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VTBIKEPEDPOLICY-L  February 2007

VTBIKEPEDPOLICY-L February 2007

Subject:

John Allen's Comments on Rick Hubbard's

From:

"David W. Jacobowitz" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

David W. Jacobowitz

Date:

Mon, 5 Feb 2007 14:40:17 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (215 lines)

John Allen is our LAB Regional Director. He asked me to post this very 
thoughtful discussion.  DJ

David Jacobowitz:

I strongly agree with the first part of Rick Hubbard's comments, 
about having teeth in the Vermont Pedestrian and Bicycle Policy Plan, 
and setting goals, but I disagree with his advice on bicycle 
facilities. I therefore ask that you distribute the following message 
to the Coalition's list. I acknowledge in this connection that I am 
neither a member nor currently a resident of Vermont; however, as 
Regional Director of the League of American Bicyclists and a former 
Vermont resident, I am very concerned that Vermont's planning for 
bicycling reflect best practices, the results of safety research, 
national design guidelines and the League's position statements. And 
so, I have taken a good part of my day to prepare this message. 
Thanks.

It is very easy for an American to go over to Europe and become 
enamored with bicycle facilities there without being aware of their 
history and controversy. A common response of returning Americans is 
Mr. Hubbard's: to praise sidepaths and overlook other accommodations 
and trends. After all, getting bicycles off the roads is better than 
sharing the roads  with motor vehicles, isn't it?

Actually, usually not, other than that it can be easier for the motorists.

Neither the problem nor the solution is so simple. Understand that 
much of what you see in Germany, just as here, reflects concepts that 
were in vogue at one time, but have been shown to have problems 
once they received widespread application. And in particular, sidepaths 
are preferable to roadway accommodation, or to paths away from 
roads, only under a very limited range of conditions. Vermont's being a 
largely rural and mountainous state, where the public will allocate 
limited funding for bicycle facilities, also must be taken into account.

Now, examples of where sidepaths *can* make good sense include

* two-way access alongside a limited-access highway;

* a bridge with heavy, high-speed traffic and narrow lanes, and which 
could be widened only at great expense, so bicycling is better 
accommodated on the bridge sidewalk;

* a riverfront or lakefront corridor where the sidepath is not 
interrupted by cross streets or driveways, and the sidepath provides 
access to the waterfront parkland.

Consider, however, that:

1) Sidepaths are expensive to construct and difficult to maintain. In 
hilly country, it is extremely expensive to construct a sidepath 
which is graded as well as the highway it parallels. The compulsion 
to build a sidepath can then result in extremely steep grades which 
are difficult for bicyclists to climb and unsafe for casual bicyclists to 
descend -- not to speak of the problems for wheelchair users and inline 
skaters. I'll give two examples, one in new England. 
Terrible crashes have occurred on both when child bicyclists were 
unable to control their bicycles riding down steep grades. See the 
New Hampshire example

http://john-s-allen.com/galleries/franconia/index.htm --

especially, this photo:

http://john-s-
allen.com/galleries/franconia/phototour/slides/IMG0064chutesm.html; 


and one from Utah:

http://truewheelers.org/cases/stgeorge/index.htm .

2) Sidepath facilities are impractical for year-round bicycle travel 
in Vermont's climate unless an extreme and unlikely effort is made to 
keep them clear  (special plowing, lots of road salt, lots of 
sweeping). Sidepaths become piled with snow -- including plowed 
snow -- in winter -- and remain obstructed for weeks after the 
roadways are clear. Therefore, sidepaths serve primarily recreational 
summer traffic. Slippery sand remains long after the snow has melted, 
unless a special effort is made to clear it away. But, once a sidepath 
has been constructed, the non-cycling public will consider cyclists' 
problems solved, and no accommodation of bicycling on the roadway 
can be expected. End of story for year-round bicycling for 
transportation. On this and related topics, see the pages at

http://truewheelers.org/cases/vassarst/index.htm .

Have an especially good look at the page about snow:

http://truewheelers.org/cases/vassarst/snow.htm

3) The noise and compromised scenery along a highway corridor, as 
well as the grading problems, make sidepaths not nearly as attractive 
for casual recreational use as rail trails and other paths 
constructed in suitable alignments away from roadway traffic. These 
paths are generally popular; and as recreational facilities, they do 
not detract from bicycle transportation by not being kept clear in 
winter. This type of facility is where funding for special 
recreational facilities is most reasonably spent. Vermont offers 
major opportunities to construct such facilities -- *easily* enough 
to meet Mr. Hubbard's goal of 67 miles in the next 10 years.

