America Could Have Been Building Protected Bike Lanes for the Last 40 Years

The latest in bikeway design? Nope, these intersection treatments are from early American bikeway planning documents. Sources: Fisher, 1972; City of Davis, 1972; Smith, Jr. 1974

Salt Lake City is on track to implement the nation’s first “protected intersection” — a Dutch-inspired design to minimize conflicts between cyclists and drivers at crossings. For American cities, this treatment feels like the cutting edge, but a look back at the history of bike planning in the United States reveals that even here, this idea is far from new. In fact, the protected intersection concept appeared in every foundational document for bike planning in the early 1970s. But no American city ever installed one until now — here’s why.

First, some background. The first modern on-street bike lanes in the United States were installed in Davis, California, in the fall of 1967. Of these three bike lanes, one was a parking-protected bikeway on Sycamore Drive. That’s right: The first on-street bike lane in the United States was a parking-protected bikeway.

A woman rides on Sycamore Lane in Davis, CA.

As word of the Davis bike lanes spread across the country, cities all over the United States began improvising their own designs. In response, the Federal Highway Administration funded the publication of four key planning documents between 1972 and 1976 that provided diagrams and guidelines to help cities (and ultimately the FHWA) create a uniform design for bikeways. There are many similarities in all of these documents, but it is clear that with each subsequent report, the design of on-street bike lanes slowly drifted toward designs that treated the cyclist more like a motor vehicle than a human.

Just as the bikeways movement was gaining steam and formalization was taking shape, physically separated bikeways were challenged by a new movement of vehicular cycling advocates — many of whom still challenge bikeways today. Throughout the 1970s, these fit men who self-identified as “cyclists” attended meeting after meeting to decry the designs that engineers were supposedly building for them. Quibbles in the wording of laws or details of a design became arguments and headaches for city staff. Anyone who was not already riding a bicycle on busy car-dominated streets was drowned out by the vehicular cyclists who claimed to speak for all bicycle riders.

Of course, surveys of riders showed these individuals to be in the minority — with 72 percent of riders saying separated bikeways provided good protection and 59 percent saying “signed routes” offered poor protection:


The FHWA even acknowledged this directly:

The results derived may differ markedly from the opinions voiced by cyclists petitioning or opposing governmental action in this field. This dichotomy is due to the fact that vocally active cyclists often tend to be sophisticated and organized, often as part of a club. The sophisticated cyclist must be recognized as an extremely capable person, both in physical ability and cycling techniques; as such, his needs for facilities will differ markedly from the broad range of users of typical facilities. In responding to the needs of cyclists as a class, it is important to realize that the most vocal element is not necessarily representative of the general cycling population. [Smith Jr., 1976]

But even if the authors recognized the political confusion, the 1976 FHWA recommendations landed firmly in the middle, figuratively and literally. Figuratively, the designs were split between the vast majority of people who wanted physical separation from motor vehicles — and the noisy few who opposed any bike-specific designs in favor of vehicular cycling. And the recommended designs literally intended to place bike riders between a row of parked cars and moving auto traffic.

Each document includes reference to and diagrams of an “offset pathway crossing” or “offset intersection” design which would allow the cyclist to easily and safely pass through an intersection and minimize turning conflicts. While the designs differ slightly, the material is clear: Intersections pose the greatest risk of collisions for bicyclists, and intersection treatments were an important topic to study in early bikeway designs — but were never implemented, tested, or examined with any depth.

The City of Davis wrote in 1972 that “offset crossings improve the angle of incidence between straight-through cyclists and right-turning motorists so that each will appear in the other’s forward field of vision.” After the installation of the country’s first bike lanes in Davis, one city study found that bike lanes reduced midblock collisions by 60 percent but intersection collisions were “marginally higher” with bike lanes. It concluded that offset intersection designs should be studied: “Experimentation with these designs is necessary to determine their safety-effectiveness under North American traffic conditions.”

A diagram and description of “offset crossings” in the FHWA’s 1976 report, “Safety and Location Criteria for Bicycle Facilities.”

