Franklin and Forester quotes, in a Dutch context

I’ve just got back from the Netherlands. I rode a bike there for two weeks and experienced for myself why so many people there use bikes every day, and why transatlantic comedy duo “The Two Johnnies” are wrong to oppose mass bike riding in the UK and US. Here’s some opening thoughts: photos of real, everyday scenes which show the rhetoric of Forester and Franklin to be ridiculous.

Click any image for a larger version.

Photo of two girls cycling safely on cycle path away from the busy road, with John Forester quote: "I have described several very dangerous situations: bike paths and voonerven being the most dangerous. The correct way to handle the dangers of these facilities is to stay well away from them and ride on the normal roadways instead."

Yeah, go on girls – follow Forester’s advice and get on that road, you’ll be fine as long as you ride your bike like you’re driving a car.


A photo of two families happily using separate cycle paths, with stupid John Franklin quote: "...the majority of cycle facilities require more skill and more experience to be used safely, not less. It is the least experienced who most often suffer the consequences."

Oh, those poor children suffering the terrible consequences of the Dutch cycling infrastructure!


Photo of swarm of people on bikes using segregated bike path during rush-hour in Utrecht, with stupid John Franklin quote: "segregation has no proven record as a 'stepping-stone' to cycling well and more widely"

He’s right, this scene is a figment of your imagination. If you go to Utrecht during rush hour you will see nobody cycling on the bike paths. They’re all just for show, like North Korea.


Photo of a speedy Lycra-clad sporty cyclist using racing bike on long, straight, uninterrupted cycle path, with stupid John Franklin quote: "Efficient and speedy cycling is important if cycling is to compete as a mode of transport with the car. Road-side paths of almost any kind prevent this and make cycling slow and dangerous."

This guy rides his racing bike slowly, the Lycra is purely for sexual reasons.


Photo of a young girl (aged about three?) riding her bike without any fear as there are no cars around, with John Franklin quote: "The extra care enforced by the presence of motor traffic, generally results in the safest cycling environment overall."

If only there were more vans and taxis around here, this toddler would be truly safe from all those cycle paths!


Photo of three smartly-dressed middle-aged professional-looking people, calmly, casually and efficiently riding bikes on a bike path, with stupid John Forester quote: "Why is it that Dutch people persist in using bicycle transportation when the system is so stacked against them? Why do they still cycle when the system restricts them to slow speed and more and longer delays, disadvantages forced on them by the dangerous design of the system that they are forced to use?"

The system is so stacked against these guys, can’t you see the upset and stress the restrictive cycle paths are causing here?


Three photos of people using bike paths: one of a disabled man using a hand-cranked tricycle; one of two boys and their dog; one of an elderly man. A stupid John Franklin quote: "you are at your safest in traffic if you can move at a speed comparable to that of the other vehicles ... a sprint speed of 32 km/h (20 mph) will enable you to tackle most traffic situations with ease"

I’m sure these guys can manage that 20mph sprint speed (especially the dog). If not then they shouldn’t be allowed out cycling! It’s a tough sport for serious men like John Franklin!

I was going to include more quotes from John Forester, but to read his deranged ramblings requires more resolve than I have right now.

Update, 20th August 2012

Again, some people (mainly on Twitter) are misunderstanding what I’m doing here: Vehicular Cycling is a good coping strategy for fit, confident people to ride on hostile, motor-dominated roads. Opposition to Dutch-style infrastructure is what I’m attacking, and that’s quite a separate thing.

I didn’t have to search far and wide for these quotes — both Johns are clearly against mass cycling — and only the final one is from any Vehicular Cycling instructional material (it’s from John Franklin’s book about VC, Cyclecraft — though the book also contains unnecessary anti-infrastructure dogma too).

All the other Franklin quotes are from this document from 2002, which while I admit isn’t the most current thing available, it’s one of the first documents I came across on his website and is still often quoted by anti-infrastructure people. If Franklin has changed his views since then, he hasn’t done so publicly.

Both the Forester quotes are from this document which is of similar vintage, though again Forester doesn’t seem to have changed his opinions at all since — or even bothered to visit the Netherlands to see the improvements since the 1930s. I’m sure he’d find that a lot has gone on since then.

(The Forester document is an article attacking an academic paper which recommended Dutch-style infrastructure. One of the authors of the paper, John Pucher, replied to Forester: “I strongly oppose this ELITIST view of cycling, and think that many policies should be implemented to encourage bicycling by everyone, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, children and grandparents, students and businessmen, etc. Forester’s policies would guarantee that cycling remains a marginal mode here in the US.” I think Pucher has been proved correct, and I tip my hat to him here.)

Either way, the age of the quotes doesn’t really matter. Both these guys are still quoted frequently by people who have been hoodwinked into joining the ‘Vehicular Is The Only Way’ club, and they have been shown to have had concrete effects on the roads today. Read any article on the many blogs discussing cycling in the UK and you’ll often see a comment from someone saying that the roads are fine, we just need more training, linking to a Franklin document or quoting him. Who knows how Kings Cross junction would look today had the cycling lobby not been split in this way all those years ago?

So, use vehicular cycling all you want — there’s not much choice in the UK, after all — but don’t let that blind you to the possibilities of bike riding for everyone, which promoting VC as the best and only option has consistently failed to achieve (and obviously cannot achieve, as the final image demonstrates so clearly). There’s only one proven way to reach mass cycling: the Dutch way.



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220 responses to “Franklin and Forester quotes, in a Dutch context

  1. Great review that taken in a UK or US context can show how their advice is beneficial at times. Really what it does is highlight a) how poor British and American cycle infrastructure is overall and how frightening traffic can be for those not physically able to thrust themselves into the speed of traffic.

    Cycling should be enjoyed and exploited by all for all the benefits it can offer. If/when we go Dutch here in the UK we very well might see more people taking advantage of those.

    And I say that as someone who has been a vehicular cyclist for some 10-15 years.

    • Funny, I’ve read that cycling has been steadily increasing in Britain, without the installation of the infrastructure you so dearly love. Seems that the infrastructure is irrelevant, to the number of riders. On this side of the pond, cycling is also increasing. The problem with creating Dutch infrastructure here, is there is no political will, to do it the way the dutch do it. Creating separated paths will satisfy motordom but there is no political will, no strict liability laws and no dutch trained drivers, to make those paths safe. They simply create more dangerous cross traffic conflicts and give amateur bicyclist a false sense of security, that will get them killed.

      • Then you’ve been reading hype, not facts. Cycling has not been increasing in Britain, it’s been stagnating for 40 years. There are constant claims that it’s “booming” but the rates remain the same, albeit with minor fluctuations which are nothing more than statistical noise.

      • Also: look again at that top photograph. Are you seriously suggesting that those two young girls would be better off on the road, mixing with those motor vehicles, than on that separate bike path? Really?

      • Creating good separated paths will satisfy everyone, especially the approximately 50% of cyclists who keep getting killed from getting run over from behind or sideswiped. Those killed at intersections are nowhere near as large a group. The political will is there too, but people from the vehicular cycling crowd continue to shout it down under any number of supposed “problems” instead of finding solutions for them. The intersection problem isn’t, especially with signals. No one is in the way as long as it’s designed well. Maintenance is an issue on all roads, so make sure the powers that be stay on top of it.

        • So according to you, the only thing hindering Surrey County Council from narrowing the already congested arterial roads through Guildford so as to spend millions building proper wide bikepaths along those roads (which occupy the only level and direct corridors into this town) is a small number of cycle campaigners like me who mistakenly believe that they lack the political will to do that.

          Yeah right!

        • Neil Schneider

          Please supply data to support your superstitions. Because they are not based upon any facts. Most bicycle fatalities are in fact caused by crossing collisions not perpendicular traffic. Separated paths are separated only between intersections. They give inexperienced riders the false sense of security, therefore lowering their guard when they cross driveways and cross streets. One of the strategies experience riders use when approaching these hazards, is to ride further from the curb to improve visibility. I separate but unequal facilities, there is no opportunity to use this strategy, because there is a barrier between the road and the side path. Increased danger for bicyclists. Not thanks. There are no solutions for bad engineering except good engineering, and side paths are bad engineering, and false safety.

          • Neil,

            You keep claiming that separated cycleways are bad engineering and unsafe, yet the Netherlands proves you wrong. They have the most cyclists, the widest demographic, and the best safety record. There’s an entire country to prove you wrong.

            Now your argument will move on to say “ah, but our government will never spend the money” or “our population is too wedded to their cars” or something. But that’s a different matter entirely, they’re political arguments, not physical ones.

            The fact is that well-designed cycleways hugely improve the safety and convenience of cycling.

            You live in a country where well-designed cycleways are very rare (if not non-existent) and where cycling is dangerous and unpopular. The Netherlands is a country where well-designed cycleways are the norm, and cycling is safe and popular. We’re talking about a whole country here, millions of people and decades of data. I don’t know what more evidence you need.

            • I’m sorry, you must think I live somewhere else. Cycling is not dangerous here. I do it almost every day and have for over 30 years. I do no live in Holland and we don’t have 20 Kmh speed limits, nor will the taxpayers pay for Dutch style bike paths, with separate traffic lights. And if you want to see the voters rise up, just suggest that the law be changed to disallow right turns on red. All those things are what make bike facilities work in Holland. Don’t work here and won’t in my lifetime. Don’t play leapfrog with a unicorn, don’t spit into the wind.

              • So what is your argument now? Cycleways are bad, or that your politicians won’t agree to spend money on them? Or both? You leapfrog around reasons why it won’t happen wherever you are. One minute it’s the concept, the next minute it’s the execution, the next minute it’s financial and political. Seems you’re determined to accept the status quo.

              • Pro Bike

                If you live in the UK, cycling is ~2-3 times more dangerous than in the Netherlands or Denmark, two countries that have invested heavily in separated bikeways. So you may not think it is dangerous as a 30 year veteran of riding bikes, but what about the raw numbers showing far more deaths per km cycled in the UK and the US compared to those countries?

              • Frank

                ProBike writes: “If you live in the UK, cycling is ~2-3 times more dangerous than in the Netherlands or Denmark,…”

                There should be a name for that logical fallacy: “I know something safer, so anything else is dangerous!” By that standard, there is precisely ONE nation in the world that is “safe.” By that standard, every other nation should spend whatever amount is necessary to match the one best nation. And should they accidentally exceed it, the formerly “safest” nation must increase spending, in a never-ending competition. It’s a ludicrous idea – like “Washing dishes is more dangerous than dusting, so everyone should use paper plates.”

                Numerous studies have examined bicycling in the U.S., in Canada, in Britain, in Spain and elsewhere has been examined for its benefit-to-risk ratio. In every instance, the health and medical benefits of cycling have far exceeded its tiny risks. Put more simply, bicycling is safer than NOT bicycling, so quit the fear mongering! It’s not “Pro Bike.” It’s anti-bike, and it’s scaring people away from riding right now!

              • Mark Williams

                No—what’s `scaring people away from riding right now’ is seeing, with their own eyes, other people ubiquitously operating dangerous machinery around cyclists as badly as they do themselves. Having seen that; they prefer to stick with the obesity/ heart disease/ noise and air pollution, etc. if it’s all the same to you (or even if it’s not). Don’t take my word for it—go and ask YouGov, MORI or your local equivalent.

              • Frank

                Mark Williams – Do you _really_ believe the constant chorus of “Danger! Danger!” has no effect?
                I’ve given many talks on the data regarding the safety of bicycling. To take one issue: I’ve probably mentioned this before on this forum, but it’s been common for audiences of those talks to estimate that bicycling is one of the top causes of fatal brain injury in the U.S. When given a multiple choice question on percentages, the most common answer has been that bicycling causes 30% of U.S. TBI fatalities. The correct answer is 0.6%. They didn’t get that mistaken impression from “their own eyes.” They got it from propaganda.
                Similarly, the U.S. and British public is now inundated with propaganda claiming only total separation can make cycling safe. But per mile traveled, U.S. cycling is three times as safe as pedestrian travel; yet pedestrian travel gets little fear mongering. In 2013 London cycling was declared to be hideously dangerous because of 14 fatalities, but almost nobody mentioned the 69 pedestrian fatalities in the same period. Why do we not hear that walking is dangerous?
                Again: _every_ study ever done on the subject has shown that cycling’s benefits outweigh its tiny risks by very large amounts. In other words, cycling is actually safer than NOT cycling. Why are supposed cycling advocates not pointing this out?
                Why do people like you continue to scare others away from the benefits of cycling? Why pretend that an ordinary person must not ride until the infrastructure of our cities is completely transformed? That approach is demonstrably ANTI-cycling!

              • Mark Williams

                A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You can try to make the `propaganda’ link as strong as you like, but history confirms the research cited by Andy R and others—it doesn’t increase the level of cycling. To pretend that it is a decisive factor really is to bury your head in the sand.

                Co-incidentally, a UK ex-military acquaintance characterises the main difference between the population of the USA and USSR being that the latter could tell when they were being fed propaganda and take it with a pinch of salt accordingly…

                If you really want to draw comparisons with walking, check out the total/ average distance walked in the UK or USA in the supposed absence of this `chorus’. The result is walking as transport suppressed in much the same way as cycling. Yet, according to your peculiar brand of rhetoric, it ought to be the majority mode in both cases!

              • Andy R


                Quote: “The appeal of cycling in Britain’s towns and cities will only be broadened if local authorities introduce physically segregated cycle lanes along main roads, researchers have claimed, says Andrew Foster, writing in RUDI’s partner publication Local Transport Today.

                The three-year ‘Understanding walking and cycling’ [published in 2011] research project has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The research team from Lancaster University, Oxford Brookes University and the University of Leeds has examined attitudes to cycling and walking in four cities: Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester and Worcester, says Forster.

                Researcher Dave Horton, a sociologist at Lancaster University, said: ‘Thirty years as a committed cyclist and 20 as a committed cycle campaigner had convinced me that cycling’s place is on the road. But the research has forced me to shift my position. The sheer weight of evidence that most people will not ride on busy roads is unambiguous and uncompromising.’

                Horton said part of the infrastructure requirement to boost cycling was already being delivered in the form of measures such as 20mph speed limits on residential roads.

                ‘But the other half of the infrastructural change needs a similar push. This push should be for very high quality and continuous segregated cycling infrastructure on our biggest and busiest urban roads.’

                He emphasised that segregation did not mean a painted lane on a road. ‘It means a lane which is dedicated for cycling, which is physically separate from both pedestrians and flows of motorised traffic, and which is continuous,” he told LTT. ‘I have in mind the kinds of cycling lanes which one finds across the Netherlands and in Copenhagen, with similar ‘rights of way’ for the cyclist. These are the kinds of facility we need.’

                The researchers voice scepticism about travel behaviour change programmes and cycle training in the absence of better infrastructure provision. ‘Neither persuading people to change their behaviour by providing them with more information, nor training people how to ride under current conditions, will build a mass cycling culture.’ “.

          • Superstitions? About half of the ghost bikes that I’ve put out this year have been for people run over from behind. I don’t know what part of that is superstitious to you but standing there with a family is weeping and asking why they’re now without a brother/uncle/(grand)father is a heart-wrenching experience. The most tragic part is knowing that there is something that could’ve been done that would almost assuredly have saved the life of that rider, but selfish egoists keep blocking it.

            My experience almost exactly mirrors the data that the League of American Bicyclists collected and reported on last year. It also falls in line with data collected by the NC DOT. From their numbers, a rider was twice as likely to be KSI away from an intersection. Additionally, the total number of non-intersection collisions was about 45% of total collisions. Translation: lots of people are getting run over away from intersections in situations that could be easily avoided with infrastructure.

            Don’t give me that nonsense about “turning conflicts” at intersections. Intersections account for a significant portion of collisions, especially those with KSI. In other words, intersections are dangerous for all road users, not just bicyclists. To keep bringing that up as a reason to not put in cycletracks is pure garbage. Additionally, there do exist numerous strategies that can be used to make the interactions safer and more noticeable. Those strategies include but are in no way limited to raised crossings, better delineation, signage, bending the cycletrack, etc. at minor streets and driveways and good signals at the major ones. All of those make intersections safer. The NIH also took it upon themselves to investigate and found no big intersection danger with cycletracks, also leading them to recommend building more of them.

            The only thing credible in your argument is that inferior infrastructure can be problematic. Fortunately, the CROW manual is available for purchase and includes best practices. There is also a great body of knowledge available on the SWOV website. Stop complaining about how infrastructure “could” be bad and just demand the best.

            • Frank

              Again, fIEtser works hard to demonize biking. “About half the ghost bikes I’ve put out this year…” How many was that – hundreds? Dozens? Ten? No, probably no more than four or five. My metro area just had its first bike fatality this year. It was a guy riding a rural road in total darkness with no lights, no reflectors and dark clothing. No cycle track would have ever saved him, because there will _never_ be enough funding to put one on that deserted road. Meanwhile, probably ten million miles have been ridden around here without tragedy.

              Dr. Lusk’s paper is greenwashing, as in green roadway paint. For her carefully selected cycle tracks, her message is “they’re not too dangerous.” But she glosses over the fact that the pre- and post-installation study of cycletracks in Copenhagen showed very significant _increases_ in danger due to the tracks. Of course, she excludes the experience of Davis, CA which tried “protecting” cyclists with parked cars, then found enough conflicts to discontinue that design. She excludes the experience of Columbus, OH in the 1970s, that put in a “protected” track at great expense, then tore it out within two years, also at great expense, because of huge increases in crash counts.

              Sure, one can propose “strategies” to reduce these dangers, like million dollar bridges to fly cyclists over intersections; or even more signs and warnings about the dangers of the designs; or acquiring land to send the cyclists far around the perimeter of every intersection; or even more traffic light phases, so all other traffic sits still when a cyclist rides through. But again, only ONE nation on earth has accepted the expense and delay of such measures. That fact alone shows how impractical these strategies really are.

              And why are we told to adopt this expense? Because cycletrack proponents and contractors are energetically scaring people away from cycling via warnings of terrible danger! Why not, instead, tell the public that _every_ study on the topic has found that bicycling’s benefits FAR outweigh its tiny risks?

              Skip the ghost bikes. If you want a fear mongering mission, start parking white-painted cars at the side of the road. Do the same with white-painted sofas and TVs. Both do FAR more damage than bicycles, no matter where you ride.

            • Neil Schneider

              Anecdote is not data. Your experience is not data. The LAB study is seriously flawed and should be rejected out of hand. And is, by all but the most staunch “separate but equal” advocates.


