Designs From Dutch Burbs Should Unite Vehicular Cyclists and Bike Lane Fans

Photos from Dutch suburban areas and countryside by Marven Norman.

This is the second in a two-post series about Dutch suburbs.

It’s understandable why vehicular cycling techniques thrive in suburban America. In the absence of good bike infrastructure, taking the middle of the travel lane really is the safest way to ride — uncomfortable though that is for many of us.

But if American suburbs are ever going to be made truly better for biking, today’s suburban bicycle drivers will need to find common ground with me and my fellow fans of Dutch infrastructure.

Here’s what that might look like.

1) Infrastructure opponents should take the time to offer meaningful suggestions beyond “no”

Sharrows in Indianapolis. Photo: Michael Andersen/PeopleForBikes

I’ve seen it myself numerous times: The bicycle drivers only demand “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs and sharrows while shunning anything else exclusively for bikes. Meanwhile, the planners and engineers are hearing from the rest of society that they want “more bike lanes.” But without any valuable input about design features, they resort to their manuals… and the result is bad infrastructure.

It’s long past time for the more experienced riders to adopt an approach of pragmatism.

I find those who campaign solely for sharrows and education, or else nothing at all, to be incredibly short-sighted. Approaching the design team that continues to hear “give us bikeways” and telling them not to isn’t a winning strategy, especially when outnumbered. But approaching the same team and saying “let’s make sure that these bikeways are the best possible” will actually produce facilities that do meet the needs of 95 percent of bike users, even those of us who like to travel at a good clip.

2) When true Dutch designs are adopted, “protected bike lanes slow me down” doesn’t stand up

Good bike infrastructure is designed for speed. It’s unfortunate that many American street designers are afraid of the Dutch CROW manual, which is already a great document for how we could do things. Even if a clueless intern designed something straight out of the book, the results would be palatable for 90 percent of bike users and 95 percent of their needs.

The CROW manual goes beyond the standards of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and calls for a design speed of 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 mph) for through routes and 40 kph (25 mph) for routes outside of cities or shared with mopeds. Those are roughly equal to the speeds that most bicycle riders would ever expect to reach in a typical journey on those segments, so that’s more than adequate.

3) American bikeway planners should stop underemphasizing inter-urban trips

The reason that most U.S. planners (unfortunately) focus mostly on the short trips at the detriment of speed is because those are the journeys that make up the bulk of all trips. For all the sprawl of America, people don’t go very far at all. According to the data, a staggering 15 percent of driven trips are no more than half a mile, a distance that could be easily walked by most people, to say nothing of biking.

Obviously, that represents a huge opportunity on multiple fronts, so it’s no surprise to find that advocates are trying to lure people onto bikes for their short trips. When you look at Dutch data, you see that the lion’s share of Dutch biking occurs up to about two miles, then quickly loses out to cars past that point. In other words, most people in the Netherlands just don’t bike far at all. In fact, data from Portland shows that Americans might actually be willing to bike farther than the Dutch.

However, people looking to bike far in the Netherlands are not out of luck, either. They don’t have a fancy name for it, but the Dutch have been building “bicycle superhighways” for years. Stuff like this stretches across the country to connect the villages, towns, and cities.

I tend to agree with those who say that the interurban commute trip is one place that American advocates are dropping the ball. At the same time, it’s worth noting that in the Dutch ridership figures, only 16 percent of trips are people riding to work. For all the hype about bike lockers and showers, they’re never going to give most American work commuters a strong enough incentive to bike all the way to work — though better transit systems and bike-share might increase people who use bikes as a first-mile/last-mile solution.

That said, I understand why Americans don’t focus on interurban trips as much: return on investment. Though provisions for bikes can ultimately be a money saver for agencies, the concept is still too young here to gain much traction. I know that I personally continue to push for bikeways that connect cities and regions, but most advocates are generally working within cities because that’s where it’s easiest to show that people will ride if they have infrastructure.

After getting people to bike short trips, those same people will be more inclined to not only ride more and farther, but to also be a more vocal partner in getting more improvements elsewhere, including R4-11s. Biking advocates in the United States are already few enough. We’ll get farther and faster by sticking together.

