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Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

Posted September 29, 2017 8:54 AM by Hannes

I’ve always admired cyclists with enough guts to regularly ride alongside heavy car traffic. Pedaling at 15 miles an hour alongside more or less armored drivers who are probably distracted by their radio or phone doesn’t seem like my idea of a good time.

Many cities and towns protect cyclists by designating bike lanes, but many motorists illegally cross into the lane or park in it, defeating the purpose. So, the question arises: how does one engineer a better bike lane?

Several West Coast cities have experimented with different bike lane designs in the past year, making for an interesting case study. San Francisco first tested a raised bike lane in 2015, using a two-block section of Market Street. Raised bike lanes are common in international cities with heavy foot and bike traffic, but the lane was a first for SF. Almost immediately, though, motorists began taking advantage of the bike lane as a parking lane, quickly defeating its purpose.

The city responded by building a “protected” lane on the south end of Valencia Street. This is similar to the Market Street one—it’s a raised lane separated from traffic by a curb—but it adds a few buffer areas to further protect cyclists. As the image here pretty well illustrates, the design features a load lane to facilitate entering or exiting the cycling area, and also a designated parking area between the curb and roadway. Several of these “parking-protected” bike lanes already exist elsewhere in San Francisco.

Across the bay, Oakland redesigned the traffic flow on Telegraph Avenue—a major thoroughfare connecting Oakland with Berkeley—in 2016 to include non-raised bike lanes “protected” by a line of parked cars. Unfortunately, motorists immediately treated the bike lanes as valet parking lanes, again defeating their purpose. The city responded by erecting soft-hit posts, which are plastic barriers designed to protect the bike lane without causing damage to vehicles that happen to hit them. As an article from this month notes, though, illegally parked cars are now mowing down these posts, sometimes snapping them off at the base.

While many soft-hit post manufacturers claim their products can bounce back after a 100-mph hit, clearly Oakland’s posts aren’t doing the job. Urban cyclists are fond of these posts, and some renegade bikers have taken to installing their own posts in the form of toilet plungers when they feel their safety demands have fallen on deaf ears. I’m sure many cyclists would much rather see solid concrete bollards—which are not so easily destroyed by vehicles—in place instead.

It’s healthy to see cities making efforts to protect motorists as well as cyclists, but if the clip below is anywhere near accurate, the motorist-cyclist war will likely continue to rage in some form regardless.

Image credit: San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority

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#1

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/29/2017 11:00 AM

I’ve always admired cyclists with enough guts to regularly ride alongside heavy car traffic. Pedaling at ...

For cyclists... the word I would use would not be 'admire'. Considering California has 6 of the top 15 places of 'Road Rage' incidences.

Engineering a safer Bike lane comes down to a Return of Investment,... Its all depends on what one can afford,...

In California, I'm sure that's not really taken in account,...

I, myself, when I go biking,... I do take traffic into account on the route I take. Even with a bike lane, a high traffic route, I avoid that route.

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#2
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/29/2017 4:37 PM

I have to agree, "admire" is not the word for me, either, especially at rush hour.

A mix of bicycles and cars is hazardous to everyone, especially when desperate drivers take chances passing where it may not be safe. Anything that separates the two has my vote.

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#15
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 10:47 PM

I’ve always admired (been excited by the possibility of sudden death) cyclists with enough guts to (face) regularly ride (hotdogging) alongside heavy car traffic.

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#18
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/01/2017 1:03 PM

Well, I'm glad someone said it...

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#3

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/29/2017 10:12 PM

I think the most sensible approach is to just ban bicycles....If you can't travel at the speed of the traffic flow, then you don't belong in the mix....Now there could be exceptions, like motorized bikes for instance....but we have speed limits for a reason, go with the flow...If you need the exercise that bad, then take it offroad, or stationary in the garage...

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#4
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 3:14 AM

To keep cycle speeds similar to car driving speeds, Edinburgh city centre is now a 20mph zone. Most commuting cyclists can keep up with the rest of the traffic. Many off road paths are available, mostly due to abandoned railway lines repurposed for walking and cycling and all new major developments are obliged to give through separated routes for cycling.