              “Right up front the League’s methodology for selecting and analyzing crashes has a built-in bias. The report states clearly that:
              The majority of the information captured by Every Bicyclist Counts came from newspaper reports (56% of all reported sources), TV reports (25%) and blogs (19%).”
              “Using news reports creates bias at two levels. First off, the types of stories that are most heavily reported are those involving the “good cyclist.” The person who is “just like us,” riding a well-maintained, good quality bike, wearing a helmet and obeying the rules. As one who has been following both media attention and official crash data for 20 years, I can tell you the story of the homeless alcoholic hit while crossing a dark arterial at night without lights or reflectors gets scant attention from the media compared to those “good cyclists.” As the League notes, their study misses about 24% of the crashes. It’s quite reasonable to expect that the characteristics of those missed fatalities vary significantly from those they reviewed.”
              “Next, the fact that the League’s sources are from the media rather than the official crash report means the facts have been filtered through a reporter, or a number of reporters. While we can certainly question the accuracy of official police reports in cycling crashes, we certainly aren’t getting more accurate information from the media, since they are themselves getting most of their information from law enforcement.Yes, an insightful analyst can spot inconsistencies or details that show flaws with the reporting, but that rarely tells us what actually happened, it only tells us what may not have happened.”
              “The League’s crash typology is nothing like the FHWA crash typing, and vagueness of some of the “types” leave many questions. Without a consistent typology it’s very difficult to compare results. For example “Cyclist side/car front” could mean a number of different crash types. It could mean either a cyclist being hit by a motorist who ran a red light or stop sign, or the opposite. The same goes for a “T-Hit.” Since free crash typing software is available from it’s a shame that they didn’t take advantage of it so we could compare it to other reports.”
              “While the League report paid legitimate attention to unsafe and illegal motorist behaviors that led to deaths, such as intoxication, distraction and leaving the scene, it’s also a sad fact that many bicyclist deaths involve cyclists behaving similarly. But the League report was strangely silent on this. In North Carolina’s data 19% of fatalities involved an intoxicated cyclist. In metro Orlando it was 40% overall, two of the nine rural overtakings, and three of the six suburban overtakings involved intoxicated cyclists.op sign, or the opposite. ”
              “Their “unknowns” are exceptionally high, at 30%; probably because media reports tend to be quite sketchy. By comparison, for my review of cyclist fatalities from official crash reports, only 3% fell into the “unknown” category. These usually involved a cyclist found dead after a hit & run. Their categorization also includes “None,” which I presume to be a solo cyclist crash with no other vehicle involved.”
              “Already we have 24% not reviewed at all, and another 23% of the remaining 76% set aside as “unknown.” So 41% of the fatalities during the study period were not categorized by the League. The 40% overtaking was arrived at by ignoring 41% of the crashes. The League’s overtaking percentage drops to 31% with the “unknowns” included, which is of course much closer to the 27% overtaking from FARS”

     simply repeats the bad study reported by LAB, so we can safely ignore that as a source of data.

              The NCDOT report does not say what you seem to think it says.

              “Less than 1 percent of bicyclists struck on NC roads with speed limits of 35 mph and lower received fatal or disabling type injuries, but the proportions killed rose to 22 percent of those struck on 55 mph roads. In all, 82 percent of bicyclists who were killed in their crashes, were struck on
              roadways of 40 mph limits and higher, the majority (57) were on 50 – 55 mph roadways.”

              So speed is a significant factor in fatalities. No surprise there. That’s why I ride in the roadway, to slow cars down, so they pass at a slower speed, decreasing my risk of death.

              “According to data entered during crash typing, about half (49 percent) of all crashes occurred at or related to an intersection (including signalized commercial driveways). For crashes at intersection locations, the type of traffic control most often present was a stop sign (40 percent), followed by a traffic signal (33 percent) (Figure 13). About 18 percent of crashes at intersections were indicated to have no traffic control present. These locations could include main road junctions that have no control, with intersecting side streets that do, most often, have stop control.”

              There is no data about overtaking fatalities in the NCDOT study that I can find.

              Even though North Carolina has greatly increased it’s spending on bicycle facilities it has almost no effect on the death rated of bicyclists in a statistically significant way. ” The data shows no evidence of a sustained decline in the overall number of bicycle crashes.”

              So the proponents of separate but equal facilities once again have no data to support their position.

              Here is some significant statistical data.

              Studies of emergency room-treated bicycle injuries indicate that motor vehicles are involved in 9.4 or 18 percent of these cases (Clarke & Tracy, 1995, p. 29; Stutts, Williamson, Whitley, & Sheldon, 1990, p. 71).

              Alcohol was identified as a factor in a third of Cross and Fisher’s rural Type 13 fatalities (Cross, 1978, p. 73). In a 1990s update of the Cross-Fisher study, “alcohol/drug use” was found to be an “over representation” for crashes involving bicyclists in adult age groups (Hunter, Pein, & Stutts, 1994, p. 10). The National Center for Statistics and Analysis (1994) also found that “alcohol involvement—either for the driver or the cyclist—was reported in more than a third of pedalcyclist fatalities in 1993” (p. 3).

              One way to come up with trivial results is to start with a solution in hand and look for a problem it can solve. The idea is to only look at the problem closely enough to justify our preconceptions and determine its usefulness in furthering our agenda. A closer view may present a more complicated problem to solve. And a more complicated problem may require a different solution.

              The transportation planner or engineer who believes his primary obligation to bicycling is to build paths (or lanes) is like a physician who believes his primary task is to administer penicillin. It’s prescription without examination or diagnosis.

              “Most people start by believing that cycling in traffic is dangerous and threatening and that they don’t belong there. Heavy traffic is not one of the joys of life, but once you learn how to ride in traffic you will realize that you are a partner in a well-ordered dance, with drivers doing their part to achieve a safe trip home. Then traffic ceases to be a mysterious threat and becomes instead just one of the conditions you can handle with reasonable safety “(Forester, 1993, p. xxiii).

              Vehicular cycling sincerely want other bicyclists to enjoy the sense of safety and freedom of movement that comes from knowing how to ride skillfully and confidently in traffic.

              “Being cautious of the dangers that are least likely to produce an accident causes the cyclist to expose himself to the dangers that are most likely to produce one.” (Forseter)

              Until someone has the motivation and massive resources to track a large number of cyclists over a long period of time, we will not have anything like a clear idea of how significantly an education program or a “spreading” of knowledge could reduce bicyclists’ accident rates.

              There is freedom that comes with that sense of competence. It is freedom from fear and freedom to go wherever I want to go by bicycle.

              How charming to control a complicated and ornery society by bestowing upon it rather simple physical goodies. In real life, cause and effect are not so simple (Jane Jacobs, 1961, p. 113).

              The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (1991), lists eight problems with side paths. Among them are encouraging wrong-way riding, increased conflicts at intersections, motorists blocking the paths while exiting side streets and driveways, bicyclists having to stop at every side street, and motorists harassing bicyclists who use the adjacent street (pp. 22-23).

              State-of-the-art wisdom says that “bike paths are not a convenient way of simply ‘getting cyclists out of the way of motor vehicles,’ and should never be developed with that intention in mind” (Wilkinson, et al., 1994b, p. 63). Yet, once a side path is in place and city officials proudly point to it as an expensive gift to bicyclists, any suggestion that cyclists’ needs have not yet been met will likely fall on deaf ears and the road itself, which could afford cyclists the greatest freedom and flexibility, and often the most safety, will remain ill suited to bicycling.

              It’s a documented fact that from 1987 to 1993 Ohio cut its reported car-bike crashes by 36.8 percent and its fatal crashes by 64.3 percent. The state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Administration missed an opportunity in 1987 to launch a bicycle safety campaign. The program would have appeared to be wildly successful, even if it did nothing at all.

              “If there were a thousand similar events, we would tend to remember them as one composite prototype. If there were just one discrepant event, we would remember it, too, for by being discrepant it didn’t get smudged up with the rest. But the resulting memory is almost as if there had been only two events: the common one and the discrepant one. The common one is a thousand times more likely, but not to the memory; in memory there are two things, and the discrepant event hardly seems less likely than the everyday one.”
              “So it is with human memory. We mush together details of things that are similar, and give undue weight to the discrepant. We relish discrepant and unusual memories. We remember them, talk about them and bias behavior toward them in wholly inappropriate ways” (Norman, 1988, p. 118).

        • Frank Krygowski

          fIEtser resorts to the fear mongering that drives so much of the bicycle segregation movement – implying or pretending that death is a likely consequence of cycling on ordinary roads, and giving false numbers about the causes of death. The 50% claim above is hogwash.

          Deaths caused by cycling crashes are EXTREMELY rare, occurring once in perhaps ten million to 20 million miles of riding. That would be thousands of years of riding for any individual! In the U.S., cycling deaths barely outnumber deaths from falling out of bed. In Canada, falling-out-of-bed deaths regularly exceed bike deaths. And every study ever performed on the question has found cycling’s benefits tremendously outweigh its tiny risks.

          The sidepath intersection problem is real. It’s routinely (green) painted over by segregation advocates, but it’s easily understood and well documented. The only real ways of mitigating it are by using separate green phases for bikes and cars (causing great traffic delay and significant expense) and by using Dutch “around the block” intersections (causing far greater expense).

          There is precisely ONE nation in the entire world where the above delay and expense has been accepted, along with the heavy taxes that fund it. Obviously, that nation is unique in many, many ways. Its extremely expensive network of segregated bike facilities has not been duplicated anywhere, and will be duplicated only in fairy tales!

          In fact, it would be far easier to duplicate the Netherlands’ anti-motoring measures, which are even more critical to its bike mode share. Why do bike segregationists not campaign as hard for $10 per gallon fuel costs? And huge motoring license fees? And super-expensive parking? And having many streets closed to motor vehicles? And 20 kph speed limits on many streets? And tight restrictions on suburban development?

          Again, these (and other) measures are probably more critical than segregated bike facilities. And they would be far easier to implement than a network of segregated paths that actually meet Dutch standards.

          • So you reply to a nonsense statistic with more nonsense statistics? The costs of motoring in the UK are very much similar to the costs of motoring in the Netherlands, yet the cycle rate in the UK languishes, despite the expense of owning a car.

            If you see delays to motor vehicles as a major downside of safe cycling infrastructure, then you’re no cycling campaigner, that’s for sure.

            Try again.

            • So if we don’t agree with your nonsense statistics and solutions for safer bicycling, we are not good enough to be bicycle advocates? Nice try, life doesn’t work that way.

              • I’ve offered only facts, backed up with links to further evidence. I you’re going to look the other was every time an inconvenient truth is presented, I can’t help that.

                I’ll let fIEtser respond themselves to back up their claims or not. I’ve made no false claims here.

              • Petet Rosenfeld

                Just read an home on American bike share prpgrams. 23 million trips on urban roads, few with any bicycle specific infrastructure. Zero fatalities as far as can be determined.

            • Frank Krygowski

              You’ve linked to only one small portion of the cost of motoring. The total cost includes the cost of the automobile itself (including taxes), the cost (and difficulty, and time commitment) involved in earning a driver’s license, the cost of insurance, the cost of parking, etc. It’s my understanding that all of the above are much higher in the Netherlands than in most countries, certainly including the U.S..

              For example: An adult in the typical U.S. state can get a driver’s license without any formal instruction. The test for a learner’s permit is very easy, and almost nobody ever fails. Upon obtaining the permit, an adult can immediately take the written and road test for the full license. The road test is on quiet streets with no difficult maneuvers, with some additional simple maneuvering around cones in a parking lot. Again, almost nobody ever fails, and the total cost is approximately zero. How does that compare to the Netherlands?

              And regarding delays: I have no problem with making motoring less convenient. But the point is, the overwhelming majority of Americans DO have a problem with that. Practically speaking, this means it’s politically impossible for an elected official to cause significant traffic delays and keep his office – just as it’s impossible for an official to impose Netherlands-level fuel taxes, car sales taxes or import taxes, road closures, mass transit support taxes, and all the other strategies the Netherlands employs.

              In summary, you continue to LUDICROUSLY oversimplify the situation in the Netherlands, and LUDICROUSLY underestimate what would be required to duplicate it elsewhere.

              • You’ve got a point Frank, the USA is clearly, hopelessly addicted to motoring in a manner that makes it almost impossible to enable mass cycling. And unfortunately the US anti-cycling culture infects all other English-speaking countries, because where people speak English they don’t bother to learn other languages and become even more deeply in thrall to inappropriate American culture, rather than learn from countries that are geographically, economically and socially closer.

                UK is nevertheless a part of Europe and motoring here is no less expensive than in any of the pro-cycling countries of Europe.

                Because the Netherlands is NOT the only country where bikepaths work for all cyclists. I regularly cycle in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These countries do not have such universal provision of cyclepaths, but they’re working on it, and most main roads there do now have paths, that are smooth, wide and enjoy well-respected priority over every side-road. The separate traffic lights are only at major junctions where the parallel road also has traffic lights.

                I think it is a mistake to always give the Netherlands as the example. The Netherlands IS special. Germany however, is very much like Britain: same population density, same mixture of flat and hilly terrain, with different but roughly equivalent problems and opportunities. And despite historically similar levels of cycling, the average German nowadays cycles five times as much as the average Brit. All of this makes it very awkward for a British politician to explain why Britain, since WW2, has provided worse and fewer opportunities for the sons and daughters of its heroes to safely ride bicycles, than Germans presently enjoy. Whereas the example of flat, little Holland where everything is so close together that everyone has always cycled everywhere – even their Royal Family – is easily dismissed as far too different in all sorts of ways. And besides, politicians do not aspire to make Britain better than Holland, they fondly imagine it already is. Speak of Germany however…

                But here’s a thing: the driving conditions in the Netherlands are not so intolerable as to keep the Dutch from driving slightly FURTHER per person (8.2 thousand per annum) than the British (7.8), despite everywhere in the Netherlands being so much closer together and all those opportunities to cycle instead! All the European countries I’ve named in fact have very similar levels of total traffic per person, all within a few hundred km of 8 thousand. But USA is different. Very different, with more than 15 thousand per person.year. According to OECD figures, Americans do at least 50% more driving per person than ANY OTHER NATION, including Canada and Australia, which one might suppose to be similar in that regard. It would clearly be stupid to base the policies of any normal country on what seems to work, or won’t work, in such an extraordinary place.

  2. Are those statements for real? How can anyone believe that?

  3. If these are just your initial thoughts I am looking forward to seeing the rest!

  4. Agreed but leave the poor bugger alone, he is in his 80’s and hardly a big influence any longer.

    • Erik Griswold

      Forester still is a big influence becaus eif the damage he’s done. It will take decades to catch up to NL and DK thanks to these two self-appointed Pied Pipers.

    • davidhembrow

      Yes, sadly, Forester eventually became “too old” for cycling and had to give it up. However, here in the Netherlands my 85 year old neighbour confidently rides her bike almost daily, and she’s far from alone.

      I do wonder sometimes if he will ever wonders if he “backed the wrong horse”. It’s a terrible shame that he never visited the Netherlands as an adult so never saw with his own eyes what it was that he opposed so strongly.

      • David,

        Forester still defends vehicular cycling online. Here’s a direct quote from him regarding bicycle infrastructure in the US “the problem with bike lanes, and other types of bikeway near the roadway, is that they encourage, even require, behavior that is contrary to the operation of the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles”

        He has also said that supporters of bike infrastructure “advocate for new road designs based on popularity instead of on engineering and safety analysis.”

        • Forester is correct. Normal rules of the road would never permit a straight-ahead lane to be marked to the right of a right turn lane. The conflict should be obvious. Yet many cyclists have been killed or badly injured when the curb-side bike lanes or cycle tracks told them that they would be safe riding straight next to a turning vehicle. And segregation advocates still promote such designs, usually stating that their aim is to lure more riders.

          • The first Forester quote is probably the one which I can most agree with! Poorly-planned bike lanes do put cyclists in the wrong position, unless there’s a separate signal phase for turning traffic (as in the Netherlands). He’s wrong about bikeways though, as the Dutch design proves.

            The thing is, every problem he describes has a solution (and that solution isn’t VC!). All these issues have been solved in the Netherlands.

            The proof of the pudding is in the eating: the Netherlands has the highest rate of cycling, with the broadest range of people, and the lowest rate of accidents. That’s a fact. You can’t argue with it.

            VC is a coping strategy, nothing more. Promoting it as the one true way to ride a bike means fewer cyclists and more accidents. That’s been proven by the UK and US over the past 40 years.

            Perhaps other bike infrastructure advocates promote poor designs, but I certainly don’t. We should be aiming for the best.

            • Peter

              The only engineering solution, to prevent right turning automobiles from colliding with bicycles in paths to the right of the autolanes, is to either put a stop sign on the path, giving cars the right-of-way, put in a signal with a bike-only phase, or do a grade-separation with the path going over or under the intersection. The first two slow down bicyclists and the latter is not feasible in dense urban areas due to expense and the real-estate requirements to keep the grade reasonable. So the right-of-way control is most often used. So, yes, it is totally possible to make the intersection safe and still have Dutch-style side paths, but it is at the expense of slowing down the bicyclists and motorists ( if a signal phase is used). The Dutch also use various speed control methods, such as sharp turning radius, posts to make the street look narrower and speed humps, to slow down cars in these situations.

              All to protect bicyclists from “hit from behind” fears. When you get done, the bicyclists are not much safer than if they had been riding on the road. As I said before, it is not the side paths that make bicyclists safer but the speed reductions and intersection controls.

              • Not entirely true — in the Netherlands, all straight-on traffic goes at the same time, including people on bikes and on foot. Turning traffic has to wait, and when the turning traffic does get a green light, that’s when the straight-on bike traffic is held at a red signal.

                Still, we’re quibbling over trifles here: The broad point is that Dutch cycling infrastructure quite clearly works, and attracts huge numbers of people to use a bike for transport, and is safer than riding on the road in the UK or US.

          • That’s why, typically, right turn movement has a separate phase from through cycle track movement– separates motorists movement from cyclists’ movement in time and space.

          • Jan

            Being dutch, just stumbled on this thread. It’s nice to see how infrastructure that we take for granted is perceived from other countries.

            I have to comment on the right-turn problem though:

            In the Netherlands, the general rule is that turning traffic has to wait for straight-on traffic. This not only includes bicycles, but pedestrians as well. In a situation without traffic lights, you just cannot make a right turn with a car without watching for cyclists and pedestrians.

            To accommodate this, there’s usually just enough space for 1 car to make the turn at 45 degrees, before crossing the cycle path, and without interfering with traffic on the main road.

            Take a look at this typical (quite large though) crossing:

            A car will cross the cycle path at almost a right angle, making sure that he will see bikes, instead of hitting them in the flank.

            In a situation with traffic lights, there’s indeed a separate cycle for bikes. Usually, depending on relative traffic volume, one of them will be green all the time if there’s no traffic on the other lane.

  5. Koen

    Sigh…. it should be punishable by law to tell these kinds of lies. I can see why you gave up on answering him- he’s so far off he could be aiming or the delusional ward of the local asylum. Very sad these guys keep influencing many debates and, worst of all, policies.

    • It’s sad that the separate but equal crowd knows absolutely nothing about traffic engineering principles. If they did, they we wouldn’t get stupid ideas like bike boxes that create danger for bicyclists crossing right turning traffic to reach the bike box. Why do you ride like that?

      • Bike boxes are a terrible concept. I have even written a post explaining why they’re crap and shouldn’t be supported by cycling campaigners.

        If that’s your idea of cycling infrastructure then no wonder you’re against it so much!

