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Cambridge's Ambitious Protected Bike Lane Law (citylab.com)
480 points by cienega 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 473 comments



I've lived in Cambridge or neighboring Somerville every year but one since 1989. The cycling infrastructure is much improved and still deadly.

Just yesterday, I approached an arterial Street from a side street at 6pm. Cars on the arterial were moving about 8 MPH. I dismounted my bike, and began walking across the arterial in the crosswalk. As I re-mounted on the other side and resumed riding, a white man in a mid-size SUV leaned out his window and said loudly to me, "I hope you get hit!"

This morning on my way to work, a driver popped out of a side street from my left side directly in front of me. As I was along side of him, he swerved hard to the right and into a parking lot (no signal of course).

I've been a daily bike commuter in Cambridge for 12 years. We desperately need infrastructure that forces drivers to respect cyclists as equal road users. There is hardly a day that I don't almost get hit by car while cycling.


> "I hope you get hit!"

This, to me, signals the general attitude people have towards bicyclists in the US. The average person either doesn't care or, for some misguided reason or another, actively hates bicyclists. I've been yelled at by drivers for no apparent reason so many times I've lost count. I've had so many friends hit by cars. My partner was struck by a car last fall and broke her leg in two places. She's still recovering and frequently has to lie down for hours because her leg is so sore. Just the other day a friend of mine was struck and had to get stitches in her face.

I think the problem here is a mixture of infrastructure and attitude. The infrastructure side of things is usually what we talk about, which is obviously an important part of the discussion, but I don't think the problem with peoples' overall attitude towards bicycling gets enough attention. There are so many people out there who legitimately wish to harm bicyclists. Don't take my word for it, in 2016 a driver purposely murdered 5 bicyclists (in an area close to where I live, no less) with his vehicle and was sentenced in 2018[1]. Although most are likely accidents, there are other examples of drivers purposefully striking bicyclists with their vehicles if you look.

It's really sad, I think it's a symptom of something a lot more sinister happening to the hearts and minds of people in this country, and it's why I no longer ride my bike in the city anymore.

[1] https://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/2018/05/charles_pickett...


> This, to me, signals the general attitude people have towards bicyclists in the US. The average person either doesn't care or, for some misguided reason or another, actively hates bicyclists. I've been yelled at by drivers for no apparent reason so many times I've lost count.

My experience as a pedestrian (I don't ride a bike on the street so I can't speak to that experience) mirrors this. More than once, I've been honked or yelled at for being in an actual, marked crosswalk, crossing the street. (Never mind all of the driver complaints about my use of legal, unmarked crosswalks.)

On a former commute, I regularly got off the bus at a bus stop immediately adjacent to a signaled crosswalk that several of us used. We regularly got honked at by drivers bringing their cars to a screeching halt as the light changed and, once on a holiday, when it was just me and my kid, a driver yelled "if you weren't so fucking poor you wouldn't have to ride the bus!"

> It's really sad, I think it's a symptom of something a lot more sinister happening to the hearts and minds of people in this country

Agreed, and I live in a city where ways of getting to work and around town that aren't a single-occupant vehicle are now in the cumulative majority yet the pushback has increased even more. People regularly write letters to the local paper about how they "openly" use the bus and bike lanes for their cars because "[screw] those entitled people."

I hold a driving license and, until recently, owned a car that I regularly used. This behavior ought to be unacceptable and more actively enforced against but I can only imagine the uproar if an even light "crackdown" happened.


> "if you weren't so fucking poor you wouldn't have to ride the bus!"

I honestly think this is a huge factor in violence against cyclists & pedestrians. Drivers think you're automatically beneath them in the societal pecking order if you're walking or biking, so they feel justified or entitled to victimize you.

People do similar shit to other people who they perceive to be poor, such as homeless, maids, delivery drivers, etc.


Yes, it's very interesting. I moved to a city (in the US) where driving a car is actually unnecessary, so I sold mine and ride a bike as my primary transportation. I am so happy to not have to deal with car ownership -- it's improved my life tremendously.

Although I haven't been subjected to any abuse about it, more than once I have had people make comments about when I'll be able to buy a car, as if finances are why I don't have one. The funny thing is that my income is in the top 5% of the area, and I have enough liquid cash right now to buy almost any car I want outright. I just don't want one.

People make weird assumptions.


Same boat, I could go buy a car in cash tomorrow but I don’t have a drivers license.

People react with incredulity when I tell them I don’t have a car.

I live a 15 minute walk from the center of town and work and the UK has reasonable bus service in most towns so why would I spend thousands on a car and hundreds a month to park a vehicle I never use outside my house.

I cycle for fitness and pleasure though and most car drivers are lovely but we do have the odd dickhead as well.


Do you have children? I've noticed having a family had impacted my cycling lifestyle tremendously.

Not the OP, but I have 7yo and 3yo kids and don't have a license. For as long as we lived in Europe (UK, Belgium and Czech Republic) I felt little need for it - bikes + child trailer served us well most of the time, and we took trains for longer journeys. Now that we moved to New Zealand I'm working on getting a license because while public transport is passable (but far from great) in Auckland, you really do need a car to get the most out of the rest of this beautiful country.

Fwiw, I bike to work in Cambridge and take my kids to school by bike on the way. It's by far the most consistent way to get to pickup on time. We bike through winter and wet weather.

Negatives? My wife doesn't feel comfortable riding the big bike with kids and there's only one bike with two seats. If the big bike goes into the shop, things get complicated but the same would go for a car-based commute.


This is likely part of it. Particularly for pedestrians. But for cyclists, I don't think that explains it.

It boils down to the fact that cyclists are unusual in most places in the US, and people are impatient and don't like dealing with things that are out of the ordinary.

But there's also just something dehumanizing about driving cars, which causes aggression. Road rage against other drivers is nearly as big of an issue as the issue of hatred towards cyclists.

Of course, even pedestrians get angry at slow walkers, but when they do so they aren't in command of multiple tons of metal that can move at high velocities.


The only place I would cycle regularly is the Netherlands, because of the infrastructure and the attitude of drivers.

In the US, I have heard that the statistics around biking to work every day is that the median lifespan is higher, but the variability is much higher.

I barely feel safe around other drivers when I'm in my own car, a marvel of technology designed to keep me safe.


> The only place I would cycle regularly is the Netherlands, because of the infrastructure and the attitude of drivers.

There are parts of the US where the infrastructure and attitude isn't so bad. Not as good as much of Europe, but good enough to make it OK. This is extremely variable, though. I've seen many parts of the nation where I wouldn't dare to bike.

Where I live, for instance, there is a law that requires a percentage of all road funds to be used for bicycle infrastructure. As a result, there is quite a lot of well maintained bike paths that are completely separate from the streets. About 2/3rd of my daily commute route is physically separated from road traffic -- to the point where the only time I even see a car is when they're going across an overpass of the bike path.


My favorite is when they're freaks about safety and try to be altruistic (ex: "where's your helmet?")...

...by slowing down, driving on your shoulder, and screaming at you.

Had someone do this at an exit to the freeway once. I had to stop and walk across.


I don't think people doing that are trying to be altruistic. They're trying to engage in harassment.

I would never yell at a bicyclist, and certainly would never hope one got hit. But I have to say, as an NYC pedestrian, I actively hate bicyclists.

They don't follow the rules of the road--at all. Red lights? Stop signs? Ignored. Pedestrians crossing in a crosswalk? Probably fine to whiz past them with 6 inches to spare.

I almost get hit by fast-moving bikes once or twice a year. A car has never even come close to hitting me in eight years. Not even those crazy taxi drivers.

I have no idea what possesses these people to blast through a red light, into a busy intersection, without slowing down or even looking, but they do it!

It has always seemed to me that bicyclists see something "different" about their mode of transportation that exempts them from most traffic laws. And the crazy thing is that they keep asking for more bike lanes.

(I'm not accusing you of being this way. But I think this may be the reason lots of people have a hatred of bicyclists. I know many people in the city who feel the same way I do.)


As a former NYC cyclist, I can say that your accusations are patently absurd. First, if cyclists blasted through red lights without looking we would all get hit by cars within a few intersections. Second, of course cars have come close to hitting you. It's New York. That's how they drive there. It is always jarring to hear what I anecdotally believe to be a minority of pedestrians who actually believe that cyclists are in any way, shape, or form more of a threat to their safety than motor vehicles. Luckily for us all, NYC is getting more and more friendly to cycling, though it still does have a long way to go.


> if cyclists blasted through red lights without looking we would all get hit by cars within a few intersections

It is left up to the drivers and pedestrians to get out of the bicyclists' way and avoid collisions.

> of course cars have come close to hitting you

Not in my personal experience. One example is what happens when there is a red light and I have the cross signal. If I see only cars I will begin crossing, because the cars typically have already started to slow down well before the light so I know they will stop. If I see a bike I will typically wait for it to pass. And sure enough, most of the time the bike will continue through the red light.

Another example is when the light is green, and there is traffic taking a left turn into a crosswalk which has the cross signal. Cars go so slow to the point that they stop several times before completing the turn. Bikes just make the turn at full or maybe half speed, and sometimes ring their bell. Scenarios like this are what have caused most of my near-collisions. There's no chance of seeing them coming.

> It is always jarring to hear what I anecdotally believe to be a minority of pedestrians who actually believe that cyclists are in any way, shape, or form more of a threat to their safety than motor vehicles.

It does seem that both sides of this issue believe the other side is living in a bubble. All I can say is what I see. Look around any intersection in NYC where there are red lights and stopped cars. If there are any bicyclists around, they will be the fastest moving objects you can see.

From what you wrote it sounds like you've heard this more than once. So have I!


This mirrors my experience over the past few years in Portland. I don't mind bikes, but as a pedestrian having cyclists fly through red lights almost running into me on numerous occasions, I lost a lot of my empathy for them.

One of the other more difficult things to come to terms with (both as a pedestrian and a driver in that city) is that bikes can transition from sidewalk to street basically whenever they want, and however they want. Most cyclists were very careful about this, but there were plenty of occasions where I watched a bike cut across traffic at full speed, hop up onto the sidewalk and expect the pedestrians to just move out of the way for them.

Obviously its still up to drivers to drive safely, and we have a LONG way to go in that category, but cyclists need to do their part as well.


For all your apology, you're still basically arguing that since a few cyclists flout the rules, we should actively make traffic more dangerous for them and encourage them to drive more.

"I almost get hit" – so, you don't get hit? Once or twice a year you get... startled?

In NYC in 2017, cars injured 10561 pedestrians and 4397 cyclists, and killed 106 pedestrians and 24 cyclists. Cyclists injured 315 pedestrians and killed one. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicycle-crash-data...

In NYC in 2016, cars injured 10775 pedestrians and 4592 cyclists, and killed 148 pedestrians and 18 cyclists. Cyclists injured 311 pedestrians and killed none at all. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicycle-crash-data...

So the "different" thing that bicyclists see about cycling is that it's much less hazardous to pedestrians.


Interesting that you chose to phrase it "cars injured...cyclists" and never "cyclists struck cars" as if it was never the cyclists fault.

