Bike Lanes on Blackstone Boulevard? For real. Read on…



Bike Lanes on Blackstone Boulevard? For real. Read on…

Blackstone BoulevardYears of work has led to the scheduling of a public meeting regarding striping bike lanes onto Blackstone Boulevard. It is imperative that as many bike lane boosters as possible be in attendance to show the City that the community is behind the project. The meeting will be at 7 pm on Monday, March 3, at School One (University Ave, just a block off the Blvd). Please tell your friends and family and co-workers and neighbors and anyone else who you think would be supportive.Here is a flyer to use as well.

23 thoughts on - Bike Lanes on Blackstone Boulevard? For real. Read on…

  • Reply Feb 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    During my decade of cycling advocacy, this issue came up several times.

    Some Blackstone area residents want the striping and others don't. Proponents argue that it will slow speeders. In other words, bicyclists only represent pylons to deter scofflaws. Swell. Those against fear an influx of lower class individuals (what century are they living in?). Nobody wanted to actually accommodate cycling, which, btw, federal and state laws mandate on all roads except limited access highways.

    There is an official Providence Plan which specifies striping on certain streets inc. B-Bvd. Mayor Cicciline received a grant of $350,000 to accomplish this over 5 years ago. Never happened. He thinks the only reason for complying is that it might reduce cost of bussing students. Obviously, he is totally out of touch with related health, safety, pollution abatement, sustainability issues. Greenways advocates want TIP funding spent in affluent communities inc. Jamestown, Tiverton, Middletown, anywhere but Providence, where it's most needed. In particular, I've been promoting a West Bay on-street connection between Blackstone Bikeway, Northwest Trail and Washington Secondary, which collectively constitute the East Coast Greenway through RI, not the East Bay Path or Blackstone Blvd.

    I've written hundreds of emails to public officials. The FHWA has already curtailed road funds to RI because of major lapses in bicycling safety planning. RIDOT and towns just don't seem to get it. STOP STEALING SHOULDERS! Not that this bothers me, because I pass cars on the left, but this squeeze intimidates the hell out of most cyclists.

  • Don Rogers
    Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 5:01 am

    You know, I have to say Blackstone Boulevard is already one of the most cyclist-accomodating roads in Providence. With so much wide, highly visible, smooth road space to share as part of traffic, this a clear case where there is no inherent need for any segregated bike facility whatsoever. I expect it will likely squash any group recreational use of the Boulevard, though, since double-paceline groups will now feel very unwelcome looping laps in the left lane when there's that big hunk of space reserved for bikes over on the right. Motorists may not be so charitable to the pacelines as they have been.

    Is there any real reason to remove the flexibility of that beautiful wide road by squeezing vehicles into smaller spaces by type, separate from each other? I just don't see it here.

    Further, especially southbound, there are more than a few opportunities for right-turning vehicles to conflict with cyclists in the bike lane, as has been such a huge (fatal) issue on bike lanes in Portland. Often motorists and cyclists don't interact as safely and considerately when that magic paint separates them as they would when they're really sharing the road. I certainly hope nothing tragic happens as a result.

  • Bruce Masterson
    Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 5:26 am

    Why do we need a striped bike lane on the Boulevard? What we need is the surface fixed, the shoulder kept clear and the traffic calmed. The problem facing safe cycling on Blackstone Boulevard is speeding cars.

    If the shoulder is kept clear and in good shape there is plenty of room to coexist. The fitness riders on the Boulevard will be shunted onto a bike lane and much like the State's bike paths it will become over crowed. I do hundreds of laps on Blackstone Boulevard annually and will take my chances on the roadway rather than be crammed onto a bike lane that will fall into disrepair like Allens Avenue has.

    Bikes are unwelcome for the most part in that neighborhood. Marking up the streets certainly will not help.

    Bruce Masterson, President

    Hope & Anchor Sporting Association

    East Providence, RI

  • Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 6:39 am

    Don and Bruce, thanks for your comments. I respect your feelings on the matter, and I'd like to make a couple comments as well.