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/download/370/explore_edinburgh_by_bike_maps

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#5
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 4:23 AM

If they lowered the speed limit to 20MPH to get more people using a bike, fine. If they lower the speed limit to make it safer for bikes, yet it caused more congestion. Then that's a bit ridiculous.

abandon railroad lines transformed and used for walking and bike paths are also done in the states is pretty popular, but are mainly for recreation as it sounds like in Edinburgh.

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#7
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 5:29 AM

That was the main point, but cycle use in the city is already more than four times what it was five years ago. Traffic speeds are much the same in busy periods as the level of car use is still too high. I notice the difference in the quieter times when cars used to race by just to get in front of a cyclist before the next traffic lights. Advance stop lines have changed driver attitudes some. My commuting route 2-3 days a week takes in some of the 20mph zone and a long stretch of canal towpath. I would cycle more often, but 20 miles each way in wet weather is a bit much.

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#8
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 7:58 AM

Did it increase or decrease traffic congestion?

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#13
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 11:58 AM

No change. The main problem is too many cars for the intersections to handle.

Edinburgh has the best public transport in Scotland, and the largest share of cycle use, but some people will not get out their metal boxes even one day per week.

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#6
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 4:31 AM

Yes, in some states, they have a minimum speed limit also. But of Ouse that's on a highway. The other issue that a bike has, it has a smaller cross sectional are, and can more difficult to see.

When coming to a stop sign, I was bought up and educated up in driving class to always look left, right and left again (in the states we drive on the right side of the road for our European members) . I have a habit when driving, to do that, and then do that again as I'm leaving. Have been doing it for 30 years.

It's surprising how many times, whether it's a bike or even a motorcycle may be hidden from view just from the corner frame post of the windshield.

Also, even though bikes have rights and even right-a-ways on the road, I've also seen the attitude, as though that's will save them. And charge isn't traffic with the only shield they have is they have a right-a-way. I could never figure out why do you want to challenge someone with a vihicle who doesn't see you, only on the bases that you have a right-a-way, that's no shield.

And it could also be ones epitaph. "Here lies so and so... he may have been run over, but he did have the Right-a-Way"

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#9
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 8:07 AM
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#10
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 8:50 AM

I bike a little bit and I am safety and road-rules conscious around other bikers. But some of these bikers are just idiots with their militancy. I live on a winding knolly lake road, hardly anywhere to pass, and sometimes I come up on people riding double and they won't get over. I can't and won't pass on this road. But I do drop down into low gear, and I'll just sit back there with the engine winding loudly, lurking and lurking, as they keep looking over their shoulders, and finally they will get tired of it and the outside moron will pull over.

The other day around sunrise, in poor lighting, I came across a guy longboarding in the traffic lane wearing tan shorts and a grey shirt. He blended right in, and he didn't budge a bit either. And he wasn't some kid with a mural on his neck and tow hooks in his eyebrows. He was 50ish.

Like your limerick says, they'll be just as dead.

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#11
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 10:21 AM

Some folks think they are saving the planet by biking, but when they block traffic, the line of cars trapped behind them burn about twice as much fuel per mile as they normally would.

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#19
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/01/2017 1:08 PM

Maybe car drivers need access to drones to alleviate the problems of bikers...

on a serious note,... I would start riding off road... but I don't have the stamina like I used to... I do have a hybrid bike. And where I live, (Green Bay, Wisconsin) there are plenty of bike trials. On the college campuses, parks, and abandon rail lines.

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#26
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/03/2017 4:02 AM

Bike trails are great! Typically they're through beautiful areas like a forest preserve or open fields. Wear a helmet and bike gloves - if you crash, you'll be protected. Stamina and strength will build by riding longer distances and riding faster. When you start feeling stronger, attack the hills. Also wear a heart rate monitor and don't overdo it.

Now I feel like going for a ride!

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#27
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/03/2017 7:17 AM

When you start feeling stronger, attack the hills. Also wear a heart rate monitor and don't overdo it.

There very few better feeling that that rush after a good physical workout. On my vacations, I used to used that an go to my brothers and help him bale hay... in my 30-40's I'd push myself especially when I could see the end of the load and I'd count the bales and look for the next load of hay coming down the road. I was loading the elevator to the hay mow. And count down the bales remaining, my break was pulling the next load to the elevator. I always pushed because if I could beat that load, I could sit down for a minute or two.

