Helmets, Bikeways and the Culture of Fear

A compelling video is making the rounds of Facebook and cycling blogs on how helmet promotion feeds the fear of cycling.  Mikael Colville-Anderson makes some very powerful arguments against the insistence that all cyclists wear helmets, and shows the real absurdity of that message.  He blames a culture of fear – bolstered by marketing hacks – that sees danger at every turn.

Unfortunately, Mikael misses the strong evidence that bikeways such as sidepaths, cycle tracks, and bike lanes have the same effect of making people fear cycling – or more accurately, fear cycling outside of such facilities.

The party line in cycling planning and advocacy has long been that segregated bikeways increase cycling while improving safety.  The evidence shows otherwise.  First let’s look at usage:

In Germany in the 1970s and 80s there was a significant increase in cycling.  It’s often been attributed to bikeways.  But a closer look at the data shows otherwise:

  • 1972 to 1982 — No bikeway planning or improvements; more than 30% increase in bicycle mode share
  • 1982 to 1995 – bikeway planning and construction implemented; 10% increase in mode share

Reasons given for increased cycling:

  • High cost of fuel caused by two subsequent energy crises
  • Increased motorized travel times caused by traffic congestion
  • Some destinations no longer accessible by walking

The Dutch, in their own report on their bicycle planning efforts, wrote:

  • “Since 1990, the total length of cycle paths has increased to almost 19,000 km, … doubling the length in 1980.”
  • “Results: In 1994, the total distance cycled was 12.9 billion km, compared with 12.8 billion in 1990.  The number of km traveled by car was 125 billion in 1990 and 129 billion in 1994.”
  • “Expansion and improvement of the infrastructure does not necessarily increase the use of bicycles.”

“The Autumn of the Bicycle Master Plan,” 1994, Dutch Ministry of Transport

And in The Economic Significance of Cycling,” from The Netherlands Interface for Cycling Expertise:

  • “Experiences in Amsterdam show that the increase in bicycle use in the city centre in the last 10 years is mainly due to increased parking rates.”
  • “The policy of reducing car traffic in city centres therefore often consists of reducing parking facilities, and this method is used to cut car use.”

It was much the same in Denmark:

  • “Many cities have started to reclaim space from the car in the last 10 to 20 years. … A good example of this is Copenhagen where, between 1962 and 1996, the number of parking spaces was reduced from 3,100 to 2,000…”
  • “Restrictions on car use such as gas taxes, parking charges and traffic calming in residential areas are necessary in order to promote cycling.”

Collection of Cycle Concepts,” Danish Road Directorate, 1985

The safety of cycle tracks has also long been in question.  In a Danish study of 105 street segments, 64 km (40 miles), for 3 years, (unidirectional paths only), there was:

  • No change in the number of bicycle trips
  • All cyclist crashes increased 32%
  • Cyclist/motorist crashes increased 20%
  • Cyclist/pedestrian crashes increased 192%

In a 1990 University of Sweden Study, the relative risk of cycling on a sidepath was compared to cycling straight on a roadway:

  • Through travel on a sidepath was 3.4 times riskier than the adjacent roadway
  • Making a left turn from the sidepath was 11.0 times riskier than for the roadway
  • Traveling against the flow of traffic on a sidepath was 11.9 times riskier than straight, with-the-flow travel on the roadway

In Germany two cities of roughly the same size were compared.  Compared to Göttingen, Osnabrück has:

  • Approximately three times the length of sidepaths
  • Less bicycle traffic
  • More than three times as many bicycle crashes per trip

Studies by the Berlin Police and the German Cycling Federation found (from a 1986 study):

  • Nearly half of the bicycle crashes occur on streets with sidepaths; only 18% of all streets
  • Crashes on streets with sidepaths were more serious.
  • 1981 to 1985 — number of crashes on sidepath segments increased by 114%, but decreased by 9% on other streets. The length of sidepaths increased by only 20% during this period; the number of bicyclists was essentially the same.

From newsletter of the Berlin chapter of the German Cycling Federation: 75% of serious and fatal bicycle crashes occur on sidepaths, only 10% of the streets in Berlin have sidepaths.

The Germans are now removing cycle tracks and bike lanes and promoting roadway sharing.

While cycle track proponents insist that these studies are old, and that newer designs are safety, right hooks and left cross crashes remain the most common cyclist/motorist crashes at intersections.  Bear in mind that motorists are presumed by law to be at fault in crashes with bicyclists in these “cycling utopias;” unless it can be proved that the cyclist caused the crash.  That is nowhere near the case in the U.S.

Colville-Anderson makes another interesting observation; that we tell pedestrians and bicyclists to “watch out for the cars,” when we should really be telling motorists to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.  While this is certainly true – especially when it comes to pedestrians – he seems to misunderstand how good cycling training works.  Effective bicycle driver training does not tell cyclists how to “watch out for the cars.”  It trains cyclists in how to make the motorists see them and how to influence them to behave properly.

Now, if we can just get Mikael and his allies to understand that CyclingSavvy is a powerful tool in fighting the culture of fear of cycling…

118 replies
  1. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:

    Impressive list of studies bolstering the integration argument.

    I don’t believe that teaching road users to watch out for others is a useful countermeasure, even with respect to pedestrians. All road users already don’t want to hit something or be hit. If motorists don’t respect the right of way of peds that is a failure of the culture on several levels. Motorists see peds but have a software dysfunction in how to operate. Pedestrians and drivers of vehicles have different operating rules and largely different environments (sidewalks vs roads). Conflict arises where the rules and environments intersect.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Agreed. Where pedestrians are organized, they often figure out how to challenge the car culture and take back their right to cross the street. A solo cyclist can operate effectively in traffic with vehicular cycling principles. But the same cannot be said for the solo pedestrian.

  2. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Hi Mighk,

    And thank you for a very interesting video and for your comments on it.

    Unfortunately, the ideas that you advocate have a 100% track record of failure. Can you give me an example of anywhere in the entire world where those ideas have resulted in anything but the most insignificant and derisory of cycle mode share?

    In the meantime, it remains 17 times safer to cycle in The Netherlands than in the USA. Source:


    I’ve previously posted here about how Ontario’s government has been bragging about having the safest roads in North America. I won’t repost the link unless someone asks for it, lest I invoke the wrath of the anti-spam robot.

    However, Ontario’s roads are well over twice as safe as the average in the USA.

    Trust me, once you have lived in The Netherlands, and cycled to all destinations yourself and experienced first-hand the infrastructure yourself you will be unwilling to ever again settle for second-best.

    Particularly when you had no qualms about sending out on a bicycle both your eight-year-old daughter and 80-year-old grandmother to join all the other eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds travelling all over the city.

    • P.M. Summer
      P.M. Summer says:

      Kevin, how do you explain that the bicycle mode-share in the Netherlands was as high or even higher BEFORE all the segregationist infrastructure was built?

  3. matt
    matt says:

    Wow, how long have you waiting spin these numbers? No where in that Ted Talk does Mikael mention bicycle infrastructure. While he does rant on helmet use and you even mention it in the title to this post, you don’t bother address either it or culture it creates. Nice job however of enforcing the stereotype of vehicular cyclist as narrow-minded self-righteous idiot.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      You might consider actually reading what I wrote and listening to what Mikael said. In my first paragraph I clearly agree with his assessments on helmet promotion. Repeating them is a waste of the reader’s time.

      Early on he says: “cities and towns around the planet are trying to encourage people to use bicycles as transport, and provide the infrastructure necessary to do so.”

      I used to be a strong proponent of bike lanes. What changed my view? I’m using them and watching how others use them.

      Calling me a “narrow-minded self-righteous idiot” says a lot more about you than it does about me.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        I used to be a strong proponent of bike lanes. What changed my view? I’m using them and watching how others use them.

        Same here. Really paying attention to the source of the bad experiences I was having was the start. Then with an enlightened eye, I was horrified to observe how other people were using them… making left turns by swooping, going on the sidewalk when the bike lane ended, riding obliviously in the door zone, passing right-turning cars on the right. It’s enough of a challenge teaching people to ride safely without having to teach them to outsmart the paint.

        And then when you do empower them to ride safely, it’s heartbreaking to have them subjected to bike lanes they don’t want or need — permanent and mandatory marginalization masquerading as accommodation.

    • Kevin Love
      Kevin Love says:

      Hi Mikael,

      I believe that a major problem is people who have never experienced good Dutch-style cycle infrastructure. Or, worse yet, have experienced crappy infrastructure with door-zone bike lanes, suicide intersections, etc, etc.

      I’ve seen lots of people from North America experience proper cycle infrastructure in The Netherlands and have their eyes opened. Now they will never, ever be satisfied with anything less.

      My own opinion of vehicular cycling is best expressed by this bit of doggerel:

      What to do,
      Faut de mieux.

      If I’m cycling somewhere without proper infrastructure I’ll always be taking the lane is the lane is less than 5.6 metres wide. But if there is any more than a low level of motor vehicle traffic I’ll still consider this to be an unpleasant, crappy experience and continue to advocate for proper infrastructure.

      I agree with you that it is like a sect. In which case, the only way to convert the sceptics is for them to come and see. From John 1:46-47:

      Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

      • John S. Allen
        John S. Allen says:

        “If I’m cycling somewhere without proper infrastructure I’ll always be taking the lane is the lane is less than 5.6 metres wide.”

        Always? 5.6 metres — 18 feet 4 inches? How did you come up with this number? Looks reasonable if the lane is adjacent to a parking lane, otherwise comfortable side-by-side bicycle/motor vehicle sharable lane width begins around 14 feet with typical urban traffic speeds.

        I’ll take a pass on commenting on the rest for now.

        • Kevin Love
          Kevin Love says:

          Here is where the number comes from. A cyclist physically occupies about one metre, measured elbow to elbow. He also requires 1/2 metre “swerve room” on either side in order to go around road debris, potholes, etc. This is why the minimum standard for a unidirectional bicycle road is two metres.

          Here in Ontario, motor vehicles are allowed by law to be up to 2.6 metres wide. Motor vehicles also require 1/2 metre swerve room.

          Add it all up and you get 5.6 metres as the minimum lane width before it is safe to fail to take the lane. Otherwise you will be featured in one of those newspaper articles where the motor vehicle driver says “He swerved right in front of me!”

          • Avery B.
            Avery B. says:

            This is nonsense. I live in Ontario where the majority of urban arterial curbside lanes are 4m to 4.5m (13′ to 14.5′) wide. Municipalites often reconfigure road cross sections to reduce centre lanes from 3.75m to 3.25m in order to widen curb lanes. It is laughable to suggest our current lanes are a problem and need to be 5.6m wide. On the contrary, it’s in these lanes that the least cyclist/motorist conflict occurs.

      • Mighk Wilson
        Mighk Wilson says:

        Actually I assume that the facilities in Denmark and The Netherlands DO work reasonably well, all things considered. Their infrastructure system works as well as it does because they have a social system that supports it. Well-trained drivers who respect cyclists, and laws that put the onus on the motorist. Engineers who understand and respect the needs of cyclists. Cyclists who respect and understand how the infrastructure is supposed to work.

        In most of the US we have none of that social structure. Because those facilities violate basic principles of vehicular movement, they require levels of extra vigilance and responsibility that US motorists and cyclists do not regularly exhibit. The infrastructure will not magically make Americans act like Europeans.

