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If a bike lane is a privilege that bicyclists are allowed to use, then it is as welcome as a car-pool lane. If a bike lane is a restriction that bicyclists are expected to stay within, then it is as welcome as a ghetto.
Pete Gast's profile photoAlbert Lin's profile photoMichael Richters's profile photoJennifer Edeburn's profile photo
Molly T
I basically hate bike lanes for this reason.
That's a clever way to put it. I like bike lanes, but then I live in a fairly bike-friendly area.
I don't understand this logic. Cars are expected to stay within their lanes except in emergencies, aren't they? Pedestrians are expected to stay on the sidewalk and crosswalks, aren't they? Why should bikes be held to a different standard?
+Dan Giaimo A ghetto is often be poorly maintained. Most people avoid using it, so only those who have to use it care about its upkeep. The people who don't have to use it will often use it when it is convenient, preventing its use by those who are required to use nothing else, which means that they just have to do without. You can set the system up that way, but it won't be very equitable. Just like a ghetto. No one sewed a yellow star onto their clothes so that they would have the privilege of moving into the German ghettos.

There is a youtube video protesting New York City's $50 fine for not staying within the bike lanes. bike lanes
I still don't understand the inequity. Car drivers can be fined for driving in the bike lane. Car drivers can be fined (or worse) for driving on the sidewalk. Pedestrians can be fined for jaywalking. Why shouldn't bikes be held to the same standard?
Moreover, this is a public safety issue. Bikes and cars sharing the road is exceedingly dangerous in urban environments. Bikes are incredibly difficult to see while one is driving. Moreover, bike riders are often quite insensible to this and will cut in front of traffic with complete disregard for their own safety and the safety of the other drivers on the road.
Amusing video. I get out of that that bike riders are complete idiots that should not be allowed to use public roads at all. If they can't use common sense to slow down for obstacles or move around them then they shouldn't be allowed in public at all. There is plenty of precedent in the courts that when a public way is blocked, then it is acceptable to leave the lane so long as you return to it as soon as you pass the obstacle.
Oh, and anyone idiotic enough to argue with a police officer deserves what they get.
If cars are prohibited from using a bike lane and the bike line is a privilege that bicycles are allowed to use, then bike lanes are as welcome as car pool lanes, and I think they would serve to incentivize people to ride bikes.

If, on the other hand, cars are allowed to use the bike lane, and park there if it is convenient, but bicycles are restricted to the bike lane, then the bike lane is ghetto and the bicyclists are second class citizens whose use of the road is dependent on convenience of the car drivers. That won't encourage anyone to use a bike.
+Dan Giaimo I interpreted the video to mean "Bicycles have to leave the bicycle lane on a regular basis; it is unsafe not to." Perhaps you should rewatch the video with the idea in mind "what would happen if everyone tried to follow New York's lane law to the letter?" It would be idiotic. This implies that the law is an idiotic law.

For New York City, perhaps a more sensible law would be "no cars on the road with fewer than 3 people in them (excluding cabs and cops)." That would solve the cars and bikes sharing the road problem that bugs you.

While the posters tone with the policeman wasn't congenial, he tried to explain the the lane was blocked. Clearly the policeman thought that he should still be fined, so I argue that the plenty of precedent you invoke isn't strong enough to protect bicyclists from harassment and fines.
Sharing the road is indeed very dangerous. Drivers (on their phones!) emboldened by being enclosed within a protective steel cage, two tons of metal careening around with a far greater stopping distance than bikes, and all those people driving black vehicles at night are incredibly hard to see. Cars: threat or menace?
I am of two minds on this topic. If cycling infrastructure is ubiquitous and well-designed and maintained, then I have no qualms about laws prohibiting cyclists from using lanes that are set aside exclusively for motor vehicles. There are many places in the Netherlands where this is the case, and no sensible cyclist has any problem with it.

In New York City, there are bigger problems than the law that confines cyclists to the bike lane (where one exists). One could argue about the sensibility of the law more if the lanes weren't frequently too narrow, or painted in the gutter, or in the door zone. Or if there was any enforcement of the law prohibiting motor vehicles from blocking the bike lane. Or if the police didn't frequently invent laws on the spot to "crack down" on scofflaw cyclists. In one case, a police officer blocked the bike lane with his cruiser, and proceeded to stop cyclists and write them tickets for straying from the bike lane.

