Andy Clarke: Most Prominent Opponent of Vehicular Cycling

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Clarke Has Consistently Written Government Documents Opposing Vehicular Cycling

Andy Clarke is the co-author of three of the most influential federal government documents that oppose vehicular cycling and vehicular-cycling training.

Clarke has opposed lawful, competent cycling throughout his career as the nation's most prominent bikeway promoter. Although the public thought, and still thinks, that bikeways make cycling safe for those without traffic-cycling skills, it was known from the beginning of the bikeway movement that bikeways could not deliver on either of these claims: reducing accidents or eliminating the need for skill. Subsequent studies confirmed these initial analyses. Therefore, bikeway promoters had to commit two ethical lapses in order to promote bikeways. The first was to avoid any consideration of safety, because they could not produce any good evidence that bikeways made cycling safer.  The second was to avoid any consideration of cycling skill, because they could not identify any item of cycling skill that bikeways eliminated. Clarke was the most prominent author of the government's documents justifying, more accurately excusing,  the nation's program regarding bicycle transportation, which consists almost entirely of bikeways. Clarke's aim was to reduce motoring by taking advantage of the public belief that bikeways make cycling safe for those without traffic-cycling skills. Clarke achieved a double object by persuading his contracting officer to substitute encouragement for safety as criteria in the first document. Clarke then established a system which largely ignored cyclists with traffic-cycling skills (Advanced Bicyclists) while establishing a ubiquitous bikeway plan for those without traffic-cycling skills, who needed to be encouraged (Basic Bicyclists and Child Bicyclists). The encouragement worked because people thought, particularly when encouraged by Clarke's propaganda, that bikeways made cycling safe for beginners and children.  That meant an even stronger incentive to eliminate consideration of vehicular-cycling skills, when Clarke had to explain, or more accurately excuse, the scientific basis for the program, in the third document. He had to eliminate consideration of vehicular-cycling skills because, if the public had to accept that even these beginners and children had to learn vehicular cycling skills to use the B/C bikeway system, the whole thing would go down the drain. This explains the skillful mendacity with which Clarke finesses these two issues, but which can be disclosed by a close reading of his official writings that implement national policy as set by Congress.

Clarke has opposed lawful, competent cycling throughout his career. He argues that bikeways eliminate the need to learn vehicular cycling skills. He evaded the issue of safety by causing the federal government to change its policy criterion from safety to increasing the numbers of cyclists. Because he knew that bikeways were not safer than roadways, he finessed his way around that issue by misstating and denigrating the work in bicycle transportation engineering that demonstrated the safety and value of vehicular cycling. This is the man whom the League has hired, and then promoted, as its Executive Director, a mendacious person who is utterly opposed to the original purpose of the League, which is to improve cycling for lawful, competent members. A League management who has done this must be utterly opposed to that original purpose, and ought to be dismissed by the membership.

The Three Government Documents

The three government documents are:

The Effects of Bicycle Accommodations on Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Safety and Traffic Operations; U.S. Dept of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-RD-92-069, July 1994, Contract DTFH61-89-C-00088

Manual: Selecting Roadway Design Treatments to Accommodate Bicycles; FHWA, January 1994, Contract DTFH61-89-C-00088

Bicycle Safety-Related Research Synthesis; FHWA-RD-94-062, April 1995, Contract DTFH61-92-C-00138

There are other authors listed beside Clarke. However, I consider Clarke to be the lead author because, soon after writing these papers, he became the professional and technical leader of the bicycle planning profession in the USA, far outstripping the others. The Manual is the Field Manual that summarizes the knowledge developed in the Effects document. The fact that the summary was published before the document on which it supposedly was based shows the extent to which the "research" was based on the predetermined conclusions. The three documents show a developing boldness in presenting the argument against vehicular cycling.

Effects of Bicycle Accommodations on Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Safety and Traffic Operations

Like practically all federal documents regarding bicycle transportation (after the Cross study of car-bike collisions), this is another attempt to justify the government's program of incompetent cycling on bikeways. While the word "safety" is in its title, Clarke managed to change the contract to ignore safety. The original contract required emphasis on safety, but since there was no scientific knowledge demonstrating that the program made cycling safer, Clarke managed to get the emphasis changed to increasing bicycle use while ignoring safety.