It seemed like the experts of the time were coalescing around an answer to one of the most important design challenges of bikeway planning: intersections. The 1976 FHWA report “Safety and Location Criteria for Bike Facilities,” which created the basis for national bikeway design standards nationwide, mentions the offset intersection design as one of five intersection design treatments. The other four designs are all-too-familiar today: They simply remove all bicycle-specific features at the intersection — forcing the rider to merge into the rightmost travel lane with motor vehicles and leaving the cyclist exposed until the bike lane begins again on the far side of the intersection. These designs are still considered standard today.

Unfortunately, the 1976 report’s discussion of the offset crossing design explains that the treatment was never studied and was excluded from consideration due to perceived deficiencies in the U.S. cycling public:

Prior to undertaking such studies, the offset crossing was dropped from consideration primarily due to the problems with bicyclist acceptance. Although this treatment has been successfully employ in Europe, it essentially involves treatment of bicyclists as pedestrians. All observational experience of U.S. cyclists would indicate certain rejection and disuse of such a facility by the vast majority. [Smith Jr., 1976]

It is clear that this highly influential document’s dismissal of the offset intersection design doomed any chance of installation at the time. But much like physically protected bikeways, this design has recently been rediscovered by cycling advocates and planners thanks to Nick Falbo’s video about protected intersections. The idea (similar to the designs from over 40 years ago) was covered by dozens of news sources. The Streetsblog headline called it “The Next Breakthrough for American Bike Lanes.”

Design consultants like Rock Miller have been carrying the torch of the design and sharing the idea with cities across the country for years — but to no avail. Miller says that since Falbo’s video went viral, cities are receptive and excited to consider the design. Falbo himself suggested that the design was difficult to comprehend from the birds-eye view of the 1970s, and that it took the technology of 3D rendering to finally, easily explain the benefit of the design. “I had been pitching [the idea of a protected intersection] in various cities — but struggled to get it accepted anywhere,” he said. “Then, the design competition came up as an opportunity. The video was able to communicate it better than a memo — people could see what it looked like passing through.”

So, as advocates wait with excitement for Salt Lake City’s completion of its protected intersection, we should keep in mind that this is design has truly been a long time coming. While we can call the design innovative and groundbreaking, it’s important to realize that we are, simply, “re-cycling” the ideas of generations past, and it is the technology of today that has finally allowed this idea to come to fruition.

Marc Caswell is currently studying bicycle and pedestrian transportation at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles. This article is a shortened version of his paper, “Re-Cycling Ideas: California’s Earliest Bikeway Planning Rediscovered 50 Years Later.”

  • But that’s the point, even CROW sidepath standards are insufficient to accommodate the road bike riding cyclist where hills are involved. It is also a pain in the ass switching back and forth between the sidepaths and the road in Germany in all except the longest hill climbs. This is why most German road cyclists ignore the sidepaths and ride in the roadway in violation of the law. I did too. Recently the ADFC (the United German Bicycle Club) fought for the inclusion of more on-street bike lanes into the German bicycle facilitation standards because its much easier to switch into the faster travel lane from an on-street bike lane.

    Just making the point and not trying to argue with you. I like my 3-speed too.

  • I don’t disagree.

    First, lets be clear that most of the bicycle facilities in Germany aren’t all that good, maybe only a step or two above U.S. stuff, and far short of CROW standards. I’m not sure how good of an example Germany is and even granny’s on oma’s will sometimes choose the road over a poor path. (and yes, I do get how that translates 🙂

    Regardless of geography, the vast majority of people will be unlikely to ride bicycles on painted lanes and will want protected bikeways.

    Fortunately the vast majority of the U.S. population lives in areas that are fairly flat so for those flat areas we should still strive for protected Dutch standard infrastructure. For hilly areas we may need to look at alternatives. We’ll still need protected infrastructure for 95% of the population (and some percent of serious cyclists who don’t bomb downhill). What do you suggest for the 1% of the population who are roadies?

  • The problem in Europe is that roads, with the exception of freeways, do NOT have shoulders. If they did, I think the law would be fine with roadies riding along busier roads.