Furthermore, the assertions above that bicycles and automobiles sharing the road is "exceedingly dangerous" or "very dangerous" are wholly unsupported by evidence, any moreso than the evidence that cars sharing the road with other cars is dangerous, or pedestrians crossing the street is dangerous. Yes, cars can be deadly. However, this is not a reason to restrict the behavior of vulnerable road users (i.e. cyclists and pedestrians), but it is a good reason to restrict the behavior of motorists. Even the erratic cyclists referred to above are only putting themselves in danger, whereas the inattentive automobile driver is a threat to others. Prohibiting the cyclists from using the street in a manner that, in their judgement (not that of a policeman who might not be familiar with either best practices or the law), is the wisest, most sensible, safest way to do so in order to protect them from cars is akin to making a law that prohibits women and children from venturing outdoors at night because they might get molested. The law ought to protect the vulnerable by restricting the behavior of the dangerous, not the potential victims.
+Michael Richters I agree that erratic cyclists are only putting themselves in danger whereas the inattentive automobile driver is a threat to others. However, I think this is not the issue that is being addressed by comments on the dangers of bicycles and automobiles sharing the road. I suspect the deep issue is not responsible bicyclists and responsible automobile drivers -- which from personal experience I find works well, but erratic bicyclists (of whom I experience many) and responsible automobile drivers, which is a recipe for undeserved lawsuits. I have a similar level of approbation for pedestrians in parking lots who can't be bothered to look out for backing cars on the theory that 'if they hit me it will be their fault anyway'.
+Jennifer Edeburn As a member of group X, members of group Y who are irresponsible are really annoying. That's probably true for all X and all Y. It is probably also true that there are some members of group Y who are idiots for all Y. (for values of all that mean 'most of the ones we'd talk about')

I experience many more irresponsible drivers than irresponsible bicyclists; heck I've personally done more property damage as a driver than I have as a bicyclist, and I consider myself to be an above average driver. Unfortunately, irresponsible drivers are a recipe for undeserved deaths. If I have to choose between undeserved deaths and undeserved lawsuits, I guess I'll err on the side of lawsuits.

But it isn't about which group is responsible for the problems. It is about how to set up the system to maximize the benefits to us all, or in this case, which variation of the system has more benefits for us all.

I think that if we want to increase the number of people who bicycle than treating bicyclists as pariahs on the roadways is probably not the way to go. It sounds as if you don't share that goal, so the if statement is irrelevant to you. I personally think congestion would go down and parking would be easier and the air would be better if a third of the people who currently drive would bike/bus/train instead, and I think that would be nice.
+Pete Gast Pete -- I agree with you about the general principle. And I agree with your statement that if we want to increase the number of people who bicycle then treating bicyclists as pariahs is not the way to go, and I agree that increasing the number of bicyclists is in general a desirable goal. However, I was specifically addressing Michael's comments about bicyclists and automobiles sharing the road. While I agree in general that responsible motorists and bicyclists can share the road, and that responsible bicyclists should be able to use the road in a fashion that they deem to provide safety for all, I take opposition to the idea that one must restrict the behavior of motorists because they are in cars, but that if bicyclists are erratic that's OK whether they are restricted to bike lanes or not. It may be that Michael did not mean to imply that, but I fear that there was enough ambiguity that others might take it that way. Thus my analogy with pedestrians in parking lots -- both pedestrians and drivers should bear responsibility for making sure nobody gets hit, but too often today you find that people walking in parking lots simply pay no attention, and if they get hit because of this then they still are not convinced that they bear any part of the blame.

Also, I'm going to retract my earlier statement. I do not agree that erratic cyclists are only hurting themselves, although that may be the most common outcome. Erratic cyclists may hit pedestrians, and thus cause harm to others. If an erratic cyclist causes a car to swerve, and that car hits another car or an object, the cyclist has caused harm to others.

Last, and I admit this is a little bit picking nits but I hate imprecisions of this type -- I too experience many more irresponsible drivers than irresponsible cyclists -- in magnitude. As a ratio to the whole, I'm not so sure.
I agree that I don't know whether there are more idiot bikers than drivers as a ratio to the whole, and I agree enthusiastically that drivers and bikers share the responsibility for making sure no one gets hit.

I don't think anyone is arguing that bicycles should be blameless no matter how dumb they are acting. Michael was responding to previous posters who were responding to my reference to a youtube video about New York's law saying that bicycles face a $50 fine for being outside the bike lane, which is applied even if the bike lane is blocked. I assert that establishing bike lanes like that discourages bike riding, even if "establishing bike lanes" sounds positive.
I'd like to make it quite clear that when I referred to the hypothetical "erratic cyclist", I made no statement, nor intended any implication that I approve of such behavior on the part of any road user. I was, in fact, comparing the "erratic cyclist" with the "inattentive motorist"; both are failing in their responsibilities, and both could be charged with reckless driving (or some such moving violation) under most state laws, as far as I know. Merely riding a bicycle outside of a marked bike lane does not, on its own, constitute "erratic cycling".

