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Reader Story: Shared space as a bridge to cycling utopia

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 7th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

(Photos © J. Maus)

[This story was submitted by Portland resident and active transportation activist Alexis Grant.]

With Jonathan's recent mention that Effective Cycling (the vehicular cycling bible) will be republished, it seems like a good time to share some thoughts on cycling facilities that I developed after attending Towards Carfree Cities IX in York, UK.

At the conference, I noticed a theme emerging in discussing street configuration: mode separation vs. shared space. Separating modes (like walking, cycling, and driving) means putting them in different places on a street, or allowing them to proceed at different times through an intersection. In the US, we think of separation as normal for people walking. They go more slowly than vehicles, so we give them their own place on the street: the sidewalk. But it wasn't always so.

"So are the ideas behind vehicular cycling completely useless? I don't think so... Shared space is the key to moving forward from where we are."

In her keynote presentation at the conference (PDF here), Dr. Barbara Schmucki explained that at one time, streets were mainly for people walking, with streetcars in their tracks and perhaps a few cars and bikes here and there. Back then, the entire street was shared space. But as motor vehicle traffic increased, walkers were increasingly confined to the sidewalks and intersections, and separation became the norm.

So what about bikes? Should bikes be separated into their own space, or should they share space with cars, or with people walking? Effective Cycling author John Forester and vehicular cycling advocates believe bikes should share space with cars, everywhere and always. No need for separation. It might have worked at one time, but just as for walkers, with more and faster car traffic, it doesn't work so well now.

In countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling rates are highest, they don't consider shared space appropriate for larger or higher-traffic streets and roads. For anyone not steeped in the vehicular cycling mindset, it's not hard to see why. If someone like me — young, fit, knowledgeable, and confident — shies away from major roads without dedicated space for cycling; how would newer, slower, younger, or older people feel? With cars whizzing by at high speeds, turning, parking, or opening doors in your path, one wrong move or inattentive driver will put you at risk of death.

On larger streets, Denmark and the Netherlands practice separation, installing cycle tracks and bike paths and using signalization that creates separation in time at intersections. For vehicular cycling advocates to oppose this type of careful separation is nonsensical from the point of view of safety and advocacy.

Copenhagenize in Portland-2

So are the ideas behind vehicular cycling completely useless? I don't think so. Full separation is expensive, and can't be done instantly. Shared space is the key to moving forward from where we are, and as part of the shared space model, vehicular cycling still has something to teach us: that bicycles and feet should be respected as legitimate modes of travel and legitimate uses of the roadway, that they can share space with cars and expensive separation isn't always necessary.

These days, there are new models of shared space emerging. The Dutch "woonerf" (living streets), UK "home zones", and 20mph speed zones try to slow cars sufficiently that they can share space with riders, walkers, and even kids playing. Streets dead-end for cars while connecting to paths for walkers and riders that take them to the next neighborhood. Bicycle boulevards and neighborhood greenways function as a medium-speed shared space for bikes and cars, where calm riding and calm driving coexist: a local street that still lets you get where you're going efficiently.

"Vehicular cycling is still the wisest choice in many of today's road riding environments, and one that will continue to be important in neighborhoods, rural areas, and suburbs around the country for the foreseeable future."

Shared spaces — both these innovative models and the vehicular style of sharing — are a bridge to a future where mode choice is real. Vehicular cycling is still the wisest choice in many of today's road riding environments, and one that will continue to be important in neighborhoods, rural areas, and suburbs around the country for the foreseeable future. We can't complete the transition to new laws and new street geometries overnight, and it's important for people to be able to ride on any street legally to get where they're going. And not all streets need full separation; it's a matter of choosing what's right for the street size, function, and traffic volume.

We do need to take the time to do the transition right. Much of the resistance to adding special cycling facilities among vehicular cycling advocates came about because in the 1970s and 1980s, such facilities were implemented where they weren't needed, or because of lack of knowledge or money, were poorly designed and poorly implemented. This isn't news to anyone who rides. Narrow bike lanes with danger from car doors, poorly-maintained sidepaths with stop signs at every street intersection, and narrow shared off-street paths are still common around the country (and even in Portland). Opposing these bad facilities wasn't entirely wrong, but the vehicular cycling advocates went about it the wrong way: assuming the concept, not the implementation, was wrong.

We don't have to become Amsterdam overnight for bicycling to be a comfortable and dignified way to travel. But vehicular cycling and shared space are not the One True Way, and that's where vehicular cycling advocates overreach. Today's separated street designs are far better than they were thirty years ago, and it's time for them to stop opposing forward movement. Separating modes allows safe and efficient travel for all through high-demand corridors such as commercial districts, major highways, and local pinch points like bridges and tunnels. It allows everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy using active modes to get around, whether they are old or young, male or female, fast or slow. Done right, it increases safety, increases cycling rates, and makes riding more fun. Now that's effective cycling.

[Read more reader stories here.]

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  • 9watts May 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Nice article - thanks!

    "Back then, the entire street was shared space"

    And it will be again, for the exact same reasons (fossil fueled transport as the dominant--and diversity-displacing--mode is a fleeting thing)

    "We do need to take the time to do the transition right."

    And be clear about what transition we're talking about. Transition to lots more bikes on the roads, or far fewer cars, or both?

