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Roads with protected bike lanes make both cycling and driving safer: study (citylab.com)
222 points by cienega 46 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 193 comments



As a long time long distance cyclist an awfully lot of these lanes, both protected and painted/"sharrow" are really frightening.

There is an anti-car/pro-bike lane group of researchers who want to push this style of road design super hard right now at all costs.

There are still major problems with their designs though, they are working from the assumption cyclists won't learn to follow the rules of the road.

Tell me how I'm supposed to safely take a left out of one of these protected bike lanes in any way that is safe and time/distance effective? They've stuck me in a "protected" lane on the far right side of the road and I can't signal and get over to the left side turn lane without jumping a curb or plowing through some grass. Or they expect me to take a left from the far right side of multiple lanes of traffic? At least an unprotected lane doesn't require mountain bike skills to exit.

Also how do they expect me to safely go straight through the intersection when they've locked me into a protected bike lane that is to the right of the "right hand turn lane" for the motor vehicles? If I was riding in the road I would signal left and move left into the "go straight" lane.

It seems they think all cyclists need to dismount and become pedestrians in the crosswalk at all intersections. That's the only way to use these bike lanes safely. That is hardly time efficient compared to learning how to ride in the lanes. And most places outside of the city core there are no crosswalks anyway.

This stuff is plainly obvious when you've rode 10s or 100s of times more miles than the researchers. If they put more effort into educational programs it'd go a long way since city riders tend to break every law they can constantly and pull incredibly bone headed moves.

All their work is dedicated towards reducing the chances you get hit from behind by a car, which is the irrational fear. The real danger is getting hit from the side or the front at intersections.


As a bike commuter who's not exactly in Tour de France riding condition, I whole-heartedly love what few physically protected bike lanes there are in my city. They've greatly extended the range of places I feel comfortable riding my bike. I don't know if I'll ever be in good enough shape to feel comfortable claiming a lane and riding in traffic anywhere but neighborhoods and steep downhills. Yeah, it's a pain to turn left from a physically protected lane on the right, but those small delays are totally worth the added safety of the curb/whatever.


If I have to get off the bike at most of my intersections and turns, I might as well take a bus, because I'll get there faster.

It might make seem to be reasonable to have these protected lanes for slower? cyclists in addition to allowing vehicular cycling, but there are two problems with this: a) it encourages car drivers to assume bicycles should not be in the lanes; b) it discourages cyclists from joining the flow when they're ready

As a cyclist, I'll gladly use separated infrastructure if it's fit for the purpose -- limited use trails that go where I want to go are great; separated bike lanes on big climbs are great.

Separated lanes that don't allow me to turn where I need to are unusable. Separated lanes that throw me into the flow of traffic from the right of parked cars with maybe 10-20 feet until the intersection where drivers are going to stop on green to turn right onto a crowded street are a death trap.


> a) it encourages car drivers to assume bicycles should not be in the lanes

This is something I’m struggling with right now. The city where I live has a lot of mediocre or downright dangerous lanes for cyclists which are often very narrow and next to a column of parked cars so that riders can get hit by a suddenly opened door. When I then ride on the road instead, I often have to contend with car drivers who seem seem to purposefully pass by very closely at high speeds, seemingly in an attempt to ‘teach me a lesson’ and get me to ride on the bicycle lane again. That’s my interpretation at least. Has anyone else here noticed something like this?


Yes, those are often called "punishment passes".

I've even had drivers pass me dangerously closely when I was riding 17 mph in a 15 mph zone with sharrows printed in the lane. I stop and speak with some of these drivers at the stop light, so I'm not even breaking the law and they literally save zero time. Far too many of these drivers seem surprised that the speed limit is 15 mph as they seem to think they should drive 40 mph or faster.


Oh wow, so it’s actually a thing. What kinds of responses do you get from drivers when you talk to them afterwards?

Thanks also for mentioning the term ‘punishment pass’, googling this led me to some interesting blog posts.


You also might find the acronym MGIF (must get in front) to be interesting. I think it's mostly used by British cyclists.

If my memory serves, the responses range wildly. On one end you have completely reasonable and sincere sounding apologies that they accidentally passed me dangerously. Whether or not these were accidents, I don't know. On the other end you have the typical rants against cyclists. In the middle I might help convince bad drivers to treat cyclists nicer.

One time a driver I was speaking to seemed apologetic and some random pedestrian started screaming at me about how I shouldn't be telling drivers what to do. That guy was nuts.


I didn’t know the MGIF acronym although the attitude is something I pretty much take for granted. If I’m on a narrow road with a car behind me, I mostly expect the driver will try to squeeze past me even though they won’t be significantly faster.


Oof, that's where defensive cycling is important. Whenever I come up to a spot where a car and a bike cannot fit side by side (with safe clearance), I take the lane.


That's awesome you talk to them. I imagine most people yell or do something dangerous because they think they'll never have to face you afterwards.


> I was riding 17 mph in a 15 mph zone

Where in the world is there a 15mph zone where cars can drive 40 that bikes want to go? I cant think of a single 15 mph zone in any of the 6 cities ive lived


San Jacinto Blvd. at the University of Texas at Austin campus. I would intentionally ride there on my commute because the speed limit is so low.

To be fair, few drivers seem to actually go 40 mph, though 25-30 mph seems to be regularly observed, particularly on the downhill road next to it (Deloss Dodds Way). I could easily do 30 mph going downhill there. I think the speed limit is 15 in that entire area due to the heavy pedestrian traffic.


Yeah, 40 mph there would be really unusual. Most cars drive at reasonable speeds there. Source: I lived in Creekside dorm.


> When I then ride on the road instead, I often have to contend with car drivers who seem seem to purposefully pass by very closely at high speeds

If you ride at the edge of the general purpose lane, then this is very likely to happen because drivers will believe their vehicle will fit between you and traffic in the adjacent lane. If you ride in the center (or between the center and left tire track) position in the lane, then practically all faster traffic will completely change lanes to pass you.


this is a thing, happened to me today in fact on a neighborhood street.


Assuming a city grid, wouldn't you have at most 2 turns to get where you're going (assuming start and end inside the grid)?

Inside a city these dedicated bike lanes are great, especially with dedicated bike traffic lights. Obviously doesn't apply to longer/winding rides.

I'm in Seattle and we have one here (2nd Avenue) that "feels" a lot safer than cycling alongside parked cars/traffic.


I commute through Seattle from the ferry dock to south lake union. I could technically do it in two turns, but that wouldn't be great in terms of avoiding hills, avoiding streets with heavy traffic (i rode on denny during commute once, not going to happen again), and avoiding the damn trolley rails (also, not going to touch westlake where the trolley is again either).

I don't choose to ride on 2nd ave, because it's too different for the one or two blocks I could be on it, and the transitions are hard. It's a much better idea than some of the other protected lanes I see on my route though. I can't imagine it's worth it for me to go up and down Marion to use it though. (Western is a much nicer slope)


> As a bike commuter who's not exactly in Tour de France riding condition

You don't need to be in "Tour de France" condition to take the lane on city streets (discounting your use of hyperbole). I do so all the time and intersection navigation is far easier when taking the lane than it is when forced to ride all the way to the right.

Pedestrian style infrastructure is suitable for pedestrian speeds (3 to 6 mph), not bicycle speeds (10 to 30+ mph).

> Yeah, it's a pain to turn left from a physically protected lane on the right, but those small delays are totally worth the added safety of the curb/whatever.

Except that the curb does not continue through the intersection. A car approaching from your right at the intersecting road, a car approaching from behind preparing to make a right turn. Or a car approaching from the opposite direction preparing to make a left may not see you until it's too late.

The vast majority of bike crashes occur at intersections. Very few are due to cars rear-ending cyclists.


Would you be comfortable with children or elderly people taking the lane though? "Vehicular cycling" has been around since the 1970's, and in practice it doesn't work.

Protected bike infrastructure gets more people cycling, of all ages and abilities, because the number one reason people cite for not cycling is not feeling safe around cars.

Telling them "you're really safer in the lane" doesn't work to allay their fears, and as the study showed, isn't even true statistically.


> Would you be comfortable with children or elderly people taking the lane though?

I'm middle aged, a bit overweight and tow two kids in a Burley Bee trailer and still take the lane. It doesn't require one to be able to sustain 25 to 30 mph speeds on flat ground. I go between 8 to 15 mph most of the time.

The only requirement is that they know the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. The elderly should know that if they have driving experience. Children who are older can be taught these rules. In fact in certain states, 14 year olds are legally allowed to drive and there is an expectation that they know the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles).

> Protected bike infrastructure gets more people cycling, of all ages and abilities

The problem is that when they get to intersections and they presume that they have the right-of-way when they don't or there's not enough time for turning vehicles or vehicles approaching the intersection to see them, they end up getting hit.

> Telling them "you're really safer in the lane" doesn't work to allay their fears,

The fear is not rational. There are people who are afraid of flying despite the fact that, statistically, it's far safer than driving. If they want to fly, then they need to deal with their irrational fear such that they can do so.