        • Eric
          Eric says:

          “In most of the US we have none of that social structure.”

          (GASP!) You mean that European children don’t grow up watching cowboy movies thinking that is the real deal? I mean, aren’t all the cowboy movies produced in Copenhagen and Amsterdam?

          It really is sad that future fathers grow up thinking that the way to treat people is the same way that Gary Cooper and John Wayne do in the movies, but unfortunately, it is true.

          Also, since we don’t have a much of a bus system and no rail system, children grow up thinking that cars (and I don’t mean small cars, but private vehicles that would exceed commercial weights and measures a few years ago) are the only way to get around because it is true — that really is the only way to get around.

          And watching their mothers driving these 6,000 – 8,000 pound behemoths, will teach the tykes that after the ignition key is turned, the cell phone gets dialed. If these women are talking to their husbands all day, it is no wonder that national productivity is in a nosedive because they never stop talking.

    • Avery B.
      Avery B. says:

      Vehicular cyclists gathering for one of their secret meetings in Copenhagen in 1937 (just as a reign of terror was descending on Europe and before Copenhagen’s own occupation):


      (First couple of minutes and last three)

      Apparently they had discarded their white hoods and swastika armbands so as not to feed the paranoia over vehicular cycling.

  4. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    I think the following quote sums it best:

    “Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

    — P.M. Summer…
    …paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton”

    Just last night, and for nearly the full 15 mile route, I was controlling the travel lane while providing cues to passing motorists based on my lane positioning. Safe and complete lane changes occurred with nary a honk or jeer, just lawful and obedient operators in harmony using our roadway system.

    Speed limit is a MAXIMUM by road design and not a guarantee.

    • Rodney
      Rodney says:

      Sorry, I went on a tangent. The video is good in regards how fear is used to lead the unknowing. And the major underlying reason is greed for a certain few.

      Helps to get the facts and see for yourselves before making an uneducated decision about something.

  5. Eric
    Eric says:

    “Now almost twenty years down the road I’ve learnt to appreciate the cycle paths of Sweden. I enjoy having my own separate lane. Riding in heavy traffic is a stress factor I’m quite happy to do without thank you. I shall now explain why I am against cycle paths. Yes that’s right: I am against cycle paths, and yes, again I prefer cycling on a separated cycle path to riding in heavy traffic. These are not contradictory views although at first sight they might appear to be. I shall explain.”


  6. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Hi Eric,

    The chap you linked to wrote:

    “Obviously a cyclist can potentiality travel just as fast on a cycle path as on a road; the same laws of physics apply. But this only happens if the cycle path is built to take the shortest way, and cars are forced to take a more roundabout route and to give way to cyclists at junctions. This is unfortunately seldom the case with cycle paths.”

    I just had to smile, because Dutch cycle roads do exactly that. The cyclist has the direct path and a car has to go the long way round – and give way to cyclists at junction. Here is a video showing just that:


    • Eric
      Eric says:

      “because Dutch cycle roads do exactly that.”

      Precisely so. But not in Sweden or much of anywhere else in the world.

      After 75 years, why are only two countries in the world building infrastructure the way you and your auto hating chums recommend? Why don’t they all tax fuel at $10 a gallon. Why don’t they all pass the laws the way you want them to? Is it all such a well kept secret that they don’t know anything about it? Is the rest of the world’s population neanderthals?

      Why did almost 17,000 of Germans sign an online petition asking the Bundestag to change the laws requiring use of the cycle tracks? A request that was ignored. This, despite studies that show the cycle track to be more dangerous than riding in the street?

      You don’t have answers to these questions other than to complain how backwards the rest of the world is. We, in the real world, know the answers.

      • Kevin Love
        Kevin Love says:

        Maybe I should give more examples from Japan. There are excellent Japanese examples. Osaka,25% mode share. Tokyo, 20% mode share. Almost all the rest is pedestrian and public transit. Anyone who has been to these cities can attest to the fact that very few people get around by private car.

        Why do I benchmark the best in the world? Why do I strive to emulate success? Why do I try to achieve excellence?

        The answer is because I am trying to build the best possible world for myself and my children.

        Why do other people fail to do so? You would really have to ask them. In some cases this may be due to moral failures as manifested in greed and irresponsibility. In other cases they genuinely don’t know any better.

        But I do know better. And I am not going to settle for any less than my community and the world being as good as it is possible for human beings to make it.

        • Eric
          Eric says:

          “Anyone who has been to these cities can attest to the fact that very few people get around by private car.”

          Exactly so and that is because owning and operating a car is so expensive that no one can afford one. But before you tell me how wonderful that is, do me a favor, why don’t you ASK the ordinary person which mode of transportation they would prefer if cost was not a factor.

          After you did that, you would know why the auto has displaced the bicycle in China.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:

            Yes, and the mode of transportation that I personally would prefer is a magic carpet pulled by flying unicorns.

            Where cycling is the fastest, safest, most direct and most convenient way of getting from A to B then there will be a high cycle mode share. Notice how the word “cost” did not appear there.

            But if we are going to mention cost, then I do believe in making motorists pay the actual costs of their habit instead of providing massive subsidies. And that all of our wars for oil should be fought by conscripts taken from the list of people who hold drivers licenses.

  7. JAT in Seattle
    JAT in Seattle says:

    Oh, how I tire of the fetishization of Dutch cycling infrastructure.

    We have the roads we have (and occasionally bike paths – usually bi-directional multi-use trails, at that) What is the safest and most effective way to get around by bike? Given the choice of taking the lane where it’s too narrow to share and behaving as a legal vehicle operator or sitting by the side of the road with my head in my hands lamenting that I don’t live in Den Haag, I’m going to choose riding my bike.

    I wear a helmet for the simple reason that I’ve landed on my head a few times, so I know unexpected things can happen. It’s not a magic protection device; I know that, but it does give me a mounting location for a few more blinky lights.

  8. Keri
    Keri says:

    I landed on my head and crushed a helmet once. I was riding in a bike lane and was hit by a car in one of the 3 common ways cyclists get hit in bike lanes. I guess if we’re going to promote bike lanes, we should make sure people wear helmets.

    I find it interesting that the same people arguing that the promotion of helmets reduces cycling by increasing fear (a sentiment I agree with) also argue that we need segregated facilities to create “subjective safety” so fearful people will ride bikes. If fear is the underlying problem, isn’t pandering to it just feeding the beast?

    If you haven’t addressed the fear, these new would-be cyclists can only go where you build facilities. What a horribly limiting paradigm.

    The fact is, it is very easy and safe to use the existing road network. Once we relieve people of the burden of fear and inferiority (an oppressive cultural inheritance), they thrive on our roads. They ride more, they ride farther, they replace more car trips and some even get rid of their cars.

    Sure, there is infrastructure we could build to enhance access and quality of cycling. There are some roads where taking the lane is the only option and it’s a horribly unpleasant option. There is a place for making the built environment more comfortable for cycling. The trails on their own right-of-way are great where they can be built (I use parts of Cady Way for a lot of my trips). But, in my experience, our problems are 90% software and 10% hardware. If we start with the assumption that the existing road network works well when you know how to drive your bike on it, and we teach people the few simple skills they need to do it, we give them access to almost all of their destinations. That then frees the funding and problem-solving to targeting areas where enhanced access would truly benefit cyclists.

    Right now, we’re just throwing paint and pavement around haphazardly. A lot of it is pure crap. They can’t even get the grade-spearation right! We have trail bridges you have to walk your bike over and trail tunnels that close at sunset. Tens of millions of dollars. We could update a lot of software for that.

    Give a man a cycletrack, he’ll feel safe on that road. Teach a man to drive his bike, he can go anywhere with confidence.

    Cycling advocates need to decide if their goal is to do what’s best for bicycle users or what will attract the most uninformed people onto bikes. In the U.S., at least, the two strategies are diametrically opposed.

    And let’s have another U.S. reality check. People who want to ride bikes will learn to do it if that is promoted as the thing to do (like motorcycle ed has been for decades). People who don’t want to ride bikes don’t give a damn what you build (when they said they’d use a bike for transportation if you built a path for them, they were playing Whack-a-Mole). If you want people to WANT to ride bikes for transportation, take away their parking and raise the price of gas to $10/gal. We won’t need any segregated facilities then, either.

    • Kevin Love
      Kevin Love says:

      Keri wrote:

      “The fact is, it is very easy and safe to use the existing road network…”

      Kevin’s comment:
      Orlando has the most dangerous roads in the USA for pedestrians. Having been there, it would not surprise me if the same is true for cyclists as well. There is no way that I would allow my nine-year-old daughter to cycle through Orlando.

      My 73-year-old mother refuses to cycle where she lives in Naples, and undoubtably would also refuse to cycle in Orlando.

      Yet here in Toronto, my daughter cycles to school every day. Although her school is not one of the schools that has an official ban on cars and requires all able-bodied children to walk or cycle, most children do. For an example of a “walking only” school, see:


      Here is a case where it is possible to be purely empirical. Look at cities with high cycle mode share, then look at cities with low cycle mode share. Emulate the high cycle mode share cities and watch your own cycle mode share increase.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        “Orlando has the most dangerous roads in the USA for pedestrians. Having been there, it would not surprise me if the same is true for cyclists as well.”

        Clearly, you have never driven a bicycle here. Your assumptions about bicycling in our city are not only wrong, they’re meaningless.

        It’s only dangerous here for bicyclists who act like pedestrians. It doesn’t help at all when they are encouraged to act like pedestrians by ill-conceived segregated facilities.

        • Kevin Love
          Kevin Love says:

          What makes you think I’ve never been riding in Orlando? I most certainly have. And even more so in Naples (Florida, not Italy, alas!) where my mother lives in the winter. I make no assumptions about cycling in Orlando, but rely entirely upon my experiences. And upon the reports of others, particularly The Alliance for Biking and Walking’s benchmarking report, that Orlando is the most dangerous city in the USA for pedestrians. Source:

          Based on my time cycling in Orlando, on the whole, my experiences have been rather like the videos you have posted. I do not have any “horror story” of being hit by a car. But there were a few misses, particularly at intersections. And I quite agree with your criticisms of the poor-quality infrastructure.

          But, to quote the Latin proverb,”Abusus non tollit usum.” Which I’ll translate as “The abuse does not discredit the proper use.” Criticising crappy infrastructure should lead us to advocate for proper infrastructure.

          So, for example, we quite properly reject a bicycle lane where the most dangerous part of the road to ride on is the centre of the cycle lane – because it is in the door zone of adjacent parked cars. Or because it is too narrow – less than two metres wide – with no protections – so motor vehicles whizz by too closely. Or because it lacks proper protections at intersections. Or worse yet, suicidally leads cyclists to the right of right-turning cars.

          I have seen all of these things in Orlando, Naples and other Florida cities. Not being inclined to suicide, I refuse to use them and take the lane.

          Compare that with proper cycle lanes. I’ve showed a few from Japan and The Netherlands, so here is my favourite one in Toronto:


          The monoliths are the remnants of a cancelled elevated expressway. We decided that we didn’t really need this segregated car infrastructure, so repurposed it for bicycles. Notice the sidewalk for pedestrians on the far left. The monoliths should ensure that any car that “goes out of control” will be smashed to scrap metal long before it gets near any cyclist. I’ve never seen a bicycle “go out of control” all on its own – but that’s another rant.

