with Orwell. Danger is Safety, Lies are Truth, and Segregation is Inclusion, right?

    Maybe the folks signing those petitions in the bike shops need to be taking a good course in literature and rhetoric. My wife said that nearly half the kids coming out of High School on Oahu and taking the entrance exams at her college could not place into English 101 and instead ended up in Bonehead English. Not surprising they are gullible–in the bike shop and voting booth.

    These stripes are tragic on multiple accounts. One, if you stripe to the intersection you get right hooks because novices follow the paint. Two, if you put sharrows with the arrow pointing right at a pronounced gutter pan lip, you have the least saavy cyclists (novices) set up to fail via a diversion fall. So what Springfield and a fair number of other cities have done is set up novice cyclists to fail, all to satisfy political pressure to put more butts on bikes.

    The bottom line is when you start killing or injuring novices this way, they will undoubtedly blame the motoring public for their profound misfortune and repeat the mantra that “bicycling is dangerous”. What they really need to do is look in the professional (AASHTO, MUTCD) literature, the Saavy Cycling and Traffic Skills literature, and then in the mirror and ask why they extoll this crap.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 9:12 am
  3. Khal Spencer wrote:

    “The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

    — Part II, Chapter IX — The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism”

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 9:22 am
  4. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    As far as I’m concerned, increasing participation is never going to be a goal that’s important to me, as long as so-called ‘bicycle advocates’ regard safe infrastructure as being of only secondary importance.

    If my only choices are: 1, to support unsafe facilities; or 2, to be seen as being against cycling; then I guess I’m against cycling.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 11:18 am
  5. Andy Cline wrote:

    Khal… re: Orwell 🙂

    You should read my essay:

    Cline, A. (2007) “Orwell Commands Us to Be Better Readers.” in Politics and Language, Skidmore and Cline Eds. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 19.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 11:44 am
  6. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Hi, Andy

    I found this link, but it truncates your paper.

    Can you send me a pdf of your paper at my work email?

    spencerk at lanl dot gov

    Politics and the English Language is one of my favorites!

    thanks for the heads up!

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 11:55 am
  7. Andy Cline wrote:

    Khal… Will do. I’ll have to dig that sucker up. I have a copy on my machine at home.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 12:22 pm
  8. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Thank you!

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 12:23 pm
  9. Keri wrote:

    The worst irony is that we bicyclists would have the collective resources to change the car culture beliefs and achieve equality if the industries (product and consulting) and their astroturf organizations were not working so hard to dumb down bicyclists and reinforce car culture beliefs.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 5:16 pm
  10. Kevin Love wrote:

    As an alternative, we could build protected intersections that are actually safe. They do not require any more road space, and concrete is fairly cheap – much safer than human life.

    Here is a video showing how it works:

    Here is a video showing several examples of how it works in real life.

    And some more examples:

    Ontario statistics are that 68% of injuries occur at intersections. This is the most dangerous location, so it is important to have protected intersections to reduce this danger.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 6:38 pm
  11. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I would love to see a peer-reviewed study that showed that Kevin’s ‘safe’ infrastructure was safe. Strangely, all the ‘safe’ infrastructure advocates seem long on ‘insisting that ‘safe’ infrastructure is safe, but short on showing how ‘actually’ safe it is.

    The inherent problem with segregated infrastructure is that, historically, its safety record is lousy. Yet some people keep on saying it’s safe, despite the fact that it isn’t.

    It’s like an alternate universe ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ tale, where the boy keeps saying how safe the sheep are, and no one seems to notice that they keep going missing.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 8:17 pm
  12. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    And Kevin, I know you like to post videos, but they are propaganda, not information. There is a difference.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 8:24 pm
  13. Kevin Love wrote:


    If you wish a peer-reviewed study analyzing cycle safety, may I suggest this one:

    An excerpt from pp 505-506:

    “Averaged over the years 2002 to 2005,
    the number of bicyclist fatalities per 100 million km cycled was 5.8 in the USA and
    3.6 in the UK, compared to 1.7 in Germany, 1.5 in Denmark, and 1.1 in the Netherlands
    (see Figure 10). Thus, cycling is over five times as safe in the Netherlands as
    in the USA and more than three times as safe as in the UK…

    … the Netherlands has the lowest non-fatal injury rate as well
    as the lowest fatality rate, while the USA has the highest non-fatal injury rate as
    well as the highest fatality rate. Indeed, the non-fatal injury rate for the USA is
    about 8 times higher than for Germany and about 30 times higher than for the
    Netherlands and Denmark.”

