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Posted by on Feb 22, 2011 in Uncategorized | 96 comments

It’s hard to imagine…

that in the information age, any city could do such a heinous, backwards thing as stripe a 3-foot door zone bike lane.

But once you get your head around it. You’ll have an idea of just what we’re up against.

There it is

Here are some choice quotes from the article: Cyclists getting a bike lane along Chapel Street.

Although not quite as wide as a standard bike lane, the new paths will be three-feet wide, enough to separate cyclists from the neighborhood’s parked cars and the traffic on the roads.

Tom Bradford, director of the bike advocacy group Charleston Moves, was at the announcement with a camera around his neck and a big grin on his face, looking like a proud papa at a graduation ceremony. He says the guide markings are an important first step toward a more bike-friendly city.

Please God, save us from the bike advocates.

As if the AASHTO standards didn’t suck enough

In order to accommodate the three-foot bike lanes, as well as on-street parking and two lanes of traffic, a road has to be at least 40 feet wide. [Traffic Director Hernan] Pena adds, “Most of our streets just don’t have the width.”

Here’s what that looks like.

  1. AASHTO Design Vehicle — 24” wide bicycle + driver (excludes trikes, which are wider)
  2. The AASHTO Guide says, “… bicyclists require at least 1.0 m (40 inches) of essential operating space based solely on their profile.”  This 40 inches includes a bicyclist actual width plus additional maneuvering space. It does not take into account needed clearances from fixed objects or moving motor vehicles. — Wayne Pein, How Wide Should a Wide Lane Be?
  3. MINIMUM recommended wheel track for cyclists — 5’ from parked cars

No, wait. It gets better.

The city hopes the new lanes will help Charleston motorists remember that they are sharing the road with cyclists. “These bicycle guide markings will create a designated place for bicyclists to ride safely,” says Mayor Joe Riley. “Cyclists operating carefully and motorists operating carefully can coexist in a wonderful urban environment.”

I kept checking the header, in hopes I was reading the Onion. I wanted so much to laugh at the joke. OK, I guess politicians rely on the professionals in their respective departments to give them good information and not embarrass them.

Still clinging to hope, I clicked a link to the follow-up article: Cycling commuters react to new bike lanes.

In the past, Richard Moss says he has put the mirror on his helmet to good use in order to avoid cars on his ride down Chapel Street. “Now, I’ll be able to just settle into the bike lane,” he says. But Moss and other cyclists note that the lanes are still narrow and they’ll be weary [sic] of parked cars and the stray doors that swing open in front of cyclists.

But they’ll ride there anyway. The city didn’t add any space to the road, they just painted off part of the area where motorists don’t drive anyway.

Shawn Leberknight says he doesn’t commute on his bike much now, but a city proposal to resurface Morrison Drive and add some bike lanes will improve the trip when he does. “The biggest reason why many people see commuting by bicycle as ‘crazy’ is because they fear being on the road next to vehicles with drivers who honk and intimidate them,” Leberknight says. “I have my fair share of horror stories.” He says bike lanes can help protect cyclists, but more education is needed so drivers understand what it means to share the road.”


Yes, more education is needed. But where do you begin?

Is it really too much for policy makers and bike advocates to inform themselves about the best practices of bicycling? The world is full of information and stories of dead cyclists. The danger of riding in the door zone is hardly debatable. I can’t think of a single rationale to excuse advocating and celebrating such a substandard and unequivocally-deadly facility in the name of “protecting cyclists.”


  1. Great post. This is indeed bike lane malpractice.

  2. Looks like perfectly good striping to me, as long as it is understood as marking the door zone where bicyclists should not drive. It is in the door zone where cars are parked and too close to moving traffic where there are no parked cars. So when will they be putting in the diagonal striping to indicate that this is a buffer zone?

    • That’s what I want Orlando to do with the 4-ft dzbls in Baldwin Park

      baldwin corrected photo

      • More photos:
        When you think about bicycling, what are your thoughts?

        Are you thinking about your responsibilities and how to meet them? Are you thinking about the rules of the road and their safety and convenience? Are you looking at the example set by successful Bicycle Drivers who know how to make the rules work?
        Or… Are you feeling so bad about cars you’re focussed on making excuses for not learning traffic skills and getting special treatment instead so you don’t have to ride right in the road with the traffic?

        How you think determines where you’ll end up, and that’s why I’m building a website and program for healthy thinking before telling bicyclists how to ride.

    • It’s not perfectly good striping for that purpose. A stripe that’s only 3 feet from the parked car isn’t enough to delineate the door zone. They need to move the stripe two feet farther out before they paint the diagonal warning stripes.

  3. According to the bicycle advocates want to call them bike lanes, ‘but the City’s Traffic and Transportation Department chose to call the lanes Bicycle “Guide Markings” because they don’t meet some width guidelines.’ Are cities permitted in SC to create their own traffic control devices? Are bike lanes or bike guide markings mandatory in Charleston, or in SC? Whether or not riding outside the striped-off area is permitted, I would expect motorists’ behavior to be much more aggressive toward cyclists who stray off the reservation.

    In the Flickr photoset in that blog post, note the Chicago-esque scale distortion in the cross-section diagram. That sure is a wide 3 feet! Also note the only cyclist shown in motion near parked cars has positioned h{im,er}self safely, far more than 3 feet from the parked cars. That’s a “before” photo because there’s no “guide marking” stripe. I see no “after” photo to compare behavior for safety vs. compliance.