The 2014 Redlands Classic in California, USA. Photo: Inland Empire Bicycling Alliance

Marven Norman is president of the Inland Empire Bicycling Alliance. He lives in Loma Linda, California. This post was developed from a series of comments he wrote on Streetsblog USA.

133 thoughts on Designs From Dutch Burbs Should Unite Vehicular Cyclists and Bike Lane Fans

  1. Whoa. Stick to the gutter? Do not worry, our intrepid but not-spandex-clad commuter is not sticking to the gutter, rather they are stopped at an intersection, wishing to turn right onto a 4 lane one-way street and turn left one or two blocks later. Be assured that the center of the lane shall pass directly below a pannier whenever the cyclist is moving forward without lane changing.

    I have made no suggestions of infrastructure.

    Our cyclist is not getting stopped at a light so your stop-at-the-light-and-flirt techniques do not apply, unfortunately they are trying to get across several lanes of traffic.

    Let us assume an opening of over 3 car lengths appears in the commuting traffic in the close lane. We’ll even be generous and make them all passenger car sedans so the sight lines are clear. Our cyclist sees his/her opportunity and lays down on the pedal hard.

    There, though not 8-80, the work-clothes aren’t wet yet (because this is the first imaginary stretch of traffic we’ve imagined) and the cyclist is in their lane. Sure, traffic is moving in excess of the posted limit, but our bike commuter has progressed down the block 100 feet in the rightmost lane.

    So, now, the way this is supposed to work is that they throw out their left arm, check the handle-bar rear-view, and the commuting auto traffic, running at least 15 mph faster than the cyclist, is going to open up 3 more times over the rest of the 0.5-1.5 blocks remaining. Did this traffic slow and open up and all our cyclist had to do was hold their left arm out the entire time, or is your imaginary traffic also letting the cyclist just throw a quick signal wave while yielding to the slower moving cyclist because they are hyper-courteous, hyper-alert and not looking at their eDevices at all?

  2. I don’t care to go searching for them again, but I’ve read other studies that oppose that, while fitting with what I’ve learned over 25,000 miles of riding in America. I don’t deny that it works for the Dutch. I fare better by riding in predictable and visible places, as opposed to many that use door zone bike lanes and weave around gutter obstacles because the laws are written to keep cyclists there. I don’t want to see more poorly executed bike lanes to perpetuate that. I want to see lowered traffic on residential street by having the cars in the places they belong, and increased education from youth on, so that it becomes normal for people to ride in the road when that is the safest place to ride. Those are far better uses of our public dollars that continuing to make poor bike lanes among a few good ones.

    Putting more sub-par bike infrastructure on the side in attempts to get us out of the way of cars sucks. I’m not a second class citizen. I’ll gladly use a maintained bike lane or shoulder when it exists, but I have no hesitation to use the lane to stay visible.

    If you insist that adding more layers of bike infrastructure is our only way to get around by bike, so be it; I don’t expect to change your mind.

  3. Such drama and elegance! But yes, in far too many words you have successfully described how to make a turn. I’ve recently ridden a bunch in LA, SF, and Seattle, and can attest to drivers in all three urban areas understanding basic rules of the road.

  4. Wow. In the morning commute traffic I see most days, many automobile drivers aren’t going to make that quick right-left.

    But you, riding your magnificent metal stallion, are able to cast aside all doubts. Bravo!

    Let me know next time you’re in Oakland, I’d love to follow behind you, also taking the lane in the right-most lane, but then keep in that lane up to the desired intersection and make a box-left turn. There, from my position with no additional infrastructure, I’ll admire you for your grace and verve from the corner as traffic parts for you like butter.

  5. “I don’t care to go searching for them again, but I’ve read other studies that oppose that”

    Well, I’m sorry, but if you can’t cite objective, facts-based quantifiable data to back them up your statements come down to nothing more than totally subjective opinion. Which is fine for you to have, of course, but is not one to model policymaking on.

    Good infrastructure policy is grounded in the reality-based world, not whimsical unsubstantiated opinions.

    ” I don’t deny that it works for the Dutch.”