    Also, new Germany interurban sidepath bikeways are actually very well designed, seeming to take a page from Dutch standards. Most of these are designed to be roads for farm equipment (keeping them away from faster motor traffic) so the design standards are for faster traffic. I rode many of them on my road bike in flatter areas next to roads with crazy traffic this past September. Still, in many places the 1 meter wide sidepaths are still leftover from days past. Elsewhere cyclists are routed on to farm a forest roads (4 to 5 meters wide) closed to regular traffic. Who could ask for anything better?!?! 🙂

  • Gezellig

    Exactly! Many places with mature biking cultures (Davis, suburbs in the Netherlands, etc.) are far from dense. I mean, Davis:×682.jpg

    In fact I’d even go so far as to say that in particularly low-density areas biking is all the more attractive–if the infrastructure supports it–since walking is often less practical.

    If someone hasn’t been to the Netherlands they might assume everyone lives in tight, compact medieval town centers. However, those are but a small minority of urbanized space in the Netherlands. Having lived there I saw a surprising amount of places that looked like this–(Yes! The following pics are all from the *Netherlands*–not the US):

    In fact, truly dense skycrapery areas are pretty rare in the Netherlands, with the notable exception of a few areas such as central Rotterdam (which, incidentally, has relatively low bike modeshare–by Dutch standards–but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

  • Gezellig

    Do note that I mentioned that bike blvds/greenways/etc. aren’t the *only* solution.

    Putting people on back streets while still ignoring low-stress treatments on arterials (where most businesses/services/etc. are) means you do not have a comprehensive low-stress network.

  • Joe R.

    I tend to think biking works better in low density areas for two reasons. One, you have far fewer intersections and traffic signals, both things which make cycling slow and/or more hazardous. Two, since distances are often too far to walk, there are few pedestrians. In large cities the sheer numbers of pedestrians are often a major nuisance if you’re on a bike. They may intrude into bike lanes, cross right in front of you without looking, etc.

    Another point here is someone choosing cycling to get around in a lower density area is far more likely to be switching from automobile to bike, rather than from mass transit or walking to bike, as might be the case in a place like Manhattan.

    I’ve often said NYC made a big mistake when it focused building its bike network starting in Manhattan. Even with protected lanes, Manhattan is generally a miserable place to ride. Your head needs to be on a swivel looking for pedestrians, taxis, potholes, food carts, piles of garbage or debris, etc. You’re constantly slowing or stopping for all these myriad obstacles, as well as the infernal traffic signals where are spaced 250 feet apart. Things would have been better served starting in the outer boroughs where a bike trip is more likely to replace a car trip. Places like eastern Queens could easily become a mecca of biking with the right infrastructure. There would have been less backlash against it as well since we have more street space here relative to the number of users.

  • Patrick94GSR .

    Please, point me to the diagrams of intersections that minimize conflict. Because I’m sure not seeing them in this article.

  • …which is the approach that is employed in The Netherlands too. About a third of all Dutch roads are signed for 30 km/h and/or located in those zones. For all the talk about Dutch cycletracks and as crucial as they are, they really form a decided minority of the total bikeway network in The Netherlands. Their primary use is on bigger roads and as connectors to fill gaps in the network. (It’s also worth noting that the Dutch word that literally translates to cycletrack, fietspad, is used to describe all bikeways where motorized traffic is prohibited. But if American convention were applied, many routes than the Dutch describe as fietspaden, especially outside cities, would be considered “shared”/multi-use paths, not cycletracks.)

  • Andy

    Heck, if we were even allowed to make 20mph roads, bike infrastructure would hardly be necessary.

  • Certainly. But at the same time, a 20 MPH arterial is hardly realistic or practical, yet they generally provide the connections in our communities. At that point, separated infrastructure will be necessary.

  • Andy

    I hope you aren’t implying that I want all roads 20mph.