    • from your link:

      Charleston Moves congratulates the City of Charleston for taking this step. Director Tom Bradford, speaking at the occasion, said he hoped this was the first in many steps toward creating a true grid suitable for use by people on bicycles. He has in the past said the city must work quickly to expand this network of lanes, not as an “amenity” for bicyclists, but as a educational and safety tool necessary for keeping everyone using city streets safe.

      (emphasis mine)

      I feel like I’m living in the movie Idiocracy.

      As for your question, it is possible calling them “guide markings” makes them not subject to the MBL.

      Standards schmandards. It’s only bicycles.

  4. Apparently, South Carolina has a mandatory bike lane use law, and an extremely rigid one at that. “[B]icycles are required to ride in the bicycle lane except
    when necessary to pass another person riding a bicycle or to avoid an obstruction in the bicycle lane.” () There is not even an explicit exception for avoiding hazardous conditions, only obstructions. Of course, it is, in principle, always
    legal to do what you need to to avoid a hazardous condition, but just try explaining that to a police officer or judge or whatever who assumes that you are the hazardous condition.

    • And you know how they got that MBL?

      Bike advocates got it added a couple years ago in trade for unenforceable “safe passing” anti-harassment laws.

  5. (insert obligatory profanity with exclamation point here)

    This is what gives bicycle-facility designers a really, really bad name in terms of absolute cynicism–give uneducated bicyclists their “own space” as long as that space is the buffer zone THAT NO ONE SHOULD BE OPERATING IN; in other words, give them worse than nothing.

    Concur with Bob and Gary–the stripes are actually good educational material in that they approximately delineate the door zone (concur with Bob that the DZ is actually a tad wider).

  6. Eli and Bob–if Charleston doesn’t call them bike lanes, no cyclist is obliged to ride in them. Easy win in court. At least in New Mexico, if you wave the MUTCD in front of a judge, the ticket goes in the trash can.

    • Here in sunny California, agencies paint “bike lane” stencils in, and post “bike lane” signs beside, all sorts of facilities that aren’t bike lanes. There’s no MUTCD police, so that leaves either persuasion (by advocacy groups or by individuals or by a competent engineer in the agency’s employ), or an injuntive lawsuit requiring the agency to follow the law.

      • We don’t have MUTCD police per se, but lawyers have consistently gotten tickets thrown out when the MUTCD was not followed. Los Alamos County and Los Alamos National Lab had to replace a lot of signage and adjust speed limit zones because violations were being routinely dismissed by our local judges when signs were not standard, speed limits dropped too abruptly, etc. Maybe that is not typical elsewhere and I assumed it was.

    • Khal wrote:

      ” if you wave the MUTCD in front of a judge, the ticket goes in the trash can.”

      Two problems with that: (1) there is no guarantee (I’ll bet even in NM) and (2) I’ve never heard of a cyclist getting his/her legal expenses refunded let alone compensation for the inconvenience and aggravation.


      • Well, that is true. You are always out the time, money, and aggravation. But I know our county judges have been particularly strict about the letter of traffic law.

    • Has an easy court win actually happened in New Mexico?
      Talking to bicyclists in Delaware and Pennsylvania that have actually been cited, the lower court magistrates/judges often think the law makes no sense so they dismiss the exceptions that allow bicyclists to leave the MBL/FTR and uphold the citation. The bicyclists may then win on appeal with higher level courts that follow the law, but this is not what I would call an easy win.

      • These are county cases. I can’t speak for the rest of NM but I follow Albuquerque stuff and they have had more problems but so far no court cases, either. Diane Albert and Bike ABQ have been very pro-active dealing with government agencies.

        The cases I know of were motorists having violations dismissed for:
        1. Signs not being standardized
        2. Speed limits dropping too fast

        I work with the National Lab traffic engineer and he has overhauled most of the Dept. of Energy roads because there were enforcement issues on DOE property that would not be resolved unless the roads were brought up to MUTCD specs.

        There has not actually been a cyclist cited for an AFRAP violation in the ten years I have been in Los Alamos County. Several times people have been pulled over when the cops thought they were too far from AFRAP and each time the result has been a discussion with the force and a recognition of the need for flexibility in AFRAP. That actually happened to me two years ago. A rookie officer ended up being educated by a senior officer about AFRAP being flexible for good reasons. But first I had a long talk with the Police Chief to convince him!

        Ok, so maybe that is not normal in the rest of the world. I’ve worked my ass off to create a bicyclist-friendly police force and Dept. of Public Works. Plus, its a very well educated and trained force since they have to deal with so many coneheads.

        • “The cases I know of were motorists having violations dismissed”

          Therein lies the difference. Motorists get tickets dismissed all the time. They are the majority adhering to a social norm of driving as fast as you can get away with. The judge does that, too, in his personal vehicle. And when they slam into a bicyclist, “well, that could happen to anyone.” So they get those tickets dismissed too.

          Bicyclists failing to skitter out of the way like rats violates the taboo, not the law. But it is the taboo that is upheld by the courts.

          • Keri, the point I was making was that no cyclist has even been cited for an “imaginary violation”, as you and Mighk like to call them. I call that a win. The taboo has been roughed up a bit, too. In the situations where people complained about bicyclists not scattering like rats, the rats have won the argument. I have been on four radio shows with the cops explaining cyclists rights to the road here.

            I agree with you completely about motorist non-compliance. We rebuilt a whole damn street to lower the de-facto speed limit. Talk about brute force methods. Subject for another rant.

  7. I’ll be mentioning this today on Carbon Trace — including ripping off your excellent graphic (I wish I had your skill!).

    While we have kept the lane-painters at bay in Springfield, they occasionally break free and have to be brought to heel. This post will help.