    1. Removing a lane of motorized traffic and replacing it with a bike lane will likely provide beginner cyclists with an added degree of confidence while using the road. If this helps to create more recreational and/or commuter cyclists, then it is certainly a positive step.

    2. Removing a lane of motorized traffic will also make it much safer for pedestrians to access the median path. Anyone who uses the Blvd during rush hour can imagine how daunting it might be for someone with a baby stroller or young children to try to get to the path, particularly in a city where most drivers ignore a pedestrian's right of way when in a crosswalk.

    3. Yes, motor vehicle speed is a problem. As we all know, the posted limit is 25 mph, and few cars keep under 30. But if there is only 1 lane for motor vehicles, as making a bike lane would create, EVERYONE behind the driver keeping to 25 must also drive at 25. Part of what makes this road so attractive to many cyclists right now – the width and the sightlines – is also what makes motorists feel comfortable driving far beyond the speed limit. Reduced speeds may also dissuade some drivers from using the Blvd at all – helping the situation even more. Judging by the number of people turning onto and off of Butler Ave in the morning and evening, many current users seem to be people from points east, using the Henderson Bridge and the Blvd as a shortcut to get to 95 in Pawtucket.

    Ultimately, my feeling is that there is no perfect solution. I love seeing the roadies running their pacelines, imagining myself as a much stronger rider (with a much more expensive bike!). However, if we can take a step that (1) improves pedestrian safety, (2) reduces traffic speed, and (3) provides a facility that may turn more people into confident cyclists, then I am fully behind it. And I suspect that the riders doing laps around the Blvd will continue to do so even if a bike lane is striped.


    Eric Weis

  • Bruce Masterson
    Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 7:29 am

    So, cramming the rush hour traffic onto one lane will help? I don't think so.

    1. Removing a lane of motorized traffic and replacing it with a bike lane will likely provide beginner cyclists with an added degree of confidence while using the road. If this helps to create more recreational and/or commuter cyclists, then it is certainly a positive step.

    Cramming the flying, frustrated drivers into half the space is a good idea? Tell that to the folks (like me) that were stuck in the iWay fiasco.

    A bike lane is not the place for beginners or children. It becomes a de facto bike thoroughfare. An uncertain cyclist veering out of the lane is veering into traffic that has nowhere to go. It is like removing the high speed lane of an interstate. Both bike and auto traffic will be restricted and constricted to the pace of the slowest user.

    2. Removing a lane of motorized traffic will also make it much safer for pedestrians to access the median path. Anyone who uses the Blvd during rush hour can imagine how daunting it might be for someone with a baby stroller or young children to try to get to the path, particularly in a city where most drivers ignore a pedestrian’s right of way when in a crosswalk.

    Now they will have to cross two lanes of traffic moving at very different speeds. They will have to judge the bike’s speed first then time the crossing of the auto traffic, probably while standing in the middle of the bike lane. They will still have to cross two lanes. I don’t see how the bike lane helps at all.

    3. Yes, motor vehicle speed is a problem. As we all know, the posted limit is 25 mph, and few cars keep under 30. But if there is only 1 lane for motor vehicles, as making a bike lane would create, EVERYONE behind the driver keeping to 25 must also drive at 25. Part of what makes this road so attractive to many cyclists right now – the width and the sightlines – is also what makes motorists feel comfortable driving far beyond the speed limit. Reduced speeds may also dissuade some drivers from using the Blvd at all – helping the situation even more. Judging by the number of people turning onto and off of Butler Ave in the morning and evening, many current users seem to be people from points east, using the Henderson Bridge and the Blvd as a shortcut to get to 95 in Pawtucket.

    Why dissuade anyone? I want safe roads. We must share roads. What other neighborhoods will have to take up the rerouted traffic? What will it do to cycle safe roads in those areas? I would imagine there would be a spike in traffic on River Road, Hope Street, East Ave, already narrow busy streets. There is plenty of room on Blackstone Boulevard for all taking away a lane from both cars and bikes (I often need to ride in the left lane especially to turn) would bottle things up for all users.

