Canadian environmentalist Lawrence Solomon believes that cities have gone too far in promoting cycling. Taking lanes from cars and giving them to bicycles may be good for cyclists, but are a waste of space because the lanes end up moving far fewer people per hour than they did when they were open to cars. Writing in the Financial Post, Solomon quotes a member of Parliament saying that London’s cycle superhighways that I found convenient when touring England last year have done more damage to the city than “almost anything since the Blitz.”
Solomon has a history of opposing “policies that discriminate against the bicycle.” But that is quite different from supporting policies that discriminate against cars and trucks. By increasing traffic congestion, converting auto lanes to bicycle lanes increases pollution, which is especially harmful to cyclists.
I’ve reached the same conclusions and it’s refreshing to see I’m not the only one. I’ve always contended that bicycles and automobiles were compatible and there was no need to favor one over the other. Like Solomon, I object when I find traffic signals that respond to cars but ignore bicycles and to bridges and tunnels designed for autos with no room for bicycles. But I don’t believe that major thoroughfares should be reconstructed to favor a few cyclists over the vastly more numerous automobiles. Continue reading →
After less than a year of operation, Baltimore is shutting down its bike share program for a month because so many of its bikes were stolen or are heavily damaged. The program began last November with a 175 bikes–40 percent of which had electric boosters–available for rent from 20 different locations, soon increased to 200 bikes and 20 stations.
One cyclist spent a day recently visiting all 25 stations and found only four bikes available to potential renters. The city says the private partner that is running the operation is upgrading the locks to reduce theft. In the meantime, the city has two full-time employees tracking down the GPS-equipped bikes so that other people can repair them and put them back into service.
“Street Wars 2035” criesThe Guardian; “Can cyclists and driverless cars ever co-exist?” The article predicts that streets will be designated “autonomous-vehicle only routes” where cars will whiz by, centimeters apart, allowing no room for pedestrian or bicycle crossings. Apparently, the writer never heard of stop lights or rights of way.
“The forces of driverless motordom try to push pedestrians and cyclists off the road” shrieksTreehugger, citing the Guardian article. All this hysteria is derived solely from one quote by Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn in January, 2016. Speaking to CNBC, Ghosn said, “One of the biggest problems is people with bicycles. The car is confused by them because from time-to-time they behave like pedestrians and from time-to-time they behave like cars.”
I’m not sure why Ghosn is even considered an expert, as Renault is hardly the forefront of driverless car technology. However, Renault’s partner, Nissan, has promised to have several models of self-driving cars by 2020. While Ghosn was technically CEO of Nissan when he made the statement (Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan and Nissan owns 15 percent of Renault), I suspect his statement was just an unguarded remark and not meant to the first shot of a war on bicycles. Continue reading →
University of Wisconsin historian James Longhurst has written a book about the history of conflicts over cyclists’ rights to use the road. As Longhurst points out, cycling has gone through a number of “booms,” starting in the late nineteenth century, then during World War II, later with the growth of environmentalism in the 1970s, and most recently in the last few years. As a cyclist myself, I was familiar with most of this history except for the WWII part, and as near as I can tell Longhurst’s account is accurate.
However, as illustrated in the video below, Longhurst approaches the debate as an environmental issue, which leads him in the wrong direction. Treating cycling as an environmental issue leads to the conclusion that bicycles are morally superior to automobiles because they use less energy and pollute less. That leads to demands that cyclists be allowed special rights, such as the right to unnecessarily block traffic or use the middle of a lane even if it slows auto traffic. Continue reading →
Greetings from Frome (which rhymes with broom, not dome), Britain (which rhymes with ten, not plain). Last week the Antiplanner praised a “bicycle superhighway,” or what I would call a “bicycle boulevard,” that was set up in London. On Saturday, I got a taste of the rural version of this superhighway, but I was much less impressed.
