My letter to a staffer of Senator Scott Brown about the mandatory sidepath provision in the Federal Tranportation Bill is online. Feel free to re-use it, or parts of it.
My letter to a staffer of Senator Scott Brown about the mandatory sidepath provision in the Federal Tranportation Bill is online. Feel free to re-use it, or parts of it.
I don’t like mandatory sidepath laws for bicyclists, but I like the one in the Transportation Bill, applying to roads on Federal lands, even less.
(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road unless the Secretary determines that the bicycle level of service on that roadway is rated B or higher.
I have had a look at state laws on the Internet.
I’m pleased to report that I couldn’t find the ones which Dan Gutierrez earlier listed on his map for Colorado, Hawaii, North Dakota and Louisiana. Dan has updated his page: these laws appear to have been repealed.
The national trend has been for repeal of these laws. While the states have been repealing them, the Federal Transportation Bill, as of March, 2012, includes a provision which is more draconian than any of the remaining state laws, in that it would ban bicycles on a road even if the path is unusable. It might be called the “you can’t get there from here” law, to quote a New England expression. See my previous post for the details.
Mandatory sidepath laws, as far as I can determine, now are on the books in only 7 states: Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia. All except for Oregon require the path to be usable; the Oregon law has been explained to me as not actually having any effect, because government agencies will not take on the legal burden of having to defend paths as being safe.
Some of the laws have additional limitations on where path use can be made mandatory. See comments below. The boldface is mine.
Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(c) Wherever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.
Note discretionary application, and design standard and destination accessibility requirement for the paths.
O.C.G.A. 40-6-294 (2010)
40-6-294. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths
(c) Whenever a usable path has been provided adjacent to a roadway and designated for the exclusive use of bicycle riders, then the appropriate governing authority may require that bicycle riders use such path and not use those sections of the roadway so specified by such local governing authority. The governing authority may be petitioned to remove restrictions upon demonstration that the path has become inadequate due to capacity, maintenance, or other causes.
(d) Paths subject to the provisions of subsection (c) of this Code section shall at a minimum be required to meet accepted guidelines, recommendations, and criteria with respect to planning, design, operation, and maintenance as set forth by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and such paths shall provide accessibility to destinations equivalent to the use of the roadway.
(d) Wherever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.
60-6,317. Bicycles on roadways and bicycle paths; general rules; regulation by local authority.
(3) Except as provided in section 60-6,142, whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a highway, a person operating a bicycle shall use such path and shall not use such highway.
My understanding, based on a sicussion with former Oregon state bicycle coordinator Michael Ronkin, is that this law is never enforced, because state and local authorities will not risk ruling that a path is suitable.
814.420: Failure to use bicycle lane or path; exceptions; penalty.
(1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section, a person commits the offense of failure to use a bicycle lane or path if the person operates a bicycle on any portion of a roadway that is not a bicycle lane or bicycle path when a bicycle lane or bicycle path is adjacent to or near the roadway.
(2) A person is not required to comply with this section unless the state or local authority with jurisdiction over the roadway finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.
Note that this applies only where signs have been posted directing bicyclists to use a path.
41-6a-1105. Operation of bicycle or moped on and use of roadway — Duties, prohibitions.
(4) If a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, a bicycle rider may be directed by a traffic-control device to use the path and not the roadway.
§17C-11-5. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(c) Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.
A commenter on the Washcycle blog where I first read of the mandatory sidepath provision in the Transportation Bill had the following to say:
In most parts of the country NPS, BLM and other stewards of Federal land are the furthest things imaginable from builders of bike paths
It only takes a little research to prove that statement incorrect.
Consider the Cape Cod National Seashore.
I happen to have posted an article with photos of the Province Lands paths (near the tip of the Cape), so you can see what kind of path we’re talking about here.
The Nauset path near the south end of the park also parallels a road. These paths in the National Seashore were built long ago to a very low design standard. Roads paralleling these paths now have Share the Road signs, reflecting the reality that many bicyclists prefer to ride on them. The roads also are more direct, and serve some trip generators which the paths do not. With the proposed law, the NPS would have to take these signs down and replace them with bicycle prohibition signs, and the park rangers would have to busy themselves with chasing bicyclists off these roads, reflecting a prohibition which is inconsistent with traffic law elsewhere in Massachusetts.
