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Strategy for a
Cyclist-Friendly
Community

The Components of a
Cyclist-Friendly
Community

Understanding Infrastructure

Most of us have been conditioned to believe all bike facilities are good for cyclists. But ill-conceived, poorly designed and even deadly bike facilities are more common than most cyclists realize. Not all bike facilities are bad, but it's important for cyclists to understand the difference. The table below lists the pros and cons of facilities, it is divided into Traffic Flow Enhancements and Cyclist Enhancements.

Traffic Flow Enhancements:

Enable motorists to pass cyclists without inconvenience, but are not as beneficial (and sometimes dangerous) to cyclists.

Enhancing the flow of traffic has general safety and livability consequences, as it allows for higher speeds in urban and residential areas, fosters inattentive driving, makes pedestrian crossing more difficult and dangerous, assigns priority to motor vehicles and encourages a sense of motorist entitlement that roads are expressly for their speed and convenience.

Pro

Con

SIDE PATH

Psychological: Allows timid, slow riders to be off the road.

Side paths can be beneficial adjacent to rural highways where there are long distances with no crossing streets or driveways

Drivers of vehicles should not be mixed with pedestrians.

Side paths are proven to increase crossing conflicts and accidents.

Requires slow speeds and constant stopping, extremely inconvenient - cyclist must yield or stop at every side street and driveway to ensure safety.

The presence of a side path effectively reduces access for road cyclists by increasing hostility on the adjacent road.

BIKE LANE - Surface Streets

Psychological: Allows timid riders to feel more comfortable, or legitimate, on the road.

Increase cyclists’ legitimacy to pass a queue of stopped traffic.

Higher speed roads:

On roads with few side streets, a bike lane allows riders a sense of their own space without increasing conflicts.

Allows cyclists to escape harassment from motorists who perceive them as an impediment, or just believe bikes don't belong in their road.

White line enhances visual separation at night.

Increased risk of common collisions in a complex urban environment

  • Riding on periphery of scan zone increases vulnerability to left cross and drive-out
  • Crossing intersections on the right of the flow of traffic increases vulnerability to right-hook

Offers false sense of security for inexperienced riders

  • Complicates the roadway environment, requiring more skill and knowledge to negotiate safely
  • Allows motorists to pass without altering speed or lateral position - often decreasing lateral buffer

Misleads motorists and cyclists about proper lane position and safe proximity to parked cars

  • Most bike lanes encourage improper lateral position for direction of travel at intersections - it's almost always better to be in the line of traffic than beside it.
  • Door zones - an FDOT standard BL is partially in door zone, an AASHTO minimum BL is entirely in the door zone - both stimulate cyclists to ride in a dangerous position
  • Down hill bike lanes encourage dangerous far-right riding at high speeds
  • Encourages passing on the right without due caution

Reduces a cyclist’s Level of Service and equal access to the roadway:

  • Collects debris, requiring merges into the traffic lane, and increasing tire punctures
  • Overrides a cyclist’s discretion of safe lateral roadway position, based on speed or other factors
  • Increases harassment if cyclist rides outside BL for safety reasons not recognized by motorist
  • Blocked by stopped buses/delivery vehicles, requiring a merge into the traffic lane

Ethical and social considerations:

  • Bike lanes are a flawed concept, based more on illusion of comfort than actual safety.
  • Bike lanes do nothing to change the cultural behaviors and attitudes which make cycling less appealing. If anything, they reinforce them.
  • The focus on bike lanes diverts attention and funding from effective solutions to improve cyclist comfort and safety.
  • Educated cyclists don’t need bike lanes and novice cyclists don’t understand their limitations. Misleading a timid or inexperienced rider into a complex and hazardous environment with the illusion of safety is dishonest and unethical.

WIDE CURB LANE - (WCL)

WCLs are beneficial where traffic congestion makes it difficult for motorists to change lanes to pass, causing cyclists to feel intimidated about claiming the lane.

A better alternative than bike lanes if traffic flow must be accommodated - offers the same psychological advantages without the problems created by the stripe.

Allows cyclists to escape harassment from motorists perceiving them as an impediment.

Allows cyclists to filter forward in traffic, and induces some caution since there is no perception of separation (and motorists are more likely to make right turns from the right side of the lane).