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  • Serge May 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    "Effective Cycling author John Forester and vehicular cycling advocates believe bikes should share space with cars, everywhere and always. No need for separation."

    This statement forms the basis of much of your criticism of vehicular cycling in general and Forester in particular, like when you add, "But vehicular cycling and shared space are not the One True Way, and that's where vehicular cycling advocates overreach."

    But, as far as I know, it's not an accurate statement about the beliefs of Forester or "vehicular cycling advocates".

    What is the basis for making these statements?

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    • April May 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      VC folks have been known to actively lobby against any kind of separated infrastructure.

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      • spare_wheel May 8, 2012 at 9:04 am

        yeah...i heard about that one guy in san diego too.

        can you point to a single example of that on this thread?

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  • El Biciclero May 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    "Much of the resistance to adding special cycling facilities among vehicular cycling advocates came about because in the 1970s and 1980s [and 1990s and 2000s and 2010s], such facilities were implemented where they weren't needed, or...were poorly designed and poorly implemented."

    There, fixed it.

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  • Bob Shanteau May 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    You didn't mention the laws that discriminate against cyclists:

    1. "As far right as practicable" - This law says that bicyclists don't have the same rights to use lanes as other drivers. Do you agree that its intent is to get bicyclists out of the way of motorists?

    2. Mandatory bike lane - If bike lanes are for the preferential use of bicyclists, why should they be mandatory? Is it this law that prevents you from believing that bicyclists can be legitimate users of roads with the same lane use rights as drivers of vehicles?

    3. Mandatory sidepath - If sidepaths are to attract new bicyclists, why should they be mandatory for all cyclists?

    Did you know that in the early 1970's John Forester was convicted for riding on a street in Palo Alto that had a sign saying, "Bikes Must Use Sidewalk"?

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    • wsbob May 8, 2012 at 2:42 am

      "... 2. Mandatory bike lane - If bike lanes are for the preferential use of bicyclists, why should they be mandatory? .....

      3. Mandatory sidepath - If sidepaths are to attract new bicyclists, why should they be mandatory for all cyclists? ..." Bob Shanteau

      Those are good questions that people really don't seem to have objective answers to. First of all, at least in Oregon, use of bike lanes is mandatory for people traveling by bike, but the law comes with a wide range of conditions providing for road users to leave the bike lane and ride the main travel lanes.

      I don't have any source or facts to back it up, but it seems likely that the reason bike lane use became mandatory by law in some states for people traveling by bike, is that someone...legislators, citizens...simply became convinced that without a law mandating use of bike lanes, various people would arbitrarily decide not to use the bike lane, deciding instead to hold the main lane, even if a bike lane was readily adjacent to the main lane and conditions for using the bike lane were for all intent and purposes, good.

      Setting aside for the moment, questions about whether having done so has been wise, fact is that many thoroughfares have been built for the most part to exclusively support speeds that motor vehicles can realistically travel at, but that bikes can't. So many people thought this was a great idea...still consider it to be a great idea. Someone on a bike moving along at 10 or 15 mph on a thoroughfare posted for 35 or 40 mph with a long string of motor vehicle backed up behind them tends to be seen as completely counter to the whole point of a high speed thoroughfare design.

      Bike lanes have really helped to resolve some of the dilemma posed by this type of situation. Where bike lanes exist, people can generally ride on or temporarily turn onto and travel on a bike lane when motor vehicle traffic becomes backed up.

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      • El Biciclero May 8, 2012 at 9:16 am

        "Someone on a bike moving along at 10 or 15 mph on a thoroughfare posted for 35 or 40 mph with a long string of motor vehicle backed up behind them tends to be seen as completely counter to the whole point of a high speed thoroughfare design.

        Bike lanes have really helped to resolve some of the dilemma posed by this type of situation. Where bike lanes exist, people can generally ride on or temporarily turn onto and travel on a bike lane when motor vehicle traffic becomes backed up."

        Exactly. On a main road such as Murray Blvd. (in Beav.) with a 45 mph speed limit, if I have the choice between taking the main lane and using the bike lane, I'll pick the bike lane. Here is an example of where "infrastructure" (painted bike lane) makes sense. However, further south on Murray between TV Hwy and Farmington, where I have the choice (not legally, but physically) between taking the main lane or "mandatorily" diverting up onto the sidewalk for a brief period, then re-entering the main roadway a long block later (this is where Austin Miller died), I'll stay off the sidewalk. In both cases, I'm doing what many people think makes the most sense, yet one is legal, the other isn't.

        To Bob Shanteau's point, if "infrastructure" were designed in a way to make it attractive, i.e., safe and efficient--in much the same way freeways are attractive to drivers--why should there be a need to legally mandate its use? Wouldn't cyclists naturally gravitate toward such infrastructure?

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        • wsbob May 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm

          "Exactly. On a main road such as Murray Blvd. (in Beav.) with a 45 mph speed limit, if I have the choice between taking the main lane and using the bike lane, I'll pick the bike lane. Here is an example of where "infrastructure" (painted bike lane) makes sense. However, further south on Murray between TV Hwy and Farmington, where I have the choice (not legally, but physically) between taking the main lane or "mandatorily" diverting up onto the sidewalk for a brief period, then re-entering the main roadway a long block later (this is where Austin Miller died), I'll stay off the sidewalk. In both cases, I'm doing what many people think makes the most sense, yet one is legal, the other isn't. ..." El Biciclero

          You're saying I think, that over the short section of Murray between TV Highway and Farmington, it is not legal to ride a bike on a main lane of the road since there is a MUP roughly adjacent to the roadway (it's a converted sidewalk, kind of crummy asphalt in places if I remember correctly.).