I'll share this, I would never tell my brother, but my work at the time (engineering manager) it was mentally draining. Baling hay was physical draining, and when I had a choice between the two, I would have choose baling hay over engineering. I could sleep at night.

Biking is somewhat the same.

and you stated what the words I was looking for. If your biking, you have to be a defensive cyclist 100% of the time.

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#29
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/04/2017 2:57 AM

When I'm hiking, I can let my mind drift and I can enjoy the beauty. I do need to focus on my heartbeat, watch the trail ahead and know how I feel as I'm attacking a steep section of trail.

When I'm riding my bike, I have to focus on the ride. When road biking, I have to watch for traffic, look at the condition of the pavement, look ahead for any potential problems, curves, hills, etc. When mountain biking, I have to focus on the trail and obstacles. Get in the right gear for a hill climb or for a downhill run. And watch for others on the trail, including wildlife! If I'm thinking about work, I'll wind up near the edge of a cliff, so I have to let it all go and focus on the ride.

I also enjoy working on stuff. For nearly the last decade, I've spent a lot of time working on homes. My friends would ask me why I don't hire someone to do the work. Part of it is that I want to know that the job is done right (not that someone else is going to mess things up, but I don't know if they did it right). More important to me is the feeling that I get when I work on things. I focus on what I'm doing and the problems of the week are no longer in my mind.

I believe clearing the mind is so important and whether its exercise or working on stuff, I think it's a necessity for not only my sanity, but also to keep me motivated at work.

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#16
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 11:47 PM

It's too bad, but the militant bicyclists and inconsiderate ones are doing far more damage to their cause than they can possibly imagine. Maryland has a three-foot rule which is not too bad until you come upon a pair riding abreast, deliberately oblivious to their actions. Or there is a wide shoulder lane and the bicyclist insists on riding the white line. I know why they do it, because they are afraid of getting a flat on these insanely thin, high pressure tires. But I can't pass and maintain the three-foot rule until the opposing traffic clears up. It's frustrating.

About ten years ago, I tried riding my bicycle to work a little more than five miles away. I'm sympathetic to the bicyclist's plight, but after one week, I decided that the savings on fuel and the exercise I received was not worth losing my life over. It's scary as hell. I feel much safer on a motorcycle.

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#24
In reply to #16

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/03/2017 3:51 AM

I find myself riding closer to the white line vs at the far edge. Flat tires are a consideration - fixing a flat on aero rims can be a challenge - the tires fit so tight on the rim that it's easy to pinch a tube putting on the tire or taking it off.

The main reason I ride closer to the white line is that it gives me a margin of error if I drift, which I do. Winds or even the push when a car passes can cause me to drift/sway. If I'm too close to the edge of the pavement, I'll ride off and very likely crash. There's also more debris as you get closer to the edge of the pavement - hitting debris can cause you to swerve and if it's the wrong way, you'll swerve into traffic.

Drivers are mostly very respectful. Over all the years and miles I've ridden, I can count on one hand the number of times I got so angry that I went after the driver.

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#28
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/03/2017 7:54 PM

Do you drift six feet or more?

That's what I mean by a wide shoulder, not 18 inches. My commute to work travels along an frontage road to the highway in the vicinity of Sandy Point State Park which seems to be a popular destination for many cyclists. Along some the roadway, there is in essence, a breakdown lane, and yet a good number of cyclists will hug that white line even though they have 8 feet of pavement to their right.

To me, that's inconsiderate. When I ride my bike, I try to ride about six to twelve inches from the edge of the pavement because quite frankly, I don't want a side mirror to take out my backside. Yes, in other places along that road, you might be lucky if you have six inches of pavement to the right of the white line and I totally understand that.

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#30
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/04/2017 3:02 AM

You have nice wide shoulder lanes where you live. Here, a three foot shoulder is a luxury! The distance from the center of your chest to the tip of your finger (when arms are held horizontal) is roughly half your height. There are very few roads where I can hold my arm horizontal as I ride.

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#12
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 11:23 AM

In my youth, I dated a nurse, (she can be pretty strong headed... putting it lightly) and when we were in town shopping or vacationing, she always crossed the road without looking, I pulled her out of harms way more then once and we 'discussed' this at length. Her only defense was, she had the right-a-way.