I feel the same way here in DC. Both as a pedestrian and as a driver. (For example, the other day my wife and I were trying to cross a street and nearly got hit by a bicyclist going the wrong way in the lane. Of course, I was looking for cars following the rules and didn’t think to look for a bicycle coming from the other direction.)


Bikes and cars have very different situational awareness, mass, agility, stopping distance, etc. It would be very surprising if the optimal rules for both were exactly the same.


For another perspective, my commute is a routine of watching cars break the law and endanger me with impunity. It's only superficially acknowledged by others and I have yet to see a cop pull over a car for committing an infraction against a bike.

So while I do obey the law as best I can, it should be easy to see why bikers would stop caring. The law is not enforced, even when a cyclist dies. So where's the merit in the law, if you're a cyclist?


Part of the problem certainly is impedence mismatch-different flows in a shared path. The solution to this part is infrastructure.

We also greatly need better awareness and it goes all ways. When learning to ride a motorcycle I learned how bad a pedestrian I was.


Ok, I'll say it - bicyclists tend to annoy me. Obviously, I don't shout at them, or try to hit them, or make them think I'm trying to hit them. That's nuts. That seems like a problem separate for bike/car relations. I doubt someone who behaves that way in a car gets out of it and suddenly becomes a calm and reasonable person.

But here's my assessment of why bikes annoy me. Not argument that they should, just some introspection.

* They make me nervous. Cars are easy to see, have lots of momentum to overcome, and generally exist on a predictable well defined plane. Bikes are different. They can enter the car plane from places I don't expect and didn't even realize existed. They can make 90 degree turns on a dime (relative to my sedan) and can stop in inches. They don't generally obey traffic lights, stop signs, one ways, or any of the other rules that lend predictability to car behavior. They don't have brake lights or signals. And in a complex driving environment, they're tiny and often poorly lit. They also have no protection. Slow moving car crashes aka "fender benders" are expensive and annoying, but rarely dangerous. Similar accidents involving a bike can end lives. Having a bike near me makes me worried I'm going to hit it. I don't want to live with that so I give it huge space and pay it lots of attention. If I could drive on roads that didn't have bikes I'd prefer it.

* Civic disagreement. The arguments in favor of making roads more bike friendly are generally: more healthy, more space efficient, more environmentally friendly. I agree on healthy and environmentally friendly. Though, it does seem odd when someone tells me biking is super healthy and super dangerous in the same sentence, but I cede the point. Space efficient? Yes and no. It is more space efficient for people whose options are bike vs car to ride a bike, but there's tons of people that doesn't apply to - people who live far away, people who need to haul things, people who have health issues, people who are too young etc. Also, lots of people don't want to bike in heat, rain, snow, etc. Also, not everyone has a place to change and shower when they get to work. The shower issue and the distance issue disproportionately impact people who are less well off. I get that biking can be part of the solution, but man does it get over hyped.

* Guilt/jealousy. I really enjoy biking! If I'm in my car and you're on your bike - I'm pretty sure you're having more fun than I am, and that makes me jealous. Then I start asking myself why I'm not biking, and sometimes the answer makes me feel guilty. Neither of those emotions often get followed up with - let's arrange it so I can experience more of this.


I am a cycle commuter since I am ~10. I grew up on the countryside and because my parents couldn't bring me to school every day and the walking distance to the next bus stop was too far I ended up taking the bike every day and it sort of became a habit. Now I live in a city where I take the bike because on my daily route it is ~10 minutes faster than the metro.

A few points: You mentioned that cyclists make you nervous, which I understand. When I drive the car, I am watching for cyclists too. But because I am cycling I know very well what to watch for – and to be honest, if some suicidal lunatic shows up in the wrong moment, there is nothing you can do except checking carefully anyways. This is a problem of the cities, where many cyclists are people without a drivers license, and they behave as such. Beeing in traffic is about communicating, and it is hard to communicate if you don't even know if there is somebody to communicate with.

So the problem is exactly where cyclists and motorists intersect. Because cyclists often cannot put themselves into a motorists mind and vice versa.

One solutions that doesn't involve educating either side is building infrastructure that makes the intersecting spaces of cyclists and motorists as controlled and perceptually simple as possible. If you ever had the chance to drive a car and a bike in Denmark or the Netherlands, you will notice how less stressful it is to move in public, because they really put thought into lifting that stress from the users of the infrastructure. This means investing into cycling infrastructure is good, as long as you see the whole thing and not just slap some bicycle lane somewhere besides a parking street. If this is done right, everybody can benefit, especially from less cognitive overload.


> generally exist on a predictable well defined plane

Protected bike lanes/paths mostly solves this problem.

Cyclists aren't unpredictable because they want to be, it's because the system is not set up well for bikes at all. Sometimes it's actively hostile to bikes.

> Space efficient? Yes and no. It is more space efficient for people whose options are bike vs car to ride a bike, but there's tons of people that doesn't apply to - people who live far away, people who need to haul things, people who have health issues, people who are too young etc.

There's multiple problems to unpack here:

* You'd be surprised how accessible biking actually is, with good infrastructure. There's hardly anyone in Munich that falls under the "too young to bike" bracket, I see even three year olds on their balance bikes around, and of course it's common for parents to have toddlers on their bikes. Plenty of elderly people too. And with electric bikes and handicap-friendly bikes around, people who can bike comprise the overwhelming majority.

* There's still some fraction who cannot bike, true, but the same is true of stairs, and yet this doesn't make us stop building stairs. We just also build ramps and elevators. Nobody's suggesting replacing all car lanes with bike lanes.

* If you replace car lanes with bike lanes for those who can bike, the people who cannot can simply...continue driving, because many people who would otherwise be in car lanes taking up space have shifted over to a more space-efficient mode. In theory, this can actually free up space in the remaining car lanes.


Some roads around me are positively lethal on a bike, I sometimes jump off and walk across because it’s not worth the risk to me or anyone else, annoying but worth it.


I consider this one of the big advantages to riding a bike: I can dismount and become a pedestrian almost instantly!


Bit harder for me as I ride with clipless pedals so I waddle like a duck when using cycling shoes.

I think next time I'll look at MTB style where the clip is recessed so you can walk normally off the bike.


Makes sense. I tried using cycling shoes, but I found them really inconvenient and annoying, so I just use regular pedals & shoes. Still clipless, though.

> Having a bike near me makes me worried I'm going to hit it. I don't want to live with that so I give it huge space and pay it lots of attention.

As a four season bike commuter (8km each way) and sole wage earner for my single/low-car family, I wish more drivers had this attitude. It sucks that you feel bad and see this as a hardship, but I can assure you that it's far better for the people bicycles with whom you share the road.

> If I could drive on roads that didn't have bikes I'd prefer it.

Thank goodness then for interchange access highways, a car-only environment just for you and other like-minded people. :)


> They can enter the car plane from places I don't expect and didn't even realize existed

That's a problem with cyclists who don't follow the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. When I cycle, I will check my mirror and signal prior to changing lanes. I'll only make left turns from the left lane and right turns from the right lane. I won't pass right turning cars on the right or left turning cars on the left.

> and can stop in inches

Not really. The contact patch is much smaller and most of the weight shifts to the front under hard braking. Cars, with their suspensions and ABS systems can stop as fast or even faster than a cyclist with excellent bike handling skills. The average cyclist will take longer to come to a stop from the same speed when compared to a motorist.

> They don't generally obey traffic lights, stop signs, one ways, or any of the other rules that lend predictability to car behavior.

That's a problem with the cyclists. There are cyclists who do obey the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.

> They don't have brake lights or signals

You can get them aftermarket and good ones at that if you're willing to spend the money. It's unfortunate that headlamps and taillamps are not mandated as standard equipment on bicycles. You can thank the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) which advocated for an all reflector standard over a combination standard of reflectors and lights.

> They also have no protection.

Car drivers don't have much protection relative to tractor-trailers and buses, yet people drive their cars amongst those much heavier vehicles all the time.


> That's a problem with cyclists who don't follow the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.

Yes. As someone who bicycles as my primary transportation, I get really angry with other bicyclists who don't follow the rules. A couple of times I've even shouted "you're why drivers hate bikes!"

Here's the thing -- where I live, the police used to enforce traffic laws against bikes to the same degree as against cars. It wasn't unusual to see a bike pulled over and getting a ticket -- but the majority of bicyclists were very well behaved, and there was little animosity from drivers.

At some point, that changed and cops started ignoring bicyclists who broke traffic laws. Now, you see bad bicyclists all the time, and the level of animosity from cars is noticeably increasing.

I wish the cops would go back to the enforcing the laws.


On average I get more annoyed with other cyclists than drivers, no turn signals, running traffic lights, riding without lights at night in dark clothing on a black bike, curb jumping, riding on busy pavements, not signalling turns etc.

I’m fully in favour of the police cracking down on cyclists for not following the rules.


Cars, with their suspensions and ABS systems can stop as fast or even faster than a cyclist with excellent bike handling skills. The average cyclist will take longer to come to a stop from the same speed when compared to a motorist.

I don't have "excellent skills", but I personally have stopped a bike that was moving ~12 MPH quickly enough to not hit a child who jumped out from between parked cars. In a car, I would have killed her. I didn't stay on the bike, and it picked up some scuffs from the pavement, but then again child still alive.


>Space efficient? Yes and no. It is more space efficient for people whose options are bike vs car to ride a bike, but there's tons of people that doesn't apply to

And those people can continue using roads. Nobody is asking for a nationwide ban of all cars. We just want to make bicycles a safe option. That means less cars on the road, which is better for everybody.


I suspect this is where some of the bike-hatred comes from. People are afraid that somebody is trying to take their car away from them.

Outside of the small percentage of fanatics that you find in any group, I don't know any bicyclists who want to take people's cars away.

I know that I don't. I don't even think less of people who drive. I just want to be able to use the transportation methods that suits me best, just like they do.


>Space efficient? Yes and no. It is more space efficient for people whose options are bike vs car to ride a bike

Those people would be in cars or on busses if the infrastructure made the commute only feasible by vehicle. Bikes are denser than cars. Moving commuters to denser forms of travel increases the bandwidth of the pipes they're on. Meaning more space for you, too.


> They make me nervous.

I understand this. I try to make sure I don't make drivers overly nervous in two main ways.

I try to adhere to the first rule of the road (applies equally to cars, bikes, pedestrians, etc.): never do anything unexpected.

The second is that, when I'm biking on the street and have to move toward the center of the road (to go around parked cars, for instance), I'll actually stop and let any cars behind me go ahead. As soon as I put my foot on the ground, cars know they have nothing to fear from me.


> never do anything unexpected

> I'll actually stop and let any cars behind me go ahead. As soon as I put my foot on the ground, cars know they have nothing to fear from me.

Contradiction!

Whatever's wrong with signalling, pausing to see if the driver's going to obey the highway code, or accelerate to overtake, and then moving into the road?


I don't think it's a contradiction, really. I'm engaging in precisely the same behavior as cars do when they're parking behind another car.