          Actually, assuming a person on a bike finds that riding this particular MUP, which happens to be a rather odd one, poses some of the conditions specified in Oregon's bike lane law, it's legal to ride the main lane. I've ridden the main lane when I didn't want to poke along on the MUP. I've ridden the MUP when I felt like relaxing and taking it slow and easy. It's beautiful next to St Mary's school.

          Of course, as many people that have been reading bikeportland for some time know, where this MUP meets Farmington is a traffic congestion nightmare of poor road infrastructure design, which as you've already mentioned...did contribute to the loss of someone's loved one.

          "...To Bob Shanteau's point, if "infrastructure" were designed in a way to make it attractive, i.e., safe and efficient--in much the same way freeways are attractive to drivers--why should there be a need to legally mandate its use? Wouldn't cyclists naturally gravitate toward such infrastructure? " El Biciclero

          Goes without saying that people are different. Some people that bike would go for the bike specific infrastructure, some wouldn't. The reasons why they wouldn't could be a long list if anyone cared to play around and start writing some down. Definitely though, I think if cities more commonly had generously wide, centrally located bike-pedestrian avenues, somewhat separated from roads provided mostly for motor vehicle use, people would gravitate to them.

          People seem to love the Eastside Esplanade and its counterpart to the west. Also, the Springwater Corridor MUP. In Downtown Portland, the Park Blocks with their adjoining streets, function a bit like the aforementioned. I can't tell you how much I wish Beaverton was bold enough to lay out some shared space, inspired somewhat by Portland's Park blocks, in its central core for bike and pedestrian travel. I think if they had the option, many people would definitely ride it rather than streets like Hall or Watson. Many people that won't ride because the motor vehicle laden streets feel hostile to them, would ride it.

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      • Alan 1.0 May 8, 2012 at 9:23 am

        wsbob
        "... 2. Mandatory bike lane - If bike lanes are for the preferential use of bicyclists, why should they be mandatory? .....
        3. Mandatory sidepath - If sidepaths are to attract new bicyclists, why should they be mandatory for all cyclists? ..." Bob Shanteau
        Those are good questions that people really don't seem to have objective answers to.

        Yes, people do have good answers to that, and have recently stated them to you in more substantially terms than your repeated personal opinions against them. It's one thing for you to (repeatedly) say you don't accept those people's point of view, but it's not the same as "people don't have answers."

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        • wsbob May 8, 2012 at 9:56 am

          Alan...did I say 'good' answers? No, I said 'objective' answers. I read plenty of comments here at bikeportland and other weblogs answering the question of why bike lane use is mandatory with answers such as 'bike lanes exist to get us out of the way.'. This isn't what bike lanes are for, or what they were designed for. Bike lanes are designed, sometimes more successfully than others, to help enable shared road space to work more effectively for all road users.

          By the way, I clicked on the link you provided in your comment, but whatever it was you were referring to wasn't clear. Perhaps in addition to the link, in future if you'd also excerpt parts of comments you have in mind, adding notes as needed, we'd all be able to better understand what's on your mind.

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          • Alan 1.0 May 8, 2012 at 10:23 am

            Apologies for paraphrasing "objective" into "good." I stand by my statement that OBJECTIVE answers were provided to you about the Mandatory Side Path (MSP) issue just last week, by multiple other posters. I selected the link in my previous post to reference the entire discussion in that thread ("20 years later, John Forester's 'Effective Cycling' to be re-published") because those objective answers were repeatedly spelled out in a variety of terms.

            I do not agree with your paraphrasing that those answers were simply 'bike lanes exist to get us out of the way.' The answers I read went considerably deeper than that, both into legal and social constructs of why MSP (including ORS 814.420) are not good laws, and rhetorically on to why having poor laws has undesirable consequences. I have seen no rebuttal as to why MSP or ORS 814.420 are good laws with desirable consequences beyond "it does no harm"...can you explain that?

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            • wsbob May 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm

              In my earlier comment, I was not summarizing the comments from the thread that you provided the link to.

              If you really feel some of the comments to the other thread answer the questions Bob Shanteau asked, you could just cut to the chase and post excerpts and links from two or three of them in a comment here.

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              • Alan 1.0 May 8, 2012 at 10:01 pm

                In my earlier comment, I was not summarizing the comments from the thread that you provided the link to.

                Then I really don't understand what you meant when you wrote "I read plenty of comments here at bikeportland and other weblogs answering the question of why bike lane use is mandatory with answers such as 'bike lanes exist to get us out of the way.'" (Which, by the way, is not all that different from the "enable shared road space to work more effectively for all road users" that you provide as a contrast...in other words, to get cars out of bikes way and bikes out of cars way. Yes, "get us out of the way" is polemicized language that's often used in the blogosphere, but the core meaning is very similar.)

