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07/26/2009: "Bike Path Controversy Redux"
Over on my favorite forum, the cycle paths controversy has erupted once again, and, with government funding scanty and the number of cyclists increasing, along with conflicts (social and physical) between motorists and cyclists, it is time to revisit the issue here in Bicycle Fixation.

To that end, I am posting the following comments with links to articles and posts covering this matter, and hope you will find plenty of food for thought there, to nourish you for discussions at planning meetings in your own town or city. To wit:

I actually enjoy the occasional "bicycle freeway," assuming it isn't full of strollers, skaters, and wobblers. But overall, bike paths tend to create more intersections with faster motorised traffic, which results in accidents. John forester's Effective Cycling contains many tables showing higher accident rates not only on bikepaths (and sidewalks) but on residential streets compared to arterial boulevards. (Accidents per X miles traveled.) These are charts taken from decades of accident stats gathered by various government agencies and collated by a highly competent engineer, who was also the designer of the "Effective Cycling" courses for street riders. One cannot discuss bike path safety without a knowledge of this body of work.

We have been covering this subject in Bicycle Fixation since 1997. Here are four links to articles by me, Ian Fiddies of Sweden, and Eric Britton of the Carfree Network:
Do We Really Need Bikepaths? (Richard Risemberg)
The Safety Paradox (Ian Fiddies)
The Dangers of Cycle Paths (Ian Fiddies)
Lessons Learned in Europe (Eric Britton)
A quote from my ancient article on the matter:
Three major statistical studies have shown that bicyclists on separate bikepaths have an accident rate over two and a half times higher than that of bicyclists on the street. (These studies were commissioned by the AAA, by the CHP, and by a bicycle advocacy group; all three came to the same conclusions. See John Forester's Effective Cycling at your local bookstore or library.)
My summation is that bikepaths et al improve safety only belatedly and indirectly, by getting more people on bikes, who eventually start riding in the streets; at that point the increase in social visibility of cyclists improves safety organically. A quote from my article "Safety in Numbers":
A careful British study on bicycle safety found that cyclist traffic deaths were much lower in the 1950s in England even though there was absolutely no bicycle infrastructure of any sort--no bike paths, no bike lanes, nothing but the streets. But cycling accounted for 25% of all travel, so cyclists were everywhere, as a normal part of the street. Whereas now England is full of bike paths and lanes, but cyclists are less safe than they were fifty years ago--because they are few. (However, cycling in Britain is still safer than driving in most other countries!)
For a brief description of a segregated bicycle facility that is an absolute deathtrap, see my short blog entry, Lane Brains

Something like the Los Gatos Creek path in San Jose--now, there's room in the world for that, for sure. And the much less charming but also excellent Ballona Creek path. But both are really bicycle freeways, limited-access, just like car freeways.

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