What I'm not doing is coming to a stop in front of vehicles that are expecting to keep moving. And I do signal.

All that said, I did state that I try to do nothing unexpected. It's not always possible (and I also don't always know what others on the road are expecting).

> Whatever's wrong with signalling[...]

Nothing, and that's what I do if it's not possible to safely pull over and allow the cars to go by. But I also know from personal experience that drivers really hate it if they have to slow down because a bike is in front of them, so I'm trying to keep them happy.


I think you've got it backwards, cars aren't easy to see, they're hard to see out of. There is no blindspot for a cyclist or pedestrian.

My guess is that the driver had been yelled at by a biker in the past. I've seen bikers chew out drivers, or yell profanities many times in SF. They sometimes/usually have a good reason to do so, but that kind of behavior just breeds contempt and animosity between the two groups.


I think that's reasonable and sometimes find myself in that group. Instead of yelling what do you think the is the best way to handle a driver intentionally running you off the road?


I wouldn't hesitate to note their license plate # and report them to the police. It may not help, but it might -- particularly if more than one person reports the same car over time.


Take out their valve cores once they park? :)


Yeah, sometimes they have. Once riding around a bike near Powell street in SF in a bike lane with 10 mph limit. A car approached me from behind. Initially it was probably at 40 mph but it slowed down as it came near me. But it was scary as hell as you have inherent assumptions when you are in a bike lane.


It's easier to change infrastructure to be pro-cycling than it is to change the culture. I'll take mindful drivers over protected bike lanes, any day. The only protected lane in my town (Madison) is one that goes against traffic. Drivers here are generally aware and accommodating when it comes to cyclists. I feel safer biking here (snow and all) than any other city I've lived in.


Man, that lane gave me the willies, first time I rode on it. ;-) But I agree about Madison. One other thing I've noticed is that here's also much less of a car culture. For instance it seems that people are outraged if their work commute is more than 10 minutes. And you don't see as many of the giant cars, SUV's, pickup trucks, etc.

One thing that may help is that a number of large employers are all concentrated near the center of town: Government offices, the university, and the hospitals. This makes it desirable to live within the city limits, but also to look for alternatives to the relatively expensive and inconvenient parking lots.


> One other thing I've noticed is that here's also much less of a car culture.

I think a big factor is the lack of freeways in downtown Madison (not sure if this was intentional or a byproduct of the isthmus + Capitol Square). A lot of people attribute Vancouver's success with alternative transportation to a 1960's decision against urban freeways. Without the option of a freeway, incentives and cultural attitudes are more aligned toward biking, busing, etc.


I’m not sure how broadly this generalizes. Having lived in 7 different regions in the US I would say 4 were cycling-friendly and 3 were cycling-hostile.


I live in Kalamazoo and know people both who survived and were killed in that attack. At least our community responded positively with new passing distance laws and broad community support.

ETA: I should mention that I got hit and run on my bicycle by a drunk driver years before the mass murder. My friends tracked down the driver, the police took statements, viewed the damage to the car exactly as I described it, driver matched the description my riding partner and I gave, and the prosecutor still declined to press charges. It wasn't a no-harm-no-foul thing either, I was pretty severely injured. Still pretty sore about that.


I biked to work for several years. I see both sides somewhat. Cyclists are their own worst enemies, as many are a bunch of idiots that flaunt traffic laws, put pedestrians at risk and behave poorly.

Engineering practices don’t account for cyclists well. That’s getting better where i live, but more need to be done there as well as educating folks on what to do in difficult car/bike/pedestrian scenarios.


> This, to me, signals the general attitude people have towards bicyclists in the US.

Maybe, but if you have ever tried to get around in Cambridge, MA, you would understand that it is a disaster for everybody.

Pedestrians walk into intersections when they shouldn't and block traffic, sometimes indefinitely. Bicyclists ignore signs, lights, people, etc. and cut off cars randomly. And cars have to shove their way through the mess or they will never get anywhere.

Cambridge traffic is simply dreadful. Go read Neal Stephenson's "Zodiac" for a taste.


Why is anyone driving in Cambridge? This reminds me of a relative who insisted on renting a car in Bali. Just... why?

Note: I have driven in Cambridge, and will do again, when there is a compelling reason to do so. Commuting during rush hour is not a compelling reason.


> Why is anyone driving in Cambridge?

Mostly because they have somewhere to be on a schedule.

I've lived in Cambridge for ~20 years. For about 1/4 of that time, I walked to my office in Kendall about half the time and drove the other half. Bus service was completely impractical and trying to take the subway one stop took vastly longer than walking or driving.

The other 3/4 of the time, I had a job outside Cambridge -> driving to/from work everyday -> driving in/across/around parts of Cambridge everyday.

Now, with kids in elementary school (start time 8:15 sharp, pickup 2:25 sharp), we drive to/from school 8-10x a week. Before they were in school, to/from daycare (can't dropoff before 8:30; must pickup by 5:30 sharp; can't push a stroller on a bike) and work meant plenty of car trips as well. Before kids, to/from work and then to after-work team sports often meant needing to drive as well. Public transport in Cambridge, except directly red line T stop to T stop, is not for those who are on any kind of schedule. The bus service is a disaster, IMO.


> and it's why I no longer ride my bike in the city anymore

So is your response to just drive a car then? That's a most-poignant tragedy of the commons.


This tension is fundamental.

You have two parties who feel entitled to the road, while few parameters exist around how they share the road. Naturally anything a cyclist does that interferes with the driver ends up irritating him/her and vice versa.

Protected bike lanes go a long way to solving this problem. We need rules around how we interoperate.



I've experienced this same anecdote in similar situations for the past 20 years as well. There has been a long push by auto manufacturers to make anything other than cars that use the roads seen as both illegitimate and illegal. For example, see the history of Jaywalking laws: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26073797. Starting around 1920's the auto-industry encouraged laws around the US to make crossing the street illegal. These laws have the downside of making car drivers feel entitled to the road.

Cyclists and other non-car users of roads have a deep hole to climb out of to change these laws, and to change the perception that streets are only for cars. Infrastructure is probably the only real mechanism we have that can make tangible changes, that don't allow the personal feelings of car drivers to get angry at being inconvenienced by cyclists and other road users.

We need to slow down auto-traffic and encourage more non-vehicular use of the roads, while making those roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists, scooter riders, skate boarders, etc.


> We need to slow down auto-traffic and encourage more non-vehicular use of the roads, while making those roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists, scooter riders, skate boarders, etc.

Is that the most efficient use of the roads? Especially in a place like Boston, where most people in the metro area don’t live in (and can’t afford to live in) the city itself. At a certain point doesn’t creating a preference for pedestrians and cyclists actually end up being a preference for wealthier people who can afford to live downtown, versus those who need to access the city but can’t live within walking or biking distance? (Note that bicyclists and skateboarders also slow down busses, which are what lower income people use to get around.)


It depends on what you mean by efficient, I guess. I like the graphic on this article, https://www.treehugger.com/urban-design/how-much-space-do-pe...

It shows how many more people can efficiently use roads while on bikes than in cars. So, if we define efficiency by that measure (obviously this matters more in cities and congested areas), then yes, it's more efficient.


I see that graphic a lot, but it's not a very useful one, because it ignores residential patterns. Most people can't use a bike. So if you displace one car, you're not going to replace it with one bike, much less than 5 that would otherwise fit in the same space.

The efficiency question is: what minimizes the amount of collective time people spend getting where they need to go. Bike infrastructure might actually make that worse, slowing down the majority for the sake of a tiny minority that can use a bike to get where they're going.


> it ignores residential patterns

I would argue that what we need to discuss more, is how do we make transit more efficient for the different residential patterns. Is driving to a parking lot, and then getting on a bike, scooter, skateboard, a more efficient option? Or transferring to a train/bus? Do we really want people driving into city centers?

> Most people can't use a bike.

I don't think you mean that exactly, I think you're extrapolating from your residential patterns comment. Most people can ride a bike, we just need to make it a better option in different areas.

> what minimizes the amount of collective time people spend getting where they need to go. Bike infrastructure might actually make that worse.

This isn't supported by my personal experience (live in a city), it's faster for me to bike somewhere, than drive and look for parking.

Here's a 538 article specifically on this: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bike-lanes-dont-cause-t...

"This is an important point: Bike lanes don’t cause a lot more congestion if you put them on the right streets. If you cut down the size of streets that are already near capacity, you’ll create severe congestion. But if you start with roads that are well under capacity, you’ll only increase the congestion a little bit. And it may not even be noticeable."


Doesn't sound like you know Cambridge at all. There aren't many under capacity roads, especially when winter snow comes down. What this is going to do is make traffic slower, encourage more bikers who will ignore traffic rules and act unpredictably, and generally muck things up. Cambridge is actually probably a really great candidate for bike lanes with multiple colleges nearby, but let's not pretend this isn't going to absolutelymake commuting worse. Biking into work isn't an option for me. When I come into the Cambridge office it's 5 hours in the car round trip. Nevermind the jerk motorcycles who drive down center lanes, cut cars off, pop wheelies in the highway, etc. I can definitely say the animus bicyclists receive is undue. My wife and daughter have been threatened with vehicles, I've been hit in a crosswalk walking by a car, and I can't even get into how bad it is trying to follow the rules in Boston with pedestrians crossing against the signal while you've got a short green.


> bikers who will ignore traffic rules

Bikes ignoring traffic rules is a 1000x better than cars ignoring traffic rules. Since cars actually kill people. 40,000 a year in the US. Every year. But hey, you don't give a shit about that, right?


This is true, but it doesn't excuse bikes ignoring traffic rules. Also, bikes striking pedestrians can kill them just as dead as cars can.

> Most people can't use a bike.

Huh? What kind of people are you referring to? In my simple observation, most people can indeed use a bike. And in some countries, like Denmark, or China, it is my impression that most people do use a bike.


I think he means most people don't live close enough to the city that they could reasonably ride a bike to get where they need to go.


That is why you have park & ride concepts and trains. In many european cities you have places just outside the city where you can park your car or hop of and take your bike and take the last mile by bike or public transport.

Having all your commuters drive their car into the city is not at all a good idea. I lived for years at one heavy intersection in one of Germanys biggest cities and I can tell you, if you watch the traffic for half an hour you will see maybe one or two cars with more than one person in them.

I moved from their because the dust and the noise were having a huge impact on my health.

I don't think it is about banning cars from city centers totally. It is about finding acceptable solutions that work without forcing people. Encourage them. Have a working public transport system. Make it cheap. Make it so cheap that driving a car will cost you. Include all problems cars cause in a urban space in some kind of toll or tax.


Park & ride is a fine idea, but Massachusetts needs to invest in that sort of infrastructure before it will become viable for commuters.

Currently there's the commuter rail, which is hard to get to from many areas, is quite expensive, and doesn't run very frequently. It's not good enough to get people to stop driving.


If the commuter rail is not convenient they could park at the end of the T, e.g. Alewife, BC etc.