    As a motorist I often use the East Side cut through to get to 95. Is it better that I spend more time in the car and got further and use more fuel rather than take Blackstone?

    Bike lanes seem extremely short sighted and unless fully committed to (like Montreal) are just another way to push cyclists off roads we have every right to.

  • Bill
    Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 8:59 am

    As someone who lives near the Blvd and uses it to bike daily to work in Pawtucket, I’m all for a slowing cars down and believe that a striped bike lane will help, especially if there is only one lane of vehicular traffic in each direction. While no pedestrians or cyclists as far as I know have been killed on the Blvd, there have been too many close calls. I’m sure something bad will happen at some point, with a bike lane or not. According to the UK Department of Transportation, the probability of fatality from impact increases from 3.5% at 15 MPH to 85% at 40 MPH. As someone who has been hit several times, I’d much rather be hit by a car going 25 mph than the typical 40 mph that I see every day on the Blvd.

    A similar recommendation (six year ago?) to stripe the Blvd was made by Providence Planning Department, and former Director, Sam Shamoon, as a way to calm traffic. Times have changed since this idea was last attempted and there are many more families with young children in the neighborhood who want to use the Blvd for family fun, including biking. As the father of two little ones who use the median path in the Blvd on the weekends, I’ll feel safer crossing one lane of car/truck traffic rather than two lanes. (Of course, I’d like to see them all obey the cross walk rules but that’s going to take some time.)

    As far as kids and bikes on the Blvd. I would feel more comfortable with a striped bike lane. I could easily envision myself riding in the bike lane with my kids riding alongside in the parking lane once they have mastered the basics of biking.


  • Bruce Masterson
    Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I still fail to see how narrowing the road will slow auto traffic. They will still go too fast, just in single file, bumper to bumper. Where is a car going to swerve when the brake lights come on? Hopefully not into Me, Bill or one of his kids.

    I hope a bike lane will not turn the Boulevard into another congestion nightmare like the EBBP which is downright unsafe. Children should not be on a thoroughfare until they are more than just capable of balancing. Just because there are no cars doesn’t mean it’s safe for weaving toddling children. Cyclists are just as apt to break the rules as motorists. An overcharged pathlete (yes pathlete, you know the type, someone who rides too fast for the path) is almost as big a danger to a kid on a bike as a motorists is.

    A striped lane will make the Boulevard marginally more convenient to a minority of users while inconveniencing the majority of cyclists.

    The police used to be out on many Tuesday nights ticketing speeders. This was great. It coincided with the Tuesday night paceline. It kept the motorists (and cyclists) honest. That ride was spent in the left hand lane to facilitate the turnarounds. The police had no problem with us using that lane and motorists had to deal with it. I think bikes in the travel lane are a much better traffic calmer than an excuse for a driver to shout, “Get off the road”.

  • Don Rogers
    Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 9:52 am

    I'm with Bruce's response to Eric, I think it's right in tune with my own thoughts.

    However, I think there are a few additional points to make:

    The only effective speed control that does not compromise road usage is enforcement. Why does this never seem to be examined or acted on? Done effectively, it creates both safer conditions and a pumped-up revenue stream. What is the barrier to getting it in place?

    Any segregation of traffic by vehicle type is reducing the space available for all road users and creating conflict at every intersection including driveways. When there's room enough instead for each vehicle type to operate flexibly at different speeds and road positions, it tends to Just Work. When you take away space and draw lines, you reduce options and increase friction. It's this friction that creates the desired traffic calming, but the motorists themselves, I assure you, are not calmed.

    It is absolutely a point well-taken about pedestrians crossing traffic. I don't know that pushing existing traffic together into one lane will be a safer traffic stream to cross, even at rush hour. I'm not sure of a solution here, other than stop signs or striped crosswalks plus enforcement.

    As for kids, I think Blackstone Boulevard is such a through road that I do not think kids should ride on it, no matter what the accommodations, until they have sufficient skill to truly ride among traffic on other similar roads such as Hope Street between the Observatory and Rochambeau. There are far better neighborhoods on the East Side than Blackstone Boulevard to ride with small kids!