And quite a number more, I’m sure. Just search under the activity “Biking” on the page
Main point I’m making with of this post: where’s the two-way, separated, “protected” bikeway in the Google Street View below? When I rode Montréal’s Boulevard de Maisonneuve bikeway in the summer of 2008, there were some nasty detours around construction projects. The Google Street View images in this post, shot at a later date, show an entirely different set of construction projects. Any great city is constantly renewing and reinventing itself, and so such problems are to be expected.
On March 14, 2011, I attended a meeting in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. At that meeting, Dr. Peter Furth of Northeastern University, and some of his students, gave a presentation on proposals for street reconstruction and bikeways in the southern part of Brookline.
Most of the streets in the project area are fine for reasonably competent adult and teen cyclists to share with motorists, though one street, Hammond Street, is much less so, with its heavy traffic, four narrow lanes and no shoulders. I do agree with a premise of the presentation, that bicycling conditions could be improved, but I suggest different treatments, such as conversion from four lanes to three, with a center turn lane which becomes a median at crosswalks, also freeing up room at the sides of the roadway for motorists to overtake bicyclists.
Please read through this introduction before looking through the photo album I have posted with images from the meeting presentation, and drawings which were taped up in the meeting room.
Generally, I am concerned with the hazards and delays — and in winter, complete lack of service — which the proposal introduces for bicyclists, and with the blockages and longer trips it introduces for motorists, resulting in delay and in increased fuel use and air pollution. Some specifics:
There also was confusion in the presentation:
There also is an ethical issue: in their presentation, the students have appropriated a number of Google Street View images without attribution — a violation of copyright and of academic ethics. (Furth’s students also plagiarized photos from my own Web site for a different presentation, but I digress.)
The proposal generally attempts to make bicycle travel a safe option for children and for people who are new to bicycling. It fails to accomplish that, due to problems with access across streets to the proposed pathways. It also adds complication and delay for motorists and for the majority of existing and foreseeable bicycle users. It degrades and sometimes eliminates bicycling as an option in the winter months, and it pays no attention whatever to public transportation.
I have no objection to construction of a path in the parkland adjacent to the streets in the project area, but the proposal also works to enforce the use of the path by reducing the utility of the road network for bicyclists as well as for other users.
I do think that street improvements are desirable, and on one street (Hammond Street) a high priority to improve bicycling conditions, but these improvements can be achieved mostly through restriping, without the massive reconstruction, or rather, deconstruction, that has been proposed. This narrowing the roadways is intended to increase greenspace, and also apparently to reduce speeding, but the proposal goes way overboard in reducing capacity, convenience and flexibility. There are other options to reduce speeding, most notably enforcement and traffic-calming measures which affect speed without decreasing capacity.
The large multi-way rotary intersection of Hammond, Lagrange and Newton Streets, West Roxbury Parkway and Hammond Pond Parkway is the one place where I consider reconstruction to be a high priority.
Education also is an essential element of any attempt to make bicycling safer and a more practical option.
Long-run issues of energy cost and availability raise questions about the viability of sprawled suburbs whose residents are dependent on private motor-vehicle travel.
South Brookline is more fortunate. It is a medium-density residential area of single-family homes, only about 5 miles from the Boston city center and also only a few miles from the Route 128 corridor, a major employment concentrator. Schools, places of worship, parklands and shopping are closer than that. Bicycling can and should have a role here, but for many people and many trips, it is not an option, due to age, infirmity, distance, and the need to transport passengers and goods.
South Brookline could benefit from a comprehensive transportation plan, including strengthening of public-transportation options and maintaining arterial roads with capacity for varied existing, foreseeable and unforeseen uses.
Developing such a plan requires skills, resources and time beyond what I can muster, and so I’ll not attempt that here.
Now, please move onto the photo album.
Someone has watched my video of Grand Street, in Manhattan, and commented:
John, I watched the Grand Street video (which was kind of fun) but I couldn’t help but notice you are passing a lot of cars, which makes your average speed seem reasonable for the environment.
That average speed, including waits for traffic lights, was 5.5 miles per hour, half my usual. Yes, I do wait for the lights, though many New York bicyclists aren’t so patient.
Please have a look at the video so you can evaluate the rest of this post. Note especially the bus stopped in the street near the start of the video, because that will play in my comments.
Why were my riding companion John Schubert and I passing a lot of cars — and not only parked cars? The others were stopped cars. Even at 5.5 mph, you can pass stopped cars.