> and as the study showed, isn't even true statistically.

The study never made that claim. It did state that there's a correlation between overall traffic fatalities and city blocks with bicycle facilities. It didn't make the claim that bicycle fatalities specifically went down.


Yes. I was raised to be an assertive vehicular cyclist and make proper use of turn lanes by age 10.

I’m thankful for protected lanes when they are consistent and high quality (at minimum: absolutely never shared with bus travel or truck loading) but I would not ride if I had to dismount at intersections or wait 2 light cycles for left turns.

Biggest pet peeve now is pedestrians who hang out in the bike lane while waiting for the light to change.


Since the 1970s? How did people, including children, ride bikes before then?

1950s PSA about children riding their bike like driving a car (worth watching the whole thing for nostalgia): https://youtu.be/fDm6jiQz5BY?t=206


The issue is that protected bike lanes are not designed for you or me, I prefer riding in traffic, too. They are designed for people with less active riding styles. Elderly people, kids, women. For them the trade off works: spend a little more time on turns and crossings, be safe from cars overtaking close. In the end, it doesn’t even really matter if their fear is rational or not, it prevents that demographic from cycling. And to be an effective mode of transport, cycling needs to feel safe for everyone. The Dutch have that figured out.


You're probably right, which further underscores GP's position. At least where I am there are zero elderly people or kids riding in protected bike lanes. Older folks simply do not ride outside retirement parks in any appreciable capacity, and children are ostensibly not allowed to ride outside their residential neighborhoods. I'm afraid that continuing to design infrastructure in favor of groups who have no interest in it will result in a whole lot of wasted effort without solving any problems.


They entire point is that these groups have no interest in cycling because there’s no infrastructure that makes them feel sufficiently safe. And the goal is to change that.


> The Dutch have that figured out.

The problem is that the vast majority of motorists do not have significant experience riding a bicycle, so they don't know where to look for cyclists and will end up colliding with them when they pop out from behind parked cars within 30 feet of the intersection (when traveling at 20 feet per second).


The Dutch have that figured out, too. There’s so many bicycles around that you practically have to expect them everywhere any time. More bicycles make all bicycles safer.

Intersections of car lanes and bike lines should also be designed in such a fashion that the lanes meet mostly at a right angle. Sharp turns and buffer spaces. A sharp turn slows the car traffic and the right angle at the intersecting point makes it easy to check for crossing (cycle) traffic. See for example this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA


i can confirm this from my own experience. didn't use a bike to get around the city for years, but once i started, my (car) driving style changed noticeably.

for example, i do a lot more shoulder checks to the right. i'm a very fast cyclist and sometimes overtake drivers on the right (when riding in the bike lane). some drivers can't fathom a cyclist being faster than them.

the other thing is mirror checks when opening the car door. i even started to reprimand other drivers or passengers (depending on my role) for not checking. even though i'm riding fast i'm trying to be safety conscious and always assume a driver in a dangerous spot hasn't seen me; this is impossible for suddenly opening car doors.


> once i started [cycling], my (car) driving style changed noticeably. for example, i do a lot more shoulder checks to the right.

What I'll do is move further to the right when preparing to make a right turn in order to prevent cyclists from passing on the right. As a cyclist, I won't pass other vehicles on the right if there's a possibility that they could make a right turn, or a car from the opposite direction could make a left through a gap of stopped traffic, or a car approaching on the intersecting road on my right may not see me before pulling out.

> i'm trying to be safety conscious and always assume a driver in a dangerous spot hasn't seen me; this is impossible for suddenly opening car doors.

You can avoid opening car doors by riding at least 6 feet away from parked cars. I ignore door zine bike lanes and just ride in the center of the rightmost general purpose lane. Faster traffic can change lanes to pass me.


Uhhh... women?


Yes women. They’re an underrepresented demographic among cyclists where bike infrastructure is lacking. Here’s stats for the UK for example https://www.cyclinguk.org/statistics here’s an article discussing the topic https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2019/mar/0... Here’s data for SF https://w4c.org/case-study/women-and-biking-case-study-use-s...


> (Bike lanes) are designed for people with less active riding styles. Elderly people, kids, women.

Agreed women are underrepresented, but I don't think your statement is helping change the perception that women aren't real cyclists. Bike lanes are designed for people with less active riding style. Elderly people, kids, women, and men.


> I don't think your statement is helping change the perception that women aren't real cyclists

If that’s what you read in my statement I apologize. It’s not what I intended to say. Let me try and rephrase that somewhat more coherent:

The current level of infrastructure fails certain demographics more than others, chiefly among them young, elderly and women. It’s not a fault of those demographics, it’s a failure to build inclusive infrastructure. They’re all reals cyclists.

Women especially also have to suffer from substantial amounts of (verbal) abuse in the streets, especially when cycling and when cycling in what’s regarded as a dominant cycling style (in the middle of the road, preventing close passes etc.)

The push for roads as shared space is very (sporty) male dominated and even though I’m part of that group, I’d prefer if we’d give up that push and strive for infrastructure that serves more people better. (Like the Dutch do)


We really do have two kinds of cyclists, and we're unjustly forcing them to follow the same rules. We chose to treat bicycles more like cars than like pedestrians, to the detriment of less-capable cyclists who care to follow the law.

We probably ought to offer and require license plates (tags) for people who wish to ride with the cars. Licensing would be as for a motorcycle, plus a requirement to demonstrate speed and acceleration. The plates could be colored by performance, indicating what roads may be used.

Unlicensed riders, plus those not displaying their license plate, would have a low speed limit and would be restricted to low-speed roads. They would also be allowed on sidewalks as long as they are going slow.


These issues have been solved from the proper protected lanes I've ridden on.

>Tell me how I'm supposed to safely take a left

You pull up and stop in front of the cars to your right on the perpendicular road. You turn your bike 90 degrees. You wait until they get a green light, and you ride straight ahead. This is painted on the road for you to follow sometimes.

>Also how do they expect me to safely go straight

I've seen a light for the bike lanes and a light for the right turn lane. When the bike lane is green, the right turn lane is red.

>It seems they think all cyclists need to dismount

Not the case, you just need to learn what the bike lane asks of you, which is pretty simple when you figure out what you need to do for left turns, and if there are bike onlyu lights for you to follow.


>> Tell me how I'm supposed to safely take a left

> You pull up and stop in front of the cars to your right on the perpendicular road. You turn your bike 90 degrees. You wait until they get a green light, and you ride straight ahead.

So now, if you have a red light in the direction of the road you're going in and it changes to green, you now just have to cross the intersection and wait for the full duration of another red light before you can effectively make a left (all while watching left turning traffic from the road you were originally on proceed with a protected left turn phase.

> I've seen a light for the bike lanes and a light for the right turn lane. When the bike lane is green, the right turn lane is red.

I've also seen videos[1] where drivers don't comply with the red light prohibiting right turns. The problem is that drivers will see that through traffic has a green light and will assume that it's okay to make a right turn because that's how most intersections work. Introducing a brand new configuration leads to issues where motorists will make mistakes to the detriment of cyclists.

[1] https://twitter.com/JarekFA/status/1133705797882408960?fbcli...

> Not the case, you just need to learn what the bike lane asks of you

This seems to be inconsistent from intersection to intersection. As a driver, it's just easier to follow the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles when I need to make a turn at an intersection.


Dutch style protected lanes. 1:55 if you only want to see the left turn... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA


> There is an anti-car/pro-bike lane group of researchers who want to push this style of road design super hard right now at all costs.

I agree with this, at least for activists as I don't have much experience with researchers. Many people view bike lanes as some sort of panacea, and they sometimes end up making the situation worse than it would be otherwise for the exact reasons you mention.

Just to give an example, I'm a cyclist. I live in Austin and cross I-35 on a daily basis. Recently I was trying to reach a city traffic engineer to understand why where the bike lanes there cross the highway exits and onramps are so dangerous. Some of the locations have two signs saying to yield to cyclists in the crossing, but in my experience many drivers don't even seem to notice those signs. I was put in contact with some bike program coordinator. The coordinator told me that they plan to convert those bike lanes to protected bike lanes. I told them that the problem was the crossing between the bike lanes and the highway exits and onramps, not that the bike lane wasn't protected. Whenever Austin makes a protected bike lane, they don't protect the crossings, so a protected bike lane can't address the problems I have. Fortunately, the coordinator did tell me they'll inform me when the next planning meeting is for improvements to those bike lanes. But my experience suggests that my concerns will fall on deaf ears.

So, as you said, most of the risk is from intersections, not being hit from behind. Protected bike lanes won't fix the intersections.

> This stuff is plainly obvious when you've rode 10s or 100s of times more miles than the researchers.

Yes, as transportation cyclist for over a decade now, it seems clear to me that experience matters. I have a friend who has been riding for probably over 20 years now and we both have far more nuanced views than the more green cyclists who tend to view bike lanes as a panacea.


