Cyclist Crash Rate Reduction & Bikeway Programs, as they Affect the Purposes of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Center for Disease Control: A Call to Difficult Action

home                    safety

1 Executive Summary

1.1 Conference

Two organizations with prime responsibility concerning the safety of the public, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Center for Disease Control, called a conference to consider ways to reduce the crash rate for bicyclists (cyclists). The conference was organized into working panels for: Cyclist Instruction, Motorist Instruction, Law Enforcement, Planning and Facilities, and Helmet Wearing (which is injury reduction, not crash prevention).

1.2 Present Knowledge

It is known that operating a bicycle in accordance with the traffic laws for drivers of vehicles is by far the strongest factor in reducing the cyclist crash rate. The existing data indicate a reduction of 75% to 80% among those populatioins most likely to operate in this manner. It is also known that the government's bikeway program has not, and cannot, significantly reduce the cyclist crash rate.

1.3 Recommendations of the Panels

The panels on Cyclist Instruction and Law Enforcement based their recommendations on cyclists operating as drivers of vehicles. The panel on Motorist Instruction recommended that motorists be persuaded to better obey the traffic laws and that stronger traffic laws be enacted for motorists. The panel on Helmets naturally did not consider these issues. The panel on Planning and Facilities made the contrary and incompatible recommendation to expand the government's bikeway program that is based on cyclists not operating as drivers of vehicles.

1.4 The Leader of the Panel on Planning & Facilities is a Highest Authority

The organizers chose Andy Clarke as leader of the panel on Planning and Facilities, who also had the task of writing the opening position paper for the panel. Clarke and Wilkinson are the two principal architects of the government's bikeway program, for they wrote the documents that state the program's policy and describe the methods of implementing that program.

1.5 Defects in the Recommendation of the Panel on Planning & Facilities

The recommendations of the panel on Planning and Facilities are severely defective.

  1. 1: The recommendations fail to offer any significant crash rate reduction, and may increase the crash rate.
  2. 2: The recommendations continue and expand the government's bikeway program that has not, in over twenty years, produced any significant cyclist crash-rate reduction and may increase it.
  3. 3: The recommendations continue and expand the policy that prevents implementation of the most promising bicycle safety program, the improvement in cyclist operating behavior.
  4. 4: There can be no doubt about the accuracy and authority of this charge. While the facts have been known for almost 30 years, they are now substantiated by the official documents written by Mr. Clarke in the last six years and recently in his official position paper for this conference.

1.6 The History of Governmental Bicycle Programs

The following facts were well documented by 1980.

  1. 1: From before 1940, governmental bike-safety programs did not teach cyclists to operate safely, but concentrated on the duty to give motorists a clear path. By over concentrating on this presumed duty, they taught cyclists to operate dangerously.
  2. 2: The first bikeway designs were produced and promoted by motorists with the intention of continuing this policy by providing the physical means of giving motorists a path clear of cyclists and without regard for the dangers created for cyclists.
  3. 3: The present bikeway designs continue the same policy, but have been modified to reduce the amount of danger they present to cyclists. They have never been designed to reduce the cyclist crash rate, and they do not do so.
  4. 4: Producing bikeways built to these designs has been practically the entire program of the government (at all levels) with regard to bicycle transportation.

1.7 The Need for Action and the Responsibility for Taking It

Given that practically all of the government's program for bicycle transportation has been bikeway planning and production, and that that program is now shown, by the words of its own architects as well as facts known for almost thirty years, to both fail to reduce the cyclist crash rate and to prevent the most promising program for doing so, it is now incumbent upon those persons and organizations with responsibility for the safety of the highway-traveling public to repeal the present government bikeway policy and replace it with one that has demonstrated, in more than one nation, although only on a small scale, the greatest known potential for reducing the cyclist crash rate.

That is, to change from the policy of building bikeways for the convenience of motorists to one that is based on cyclists operating according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.

1.8 The Proper Policy

Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. Government should treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles and encourage them to so act.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

2 The Bicycle Safety and Bikeway Controversy

The purpose of the conference is to consider ways to reduce the crash rate of cyclists, persons riding bicycles. Two ways are in contention at this time: having cyclists operate according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, and having cyclists operate in whatever way bikeways require or encourage. The first is the vehicular-cycling method, the second the bikeway-cycling method.

  1. 1: The vehicular-cycling method is the existing standard method, built into the design of highways and the traffic laws.
  2. 2: The bikeway-cycling method is the challenging method that requires new highway designs and different traffic laws.

2.1 Rules for Deciding Between Hypotheses

Whenever two hypotheses are in contention, there needs to be a rule to decide which should be accepted over the other.

Scientific work requires a very high level of certainty; scientists do not like to commit to a hypothesis until the evidence for it is well-nigh unchallengeable. They do this because they have plenty of time to sort out the most accurate explanation, and they are aware of the ill effect of erroneous theories about the natural world. Bikeway advocates have used this level of certainty in that part of the debate that serves their purposes, but ignored it otherwise. For example, the FHWA, in an official statement in the Federal Register concerning highway design standards, stated that there is insufficient evidence to prove the vehicular-cycling case. Bikeway advocates criticize what they assert to be the inadequacy of the anti-bikeway data:

"The Kaplan study is dated, based on a small number of accidents reported by a narrow sample of bicyclists, and is, at best, inconclusive. It has never been replicated. [The recent Moritz study is a substantial replication that supports Kaplan's original data.] This report cannot be used as a sound basis on which to oppose the development of a whole genre of bicycle facilities which have proven to be enormously popular with the general bicycling public." (Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994 p62, quoted in Clarke & Tracy 1994)

The FHWA statement is scientifically incorrect, because in science there is no proof; there are only different levels of probability. Wilkinson's statement asserts that Kaplan's evidence is insufficient to oppose the bikeway-cycling hypothesis. Is that so?

In cases of forced decision we have to have a very different rule than almost certainty. The present situation is one of forced decision; the organizers of the Bicycle Safety Conference must decide now, either to do nothing and stick with the vehicular-cycling method (although the Federal Highway Administration bases its program on the opposite policy), or change to the bikeway-cycling method. If we decide that the current data are insufficient, then we must stick with the current system, vehicular cycling, because that system has at least stood the test of time and is in place. To change the present system we need data indicating that this change would be beneficial. The exact amount of information that we would need is the subject of statistical decision theory, and is a matter, in the end, of judgement.

However, we need not consider that the vehicular-cycling method is in place. Bikeway advocates probably argue that it is not, because few cyclists obey it. We can consider the situation to be one in which neither system is considered the institutionalized one, and each must be considered on its merits. In the case of that type of decision, the decision must rest with the weight of the evidence. The decision-maker must consider all the evidence on each side, evaluate it in terms of his criterion (which in this case is effect on the crash rate of cyclists), and decide which set of evidence will best serve his criterion.

2.2 Summary of Evidence Concerning the Hypotheses

Now here's the amazing point. The bikeway advocates quoted above (FHWA and Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson and Knoblauch), who wish to set so high a standard for the vehicular-cycling evidence, have practically no evidence to support their own argument (a few minor debatable points, that's all, if that). That's why bikeway advocates reach out to The Netherlands, with its radically different social system, for evidence that, so they say, would also apply in the U.S.A. (Pucher & Dijkstra 2000; Pucher, Komanoff & Schimek 1999) That's also why Wilkinson, in the passage quoted, mendaciously changes the subject from safety, crash reduction, to mere popularity. In support of my claim that there is no significant evidence for the bikeway hypothesis, note that Clarke, in his position paper for this conference, makes no claim of crash reduction through his recommended bikeway program. The most that he would claim was that bikeway construction might increase the number of cyclists, and that the increase in the number of cyclists, if it occurred, would come to the attention of motorists, who might, so he hoped, then be motivated to reduce, to some unknown extent, their dangerous behavior with regards to cyclists. Is that slight a chain of reasoning so persuasive that it should receive the support and endorsement of the foremost safety authorities in the nation? I hope that they are more responsible than that.