Furthermore, while it is of course possible for a reckless cyclist to injure a pedestrian, or cause automobile collisions (in which motorists are injured), these events occur, if at all, in vanishingly small numbers. Can you find even three examples of either type of incident?

Regarding the problem of increasing the cycling rate beyond just a small percentage of the population in a place where people can afford to buy and operate automobiles, there is plenty of evidence showing what is necessary, and on-street bike lanes with no real separation from motor vehicles just doesn't do it, regardless of laws or their enforcement. To become more than a marginal mode of transportation, any mode needs to be safe, convenient, and comfortable. The biggest problems with on-street bike lanes such as we have in most places in North America are that they don't feel safe to most potential cyclists, and that there is effectively no way to enforce their boundaries, and prevent motor vehicles from straying into and blocking them. It's about infrastructure, not the law, and no North American city has anything approaching high-quality cycling infrastructure.

You all might find this video interesting:

The message is a variation on "can't we all just get along?", but the problem is that this is an unrealistic expectation. Really, we can't. See the following essay for an explanation better than I can write myself. The author is a British expatriate living in the Netherlands, who writes extensively about cycling infrastructure.
Ha, ha. Try actually following those links. The first one shows statistics for cyclists injured (actually "mortality" seems to be selected) in collisions with "pedestrian or animal", over some time period that I can't be bothered to explore further. The number for the United States is two. The second link is a British blog, citing a UK report that indicates that "as a pedestrian you are 263 times more likely to be killed by a motor vehicle than by a bicycle". Again, no examples. The third one is a cycling forum from the UK, which actually links to a story of one runner injured in a collision with "three boys" riding bicycles. Three more of the links in that first group are about one incident in Toronto, and the last one is a case in New York City. Give the man a prize! Two of these events even occurred in North America! Wow! Other results are references to reports of crash data, some of which even include numbers of pedestrians injured by cyclists, most comparing that number to the number of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles, which seems to be about two orders of magnitude higher -- far outstripping the difference in transportation mode share. One goes on, "It would probably also make sense to note, that the pedestrians who were hit by cyclists, although hospitalized, ultimately lived and without any debilitating injuries. I wonder if the same can be said for those hit by cars?"

So, lets do a Google search for "pedestrian killed by cyclist"...

Five of the top ten results are all stories about one incident in San Francisco. One refers to an incident in Toronto, and one in the UK. Notably, the youngest of the three victims in these stories was 68 years old.

Now do a Google search for "pedestrian killed by car", and see what you get. The point is that there is an enormous difference in the lethality of a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds, travels at 40-60 miles per hour, is relatively wide and long, and frequently isolates its operator from the sounds (and to a lesser extent, the sightlines) of its environment, and a vehicle whose mass and size are nearly insignificant comared to its operator, and travels at 10-20 miles per hour.
OK, before we get all 'these results are ridiculous', remember that we are talking about 'harming others'. Not all people hit by cars are killed (in fact, according to a NYC billboard at 30 MPH there is a 70% chance of survival). But having to take your afternoon and spend it in the emergency room is not any fun either.

I acknowledge that you didn't mean that erratic cyclists were not a problem, and in fact I believe I only said that what you had written could be interpreted in such a way. HOWEVER I claim that in our 'not me-based' responsibility-avoiding society of today, there are many who would subscribe to the theory that it doesn't matter what the bicyclist was doing, the car was at fault. These are the same people who would subscribe to the theory that it doesn't matter what the pedestrian was doing, the car was at fault.

You know, I hit a dog while riding a bicycle once. Fortunately, the dog was only scared, but I was riding on a bike path, at a decent but not unsafe clip of about 12-15 mph, and came around a curve. The owners of two dogs had stopped to chat, and while the owners were off the path, both dogs were politely sitting on the path. The lane next to me was blocked by another cyclist, and I was simply unable to brake in time. So tell me, who was at fault? -- which is not, of course, to say that I didn't feel terrible.

Here is a summary of my opinion:
1) Encouraging cycling is good
2) Providing infrastructure to enable cyclists to feel safe and reduce conflicts between motorists and cyclists is good
3) Providing "infrastructure" to enable cyclists to feel safe and reduce conflicts that does not actually accomplish that purpose does not, actually, solve the problem, and blindly insisting that the problem would be solved if only the cyclists would stick to the "infrastructure" (or trying to regulate it that way) is stupid.
4) Trying to make a case that any one group (cyclists, motorists, or pedestrians) has less of an onus on them to follow the rules of the road that are designed to keep us all safe because the 'outcome' of that particular group's failure to cooperate is less catastrophic is a myopic position. Even if the premise that the outcome is lesser is true, it doesn't build reciprocation and respect between the groups.
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