> The coordinator told me that they plan to convert those bike lanes to protected bike lanes. I told them that the problem was the crossing between the bike lanes and the highway exits and onramps, not that the bike lane wasn't protected. Whenever Austin makes a protected bike lane, they don't protect the crossings, so a protected bike lane can't address the problems I have.

The only real way to protect the crossing is to protect it the same way that the crossing of I-35 is protected from the surface street you're riding on. That is, you need a grade separated interchange for cyclist traffic.

The other way would be to ignore the bike lane and ride in the center of the lane that you would use if you were driving a car through there.


> The other way would be to ignore the bike lane and ride in the center of the lane that you would use if you were driving a car through there.

This is what I do for the most part, and I'd say very roughly 20% of cyclists do the same. Few cyclists are confident enough for this solution.


Ack, making the bike lanes protected in this case could easily make things worse. Additional barriers right up to the on/off ramps might reduce visibility of bikes approaching the crossing. Worst case, at night or during less than ideal weather, even attentive drivers might not have enough warning to stop safely. Good luck at the meeting, hopefully it's not too late to get them working on an actual solution...


What's "protected" about a bike lane that crosses freeway onramps? I think you're talking about something completely different from what some other people in this discussion are calling "protected" lanes.

Around here, the "protected" way to cross a freeway is a bicycle/pedestrian bridge. These usually have entrances and exits on residential streets.


> What's "protected" about a bike lane that crosses freeway onramps? I think you're talking about something completely different from what some other people in this discussion are calling "protected" lanes.

"Protected" here refers to the bike lane itself having a physical barrier in the straight sections. The barrier disappears at intersections and crossings. I know from discussions with others (particularly Europeans) that this doesn't meet a stronger definition, but this is what "protected bike lane" means in my experience as a US cyclist.

I agree entirely that the "protection" this style of lane affords is not enough.

> Around here, the "protected" way to cross a freeway is a bicycle/pedestrian bridge. These usually have entrances and exits on residential streets.

That's one good way to do it, but I strongly doubt the city of Austin will implement anything like that at the intersection I have in mind.


> This stuff is plainly obvious when you've rode 10s or 100s of times more miles than the researchers.

I'd argue, the points you make are 100% obvious if you've ever been through any intersection on a bicycle and needed to go straight or left from one of these lanes. You don't need 'research' when something is obviously stupid, but that seems to be something we've forgotten as a society.

Around me, they put these 'bike' lanes on 45+ mph roads. The average driver is reckless and much too distracted to effectively spot the occasional cyclist.


Yes I would say you're right and this stuff should be obvious immediately to any adult, especially one who also knows how to drive a car.

But watching the behavior of "people on bikes" who are not "established cyclists" it seems as soon as everyone gets on a bike they initially go through a period of forgetting everything about how the road works, probably because they are super afraid of the cars. I don't think you really can blame them, fear is a very real & serious thing and it makes us all forget how to think things through. You have to get through a period where someone educates you and you get your bearings enough to get rid of the fear and have the basics ingrained enough you can start to think clearly about your behavior. It's no different than the process someone goes through in all kinds of other activities which can be super dangerous without training. People go through this process for sure with swimming for example.

I had the correct way of doing things drilled into me from an early age as I am not the first generation of my family to decide it's fun & worthwhile to ride thousands and thousands of miles/yr. So by the time I was an adult I just had to learn the extra stuff around big huge multi-lane roads and city intersections. I'd gotten all the basics drilled into me from at least a decade of riding on suburban roads and being told when I was doing it wrong.

I am trying to gradually introduce the rules of the road and correct cycling behavior to my own son now, that started right after he got off training wheels.


>Yes I would say you're right and this stuff should be obvious immediately to any adult, especially one who also knows how to drive a car.

>But watching the behavior of "people on bikes" who are not "established cyclists" it seems as soon as everyone gets on a bike they initially go through a period of forgetting everything about how the road works, probably because they are super afraid of the cars

You're being too generous.

There's a subset of the population that is simply lacking the ability to think about what other participants in traffic are doing and what they're trying to do and adjust their behavior accordingly. These people shit up the infrastructure for everyone else regardless of whether they're walking, on a bike or driving. They tend to leave near misses and accidents that are their fault but technically not their fault in their wake.


> But watching the behavior of "people on bikes" who are not "established cyclists" it seems as soon as everyone gets on a bike they initially go through a period of forgetting everything about how the road works, probably because they are super afraid of the cars. I don't think you really can blame them, fear is a very real & serious thing and it makes us all forget how to think things through.

How do new car drivers deal with driving around trucks and buses? They're told that they need to obey the rules of the road and some additional things like not passing a truck on the right. We need to take the same approach with new cyclists (follow the rules of the road, signal your turns and lane changes, yield when don't have the right of way, don't pass turning traffic on the side their turning, etc).


I don’t get it. How many lefts are you making in a trip? If you make 3 lefts you’ve made a circle, and there’s in most cases a better route.

You are far more likely to be biking straight than making left turns, so this is just optimizing for the general use case, while making the less frequent use case slightly more cumbersome (although still significantly safer).

This is unfortunately a common criticism faced in US cycling circles, where due to the unsafe nature of the vast majority of cycling paths, the people who choose to bike on streets in the US are self selected to be greater risk takers, and also a fairly niche group. For them, anything that makes cycling safer, Will almost by its nature be something that makes them slower, and so you end up in a situation that most existing constituencies are unhappy with bike infrastructure improvements (car drivers, and bikers), at the cost of the future constituency (people who would have bikes if it was safer like in Europe).


8? 10? Surface roads change in character significantly throughout the city and often have discontinuities, intersections vary in anxiety level, etc. Cycling the geometrically simplest route is a recipe for pain. You want to be on streets that are quiet but don’t have too many stops, have the protection of traffic signals when they cross major roads, avoid hills, etc. It’s a balancing act.


> Around me, they put these 'bike' lanes on 45+ mph roads. The average driver is reckless and much too distracted to effectively spot the occasional cyclist.

I stopped commuting when I almost got run over twice in two days when cars felt like using the "protected" bike lane I was in to pass other cars during rush hour.

I'd rather drive and park 20 blocks away and walk instead of taking a chance biking in the city where a majority of people have no idea how to drive or observe basic rules of the road.


I think people just have to realize that they can't act like a car on a bike, especially in the bike lane.

Take the left. In no way are you supposed to merge over into a left lane, wait for cars to clear, and move left on a green or yellow like you would in a car. That's just not what's supposed to be done, but everyone does it because we aren't educated on biking laws or even best practices like we are when we take our drivers test at 15 or 16 years old.

To take a left, you don't leave the right side of the road at all. You pull up in front of the stopped perpendicular traffic on your right side, turn your bike 90* to your left, wait for the green, and ride as if you were coming straight off that perpendicular road. No lane changes, no yielding on left, and you are in front of the traffic pack and visible.


These people say otherwise about left-turns [1]. What you're suggesting only works if you're able to first cross the intersection safely on the right (debatable due to cars turning) before the light switches. A car would queue in the left-turning lane, which is usually deep enough so you can squeeze over if the light is already red up ahead and catch the signal. Left typically goes green just before the straight goes green again, so in most circumstances, a cyclist on the right hand side would have to wait for two light intervals. You also have to navigate twice the amount of lanes of traffic. Turning left in a car, you only have to navigate 1/2 of the perpendicular traffic on a stretch of road. If there's no light, this might be very difficult and dangerous to do on a bicycle.

1: https://bikeleague.org/content/bike-lanes


What specific style of road design are you talking about? There are a variety of bike lanes with various compromises. I've seen DOT presentations consider the situation, not pushing a certain design at all costs.

There are multiple methods of left turns: https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/54628/37462. From the bit I can gather from your post, I might use the "cross, stop, and pivot".


For simplicity, the left turn is a "traffic circle" for bicyclists around the automobile intersection.


Left turn Option 1 - "Cross Stop and Pivot" is likely illegal. Also you are riding right in front of cars that might be trying to turn right. And you're riding in an unexpected direction so you're surprising the cars. That's dangerous. It also means you likely need to wait for the light to change to take your left. If you don't, that's another dangerous moving violation. If you do, it takes a lot longer.

Left Turn Option 2: This is the legal/safe way to do it. I don't understand where people think this requires great fitness. As traffic increases the cars move slower and slower and it gets easier to merge. The trick if you're slower is to merge earlier when you see an opening, then ride on the right or left side of the lane instead of right down the middle. Then you are not impeding traffic. People have trouble with this because they're afraid to be out in the lanes. Why would you think the gutter is safer? The cars whizz by you when you hug the right hand curb as well, and they actually can't see you as well. Using proper signals is key here. The only weakness of this method is a protected bike lane makes it almost impossible to do safely, even though this is the option that is written into the law as what you should be doing. The only other weakness is if you are taking a left and there are no cars around you will come across lights that won't change for a bicyclist! Some of these won't even change for a motorcycle... those are infuriating!