But now they need to pay for the car anyway, so you're left balancing the comparatively small cost of parking + extra gas + extra mileage against inconvenience of switching transit methods + cost of transit.

There's many other factors, too, which could influence things in either way: total time spent commuting, whether you hate crowded spaces and prefer to sit alone in your car, whether you can be productive (eg: phone call, working on laptop, doing email on phone etc) or want to be able to read.


But can they bike from a train station in the city? Can they bike around the suburb they live in? Yes, they probably can.


Can they find a parking spot in the train station? No, no they can't.


Many suburbs in Europe are set up with either lots of parking at the station, or such that people even in the suburb are within walking/biking distance of the station. I can show you examples if you're interested.


I don't think it's a problem that can't be solved. But Massachusetts needs to invest in that infrastructure before it will become viable. Just making the city more navigable by bikes doesn't solve the problem.


> Massachusetts needs to invest in that infrastructure

And that is the crux of the problem. Cities across the US don't have enough funding to maintain the infrastructure they currently have, let alone try to build anything new. Their only hope is to get a grant from the state or federal government.

None of this is sustainable.


If you always wait for complementary infrastructure, you'll never do anything. Sometimes a half-assed compromise is just an intermediary step on the way to a full-assed solution.

If your elderly or disabled. Although if you that level of elderly, you might not be able to use a car either, and the disabled often have motorized wheelchairs that could go as fast as bikes.

For people who say 'but the disabled need cars', I want to offer some ancedata: I know a retired couple that bought a house in SF years ago because they wanted a working transit system when they can't drive cars anymore.


Elderly: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/tag/elderly/

Disabled: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/tag/disabled-people/

Less serious, but still a good demonstration of the inclusiveness of cycling: https://vimeo.com/131968609


They said most people, and even many elderly or disabled folk can bike. I see some very old people biking around Munich. Almost never saw that in the US, almost like having better infrastructure has some kind of impact...


But rayiner said “most people”. Most people are not elderly or disabled.


A third of people in the US can't (or can't afford to) drive. Bicycling seems much more democratic.

Just building protected bikelanes is not enough for cities that were build over decades with a car-centric layout. You need to drastically reduce parking and increase the density. This is a process that will take a long time. Changing cities is hard.


Boston/Cambridge were built for horses not cars. A car centric layout would actually create way more space to accommodate the bicycles.


More space for traffic is generally bad for everybody since it increases the number of miles between the places where you want to be.

> Most people can't use a bike.

This is simply false. Most people absolutely can use a bike. Maybe not for every possible trip, but for many of them, yes. Just look at the bike rate in the Netherlands, if you don't believe me.

There are a variety of possible modes available, and they can be mixed and matched as people need and want. Driving to a suburban park and ride transit station, taking the train into the city, and then using bike share to get to your final destination, is a perfectly sensible thing.


> Driving to a suburban park and ride transit station, taking the train into the city, and then using bike share to get to your final destination, is a perfectly sensible thing.

And if Massachusetts had that kind of infrastructure, it would work out fine. But it doesn't, and just making a city more bike-friendly doesn't solve the problem on its own.


Take a bike on public transportation for longer-distance routes. I don't know what sort of barbaric backwater you live in, but in my bike-friendly city, all the buses and light rail have bike racks, and bike commuters regularly use them for the longer legs.

In a super-dense city like Cambridge, it's even more true. Less need for long travel, more need for bikes in the congested center.


The problem is the people who can't afford to live in Cambridge. There isn't much in the way of public transportation to get you to Cambridge.


How many of those people can afford a car?

I think you could arguably entirely remove non-commercial vehicles form dense cities like Boston and New York. You could build massive parking garages at the limits of the city and suburban commuter could just park and take alternate transit from there.

During peak traffic in both of these cities I've been easily able to walk as fast as traffic, forget how much faster public transit or biking would be.

If you displaced all the cars within a city, then transportation within the city would likely be faster and more efficient for everyone. City buses would be much nicer if there was virtually no traffic in the city. Biking would likewise be a more realistic option if was dramatically safer and had better infrastructure for storage.

of course that's a pipe-dream, but the obsessive car culture in the US is a nightmare so it's nice to have some contrast.


I don’t disagree with that at all—that’s the ideal. But I don’t know what version of the United States you’re living in, but in mine, most cities don’t have that infrastructure, are too politically incompetent to be able to build that infrastructure cost effectively, and most of the few cities that do have it (like DC and New York) have let it decay to the point where it’s not timely and reliable.

One of the things transit advocates fail to grapple with is that our municipal political systems in the United States are broken. When it costs New York City 5-7 times as much money per mile of subway as it does Paris or London, you can’t build enough subway to meet peoples’ needs. (The debate over transit would be totally different if, for what MTA spends now, it was building five times as much track to meet peoples’ needs.)

Who would run the transit that goes from the edge parking lots to the city in your hypothetical? It would be WMATA. The same organization that, despite ample funding, let DC’s Metro decay to the point that they had to turn off automatic train control—a feature that was designed into the system at inception in the 1970s.

That’s the political reality we have to design our transportation systems against. Looking over the pond at what they do in Amsterdam or Paris is foolish—it’s like designing a plane for earth’s gravity based on what it would take to fly a plane on Mars.


Not all of the mass transit in Boston is weather protected. Snow routinely causes train stoppages. The lines are also really old, being dug by hand when street cars and horse and buggy still existed. There's also the face of massive cost increases forcing people to take transit and park, not to mention the increase in commuting time by not getting directly to your location. I've been on some really great transit systems in places like Bucharest and Tokyo. Boston is an unfortunately poor comparison on some lines.


> Most people can't use a bike.

What? How do you figure? My observation is that most people absolutely can (and many would seriously benefit from it).

Maybe not for every situation, but for the rare ones where a bike won't do, a cab will.


Winter (ice, snow, freezing winds) Rain storms People who don't want to show up to work sweaty (my work never had showers and I'm the sort of person who creates a lot of sweat (and smell) even if I'm taking it easy on a bike People who live more than X miles from where they are going People who live up/down major hills etc.....

I lived IN Boston for a while, and actually rode my bike to work during the summer (didn't own a car) and just let everyone suffer through my sweat. But I couldn't do it in the winter (yes I know some people do). Aside from the physical cold/misery, the snow and ice made many roads extremely dangerous. The last few places I've lived were in the suburbs, commuting to other suburbs (luckily I've been avoiding the worst city traffic). The distances were too great to bike (unless you like a 3+ hour commute). shrug. Its great if you live somewhere that biking works for you, but don't expect everyone everywhere can just give up their car, jump on a bike, and carry on with life...


There's a difference between "can't" and "don't want to". I'm not going to tell anybody what they should or should not do for their transportation. If you prefer driving, for whatever reason, go for it! I'm not going to say you're wrong.

My main point is that a lot of people assume that biking is the worse choice for them without actually knowing.

I have noticed that most people I know who have tried bicycle commuting and gave it up didn't really give it a fair shake. They used substandard or the wrong type of bikes, didn't use the accessories and clothing that make it feasible (rain gear, panniers, trailers, etc), and so forth. They just grabbed their old bike out of their garage and hopped on. That can work, but it's not usually the best experience.


Wow, excuses? Ok. Yes, car driving is easier, it always will be. But how about you drivers start actually paying for what you use, the pollution you create, the roads that are paid for by taxes?

You mean gasoline taxes? lol

No, since that only covers a small amount of what you use. Think about the 40,000 deaths a year. Who pays for that? Not you. The 500,000 seriously injured? Not you. The pollution you cause? Not you. The 3m children with Asthma caused by drivers? Not you. The list goes on...

> I see that graphic a lot, but it's not a very useful one, because it ignores residential patterns.

Yes parking needed for cars would be several times bigger than what cars occupy.


> Most people can't use a bike.

This is a lie, most people can use a bike.


You mean the roads downtown should be inaccessible to people living downtown so suburban people can commute in on 2 ton steel boxes that they then store for the day in downtown?

No, that is indeed not the most efficient use of the roads. The most efficient use of the roads would be to rip them out and use the space for vastly more efficient public transport.

(Bus transport is also not slowed down by cyclists, or of all things, skateboarders.)


> The most efficient use of the roads would be to rip them out and use the space for vastly more efficient public transport.

More efficient for who? The software developer who lives in a condo downtown, or the lady who cleans his office that drives in from the suburbs?


For both? This isn't policy, this is what you already mentioned: space is becoming rapidly more expensive downtown, and that doesn't stop with such mundane things as roads or parking spaces. These are not magically guaranteed their place, forever. This article and things like congestion charge in NYC are the natural consequence.

So the choice isn't some faux gentrification debate on optimizing roads for the strawman "cleaning lady from the suburbs" or the "downtown software developer", it's for the cleaning lady to be out of a job in 10 years because the only cars driving downtown will be worth a century of her yearly income - or taking the train...


I lived next to a main traffic route in a bigger city for a few years. You rarely see a commuter that is not completely ALONE in their car.

Using a car in a city is not a human right, it is a luxury. That trunk and the four free seats are there "just in case" you might need it. There is no rational reason why it is that way. It is a whole culture that revolves around owning a car and I say that as somebody who was driving for a living once.

Commuting to a city boils down to using the cities advantages (well paying jobs, infrastructure, etc) while avoiding the disadvantages (noise, pollution, higher rents and criminality) at the cost of those living there (you take jobs people living there could take, you are traffic, space and noise). Could they get a space in the city? Sure. Only it would be tiny and substandard and they don't want that.


In Boston? The cleaning lady takes the T. No way she can afford parking downtown.


But how does she get to the T? It doesn't go very far.


It goes to East Somerville. It goes to Chelsea. It goes to Everett. If you want to knwo how the night shift janitors in your office get to work, just hang around the Sullivan Square station at 6PM.


She would benefit most from more bus only lanes going into the city. Or perhaps rip out the parking garages and replace them with affordable housing downtown.


lower income people in nearly all major cities tend not live in the suburbs since that require owning an maintaining a car (or two), usually they live in high density housing in areas adjacent to larger metro areas and accessible by public transportation. These people would benefit tremendously if urban areas where restructure to have better, more efficient public transportation.


If you're committed to high quality public transport, it's more efficient for both.

Do you think there's a lot of cleaning ladies driving in and parking downtown in expensive major cities?


In Austin, a significant portion of the cleaning people work evenings/nights, and I believe frequently are given the option of parking in the garage of the office building(s) they're cleaning.

It's not all, but it's a part. Of course, Austin's no NYC. I assume NYC doesn't have as many empty parking garages at night, and it definitely has better public transit.


People who are 'reverse commuting' are unlikely to be hurt by this, since there's not much traffic pressure going that way at that time.

A parking spot uses about as much space as a mid-sized apartment if you build four stories above it. Fewer cars mean more room for affordable housing.


It might not be as efficient, but it sure is better for the environment, for traffic, and for health, among others. In most of the US, the wealthier people live in suburbs, though your point still stands.

Many European cities are nicer places to live as a result of better cycling infrastructure and a culture of road-sharing.