Of course, the evidence on the vehicular-cycling side needs to be considered also, to see whether or not it is more persuasive.

2.2.1 Crash Rates

  1. 1: Those groups of cyclists, in both the U.S. and the U.K., whose members are most likely to operate in the vehicular manner have crash rates only 20% to 25% of those of the typical adult cycling population. (Forester 1994 Chap 5 Accidents) A reduction of this magnitude demonstrates that having the skill of operating in the vehicular manner both prevents the cyclist from causing his own car-bike collisions, and it It gives him the understanding to detect and avoid many of the instances in which the motorist is making a mistake.
  2. 2: There has been no significant demonstration that either bike paths or bike-lane stripes have reduced the cyclist crash rate. On the contrary, bike paths have several times been shown to be the most dangerous facilities we have. (Kaplan 1976; Moritz 1996; Forester 1994 Chap 9 Effect of Bikeways on Traffic) The evidence for bike-lane stripes is that at best they are of little importance, at worst an encouragement to dangerous traffic errors by both cyclists and motorists. (Forester 1978, 1982) All bike-lane studies fail to separate out two other causes: bike lanes are typically put on the safer streets, bike lanes are installed as part of a program that makes other safety improvements with great publicity. These are more than sufficient to explain the differences found.

These are far and away the most significant crash reduction information available.

2.2.2 Vehicular Cycling Skill

  1. 1: The American highway system, its highway designs and operating procedures and the traffic laws that specify them, are set up so that ordinary people operating ordinary wheeled vehicles can operate the system in reasonable safety. To hold otherwise is to maintain the absurd position that Americans cannot operate their highway system; quite clearly, they can.
  2. 2: Unless cycling requires far greater skill than motoring, persons riding bicycles are at no comparative disadvantage regarding skill. While bikeway advocates always argue that cycling in traffic requires extreme skill, they have never identified the skill that they say is required. Therefore, there is no evidence that greater skill is required. On the other hand, vehicular cyclists had, for a century, assumed, without finding otherwise, that cycling in traffic requires the same skills as motoring in traffic. This was formally stated, by analyzing the items of skill that are required, by myself in 1976. (Forester 1976, 1993)
  3. 3: Classes of people from age 8 to elderly, the children grouped in classes by age, have learned to cycle in the vehicular manner in 15 class hours, at a cost of about 2 instructor-hours per student, and have demonstrated this skill by passing driving tests in typical traffic conditions (age 8 students on 2-lane roads only). (Forester 1977, 1980; Forester & Lewiston 1980; Forester 1981)

2.2.3 Bikeway-Cycling Skill

Standard traffic-engineering and human factors analysis demonstrates that bikeways complicate the intersection design, creating traffic movements in which cyclists conflict with motorists.

  1. 1: Urban bicycle sidepaths (the Dutch model) create situations that require more than human abilities (such as eyes in the back of the head) for safe operation. Understanding the dangers of these designs is far more difficult than understanding the rather simple standard operating principles of the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. (Forester 1994 Chap 9 Effect of Bikeways on Traffic)
  2. 2: Bike lanes present a lower level of increased danger, for competent cyclists can often avoid the dangers of them, but they still mislead both cyclists and motorists into making dangerous traffic errors. (Forester 1978-1982)

It is noteworthy that bikeway advocates urge bikeways for those who don't understand vehicular operation, while advocating the designs that require the higher level of skill and understanding.

2.2.4 Consistency of the Evidence

The evaluation of the weight of the evidence must include evaluation of the consistency of the evidence. Wilkinson & Clarke make piecemeal objections, such as that Kaplan's data on the bike-path crash rate are insufficient to demonstrate a point. Whether or not that is correct (I think that Kaplan's data on this point are sufficient), it must be evaluated considering the whole set of evidence. All the relevant evidence, from whatever sources, agrees with the principle that the skill of the cyclist is by far the most important factor in reducing the cyclist crash rate. Consider Kaplan's data. Commuting by bicycle, which is obviously done at times and locations of greatest traffic intensity, has about the lowest crash rate. Similarly, those cyclists who habitually ride under what are considered the most dangerous conditions of traffic, topography, weather, and darkness have very low overall crash rates. The British data indicate that four years of cycling with the Cyclists' Touring Club reduces the crash rate to about 20% of its former value. The whole pattern of the evidence consistently points to the principle that cycling according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, and the skill that goes with that, is by far the strongest factor in reducing the cyclist crash rate.

2.3 Bikeway History, Purpose, and Effect

2.3.1 History

  1. 1: The program for producing bicycle paths and bicycle lanes (bikeways) was initiated and maintained by motoring organizations; the most prominent were the California Highway Patrol and the Automobile Club of Southern California. Their operation, once discovered, was opposed by the California Association of Bicycling Organizations because of the dangers to cyclists.
  2. 2: The first design standard was prepared for California by the Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering of the University of California at Los Angeles. It was largely a copy of Dutch practice. (California 1972)
  3. 3: California then established a Statewide Bicycle Committee to recommend changes to the bicycle traffic laws to the Legislature. The original committee members were 7 governmental officers representing highway operations and 1 from the Auto Club of Southern California. At its second meeting, I managed to be allowed on as the one representative of cyclists. It turned out that the object of the committee was to work out how to legally arrange that, wherever government chose to build bikeways, cyclists would be prohibited from using the nearby roadway, just as in Dutch practice, obviously for the convenience of motorists. (For this and the following paragraphs, see Forester 1994 Chap 13 The Bikeway Controversy)
  4. 4: Cyclists stopped the mandatory-bike-path law but could not stop the mandatory-bike-lane law. Cyclists also stopped the first set of design standards by demonstrating that they were so dangerous that government would pay heavily for the deaths and injuries that such bikeways would cause cyclists.
  5. 5: California then established the California Bicycle Facilities Committee to develop a new standard. The members were: Caltrans, California Parks & Recreation, California Cities, California Counties, California Highway Patrol, California Traffic Control Devices Committee, Richard Blunden (a Caltrans employee but said to be representing the League of American Wheelmen), California Association of Bicycling Organizations.
  6. 6: The CBFC refused to consider highway designs that addressed the known causes of crashes to cyclists. It worked only on designs to get cyclists off roadways. CABO managed to modify this action only insofar as CABO was able to demonstrate great danger to cyclists, with the prospect of liability suits against government. The product was the first California bikeway standard to be issued for use. (California 1976-2000)
  7. 7: At much the same time, the federal government was running a bikeway research program. This produced a volume of research reports and two volumes of design standards. (FHWA 1975) These were never adopted, because the research was demonstrated to have many errors.
  8. 8: The federal government and the states then adopted the California standard under the title AASHTO Guide For the Development of New Bicycle Facilities. (AASHTO 1981-2000)

The preceding paragraphs demonstrate that bikeways were designed by the motoring establishment and that the only effect that cyclists had upon that design was to delete those features that were obviously extremely dangerous for cyclists. The process involved no thought of making cycling safer.

2.3.2 Purpose

  1. 1: These bikeways address only one situation, that of the interaction between straight-going bicycle traffic and same-direction motor traffic. They address this situation by some form of separator, a raised barrier for bike paths, a painted stripe for bike lanes.
  2. 2: The bikeway designers refused to consider means of ameliorating any of the frequent types of car-bike collision. (Although they did allow some features that ameliorated hazards not associated with motor traffic; e.g. my design for ameliorating the dangers of diagonally crossing railroad tracks.)
  3. 3: The only reasonable conclusion to be reached from these facts is that bikeways are designed to clear bicycles from the normal traffic lanes for the convenience of motorists. Bikeways are not cyclist safety or cyclist crash reduction entities.

