Tag Archive for John Forester

Long Beach proves separated bike lanes even work here, despite arguments to the contrary

There’s big news from Long Beach.

We’ve seen a number of studies in recent years showing that separated bike lanes are good for business, as well as cyclists.

But now we have solid proof from right here in our own backyard that separated lanes benefit everyone on the streets.

According to a federal study conducted over the last year, the separated bike lanes on Broadway and Third Street in downtown Long Beach resulted in a 33% increase in ridership over the last year, while increasing pedestrian use along the streets by 13%, and cutting vehicle use by 12%.

In other words, not only did they improve the streets for cyclists, but made it more inviting to walk next to them, as well.

At the same time, bike collisions dropped 80%, from five to one, and motor vehicle collisions went down 44%. Average vehicle speeds also dropped to 27 mph on Third and 26 mph on Broadway.

And yes, that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, the rate of sidewalk riding, the bane of pedestrians everywhere, decreased as much as 42%.

It’s hard to argue that separated bikeways haven’t been proven effective when the results show they benefit everyone on the road.

Even here on the Left Coast, where the hegemony of the automobile has long reigned supreme.

………

And yet, the father of vehicular cycling says if you prefer bike lanes — even the sort of proven separated bike lanes discussed above — you’re an “incompetent cyclist.”

No, really. That’s what John Forester says.

He goes on to say that, despite the sort of evidence shown in the Long Beach study, there’s no proof that bikeways increase safety.

Well, none if you choose not to believe it, anyway.

Sort of like global warning.

I’ve ridden vehicularly for over 30 years. Not because of Forester’s book, which came out four years after I started riding, but because my own experience taught me it was the safest way to ride in the almost universal absence of effective infrastructure in those days.

But I’ve never, ever considered it better, safer, more enjoyable or effective than riding in a good bikeway.

And the demonstrated growth in ridership that can be traced back to new bike lanes (pdf) in cities throughout the world — including this one — would suggest that I’m not alone.

John Forester created an effective tool for a time when cyclists could not rely on well-designed roads or effective bikeways.

But those bad old days are, thankfully, fading fast.

As the Long Beach study clearly shows, well-designed bicycling infrastructure and a complete streets approach benefits everyone.

And it’s long past time we all demanded it.

Thanks to Christopher Kidd for the link.

………

I’m told that the LAPD has discussed the dooring-by-cop incident mentioned here last week with the cyclist involved, and that the officer in question has expressed her regrets for her behavior.

Wes says he’s very pleased with the response from the department, and sees no need for formal discipline in the matter.

………

At least two of the four candidates for mayor of Los Angeles see bikes in the city’s future; oddly, they may not be the ones you’d think. Downtown’s Spring Street should get new parklets next week to go with its semi-green mostly buffered bike lanes. Metro wants your input on the Union Station master plan; a few extra bike votes couldn’t hurt. Highland Park Patch asks if slower traffic is worth it to add bike lanes to North Figueroa and Colorado Blvd; personally, I think slowing traffic in a state where angry drivers honk at anyone who has the audacity to actually drive the speed limit is good thing. LADOT recaps the recent BPIT meeting. CLR Effect’s new cycling cap takes those of us with long memories back to the land of sky blue waters.

The latest update from Calbike, including their 2013 legislative agenda — which includes hit-and-run reform, but not a third opportunity for Governor Jerry Brown to veto a three-foot passing law. Riverside’s mayor rides with local residents; the LACBC asks candidates for mayor if they’ll commit to leading a similar ride. The Classic Gran Fondo San Diego takes place on April 14th; make sure you have your taxes finished first. San Diego cyclists are urged to support bike-friendly changes on the Coast Highway in Encinitas. Great photos of a practice crit from the San Diego Union-Tribune. A Palo Alto woman faces misdemeanor hit-and-run charges after hitting a cyclist and two occupied cars. The story behind Verizon’s romantic new bike ad, courtesy of Cyclelicious. San Francisco lays out big plans — and possibly big money — to improve bicycling and walking. Apple is granted a patent for a new smart bike system.