    As I said before, I’d love it if some roads where designed mostly for cars (e.g. arterials, highways) and some roads designed mostly for bikes/peds (e.g. greenways, or just 20mph zones). If I could ride a block away from the arterial on a parallel 20mph road, there would be no use for bike infrastructure on the arterial, and really, hardly a use for it on a 20mph street with few cars either.

  • If the arterial does nothing but shuttle cars, then I’d agree that there makes little sense for bike-specific infrastructure on it (including bike lanes). But especially in newer communities, arterials provide the only connection from the community to schools, shopping, other neighborhoods, etc. and since they’re not built on rectilinear grids, there are currently no parallel roads to provide the 20 MPH streets. Certainly, some properties in the current communities can be acquired to fill in gaps and create an actual network. But if the low-stress bikeways don’t go anywhere useful, we’re left with the same situation that we’re in now because actually biking somewhere requires enduring conditions completely hostile to biking. Even places like Houten and Kloosterveen (one of itsarterials is pictured below) include bikeways along the arterials because they lead to destinations.

  • Andy

    You are drifting rather far. My original point: If we were even allowed to make 20mph roads, bike infrastructure would hardly be necessary. As it is, DOT does not seem to allow this anywhere except within one block of a school.

    Yet articles like this, with supporters of it bashing 2 people for their actions primarily from 40 years ago, apply that to literally anyone who disagrees with their dream to bring over Dutch cycling infrastructure designed around calmer streets to our very different network of stroads.

  • You think wrong, or at least, no studies have shown this to be true. I ride predictably as well, and get honked at. Likely cyclists who dodge into and out of cars get honked at less because they’re not in front of cars. You’re right, and I did say, that rearendings are not such a big deal, intersections are bad, but even on straight lines, getting cut off and pushed off the road is a big deal.

  • You’ll notice the question was specifically about why they aren’t used on recreational (sport) bikes.

  • Andy

    It’s certainly a curious topic as to why people honk. I’ve ridden in many places: rural areas of upstate NY, ON, VT, NH, CO, & WA, but also big cities like SF, LA, Seattle, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto.

    I recall getting honked at more when I started cycling (around 2008), which was also when I rode in the gutter. Over a few years of commuting, I learned that I was treated better when I rode 2-3ft into the lane, even though more people are waiting behind me. This required drivers to slow and pass patiently if there was oncoming traffic, but I was very predictable and visible from far away. A few per year honked, but it became very rare.

    I think people that ride in unpredictable ways (weaving at each opportunity to be close to the curb and then darting into the lane again when there’s a parked car) allows for sudden changes that incite honking. Even I get annoyed by cyclists that do this when I’m driving, even though I feel that I know why they choose to ride that way.

    But again, perhaps it’s just my luck over 25,000 miles of riding all over the place…

  • Kevin Love

    For professional racing, tenths of a second can mean the difference between victory or defeat. So weight is an issue with racing bikes.

    But really… my Pashley Roadster Sovereign weighs about 45 lbs. I can easily double that weight with another 45 lbs of groceries in the panniers and rear racks. Am I going a lot slower with a full load on? Not really. A bit slower but basically the same speed.

    Weight is not really an issue for utility cyclists.

  • Andy

    In the scheme of one trip, maybe you aren’t going much slower. Efficiency mostly matters in the long term though. You don’t see too many people commute 10 miles each way on mtn bikes, even though that’s possible. If someone is going to be a dedicated commuter, they are likely to want something that is as efficient as possible while still meeting their comfort and carrying capacity needs.

  • Kevin Love

    For me personally, 10 miles is quite a distance. Right now, I live about 5 miles from work. That’s about the most for me.

    If I were to take a job further away, I would move to get that distance back down again.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Traveling from a residence to a business cannot be done solely on residential streets. At some point the bicycle rider must get on a arterial street to reach the businesses. For most people that would be willing to ride a bicycle that would require a separation from the much greater mass and speed of motor vehicles on arterial streets.

  • Again, you miss the point, the question was about recreational bikes. On expensive sport bikes, the weight is a factor, on cheap Walmart bikes, cost is a factor, hence recreational bikes don’t have hub gears. Yes, they’re far better for utility cycling, but that isn’t the point I was making. I have an IHG on my commuter bike, but I wouldn’t expect to get one on a road bike.