2.3.3 Safety Effect of Bikeways

  1. 1: The interaction between straight-going bicycle traffic and same-direction motor traffic causes only a very small proportion of crashes for cyclists, say 0.3% of crashes, 2% of car-bike collisions in urban areas in daylight. (These statistics come from: Cross & Fisher 1976; Kaplan 1976; Schupack & Driessen 1976. The analysis is in Forester 1994 Chap 5 Accidents)
  2. 2: The possible safety effect of bikeways is very small, because they are designed to reduce only the car-bike collisions between straight-going cyclists and same-direction motor traffic. I repeat, in urban areas in daylight, only about 0.3% of crashes to cyclists and only about 2% of car-bike collisions. (Bike programs are principally urban; the nighttime crash picture is much confused by defective nighttime equipment, and by alcohol.)
  3. 3: Non-motor-vehicle-associated crashes constitute from 90% (for children) to 82% (for adults) of cyclist crashes. Bikeways either have no effect on these, or increase them. (Paths are particularly dangerous.)
  4. 4: Car-bike collisions constitute only 10% (for children to 18% (for adults) of cyclist crashes. About 95% of car-bike collisions are caused by turning or crossing movements by either party.
  5. 5: By pushing cyclists off to the right-hand side of motor traffic, bikeways make turning and crossing movements more difficult and more dangerous. Urban sidepaths are about the most dangerous facilities known; the combination of standard traffic engineering and human factors knowledge shows that humans cannot ride them safely at normal cycling speeds. Urban bike lanes are not as dangerous, but they still cause both motorists and cyclists to make more errors that are known to cause car-bike collisions.
  6. 6: In summary, when used at normal roadway cycling speeds, urban bike paths have a very high crash rate, while urban bike lanes probably have a slightly higher than normal crash rate.

2.4 Bikeway Advocacy Arguments

An unbiased scientific observer would conclude from the above facts that the bikeway movement would have been long exposed and discredited as a program of motorist convenience that should not be imposed on cyclists. That did not happen because environmentalists jumped on the bikeway bandwagon, seeing bikeways as a popular anti-motoring weapon, despite bikeways' anti-cyclist function.

2.4.1 Cyclist-Inferiority Superstition

This contradictory result was made possible by the motoring propaganda. From the 1920s on, American society considered cycling to be the province of only children and others of no account, and the motoring establishment developed and operated the bicycle safety campaigns. The major message of these campaigns was that the prime duty of cyclists, for their own safety, was to stay out of the way of fast motor traffic. The message was: The cyclist who rides in traffic will either delay the cars, which is Sin, or, if the cars don't choose to slow down, will be crushed, which is Death, and the Wages of Sin is Death.

That the instructions based on this superstition made cycling extremely dangerous did not affect the policy makers. Consider the instructions for turning left: while riding alongside the curb, extend your left arm, and turn left. The only people who recognized the dangers of this instruction were the adult cyclists, who had no power to change the "bike-safety" system.

The effect of this propaganda was to convince the public that the prime danger to cyclists was same-direction motor traffic. The fact that this was false made no difference to the public perception. This superstition enabled the motoring establishment to sell its anti-cyclist bikeway program to the public as a cyclist safety program, because bikeways protected cyclists from what the public believed to be cyclists' greatest danger, same-direction motor traffic.

2.4.2 Anti-Motorists Adopt Bikeways, thus Concealing Bikeways' Anti-Cyclist Function

When anti-motoring groups started forming, they needed to find competitors to, or substitutes for, motoring. Urban redesign and rebuilding would take more than a generation. Mass transit takes a decade or more. Walking is too slow for many uses. Bicycling was the only substitute for motoring that could be immediately applied. The public stated that it would not cycle without bikeways to protect it from same-direction motor traffic. (These are truisms, but there is plenty of evidence for the state of public opinion.) Therefore, the anti-motoring groups jumped on the bikeway bandwagon, declaring that bikeways were a prime weapon in the anti-motoring campaign.

This meant that both the motoring establishment and the anti-motoring establishment advocated bikeways. This cozy arrangement, moreover, enabled the motoring establishment to divorce itself from statements of its intent. Individual motorists clearly saw that bikeways cleared cyclists off the roadways for them; they didn't have to have that explained to them, while they, and the public generally, could use the environmentalists' arguments as smokescreen for their desires.

2.4.3 Modern Bikeway Advocacy Arguments

Because bikeway advocates cannot point to cyclist crash reduction on American bikeways, and they dare not emphasize the low crash rate of vehicular cyclists, they use eight general arguments.

  1. 1: Americans want bikeways
  2. 2: Dutch bikeways are popular
  3. 3: Dutch bikeways are safe
  4. 4: Dutch bikeways are appropriate for American conditions
  5. 5: Americans don't want vehicular cycling
  6. 6: Vehicular cycling requires extremes of human capabilities
  7. 7: Bikeway cycling is intended for the unskilled
  8. 8: Bikeway cycling is safe for the unskilled

These arguments are analyzed below.

2.4.3.1 Americans want bikeways

There is plenty of evidence that the American public wants "safe places to ride" and equates safety with bikeways. Clarke & Tracy refer to the Bicycling! Magazine survey of bicyclists, who were asked "what would encourage them to ride more often. The most popular response, by almost half of those surveyed, was someone else to ride with, closely followed by more safe places to ride." (FHWA 1994, quoting Rodale 1991) Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch give the following for the desires that would most encourage basic and child cyclists: "Well defined separation of bicycles and motor vehicles." (FHWA 1994 p 5) The FHWA has supported a stream of studies of the emotions of cyclists, showing the effect of their belief that bike-lane stripes protect them from the dangers of traffic. (Antonakos 1995; Sorton & Walsh, 1995; Sorton 1995; Davis 1995; Epperson 1995; Landis 1995)

All that these studies demonstrate is the strength of the public belief that bikeways make cycling much safer, particularly for the casual cyclist.

2.4.3.2 Dutch bikeways are popular

Bikeway advocates have argued since about 1980 that the coexistence in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities of bicycle-sidepath bikeways and much cycling transportation is a causal relationship indicating that bikeways produce bicycle transportation. Pucher is the latest in a long line of such advocates. (Pucher & Dijkstra 2000; Pucher Komanoff & Schimek 1999)

Correlation does not demonstrate causation; that requires a separate causal demonstration. Since sidepaths are very dangerous and the efforts to make them safe impede cycling transportation, it is highly likely that other factors cause the Dutch to cycle so much.

2.4.3.3 Dutch bikeways are safe

Pucher is again the current advocate of this argument. (Pucher & Dijkstra 2000; Pucher, Komanoff & Schimek 1999) There is no doubt that the urban sidepath is very dangerous, yet it is used in The Netherlands with a low crash rate. The answer is that the corrections for the dangerous design can be made to work, but only at the cost of greatly reducing average bicycle speed and correspondingly increasing trip time. This is acceptable in the Dutch environment of short trips and very inconvenient, slow motor travel. It is unacceptable in the U.S. where trips are longer and the competing motor travel is fast and convenient. (Forester 1994 pp105-6) The AASHTO Guide lists 9 problems with bicycle sidepaths, concluding with: "For the above reasons, other types of bikeways are likely to be better suited to accommodate bicycle traffic along highway corridors, depending upon traffic conditions." (AASHTO 1999 pp 33-35) Pucher ignores all these considerations, relying only on the correlation argument without any causal factors. There have been several European studies showing that installation of sidepaths has increased the car-bike collisions at intersections, which, of course, are the most common in any case.

2.4.3.4 Dutch bikeways are appropriate for American conditions

Pucher again presents the typical argument. (Pucher & Dijkstra 2000; Pucher, Komanoff & Schimek 1999) The argument ignores the effect of the physical, social, and demographic differences between the two nations. Sure, if we could make U.S. society and topography just like those of The Netherlands, we might have comparable results, but since we cannot, and the differences concerning bicycle transportation are very significant, the argument is absurd.