Option 3 - Nothing wrong with this as long as you actually get off your bike. If you ride your bike in the crosswalk it's a moving violation. This method is REALLY slow. You will have to wait through multiple cycles of the light. This is infuriating enough as a pedestrian.

The thing with Left turn Option 2 is if you get proficient & comfortable with it you will have VERY few times car drivers yell at you. Because you're behaving the way they do. Also you will save time at every intersection. If you are following me and you take Option 1 or 3 and I take Option 2 I will get to my destination much faster if we have the same fitness level. The only way you'll keep up is if you break a bunch of laws and put yourself or pedestrians in danger.

I've been doing Option 2 for 20 years. I've done it in Manhattan if we have to have bragging rights about large cities. (I live in the Boston area, I've also bike commuted into Kendall Square near MIT.) It is no problem even across 3-4 lanes if you get good at it.


Option one is posted on the signage in my local lanes. I'm not sure that it would be illegal anywhere (or enforced if it is).

And sure you might be in front of cars trying to turn right, but the right on red turn being blocked happens all the time via cars just going straight or left. Usually right on red is prohibited for streets that cross the bike lane road as well.

I don't think it would be surprising given you angle your bike to the direction of your travel (and going left takes you where you came from, going right takes you where you were heading to begin with, so where else are you logically going to go?), and light cycles are short enough where this isn't going to add a significant time compared with merging multiple lanes in traffic or waiting for a yield left (way more dangerous imo with people constantly running yellow lights).


There isn't much correlation between what is posted on signs and what is safe and what is legal.

We see all kinds of insanity in what gets painted on the road.

The option to take the lane is always there and it always works.

If you always follow what is posted some of the time you will be doing something incredibly dangerous.

There's an intersection I go through very regularly on both car & bike (10-20x per week) on my way to work. If you are following the bike lane it actually makes you ride up to teh right onto a highway overpass ramp and then cross the highway overpass ramp and come back down it (wrong way) to get back to the path. If you're riding in the lane you just go straight through the intersection like a car. Which one of these do you think surprises the cars more and sets up more conflict?


> The thing with Left turn Option 2 is if you get proficient & comfortable with it you will have VERY few times car drivers yell at you. Because you're behaving the way they do.

If they see you / you don't screw up... otherwise, you get https://www.outsideonline.com/2392955/lets-talk-about-driver... written about you.

(edit: the article's situation is different, because it is describing a high speed rural road and not a city intersection.)


> then ride on the right or left side of the lane instead of right down the middle. Then you are not impeding traffic.

It's actually better to ride in the middle of the lane. Riding at the edge of the lane makes it far more likely that you'll get sideswiped.


Here in SF many protected bike lanes cross over at intersections so they are to the left of the right-turn lane.

Of course then you have the nerve-wrecking problem of what happens in the crossover zone. You are approaching cars in their biggest blindspot (rear right) and they are actively driving over your lane.

I don’t think there’s a safe solution to this problem at all other than maybe saying bicycles are full participants in traffic and should go everywhere. Then making sure there’s no such thing as a 45mph (or even 30mph) road in the city unless it’s isolated and bicyclists aren’t allowed on it. Ie, it isn’t a street, but a road road. No sidewalks, no crosswalks, no bikes, on/off ramps


I think the Dutch have come up with a solution to the rear-right problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA


Lowering speed limits to 40/30 km/h is a wise and better move in densely populated areas. It protects pedestrians too.

I think that’s the safest and best option, it apparently get help traffic flow easier too.


Can't you just take the crosswalk to make a left?


Not legally in most US cities. Sidewalks are for walking, the street is for bicycles and cars.


in strictly legal sense you can if you dismount... There are other options (aka "box turn")


No. And if you think it through, you'll come up with several reasons very quickly.


If I was forced to use a bike lane all the time, without an easy way to bypass people/things, I wouldn't use the bike lane. With maybe the exception of non-busy times like at night, or the road option is very high speed or somehow hostile to bikes.


I agree, they are missing a major component. They need cycles of the light where NO motorized vehicle traffic is going through. When they allow right turns through crosswalks or straight traffic while people are crossing they are making it far more likely for pedestrians and cyclists to be hit. Some New York intersections already do this.

I keep seeing right turning vehicles blow through intersections and almost cream someone and then honk at them like they did something wrong.


Usually the barrier opens up when you can make turns. So when cycling you look. if the road is clear you can make the turn easy otherwise you have to stand there for a while.


As a commuting cyclist I usually prefer to ride in the street than in a bike lane. Protected cycle lanes are great only so long as nobody turns to the right directly in front of you. When there are cars parked in between the cycle lane and the car lane it's much easier for the driver to miss the cyclist, and few people check the cycle lane before turning right. I was definitely guilty of this until I started cycling.

Unprotected bike lanes between traffic and parking are the worst though. It's terrifying riding past cars any of which might open their door without looking and either cause me to crash into them or swerve into traffic and be run over. On these streets I will frequently ride in the car lanes as well.


In NYC I think they're counterproductive to safety. Cars use them for temporary parking and pedestrians use them as a sidewalk.

When I visit Europe and Japan they seem to be far more effective.

I think it comes down to etiquette and that goes both ways - non cyclists need to respect bike lanes and cyclists need to obey traffic laws. Admittedly I don't obey traffic laws when cycling, but I would if they were enforced.


What factor do you believe explains the 78% drop in deaths and serious injuries per bicycle trip in NYC from 2000-2017?

https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nyc-cycling-risk...

I'm legitimately curious. I'm not a New Yorker, so it's very plausible that there are factors involved that I'm not aware of. E.g. if the additional 130 million trips in 2017 are all in Central Park, that could explain it.


I've only been biking here the last 6 years so it's hard to speculate, but I would guess that the number of people biking have forced cars to adjust.

It's pretty rare for me to feel like I'm at risk of being hit by a car and anytime they don't notice me it's because I'm in their blind spot, which I now know to be aware of.

Pedestrians are another story. They will cross streets and watch out for cars but not cyclists. I almost killed a small child when her mother directed her into the bike lane (without looking) in order to get around some obstacle on the side walk. Pedestrians do not pay attention and are frequently on their phones.


But what caused the number of people biking to increase?

Also - didn't the linked article explicitly rule out increased number of people biking as a factor in reducing fatalities?


There's some study that's popular to post around here (maybe someone has the link, I don't have it) but the gist of it is that in the past few years they identified the dangerous intersections and changed them up to make them less dangerous.


As a European I couldn't believe people cycled in the lanes I saw in NYC last year. I was there only a few days, but saw numerous close calls with drivers turning into the lanes. It's nuts. If you took away the parking inbetween the cycle lane and the road, you'd probably take away 50% of accidents also.


>Cars use them for temporary parking

How? If cars can get into the bike lane, then it's not protected.


Do a google search for NYC bike lane and you'll see there are varying levels of protection, many of which do not prevent temporary parking.


Yeah, and those don't apply for a discussion about "protected bike lanes". A line on the ground is not a protected bike lane.


"Protected" usually means thatbthere is a physical barrier, not just painted lines.


Frequently it's a physical barrier that springs back up when hit and does not prevent cars from parking. Here's an example: http://nyc.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/grand-...


The stats are quite clear that protected bicycle lanes improve bicyclist safety. The article literally cites such a study.


Maybe overall this is true, but in NYC there are very few lanes I’d consider truly protected - the rest are minefields and generally less safe


Yeah, which is why NYC needs more protected bike lanes, and we should call out DeBlasio when he uses garbage definitions for "protected" like "two lines of paint instead of one" like he did last year. https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/12/20/fact-check-city-did-n...


The study supports safety for cyclists but i missed any reference to the safety for drivers that the article purports it found


There is a link to another article that states:

>“Bike facilities end up slowing cars down, even when a driver hits another driver, it’s less likely to be a fatality because it’s happening at a slower speed,” Marshall said.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/05/29/protect-yourself-sepa...


Is collision with a cyclist really a safety risk for an automobile driver? A minor ding for a car is a fatality for a cyclist


As measured in a reduction of damage from accidents, yeah. If cars travel at lower speed, they're less likely to crash and when they do, it won't be as expensive to fix.


Hitting a cyclist hard enough to kill them is not a "minor ding", except in unusual circumstances.


>When there are cars parked in between the cycle lane and the car lane it's much easier for the driver to miss the cyclist, and few people check the cycle lane before turning right. I was definitely guilty of this until I started cycling.

Happened to me. I t-boned the car, flipped up and over it, landed on outstretched arms and damn near broke them. She drove off. Still haven't fully recovered after a few years.

Honestly you just have to be fast enough to keep up with cars or take roads where cars are sparse. I find that drivers get more aggressive and careless the more of them there are on the road. Anecdotally if you drive a car in a rural road, if you happen to see another car on your trip you're getting a smile and a wave. This does not happen in downtown Austin.


In SF at least, Ubers and Lyfts often treat unprotected bike lanes as drop-off and pick-up zones as well, which adds another dangerous wrinkle for bikers


> Protected cycle lanes are great only so long as nobody turns to the right directly in front of you.