  • Your assumption is that drivers honk when they’re surprised, I argue they honk when they’re annoyed and held up.

  • I’m not drifting, I’m being realistic. It’d certainly be great to allow lower speed limits, but what would that actually accomplish? Here in CA where I live, the standard residential speed limit is 25 MPH. Notwithstanding the fact that they’re often chronically overbuilt, the roads in newer developments are largely empty most of the day and thus would be perfect for biking. However, they rarely ever form a coherent grid. Instead, almost all of them empty onto a collector, which in turn empties onto an arterial, which in turn empties onto yet another arterial. Case-in-point: the picture below is pretty up-to-date of just one of several developments in the works near where I live. Exactly which streets would be good for forming the low-stress network without using cycletracks that would allow the communities, both existing and under construction, to access the grocery and other shopping options at the retail area in the center of the picture, the parks on the left, the school in the lower center-right?

    As for what happened 40 years ago, it’s still highly relevant because it set back development here for decades. Those views got baked into standards that have been used in development in the intervening years, leaving a situation where we’re now stuck with tens of thousands of miles of roads that need to be corrected.

  • Andy

    Exactly! Maybe for a few miles, having lower efficiency or more weight isn’t a problem. At 10 miles, most people would want a light and efficient bike if they are going to consider doing it frequently.

    I had a 10 miles each way commute 2x a week with 2 large hills. The other 3 days was just 4 miles each way. I didn’t ever use a crummy bike on the longer days, though I didn’t care which bike I took for the shorter days.

  • Andy

    Most of the discussion on this page has been, roughly: we should use Dutch-style infrastructure in America, but 2 jerks ruined that. I’m making a point that the infrastructure barely matters when the speeds are 20mph.

    There are roads that will obviously be 30, 40, 50 mph because they are designed for cars. It would be great to use greenways to make great routes where possible, which can turn grids into a non-stop cycling-speed route. That clearly isn’t everywhere. A wide shoulder (or bike lane) on the collector streets would be great. The arterials could use cycletracks if there isn’t a better way to access the destinations.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Cities will get much more people bicycling per mile in higher population density areas by installing bike lanes there than in lower population density areas. That’s simply because there is more potential customers per square mile. It doesn’t cost more money per mile to install bike lanes in lower Manhattan than it does in the other areas of the city. The city got more bang for the buck installing bike lanes in lower Manhattan and this also helped ensure the success of the bicycle sharing system.

  • Kevin Love

    Well… Even if I could get a bike that magically had zero weight, that really would not make much difference to my speed or commute time. Which is kind of the flip side of doubling the weight with groceries.

    So I still would not want to live more than five miles from work. That’s about 20-25 minutes depending upon wind, etc. The shortest commute I ever had was about .8 miles. Nice!

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The budget for maintaining and resurfacing streets this fiscal year in the city of Los Angeles is $161 million. Matching the per capita expenditure for bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands would be $133 million. That has about as much chance of flying as you would have if you flapped your arms. You don’t seem to understand the order of magnitude of difficulty in trying to duplicate in the U.S. what the Netherlands has achieved.

    A big difference between the U.S. and the Netherlands is that gasoline costs $8 a gallon in the Netherlands. That certainly discourages car use. It also can be used as a source of revenue for transportation improvements.

    The Netherlands also has a value added tax (VAT) of 24%. In the U.S. state and local sales taxes are as high as 11.5%. Again, another source of revenue that can be used for transportation.

    How is it that the Netherlands spends more on transportation than the U.s.? Hmmm…maybe its higher taxes.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The diagrams of intersections reduces the potential conflicts. Riding in the middle of motor vehicle lanes you are surrounded by potential conflicts with motor vehicles which discourages most people from riding there.

  • Joe R.