2.4.3.5 Americans don't want vehicular cycling

Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch write:

"For the past 15 to 20 years, many bicycle advocates have held the most effective way to accommodate bicycling is to ensure bicyclists can share the roadway with motor vehicles. They believe that promoting bicycling requires better education and training for the many individuals who occasionally ride bicycles, but who are uncomfortable with the idea of `operating in traffic.' This approach can be thought of as a `sales approach.' Bicycle advocates have a `product' (training to give casual bicyclists the skills they need to share most roadways with motor vehicles) and have been selling it to the public as something essential. However, apparently the public does not want to buy it. In a Harris poll survey of adult bicyclists (Bicycling! Magazine 1991), only 1.5 percent of cyclists identified training as a factor that would encourage them to ride more often." (Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994 p4)

"The Kaplan study is dated, based on a small number of accidents [on bike paths] reported by a narrow sample of bicyclists, and is, at best, inconclusive. It has never been replicated. [The recent Moritz study is a substantial replication that supports Kaplan's original data.] This report cannot be used as a sound basis on which to oppose the development of a whole genre of bicycle facilities which have proven to be enormously popular with the general bicycling public." (Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994 p62, quoted in Clarke & Tracy 1994)

These certainly are reports that the American public does not like the idea of vehicular cycling. Popularity is one thing, safety is another, and the safety meaning of these statements will be analyzed two sections below.

2.4.3.6 Vehicular cycling requires extremes of human capabilities

Pucher makes this argument in a flagrant manner, stating that bikeways are necessary for those:

"unable or unwilling to do battle with cars for space on streets. ... [Cyclist] training courses may help, but they do not eliminate the inherent danger of cycling on the same right of way with motor vehicles, particularly for those whose mental or physical conditions limit their capacity to safely negotiate heavy traffic. The slowed reflexes, frailty, and deteriorating hearing and eyesight of many elderly make them especially vulnerable, while limited experience, incomplete judgement, and unpredictable movements put children at special risk on streets. ... Bicycling should not be reserved for those who are trained, fit, and daring enough to navigate busy traffic on city streets." (Pucher, Komanoff & Schimek 1999)

Pucher himself goes on to argue, replying to a review of his and Dijkstra's Making Bicycling and Walking Safer:

"Forester won't directly admit it, but he advocates MAINTAINING cycling as an elitist activity for very well-trained vehicular cyclists who place the main emphasis on speed; he thus excludes the vast majority of the population from cycling: especially anyone who physically or mentally does not have the skill or even the capability or the desire to cycle in mixed traffic on roads; he wants to keep cycling a marginal mode in the USA to maintain the elitist status. ... I strongly oppose this ELITIST view of cycling, and think that many policies should be implemented to encourage bicycling by everyone, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, children and grandparents, students and businessmen, etc. Forester's policies would guarantee that cycling remains a marginal mode here in the US." (Pucher's posted comments in discussion of Pucher & Dijkstra 2000)

The fact that classes of unselected 8-year-olds (for 2-lane roads) and 10-year-olds (for multi-lane roads), and elderly ladies, and some persons who were not permitted to earn motoring licenses, can be taught in reasonable time (2 instructor hours per student) to pass driving tests in normal city traffic demonstrates the falsity of the above arguments. The fact that I developed the classes and did the teaching demonstrates the foolishness of Pucher's claims. (Forester 1993; Forester & Lewiston 1980; Forester 1981; Forester 1977; Watkins 1984)

2.4.3.7 Bikeway cycling is intended for the unskilled

"The Bicycle Federation of America estimates that less than 5% [of U.S. bicycle owners] would qualify as experienced or highly skilled bicyclists. ... One solution [is to] ... adopt the following classification system for bicycle users:

"Group A: Advanced Bicyclists (experienced)

"Group B: Basic Bicyclists (casual, novice, occasional)

"Group C: Children (pre-teen) ...

"Group B/C cyclists will be best served by identifying key travel corridors (typically served by arterial and collector streets) and providing designated facilities for these bicyclists on routes through these corridors." (Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994)

That says quite clearly that the bikeway system, in fact most of the roadway system, is supposed to be designed for cyclists who are "casual, novice, occasional, ... [or] pre-teen."

2.4.3.8 Bikeway cycling is safe for the unskilled

Pucher's arguments in the above section apply here also, because he is arguing that bikeway cycling is suitable for all those who are not among the elite.

Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch say this in more formal words:

"Bicycling is still an optional activity for most people and if participation is made too difficult, people simply won't bother with it. To serve the public, a `marketing approach' is called for. Under this approach, the needs of the intended users are determined and a product or service is offered that they will find attractive and use. ...

"Group B/C bicyclists will be best served by identifying key travel corridors (typically served by arterial and collector streets) and by providing designated bicycle facilities for these bicyclists on routes through these corridors. ...

"Providing accommodations to meet the needs of Group B/C bicyclists involves two steps: (1) a planning process to identify key travel corridors and/or routes along which access is important and (2) a design decision to identify the most appropriate facility treatment for a route or corridor." (Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994 p 4, 6)

2.5 Bikeway Advocates Argue for Popularity Instead of Safety for Cyclists

Wilkinson and Clarke, right at the top of the bike planning profession, and the latter the leader of this conference's Planning and Facilities group and the writer of its position paper, are openly committing bait and switch right under the readers' noses. They keep writing about safe bicycle facilities, although they know that the facilities that they recommend cannot reduce the cyclist crash rate. They keep talking about making facilities that meet the needs of the lesser and least skilled cyclists, although they have never been able to demonstrate that the facilities that they recommend eliminate the need for any particular item of skill, and the evidence is all against it. They denigrate as unpopular the best method of reducing the cyclist crash rate, while their fellow bikeway advocates falsely describe that method as both requiring the extremes in human capabilities and as driven by elitist prejudice.

And what do they substitute for safety whenever the subject comes up? Read Wilkinson and Clarke discussing accidents on bike paths:

"The Kaplan study is dated, based on a small number of accidents [on bike paths] reported by a narrow sample of bicyclists, and is, at best, inconclusive. ... This report cannot be used as a sound basis on which to oppose the development of a whole genre of bicycle facilities which have proven to be enormously popular with the general bicycling public." (Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994 p62, quoted in Clarke & Tracy 1994)

Their criticism of Kaplan's data is unwarranted, but that's not all. Notice how smoothly Wilkinson and Clarke transfer the subject from safety (accidents) to popularity. In their world, popularity rules over safety.

Here are Wilkinson and Clarke again:

"Bicycling is still an optional activity for most people and if participation is made too difficult, people simply won't bother with it. To serve the public, a `marketing approach' is called for. Under this approach, the needs of the intended users are determined and a product or service is offered that they will find attractive and use. ...

"Providing accommodations to meet the needs of Group B/C bicyclists involves two steps: (1) a planning process to identify key travel corridors and/or routes along which access is important and (2) a design decision to identify the most appropriate facility treatment for a route or corridor." (Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994 p 4, 6)

At one point they start out about the "needs of the intended users are determined." At the next the start out about "providing accommodations to meet the needs of Group B/C bicyclists." And what do they provide? They provide bikeways which they know cannot meet the safety needs of the intended users, Basic and Child cyclists. It is because they know that, that they make the switch from safety needs to popular desires.

2.6 Bikeway Advocates Serve Some Other Ideology Than Safety

It is patently obvious from the above discussion that Wilkinson and Clarke, as the professional leaders in bikeway advocacy, are serving some other purpose than the safety and convenience of cyclists. I offer three possible descriptions of the purposes which they may be serving, none of which excludes any of the others.

  1. 1: They have been cuddling up to the motoring establishment, most obviously in the person of the FHWA from where they derive their funding, to carry out the motorists' desire to clear bicycles from the roadways for the convenience of motorists, regardless of the welfare of cyclists.
  2. 2: They are anti-motorists whose goal is to substitute as much bicycle transportation for motor transportation as possible, playing on the public superstition that bikeways make cycling safe, without regard for the safety of the cyclists whom they ask to provide the bicycle transportation.
  3. 3: They simply know that their source of the funds that have provided their incomes for the past twenty years will cease providing those funds if they do anything but what they have been doing, and preservation of that funding and their professional prestige in having it is worth more than the safety of cyclists.