    I highly recommend the article’s analysis of cycle safety.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 9:55 pm
  14. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    That’s not a study of bike infrastructure. It’s another propaganda piece. It does not even attempt to compare like with like. The fact that you think this is convincing speaks volumes.

    What’s needed is a before and after study that shows a clear increase in safety after the infrastructure is installed.

    If you can’t produce one (and I won’t hold my breath), you have no idea if your ‘safe’ infrastructure is safe and you are potentially endangering everyone who might be tempted to believe in your snake oil.

    Posted 11 Sep 2012 at 10:09 pm
  15. Kevin Love wrote:


    If you choose to describe the peer-reviewed research of dedicated professionals at top universities with words like “propaganda piece’ and “snake oil,’ then our conversation is coming to an end.

    As for me, I will stay with the dedicated, peer-reviewed research of dedicated professionals working and doing research at top universities.

    This means advocacy for the policies that have made The Netherlands to have the safest roads of any OECD country to cycle in and Ontario to have the safest roads of anywhere in North America.

    Posted 12 Sep 2012 at 5:11 am
  16. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I’m not ‘choosing to describe it’ as propaganda and snake oil. I’m telling you it is propaganda and snake oil. And this was never a conversation. It is two monologues, because you are unwilling to see that you are just as much a snake oil merchant as is ‘Professor’ Pucher, and I am unwilling to swallow what you and he are peddling.

    Posted 12 Sep 2012 at 5:28 am
  17. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I mean, every few posts, you come along and you just shove out your propaganda and your videos, but you don’t engage in meaningful dialogue, because you’re not engaging in conversation – you are selling a product, and like a telemarketer, you’re not interested in hearing anything but “Yes, I’ll buy it”.

    Posted 12 Sep 2012 at 5:32 am
  18. Andy Cline wrote:

    Beside the usual criticisms of separated infrastructure, I found these intersections simply do not work. I rode through dozens upon dozens of these intersections in Amsterdam over five days. The problem is capacity. These intersections “work” as long as no more than a few bicyclists per minute move through the intersection. But you begin moving dozens per minute — typical of Amsterdam — and the whole thing bogs down. The Dutch promotional videos don’t show this. I have the video/pictures to show it.

    Posted 12 Sep 2012 at 6:28 am
  19. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Seems to me these intersections would only be significantly safer if the cyclist and motorist had dedicated light cycles and “no right turn on red” cycles for motorists to help reduce conflicts (assuming for the moment that people obey the light). Even the “less dangerous” conflict in the first video from Kevin’s post 10 could result in a t-bone crash if a right turning motorist and a fast thru cyclist arrived at the designated point at the same time. There is no true protection here (as in a continuous jersey barrier etc), just an effort to reduce the hazard of motorists overtaking and hooking cyclists. Perhaps the visibility is a little better, but I’m not entirely sold.

    By adding more dedicated light cycles, you reduce capacity by increasing traffic that platoons up during the red cycles.

    John Allen has also commented that in some locations where a cyclist has a dedicated (protected) light cycle, its too short to be useful if there is a lot of cycling.

    The only true, fully protected situation would be a flyover or separate infrastructure. Less likely to ever happen. Until then, these are what we would call “porous barriers” in safety speak.

    Posted 12 Sep 2012 at 12:29 pm
  20. Kevin Love wrote:

    Andy wrote:
    “The problem is capacity.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    The capacity can be scaled up. Here is an example of a high capacity intersection:

    And you are right that some parts of downtown Amsterdam have serious issues. The municipal government is aware of them, but for a variety of reasons they are difficult to fix. Unfortunately, progress is likely to be slow.

