Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Build it and they will come?

Interesting article here. Thank to Andy Cline for flagging it.



MikeOnBike said...

Come, and they will build it?

Pugsleymike said...

Gee, maybe people feel safer on a bike path than being cast aside in traffic with the debris and speeding cars and just a painted line barrier and their wits to deter inattentive drivers from killing or maiming them. Maybe they dont have to worry about their kid in the trailer they are pulling being clipped by a vehicle. Or perhaps its more enjoyable to ride a bike and look around a bit and not being on constant guard as one's life depends on it.

MikeOnBike said...

My on-road cycling experience is not nearly as apocalyptic as Pugslymike describes. For me, it was well-connected neighborhood streets, and a specific destination, that got me cycling again (from my house to the train station 2 miles away).

Yes, paths are nice (if you happen to have a riverside trail or abandoned rail line available for paving). Yes, arterials can be unpleasant. Those aren't the only two options.

Pugsleymike said...

My comment was in no way aimed at you, Mikeonbike, and if it came off as such I apologize. Im only in favor of any system that is as much idiot-proof as possible that makes riding bikes more safe/enjoyable and commuting/commerce friendly. Los Alamos is a better place to bike than some. I cant wait too see more canyon rim trail types nearer to downtown and other parts of town.

Steve A said...

Build it and they WILL come! Can anyone familiar with the sordid attempt to cover our cities with Interstate concrete over the last half century doubt it?

Khal said...

When I was in Calgary, Alberta, I studied their bike system. It was made up of secondary streets (on a grid) and opportunistic pathways running along railway rights of way, other geographic discontinuities that could be used for pathways, and the Bow River banks. It provided excellent connectivity, at least until you got out to the cul-de-sac and arterial suburbs. Then it sucked. I was riding it while recovering from a herniated disk, so I was probably a good proxy for a contact-averse bicyclist, and I was not a happy camper in those suburbs.

The system within the older city with a grid layout was very heavily subscribed. Outside of that in the new developments, a bicycle sighting was rare.

I agree that a low key system is better at attracting riders than sharing fast, busy arterials, even if striped. Diamond Drive, which isn't that bad, is busy enough, and I've seen folks pulling kids on bicycle trailers and they don't look all too keen about the experience. I have advised the county to look at separate right of way for access along Trinity Drive rather than try to shoe-horn in a bike facility where it is obviously going to be jammed into a tight situation with plenty of hazards to mitigate. That letter is on this blog, somewhere.

Little Jimmy said...

I'm with Pugsleymike. I am and probably always will be a big fan of bike paths that are segregated from vehicular traffic.

During my last road ride very recently, we were on a literally deserted stretch of road with a nice wide shoulder that was in good shape. We were cranking along carefree when all of a sudden out of nowhere comes a car from behind. It swerved in really really close as it overtook us and I could feel the wind from the sideview mirror on my elbow. I guess the driver was trying to prove his point that he doesn't like cyclists.

That kind of thing happens to me once about every other ride. I won't even start talking about the number of distracted drivers I see on the road (an informal count last year during a week's worth of commutes to work indicated to me that eight out of 10 drivers were texting when they passed me!).

Every time I ride my bike on the road, I say goodbye to my house, dogs and significant other with the full realization that it might be last time I see them. I bet I'm not the only one. Worse still, noncyclists continue to "not get it." Cyclists and drivers have mindsets that are diametrically opposed There's something very wrong with a system that insists upon throwing two such totally incompatible groups together hoping that they'll "play nice."

In my opinion, the farther bicycles are away from traffic, the better.

Little Jimmy said...

And sorry to belabor the point.

I strongly believe that part of the reason the number of active cyclists remains pathetically low is because of a mindset that bikes and cars have to ride together on the roads. I know many, many, many people who will not ride bikes precisely because of this. The bike industry consistently shoots itself in the foot by supporting the concept of "Share the Road." If we looked at using intermodal funding to start creating dedicated, segregated bike routes, we might see more bikes being used. Or not. It's a tough problem.

Khal said...

It would be almost impossible to construct a completely parallel universe out in the country where a lot of us ride, i.e., Bandelier Loop, Jemez Mts, etc. Primarily for financial reasons. That will always require sharing the road.

In town, I'm ambivalent. I'm a little averse to abandoning the road to shitheads and clueless wonders. Its not just cyclists who are at risk. Its pedestrians, motorcyclists, and drivers of small cars. No one is safe when someone in a Ford Excursion (for example) is texting at 40 mph.