I specifically say that these purposes are not mutually exclusive. As I have argued all along, the bikeway portion of bicycle transportation has always, from the beginning, been motivated by all three of these motives. I see no reason why that has not continued to the present day, and increasing reason to believe that it has. The more that bikeway advocates write, the stronger they condemn themselves.

3 Organization of the NHTSA/NCDC Bicycle Safety Conference

The organizers chose to organize their Bicycle Safety Conference into five subject areas:

  1. 1: Cyclist Instruction
  2. 2: Motorist Instruction
  3. 3: Law Enforcement
  4. 4: Planning and Facilities
  5. 5: Helmet Wearing

This would not have been an unreasonable division if the attention were directed at the safety programs and their effects in each of the subject areas. However, this was not true of the panel on Planning and Facilities, whose discussions had no safety program or predicted safety effect whatsoever, and whose recommendations are in conflict with the programs recommended by the panels on Cyclist Instruction, Motorist Instruction, and Law Enforcement.

3.1 Cyclist Behavior

Certainly, the behavior of cyclists is a prime factor in their crash rate. It is known that few cyclists obey the traffic laws for drivers of vehicles, and it is equally known that the crash rates of the groups of cyclists who are most likely to obey those traffic laws are only 25% to 20% of those of the general cycling public. Improvement in the behavior of cyclists presents the greatest available probable reduction in crash rate. (Forester 1994, Chap 5 Accidents)

3.2 Motorist Behavior

The behavior of motorists is not so large a factor, but it certainly is significant. A considerable portion of several types of car-bike collision appear to be caused by misestimation by the motorist of the speed of the cyclist. Another portion appear to be caused, although indirectly, by the simple misinformation that bicyclists' right to use the roadways is much less than motorists' right. Changing these behaviors and beliefs would have a moderately significant effect on the car-bike collision rate.

3.3 Law Enforcement

The purpose of law enforcement is to persuade the public to obey the laws. If the traffic laws for drivers of vehicles are obeyed by those using the roadways (barring mechanical failure), there will be no collisions. When collisions are investigated, it turns out that at least one violation of traffic law is one of the causal factors. Traffic law has been worked out over the decades so that it is a very useful synthesis of the physical laws for the movement of vehicles, the mental and physical capabilities of the drivers of those vehicles, and the concepts of justice or fairness for all users. It provides reasonable safety with reasonable efficiency. One could reduce the casualty rate by reducing vehicle speeds to a much lower level, but that is unacceptable to the public. One could decrease the travel time required by allowing increased speeds, but that produces a higher collision rate than the public will accept. There have been suggestions to change some of the laws assigning right-of-way, but these have not proved to be beneficial. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to presume that a law enforcement program that is directed at persuading both motorists and cyclists to obey the traffic laws for drivers of vehicles would significantly reduce collisions.

3.4 Planning and Facilities

3.4.1 A Proper Highway-Design Program for Cyclist Safety

It is a truism that the design of a highway system significantly affects the crash rate of cyclists. However, truisms are inadequate guides to action. The proper course of action is to investigate what aspects or features of the American highway system produce crashes for cyclists, and seek designs or conditions that would alleviate those causes. I think it not unreasonable to assert that I am the world's foremost practitioner of this method of analysis and design. See my book Bicycle Transportation. (Forester 1994) which was first issued, under a slightly different title, in 1977. I conclude that if cyclists operate according to the rules for drivers of vehicles, very few design changes are desirable and the major costs, for widening some roadways, also benefit motorists. I also point out that there are proved methods of training cyclists to operate lawfully in accordance with the laws for drivers of vehicles.

3.4.2 The Governmental Bikeway Program

However, the vehicular-cycling program is neither the popular program nor the governmental program for accommodating bicycle traffic. These are combined into the governmental bikeway program that is based on two assumptions:

  1. 1: Because the highway designers did not specifically consider bicycles as design vehicles, the highways are dangerous for cyclists.
  2. 2: The typical bicycle rider is incapable of driving his bicycle according to the rules for drivers of vehicles.

These assumptions are both false, as can be demonstrated by childishly simple arguments.

The bicycle is smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable than other vehicles. That means that it can be accommodated on any roadway that has been built. However, it is susceptible to being upset by grooves in the roadway, such as are produced by diagonal railroad crossings and some drain grates, it is more likely to skid on slippery surfaces, it is more susceptible to damage and operator discomfort through uneven surfaces, and it requires a special design of traffic-signal detection loop. These are all fixable at reasonable cost.

The bicycle is also generally slower than motorized traffic. However, on all roadways but "freeways", slow traffic is permitted and must be expected. The advocates of the governmental program argue that because bicycles are slow, the predominant crash type for cyclists occurs when fast, straight-going motorists hit slow straight-going cyclists from behind. This type of collision constitutes, in urban areas in daylight, about 0.3% of crashes for cyclists, or 2% of car-bike collisions. (Rural areas are excluded from this analysis because urban areas are those in which bicycle programs build facilities. Nighttime is excluded because the problems of nighttime cyclist crashes have much more to do with defective bicycle lighting equipment, and with alcohol, than with roadway conditions.) (Forester 1994 Chap 5 Accidents) In short, whatever can be done to reduce this type of crash will have insignificant effect on the total crash frequency.

The assumption that typical people cannot learn to drive their bicycles in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles is equally false. Typical persons learn to ride bicycles in that manner either through untutored experience (In the USA, this requires perhaps ten years and 10,000 miles), or through cyclist training classes (15 class hours, 2 instructor-hours per student trained and tested). (Forester 1994 Chap 12 Cyclist Proficiency and Cyclist Training)

3.5 Helmet Wearing

Helmet wearing is an injury reduction measure that probably has little effect in changing crash rates. Since crash rates are the focus of this report, helmet wearing will not be further discussed.

3.6 Results of the Organizing Decision

3.6.1 Selection of Leaders

The organizers very early selected leaders for each of the subject areas. Presumably the organizers wished to employ persons who are well-informed in the field (and, perhaps, had to find people willing and financially able to spend time on the subject). It may be that one aim of the organizers was to become better informed on each of the subject areas. In this, the organizers failed. They selected persons most prominent in the fields as they saw them, who are not necessarily the best informed or the most reliable sources of information.

3.6.2 Composition and Circulation of Position Papers

The organizers required each subject leader to prepare a position paper for circulation among the participants. I do not know the requirements for these position papers, but the products were not well-balanced, informative surveys of the subject field. That for Helmet Wearing, the subject that blew up at the close of the meeting, while fairly complete on the medical and public health aspects, ignored all the cycling aspects of helmet wearing. That for Motorist Instruction was composed by a rabid anti-motorist and was full of misinformation and poorly conceived recommendations. That for Cyclist Instruction ignored the most important work and reasoning in the field and concentrated on the writer's barely started State of Texas project. That for Law Enforcement most nearly fit the presumed requirements, stating general principles and providing generally applicable examples. That for Planning and Facilities was written by the foremost advocate of the governmental program for bicycle transportation, who presented a totally biased and untruthful picture of the field.

3.6.3 Composition of Panels

As a result of the organizing decision, the members of the panels became segregated according to interest. As an example that became obvious, the helmet advocates joined the helmet panel and produced recommendations that were unacceptable to a significant and vocal portion of the rest of the participants.

The panel on Planning and Facilities was composed largely of advocates of the governmental bicycle program that is almost entirely bikeway promotion. I point out that such people were most unlikely to sign up for other panels. They oppose Cyclist Instruction (they are committed to the assumption that 95% of cyclists will always be unteachable, and they see successful instruction as their greatest enemy), they have only marginal interests in Motorist Instruction and Law Enforcement (because facility design will do most of what is required), and, if anything, their concern about helmet wearing is insignificant.

