FWD (SK) Bicyclists vs Motorists [new subj]

From: Terry W. Colvin (fortean1@mindspring.com)
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 09:34:56 MST

Regarding my statement: "The government has spent thirty years and
millions of dollars looking for evidence to support its
"cyclist-inferiority" hypothesis on which practically all of its bicycle
transportation program is based," Jim Lund replied: "I didn't realize that
a US federal 'bicycle transportation program' existed, and can't guess what
it is. I just ride my bike..."

         The federal government has an official bicycle transportation
policy. Its official goals are to double the number of trips made by
bicycle while reducing the number of accidents by 10%. Whoever wrote this
did not realize that this meant that the accident rate per trip had to be
only 55% of its original value, a reduction of 45% in the accident rate, a
fantastic achievement if it could be achieved.

         The method adopted to achieve these goals is building bikeways
everywhere. The casual thinker concludes that this is a good thing;
separating bikes from cars means that there won't be any accidents, or at
most very few. Consider the following facts. Bikeways are intended to
protect cyclists from same-direction motor traffic. Car-bike collisions [to
use a short phrase] constitute only about 12% of accidents to cyclists.
Under urban daylight conditions, only about 2% of car-bike collisions are
of the straight-ahead motorist, straight-ahead cyclist type. About 95% of
urban, daylight car-bike collisions involve turning or crossing movements.
On any urban journey from A to B, the cyclist has to cross all the traffic
traveling through the gap between A and B. As long as all traffic is on one
level, say ground level, it doesn't matter at all what kind of bikeway the
cyclist uses; he still has to cross over that traffic. Bikeways do not
provide any protection against that traffic. Indeed, midblock road
crossings of bike paths are more dangerous than crossing the road at normal
intersections. Bikeways alongside the roadway, which is the only generally
available urban space, require both cyclist and motorist, when either is
turning, to operate contrary to the normal operating procedures, in ways
that require much greater care and much more time to ascertain whether or
not the movement can be made in safety. In short, the government's bikeway
program hasn't a hope in hell of reducing accidents to cyclists, and is
more likely to increase the accident rate than decrease it.

         The bikeway program was originally cooked up by motorists to clear
the roads of bicycle traffic, thus avoiding both delays to motorists and
the concern that they would have to look out for bicycles. Of course, that
motive wouldn't be politically acceptable, so it was sold as "bike safety",
without any analysis of its actual probable results. Motorists had also
cooked up the similar "bike safety" training for children, teaching them
that the greatest sin is to get in the way of a car, and the wages of sin
is death. So we have a population of people who are ignorant of cycling but
who believe, with quasi-religious fervor, that bikeways must make cycling
safe for untrained bicycle riders. If that were all, the bikeway program
would have been beaten decades ago. Now the environmentalists [a name
encompassing several viewpoints] jump on the bandwagon and make it really
popular. These environmentalists hate and fear motoring. So what do they
do? They apply all of their effort to advocating the program that the
motorists had cooked up for their own convenience, the bikeway program, in
the belief that the mass of the population is so frightened of motor
traffic that they will bicycle only if bikeways are provided to relieve
their fear, and the corresponding belief that masses of people will
transfer from motoring to bicycling if only their fear is relieved.

         In fact, those cyclists who obey the rules of the road for drivers
of vehicles have a much lower accident rate than those who don't (cycling
club members, more likely to operate in the vehicular manner, have an
accident rate only about 25% of that for the general population), and find
themselves able to take direct, fast routes for all the trips that they
desire. With more convenience and lower accident rate, one would expect
that the proper governmental policy would be to promote the kind of cycling
that best combines convenience and safety, in the belief that that would
attract the optimum amount of bicycle transportation. Instead, governmental
practice discourages that kind of cycling; we have to fight every year to
maintain our rights to operate in the lawfully required, safe and
convenient manner.

John Forester

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA) < fortean1@mindspring.com >
     Alternate: < terry_colvin@hotmail.com >
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