    Unskilled adult riders may feel more *comfortable* in a bike lane, but they are not safer. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

    Mechanically, bike lanes occupy sub-optimal road space. They put cyclists outside of the motorist's cognitive space that is inhabited by vehicles and worth observing. They are not swept of debris by passing motor vehicle traffic. They create conflict with entering and exiting motor traffic at all intersections including driveways.

    Philosophically, they are segregationalist. They broadcast policy that says 'bikes go over here, cars get the real road.' They train novice riders to cruise along parked cars and not worry about what's turning across their path. They train all riders to seek a segregated space to ride and to fear places in which there is no accommodation. They do not build any skill in riding among traffic.

    Historically, they derive from the California motoring lobby seeking to push cyclists out of the way of motorists in the 1970s.

    Why are we begging for these things? Bikes are vehicles. They belong on the road. They are part of traffic. If you want to operate a vehicle in traffic, shouldn't you expect to learn some level of skill? Yes, the availability of means to learn these skills is limited or non-existent. Maybe that's the problem. But once you attain this marginal level of skill, shouldn't you expect to be trusted to use the roadway as your needs and conditions permit, just as you would expect when driving your car? Do you expect the city to stripe a separate traffic lane for adolescent drivers until they 'really' know how to drive?

    It's almost as if we have been riding the bus like normal all this time, and now we ask, "Can we have a seat or two just for us? It's OK if it's the dingy ones in the way back that the driver."


  • Don Rogers
    Reply Feb 21, 2008 at 9:55 am

    … that the driver can't see in the mirror."

  • Reply Feb 22, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Despite these endless circles and arguments, cities and town must provide adequate shoulders on ALL roads throughout RI (excluding limited access). This is Federal and State law. The stealing of shoulders for turning lanes deters cycling. Period. Unacceptable.

    Your choices for bicycling infrastructure include dedicated bikeways, traffic calmed sideroads, striped bike lanes, signed shared, and shared roads without signage. Novices probably require some dedicated bikeways, and RI hollowly boasts of 45 miles. There are about 6 times that in well marked shared roads. But there are several thousand miles of road in RI, and over 25% specifically ban bicycling. Illegal.

    The maddening part of this lapse is bridges. They are being closed without alternatives, such as George Washington and soon Henderson. You have to ride 70 miles out of your way through Providence to ride the few miles from North Kingstown to Newport… in defiance of federal funding mandates to open Pell Bridge to cycling. If motorists had to endure such mistreatment, they'd scream bloody murder! A perennial obstacle is the Newport Bridge, which is bike/ped inaccessible, when a cable car beneath or year round ferry service could be supplied at relatively low cost. Of the hundreds of billions spent yearly nationwide, only 0.004% is spent on bicycles and pedestrians. Bridges on I-95 in CT feature separate 2-way bikeways on North side only, which work perfectly well, impeding neither cyclist nor motorist.

    The real push in RI should be to create a continuous statewide bicycling network, one where you need not be shut out by dangerous intersections, like Hoxie 4 Corners, and soon Apponaug, but have some small bypass, bikeway, bridge, sidewalk adaptation, etc. West Shore road just ends, and the timid are turned back. In a small state with an enclosed bay, there are many such "pinch points". The focus ought to begin with connecting Blackstone and East Bay Path with Washington Secondary out to Coventry through Providence, applying a small subset of the Providence Plan, enough to transit compass points N, W, S, E. I offered Providence planners such a alternative years ago, but it's not been implemented, even though it's nothing more than signs and stripes.

    I blame the bicycling community, who don't insist on equal treatment or their rights under law. Hardly any of them show for Transporation Advisory Committee meetings; of course, the TAC's attitude is their hands are tied because fuel taxes pay for roads, to quote, "What do you expect us to do about it?" Every new supermarket or Lowe's (Rt 5 in Warwick) is allowed to impact roadway and violate traffic safety in the name of commerce. Fine, but they must be made to provide a cycling alternative when filing their plan as part of zoning ordinances statewide. Since neither state nor business have to, they steadily degrade bikeable network.