I chose the Planning and Facilities panel because I am the foremost critic of the governmental program; I know where the skeletons are hidden. In that respect, I was the only critic of that program who was on the Planning and Facilities panel. I oppose that program because it is dangerous for both the physical safety and the multifaceted status of cyclists in society.

3.6.4 Use of Leaders and Position Papers

In preparation for the conference, the participants were instructed to study the position papers produced by the panel leaders. I, for one, prepared a formal written response to the official position paper for the Planning and Facilities panel. However, once the conference started, the leaders had no official role and we were forbidden to discuss the position papers that they had written. In other words, the panel leaders were allowed to have the first, last, and only words about what would be discussed. The only variation could be in the list of concepts brought up, but not really discussed, during the panel's operation.

4 Operation of the Conference Panels

The tasks and methods of the panels were specified by the organizers. These were:

  1. 1: List trends in the field.
  2. 2: List objectives to be sought, 3 to 5.
  3. 3: List many actions (called strategies) by which those objectives could be approached. Each action to be on a separate piece of paper.
  4. 4: By a process of voting (each member had 3 adhesive labels [Red Dots] to affix to specific actions) and combination select the most popular actions and combine them into final recommended actions, preferably only 3.

I saw only the operation of the Planning and Facilities panel. I am not sure of the purpose served by listing trends. Nothing much seemed to come of that task.

The objectives produced by the P&F panel were:

  1. 1: Improve roadway design in a way that increases safe cycling.
  2. 2: Increase engineer's understanding of cyclists' rights, responsibilities, and safety.
  3. 3: Increase and improve safe bicycle facilities.

These could all be considered to be the possible contribution of the Planning and Facilities fields to the conference's objectives, to reduce the crash rate of cyclists. You improve the design techniques, you inform the applicable professions of these techniques (say by distributing engineering standards); you use these standards to produce more safe bicycling facilities.

The P&F panel produced 65 possible actions. These ranged from specific, such as "Implement 100,000 miles of bike lane in 5 years" to vague "Get adults [cyclists, obviously] off sidewalks." There was no discussion of the effectiveness of these actions toward achieving either the panel's specific objectives or the general conference objective of reducing the crash rate of cyclists. For example, the result of the action "Teach workshops to engineers" could be effective or ineffective in achieving the specified objectives, depending on the material taught. The panelists held the unwarranted assumption that the information would reduce the crash rate.

The possible actions were reduced by a voting and combining procedure. Each participant had three votes, which he or she could apply to any actions. This procedure produced three recommended actions, listed in order of popularity (as I remember it).

  1. 1: Build 100,000 miles of bike lanes in five years.
  2. 2: Distribute the new FHWA Manual.
  3. 3: Conduct a ten-year research program into the effect of bicycle facilities.

A few of the possible actions were directly aimed at the listed objectives. Many were only peripherally effective. The voting and combining process dumped most possible actions immediately as receiving no votes.

The action for 100,000 miles of bike lane received the most votes.

Three actions suggested by me survived because they each received one vote (no need to guess how). These were to find crash data, to use these data to develop roadway designs, and to incorporate these designs in engineering standards. I point out, now, that I knew that we could have done these actions 20 years ago, when we had the data, but we did not do so. We did not do so because we did not want to accommodate cyclists on the roadways, only on bikeways.

It was then noted that several other surviving possible actions made reference to research, to educating engineers, to developing standards. Combining these would produce an action with sufficient votes to be one of the top three. However, and here is the important point, all these other suggested actions concerned bikeways. I watched the suggested program of roadway design being transmogrified into two recommended actions: a proposal for ten years of research into the effect of future bikeways, and the immediate distribution of some new manual produced by FHWA that had never been seen by most (if any) of the panel members and was neither described nor discussed.

Therefore, the P&F panel produced three recommended actions:

  1. 1: Build 100,000 miles of bike lane in five years.
  2. 2: Distribute the new FHWA Manual.
  3. 3: Conduct a 10-year program of research into the effect of bikeways.

5 Relevance of the Actions Recommended by the Planning and Facilities Panel to the Objectives of the Conference and its Organizers

5.1 Deviation from Standard Safety Programs & Prohibition of Same

There is a standard format for safety programs, consisting of rather standard steps. This format should be familiar to the readers, but I describe it, both as a reminder and as evidence that I know the subject that I am discussing.

  1. 1: Identify the types of accident and their frequencies, and possibly their effects in terms of injury and cost.
  2. 2: Prioritize the types of accident according to both the magnitude of their effects and the probability of being able to ameliorate them.
  3. 3: Investigate the most important accident types to work out the mechanism by which they occur.
  4. 4: Devise strategies to ameliorate, avoid, prevent the causative conditions, etc. for these high-priority accident types.
  5. 5: Test these ameliorative measures for, first, practicality, and, second, effectiveness in reducing accidents or extent of injury.
  6. 6: Distribute these ameliorative measures to the accident locations or accident equipment or accident persons, as appropriate.

The recommendations of the panel on Planning and Facilities not only are not associated in any way with such a standard safety plan, but they are the recommendations of one of the two major bodies who have prevented the application of standard safety programs to the problem of cyclist safety. These bodies have prepared and promoted the bikeway program to further their own interests without caring whether or not their recommendations reduced or increased cyclist crashes. These bodies have, since 1972 to my intimate, personal knowledge, opposed the application of the standard form of safety program to the problem of cyclist safety because such a program would conflict with the desires of these two bodies regarding bicycle traffic. These two bodies are the motoring establishment, which designed bikeways and imposed them on cyclists to suit the desires of motorists, and the environmentalist establishment, which climbed on the bandwagon to use bikeways in its anti-motoring campaign. (This sounds contradictory, but it is the fact, and is easily explained.)

In 1972 we had sufficient evidence from the experience of experienced cyclists to specify the ameliorative measures that would be most likely to reduce cyclist crashes. By 1977 that experience was confirmed by the car-bike collision statistics determined by Kenneth Cross for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Cross 1976) I have tried for decades to get cyclist safety studied in the standard format for safety programs, and each time this effort was prohibited by the bikeway establishment. My analyses, tests, and recommendations, together with my historical account, are embodied in my Effective Cycling and my Bicycle Transportation.

5.2 No Predictable Safety Effect

The recommendations of the Planning and Facilities panel cannot serve the objectives of the conference and its organizers. That is, implementing the recommendations of that panel cannot be expected to reduce the crash rate for cyclists, any more than the same actions have in the past. This fact is well-known to the person who is leader of the panel and writer of its initial position paper. In fact, that fact is stated in that position paper. It is a fact that has been known for over twenty years, because the panel's recommendations are merely the repetition of those of the past twenty-eight years. This matter has been outlined in the discussion above.

5.3 Incompatibility with the Actions Recommended by the Other Panels

Both the Cyclist Instruction and the Law Enforcement panels recommend actions that are based on cyclists obeying the laws for drivers of vehicles. The Instruction panel recommends teaching cyclists the skill and desire to do this. The Enforcement panel recommends applying enforcement to both cyclists and motorists who disobey the laws for drivers of vehicles. The Motorist Instruction panel emphasizes the rights of cyclists to operate as drivers of vehicles and recommends strong enforcement against motorists who disobey the rules for drivers of vehicles. (While I regard the analysis as flawed and the recommendation as one-sided, I point out that they are based on cyclists operating as drivers of vehicles.) The Helmet panel, of course, is considering other aspects altogether and makes no recommendation in this regard.

In short, all the panels that explicitly considered the operating method for cyclists advocated that cyclists operate in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. This is the most valid safety recommendation that exists, as those populations of cyclists who are most likely to operate as drivers of vehicles have crash rates only 20% to 25% of those for the general adult cycling public. (Forester 1994, Chapter 5 Accidents)

On the contrary, the Planning and Facilities panel recommended highway designs that contradict the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles and standard highway designs based on that operation. This also required that they reject standard traffic engineering knowledge; the standard human factors knowledge that is, with the laws of physics for moving vehicles, the basis for traffic engineering; and the ability to ride a bicycle according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. To do otherwise would contradict their own program. Therefore, there is a consistent steak of anti-scientific and anti-empirical knowledge in bikeway advocacy.