          What is really important, but not in the photo, is the protected intersections. At intersections, cars are required to stop well short of the cycle road and give way to bicycles that have the traffic signal. Toronto enforces this in a unique way that I’ve never seen anyone else do. If the car is too far forward, then the car driver can no longer see the signal and has no idea when it turns green to allow him to go. If the drivers stays on the big white “Stop” line, that is the farthest forward that the signal can be seen.

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            “Based on my time cycling in Orlando, on the whole, my experiences have been rather like the videos you have posted.”

            That contradicts your original statement:

            “Orlando has the most dangerous roads in the USA for pedestrians. Having been there, it would not surprise me if the same is true for cyclists as well.”

            Our videos demonstrate that is not a dangerous or difficult place to drive a bicycle. Again, driving a bicycle like a vehicle has nothing to do with being a pedestrian.

          • John S. Allen
            John S. Allen says:

            Nobody appears to have mentioned weather yet, or terrain. It gets very hot in Orlando in the summer. People shuffle from their air-conditioned homes to their air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned workplaces, schools, shopping centers, places of worship, presumably because they would prefer not to arrive soaked in sweat. It rains too sometimes, in b uckets. Some people are willing to work around this problem, most are not. How to address this?

            At least terrain isn’t an issue in Orlando. It’s as flat as Copenhagen.

          • NE2
            NE2 says:

            Not quite – you get some hills out to the west on Colonial, for example. (And of course Lake County has hills all over the place.)

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:


            Orlando, Florida, lies in the humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen Cfa). In the same climate zone lies Osaka, Japan. Osaka has a 25% bicycle mode share. So I would not spend a lot of time blaming the climate.

            An extract from:


            “Osaka belongs to the humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen Cfa)… Summers are very hot and humid. In the months of July and August, the average daily high temperature approaches 35 °C (95 °F).”

        • Kevin Love
          Kevin Love says:

          I don’t see any contradiction. Your videos show crappy infrastructure and low to zero cycle mode share. That’s exactly what I’ve experienced myself while cycling in Orlando. Unless I’ve missed one of your videos showing hordes of people cycling in Orlando. Something like this:


          So there is no contradiction. We seem to be seeing exactly the same thing. The only difference appears to be that you are satisfied with the status quo and I know that things could be a lot better.

          • danc
            danc says:

            @ KL “you [Keri] are satisfied with the status quo and I know that things could be a lot better”

            Let me decode your “double dutch”: CommuteOrlando [Keri, et al] challenges the status quo myth: cycling on public roads is too dangerous, impracticable while you feel any thing less than Dutch cycling infrastructure is lacking.

          • Mighk Wilson
            Mighk Wilson says:

            Kevin, you seem to assume that the ONLY thing keeping the folks out in east Orange County from jumping on bikes en masse is the lack of quality infrastructure.

            But most people believe sidewalk cycling is much safer than roadway cycling. The sidewalks on those suburban highways are virtually empty of pedestrians. They have a nice raised curb and three-foot buffer to “protect” them from the cars on the roadway, ADA ramps at every intersection, and pedestrian signals at every signalized intersection.

            Do Central Florida’s novice cyclists understand the functional differences between a sidewalk and a cycle track? Since few of them have ever been in a cycle track, of course not.

            So where are the cycling hordes?

            The reason the roads (and sidewalks) are virtually empty of cyclists is because distances are great due to auto-oriented land use, and auto use is heavily supported through parking and tax policies.

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            Once again Kevin. You said:

            “Orlando has the most dangerous roads in the USA for pedestrians. Having been there, it would not surprise me if the same is true for cyclists as well.”

            (Emphasis mine). Don’t change the subject. It is not DANGEROUS to ride a bike here. As you then, in contradiction to this statement, admitted what you experienced was like our videos…which show it is SAFE to ride a bike in traffic here.

            This goes right to the heart of Mighk’s original point. Conflating danger to pedestrians with bicycle driving (which is safer than car driving) and exploiting public ignorance of the difference is using fear to promote bike facilities. That has the same result as hyper-promotion of helmet use — it convinces people cycling is dangerous. We have 90 miles of bike trails in Central Florida, most people drive their cars to ride their bikes on them because they have been sold as “safe” places to ride.

            In my original comment on this thread, I offered a real-world solution that starts working right now to help people replace car trips with bike trips. Ask some of our recent CyclingSavvy students. They’re not waiting for some pie in the sky special facilities to be built. They’re driving their bikes right now. And they’re spreading a positive message to everyone who sees them riding confidently. They’re spreading a positive message to people they know with positive stories of success and freedom to travel by their mode of choice. It’s a virtuous cycle which could eventually deprogram the culture of fear.

            That seems like a far more productive strategy than complaining about how dangerous the roads are and demanding infrastructure.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:


            Yes, land use is very important and urban sprawl is bad in so many ways – particularly the ones that you point out.

            But where I must disagree with you is in your belief that it is the overriding reason for low cycle use. There are a lot of short distance trips taken in the USA (and presumably in Orlando as well).

            “A 2001 National Household Travel Survey revealed that 41 percent of all trips in 2001 were shorter than two miles and 28 percent were shorter than one mile.”



            So why are these trips not on bicycles?

            Similarly, there are low density rural areas in NL, such as the province of Drethe, where cycling is routine.


            It is my opinion that this is because for these short trips, in the USA the bicycle is not the fastest, safest and most convenient way to travel.

            Cost is also a factor, but it appears to be of lesser importance. This may be seen in the UK where petrol prices are very expensive but car culture is still firmly in place.

            Making the bicycle the fastest, safest and most convenient mode of transport is largely (although not entirely) about infrastructure.

            Take one example: parking. Suppose that the nearest place to park a car was a 15-20 minute walk from one’s destination but secure bicycle parking was right at the door. This is the case in many Japanese cities such as Osaka and Tokyo. Not surprisingly, cycle mode share in Osaka is 25%.

            Toronto is very similar. Over the last 20 years, almost all of the downtown parking lots were converted into condominiums. Where I used to live had zero parking and so was where I used to work. If I wanted to drive a car to work, I would have to walk to the nearest overnight parking garage in the morning, get in the car, drive it to the nearest parking place to work, and walk to work. This process would take about eight times as long as simply cycling to work.

            Where cycling is the fastest, safest and most convenient mode of transport, then people will cycle.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:

            Keri wrote:

            “I offered a real-world solution that starts working right now to help people replace car trips with bike trips.”

            Kevin’s question:

            So, how is it working out? When will you be achieving a 25% mode share? Or perhaps you think you will be achieving 35%.

            If so, you would be the first in the entire world to achieve success by the methods you advocate. What’s that definition of insanity again? O yes, “repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting a different result.”

          • Mighk Wilson
            Mighk Wilson says:

            You still haven’t answered the more important question: why are the sidewalks virtually empty of bicyclists (and pedestrians)? If it’s because empty sidewalks are so inferior to cycle tracks, what is it about them that’s so inferior? And how does such inferiority account for such a huge difference between European and US bike mode share?

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:


            I presume that people are not using the sidewalks to cycle on because driving cars is the easiest, fastest and most convenient way to get to where they are going. And cycling on a sidewalk is not.

            As long as all the infrastructure is set up and maintained so that driving a car is faster, easier and more convenient I predict that people will continue to do so.

            This, of course, can be changed. In the 1970’s Toronto’s infrastructure for cycling was nil and so was its cycle mode share in a post-WWII urban sprawl gone mad city. We changed. You can too.

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            Kevin, if you think there is an infrastructure solution for a sprawling sunbelt city with virtually no transit that will produce 25% bicycle mode share, you are delusional.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:


            People said exactly the same thing here in the 1970’s. “It will never happen.” “The car is king and will reign forever.” “You are delusional to think that things will change.”

            Fortunately, there were people here who did not buy into that defeatist nonsense. We are a democracy. We can and did change our city. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight. There were many setbacks along the way.

            But we changed from a sprawling car-clogged city with a microscopic cycling mode share to a city whose downtown car mode share is at 24% and falling. And where 29% of the entire population of the whole 2.5 million people city are utility cyclists.

            We changed. You can too. It will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. There will be setbacks along the way. There will be a lot of defeatist attitudes to overcome. But you can change.

          • Mighk Wilson
            Mighk Wilson says:


            Perhaps you can explain how 30,000 motorists can be convinced to slow down from the 45-50 mph range to the 15-20 mph range on a six-lane divided arterial.

            Tell you what. If you come down and make a presentation to our traffic engineers and elected officials on how this can be done, AND CONVINCE THEM to do it, I will personally pay all your travel expenses and add on a few thousand dollars on top of that.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:

            Further thinking about how things have worked out here… The ultimate indicator of success is how small the setbacks now are.

            The people in their infinite wisdom just elected as mayor probably the most pro-car and anti-bicycle member of City Council. And yet his pro-car stance does not involve building a single metre of new road for cars. The most he can get away with promising is that he will not actually demolish any of the existing expressways. His car improvements amount to a promise to fix some disjointed intersection jogs that resulted from 19th century surveying errors, a new traffic signal system and painting colour-coded curbs to indicate the car parking rules. Rather underwhelming.

            His anti-cycling policy is that he will stop taking away road lanes from cars and repurposing them as bicycle lanes on major arterial roads. But bike lanes will still be built on local roads, and 100 km of off-road bicycle paths will be built on hydro and railway rights-of-way.

            And the 100 km of new bicycle paths will be good ones. Fully lit at night with 100 km of pedestrian sidewalks next to them so that pedestrians are banned from the bike paths.

            If that’s the anti-bike candidate, you can imagine what the pro-bike candidates were like.



            Disclaimer: The preceding statements by Kevin Love are personal opinions and not made in his official capacity as Toronto Cyclists Union’s Willowdale Ward Captain. As such, they may not necessarily be included in the official campaign positions of the Toronto Cyclists Union. Those may be found at:


          • Keri
            Keri says:

            I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think things will change.

            I believe healthy, sustainable change begins with the software, not the hardware. Because right now the dysfunctional software can only produce dysfunctional hardware.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:


            Sounds like that road needs a road diet to repurpose car traffic lanes for better uses. I would have to know more about the road and the local area to make a specific recommendation, but here are some examples of alternatives:

            1. Take two car traffic lanes and repurpose them as dedicated LRT on its own right-of-way. This was done here in Toronto on Spadina Road and St. Clair Avenue.

            2. Take a car traffic lane and repurpose it as two cycle lanes. This was done here in Toronto on Jarvis Street.

            3. Take roadway space away from cars and repurpose it for pedestrians. This was done here on Bloor Street in the famous “Mink Mile” high-end retail district. And paid for largely by the merchants through a BIA levy.

            Of course, it is possible to do more than one of these at a time. And there are other things to do with repurposed streets as well. Things like street vendors, restaurant patios, trees, gardens, monuments, public art, etc.

            As to how to generate the political pressure to make those changes, let me give one example that I was personally involved in, Jarvis Street. This street was due to be repaved, so the Toronto Cyclists Union took advantage of that opportunity to put in a tremendous amount of effort for the road diet repurposing. This involved a lot of community networking getting the local Residents’ Association and BIA on board. The ward Councillor was elected with the help of several volunteers who happened to be members of the TCU, and who called in their markers. He was an essential part of the success.