                If you really feel some of the comments to the other thread answer the questions Bob Shanteau asked, you could just cut to the chase and post excerpts and links from two or three of them in a comment here.

                My reading of Bob Shanteau's question, "why should [bikeways] be mandatory," is that it is rhetorical and his implication is that they should not be mandatory. I honestly can't believe that you cannot find answers supporting his position in that other thread for yourself, nor do I think that small snippets do justice to the longer explanations of some posts. I understand that you don't agree with those answers and that's fine, I don't expect to change your opinion, but it is a mischaracterization on your part to insist that other people's answers are invalid or nonexistent, for whatever reason (e.g., not objective enough to fit your definition).

                Considering that you have made such a point of responding against nearly every person who's said something against mandatory sidepath laws, could you provide what you see as the advantages and benefits for such laws?

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                • wsbob May 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm

                  If you and some other people you know are really interested in discussing this sort of thing further, I'm going to suggest you consider posting a thread in bikeportland's forums.

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                • Alan 1.0 May 10, 2012 at 11:49 am

                  I don't understand why you won't discuss reasons to support mandatory sidepath laws here, where you have been so persistent in trying to pick apart criticisms of them, but OK...

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                • wsbob May 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm

                  "I don't understand why you won't discuss reasons to support mandatory sidepath laws here, where you have been so persistent in trying to pick apart criticisms of them, but OK... " Alan 1.0

                  I didn't say I wouldn't discuss what you're referring to. In comments to this thread, a number of people have offered comments and observations about Oregon's conditionally mandatory sidepath law. Those comments have become rather lengthy and somewhat off the topic of the writer's very nice personal story about shared space on the road.

                  I suggested that if you were interested in continuing to discuss the issue, to resume the discussion in bikeportland's forum section. I made the suggestion because because I feel the forum section offers a better format for discussion over a lengthier period than the story comment section does.

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                • Alan 1.0 May 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

                  "I didn't say I wouldn't discuss what you're referring to. In comments to this thread, a number of people have offered comments and observations about Oregon's conditionally mandatory sidepath law. Those comments have become rather lengthy and somewhat off the topic of the writer's very nice personal story about shared space on the road." wsbob

                  You didn't say you wouldn't, you simply wouldn't do so by your actions, at least not for one direct question from me in the Forester thread and two in this thread. Your actions indicate you feel that lengthy responses of questionable topicality are OK for you, but not OK for me. (I think MSP is topical in both threads, and apparently so do other commenters.)

                  "I suggested that if you were interested in continuing to discuss the issue, to resume the discussion in bikeportland's forum section. I made the suggestion because because I feel the forum section offers a better format for discussion over a lengthier period than the story comment section does." wsbob

                  I accepted your suggestion and included a pointer (hyperlink) to where I had taken up that suggestion. Do you wish to continue discussing your support of mandatory sidepath laws here or there?

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                • wsbob May 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm

                  "...I accepted your suggestion and included a pointer (hyperlink) to where I had taken up that suggestion. Do you wish to continue discussing your support of mandatory sidepath laws here or there?" Alan 1.0

                  A link to your comment today in bikeportland's forum section doesn't seem to be present in your comments to this thread, but since you mentioned in your last comment here having posted a comment there, I looked and did find what's probably it posted under simply 'Alan'.

                  You might get a better response from people to questions you have about sidepath laws, if you start a new thread with that word in the thread title, designating the thread as a discussion about sidepath laws. Myself as an example, I hadn't clicked on the N Lombard MUP thread you posted a comment to, because its title suggested a subject that doesn't relate to my situation; I don't live in the part of town N Lombard is, and have never used the trail.

                  I see four comments there. The people commenting are questioning reasons for and advisability of the sidepath law, but I tend to think many people that might decide to read or take part in the discussion, will miss doing so because its location within a thread about a different subject than sidepath laws; as such, they won't even know such a discussion in the forums is going on.

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    • Peter Buck May 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      I've got no problems with the requirement to use bike lanes since there are enough exceptions to cover when I don't want to use them. I can't imagine not using them under normal circumstances. Why have to jockey for road space with cars when it's not necessary? I do have a problem with "ORS 811.065 Unsafe passing of person operating bicycle; penalty" which limits the safe passing distance requirement to >35 MPH. This law is routinely violated in my experience, and 35 MPH is still fast enough to kill or maim me. It would make vehicular cycling safer if this was revised to a lower speed, say 20 MPH, and if it was enforced occasionally.

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  • beck the biker May 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Bob, all states have some form of road sharing, 'as far right as practicable' laws that apply to ALL slowly moving traffic. in states that preferentially treat bicycle traffic, bicyclists have MORE allowance to take the lane than in states that regulate bikes solely under SMV-FRAP laws.

    This is neither here nor there in an article of better transportation planning for bike traffic, but your post exemplifies the inaccurate dogma vehicular cycling relies upon.

    Misleading cries of 'discrimination' can certainly fire up cyclists. The trouble is, FRAP laws are in no way realistically able to be considered 'discriminatory' to cyclists - they are the laws that allow cyclists in many states to avoid debris and ride centered in narrow traffic lanes.

    As to the article, woonerfs are nothing new, they have been implemented in Europe for nearly 40 years. the first living yard was a political act on the part of some Dutch families, upset at the traffic speeds outside their homes. they occupied the street, bulldozed barriers, and defended their new 'living yards' against city workers that had come to remove the barriers.