> At a certain point doesn’t creating a preference for pedestrians and cyclists actually end up being a preference for wealthier people who can afford to live downtown, versus those who need to access the city but can’t live within walking or biking distance?

Reducing the number of cars (and therefore traffic) on the roads will benefit everybody, especially if cars and bikes don't get in each other's way (such as in the case of dedicated and protected bike lanes).

> Note that bicyclists and skateboarders also slow down busses, which are what lower income people use to get around

I don't think this is true. Busy streets and traffic jams slow down buses.


  Reducing the number of cars (and therefore traffic) on the
  roads will benefit everybody
You seem to have a rose-tinted view of the world we live in.

  Have you ever had to commute in less-than-ideal 
  conditions? 
  Heavy snow? Sleet? Black ice? 
  Have you ever lived in places that are not 
  perfectly flat? or lived in places that 
  are hot that make bicycling unfeasible?
  Did you have sporting gear / work gear that
  you had to lug? Did you know some people have
  to fetch their own gear to work
  Did you have to take calls during transit?
  Did you know its common practice for employees
  to call into meetings during their commute and/or 
  help assist operations via conference calls?
  Have you had to shop for more than a baguette 
  or a bagel at a store? You know how cumbersome
  that gets for even a family of three? 
  Do you have the slightest clue how much casual 
  violence and crime happen on public transit?[1] 
Not to belabor the point but there simply are dozens of cases where bicycles or public transit just don't cut it. Not to mention the hygiene, personal safety (from other passengers for example) and personal space aspects involved in someone choosing a mode of transportation other than public transit or bicycling.

Ride-sharing, autonomous vehicles and emission-free vehicles should all alleviate the issues we currently face with traffic, parking and accidents.

However doing away with cars or vehicular traffic is just pollyannaish madness.

[1]

Teen robbed at gunpoint at Fruitvale, BART officer says writing a report is a 'waste of resources'

https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/bart-police-refuse-repo...


> Have you ever had to commute in less-than-ideal conditions? Heavy snow? Sleet? Black ice?

Routinely. The only weather I have encountered that is really problematic is when it's very windy.

I would also note that the conditions you list are also the conditions under which you shouldn't even be driving.

> Have you ever lived in places that are not perfectly flat? or lived in places that are hot that make bicycling unfeasible?

I live in a very hilly area. I don't know how hot you consider "unfeasible", but we top 100 degrees pretty much every summer.

> Did you have sporting gear / work gear that you had to lug? Did you know some people have to fetch their own gear to work

Yes, I do all of that. An urban bike trailer (easily folds up to briefcase size when needed) solves those problems.

> Have you had to shop for more than a baguette or a bagel at a store? You know how cumbersome that gets for even a family of three?

Again, trailer.

> Do you have the slightest clue how much casual violence and crime happen on public transit?[1]

That's extremely dependent on where you live. Where I live, there is nearly no such problem.


I hate driving in cities. It's stressful because you need to pay attention to so much going in around the streets, and be prepared to slam the brakes at all times. But I also think that's how it should be. Driving in cities should be discouraged IMO.

A city is the perfect place for mass transit. Park the cars away from the centre, provide good public transport and municipal bike rentals, and you reduce congestion and free up space for urban development.

This idea of having multilane roads running through prime real estate so people can spend an hour or so driving a few kilometres in stop-and-go traffic is just nuts to me. There's nothing efficient about it, and I expect as we try to bring co2 emissions down to sustainable levels, we'll have to give up on designing cities around private cars anyway.


> Note that bicyclists and skateboarders also slow down busses, which are what lower income people use to get around.

Bicyclists are substantially faster than downtown buses (due to stop frequency). It seems unlikely that they are slowing down the buses very much. Push skateboarders use the sidewalk; electric skateboarders move at the same speed as bicyclists.


As somebody who took buses regularily at one point in his live I can assure you that the most slowdown I experienced was due to cars. It rarely ever happens that a cyclist is sustancially slowing down a bus.


Indeed. I am always faster than the bus. And, in the city, bicycling is usually faster than driving.


Sending distance commuters underground is the best way to minimize big deadly metal boxes on the road, and thus the best way to make pedestrian use of the streets safer, more convenient, and faster. Transportation planning should be based on minimizing door to door times.

"Without tunnels we'll be in traffic hell forever" - Elon Musk


The next round of laws that criminalize non-cars at the expense of cars might be impending with the rise of autonomous cars. Cf this recent tweet where zoox called a law abiding pedestrian a "Jaywalker": https://twitter.com/zoox/status/1115622929192980480


I am really amazed they haven't deleted that tweet out of embarrassment for being so utterly wrong.

> Cyclists and other non-car users of roads have a deep hole to climb out of to change these laws, and to change the perception that streets are only for cars. Infrastructure is probably the only real mechanism we have that can make tangible changes, that don't allow the personal feelings of car drivers to get angry at being inconvenienced by cyclists and other road users.

The problem is that the infrastructure is often inferior compared to the actual road due to bad intersection management, bad surface conditions, significantly longer routes, or routes that don't take you where you need to go. Another approach would be to repeal the keep as far right as practicable laws and allow cyclists the right to use an entire traffic lane when riding and require faster vehicles to change lanes to pass.


> There has been a long push by auto manufacturers to make anything other than cars that use the roads seen as both illegitimate and illegal.

And the absolutely disgusting thing about this is we can't get away from roads. Every building has roads in front, and to get anywhere you have to cross a lot of roads.


Examples like this are exactly why bike lanes are not the only change needed to make cycling more accessible. What stops drivers from doing any of these if there were protected bike lanes? Generally "protected" bike lines are not protected at intersections, which is where most problems occur.

I live in Austin right now and I tend to avoid the protected bike lanes because drivers frequently turn across them without yielding to cyclists using them. The city put up signs saying to yield to oncoming cyclists, but in my experience those signs are followed less than 5% of the time. I'd rather ride in the normal traffic lane where I'm visible. Yes, I might be angering some drivers, but angering drivers is better than dying.


You put up separate lights, where there is a red turn arrow for the cars and a light for the bicycles, just like Europe. It's taken a couple of years for drivers to figure them out, but at this point you almost never see someone turn against them, and when you do, it's usually someone with grey hair and an out of state plate who has no idea what to do.

Another side of this puzzle is that we don't require drivers to update their education or competence on a recurring basis. If we required all drivers to update their education and demonstrate their physical fitness to drive safely every couple of years, this would all go more smoothly.


> You put up separate lights, where there is a red turn arrow for the cars and a light for the bicycles

The problem is that the time to wait for the signal to turn green starts taking longer and longer and people will start to ignore the signals. I see it all the time with pedestrian signals. That is, pedestrians will just start crossing on the don't walk sign rather than waiting for the next 2 minutes before it changes. The same thing will happen when the red phase starts taking more than a minute to change to green or people (whether when in a car or on a bike) will start running the red lights more if they know they're going to get stuck for multiple minutes at the signal otherwise.


I think this a needed change, but as I've said in the other comments, I am yet to encounter one of those sorts of intersections in the US. Though I have been told today on HN that they do exist in the US.



This could be what is needed. Thanks. I didn't see a specific mention of the turning problem, but I guess it's supposed to fix that.

But I should note that those cover only a small fraction of the intersections with this problem in Austin. So few that I've never seen them and I ride a bike on a daily basis. I have been on many of the mentioned streets, but I must not have gone through those intersections as I would remember a special bike light.

(Plus, you can see a few cars parked in the bike lane in one of the photos in the second link. So much for respect for cyclists...)


What are you talking about, "bike lane"? That's the Uber and Lyft drop-off lane.

The separated lane along the Drag sucks (which is the one in the photo) for the reason you mentioned -- cars will turn across it, and people will wander across/along it.

The two-way separated lane on Rio Grande is great. My only complaint is that I occasionally come face-to-face with a car that decided they wanted to use it.

There's one of those bike signals on Rio Grande and 24th does make that light slow, and people ignore it a lot (partly because it's West Campus and that's what kids so.) It's also very short, at least when going north. It's green for long enough to get across the street, and that's about it. Once it turns yellow, cars to the right of the bike lane get the left-turn green. It just miss that light and have to wait a long time roughly every day.

I think better than the signals may be the "I see you" signal on southbound Rio Grande and MLK. There's a blue light that will light up when it detects you, so you know you'll eventually get a green. Going the other way, and at many other intersections, at certain times of night, I know that I have three options:

1. Wait for a car going the same way as me shows up and is detected,

2. Bike up onto the side walk so I can press the pedestrian signal, or

3. Run the light because it doesn't know I'm there and it will let me wait indefinitely until one of the above occurs. (Or morning rolls around in 8-12 hours, I guess?)

I'd trade all these new bike signals for more of those detectors/blue lights. Maybe all the intersections will detect me if I stop in just the right spot, but I don't know what spot is for any given light.


> Maybe all the intersections will detect me if I stop in just the right spot, but I don't know what spot is for any given light.

That's a significant design failure. In my town, they have been adjusting those embedded road car detectors so that they are sensitive enough to detect bikes. You do have to sit on the right spot, but they've added road markings to let you know exactly where you have to be.


There's a certain burden to being vigilant and self-defensive on the road. Even if I'm not protected in intersections, a protected bike lane means that there's a lot less time I need to be worried that a car will hit me.

However, you're bringing up the point that protected bike lanes may make intersections even more dangerous for cyclists. While your reasoning makes sense, do you know if there's anything to corroborate that claim?


Ignorance of rules seem to be part of the issue. Using bike lanes (in Cambridge!), I've had turning drivers honk or yell nasty things at intersections as I went straight through, not knowing they are required to yield. Drivers are trained to be forgiving to pedestrians and the crazy jay-walking that happens in Boston, but still treat bikes like aberrations.

I drive as well, and admit it felt very unnatural at first at check behind me for bikes when turning right.


I'm not sure there's much clear data on this. I have plenty of anecdotes from myself and other cyclists, however.

Here's what is clear: Many cyclists worry about getting rear-ended, which presumably is a major part of what bike lanes are supposed to eliminate, but those sorts of crashes are rare: http://bicyclesafe.com/#rearend2

I can recall a pro-bike-lane advocacy organization had some different data that said being rear-ended is actually common, but that seems very discordant with the remainder of the data, and they seem hardly unbiased. (The webmaster of the site I linked to seems neutral on bike lanes.)

The main risks come from intersections, and most bike lanes, even protected ones, don't address that.

My concern is that bike lanes may give inexperienced cyclists a false sense of security. These problems are relatively easily avoided if one is aware of them. See this website to learn about how to avoid the most common types of bike crashes: http://bicyclesafe.com/


As a bicyclist, I can tell you what my greatest fear is: parked cars. Statistically speaking, I am far more likely to get hurt because someone opened their driver's side door without looking than from any other cause.

As a result, when I ride by parked cars I make sure that I'm at least a car-door-length away from them when at all possible.


They're not. Protected bike lanes are for sure safer than unprotected bike lanes.

If there are problems at intersections, that means that the bike lanes aren't protected enough. Amsterdam for example doesn't have these kinds of issues because their design (and especially light signaling) is better.