4) Rural trip endpoints are generally too widely spaced to attract 
much bicycle traffic and justify priority in funding. Many roads in 
Vermont carry so little traffic that any special bicycle-related 
improvements would have a very low priority. But on rural roads with 
significant traffic volume, rideable shoulders or bike lanes are an 
appropriate solution, with multiple advantages including ease of 
clearing, and longer service life of the roadway with a lower 
lifetime cost. These improvements work well for avid cyclists who 
travel long distances. Paths away from roads, on the other hand, 
serve casual recreational cyclists in rural areas best.

5) The car-bike crash rate on sidepaths is generally much worse than 
on the roadway. Read that again. It's counterintuitive but that's 
what the research shows, in study after study. As the great majority 
of car-bike crashes occurs due to crossing and turning movements, the 
safety problem is most severe where bicycle use is likely to be 
heaviest -- in residential and business districts with lots of trip 
endpoints accessible by driveways and cross streets. The increasing 
in the number of driveways with development can quickly change a 
sidepath from reasonably safe to very unsafe, while a roadway 
accommodation would remain serviceable See a review of these issues 
including links to a number of research studies and translations of 
German documents, at 
http://bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/index.htm .

And, speaking of Germany, Berlin installed sidepaths around 1980 and 
in 5 years, the number of bicycle crashes per year doubled. The 
excess crashes were entirely on the sidepaths. I now have the Berlin 
study online, at

http://www.john-s-allen.com/research/berlin_1987/radfahrer1.pdf

(at this time only in German, but I will have it in English in 
another week or so).

6) As shown in some of the studies already referred to, but especially

http://www.bikexprt.com/research/pasanen/index.htm ,

and

http://bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/adfc173.htm#lund ,

a two-way sidepath on one side of the roadway poses a very high 
crash 
risk at intersections for bicyclists riding opposite the traffic in 
the closer travel lane. The sidepath also serves destinations on the 
other side poorly. But with a one-way sidepath on each side, it is 
necessary to ride past a destination on the opposite side to the next 
legal crossing location, then double back. Most bicyclists won't be 
bothered to extend their trip distance and travel time in this way, 
and so wrong-way riding on one-way sidepaths is endemic. See

http://truewheelers.org/cases/vassarst/desire.htm

(in the suite of pages I linked to earlier).

7) While the German government has been constructing and 
advocating 
bicycle sidepaths, the German bicyclists' organization, the ADFC, has 
been campaigning against them. This is not an "elitist" bicyclist's 
organization, but rather an organization representing all types of 
transportation and recreational bicyclists. See for example

http://bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/adfc.htm

8) German practice in urban areas has turned toward a wide range of 
accommodations, including slow-speed zones and bike lanes and 
contraflow bike lanes (also becoming more widely used in other 
countries including the USA). See examples at

http://bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/lanes/contraflow.htm

and the research report at

http://bikexprt.com/research/contraflow/gegengerichtet.htm .

9) Advancing American practice in urban areas has turned increasingly 
toward the "bicycle boulevard" concept, creating through routes on 
secondary streets by restricting through travel by motorists, see the 
last three images at

http://bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/lanes/midstreet.htm .

This approach has been widely used in the West Coast cities Palo 
Alto, Berkeley, and Eugene.

In summary: I hope that Vermont will adopt best practices, 
appropriate for its particular situation. Well, enough for now. Thank you.

John S. Allen

Member, Massbike Board of Directors
Regional Director for New York and New England, League of American 
Bicyclists
League Cycling Instructor #77-C and Member of the League's 
Education Committee
Member, Massachusetts Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board
Member, National Committee for Uniform Traffic Control Devices 
Bicycle Technical Committee.

7 University Park
Waltham, MA  02453-1523  USA
781 891-9307
[log in to unmask]
http://bikexprt.com

==========
VTBIKEPEDPOLICY-L: The Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Policy Discussion List
Subscription control: http://list.uvm.edu/archives/vtbikepedpolicy-l.html.
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