    However, those problem areas are not all of Amsterdam. Here is a video starting in the problem areas and then showing the rest of Amsterdam. Take a look at the open car door at 0:45-0:50. No “door prize” here!

    Here are some higher-capacity examples from Copenhagen:

    As you can see, it is just a matter of scaling up the capacity.

    Posted 13 Sep 2012 at 4:04 am
  21. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kevin… Thanks for posting those videos. I think they prove my point 😉

    The first one represents exactly the kind of nightmare I experienced for five days in Amsterdam. Too many bicyclists trying to use too little space. That’s what I see. All those people would be better off in the street. They would completely control it. Motorists would give up in frustration 🙂

    The second video shows areas I rode in Amsterdam. And, yes, the tracks can be rather free of bicycle traffic at certain times of the day. But have you ever been on them during morning rush hour? Or just before school begins? Way different story.

    I did ride on some really nice stuff in a couple of suburban areas of Amsterdam. These were what I understand as greenways — bicycle-only highways that didn’t orient to any other kind of street. All of these were a minimum of 10′ wide (by my estimation).

    I’m used to riding on quiet streets where I can take the lane and get to any point in Springfield virtually conflict free. All those people crowed into lanes and tracks, well, I’d rather ride in Springfield.

    Posted 13 Sep 2012 at 12:19 pm
  22. Kevin Love wrote:

    Andy wrote:
    “Too many bicyclists trying to use too little space. That’s what I see.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    Me too. That particular intersection sees about 22,000 cyclists per day. Concentrated, of course, during peak hours.

    As we see in the video, this intersection is car-free. The road space is divided between cyclists and public transit. I also see a few municipal support vehicles. There really is no more road space to be given to cyclists.

    It seems to me that the congestion created by 22,000 cyclists going through a car-free intersection is a sign that the city’s cycling policy is a rip-roaring runaway success.

    Otherwise, by the same logic, one would have to say of downtown New York City during rush hour “Look at all the car congestion! Therefore we should be opposed to car infrastructure!”

    Posted 13 Sep 2012 at 6:51 pm
  23. Angelo wrote:

    I find it telling that all these studies that “prove” infrastructure leads to lower collisions and greater safety are in places where motorists can be prosecuted for causing collisions, or even just dangerous driving. The infrastructure I’ve seen in the US is designed by planners that have told me motorists are not legally obligated to yield to bicyclists. Their bike lanes are only safe if you walk your bike.

    Kevin has stated a number of times that Canadian motorists may be prosecuted or lose their license for reckless or aggressive driving. This is unheard of in the US for sober drivers. I see this as the real cause of any safe bicycling inToronto; any facilities are secondary.

    I fail to understand how having engineers that do not bicycle (DE, MD) install facilities for bicyclists with no enforceable right of way will increase safety; when I’ve seen beginners try bike lanes in the door zone and to the right of RTOL lanes they quickly realize the problems.

    If these facilities were truly meant to benefit bicyclists, they would not need to make them mandatory (law in MD, LEO opinion regardless of law in PA, DE).


    Posted 13 Sep 2012 at 6:56 pm
  24. Kevin Love wrote:


    Yes, proper law enforcement is necessary for cycling. As it is for any human activity. For example, there are parts of the City of Detroit that have higher than average crime rates. This has been Very Bad News for retail businesses in those neighbourhoods, many of which have gone out of business.

    Few people want to go shopping in a place where they may be mugged and robbed. For exactly the same reason, few people want to go cycling in a place where they may be threatened, intimidated or harmed by criminal car drivers.

    For exactly the same reason, very few people will ever go cycling in close proximity to motor vehicles that are travelling much faster. That is just too threatening and intimidating an experience. To quote my 74-year-old mother, “At my age, I’m not going to go play tag with multi-tonne lethal weapons.”