Grand Street is one block north of a major arterial, Canal Street, and carries overflow traffic arriving from New Jersey via the Holland Tunnel. In case you want more detail, I’ve posted photo gallery with maps online. I thank John Ciccarelli, John Schubert and Steve Faust, my companions in exploring Grand Street, for the commentary and photos which they contributed.
Here’s one photo, as an example — and you may click on it to see it in the photo gallery. That’s Steve Faust, in the yellow parka.
Grand Street passes through Manhattan’s Chinatown — accounting for the street vendors standing and walking in the bikeway near the end of the video. Grand Street also is where the infamous Chinatown intercity buses pick up and discharge passengers, to avoid paying to use the Port Authority terminal uptown.
Grand Street now has only one travel lane. A second lane was removed to create the bikeway. Whenever a bus stops — or any other vehicle stops in the travel lane — all other traffic stops and waits behind it. Traffic backs up for several blocks.
The bus drivers park the buses diagonally to prevent motorists from sneaking past and colliding with bus passengers, though this does not prevent bicyclists from sneaking past and colliding with bus passengers. You can see one of the buses parked diagonally near the start of my video.
The traffic backups, then, illustrate the law of unintended consequences. The backups result from the redesign that created the bikeway. Possibly, the designers thought that they would calm traffic by reducing Grand Street from two travel lanes to one, in the hope that the traffic from New Jersey would go elsewhere. It didn’t work. To calm traffic, you have to reduce the actual traffic, rather than to try to cram the same traffic onto a street which can’t accommodate it. Instead of calming traffic, the designers created traffic jams, increasing fuel consumption and air pollution.
My observation about traffic flow before the redesign is confirmed by an early, prototypical pre-Streetfilms video. The video stars Mark Gorton, the money man behind Streetfilms, and shows conditions on Grand Street before the redesign. Motor traffic flowed smoothly. Gorton shows vehicles stopped to load and unload, but they don’t block the street, with a second lane available for overtaking.
Gorton’s main concern is with width of the sidewalks, a valid concern in my opinion, though the sidewalks are in fact only narrow in some blocks, and Gorton takes his advocacy to the opposite extreme. He shows a Photoshopped example of how we need to “return control of the street to the communities that live here and the people that live here” by converting part of the roadway into an open-air restaurant — placing restaurant patrons elbow-to-rear-view mirror with moving motor vehicles, where the diners can enjoy a fine mix of food aromas and exhaust stench. This treatment reflects the influence of the “shared space” designs of British architect Benjamin Hamilton-Baillie. These treatments turn the entire street into pedestrian space, and tame motorists, because they can now safely travel only at pedestrian speed without killing pedestrians.
Tellingly, Mr. Gorton never mentions bicycling. Evidently, he had not yet discovered it.
“Return to the people” is code language for “take away space from motorized uses.” That is, to take control away from people who use motor vehicles and give it to “the people,” who all agree perfectly with the point of view expressed in the video. If that sounds vaguely Leninist to you, well, yes, I think so too. Ah, New York, where a wealthy hedge fund manager sounds off with Leninist rhetoric!
Real-world, American-style political pressures came to bear, and we now see the outcome. It’s rather clear that the community, some community — some people — residents, or business people, probably both, and for better or worse — wanted parking for motor vehicles, because there’s still nearly as much as before. On the other hand, Grand Street now has restricted loading zones — and not enough to meet demand. The business community either didn’t understand what would happen, or had too little political clout to demand more space.
Part of the street’s width was, however, “returned to the people” as a bikeway which is, in reality, a sidewalk extension, an outcome so predictable that I would have to laugh if the street hadn’t become such a traffic tangle, and if I weren’t required by law to ride on that sidewalk extension.
Bicyclists didn’t come out very well in this political exercise, and neither did motorists. Pedestrians came out best. They got their wider sidewalk, even if it is supposed to be a bikeway.
OK, now I’ve complained, so it’s my duty to offer a positive alternative.
Are you expecting a screed now on the joys of bicycling in Manhattan traffic on streets without any special treatment for bicyclists? Sorry to disappoint you, I’m not going to claim that Grand Street was a great street to ride on before the bikeway was constructed.
In my opinion, the Grand Street design is not thoroughgoing enough — not radical enough in one sense and not conservative enough in another. To make the street safe and attractive to bicyclists, including younger and less skillful ones, it would be necessary to displace through motor traffic to another street, and to get bicyclists out of the pedestrian zone. A way to accomplish that would be to traffic-calm Grand Street (or maybe another nearby parallel street) using barriers and diverters, more or less like the ones in Berkeley, California — so the street carries only light, local traffic.