Those who advocate bikeways for motoring reasons rarely have to state their case. When they do, they talk about cyclists swerving in front of motorists and the fear of motorists that this might happen, and, always, about saving our children, thus using the false claim that bikeways make cycling safe. They never mention the fear that cyclists might delay motorists, because such a claim would give the game away.

Those who advocate bikeways for anti-motoring reasons always claim that bikeways make cycling much safer, particularly for those who cannot obey the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. They also bring in numerous scientific arguments with reams of data about petroleum consumption, air pollution, automotive dependency, the health benefits of regular exercise, the amount of cycling in bikeway communities, and the like. That is, every argument except the relevant one of comparing the crash rates of bikeway cycling with those for cycling in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.

6 A Reasonable Cyclist Safety Program

6.1 Adopt the Correct Policy

It should be obvious from the above that we cannot have a serious cyclist safety program unless it is directed at persuading cyclists to operate competently as drivers of vehicles. The Dutch bikeway system allows incompetent operation but it cannot work in the U.S. The American bikeway system, the governmental program of bicycle safety for the past 30 years, now promoted by Wilkinson and Clarke, does not reduce cyclist casualties, and no conceivable modification of it can do so.

Furthermore, the governmental bikeway program prevents the operation of any serious cyclist safety program, because it is based on a policy of keeping cyclists incompetent, for whatever reason might be adduced. The governmental bikeway program has always been promoted by the false propaganda that it makes cycling safe for unskilled cyclists. (Does not the above analysis of the governmental policy written by Wilkinson and Clarke make this clear?) That makes the public believe the superstition that traffic-cycling competence is not required to be safe. ("In a Harris poll survey of adult bicyclists (Bicycling! Magazine 1991), only 1.5 percent of cyclists identified training as a factor that would encourage them to ride more often." [Wilkinson, Clarke, Epperson & Knoblauch 1994 p 4]) As long as the government continues to promote bikeways, it will be impossible to have a cyclist safety program that reaches the general public.

Instead, the government must adopt the policy that cyclists must, for their own safety, operate according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. Only with such a policy will it be possible to have a cyclist safety program that reaches the general public.

Consider the recommendations of the Cyclist Instruction and Law Enforcement panels of this conference. Their recommendations, which are based on lawful, competent bicycle operation, come to nothing because they cannot overcome the governmental policy that opposes their recommendations, the policy that insists that cyclists be kept ignorant in order to allow bikeway promotion to succeed, bikeways that persuade cyclists that safety lies in painted lines instead of in safe behavior. I repeat. Only when the government adopts the policy that cyclists must, for their own safety, operate according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, will it be possible to have a cyclist safety program that reaches the general public.

Of course, a policy that cyclists must, for their own safety, operate according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, must be properly implemented. The government cannot just say this and expect that its command will either be obeyed or will work. The policy must be implemented so that government and society treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles. Such a policy is what I have always called the vehicular-cycling policy:

6.1.1 The Vehicular-Cycling Policy

Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

The policy has two sides. The first is safe cyclist behavior. The second is the governmental and social policy that accommodates and encourages such behavior. You cannot get the first without the social support provided by the second.

The social support has several aspects.

6.2 Cyclist Behavior

Teaching people how to obey the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles while riding a bicycle presents no problem. It is straightforward instruction rather like teaching skiing or swimming or sailing. It is relatively cheap, 2 instructor hours per student. In fact, it may well save money because it is teaching the driving of a vehicle at a lower cost than if that vehicle were a motor vehicle (more students per instructor), thus saving significant time and money when the driver progresses to driving a motor vehicle. Because bicycles present a very small public danger, we allow even children to operate them, and they have proved that they can do so lawfully and competently.

The problem is persuading the public that such training is both necessary and effective for their safety. After many decades of contrary governmental and motoring propaganda to the contrary, the public naturally believes otherwise. The public today believes that safe cycling is actually dangerous risktaking suitable only for supermen. Changing that attitude requires a whole-hearted governmental policy that is supported by the appropriate programs. Such a change cannot be produced by a governmental program that by its right hand promotes bikeways as the appropriate bicycle safety measures while giving left-handed acquiescence to the concept that cyclist safety requires lawful, competent cycling.

Those organizations whose responsibility it is to evaluate, create, and direct programs for the safety of the public must take the lead in calling for this wholesale reversal of present government policy regarding bicycle transportation.

6.3 Highway Design

Highway design to accommodate vehicular-style cycling is very little different from conventional design. Certain features of the bicycle require greater care in surface construction and maintenance and more effective bicycle detection by traffic-signal controllers. The fact that bicycle traffic is often slower and with less acceleration than motor traffic requires that traffic-signal phasing provide increased clearance time for crossing wide streets. The fact that bicycle traffic is often slower than motor traffic does not change the principle that highway designers try to provide sufficient width for all the traffic. If society will not, or cannot, provide sufficient width, then society has to accept the resulting congestion and delays. If society can provide sufficient width, whether that width is provided by an additional standard lane or by a wide outside lane depends on the traffic circumstances and the judgement of the designer.

However, whatever highway design is provided, the principle must be that bicycle traffic (except on freeway-type highways where non-motorized traffic is prohibited) is just as acceptable, socially and lawfully, as any other kind of lawful traffic. Traffic operation must be controlled so that it is safe for the highway design and the volume of traffic, whatever that may happen to be.

6.4 Other Social Support

Non-cycling motorists must be persuaded that cyclists have as much right to use the roadways lawfully as motorists do. Police officers must be persuaded to support cyclists who are operating according to the laws for drivers of vehicles, and to enforce against both cyclists and motorists who fail to so operate. The few laws that discriminate against cyclists operating as drivers of vehicles (the worst is the mandatory-bike-path law that still exists in a few places) must be repealed. Schools must be persuaded that students who arrive by bicycle deserve as good treatment as those who arrive by car or bus. Businesses must be persuaded that customers and employees who arrive by bicycle deserve as good treatment as those who arrive by car. The public in general must be persuaded that persons riding bicycles are just as competent, useful, and socially acceptable as people who drive cars. Given this kind of social acceptance, the rest of what is needed for cyclists will just simply occur.

In order to speed up such social acceptance, some matters, such as adequate bicycle parking, may have to be required, but these are matters that are not really controversial.

6.5 Conclusion Concerning the Recommended Bicycle Transportation Program

Adopting and implementing the policy that cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles present no real difficulties and can be done with little change to the present physical and budgetary conditions. Such a policy will both greatly reduce the cyclist accident rate and will make bicycle transportation easier and more efficient. The real difficulty is that this is contrary to the current, long-standing public superstition concerning bicycling. This is the superstition that responsible public officers must first stop and then overturn.

7 Annotated Bibliography

7.1 Bicycle Transportation Engineering

Forester, John; Bicycle Transportation; Cambridge, Mass; The MIT Press, 1983, 2nd ed. 1994. First issued as Cycling Transportation Engineering Handbook, 1977. This is the standard description of the discipline of bicycle transportation engineering. It is a handbook for government personnel with cycling responsibilities and those who wish to influence such persons. It contains such items as studies of accidents, cyclist skill, highway and bikeway design, government bicycle programs, history of bikeway standards, etc.

Forester, John; Effective Cycling; Cambridge Mass; The MIT Press, 5th ed 1993, 1st ed 1976. This is a handbook for cyclists. In addition to many other cycling subjects, it describes and teaches the skill of cycling in traffic in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.

7.2 Bikeway Standards

California, State of: Bikeway Planning Criteria and Guidelines; April 1972. This is the first bikeway standard in the USA. It largely copied Dutch practice, and, while printed, was never issued because its designs were shown to be far too dangerous for cyclists.