More Cyclists rather than Safer Cyclists

Clarke states that older cyclist advocates "believe bicyclists should have knowledge and skills needed to operate a bicycle in the traffic conditions" of normal streets: Advanced Cyclists. However, writes Clarke, "increasing bicycle use means attracting new users and those new users will often not be willing to share roadway lanes with motor vehicles": Basic Cyclists and Child Cyclists. Clarke quotes various policy documents supporting a national policy of increasing bicycle use, and most of the document uses this as the criterion. Those bicycle owners who can operate in traffic, Advanced Cyclists, don't need encouragement, but they are only 5%. The 95% of Basic Cyclists and Child Cyclists need encouragement. "Given that the stated policy goal is to increase bicycle use, a supply-driven (as opposed to a demand driven) approach of providing special bicycle facilities to increase bicycle use (i. e., 'if you build them they will come') is warranted." This means that every street with more than minor traffic that serves any place that an average person might want to reach should include a bikeway.

There follows a fairly comprehensive description, without any real discussion, of the major types of bikeways and bikeway systems. That's all there is, nothing whatever about accident rates or operating methods, except a bit about motorists overtaking bicyclists, and a bit about the complications produced by urban sidepaths, taken from the AASHTO Guide. The document closes with a set of tables listing desired bikeway type (except paths) for roads with different traffic volumes and speeds, and used by Advanced Cyclists, or by Basic and Child Cyclists. This constitutes the implementation of the bikeway principle that every street with more than minor traffic that serves any place that an average person might want to reach should include a bikeway.

The Danger of Ignoring Safety

Clarke managed to get cyclist safety removed from the study requirements, because he knew that he could not demonstrate that bikeways made cycling safer. He carefully stayed away from all the discussions about bikeway operation and bikeway safety, and also about the development of bicycle transportation engineering, that had gone on from the beginning of the bikeway program. However, by avoiding all such discussion, Clarke was able to knowingly trade on the safety concept. That is, he knew that bikeways attracted unskilled cyclists because these cyclists thought that bikeways made cycling safe for them. Naturally, Clarke was not about to upset that attraction, either among the public or among politicians. Failing to tell the truth that it is your duty to tell is equivalent to lying. Clarke therefore is a liar, and the government's whole program for bicycle transportation is based on lies.

This national policy of enticing beginning and child cyclists onto the roads without the skill to operate safely is dangerous in several ways. It is dangerous for the unskilled persons enticed onto the roads. It jeopardizes those who know how to operate safely because it tells the public that they are operating dangerously, that they should not be using normal roads. Furthermore, this policy is a public danger because it tells the public that there is no need to learn to operate safely, and thereby encourages the continuation of dangerous cycling behavior.

We, the lawful and competent cyclist members of the League, know that safe operation requires traffic-safe cycling skills and that these skills are easily learned by most people. Furthermore, possession of such skills negates the need for bikeways (but not for good roads; that is a different issue). We know that the best way to encourage safe bicycle transportation, and safe recreation also, is to train cyclists in the appropriate cycling skills, including traffic-safe cycling. The League should never align itself with a policy whose basis is encouraging cycling by people who do not have the skill to do it safely, nor with any person associated with that policy.

A more detailed review of Effects and of the AASHTO  Guide is at:

Manual: Selecting Roadway Design Treatments to Accommodate Bicycles

Implementing Effects

The Manual is the field manual for implementing the recommendations of Effects wherever bicycle planning gets done. It contains a summary of the same arguments and the same set of tables relating bikeway type to roadway class. This summary was published six months before the study which it is supposed to summarize; that demonstrates the difficulty of reconciling the desired conclusions with the contracted intent of the whole study. Because the Manual is merely a summary of Effects, the League should have rejected and opposed this document as strongly as it should have, but did not, Effects.

A more detailed review of the Manual is at:

Bicycle Safety-Related Research Synthesis:
Clarke's Argument Against Vehicular Cycling

Clarke's Need and Strategy

By this time, Clarke had now managed to get national adoption of the anti-motoring policy of building bikeways to entice unskilled new cyclists onto the roads. By finessing a change in official policy from safety to encouragement he was enabled to ignore safety and thereby pretend that no engineering or scientific opposition existed to his plan. This national policy pleased almost all groups:

  1. Bicycle sellers, who believe that bikeways sell bicycles
  2. Bicycle planners, who know that bikeway building employs bicycle planners
  3. Motorists, who recognize the convenience of getting bicycles off the roads
  4. Anti-motorists, who believe that bikeways reduce motoring
  5. The general public, who believe that bikeways make bicycling safe and reduce motoring

The only engineering and scientific opposition came from the few well-informed cyclists and the developing discipline of bicycle transportation engineering. So far, Clarke had managed to pretend that this opposition did not exist, but that pretense could not last for ever. Sooner or later, some influential person would question the bikeways policy and program on the basis of its engineering and scientific errors. Clarke had to destroy the credibility of this opposition to prevent such an event. He chose a strategy of two parts:

  1. Clarke declared that bikeways eliminate the need for vehicular cycling skills.
  2. Clarke misstated and maligned the reasoning that vehicular cycling skills are vital for safe cycling, and the proponents of this view.