Bike lawyer Bob Mionske offers advice on what to do if a cop stops you for a bicycling violation. Lance Armstrong offers to help clean up cycling; in other news, John Dillinger has offered to come back and help stop bank robberies. People who commute by car gain more weight than those who commute by bus, bike or train. Fans of Lovely Bicycle will be happy to learn she now has a new weekly column in Bicycling. A Washington driver stops to look at the bike rider she killed and the one she merely injured, then drives off like the heartless coward she— allegedly — is. Perhaps the most bike and alternative transportation-friendly USDOT secretary in our lifetimes sadly says it’s time to go. Maryland considers a mandatory helmet law. A Baton Rouge cyclist is shot three times without warning by a 16-year old thief who wanted his bike. Win the free use of a bike share bike at this year’s Super Bowl. Better bike lanes and crosswalks could help kill fewer pedestrians and cyclists in the country’s second and third most dangerous city for both, respectively.

Simple solutions would help get Great Britain cycling. A British bicyclist is stabbed to death the same day another rider buys him a bottle of brandy to apologize for a bike-on-bike collision. UK police tried to stop a driver just before he killed a couple on a tandem and fled the scene on foot. Potholes cause an estimated 10% to 15% of Brit cycling wrecks. An Aussie cyclist is injured when he hits a man sleeping on a bike path. The excuse a Chinese BMX racer gave for testing positive for steroids couldn’t possibly be true, a sports nutritionist says. Two Singapore brothers sharing a bike are killed when they’re hit by a cement truck; but what kind of sick s.o.b. would circulate photos of their bodies online?

Finally, despite the overwhelming success and popularity of New York’s new bike lanes, separated and otherwise, the city’s Daily News can’t seem to get their collective heads out of their own collective asses.

With all due respect, that is.

There are no safe streets for cyclists

Yesterday, I received an email from a man who had moved with his wife from Portland to South Pasadena.

They had chosen South Pas, at least in part, because it appeared to offer the most rideable streets in the area. Yet in less than a year, he’d suffered two minor right hook collisions.

His point was that riding in the L.A. area is a completely different experience than riding in Portland. And that local communities need to do more to make other forms of transportation besides motor vehicles a priority.

He’s right.

While South Pasadena has recognized the problem, and is actually doing something about it, a lot more has to be done throughout the county to make cycling safer for every rider.

Though not everyone seems to be getting that message.

The LACBC affiliate chapter BikeSGV reports that the Arcadia City Council decided this week not to develop a bike plan — in part because the city’s Mayor Pro Tem doesn’t think bikes are a legitimate form of transportation.

Vincent Chang

Just got back from a disappointing Arcadia City council meeting where Mayor Pro Tem Robert C. Harbicht took the lead to nix a contract with a bike plan consultant to prepare a bike plan for the city. Unfortunately, the rest of the council, including the Mayor (who established a city “mayors bike ride”) went along. Harbict stated he had concerns about federal funding for bike access in general as he didn’t believe cycling can be a legitimate form of alternate transportation. Ironically, both Harbicht and the Mayor claims to be avid cyclists.

I don’t know whether that reflects ignorance of the potential utility of their preferred form of recreation, or the dangers of riding in their own city.

Either way, they’ve failed the residents of their city by denying them the opportunity to ride in greater convenience and safety, whether for recreation or safety.

Then again, the problem could be that they’re “avid” cyclists, as some — though not all — Vehicular Cyclists actively oppose the sort of infrastructure preferred by the overwhelming majority of riders.

They believe that every rider — even the most unskilled, slow or risk-conscious cyclist — is safer riding in the traffic lane ahead of oncoming, often high speed, vehicles than in a separate lane devoted to bikes.

In fact, John Forester, the father of the VC movement, recently commented on the New York Times website that “nobody has yet “create[d] safe bike lanes”; we don’t know how to do it.”

I think many riders in the Netherlands — and even in New York — would beg to differ.

It’s a battle that rages on in cities and states throughout the country. Like in San Diego, where Forester himself helps lead the fight against more and better bike lanes, much to the chagrin of more mainstream riders.

Despite denials from VC adherents, there have been numerous studies that show well-designed bike lanes can improve safety for everyone. Not just cyclists.

Meanwhile, I have yet to see a single credible study that supports the oft-repeated argument that cyclists are safer riding in traffic than in a good bike lane.

Which is not to say there aren’t a lot of bad ones out there.

Maybe that’s because, like Forester, they refuse to believe such things exist. Sort of like another group that denies compelling scientific evidence.