> If there are problems at intersections, that means that the bike lanes aren't protected enough

Unless you design the intersections properly, then you're never going to achieve that protection. The best way to design them would be to follow how limited access highways/motorways interact with surface streets. In other words, they use interchanges.


> If there are problems at intersections, that means that the bike lanes aren't protected enough. Amsterdam for example doesn't have these kinds of issues because their design (and especially light signaling) is better.

I agree. The problem is that I have never seen those sorts of lanes in the US. The choice is between semi-protected lanes which may be worse or no lanes. I don't know precisely which is better, but I usually choose to not use the protected lanes due to issues at intersections.


We have intersections like this in NYC. Look at 8th and 9th Avenues in Chelsea for one example. There are separate phases for bikes going straight and vehicles turning left across them.


We also have a few of these kinds of lanes in Austin. There are a few downtown and a few in East Austin.


Where specifically? I'm not aware of bike lanes that have a special light for vehicles turning across the bike lane in Austin.


I live in Cambridge and agree with the reasoning as a driver and a cyclist. They put a bike lane inside the car parking area along the main drag (Cambridge street) i live on. It’s hard as a driver to make sure the lane is clear before turning, and when cycling through you still have to be careful and look before crossing the side streets.

It’s still better and it’s been a year since I saw a bicyclist and a driver have words when the car failed to yield.


> Generally "protected" bike lines are not protected at intersections, which is where most problems occur.

Then also build protected intersections? These are common in truly bike-friendly cities. I see them frequently here in Munich (admittedly not as bike-friendly as Dutch cities, but much better than any US city).


Those are either actual interchanges (like how a highway/motorway interacts with a surface street), or a traffic light controlled intersection. Most protected infrastructure out there do not do either.


I'm not sure what you're saying here. Most of what I've seen called "protected intersections" do include traffic lights. Are you using a different definition?


I was referring to separate traffic light phases for different approaches to the intersection. For instance this protected intersection[1] does not have separate traffic light phases for two same direction approaches. While this intersection[2] does. The first one will have turning conflicts since turning traffic and through traffic is allowed to proceed through the intersection at the same time. The second one will not.

[1] https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7631767,-111.8968873,3a,75y,...

[2] https://www.google.com/maps/@37.306157,-79.97767,3a,75y,223....


THIS * 1000


The thing about cycling is that it’s basically fast walking. In places where cycling dominates people only ride as fast as a quick jogger (10 mph is a 6 minute mile). The correct model for cycling isn’t space on the road, it’s an extra sidewalk with an accommodating turning radius. This is what you actually see in The Netherlands. People think of public spaces as roads and as roads as places for cars to drive and park, so they get hung up on “sharing the road,” but really the thing to do is shrinking the road and enhancing places for people.


I was just in Amsterdam this past autumn. It was awesome how most streets have bike lanes that are at-grade with the sidewalk instead of at-grade with the street, and that everyone respects as being for cyclists and does not block.

You're underestimating some of the speeds involved though. People will bike at speeds that feel safe to them. There's bike lanes there that are long, straight, and that have people going much faster on them than anyone can run. Amsterdam is full of life-long cyclists; some of them go pretty fast when it's safe to do so. It was quite impressive seeing some of the people on the city-style bikes hauling ass, especially when they didn't look like you'd expect them to. I do that here in NYC too; no sense in making my commute take any longer than necessary. Although I'm generally on a road bike when doing so, not a city bike!


I cycle somewhere between 20 and 35 km/hour; that's faster than scooters and most electric bikes. It's way faster for me to cycle to the supermarket, the gym and the kids daycare compared to driving.

It beats being lazy in a car and I'm very thankful that the infrastructure here in NL supports it.


I can keep up 28kmh all day comfortably on my road bike and I’m not that fit but that’s 8 kg of carbon fibre running on 21mm tyres at 120psi not your average commuter bike.

I ride much slower on mixed use paths or around pedestrians, me hitting someone at 32km/h is going to hurt both of us potentially badly.


> I cycle somewhere between 20 and 35 km/hour; that's faster than scooters and most electric bikes.

This makes no sense. You can pedal an electric bike at least as fast if not faster than a regular bike.

Some e-bikes are speed limited to cut out the assist at a certain speed, but it doesn't mean it also removes your ability to pedal hard and achieve the same speed.


They generally reduce their assist and completely cut out at 28 to 30km/hour, so to actually cycle 30km/hour takes as much effort as it would on a normal bicycle.

Most Dutch cycle at about 25km/hour (whether or not electric) - those cyclists that easily do 30 on normal city bikes are probably the last generation that will switch to e-bikes.


The electric assist on e-Citibikes here in NYC diminishes with speed and cuts out completely at around 15 mph. Above that speed they're just a heavier normal Citibike. I know because I've enjoyed pushing these things to their limits.

There are many different types of e-bikes, and you're probably thinking of what are effective electric mopeds, with big batteries and engines and a throttle control. Those certainly go very fast. They're also not legal in many places, including here in NYC, and aren't necessarily what people mean when they're talking about e-bikes; that's usually referring to pedal-assist.


You could, but most e-bikers choose not to go too fast. Additionally, they often have thicker tires and enourage poor aerodynamic body positions which mean that they decelerate faster.


Most are either 60+ or are leisure cyclists. So they just doodle along at their 25km/h.

Proper road racing enthusiasts can average 35km/h including stops (the joys of a flat country).


You won't find a cyclist who opposes dedicated, protected lanes that are separate from roads and sidewalks.

It is almost always the car drivers who don't want to sacrifice the single lane required to make a two way, protected bike lane. Case in point, Peachtree St in Atlanta ~3 years ago.

https://www.ajc.com/news/traffic/bike-lane-plan-for-peachtre...

https://www.ajc.com/news/local/bike-lanes-peachtree-road-for...


> You won't find a cyclist who opposes dedicated, protected lanes that are separate from roads and sidewalks.

"Vehicular cyclists" are opposed to bike lanes and are not uncommon. See elsewhere in this thread for discussion of them. I consider myself roughly 1/2 vehicular, 1/2 infrastructural. Both camps have good points.


I've seen vehicular cyclists have good points in theory, but in practice their results seem to be awful. Are there places practicing 'vehicular cycling' that have high rates of cycling and good levels of safety?

Infrastructural cyclists can point to the obvious success in the Netherlands and some other bike-friendly cities/countries, at least.


> but in practice their results seem to be awful

Do you have evidence for this or is it just an assertion?

I don't think there are rigorous scientific studies into vehicular or infrastructural cycling. If the infrastructural approach is more popular it's probably because many people seem to accept the infrastructural arguments uncritically. The vehicular camp makes excellent points that I believe have greatly improved my own safety.

One point that vehicular cyclists make is that many people seem to assume that certain practices are safer, but reality is more complicated. For example, riding on the sidewalk is generally considered to be considerably less safe than riding on the road, even by many infrastructural cyclists. But it seems that most people assume that it's more safe.

As a point in favor of vehicular cycling, it seems to me that vehicular cyclists are indeed safer riders than infrastructural. Some might say this is due to experience, but that seems to be a lot of what vehicular cycling is about so I'm not sure that's an argument against vehicular cycling.

Also, I don't think vehicular cyclists are very interested in increasing the number of cyclists. I think there are major benefits to increasing the number of cyclists, and I think the "safety in numbers" effect is the biggest benefit to an infrastructural approach.

In terms of policy, it's a lot easier to build some infrastructure than it is to train drivers and cyclists. So any apparent success of the infrastructure approach may be due solely to that. Also, as I've pointed out on HN here before, not all infrastructure is the same. Most that I see in the US is awful and I would not be surprised if they made cyclists less safe. It seems that infrastructure in some European cities fixes the problems I have.

Ultimately I think both the infrastructural and vehicular camps have good points, and the best policy is a hybrid of the two.


> Do you have evidence for this or is it just an assertion?

Well, for biking numbers, there are infrastructure-oriented places like the Netherlands with very high rates of biking. I'm not aware of anywhere comparable for vehicular cycling, at least in the developed world.

> Do you have evidence for this or is it just an assertion?

Places where vehicular cycling is more common like the US seem to have worse safety numbers. I think you're right though that there aren't any in-depth studies, or at least I haven't seen them.

Admittedly, to me it seems obvious that cars being separate from bikes will be safer for people on bikes than sharing the space. Just like how everyone would uncritically accept that walking on sidewalks is safer than walking in car lanes, because it just seems really obvious.

Granted, you're looking at it as a personal style, whereas I'm looking at it in terms of public policy: which one is safer for cyclists as a whole, which one encourages more cycling. If you're saying, "well vehicular cycling policy is great except for that part where it only works for a tiny % of the populace" then that by itself means it's kind of useless.


As I said, I can't recall vehicular cyclists claiming that vehicular cycling will increase the number of cyclists. So don't judge them on that. I think increasing the number of cyclists is important, however.

Also, I don't know any place where vehicular cycling is particularly common. It seems to be enthusiastically practiced by a relatively small group of people. As I said, though, those people are the safest cyclists I know. There's no evidence that their practices are detrimental to safety best I can tell. Their practices might seem counterintuitive, but they have good reasons for what they do.

> Admittedly, to me it seems obvious that cars being separate from bikes will be safer for people on bikes than sharing the space. Just like how everyone would uncritically accept that walking on sidewalks is safer than walking in car lanes, because it just seems really obvious.

Again, what seems obvious is not necessarily true. I recommend that you look at websites like this one: http://bicyclesafe.com/

The author of that site seems to be neither in favor of pure vehicular cycling or infrastructure, though I think he's more in favor of infrastructure than I am. You can look through the most common types of crashes and see that most infrastructure does little to nothing to address those problems. And dooring, for example, is unavoidable in some infrastructure.

The infrastructure approach seems to implicitly assume that most crashes (or perhaps the most severe crashes) are due to cars rear-ending cyclists, but that's not true. The vast majority are at intersections. A lot of infrastructure I've seen amplifies the intersection risk by, for example, making cyclists less visible by placing parked cars between the main traffic lane and the bike lane. Those arrangements absolutely increase the number of conflicts at intersections. Yet people keep promoting this sort of infrastructure. (Yes, infrastructure done well can help. See other comments in this thread for more information on that.)

> you're looking at it as a personal style

No, I'm interested in my personal safety and also public policy. I'm not opposed to all bike infrastructure, just bad infrastructure, which is the vast majority of what I've seen. Given the choice between no infrastructure, bad infrastructure, and good infrastructure, my choice is good infrastructure. Most people can't tell the difference between good and bad infrastructure.

Edit: I can see from your other posts that you live in Germany. The infrastructure you see is probably biased towards good. I live in the southern US, and the infrastructure I see (if it exists) is biased towards bad. Keep this in mind.


Getting more bikes on the road makes bicycling safer. Drivers in cars are much more careful when they see bikes everywhere than when they only see them once in a blue moon.

Unfortunately most people are not going to ride when they have to mix with cars. I'm willing to do it on low speed city streets, and in unprotected bike lanes at up to highway (55MPH) speeds when I have to, but the great majority of people won't, and won't allow their kids to do it either. Protected bike lanes are the gold standard, and that's what we should be aiming for.


