Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Should Cities Build Specialized Roadways for Cyclists?

Haven't read the article yet (again passed on by Michael Carmody), but as a professor, I'm a trained professional at talking about things I haven't read. And my immediate reaction is a confident "yes we SHOULD build specialized roadways for cyclists". I'm out there cycling on the streets myself, and with my family, but I wonder if I'm being over-confident.

Let's face it, being a bicyclist riding on roads shared by automobile drivers who are supposedly law-abiding and not distracted by their self-phones and radios, is sorta' like being an antelope walking through a pride of lions that are supposedly tame and well-fed. "Yeah, but, what if?" Sure feels better to be off the savanna and on a bike path.

And now, I'll read the article...

...Read it and I was right.

And look, it's affordable to become number one in the world! Even for Shreveport!:
"And even within the cycling-happy Netherlands, as David Hembrow has noted, the cities that have better infrastructure—and not necessarily the most densely populated ones—have higher cycling rates. And what's the annual cost of the world's best cycling infrastructure? By Hembrow's estimates, is roughly 30 euros for each Dutch citizen—well less than a tank of gasoline."

Could Shreveport become one of the best places to live in the world, let alone the United States, just by investing in bicycle infrastructure? Apparently, yes.

But here's where my heart is in all this: making people live longer because they're healthier, and live happier because it's just more fun to ride a bike than be carried in a car.


"I do believe the separate facility is the best," says Jacob Larson, a researcher at McGill University who recently completed a study of Montreal's bicycle infrastructure. "Not only in terms of actual safety performance but in terms of encouraging people who are less likely to ride their bikes. These people shouldn't have to be some kind of breakneck radicals that are really diehards—it should be a clear and safe option, and I think separate facilities give the perception that it is, and often do provide a truly safer alternative."

I wanna get our seniors biking, triking, walking, whatever, but they do not feel safe on a street. But can we build a network of roadways and paths devoted to bike-ped use affordably? Yes we can.

Here's an example of how. Barclays bank is sponsoring two bicycling projects in London described in this article posted on their website. An excerpt:

"The Barclays Cycle Hire and Barclays Superhighway schemes will launch in July 2010 and provide an environmentally sustainable way to travel.

Approximately 6,000 Barclays-branded cycles will be available for hire from 400 specially designed docking stations, covering nine 'Zone 1' boroughs in central London, providing a network where cycles can be picked up and dropped off.

To encourage a switch from other modes of transport for shorter journeys, users will be able to access the scheme from £1.

The separate Barclays Superhighway scheme will create designated cycle routes across London with two routes open initially with a further 10 more planned. These will deliver a much safer environment for cycling in London."

Think there are any companies that might like to sponsor such a project in Shreveport?


Garrett said...

This is exactly what is tackled in "Pedaling Revolution" by Jeff Mapes. Once you start reading this book you'll find yourself shaking it screaming "EXACTLY" before you know it.

David Hembrow said...

It's interesting to read your take on Slate's links to my articles about the Netherlands, but please don't be taken in by the hype from the UK. I'm British and have lived through any amount of it. What is being done there does not compare in any way to the Netherlands.

You can compare Britain's idea of a "cycling superhighway" with what the Dutch build (without the fanfare) at this link.

Also, don't put too much faith in bike-share systems. What London is doing on these lines may initially sound impressive, but the numbers of bikes are woefully inadequate to have any significant effect.

It's commercially driven and more about advertising (for Barclays Bank) than it is about cycling.

The only think which increases cycling to to make conditions subjectively safe and bicycle journeys direct.

Do these things and Shreveport can grow a cycling culture to rival any place.

Kevan Smith said...

I oppose segregated bicycle facilities and lined biked lanes or sharrows. Both are actually detrimental to cyclists.

For example, if the city installs dedicated bike lanes, you can surely expect the city will then ban riding anywhere except within the designated lanes. Try making a legal, safe left turn then!

Similarly, sharrows, while perhaps better than striped lanes, presume to indicate the lateral position of a cyclist in order to 'assist' the cyclist with traffic. It's just an absurdity, since correct lateral position is dependent on many factors, and paint on the road could actually indicate unsafe riding positions.

For real-world information about proper cycling with traffic and practical guides for what municipalites can do, I recommend the books and techniques of John Forester, particularly his masterwork, "Effective Cycling." for more info.

On another note, I heard you were looking for some good biking routes all through town, and I'd be happy to help with that. I know lots of great routes that go all through Shreveport very safely.

David Hembrow said...

I meant to include two links about "superhighways". There is a huge contrast between what the Dutch are doing, quietly, vs. what London is doing with a load of hype.

Kevan: The infrastructure of the Netherlands has lead to two things. Firstly, the highest rate of cycling in the world, and secondly, the safest cyclists in the world. This is what you are rejecting as "detrimental to cyclists".

Of course you do need some quality control on what is done for cyclists. Dutch infrastructure is also the most expensive in the world, but it's not that expensive.

Of course, not all segregated infrastructure is good. In fact, much of what is done elsewhere is quite poor. I am critical of badly designed infrastructure, as found in Copenhagen (where left turns really are a problem), Germany, Britain and Paris, for instance.

Kevan Smith said...

The vaunted Dutch cycling infrastructure took more than a century to develop and was financed by the whole country. I'm skeptical something like that would pop up in Shreveport within a few years, or even a few decades. The main obstacle is the car-centric bias built into our whole culture.

My view is that investing in a good cycling education provides more safety benefits than tacking on Dutch ideas to Shreveport streets. As more people become educated to vehicular cycling and pass it on, that's the start of changing attitudes.

I've been doing some research on becoming a LAB certified instructor, but, unfortunately, that's a project that can take more than a year and is fairly pricey with travel to far away cities involved.

And, just as an aside, did you know there are only about 13 LAB certified instructors in the whole state? They're all down south, too. Texas has quite a few more, with many in Dallas. It would be worthwhile to bring some of them in to teach.

Loren Demerath said...

I'm clinging to David Hembrow's statement: "The only thing which increases cycling is to make conditions subjectively safe and bicycle journeys direct."

Kevin's right too, I think, that our car-centric culture is the main obstacle, but not that it can't change, especially if done differently. Just because the Dutch bike-centric culture took one hundred years to develop doesn't mean Shreveport's has to. Similarly, just because all the bike cities in the U.S. are university towns doesn't mean a city with students like Shreveport can't become one -- it would just be done a different way. Maybe even with different kinds of bicycles, bicycle routes.

Kevin, we'll take your call for upstate LAB certification training to heart and bring it up at our next meeting!

Loren Demerath said...

And Kevan, it'd be great to get your help on bike routes! I'll try and contact you when we have our next route-centric meeting.

Kevan Smith said...

I've contacted a few league instructors to teach here in October. Ian is going to help. Could use some more help, too.

They teach a great course called Traffic Skills 101, which I enthusiastically recommend to any urban cyclist.