    I cited mounds of data from *non*-Dutch (specifically, North American) sources showing that it also can work here.

    “Putting more sub-par bike infrastructure on the side in attempts to get us out of the way of cars sucks. I’m not a second class citizen”

    So do you oppose sidewalks? After all, they’re “on the side,” too. Why not tell grandma she needs to put up or shut up–just pull herself up by her bootstraps and promote Vehicular Walking everywhere?

    “If you insist that adding more layers of bike infrastructure is our only way to get around by bike, so be it; I don’t expect to change your mind.”

    You’re missing the point. This isn’t about me. I myself bike vehicularly every day. It’s possible, if oftentimes suboptimal. The point is the percentages of us willing to bike that way are in the single digits. How do we know? Our current infrastructure status quo.

    “I want to see lowered traffic on residential street by having the cars in the places they belong, and increased education from youth”

    These things are not mutually exclusive with infrastructure. In fact, they can all work in tandem.

  6. So you are explaining a difficult situation. If most people driving cars can’t handle that, I don’t expect most people on bikes to either. Traffic sucks regardless. Some type of infrastructure could actually help this situation. Like I said several times, I’m not opposed to it, I just hate seeing it poorly executed because some engineer thinks it looks nice in the city’s stats of how many linear feet of bike lane they painted that year.

  7. All great points. I don’t have a problem with good infrastructure. I’m sick of transportation engineers painting a white line and calling it an improvement though.

  8. Me too!

    Hence articles such as this 🙂 which advocate for pretty much the exact opposite of careless afterthought slapdash doorzone paint.

  9. Yes, that is my point.

    Ideology and dogma are stronger than any argument to the contrary, but there are streets they will never get you across. Please quit insisting they will.

    It’s exactly the ‘difficult situation’ that we’re concerned with making same for all cyclists. One of the things that jumped out to me in Copenhagen, Skanderborg, Aarhus, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Kortrijk, Brussels and the areas in between seen from van and train and cab was that most of the streets I saw were little different than most of the no-bike-infrastructure-at all-streets I see in the US, and the cyclists used them ‘vehicularly’.

    It was only where the streets became ‘difficult’ for coexistence that the infrastructure changed. I saw a little 6yo Orthodox boy cycle down an Antwerp residential street taking the lane and turning on to a cyclepath next to a 4-lane divided arterial type road. I’m pretty sure both were appropriate.

  10. Exactly.

    “Every street everywhere should have a cycletrack.”

    –No One Ever

    It’s about low-stress networks with treatments appropriate to the context. Even in the NL cycletracks are in the extreme numerical minority compared to the numerically far more common shared-space street. But cycletracks are spaced at smart intervals *that connect*

  11. That’s actually the encouraging news in all this–a smartly laid-out small number of streets with cycletracks can go a huge way towards increasing modeshare and safety. Studies show people will go out of their way (as the crow flies) to use separated infrastructure. And this applies no matter the continent. Take Buenos Aires:

    In recent years Buenos Aires has implemented a first-gen network of protected cycletracks that connect. We could write tomes about how they’re not up to Dutch best practices, but after installation they’ve been a huge success in terms of boosting bike modeshare exponentially in the city.

    As it turns out, an Argentine friend of mine was just visiting SF this past week and when passing a cycletrack here he happened to mention umprompted how the newish cycletracks in BsAs have led him for the first time in his adult life to bike. To work. He mentioned that he goes a bit out of his way to use the protected cycletracks on the 6km journey (it might be 5km walking) to his work but that it’s totally worth it for the ease of riding he says they provide. He never once biked as an adult before they were implemented.

    I actually lived in BsAs several years before these began to be implemented and remember that bike modeshare then was very near zero. After all, very few people want to bike on endless wide arterials made for cars:

    The anecdotal example of my friend is a story writ large by the data. Over and over this kind of infrastructure has proven to encourage new ridership in ways the old status quo never did.
    This wouldn’t have been happening a few years ago

    I think it’s great news that even 2nd/3rd-tier designs placed at regular intervals (though still comprising an extreme minority of actual streets) can go so far in terms of encouraging exponentially larger numbers of people to bike!