Until I told her, there's going to come a time when I wouldn't be there to pull her away, I'm going to make dam sure on her tombstone her epitaph is going to say, 'I may be lying here, but I did have the Right-A-Way' for her girls (2 tweens) to remember her mother by.

After that, She stopped and final realize the possible outcome.... or she didn't like her epitaph... but she now looks and waits when crossing the street.

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#14

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

09/30/2017 9:03 PM

Back in 2001, I was hit while riding my bike near my home in Del Mar. I was riding at a hair over 30 mph on a fairly empty street on the far right side of the road. A lady passed me, then she turned right in front of me into her apartment complex. We made contact and I pulled my front brake so hard, I was doing a reverse wheelie on the front tire. I almost kept from falling, but I lost balance and fell over. Dislocated wrist, cracked helmet, torn up clothes and some road rash. I did lose consciousness for what I think was a short time. The thing I remember is sitting in the street and another lady had parked her school bus behind me to protect me from any cars. She came out to see if I was okay, she helped me to the curb and I started to remember what happened. She said she saw the whole thing and even saw where the lady who hit me, she saw where she had parked her car and gone into her apartment.

After we found out that I was okay, we went to her apartment and she had no idea she had hit me. She even said that she didn't see me when she passed. I had a bright yellow jersey on, my road bike is a fade out multi colored neon frame and I'm tall and big enough for traffic to see me. Yet she still didn't see me.

I don't know if a "better" bike lane is the answer. I think better education (for both drivers and riders) is a better idea. Riding two or three wide isn't a good idea, unless you're on a country road and you're watching traffic behind you. Ditto for the ones who ride in and out of traffic.

Here in CA, there's a newer law that requires drivers to stay 3 feet from a bicycle when passing. There's good and bad to this law. It does protect bike riders = good. It gives bike riders a bad attitude toward cars "I'll just ride as I like and they have to go around me and give me 3 ft clearance" It also makes it tough for drivers in traffic. Do you sit back and wait for a place to pass with 3 foot clearance (while you're blocking traffic) or do you take a chance and pass?

One other problem is that most drivers don't know about this law. I would bet that most cyclists know about it. Since drivers are the ones who hurt the bike riders, it should be the other way around.

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#17
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/01/2017 1:02 PM

The promblem I see is what I mentioned earlier, the bike and rider has a smaller crosssectional area... they why the driver of the car, NEEDS TO LOOK ONCE, TWICE AND A THIRD TIME, bike rider could be behind the corner window post and not visible to the car driver,...

and even looking a third time for the car driver isn't enough, because if both the car and bike are approaching an intersection perpendicular to each other, the bike will remain out of view of the car driver.

Right a way or not, the biker need to assume, he is not seen.

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#25
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/03/2017 3:58 AM

When you've ridden a lot in traffic, you learn to watch for things like you mention. Don't ride in the blind spot, look in the car's side mirror and see if you see the driver's eyes, anticipate cars to turn (but don't be paranoid or you'll cause an accident), pass parked cars with caution (look through the back window), watch for pot holes or cracks in the road), diagonal RXR tracks are dangerous (tires get caught between the track and road), watch blind corners when going fast down hill (brakes don't work well when going down hill and at high speed), if you're going to crash - look for the best place to land, etc.

If a bike rider isn't riding defensively, he's going to get hit sooner or later.

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#20

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/01/2017 2:49 PM

Well maybe the autonomous cars will be better at seeing bikes and avoiding collision....haha

Ahhhh the future....

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#21
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/01/2017 4:05 PM

There seems to be more and more crappy drivers now, on cell phone and ignore into yellow DO NOT PASS, sign and yellow road strips between the flow and oncoming lanes..., automating the responsibility away from the driver and into a programs I believe will make even worse drivers. All under the guise of a safer car.

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#22
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/01/2017 7:31 PM

Well it doesn't even matter if you can drive, if the car is autonomous....you at that point are just a passenger...at some point driver's licenses may become obsolete...

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#23
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/01/2017 7:50 PM

Ya, Like a city bus...

to digress farther...

True,... one thing for autonomous vehicles, it would need to be 100% autonomous 100% of the time. No manual mode where the driver takes over, because they will not be able to handle the vehicle.