California, State of: Planning and Design Criteria for Bikeways in California; 1976 to present. This is the present bikeway standard, initially produced by taking into account the safety objections of cyclists to bikeway discrimination, and the probable litigational consequences thereof. While never designed to reduce accidents to cyclists, it was produced by removing the most obviously dangerous designs that would have made liability probable. It served as the model for the first AASHTO Guide.

Federal Highway Administration; Safety and Locational Criteria for Bicycle Facilities; 3 vols. FHWA-RD-75-112 is the research report. Washington; Dated 1975, not issued until 1976. This was intended to be the federal bikeway standard. While printed, it was never issued because the research upon which it was based was demonstrated to be faulty. The Federal DOT then adopted the AASHTO Guide instead.

Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials; Guide for the Development of New Bicycle Facilities; Washington 1981 to present. After the failure of the first California bikeway standard and the first Federal bikeway standard because of the dangers of successful personal injury lawsuits that they presented, AASHTO decided to adopt the second California bikeway standard because it seemed to have removed the obvious liability problems. This was later adopted by FHWA.

Wilkinson, W. C., A. Clarke, B. Epperson, R. Knoblauch; The Effects of Bicycle Accommodations on Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Safety and Traffic Operations; Bicycle Federation of America for the FHWA; 1994. This document is the research justification for the next one in the list. This document argues that 95% of cyclists are incapable of obeying the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, and therefore we need bike lanes on all major roads, while minor roads may be neglected. The known scientific evidence contradicts both the assumptions and the conclusions. The main argument is that uninformed persons want this conclusion.

Forester has a review of this document.

Wilkinson & Clarke; Federal Highway Administration: Selecting Roadway Design Treatments to Accommodate Bicycles; FHWA Manual; 1992. This is the manual that carries out the recommendations of the previous one.

7.3 Accident Studies

Cross, Kenneth D & Gary Fisher; A Study of Bicycle/Motor-Vehicle Accidents: Identification of Problem Types and Countermeasure Approaches; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Washington; 1976. The first such study in the world (after Cross's initial study in Santa Barbara County). Statistically robust in most respects, careful investigation of accidents. Fails to consider some details that only later were understood to be important.

Wachtel, Alan, Diana Lewiston & Gayle Likens; Risk Factors for Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections; ITE Journal, Sept 1994. This demonstrates that even with the slow speed of cycling on sidewalks, the urban bicycle sidepath produces a very high car-bike collision rate.

Clarke, Andy & Linda Tracy; Bicycle-Safety-Related Research Synthesis: FHWA-RD-94-062; FHWA 1994. This is an attempt to provide a scientific justification for the government's bikeway program. It appears to do so only by ignoring half or more of what was done and by misquoting and maligning much of the rest, and by ignoring the most important aspects of traffic operations.

Forester has a review of this document

7.4 Cyclist Behavior and Experience

Forester, John; The Effect of Bikeway System Design Upon Cyclists' Traffic Errors; 1978, 1982. Now available at www.johnforester.com. Observations of how the bikeway system design influences the dangerous traffic errors that cyclists make, within 95% and 99% confidence intervals.

Kaplan, Jerrold A.; Characteristics of the Regular Adult Bicycle User; MS thesis, U of Maryland; FHWA; 1976; National Technical Information Service, Springfield VA. Account of the cycling experience, including type of cycling, mileage, accidents, of two groups of regular cyclists: LAW members, Washington Area Bicycle Commuters. Produces accident rates per mile traveled for various conditions. Showed the importance of skill in preventing accidents, and the high accident rate on bike paths.

Moritz, William E. Adult Bicyclists in the United States: Characteristics and Riding Experience in 1996; Bicycling Committee, Transportation Research Board; Washington; 1998. A shorter survey of the Kaplan type, with much the same results.

Schupack, S. A. & G. J. Driessen; Bicycle Accidents and Usage Among Young Adults: Preliminary Study; Chicago; National Safety Council; 1976. Study of cycling and accident experience of college-associated adults (students, staff, faculty). Produces accident rate per mile traveled.

Watkins, S. M.; Cycling Accidents; Cyclists' Touring Club; Godalming UK; 1984. Study of cycling and accident experience of CTC members. Demonstrates the importance of experience in preventing accidents.

In these studies, comparisons of Kaplan's, Watkins's, and Schupack's data show the importance of experience, a substitute for skill, in reducing the accident rate for experienced cyclists to about 20% to 25% of that of the general bicycle-riding public. See Forester: Bicycle Transportation.

Rodale Press (Bicycling! Magazine); The Bicycling Consumer of the 1990s; 1991. Survey of persons interested in buying bicycles.

7.5 Training of Cyclists

Forester, John & Diana Lewiston; Intermediate-Level Cyclist Training Program: Objectives, Techniques, and Results. Bicycling Committee, Transportation Research Board; Washington; 1981. Now available at www.johnforester.com

Forester, John: Elementary-Level Cyclist Training Program: Objectives, Techniques and Results; 1981. Now available at www.johnforester.com. This and the preceding study tell how the instruction was performed and demonstrated that the students performed on the bicycle driving test with class average scores of about 95%, when the population average scores of the surrounding adult cycling population was only flunking scores about 55%.

Forester, John; Effective Cycling Instructor's Manual; Palo Alto; Custom Cycle Fitments; 1977, 1980. This is a comprehensive book on how to teach cycling, including in the vehicular manner as well as for sport and matters of mechanical maintainance.

7.6 Accounts of Bikeway Systems

Pucher, John & Lewis Dijkstra; Making Walking and Cycling Safer: Lessons from Europe; Transportation Quarterly, Vol 54, No. 3, Summer 2000

Forester has a review of this document

Pucher, John, Charles Komanoff & Paul Schimek; Bicycle Renaissance in North America? Recent Trends and Alternative Policies to Promote Bicycling; Transportation Research Part A, Vol 33, Nos 7/8, 1999, pp 625-654. This and the preceding document are praises of the Dutch sidepath system without any understanding of the dangers that this creates and how badly the Dutch have had to compromise bicycle transportation because of the dangers that their system creates for cyclists.

Forester has a review of this document.

7.7 Emotions of Cyclists

Antonakos, Cathy L.; Environmental and Travel Preferences of Cyclists; TRB Transportation Research Record 1438; 1995. Study of touring cyclists. Liked bike lanes most of all. However, with increasing age and experience, these cyclists tended to give greater importance to directness of route and road surface quality, and to give less importance to safety, traffic volume and traffic speed. With increasing age and experience, these cyclists give increased importance to all three educational programs.

Sorton, Alex & Thomas Walsh; Bicycle Stress Level as a Tool to Evaluate Urban and Suburban Bicycle Compatibility; TRB Transportation Research Record 1438; 1995. Records the self-reports of cyclists of their emotions regarding overtaking motor traffic, and therefore shows the emotional results of the cyclists' superstition that same-direction motor traffic is the prime source of danger.

Sorton, Alex; Measuring the Bicyclist Stress Level of Streets; ASCE HPT Committee, November 1995. Follow-on study to that above.

Davis, W. Jeffrey; Bicycle Test Route Evaluation for Urban Road Conditions; ASCE HPT Committee, November 1995. Shows that cyclists pay great attention to the volume and speed of same-direction motor traffic, little to anything else.

Epperson, Bruce; Evaluating Suitability of Roadways for Bicycle Use: Toward a Cycling Level-of-Service Standard; TRB Transportation Research Record 1438; 1995. An explanation for the reasons why, and the route by which, bike planners have retreated from an analysis of the actual safety of different types of routes to a political stance that is based on the fear of same-direction motor traffic.

Landis, Bruce; Bicycle Interaction Hazard Score: A Theoretical Model; TRB Transportation Research Record 1438; 1995. For all that Landis calls this a bicycle interaction hazard score, this is nothing of the kind. It is purely an opinion survey of the general public that is based on particular factors that are easy for planners to collect and are felt to be important by the general public.

Return to: John Forester's Home Page                         Up: Social