        • Funny, that’s considered state of the art in places like “bicycle friendly” Portland. Bicycle advocates like you pushed to get those facilities in Portland. In fact the woman who helped start Alta Planning + Design Mia Burk is very proud of all the green paint and bike boxes that she championed for Portland. Yes it’s bad design, but the bicycle advocates don’t seem to care about that, they just want something to make them “feel safer” even if it actually increases risks. You should really stop trying to sell Holland to Americans. We’re not dutch, we don’t have dutch laws and we don’t have Hollands tax structure to support dutch style infrastructure. You’re putting the cart before the horse. Try getting laws changed to raise taxes, lower speed limits and outlaw right turns on red, then come back and we can talk. Otherwise you’re just wasting your breath.

          • While we’re at it, I hate “bike boxes” – or ASLs as they’re called in the UK. I’ve even written an article describing why they’re no good.

            Bicycle advocates who push for bike boxes aren’t like me at all, they sound like they’re a lot like you in fact – rather than change the system to create safe, car-free areas for cycling, they want to fit cycling in around the edges of the dominant motoring system.

        • Frank Krygowski

          Hmm. Bike boxes are a terrible concept – a point on which we can agree!

          Problem is, we’ve seen a history of escalating requests from the bike segregation lobby. First, we saw claims that bike lanes are needed on every street and through every intersection. Then, after “right hook” deaths of people feeling safe in bike lanes, we saw claims that bike boxes would fix things. Next we saw claims that more was needed, and that “protected” cycle tracks would fix things. And now we’re seeing claims that cycle tracks aren’t sufficient because of intersections, so we need Dutch-style around-the-mulberry-bush cycletracks at every intersection.

          In every case, the vehicular cyclists have explained in advance the problems with each request, based on obvious traffic motions. In each case, they’ve been shown to be right.

          I look forward to the next request. Will it be for elevated cycletracks on every street? “Finally, a SAFE place to ride, because anywhere at street level is so dangerous!”

  6. thanks for the laugh & well done. Regarding Tim’s comment: their legacy is not fading at all. Decades of allowing this rubbish to be put front and center took care of that.

    • Thanks! We only have to read some of the comments further down the page (mainly from the US, I think) to see that the words of Forester echo loudly.

      • Neil Schneider

        Here’s a nice video showing how crossing motion and false security can get you killed.

        • That doesn’t prove a thing. That cycleway is not well-engineered. There should at least be a bollard or a “keep left” sign there to keep cars out.

          You’re going to have to try harder than that to disprove the existence of the Netherlands.

          • The exception often proves the rule. Holland is the exception, not the rule. I don’t live in Holland and I don’t expect ever to see Dutch style bike lanes here. Try learning to ride on the roads we have now. Only bicycle advocates would promote their product by scaring new users and trying to sell them that it’s not safe.

            • Nobody wants to. That’s why the cycling rate wherever you are is languishing in the low single digits.

              • Frank Krygowski

                Sorry, Cat, that’s more simplistic thinking. There are _many_ reasons American cycling modes are much smaller than Dutch ones. It’s not just segregated facilities. The reasons are related to city layout, travel distances, dozens of pro-motoring vs. anti-motoring policies, terrain, climate, history, culture and more.

                But certainly one reason is all the “It’s not safe!” nonsense being broadcast by facilities advocates. They constantly tell people they may die if they ride before cycletracks are installed. Is it any wonder that people fear riding?

  7. Fantastic examples, thanks. I moved from the US to the NL twelve years ago and often can’t find the words to describe the differences in the total transportation infrastructure that make for a far better, safer experience for ALL street users.

  8. Brilliant collection of quotes and pictures. Made my day. What you expose so clearly is how Forester and Franklin just knew absolutely nothing about what they were talking and writing about for so long. They were pontificating on things they had never experienced and drawing every possible incorrect conclusion. It was intellectually dishonest and shameful. This was apparent to many of us decades ago, and it was so frustrating that so many people took them seriously. A few still do, though I think in the UK, at least, it is a rapidly shrinking number owing in large parts to blogs such as this. Keep it up.

    • No it simply proves the people who insist we build infrastructure to match Holland and Belgium, forget that we have US drivers here. And less that strict liability. Kill a bicyclist here, and you pay a fine. Kill one in Holland and you may go to jail. Also they have mandatory training and testing for bicycle competency in school, we have none.

  9. “The extra care enforced by the presence of motor traffic, generally results in the safest cycling environment overall.”

    I call BULLSHIT.
    Is there ANY activity where the presence of a factor involved in the vast majority of fatal or serious injuries, or with the potential to do so if that factor was introduced, will result in making that activity safer? Does John Franklin think pedestrianised roads should be re-opened to motor traffic to deter people from walking into each other? Does he think ice rinks should have the grooming machines out at the same time as the public, to make sure skaters take more care? Also, those track cyclists at the velodrome still manage to crash quite a lot, so how about we make sure they take more care by replacing the derny with a Jaguar, and having the car slipstream the cyclists? I’m sure the increased risks of a career ending injury should a rider fall off will encourage all of Team GB to take more care when riding wheel to wheel.

    Next week – how needing to take extra care to avoid food poisoning makes raw meat dishes safer than a tin of baked beans a bit past its best before date, on the off chance that the beans are contaminated with Salmonella.

  10. mmmm…as someone living in the UK with a very poor cyclenetwork and trying to live/work using bicycles for all purposes I just have to know how to use the road network as i find it. None of the cycle facilities which I regularly use on a solo are big enough nor do they have wide enough bends when towing a large trailer etc etc.
    I would love to have Dutch style facilities but they are not here yet.
    Hardest of all to do, has been to teach my children how to ride assertively on the roads and then let them get on with it.

    • You’re right, VC is a good coping strategy for riding on the UK’s dreadful roads. But why must Forester and Franklin use their influence to oppose Dutch-style infrastructure? Teaching and using VC doesn’t mean you have to also campaign against cycle paths, though it often seems to turn out that way.

      All the quotes (except the final one) don’t come from VC instruction material – they’re taken from anti-infrastructure ramblings, which really have nothing to do with VC. (The final one is from Franklin’s book, Cyclecraft, and is used to show how an on-road based cycling method excludes large sections of society – such as your children!)

      • Because most cycling paths here create more right hook conflicts and give bicyclists the false belief that they need not worry about those conflicts, because they are on a “safe” cycle path. The most hazardous part of riding a bicycle is crossing traffic and cycle paths here increase not decrease that danger. If we could also import Dutch-style drivers and Dutch-style liability laws, then Dutch-style cycling infrastructure might work. As it stands Dutch-style infrastructure would increase cross traffic conflicts, while decreasing options for the rider. Second issue is that the motorists will insist that cyclists only belong on cycle paths, restricting the access to alternate routes that don’t include cycle paths. That already happens now, with drivers yelling things like “get on the sidewalk” when passing bicyclists.

        • “You want good design, but look at this bad design. your good design won’t work because the bad design is bad.”

          • You get what you get. This is considered good design here. Even in Copenhagen, where the infrastructure by your standards is first rate, cycle paths have increased accidents 10%. Fact fly in the face or your beliefs. Your good design won’t work, because they won’t build your good design here. As others have said, they can’t even keep up the motor transportation infrastructure, and you want them to divert dollars from there to build your special bicyclists only infrastructure. Texas is un-paving roads, because they can’t keep them up.

            • Read my comments, Neil: Copenhagen is second-rate. They have neglected to invest in cycling infrastructure and accidents have increased, ridership has dropped.

              You won’t get safe, mass cycling without Dutch-quality infrastructure. If your government will not invest in cycling infrastructure, cycling will remain unpopular and dangerous. If you’re not willing to campaign for better, that doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t.

              • Bicycling is not dangerous. I’ve been riding for more than 30 years, had no serious interactions or injuries, except for self-created, like going around a corner too fast and slamming myself down on the pavement. You keep selling the fear, and then you wonder why more people don’t bicycle. I think too many have been listening to you and your fellow infrastructure advocates. If you build it, they will run away……

                Quick Facts

                Bicyclist deaths in 2001: 732
                Bicyclist deaths in 2012: 726 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
                Reduction in bicyclist deaths between 2001 and 2011: 7.5 percent
                Bicyclist injuries in 2001: 45,000
                Bicyclist injuries in 2012: 49,000 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts)
                Increase in bicyclist injuries between 2001 and 2011: 8.9 percent
                The total cost of bicyclist injury and death is over $4 billion per year (National Safety Council).


                The Politics of Doom

                Think about the things that keep people from bicycling these days. Fear of traffic. Fear of injury. Of looking awkward. Of the equipment. Of being left behind. Discomfort.

                On what do most bicycle advocates focus? Bike lanes, new laws, and helmets. None of the three do much to reduce those fears, and to a significant extent they increase them.


  11. Denmark is as “dangerous”, see Mikael Colville-Andersen’s TED talk:

  12. Judy

    Best laugh I had all week, brilliant.

  13. Paul M

    I don’t suppose many would disagree with the proposal that vehicular cycling is a valid survival strategy for a highway system which forces cyclists to mix with motor vehicles, any more than they would dispute the notion that a cycle helmet could be a sensible option (sic) for cyclists to choose (sic) to wear.

    However it is easy to see how a proponent of such an argument could in time transgress a boundary and start to lobby for the status quo which gives rise to such needs. They have too much pride, or too much intellectual capital invested in it or, worse, their livelihood (royalties from sales of the definitive instruction manual?) depends on it.

    It is actually remarkably easy to appoint yourself as an “expert” in a subject – and I suspect that there are one or two self-appointed experts on the anti-VC or segregationist side of the argument, although I am personally happy to accept their views as they support my own sentiments. If you give it a little thought, you can almost certainly think of examples in entirely different fields. In my professional life for example, as a tax adviser, I constantly encounter situations where people believe they can legally avoid tax in ways which I know for a certainty are illegal and could have them indicted for fraud, because some self-styled expert has told them so, and of course is telling them something that they WANT to believe.

    So all you need is to talk loudly and confidently enough, and have something to say which your audience wants to believe, and you will be accepted – by that audience at least – as an expert. Politicians, national but eespecially local, want to believe that spending money which will get their local vocal taxpayer’s alliance types frothing at the mouth, or taking space from road width which will get their local motoring lobbyists in a frightful bate, is actually a bad idea on rational technical grounds too.

    That kind of misinformation is extremely difficult to counter – I know that in my own context, convincing someone that you are not just raining on another tax adviser’s parade and that they really are risking heavy fines or even jail unless they pay more tax is very hard. I love your pictorial rebuttals, because it strikes me they are powerfully persuasive – a picture is worth a thousand words, as they say – and if directed at the right audiences can at least kill one area of misinformation about segregated cycle paths.

    As for Forrester and Franklin, I agree that they are both irrelevant but I wouldn’t discount their influence while they are still alive. Forrester is now quite elderly and his recent rants on bikeforum suggest to me that he is losing it but he is still there for the time being. What is more encouraging is that there don’t appear to be any apostles to keep alive the holy writ after his passing

    • Go Dutch

      This is key to understanding J Forrester, J Franklin, J Allen, etc, and their autistic ‘advocacy’.
      “However it is easy to see how a proponent of such an argument could in time transgress a boundary and start to lobby for the status quo which gives rise to such needs. They have too much pride, or too much intellectual capital invested in it or, worse, their livelihood (royalties from sales of the definitive instruction manual?) depends on it.”

      • Your guess at motives is simply wrong. There are many people here in the U.S. who argue against crude copies of Dutch infrastructure because they’ve seen firsthand the problems with the crude copies – and because they know accurate copies will never be politically or economically possible.

        Some posting here don’t see those problems; they are thoroughly convinced that Dutch design – or a crude approximation – is the answer everywhere. Those people might try producing a list of the other countries that have adopted the same designs over as large a percentage of their roadways as have the Dutch. Then they might list the political processes that made such a change possible.

        The task really won’t be hard, will it? After all, it would be a VERY short list! 😉

        • Many people are quite happy with crude copies that are potentially worse than status quo because they know no better. That unfortunately makes it easy for planners and engineers to place proper bike accommodation in the transport network in distant second (or worse) place and still make it seem like it’s “forward thinking”. They shoehorn a “generous” 7′ bike lane that disappears at all intersections next to the 6-lane 50 MPH arterial instead of just putting a 7′ separated cycletrack with proper intersection treatments. What the Cult of the Johns needs to do is stop grandstanding against any and all bike-specific infrastructure under any number of their misguided premises. Instead, they should use their weight to make sure that only the very best stuff ends up in plans and on the ground. It won’t happen overnight, but there’s no reason to completely oppose it. Also, they should take a trip to any number of the more successful countries. Though at the same time, Forester did travel to Davis and was unimpressed, offering many of the same critiques of it as he had against The Netherlands.

      • John Forrester posts to another list, which I frequent. Someone posted a link to this page on that list. Here’s what John Forrester had to say about this page. He addressed the poster directly as if he were the owner of the page, which isn’t true. So I removed his name, otherwise this is a direct quote.

        “The posting critical of the views of John Forester and John Franklin is just one more of the illogical and sophomoric position papers in the spiteful controversy concerning bicycle transportation in the USA. Those with a fervent anti-motoring faith that if the USA copied Dutch bikeway designs and traffic law practices the USA would have an enormous switch from motor to bicycle transport. This is a faith for which there is no evidence whatever. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that such an outcome would be most unlikely, evidence from sociology, urban design, traffic engineering, psychology, and similar fields, areas in which the anti-motorists do not show expertise.

        The sophomoric nature of the presentation comes across immediately.
        For example, the photograph of a cyclist in sporting clothing riding on
        a bike path between a rural highway and open fields does not disprove
        the argument that, in urban areas, side paths get involved with a nasty
        tangle of driveway and intersection traffic. No single example of an
        exception disproves a general statement; only a contrary description of
        all the instances could do so. However, a picture of a crowded bicycling
        area does demonstrate the argument that such places are not suitable for cycling at American bicycle transportation speeds.

        I have written before that the combination of anti-motoring motivation
        and traffic-fearing cyclist faith not only does not require any factual
        support, but it actually requires contra-factual arguments to pretend to
        be persuasive. I advocate changes that make cycling safer and more
        useful, based on valid theory and supported by factual studies. However,
        the anti-motoring, Dutch-favoring bicycle advocates have not been able
        to present such studies based on American conditions. ”

        If you care to read the post for yourself, I believe this link will take you there!topic/caboforum/hG19a1OejrU

        • Koen

          Thanks, Pacneil. My grandfather warned me long ago that ‘there is no way to win a fight with ignorance’. Let’s just say that Forrester is ignorant of how things could really work much better for everyone, without all these disadvantages he mentions. Say he doesn’t know about solutions for driveways, crossings, side roads, budgets, or any other excuse. (He should, because many of us have been trying to tell people like him for ages).
          It still would be a weak way of responding by attacking infra-advocates as car-haters.

          Providing for young and old doesn’t have to be anti-motorist, rather, it works a lot better for drivers too. In the Netherlands, drivers are usually led away from urban areas, so they can drive quickly, quietly and unobstructedly to their destination. Main roads increasingly avoid towns. Added to that, keeping cyclists of the streets in urban and rural areas making drivng more relaxed. Thirdly, more cyclists means less cars, so more space for the ones left. So how come ‘anti-motorist?’ Most motorists in the Netherlands are cyclists, and a large portion vice-versa as well (children don’t drive here until they’re 18). So much for the straw man.

          But what I mainly hear from his response is fear. Of what, I don’t know. Perhaps of admitting that what he’s been saying all these years isn’t the only way to go?

          Anyway, all these excuses have, as I mentioned before, been adressed long ago by David Hembrow:
          John, if you’re reading: look it up, and try to be a bit more flexible. Lastly, it’s better to implement great infrastructure bit by bit, than laying down crap all at once.

        • Typical rambling bullshit from Forester, then!

      • This is key to understanding that those who advocate for separate but equal infrastructure have no idea what Forrester has said, and have never once corresponded with him. It’s an old trick of rhetoric to attack the messenger, while ignoring or distorting their message. I expect nothing less from those who advocate for separate facilities. We have separate facilities one one route I could use to commute to work. I choose a different route, because every intersection with a road is a place I have to stop, wait for a walk signal, before crossing. If I take an alternate route, though 3 miles longer and ride in traffic, I arrive at the same time, without all the dangerous intersections. “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”

        • What are you talking about? This blog post quite literally takes on Franklin and Forester’s words. There’s nothing at all about the messengers, only the message.

          It sounds like the cycle facilities in your area are of poor quality, I don’t blame you for avoiding them.

          But don’t let that blind you to the possibilities created by good infrastructure.

        • Also, Forester’s favourite mantra: “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”

          My five year-old niece fares best when she acts and is treated as a driver of a vehicle? Are you mad?!

          • I suppose your 5 year old niece is planning to commute to work on here bicycle? I started riding bicycle when I was 5, until I was 13 I rarely left my street. Then I started riding to school, on my bicycle, without bike lanes. Funny, no issue then, not an issue now. You expect to take your 5 year old niece riding on a bike path? What are you, a child abuser?

            • Children of that age and younger regularly use bike paths in the Netherlands. They regularly top the lists of the healthiest, happiest children in the world. Is that a country of child abusers?

              Or are the USA and UK countries of child abusers, where children they get so little exercise that the obesity rate is massive? Where children aren’t allowed any freedom?

              Don’t look at this, it might upset you:

            • That you rarely left your street until age 13 shows that there was a problem then. Dutch children are able to roam freely and safely by bike from about age 8.

              That so few US children ride – on the road or otherwise – is an issue now. Maybe not for you personally, but for everyone else.

              • Dutch children also get bicycling education in school, just as the rest of their classes. American Children don’t. I love it when bicycle advocates sell fear.

                The Politics of Possibility

                Because cycling is not very risky. The average bicyclist – and this includes all those ones who ride in a less-than-competent manner – will travel about 4 million hours before experiencing a fatal crash. That is equal to 456 years of non-stop cycling. Cyclists who follow the basic rules of the road will travel significantly farther before a fatal crash. But we focus way too much on these rare crashes, instead of on the hundreds of millions of miles cyclists travel every year without incident.

                How exactly are these common strategies increasing cycling?

                If my fictitious marketing strategist understood these numbers, he’d likely spin it like this: “In spite of the fact that many bicyclists routinely violate the rules of the road such as traveling at night without lights and running red lights, and that motorists are often inattentive and careless, and that Florida’s bicyclists travel hundreds of millions of miles each year, only about 120 Florida bicyclists are killed each year. It’s hard to imagine a safer activity, especially if you learn how to do it properly, which is easy to do.”

            • davidhembrow

              Neil: It’s true that there is traffic education in Dutch schools (not simply bicycle education) but that has almost nothing at all to do with children cycling to school or for any other purpose, as you’d know if you’d spent any time in this country.

              Most children learn to cycle by the age of three in the Netherlands. They ride their bicycles in safety to and in city centres from a very young age. Even if they make mistakes there’s little that can happen to them. and many are already pretty good on their bikes by the time they start school at the age of five.

              Traffic education comes _after_ the children already cycle. The practical training doesn’t happen until they’re eleven years old. By that time, they’ve not only been cycling to school for years, in safety, on well designed cycling infrastructure, but they’ve already been on many school trips by bike.

              There is no fear of cycling in the Netherlands because its extraordinarily safe to cycle here.

              Don’t confuse the minority cycling culture that you have in Florida with true mass cycling. In order to help you tell them apart, here’s a handy guide to what true mass cycling looks like.

      • JFC

        >their autistic ‘advocacy’

        Imagine being an ableist fuckwit.

    • Dutchie

      “They have too much pride, or too much intellectual capital invested in it or, worse, their livelihood (royalties from sales of the definitive instruction manual?) depends on it.”

      Actually, acting as bicycle collision lawsuit “expert witnesses” for hire, both for and against injured/dead cyclists, is the biggest financial motivation for VCs to fight against their loss of “expertness”. Forester charges $400 an hour, and he must also refer cases to his acolytes.

      • While the separate but equal advocates make money consulting on the proper construction of dutch bike lanes such as Alta Consulting. The other way they make money is investing in construction companies that build the separate but equal bike lanes. There are literally hundreds of consulting groups that will sell you their vision of separate but equal bike lanes.

        • Dan

          I recently purchased “effective cycling” on amazon, which is Forester’s book. The reason I purchased it is NOT because I agree with no cycling infrastructure, it’s because I am FORCED to ride on roads without bike paths or risk the sidewalk to get to many places around here. Therefore, I desire the safest strategies and knowledge to cope with what exists, and I have come to the conclusion that where i live, where my City Alderwoman is OK with cars parking in bike lanes, is not going to change very quickly. We put in an application for bike share here (A joke given our lack of infrastructure that is separate) and I can only hope this brings many more complaints as residents in the City begin to cycle more and drivers become aware that they exist. In the meantime, I am resigned to what exists, which is mostly safe on my work route with some major arterials with no bike lanes AND no shoulders, posted speed limits of 40 MPH (though few cars ever achieve this due to congestion) and few safe crosswalks, and this is on a road WITH A HIGH SCHOOL.

          • You are not forced to do anything. I ride on some very busy roads on my commute. I don’t consider it dangerous at all. You might check around and see if there are cycling classes from Cycling Savvy or League Cycling Instructors to get over your fear. Paint on the road doesn’t protect you, your cycling skill do.

  14. Tim

    Reblogged this on peoplesfrontofrichmond and commented:
    Why “vehicular cycling” and its advocates are so wrong.

  15. I’m not fit – in fact, I’ve had health issues all my life. Nor am I confident – I have severe social anxiety. Yet I find vehicular cycling works really well compared with the type of cycling I did 20 years ago.

    But then again, I don’t find the road ‘hostile’, and when I’m on it, motors don’t dominate. The whole point of vehicular cycling is to tame motorists and make the road a pleasant place to cycle. I find it accomplishes this well, and let’s face it – a tamed road is a far better place to cycle than a winding 4ft wide strip of asphalt that every legitimate researcher has found to be less safe for cyclists than a road.

    Franklin’s failure in the UK is in stressing fitness and speed. You don’t need to be fit or fast to practice vehicular (or integrated) cycling. I practice it every day and I rarely go over 10mph.

    Forester’s failure in the US has to do with the fact that he’s a bit of a prick. But his ideas are, I find, very sound.

    You can ignore VC, and you can serve up ad hominem attacks and straw men all you want, but VC won’t go away, because the more you cycle, the more it makes sense to avoid segregated bicycle facilities and instead use the road.

    • I’m happy that VC works well for you, Ian, I really am, but do you seriously expect an 8 year old child to “tame motorists”? Even if VC is useful to you where you live, does it really help you ride at 10mph on a busy ring road, for example. Can you see the family in the second photo going on a trip riding on the busy dual carriageway? Of course not: they’d take the car instead.

      Can you point to this legitimate research about cycle paths being more dangerous? I keep hearing about it, but nothing beyond Franklin’s ageing collection of dubious documents ever shows up.

      Have you been to the Netherlands in the past 20 years and ridden a bike there? I don’t think you’d prefer to ride on the road if you had. Are you really suggesting that the two girls in the top photo would be better off sharing the road with that tipper truck?

      • A 2010 study comparing streets in Copenhagen that had had cycle tracks and bicycle lanes added to them found that cycling volume increased 20%. However, on the cycle track streets bicycle accidents increased 10% more than would be expected from the changed bicycle and automobile traffic volumes, making the cycle tracks less safe for cyclists than the unmodified roads.

        • Copenhagen isn’t as good (or safe) as anywhere in the Netherlands for cycling. I’ve never advocated copying Denmark. Cycling rates have been falling in Copenhagen over the last 20 years because they’ve been neglecting their infrastructure. (They concentrate on hype these days.)

          Can you find a similar study for the Netherlands, where cycling is not only an extremely popular mode of transport, but also the safest place in the world to do it? (Far safer than “taking the lane” anywhere in the USA, by the way. Cycling in the Netherlands is even safer than walking down the street on the sidewalk in the USA.)

          • Frank Krygowski

            Your point seems to be that what many regard as the world’s second best country for cycling is not at all acceptable. Only the one country regarded as the absolute best is adequate; and all other countries must conform to its example.

            There are roughly 200 nations on earth. Only one meets your standard. I submit that as prima facie evidence that your standards are totally unrealistic, and that they work in the Netherlands ONLY because of Netherlands’ unique characteristics.

            When you get a mere 5% of the nations on earth to meet your ludicrous standards, you may get reasonable people to agree with you.

            • Good point Frank, well made. The Cat made a poor reply to Neil’s accurate critique.

              A better reply, i think, to Neil’s point is that Copenhagen needs to provide facilities that merely feel safer on some streets, in order to provide network continuity and grow or at least maintain the level of cycling in the city, in order to achieve safety in numbers. In a nutshell, letting one street get a little less safe is worth it in order that other streets get safer, and that more of their citizens feel they have the option of using a bicycle for more of their journeys.

              The problem, from my reading of the same report, is that when parking is removed from those streets to make room to provide what truly are Dutch quality bikepaths, drivers head up the side streets to find parking places there and the extra collisions come from the extra traffic turning in and out of sidestreets, crossing the bikepath. I don’t think any Dutch city has made such a study. We should applaud Copenhagen for being honest enough to publish inconvenient truths, because unless we know these things we cannot address them.

              Solutions to this problem are not simple or cheap. You can’t simply ban parking across the whole area – drivers are voters too! Additional car parks need to be built, with safe. segregated or controlled access across the bikepaths, and that costs a LOT.

              The evidence of my frequent and wide-ranging visits to the other acknowledged cycle-friendly countries of Europe is that cycling is that the ‘problems’ of their not-quite-as-good-as-Holland facilities do not prevent a much greater proportion of their populations from feeling that it is okay to cycle for everyday transport and a pleasant recreation. And an analysis of the figures shows that the extra volume of cycling on these slightly less good facilities, some of which may be less safe than the vestigial level of on-road cycling they once-upon-a-time replaced, nevertheless sustains a far greater volume of cycling there, but also a generally safer ride for the individual cyclist. There may be some devils still to address in the detail, but the big picture is a whole lot better.

              For example: Germany provides a close comparator to UK, being a country of similar size, population density and wealth, with a mixed terrain hilly and mountainous areas. Germany cycles FIVE times more per head of population than UK. But kills only three times as many cyclists per year. So cycling there is almost twice as safe as in UK. (There’s no point in pretending to be more precise than that due to difficulty in measuring the amount of cycling).

              To dismiss the examples of Denmark, Switzerland and especially Germany, as not good enough, is to kick away the only stepping stones from where we are now to where we want to be.

        • Andy

          No. It used a mathematical model to predict the number of collisions expected afterwards. Then compared what was actually happening and found more collisions occuring than the model predicted. It’s authors also looked at the causes of this difference and identified three;
          1) Where parking was restricted adjacent the cycle lane there were more collisions than where parking was retained. They concluded this was due to drivers looking for parking spaces on the side roads leading to more vehicles turning across the bike track – poor driving, and nothing inherent in the cycle track design;
          2) Conflicts between cyclists – that 20% increase in cyclists (and scooters BTW) might perhaps have overwhelmed under-designed tracks if the designs were simply based on ‘before’ cycle flows rather than for ‘base flow + 20%’;
          3) Conflicts between cyclists and bus passengers as here –
          Maybe, with better design, such as ‘floating’ bus stops the cycle track wouldn’t be suddenly full of bus passengers.

          Click to access bicycle%20tracks%20and%20lanes.pdf

  16. Peter

    A total misinterpretation of Forester and others.

    Here’s the deal – nearly every carefully done study has shown that ALL bicycle infrastructure increases the number of car/bicycle collisions. Go study the study the City of Denmark did, comparing accident rates before and after streets were modified to have bike lane or side paths.

    What makes street safer for bicyclists are: lower (enforced) speed limits, better design of intersections, enforcement of traffic laws against motorists who hit bicyclists and pedestrians, and in some carefully done cases, traffic calming.

    The infrastructure has almost nothing to do with increasing safety. Instead, it makes bicyclists FEEL safer and does has the effect, in urban areas, of increasing bicycling.

    But more important than infrastructure to increase bicycling is the culture of bicycling already in place and compact-style cities.

    Forester believes the latter is unlikely to occur in sprawling American cities ( other than a few exceptions such as Philadelphia, NYC and Boston which are compact for historical reasons, and a few compact west coast cities) and realizes that infrastructure just gives the perception of safety without any real increase. He focuses on methods that actively increase safety.

    And not just for fit or fast cyclists. I am partially disabled and bicycle along at 10 mph on urban streets. I could not bicycle safely without using the training of Effective Cycling.

    • I’m glad that you find VC so useful, but is it useable by everyone, everywhere? Or do you have to choose your routes wisely to avoid the fast roads?

      Even though you are able to use VC – it sounds like you’re a good commercial for it, even! – the fact remains that the population has voted with their feet: they don’t want to ride a bike in traffic. Even with all the tips and hints and training in the world, they’ll still say: ‘no thanks, I’ll take the car, it’s less stressful.’

      If infrastructure is so dangerous, why does the Netherlands have a lower accident rate than the UK or the US, despite it having a much broader range of people on bikes? Can you link to this City of Denmark study? I would be interested in reading it. By the way, Denmark does not have the same quality of cycling infrastructure as the Netherlands does, and I’ve never advocated anything less than Dutch quality. See for info.

      • As most advocates for separate but equal infrastructure, if you are talking about he U.S. you are ignoring a difference in society. In Europe there are social pressures that brought about the creation of infrastructure. Those pressures don’t exist in the U.S. and in fact there are much stronger oppositional forces at work. The recent fight over the national transportation bill where there was a concerted effort to kill any funding for alternative transportation, which mostly succeeded. If you think it’s politically possible to get Dutch style bicycle infrastructure build in one U.S. city, you are naive. U.S. Transportation is dominated by the oil companies and the automobile industry. We can’t even get rid of the $40 Billion subsidy that oil companies don’t need, what do you think the chances are we can get any separate bicycle infrastructure built?

        • Koen

          The mistake here is that you don’t need all that many people to really make a change. Time is ripe, many people are waiting for a change, so if just 1 person is active enough to make a change….

          • Please explain how a few people will convince the government to completely change course and begin re-engineering the world for bicyclists, diverting the already scarce money from automobiles.

            Understand, in my state, there was a recent decision to forbid repaving within parks, except using cyclist-hostile chip and seal paving, because of budget problems. Understand, I was on a team that developed a bicycle transportation map for the city, and we were barely able to get funds to even print the map, because of budget problems. Road projects are being delayed because of budget problems, even though the federal government is trying to stimulate the economy.

            So how would you suggest we convince transportation engineers to scrap their current plans and budgets, and instead throw all their money into perfect (not half-baked) copies of Dutch bicycle designs? How would you justify it to taxpayers, 99% of whom never use a bike for transportation? Which similar countries will you point to, where such a transition has recently taken place, and where the supposed benefits can be realistically assessed?

            Quit the pie-in-the-sky and give details, please.

            • Koen

              There ARE perfectly reasonable solutions. I understand your problems, Frank, I acknowledge it is hard starting from nothing. If you’re short on money, then begin with the easy parts, without compromising on safety. So I would suggest taking an urban surrounding. If you take measures like making parallel roads into one-way streets, then it’s possible to even out traffic flow, minimising conflict, and leaving room for cycle lanes and even real separated cycle tracks. Be sure to connect A to B.
              Now what about the costs? Experience and research show that with better cycling environment and subjective safety, the number of cycling trips increases. These cyclists don’t come out of nowhere; for a large part they used to be drivers. So every increase in cycling numbers in turn means a certain amount of decrease in car use. So the decrease in space for the car doesn’t necessarily mean less space for individual drivers, in many cases even the contrary.

              Now what about the costs? cycling infrastructure is a lot cheaper to build than car infrastructure, and lasts way longer because the vehicles are a lot lighter. In the long term it pays for itself.

              If you saw the video you would understand that a neighborhood built for people instead of cars becomes more livable. Now to take the difficult hurdle: how to convince your local council. I can’t do that for you, but the guy in the video gave some pretty good clues. Show up, make a good website, make it insightful for others, make a pilot project so people can see what it’s all about, and set yourself a deadline.

              I get the impression that for you the difference between the present and the idea of what they have in the Netherlands is too great to take in one stride. You’re right, it is. But you have to start somewhere! If we didn’t do just that in the seventies, we would be right where you are now. True, we did have a population that knew how it was to ride your bike almost anywhere. That’s why our protests started a lot earlier, I guess. But you don’t need to have a whole population protesting, even in Amsterdam it started with just a handful. Watch the other video, by Mark Wagenbuur, on his blog:
              If you decide to start: good luck, Frank!

              • I’m afraid you misunderstand my intent, Koen. I’m sure that if I mounted a one man pro-facilities campaign, within fifteen years we could have many blocks of door-zone bike lanes filled with debris. Some of them might be to the right of right-turn-only lanes, setting cyclists up for the excitement of right-hook crashes with turning vehicles, or feature “protective” bollards that cyclists can collide with. I’ve seen these things (and worse) in plenty of communities. I won’t work for them.

                I prefer to devote my time to dissuading traffic engineers from designing terrible facilities, EVEN THOUGH there are many ignorant cyclists (and supposedly wannabee cyclists) who think there is no such thing as a bad bike facility. I prefer to devote my time to proving that, with only a little knowledge, one can safely and enjoyably cycle on the roads we now have. I prefer working to disseminate that knowledge.

                Granted, my task can be difficult. There continue to be vocal idealists who claim that we should duplicate Amsterdam’s cycling levels, despite tremendous differences in history, culture, costs, terrain, climate and laws. Those people continue to claim cycling is very dangerous unless done on Dutch-style facilities. Thus, they continue to suppress cycling with their false fear mongering, and the fears they promote are hard to counter. They also pretend that somehow, the next bike facility will somehow avoid the mistakes and hazards of the last dozen facilities.

                Nonetheless, I believe I’ve done some good. I’ve pointed out problems with existing bike facilities, and (eventually) even gotten promises that some of them will be fixed – not, unfortunately, before such facilities caused a friend to be very seriously and permanently injured, and several other friends to suffer crashes. I’ve convinced a number of people that cycling on normal roads is actually is quite safe, and that its benefits greatly outnumber its risks, even (or especially) without weird facilities.

                I know we will never have 25% modal share in this area, but I know we’d never have that even if every road were Amsterdamized. So I’ll continue to work on more practical efforts, thank you.

              • Koen

                I think we can all agree that bad cycling facilities is not the way to go, Frank. Better do nothing than building bad facilities, because you will be stuck with those once you’ve got them. And building a lane that goes nowhere or stops at the difficult points like intersections is just that. Still, the risks of cyclists getting hurt or injured are way more than they seem in the US, if the figures are right: (, page 13)
                NL 1.1 deaths per 100 million km traveled, US 5.8
                NL 1.4 injured per 10 million km traveled, US a staggering 37.5!
                Now to me that would be indicative that something can be improved. Not by saying people need a helmet when they’re about to be crushed by a turning truck, not by saying to young children that they need to be educated how to ride with fast traffic, not by driving kids to school and banning the bike. JUST BY MAKING IT SAFE! And about money… if you just stop spending all of it on useless wars and building things for cars, there’s plenty of money for sustainable things.

                I heard something about Romney’s campaign today, a foreman of his on a convention exclaimed to Obama: ‘Real leaders don’t listen to polls, real leaders change the polls!’ So if that’s what Americans want, leaders who tell them what to do, instead of leaders who listen, then yes, it can be a very long time before things change. So Frank, go on, keep telling people to cope with the bad situation they have, I won’t bother anymore. We were trying to show how it could be different, but apparently you’re not interested. Fine, but don’t spoil it for others.

              • “Still, the risks of cyclists getting hurt or injured are way more than they seem in the US, if the figures are right: (, page 13)
                NL 1.1 deaths per 100 million km traveled, US 5.8
                NL 1.4 injured per 10 million km traveled, US a staggering 37.5!
                Now to me that would be indicative that something can be improved… JUST BY MAKING IT SAFE!”

                Koen, that’s an _excellent_ example of the mindset I’m fighting! You’re claiming (as is Pucher) that since the fatality rate for the U.S. is higher than for NL, then we must call U.S. cycling dangerous. Do you not realize that, by that standard, every country in the world is “dangerous,” except for one?

                More specifically, that number from Pucher tells me that there are over _17 MILLION_ km ridden between U.S. fatalities – i.e., over 10.5 _million_ miles! That is NOT dangerous! That represents literally thousands of years of cycling for the average individual. Furthermore, Pucher’s papers have several times shown that U.S. cycling is roughly three times safer than _walking,_ on a per km basis. Yet nobody of sound mind in the U.S. fears walking. Why, then, should they fear cycling?

                I can address “injuries” as well; but rather, let me point out that “Danger! Danger!” statements such as yours are NOT beneficial. They quickly convince people that they dare not ride a bicycle until billions of dollars are spent on weird infrastructure – infrastructure that will never be built near most Americans, British, Australians, Italians, Poles, French, etc. Your statements therefore convince people that they should never ride a bike. Despite your misplaced zeal, your statements are harmful to cyclists and cycling.

                Perhaps you should take this little quiz:

              • Peter

                Philadelphia, where I live, is a compact, pre-automobile city that never sprawled like many American cities. It also has a fairly decent mass transit system.Other than the weather – very hot in summer and often heavy snow in the winter – it is perfect to get around by bike. Parking is very limited in the “Center City” area where it is flat and traffic is slow. The streets in this area were already a 1-way grid.

                There was already appreciable bicycling by American standards in Center City – maybe 2-3% of trips, I found it undrivable due to parking and traffic issues and would only bicycle to get around int his area.

                The local bicycle advocates were able to get enough political capital to get a couple of roads to have shared bus/bike lanes. A few other streets got the parking removed on one side and fairly nice bike lanes put in. The rest of the streets got door-zone bike lanes. There are also bike lanes ( mostly door zone) on major routes to other parts of the city.,

                Most bicyclists I talk to don’t mind the door-zone bike lanes and have no idea they are dangerous. The bike advocates say they are no less safe than no lanes as most bicyclists rode close to parked cars anyway.

                This infrastructure had some effect on bicycling. I would estimate bike trips went up by a percent or so. I believe the bike facilities advocate said it went up at least 25%, so now maybe 2-4% of trips are by bike.

                And that’s about as far as it will go. Maybe in another generation or two they can add some more rail-to-trail paths – we have a very nice array of them that take one as far as 30 miles out of the city -mostly used for recreation, but all the easy ones have been done.

                There is certainly not enough political capital increase from the the increase in bicyclists to take more parking away from cars.

                Meanwhile, people like me who knew how to bike safely are now forced, by law, to endanger themselves biking in the door zone against our wills.

          • Giving a TED talk is no more proof than something I write down. Facts matter. Texas is turning pave road to gravel, because they can’t afford to maintain them. They are not the exception but the rule. You think the motoring public is going to support you taking money from the roads to spend on separate but unequal bicycle infrastructure? We have to fight tooth and nail to get them to move the fog line left a few feet.

  17. Most of the comments of Forester and Franklin must be understood in the context of the societies in which they live, not in the context of one or two small northern European countries that are far different from the rest of the world. Yes, if you have a tiny, flat country with a long tradition of bicycle transportation, extremely high population density, average travel distances of perhaps 3 kilometers, extremely high motoring expenses, and if you spend four decades and a large portion of your nation’s transportation budget on making cycling convenient and motoring even more inconvenient, it’s possible to increase cycling. Add strict liability laws against motorists, and it’s possible to make cycling even safer than it already is in other countries.

    But those conditions do not exist in the U.S. nor in Britain. Most of them will never exist except in a few tiny northern European countries. So what do the copycat advocates get for those of us in other countries? First, we get the attitude that ANY bike facility is a good bike facility, and we therefore get terribly engineered and poorly maintained facilities, such as ultra-narrow bike lanes with bad pavement and road debris, bike lanes in door zones, trails with built-in collision hazards, “protected” lanes with blind crossing conflicts, bike boxes without the separate signal phases needed to make them safe, and other violations of engineering, physics and common sense.

    Second, we get the propaganda that it is hideously dangerous to ride a bicycle on ordinary roads. This actually suppresses cycling right now, as potential cyclists wait for some pie-in-the-sky day when every American or British city looks like Copenhagen. This attitude also tends to blame the few cyclists who are injured, as in “You knew it was dangerous to ride a bike.”

    Cycling as a legal vehicle operator, in accordance with existing laws and using some easily-learned skills, has given me and my family the ability to ride safely wherever we want, for transportation as well as recreation. Just a little learning has empowered us to ride to work, to the store, to the park, to visit friends. and to explore thousands of miles of pleasant roads – and incidentally, has taught us the hidden dangers of supposedly “safer” weird designs.

    Any cyclist can learn this, and can safely ride where they like right now, no “special facilities” necessary. See

    • “…extremely high population density, average travel distances of perhaps 3 kilometers, extremely high motoring expenses.” Sounds just like the UK then. The RAC found that only 41.9% of individual car journeys exceeded 5 miles, and that 8.3% were actually less than one mile.

      “But those conditions do not exist in the U.S. nor in Britain. Most of them will never exist except in a few tiny northern European countries.” Well, that will probably remain true with attitudes like yours. Motoring conditions in the USA are world class (apart from in regards to safety), but the fact that newly industrialised countries like China and India are decades behind in terms of car ownership rates and road building hasn’t put them off from building new highways. Some countries don’t have any railways. Should they not bother with any rail investment on the basis that other countries are too far ahead, even though it could be of considerable social and economic benefit?

      “First, we get the attitude that ANY bike facility is a good bike facility.” Who has this attitude? I don’t. Most of the campaigners I know don’t. I will admit that there is a fairly well known individual who thinks substandard cycle lane widths are a good idea on “tamed main roads”, but his is a minority view and most of us look at pathetic 1 metre wide cycle lanes leading to an ASL with a taxi in it with DESPAIR because we see money being wasted away. Some facilities are so bad the council could get better value for money watering public gardens with bottles of Pol Roger.

      “This actually suppresses cycling right now, as potential cyclists wait for some pie-in-the-sky day when every American or British city looks like Copenhagen.” Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong (to the power of however many more cyclists were injured this year compared with last). The pathetic and dangerous conditions to be encountered outside of a few isolated areas suppress cycling. The race track gyratories, the impossible maze of one way streets, the inadequate parking, and the total inadequacy of our law enforcement in regards to dangerous driving. That is why two thirds of new cyclists who didn’t wait for perfect conditions GIVE UP riding as TfL admit in a report here.

      “Cycling as a legal vehicle operator, in accordance with existing laws and using some easily-learned skills, has given me and my family the ability to ride safely wherever we want.” I can ride safely wherever I want, but that doesn’t mean that we are going to *be* safe. Remember that a pedestrian, or indeed a cyclist, hit directly by a vehicle at 40mph is likely to be killed. Is it any surprise most people out there, perfectly consciencious, intelligent, successful people, are avoiding these situations, because of the simple fact that being in control of a bicycle is not actually enough to be in control of one’s safety?

      Also, many Swiss cities have respectable modal shares for cycling. Yes, that pancake flat country. And the United Kingdom has a very long tradition of transport cycling (even if it has been suppressed by unenlightened planners), from the Rover safety bicycle which introduced the diamond frame, through the Moulton, to the Brompton, not forgetting Raleigh.

    • But… John Franklin *does* live in a small northern European country which is far different from the rest of the world! The UK is tiny, it does have a long history of bicycle transportation, extremely high population density, etc. The UK and the Netherlands are very similar in pretty much all respects. Have you researched your comment at all?

      Have you ever been to the Netherlands and ridden a bike?

      You should really read this:

      Finally, why do you think the family in the second photo are all out on bikes together? Scenes like that are very common in the Netherlands. Do you see them often in your town? Maybe it’s because the population need VC training, but I’m not so sure myself.

      • “But… John Franklin *does* live in a small northern European country which is far different from the rest of the world! The UK is tiny, it does have a long history of bicycle transportation, extremely high population density, etc. The UK and the Netherlands are very similar in pretty much all respects. Have you researched your comment at all?”

        I’ve cycled in the UK, and in many European countries. I’ve not, but my daughter has, cycled in the Netherlands. But the Netherlands and the UK are very different.

        Regarding history – you cannot seriously claim that cycling transportation was the same in the UK as in Amsterdam (or for that matter, Copenhagen) during most of the 20th century! There was an oft-viewed YouTube showing Copenhagen in 1937 (now, unfortunately, taken down for copyright violation). It showed hundreds of bicycles totally dominating the streets (which, BTW, had no special bike provisions), with only a few dozen cars. By contrast, this video of 1937 London

        shows hundreds of cars, and if you look very closely, you may spot three bicycles. Again, the culture was in place long before the Dutch facilities.

        And have you bothered to compare contour maps of the Netherlands and Britain? There are very few areas of Britain – or the U.S. – with the extreme flatness common in the Netherlands. And it’s been shown that flatness correlates very closely with a population’s willingness to cycle.

        Perhaps we could bulldoze all our cities until they are flat! 😉

        • Well, that would be one extreme way to do it!

          I’m still convinced that it’s the infrastructure which makes the difference. East Anglia is as flat as a pancake yet Norwich doesn’t stand out as a cycling city, while hillier places in the Netherlands (mainly in the South) have the kind of cycling share which puts Norwich to shame. I’m sure there’s plenty of flat cities in the US which have little bike usage too, so it can’t all be about the flatness.

          The oldest figures I can find for 1950, and since then the cycling share in the UK was always lower than in the Netherlands, but even back then the Netherlands had better infrastructure. The CTC (the main cyclists body in the UK) was always anti-cyclepath ever since the first attempt was made in the 1930s (indeed very little was installed), while in the Netherlands there wasn’t the opposition so the cyclepaths got installed and people used them. Both the UK and the Netherlands cycling share dropped from 1950 onwards due to the investment in infrastructure for cars above all else. Then from the mid-1970s when they started installing infrastructure again in the Netherlands it increased, the UK’s kept dropping lower and lower, until it could drop no more and is just background noise now. 1970s photos of town centres in the Netherlands look very much like town centres in the UK today!

          To say that it’s politically difficult is a real cop-out though — where would we be if Martin Luther King had decided things were too ingrained to try to change? And he had a much bigger and harder fight on his hands! If you ask for nothing then you will get nothing. Lisa Simpson rides her bike home from school in the opening credits, so it can’t be unheard of for kids to ride bikes to school — start with a ‘safe routes to school’ campaign, that’s certainly something which few politicians or citizens would argue against.

          • “To say that it’s politically difficult is a real cop-out though — where would we be if Martin Luther King had decided things were too ingrained to try to change? And he had a much bigger and harder fight on his hands! If you ask for nothing then you will get nothing.”

            The battle against racial discrimination was concerned with first laws, then with attitudes. There was no expense comparable to the cost of segregated bike facilities. The cost of taking down every “Whites Only” sign in the U.S. was minuscule compared with the cost of revamping even one intersection to your standards.

            In any case, can you provide a detailed and realistic political strategy for attaining what you want in the U.S. within, say, 25 years? Personally, I think it’s impossible.

          • There is a very large safe routes to school movement. But in the U.S. money talks. You only have to look at the Citizens United decision to know that. I looked it up in The automobile manufacturers spend about $3.35 Million for lobbing. The bicycle manufacturers, $320,000. Who you think wields the most power? Who do you think the politicians listen to? If they oppose each other on a topic, who’s side you think will win? We’re not talking about civil rights here, we’re talking about spending taxpayer dollars. It’s the golden rule, “He who has the gold, makes the rules.”

          • Ah, “can’t win, don’t try” – if only Forester had had that attitude 42 years ago, maybe you’d have those safe, fast cycle routes by now!

            If you think that the US government will not implement good quality cycle infrastructure, then fine. But then you must accept that riding a bike will always remain a minority pursuit there.

            The points made in the post are still valid – Forester and Franklin have made demonstrably false statements about the effectiveness and safety of cycle infrastructure.

          • You and several other “infrastructure advocates” continue to make assertions that Forrester is somehow responsible for the failure of the U.S. to build bicycling infrastructure.
            Please post and cite links that show this to be true. Otherwise it’s useless rhetoric and an ad hominem attack designed to discredit your opponent, which only reflects the weakness of your argument. Have you ever read Forrester’s book? Have you written anything other than blog posts, about how to ride a bicycle, care for a bicycle, and how to operate a bicycle in a safe manner? If not, then STFU about John Forrester.

            • I didn’t say Forester was responsible for anything (though I’d be surprised if he’s had no influence at all on cyclists’ views there), I said he was wrong about cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands – something he’s commented on many times.

              I have never made a blog post commenting on cycling the USA — I’ve never cycled there for one, although that never stopped Forester. In 40 years of cycle campaigning he never bothered to visit the country with the highest share of cycling, the one he criticised so vehemently? When he finally gets of his arse and visits the country maybe he can make a valid comment, until then he can STFU about the Netherlands. At least I’ve been there.

              I thought Americans prized democracy, yet here you are saying I’m not allowed free speech on my own blog because I’m not a published author? Are you new to the Internet?

  18. Let’s please not cojoin the concepts of Vehicular Cycling – the performance of lawful and effective bicycing methods in many kinds of traffic situations, roads or paths – with criticisms of some of the facilities intended to provide improved, safer, more comfortable types of facilities for bicycle use by more people. These two approaches to improving the safety and usefulness of bicycling are NOT mutually exclusive; I, an instructor for Vehicular Cycling programs, and others can and do work to promote improved facilties for bicycling AND in the meantime we encourage the expanded use of bicycles by showing people how they can ride now where and when they wish.,,, as taught through Vehicular Cycling programs – Programs such as those of the League of American Bicyclists.

    In the US we are starting to realize the value of providing for travel by other than motor vehicle. In California and other states Complete Streets legislation is being enacted to encourage/require that public travel facilities serve all lawful modes for all people, not just those facilities desired by people traveling by motor vehicle. Sidewalks for pedestrian uses. Bike Paths and other types of motor vehicle-free facilities that provide safe and convenient travel routes. Motor Vehicle-Traffic-Calmed roadways that encourage safe and efficient movement of all lawful travel modes – bicycling, walking, and motor vehicle uses. All of which work best when the people using them operate with courteous respect for each other under common rules of behavior; for bicycling these are taught through Vehicular Cycling programs.

    The concepts, rules, and skills that I teach from the Safe Cycling/Vehicular Cycling – programs are not antitheical to provision of better travel conditions for bicycling.

  19. Rhetorical question: Are hand towels or hand dryers best? Most people who had never used a Dyson Airblade, and had only ever occasionally used a hopeless normal hand dryer with its pathetic stream of tepid air, would probably argue that hand dryers are a bad idea and would be hostile to the removal of hand towels and replacement with hand dryers. This is what cycling is like in the UK, where most of the time the road is a handtowel – just as a handtowel can get dirty and undesirable to use, the roads can get busy and undesirable to use.

    People who HAD used a Dyson Airblade would simply say that hand dryers are not inherently inferior to towels, and that busy washrooms should have them installed despite the cost. This is like a cyclist being familiar with the Dutch infrastructure and being in despair at the hopeless UK equivalent giving cycle infrastructure a bad name.

  20. GeneC

    No matter how you look at it… any place good cycling infrastructure has been provided (not the “joke bike lanes” that can be cited by anyone), cycling modal share is vastly greater than in locations where cyclists must depend on vehicular cycling alone.

    • Chris Juden

      Agreed that good facilities increase cycling, but can you find any place that has built good infrastructure where there wasn’t already substantially more cycling than in most English-speaking cities?

      Seems to me that the leap from car-dominated roads with rubbish bikepaths to a situation where there are enough votes in cycling to spend serious money on it, is totally unprecedented anywhere in the world. How then to make that leap?

      • Is this really a top member of the CTC asking me how to get from the current conditions on the UK’s roads to something more akin to the Netherlands? Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I think you have two options:

        1. Keep on ploughing the same cycle-on-the-roads furrow as you have been for decades, promoting training and law enforcement as the best options.
        2. Actually campaign for better infrastructure for riding bikes on. You know, actually mention it to the government the next time they ask you about anything.

        • Koen

          I agree, if you keep on complaining nothing will happen. you just need to start, and just start smaal, i’d think. Choose a terrible and much-needed section, make it an exemplary connection and see what happens. But be sure to select a stretch of road that will be used once ready. Once you can prove the succes, it will be a lot easier to secure funding for other stretches. Start small and expand on that. It’s no use trying to implement Dutch standards all at once for the whole UK or even London. That way you’d be bound to fail.
          Oh, and make sure you get the policy makers to cycle there before and after.

  21. Thanks to Baross, Krygowski, Cooper and Peter for their wonderful comments.
    It’s all about the intersections. Well, that and dooring. That’s where the collisions, crashes and deaths occur.
    I can’t speak to the dialogue in the U.K., but here in Yankee land, the proponents of “separated” facilities go to extreme lengths to avoid talking about intersections, or acknowledging that poorly designed intersections have led to many cyclists deaths, and many more injuries, all over the world. “Separation” is a fraud. From Amsterdam to Portland, cyclists have died because incompetent designers pretended to separate cyclists from motorist, when what they really did was hide them from each other until the moment of impact.
    Franklin’s talk about speed is simply wrong, and Forester’s inability to charm people is deeply unfortunate. Don’t give them more weight than they deserve. The rest of us view their work as rough drafts, and it has been vastly improved upon. If you look at the work on and, you’ll see a different and far better vision: teaching people who aren’t athletes to make the rules of the road work for them. It’s a strawman argument to say that advocates of safe bicycle driving don’t want more pleasant cycling. But we’re not going to compromise safety, and we’re not going to bury our heads in the sand about the causes of collisions.
    There are many things we can do to make our streets safer and more pleasant, and we can do it without designing intersections that crush cyclists under turning trucks.

    • “Separation a fraud”? “It only hides cyclists and drivers from each other until the moment of impact”? No sir, you are very wrong. It is exactly junctions the Dutch design so very well. Already in 2010 I made a video with much of these same misunderstandings next to Dutch reality. Take a look and focus on the junctions. No fraud, nobody hidden, separation in time and place is what makes cycling safe. That, and only that. There is no alternative that works so well for so many people.

      • I don’t doubt that it’s possible to have segregated facilities that are safe and convenient for cyclists. The facility shown is probably fine for those in the Netherlands. But at what cost? A right of way about 100 feet (35 meters) wide is permitting only two lanes of cars to travel. There are very few places in the U.S., where I live, that have 100 foot ROWs within cities, and in those that do, it would be politically impossible to take away the motor vehicle lanes, or even to impose the traffic delays necessary to give cyclists their own separate green light.

        Why was it possible in the Netherlands, but not in the U.S.? Again, the Netherlands had a culture of bicycle transportation through most of the 20th century, reinforced by motoring costs far greater than in the U.S., city densities far exceeding those of the U.S., flatter terrain and milder climate than most of the U.S., mass transit that makes life without a car far more practical than in the U.S., etc. If a large percentage of your population gets around without a car, it’s far easier for a democratically elected official to spend public money in a way that further slows and restricts car traffic. But in the U.S., essentially _everyone_ gets around by car. If a politician attempted to push through a design that was that safe for cyclists by being that inconvenient for motorists, he’d immediately be out of a job.

        So when segregation advocates do get something installed here, it’s usually nothing close to what’s in that video. Instead, it’s a narrow, bumpy, badly paved bike lane in a door zone, one that gets debris swept only twice per year. It’s a path with bollards to run into, and blind corners just before you cross a road. It’s a barrier separated bike lane that sends a 15 mph bicyclist across an intersection with no warning for the turning motorist that hits him.

        This is the reality. This is what I’ve ridden here. And despite the obvious (to me) dangers, there are always bicyclists who say “Oh, I feel so much safer now!” Those people – and apparently, the designers – are the ones who apparently think “Any bike facility is a good bike facility.”

        • Koen

          You’re absolutely right that bad separation is unsafe. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We need the very best facilities, and that doesn’t come cheap, but surprisingly it is much cheaper than not doing so, see David Hembrow’s view on this:
          The best infra is SAFE! Not a shred of a doubt there. We just need the will to implement it.

          • To follow up on an asterisk in my previous post:

            *The “superhighways” touted here as “cheaper to build than not” do exist in the U.S. They are usually called “rail trails.” They are on converted rail rights-of-way, they still cost millions of dollars per mile, and they are used 99% for recreation, by people who drive their cars to their parking lots, then ride back and forth. They function as linear parks – not that parks are bad – but they actually steal money away from transportation infrastructure. They can be installed in only very limited places, due to land ownership problems, and they do NOT replace motor transportation; instead, they probably add to it!

            Again, in the U.S. at least, networks of separate bike trails linking nearly every town are another impossible fantasy. To work toward such a goal, one would need to begin by re-writing our constitution to greatly reduce private property rights. I won’t bet in favor of your success.

        • Further thoughts:

          Again, it absolutely is a political (and practical) impossibility to build truly safe (and amazingly costly)* Netherlands-style facilities here in the U.S. No politician could propose such a thing without losing office. No D.O.T. official could push it without killing his career. The “best” that can be achieved are crude approximations that actually increase danger by (for example) fatally luring cyclists into blind spots alongside turning trucks and buses, or into doors that suddenly pop open. How tragic that many facilities advocates are willing to subject novices to the dangers of half-baked facilities, in order to increase bike counts!

          Now perhaps, in some distant future, after massive societal changes, we _might_ begin to have public money spent on converting Atlanta to Amsterdam. That would require, say, American motoring becoming ten times more expensive for individuals, while government funds somehow became much more available. While I don’t think that would be a bad thing, I do think it’s totally unrealistic. It’s an idealistic fantasy.

          So in our real world of voters who examine their wallets, officials who value their jobs, a constitution that values private property, and currently built infrastructure, can we actually improve cycling?

          I know that the laws in my state, and every other one with which I’m familiar, already give me full legal right to the road. My experience shows me that when I use that right with just a small amount of skill, I ride with pleasure and safety. Why would we _not_ promote the techniques that allow people to do the same, right now, with current infrastructure? A small amount of education is far more cost-efficient than – say – ripping out every four-lane intersection to build a roundabout with separate bike lanes and separate traffic signals for bikes. Why not do the education first? We have more efficient mass media than ever before. This can be done!

          Is your answer, perhaps, “But that won’t lure people into cycling”? Well, why not begin using modern advertising and communication to promote cycling, and STOP the “Bicycling is dangerous” nonsense? I know that every study that’s examined the benefits vs. risk of bicycling – on ordinary roads! – has found the benefits _far_ outweigh the risk. I know that in the U.S., people ride many millions of miles between fatalities. I know that cyclists make up fewer than 1% of American brain injury fatalities, despite the propaganda pretending fatalities are common. I know that in the U.S., cycling is far safer than walking, per km. Why not try selling cycling as safe? That would be the exact opposite of what most facility proponents are doing!

          If you insist on copying a Netherlands strategy in the U.S., why not copy the education of motorists, and the legal burdens on motorists? We have the laws in place giving cyclists full rights to the road. Why not publicize this energetically to motorists, to educate them? Why not make aggression toward cyclists as shameful as drunk driving? Why not have strict liability laws, to end the SMIDSY (“Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”) excuses?

          To me, these are practical and low cost measures that could be achieved in the real world. They could be achieved much more quickly than could some fantasy-total-redesign of all our major roads. And as a bonus, with the publicity, education, changes in attitudes and minor changes in laws (since we already have the legal foundations), cyclists could comfortably ride on _every_ road, not just on the few that get the current half-baked treatments.

          Understand, just the first measure, the personal education, has worked wonderfully for me and for my family. We learned the techniques, and we can ride everywhere we care to. We’ve ridden everywhere in our city, across our state, across the U.S. coast-to-coast, and many countries in Europe – including those with no special facilities at all! If I’d waited for the bike facility fairyland to arrive, think what I would have missed!

          • Koen

            Frank, go on like this and i’m sure you’ll never be commended for visionary leadership. Just start small, do the very best you can, and expand on that. As for education:

            educate all you want, you’ll never get grannies to ride safely. Over here we do.

            • “educate all you want, you’ll never get grannies to ride safely. Over here we do.”

              How odd! My wife and I are grandparents, so she’s officially a “granny.” She and I ride all the time! And another “granny,” a very good friend of ours (and dedicated utility cyclist) just completed a 1000 mile solo bike tour. Of course, I have other examples as well. I can supply photos I’ve taken of grannies riding for transportation in no-bike-path towns in Austria, Italy, France, Ireland, etc.

              “Never” seems to have arrived! 😉

          • Koen

            Rail trails are, as I understand, beautiful routes that are often not at all connected to other cycle ways, and therefore something completely different to the cycling highways in the Netherlands, which are fast and separated connections between two urban areas. Better read well before dismissing something you don’t know. And watch the videos by markenlei about cycling superhighways:

            and many more.

    • Hi John,

      Oh, the old ‘junctions’ canard! I wondered when that tired excuse would be wheeled out.

      Can you explain why the Netherlands has a lower cycling accident rate than the US and the UK, even though it has a much broader demographic of people who cycle?

      Have you even been to the Netherlands and ridden a bike, to see what it is we’re talking about?

      Do you think I faked those photos of families all out on bikes together? You see that all the time, every day, in the Netherlands. How often do you see that in your town? The people of the UK and US have already made their choice and voted with their feet: they don’t want to ride a bike on the road.

      The only proven method to achieve mass cycling is to provide the correct infrastructure – as they have in the Netherlands. If you want mass cycling, you need the infrastructure. If you oppose cycling infrastructure, you oppose mass cycling.

      • I find it a huge overstatement – is this an example of a strawman ploy? – to state, “If you oppose cycling infrastructure, you oppose mass cycling.”
        The criticisms I hear about some facilities that seek to keep motor vehicle traffic separated from bicycle traffic is primarily focused on the specifics of a particular facility, not to new, different “cycling infrastructure” as a whole. Effective cycling infrastructure is not, I beleive, being opposed. Problems with some designs ARE being criticised – isn’t that appropriate? Relative efficiency, yes speed, and actual safety of some “innovativations” is worthy of evaluation.
        Yes, I have bicycled in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and been given several tours and explantions of their facilities during Velomondial conferences that I have attended. Some of the facilities that work for people there may work for some of the USA. So we are deciding what, where and with whom to try new stuff… and also some of us are working – teaching bicycling skills through Vehicular Cycling programs – to prepare people to deal with what they encounter now and will encounter someday.

        • You have mis-quoted me. I said “to oppose Dutch-style cycle infrastructure is to oppose mass cycling” and I stand by it. It’s the only proven way to get people on bikes (except perhaps Maoism, thought that has other drawbacks!).

          Of course it’s appropriate that new designs are scrutinised, and that flawed designs are criticised. But it’s very common to find a blanket opposition among many current cyclists.

          The fact remains that the Netherlands has the highest rate of cycling, the broadest range of cyclists, and the lowest cycling accident rate. This didn’t happen by accident, it happened because of careful planning and investment in infrastructure.

          Countries where VC has been promoted – such as the UK and US – have the lowest rates of cycling, very narrow demographics, and the highest accident rates.

          • “The fact remains that the Netherlands has the highest rate of cycling, the broadest range of cyclists, and the lowest cycling accident rate. This didn’t happen by accident, it happened because of careful planning and investment in infrastructure. ”

            This happened because the Netherlands always had the highest rate of cycling in Europe, as appropriate for its near-unique conditions. This pre-existing situation allowed the government to justify spending enormous fortunes on facilities. It also allowed the government to impose extreme (by American standards) restrictions on auto use, such as tremendous gasoline taxes, very high training standards for drivers’ licenses, high parking fees and/or reduced parking availability, policies to prevent or reduce suburban sprawl, heavily subsidized mass transit, low speed limits in towns, lane count restrictions and extra red light cycles that further clot and slow motor vehicle traffic, etc. And again, all that has taken place in a country that is known to be extremely flat, and that has an extremely mild climate by U.S. standards.

            Understand, it’s not that I don’t like those ideas. But what if you were to transplant even the astoundingly expensive, supposedly perfect Netherlands bike facilities to a place like the typical U.S. city? A place with summer highs of 35C and summer lows below 0C, a place with significant hills, where 50 km is considered a reasonable distance from work, where mass transit barely exists (so owning a car is necessary), where motorists fight any delay and where an adult arriving by bicycle is considered weird?

            If you were a politician or planner who made such a decision, you wouldn’t be able to afford even a bicycle. You’d be on the street, walking, looking for a job.

            BTW, you have still not presented a detailed, politically feasible plan for attaining your objectives in the U.S. I suspect that’s because you secretly realize it’s impossible.

            • Koen

              Oh dear oh dear, all of your excuses have been anwered long agon by David Hembrow:
              You’re keeping progression back, read up and we’ll talk again

            • To be honest, Frank, I’ve enjoyed having this robust debate with you (the comment about the planner walking the street made me laugh!) but this is a blog about UK transport. I don’t know much about the USA I’m afraid, even less about its government, which is why I’ve not made any blog posts about the US. I do think that Forester made some ill-informed and untrue comments about the Netherlands though (a country he passed through on a train once in the 1930s) and I felt that they needed challenging, as he is often held up as a wise man on the subject.

              I still believe that the UK and the Netherlands are very similar countries, and that the here in the UK we could have what they have in the Netherlands. It’s not an easy task, but nothing worthwhile is easy. Maybe you’d have a taller mountain to climb over there to achieve the same goal, maybe it’s even impossible — and if that’s true I’m genuinely sorry to say that cycling will remain a niche (and weird!) activity.

          • Correlation is not causation. To try to promote “Dutch-style”cycle infrastructure in the U.S. is a Sisyphean challenge. In Holland and Denmark as I recall, bicyclists were already riding in large numbers and there was a social movement, because accommodating cars was destroying historic architecture. In the U.S. we hardly recognize this as a problem. In the U.S. the social movement is to make driving easier at the expense of all other road users. That’s why we are so far behind much of the rest of the world in mass-transit.

            I would like to see data to back up your assertion that “Countries where VC has been promoted – such as the UK and US – have the lowest rates of cycling, very narrow demographics, and the highest accident rates.”

      • A woman walks into a marketing and public relations firm and sits down to talk with their lead strategist.

        “Our organization has a fun, safe and healthy activity we wish to promote, but we’re struggling to figure out the right approach,” she says.

        The strategist thinks for a moment, then responds, “I recommend the approach bicycle advocates have been using for the past 20 years; reinforce the public’s fears about your activity.”


  22. Peter

    Junctions are still a problem in the Netherlands – that’s where nearly all automobile/bicycle collisions take place, with or without infrastructure. The Dutch government is continuously trying to improve the accident rate at junctions, which they consider too high. But the overall bicycle/automobile rate is relatively low compared to Britain or the US.

    The reasons are several:

    1.Side streets often have lower speed limits than is typical in the US, as well as on many main streets, reducing both the likelihood and severity of collisions
    2. Busier junctions have bicycle-only light phases (something not generally acceptable in the US due to cost and additional delays to both automobile drivers and bicyclists)
    3. Dutch infrastructure has spent the money (this stuff is not cheap) to minimize frequent minor junctions ( from alleys and driveways, especially) as well as put in “traffic calming” facilities – intersection speed humps, visual warnings, bollards to narrow the apparent intersection, etc. , as well as to ensure reasonable sight lines and lighting. All of which take money and real estate to implement.
    4. Dutch law puts a stronger burden on automobile drivers in a car/bike collision. Simply saying “I didn’t see the bike” is not a defense in the Netherlands.
    5. Bikes often travel slower in the Netherlands giving motorists more time to react at intersections

    None of us posting here are saying it is not possible to build safe bicycle infrastructure if you spend enough money and are willing to slow overall traffic, both bike and car ( more stoplights, lower speed limits) and change laws and get the police to actively enforce these laws. What we are saying is that typical urban bike lanes and side paths as designed in the US and even places like Copenhagen are mostly street theater and do not achieve any safety advantages over “unimproved” streets and simply give a false sense of security.

    • Christian Bernhard Hagen

      No, junctions are not “a problem” in the Netherlands, and hardly in Copenhagen. That a large part of the very few cyclist fatalities DO happen in junctions is not the same as saying that these junctions are as dangerous as they would have been without bike-dedicated infrastructure. So, though Copenhagen lags somewhat behind the Dutch best practice, to write it off as “street theater” is pure bogus.

      Oh, and the greatest part of all cyclists fatalities in Denmark are on small country roads without bike facilities. These happen to be the least traveled by bike.

  23. Schrödinger’s Cat said: “The only proven method to achieve mass cycling is to provide the correct infrastructure – as they have in the Netherlands. If you want mass cycling, you need the infrastructure. If you oppose cycling infrastructure, you oppose mass cycling.”

    I’m in favour of the mass cycling I see in Cambridge (UK), despite its lack of infrastructure.

    I’m opposed to the dismal cycling rates I see in Stevenage, despite its extensive cycling infrastructure.

    • It’s 2012 and you’re trotting out these old arguments? I’m going to assume that you’re new to computers and the Internet, and let you know that if you click on the blue underlined words you will be shown a page of information relating to those words.

      Firstly Cambridge, with its massive population of students, where “it is a Regulation of the University, agreed with the City Council, that students are not allowed to keep a car or motorcycle in Cambridge” — you think that can be replicated in, say, Leeds or Norwich? Plenty of people cycled in China under Chairman Mao, but that doesn’t mean they were all John Franklin fans gamely cycling alongside modern cars and trucks. Move your “computer mouse” over these words and press (or “click”) the left-most button to read more truth about cycling in Cambridge.

      As for Stevenage, “…wayfinding is difficult and confusing and the cycle network has very poor linkages to the shopping areas and station. The network is less hazardous than MK but not really useful. Driving is very easy…” and “I was struck by how difficult wayfinding is in both Stevenage and Milton Keynes. TfL research has shown that “not knowing where to cycle” is as much of an obstacle as a “lack of cycle lanes”, and a bigger obstacle than a “fear of being knocked off one’s bike”.” (Quotes taken from here.) That really doesn’t sound like the Dutch-quality cycle infrastructure we’re asking for!

      • Why the patronising attitude?

        I am very aware of the arguments: Cambridge has many cyclists because driving is difficult, discouraged or even forbidden. Stevenage has few cyclists because driving is easy, fast and convenient. In Cambridge, cycling is easier than driving (even for non-students). In Stevenage, driving is easier than cycling.

        I agree with that part of the argument.

        But then it continues: we can’t possibly discourage driving. We can’t make it more difficult than cycling. But if we provide segregated cycle paths — to Dutch standards, of course — everyone will suddenly cycle. Even if driving is as easy and convenient as it is now.

        I’ll believe it (in the UK) when I see it.

        • Peter

          Cambridge is also a dense, samll student town with short trip distances. Stevenage is mostly a bedroom community. We have a similar town in Columbia, MD which is a planned community of “villages” connected by grade-separated paths. There is almost no bicycling there because there is nowhere to bike to. Everybody commutes to jobs 10 or more miles away and there is little to do in the town itself.

          Unless a town is compact with a well-integrated mass transit system, biking rates are going to be low no matter what.

          Consider London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and New York City before WW2. The first three had considerable amounts of bicycling without minimal-to-modest facilities in spite of considerable automobile and lorry traffic. London somewhat less as it was already sprawling. Los Angeles and NYC almost none – LA because distances were too far, NYC because distances are very short and the mass transit so dense that there was little point in bicycling.

          After WW2 LA and NYC still had no bicycling. London’s started declining as its sprawl continued and automobile ownership increased and the roads were redesigned for high-speed traffic.

          Copenhagen and Amsterdam had minimal decline at first. Both are dense, ancient cities that weren’t well-suited for automobiles and had just the right amount of mass transit to compliment short bicycle trips of 3 kilometers or so.

          It was only when prosperity returned and people started buying automobiles and the streets started being redesigned for higher-speed traffic that bicycling started declining.

          In both cities they decided to stop the overall street redesign for high-speed traffic, other than some corridors. They also put in bicycle facilities to make the streets more efficient for automobiles while making bicyclists feel safer. They instituted numerous changes to make automobile use less efficient ( parking limitations, especially), as well as legal modifications and speed reductions.

          Let me know if I got anything wrong.

          Most New Yorkers I’ve talked to have no interest, other than recreation, in bicycling in the City. There is just no need with the subway system. I personally enjoyed bicycling there very much for recreation before the bike facilities went in. I find the new facilities confusing.

        • The patronising attitude was in response to your trite comment, as if you’d closed the discussion with those two poorly-made points.

          The Dutch solution does involve making some car journeys less attractive, but that’s only a small part of it, there’s more carrot than stick. Of course journeys by bike have to be made more attractive than by car.

          To suggest that we can or should ban people from owning cars (which is essentially what happens to a large section of the population in Cambridge) isn’t going to work. You really need to spend some time reading David Hembrow’s blog as all these points have been covered before and it’s tiresome having to repeat them all here.

          Finally, what’s any of that got to do with the topic of this post? Franklin and Forester have made some stupid and ignorant comments about bike infrastructure. I made them both look stupid. End of post.

    • So: “If you oppose both cycling infrastructure and Orwellian dictatorships, then you oppose mass cycling.” Happy now?

      • Sorry, I don’t understand. Do you think reducing motorist permeability etc is Owellian dictatorship?

        • Why do you think I’m against reducing motorist permeability? Of course, that’s part of the Dutch-style solution I advocate.

          It’s a joke I was making, though it’s less funny when I have to explain it. In Mao’s China, the bike was the most popular type of transport, outdoing even the Netherlands. Therefore, only infrastructure and poverty have ever led to mass cycling. If you want mass cycling, therefore, you must choose one of them. The joke is that of course most people who wish for mass cycling would choose infrastructure over Maoism.

          • I have read Hembrow, and all the rest. They don’t explain why, for example, a thousand people cycle to Cambridge railway station every day to commute to London and elsewhere. (Compare to Stevenage: ten on a good day.)

            Is it because Cambridge people are poor? Do you really believe that? It certainly isn’t segregated cycling infrastructure. Cambridge doesn’t have any anywhere near the station; Stevenage does, right alongside the station (covered) bike shed.

            The obvious (to me) explanation is that Cambridge has lousy roads and parking and the rest for motorists, and Stevenage has excellent ones. Call this “trite” if you like, but I’d prefer to see a better explanation.

            What has this to do with the topic? After making old cycling campaigners “look stupid” you say, “There’s only one proven way to reach mass cycling: the Dutch way.” Stevenage is probably the closest to a Dutch town we have, and Cambridge is far distant. They indicate, to me, that your statement is incorrect. Unless Cantabrigians are all Maoist, of course.

  24. Neal Henderson

    Hello All,

    It appears that there is a body of data to support bicycle infrastructure as being safer than pedal cycling with the motorist traffic.


    Bicycle Network Development New York, USA

    DOT’s goal is to accelerate the growth of safe cycling by quickly providing a backbone system of bicycle routes that traverse and connect all five boroughs while also creating a dense, fine-grained network of bike lanes in communities where cycling is already a popular mode of transportation.

    200 Miles of Bicycle Routes in 3 Years

    In June 2009, DOT completed the City’s ambitious goal of building 200 bike-lane miles in all five boroughs in just three years, nearly doubling the citywide on-street bike network while reshaping the city’s streets to make them safer for everyone who uses them. The same period also saw unprecedented expansion and innovation of the overall network, including the installation of 4.9 miles of bike paths physically separated from car traffic lanes, 20 sheltered bike parking structures and 3,100 bike racks, accompanied by a more than 45% growth in commuter cycling in that time.

    After two streets in Minneapolis were converted to be more bicycle friendly, bike traffic increased 43%, total vehicle crashes decreased, traffic efficiency was maintained, and parking revenues remained consistent.
    City of Minneapolis, 2010
    Hennepin and 1st avenues two-way conversion leads to fewer crashes, better access
    • From 2000 to 2009, bike crashes in Minneapolis, MN dropped 20%, while the number of city bicyclists increased 174% between 2003 and 2008.
    City of Minneapolis, 2010, in Flusche, D., 2011
    “Ridership up, crashes down: ‘Safety in Numbers’ in Minneapolis,” blog, 9 February 2011
    • A review of 23 studies on bicycling injuries found that bike facilities (e.g. off-road paths, on-road marked bike lanes, and on-road bike routes) are where bicyclists are safest.
    Reynolds, C., et al., 2009
    The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature, Environmental Health, 8:47
    • When protected bike lanes are installed in New York City, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists) typically drop by 40% and by more than 50% in some locations.
    Wolfson, H., 2011
    Memorandum on Bike Lanes, City of New York, Office of the Mayor, 21 March 2011
    • A survey of Australian adults found that three in five have access to a bike, but many don’t ride at all or as much as they want to due to road and safety issues. Respondents said that separated bike paths would encourage them to start riding at all or more often.
    Cycling Promotion Fund, 2011
    Riding a Bike for Transport: 2011 Survey Findings
    • Major streets without bike facilities are where the most bike crashes happen, followed by minor streets without facilities, bike paths, and then bike lanes.
    Moritz, W., 1997
    Survey of North American bicycle commuters: Design and aggregate results, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1578, 91-101
    • Bicycle safety improvements attract proportionately more people to bicycling than automobile safety improvements (i.e. a 10% increase in safety results in a greater than 10% increase in the share of people bicycle commuting).
    Noland, R., 1995
    Perceived risk and modal choice: Risk compensation in transportation systems, Accident Analysis & Prevention, 27, 503-521
    • In Marin County, CA, bike commuting increased 66% while bicycle crashes declined 34% from 1998 to 2008.
    Marin County Bicycle Coalition, 2008
    MCBC Weekly Bulletin for April 3, 2008
    • Between 2007 and 2008, overall bicycle use in Portland, Oregon increased 28%.
    City of Portland Office of Transportation, 2008
    Portland Bicycle Counts 2008
    • In Portland, OR, 2008 total traffic fatalities were the lowest in recorded history, with only 20 total fatalities, none of them cyclists. 2008 car, pedestrian, and cyclist fatalities were all at all-time lows.
    Ciy of Portland, 2009
    2008 Fatality Summary
    • More than one-quarter (28%) of all traffic accidents occur when people talk on cellphones or send text messages while driving.
    National Safety Council, 2010
    in “28 percent of accidents involve talking, texting on cellphones,” A. Halsey III, The Washington Post, 13 January 2010
    During public consultations, broad support was expressed for the city’s transportation plan, including support from the cycling organization Vélo Québec.
    The plan includes follow-up in the form of an annual review and a five-year review synchronized with the metropolitan area’s origin-destination survey. The City says that the prime indicator will be changes in the ‘market share’ of the various modes of people transportation.
    A variety of safety awareness campaigns along with improved physical arrangements for cycling has already helped reduce the number of accidents involving bicycles, despite a marked increase in bicycle trips. The number of fatal cycling accidents dropped from five in 2006 to two in 2008. In the same period, there was also a 25% reduction in pedestrian deaths and a 28% reduction in accidents leading to serious injury.
    Montreal and its population have characteristics that are conducive to the non-recreational use of bicycles. The City of Montreal’s transportation plan seeks to encourage more bicycle trips and fewer trips by car. The City wants to double the bike network, establish new services for cyclists and improve existing services.
    For some 20 years, the City of Montreal maintained a stable 400 km bike network. In 1999, the city was named the most bike-friendly city in North America. Recently, in response to citizen requests and observed changes in bicycle use, the municipality has taken a clear position in favour of the bicycle as a means of transportation.
    Over the past 15 years, bicycle use has changed in Montreal and in Quebec as a whole. A province-wide survey in 2005 found that one adult in six (16%), or 900,000 people, were using a bicycle as a means of transportations3. The study also showed that one cyclist in three (34%) uses his or her bicycle as a means of transportation (far more than the 19% found in 2000) and 13% of cyclists use their bicycle as their principal means of transportation in summer (again an increase over the 6% found in 2000). Furthermore, this increase in cycling was observed before improvements were made in the bike network.
    U. S. Dept of Transportation

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

    NHTSA 2009

    Click to access 811386.pdf

    The majority of pedalcyclist fatalities in 2009 occurred in urban areas (70%). In
    respect to vehicle crash location in relation to an intersection, most pedalcyclist
    fatalities in 2009 occurred at non-intersections. Compared to 2008 these numbers
    increased by 5 percent.

    NHTSA 2008

    Click to access 811156.pdf

    Pedalcyclist fatalities occurred more frequently in urban areas (69%), at non-intersection locations (64%), between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (28%), and during the months of June (9%) and September (12%).

    Is it better for the safety of the cyclist to rely on actual lateral separation (bike lane/paved shoulder) from a motorist …… or to rely on the separation provided by motorist perception and driving skills?

    Considering the motorist rear-end crash data it appears that cyclists will be safer from a motorist rear-end crash with actual lateral separation (bike lane/paved shoulder) rather than depending on the motorist to detect the cyclist in the center of the travel lane and provide linear separation and utilize appropriate driving skills to avoid a crash ……. NHTSA fatal crash data reinforces this conclusion.

    The 2010 NHTSA data base reports 55 fatal crashes in the bike lane/paved shoulder as opposed to showing 266 fatal crashes in the travel lane for non-intersection crashes

    A cyclist depending on the overtaking motorist perception and reaction for separation is following in the steps of Blanche DuBois – “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” From Tennessee Williams Play – A Streetcar Named Desire



    +1 mph Faster

    • Thanks for all that, Neal — it’s good to have data backing up what any visitor to the Netherlands will find to be self-evident!

      • Peter

        When you see crash rates drop for all classes of road users, it obviously has nothing to do directly with the bicycle facilities.

        • Not at all true. There may or may not be a causal relationship between the two. But what all the anti-bike-infrastructure folks commenting here seem to be missing (amongst other things) is that the Dutch haven’t just built (excellent) bike lanes. In fact they’ve studied, learned and built an entire transportation network that is safer, more pleasant and more convenient for ALL types of road users.

          I grew up in various places in the US, lived in the NL for 12 years and have traveled the world. I ride bikes, walk, drive cars, take public transport and ride a motorcycle. Nowhere I’ve been is the general experience of getting from A to B nearly as good, regardless of how you’re doing it. Dutch bike infrastructure does not come at the expense of driving cars; the two are simply part of a well integrated system. There’s very little stick and a whole lot of carrot, and it works really well.

          Yes, of course there are a few isolated examples of places with minimal bike infrastructure yet high cycling rates and safety and the opposite: lots of bike planning yet few cyclists. If we were to study these situations carefully and honestly we would find reasons for them being outliers or anomalies, but they are just that anomalies.

          Mass cycling and high cycling safety require good infrastructure. To oppose that is to oppose cycling for a broad swath of the population. It’s fine to say that achieving what the Dutch have done in your own community is unrealistic but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. It is certainly no reason to oppose building proper infrastructure. That’s just stupid and elitist, or you’re actually working for the other team.

          • Peter

            Mass cycling occurred in several European cities without any significant facilities before WW2, in spite of heavy motorized traffic. Can’t address the safety issue during that period, but it was obviously acceptable to the populace. So I can’t see how your last paragraph holds up to past reality.

          • Peter, Comparing pre WW2 situations with the modern era is ridiculous. In fact there was not at all “heavy motorized traffic” in much of Europe until the 1950’s and 1960’s. If you look at photos of Dutch cities just before and after the war you see seas of bicyclists, pedestrians, horse-drawn carts and all manner of vehicles but not many cars and trucks.

            In those conditions there was little need to protect other road users from the threat of motor vehicles.

            And why do you assume anything was “acceptable to the populace” in that period? Have you studied pre-war media to learn what people were talking about then? You plainly state incorrect or unsubstantiated assumptions as if they are facts.

            • Peter

              I have plenty of family photos from the 1930s of Rotterdam and Amsterdam showing very busy street scenes full of cars and trolleys. Also, check out this video of Amsterdam streets from 1900 to 1930s. In the beginning a lot of horse carts and trolleys but by the 30s ( towards the end of the film) heavy motorized traffic and trolleys.
              As to the risks being acceptable in the 30s, first, I asked my relatives – several uncles and aunts. They said they never thought twice about it. Secondly, the Netherlands are and were a very democratic country. If the risk was considered too high they would have done something about it. Also, I study transportation, both modern and historical and have spend a lot of time reading Dutch discussions of transportation issues.

              Finally – horse-drawn wagons were quite dangerous. My father grew up with them in the early 20th century in NYC. The streets were packed with them and deaths from being run over by a wagon were quite common. A heavily loaded wagon cannot easily stop if you got int he way. He said he felt safer when lorries/trucks became more common as at least they had decent brakes and the human operator was more predictable than horses.

          • Christian Bernhard Hagen

            Peter, there is no sense in describing the pre-war traffic in most of Europe, be that Amsterdam or Copenhagen, as heavily motorized. It wasn’t. There were cars and lorries, sure, but they were few. So of course there was no or very little need for bike infrastructure. With an ever increasing number of cars through the 50’s and 60’s, the accident rates increased (in spite of your claim that horse wagons are more dangerous than cars), and that was what led to the Dutch demonstrations in the 70’s with their slogan “Stop the child murder!”. Similar demonstrations were actually seen in Copenhagen and other Danish cities. So, because the Dutch and the Danes demonstrated (and those were huge demonstrations, actually), the course was changed. No traffic related demonstrations in the UK or USA, so…

            Already with the first implementation of bike infrastructure, accident rates started falling. Left turns were regulated, too, so that you were no longer allowed to do them vehicle-style. A huge improvement in itself. And this shows that already the first steps towards bike infrastructure – even of the kind described by Forester as terribly dangerous – is apparently an improvement.

            But the fatality rate of car accidents decreased, too, you may say. Small wonder, as the roads and intersections (traffic lights!) were improved, too, as was the safety of the cars.

            60 years ago, traffic fatality rates were the same in the Netherlands and the USA. They aren’t today.

            • Peter

              According to the Dutch Bicycle Master Plan, 1999, in 1934 there were 744 traffic deaths, a third of them bicycles. The population of the Netherlands in 1934 was about 8 million. This per capita traffic death rate is slightly lower than the current USA per capita traffic deaths. ( USA currently has about 34,000 traffic deaths a year and 311 million people. If the Netherlands had as many people in 1934, their traffic fatalities would have been 29,000 people).

              So there was certainly significant traffic fatalities by today’s standards, whether or not you think there was dangerous traffic then. And a lot of them bicyclists. It would be like the USA having between 9,600 bicyclist deaths a year.

              Of course, there were a LOT of bicyclists.

              But that is still a lot of deaths.

              Especially when you consider Dutch bicycle travel distances were (and are) small compared to current USA travel distances.

              Americans currently average 66 km per person per day ( I don’t believe this either, but that is the official number. Wow). Assuming 5 km per person per day by bicycle in the Netherlands in 1934, that would indicate a per km bicycle fatality rate 3.7x the USA travel fatality rate per km.

              Quite significant.

          • Christian Bernhard Hagen

            Peter, every stat I’ve seen on commuting lengths suggests a very small difference in median lengths over most of Europe and North America. The reason is that the modern sprawl is little different in all those places.

            I’m not sure what you want to tell with the stats for fatalities in Dutch traffic in the 30’s. It certainly took some time for European populations to realize that the modern wonder of The Car was a mixed blessing, and meanwhile, very large numbers of people were killed by it. I think this holds true for North America, too. Since then, a lot has been done to improve safety, and in Holland and Denmark that covered cyclists, too.

    • Interesting tidbits I picked up. The NYC study shows nearly flat raw numbers for deaths and accidents, yet claims an improvement, because more riders are on the road.
      Information about studies in Canada has little relevance to the U.S. since Canada, though close in proximity, is a completely different society.
      I found this statement interesting “Recently, in response to citizen requests and observed changes in bicycle use, the municipality has taken a clear position in favour of the bicycle as a means of transportation.”
      So riding increased first, then the government responded. This is the order I would expect things to happen. Anti-motoring advocates have it exactly backwards.
      The nhtsa study was interesting. Looks like alcohol is a major factor in bicycle accidents
      “Over one-fourth (28%) of the pedalcyclists killed in 2009 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher, and nearly one-fourth (24%) had a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher. Alcohol-involvement–either for the driver or the pedalcyclists–was reported in more than 40 percent of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedalcyclist fatalities in 2009. In 33 percent of the crashes either the driver or the pedalcyclist was reported to have a BAC) of .08 g/dL or higher. Lower alcohol levels (BAC .01 to .07 g/dL) were reported in an addition percent of crashes.”
      Also interesting that the following states had no pedacyclist fatalities in 2009. District of Columbia, Maine, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. I don’t know of any special laws or facilities that these states have.
      I would predict that bike paths would have little or no affect on this.
      According to the NHTSA report, the single most important factor for bicycle safety is the sobriety of the rider. Which makes perfect sense to me.

      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        “Anti-motoring advocates”. That you, John?

      • Christian Bernhard Hagen

        Oh, and of course it’s better for cyclists to be out of the way of drunk drivers – riding on bike paths. Which, by the way, makes it a lot safer for drunk cyclists, too. I know. I, as well as everyone else I know of, have biked home from the wildest parties, without coming to any harm – on bike paths. Happily using the whole path while trying to steer along the middle of it. Try that in the middle of a car lane.

        The serious accidents happening to drunk cyclists round here will typically involve road repair holes or falling into the harbour.

  25. Ste Ormerod

    The worrying thing is that Forester and Franklin continue to be considered the authorities on cycling. When I trained as a national standards instructor, it was all to Cyclecraft standards – and still is. In fact we were given a copy of Cyclecraft on the course.

    As you say, it is a coping strategy, not an alternative to decent infrastructure.

  26. Pingback: This isn’t a Cycle Safety Fund, this is Space for Motoring | The Alternative Department for Transport

  27. Reblogged this on iNLand fIEts and commented:
    This look at how Forester’s imagination stacks up against reality is powerful.

  28. Pingback: Leeds and Bradford Cycle Superhighway: Confused? You will be. | The Alternative Department for Transport

  29. Pingback: Flailing limbs: LCC and its famously anti-policy branch | The Alternative Department for Transport

  30. Here’s another Franklin quote to put in your pipes and smoke:

    “If we really are serious about trying to make cycling part of our culture, either the cars have to be tamed, or the cyclists have to be segregated”
    John Franklin, cycle safety expert

    Hmmm, not so rabidly vehicularist as he’s been portrayed methinks. The quote is from:

    I would still disagree with “either/or” and reckon it needs to be “and”.

    • When this article was written, Franklin’s output was rabidly anti-infra. If he’s become more reasoned since then that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t negate what I wrote over two years ago.

      I hope he’ll one day realise that however much we “tame the cars” (whatever that means) it’s simply human nature to make mistakes, therefore the only way to make cycling safe is to separate it from motor vehicles as much as possible.

      I agree that the infrastructure of the future must prioritise motor vehicles much less, but this shouldn’t be seen as a war against motoring, but rather a re-balancing of priorities so that motoring isn’t given the exalted status it’s given today.

      Motor vehicles will still be a tool to be used, but instead of using them for every job, as so many do today, they’ll only be used for the appropriate longer-distance or heavy-load-carrying jobs.

      • Curious of Chris Juden to resurrect this post in this way! Certainly Franklin will have to explain his own position. The world has moved on and he may have decided to move with it to defend his relevance. But I still can remember (indeed we have on the web written record of), the meeting of Camden Cycling Campaign in 2002 where he told us (seriously) there would be more and safer cycling in the Netherlands if they did not have segregation there!

        You are right to question this concept of “taming the cars”. This is such a favourite of old-school ‘war on the car’ cycle campaigners. What could it possibly mean? Drivers following cyclists around at a respectful distance at 9 mph? That makes no sense. There would be no point having cars, it would be equivalent to the man with the red flag. It would be effectively a ban on cars. If we accept that we can’t ban cars, that they will continue to be used for the foreseeable future (though their shape and fuel sources may change) then we need segregation anyway to enable mass cycling, however we get drivers to behave. We need segregation to clear us the path for mass cycling through the queues of traffic in cities even if we don’t need its safety benefits.

        Such logic may be starting to dawn even on Franklin, though unfortunately for him, he can’t rewrite the historical record of what he stood for.

  31. The error you make is conflating what works in Holland with something that will work in the United States. Starting with tax rates, these are two different societies with different social views. Motorists in the United States are entitled. They’re entitled to be unsafe, kill people and suffer no serious consequences, a token fine and maybe an increase in insurance rates, even for killing someone. The same actions would result in large fines, loss of driving privilege and perhaps even jail. The segregationist are nothing more that motordoms pawns. They want exactly what the motorists want, bicyclists out of their way. Funny no body talks about motorist education. Motorists kill far more automobile passengers and drivers than bicyclists. I have MUPs as one of my possible paths to commute to work. They are difficult to maneuver, prevent me from traveling at my maximum capability and cause me to act as a pedestrian at every intersection. And this MUP is considered to be a model for other segregated facilities. I really don’t care how many segregated facilities you build. Just don’t force me to use them.

    • Are you still here Neil? You just go round in circles, trotting out the same tired excuses again and again.

      I’m not talking about the US, but that doesn’t really matter as the principles of separation of modes of transport is sound anywhere on the planet. If the tax system in the US is broken then that’s a different issue altogether. It has no bearing on whether cycleways are effective, only whether they might get built.

      I’ve only ever argued against MUPs (I assume that means paths where people walking and cycling are mixed), they’re a terrible concept. Stop suggesting I want stuff which I clearly don’t. Do you see any shared-use paths in the photos above?

      Finally, it’s clear to me that integrationists like you are the pawns of motordom, as you offer no challenges to it. I say “let’s take space from motor vehicles and give it exclusively to cycling” while you say “let’s not affect motoring at all, merely squeeze ourselves in around it”.

  32. And you keep arguing the same bullshit time after time. Sounds to me like the pot is calling the kettle black. The tax system in the U.S. has everything to do with facilities. How do you think it will be paid for fairy dust? I have never seen a bicycle path anywhere that excludes pedestrians in the U.S. so your argument is specious. Funny, I have been riding on the roads for more than 30 years. I never felt I was “squeezed” into anything. I have the right to be on the road, so do you and pedestrians. Motorists are required to prove their competence, license their vehicles and carry insurance. None of those are required of those who have the “right” to be on the road. I’ll thank you not to give away my rights, no matter how good your intentions.

    Yes, I am still here and will continue to be here, protecting my right to use the road.

    • The tax system has nothing to do with whether the concept of cycleways works or not. That you feel the need to wheel out such weak arguments shows you’ve lost the debate.