            Finally, we put on a display of raw political muscle. When Council debated and voted on the change, we turned out our members and packed the Council chambers. So did our opponents, with nice yellow T-shirts saying “Don’t Jam Jarvis.” But there were exactly six of them and hundreds of us. The Councillors, all of whom were up for re-election the next year, could look around the room and see exactly who had the organization and political muscle.

            There is nothing that we did that you can’t do. You can start an Orlando Cyclists Union and start organizing cyclists. In Toronto, we didn’t start with hundreds of people. In the 1970’s, cycle advocacy started with a handful of people. People like Jack Layton and Olivia Chow.

            It took a lot of time and effort to grow from a mere handful of activists and almost zero cycle mode share to where we are today. And there were lots of obstacles and setbacks along the way. But we did it. So can you.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:


            Wow, that’s bad. I simply refuse to use a door zone bike lane. I do not wish harm upon anyone, but if harm is inevitable, I hope the victim sues the city for a zillion dollars for deliberately creating a danger.

            Centre turning lanes on two-lane roads are also a Very Bad Idea, since they result in a loss of the natural traffic calming effects of cars being required to wait behind left turning cars.

            It sounds like the solution is to remove the centre turning lane and use the liberated space to provide proper protected cycle lanes with appropriate intersection protections.

  9. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    So I have to wonder (he said somewhat facetiously) what happened to the Danes between 1937 and today? ‘Cuz if you look here
    you can see they used to do lots and lots of cycling without segregated infrastructure. Maybe this was before somebody told them that cycling in mixed traffic is dangerous. (And I’m guessing the people who told them that were interested in helping motorists go faster by getting the bicyclists out of the way. Wait, isn’t that bad for cities?)

    Many American cyclists are afraid to bike without a helmet. When they see someone else cycling without one, they often project their fear onto that person: “He’s gonna die, be a vegetable, etc.”

    Many Americans are afraid to bike on a roadway without some sort of separation from motorists. When they see someone else cycling amidst motor vehicles, they often project their fear onto that person: “He’s gonna get run over and killed.”

    Europeans I’ve met here in the US say they can’t bike here, because it’s too dangerous.

    And yet here were are, we “narrow-minded, self-righteous idiots,” free from fear, peacefully and safely coexisting on our roadways, and helping other people lose their fear and do the same.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Bicycle Porn

      James A. Fitzpatrick’s “Travel Talks
      Copenhagen 1937

      “It is estimated that there is one bicycle registered for every three person. Consequently bicycles overrun the city and provide an interesting spectacle — especially for the automobile conscience visitor who may be of the impression that bicycles in metropolitan cities are a thing of the past.”

      “The majority of workers live in the suburbs and Copenhagen being a city with very few hills is naturally ideal for commuting on bicycles. We find represented in this unique parade, tradesmen, policemen, postmen, babies, government officials, doctors, lawyers, and numerous others, all wheeling along and around in admirably controlled traffic. Automobiles appear to be very much out of place here where cyclists have the right of way by an overwhelming majority.”

    • Kevin Love
      Kevin Love says:

      Mighk wrote:
      “…they used to do lots and lots of cycling without segregated infrastructure…”

      Kevin’s comment:
      And people used to do lots and lots of car driving without segregated car infrastructure. But providing that infrastructure, in the form of interstate highways and urban expressways led to an explosion of car use. And let’s not forget spending stupendous sums of money and devoting scarce urban real estate for car-only parking.

      It is safe to predict that if all that segregated car infrastructure had not been built then there would be a lot less car use.

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        “But providing that infrastructure, in the form of interstate highways and urban expressways led to an explosion of car use.’

        Uhmmmm, No! Not in the US and I’m not as sure, but I don’t think in other places either. In the US, the car explosion began in 1920 and continued right through the ’30. The expressways were built in response to the explosion. Even during the Depression, over a million cars per year were being produced in the US.

        • Lyle
          Lyle says:

          I thought the expressways were built in response to Eisenhower’s failure to realize that certain nuclear annihilation means never needing to move materiel cross-country during wartime.

  10. John S. Allen
    John S. Allen says:

    Funny thing saying that helmet promotion spreads fear. It’s exactly the opposite of the risk compensation argument that that safer equipment and technique lead to acceptance of situations that a person would otherwise find unacceptably risky.

    My own experience and that of many other cyclists I know has been more in keeping with the risk compensation argument. Before I wore a helmet, used a rear-view mirror, learned bike handling and traffic technique, fatalism hounded me as I cycled. As my equipment and technique improved, I felt more comfortable with cycling, and so I felt free to cycle more, both for utility and for recreation.

    The rapid adoption of helmets by club cyclists in the mid- to late- 1970s in the USA was propelled by stories from early helmet adopters who had crashes that clearly would have resulted in serious head injury if not for the helmet. The increase in helmet use was not accompanied by any decline in club cycling — quite the opposite.

    For someone looking in on cycling from the outside, all this may go upside down, and a helmet may carry a message of danger, while a coffin corner, door zone bike lane carries a message of increased safety. That many bicycling advocates deprecate helmets while also promoting unsafe facilities speaks worlds about the grandness of their vision.

  11. bencott
    bencott says:

    in our corner of the world, there exists a cultural bias that bicycles are not effective transportation, and that cyclists should not have the same rights as motorists. i see this bias affirmed daily in the words and actions of motorists and law enforcement officials. putting up segregated infrastructure does nothing to combat this culture of hostility and speed. the only way for us to secure our right to travel under our own power and change the perception of the general public is to integrate into traffic. if we want people to respect and acknowledge us as vehicle operators, then we need to behave as such.

  12. Lou
    Lou says:

    Mighk, I am bit confused. In the first paragraph, it sounds like you agree that the promotion of helmets increases the fear of cycling. Then you wrote, “Now, if we can just get Mikael and his allies to understand that CyclingSavvy is a powerful tool in fighting the culture of fear of cycling…”

    Why would you link to a course the requires helmets? Doesn’t this helmet promotion/requirement promote the fear of cycling?

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      We don’t require helmets during our classes. While most of our students wear them (they are of course, products of their culture) we had a student in a recent course who didn’t. Nobody gave him a hard time.

      • Lou
        Lou says:

        Then I must have been confused, I apologize. I went to that site and saw all the pictures with all the helmeted cyclists. I started reading and I must have clicked a link to a different Cycling Savvy site that does requires helmets. I thought it was part of the Florida Bicycle Association and when I clicked on some of the Cycling Savvy links on that site, I found http://cyclingsavvy.org/2010/10/cyclingsavvy-weekend-course-nov-12-13/

        On that page the release says,”Helmets are required of all participants for on-bike sessions (Train Your Bike and Tour of Orlando)” I thought that the “Train Your Bike” and “Tour of Orlando” was part of the Cycling Savvy program.

        • Keri
          Keri says:

          Our liability insurance requires our students to wear helmets. It’s a good idea for the bike handling (though no one has ever hit their head). IMO, it doesn’t matter that much on the road. But I’d hate to lose protection of my life savings because we didn’t adhere to a policy requirement. The Culture of Fear cages all of us at some point.

        • Mighk Wilson
          Mighk Wilson says:

          Sorry. I misspoke. If it were solely up to us we wouldn’t require helmets.

          Though as Keri noted, a couple of the drills in parking lot session have a higher risk for falling (since they’re emergency maneuvers).

          We teach those emergency maneuvers as much to increase confidence as to prepare students for conflicts. If they use proper lane and intersection positioning, those emergency maneuvers become rather unnecessary.

          I’ve never needed an “instant turn” in my 40 years of urban cycling. I’ve used the quick stop a few times, but only because I didn’t adhere to proper positioning.

          • JohnB
            JohnB says:

            Interesting to hear you say that, Mighk. In the 2 years since I learned the instant turn, I’ve never used it in a real life emergency situation either. Perhaps there were a few instances I could have used it in my 6 years of everyday cycling before that, which was also before I learned good space control, but I got by without it.

            The time that I came closest to being hit by a car, knowing the quick stop would’ve helped. But I didn’t know it, so I went over the handlebars in the middle of the intersection. Fortunately, the car I was braking hard to avoid missed me. That was within the first two months I started commuting. Even then, my confidence now is hopefully more due to my increased ability to detect that kind of potential problem situation developing (a car had pulled out behind a line of left turning cars to enter the intersection without looking properly), and respond earlier to it by slowing down and watching closely, than to my ability to brake hard at the last second without going over the bars.

    • danc
      danc says:

      I’m not speaking for Mighk or Keri, so here is my wag.

      @ Lou “Why would you link to a course the requires helmets?”
      Let’s get back to Colville-Anderson main complaint: encouraging helmet use in Denmark discourages cycling, possibly. MANDATORY HELMET LAWS most likely discourage cycling and the main legal rational is “cycling is too dangerous” and the “Culture of fear” meme.

      “Doesn’t this helmet promotion/requirement promote the fear of cycling?”
      No, teaching cycling helps student understand the value of helmet and the real risks of cycling. A helmet have other uses beyond providing limited protecting in the event of a infrequent crash: keep your noggin cool or warm, distinctive visual profile, another place to hang lights, mirror, etc. As Keri mentioned cycling instructors (below) must follow their sponsoring agency insurance guidelines which is a pre-requisite for training.

      • Lou
        Lou says:

        Are you saying that only helmet laws discourage cycling and that other types of helmet promotions don’t? I would have to disagree with you if that is what you meant. I don’t live in an area with mandatory helmet use, but I see how helmet promotion discourages cycling. I hear it from my customers that they wanted to go for a ride but forgot their helmet or a mother that won’t allow her child to ride without one.

        I remember one mother that was in the shop to buy her daughter a new bike. She said her son needed one also, but since the son won’t wear a helmet, he is not allowed to ride, so no new bike.

        “No, teaching cycling helps student understand the value of helmet and the real risks of cycling.” Oh, so it isn’t promoting the fear of cycling. How is that? You are saying that you need a helmet, cycling is dangerous, wear a helmet to save your life.

        “A helmet have other uses beyond providing limited protecting in the event of a infrequent crash: keep your noggin cool or warm, distinctive visual profile, another place to hang lights, mirror, etc.” Yeah, that is why the helmets are required, so you stay comfortable and have a mirror. Do you really believe that? I’m pretty sure the requirement is there not so you have another place for a light, but because cycling is dangerous and you need special safety equipment so you don’t die.

        “As Keri mentioned cycling instructors (below) must follow their sponsoring agency insurance guidelines which is a pre-requisite for training.” So? They are still promoting that cycling is dangerous and that special safety equipment is needed. I don’t care why they are promoting helmets, just the result of such promotion.

        It is also a thinly veiled attempt to give an excuse of the requirement. If the insurance company said that the students needed to wear shoulder, wrist and knee pads, would they still use this insurance company? Or would they promote those items of safety equipment also? How about if the insurance company said only to ride on cycle paths and not on the roads?

        No, they accept the terms of the insurance company because they believe that helmets are effective and they are willing to promote that cycling is dangerous.

        I have wanted to take one of these types of classes, but everyone I have ever found says I need to have a helmet. By doing this, besides promoting that cycling is dangerous, they are saying, “we would rather you not learn safe cycling and bike handling skills than to take our dangerous course without a helmet.” They are saying that helmets are more important than cycling skills. I find this to be sad.