    Here is a list of cities in OECD countries with double-digit cycling mode shares. They are very different cities in very different countries. Some are flat (The Netherlands), some are mountainous (Switzerland). Some are in cold climates (Sweden), some are in hot climates (Osaka, Japan is in the same climate zone as Orlando, Florida). Cultures range from Europe to Japan.

    The one thing that all of these cities that I have been to have in common is supportive cycling infrastructure. This is true of the one example from the USA which is the city of Davis, California. Davis also has excellent supportive infrastructure.

    I would propose as an experimental hypothesis that the cities that I have not been to also have appropriate supportive infrastructure. Has anyone here been to even one of these cities that does not? I would be curious to know if there is even one counter-example or if my hypothesis is 100% true.

    Here is the list:

    Copenhagen – 55% [37% city wide]
    Gronningen, Netherlands – 55%
    Greifswald, Germany – 44%
    Lund, Sweden – 43%
    Assen, Netherlands – 40%
    Amsterdam, Netherlands – 40%
    Münster, Germany – 40%
    Utrecht, Netherlands – 33%
    Västerås, Sweden – 33%
    Ferrara, Italy – 30%
    Malmö, Sweden – 30%
    Linköping, Sweden – 30%
    Odense, Denmark – 25%
    Basel, Switzerland – 25%
    Osaka, Japan – 25% [est.]
    Bremen, Germany – 23%
    Bologna, Italy – 20%
    Oulu, Finland – 20%
    Munich, Germany – 20%
    Florence, Italy – 20%
    Rotterdam, Netherlands – 20-25%
    Berne, Switzerland – 20%
    Tübingen, Gemany – 20%
    Aarhus, Denmark – 20%
    Tokyo, Japan – 20% [est.]
    Salzburg, Austria – 19%
    Venice (and Mestre), Italy – 19%
    Pardubice, Czech Republic – 18%
    York, UK – 18%
    Dresden, Germany – 17%
    Ghent, Belgium – 15%
    Parma, Italy – 15%
    Bern, Switzerland – 15%
    Davis, USA – 15%
    Cambridge, UK – 15%
    Graz, Austria – 14%
    Berlin, Germany – 13%
    Strasbourg, France – 12%
    Turku, Finland – 11%
    Stockholm, Sweden – 10%
    Bordeaux, France – 10%
    Avignon, France – 10%


    Posted 14 Sep 2012 at 3:52 am
  25. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Other than Japan, which shares a lot of the same attributes (fossil fuel poor, dense development) those are European cities. Europe went through the twin oil shocks of the 1970’s and decided to try very hard to limit its dependence on oil so as not to undergo another political upheaval. Hence they didn’t so much encourage bicycling as discourage motoring. High fuel prices, restrictive motoring laws, as well as laws that severely punish bad driving are all part of this culture, which, of course, includes bicycle-specific infrastructure. I don’t think one could take any one of those items out of context and expect to see it work alone in isolation here in the States.

    Sadly, the current politics in the US seems hell-bent on denying we have a problem (resource depletion and climate change) and hell bent on continuing with the last century’s transportation paradigm. We need to stop subsidizing the single occupant car and let its expenses rise to a level that will inhibit our car culture.

    Posted 14 Sep 2012 at 8:22 am
  26. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I have cycled in a lot of those cities in the mid 1980s during two year-long European bicycle tours, at a time when many cities did not have so-called cycling infrastructure. At that time, they were a joy to ride a bike in. I would not enjoy going to many of them now, since many of them have installed mandatory use bike lanes that those who study such things have found to be more dangerous than an unmarked road. In 1984-86, all roads that I traveled on in Europe were available to cyclists.