      Good luck Neil, continue to enjoy racing amongst the exhaust fumes. Meanwhile I’ll keep promoting what is proven to work.

      • Please again, trot out your proof? Almost every study that segregationists trot out has been proven to be unscientific and based upon proving an assumption from the start. Have you ever tried to actually commute on a segregated bikeway in the U.S.? Have you ever actually commuted to work on a bike, or do you only go for nice little rides where you can stay in your safe protected bicycle path. Do you actually use a mirror when you ride? That you dismiss taxation funding as an issue just shows how weak your position is. You segregationists dismiss any facts that conflict with your beliefs. You have never proven that cycleways work, here, where we live. They work in Holland and Denmark, both really flat countries. And you consistently put the cart before the horse, insisting “If you build it they will come”, when in fact increases in bicycle use have no relationship with bikeways. You have never proven that cycleways will even be built here, in a number that would actually effect all but a small minority of riders. And the fact that you ignore evidence that shows the conflicts with driveways, streets and other crossing moves are a danger to cyclists stuck in cycleways, show that you have no concept of reality, and live in your own little bubble of segregationists. You probably are too afraid to ride your bicycle in the street, so you want someone to build you a protected bikeway so you can actually ride a bike.

        • If you’re going to continue to be so patronising and ignorant then I won’t bother replying to you any more.

          Cycleways are coming, Neil, like it or not. Forester’s day is over, his dogma is dying out, and so are your kind.

          You don’t own cycling any more, it belongs to everyone. Get used to it.

          • Bicycling has belonged to everyone all along. Once again, you are projecting your patronizing attitude onto me. One again, the pot is calling the kettle black. Have you ever read Effective Cycling? I doubt it. Instead of trying to teach people how to ride on infrastructure that doesn’t exist, he teaches people how to ride on infrastructure that is. Please tell me of a segregationist cyclist that has taught a college level course on cycling. Has one of them written a text book for bicyclists?

            You segregationists are the one’s with dogma. I live in the real world, ride on roads as they exist today, and pretty much go wherever I want to go on a bicycle. If you get your way, I’ll have to ride the direction you and motordom have decided is “safe” for me to ride. Cycleways may be coming, but probably not in our lifetimes. Unless you think that paint on pavement is a cycleway, then we already have them everywhere. Job done.

  33. Nice picture of Holland. They teach bicycle riding in school in Holland. Holland is a flat place. That has about as much relevance in the United States as the Windmills in Holland. Misquoting me shows you are losing the argument, asshat.

    • Peter Rosenfeld

      An important element in making the Dutch system work is that automobile drivers are almost always considered responsible in a car/bicycle crash. So they actually DO stop and look before crossing the many minor intersections that the Dutch bike paths cross. In the US I would consider the paths very dangerous due to these minor intersections. Before I would even consider a Dutch style system we would have to change our driver liability laws to be more like the Dutch. Do that first and we can talk. Otherwise, you are just asking me to risk my life on an inferior infrastructure.

      • So explain to me why the Netherlands didn’t have this law of which you speak until the early 1990s, long after they’d built up their cycling infrastructure?

        • Peter Rosenfeld

          Cat – I have had many sdiccussion of tort and criminal law in the Netherlands with my relatives. I assume you are referring to the Article 185 of the Dutch Road Safety Code of 1992 which establishes the so-called strict liability of drivers regarding other road users. This was a regularization of existing civil law based on the old Article 1403 Civil Code, which was based on (of all things) the French Article 1384 of the Code Civil which said which said that a person was responsible for the damages caused by things in his possession. This was interpreted from the beginning of automobiles to mean that a driver was responsible for any injuries or damages to other non-automobile road users, even if the other users were majorially at fault. It goes back to the suspicion of automobiles in their early days – you may remember that some cities required someone to go ahead with a signal lamp to warn other road users of an approaching automobile. Even NYC had this. But in the US automobiles quickly dominated and the laws were changed to only punish the driver if he was “at fault”. But in the Netherlands the car never dominated until the early 60s and this code held pretty firm. Only during the sudden growth of automobile ownership in the Netherlands in the 60s and 70s was their pressure to change the law. But old Article 1403 stayed in effect, perhaps slightly weakened in some place until the passage of the new Article 185.

          More important than the law is the attitude behind it. Most Dutch agree that automobile drivers MUST be held accountable for any damage or injuries they ccause to more vulnerable users. This is reflected in their driving habits.

          Right now in the US, drivers are seldom punished criminally for bicycle/automobile accidents, even in the case of extreme recklessness resulting in bicyclist death. Even civil liability is generally limited if there is any fault by the bicyclist. More importantly, drivers know that if they hit a bicyclist, at worst their insurance rates might go up for a couple of years. In the Netherlands, hitting a bicyclist is much more likely to have severe consequences, finacially, socually and even criminally in some cases.

          Dutch bicycle facilites simply could not work without drivers being very careful at the many automobile/bicycle path crossings in the cities, especially the minor unregulated ones (without traffic signals). But in the US, these minor intersections are one of the most hazardous spots for bicyclists.

          I stand by my statement.

          • And you made my point very well. Holland has a very different attitude about bicycling than Americans. Even Carl Georg Rasmussen of Leitra notices the difference between Dutch and Danish bicyclists.

          • Hi Peter, thanks for your considered reply. I still disagree – we must choose our goal and work towards it, rather than seeing too many hurdles and giving up – but I appreciate that you were able to put your point across in a sensible manner, unlike some other recent US commenters on here!

            I think that you’ve perhaps over-egged the Dutch laws and their effects – they only cover immediate costs, and the driver’s insurance pays for it, not the driver themselves. If it turns out that the cyclist was at fault, then the insurance company will want the money back. Strict liability isn’t a blank cheque for cyclists.

            I’ve seen plenty of Dutch drivers who clearly aren’t thinking about insurance law as they drive, and the drivers of Berlin where I live now also don’t seem to be affected by these laws. I’m glad I very rarely share road-space with them. Liability laws don’t suddenly make drivers fearful of cyclists.

            Maybe US drivers really are that much more murderous, as you say – if that’s the case then I’m amazed that anybody ever takes to a bicycle over there!

            David Hembrow’s blog has some good articles about liability laws in the Netherlands. Here’s one, and here’s the follow-up.

            • Peter Rosenfeld

              The question of course comes up as to which came first in the Netherlands, the strict liability of drivers or the attitudes that made such a law acceptable.

              But I can guarantee you that the Dutch, except for a brief fling with automobile dominance in the late 60s and 70s, have always loved their bikes. And everybody they know bikes. So it is ,much easier to pass laws that protect bikes.

              I can also guarantee you that in the US neither the attitude o the public or the law respects bicyclists. Facility people argue that if we put in enough bicycle facilites then eventually we will attract enough bicyclists that attitude and laws will change. Maye in several geenrations that might be true although I doubt it for geographical, climate and socioeconomic reasons, but in any case, until then, the proposed facilities will be quite dangerous for bicyclists and I will continue to bicycle in a safer manner.

              My main fear is that facility people will get their facilities at the expense to bicycle safety, as has already happened multiple times in the US where laws were passed to restrict bicyclists to the unsafe facilities.

              • Frank Krygowski

                While I’ve never biked in the Netherlands, my daughter has; and she confirmed that motorists are unusually deferential to bicyclists. This seems to belie Mr. Cat’s contention that the strict liability laws have little effect on driver behavior.

                Of course, he might say that it’s not the laws, it’s some other factor that makes motorists more respectful; but my wife and I have walked and cycled in Zurich, Switzerland, guided by friends we met there. They said that Zurich’s strict liability law had recently come into effect, and they claimed it absolutely transformed the experience of walking and biking in the city.

                Even if the Netherlands experience is not due to that law, Mr. Cat has a problem. There certainly seems to be _some_ cultural difference between Dutch motorists and American motorists, something that makes the Dutch accept cycling so easily, so heartily. Despite his fantasies, such cultural differences are not easily transplanted between countries. Without that wide acceptance of cycling, it’s another fantasy to expect Dutch style segregated infrastructure in any but a tiny minority of American (or British, or Italian, or Canadian…) cities. There will be great resistance to spending even minimal amounts of tax money, so any facilities that are built will likely be minimal, spotty, and badly designed.

                This is precisely what many of us have seen, despite Mr. Cat’s pie-in-the-sky fantasies. And the effect decades of American bike lane, bike path, cycle track, and bike box building? U.S. bike commuting has “rocketed from 0.5% to 0.6% in only 32 years.” See

                Average commuting time in the U.S. is 25 minutes, by car. No amount of pie in the sky will get a large percentage of Americans to do that distance by bike.

                Again, I’m _so_ glad I educated myself on riding in present day conditions, rather than wait for pie-in-the-sky to be served. I’ve enjoyed riding wherever I want, with almost no problems. I’d hate to have replaced my decades of riding with decades of wishing and hoping!

              • Welcome back, Frank. I wondered how long it would take before you bit!

              • “Decades of bike path building” in the US? Are you sure about that? Last time I checked, cycling infra was almost non-existent there.

              • It seems that on one hand, American drivers are dreadful around people on bikes, yet simultaneously it’s perfectly safe to cycle around them!

    • Keep coming up with the pathetic excuses and childish insults Neil, you’re really winning the debate now!

  34. Peter Rosenfeld

    One more go around about the dangers of bicycling in the US. Most collisions in urban areas between bicycles and cars occur at intersections – both major intersections by drivers turning right or left across the path of straight going bicyclists, and at minor intersections like driveways and entrances to shopping malls by drivers coming out of the driveway and hitting a bicyclists going straight at right angles to the driveway.

    Vehicular Cycling teaches that this risk can be reduced by bicytcling further out int he lan e so you are more visible to these vehicles, as well as operating in a safe and predictable value, as well as some other safety techniques. Using these techniques I beleive that VCers have a lower crash rate than even Dutch cyclists. Some analysis supports this.

    This is NOT just a technique for young, athletic men. I am pretty decrepit due to neurological problems and tend to bicycle along at about 10 mph (16 kph) and have to start out slow at intersections and I still do fine. It is a technique good for kids after they are 10 years old.

    The Dutch urban side path system tends to put bicyclists closer to the edge of roadways, making them less visible., In the US that would increase the danger to bicyclists as drivers do not look carefully as they enter/exit driveways or turn at intersections. They look only where they expect other vehicles to be.

    My contention is that the Dutch paths are safe enough due to the care drivers take at these intersections., although they are still the location of most car/bike accidents. Whether this is due to strict liability laws or a cultural acceptance of bicycling as transportation or both, it is NOT the current attitude in the US.

    For bicyclists in the US to be forced to use Dutch-style facilities would dramatically increase our risk. I refuse to do so until attitudes and/or legal protection is given. But in general, when these side paths go in there are also laws requiring their use. Even in cases where the law doesn;t force it, drivers become very angry when they see a bicyclist not using the side path.

    Now some facility proponents say that there is safety in numbers. If there are enough bicyclists using the sidepaths, drivers will be more aware of them and be more careful crossing them. nThey further argue that these side paths will attract enough new bicyclists to achieve the safety in numbers effect.

    Both are still speculative theories here in the US. And until those numbers are achieved, the side paths are just too risky.

    So these sorts of facilities put the cart before the horse. IF the US wants to do this we first need to modify our traffic laws to better protect bicyclists and we need to better train drivers to be careful crossing side paths. Otherwise, we just put people at risk. Once that is done, if people in areas that have the potential for more bicycling, mostly the older, dense East Coast cities, should we even consider accepting Dutch-style side paths.

  35. Frank Krygowski said “Average commuting time in the U.S. is 25 minutes, by car. No amount of pie in the sky will get a large percentage of Americans to do that distance by bike.”

    That nearly matches exactly with my commute. My round trip is 38 miles. Average time is 30 minutes by car each way. Average time by bicycle, for the same route, 1 hour 30 minutes, not counting time to change clothes or shower. So it turns a 30 minute commute into 2 hours, each way. So the days I commute by bicycle I’m away from my house for nearly 13 hours. I’m dedicated to bicycling, so I do it. I haven’t been able to get up to 5 days a week yet. If Mr. Cat thinks that most Americans are willing to do that, he doesn’t know Americans.

    For bicyclists in places like Amsterdam, I think the average trip by bicycle is 8 miles. Bicycling to destination is becoming more popular in city centers, where parking is at a premium. Many people in those areas do not drive on the weekend, for fear of losing their parking space. But, much of the U.S. is made up of low density urban areas, surrounded by suburban neighborhoods with large expanses between. The commutes are long and often involve gridlocked freeways, where bicyclists are not allowed.

    Build it, and they won’t come.

    • Commenter

      Am I the only one who think it’s funny how Americans always act as if the ONLY trip they ever make is their commute? You’d almost think they never go anywhere else.

      • Frank

        The commute to work is an important trip, but just one example of typical American trips. I’ve bicycled across the US and in many European countries. Many (most?) in the US are used to driving five miles or more each way to a grocery, a library, a physician’s office, a hardware store. Many large cities consist of a core of old, often crumbling housing with poor residents and few shopping facilities; rings of shopping suburbs with big box stores; and residential suburbs stretching ever further into the countryside, with only gas stations and convenience stores within a mile or two. The poor have to drive or take buses out into the suburbs to buy anything, because companies want large stores near those with more money. Middle class and upper class will always drive, because the “best” store (by whatever criterion) is always distant.

        Only very atypical inner cities like New York, Chicago, Portland etc. have shops and restaurants within walking or easy biking distance of most residents. These are the facts on the ground! When our Irish friends visited for a week, they were astonished at how spread-out things were. And I live, by choice, in a place where walking and biking is much more convenient than most!

        I don’t pretend to like this situation, but again, these are the facts. Remember, our population density is about 80 people per square mile. In Holland, it’s about 1200 people per square mile. The countries are very, very different.

        • Are you quoting population density averaged across the entire USA, or is that the figure for an average town?

          • Frank

            That’s population density for the country. Look it up. But residents of a typical town still must travel five miles round trip to (say) buy groceries. They’ll strongly resist doing that by bike.

            Example: I live in a suburban village, contiguous with a medium-sized city. The village is considered one of the nicer places to live in the area, while the city is suffering hard times and has a lot of poverty. I’m lucky in that I’ve got three groceries, each about 1.5 miles away. But people just a tiny bit further out in the suburbs will do a 5 mile round trip each time they buy groceries.

            And the city itself is known as a “food desert,” with very few groceries. Inner city people have to drive or take buses far more than five miles to buy their groceries, unless they settle for the few canned goods in a convenience store.

            This is the typical situation in the U.S. The differences between the U.S. and Holland are tremendous, and most differences are far more important than the presence or absence of cycle tracks. It’s beyond foolishness to pretend that adding cycle tracks will transform society.

            • Population density figures for the whole country are irrelevant, don’t you think? Nobody’s suggesting some rancher in the middle of Montana should drive 100 miles to the nearest town!

              The situation in your town is relevant to the subject, though. I don’t know your town, of course, and I’m not suggesting it could ever have a modal share to rival Utrecht, but don’t you think that more people might make some of their journeys by bike if the conditions were right? Might it at least reach a modal share of even 10%?

              Even a 5 mile round trip is just 10-15 minutes each way on the bike. How many people live nearer to grocery stores, like you do?

              • Frank

                Population density for the entire country is as relevant as any other data comparison between countries. When bike advocates say things like “Americans use twice as much energy per person as the Dutch” (or whatever the figure) they rarely follow it up with descriptions of Montana. Instead, they tend to follow it up with “If only Americans had cycle tracks everywhere…”

                Regarding people in my town (or more to the point, my metro area): Conditions would have to be _incredibly_ different to generate 10% bike mode share – both infrastructure and social conditions. Here’s an example:

                When our daughter was in school, my wife did some volunteer work at the school. The school is just a block from our house (in itself, that’s very unusual in the U.S., the land of long-distance school buses), and it’s also a block from a pharmacy/gift shop. This is one of the reasons we picked this house.

                Anyway, one day another lady volunteering at the school had to go to that shop to get some small item – I forget what. And despite the nice spring weather, she said she was going to drive the one block. My wife expressed real surprise, because we bike or walk for trips like that. The woman said something like “Yes, I know it’s terrible, but I just prefer to drive.”

                And that’s a typical American attitude. Whether you’ll believe me or not, I’ve seen a man come out his front door in pajamas and gown, get into his car, back it 100 feet down the drive to get his mail from his mailbox, then drive back up. I’ve heard a woman say that nobody should walk across the village’s main highway, that they should drive across instead. There are countless parents who drive by our house each day so their kids don’t have to walk a few blocks to school, since (I think) the school bus won’t pick them up if they’re that close.

                No small number of cycle tracks will change this attitude. And this attitude will prevent installation of any large number of cycle tracks.

              • I don’t think whole-country figures are that helpful, whoever uses them. It’s like comparing internal flights in the US to the Netherlands, and concluding that the Dutch like trains more, when clearly the distances involved are hugely different.

                And I don’t disagree that many people in the US are generally wedded to cars to a crazy degree, after all the country has been built that way for decades. The stories from your town are quite believable. Bill Bryson describes similar car-misuse in his books about the US. I do appreciate that you have a figurative mountain to climb.

                But – and perhaps I’m being too optimistic – it wasn’t that long ago that riding a bike around a small town wasn’t seen as a crazy thing to do. Even the Simpsons opening sequence in 1990 has Lisa riding a bike home from school! I don’t expect miracles overnight, but surely a long-term plan to make walking and cycling pleasant and easy will increase numbers?

                Maybe the guy who drives to the end of his yard to pick up the mail will never get on a bike, but won’t schoolkids jump at the chance, if their parents feel the route is safe enough? Won’t that get a new generation used to cycling for short journeys around town?

              • Frank

                “I don’t think whole-country figures are that helpful, whoever uses them. It’s like comparing internal flights in the US to the Netherlands, and concluding that the Dutch like trains more, when clearly the distances involved are hugely different.”

                But that is precisely the point regarding bicycling in the U.S. vs. The Netherlands! Yet there is a chorus of cycle track promoters who pretend it isn’t so; that all the U.S. needs is to pour fortunes into infrastructure, as the Netherlands have done.

                Meanwhile, “Won’t schoolkids jump at the chance, if their parents feel the route is safe enough?” Perhaps, although there are many other factors that need addressed. It’s difficult, though, when the segregated infrastructure industry and its henchmen produce so much propaganda claiming it’s deadly dangerous to ride a bike unless one is behind barriers. This despite the fact that _every_ study on the topic has found that the benefits of bicycling far outweigh its minimal risks.

                I believe in promoting bicycling. I believe the biggest change needed now is to STOP the “Danger! Danger!” propaganda. Those who use “Danger!” to beg for wholesale redesign of cities are shooting cycling down.

  36. Neil Schneider

    You really think that parents that drive their kids a couple blocks to school, are going to let them ride bikes? They are afraid to let them walk, what makes you think they are going to let them ride a bike?

  37. Pingback: Zitate von den Verfechtern des Fahrbahnradfahrens, auch mit Fotos von den Niederlanden | Das andere Bundesministerium für Verkehr

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