 

Clarke: Vehicular Cycling Skills Are No Longer Necessary

Clarke casts his key argument as between "Elite Cyclists", meaning those who operate lawfully and competently as drivers of vehicles, and bikeway advocates who believe that "Bicycling is Dangerous". Clarke argues that the ABC classification of cyclists in his Selecting Roadway Design Treatments paper "diminishes the purpose and value of the age-old debate about the merits of separating bicyclists from motor vehicles vs. integrating them into the traffic flow and training them to ride in a vehicular style." By making the obvious point that cyclists who ride in the traffic flow need to have vehicular-cycling skills, Clarke persuades people that bikeways eliminate the need for those skills. This is a typical lawyer's trick; his true statement encourages you to reach a false conclusion, in this case that bikeways eliminate the need for vehicular-cycling skills. Note that carefully: Clarke claims that bikeways eliminate the need for vehicular cycling skills.

The claim that bikeways eliminate the need for vehicular-cycling skills is very clearly at the heart of bikeway advocacy. But neither Clarke nor any one else has ever offered any evidence for this claim. Clarke knows that he cannot provide such evidence, because the evidence shows both the value of vehicular-cycling skills and the need for them even in bikeways systems. Clarke therefore attempts to persuade the reader that vehicular-cycling skills have no scientific basis but are just examples of elite snobbery.

Clarke Escapes Consideration of Cyclist Safety and Cycling Skills by Maligning Forester

The two key books regarding bicycle transportation engineering are my Effective Cycling and my Bicycle Transportation. After years of private printings, both had been available from The MIT Press since 1984, eleven years before Clarke's work. Effective Cycling is a handbook for cyclists and Bicycle Transportation is a handbook for government personnel with cycling responsibilities, and those who wish to influence such persons. Clearly, Bicycle Transportation would be the most relevant to the subject of Clarke's discussion, were he inclined to discuss it. Instead, Clarke pretends that Bicycle Transportation does  not exist while focusing on Effective Cycling.

Having thus sidelined engineering discussion, Clarke then derides vehicular-cycling skills as the "Elite Cyclist Syndrome" implemented "through a rigorous training and education program" that teaches cyclists to "behave as motor vehicles". Each of Clarke's claims is mendaciously false with intention to deceive:

  1. Vehicular driving skills are not elite; our society expects most people to possess them
  2. Learning vehicular driving skills while riding a bicycle is no more difficult than doing so while driving a car; even children learn easily
  3. Vehicular driving skills are possessed by drivers, not by vehicles.

Clarke then claims that the only basis valuing vehicular-cycling skills is that implied by Kaplan's Characteristics of the Regular Adult Bicycle User of 1974. Clarke writes: "Forester uses the Kaplan study to argue that separate paths are more dangerous for experienced bicyclists ... 2.6 times more dangerous per million bicycle miles than major or minor highways ... based on this single source, Forester articulated the theory that separate bicycle facilities are less safe than vehicular-style riding on the roadway. ... This report cannot be used as a sound basis on which to oppose the development of a whole genre of bicycle facilities [after Clarke explicitly included bicycle lanes] which have proven to be enormously popular with the general bicycling public."

This is the same old lawyer's trick as Clarke used before. Make a true statement, in this case it is incorrect to attribute to bicycle lanes the same high accident rate as on bicycle paths, in order to mislead the reader into believing that this is Forester's whole argument and all the facts that Forester has. Clarke then goes on with more mendacious statements about Kaplan's study, statements that have been made before and have been long refuted. And, of course, Clarke has just, again, made the bait and switch from safety to "enormously popular".

Clarke uses lawyers' mendacious trickery to persuade the reader that vehicular-cycling skills have neither value nor scientific basis. His arguments would never be allowed in scientific discussions. Yet League management enthusiastically supports and employs this man whose lawyers' trickery has been employed to prevent cyclists from learning to operate safely.