Yes, many bike lane advocates seem to think bike lanes are some panacea, but the vast majority of them don't address this basic issue. I think this is because strong bike lane advocates tend to be less experienced cyclists if they are cyclists at all. The more experienced cyclists have more nuanced views in my experience.

In Austin there are several protected bike lanes that I simply don't use because drivers far too frequently turn across them without looking. I'm confident enough to ride in the normal travel lane there, but I recognize that many cyclists aren't.


I have seen several where there is a separate light for right turn (for cars) and straight/right (for bikes). It seems to address this problem, at least.

Still not as good as the dutch system, but easier to retrofit I suppose.


I agree. The biggest cause of issues between cars and bikes has got to be speed differential, so if I'm on the appropriate bike i always ride in traffic. The bike lanes always get the worst sections of road (the curb) with cracks, drains and debris, Plus cars right hooking you, a car door biting you or a jaywalker on their cellphone are not infrequent risks.

That said there is a big biking population who should not be riding in traffic so without separated bike lanes can't get to parts of my city


Speed is usually not an issue on city roads. Turns and blind spots are bad. Some people try to pass just so they can get to the next red light quicker. Usually if its congested enough that its not safe for a car to pass a cyclist the cyclist is usually able to go faster than traffic. Cars lose a lot of time decelerating and accelerating for frequent stops. Its even an annoyance to the biker because on car is hit about wanting to pass and then the biker keeps waiting at intersections for cars to get up to speed.


> biggest cause of issues between cars and bikes has got to be speed differential, so if I'm on the appropriate bike i always ride in traffic

>That said there is a big biking population who should not be riding in traffic so without separated bike lanes can't get to parts of my city

I was going to say - I've yet to see a biker keep up with commuter traffic, which would make the speed differential a problem.


At rush hour it can be easy to beat commuters in cars on your bike.


But that's due to the average velocity being low, not the maximum velocity. Also, bikes have the advantage of weaving past traffic in those circumstances.


In most cities, average velocity is always low. Where I live, I can beat driving time on my bike for any distance that takes less than an hour. (I can always beat public transit over these distances and further too.) It's basically pointless to drive if you could bike instead and yet so many do it anyway.


Dutch style intersections seem to be really good at making cyclists and pedestrians in protected lanes visible to turners.


I agree - I also find it safer in NYC to just ride with traffic. I have had several collisions with pedestrians who decided they would just step out right in front of me into my “lane” and nearly door’d on a couple of other occasions


That makes me feel even worse now.

The other day I stopped behind a cyclist at a red light on a major avenue in NYC. He was in the left lane and the bike lane is simply one more lane over.

When the light turned green he took forever to get going and even after 20 seconds he was still going dangerously slow so I honked him and felt like a jerk. I did not understand why he simply didn't use the bike lane.

The cross streets are a different story. The bike lanes there are basically non-existent and I have no problem sharing the road with cyclists there.


I would like to point out that honking at cyclists is really annoying as a cyclist and can even be quite dangerous. From inside your car, it doesn't sound so bad but, on the outside -- particularly when you are as close as bike lanes often are -- it's pretty extreme noise pollution and borderline deafening.

Drivers in NYC are constantly honking for no good reason other than their own self gratification. (And how good can it even feel?) It's completely normalised socially but is clearly a useless and negative act in almost all cases. I find it extremely selfish for people to choose to take up so much space and so much noise at the expense of others. If you really must choose to drive rather than bike/walk/subway, at least choose not to fill the air with more noise than needs to be there.


> When the light turned green he took forever to get going and even after 20 seconds he was still going dangerously slow so I honked him and felt like a jerk. I did not understand why he simply didn't use the bike lane.

Cyclist here. My experience suggests that when a cyclist takes the lane, they're doing so because they decided it was the best option for them. I wish more drivers would give them the benefit of the doubt.

There are many reasons not to use the bike lane: debris, drivers turning into the bike lane without looking, pedestrians walking into the bike lane without looking, cars illegally blocking the bike lane, needing to make a left turn (it's typically illegal to make a left turn from the far right), a cyclist keeping up with traffic, etc.


I concur the cyclist must have chosen that lane for a reason which is why I felt in the wrong but none of the reasons listed seem applicable in this case.

Also, are pedestrians walking into bike lanes a valid reason not to use bike lanes? For every pedestrian blindly walking into bike lanes staring at their phone I see an equal number of cyclists going at high speeds through pedestrian crossings (9 times out of 10 when they don't have the right of way). As a pedestrian I've almost been hit by cyclists four times (twice in Queens and twice in Manhattan). The one case in Queens was really bad as it was one of those powered food delivery bicycles and I was pushing a baby in a stroller.


> Also, are pedestrians walking into bike lanes a valid reason not to use bike lanes?

Depends on the location. Some places have high concentrations of bad pedestrians. In Austin there's one bike lane in particular where cyclists need to pay close attention to pedestrians, who often treat the bike lane there as an extension of the sidewalk.

> For every pedestrian blindly walking into bike lanes staring at their phone I see an equal number of cyclists going at high speeds through pedestrian crossings

Some cyclists are awful too. If the cyclists are bad enough then I might avoid the bike lane myself...


> he was still going dangerously slow

On a city street that's essentially an oxymoron. You have to deal with stopped and slow traffic, turning traffic, etc. A slow cyclist should not be any different.


The avenues in Manhattan actually flow really well and the lights are very well timed. You can get from downtown to uptown almost without stopping. Personally I don't think cyclists should be mixed with cars in Manhattan especially when there's already dedicated bike lanes. But I'll probably change my opinion once I start commuting via bike :)


The problem is that many of those bike lanes present significant problems to cyclists using them (illegally parked vehicles, lack of room to avoid bad surface conditions, intersection conflicts, dooring hazards caused by door zone bike lanes, etc.


Agreed. Bike lanes are where the most unpredictable stuff happens : the door zone, driveways, truck loading, tree-mulchers.

Also, bike lanes are actually a sinister public policy that deliberately puts drivers against cyclists and here's why.

Cities want to reduce traffic, but don't take the political risk to raise the costs of driving (fuel taxes, geofencing etc). Instead they build useless bike lanes with the deliberate side effect of slowing car traffic.

What this does is generate animosity toward cyclists instead of where is should be directed: city hall.

I'm a lifelong bike commuter in a city that's increased bike lanes over the years. I think bike lanes are bad for both cyclists and drivers.


> Also, bike lanes are actually a sinister public policy that deliberately puts drivers against cyclists

They're actually favored by motorists and facilities advocates since they get cyclists out of the way of cars. The unpredictable stuff you mention is just stuff that cyclists have to deal with for the convenience of motorists.

In fact, in New York the law for cyclists proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic states:

https://www.dot.ny.gov/display/programs/bicycle/safety_laws/...

>> Upon all roadways, any bicycle or in-line skate shall be driven either on a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane or, if a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic

The last clause shows that it's not for safety; it's for the convenience of motorists.


This article is about protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes do not have issues with truck loading or most of the other problems you mention.


I bike commute all the time and I want to share an experience from yesterday that EVERY cyclist will get. (I live in the PNW, so there are a lot of people that bike here)

I was sitting at a stop sign, in a lane that has sharrows. Waiting for a car to go by I feel a push from behind and get almost pushed into the car I'm waiting for (my hands aren't on the breaks, by feet are on the ground). Adrenaline skyrockets, I look back see this guy not really concerned, I look down at my bike, then back up at him, and just say "Dude, what the fuck?" (not really yelling, trying to stay calm). The guy's response "Chill out, it was an accident." Of course at this point I flip out.

To be honest, this is one of the better experiences I've had when cars almost seriously injure me.[0] There is a frequent challenge of avoiding doors being opened on you while also not pissing off the car following you in the sharrow road. Of getting out of intersections as fast as possible (because getting hit at a stop sign is pretty common). Avoiding pedestrians that step right off the curb into you. I ride without headphones because I have to be aware.

I have found that riding in protected bike lanes, a lot of this decreases. There is extra space for me at stop signs/lights, drivers have to stop sooner. Cars are parking out, and are more likely to look before they open their door. Pedestrians notice something is off and actually look both ways before stepping off the curb. I think the green painting helps too. Honestly I feel A LOT safer in a protected bike lane.

[0] worst experience is that this guy cut me off, almost hitting me, I flipped him off and he proceeded to try to hit me with his car. As in he got behind me and came over into the bike lane. I bailed into the sidewalk and he hit the curb, then he drives off.


[0] worst experience is that this guy cut me off, almost hitting me, I flipped him off and he proceeded to try to hit me with his car. As in he got behind me and came over into the bike lane. I bailed into the sidewalk and he hit the curb, then he drives off.

Cars are an incredibly anti-social medium. It creates a bubble of metal and glass around drivers making them think they're impervious and don't have to interact with other humans in socially acceptable ways. We really should have much harsher point systems for taking away driver licenses.


> There is a frequent challenge of avoiding doors being opened on you while also not pissing off the car following you in the sharrow road.

You have to ride at least 6 feet away from parked cars to avoid getting doored. As a cyclist who rides between the center and left tire track position in the lane by default, I don't really concern myself with pissing off people behind me. It's far less of a risk than getting door and falling into the traffic lane and subsequently getting run over.

That said, I will move over when there's room to let traffic by and then re-take the lane once they're past me.


I ride extensively around the Providence, RI area. Cars are simply a scourge to biking here, at a time when we need less global and local pollution and we need to improve health via air quality and exercise.

We have VERY few protected lanes, mostly there are "sharrows" aka faded pictures of bikes on the road that do absolutely zilch. I am routinely honked at and ignorant/rude people yell things out of their car windows at me, usually because I'm going too slow/am in their way on the very narrow (designed before cars) streets. Cars simply dominate due to the wealth and political power of all the car owners (many of whom have Florida plates to avoid local taxes). Do any of the politicians even ride bikes to their legislature or have any understanding of cyclists' issues?

An illustrative example of our inadequacy is going in between two fantastic/picturesque protected paths: the East Bay Path along Narragansett Bay to the Blackstone River Path. You have to pass through 5+ miles of the urban and narrow streets of Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls. It's honestly a nightmare, I'd rather bring my car to transport my bike from one path to the other than ride in between myself, breathing in exhaust from old clunkers and trucks, experiencing road rage and petty rudeness, and of course nearly getting hit on multiple occasions.

Let's get our act together and make a network of protected lanes across the North East corridor. With electric bikes coming to the fore, I'm hoping more and more cyclists will be able to cover longer and longer ranges, thus facilitating low-emissions, healthy inter-city transport.


I agree with your general sentiment, but don't think people on electric bikes are going to improve the situation, rather make it much, much worse based on the electric bike share pilot in my city. Someone who owns their ebike might be better, but those on shared bikes are a danger to everyone and never wear a helmet.


In the city itself, I don't think ebike vs regular bike is the lynch-pin issue. But if we want to set up intra-city transport networks, if I want to go from Providence to Boston for instance, that's 50 miles which is way too much of a workout. If I have an e-bike, however, that extends my "comfortable" riding range from around 15-20 now to 50+ easily. For intra-city transport on protected paths, I think e-bikes will be a great revolution.

Within cities themselves, we simply need to get smaller cars, autonomous probably would help, less car-trips overall, less parked cars, and with raised/separated bike lanes like Holland. Eventually, with more and more riders and good education, we could have regions of the USA with strong bike transport.

Imagine, for instance, if we established certain roads/streets for non-car travel only. I'd expect a massive flourishing of businesses, increased walkability, better air quality, more room for greenery/outdoor tables and events, all due to taking one street here or there off the car-grid. Take Chicago or NYC for instance, they have numerous parallel streets, incredibly redundant network, cars could go around these non-car roads with ease.

As of right now, cars dominate all of southern New England except for the Cambridge area.


Electric bikes enable more people to participate in biking when they would have driven otherwise. It takes time to build up the leg strength it takes to bike well enough for commuting, most people don't have the time to train for weeks so that they can comfortably conquer the hill on the way to work or whatever.

More bikes on the road means more pressure on drivers to keep an eye out, and more pressure on politicians to make infrastructure safe for cyclists.


Having lived in China, I can tell you it doesn’t get better when they own their own e-bikes.

Also, bike helmets are mostly an American/ Anglo sphere thing, there are whole countries with mass bike cultures that don’t bother with helmets and are still much safer than the USA.


I live in the US and consider helmets an absolute necessity here as I'm riding alongside cars, trucks, and various other things that could kill me instantly, and riding in streets that don't have bike lanes to begin with.

The reason most other countries are safer is because of awareness of bikes and proper design of bike lanes. Google image search "bike lane china" or "bike lane netherlands" to see how safe bike lanes should be designed. In these places it's just much less common to be knocked off your bike in a dangerous manner. I've biked all over China and feel a lot safer there than in e.g. Palo Alto or San Francisco.

However, personally, I'd still wear a helmet regardless. I like my brain.


Yes, I agree with that. But it is a problem we created ourselves because of our love for car culture, not that helmets should be mandatory in other more sane countries. There aren't a lot of brain injuries in the Netherlands from bike accidents, so there is no demand for them.

China really isn't on the list of sane places, but traffic is slow enough that helmets might not matter much anyways. My point about china was more about dangerous electric bicyclists zooming on the sidewalk and almost hitting you.


I nearly got a brain injury in the Netherlands!

I was riding too fast, carrying a TV, in heavy rain (all perfect normal for Amsterdam!). For some reason, I took my other hand off the handlebars, the front wheel spun round and I landed face-first on the road. :( 100% my fault; no other vehicles involved.

(btw, I wear a helmet 100% of the time in the UK, and in NL when on my road bike with clipless pedals)


Congrats! You are one in 90 lifetimes! From http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2010/08/brain-injuries-...

> Rather than reacting emotionally we have to look at the numbers to make sense of this. The overall risk to Dutch cyclists (it's on page two of the document) of a "head/brain injury" is 153 per billion kilometres ridden. That means that one such injury is one per 6.5 million kilometres ridden.

> On average, every Dutch person makes a trip by bicycle 5.6 times per week. This works out as an average across the whole population of 2.5 km cycled every day. That's the highest figure for any population in the world. If we assume that people cycle every day of their lives to the age of 80, and that they cycle that 2.5 km every day of their life, they will ride a bike for a total of 73000 km during their lifetime. Divide it into 6.5 million and you find a figure that a typical Dutch cyclist can expect a "head/brain injury" once every 90 lifetimes.


One in 90 lifetimes is a high number. Considering people bike for basically their entire life in the Netherlands that basically means that 1 in 90 people gets a brain/head injury, which in my opinion is rather high.

I do think the US is much higher in terms of serious bike accidents, but with 1 in 90 lifetime statistic I'd still be wearing a helmet. I don't care if it's 1/3100 of other causes of death -- it's a simple thing that doesn't cost much and it doesn't waste time, so might as well do it.

The 1/3100 statistic is also potentially flawed for young people. If you look at causes of death in the US, for example, the top few are disease-related, most of which are usually causes of death for people 50+ years of age. For people in their 20s and 30s car accidents account for a much higher percentage of death, if not the majority of death, than for people in their 70s, for which disease is by far #1.


Obviously it's hard to get data on this, but my intuition would say that it's not not-wearing-helmets that contributes to their active lifestyle. Rather I think it's more about:

- Pedestrian- and bike-friendly design of cities. Not just bike lanes, but everything else -- water, food, restrooms, aesthetics, compactness.

- Overall healthy food culture to begin with

- General social/cultural values for physical activity

The US, in contrast, embraces a culture of fast food, fried food, lounging on couches watching TV, massive parking lots and strip malls, and getting from point A to point B via a freeway. Cities are terribly designed for pedestrians and bikers, often lacking even simple amenities such as adequate public restrooms, drinking water, healthy food options within walkable distance, and public transportation for when you get tired.

Biking or walking across most European cities is a pleasant experience.


Consider that the chance of having heart disease or a heart attack is much higher in the USA (and consequently lower in the Netherlands), and I wonder if that number really is so high? The Dutch have made a tradeoff for sure, but it seems overall to be a healthy one (more active life styles have health benefits).

So the only thing left is would they be even healthier if they were made to wear helmets? I don't think as many people would ride a bike to work/school if they had to wear a helmet, these are people who bike in semi-formal work clothes and even business suits, after all.


One in 90 is really really high.


Bicycle helmets aren't completely unknown, I see kids under 10 wearing them more.

Cycling in the US isn't dangerous because of traffic or speed. Amsterdam has that in abundance! Its that American automobile drivers simply don't see bicycles let alone understand what they can and cannot do. Anything that isn't a car or truck does not compute.


I think it is the law for kids to wear helmets in the Netherlands until they are 12, but I'm not really clear about that.


It isn't.


Providence is one such city with an electric bikeshare fleet. The people who ride them appear to be in much more danger, as they rarely wear helmets and seem to be even less aware of traffic regulations than traditional cyclists.


I’m curious which city you’re in.

Not that it’s this simple, but it seems to me that any one of those electric bike-share users would otherwise be contributing to localized and global pollution and congestion through the use of a car. Additionally, the lack of infrastructure (i.e. protected/expanded bike lanes) would might explain why it seems like those cyclists “a danger to everyone”.


No, I saw a an ebike blow out of golden gate park against a red and cause a 3 car accident in SF a few weeks back, despite only spending a few days in SF each year. At least one or more of the cars were likely totalled and would contribute much more significantly to waste/emissions. I also saw a lot of people on bikes/scooters using sidewalks and crosswalks like their personal fast lines and ignoring signs and signals repeatedly as well.


I live in SF. Agree that there are many reckless scooter and e-bike users. To offer another anecdote, everyday I see Uber/Lyft drivers stopped in the middle of traffic, parked in red zones, and driving 10-15 mph under the speed limit. Either way, San Francisco has a big problem of actually enforcing the rule of law for traffic violations.


Wearing a helmet increases your chance of death on a bike according to the statistics.

I personally don't, I feel less safe wearing one. I can't locate cars as accurately with audio with one on my head, the extra weight makesy head turn slower, and I think subconsciously left often. Drivers pass more aggressively and illegally (most drivers passing break the law here that requires a meter seperation when passing a cyclist, but they break it 'more' by coming closer when I wear a helmet).


> Wearing a helmet increases your chance of death on a bike according to the statistics.

I'm not aware of any study that says this. The most I've ever read is speculation that wearing a helmet might lead to more accidents, but that's not the same thing, since accidents with head protection are less likely to result in catastrophic head trauma and death. Could you maybe drop a reference link or two for this claim?


Totally fair to call me out on references.

You should read this instead: https://www.vox.com/2014/5/16/5720762/stop-forcing-people-to...

Why? Because it's an meta analysis of a bunch of actually rigorous papers written for the general public.

My original source was a blogpost written by some guy with an opinion. I promise you I'm not lying that's what it said, but I wouldn't trust the statistics he had to not be caused by some quirk like "people in safer to countries to bike are less likely to wear helmets". I can't find it again, sorry - probably because google has gotten so much worse at surfacing blogposts in the last few years. You'll just have to take my word that I wasn't lying when I said I saw such statistics (or google more yourself, I didn't try that hard, but at some point googling for statistics that support your view is unfair cherry picking of evidence).




Helmets protect you somewhat if you crash but are correlated with a significance increase in number of crashes. That page only addresses the first number.


I’ve never heard anyone say it’s actually less safe to wear a helmet. What kind of helmet are you wearing? Most helmets are so light you’d hardly even notice. I’m just confused about this comment.


I am trying to find the study, but iirc it was that in the US cars drive more carefully when they see a cyclist w/o a helmet, resulting in fewer collisions.

Doubtless in case of a collision you’d be better off with the helmet, but at a high enough speed it won’t matter anyway.

I used to play basketball with a personal injury lawyer who flat-out stated that the % of situations he’s seen where a helmet actually helped was very small.

I don’t wear one for many reasons; and I don’t judge anyone else’s decision.


> Wearing a helmet increases your chance of death on a bike according to the statistics

I've heard that too. If it's true, could the causality be the other way? As in, people wear a helmet when the chance of accidents is bigger.

When I road bike on open roads it's both fast and higher chance of accidents, so I wear a helmet. Same with downhill cycling. But when using a city bike, I bike slow in the inner city, and don't have a helmet.


Causality could definitely be the other way as far as the stats I saw. I personally suspect the is some causality in both directions.


Are you wearing a motorcycle helmet? My bike helmet doesn't touch my ears and weighs around 300g, about 5% of the 5 kg weight of a human head -- I can't tell the difference between turning my head with and without a helmet, but it doesn't matter much on the road since I use a rear-view mirror on my glasses so I look behind me much more often than if I had to turn my head every time.


Normal cyclist helmet. It causes more wind noise and generally messes up directionality because there is something above your ears.

A rear view mirror might change my decision, I keep intending to try some of those out.


I built one myself with some spare parts. I love it, to the point that I wear my helmet for short trips when I otherwise wouldn't bother.

It's modeled after this one: https://www.efficientvelo.com/home/safezone

The key component is the flexible, stays-where-you-put-it arm. Safezone is repurposing an industrial product called "coolant hose" - a 1-ft length costs less than $5. Epoxy a small mirror to the end, and attach it to your helmet with zip ties or velcro straps.

Here's mine: https://imgur.com/a/a9H7bXq


I tried some helmet mounted mirrors, but they moved around too much for me, so I switched to this eyeglass frame mounted mirror:

http://travellingtwo.com/resources/take-a-look-mirror

It's simple to clip on, and stays put once it is, I've been using this mirror for over 5 years and feel uncomfortable riding without it.


Those 5% have larger radius of gyration than the brain, though..


I always wear a helmet biking, and skiing for that matter. Neither helmet is likely to save me from a serious injury or death. They provide a small extra margin of safety in low speed collisions.

Bike helmets are no impediment to vision or turning one's head.

What I'd like is a cam linked to the police that would auto-ticket anyone passing too close. I would gladly sign an affidavit confirming the infraction.


In my experience as a courier and in dirt jump, the helmet puts extra weight on the head and neck at the time of impact. This can make it harder to tuck and roll. Also the size of the helmet adds a few inches, making it harder to avoid the earth/pavement.


> Wearing a helmet increases your chance of death on a bike according to the statistics.

Completely untrue. Bike helmets do increase the risk of concussion but decrease the risk of other serious injuries or death.


Care to substantiate that?


I'll find a source tonight and link it here.


Not from here, are you? :)

Cars simply dominate due to the wealth and political power of all the car owners

"Car owner" is not a really good metric for political power or wealth in RI. It's a sorta given, like in most of the US.

If you are able to own/drive a car, but don't need to-I.E. you both live and work within walking, biking, or public transit distance of anywhere in the state you need to go, then you may be more likely to live in a wealthier neighborhood.

Do any of the politicians even ride bikes to their legislature or have any understanding of cyclists' issues?

Good heavens, you're not from around here, are you?

If you were to list in order of significance "things that Rhode Island politicians have demonstrated a less-than-ideal grasp of", cyclist-related issues would come in pretty close to page 900, if one were to be depressed enough to compile such a list. As a rule, people who think it's OK to divert illegally-solicited campaign funds to pay for their mistress's breast enhancement surgery aren't big into cycling. They prefer Escalades.

The legislators from Smith Hill/North Providence might be the only ones in the state who could plausibly ride a bike to work; Smith Street has a gentler slope in that direction. I'd be surprised if it's ever happened.

Really, the only way to make bike transport work better in RI is if one were to somehow link payout of unionized public-sector employee pension benefits to person-miles traveled by bicycle. If you could pull that off, in no time the only way to get anywhere in the state would be by bike. You'd have to get to Block Island by cycling from Point Judith (there'd be a biiig ramp, see...)


As a former Rhode Islander, I firmly believe that the East Bay Bike Path is the single greatest piece of infrastructure in the state.


I read a lot of hostile views towards bike lanes and segregating bicycle traffic and I think it really contrasts with the mind shift I found when moving to the Netherlands.

All the strong views in the comments seem to imply that there is an I "the cyclist" as an urban tribe, like skaters or petrol heads. In the Netherlands there obviously are cyclists in lycra and carbon fiber bicycles, but for the most part, there are people who-happen-to-be-on-a-bicycle.

I don't change clothes to cycle to work, I don't sweat, and don't curse cars. But I also am not a "cyclist" I just get on a bike to get to work.

I think that, specially in an urban environment, there is a need to embrace the mindset of the bicycle, as a thing you use, as opposed to a thing that you somehow identify with.

Yes there are trade-offs, yes you will not be able to hit 30km/h speeds on your urban commute. Yes you will have to slow down due to small children and elderly.

But if you rationalise this and break it down, the downside of not being sanguine through an urban route on a race bicycle really translate into anything between 3 to 7 min extra commute time (depending on long you travel on an urban setting). That's the time you spend ordering a latte.

The upside is that literally everyone and their dog can use a bicycle around the city and be safe.

It also furthers the safety in my opinion because there is now a much greater chance that your average sedan car driver is now occasionaly also using a bicycle and is far more mindful and respectful of human fragility on a bicycle.


In Cincinnati, it's illegal to ride a bike on a sidewalk, which makes sense, it's not very pleasant for the cyclist or pedestrians. The result is that bicyclers ride in the street. You'll regularly get harassed for riding in the street, even when you're all the way to the right, or people will just open their door right into the lane when they street park. It's really difficult to travel with bicycles safely in a medium - large US city.


> You'll regularly get harassed for riding in the street, even when you're all the way to the right

I don't even understand the hate for riding in the middle. If a driver were to pass someone riding on the right, he would (should) have to move so far over that the next lane has to be empty. That is the same as if the bicyclist was in the middle.

Riding to the right only invites cars to squeeze past. Take the lane, it's safer.


Roadways are usually wide enough that a car can pass through the middle, leaving plenty of space for a cyclist on the right, and still avoid colliding with an oncoming car if that oncoming car moves to the right of its lane.

Of course, even though the above is possible, drivers often don't leave enough space for cyclists, so cyclists should ride in the middle to force cars to not try to squeeze past.


Yeah, the problem is just that when it's space, the zoom by in a high speed. Taking the lane and then yielding will force them to overtake at a reasonable speed, at least.


Take the lane, but be aware of cars following. When they can't safely pass for a few minutes look for a long stretch where you can get out of their way.


What you can do is to wait when traffic is clear in the oncoming lane and move slightly over to the right and wave them by. When you see oncoming traffic, check your mirror, stick your left arm out, verify that the following vehicle is yielding to you and retake the lane.

This then ensures that cars pass you at a relatively low speed difference and you generally control when they pass you.


> In Cincinnati, it's illegal to ride a bike on a sidewalk, which makes sense, it's not very pleasant for the cyclist or pedestrians.

It doesn't make any sense to protect pedestrians from having to deal with larger, faster, heavier vehicles, that may injure them, by forcing cyclists into the street, where they have to deal with larger, faster, heavier vehicles that may kill them.


How do drivers of cars deal with driving among trucks and buses?


Cars can match their speed.


Though it's often the heavier vehicles that can't match speed, but we don't routinely hear of cars rear ending buses or trucks (even with a 50 mph speed difference).


If bicyclists were capable of zipping around at speeds of +40 mph, compared to car traffic, I would have fewer problems with making them share the road with cars.

Many accidents currently occur because most cyclists aren't able to pedal fast enough to ride the center of a lane (Without making every motorist in a 50 yard radius want to kill them, for obstructing traffic.)

So, they end up riding on the shoulder, where they are less visible, are more likely to get doored, are more likely to be killed by people who don't shoulder check on right turns, are often passed with a great speed differential, but only inches of clearance...


> If bicyclists were capable of zipping around at speeds of +40 mph, compared to car traffic, I would have fewer problems with making them share the road with cars.

Why would cyclists have to move at 40+ mph on streets where traffic moves at 20 to 30 mph? Even so, traffic is capable of dealing with larger speed differentials due to intersections and steep grades, so there really is no requirement for cyclists to be able to keep up with traffic in order to ride within the general purpose traffic lane.

> Many accidents currently occur because most cyclists aren't able to pedal fast enough to ride the center of a lane

Do you have a citation for this claim? As a counter example, I've been riding in the center of the general purpose lane for a number of years and have never come close to getting rear ended (on roads where traffic goes between 30 to 50 mph).

> are often passed with a great speed differential, but only inches of clearance...

The reason they get passed with inches of clearance is that a cyclist who is edge riding gives motorists the impression that there is sufficient room to pass within the lane. A cyclist who rides in the center of the general traffic lane basically sends the message that faster traffic must change lanes to pass. Hence, they get a lot more clearance when they're passed by faster traffic.


Which is why there need to be bike lines, either between the parking lane and the sidewalk, so that it's protected from traveling cars, or on the left side of the travel lane so they're more visible and less likely to get doored.


> Which is why there need to be bike lines, either between the parking lane and the sidewalk,

The problem with this is when an intersection comes up, cars preparing to turn or approaching from an intersecting road cannot see the cyclist in time to avoid colliding with them.


This can be avoided with good intersection design that gives bicycles their own light cycle or puts the bike lane's stop line ahead of the automotive stop line.


> This can be avoided with good intersection design that gives bicycles their own light cycle

And this now significantly increases the wait time for all modes of transportation. This will lead to signal non-compliance which will lead to more collisions and injuries.

> or puts the bike lane's stop line ahead of the automotive stop line.

This presents another set of issues where cyclists now have to determine whether they have enough time to get ahead of the general traffic stream before the light changes to green. The other issue is that this type of facility encourages cyclists to keep to the right of the general traffic stream when the light is green which makes them much more likely to get right-hooked by traffic preparing to make a right turn at the intersection.


I don't think you understand what was meant by those things. Here's a video explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA


[I realize you can't quite compare American and European roads in the context of bicycling, given the huge surface area in the US. Still, a small anecdote.]

I live in a small Western European city with a serious biking culture. As an everyday bicycler, lately I was happy to see some pleasant incremental changes (to the already pretty good infrastructure) for bicyclers and pedestrians: they are turning streets where cars are allowed into "mainly bicycle" lanes (and the existing narrower bike paths get freed up for pedestrian use), fully painted in maroon, with some wooden signboards on the side, reading: "This is a bicycle-first path, cars must remain behind bicyclers".

This makes it much more spacious, not to mention safer, to bike along, especially so on busy bicycle routes, on previously-narrower lanes. To make a poor analogy, it's like an upgrade from economy to business class.


> fully painted in maroon, with some wooden signboards on the side, reading: "This is a bicycle-first path, cars must remain behind bicyclers".

As a regular bicycle commuter in the United States who has also ridden a bicycle on Amsterdam's infrastructure, converting a handful of existing roads into "bicycle-first" seems to me like the best solution for dense cities that already have serious congestion problems.

People need to feel safe. If they don't feel safe, they won't want to do something. One of the things that really makes cyclists feel unsafe is when motorists are constantly trying to aggressively "get around" them. This often results in close passes and right hooks. Not to mention the animosity.

A strictly enforced policy of "This is a bicycle-first path, cars must remain behind bicyclers" on a handful of narrow well-connected roads leading into and out of the city center would be brilliant. It would address the complexity and cost of building new bicycle infrastructure such as separated bicycle tracks. I would additionally reduce the speed limit to that of a typical bike trail: 15 mph.

It wouldn't ban cars from these existing roads. It would simply establish a norm for those roads. That is, that a bicyclist is a first-class citizen on them. No bicyclist on that road will feel that they're "holding up" traffic behind them, because cars slowing down to the speed of a bicycle would be the norm. And no motorists will pull dangerous maneuvers to try to pass them or cut them off on those roads, or they'll pay a hefty penalty when caught doing that.

Motorists who want to go faster and pass cyclists can use all of the existing "motorist-first" roads for that. With the increased number of people riding bicycle instead of driving because of how much more nice those "bicycle-first" roads are, perhaps that will make the other "motorist-first" roads less congested.


We're seeing lots of comments from current bike commuters, representing a survivor bias. Protected bike lanes are built to encourage people who are currently too scared to ride on a regular bike lane.


I yearn to see a city in the US make its city center area car-free for a year (not a weekend thing as has been done already) just to see how it goes over the course of a year or so. Cars won't disappear, so there'll need to be some kind of parking on the outskirts, but I just want to see if it's feasible (admittedly I want it to be, but am willing to be proven wrong).


It would be cool if—even for a day— cars drove on odd number streets, bikes on even number. Being able to freely move down the street on a bike without worrying about imminent death at all times would be such a huge stress reliever.


Riding a marathon course after the roads are closed, and parked cars are moved, but well before the start of the race, is an absolutely amazing experience.


That's an interesting idea- I like it.


In NL the country is full with separate bycicle infrastructure, making it a paradise for cyclers.

"Cycling is a common mode of transport in the Netherlands, with 36% of the people listing the bicycle as their most frequent mode of transport on a typical day as opposed to the car by 45% and public transport by 11%."

"Some 35,000 km of cycle-track has been physically segregated from motor traffic, equal to a quarter of the country's entire 140,000 km road network."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_the_Netherlands


You're not kidding. I took a 30 second jaunt with google maps and found this:

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.9223839,4.4624592,3a,60y,117...

Note how it is physically impossible for the cars to drive or park in the bike lanes. Very cool.


If I recall correctly from my visit, the bike lanes actually get plowed after a snowstorm before the car lanes! I like those priorities.


I wonder how much rider skill and experience has to do with it. I've been biking in city traffic for a long time and have had a few crashes and close calls but not so much recently. The worst situations (e.g. getting cut off by right-turners or cars entering from the right) can be made less risky by defensive riding practices.


From a much better article about the same study (with a better photo):

> Instead, researchers found that bike infrastructure, particularly physical barriers that separate bikes from speeding cars as opposed to shared or painted lanes, significantly lowered fatalities in cities that installed them. [Emphasis mine.]

from: "Separated Bike Lanes Means Safer Streets, Study Says" https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/05/29/protect-yourself-sepa...

The actual study: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221414051...


It's great that focus has finally been put on bike accessibility within a community, but the problem still stands that in the US it's nigh impossible to safely leave a community on bike. Many suburbs are laid out in way such that highways and roads with no shoulders are the only way out of the community.


Over here in Europe, Grenoble just built a bunch of new, separated bike roads. This is a small town, with ~300K population in the area.

One thing they built, and which I'm not sure yet how it plays because it's not "in production" yet (waiting for other parts of the roadworks to finish) is a bicycle lane in the middle between two bus/taxi only lanes. It is a few centimeters higher than the surrounding road. So we'll see how that goes. But in the meantime, bike infra here is amazing. :)


I rode a scooter for the first time yesterday and it got me thinking that bike companies are typically a non-factor when it comes to city municipalities, but, the backing of Uber and Lyft (plus numerous scooter companies) might be the thing that helps push these cities into embracing more of these sorts of things (protected lanes for scooters), just because of the clout they can bring to bear on these cities.


I live in Beijing, and they seem to work well. It may help that they are ubiquitous. Or that drivers are used to seeing cyclists (and scooters) everywhere.


I was wondering about a fence between bike lanes sides.


Generally a waste of space but it depends how one way the peak flow is and what local casual riders think. I can’t picture a fence in the UK.




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