    So, Blackstone Blvd, already adequately wide, is a tempest in a teapot compared to the magnitude of real problems facing cycling in Rhode Island. Priorities lie elsewhere.

  • Barry
    Reply Feb 23, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I think one problem the bicycle community has is that too much of the transportation establishment (including our Secretary of Transportation!) and the motoring public just doesn't see bikes as part of the transportation system. Thus, in addition to all of Eric's good points above, it seems clear to me that bike lanes on Blackstone Blvd (and elsewhere) will help make it evident (especially to the well-to-do community) that bikes are indeed part of our transportation system and motorists must share the road with them.

    I have been hearing the argument for decades from some experienced bicyclists that don't think they need bike lanes or paths, that if there are bike lanes or bike paths then bikes will be kept off other roads. But this has never happened, nor is it any threat because as Alan says above, it would not be legal to prohibit bikes on roads because there is a parallel bike lane (except for limited access roads).

    In addition to being a bicyclist myself (albeit inNorth Providence), as an environmental advocate concerned about global climate change, oil supplies and related pollution and economic issues, I hope to see bikes a more prominent part of our transportation system. Having bike lanes in urban areas would clearly seem to be a step forward to that end.

  • Paul Klinkman
    Reply Feb 23, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I think painting a stripe down a road is really cheap, as in meaningless, but cheap gestures make the City feel good. This stripe painting approach was taken with the Allens Avenue bicycle lane, which hopefully we all have forgotten still exists.

    I support child-safe bicycle paths. This approach in no way makes the rest of the road safer for survivor bicyclists (who benefit from the novice cyclists being used as training pylons by drunks), but it does let kids and families, seniors and others get places and get exercise on their bikes. Personally, I'd like to see the "sidewalk" area abutting Swan Point Cemetery be used for a class 1 bikeway, making a 90 degree turn at Alfred Stone Road. This class 1 road would be free of highly trafficked cross-streets from Butler's entrance almost to downtown Pawtucket.

    The East Bay Bike Path, a safe path, was considered a triumph of its time. A few homeowners were dead sure the East Bay path would be a "Highway for Crime" but this homeowners' idea turned out to be wack silly.

    I feel like there's a censoring clampdown on discussing several good alternatives to striping the Boulevard. Here's my list.

    1. Running the path along the already flattened sewer right-of-way behind Butler Hospital is considered verboten because it attacks someone's money, and it also goes past the Swan Point Cemetery on the waterfront. I see no evidence that a path down by the water would disturb Butler. If more patients took up bicycling, running or walking, Butler's business might drop a bit. However, if Butler were ever jettisoned by the new mega-hospital, the underlying property would have more cash value if private access to the water were maintained.

    2. Running the path from the north end of River Road up an undeveloped stream bed between Butler and the abutting neighbors would again offend Butler, but would miss the cemetery. I have heard an argument that it would disturb wetlands, but this is a red herring. The path could always be built on a hillside, not on the stream bed wetlands.

    3. The city plans to run a stripe from River Road up a terribly steep stretch of Irving Avenue. I suggested that a path on the hillside rising gently, parallel to Irving Avenue until the elevation was matched, through city park land, would be far less steep for cyclists. I was basically told no, it was not possible, and no good reason was given for the refusal. This mindless stonewalling made no sense. I looked at the Irving Avenue area later. At this point I do not trust the Providence charette process to be particularly honest about what our possibilities are.

    4. We should do any part that we can all agree on. We should agree now to immediately run a short path from the end of the East Bay Bike Path through city park land to the back of East Side Marketplace. Cyclists will then make their way, striped Boulevard or not, to the newly extended end of the bike path and on to Riverside and Bristol. I think Gano Street is a bit too rough for novice cyclists.