  8. That’s just so crappy. The most dangerous place in the road to ride a bicycle is in that phoney “bike lane.”

    And how can someone stand up and say that something like that is good for cyclists? He needs to travel to NL and learn what REAL cycle infrastructure looks like. Then he will settle for nothing less.

    So what does the real thing look like?

    A cyclist will occupy about three feet, from elbow to elbow. And requires about 1 1/2 feet of “swerve room” on either side to go around road debris, irregular road surfaces, etc. This gives a minimum (I say again, minimum) bike lane width of six feet, or about two metres.

    This Dutch standard goes above this minumum, and requires 2.5 M for a unidirectional bike lane. There is also a minumum requirement of 1.5 M (about five feet) separation between the road and the bike lane. That provides five feet in which to erect protective barriers to keep the cars out.

    For more details, see:

    • Of course we’d all be disappointed if you didn’t chime in with your obligatory “real cycle infrastructure” comment, Kevin.

      But in this situation you have three choices:

      1. Remove the on-street parking in order to provide said “real cycle infrastructure.” I’m sure the adjacent property owners will really appreciate that; especially if they’re commercial.

      2. Remove the sidewalks.

      3. Inform cyclists and motorists (through sharrows, signage, PSAs, whatever) that cyclists should travel in the middle of the general use lanes.

      • I do not know enough about the particulars of the street to be able to recommend a treatment, but several examples can be seen here:

        As this so amply demonstrates, “not enough room” is a flimsy excuse. Medieval Dutch town centres can even do it with somewhat less roadspace.

        As for businesses, been there, done that. The whole screaming “Going car-free means business armageddon with a rerun of The Great Depression thrown in.”

        Then when the street does go car-free and business goes up, all the businesses outside of the car-free zone demand to be included. They say thing like “being in the car-free zone gives those other businesses an unfair advantage.”

        Can’t have it both ways. Some people are just born complainers.

        And what are we to think of the whole idea that there has got to be car parking right in front of every business! Because everyone knows that car drivers are all so fat and lazy that having to waddle their big fat asses a stupendous two blocks is like climbing Mount Everest for everyone else. Right?

        The goal is to make cycling the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of travelling from A to B. In many cases, B stands for businesses.

        • “I do not know enough about the particulars of the street to be able to recommend a treatment”

          Gee, Kevin, that’s never stopped you before.

          • Yes, it has. This is not the first time that I have written those words.

            On the other hand, sometimes the necessary treatment is glaringly obvious and no more information is necessary.

        • “I do not know enough about the particulars of the street to be able to recommend a treatment”

          Beyond the photo and the diagram above, there seems to be enough info. It didn’t take long to find the Google Street View (pre stripe):

          The only question is whether the two-way sidepath replaces the north side parking or the south side parking. Which side do you recommend?

          That still begs the question of why local cycling advocates are happy about these door zone lanes, and didn’t push for a sidepath.

          • MikeOnBike,

            Some reasons have been suggested on the APBP discussion group. Such as, maybe bicyclists were riding there anyway and at least with the lines motorists may be more aware of them and less likely to door them.

          • “Some reasons… Such as, maybe bicyclists were riding there anyway and at least with the lines motorists may be more aware of them and less likely to door them.”

            Lame. Very lame.

            Shows the typical disregard for the big picture.

        • Or, you could simply ride your bike down the road, like you’re supposed to, and it won’t cost you, or the taxpayers, much more than it already costs. Now, why do you need a bike lane again? ‘Splain it to me, Lucy’.

      • the correct choice is #3

      • Another possible choice: There might be a workable solution by looking at the traffic patterns on a larger acale. Blindered singlemindedness about the facilities fad du jour often ends up with an impractical and hazardous facility, when a solution that would provide better mobility and safety at less expense might be possible.

        Sometimes the better route is one or two streets over; or it is to decrease lane count, rethink the traffic pattern to decrease motor traffic congestion on potential through bicycle routes, etc. I don’t know Charleston, but I have brought up a Google map

        and it doesn’t look to me as though Chapel Street is very important for through travel. It doesn’t look to me as though much has happened in this downtown along the lines of a comprehensive examination of traffic patterns. That is where planning would have to begin and instead it looks to me instead that it began with a paint can.

      • And, after posting my previous message, looking at the street again in this Google Street View:

        — this is not an arterial. It is a rather quiet residential street! It has a speed hump and it looks almost deserted, though ! It calls out for, if anything, a low speed limit, shared-lane markings, maybe more speed humps. Itlooks like a “what’s the problem” street that even kids as young as 10 years old could reasonably be allowed to ride on, except that the bike lane is a problem.

    • The irony here is that Kevin and “Tom Bradford, director of the bike advocacy group Charleston Moves” ought to be in agreement on what is good for cyclists.

      Why aren’t Charleston’s bikeway advocates demanding the sort of facilities that Kevin advocates? Why are they so happy to see a type of bikeway that Kevin thinks is horrible?

  9. Keri,
    Apparently Charleston is missing Edwin Gardner.
    I know there are plenty of knowleable cycling advocates remaining in Charleston and it is confusing that such a discredited practice would be lauded by any regular cyclist. This is not one of the issues between the dedicated facilities and VC camps.

  10. (Replying to Gary) “maybe bicyclists were riding [in the door zone] anyway and at least with the lines motorists may be more aware of them and less likely to door them.”

    Not meaning to speak for Kevin, but I suspect he doesn’t buy this load of BS.