 

Career with the League

Andy Clarke is now the Executive Director of the League. Before that, he was the League's Director of State and Local Advocacy. Quite clearly, when League management promoted Clarke, they knew his work and was entirely satisfied with it. There is no possibility that they hired someone who has turned out differently than they expected. The full responsibility for hiring Clarke is the responsibility of League management; they cannot escape that judgment.

University Training

Clarke took an undergraduate degree in Law at the University of Birmingham. I presume that this is rather akin to the pre-law curriculum at an American university, or maybe a bit more. He apparently never practiced as an attorney. As a forensic consultant in technological matters, and as a participant in conferences attended by both such consultants and attorneys, I recognize the common knowledge that legal training not only fails to qualify one to consider technological questions, but rather promotes methods of thought that encumber technological understanding. The training promotes argumentation over words rather than understanding of complicated technological facts. The documents that Clarke has produced show the typical characteristics of such training.

Career before the League

Friends of the Earth

Whatever else it might be, Friends of the Earth is, in the context of this discussion, militantly anti-motorist. If Clarke's employment there had anything to do with transportation, it concerned anti-motoring. Even if his work there had nothing to do with transportation, he surely acquired some of the anti-motoring air of that organization.

European Cyclists' Federation

Clarke served for three years as the Secretary General (Executive Director in American parlance) for the European Cyclists' Federation. I have seen a fair number of documents from that organization, and I categorize all of them as bikeway promoting and at least moderately anti-motoring.

Bicycle Federation of America

Clarke came to the USA, and became employed by the Bicycle Federation of America, under Bill Wilkinson, for the years 1990-96). The BFA was never a federation; it is a business operation now under the name of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking, whose principal operation is getting government contracts for pedestrian and bicycle planning projects and programs.  While employed by the BFA, Clarke co-authored two infamous documents: Selecting Roadway Design Treatments to Accommodate Bicycles, and  Bicycle Safety-Related Research Synthesis, for which see my reviews of them. Note that this employer commits the three cardinal sins in bicycle transportation engineering: promoting bikeways, commingling cyclists with pedestrians, and deriding vehicular cyclists. Clarke also assisted in creating the Bikes Belong coalition of bicycle trade companies and the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals

Having created the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, Clarke became its Executive Director, 1996-2000. In that position, he was the foremost advocate for those who designed facilities for pedestrians and for those whom they considered to be rolling pedestrians, and, of course, were opposed to vehicular cycling and those who do it.

LAB's Director of State and Local Advocacy

Clarke was the League's Director of State and Local Advocacy (2000-04), in which post he ran the infamous Bicycle Friendly Cities program for rewarding cities for building bikeways, even if they also did other harm to lawful, competent cyclists.

LAB's Executive Director

In 2004, Clarke was promoted to the League's Executive Director. In that post, he is responsible for all the output produced by the League's staff and, undoubtedly, for, at least, many details of the material nominally produced by the League officers. He is also responsible for transmitting to the officers information that does not come to them directly; in a way he can screen the officers from information that he does not like, unless that information finds its way around his screen.

Conclusions from Clarke's Career

Clarke was trained as a lawyer, one who learns to argue words rather than to consider facts, as do engineers or scientists. His career started as an anti-motoring advocate, who then specialized in the consideration of cycling as an anti-motoring measure. When he came to the United States he joined the Bicycle Federation, whose function is to seek contracts to write documents for the government's bikeway program. Clarke's Bicycle Safety-Related Research Synthesis shows his intellect in greatest detail. Rather than considering the facts, such as the bicycle accident facts or the facts about traffic-cycling skill, and reaching conclusions from them, Clarke ignores many facts and distorts other facts, combining them with mendacious reasoning, to present incorrect conclusions about the success and justification of the government's bikeway program. In short, nothing more than a lawyer's hatchet job for his client. After creating this justification of the bikeway program, Clarke then moved to direct the association of bikeway planners so benefited by his work. He then moved to the bikeway promoting activities of the League of American Bicyclists, and was then promoted to executive director.

Clarke's career demonstrates several dangers to lawful, competent cyclists and, indeed, to society. One danger is trying to use cycling to reduce motoring instead of working for the good of cyclists; the anti-motoring objective produces results that are harmful to lawful, competent cyclists. Another danger is the employment of lawyers where engineering skills are required, which error enables the anti-motoring objective, with its political arguments, to overpower the engineering facts and standard engineering principles. Clarke's employment by the League illustrates the danger to lawful, competent cyclists when the League has been captured by non-cycling interests aimed at promoting government's bikeway program for their own financial ends.

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