    5. We need a fairly safe class 1 path along the harborfront where there will be no major cross-streets. I recommend a class one bike path from the end of the East Bay path down the harborfront, across to Roger Williams Park, down Roger Williams Park and down the exit stream from Roger Williams Park to the Pawtuxet River, then up the Pawtuxet River to where this new path can meet the bike path to Hartford, Connecticut. I recognize that some people want to preserve harborfront industries, but right now our neglect is also preserving the strip joints along Allens Avenue.

  • Bruce Masterson
    Reply Feb 25, 2008 at 9:51 am

    How does a bike lane in a affluent community (especially) say we belong or that we are part of the transportation equation? It says "stay over there and out of our way".

    Bike paths should be left to trail conversions and redreational facilities. Putting in a bike lane just seems to fan the fires of the roadway turf war.

  • Reply Feb 26, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    As long as they don't paint additional parallel travel lanes on Blackstone Blvd, they could put up Share the Road bike signs and be done with it. Nothing more is required.

    The "turf war" here was already won by automotive lobbyists in blatant illegal defiance of federal and state statutes. Cyclists could contest every instance of road ban and win, yet bureaucrats continue to add lanes without widening roads at the expense of everyone's safety.

    Motorists have no idea that every time they pass too close or force a cyclists off road or, in 150,000 cases each year, actually hit one.. they are absolutely, positively, 100% to blame. They'd have to prove extreme negligence on the part of the cyclist to win their case. Motoring fosters impatience, but that's just too bad. This is why I motor less than bike each year.

    In RI, cyclists have every right to the right 1/3 of the TRAVEL LANE on every road except where specifically banned (interstate highway, mainly). They don't have to get out of way, go into the shoulder, get on sidewalk (which is illegal), or hurry. The shoulder acts a safety valve into which bikes can stray momentarily just to keep traffic fluid.

    Of much higher importance is "connecting the routes" upon which bicycling is encouraged. Cities must not plan signage for short, discontinuous stretches, neighborhood networks, that lead nowhere. What cyclists REALLY need are pass throughs instead of obstacles, like bridge bans, huge malls, industrial sites, long unbroken stretches of highway and railroads, and unspanned brooks and streams. Statewide zoning ordinances must be written to demand bikeway plans in any land development including residential. Otherwise, soon you won't be able to ride to every point in state without leaving it entirely. You already can't legally ride from Bristol to Tiverton without reversing course through Fall River, MA. What kind of madness is this?

  • Reply Feb 26, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Btw: Urban bikeways stink. They are never maintained and can't be used for half the year. They mainly divert funds to boondoggle charities and engineeering firms. Ubran planning of quieted parallel roads that do get plowed would serve better. If that means increased traffic on main thoroughfare, fine. You need this balance.

    If you install a Rt 99 for example, you need to bridge Reservoir Rd to Albion somehow without cyclists having to ride AGAINST TRAFFIC ON Rt 146! Where was the bike sense in this actual mess? Next fiasco… Apponaug.

  • Reply Feb 27, 2008 at 4:40 am

    I was thinking about this whole issue on my ride in this morning and had a thought. It seems to me that there have been an increasing number of cyclists killed by automobiles every year. I'm becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of legal proceedings for these cases. I understand that accidents happen, but lately there seem to be a large number of cases where people are killed while drivers are using a cell phone, sending a text message, doing something other than concentrating on the task at hand, driving! Even in most of these cases, where the driver was clearly distracted, criminal charges are often not levied and it's left up to the civil courts to sort out. Does anyone know whether legal proceedings are more forth coming if/when a cyclist is hit while riding in a bike lane?

  • Reply Feb 27, 2008 at 8:31 am

    ^In answer, NO! This issue must go directly to state government.

    Besides the extensive motor code designed to control momentum of heavy metal being thoughtlessly driven, RI bicyclists must obey an ADDITIONAL 16 laws, which makes it the most over-regulated personal activity in existence. Driving is a privilege. Biking is a RIGHT, the right to be motile, to get to school, places of worship, shops, work. This is a direct result of motoring lobbyists, who want you to drive instead of bike. Nevertheless, bicycling is BY FAR the safest form of transportation ("only" ~700 fatalities/year nationwide 3 sigma vs. billions of trips, in contrast to 44,000 for motoring and ~6,000 for walking, despite what bikeway advocates, cycling clubs, and grumbling activists would lead you to believe.