    The only way that’s true is if you accept sub-standard bike infrastructure. Sure, it costs the same to install a mile of protected bike lane in Manhattan as it does in Queens. However, that bike infrastructure in Manhattan ends up not meeting a lot of the criteria good bike infrastructure should meet—namely a minimal amount of stopping, safety from motor vehicles, relative freedom from pedestrians, freedom from other obstructions, room for safe passing, etc. The only way to do that in Manhattan would be to either restrict your bike routes to places parallel to natural barriers (i.e. the rivers), or to put them in tunnels or on viaducts. In the first case, you don’t have a useful, comprehensive bike network because it only exists along the Hudson and East Rivers. In the second it may well end up costing more per user than a similar quality bike route in the outer boroughs, despite the fact you get a lot more users.

    Really, the above analysis true of nearly anything you build in Manhattan, not just bike infrastructure. Density in general gives you economy of scale up to a point. When you start running out of room it ends up being very costly to make additional accommodations. It’s much the same with buildings. Up to maybe about 15 or 20 stories the incremental cost of adding more units keeps dropping. After that it starts going up. Most places in Manhattan at this point need to go well beyond 20 stories to add units. That’s why only luxury housing gets built. So maybe this is more an argument that Manhattan is way too dense for its own good than anything else. Moving forward, it will make a lot more sense for most of the additional growth in NYC to take place in the outer boroughs. In order to do that without ending up with gridlock we’ll either need a lot more subways, or more reliance on more space efficient surface modes like bikes or buses. That’s why I think starting in the outer boroughs would have made more sense. We can build high quality bike infrastructure there for a lot less per mile. It will be immediately useful to many right now. In the future it will help enable further population growth. Much the same thought process resulted in the early IRT being built out to essentially greenfields. It was cheaper to build a high-quality rapid transit link before density increased. We see the wisdom of that decision now with these greenfields eventually developing into dense, urban areas.

    Bike share is a business. It probably makes sense that it started in the densest part of the city. In the case of bike share the infrastructure needed costs no more in Manhattan than it would anywhere else, but you end up with a lot more users.

  • @Andy – There are way more than 2, and they have been both vocal and vociferous for the last 40 years, is the problem. Now that viewpoints more representative of the bicycling public are prevailing, we’re seeing an increase in the “We don’t oppose all facilities” qualifier, generally followed by reasons why this particular one is opposed (reasons being the same VC litany they’ve bent our ears with for 40 years).

  • @Andy – Who are the car companies paying, exactly, and where do I get my cut? The usual VC line is that evil greedy bike manufacturers are behind it so that they can sell more bikes.

  • Agree. But there is more to it than just speed. First the actual speeds must be below 20 mph, not just the limit. However, there are three perhaps more important elements; volume, ratio, and driver type.

    The overall volume of traffic on the roads must be low.

    The ratio of bikes to cars should be 2:1 or ideally 4:1. We’ll not achieve that on many roads for some time but that is what we need to aim for.

    Shared roads should be local access only, not through routes. Drivers at the beginning or end of their journey are less rushed and more patient. Drivers usually also drive more cautiously in their own neighborhood than on through routes.

    There are some minor trade-offs. For instance, a higher ratio of bicycle rider to cars of 4:1 or 5:1 can allow for more through traffic.

  • @Khal – These are not straw men, these are what VC advocates — actual men (nearly all men) with actual names — have wrought.

    Forester’s book came out when I was a kid. It is of course edited, mostly moderate in tone, and describes a consistent self-contained system. Some of its premises hinge on outdated research that lacked controls, but I didn’t know that at the time. It seemed eminently reasonable.

    Out in the real world, I went to a class with the same name as the book and was subjected to tirades against anyone in the class with the temerity to mention bike lanes. They were called “incompetent” and, since the aforementioned research suggested that bike lanes were dangerous, were actually accused of wanting bicyclists to be injured.

    Also out in the real world, any sort of complaint or collision was met with an argument from so-called bicycle advocates to find some pretext, any pretext, to blame the bicyclist involved. Because clearly any bicyclist with an problem is “incompetent,” which is defined as not adhering to everything in Forester’s book.