In other words, transform the street into a neighborhood street, whose main purpose is local transportation at neighborhood-friendly speeds, like the bicycle boulevards in Berkeley — not a segregated mess, and not a pedestrian playground like upper Broadway in Manhattan. Many crosstown streets in Manhattan look promising for the treatment I propose, and are quite easy to ride now, even without intentional traffic calming.
If the volume of motor traffic were much lower, we might also consider widening the sidewalks where needed.
You may notice my heresy, from the point of view of segregationist bicycling advocates: some motor traffic must remain, as on the Berkeley streets, so the entire street doesn’t become a shared-space ped zone where pedestrians walk with abandon, and bicyclists have to play dodg’em.
John Schubert and I shot another video on Grand Street the same day. At the end of the video, you may view how motorists harassed us on a section without the bikeway, but while on the part with the bikeway, we waited over a minute for a Chinatown bus to unload, had to ride very slowly at one point behind a man with a food vending cart, and had to ride in the travel lane for several blocks where the bikeway was obstructed.
You might also have a look at this video by a unicyclist. It’s a bit shaky, but he comes to the same conclusions I do.
A Spanish advocate of integrated cycling about conditions in Seville:
Disastrous: officially (according to the Seville City Council), some 120 km of segregated cycle lanes (most of them bidirectional) have been built at an official cost of 30 million Euros. (I say “officially” and “official” because I wouldn’t trust the Seville City Council to tell me the time of the day); there is also a bit of gossiping around (plausible enough, although there is no way to verify it) saying that a sizable part of that sum has been put not into the actual building of the structures, but into the political and social marketing campaign to sell the “Seville model of bicycle promotion”; one of the most visible elements of this marketing campaign has been this year’s Velo-City conference, held recently in Seville (http://www.velo-city2011.com/), conveniently, just a few weeks before the upcoming local elections.
The mantra of the Seville City Council’s campaign is something to the effect that “the cycling mode share in Seville has risen from 0.2% to 7% as a result of our commitment to segregated structures”. The numbers used change from time to time (essentially, they say different things to different publics at different moments: a couple years ago it got as high as 8%; now the most-repeated mark is 6.6%), with another often repeated line being that “Cycling in Seville has increased ten-fold in five years (as a result of our commitment blah blah blah…)”.
If you read Spanish, you can read an analysis debunking some aspects of the Seville City Council’s bull**** in this blog post by a member of the growing community of Spanish vehicular (or integrated, as we often like to call ourselves) cyclists:
http://bicicletasciudadesviajes.blogspot.com/2011/02/cambio-modal-realidad-o-ficcion.html [Translation of blog name is "urban bicycle trips" and of the title of the post is "mode shift, reality or fiction"]
I commented on this issue in this comments thread in an English-language blog you may know, when the blog’s author repeated a bit mindlessly the official crap:
The outcome is thoroughly disastrous at several levels: not only are the segregated structures senseless and completely substandard (I am using “substandard” in the British sense here, not implying that I accept any standard at all); the city is a showcase of lost opportunities to improve real cycling conditions placed right next to the segregated crap; the local dominant cycling culture has become one of passive-aggressive cyclestrians riding on sidewalks even in trivial streets; the social status of the cyclists AND PEDESTRIANS has deteriorated (the level of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists is appalling; you can feel the increased hostility of car drivers if you ride on the roadway in a street with a cycle lane, although I have to admit, much less so than I expected); the number of cars has not decreased at all; Seville is indeed becoming an example for other clueless cities to imitate; the segregated chaos is prompting a host of Kafkaeske local ordinances to regulate the behavior of the cyclestrians… but on the other hand, the number of cyclists who don’t buy into the crap any longer is growing (http://ciudadciclista.org), and even the fact that Seville has been so extreme and reckless in following the segregationist madness is in some ways acting to our advantage: Seville has wanted to become an amazing example: some of our efforts are now directed at turning it into a horrible warning.
I also asked about crash statistics:
Regarding your question about crash stats: the situation in Seville is that of a complete information blackout. As far as I know, there is just no data publicly available. Just to give you an idea of how things are around here: over one year ago there was an article in the local press stating that “according to the conclusions of a study soon to be made public, the cycle lanes are safe for cyclists”. As you can guess, no study has been published since. Fun, uh?