MikeOnBike said...

For people who like to bike and don't want to be near a road, and don't want to wait for a complete network of paths, there's a two word solution: Mountain Bike.

Khal is right that going places by bike (compared to simply riding a bike) will always require some road riding. And he's also right that it's not just cyclists who have a stake. Unsafe driving is a danger to everybody else, not just a danger to cyclists.

At the same time, road cycling is not the guaranteed death trap it sometimes gets portrayed as.

Khal said...

Jim is right, though, that to get more than a few people to ride bikes, it will require a greater sense of safety and peace of mind and frankly, with teens racing to the H.S. and their parents texting their way to the bomb factory, that is unlikely. Hence the arguments about separated facilities. I would argue the only place they are cost effective is in areas where one could expect a large amount of bicycling, such as a major and compact city or Downtown Bombtown.

Having said that, I reiterate that I would not throw the rest of the public under the bus by demanding bike facilities and not fighting just as hard for safer streets. I keep going back to two things I have witnessed in ten years--the two crosses by the Y, where I actually witnessed the two motorcyclists dying in the street, and the new bench by the Middle School, where a guy in a pickup truck passed a stopped LA Bus in a school zone next to a crosswalk and a kid got killed. I had to wait to get home that night because I live by the middle school. How you pass a stopped bus next to a marked crosswalk in front of a school (using a left turn bay as a passing zone??) without slowing down and being cautious simply leaves me scratching my fucking head. Its such mental blunders by mature motorists that we now accept as normal--leading to the bloodletting on the roads. Does anyone reading this actually blow by a stopped bus fast enough to kill someone any more?

MikeOnBike said...

Khal, I agree with you that all of us (not just cyclists) have a stake in changing the driving culture. The two examples you cited are a perfect illustration.

Khal said...

Mike, when I give my speech on situational awareness and safe vehicle operation, its not just to save our own hind ends. Its to protect others, too.

Walter from Maui's SIPDE acronym from the previous blog post is on point here, for yourself and for others. I described its meaning in the motorcycle post, for those not familiar.

"Do unto others...", right?

Pugsleymike said...

Most sidewalks accompany roads; is there fact findings on just replacing them as mutiuse paths? Aside from crossing issues, they seem ideal as the are elevated from the road which helps more than a painted line plus they are established already. Just thinking out loud....

Khal said...

One, they would have to be widened to meet AASHTO widths in order to be safely shared. That is generally 10-12 feet for two-way MUPs.

Secondly, AASHTO has decried sidepaths as particularly dangerous. That's generally because they don't have controlled cycles managing turning and crossing, so turning and crossing crashes are a risk and even more so than traditional bike lane intersections where right hook crashes are an issue.

In parts of Europe, sidepaths are more common but generally have traffic lights that manage both the roadway and the sidepath right of way cycles. I took some pictures in Bremen, Germany and posted them here:

Pugsleymike said...

Thanks for the quick response. Im trying to gather some info from a friend who is a county planner out in Utah. He is currently working on getting more bike paths than lanes and has meet with some success. I am jealous of their growing Legacy Parkway trails! In SLC, their crossing solutions where bright orange flags stored next to all crosswalks and it seemed to help a bit.

MikeOnBike said...

I recall Berkeley, CA tried the bright orange flag trick for some crosswalks. Pedestrians were supposed to grab a flag and wave it as they crossed. The flags quickly vanished.

I'm not sure that would work too well for cyclists. You still have turning/crossing conflicts unless you have separate signal phases. And sidewalks alongside roads don't solve the "far from traffic" problem.

Little Jimmy said...

Khal and MikeOnBike,

Totally agree that segregated paths aren't a good option for some of the rural areas Khal mentioned, but those areas typically have less vehicular density and thus a greater illusion of safety.

MikeOnBike, I live what you say about mountain biking as that comprises the majority of my riding. We are fortunate enough to live in a community where my commute to work can be done on trails—at least until the economic development wizards here continue to push the ridiculous and unpopular idea that Bomb Town would be a much better place if we crammed as much housing as a greedy developer could possibly think of into the wooded areas on top of all the trails and open space. Those latter things are just a hinderance to prosperity anyway...

Pugsleymike, I've contemplated the same thought that you had about simply changing the semantics about sidewalks and labeling them as mixed use areas. They already are anyway.