    With regards to infrastructure, the record speaks for itself. I first experienced the above in Massachusetts, where VC ideology had a stranglehold on advocacy. That state underwent the most expensive transportation project in U.S. history, spanning decades, and not one penny of it went towards accommodating bicyclists. Not one penny was advocated for, in accordance with the ideology.

    That’s just my own intro to the ideology, but it’s not atypical. There is a long paper trail going back to the 1970s and an online trail going back to the 1980s that document the influence this ideology has had.

  • Kevin Love

    A story which can be told in one sentence: Central Rotterdam was bombed flat by the Nazis and rebuilt after the war in the “modern” American style.

    Fortunately, Rotterdam is currently having its bike infra improved and is experiencing a corresponding rise in bike mode share. See:

  • Kevin Love

    First off, The Netherlands does not spend more on transportation than the USA. AAA is reporting typical private car ownership costs of about $10,000 per year, and there is also about another $10,000 in public subsidy.

    It is true that NL spends far more on car infra than bike infra, but it is still a lot less than in the USA. And 27% overall bike mode share for the entire country results in a lot lower level of spending on roads. And on police, fire and ambulance services for car drivers. And increased costs of municipal services for car-dependent urban sprawl. And health-care costs for those poisoned by car pollution. And periodic multi-billion dollar bailouts of car companies. And wars for oil in the Middle East.

    For an example of municipal services costs, see:

    For an example of health care costs of people poisoned by car drivers, see:

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The point I was trying to make is that you cannot skip the steps necessarily that lead to a 20% mode share. A city that has a 1% bicycle mode share is not going to spend 83% of what they do on car infrastructure for bicycle infrastructure. Its not in the realm of possibility. The bicycle mode share in the Netherlands was about 20% at its lowest point. Its a heck of a lot easier to get the space and money for bicycling infrastructure when its mode share is 20% as opposed to 1%.

    A example of that is trying to remove a motor vehicle lane to install bike lanes or a cycle track. Essentially in Los Angeles your asking to remove a motor vehicle lane from four to five through lanes that moves about 20-25% of traffic in each lane in order to install infrastructure for the 1% of traffic. In the Netherlands you would have been swapping a motor vehicle lane traffic for an equal amount of bicycle traffic. That’s a much easier sell than squeezing the number of motor vehicle lanes in order to install bike lanes for the 1%. You won’t get very far with that in a city such as Los Angeles where many of the arterial streets are reaching their maximum capacity during peak hours. The more of these road diets that are installed the more boa constrictor of resistance from motorists will squeeze that opportunity.

    Getting the money and space for bicycle infrastructure that the Netherlands has achieved requires a series of evolutionary steps. First you have to crawl, then walk before you can run. You can’t skip from 1% mode share to 20% in either funding levels or getting the space needed to install the infrastructure.

    The U.S. city that has the best chance of first achieving a network of cycle tracks similar to the Netherlands is Davis. That’s due to having a 24% bicycle commute share, bike lanes that are commonly 7-ft wide that are on 95% of the arterial streets, a budget per capita for bicycle infrastructure that may be unmatched by any other city in the U.S. and a goal to reach a 30% bicycle mode share by 2020.

  • Mr. Norman’s critique of the “arterial and cul de sac” design is spot on. When I wrote up an article for the Calgary folks a decade ago, the transition between the old city and its grid layout and the new developments with their arterial/cul de sac development pattern was visceral. The bike planners had used the quieter streets in the old city to provide “bicycle boulevards” (s.l.), which when used in conjunction with a large number of multiuse paths, provided a very nice network. When I ventured into new development, that connectivity evaporated promptly, leaving even this experienced rider (albeit I was recovering from a serious injury at the time) feeling harried by traffic.

    John Allen has suggested on his own blog that one way to retrofit bicycling into the arterial/cul de sac design is by acquiring greenways or pathways to connect the individual developments to each other directly and to schools, playgrounds, and other destinations within biking distance, for both children and adults. Given these new developments are not going away, I see some sort of separated cycle facilities bypassing higher speed arterials as crucial to ensuring that people can ride on less mentally formidable facilities, at least when they are busy. As Marven said, many times these arterials are ghost-empty (non rush hour), but they can, even if lightly used, be extremely circuitous, and not ideal for bike connectivity.

