Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Today is Bike to Work Day

and given the rains at the moment it's a likely washout.

Still, here is a good article on "Why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights" from Vox.  From the article:
Idaho's rule is pretty straightforward. If a cyclist approaches a stop sign, he or she needs to slow down and look for traffic. If there's already a pedestrian, car, or another bike there, then the other vehicle has the right of way. If there's no traffic, however, the cyclist can slowly proceed. Basically, for bikers, a stop sign is a yield sign.

If a cyclist approaches a red light, meanwhile, he or she needs to stop fully. Again, if there's any oncoming traffic or a pedestrian, it has the right of way. If there's not, the cyclist can proceed cautiously through the intersection. Put simply, red light is a stop sign. ...

So many cyclists do these things on their own — without even knowing they're enshrined in law anywhere — because they make sense, in terms of the energy expended by a cyclist as he or she rides. Unlike a car, getting a bike started from a standstill requires a lot of energy from the rider. Once it's going, the bike's own momentum carries it forward, so it requires much less energy.

-- The Idaho stop isn't more dangerous — and might even be safer
-- Stop signs and traffic lights weren't designed for cyclists
-- Laws that serve no purpose (and aren't followed) shouldn't exist
In most ways as has been discussed in many places, the laws concerning the use of the streets have been written to favor motor vehicles. From a sustainable transportation promotion perspective, if you want to promote sustainable transportation, you shouldn't cripple the bike's advantages by requiring a rider to follow the same rules as a car.

Yes, the reason cyclists can be competitive with car trips for distances of up to 3 miles and even longer distances depending on conditions is because of the ability to "run" stop signs and red lights. But again, this is allowable only when there is no oncoming traffic or large gaps in traffic.
You might also be interested in this paper, "“Determinants of Mode Choice: A Comparison of Germany and the USA,” Transport Geography, Vol. 19, pp. 644-657. From the abstract:

Germany and the USA have among the highest motorization rates in the world. Yet Germans make a four times higher share of trips by foot, bike, and public transport and drive for a 25% lower share of trips as Americans. Using two comparable national travel surveys this paper empirically investigates determinants of transport mode choice in Germany and the USA.

Also see What should a US national bike strategy plan look like?

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At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

screw Bike to Work Day- I do not like most of those people - they are all helmet wearing vehicular cyclists and they all pick the worst time of the year to do this kind of thing. I much prefer the Dandy Ride people- at least they are not foolish bike racres and activist nutbags

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent paper on Germany vs US mode share- planners here always ignore Germany and the lessons we can learn from their hard work and excellent planning and practices- our US planners always focus on Amsterdam and Portland- even if we never learn from them either

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, I wouldn't be so hard on btwd participants, a lot of them are distance riders, and have much different conditions and considerations than those of us who mostly ride in-city.

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the majpority of BTWD people are hard core vehicular cyclists and I do not share a philosophy or outlook with them at all- in fact- I do not like them at all- they routinely fight against what i would like to see happen-they are suburban and speed oriented and they love Forester- who seems to be WABAs main man

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I think the distance riders and their showers are the problem.

And richard, as we've talked before, I disagree with you on "zones of bikability" which I think is far smaller than yours. Bascially in the 1.5 to 2.5 mile range -- beyond that motorized transport makes more sense. And it goes back to speed.

I've found that when I stop for lights, signs, etc (which I do) it takes me about the same amount of time as a in a car for a 2 mile trip. If I "Idaho" stop it might shave off 5 minutes.

But the justification as conservation of energy is weak. That is why, after all, we allow right on red. In both cases misplaced.

It is time we admit we have far too many stop signs and lights in the US. Idaho stops makes sense when the light timing (or stop signs) isn't appopriate for the current traffic level. In DC, that can be a huge chunk of the day.

I do the Idaho at one intersection now (Flordia and Sherman) where if there are no cars I treat it a stop sign. Gets me going to where I can get on Vermont with no traffic. 95% of bikers I see are not following even the Idaho rules.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

factoring every element of your trip--going to the car from your origin point, driving there, especially in the core which has a fair amount of traffic, finding a place to park, and then going from where you parked to your final destination, I can't believe is the same amount of time.

But I agree that the major opportunity is maybe trips of 2 miles or less, although as you know I think trips up to 5 miles are capturable.

In any case, they are stretch goals, which would take more than a decade to achieve.

wrt "bikers not following Idaho rules", I do find that a lot of motor vehicle operators seem to be surprised that I don't just tool through intersections without regard to oncoming traffic.

So it's a stretch goal to train cyclists to follow those rules as well. That's a decade too.

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone complaining about the lack of recognition of German practices and policy wrt bike mode doesn't know much about the research. Ralph Buehler is probably the top guy in this research, uses German case studies all the time, is German, and also lives in and is very familiar with all that goes on in the DC region. His recent book with Pucher is a must have.

BTWD is overrated but good because it is an opportunity to reach out to those riders which are motivated to try it, but concerned. At least they care enough to try it even if it is only once a year. This is the low-hanging fruit audience. The hardcore types would probably have nothing to do with event because they would resent everyone else in their way.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

anon means, I think, German policies wrt US planning practices in real time.

It's fair to say that US bicycle planning practices lag the best European practices as it relates to matters beyond _infrastructure_. E.g., even _facilities_ (bike parking, air pumps, etc.) practices in Germany or other best practice European countries/cities are a good decade ahead of where we are generally in the US.

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