    Besides, it’s barely possible to bike between parked and moving cars in a 20′ lane, without getting mirrored from both sides (never mind doored). See Dan Gutierrez’ foot-by-foot diagrams here:

    Which still begs the question about why the local advocates are so accepting of a supposed bike facility that advocates like Kevin consider an abomination. Where’s the consistency among facility advocates?

    • Mike, I suspect you are making a rhetorical argument, but I think Bruce Day said it best. This is not a divisive issue between facility advocates and integration advocates. Most people with some ethical fiber reject door zone bike lanes, even if they support other facilities that integration advocates don’t care for.

      • Yes, but I’m genuinely trying to understand why all facility advocates don’t have the standards Kevin has.

        Slightly paraphrasing your opening line, “It’s hard to imagine that in the information age, any facility advocate could support such a heinous, backwards thing.”

        More generally, how can facility advocates be so much at odds with each other over best facility designs? The key difference seems to be whether they’re willing to inconvenience motorists.

        As Kevin said above, “The goal is to make cycling the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of travelling from A to B.” Which logically requires making motoring slower, harder, and less convenient.

        The Charleston example fails at that standard because it has nearly zero reduction in motorist convenience. (From the article: “The lanes will eliminate four on-street parking spaces that run along the Chapel Street Fountain Park.”)

        • Facility advocates are no more a monolithic group than “VC” advocates.

          • I guess the difference is VC advocates will nitpick each other over infinitesimal details. We’re masters at “violent agreement” and about as organized as a herd of kittens.

            Facility advocates are usually “holding hands and singing Kumbaya” while supporting any facility with a bike symbol on it. So they *seem* more monolithic.

            But then Kevin comes here and shreds the Charleston advocates, spoiling the illusion.

            I think I’d prefer facility advocates to have tighter standards, like Kevin. And this discussion has made me wonder why more of them don’t. Which I suspect has to do with how much motorist inconvenience they’re willing to impose up front.

            Maybe this is merely a tactical difference? Kevin seems to want full Euro design from the start, while most US facility advocates seem to be using a “boil the frog” method: Start with simple facilities that don’t affect motorists, then gradually turn up the heat with faux-Euro bike boxes, faux-Euro “protected” bike lanes, and so on.

            Later, add separate signal phases (to address collisions caused by the faux-Euro designs), denser land use, higher fuel costs, and other features which increasingly reduce motoring convenience.

          • Yup, Mike. You pretty much nailed it. Though, you’re giving the “boil the frog” approach more credit for forethought than I would.

            I think the frogs in the pot are the bicyclists—having their right to the road eroded before their very eyes.

            People who advocates for European infrastructure in the US fail to understand the key components of a fully-functional system, and the intractable cultural differences that make it possible there and highly unlikely here.

            What we will get here is a grossly inferior system which gives us nothing more than an illusion in return for our loss of access to the road.

          • Replying to Mike’s comment below (too many levels for a “reply” button):

            I’ve seen so many people from the USA go to Dutch cities like Amsterdam or Groningen. It was a real eye-opener for them. My take on things is that people just don’t realise what is possible or how good it can be until they actually see it.

            That is why I believe that the videos and photographs available via the internet are a vital tool. They help people see what is possible and how cheap and easy it can be.

          • “cheap and easy” is also contextual. It is subject to political will, which is subject to cultural beliefs and expectations.

            The Dutch invested in bicycle infrastructure for the purpose of making things better for bicyclists long before the automobile became dominant. Even at the nadir of bicycle use in the Netherlands, mode share was more than twice what it is in, say, Portland.

            That strongly influences political and cultural will to build quality infrastructure.

            The political will for bike infrastructure in the US extends exactly as far as getting a meaningless award from an organization with no interest in quality control and getting the damned bicycles out of the way. That’s why most of our infrastructure is pathetic, marginal and inferior to using a general travel lane. It will continue to be so no matter how much naive wishful thinking bike advocates want to assign it.

          • Yes, Toronto is probably a better example for Orlando to follow. Cycle mode share was very low in the early 1970’s and the car was king over all. An aerial photograph of Toronto’s downtown would show no shortage of car parking lots taking vast chunks of land.

            But we changed. It was not easy. It started with people like Jack Layton and Jane Jacobs. It built off of mass movements like the protests against the Spadina Expressway. We picked up allies in pedestrian advocates, liveable cities advocates, environmental advocates, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, etc, etc.

            The parking lots were turned into condos and office buildings, and the streets are in the process of being transformed for people, not cars. We are not Groningen yet, we’ve got a long way to go, but we are on the way.

            We did it. You can too.

        • At meetings held by the Toronto Cyclists Union, I don’t really see any differences of opinion over “best facility design.” We all want Dutch standards. I’ve never met anyone who said “I want inferior design. I want to ride in the door zone. I do not want protected cycle lanes, instead I want to ride between two-ton lethal weapons going at 60-80 km/hr.”

          The differences come over implementation. Politics being the art of the compromise, sometimes we have to put up with things like the notorious gap in the Harbord Street bike lane. But that was done knowning that the gap was so stupid that it would generate instant and long-lasting political pressure to close the gap. Which was exactly what happened.

          Even Dutch cities were car-clogged in the early 1970’s. It took them about 15 years to transform themselves. And there were lots of political fights along the way.

          So I am prepared to accept inferior design as a first step in an iterative process to get us to where we should be.

          But let us not lose sight of the end goal: Livable cities that achieve safety for families with proper pedestrian, public transit and cycle facilities. Success happens when walking, cycling and public transit are the easiest, fastest and most convenient ways of getting from A to B throughout the city.

          • False dichotomy. Yawn.