I recall over 30 years ago with Moller had GPS for their flying cars that also communicated with other cars.

That at the time I thought was a great idea and had confident technology would catch up,... now,... the technology may be there... but the bugs (big bugs and a lot of them) would need to be worked out.

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#31

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/10/2017 3:18 PM

I don't think bike lanes is the answer. I grew up in New York City and rode a bike all over the city across bridges and out on the island. Most of my biking was on public roads, unless I wanted to go off-road. To me, a bike was everyday transportation. I could go anywhere and not be limited by a fixed route (aka bike lane). I think most serious bike riders would prefer riding on a road and not in a dedicated lane. As a serious bike rider myself (now retired), I could bike at whatever speed I wished and not be hampered by slow bikers or inattentive bikers who weave all over the road. Like other serious bike riders, I followed the rules of the road, like stopping for red lights and using hand signals for turns.

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#32
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/10/2017 4:08 PM

It's not just "serious" bike riders out there. I have a wife and 5 children, all of whom have cycled in their own way. I commute 20 miles each way and use a canal towpath for the bulk of the journey as it is level and away from the 50mph single carriageway alternative. My wife cycles much slower, and makes use of all cycle ways, often collecting the shopping enroute. One kid has a family of his own and a giant cargo bike for shopping. Without off-road options, many would not bother learning to cycle, and there is always the possibility to progress to using the roads later.

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#33
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/10/2017 5:23 PM

I lived in a small town of Kiel, Wisconsin for a while.(I think its was unincorporated had a population under 200)

And the a mother was walking with her baby, with her other child about 8 years old, riding a bike on the side walk.

Well the local deputy there was a real ass, he stopped a mother and made her child ride the bike on the road because the ordinance said no bike riding on the sidewalk, so he said. He got the mother pretty shook up. I later found out, the residence of Kiel M.O. on this this ass of a deputy was, that more then likely he stopped her to show the mother what a big shot he was,... and maybe to hook up with her.

Later on, I had a discussion with him on a different matter. He was real pissy at first, until I cited the actual ordinances, well he graciously left me go with just a warning... bastard then mailed me the ticket. Little prick behind a badge.

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#34
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Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/11/2017 2:02 AM

I've had issues like that in Edinburgh but that was nearly 20 years ago. My kids would cycle home from school once a week. It was 8 miles across town. Most of the way there was off road cycle path, but one stretch was a lane shared with buses and taxis. A car pulled out the side road in front of one kid, the police officer stopped her and told her off for cycling on the road. ( under 10s are allowed to ride on the pavement here ) I questioned what happened, the sergeant could not give an answer as the officer had not reported the incident so told me to expect a call from him. A couple of weeks later, the call came...to tell me he had reported me for child cruelty! A year of investigations later,the children's reporter finally admitted there was no case to answer. Never met the officer. Things have changed a lot since then, even the police use bikes around the city centre.

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#35
In reply to #33

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/11/2017 2:27 AM

I had the exact opposite happen to me. When I was a kid, we would ride our bikes to Lake Michigan, through the township of Wilmette. One day, we were riding on the street on the far right side, when a police officer pulled us over. He gave us a warning for riding our bikes on the street, not the sidewalk.

So, as a kid I was told to ride on the sidewalk. Here in LA County it's illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk, unless posted otherwise: Section 15.76.080 "A person shall not operate any bicycle or any vehicle or ride any animal on any sidewalk or parkway except at a permanent or temporary driveway or at specific locations thereon where the commissioner finds that such locations are suitable for, and has placed appropriate signs and/or markings permitting such operation or riding."

However, it's legal to ride your bike on a sidewalk in the city of LA, as long as you do it safely. Ditto for many cities in LA County. But don't cross into Ventura County or it's illegal. But what do you do when in Westlake Village (part in LA County and part in Ventura County).

Go figure

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#36
In reply to #35

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/11/2017 5:47 AM

I guess the officer wanted to nip biker gangs in the bud, show these ruthless lawbreakers, whose the big boss man in town. before it begins to flourish.

Oops, too late.

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#37
In reply to #36

Re: Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

10/13/2017 1:03 AM

Thank goodness those kids got caught! A group or thugs if you ask me!

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