    40 years later, woonerfs and very low speed, pedestrian priority space roadways are common in numerous countries.

    Unfortunately, in America, the duplicitous efforts of vehicular cyclists and never-ending obstructionism on the part of vehicular cycling organizations like CABO in California continue to hold back better road designs and communities geared towards safer, greater bicycling. It's truly a shame the 'think like a car' bicycling crewe have had such a damper on smarter planning and safer roadways for all.

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    • are May 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      what the slow moving traffic statute, http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.315, says with respect to everyone else but bicyclists is use the right lane. the only circumstance under which a slower moving vehicle is required to leave the travel lane to allow an overtaking vehicle to pass is when there is only one travel lane in each direction and there is "no clear lane for passing available," http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.425.

      i will submit that the mandatory sidepath statute, http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420 and the far to right statute, http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.430, are more restrictive, not less. certainly the mandatory sidepath statute does not allow the cyclist the full use of the right travel lane. the far to right statute does, yes, have exceptions for debris in the gutter, but those exceptions only get you into the travel lane, where the slow moving vehicle already had a right to be. and although no one ever talks about it, i would suggest that the forced turnout language in 811.425 probably does also apply to cyclists.

      i find it somewhat fantastical for you to suggest that without the far to right law a cyclist would not be permitted to assert the travel lane to avoid debris or to prevent unsafe overtaking. those two situations are framed as exceptions to the general rule. absent the general rule you would not need the exceptions.

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      • wsbob May 16, 2012 at 12:30 am

        The name of ORS 811.315...the law you've referred to as "...the slow moving traffic statute..." is titled, 'Failure of slow driver to drive on right'.

        ORS 814.430, specifically written with bike use its subject, which you've referred to as the "...far to the right statute..." is titled 'Improper use of lanes'.

        People on bikes generally are probably 2' wide, maybe in some cases, as much as 3' wide. Most vehicles that people drive rather than ride, tend to be 6' wide and wider. 6' wide and wider vehicles that people drive rather than ride, tend to be vehicles whose physical proportions generally require they use the full width of a main lane of travel. ORS 811.315 acknowledges these vehicles full main lane travel width needs, requiring that they stay to the right lane of a multi-lane roadway while still allowing them the full lane their physical width requires.

        The 2'-3' wide physical proportions of bikes when ridden by people, does not generally require the use of the full width of a main lane of travel. ORS 814.430 acknowledges the relatively modest proportions of bikes, accordingly requiring that people riding them stay as close to the right side of the road as reasonably possible, while still providing for within the law, plenty of conditions in which someone riding a bike on the road might need or choose to ride the main travel lane of the roadway.

        ORS 814.430 details the reasons people riding bikes have always had for needing to leave the far right side of the road for the main lane of the road, in clear language. It officially authorizes people riding bikes to take the lane when they would have reasonable need of doing so, while still providing for the movement of faster traffic when it's present.

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  • spare_wheel May 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    "because in the 1970s and 1980s, such facilities were implemented where they weren't needed"

    PBOT installed cycle tracks on Cully, upper Broadway, and Gibbs. These streets were relatively low traffic, had a pre-existing bike lanes, and were not especially dangerous. So much for progress.

    "On larger streets, Denmark and the Netherlands practice separation, installing cycle tracks and bike paths and using signalization that creates separation in time at intersections."

    Where are the "bike paths" on SE 20th, Sandy, Hawthorne, Division, Grand, MLK, Powell, or Macadam? Increasingly, PBOT has shunted cyclists onto poorly maintained "greenways" that bypass major commercial areas and take twisting circuitous routes. IMO, some transportation advocates view cyclists as second class road users. The goal is not safety but to move cyclists out of the way so that they don't irritate motorists.

    To quote Mia Birk:

    "There is no reason whatsoever to ride a bike on César Chávez or just about any major road (on Portland’s east side, anyway) that lacks bike lanes."

    The Mia Birk school of transportation cycling has transformed "point A to point B" to: proceed 500 feet from point A to point A1, stop look both ways and quickly cross a busy intersection with no signal, proceed 500 feet and then turn left to point A2, proceed 500 feet and then take the curve to point A3, proceed 500 feet and take turn right to point A4...

    IMO, some cycling advocates have become a real impediment to carving space for cyclists on dangerous infrastructure. I am not willing to wait 30 years for a cycle track on SE20th. Its not just about building infrastructure that a 7 year old can use, the safety of current cyclists should be a priority.

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    • BURR May 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      given the current lack of political will to remove parking and/or travel lanes on major arterials to install bike infrastructure, sharrows would seem to be the interim solution on busy arterials without enough room in the ROW for bike lanes; yet inexplicably, PBOT refuses to use sharrows on the arterial streets for which the sharrow design was originally intended.

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    • A.K. May 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      You hit the nail on the head.

      Just the other week I was cycling west on Ainsworth, and had a lady in a van yell something as she passed me.

      Couldn't tell what she said, but regardless I was on Ainsworth as it feels much faster traveling East/West than taking the bike boulevard over on Holman.