  11. Keri, thanks for posting that little horror. I took the liberty of cross-posting it on message boards (Cascade Bicycle Club 14,000 members strong)
    We, a group of Washington State vehicular cyclists, faced down a state bicycle ‘advocate’ group that wanted to put us in mandatory bike lanes in return for a useless three foot passing law. I love your phrase, ‘God save us from the bike advocates’.
    We might be getting a Vulnerable Road User Law passed which very much upholds our right to use the road as cycling vehicle operators.
    gears to you…leo Stone

  12. Also a member of Cascade Bicycle Club (and a former resident of Charleston) here…

    The reason why Charleston Moves is so excited is because Charleston is so backwards. Need evidence: The West Ashley Greenway is a 10 mile long path (quite a bit of it is covered in inch high roots and overgrown weeds). It goes from one nowhere to another nowhere, parallel to a bunch of relatively quiet side roads that are equally suitable for riding or walking. Oh, and it’s actually about 5 miles long, but they count it as down and back so Charleston can claim twice as much MUP mileage.

    Or how about the West Ashley Bikeway that crosses a five lane, 45 mph speedlimit road without a signal? Again, it doesn’t go anywhere, and doesn’t connect anything. The surface (as of 2005) hadn’t been repaved since the late 70’s gas crisis. Rather than being a tool to connect the suburb of West Ashley to colleges like The Citadel or College of Charleston to the suburbs, it ends in the middle of a lowland swamp on the wrong side of the river.

    Part of the problem is that Charleston was built in the late 1600’s/early 1700’s. The streets downtown are narrow, and there’s not much space on most in order to facilitate dedicated space for the cyclists. Building MUPs downtown is a pipedream.

    Get outside the city, and there are no shoulders on any roads. The sawgrass goes right to the edge of the travel lane. Riding from outside Charleston in is virtually impossible… and frankly, that’s how they like it. Roads are for cars. Bicycles are for children. I even had a boss who forbade me from riding into work because it was too dangerous.

    • I can understand mental backwardness, but the physical plant can be adapted.

      Santa Fe was also built about four hundred years ago–I think its the oldest state capitol in the U.S., and has very narrow downtown streets. But it is working pretty hard to obtain BFC status with the League. I was one of the reviewers of its application.

      Santa Fe’s main problem is not its old streets, which it has heavily sharrowed to make sure everyone knows that bicyclists belong there. Its main problem is the New Mexico Dept. of Transportation. For NMDOT, its all about cars. State routes are really tough on cyclists and pedestrians (shoulder lip-paving sometimes results in four inch mounds of pavement, bad rumble strips, replacing shoulders with extra high speed lanes, etc., etc.

      For example, Cerrillos Road and St. Francis Drive are both under NMDOT jurisdiction. This is the result:

    • Good insight, Matthew. Thank you!

    • Matthew: You complained of narrow streets and streets without shoulders. I don’t understand why that should be a problem for cyclists. Bicycles are narrow, and can easily maneuver on narrow streets. Shoulders are not really meant for traveling on anyway.

      • That depends on the context. I prefer narrow lanes on multi-lane roads. Narrow lanes on 2-lane roads with a steady stream of traffic are definitely not pleasant for cycling—especially in an environment where motorists are already hostile. I avoid such roads like the plague.

        • Agree that shoulder use is context-sensitive. For some streets, it may be a problem, i.e., turning and crossing conflicts, just as bike lanes create these conflicts in urban settings.

          Rural high speed roads (60-70 mph, and out West we have a lot of them) are not the most pleasant places to be riding a bike if not for decent, paved shoulders. We have a lot of riders out here who use NM 502 and US 84/285 (60-65 mph) and a few who use US 550 (70 mph) as training and touring routes. They use the shoulder, at least every one I’ve ever observed. I don’t care what weed certain bicyclists are smoking who insist categorically that they will not use shoulders (usually to make a political point), but sharing an 11 or 13 foot lane with 60-75 mph overtaking traffic in a long distance rural setting (where drivers can glaze over) is just not the brightest thing one can do if you have access to high quality shoulders.

          • Florida has more in common with the Western States than it has with the Northeast US or the Southern states in that it was admitted rather late to the Union and was surveyed by the Federal Government surveyors.

            Because it was Government surveyed, the rural roads tend to be flat, straight and mesmerizing for long distances.

            If you think that riding on the shoulder is a safe place to ride a bike on such a highway, I draw your attention to the rather numerous mysterious rear strikes we have been having recently.

            Locally, an elderly woman drifted into the shoulder on such a highway and killed a cyclist. Big splash in the newspapers. What happened to her? Not even a citation.

            So much for your “eroding taboos.”

          • I forgot to mention that the speed limits on these high, wide an handsome highways are 60-70 MPH, just like out west.

          • “sharing an 11 or 13 foot lane with 60-75 mph overtaking traffic in a long distance rural setting (where drivers can glaze over) is just not the brightest thing one can do if you have access to high quality shoulders”

            But what if there are no shoulders, like outside Charleston?

            And when you say “sharing” a lane that narrow, do you mean side-by-side or nose-to-tail?

            And what if those are the only roads?

            There are no good options, but are all the options non-bright?

          • I mean nose to tail. If there are no good options then there are simply no good options. That has to change.

      • Eli: it’s not a problem when the lanes are wide, and cars are travelling only slightly faster than you and can safely maneuver around you. I ride daily in the middle of Seattle now, where the traffic density is comparable or more dense than anything you’d find in Charleston… however the lanes are wide enough to permit riding out of the door zone while still permitting passing. And generally, the drivers know how to safely pass a cyclist.