Khal, I also see your point about working for the greater good to counteract the rampant stupidity that seems to infect drivers of all ilks these days. Unfortunately, I don't want my flattened corpse to end up as a symbol to driver aggression and distraction like so many of our former cycling brothers and sisters have (may they rest in peace). Ghost bikes are a nice sentiment, but I'll be damned if I want my name or Khal's, or either of the Mikes, or anyone else's names for that matter, to end up on one.

But I sure as hell would love it if about five times as many people rode bikes on a regular basis!

I suppose if we all keep plugging along in our own little ways, we'll stumble upon a solution in the end. Creativity is seldom orderly or pretty.

Little Jimmy said...

Of course, I forgot one other thing.

There are bike paths extending great distances in some rural areas. I'm reminded of the awesome segregated path that runs from South Park, Colorado, to the top of the pass above Breckenridge. Once in Breck, there's a long path as well. These things could be done if they were a priority, but unless and until the majority of people ride bikes, it will never be a priority unfortunately, and rural paths will be left to chance in some enlightened little bergs that happen to score the isolated Intermodal Transportation grant here and there.

Anonymous said...

If I may, an alternate view point. More people die in the US from falls on stairs than on bikes. Statistically speaking, you are safer on a bike on Trinity Dr than you are in your own bathtub. (Provided of course, you're not as naked on Trinity as you are in your tub.) Do you give any thought to taking the stairs or a bath? Probably not. I have another two word answer. Simply ride. You'll die soon enough any way from something. More people die riding a couch in America than transferring body odor to a Brooks.

Pugsleymike said...

Alright 'simply ride' guess I'll just pack it in and ride oblivious to different levels of risk 'cause, hey, life is crazy then you die.

Maybe all of us discussing this issue just want a safer way for all skill sets and ages to get around town under human power. Could we die doing it? Sure, but im hoping to avoid being road kill first then die on my couch of old age later.

Jimmy, I liked your summation on things.

Anonymous said...

No one said anything about being oblivious. Nice straw man. The point is, life is a crap shoot. The cycling sub culture spends so much effort on safety related discussions they scare themselves. Just ride. Be careful. Be livious (the opposite of oblivious). Help those that are not as experienced. But stop with all the fear mongering. Cyclists are their own worst enemy.

I can't count the times people have shared their "dead cyclist" story with me when they never think twice about getting in a car in which the chances of getting killed are far greater. You know why? They just drive.

Khal said...

The non-cycling and non-motorcycling culture is equally risk averse, maybe more so. Ask a non-cyclist or non-MCist what they think of those activities and the non-participant acts like they are a death sentence. That's why they buy SUVs. I'm pretty sure the biggest drivers of those vehicle sales is the message of safety--drive a tank and you will be OK in a crash. The crash is expected, because there are sufficient numbers of them. In the age of the Internet and 24/7 news, each bad event is ricocheted around constantly.

Sure, if you do get hit by a car you will get hurt. Two things you can do. One is be as competent as you can. This will considerably cut down your risks. Two, lobby with other groups to get incompetence off the road--that means incompetent users and driver distraction. Competence IS an increasing problem.

I work in a nuke facility. The guy running the facility operations command center is NOT allowed to be reading magazines, surfing the net, putting on makeup, chasing his girlfriend across the room, or have other distractions. By contrast, watching people drive is like watching Homer Simpson in the nuke plant on TV. Of course drivers fuck up. They aren't paying attention.

Little Jimmy said...

Yeah, life is dangerous.

Here's how it boils down for me, anonymous.

I'm an older person. I personally knew two cyclists who were smooshed by cars. I have yet to know of a single friend or very good acquaintance who has been killed in a car accident. I know a hell of a lot more people who drive cars than who ride bikes. Driving cars is supposedly more dangerous than riding a bike on the road and yet the results for my individual experience varies greatly from the supposed statistics. Coincidence? Bad luck? Fallacy of false cause? I dunno.

What I do know is that personal experience has much more relevance to me than statistical analysis.

I totally agree that cyclists are their own worst enemies—for numerous reasons.

Khal said...

Statistics are equivocal. In exposure per mile, cyclists get smooshed more. In exposure per hour, I think they get smooshed about the same. I'll look it up when I'm not supposed to be doing something else.