> Getting more bikes on the road makes bicycling safer. Drivers in cars are much more careful when they see bikes everywhere than when they only see them once in a blue moon.

I'm aware of this, but the infrastructural camp tends to assume that it's obvious these effects outweigh the problems with infrastructure. I'm not certain. I think a hybrid between the vehicular and infrastructural approaches is necessary to get the benefits of both with minimal downsides. This means recognizing the problems with infrastructure and avoiding them.


> Getting more bikes on the road makes bicycling safer.

This is a really interesting point. One of the things about where I live that I think I've taken for granted is that biking is pretty common. Not as common as driving, but at any given time you are very likely to see at least one bike on the road.

And, in general, cars do keep an eye out for bikes -- and they even do things like slow down to make room for bikes when the road gets narrow.


> The infrastructure approach seems to implicitly assume that most crashes (or perhaps the most severe crashes) are due to cars rear-ending cyclists, but that's not true.

It does? I've never assumed that. When I got hit, once was being t-boned, the other was a right hook.

> I'm not opposed to all bike infrastructure, just bad infrastructure, which is the vast majority of what I've seen. Given the choice between no infrastructure, bad infrastructure, and good infrastructure, my choice is good infrastructure. Most people can't tell the difference between good and bad infrastructure.

> Edit: I can see from your other posts that you live in Germany. The infrastructure you see is probably biased towards good. I live in the southern US, and the infrastructure I see (if it exists) is biased towards bad. Keep this in mind.

I live in Germany right now, but I've lived in a handful of different parts of the US, most of which I biked in, including Alabama (not entirely by choice). You're right, biking in the South sucks. It sucks bad.

As you say, a lot of bike infrastructure is bad, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the discussion. If a city really half-asses its bus program so that it's nearly useless, we don't declare that the fault of public transportation generally. You get what you pay for and all.


> As you say, a lot of bike infrastructure is bad, but I'm not sure what that has to do with the discussion. If a city really half-asses its bus program so that it's nearly useless, we don't declare that the fault of public transportation generally. You get what you pay for and all.

I'm not anti-infrastructure. I'd consider myself about 1/2 vehicular, 1/2 infrastructural. (See my other posts in this thread; I've repeated this several times now.) Both sides have good points. The problem is that most infrastructure in the US is bad, often considerably worse than no infrastructure at all.


Interestingly enough there has been some evidence that driving on the street is safer than using the bicycle lanes in cities that have a flawed integration of these lanes.

It all boils down to the parts where these lanes intersect with car traffic. There is no use in adding a few lanes here and there, you need to have a concept and micromanage every intersection between cars and cyclists to get something that really pays off. Often this is prevented by the unwillingness of motorists to loose space to park or drive on and this results in pseudo-solutions that are more dangerous than having all cyclists using the middle of the road.


My city has been doing half-ass cycling infrastructure implementations going back to the late 70s. Which each different era there were different designs and concepts. The network is patchwork and lanes stop and start arbitrarily. Intersections are more hazardous because drivers don't know what to expect. Road construction when bike lanes seems to get more hazardous. Often it's not clear what rules you should be obeying, like it's not clear if you should be acting like a pedestrian, a bicycle, or if you're vehicular traffic.

Our city implemented a pretty solid network of dedicated lanes downtown a couple years ago, much to the chagrin of angry drivers and the main benefit isn't the real estate that was given to cyclists so much as it is the real estate that was taken from cars. There's just less traffic, drivers are more attentive because they have more hazards to deal with, and they're moving slower. The traffic calming effect is, for me, the main benefit to having dedicated bike lanes.


In the city where I live, there are one-way lanes on either side of many largeish streets. Even so, every day you can expect to see people riding the wrong way in them. It's dangerous, and unnecessarily so.

I won't go so far as to say that I'm opposed to them outright, but when there's a choice between a street with a protected lane and a quiet street without one that runs parallel, I'll almost always choose the street without.


Atlanta is a great example of where it makes no sense to have bike lines. I lived in Atlanta for eight years. It’s a commuter city. The only people biking are relatively privileged yuppies living in the fancy new apartments and condos that have sprung up recently. Why spend public money, and inconvenience drivers in the process, for their sake?

If we’re going to use up a lane, let’s do it in a socially responsible way and make it a dedicated bus lane, which is what most people in need in Atlanta use to get around.


> Why spend public money, and inconvenience drivers in the process, for their sake?

Because the cyclists, too, are part of the public? It's not like that public money is solely sourced from automobile drivers. Many people I know who live and work and pay taxes in Atlanta cycle and drive, depending on where they're going. Are you really suggesting auto-drivers are more important citizens whose convenience matters more than the safety of others? Should Atlanta also start de-prioritizing safe sidewalks and crosswalks so people who are walking all over Midtown and downtown don't inconvenience the drivers? Suggesting the many people who aren't traveling along on 4 or more wheels should be ignored for the sake of convenience to those who are seems awfully silly.


  Because the cyclists, too, are part of the
  public? It's not like that public money is
  solely sourced from automobile drivers.
Then, would you be not opposed to requiring bicycles to be registered, bicyclists to be licensed & taxed just like cars & vehicular traffic does?

If you want a lane all to yourself isn't only fair that you pay your fair share toward the building, maintenance and repair of the lanes? Why should you get to use them free of cost?


We do pay our fair share, over half of the road funding in Georgia comes from general revenue, i.e. taxes everyone pays regardless of vehicle.

Don't act like my bike puts as much wear and tear on the road as your 3 ton SUV or the 18-wheelers and delivery trucks.


You are delusional, as a car driver you are using trillions of dollars of infrastructure paid for by cyclists. When are you going to start paying for what you use? That is why I love toll roads so much, for once car drivers almost pay their way. You still don't pay for the pollution you cause, or the damage to do killing people.

I'm suggesting that it's not right to inconvenience the majority (drivers), for the sake of a relatively privileged minority (folks who can afford to live within cycling distance of their jobs downtown).


Before going too far down the road with this argument, you also need to figure out how many of those drivers would use something other than a car if it were feasible. The majority is not necessarily the majority by choice in this case.


It also is useful to bear in mind how small a slice of the larger society people who frequent HN represent.

It is easy to get carried away with these hyper arguments in favor of public transit, bicycling everywhere and for everyone, high density living and removing parking wherever possible.

It is helpful to bear in mind that just because a small canal-ridden city of 800,000 people ( Amsterdam has an area of 85 square miles while even NYC is 302 and Chicago is 234 ) has a high density of cyclists doesn't mean we shape policy for much of the Western world based on that small city of homogeneous people with homogeneous values and neighborhoods.


> you also need to figure out how many of those drivers would use something other than a car if it were feasible.

The one thing that debunks that argument is the fact that people aren't replacing their cars with motorcycles.


Assuming people who bike to work are rich is ridiculous, you will see plenty of working class folks using a bike to get to their destination in this city.


Poor people ride bikes at much higher rates than rich people. Keeping a car is expensive, and especially expensive for the poor.

> The only people biking are relatively privileged yuppies living in the fancy new apartments and condos that have sprung up recently.

Not true in Houston, which is pretty much the same. (I couldn't find data for Atlanta, unfortunately.) https://kinder.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs1676/f/files/2015/1...


Interesting data point. Doesn't match my experience from Atlanta and D.C., but maybe I'm not looking for cyclists in the right places.

This is what you actually see in The Netherlands.

Huh? In the city center, speeds are greatly reduced for cars and bikes, but getting between metropolitan areas, both speeds can climb. You do know there's a whole bike highway system in the Netherlands, right?

I think the, "bikes as fast pedestrians" model is a bit outdated. I don't want to be seen as a very fast person on foot, while on my bike. I can hit 30+mph in a sprint, and go many hundreds of miles in a week.


I think the comparison was about personal safety in the event of a collision, not a slight at your cycling ability.


A cyclist, particularly on a heavy bike, going even 10-15 mph is pretty dangerous for an unaware pedestrian. When people collide on foot at walking pace, it's not too bad.


Mixing cyclists and pedestrians causes a whole set of different problems (and injuries).

Some people ride slow, and some ride fast, and it's facetious to conclude that average biking speed is slow.

Also as a jogger, I wouldn't every try running on a busy sidewalk somewhere downtown, but I will need to bike home in rush hour.


> Mixing cyclists and pedestrians causes a whole set of different problems (and injuries).

The other issue is that pedestrians do not typically follow traffic rules while walking. That is, they won't keep to one side of the path, they won't signal their intention to change direction in advance, etc. This makes it much more difficult to ride among them compared to riding in traffic where drivers do generally follow the rules.


Much easier to bike in rush hour as well. Lane splitting lets you beat traffic, and it's of course way easier to dodge a 5mph car in a lane versus a pedestrian wandering all over the sidewalk with zero situational awareness on their phone with headphones.


Lane splitting at more than a walking speed is quite dangerous and illegal where I live.


Yes, lane splitting is illegal where I live as well. And I think that's appropriate.

Nah, I find this to be is suicidal. Not to mention, that even when I get away with this kind of behaviour, the drivers stuck in traffic will be irritated by it and might not be as considerate to the next cyclist passing by.

I'd rather stay on the right, if traffic is too bad I would get off the bicycle and walk the intersection until traffic clears.


> The thing about cycling is that it’s basically fast walking.

My commute while I take the kids to the daycare in a trailer takes me about 20 minutes one way. My ride to work takes me another 6 minutes. If I walked the same route, it would take me over an hour to get to daycare and another 30 minutes to get to work from there.

Bicyclists are not fast pedestrians. They're riding on vehicles that have similar dynamics to any other 2 wheeled vehicle like a moped or motorcycle. The only difference is that they're slower, but when going downhill, they can easily match motorized traffic speeds with little effort (I've managed to get up to 35 mph going down some steep grades).

Infrastructure designed for pedestrian speeds is not really suited for cyclists who ride for transportation.


I think average is closer to 12mph, at least according to google maps. I definitely could haul ass and go nearly twice that fast, but when I'm riding to go someplace and not to burn calories, the last thing I want to do is ride at a pace that's going to make me sweaty.


Yes, this makes sense. Nobody is arguing to ride a bike 17 inches from a train (and the train can't swerve into you!), why would you want to do it with cars? Separate places for bikes and people make the most sense.


>The thing about cycling is that it’s basically fast walking.

What does this mean? Why not slow motorcycles?

Cycling at 10mph at all times would feel pretty slow.


How about elevating those public spaces up two floors and leaving all of the level beneath to motorized transport (preferably electric only)?

The safest engineering solution is to separate heavy motorized vehicles from human scale things.


Cars crashing into supporting pillars might create a disaster for the people above. And it's also a lot more expensive.


Crashes in to and over 'barriers' can already happen. If you want to provide safety against that you really should have pedestrian only paths.

The way to get THAT inside of major cities involves lots of adapter IO at the edge of the city, and a much more (Azimov's) Cave of Steel like transit infrastructure inside.