        Unfortunately, through most of the Low Country, the cars are doing at least 65, probably closer to 70 or 75 mph, and the lanes aren’t wide enough for the cars to pass you safely. As a result, you get the doppler effect horn blast, the uncomfortable near misses from extended sideview mirrors, and the verbal harrassment to the tone of “get off my road, Lance”.

        • Are you talking 2-lane, no shoulder, freeway speeds? That’s not a fun place to ride.

          Is this also a no passing zone?

        • The untested hypothesis, Eric, is that these crashes would not have occurred had the cyclist been riding in the lane with overtaking traffic at 70 mph. I suspect the population of cyclists who ride in the lane on a 60-70 mph road is so low that compiling meaningful statistics is rather difficult.

          • Yes, the untested nature is true. Motorists routinely crash into police cars on the side of the road with flashing lights on.

            They have so often crashed into ambulances in lanes that are blocked by another crash that the fire departments now, as a matter of safety, park their biggest and heaviest truck diagonally across the lane, to provide protection for the workers on the other side working the first crash. Still, they crash into the large fire truck often moving it sideways.

            They also like to hit stopped school buses.

            So sure, motorists may strike something directly in front of them, just as they may drift off the road and crash. But if you think about it, driving a car would be just as dangerous with people that don’t see things directly in front of them.

            Ultimately, it comes down to what do you think is safe. I have had, literally tens of thousands of cars see me and move around me and it didn’t much matter whether I was in the road, off the road or whatever I did. There has been plenty of “false starts” by drivers where they do a double-take when they see me and correct their driving, but they all saw me.

            On the other hand, I would have had no way to stop hitting a cyclist a few months ago when I was on a 60 MPH highway. He was on the shoulder (thank goodness) riding in the fog with a dimly lit one LED blinky on the back.

            Had I encountered him in the road, I think I would have hit him, but maybe not — since there were cars ahead of me that day — they would have slowed down and passed him giving me a heads up that something was in the road.

          • Or someone in front of you would have hit the cyclist in the fog. Fortunately, crashes are relatively rare events to cyclists.

            I have to cringe while I laugh at your discussion of motorists hitting ambulances, police, cars, fire trucks, and god knows what else. I was once coming around a sweeping curve in my car and was cut off by a motorist backing up on a freeway as he missed his offramp. As I was avoiding hitting him, I was hit. I exited my car by breaking through the sunroof because the doors were smashed into the frame. As the fire and police were trying to manage my crash, a guy in a Corvette tried to accelerate down the freeway shoulder, came around the same curve, and totalled his car into a police car working my crash. Utterly amazing.

          • “and totalled his car into a police car working my crash. Utterly amazing.”
            Utterly dumb is what is was and that’s why I encourage laws and their enforcement to get fools like that off the roads. Chances are, this genius had other offenses. Fines, warnings, threats had little effect, so suspension, revocation and jailing is in order.

            But our taboos don’t allow for that. How would the poor fellow make a living? It is only after he kills someone that serious action MAY be taken and even then (as mentioned above) only against the fit. The elderly lady wasn’t even cited.

          • Yes, the spectre of being hit by a car is a major deterrent to cycling where there is inadequate infrastructure.

            One of my favorite bicycle roads in Toronto is this one:


            The monoliths are the remains of a car-only expressway whose construction was successfully halted. I love the fact that I am cycling on the ROW originally intended for a car-only route. I REALLY love the fact that any crashing car will be crushed to bits by the monoliths long before it gets to me.

            The guardrail is to protect crashing cars from the monoliths. It also, of course, provides yet another barrier to protect the cyclist.

            And note how the pedestrian sidewalk on the far left is protected by BOTH sets of monoliths.

            The bicycle road is not a MUP. Pedestrians are banned from it.

          • Its not clear to me when the taboos changed. When I grew up in New York State, you could get X number of points on your license and then it was suspended. Here in New Mexico, we have thirteen-time offenders crashing into people. Its just insane–not to mention horribly unjust. How DO we get these morons off the road? That old saw “how will my client get to work” is bullshit. Let the client have to figure it out. Maybe that will instill some self-responsibility.

            But one of my principle bones to pick with the facility-only crowd is that I don’t want to build bike-only facilities while we let losers run wild on our roads. That is just not fair–the rest of us should not have to live in holy terror of bad drivers because our society won’t confront them head on. I’m not anti-facility. I’m anti-retreat from the roads we have bought and paid for with both our blood and our money.

          • In response to Kevin Love’s “monolith” route:

            It’s a relatively nice path but it appears to provide poor access to local destinations. On one side is the arterial street, behind a guardrail, with numerous businesses on the far side. On the other side is a high fence. Most bicycle trips for transportation are local…

          • John,

            This is higher order cycle transportation. It is not intended to provide local service.

            There are other examples of higher order cycle transportation, such as the West Toronto Railpath. See:


            To maintain the high speed route, they only have on/off access at major streets.

            I presume that you do not criticise I-4 through Orlando by saying “failure to have off-ramps every block means I-4 gives poor local service.”

    • To say “our streets are old and narrow” is a nonsense excuse. There are plenty of medieval Japanese and Dutch cities with older and narrower streets – and excellent cycling provision.

      Here are some photos; I’ll see if I can find a good video.

      • I found one of Mark’s excellent videos showing how old and narrow streets have had excellent cycling provisions incorporated. It is at:

        The first bit of the video is of newer and wider streets. Just keep going for the old and narrow.