        • danc
          danc says:

          Lou on December 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm
          “Are you saying that only helmet laws discourage cycling and that other types of helmet promotions don’t?”

          The international research shows MANDATORY helmet law discourage cycling or ineffective in terms of alleged safety benefits. Bicycle safety classes are NOT solely about helmet promotion. Certified instructors have other minor prerequisite like student age or use a bicycle with working brake. I guess a “purist fixie” rider without a brake could feel the requiring a brake as an implicit promotion of brakes, fear of cycling.

          “I have wanted to take one of these types of classes, but everyone I have ever found says I need to have a helmet. By doing this, besides promoting that cycling is dangerous, they are saying, “we would rather you not learn safe cycling and bike handling skills than to take our dangerous course without a helmet.” They are saying that helmets are more important than cycling skills. I find this to be sad.”

          I would not get wound up about the helmet prerequisite. Borrow a helmet take the class, you will not regret it or be required to wear a helmet afterward. Cycling skills are more important than a helmet but I would not dismiss helmets entirely as Collvile-Anderson does.

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            We’ve had several people who don’t normally wear a helmet borrow one to take the class. They don’t get hung up on it. We don’t get hung up on it. We had a student in one of our pilot courses who didn’t wear one. We weren’t under insurance constraints then. I do observe to make sure students are wearing them properly (as in not backwards or tilted back like a beanie), but we don’t obsess about them.

            Frankly, I think both extremes are ridiculous. We should treat it as a personal choice and get over it. I would be pleased if it wasn’t an insurance requirement, but I don’t get worked up that it is. There are more important hills to defend.

          • Lou
            Lou says:

            “Bicycle safety classes are NOT solely about helmet promotion.” I never said they were. But they are promoting the use of helmets which is what the speech by Mikael Colville-Anderson is about. This blog was not about the benefits of the cycle class, but the detrimental effect of the fear of cycling.

  13. Keith
    Keith says:

    Lou your avoidance of a comprehensive cycle training course simply because their lawyers / insurance companies lawyers have mandated that they require their students to wear helmets during the road portions of the course (you are free to go sans helmet in the classroom portions) shows that you are so hard headed that in your case a helmet is probably redundant.

    Although I personally wear a helmet ever since I saw how easily Natasha Richardson was killed while skiing, and I realized how easily it was to slide out on the thin tires of my road bike, I would say that not wearing a helmet is far less dangerous than not having proper lighting and light colored / reflective clothing while riding after dark. It amazes me how many people tempt an untimely death by doing nearly all of the wrong things on major roadways. It is a shame that bicycle injury/death statistics have to include these fools. The only positve thing about these particular cyclists (if we must call them that) is that they are, at least for now, that many fewer bad automobile drivers on the road.

    • Lou
      Lou says:

      Hardheaded? I could be. But knowing this will not change my mind about the ineffectiveness of helmets nor the thought that cycling is dangerous. I therefore will never be a participant in any event that requires and promotes helmets. I do not want to be part of the problem of promoting that fear of cycling.

      • Keith
        Keith says:

        You really are throwing out the baby with the bath water. The cycling savvy course does exactly the opposite. They go to great lengths to show that cycling, particularly responsible vehicular cycling, can be very safe (with or without helmet use) with proper training and/or techniques. The helmet issue is a red herring, and is not a part of the course in any way. Mighk (and Keri .et al) created this course and Mighk started this thread – they are not at odds with you on the helmet issue – as I recall they point this helmet fear issue out in the course themselves – if you actually took the course you would realize that there is no contradiction in their position and the liability requirements imposed upon them by our litigious society.

        • Lou
          Lou says:

          I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Again, this is not about the benefits of the cycling class. This is about the fear of cycling. They can talk all they want, but when it is a requirement to wear a helmet for the class, then they are promoting helmet use for safety. I don’t care if it is because of an insurance issue or not. I don’t care if they hate, love or are indifferent to helmet use.

          If they have a website that shows all cyclists wearing helmets, have a requirement to wear helmets, have the class out in the public so everyone can see every cyclist wearing a helmet, then they are promoting helmet use as a necessity for safety. It doesn’t matter what they believe about helmets, actions speak louder than words.

          If they believe in the “culture of fear” and that helmet promotion is part of that culture, then the Cycling Savvy course is part of the problem. It doesn’t matter if that class helps cyclists become safer, better cyclists. It is still promoting the fear, even if it is a great program otherwise.

  14. danc
    danc says:

    Lou: “Cycling Savvy course is part of the problem”

    That’s an interesting view but your logic is argumentative and obstructive. Try reading Cyclecraft, North America by John Franklin.

    “[I] will not change my mind about the ineffectiveness of helmets nor the thought that cycling is dangerous. I therefore will never be a participant in any event that requires and promotes helmets. I do not want to be part of the problem of promoting that fear of cycling.”

    I think your being disingenuous, you already know everything about cycling, do you really need a bicycle safety class or is this just helmet trolling? It’s not problem for anyone if you don’t wear a helmet, honest.

    • Lou
      Lou says:

      It’s not helmet trolling, though I don’t believe helmets do any good. Yes, I do know a lot about cycling, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t learn something from a class. But again, I don’t know why you people can’t understand this, it isn’t about me, my views of helmets or anyone in Cycling Savvy’s view of helmets. This is about a post that starts off about how the promotion of helmet wearing is bad if you want people to ride bikes. By promoting helmets, you are saying that cycling is dangerous. If you say cycling is dangerous, then less people will be willing to try it.

      Then the blog goes into how the promotion of separate cycling infrastructure is also bad if you want to promote cycling because it also promotes the “culture of fear”. Mighk states, “Now, if we can just get Mikael and his allies to understand that CyclingSavvy is a powerful tool in fighting the culture of fear of cycling…” Mighk criticizes Mikael for his promotion of the fear of cycling, yet his program does the same thing by requiring helmets.

      It’s not about me, if I think Cycling Savvy is a good program or not. It’s not about if I think helmets are good or not. It’s about the hypocritical blog entry where both Mikeal and Mighk both promote the fear of cycling, Mikeal promotes the fear through separate cycling infrastructure and Mighk through a program that requires helmets. It doesn’t matter why that program promotes helmets, it could be by choice, insurance or a little bird said it was a good idea. All that matters is the promotion of the helmet.

      Cycling Savvy is suppose to be a program taught by experts in cycling skills and safe riding. If cycling experts are saying that you must wear a helmet for this safety program, then they are promoting helmets. If all the pictures on the website have cyclists in helmets except for one picture of the two “mindless” cyclists, then they are promoting helmets. They are promoting the fear just as much as Mikael Colville-Anderson is.

      And I find that very hypocritical.

      • Kevin Love
        Kevin Love says:


        I do not find it hypocritical. There is a lot of research showing the inverse relationship between cycling and helmet use. I remember seeing a graph of major countries plotting cycle mode share against percentage of helmet use. It was a pretty good relationship. If anyone knows where that graph is, I would appreciate a link. And, of course, the cycling rate plummeted in Australia when the politicians brought in a mandatory helmet law.

        Helmets suppress bicycle use.

        On the other hand, supportive infrastructure supports use. This is true for both bicycles and cars. There are numerous examples of segregated car facilities (ie expressways) being constructed and then packed to capacity shortly afterwards. Building segregated car facilities promotes car use.

        Similarily, proper supportive infrastructure promotes cycle use. Wherever we see a high cycle mode share, we can also see the proper infrastructure in place to support it. I am not aware of a single exception to this rule.

        Helmets suppress bicycle use. Proper infrastructure increases bicycle use. So it is certainly not hypocritical to oppose helmets and support proper infrastructure. By doing so, one is consistently taking a pro-bicycle stance.

        • NE2
          NE2 says:

          “I remember seeing a graph of major countries plotting cycle mode share against percentage of helmet use.”
          Correlation is not causality. It’s just as likely that the person who would drive a car here but ride a bike there is more likely to not wear a helmet than the die-hard cyclist.

          “Wherever we see a high cycle mode share, we can also see the proper infrastructure in place to support it.”
          Again, correlation =/= causality.

          “I am not aware of a single exception to this rule.”
          Awareness =/= truth 🙂

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:

            True, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. I’ll be a show-off and use the term of formal logic: cum hoc ergo propter hoc. One has to look at the circumstances and apply common sense (which is, alas, not so common). This means looking for other possible causitive factors.

            So, for example, when Australia brought in its mandatory cycle helmet laws and the cycle rate dropped by one-third, is there any other possible explanation? Did they bulldoze cycle infrastructure at the same time? Impose a tax upon bicycles?

            Why do people in Australia say that they stopped cycling? Or fail to take it up?

            Similarly, when looking at the relationship between helmet use and cycle use at a large number of advanced countries, is there anything else that could account for the correlation? What do people say about cycling?

            One sign that a theory is true is its ability to predict the future. So, for example, suppose someone has a theory which predicts that building a segregated car-only highway will lead to 10% increased car use measured as VMT (vehicle miles travelled) as well as a certain number of vehicles per hour on the highway. The segregated car highway is built, and low and behold, VMT goes up 10% and the number of cars predicted is counted. This is strong evidence to support the theory. The next step is to substitute the word “bicycle” for “car” in the above example.

  15. alexcopeland
    alexcopeland says:

    I kind of feel like this is a dead horse of a subject. The “culture of fear” concept I mean. There is nothing wrong with wearing a helmet or any other safety device. I can’t really imagine a person NOT riding a bike because seeing someone in a helmet made them think it was too dangerous. I understand the subtle pervasiveness that can occur with that imagery but I think there are bigger fish to fry. (Besides: head protection IS NOT A NEGATIVE THING. I think its treading a somewhat dangerous line to assert that safety equipment is somehow irresponsible.)

    I hate how this “segregation” issue constantly comes up and we argue about the Netherlands and Portland and Orlando’s sprawl. This is just getting old. I refuse to feel disloyal to cycling because I prefer to ride on a bike trail as opposed to the 6 lane, 4 lane, or even 2 lane roads. They are horrible, unpleasant, disruptive, congested places. I find no joy in driving on them and I find less joy in cycling through them.

    The question is that if we are making a wish list of our perfect world scenario why can’t we wish to have our cake and eat it too? I want to live in a world where car drivers are courteous and safely interact with each other and cyclists. I want to live in a world where I can go to work, shopping, school, and the movies without even getting on a road. I want bike trails through oak canopies and along side creeks and through pastoral rolling hills. I want my kid to enjoy life safe and secure when she is in the car, on her bike, or on the sidewalk.

    Ok I am rambling now…

    My point is: Stop drawing a line the sand between education and infrastructure. It degrades the discussion about how we handle safety and the integration of cars, bikes, and people. It’s going to take a firm and united front to accomplish anything positive. It serves no one to polarize the community by demanding that we “take a side” with either education or infrastructure. We can have both.

    Give me my cake.

    I am hungry.

    P.S. Bike lanes suck.

    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      I don’t think anyone’s opposing trails on their own right-of-way. It’s sidepaths that cause problems (Kevin being the main proponent of them here).