  12. Though, to be fair, I think a close reading of the @ggAndy:disqus @RoyCrisman:disqus thread here would show that though we’re apparently responding to to each other, a big part of what we’re responding to isn’t really each other’s positions but some imagined one.


  13. I hear what you’re saying, and I think there are design solutions to the right-hook issue. I’ll brainstorm below, but first: The safety gains are so enormous by protecting bikes with parked cars it’s a trade-off I’d make in an instant. As a member of the most risk-tolerant segment of the biking population, even you will likely reap many more biking benefits by getting grannies and babies on bikes than you will designing roadways ideal just for you. These benefits will come in the form of increased awareness of bikers, more bike lanes, more public and political support for cyclists, and willingness to experiment with infrastructure design. I think that’s where a lot of us infrastructurists are coming from – we’re not content with just having the bravest bikers comfortable on the road; we know that for our communities to be liveable biking has to gain a major share of the transportation load.

    As for the right-hook solutions, having the cycletracks elevated to sidewalk would help make cyclists more visible. Stopping the row of parked cars well before the intersection further increases visibility. The best design, I believe, would have all crosswalks and intersections elevated, so that cars entering would essentially be hitting a speed bump, forcing them to slow down and reducing the chance of a right hook. (A nice bonus is that cyclists and pedestrians would maintain a constant grade, making intersection navigation extremely smooth.)

    I don’t think I have the perfect intersection design, but it’s a start. Maybe 10-20 years down our roads will be as packed with bikes as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, people will be driving less, and we can widen the bike lanes further, adding more passing room. Until then, you can always get back out and ride fast in traffic – maybe you’d only need to do so for a block to pass a slow pack. I’m sorry you’d have to suffer the honking, but your speed is less important to me than growing a safe, accessible network.

  14. Yes. This. All of this.

    Btw, here are some specific examples of how to handle cycletracks+frequent driveways:

    And, yes, they can work with frequent intersections as well:

    But here’s the amazing thing–even separated infrastructure treatments that don’t always adhere to these best practices are *still seeing dramatic improvements* in safety and modeshare.

    After all, the single biggest predictor of bike safety is having more people doing it. But you don’t get there by insisting that everyone sink or swim vehicularly on busy arterials. How do we know? That’s our current cars-first infrastructure status quo. And in terms of biking it’s been a decades-long practice in failure.

  15. I don’t think I said that I’m trying to race through cities. I’m often going rather slowly and I agree that cycling shouldn’t only cater to those looking to go fast. What I don’t agree with, is that “protected” lanes are a solution in many situations. For the same reason that sidewalk cycling is a very bad idea (and illegal for adults in many cities) cycletracks that cross frequent intersections are a similarly poor plan. I’ve collected enough anecdotal evidence to know that drivers aren’t paying attention to bikes on paths to their right (hence the right hook) so I try to avoid riding there whenever possible now. Protected bike lanes do nothing for us when we have to cross an intersection, unless you can convince the transportation engineers to add a new layer of bike phase lights, which would kill their car level of service, which is blasphemy to most of them.

  16. If you’ve got 15ft feet of room to spare for a sidewalk, cycletrack, and street buffer zone, this is a great idea. That’s a tough retrofit in cities at this point though.

  17. I’m not sure anyone (not cyclists, not transportation planners) really wants people on bikes on arterials. I would love to avoid them if I could, but unfortunately they are often the most direct routes currently.

    Like I mentioned, ideally we could bike on low traffic roads because we’ve diverted most of the traffic to an arterial nearby. The concept of putting in poor infra is lost on me, when a few diverters could be much cheaper, and provide better routes that can be ridden at any bikeable speed.

  18. Hm, well we can disagree on our comfort levels in protected bike lanes. I think we can agree that infrastructure doesn’t prevent careless people from being careless – my position is that it makes careless mistakes less deadly (i.e., forcing cars to slow before making right turns.)

    (And just to play devil’s advocate, couldn’t you say that someone who ignores a protected bike lane to ride in traffic is … careless?)