        Cities like Charleston and Santa Fe can easily and cheaply implement the same measures. Note how there really is nothing done that is at all complex or expensive.

        • I agree with the other comments about this video, that it isn’t about sidepaths. It is more like American bicycle boulevard treatments — through routes for cyclists, motorists permitted but only for local travel.

          I do have a few concerns with what I see on those narrow streets, as it affects cyclists:

          *** Posts used to keep out the motor vehicles are hazardous in themselves. Some are painted in bright red and white but others are massive granite affairs, as gray as the pavement that surrounds them. And the spacing between them is rather meager. I have my own video about posts —

          *** Space is too cramped to ride at more than 10 mph (16 km/h) or so, even when there are no motor vehicles. In most cases, that is understandable, as the streets are very old. In some cases, there is unfortunate mixing of bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

          *** Block pavers and bricks make for a bumpy ride. I am now seeing them increasingly used in the USA in slavish imitation of European practice. They also aren’t very durable.

          • The design speeds of the paths (often wide sidepaths with different color pavement for bicyclists and pedestrians) that I saw in Bremen were probably not much more than 10 mph. Also, many of the riders were riding on fairly fat tires. While the treatment in Bremen may work for how bicyclists use them in Bremen, North Americans may be wise to think carefully about what they wish for.


      • That’s not narrow. This is narrow:

        In your video, all that’s done is closing the street to cars or making it one-way for cars while allowing bikes in both directions. That’s not a Dutch-style sidepath but a design that recogizes cyclists as road users.

        • Yeah, that video doesn’t look anything like Santa Fe.

          As I already said, Santa Fe is doing a fair amount with the streets under its control, including setting low speed limits, painting sharrows, using riparian and other available rights of way to put in off-road facilities, and having educational campaigns. Their Council and Mayor are pretty good on this stuff. Its the stuff not under city control that suffers badly.

          I can’t speak for Charleston. Don’t live there.

        • Obviously I didn’t take a tape measure to them, but it looked to me that there were any number of streets in the video that were just as narrow (or more) than your photo of the Charleston street.

          In the video we see that there are three primary treatments used for cycle infrastructure in narrow streets:

          1. Semi-permeable barriers that allow pedestrians and cyclists through, but stop cars. This is most effective at preventing “rat-running” or cut-through car traffic.

          2. Car-free zones.

          3. Counter-flow areas that are one-way for car drivers but two-way for cyclists.

          All three methods can be easily and cheaply used in cities like Charleston or Santa Fe. There is nothing complex or difficult about any of those treatments.

          • There’s also nothing about them that relates to Dutch sidepaths. They treat bikes as vehicles that use the road.

          • #2: Ask buffalo how their main street is doing.

          • To be fair, Buffalo is a typical declining Northeast city. Magnolia is the closest thing we have to a car-free zone in Orlando, and it’s doing fine.

          • How is Buffalo doing? Last time I was there I held my breath every time I passed under one of their rotting railroad viaducts. City is broke. I recall NCBW did a bike plan up there some years ago. Any implementation?

          • NE2 (whoever that may be):

            Cycle paths are one possible treatment. But in the context of these cities they were not appropriate in the areas pictured. There are a wide variety of tools in the toolbox to ensure proper infrastructure to support cycling.

          • Cycle paths have nothing to do with this. Stop bringing them up.

    • Thanks for the background, Matthew. The phrase “Thank you, sir, may I have another” comes to mind.

      Still, I don’t see how the existence of crappy facilities justifies enthusiasm for even crappier facilities.

      As Mighk pointed out, there were other choices. Sharrows would be an obvious (and easy) one. Or removing parking from one side of the street (politically more difficult). But squeezing cyclists between moving and parked cars in a 20 foot lane is insane.

  13. (Replying to Kevin) “I’ve seen so many people from the USA go to Dutch cities like Amsterdam or Groningen. It was a real eye-opener for them. My take on things is that people just don’t realise what is possible or how good it can be until they actually see it. That is why I believe that the videos and photographs available via the internet are a vital tool. They help people see what is possible and how cheap and easy it can be.”

    That’s what’s so mysterious. I assume the “director of the bike advocacy group Charleston Moves” has access to the internet, and a keen interest in what is possible. For that matter, I can’t think of too many facilities advocates, especially at the director level, who are unfamiliar with Euro facilities.

    That’s why it’s so surprising to see such enthusiasm for this crappy excuse for a “facility”. How can a facilities advocate not recognize the difference between a Euro sidepath and a door zone?

    Then again, the news article says the budget is $5000. What Euro-style facility could they build for that price?

    • I just want to clarify one thing, because reading my original post I think I might have come across as harsh: Charleston Moves isn’t a bad group. They’ve done some good things, including lobbying the state to add a MUP across the new high-rise bridge out of town to the east (which was named for a local pro cyclist that was hit by a truck and killed). That was a $25M commitment above and beyond the highway and bridge itself by South Carolina if I remember correctly.

      It’s just that when you’re starting from way deep in the hole in terms of infrastructure, even $25M is just window dressing. The Charleston Moves people have a long way to go, and I wish them well. I’m just not ever going to move back.

      • Cycling infrastructure tends to be fantastically cheap compared to motor vehicle alternatives. Much cheaper in capital costs and much cheaper in maintenance costs.

        Those who wish to reduce government expenditures should be foremost in promoting cycling and eliminating spending on car alternatives.

  14. Playing on the “imagine” in this piece’s title:

    “Imagine a traffic control device you must disobey to save yourself from serious personal injury or death. Imagine that many “bicycle advocates” avidly promote this traffic control device. You don’t have to imagine it. I’m talking about the door-zone bike lane.” — John Schubert

    • The picture in the Schubert article linked in Bob’s post is the one on John Allen’s site that I mentioned.