      • Kevin Love
        Kevin Love says:

        Trails or bicycle-only roads have to be done right or they can cause serious problems as well. They need to be straight and flat, without blind corner curves or severe grades. Ideally, appropriate embankments and cuttings should be used to ensure that grades are less than 2%. Since this is the railway standard, converted rail trails tend to work very well.

        Social safety needs to be ensured by having the road lit at night and visible to the surrounding community.

        Protection from the wind should be ensured by planting trees, particularly upwind from the prevailling winds. However, these trees should not compromise social safety by blocking the view of the road from the surrounding community.

        Pedestrians need to be kept off the bicycle road. This is normally done by providing sidewalks for pedestrians. So-called “Multiple Use Paths” are extraordinarily dangerous and should never be used.

        Intersections with motor vehicle roads need to be handled with care. Normal practice is to ensure that motor vehicles yield right of way to bicycles for local or minor arterial roads, major arterial roads have a traffic light signal crossing, and expressways have a seperated crossing, with motor vehicles carried either under or over the bicycle road. Sightlines and road markings are very important at intersections.

        Bicycle roads also need to be kept clear of debris such as leaves, thorns or snow (not a big problem in Orlando!).

        Suitable amenities should also be provided at regular intervals. These can be very simple, such as a shelter with restrooms, a drinking fountain, picnic tables and public telephones. Or they can be elaborate retail areas with patios, restaurants and shops of all kinds.

        • alexcopeland
          alexcopeland says:

          Is there any thing wrong with side paths, bike trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes that could fixed with proper education like signage, and classes like cycle savy? I suspect education would improve every type of transportation means, including motor ways. Get my point? lets not throw out the baby with bathwater. Lets not cut off our nose to spite our face. Lets not *insert cliche*! We can improve it all if we are united and focused. So if there is a problem with sidepaths, lets fix the problem with side paths. If there is a problem with gigantic interchanges, lets fix them. Or this a completely naive view? Naive or not yelling at eachother about it only serves to divide and conquer ourselves.

          • Mighk Wilson
            Mighk Wilson says:

            That’s a very good question Alex.

            Simpler systems have fewer points of failure. At the extremes you can compare the space shuttle with a glider.

            Education only works when someone wants to learn to do something.

            Segregated facilities require motorists to do more scanning and yielding than they are doing now, and those types of scanning and yielding are not in their own immediate self-interest.

            Yes, motorists do those things in Europe. But countries like The Netherlands already had very high bicycle mode shares before they built the segregated facilities (in the range of 15 to 20 percent). When ever 5th to 7th vehicle on the road is a bicyclist you are going to be much more aware of those cyclists in your blind spots.

            Also, in The Netherlands everyone respects cyclists because they either are one themselves, or many of their friends and family members bike. This is not the case here.

            On most arterial roads in the US the bicycle mode share is well under 1 percent. A bicyclist only comes by about once a half hour.

            Simply installing the sidepath is not going to bring hordes of cyclists. If we quadruple cycling here we’re still at about 2%, which means very infrequent cyclists on those paths.

            I’ve been on sidepaths with plenty of warning signs telling motorists to yield to path users, but still experienced way more conflicts on those paths than when biking on the roadway.

        • Keri
          Keri says:

          So Kevin, you’ve just eliminated almost everything that gets built here from your standards. Do you see the problem?

          The people who build our bike facilities don’t have a clue. And the majority of bicyclists don’t have a clue. Crap gets built, crap is accepted, more crap gets built.

          Once you’ve scared the population into thinking those facilities are necessary for their safety, they’ll accept pretty much anything. If they don’t understand what safe roadway operation looks like, they have nothing to compare it to.

          That is why we want to bring bicyclists to a higher level of understanding about what works and what doesn’t. If bicyclists know how to operate safely on the existing road system, they will know when a bikeway DECREASES their safety and efficiency. Thus, they will reject bad facilities and demand bikeways be built to standards which do not decrease their safety and efficiency. If we were to fund the current trajectory of bikeway construction, we’d spend billions to create something that is worse than the road system. Then political pressure will follow to make it mandatory for us to use it. It’s a road to hell.

          It’s not enough just to want something. You have to understand the process by which it is created and the ways in which things can go very, very wrong in that process such that the thing you wanted ends up making your life worse. Right now the process for creating bikeways is riddled with politics, ignorance and compromise, all of which work against bicyclists.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:


            I agree with what you wrote. Ignorance leads to substandard crap which in many cases is much worse than nothing.

            If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million. And real-life experience worth a billion.

            When I first went to The Netherlands, it was a life-changing experience. I had so many moments of “wow, we can do that” or “wow, we can build that” or “wow, I want this!”

            I was like a first-century barbarian seeing the city of Rome for the first time. I had a Dutch-Canadian girlfriend at that time. Her and her relatives were quite amused at how I would spend more time talking about us cycling to the Ann Frank House or other tourist attractions than I would about being there.

            They take it completely for granted. And I had been fighting tooth and nail with other cycling activists for similar facilities here for a long time. But actually seeing it! In real life! Not on the pages of an engineering standards guide but under the wheels of my bike!

            This is, of course, quite a common reaction. See the video:


            People here complain about City transportation staff going on fact-finding tours of The Netherlands. Trust me, every penny was well-spent. I lobby staff before they went to NL and afterwords. Afterwards the conversation is totally different and on a much more sophisticated level. They now “get it.”

            I can’t bring everyone to Groningen, but I can post videos so people can see what it is like. Then they too can say “Wow! I want that!”

    • Kevin Love
      Kevin Love says:


      Yes, you are very right. We can have both. Universal cycle education of the entire population is very important.

      The Netherlands has not only excellent infrastructure, but universal cycle education delivered through the school system. And paid for by the Ministry of Education, not the Ministry of Transportation.

      Please see the videos at:


      • Keri
        Keri says:

        No system functions without education. No authors on this blog have drawn a line in the sand between education and infrastructure. We place a higher priority on education because it serves bicyclists better and gives them far more access to destinations than what is being built or even what it is possible to build here.

        It is also more effective to build infrastructure for an educated constituency than an uninformed one. Examples: all the fools who use bike lanes as safe havens to ride against traffic; convoluted sidepaths that exist only to keep bicyclists off 25mph residential roads.

        • alexcopeland
          alexcopeland says:

          It may not be that you meant to draw a line but that is in fact what you have done. I constantly get the impression that I should feel guilty because I enjoy the cady way or the cross Seminole. Or that I should feel guilty because I think it sucks to take the lane on aloma. I DON’T feel guilty about it though. I just think that maybe you guys think I should and that I am being disloyal to responsible cycling.

          I feel like the best thing about my bike is that it frees me. I don’t feel “segregated” when I am on a trail. I feel liberated from those awful motor vehicles that are determined to be a drag with their poison spewing tail pipes and their obnoxious noise. You can’t make an argument compelling enough for me to think riding in that is at all appealing. It is necessary, and I do it, but it isn’t nice or fun.

          It has been my experience, with my friends and family that the first thing you do to get people to ride their bikes is to remind them that it is fun and easy. NO ONE is going to be excited to ride a bike if you start them off in the middle of a busy road. Mighk stated earlier that people need to WANT to be educated before they will learn. So how do we get them WANT it. Maybe we need infrastructure (like the cady way) where it is un-intimidating for them to begin their love affair with bikes. Then when they get to the point where they want to go somewhere that isn’t “on the trail” they will seek education to learn how to handle common roadways.

          Am I really so far off base? Is my experience really such an outlier?

          • Mighk Wilson
            Mighk Wilson says:


            Keri and I both support, like, and use paths in independent rights-of-way. They are, as you note, good places for new riders to get comfortable with their bikes and build their speed and endurance. They’re also pleasant places to ride.

            We see them as being very different from sidepaths; they don’t (for the most part) encourage cyclists to travel contrary to the normal rules for vehicular traffic.

            Eventually many cyclists tire of being limited to the trails and try to either bike to them (instead of driving the bike there on the back of the car) or bike to other destinations. That’s when they’ll need, and hopefully be looking for, training in how to operate in mixed traffic.

          • Keri
            Keri says:


            You are not off base in finding trails more peaceful and enjoyable. I do, too, most of the time.

            You are off base in your interpretation of what we write. You are projecting some wacky stuff if you think we think you should feel guilty for preferring Cross Seminole/Cady Way to taking the lane on Aloma. I prefer Cross Seminole/Cady Way to taking the lane on Aloma! And I know I have written that here before.

            I have written numerous posts about the virtues of trails and connector trails and how I use some, like Cady Way, for a lot of my trips. My most frequent criticism of them is that they are not integrated as well as they should be so that people can access them from adjoining neighborhoods rather than having to go onto the arterial roads they cross. (But really, I just want people to feel even more guilty about using them.)

            I’ve also talked about various easements that could be utilized for suburban trails which would create more pleasant routes.

            No one here has suggested starting people off riding in the middle of a busy road. That is a red herring. I have also written numerous posts about connecting quiet streets and the fact that people (INCLUDING ME) prefer to ride on quiet, shady streets. A bunch of them are listed here. Perhaps you missed them.

            I don’t feel guilty or disloyal to cycling for choosing routes with no traffic or choosing to use the trail when it goes where I’m headed. It’s stunning that you think I would want you to.

            Here’s a quote from the CyclingSavvy site:


            “The object of the course is not to turn people into road warriors. Being a confident, competent cyclist has nothing to do with speed or bravado. You don’t need either of those things to have access to the entire transportation grid.

            Even most confident cyclists prefer to use quiet routes when feasible. In many cases, it is only an intimidating intersection or short stretch of busy road which hinders a cyclist’s preferred route. This course is designed to show students simple strategies to eliminate such barriers, and ride with ease and confidence in places they might never have thought possible.”

            Sorry Alex. We don’t fit in that pigeon hole.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:

            “…the first thing you do to get people to ride their bikes is to remind them that it is fun and easy.”

            Unfortunately, that is all too true. Please don’t misunderstand, I am definitely not against fun! But success in the built urban environment comes when cycling is the fastest, easiest and most convenient means of getting from A to B.

            It is also the cheapest. Not only for the individual riding a bike that’s about 1/20th the cost of a car with comparatively insignificant maintenance and operating costs. But also for the city.

            The cost of segregated car facilities, ranging from segregated car-only freeways to segregated car-only parking lots, is absolutely stupendous and outrageous. Advocates of government spending reductions should focus upon cycling as a major way of achieving that goal.

            Success looks like The Riding of Toronto Centre, where car commute mode share is at 24% and falling, and most cyclists don’t really like cycling. A bicycle to them is just a transportation appliance, no more fun than a vacuum cleaner or toaster.

            Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that fun is bad or that we shouldn’t have fun. What I am saying is that if cycling is not the fastest, easiest and most convenient transportation option and ALL we have to sell is fun, then cycling rates will always be low.

          • alexcopeland
            alexcopeland says:

            Keri, obviously I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was, and have been misunderstood. Let me first say that I am a fan of this website. I have learned an immeasurable amount from it and have no desire to attack it or its authors. After re-reading what I wrote I admit that I didn’t take the time to properly direct my chastisement. When I said “you guys” and “you” I was referring to the grand encompassing “You.” Not you Keri, or you Mighk. but everyone who posts regularly and is a part of this (online) community. I used words like “feel” and “think” and “impression” in hopes that it would be understood that it that this my personal opinion, based on the data from my personal experiences and my readings of the posts and comments of this website. (I invite criticisms of my opinions.) I would also never presume to put words in your mouth. When I threw out the “red hearing” I wasn’t saying that you, or anyone else on this blog, suggested that people learn to ride a bike on 436. I was using that imagery to emphasize the need for infrastructure. Read my post again. I have no intention of stuffing you or pigeons into any kind of hole.