    I think I assumed you’re racing through cities because all that’s required to avoid right hooks is to slow down if the car is not yielding. In fact, to assume the car is not yielding, until you make eye contact.

    It’s true as you say that “drivers aren’t paying attention to bikes on paths to their right”, but they’ll be paying attention when there’s a steady stream of bikers. In fact, as biking increases, trying to turn right in a car will downright suck as drivers will have to wait for peds, bikers, now peds coming from the other direction, more bikers … aaah, red light!!! And this will lead to bike traffic signals.

    Of course none of us thinks protected lanes are necessary everywhere (I certainly don’t need them on quiet streets), so let’s see exactly where we disagree. You don’t like them on streets with frequent intersections, whereas I think they’re the preferred option on all arterial streets (Telegraph Ave in Oakland or Market St in SF, for example) because these are the busiest and fastest streets – AKA cyclist killers. Is is fair to say that your main problem with protected bike lanes is the right-hook? Is that your only issue with them? Pretend you found a right-hook solution: now are you in favor of protected bike lanes?

    How you feel more comfortable in a full lane of traffic with drivers honking, buzzing, and yelling at you than being in a protected lane is something I can’t understand. Two-ton hunks of metal operated by angry drivers at close quarters scare the shit out of me. Now that I have a baby, I view biking a little differently.

  19. The reason I can feel safe in the lane is because the traffic is all going to same direction, and I’m visibly ahead of them, instead of something they can ignore to the side that suddenly comes into their view as they are making a turn across my path. With the type of protected paths I’ve seen, in order to remain safe, I would need to slow approaching all intersections, assuming that car drivers will turn in front of me because they didn’t look for me. Whereas with riding with traffic, I can just ride straight, all day long, without putting special attention to crossing traffic. Similarly, riding in the lane instead of in the gutter or a door zone bike lane, cars are unable to try to squeeze by in the lane just to give me the right hook. This all seems to work just fine at typical city speed limits I’ve encountered.

    You mention honking, buzzing, and yelling, but those are all things I encounter extremely rarely. I can’t even remember the last time someone yelled at me, maybe a few years ago. People who ride by weaving around parked cars are the people that seem to think that drivers are honking at cyclists. When I ride a predictable path in the lane, it’s clear what I am doing, and drivers can pass as they wish. By taking the lane when a good enough shoulder doesn’t exist, I’m never a sudden hazard in their way. I very rarely encounter buzzing either, which is a great improvement to when I used to try to stay as far right as possible, which I learned only promoted faster and less safe passing.

    Assuming that you drive: Do you feel comfortable with overtired semi-truck drivers using the same lane as you in a 3000lb car?

  20. Yes it’s tough, but it is being done. As traffic worsens and people are willing to switch modes, space is being allocated to bike lanes. (This is also why every cyclist needs to be a big transit booster and advocate of market-driven parking rates: lower drivership and car ownership means more room for bike infrastructure.)
    Some cities are blessed (cursed!) with wide, overbuilt streets that encourage speeding (Oakland, CA). This provides the exceptional opportunity to take out a lane (or narrow all lanes) in order to add excellent infrastructure. But it’s politically difficult, and it’s made no easier by the fact that some people (wink wink) are out there saying they’re fine biking in traffic!!!

    … which is why I come to this site, and comment: to find the right ideas and build support for them.

  21. “I’ve collected enough anecdotal evidence to know that drivers aren’t paying attention to bikes on paths to their right (hence the right hook) so I try to avoid riding there whenever possible now. ”

    The plural of anec-dote is not anec-data. While NYC’s intersections could use better designs, it’s all the more impressive that even still NYCDOT has recorded significant drops in injuries after installing cycletracks *even while modeshare went up*.

    “Protected bike lanes do nothing for us when we have to cross an intersection,”

    And speaking of that:

    “which would kill their car level of service, which is blasphemy to most of them.”

    That is a valid concern that is being worked on. For example, so-called “bad” LOS is no longer a metric that can kill projects under CEQA in CA. Hopefully this spreads.

  22. You’re not thinking 8-to-80, 20% + modeshare/etc.

    The reality is that few wish to bike in that way all the time. And the track record shows that the single biggest predictor of bike safety is strength in numbers. Which insisting on VC-only very clearly does not get.