  • Joe R.

    Another criterium I might use besides 20 mph would be light traffic, and light traffic on the cross streets. This would mean the stop signs can be turned towards the cross street, no traffic signals are needed, and a cyclist has a stress-free, non-stop ride.

    Also worth mentioning is when we say “20 mph roads”, we mean the speeds motor vehicles actually drive at, not the posted speed limit. I’ve been on my share of roads where the design essentially encourages speeds well above the posted limit. Just slapping a 20 mph limit on those roads won’t make them great for cycling, even if all the other criteria I mentioned were met.

  • Many German cities were also bombed flat during the war, and some were rebuilt explicitly to ensure that bicycling and walking were integrated into designs.

  • The treatment depends on the arterial street. We have Diamond Drive, which has very few cross streets for its northern half; bike lanes (six foot wide ones) work very well and are heavily used. The southern end of Diamond has something like 10 intersections and curbcuts in a half mile, and there have been a couple of hits and numerous near misses from right hooks. Intersection controls to prevent these conflicts or some other solution would be a good idea, as this is the classic weakness of bike lanes–putting through cyclists to the right of right turning traffic.

  • Davis is basically a college town. Way different than many cities. One would probably have high ridership in a college town without too much encouragement.

  • Kevin Love

    True. And also true that Hiroshima currently has a 12% cycle mode share. The ultimate bombed flat…

    In the post WWII era, the Dutch went on a car binge. Car use skyrocketed and plenty of car-only infra was constructed. Fortunately for them, in the mid-1970’s they saw the horrible cost of this and decided to change.

    The lesson for us? They changed. We can too.

  • We can change too. Hopefully, not after being bombed flat…

  • Kevin Love

    And we have! This is one of my favorite videos. Too bad they used such a crappy bike at the end…

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The manual of uniform control devices used by traffic engineers in this country does not have bike lanes installed to the right of right turn only lanes for motor vehicles.

    The city of Los Angeles had 147 miles of bike lanes in 2009. The department of transportation installed 19 miles of bike lanes in fiscal year 2011, 50 miles in FY12, 101 miles in FY13, 40 miles in FY14 and at least 30 miles in FY2015.

    Bicycle boarding’s at Metro rail stations increased 42% in 2013 and the Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) results show a 20% increase in the share of bicycle commuters.

    LAPD reported traffic collisions involving bicycles increased 0.9 of one-percent in 2013. The bicycle collisions for 2014 are 6% below what they were in 2013 and 5% below the results in 2012.

    A 2012 study of bicycle lanes installed before 2007 in New York City also did not find a rise in bicycle traffic collisions even though there was likely a large rise in the number of people bicycling.

    It has become safer to ride a bicycle both in NYC and LA after the installation of bike lanes. For the money and space available bike lanes have been proven to be an improvement in safety for bicycling on busy streets.

  • Yes, that’s actually the approach used by the Dutch too. People like to focus on their cycletracks and traffic calmed city centers, but they forget that there are hundreds of other developments that are suburbs and of course, the newer cities like Almere and Zoetermeer. If you look at maps of places like Houten and Kloosterveen, bikes are allowed to go basically everywhere (except the ring roads) and connections among the neighborhoods are inviting. In some newer projects here, I have seem some attempts made at including some elements of that model. But they have no concept of how to do it properly. Then of course, there’s the whole issue about it presenting a potential safety hazard under recommendations like CPTED. This certainly has potential, but the planners need some reference points to work off of. Right now, they’re just throwing darts at minimum standards.

  • Gezellig

    Exciting update!

    I just got word from a councilmember in Davis that Davis’s own protected intersection has just opened within the past day or two.

    It has a really interesting All of the Above design that incorporates both on-street as well as protected options (including the hybrid option to bike on-street but join the protected lanes briefly during the intersection):×579.png?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=04c34a9116c050e5ddc391d088363bb9

  • Gezellig