            I suppose my grand point is that this community is somewhat insular and the prioritizing (bias?) of education vs. nice (fun, pleasant) places to ride can be alienating to people on the outside. We don’t serve our mission of more bicycles in place of cars by dividing ourselves and aliening potential allies. Lets have balance.

            And Kevin, I simply think that fun is the most compelling reason to get on a bike in the first place, and everything else (economy, transport, etc.) is the reason you stay on it. That’s my cake and I’m eating it.

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            Alex, thanks for the clarification.

            We prioritize education because it’s a way to help people now. What might get built some day doesn’t help a people restore health and family economics now. What’s being built right now doesn’t help people avoid getting hurt or killed, and some of it will lead them into trouble.

            If you look at the city and county long-range plans, pretty much every canal and utility easement has been marked for the building of a trail… someday. But it’s all just dreaming. There’s no funding allocated for it. We can’t change that. There’s also not a big constituency demanding it because one- or two-mile connector trails are transportation facilities not recreational playgrounds. We might be able to change that, by growing a transportation cycling community. But we have to grow it in the current system. A truly useful network of bicycle highways (for lack of a better term) will need to interface with the road system. Bikeways built for people who are afraid of the road, or to keep cyclists away from cars, will not interface properly with the road system and therefore will not be useful for transportation cycling. Remember my post about the Kewannee Trail?

            But even if all those trails were all built today, they wouldn’t give people trail-only access to their destinations. They would help people minimize time on big roads, but people will still need to know how to navigate the rest of the transportation system. We need to help people thrive in the current system. So, that’s where we focus our energy.

            This website isn’t funded by anyone. I pay the hosting and domain fees out of my own pocket. I do all the maintenance and design on my own time. My interest is education. My goal in creating this site was to have an outlet for educational content that would help people operate in the system we have, and hopefully, to help keep them safe.

            I tend to write more criticisms of infrastructure because most of what I see makes things worse for cyclists. I try to balance that with positive articles about the good trails, but there’s only so many times I can write about that same few trails. One thing I will never do is regurgitate propaganda about experimental urban bike facilities. I have yet to see an urban segregated facility that offers the efficiency or safety of the road. And downtown Orlando is an incredibly easy place to ride (except for the streets they’ve effed up with bike lanes).

            I realize my area of interest is pretty narrow. In an effort to create diversity I have recruited other authors. We have 20 other authors, but most of them don’t contribute very often. If you think you can add more diversity and want to be an author, send me an email.

          • NE2
            NE2 says:

            Keri wrote: “I have yet to see an urban segregated facility that offers the efficiency or safety of the road.”
            Perhaps Paris’s Promenade Plantée, a former elevated rail line (like NYC’s High Line but bikes are allowed)? Of course the cost is completely prohibitive if you don’t have an existing structure to convert 🙂

  16. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    Nature does not use segregation within a given habitat. Different users of the habitat learn to coexist. Yes, competition exists in nature, but cooperation is just as important. (And recent research is showing that cooperation is much stronger than we’d previously believed.)

    Motorists are not predators. Neither are they mindless bison charging across the prairies. Motorists are social beings living up to the expectations their culture. The primary, over-riding expectation is to not hit and harm others.

    Another expectation is that bicyclists will stay out of the way. The problem with this second expectation is that it encourages bicyclists to “hide” from motorists and makes their behavior less predictable. A motorist who cannot see you or predict your behavior has a much harder time avoiding a collision with you.

    So the secondary expectation is in conflict with the primary one. We tend to get very frustrated when trying live within two contradictory expectations.

    A third very important expectation for motorists is to go fast. That expectation is also in conflict with the primary one. Getting bicyclists out of the way actually increases motorist speed. So there’s another contradictory expectation.

    The type of bicycle driving we promote appeals to the primary expectation. It improves cyclist conspicuity and predictability, and often gets motorists to slow down.

    Trying to use government power to force motorists to slow down does not work in the US, whether or not bicyclists are involved. There has to be a direct social reason for it. That’s why motorists are much more likely to adhere to active school crossings than to a lower posted speed along an entire corridor that was designed for high-speed travel.

  17. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Mighk wrote:
    “Trying to use government power to force motorists to slow down does not work in the US, whether or not bicyclists are involved.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    Last time I checked, Madison, Wisconsin was still in the USA. And using government power to install road diets, traffic calming and semi-permeable barriers was extremely effective in getting motorists to slow down. The comparison between today and when I grew up there as a child is like night and day. A hostile environment was tamed.

    And using the government’s zoning power to allow buildings to be build on the downtown parking lots transformed the city. Not co-incidently, this brought in a heaping helping of money to the local government. A parking lot pays a lot less property tax than when a building is built on it.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Yes, Kevin. We have a very successful road diet here, too. (Well, it’s successful at getting motorists to slow down, but it’s a lousy street for cycling since we’re now shoved into the door zone.)

      It’s a huge difference between taking a four-lane road that runs through a neighborhood shopping district with no center turn lane and excess capacity, and converting it into a two-laner with a center turn lane, and taking a six-lane high-speed arterial that is congested in peak hour down to four lanes for the sake of virtually non-existent bike and bus traffic.

      We would like to see University (the road we featured on the most recent video) altered so that the right lane was for buses, bikes and right turns only. But the bus service currently along there is very infrequent (we have a woefully underfunded transit system).

      Yes, you can reduce speed (somewhat) by reducing capacity. But you have to offer something the community wants in return for the lost capacity. That corridor (and most corridors in our area) is not ready. But even if you do reduce the capacity, speeds will still be quite high during off-peak hours.

      What I meant by reducing speed was attempting to do so without reducing capacity; just posting a lower speed limit will not work; the courts consistently throw out speeding tickets when the posted speed is significantly lower than the design speed. That is absolutely a non-starter here.

      • Kevin Love
        Kevin Love says:


        There are a variety of transportation ameneties that can be incorporated into a road diet. Without knowing what this road looks like, I cannot make any specific recommendations, but here are some possibilities to think about.

        1. Increase car speeds. Rather counter-intuitive, but the issue is safety, not speed. Is it possible to convert the six-lane arterial into a four-lane limited access highway? That would allow speeds for cars to be safely increased. The most common issues include access to local residences and businesses, and facilities for getting cars on and off the highway.

        Then it is possible to use semi-permeable barriers to ensure that the only direction that car traffic can go is to or from the highway at low speeds, but bicycles can go everywhere. The highway crossings can be accomplished by the usual means.

        2. LRT on its own ROW down the centre. This also provides a safe refuge for pedestrians on the centre “islands” created for loading and unloading passengers. This is probably the #1 use of repurposed road space in Toronto.

        3. Piecework solutions. The first two alternatives were One Big Thing, but a large number of small things can also be done. Patios, monuments, public art, gardens, even tennis courts and other sports facilities – there are a large variety of things that can be done with the liberated real estate.

        Local culture should be taken advantage of in the piecework alternative. Are there people from Orlando who have done something particularly brave in the current Middle East wars? Statues of this individuals, forming part of a war memorial complex, would be politically untouchable once it was in place.

  18. Jesse Ross
    Jesse Ross says:

    I prefer to ride on trails and residential roads. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I almost always ride with children. Vehicular cycling on major arterial roads with children doesn’t seem to be a good idea because the children in any of the popular cargo bikes (yuba, xtracycle, MADSEN, the Dutch dream bikes) still lack the safety equipment of a car. I have called the police on people holding their children in the front seat w/o a car seat. How can I argue it is safer to “hold them” in a bike on the same exact roads? It’s just not. And the number one killer of children is car accidents already. So putting children in the midst of these high speeds with fewer safety precautions is illogical.

    Now, when I’m not riding with my kids, I just go right out there in whatever road. But I’m not sure that’s the best idea because my idea of safety shouldn’t be compromised because my children aren’t with me (I am, after all, still their father if they are safe at home; still, after all, capable of being killed and therefore out of their lives.).

    But if I’m on a 25 mph road (with or without them), riding 10 miles per hour (sorry, 15mph doesn’t happen without a tail wind when you carry two kids lol), then I’m being passed at a 15mph difference. That’s the equivalent of standing in my front yard while somebody slowly passes. Not so bad. Acceptable to all. Inviting to nonusers. Safe.

    So, considering the hundreds of thousands per mile it costs to build roads, and the slightly fewer hundreds of thousands it costs to build bike trails, I believe we should spend a little money connecting all the smaller roads instead. In such a large metropolitan area, it is so silly to only have twenty-to-forty feet wide travel spaces. You look at maps, and there’s all this land and this tiny strip we’re supposed to travel on. We should use the rest.

    Now, there are interstates that bikes can’t go on–and that they really shouldn’t because they’re so fast–just like there are places big trucks can’t go. Trails should be used as counter parts to those big roads where it’s just too fast for anything but a car to travel on, where it is not as safe because the stakes are just higher.

  19. Angelo
    Angelo says:

    I’m not sure why I can’t reply to the earlier chain from Kevin and Keri, but my comments are:

    Every standard you list is prohibited by US planners and standards. 4 lane roads are being converted to 3 traffic lanes, 1 lane each way, center turn lane and 5′ door zone bike lanes next to parked cars. When bicyclists complain about the door zones, the planners say
    *It’s the new state standard
    *The planners are not dedicated bicyclists; they and most bicyclists are not comfortable riding in a traffic lane. They think it’s more comfortable to have a dedicated 5′ bike lane even if they may be doored. This must be OK because it complies with federal guidelines.

    I don’t think the planners make the connection between
    * Doored means suddenly pushed in front of cars, being maimed or killed
    * If I have to slow to walking speed the door zone is useless
    * Motorists are far angrier if bicyclists leave the door zone now that it is painted as a bike lane, and the passing lanes have been replaced by a common turn lane.

    While one paradigm is to install really bad designs and assume when people use them they’ll advocate for real rights to the road, most just continue to believe bicycling is difficult and don’t do it much.

    The standard design here also shows bike lanes striped solid to intersections, with straight/right turn lanes to the left of the bike lane. On the only local bike lane with a RTOL lane placed to the right of the bike lane, the required merge area for bike lanes is always kept to the minimum (50′), but is longer for traffic lanes. As a result, 3/4 of the RTOL lane is to the LEFT of the bike lane (the bike lane veers right at the start of the RTOL). Again, palnners consider this OK for bikes because the short merge area is highlighted. I would rather just keeping the bike lane straight and and put the entire RTOL to the right of the bike lane, but the standards don’t require this.

    Planners said it’s OK to put the bike to the right of the combined right/straight lane because the bicyclist has to yield to all cars (including right turning cars – the right hook is painted in.)

    Both infrastructure (bikes in bike lane won’t activate signals, lanes to right of RTOL) and FRAP force strict liability on bicyclists in the US; until this is fixed problem facilities are just made mandatory when bicyclists complain they are unusable.