    If only these people had a nice safe mixed-traffic street to keep safe from all those dangerous cycletracks!

    (insane head-in-sand Forester/Franklin quotes superimposed on images of actual infrastructure)

  23. I agree with you that *in the absence of any bike infrastructure* taking the whole lane is preferable to hugging the side. (In Oakland, there’s an experimental fat green stripe down the center of the lane to encourage bikers to do so, but they still hug the side… sigh.) I agree it’s best to block the cars from passing rather than let them squeeze past as you ride in the door zone.
    (Yes, I’ve definitely been buzzed, honked, and yelled at. Try riding uphill on Upper Broadway in Rockridge during rush hour – as you say, I’m no second class citizen, I deserve a lane. Prepare for honking!! I’m glad you haven’t experienced it recently – we should all be so lucky.)
    (As to your question: It’s not the greatest feeling, but I have the security of a professionally designed and engineered steel roll cage around me, seat belts, and air bags. There’s that. But two further points. 1. The speed differential is minimal compared to car-bike differences, especially when bikes are grinding uphill. 2. In a car, the smaller vehicle – me – is typically going faster than the large vehicles – trucks – so I first get a good look at them from behind, and then pass or back off at my discretion. I know what you’re saying, but for me the comparison is only a loose one. My anecdotal experience: I have been WAY more scared on a bike than in a car.)

    But that’s not what’s under discussion. We’re talking about a scenario where there *is* infrastructure. What should it be? How does it best serve me, other bikers, other modes of travel, street sweeping, deliveries, neighborhood livability? Let’s assume we and the city all agree on a solution that considers these factors, and it’s more than just a painted bike lane that suddenly disappears. Help us define what that looks like.

  24. Road diets are increasingly common in North American cities. Many roads are already slated for them. They’re the low-hanging fruit for introducing best-practice bike and pedestrian facilities instead of more conventional wastes of time/space/money.

    Also, the street in that video above is not *that* exotic. Many an American residential street has a similar spatial layout.

  25. And too bad if you live/work/play on an arterial? Or that cool new coffee place is on one and you’d like to bike the half mile instead of driving? Or it’s geographically the most direct or flattest route? (Sandy’s the main arterial in the screenshot below). So city planners and citizens alike should just ignore them?

    Talk about *actual* second-class citizen status!

  26. Hah, thanks 😀

    If you replace “protected bike lane” with “sidewalk” on an anti-PBL screed it shows how logically absurd it really is. (So PBLs are “second-class segregation” but sidewalks aren’t?).

    Let’s take this one, from Andy’s comment below, replaced with “sidewalks” and “pedestrians” throughout to turn it from an anti-PBL argument to an anti-sidewalk one:

    “I’m not sure anyone (not pedestrians, not transportation planners) really wants pedestrians on arterials. I would love to avoid them if I could, but unfortunately they are often the most direct routes currently.

    Like I mentioned, ideally we could walk on low traffic roads because we’ve diverted most of the traffic to an arterial nearby. The concept of putting in poor infra is lost on me, when a few diverters could be much cheaper, and provide better routes that can be walked at any walkable speed.”

    Screw you, people on bikes–this is an *arterial* for cars only–stay away! (so forcing people to only bike on quiet back streets is somehow *not* second-class or segregation? Or insisting they just bike in the middle with the 45mph trucks is somehow not incredibly ableist and elitist? Ok!)

  27. @Matt BK, one problem, besides the obvious safety issue, is that a city will put in a DZBL and then people won’t use it — either because of it’s inherent dooring danger or because it doesn’t provide enough protection from cars. The result is city engineers and politicians saying that they tried a bit of infrastructure and nobody used it so it’s pointless to invest in any more infrastructure.

    If the infrastructure will not be good enough then it may be best to not build it at all. By good enough I mean that it should provide a high enough level of comfort and safety for average people and should be designed for speed and efficiency.