But personal experience matters. This morning (and going back to something Jim said up in an earlier comment), I was riding down Diamond in the bike lane near Orange/Sandia. A small car cruised by very close to me, and I noted that the two passenger side tires of the car were well inside the bike lane stripe, explaining why the car probably was only about a foot away from me. I caught up at the red light at Trinity, parked my bike on the front grille, and told the motorist what she had done and I asked her to PAY ATTENTION. She looked utterly surprised.

It doesn't have to be malicious. I'm sure that lady doesn't have a mean bone in her body. Just good old fashioned lack of attention to detail will do, though.

Then I get to CMR. There is a slow moving Government vehicle in the lane. Two LANL employees (I assume, since they turned left on Pajarito Road) passed the vehicle in the left turn bay. I wonder what would have happened if an oncoming car had gotten into the oncoming left turn bay to turn left into CMR.

Some cyclists would be more freaked out than I was. I just get grouchy. I have no idea why I have not been frightened off the road. Maybe I am the exception, and maybe its not a good idea to be me. I really don't know.

To each his own, but I agree in one respect with Jim. If we had a good MUP running from the traffic circle to LANL and another running from the Co-Op to Diamond, clueless drivers drifting into the bike lane with me in it wouldn't be an issue. My main problem with bike paths is the design speed is generally lower than my speed, so I don't like using them. YMMV, right?

Khal said...

The usual reference.

Anonymous said...

To each his own. In my own journey I've almost met the end on numerous occasions. I've also watched loved ones die some pretty slow, uncomfortable deaths all made possible by clean living, modern medicine, and being careful throughout life. My point is not to flame the blog. It's simply to point out that all the attention cyclists put on safety all too often crosses the threshold into fear. Fear erodes all the fun of just jumping on a bike and feeling ten again.

Khal said...

I don't take any of your comments as flaming, Anon. And you make a lot of good points. Thanks for contributing.

I agree with you that we at times take the safety debate way too far. When we do that, we run the risk of killing the thing rather than improving it. Its not just bicycling that comes to mind.

MikeOnBike said...

I agree with Khal and Anon. It's a difficult balance.

On the one hand, cycling is quite safe, and it has health benefits beyond that. We do plenty of other things that are more dangerous than cycling without giving it a second thought.


Heart disease and cancer (combined) claim over a million Americans per year. On average, I'm about 1000 times more likely to die from heart disease or cancer than from cycling. If anything, my cycling is helping improve my odds against heart disease. Another 100,000 Americans die from "accidents". On average, I'm about 100 times more likely to die from a non-cycling "accident" than from a cycling collision. (I realize these are averages for the whole population, and don't count exposure.)

On the other hand, cycling is not risk-free. People do get injured and killed while cycling. Not a lot compared to heart disease, but any number is too many.

On the other hand, there is a lot we can do as cyclists to reduce those risks, and even prevent or avoid the mistakes of others: http://www.floridabicycle.org/rules/driveyourbike.html Just the fact that we're traveling more slowly gives us more time to react to hazards. Just knowing what the likely risks are, and how to mitigate them, can be a way to reduce anxiety.

And perhaps if there was a variation of MADD that focused on sober-but-reckless driving, we could reduce those risks even further for everybody, not just cyclists.

On the other hand, that still doesn't reduce your risks to zero. But that brings us back to the first point. We do plenty of other things that are more dangerous than cycling without giving it a second thought.

Pugsleymike said...

Fear is what is keeping alot of people from not riding a bike out there. A seperate path seems to bring them out more and assuages alot of that fear out of them because it appears safer. People know that driving is dangerous but they have the allusion of safety with seat belts, airbags, and five-star crash ratings. So they just drive confident in their survival and the statistics happen to others.

Everyone commenting on this blog are probably pretty conifident on a bike and rationalize the risk of riding and its always worth it. I, for one, feel that risk is what makes riding liberating. But I'm an enthusiast and can't hold that standard to the average joe/jane who just wants to lose weight or save money or enjoy a day out with their kids. Isn't the desired end result is more people riding a bike?

Steve A said...

Golly, lots of interesting comments. I know a lot of people killed in car wrecks. I hear of more each morning on the local traffic reports. Like the far less common cycling fatalities, most were doing something really dumb. Like driving the wrong way or street racing down a street with trees, or testing to see just how much alcohol a human can consume and still turn the ignition switch.

Sure, innocents do get killed, but they are a tiny minority. In most crashes, both participants made multiple mistakes beforehand.