    From Kevin’s list, the cities I cycled in and found to be very nice to cycle in without any bike-specific infrastructure (at least none that I was aware of in the areas of the cities where I cycled) are as follows:

    Groningen, Netherlands
    Münster, Germany
    Utrecht, Netherlands
    Odense, Denmark
    Basel, Switzerland
    Bremen, Germany
    Munich, Germany
    Florence, Italy
    Berne, Switzerland
    Tübingen, Gemany
    Salzburg, Austria (I lived here for three years)
    Ghent, Belgium
    Bern, Switzerland
    Cambridge, UK
    Graz, Austria
    Strasbourg, France
    Bordeaux, France
    Avignon, France

    I also cycled in a couple of cities that had extensive cycle facilities. These I found to be severely annoying, in that the speed of my commute would always be cut in half, because these facilities treated cyclists like pedestrians and forced them into very busy and narrow paths full of obstacles and dangerous bends and curbs. Here’s the list of cities that had nasty and frustrating bicycle infrastructure in 1984-86:

    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Amsterdam, Netherlands

    There was only one place that had no bike facilities and that I found to be virtually impossible to bike in – Rotterdam, Netherlands. But the answer was not to add bike paths – the answer was to calm traffic.

    Posted 14 Sep 2012 at 9:30 am
  27. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kevin… I do not care that other people are frightened to ride their bicycles around cars. That’s their problem, and, IMO, they need to get over it if they want to ride. I do not want to limit the space that bicycles may use — my space! — to cater to people who are frightened of cars. I am not a participation advocate. I do not care to increase participation at the cost of space.

    I was more worried riding in Amsterdam in too-crowded lanes/tracks than I have ever been riding in traffic in the US.

    Posted 14 Sep 2012 at 9:33 am
  28. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    The fact is, most of the cities in Kevin’s list didn’t need bike facilities because they were perfectly good for cycling before the facilities were added. As with Andy’s experience in Springfield Missouri, facilities advocates and those who profit from installing bike infrastructure added bike facilities where none were needed.

    Posted 14 Sep 2012 at 9:36 am
  29. Angelo Dolce wrote:

    From Post #24
    “The one thing that all of these cities that I have been to have in common is supportive cycling infrastructure. ”

    My point is that these cities have a lot more than just infrastructure in common. US planners and police believe that bicyclists must yield to motor vehicles. (Most of them consider the the bicyclist at fault in any collision. I know this is different in Tokyo; it sounds like this is also different in your other cities. In the US case (a) no infrastructure can overcome the presumption that pedestrians and bicyclists are at fault for not getting out of the way, and (b) the infrastructure that is built doesn’t support practical bicycling (see (a)).

    I suspect you would consider combination parking/bike lanes a joke – I don’t hear about this in the Netherlands. Effectively, we have it in the US. (Check Philadelphia enforcement, and Baltimore floating bike lanes.)

    It’s also fairly easy to find US stories of motorists hitting bicyclists on shoulders, in bike lanes and on sidewalks without being punished or even cited. (Or talk to bicyclists that have been right hooked in bike lanes striped to intersections – I’ve never heard of the motorists being cited).

    I don’t see any benefit to cyclists in demanding more infrastructure until it is designed to accommodate bicyclists, not just get them out of the way of motorists.

    I’ll also ask how the 20% bicycle share in Tokyo was determined, and what is considered “appropriate infrastructure.” When I was in Tokyo I found motorists and pedestrians outnumbered bicyclists by far more than 4:1. I’m not sure I’d consider 1km on a bicycle and 12km on the subway a 20% bicycle mode share.

    Local streets/alleys in Tokyo don’t have (or need) bicycle infrastructure. With short blocks and low speeds many had not paint at all.

    On main roads, the bicyclists ride on wide sidewalks. This is expected; I believe the blue signs also mean it is mandatory. This is faster than walking 1-2km to a subway station for salarymen and office girls, or convenient when housewives ride a few km on the mama-san chariots carrying groceries and children.

    I don’t see the Tokyo infrastructure as appropriate or likely to work well the NE US. In the cities, the US sidewalks are much older and narrower than in Tokyo. They aren’t wide enough to have separate tracks for pedestrians and bicyclists. Outside the cities, US distances much further; even in Tokyo I never saw or heard of anyone bicycling 10-30km because the sidewalk/pedestrian areas require such slow speeds. US cities (even NY) don’t have the layout or public transportation that Tokyo does.

    It’s a lot more than installing infrastructure.

    Posted 15 Sep 2012 at 1:40 am