But it does raise a question another rider brought up awhile back, when he asked for my advice on whether it was better to ride a busy street with a bike lane or a quieter backstreet route with no bike infrastructure.

And the sad answer I gave him was that there is no such thing as a safe street for cyclists.

Depending on your perspective, both present their own unique set of dangers.

On a busy street, you have the risk of high speed traffic and an unacceptably high rate of careless and/or distracted drivers. Along with the near-constant risk of doorings, right hooks and left crosses, as well as drivers who consider the bike lane another motor vehicle through lane, or maybe a parking lane.

Meanwhile, riders on backstreets risk drivers backing out of driveways without looking, children and dogs running out into the roadway without warning, and drivers who don’t even consider the possibility of bikes on their bucolic byways.

Even on country roads, where I did some of my most enjoyable riding in my pre-L.A. days, you might not see a car for hours. But there are still dangers posed by truck drivers and farm equipment operators who assume there’s no one else there, and speeding teenagers out for a joyride — sometimes tossing their empties at any unfortunate victim they happen to pass.

And yes, I speak from experience.

And don’t get me started on the ubiquitous risk of potholes and otherwise dangerous road surfaces and designs. Or the unique thrill presented by riding past bears or gators.

Or bees.

That’s not to say bicycling is dangerous.

It’s not.

But it does demand a constant awareness of your surroundings, as well as a focus on defensive riding by anticipating the dangerous presented by your current environment, wherever you happen to be. And being prepared to respond to risks before they arise.

That doesn’t mean that drivers and other in the road aren’t responsible for using it safely. But it’s your life that’s on the line, and you can’t count on them to focus on your safety. Or even know you’re there.

Or care, for that matter.

That point that was driven home the other day on the quiet residential streets of my own neighborhood, as I made my way through the last few blocks at the end of an otherwise enjoyable ride.

I’d just stopped for a stop sign, and was beginning to resume my route across the intersection when an SUV came up on the cross street. The woman behind the wheel looked directly at me, then gunned her engine just as I was about to pass in front of her, cutting right onto the road I was riding on.

Fortunately, I was prepared, anticipating that the driver might run the stop sign — though not that she would attempt to hit me in the process. I was able to swing out onto the wrong side of the road, allowing her to screech past me and race off into the distance.

Yet as so often happens, I caught up to her at the next red light.

So I asked, as politely as I could under the circumstances, with fear and anger and adrenalin coursing through my body, why she’d just tried to run me over.

Her response?

“Cyclists have to stop at stop signs too!”

Never mind that I had already stopped before she ever got to the corner, while I was still the only one at the intersection. Or the irony that she ran a stop sign in her attempt to run me down.

In her mind, she was entitled to enforce traffic laws with the bumper of her car. Just another driveway vigilante using brute force to intimidate, if not injure, another human being.

Fortunately, I’m not so easily intimidated.

I would have loved to continue the conversation, but she quickly cut from the left turn lane she was in to make a quick right in front of high-speed traffic in order to get away from me.

Evidently, I scared her, even though she was the one wrapped in several tons of steel and glass. And I wasn’t the one who’d just tried to attack someone.

Though I did break my Lenten vow to not swear at drivers, however much they might deserve it; risking eternal damnation for the momentary relief of releasing my anger verbally before I exploded into a thousand spandex-clad pieces.

As usually happens in such cases, I didn’t have time to get her license or a good description of her car. And even if I had, there were no witnesses, so there’s nothing the police could have done anyway.

The really scary thing, though, is that the residential nature of the street she was on means that she’s likely to live here herself. Which means that she’s probably one of my neighbors, and there’s a high probability I could run into her again.

Whether either of us will recognize the other is a good question. As is what would happen if one of us does.

Where you prefer to ride is a matter of your own comfort level. Whether that leads you to ride vehicularly in a busy traffic lane, in various bikeways or on quieter bike streets that seldom see another road user, on two wheels or four.

But it’s a good reminder that no matter how peaceful they may look, there are no safe streets.

Even the ones in your own neighborhood.

Thanks to everyone who forwarded me the link to the San Diego KPBS story.

Update: Oddly — or maybe not so oddly, given the KPBS story — Bike Snob wrote Vehicular Cycling today, as well. And as usual, he’s much funnier than I am.

%d bloggers like this: