Tuesday, 15 March, 1994
The following studies have been newly issued and are first reviewed in this release: 24.
The studies issued to date are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23,24.
The studies still to be issued are: a final report on the whole series (said to have been issued, but not yet sent to me).
These are the 24 studies commissioned by the Federal Highway Administration to learn about encouraging cycling and walking. Scientific studies are expected to discover new facts or to develop new theories or understanding about existing facts. Engineering studies are expected to develop guides for action based on scientific facts. When this series of studies was first proposed I wrote that these studies would fulfill neither of the scientific purposes because they were too misdirected, underfunded, and hurried to improve on what we already knew. I feared that they would serve as guides for further ill-conceived governmental effort that harms cyclists.
So far, I have been proved correct. Most of the studies have been done by people who obviously don't know cycling transportation engineering and are totally ignorant of controversies that have been debated for years. The amount of new knowledge is minute, and merely confirms facts that we already knew but the government ignores. In many cases the recommendations, if carried out, would do great harm to cyclists (legal changes and European designs, for examples). In nearly all other cases (education, for example), implementing the recommendations would, at best, continue the present poor policy of cyclist-inferiority.
Goldsmith does some original research into the relationship between the character of cities and the amount of cycling being done. By far the most important factor was the presence of a university campus where cycling was useful. The next most important characteristic was a high proportion of bike lanes. Goldsmith does remark that we don't know whether the lanes produced the cycling or the cycling produced the lanes. The proportion of bike paths was inversely correlated with bicycle commuting.
The disincentives to cycling are: Time, convenience, other purposes for which a car is necessary.
Although Goldsmith recognizes the role of distance, he fails to recognize the relationship between distance and time, and therefore fails to recommend encouragement for fast cycling, which means cycling on roads with the rights of drivers.
The authors write that "transportation professionals currently receive essentially no training in planning or design of nonmotorized transportation," they recommend that a course on this subject be created, and describe their report as "a syllabus for such a course."
The authors' first error is in believing that the field of "nonmotorized transportation" exists. There is no such field. The surface transportation field consists of vehicles guided by tracks (trains, streetcars, guided buses), free-path vehicles (cars, trucks, bicycles), and walkers (human and animal). Each class has its own physical laws and, preferably, operates on its own areas. In this review I consider only those parts that bear on cycling transportation.
Any such course requires textbooks. Chapter 2 considers general texts: AASHTO on highways, ITE on traffic engineering, TRB on highway capacity, the Uniform Vehicle Code, and two popular college texts. The authors correctly point out that bicycles receive little literary space, but incorrectly assume that therefore cyclists are ignored. The policies and practices that have produced the American road system have produced the best physical road system in the world, for both cycling and motoring. The defect exists in the intellectual system; when highway engineers consider cyclists they modify the physical system to do harm to cyclists. The same intellectual defect exists in the authors' evaluation of the Uniform Vehicle Code: "it should be considered a motor vehicle code, as nonmotorized vehicles are essentially not considered except as they impact the motor vehicle." The authors do not understand that the UVC Rules of the Road, with few exceptions, apply to all drivers, whether or not they have motors, and that those rules specify the safe operating system for all wheeled, free-path vehicles. The authors also criticize one popular highway engineering text for saying what is true, that the high accident rate of cyclists is largely due to their own carelessness. The authors' then write that that problem should be designed out of the system by providing "exclusive rights-of-way for nonmotorized transportation," precisely the system that has been shown, for cyclists, to be the most dangerous and least useful system.
The authors then consider texts about cycling, starting with the AASHTO Guide to the Development of Bicycle Facilities and the ASCE Bicycle Transportation: A Civil Engineer's Notebook for Bicycle Facilities. According to the authors, the ASCE publication does not mention cycling on roadways, yet they describe it as "the most comprehensive design guide on bicycle transportation that has been reviewed here. ... [It] provides the nucleus of text materials that should be used in any course covering bicycle transportation as a separate topic at either the undergraduate or graduate level." The authors describe the FHWA's Bikeway Criteria Digest as "only a guide to bikeways [that] does not cover other bicycle transportation issues." Balshone, Deering and McCarl's Bicycle Transit is dismissed as mostly landscaping and a dubious planning method. Replogle's Bicycles and Public Transportation is correctly described as a unique contribution to a specialty within a specialty. Jordan's volume on cycling and energy is accurately described as "likely not useful." Two of the seven pages devoted to this review of texts consider my Bicycle Transportation, 2ed. While the authors describe this as "sometimes too strident ... which detracts from some quite valid observations," they list the contents of many chapters and the concepts that I advocate. The chapter on accidents they describe as "some of the best depth on the subject available," and recommend it and the chapters on the recommended cycling transportation program and on road design as "good supplement[s] to a traffic engineering course." I appreciate the first half of the remark that "this is a well written book with interesting ideas that are mostly pertinent to planners and policymakers," but I disagree with the implication that engineers and designers should be interested only in instructions of what to do rather than discussions of the scientific basis for their decisions.
Chapter 3 surveys educational programs, using data from the survey of universities and colleges by ASCE's subcommittee on Human Powered Transportation. Conclusion: very little is offered. The authors say that they include the HPT's report, but they reprinted only the questionnaire and a tabulation of its answers.
The outline for the proposed graduate or continuing education course on Nonmotorized Transportation is chapter 4. The outline covers an appropriately wide range of subjects, but I fear covers them badly. The introduction is a crude survey of urban characteristics as influenced by transportation and of urban design to foster non-motorized transportation. There is an attempt to predict the volume of cycling transportation (miscalled "demand") and the effect of supply of facilities on volume. The authors miss the point that cycling is a voluntary activity that is controlled by psychological rather than physical characteristics. There is a section on the characteristics of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists (miscalled "drivers"), with consideration of their flow characteristics. Bike-path design is another unit under "Isolated Systems," as if that were a valid classification of a bike path. The section titled "Integrated Systems" covers Woonerfs, traffic calming, crosswalks, bike lanes, bike parking, shared roadways, and traffic control devices. The reference for shared roadways is the ITE Residential Street Design and Traffic Control, as if those were the only roads that cyclists should be using. There is a section on "Mode Interactions" that covers access to transit stations and traffic safety programs. Presumably, cycling accidents are car-bike collisions that are produced by the interaction of motorists and cyclists. The final section covers ongoing operations: maintenance and enforcement.
In my opinion the authors make their erroneous recommendations about cycling because they don't understand the field. Their recommendations about walking may be entirely correct; one reason for the inaccuracy of their recommendations about cycling is that they believe that cycling is closely akin to walking instead of being the driving of vehicles. They recommend the use of texts that blandly, without understanding and without scientific support, instruct engineers to treat cyclists as rolling pedestrians. While they give the largest coverage to the one book that attempts to provide a scientific basis for the proper treatment of cyclists, they miss its point entirely while remarking on its stridency. While they say that it criticizes the FHWA's research, they don't evaluate whether the criticism is correct. While they say that it advocates treating cyclists as drivers of vehicles (in contrast to all the other texts that treat them as rolling pedestrians without providing scientific justification and without saying that that is what they are doing), they express no opinion at all about the accuracy or basis for that conclusion. As the author of the book in question, their absence of response is ample justification for the stridency. It is the result of having to repeat many time the same few points in the hope that a few of these people in charge will wake up and understand them.
We should never have a university course on nonmotorized transportation. For some time, we should have separate courses on walking transportation and on cycling transportation, even if each course is short and earns few units. The cycling transportation course must, in today's intellectual climate, be based on first correcting the popular misapprehensions about cycling. (Misapprehensions that the authors of this report still possess.) Only when the misapprehensions are corrected can the useful and accurate study of cycling transportation proceed. Once, as a result of the application of scientific principles to cycling transportation programs, these misapprehensions recede from the public consciousness, then cycling transportation can be taught as a mere adjunct to the study of highway design for all wheeled vehicles.
This report concludes that "three things must happen to promote bicycling." These are: "The option must exist. It must be attractive. It must be recognized." What foolishness; we all know that cycling exists, is attractive, and is recognized. But the authors don't mean this at all. They say that the cycling option does not exist in cities of the present design. By attractive they include disincentives for motoring. By recognized they mean that cycling must be considered important and desired by government. At only one place do they mention, without really considering, the plain attraction of cycling itself: for half a page in a 60 page report they touch on two events: the 500 mile Cycle Oregon and the 200 mile Seattle-to-Portland. If one's object is to promote cycling for daily use over distances that cyclists consider short, it might be better to discuss the promotion of 25 to 50 mile day rides than events of those distances. For the rest, they consider cycling to be a public duty that people must be pushed into. That's rather a dismal view for a study that is supposed to discuss the marketing of cycling.
This study complements Goldsmith's Study #1, Reasons Why Bicycling and Walking Are Not Being Used. These are the two best of the 20 studies that have been released so far.
After studying much of the literature and conducting a few telephone interviews, these authors recommend measures that they hope will overcome the impediments. This is not just a wish list of everything, as in Study #11, but the start of a reasonable program based on rational analysis of what the authors have read. They identify the following impediments to cycling to work. A: Distance/Time (too far, long, slow). B: Safety/Traffic/Danger. C: Bad Weather. D: Lack of: Facilities/Bikeways/Parking/Showers. E: Need car for work.
While they don't list this as an impediment, the authors pay considerable attention to Everett and Spencer's finding that high volume bicycle transportation to school (high by United States levels) correlates with the ability to stay out of high-volume, high-speed motor traffic. Indeed, their discussion of transportational facilities is largely concerned with the appropriate way to avoid riding in such traffic. Unlike many other authors in this series, they recognize that wide curb lanes are, in most places, the best way to accomplish this. This is, of course, what cyclists have been saying since the beginning of the bikeway controversy.
The authors recognize that the public's perceptions of dangers don't match the facts, and that the facilities thought safest may well be the most dangerous. They recognize that wide curb lanes provide better operational characteristics than do bike lanes, and that the appeal of bike lanes is emotional and political rather than operational or safety. They understand that there are few urban places where safe and useful bike paths can be built. They also note that where paths and lanes have been built, the volume of cycling has been far below the predicted level. Therefore, they recommend many incentives for the individual, emphasizing training of cyclists, both formal in classes and individual by buddies, and action by the private sector, more than any others of the authors.
The authors propose a new type of facility, the unstriped bike lane. This is a wide curb lane with bicycle logos painted on it. They hope that this might provide the political advantages of a striped bike lane without its adverse operational effects.
Despite all this understanding derived from the literature, the authors fail to carry through to the rational conclusions about facilities that their literature research should have uncovered. In one respect they fail to recognize an obvious engineering conclusion; in another respect they have unrealistic expectations about the engineering of intersection design.
While they repeatedly mention the importance of a direct line of travel and the unsuitability of out-of-direction travel, and they talk about the importance of low travel time, they fail entirely to consider that:
time = distance / speed.
Nowhere do they consider the need for high-speed cycling to optimize the amount of cycling transportation. Therefore they fail to distinguish between slow-speed bike paths and high-speed roadway cycling, and they set unrealistically low limits to the bicycle commuting distance.
Whenever they mention bicycle paths and bicycle lanes they add the proviso that these must have intersection designs that are safe. They fail to realize that every intersection design that incorporates bicycle lanes or bicycle paths is more dangerous than the normal intersection that has neither. Of course, such intersections may be made safer by incorporating special traffic signal phases, but the price of doing that is additional delay. The greater built-in dangers are counteracted by delays that are imposed to ensure that the dangers have been avoided. This is a disadvantage to all traffic, but particularly to cyclists, because the prime disadvantage of cycling is that it takes longer than motoring for anything but the shortest trips.
These authors realize more fully than most the meaning of the literature about cycling transportation, but they fail to carry this understanding to all of its engineering conclusions.
This report lists many laws that provide funds for bicycle programs and I presume that the report is accurate in this matter. What is missing is any consideration of whether these laws do good for cyclists. In that regard, the authors say that ISTEA provides cycling funds for "new or improved lanes, paths, or shoulders for the use of bicyclists, traffic control devices, shelters and parking facilities for bicyclists." This confirms what I have always said: ISTEA does not provide for general roadway improvements that benefit cyclists.
This and the succeeding study were probably written by the same person; Anne Lusk is the principal noise in Greenways, Inc. This study is not an analysis of successful grassroots movements. It is merely an account of how to get bike paths on, or adjacent to, largely private property.
This is advocacy for linear parks. The only transportation benefit found is when the linear park serves as a short-cut between popular origins and destinations. The problems of multiple-use trails are not given proper weight.
This is a guide to the bureaucratic hurdles that face trail developers, and I presume that it is accurate in that respect. However, it doesn't consider the poor quality of cycling or the small usefulness of cycling on the trails that have already been produced; therefore it doesn't consider ways, if there are any, to improve safety and utility for future trails.
This study contains two important points. (1) Transit systems in modern urban areas must be fed by individual vehicles, of which bicycles can be an important part. (2) Transit does not carry bicycles at the times at which useful bicycle transportation will be done. While mentioning these points, the authors fail to explain, presumably because they don't understand. Only fast transit systems, such as high-speed rail or express freeway bus, need vehicular feeders. That is because anybody who has an individual vehicle will use it rather than a slow bus on city streets. Transit doesn't carry bicycles at times when useful transportation could be done because at those times it is too crowded to allow some passengers to use much more space than other passengers. The main recommendation of the report, which is obvious to all, is the provision of secure bicycle parking, primarily at residential-area rapid transit stations.
The report states, without comment, that in Silicon Valley 40% of the bicycle lockers in use store bicycles overnight for the trip between station and workplace. The explanation for that statistic is that modern industry has expanded into the suburbs where there is no effective bus service. (I have noticed that large employers run their own vans to several of these stations.) That means that, as I argued many years ago, rapid transit systems can operate in the modern distributed urban area only with the support of feeder systems at both ends of the trip, and bicycles make ideal feeder vehicles.
The report also describes conditions in Europe. While we have all read descriptions of the high volume of bicycle parking at Dutch railway stations, the report discloses, probably inadvertently, that this is a deliberate result of railway policy. The railway provides very limited car-parking facilities because facilities for pedestrians and cyclists cost less. Whether full market cost accommodations would produce the same modal split is unknown, as is the effect of such a policy in the U.S.
In addition this report contains many disconcerting errors. In discussing bikeways to stations it says that if a block contains an obstruction the cyclist must ride three blocks farther to reach his destination. This is false; the maximum is two blocks more, and quite often there is no increase at all. In discussing the finances of bicycle parking in Hundige, Denmark, the authors list increased income at $2.17 per user per working day but they state that the rental of locked spaces is $4 per month. The report also repeats the old canard that U.S. streetcar systems were illegally converted to diesel bus systems, although the circumspect wording the authors employ clearly shows that they are aware of the falsity of the charge.
The first sentence of this study is: "The purpose of this study was to consider how limited resources can best be allocated to meet the needs of motor vehicle users, bicyclists, and pedestrians." The study does not do anything that remotely resembles fulfilling this purpose. It describes the requests and political success of various groups, such as planners, transportation officials, and advocates, and only with respect to money, ignoring all other resources, without giving any recommendations as how to balance the various needs.
This is a wish list of everything that might be done. There is no attempt to evaluate, prioritize or budget the various competing efforts. Its importance is purely that it emphasizes that many things besides facility construction affect cycling.
This considers both cyclist and motorist education programs (and pedestrian). This is a survey of elements of some programs, including several that are seriously erroneous, without evaluation of them or even recognizing the errors. The programs typically follow the cyclist-inferiority pattern, describing cyclists as vulnerable, unpredictable, swerving about, unsafe to have on the road.
One recommendation: emphasize to motorists the need to communicate when overtaking a cyclist who had already been overtaken by another motorist. There is no problem, no communication needed. The first motorist overtook the cyclist with no problem. The rational conclusion is that the second motorist can do so also.
This document talks about sharing the road, exercising responsibility, knowing the law, etc., but in such unspecific ways and in the context of so many errors that it is at least as harmful as beneficial.
There is no real recommendation that cyclists be taught to ride properly, which ought to be the prime goal of cyclist training. The authors rely on things like hazard recognition instead, which aren't very effective.
This document is openly ambiguous. It says both that it "does not constitute a recommended set of laws and ordinances" and that "The primary intent of this chapter [on bicycle laws] is to present a set of regulations that is comprehensive." Obviously, this document will be used in the second sense.
The authors show no sense of what is right for cyclists. They advocate the legal permission to prohibit cyclists from any roadway, not just controlled-access highways (and show no sign of understanding the issue of the difference between controlled-access and freeway).
The authors grossly misrepresent the accident facts. They write that "over one-third of bicycle-motor vehicle accidents occur when the motor vehicle overtakes the bicyclist with nearly 80% of these accidents occurring at night."
The authors recommend that cyclists be prohibited from using roadways where a usable shoulder exists.
The authors recommend that cyclists be prohibited from using roadways where a safe and easily accessed path exists.
The authors recommend prohibiting vehicular-style left turns (they write that the UVC prohibits these) on all multi-lane roads. They write that while making a left turn on a two-lane street the cyclist must "control" the lane which he uses. They recommend that local authorities be authorized to prohibit vehicular-style left turns at any location. The authors believe that motorists "do not expect bicyclists on the inside lanes."
The authors recommend that cyclists waiting to make a left turn continue to use the arm signal.
The authors recommend that cyclists overtaking other traffic make an audible warning.
The authors recommend the unnecessary reflectors as well as the necessary headlamp and rear reflector.
The authors recommend compulsory helmet wearing. (I don't object to this, but it is controversial.)
The authors recommend prohibiting the use of unregistered bicycles, showing no understanding that bicycles cross jurisdictional lines.
In short, the authors show complete ignorance of the issues that have been important to cyclists.
Nine pages of the forty-two in this report are devoted to the health benefits of cycling and walking. In summary, the exercise provided by cycling probably does you good, although there is little hard evidence. Eight pages balance the picture by describing the hazards of cycling. Seven more pages are devoted to environmental influences, largely complaints about motoring.
While the authors quote the official statistics of the total numbers of killed and injured, their statements about the hazards that cause them are misinformed and prejudiced. Here are four examples. (1) Injuries from surface hazards are particularly prevalent on roads without bike lanes. there is no evidence for this and some against -- such as the tendency of bike lanes to collect trash. (2) Fast cyclists are injured because the wind in their ears limits their ability to hear motor traffic. If a car-bike collision occurs that is the cyclist's fault, the problem is failure to look rather than failure to hear; if the collision is the motorist's fault, the ability to hear the normal noise of motor vehicles behind you (if the motor vehicle is in front even a fool would rely on vision instead of hearing) is not sufficiently accurate to have impelled the cyclist off the road. (3) Young cyclists get into car-bike collisions because they are not sufficiently well coordinated to control bicycles. This is true for the very young, but they learn bicycle handling very quickly, long before they normally go out into traffic. (4) "The increased use of lights, reflectors and high-visibility clothing will alert a motorist to a bicyclist ... at a greater distance at night and, in most circumstances, they [sic] will give the individual a wider berth." This is a pitifully inaccurate statement of facts that have been well studied for decades. These people can't get beyond the fear of being hit from behind.
There are other careless mistakes as well, for example the statement that "the proportion of adult bicyclists killed has continued to grow each year." The authors really meant to write that the proportion of adults among the cyclists killed has continued to grow, which is a rather different statement.
The authors make no attempt to balance increases in health and longevity against the injuries and deaths caused by the activities that promote the benefits. The data they used are not sufficient to do so; whether other existing data would enable such a balance I do not know.
The authors don't know the amount of cycling being done within a factor of 4. They don't know the proportion of cycling that is transportational within a factor of 2. They then calculate the amount of environmental improvement if ISTEA increases transportational cycling by a factor of 3, or of 5. Nothing but wishes.
This is a descriptive list of various European programs without any understanding that European facility programs are based on the cyclist-inferiority superstition and have no scientific basis. For instance, the author recommends Danish roadway design practices, despite the dangers to cyclists that these produce.
Replogle repeats the well-recognized points that cycling is not necessarily inversely related to individual income, or level of motorization, or difficult climate, but more to the character of land use and urban design. The content of the report can be summarized in one sentence. Nations that can afford motoring and have conditions that make it convenient to motor do not use much cycling transportation, while those that either cannot afford much motoring (China, India, many African nations) or have the money but do not have the space to make motoring convenient (Japan, Holland) use a greater proportion of cycling transportation, even when the conditions for cycling are quite inconvenient by our standards. The rest of the report is taken up by descriptions of how to make motoring and cycling inconvenient, as it is in Japan (and Holland, though this is outside of Replogle's scope), since it wouldn't be popular to try to reduce us to the per capita income of China or India.
Replogle hasn't got all his facts straight: he thinks that "the Australians, in particular, have developed effective programs in bicycle education that have some potential for transfer to the United States." The distinction should not be between nations but between amateurs and professionals. The Australians came to me for their information because they knew that the amateurs, meaning the League of American Wheelmen and the Cyclist's Touring Club, had created far better programs to train cyclists than had any professional organizations.
The basic message of this study is that a successful bicycle program is one that employs bicycle program specialists and spends a lot of money doing a lot of things. To my mind a successful bicycle program would be one that made cycling safer, faster, and more convenient. In the first chapter the authors ask the question What Is A Successful Bicycle or Pedestrian Program? However, in answering that question they don't consider speed at all while they promote designs whose dangers reduce the safe speed, they don't really consider convenience, and their consideration of safety is farcical. They attribute the reduction of accidents to cyclists on a particular street in San Diego to the installation of bike lanes, when the real cause was the prohibition of parking motor homes and boats on the street. They report that Palo Alto experienced no increase in accidents when cyclists were persuaded to use a bicycle boulevard, forgetting to state that the two streets from which cyclists would be attracted had the most dangerous type of bicycle facility that we know, sidewalk bike paths. They report that Seattle has been installing traffic circles that were requested by residents to slow motor traffic, facilities that also reduce car-bike collisions.
Believe this: Andrew Clarke, he of the Bicycle Federation of America, writes in this study, referring to a mall in Denver, that "bicyclists are prohibited from using the street; it is reserved for busses only. Bicyclists are allowed to use the sidewalk along the mall, but are required to walk their bikes." Clarke's words are simply a mendacious way of describing the fact that cyclists are prohibited from the mall; walking your bike is not cycling. This mendacity is typical of this study. Clarke writes that "it is important to realize that traffic calming is not simply anti-car." If not that, then what is it? Every action that he describes has been taken to make motoring less convenient, frequently by making it more dangerous. No action has any other purpose.
The question for cyclists is whether traffic calming makes cycling safer and faster or more dangerous and slower. Nowhere in this study is this question considered, either by experiment or by simple armchair analysis, and the study recommends designs that are obviously dangerous. Here are some of its recommendations. Cyclists riding among playing pedestrians, the most dangerous environment that we know. Narrowing the road at intersections, the reverse of what is desirable. Physical obstacles in the roadway to make the route "tortuous." Curbs that suddenly stick out into your path, so you have to see them and dodge around them. Removing the distinction between roadway and sidewalk, "leaving pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles to share a common space." Rumble strips.
Clarke's study recommends miniature traffic circles, which are simply circular obstacles in the center of intersections between narrow roads. Consider the result. You are approaching an intersection, with a car coming from behind. If this were a normal intersection, you could ride straight on and the car would continue straight on beside you. With the obstacle in the way, there is room for you to continue straight, but as you do the car swerves into you to avoid the obstacle. Suppose that you swerve to give a car room, while there is a car coming from the right. That motorist sees you swerve right and believes that you are turning right. So he starts to cross the intersection and smashes right into you. Suppose that you are intending to turn left. In a normal intersection there is safe room for you to wait adjacent to the center line before you enter the intersection. With the obstacle in the way you can't do this. You have to get half-way across the intersection and wait where you are exposed to, and delay, traffic from both behind and your right. The normal traffic circle readily handles these movements because it has two lanes, but these mini-circles cannot do so because they have only one narrow lane around them.
Clarke quotes the British bicycle activist Don Matthew, evidently without understanding Matthew's meaning, and without either of them understanding the real meaning of Matthew's words. "Are we as cyclists going to accept these redesigned streets? Hopefully, yes, because the benefits they bring ... far outweigh any concerns about slowing cyclists down too." The fact is that these designs slow cyclists down by making it much more dangerous to ride fast. That is not an improvement for cyclists by any stretch of the imagination.
It is unconscionable for the federal government to issue such recommendations in a study that is supposed to improve cycling. The added danger to cyclists is obviously evil; slowing down cycling is also counterproductive because the prime way to make cycling more useful is to encourage faster cycling.
The ten pages of this report that are devoted to cycling contain both some very reasonable considerations and some strong misconceptions. The authors recognize the urban reality and consider what can reasonably be done within the conditions that it imposes. They recommend maps of streets "suitable" for cycling, although their use of quotation marks suggests that they have some reservations about the accuracy of this technique, as indeed they should have. They recommend bicycle paths alongside the freeways feeding downtown, although our experience with such designs has been decidedly variable. They recognize the problems created by the prohibition of cycling over bridges, but they opt more for design changes than for outright repeal of the prohibitions. They consider that removing parking on downtown streets to install bike lanes has a negative effect on cyclists, evidently believing the old myth that the traffic from behind is more dangerous than the open door in front of one. They do insist that cyclists and pedestrians don't mix, and that street surface smoothness is vital. They describe the various types of bicycle parking that are required downtown. Recognizing that "facility building is not enough," they summarize a full program of training similar to Effective Cycling, proper law enforcement and the use of bike cops, social affairs such as Bike-to-Work Days, bike fairs, and bike races, and cooperation from employers.
Short though this study is, it is one of the better ones in this program. It is a pity that more resources weren't devoted to this type of investigation instead of to the useless and misleading studies that form so large a proportion of the total.
In this study the Bicycle Federation talks up its special desires, for this is a pure statement of bureaucracy, discussing governmental arrangements while entirely ignoring consideration of what the bureaucracy should be accomplishing. Basically, it says that we need bike planners.
Because bike planners need training, this study lists the sources of that training. The FHWA is developing such courses, but these FHWA's own studies demonstrate its incompetence in cycling. The Bicycle Federation runs the ProBike Conferences (national and regional), whose participants express a low level of technical competence and not much concern for technical matters. Rails to Trails conferences, which are run by an organization that doesn't know how to design safe facilities. State Bicycle conferences, presumably run by the state departments of transportation, who don't have much competence in the field. The conferences held by the Transportation Research Board, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Association for Commuter Transportation. A very few of the personnel involved in these organizations are competent in cycling transportation engineering, but I have yet to see any comprehensive and accurate training program come from any one of these organizations. The National Trails Symposium; its very name shows that it doesn't understand cycling transportation.
The study recommends a curriculum for a two-day training seminar that was devised by Andy Clarke and Peter Lagerwey. This curriculum contains nothing at all about making cycling safer, faster, or more useful. The only information that even approaches this subject is a 15-minute discussion of accidents, in the context that accidents indicate the need for bike planning, and a two and a half hour discussion of the AASHTO Guide, a document that does not address either reducing accidents or increasing the utility of cycling. The rest is politics.
Given this very poor understanding of the type of knowledge that is required, you can't expect good things to come from institutionalizing it.
Much of this report is devoted to performing a governmental job in the way that bureaucracy demands. Well, that is what the job is, and the governmental ethos controls much. However, for three pages out of the seventy in the report the authors suggest program goals and objectives, the things for which the job is being done. I summarize those that refer to cycling.
1: Increase cycling transportation.
1.A: Measure amount of cycling.
1.B: Identify major barriers to cycling.
1.C: Produce procedures for eliminating those barriers.
1.D: Monitor progress of elimination.
2: Increase safety.
2.A: Accident reporting.
2.B: Determine most serious accident problems.
2.C: Establish countermeasures for accident problems. 2.D: Monitor effectiveness of countermeasures.
This is straight out of Management 101, exactly the way the professors say to run a program. Of course, there should be other aspects too, but many of them should be managed in the same way. Wouldn't it be great if all our cycling programs were managed in this way? However, it is very peculiar that the authors show no recognition at all that we have had the requisite information to take appropriate action, as listed above, for fifteen years. Even after fifteen years all of our governmental cycling programs are still being run by politics and superstition. The driving force behind present governmental cycling programs is the fear of delaying motorists that is supported by an artificially-contrived fear of 0.3% of the accidents to cyclists.
How do the authors get around this paradox? While they write at length about doing things, they never ask why any particular thing should be done. They never consider whether or not particular actions have scientific support, and whether or not they do good for cyclists and make cycling faster, safer, and more convenient. They think about bicycles and programs instead of cycling and cyclists.
Part of this report consists of descriptions of what bike coordinators actually do, as determined through a survey made by Andy Clarke. Most of the rest describes what the authors think that bike coordinators should be doing and the type of person they think would best do those things. Under "hard skills" they list: Planning, traffic engineering, design/mapping, analysis/research, educational, organizational, enforcement/legislation, and writing and computer. Under "soft skills" they list: leadership developer, professional enabler, negotiator/consensus builder, facilitator, problem solver, decisionmaker, risk taker, doer/implementor, self starter, happy bureaucrat, public speaker, time manager.
These skills are to be applied to the service of cyclists, who are defined by the authors as types A, B, and C. Type A will ride on normal roads, type B desires separation from motor traffic, and type C is a child. The authors support this division with Wilkinson's own words from his report on roadway design: "Most Americans who own and occasionally ride a bicycle have no interest in committing the time and energy to learn the skills of effective cyclists." That is undoubtedly a true statement of fact. However, there is no point in trying to create a national transportational cycling system on the basis of those who only ride occasionally. That would be like designing the national highway system according to the characteristics of old ladies who don't drive very often. Once people get interested in transportational cycling they pretty soon develop an interest in learning effective cycling technique because that is what is necessary for getting around effectively, which means rapidly with reasonable safety.
I think it very noteworthy that none of the skills that the authors mention has anything specific to do with cycling or cyclists or knowledge of cycling transportation engineering. According to them, any competent bureaucrat can do the job so long as he follows the rules. Well, that's what we have too frequently had, and these reports merely substantiate that conclusion.
My evaluation of this study depends on the use to which it will be put. Doctors need to study disease as well as health. Engineers need to study failed designs as well as successful ones. Mechanics need to study malfunctioning and inoperative mechanisms as well as those that are operating properly. In each case, the purpose of studying the defects is to develop treatments to fix the problem.
However, the doctor, the engineer, the mechanic must be able to tell the difference between health and disease, success and failure, proper operation and malfunction. This study is a list of bike planning diseases prepared by and for people who don't recognize health when they see it.
Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. Any governmental program that does not treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles is wrong. The state of New Jersey treats cyclists as drivers of vehicles. The others don't. And the authors of this study don't know the difference.
Here is an example. The authors credit the State of Minnesota Bikeway Design Manual as having the best and most complete discussion of intersections. The examples that the study's authors provide are diagrams of three bike-laned intersection designs, each of which is far more dangerous than the normal roadway. The first is essentially a bicycle sidewalk, which is so dangerous that even AASHTO has recommended against it. The second is the triangular island at a free-running right that puts cyclists to the danger and inconvenience of first cutting across the traffic in the free-running right, then navigating the triangular island, then using the crosswalk, then the triangular island at the far side of the street, then the crosswalk across the free-running right from their right. Each of these areas is a pedestrian area with its own dangers, to say nothing of the danger from motor traffic at each of the free-running rights. The third is the expressway off-ramp design where the cyclist first rides the off-ramp, then comes to a stop (at least they put in a stop sign to try to correct for the danger that they have created), then turns left across the free-running motor traffic, and then returns to the bike lane.
Of course, this document is not an aid to diagnosing bike-planning diseases. It is supposed to be a list of recommended practices for departments of transportation to adopt. However, it represents disease as health, or is a handbook for the butcher rather than the surgeon, in my starting metaphor. This is because its authors have no idea of how cyclists ought to operate and, therefore, ought to be treated. Without this knowledge, they are unable to judge the quality of the recommendations in the documents that they have surveyed. Hiring such incompetent and ignorant people to perform such an important task demonstrates the incompetence of those who hired them.
The National Bicycling Study is at least as bad as I had predicted when it was being designed. Very little new information has been developed. Much deleterious information has been republished, now with the imprimator of the Federal Highway Administration. . Many dangerous and foolish designs and policies have been recommended. The cardinal principle that cyclists ought to act and be treated as drivers of vehicles has been utterly ignored.
This collection of studies, both in its planning and in its implementation, produces three conclusions:
1) The Federal Highway Administration, and therefore the federal government as a whole, wants to get cyclists off the roadways for the convenience of motorists.
2 The Federal Highway Administration, and therefore the federal government as a whole, wants to cater to the population of typical uninformed and incompetent potential cyclists and anti-motoring environmentalists.
3 The Bicycling Office of the Federal Highway Administration is staffed by persons utterly incompetent in their chosen field.
These three conclusions are not at all mutually exclusive. In fact, they tend to be merely different facets of the same defect. Those who find it convenient to attempt to get cyclists off the roadways for the convenience of motorists find that their thoughts agree with the ignorant part of the cycling population and the anti-motoring environmentalists, while those people who accept these foolish beliefs resist learning the discipline of cycling transportation engineering because it contradicts their beliefs and political positions.
These conclusions are not new. Insofar as the general positions of government are concerned, I reached similar conclusions twenty years ago on the basis of the evidence then available. When the present studies were being planned and their defects were obvious, the Bicycling Office rejected my criticism and went ahead regardless. The actual results demonstrate both the validity of my initial criticism and the inability of those responsible to understand it or, if they did understand it, their unwillingness to plan studies that would either develop new knowledge or evaluate the knowledge that we already had. In short, little has changed in the twenty years that America has been considering what it considers to be the bicycle problem.
Return to: John Forester's Home Page Up: Government