Looking at Europe…
Bicycle Facilities advocates love to invoke the name of Northern European cycling. Whole websites are dedicated to notion that we should recreate Amsterdam in America. The City of Portland has explicitly claimed that its goal is to become more like Amsterdam. But they’re, like, so ten years ago!
Just as the separatist ideologues try to shoehorn more segregated facilities into American cities, they are falling out of fashion in Europe. And for the reasons Cyclist advocates have been stating all along.
From Principles of Cycle Planning by John Franklin:
At the international Velo City conference in Munich this year, a Swiss delegate described how there has been a major shift in his country from accommodating cyclists separately to mixing cyclists with traffic, with changes to the road environment as necessary. This has led to big increases in cycling. The mayors of Munich, Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris each explicitly stated how they wanted cycling back on their streets. And even a speaker from the Netherlands defined ‘cycle-friendly cities’ as those with as few special facilities for cyclists as possible.
The factors that are driving these trends include recognition that the quality of separate infrastructure is rarely good enough to satisfy a wide range of cyclists; that the capacity of such infrastructure is too limited for potential cycling growth; and intractable problems of safety.
This paper is a worthy read. It contains an excellent explanation of road profiles (on page 4) that shows why many vehicular cyclists prefer a clearly narrow lane (tight profile) to a marginally wide lane (critical profile). There’s good overview stuff in there about crash statistics, education, the problems of mixing cyclists with pedestrians, etc. He also targets one of my (many) traffic-calming peeves — the pinch point (page 8). (Remember to mirror right and left, Franklin is British)
In conclusion, he debunks the mythologies perpetrated by facilities advocates:
Finally, I return to the important issue of people’s perceptions of risk and how to encourage more people to cycle. I’ve stressed how important I believe it to be not to make reality worse just to meet inaccurate perceptions. I also believe that the way that cycling has been accommodated in recent years has often fueled rather than reduced people’s fears about cycling.
A recent study from Copenhagen – where they know better than most about cycle facility design–suggests that cycle lanes have very little benefit in terms of encouraging people to cycle while increasing risk. Segregated cycle tracks can lead to more cycling but also lead to more casualties and the space requirements will not be found in many British cities [or American ones!], except on separate alignments such as disused railway lines. <snip>
To directly address people’s fears about cycling, modern cycle training is proving very effective. But if this is to achieve its full potential, then planning for cycling needs to be consistent with best cycling practice, not at odds with it.
Meanwhile. I noticed there is yet another sidepath being contructed through a heavily-commercial area on US 17-92. We’re moving farther and farther away from where we need to be. Removing cyclists to the margins, where they are less safe, serves only to reinforce irrational fear and the belief that we don’t belong on the road.