It's not though. 10mph is on the slow side for a bike. Also a 6 minute mile is an accomplishment not a quick jog.


Interesting. In my town, it's illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk. And on a straightaway, most bikes are going substantially faster than people can walk.

I just checked my bike computer, and it tells me that my average speed is around 10 MPH, which means that roughly half the time I'm going faster than that.


and it's so much less ugly than these protective barriers


> "I hope you get hit!"

This is one thing I will never be able to wrap my head around - why would a human being say something like this to a fellow human?

In my experience this comment brings together a few things:

1. Many drivers just have no respect for "Share the Road" and specifically no respect for cyclists

2. This type of "speak your mind" attitude is very New England and specifically Boston (and suburbs).

3. Just speaks to the need to accelerate bike access and harmonize/integrate more with infrastructure.

This news is a good step forward...


> > "I hope you get hit!"

> This is one thing I will never be able to wrap my head around - why would a human being say something like this to a fellow human?

Because he was frustrated and angry about something else that he has no power to affect (possibly the traffic that he was stuck in) and misdirected his energy at an accessible target to alleviate some psychic pressure.


why would a human being say something like this to a fellow human?

Cars seem to act as a stress multiplier.


Fun fact: 49% of non-cyclists think people who ride bikes are less than human: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/03/28/study-aggressive-driv...


> why would a human being say something like this to a fellow human?

Because what they see isn't a human, it's an obstacle.


I lived in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville/JP/Brighton etc etc for nearly a decade from mid 90's to early 2000's, half of it as a bike messenger and lived all you describe daily, 365. Hundreds of accounts in that time that do not paint a very warm picture of American "city" living during this era. For every stupid thing someone has done to or near me in a car I have seen an equally shocking occurrence on a bike. Maybe not daily but hooo boy, people are always stupid traveling in any mode of transportation. I don't think anything will change re: bike barriers unless the auto is completely removed from the picture like in various EU cities. EVEN THEN, people will still people on bikes. Count on it...


>I have seen an equally shocking occurrence on a bike.

Yes, as a pedestrian in C in the 60's i was hit by a Cliffe on a bike ... going the wrong way on a one-way street, mind you. We, as a species, need to integrate more with others: We are not our bodies etc, we are the world


Just look at the image used in article; clowntown wearing flip-flops riding in the rain on the Esplanade but with a helmet on no less. Get that man to city streets, he's ready!


I've experienced similar hostility, while just walking and minding my own business (and respecting traffic rules). For some reason, drivers get annoyed with anyone on the road that is not inside a car.


I've written about this earlier. People get seriously nasty in their cars. I've seen them honk at my 8 yr old daughter crossing the street from her school to come home.


This seems to vary greatly by location.

In the Boston metro area, my anecdotal experience is that cars in Needham will stop to allow pedestrians/bikers to cross a 40mph main road at a non-crosswalk location (though to be fair there are no crosswalks). _Especially_ if there are any kids involved.

If you move just slightly further in, to Brookline, good luck getting people to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, like the signage says they should. I don't know whether it's the slightly higher population density, some difference in the demographics of the drivers or what, but the difference is pretty stark.


Most people grew up with cars, in most places in the US (other than big cities like NY, where having a car is a hassle). It is not going to be easy changing their attitude towards pedestrians and cyclists. It is going to be a slow, gradual process.

In a twisted way, many millennials not being able to afford cars (or not wanting to own) might help.


a white man in a mid-size SUV leaned out his window and said loudly to me, "I hope you get hit!"

My usual retort to this, as the cyclist:

"I hope you find true Love!"


I cycle with a helmet cam, and I typically inform the driver that they are being recorded. While I haven't done a scientific study, I believe this causes some drivers to restrain themselves.


I've only recently installed cams (front and back) on my bike. I hadn't felt the need, but a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was pelted with eggs while he was riding.

I decided that being able to gather evidence and, if lucky, license plate numbers, is not the worst idea.


One only hurts for a while.


Anecdotally I cycle into Cambridge almost every day. I cross three cities: Medford, Somerville and Cambridge for an approximate 20 minute commute (vs 40 by car.)

I have never had issue with cars, granted I've only been doing this for the two years (and in college I used to commute from Roxbury to Cambridge for 2 years and only had 1 freak-out with a drunk-driver, but that's another story.)

On the other hand I've seen entitled cyclists lose their shit for no reason at cars.

I feel like there's a subset of cyclists that don't understand that cars may have blind spots and freak out at drivers when there's literally nothing the driver can do about it.


What you did was perfectly legal, and I assume that your state, like mine, has a law about stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk. I feel the need to ask though why the race of the man who yelled at you bears mentioning?


Why do you find it worth asking why I mentioned his race?

There is certainly a strong relationship among perceived entitlement/privilege, apparent race and ethnicity, and apparent gender. I shouldn't need to explain this.


I asked because it changed the timbre of your anecdote from one of cars vs. bikes to one of race vs. race. Was this person yelling at you because you're on a bike, or because of your apparent race?


Is being white a relavent factor here? What if you had said black instead?


Question one: No, Massachusetts is very white. I can’t imagine any reason this information would be relevant or adds to the story in anyway. Someone please advise me how I may be wrong.

Question two: That would anger many people and cause much defensiveness.

It blows my mind that this is the reality I live in and that you are the only person to bring this up in this heavily commented thread.

As someone who grew up in left wing (espoused more than practiced) Boston but chose the search for truth over this hateful leftist religion I’ve spent my whole life trying to understand political and religious motives (really one and the same). One of the things I’ve come to understand is that it is human nature to find an easy enemy to fight even if there is none or you are too cowardly to fight a real enemy. White men have become this easy and compliant enemy for the left. Nevermind reality it’s too uncomfortable.


Well at least you didn't get "coal rolled": https://www.reddit.com/r/bicycling/comments/9b16vl/a_truck_c...


I don't think I've ever seen anyone 'rolling coal' in Cambridge. I can't imagine the cops around here would let anybody blow out that kind of smog under any circumstances without giving them a ticket.


Under the law, the cops have the authority to impound the truck. I would bet fair money that the first moron to try rolling coal in Boston or Cambridge will also be the last.


And as I know from when the state stopped sending out registration expiration reminders to 'save money,' Cambridge Police do not hesitate to impound everybody they possibly can.


Sounds good to me, as long as cyclists follow the same rules drivers do. Just yesterday I had a cyclist blatantly roll a stop sign on a side street, entering the main road I was on. If I was an inattentive driver I would have creamed him! He even looked to the left, saw me, and just kept rolling through!


I see car drivers roll stop signs every day, multiple times a day. Sounds like the cyclists are doing just as good of a job at following the rules.


Rolling a stop sign (regardless of how many wheels you have) can be perfectly safe or stupidly dangerous and requires discretion. I'm not going to fault anyone for doing it in the abstract.


But do you roll a stop sign when a car is literally about to slam in to you if you continue into the intersection? No. Yet that's what the guy did.


Sounds like the cyclist properly judged the danger for himself, and his judgement was correct, because he's still alive.

When riding a bicycle, you often choose to endanger your own life and break the law in order to be less of an obstacle to motorists -- motorists, who in turn, almost certainly curse under their breath about how you should just obey the rules. Aggro assholes are gonna be aggro assholes.


> his judgement was correct, because he's still alive.

That's faulty reasoning. His judgement could have been completely wrong, and he just got lucky this time.

> When riding a bicycle, you often choose to endanger your own life and break the law in order to be less of an obstacle to motorists

I don't. The only time I would choose to endanger my own life on my bike is if the alternative is endangering someone else's life.


Heh it'll work until someone on their phone doesn't even see them. In my case, I had to swerve left of center while blaring the horn. The guy rolled the sign >15mph.


Rolling a stop sign (slowly, if there's no one at the intersection) is safer on a bike than stopping. In SF the Board of Supervisors voted to make it legal, but the mayor vetoed it.


They're considering changing the law in my state along these lines -- to allow bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs. I'm ambivalent about it, personally.

However, in the story that abstractbarista tells, that bicyclist didn't even treat the stop sign as a yield.


The difference is that in the car all you do is press brake & gas, cycling requires some physical work to start up again.

I know it's breaking the law, and I don't usually do it, but when I cycle on a quiet residential street, I'm going to roll a stop sign. I know it's bad, but at that point I'm going home and I feel tired.


Yeah my rule of thumb while cycling is, if it's an empty street i'll slow down so i can scan the other 3 sides and if it's completely empty i'll roll the stop sign. If there is a car/pedestrian, i'll come to a complete stop.


I feel like I would be a lot more frightened of getting hit by cross traffic (with right-of-way) in the rare case where one mis-judges whether cross traffic exists. I've had enough close calls (or times when I mis-judged whether someone was going to blow a red light/stop sign) when driving a car that I feel like doing rolling stops on a bike is nearly suicidal.


Cycling on the street is taking your life into your own hands. I avoid it whenever I can. Sidewalks are usually empty where I live.

Some places have a great network of bike and walk trails. I think this is the only viable option: roads or other paved surfaces where automobiles are not allowed.


Biking is a very contentious issue in Cambridge. It was one of the most discussed topics during the last council elections and the split, at least how I saw it, was quite generational.

There have been a few deadly incidents as well, adding fuel to the mix.


The simple answer is bikes and cars should never share the same infrastructure. They'll never get along with each other and the bike loses every time. It also doesn't help that bikers don't follow the laws properly. Bikers have to pay attention more than drivers, they should act like it


I don't know the statistics for the US, but here in Germany 75% of the accidents between cyclists are cars are caused by the car.


I drive a car now and then in Cambridge and Boston, and I have to be constantly on a lookout for misbehaving cyclists. It's like most of cyclists are not even familiar with basic traffic regulations. If I was not paying extra attention, and was simply following traffic regulations on my end, I would be involved in more that a few car/bicycle accident.


I'm sure you'd say the same about cars if you were a cyclist. Both bicycles and cars are driven by humans and they generally don't give a damn about the rules unless they benefit personally. The difference is that cyclists usually endanger themselves, while motorists endanger others.


I know that an anecdote is not data, but the only time I've been in an accident with a car, it was because the car ran a stop sign, causing me to slam into the side of it.

And yes, I was seriously hurt.


[flagged]


To help visualize the anecdote.


How many people commute by bike in Cambridge versus by car? And what’s the cost of inconveniencing all those drivers by having bikes buzzing around?


If almost all commuters are car drivers, then there won't be many bikes buzzing around inconveniencing them. And if there are enough bikes to inconvenience the drivers, then there are enough to justify investing in their own infrastructure.


Actually the City of Cambridge installed a bike counter on one of the main thoroughfares toward one of the bridges over the Charles River into Boston. There are more than 1000 trips in each direction on a weekday.


https://pb.cambridgema.gov/pb4bikecounter

That's kind of cool! At a glance, also kind of expensive at $90,000 for 3! A quick search shows the hardware costing around $5,000 each.


Traffic congestion and inconvenience are caused by cars in vast disproportion to bikes. The sheer volume of car traffic is the primary predictor of congestion.


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