Allows bicyclists to pass stopped buses/delivery vehicles without changing lanes.

Space is less likely to fill with debris due to unrestricted lateral movement of motor vehicles.

“Far right” riding is required by law in WCLs, but it is sometimes not of benefit to a cyclist.

Gives cyclist less control of lane as compared to a narrow lane - requiring a merge to avoid obstructions and hazards

Riding to the right of traffic flow increases potential of right-hook, drive-out and left-cross collisions.

Creates a disadvantage for left turns as cyclist must negotiate a merge across the WCL, in addition to other lanes.

WCLs of 14 ft do not offer safe, same-lane clearance from 10-foot-wide vehicles - cyclist in a lane-sharing position can be at risk of side-swipe by larger vehicles. (WCLs on busier roads should not be less than 16ft.)

BIKE-ABLE SHOULDER (Rural Highway)

Benefit is mostly psychological, but with few detrimental side effects if it is of ample width, good pavement quality, free of debris and there are few intersections.

Allows cyclist to ride out of the path of speeding traffic. Motorists often exceed the speed limit and can be surprised by a slow-moving vehicle in the lane ahead.

Gives cyclist a place to escape on-coming vehicles passing opposite direction traffic.

Allows visual separation at night. Statistically, overtaking accidents occur on rural roads at night, a shoulder offers a cyclist a paved escape.

Shoulders are not part of the roadway, therefore cyclists are not required to ride on them. The presence of a shoulder doesn't abridge a cyclist's legal right to the road.

Motorists expect cyclist to ride in shoulder even though they are not legally obligated to do so.

Facilitates high-speed passing and increased side force from large vehicles.

Shoulders often have substandard pavement, longitudinal seam cracks, pavement ridges at the roadway edge, glass and debris.

Shoulders are always on the right of right-turning traffic and right-turn-only lanes and should be avoided where cross streets are frequent.

Cyclist Enhancements:

Empower cyclists to act as drivers of vehicles and offer improvements to their safety and convenience.

BIKE LANE - Freeway/Bridge

Allow cyclists access to otherwise restricted highways.

Collects debris and must be kept clean.

Potential for conflicts at high-speed exits.

SHARED USE ARROW (sharrow)

Used properly, sharrows could empower cyclists to use more lane and inform motorists of a cyclist’s right to do so.

Should be used with on street parking to encourage cyclists to ride outside the door zone

Can aid in transition of public consciousness to expect cyclists using roadway.

Could be misused to indicate lateral position too far to the right.

Could be interpreted that cyclists are only permitted to be in the lane if sharrows are present.

“CYCLISTS USE FULL LANE” SIGNS

Enhances legitimacy to claim narrow lanes.

May encourage novices to use safer lane position.

These are good reinforcement in a public awareness campaign to educated cyclists and motorists of a cyclist’s right to the lane.

Could be interpreted that cyclists are only permitted full use of lane if signs are present

BIKE WARNING SIGNS (Share the Road)

Alert drivers to presence of cyclists on road.

When “share the road” tag is used, it can be misinterpreted by motorists to mean cyclists should ride farther right and share their lane.

SMOOTH PAVEMENT

Increased speed and comfort.

Cyclists can ride more predictably when they don’t have to dodge hazards.

Motorists and cyclists alike enjoy smooth pavement.

NONE

TRAFFIC LIGHT SENSORS

Allow cyclists to request green light while maintaining safe lane position.

NONE

BIKE RACKS

Security.

The presence of bike racks is a passive encouragement for people to use bikes for short trips.

NONE

MULTI-USE PATH (MUP)

Offer escape from noise and exhaust.

Accommodates children and traffic-averse cyclists for recreational purposes.

Good transportation use: connect subdivisions and secondary roads, allowing cyclists to avoid high-speed or complex arterial roads.

Must be shared with pedestrians, leashed dogs, children, roller-bladers. Mixing vehicle drivers with pedestrians decreases safety for pedestrians.

Slow speed travel required to avoid hazards and respect other users.

Must cross roads, where most common conflicts occur.

Expensive and seldom convenient for transportation purposes.

Bad transportation use: urban path with numerous street crossings and side path segments.