      Some bike boulevard's are great, others make me feel as though I'm going way out of my way to get from point a to point b. Most of my trips are for fun and not errands (though if you're on a bike they can be fun!), so I'm usually not in a time crunch, but I don't like to stop every other block, and I dislike crappy road surfaces just as much as the next person does.

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      • El Biciclero May 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

        "Most of my trips are for fun,...so I'm usually not in a time crunch"

        I think this is the assumption that most non-bike-users and facilities designers make when talking about or designing "bike facilities". There is nothing wrong with taking trips for fun, but when designers et al. assume that if you are on a bike you somehow have no schedule and all the time in the world, it leads to the kind of "safe routes" we see so much of.

        To me, this is one of the biggest transportation equity issues: comparable efficiency of routes for different modes. Why is it that for the mode that is already capable of the fastest speeds, we also have the most efficient routes "reserved" for that mode? Freeways and arterials usually are designated and become such due to their directness of routing between desirable locations. Unless there is construction or some anomalous event, drivers may always find the shortest, fastest route and follow it without giving it a second thought. If I am on a bike, I could do the same thing, but it would possibly be extremely uncomfortable and I would likely incur the wrath of more than one angry motorist along the way. In the case of the most direct route between my house and, say, my job--I wouldn't have the option because it involves freeway travel along sections that are closed to bikes. Usually however, if I choose to ride a bike, I am expected to research possible routes that don't involve travel along "dangerous" arterials/collectors, don't cross the wrong bridge, etc. This research usually leads me to discover a route that is much longer (often by a mile or two, which can add 7-10 minutes to an already-long trip) and filled with many more impediments, such as stop signs, busy crossings/left turns, or signals that won't detect my presence.

        Should this not be the opposite? Shouldn't we allocate the shortest, most direct, least-impeded routes for those that need them the most because they are already inherently slower? Shouldn't we at least somehow accommodate bike usage along existing auto-centric routes? We can't continue to assume that cyclists have no schedule and won't mind adding distance and time to each trip in the name of "safety".

        All this is to say that any bike infrastructure that actually serves to make my trip take longer is not going to be very attractive to me.

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        • was carless May 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm

          Absolutely not. Since cyclists burn calories, think of those longer commutes as an extra free workout!

          On the other hand, less direct and more circuitous car routes lead to automobiles burning more gasoline and creating more airborne pollution. This argument gets trotted out frequently as a reason for freeway expansion: "idling in traffic burns more gas"

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          • El Biciclero May 9, 2012 at 9:40 am

            True--the last thing I want is to have to suck down more car farts due to their lingering longer on the road. And yes, while I appreciate a good workout (donuts, anyone?), it seems as though we ought to at least be able to allow bikes to use the same direct routes that are available to cars.

            I do have a problem with the notion that we should never hold up cars or make them drive longer routes "because that would just waste more oil and create more pollution and be Bad For Everyone." It's true, those negative things would likely be the results of further impeding auto traffic, but this whole logical rationale strikes me as similar to the wisdom that says, "if a mugger points a gun at you and demands your wallet, just hand it over, give him what he wants--even carry around 'mugger money'--to avoid making the mugger mad because he will probably shoot you otherwise." So using that wisdom, if a robber approaches me with a gun, demands my wallet, I refuse, and he shoots me, whose fault is that?

            I guess my point is that the flaw in our thinking started when we turned to massive polluting machines as our primary means of getting around in the first place. Now we are attempting to bend over backwards (or in some cases, forwards) to keep the driver-industrial complex fat & happy. Sure, we could "reduce" pollution by continuing to allow drivers to go as fast and direct as possible so they (theoretically) burn less fuel. We could also remove cars from the road by making other options more feasible and attractive. I'd like to see the comparison of how one driver's habits would need to change (or how much stopping/starting/extra distance would need to be added) to cause his car to emit the same amount of pollution as two of the same car taking the same trip. My intuition tells me that removing a car trip entirely more than makes up for the extra emissions produced by a driver taking a longer route (at least until the longer route approaches double the original).

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      • Middle of What Road? May 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm

        How is riding on Ainsworth faster than using Holman? That seems absurd to me. (And it certainly isn't pleasant considering the traffic constantly trying to get around you.) She was probably yelling to you that there is a greenway one block over. I live just off Ainsworth and am super glad that Holman is available, both as a biker and driver. Ainsworth makes no sense for biking with the narrow width created by so many parked cars. I'm really glad they removed the old bike path signs and you may not have noticed, but there are notices up and down the street now indicating Holman as a safe route. And it is just as fast.

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        • El Biciclero May 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

          "Ainsworth makes no sense for biking with the narrow width created by so many parked cars."

          Shouldn't we be saying that "Ainsworth makes no sense for parking with all the bike traffic traveling on it. Parking on Ainsworth makes it too narrow and dangerous."

          But we don't say that. We say, "here, cyclists--use this street over here with all the stop signs while the car drivers get to cruise unimpeded on the higher quality street." This is a fine example of the "bike ghetto" that vehicular advocates oppose.

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          • spare_wheel May 15, 2012 at 12:17 pm

            For you! IMO, Ainsworth is a better and safer choice for faster cyclists.

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            • spare_wheel May 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm

              should have been directed at "middle of what road".