  28. Not if the cycletrack is designed correctly. See photos at the bottom of this:

    I ride on a path (in MN, not Netherlands) every day that crosses 42 driveways and these are not a big problem. The people who live along here know that the path is there and that it gets fairly heavy use so they make sure to check before crossing. The biggest problem is at a Montessori school with new parents but the school now explicitly notifies new parents of the path and each year they send a note home to all parents to remind them to please be cautious of bicycle riders on the path and note that bicycle riders do have right-of-way where the path crosses the parking lot entrance.

  29. I’m willing to bet the average person who doesn’t ride but might be interested has no idea of what a door zone is, would see a bike lane, and would think it was acceptable to use.

    Look, I ride in Grand Forks, ND. It’s not New York, it’s not Amsterdam, it’s not Minneapolis. Just a few years ago we had cops pulling cyclists over for riding in the street instead of on the sidewalk. The city council doesn’t understand that people who ride bikes might actually have jobs. If we wait (and lobby, and lobby, and lobby) for “perfect” infrastructure, nothing is going to change around here, and people who ride will make up no more of the modeshare. If we put in obvious bicycle facilities and some people use them, it’s a win.

    This spring we finally got sharrows on University Avenue, after being promised a lane and the city engineers claiming that “people drive big trucks around here” and so car lanes couldn’t possibly be narrowed. Usage went way, way up, and that’s with only a few stencils on the far right side of the lane (in the door zone, in fact).

    Potential riders in many places like Grand Forks don’t need to be “protected,” they don’t need to be told how dangerous riding is (even in the street, even as a non-VC cyclist, it’s not dangerous)–they just need to be told its okay for them to ride bicycles instead of drive.

  30. Compare the people you see riding bicycles on University with those in cars. Are the bicycle riders similar? Similar mix of age and gender? Or, are the primary people who will ride their bicycles on there middle-aged males?

    What is the modal share of bicycles along University? Why isn’t it higher? Why aren’t more of those people in cars (in spring/summer/fall 🙂 choosing to ride a bicycle? Why do places with segregated infrastructure grow bicycling at massively greater rates than those without?

  31. What I’m saying is that the problem in Grand Forks is one of politics, not engineering, and that without more people riding, nothing is going to change. If nothing changes, no more people are going to ride.

    It’s a chicken and egg problem, and I don’t think the solution (here) is going to be “accept perfect infrastructure or accept nothing.” I’m just trying to live in the real world.

  32. All excellent points and I don’t disagree. Except that I would be a bit surprised if engineering were not at least equally the problem with politics. Fortunately that’s changing as many universities like Minnesota are no longer teaching 1950’s car dominance but more of a pseudo complete streets mentality.

    In some cases a less optimal solution like sharrows or a bike lane is better than nothing so long as all involved understand that it is suboptimal and will lead to suboptimal results especially if they are on a road with moderately high or fast traffic.

    Also be careful about how real of a world you limit yourself to. More may be possible than you realize. This especially when people realize the the very positive impact on property values when good bikeways are installed and motor traffic is decreased in volume and speed.

  33. “Vehicular cyclists” that don’t accept any idea of segregated infrastructure because they want to run as fast as they can, unimpeded, unrestricted are not much different than car drivers who are against any sort of pedestrian crossing, roundabout or speed limit because they want to run as fast as they can, unimpeded, unrestricted.

    In any situation where you have a large number of vehicles competing to use some shared infrastructure (road, airport runway, shipping lane near port etc), you will need to achieve some compromises.

    So, no, vehicular cyclists don’t have an absolute right to cycle faster than 99% of other cyclists, and demand also that road traffic let them have priority anywhere.

  34. If someone isn’t comfortable making a left turn as I described, there is nearly always (IME) a crosswalk button they can hit, and temporarily become a pedestrian to make the crossing. I do this in some cases, and still far prefer that to trying to add an extra layer of infra to every tough intersection since American engineers have proven that they will screw it up more often than not.