      John Schubert said “…Motorists make mistakes. We avoid accidents by evading each other’s mistakes. But a door-zone bike-lane accident is what engineers call a single point failure mode. If the motorist opens
      the door at the wrong time, the rider has no way to avoid the accident…”

      He’s absolutely right about single point failures. They are avoided like the plague in operations where a high premium on health or safety is desired. Examples are chemical and nuclear plants with automatic shutoff systems and redundant safety features and other activities were a single point of failure can have catastrophic effects.

      Unfortunately, traffic is not a place where there are very many redundant controls. Sure, modern cars have redundant braking systems. But a single act of inattention by a motorist or cyclist and a crash occurs (some new cars are coming with advanced warning systems, basically radar).

      So sure, bad things can occasionally happen in a lane, such as being rear-ended by an inattentive motorist (its happened to me three times, fortunately I was in a car–and that was before cell phones) or having a failure to yield mistake. But when riding in the lane, one is riding to be most visible, have the maximum available evasive action options available, and definitely NOT DELIBERATELY putting one’s self in a riding situation of statistically heightened risk. The DZ is definitely a riding situation of statistically heightened risk.

      For Dana Laird, the opening of that car door was just such a single point failure, and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it except die under the wheels of a city bus. Why add more single points of failure to what we already have?

      If encouraging new riders (by adding bike specific features) is done by suggesting they ride in a demonstrably unsafe manner, are we not throwing our new recruits under the proverbial bus? Or, for that matter, the literal one?

      • The traffic law is set up as much as is practicable to give both interacting road users the ability to avoid a crash. The classic example is the rule requiring the vehicle on the left at an uncontrolled intersection to yield, because it has an additioanl half-roadway width in which to stop.

        The door-zone risk (and many others) may be avoided by staying outside the door zone, not that doing so entirely eliminates risk.

        Awareness of potential risks and practicing crash-avoidance maneuvers reduce the number of situations which can be described as single-point. Manufactured conflicts increase them, or else require that everyone slow way down in order to have the time to react.

  15. The underlying problem with all of these bicycle facilities, the hazards they present and all the bike lane apologists is that they implicitly accept the fallacies of the Car Culture,

    I’m glad to have Commute Orlando as a resource to promote the welfare of cyclists.

  16. Kevin said “One of my favorite bicycle roads in Toronto is this one:
    The monoliths are the remains of a car-only expressway whose construction was successfully halted.”

    So you’re okay with the 6-lane ground-level expressway alongside the bikeway?

    Are you recommending that the 2-lane no-shoulder routes outside Charleston be converted to a 6-lane expressway with a bikeway alongside? Or that the 2-lane Chapel Street be converted to a 6-lane expressway with a bikeway alongside?

    It’s hard to know what you’re recommending since you keep changing the context.

    • Mike,

      I was responding to Eric and Khal who told of their experiences in a crash caused by someone carelessly driving onto a freeway from the freeway on-ramp.

      The appropriate treatments for the area of this narrow Charleston street appear to be a combination of semi-permeable barriers, car-free zones and counter-flow cycle routes. Note that it is importatant to treat the entire area as a transportation and public urban area use network.

      In other words, roads are for more than transportation and there must be holistic planning for the entire area.

      • “The appropriate treatments for the area of this narrow Charleston street appear to be a combination of semi-permeable barriers, car-free zones and counter-flow cycle routes. Note that it is importatant to treat the entire area as a transportation and public urban area use network.”

        First, do no harm… in other words, leave the narrow, low traffic, low speed road unmolested so that it properly serves the needs of all users.

        The “discourage motorists” mindset begins to flirt with “mandate bicycles”. A “holistic” approach recognizes and rewards the commonalities in modes, not penalizing the discrepancies.

        • The old Santa Fe Plaza has limited vehicle access, with some of the roads into the plaza cordoned off or one-way. That is, I think, primarily to protect pedestrians, since the old plaza is jammed with foot traffic, much of it tourist (insert dollar signs here). There were lots of near misses. But there are also plenty of nearby narrow roads which are not cordoned off.

          The ancient city center in Bremen, Germany, is off limits to motor vehicles (except police vehicles). I don’t know if that was the case before WW II or if it was decided during the reconstruction from Allied bombing. The area is bisected by tram lines and bicyclists are allowed too. The old Bremen center is festooned with foot traffic too, but I also wonder if this car-free zone was created in part to protect the ancient (ca. 1400s) buildings from the harmful effects of auto pollution. Until relatively recently, auto exhaust was pretty sooty and contained quite a bit of lead. When we visited Rome in 1992, everything was blackened with soot, including our clothes at the end of the day.

          But these decisions were not made simply for bicyclist’s convenience. They were big picture decisions. As PM Summer said, first do no harm.

          • Your comments about air pollution in Rome are entertaining. My wife and I had a similar experience in Paris in 1989. Let all those who bow down before the gods of European planning recall that the USA mandated pollution control on most new motor vehicles in the early 1970s, but Europe only began to introduce it around 1990. As an aside, I think that greater American acceptance of on-street cycling may have something to do with air quality.

  17. Concerning number 2 in the illustration above, the 2012 AASHTO bike guide now specifies 48 inches, not 40 inches, as the minimum operating width of a cyclist. But AASHTO did not change any of its already insufficient minimum widths for bike lanes in the guide. So all the other widths in the guide concerning providing space for cyclists are now 8 inches worse.


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