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          • dr2chase May 16, 2012 at 4:37 am

            If you didn't bother to stop for the stop signs, they wouldn't be such a hassle. I'm only half-joking; if a bike is not important enough to get a good route to ride, why should anyone care?

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        • El Biciclero May 16, 2012 at 11:35 am

          For fun, I took a "google tour" of both Ainsworth and Holman. If nothing has changed since the google photo van drove through there, there are some striking differences between the two routes. I started at 33rd and "cruised" westward...

          Between 33rd and MLK, Ainsworth has one signal and one four-way stop. Where Ainsworth has a signal, Holman has a two-way stop. In addition to that two-way stop on Holman, there are six other two-way stops for riders, including the one at MLK. Ainsworth at MLK continues straight through, with a signal for crossing. Holman at MLK ends in a tee with no signal; riders must make a left onto MLK, then a right about a block South, to continue on Holman. Holman really ends at Commercial, where riders must divert to Ainsworth if they want to continue westward. Meanwhile, drivers on Ainsworth have significantly fewer traffic controls to stop for (and those that they do have to stop for at least require opposing traffic to also stop at some point) and no zig-zagging or ending of the street. "Greenways" like this are not created for cyclists, they are created in an attempt to lure cyclists out of the "way" of drivers. The assumption is that cyclists are so desperate for "safety", they will tolerate very high levels of route degradation before they deign to intrude on "car" routes.

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  • Zaphod May 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    "Opposing these bad facilities wasn't entirely wrong, but the vehicular cycling advocates went about it the wrong way: assuming the concept, not the implementation, was wrong."

    True indeed.

    A mix of well engineered facilities, including simply doing nothing for residential grid low-volume areas, would be idea.

    I do like to mention how much Boulder, CO has gotten the separated network right. It's not perfect but damn if it's not a joy to be on most moments. Shared with other non-motorized modes, it involves being patient and a person within a community: shared space. But that's not really a liability for me. Yes I have to get places, but the overall velocity is quite remarkable with underpasses and links to eliminate stopping for long stretches. I want to be a part of the larger community, not just passing through in a me-first sort of way. Tangential I realize.

    Mixed but standardized designs would be a great thing.
    Innovation and testing but once we've sorted out what works/doesn't, then apply a uniform treatment.

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  • Serge May 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    BURR
    given the current lack of political will to remove parking and/or travel lanes on major arterials to install bike infrastructure, sharrows would seem to be the interim solution on busy arterials without enough room in the ROW for bike lanes; yet inexplicably, PBOT refuses to use sharrows on the arterial streets for which the sharrow design was originally intended.

    There has been a new influx of sharrows on arterials in San Diego, and they are wonderful.

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  • Rob X May 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Are you seriously pretending that bad bike facility design stopped in the 1980s? Baloney! The general rule for the "innovative bike facility" crowd is "Any bike facility is a good bike facility." I've ridden (or more often, avoided) terrible ones built in the last five years. How about a straight ahead bike lane to the right of a right turn only lane, or where lots of motorists turn right? That's an invitation to a right hook death. How about downhill door zone bike lanes? They're easy to find. How about cycle tracks hidden behind parked cars, where motorists can't see the cyclist until they collide with them at intersections? How about _any_ mandatory bike facility? If these things are so wonderful, why do they have to force people to ride in them?

    The people calling for the facilities are pretending you can't safely ride without them. That's more baloney. And in most cities, it just discourages riding, because most cities can't afford or can't fit in bike facilities that don't cause more problems than they solve.

    Vehicular cycling allows me to ride almost anywhere, no kiddie comfort stripes needed. I just follow the normal rules of the road, and I want a right to the road - all of it. If cars are too scary, don't force the bikes to clear out, into roundabout detours or "innovative" mazes that violate logical traffic patterns. Work for real road rights for cyclists. If cars are too scary, slow down the blasted cars, and make laws like Europe where motorists are presumed responsible any time they hit a biker or walker.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm

      "If these things are so wonderful, why do they have to force people to ride in them?"

      word.

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    • dr2chase May 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Not to pick a fight, but I don't think that anyone is arguing "safety" as much as the perception of safety. If the current non-bikers don't perceive that a route is safe, they won't use it, no matter what the experience of VC bikers is. I've tried giving the VC sales pitch, it is hard work with few successes. I've given up. Furthermore, if you look at what has actually gotten people onto bicycles in any volume, it's facilities, not road-sharing.

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      • are May 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm

        if you build something that "feels" safe, but in fact is less safe than asserting the travel lane (let's say for example a green box inside a permitted right turn at, um, couch and grand), then you are luring people into danger. perception is not always (or even all that often) reality.

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        • dr2chase May 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

          That would stupid. We should follow the example of the Dutch; by various methods, they have obtained both perceived safety and actual safety.

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          • El Biciclero May 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm

            Stupid, yes. But it's what we tend to do around here. What we ask for is a sandwich (while car drivers get steak); what we tend to get is a salmonella-ridden raw egg. You could eat it, but it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable and it might kill you. And people wonder why some of us won't swallow it...

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  • beck the biker May 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    what about kids' comfort, Rob?