    I don’t think we need to push for more badly designed facilities where we can walk our bicycles; until bicyclists have a legally enforced right of way even Dutch facilities won’t help if motorists are rarely considered at fault in collisions with bicycles. But when transportation riders refuse to ride door zones or use circuitous paths that go nowhere, they are vilified for not supporting facilities or caring about other cyclists.

    Transportation (and VC) riders typically don’t have problems with cut through paths or even bike lanes on bridges. The problems come when police and motorists tell us we can’t ride 4 miles on busy roads because they built a 10 mile trail that goes some place else and is not open after dark. Telling people they have a path that dead ends in the middle of nowhere won’t encourage any one to replace auto trips.

    I don’t think it makes sense to build more facilities in the US until bicyclists have enforceable right of way and standards are addressed; otherwise bad facilities just won’t build enough ridership to fix the the legal problems or create good facilities

  20. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:


    The proper way of designing an intersection for safe right turns for cyclists is to maintain the protective buffer on the left side of the cyclist through the turn.

    It looks like this:

    I am riding along in the protected cycle lane. When I come to an intersection and want to turn right, I make my right turn before the cars do. At all times throughout the turn there is a protective buffer on my left between myself and car traffic.

    As I complete the turn, I am now to the right of the protected cycle lane on the new road. I am in the cycle right turn lane, to my left is the new cycle lane on the new road, to the left of that are the protective buffers, and to the left of that are the cars. I then merge into the protected cycle lane on the new road and carry on in the new direction on the new road.

    Car drivers making right turns go a little further and face a traffic light. Note that in this design, right-turning cyclists never confront a traffic light. That is just one of the many things that make cycling faster, easier and more convenient than driving a car.

    A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at this video. In the first 30 seconds, the cyclist approaches an intersection like I just described. Note how right-turning cyclists never confront the traffic light and always have a protective buffer between themselves and car traffic.

    I recommend stopping the following video at the 24-second mark. You can see a car turning right on the far side of the protective buffer.


    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      Um… the conflict is between straight cyclists and right-turning motor vehicles. And don’t say that you’re going to give the cycleway a long green with no turn on red for the roadway, since that’s not going to happen here.

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        “with no turn on red for the roadway”

        It’s worse than that for the motorist. Watch the video. When the cycle track light is green in any direction, all traffic comes to a halt so the cyclist can make a “jug handle” turn in one go.

        It’s no wonder that the other countries won’t adopt the Dutch system. The pols wouldn’t get re-elected.

        • Kevin Love
          Kevin Love says:

          That particular element of the Dutch system is in place in many places in the USA, usually for the benefit of pedestrians. Wikipedia has a list of US cities that use it. Here is a Google Maps view of one such intersection in Denver, Colorado, showing the pavement markings encouraging pedestrians to make diagonal crossings.


          Here is the story of how they came to Denver:


          And here is a video of one of these intersections in action in Toronto. Note the frequency of streetcar service.


          • NE2
            NE2 says:

            Yes, and how often is it used on suburban arterials? What fraction of the total light cycle time is for pedestrians and sidewalk riders, and what fraction for motor vehicles?

            By the way, your Denver example does allow rights on red, which is incompatible with cycling on a sidepath faster than a walk.

          • Angelo
            Angelo says:


            As noted, the conflict is between bicyclists going straight routed inside turning motorists. Planners here verbally advise bicyclists to yield to all motorists; in Somerville MA the city passed an ordinance requiring bicyclists to use the bike lanes and to yield to right turning traffic.

            We’re not saying designs to favor bicyclists can’t exist – we’re saying in the US all trails are MUPs – none are restricted to bicyclists with segregated trails. Standards are very low and not enforced, and dismiss the concerns of people that currently ride bicycles. They are considered extreme, and don’t need encouragement. They want to support bicyclists that say we should accept narrow bike lanes in the door zone because if we insist on enough space to ride safely, we won’t get any bike lanes at all. (This is a real example.)

            My contention is still that Dutch designs won’t work here now if police and courts deny bicyclists ever have the right of way and standards virtually instruct planners to design facilities that make bicycling worse than using the full road. I believe even you said you would refuse to ride in the door zone – in the US opposing door zone lanes means opposing virtually lanes I’ve seen. We’re not opposed to everything on principle, but can’t support current US standards

          • Eric
            Eric says:

            You must have missed this:

            “The pols wouldn’t get re-elected.”

            I say again, no matter what you think, politicians will not allow it. They want to be re-elected and they will not be re-elected if the vote for such a scheme.

            In parliamentary style governments, where everything is top-down like the UK, it may be possible to force the issue, but not where everybody, including the local dog catcher, is elected.

          • Kevin Love
            Kevin Love says:

            Eric wrote:

            “They won’t get re-elected.”

            Kevin’s comment:

            Yes, it used to be like that here. In the 1970’s, cycle mode share was insignificant and cycle activists were a mere handful in number. The elected City politicians could (and did) ignore us.

            Now we’ve got the organizational muscle to turn out people to cram City Council when key votes come up, provide volunteers to help councillors get re-elected, etc. Pundits mutter darkly about “the power of the cycle lobby” and even bike-hating politicians like Rob Ford have to give us significant parts of our agenda.

            We did it, and you too can make the same journey from marginalization to power. It isn’t easy, but you will never regret making that journey.

          • JohnB
            JohnB says:

            Kevin, many facilities proponents portray riding of the sort advocated for on this site as if it required fighting with traffic for road space, but your last comment leaves the impression that the alternative is to fight our fellow non-cycling citizens and politicians for our own private space at some future time. I choose the first option, with the caveat that as videos and student experience here show, it doesn’t have to be a fight, it’s just assertiveness and respect for yourself and the other drivers around you.

            To put another way what others have said about the culture here in the U.S., versus Europe, we have had experience with separate parallel systems for the same purpose, and in our experience, separate is never equal. Look how long it took us to do away with racial segregation, and that directly effected many more times the number of people that anti-cycling bias does. Facilities proponents are pinning their strategy on the hopes that the facilities will increase bicyclists’ political power to the point that politicians will have to listen. Some of us aren’t holding our breaths on that.

            John Alexander’s recent post shows that what he has learned from Keri and Mighk have enabled him to use his bike for transportation NOW, confidently and safely, anywhere that bikes are legally allowed. Without that, he would be traveling twice as far, on trails that he’s already seen can be dangerous, while waiting (and maybe advocating) for bike lanes to be striped on the busy roads, and then he’d still be half afraid to use them, and probably with good reason. Or he’d just give up.

  21. Geof Gee
    Geof Gee says:

    Mighk and Keri,

    It would be helpful if the studies you cited were better referenced or linked to a copy on the Internet. As is, it is hard for me to put a lot of the quotes in the proper context and share with others. For instance, the Germans are now removing cycle tracks and bike lanes to promote lane sharing. I’d love to read that in detail.


      • Geof Gee
        Geof Gee says:

        Interesting. I’ve located the ADFC website but can’t find the release. John Allen has this … http://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/adfc.htm. I still did not read that German officials are removing side paths and promoting lane sharing.

        In large, I think that one can build acceptable facilities where the risk differential between say the bike lane and VC road user is virtually nil. But simply based on anecdotes and what I personally observe at the federal and municipal level, there are some important differences here — political, legal, economic, and so on — that make a facilities based strategy outlined in the comments and what I see in some of the videos unworkable in most environments. Personally, in the short to medium run, I doubt that any of us have a good idea what will happen in the long run, I’m a big believer that the biggest benefit we can do for cyclists in the US is to convince people that speeding is dangerous, encourage road design that brings down speeds, and encourage designs that require drivers pay attention to successfully navigate. I think engineering solutions for those fast traffic areas that choke off residential cycling networks are probably a pretty good idea for the broad public. I do think that if you took care of situations that the general public consider pathological from a cycling standpoint, you can probably convince a lot of people to learn to ride slow residential streets in a legal manner.

        Anyway, I really am interested in learning if some official action removed cycle tracks and their motivation.

  22. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Dear John,

    Two comments about your statement about:

    “…fighting with traffic for road space…”

    The first comment is that we are traffic. I refuse to accept any marginalization of cycling as “other” than legitimate traffic and transportation.

    The second comment is that it is about the allocation of public space, not just road space, that belongs to all the people, not just car drivers. This includes things like public space for bicycle parking.

    Car advocates have no problem advocating for segregated car facilities, ranging from car-only roads to car-only parking.

    Bicycle advocates must respond with a livable cities approach to building a city for people, not cars.

    You also wrote:
    “…the facilities will increase bicyclists’ political power to the point that politicians will have to listen…”

    Where I am, that is a reversal of cause and effect. First, cyclists got organized. Then we were able to get a few wins. That helped increase cycling, getting a virtuous circle going. After a lot of work (a lot!) the process is self-sustaining so that even a bicycle-hating politician like Rob Ford is severely limited in terms of the damage that he can do.

  23. JohnB
    JohnB says:


    “The first comment is that we are traffic. I refuse to accept any marginalization of cycling as ‘other’ than legitimate traffic and transportation.”

    Oh, I agree completely. I was mainly trying to characterize the position of some facilities advocates who seem to see riding with *motor vehicle* traffic as requiring a combative attitude, only capable of being done by daring, fast, and athletic people. Insert “other” or “motor” in front of “traffic”, and I think my point is the same.

    “The second comment is that it is about the allocation of public space, not just road space, that belongs to all the people, not just car drivers. This includes things like public space for bicycle parking.”

    I agree in many cases, such as bicycle parking and other amenities such as bike stations. I’m talking specifically about road space.

    “Where I am, that is a reversal of cause and effect.”

    Actually, your description of a “virtuous circle” sounds very similar to my “increase bicyclists’ political power”, so I think we may just be using different words to say a similar thing. But my point is partly made when you say it is a lot of work. So you can put in a lot of work getting separated road facilities, or you can put in a lot of work training bicyclists to use what exists now. Many of us that hang out here choose the latter, because we feel it is ultimately more empowering to transportational bicyclists, with more immediate benefits.

    • Kevin Love
      Kevin Love says:

      I am certainly not against training. Training is an important element of a bicycle culture. But it cannot be the only element.

      Even compulsory Dutch-style training delivered to all people through the school system will only deliver an insignificant cycle mode share unless cycling is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B with the three elements of safety (actual, subjective and social) firmly in place.

      An example is New Zealand, where in spite of school cycle training cycle mode share is almost nil. See:


  24. Bob Sutterfield
    Bob Sutterfield says:

    The website http://mapmyride.com recently sent me a promotional message about their partnership with http://invisiblebracelet.org. The lead line is “Stay Safe While Getting Fit” with the followup “Make safety a priority”.

    Their competitors at http://roadid.com have a strong tie-in with professional road cycling, with the Versus announcers flacking the product during their coverage of the Tour de France.

    Both companies’ sales literature is full of grateful user testimonials, some of the form “I was glad I was wearing it when they scraped me up off the road”, but most of the form “I felt a lot better while I was riding because I had this thing on my wrist” and “I never go out without it”. Those stories sound like the tale of Dumbo’s magic feather. The vendors’ message is clear: Buy this product and you’ll be safe. Without it, you should be fearful.

    How can we convey the message that these products are, at best, a sixth layer of safety (to use the five-layers formulation of http://bikesafecalifornia.org ), not by themselves a comprehensive approach to risk management? Do you suppose any organization of cyclists would dare to speak counter to that commercial view?

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