The national cycle routes were set up by, or at least documented by, Sustrans (which presumably is short for “sustainable transportation”), a non-government (but partly government-funded) organization. On my ride from Brighton to Dover, I got to see and use some of National Cycle Route 3, one of more than 100 such routes in Britain.
Before describing the route, I have a bone to pick with Sustrans. The organization has a map of its routes on line, but it is made to not be easily copied, and is useless for detailed, on-the-ground directions. It sells paper maps, but as a cyclist, I don’t want to have to unfold a map everytime I come to a crossroads. It doesn’t make PDFs of its maps available, just paper. How sustainable is that?
On my way from my Airbnb to Victoria Station I found Cycle Superhighway 3, which has become very popular since it opened five or six years ago. Mostly marked in blue with lanes that were sometimes a bit narrow, it seemed to use mainly local streets (often punctuated by overly large speed humps) or parts of very wide sidewalks along arterials or collectors. It didn’t seem to take lanes away from existing arterials or collectors.
One of the less-busy segments of Cycle Superhighway 3.
After determining a route, the main cost to the city was paint and putting in bicycle-friendly traffic signals. The “superhighway” took me from east London to the London Tower; from there, another route followed the Thames River. Although this route was dedicated exclusively to bicycles, it was also interrupted by annoyingly large speed humps.
Most efforts to encourage cycling involve putting bike lanes on streets. But the lanes disappear at most intersections, which is where most bicycle-auto accidents take place. Now, some Dutch cycling advocates have developed a new intersection design that protects cyclists without unduly interfering in auto traffic.
According to Streetsblog, several American cities, including Boston, Davis, and Salt Lake, are installing such intersections on an experimental basis. A variation has also been used in Vancouver, BC. As a cyclist who has been struck by autos, both when they were turning right and when they ran a red light, I can imagine that these intersections could greatly improve safety, though I hope the cities do comparative before-and-after or with-and-without studies to prove it.
Some bicycling nut in London has proposed 135-mile “skycycle,” meaning a three-story tall exclusive bikeway, around the city. The headlines to the story say it will cost £220 million, but that’s just for the first four miles. At that rate, the entire 135-mile system would cost nearly £8 billion, or some $12.2 billion.
Meanwhile, the Washington Postreports that most American states are increasingly controlled either by people who think this would be a good idea or those who think it would be a bad idea. Red states are doing better economically, argues Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, but Illinois Governor Pat Quinn argues that red states leave too many people behind.
The Antiplanner applauds California Governor Jerry Brown–who proposed and ultimately persuaded the legislature to kill urban redevelopment agencies–for vetoing a bicycle bill last week. The bill would have required motorists to slow down to 15 mph if they were passing a bicycle and unable to give the cyclist at least three feet of room.
Proponents argued that this was for cycling safety, but as the Antiplanner has previously pointed out, most car-bicycle accidents take place at intersections, while only a tiny number consist of the car hitting the cyclist while overtaking it from the rear. Thus, this bill would have imposed a huge cost on auto drivers–and, as Brown pointed out, could lead to more auto-to-auto accidents–while doing little for bicycle safety.
A Florida bicycling group tells its members to ride in the middle of any lane that is less than 14 feet wide. An animation explains why doing so is safer for the cyclist and notes that (in Florida, at least) “a cyclist is entitled to use the full width of a lane that is less than 14 feet wide.”
“We ride with traffic, follow the rules, communicate, and move predictably,” says another Florida cycling group. “We do not ride on the edge of the road.” (The two web sites are so much in lock-step with one another that they were no doubt funded by the same government program.)
I guess this is time for the Antiplanner’s annual bicycle rant. As an active cyclist, I am in sympathy with the notion that cyclists are entitled to use the full lane when necessary. But I would never suggest that anyone do so except in specific circumstances. In particular, I would only regularly use a full lane when traffic is slow enough (perhaps because signals are timed to 15 to 20 mph) that I can keep up without delaying other vehicles.