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    • spare_wheel May 7, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      i bike on division all the time so when someone brings up "what about the children" it really irritates me. spending a few meager tens of thousand striping some lanes or sharrows would likely save lives.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • El Biciclero May 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      I love how we talk about The 8-Year-Olds as the lowest common denominator to determine whether a bike facility is good enough. Let's think about where and how far we would let an 8-year-old walk by themselves if there were sidewalks, but several very busy street crossings to negotiate along the route. Now let's imagine that a kid of eight could actually ride on the sidewalk. Wait--we don't have to imagine it--they can!

      When I was a kid, probably a little older than 8--maybe 10-ish--I rode my orange Montgomery Ward Roadmaster BMX-oid bike helmetless along the narrow shoulder of a 45-mph, semi-rural road for at least a mile to go buy candy. My 8-year-old brother rode along with me...

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  • beck the biker May 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Rob "bike facilities discourage cycling"

    Spoken like a true vehicular diehard, completely in denial, and quite disingenuous.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • oskarbaanks May 8, 2012 at 12:22 am

      It is his belief. It is neither denial or disingenuous. To a certain degree I see his point. I have been greatly surprised by the fervor around Forester and his book, on this blog sight lately.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • El Biciclero May 8, 2012 at 9:31 am

      I think you misinterpret Rob's statement about what "discourages" cycling. As I read it (and Rob can correct me if I'm wrong), Rob is saying that to tell cyclists, "It's not safe to ride except on separated facilities!" then never get around to building any usable separated facilities, is what discourages cycling. Rather than get out there and learn how to ride in traffic or find existing routes that "feel" safer, potential bike users sit around waiting for the Infrastructure Fairy to wave her magic wand and produce car-free cycle tracks lined with gum-drop trees all the way to everywhere.

      If people understood that there are safe ways to navigate the existing road network, and that separated infrastructure isn't necessarily that much safer (if safer at all), then we'd have a lot more cyclists NOW rather than in some bike-utopian future.

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  • Chris I May 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    This is what a regulation-free, mixed environment can look like:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73_wfT8OgcM

    We need to do what we can to encourage mixing on low traffic side streets. We are still a long way from achieving the conditions we need to allow safe mixing on the larger arterials.

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    • spare_wheel May 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      i think your picture of cycling in pdx is myopic. SE 20th is both an arterial and one of the most heavily used N-S bike routes. build it and they will come does not only apply to cycletracks.

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      • Chris I May 8, 2012 at 6:54 am

        I see very few cyclists on 20th that don't fall into the "strong and confident" category.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • spare_wheel May 8, 2012 at 8:44 am

          i completely disagree. and to be frank, i think your comment shows a distinct lack empathy for cyclists trying to negotiate our very imperfect infrastructure.

          many cyclists on SE 20th weave in and out of the lane because they are afraid to assert the lane. this type of inexperienced and cautious cycling can result in tragedy. i still vividly remember hearing the crash at the bottom of the hill between stark and burnside a few years ago. (a motorist attempted to pass a cyclist who moved slightly into the lane around a parked car.) fortunately, the cyclist walked away but SE 20th is a tragedy waiting to happen. removing parking and painting a bike lane would be an enormous (and inexpensive) improvement. imo, even painting a few sharrows would be a significant improvement.

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        • was carless May 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm

          Nope. East 20th connecting NE Broadway to Belmont is one of THE most highly trafficked streets with cyclists in the city of Portland. I literally live directly on the street, and can tell you that cyclist traffic is 24-7. Some people wimp out at the intersection and cut across the parking lot on the corner of Stark, but other than that... cars and cyclists mix pretty well.

          Unfortunately, the city has the speed limit posted as "30 mph" in a commercial zone, which according to Oregon law, should be a 20 mph zone, or at least a 25 zone, since it is also a residential street.

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  • Dave Holland May 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I find it humorous, in a “nonsensical” sort of way, that you are advocating removing cars and bikes from the road.

    The concept of special facilities is wrong, the implementation proves that. Opposing bad facilities is always right. The current trend of advocating for special facilities isn’t driven by safety, it’s the product of facilities planners, designers and builders.

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  • Champs May 8, 2012 at 9:09 am

    What works for one place does not for another.

    Minnesota gets snow, and it doesn't go away for months. The city can't afford to plow a grade-separated cycle track, much less do it in a timely fashion. Expecting residents to clear that AND a sidewalk in the winter isn't feasible, and compliance isn't 100%, anyway. By Christmastime, streets cannot be plowed to the curb, and their snowbanks won't recede until March. In extreme cases it has led to long-term parking bans for one side of the street. Forget about the bike lane being open.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Champs May 8, 2012 at 9:10 am

      i.e. vehicular cycling is the *only* option.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Serge May 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

    spare_wheel
    yeah...i heard about that one guy in san diego too.
    can you point to a single example of that on this thread?
    Recommended 0

    Not sure who that "one guy in san diego" is, but I'm in San Diego, and there is no one here that "actively lobb[ies] against any kind of separated infrastructure". There are plenty of examples of others mis-characterizing some of us as doing that, however.

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  • Greg Benison May 8, 2012 at 9:39 am

    When the price of gasoline hits $10 / gallon, one lane of I5 will become a dedicated north-south cycle track.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • spare_wheel May 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      malthus will not only calm the bull but likely geld him.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • was carless May 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Gas is already $10/gallon in Northern Europe, and their autobahns are still heavily used.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

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