  35. Where the space exists, the traffic is high enough, and the funds are available, this would certainly help the cautious cyclist. It wouldn’t benefit confident cyclists, because I would much prefer to be in that left turning lane to make an easy left, rather that go straight as cars are crossing my path to turn right, and wait for an additional signal for the cars originally going straight to stop to make the final leg of the turn. Like I’ve said, these designs add time and signal phases that aren’t necessary if you can simply make a left turn in the way that all other vehicles in the road do. I likely wouldn’t be using the protected bike lanes leading up to this either, because I have no need to be confined to a space that won’t allow me to exit left to make a non-complicated turn.

    When the no infrastructure left turn isn’t going to be easy, I can continue to through the intersection and wait at the corner (probably hitting the pedestrian button, possibly getting off my bike to walk if that seems best) but this is a very rare occurrence that usually only happens in very congested areas during commute times.

  36. I’ve used bike boxes a few times and don’t like them. The only time I prefer to be ahead of cars is when there are few, they are likely turning, and I’m not likely to be leapfrogging with them. Cutting the line to get in front helps for visibility, but then I have an angry driver behind me that’s getting antsy to pass. And then when the next intersection has another green box, we could play the game again. No thanks.

    It’s similar to cyclists filtering up the right side at lights. I generally will only do that if I’m turning right, or if traffic is heavy enough that I’m likely to continue passing more cars instead of leapfrogging. Usually this only makes sense if there’s clearly a shoulder to be using after the intersection.

  37. The videos posted here also show that they have a rather large buffer space to both sides too. It’s a good option for casual cyclists if the space exists, but it’s not a place that I would be riding since it still limits me to a narrower path that’s harder to turn left from, and still leaves potential crossing points all over the place, even if they are more traffic-calmed in other ways.

  38. My 8-80 solution is to make many more low traffic roads ideal for cycling, rather than make roads clearly intended for high level of (car) service slightly better for cycling. American transportation engineers have proven so many times over that projects will get watered down, the proper protections likely won’t happen, and in the end they’ll just cut the expensive parts out, which will be in the intersections. What we are left with is a beautifully protected lane that lured casual riders, but then dumps them into a busy intersection with turning traffic that wasn’t looking for them.

  39. No, not “too bad”. Make a route of low-traffic roads actually enticing to cyclists. People like me can continue to use direct routes if we so dare to share it with big evil cars, and the rest can enjoy riding without worrying about big intersections and endless traffic queues that prevent easy turns.

  40. I’ve seen road diets from 4-3 or 3-2, but 2-1 isn’t something I’ve heard of yet. Maybe it’s happened somewhere in the US, but that is a tough sell.

  41. When you stop the row of parked cars you probably want a curb extension or bus bulb to make sure that cars have to take the turn slowly.

    If cars have to slow a lot to turn that makes it much easier for them yield to cyclists, and for cyclists to see them in time to avoid a collision if they don’t.

  42. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. A DZBL in a suburb doesn’t even have cars parked next to it most of the time and the ones that are parked are usually there for hours or days without being moved. I will lodge complaints about them if I see them, especially if the travel lanes can be narrowed. But I don’t make as big a deal out of it as I could. So far, I’ve not heard of any doorings here in the area for several years.

  43. Yep, and that’s precisely my point. Our standards our so lackluster that utter garbage continues to get trotted out as “innovative” and is really stuff that has been canned years ago in places that actually plan for bikes.

  44. On a regular basis, I watch motorists yield to bikes on the sidewalk/gutter, even some going the wrong way, even though they’re not even legally required to. That would certainly be increased with a properly designed intersection where a motorist doesn’t have to turn their head around 180 degrees to see the cycletrack (picture related: concept in action at the most dangerous intersection in The NLs). I’m also pretty sure that American designers/engineers will use an abundance of caution and throw in as you said all sorts of signage or even signals. Thankfully, the possible LOS impacts are no longer relevant here in CA, so hopefully more of them get used.

  45. I won’t deny that it could help in circumstances, but I’m sure it will hurt in others too.

    At least with a bike lane or sidewalk where there is no parking or empty parking, there’s not much to block the view. Protected paths ensure that we are far from the drivers, which means that they aren’t likely paying attention to us until they are forced too. That’s all fine and dandy, but it means that I wouldn’t be rolling smoothly through intersections – I’d be sure to slow way down under the assumption that the driver may not react to me in time.

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