The article, and the parody of it I wrote are here:
The contrast with Barcelona (one of the other, if less maddened, bikelaneist black holes in Spain) is stark: In Barcelona, a report is published yearly, and the news was for two years straight that the bicycle accidents were rising significantly, although it appears that they are lately down again (haven’t paid much attention to the issue).
http://www.adn.es/local/barcelona/20080110/NWS-1167-aumentaron-accidentes-bicicleta-barcelona.html [NWS-1167 -- increas in bicycle crashes in Barcelona]
http://www.lavanguardia.es/vida/20090430/53693094057/los-accidentes-de-bici-son-los-unicos-que-aumentan-en-barcelona-en-2008.html [Bicycle crashes are the only kind that increase in numbers in Barcelona in 2008]
The following are my comments on a post on P. M. Summer’s CycleDallas blog. I’d have liked to post my comments there, but they are longer than allowed by the software on Summer’s site.
Quoting Robin Stallings, Executive Director of the Texas Bicycle Coalition:
We have tried to answer your inquiry from a ‘legal’ point of view below.
Leslie Puckett, our legal fellow, prepared the answer with some input from Mark Stine and I. This should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney for that.
The word “legal” in quotes — the nominative “I” as the object of a preposition — trivialities? Maybe, but on the other hand, grammatical errors can drastically alter the meaning of laws. Indeed, consult an attorney, but Stallings and his advisors didn’t!
The short answer of BikeTexas’ interpretation of the current law is that:
“If the bicycle lane is considered part of the roadway, then, TTC 551.103, which requires a cyclist to ride as far to the right on the roadway as possible, would seem to require a cyclist to ride in the bike lane (or paved shoulder) except when it is obstructed or when turning left, since the bike lane is usually on the right side of the roadway. The law is appropriately ambiguous and leaves discretion to individual cyclists to determine for themselves if the bike lane is obstructed and is usable.”
Stallings appears to be unaware that the bike lane, but not the shoulder, is part of the roadway. Also, Texas law requires a cyclist to ride as far right as practicable, not “possible”, and with additional exceptions he doesn’t mention. These are important distinctions in the light of the Reed Bates arrests in Texas. Stallings knows of these arrests.
I leave out the list of studies that Stallings cites — Summer has addressed that.
There are no examples of cities that we are aware of, in Texas or the nation, where the mainstream bicycle advocates regret the installation of, or are calling for removal of bike lane networks.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to give an example…Stallings also changes the subject, “where is it legal to ride?” to “mainstream, knowledgeable (!) people like us support bike lanes everywhere and if you don’t, you’re a weirdo.”
However, protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks”, are replacing bike lanes in many cities.
Stallings floats a topic that has nothing to with the original question — he gets to sound more authoritative to an uninformed audience, and to use the word “protected”. This originally applied in traffic engineering to, for example, a left-turn signal phase where the opposite-direction traffic has a red light, but now, instead, it is applied to a bikeway behind parked cars, with the attendant poor safety record due to crossing and turning conflicts and sight-line obstructions. It is a path — but calling it a bike lane lends it the aura of the familiar. The uninformed, or misinformed, will assume that it offers real protection. They are also introduced to a new buzzword, “cycle track,” which may have been unknown to them.
Sharrows are in use in many cities where there is not enough right way to accommodate bike lanes.
Shared lane markings, not the obsolete “sharrows” — are indeed used, but to refer to them and bike lanes as the only alternatives narrows the discussion, now doesn’t it?
Let me know if you have any more questions.
OK, then, why, Mr. Stallings, are you resorting to classic techniques of manipulative use of language? On that topic, allow me to recommend Prof. S. I. Hayakawa’s classic book Language in Thought and Action and to quote Robert Jay Lifton:
“The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.”
Here are the comments in English.
The translation is posted with permission granted by Heinz Brockmann of the ADFC (German Cycling Federation) Bottrop chapter. Many thanks!
And here is the same document in the original German.
Please note that the ADFC is not a spandex and speed bike club; its membership of approximately 100,000 consists almost entirely of utility cyclists. The ADFC advocates for their concerns and interests.
(The links below will work better if you first click on the headline above so you are viewing only this single post).
A Google map provides an overview of the stretch of Concord Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA between Alewife Brook Parkway and Blanchard Road. You’ll get a better view if you close the address balloon.
View Larger Map
This article will describe an important improvement made to Concord Avenue around the year 2000, and another proposed change which I do not consider an improvement.