  • Don Rogers
    Reply Feb 27, 2008 at 8:59 am

    In response to Mark's question, it's an interesting tangent to consider whether the use of a bike lane gives any added weight to the legal position of a bicyclist struck by a car.

    I haven't read much on this topic or really considered it before today, but my initial thoughts are:

    1. It's unlikely that there are detailed statistics on this topic from any source – there's barely anything useful out there on more general bike transportation, and this is a pretty specialized question.

    2. If there *is* any positive effect, then there is a sharp negative corollary. That is, if a rider has legitimate reason to ride outside the bike lane on a road that has one, due to pavement or traffic conditions or other valid reasons, and then they are struck by a motor vehicle, there is surely a significant weakening of their defense position in legal proceedings.

    3. Personally, I think no force, including boundaries of paint, can stem the tide of the motor-centric bias in our country, in law enforcement and otherwise. I've read quite a bit on this topic, much of it from the knowledgeable and well-spoken attorney Bob Mionske (see his book Bicycling and the Law), and it seems a pretty impenetrable force.

    That said, I sent out a feeler question to the Chainguard discussion list, which is full of articulate folks who have strong, sometimes conflicting, opinions about the best means of supporting cycling as Just Another Mode of Transportation. I've quoted *all* of their comments to date in full below. Most of them are of similar opinions as my initial thoughts above.

    One nugget I'd like to point out specifically that strongly informs the abstract side of Mark's question is a lengthy Velonews post from Bob Mionske about the ubiquity of law enforcement and media bias against cyclists. You can read it here:

    At the very least, check that out for some really thought-provoking commentary.

    Here is the summation of the comments from the Chainguard list:

    —— Forwarded Message

    Subject: Fwd: [CG] Do bike lanes give a stronger legal posture to cyclists?

    From: *Don Rogers*


    I'm currently involved in a discussion centered around the addition of

    bike lanes to a local residential boulevard that is already excellent

    for all traffic including cyclists. My question is not about the

    appropriateness of bike lanes, but one of the participants in the

    discussion has asked an interesting question. It is informed by a

    variety of recent events here in southeast New England in which

    cyclists were injured or killed by inattentive motorists (text

    messaging, using cell phones, etc.) and the fact that local law

    enforcement has been extremely soft on the motorists. That is, no

    criminal charges (i.e., criminal negligence, etc.) were filed in any

    of the cases. Here's the question:

    – In general, in the event of motorist-cyclist crash where the

    motorist is clearly at fault, is it more likely that criminal law

    enforcement will prosecute the motorist if the rider was using a bike

    lane as opposed to a similar crash on a similar road without bike


    I appreciate any information related to this question; it's an interesting



    Don Rogers


    From: *Michael Poplawski*

    Sure, if the collision occurs with cyclist and motorist travelling in

    the same direction.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of collisions are due to turning and

    are from the side and/or head on.

    Bicycle lanes will put cyclists in worse positions to be seen and for

    their maneuverability at intersections.

    The result is that cyclists will get more opportunities to argue their

    legal position to your law enforcement system which has a poor record

    in dealing with cyclist/motorist collisions.

    Michael Poplawski

    Victoria, BC Canada


    From: *Keri Caffrey*

    Here is an article which might give you some ideas on this:

    The bias against cyclists won't be mitigated by infrastructure, and

    our culture's tolerance for motorist negligence won't either.

    Social dysfunctions need to be addressed as such. Attempting to

    compensate for them in the built environment is futile.



    From: *Ken O'Brien*

    I think the more interesting question is: if a proper-riding

    bicyclist, ignoring (as he/she generally should) the

    bikelane lateral width and riding within the normal travel,

    is hit and injuried by a motorist at fault for the collision –

    will the motorist's punishment be more likely to be insufficient;

    will the bicyclist have a harder time getting awarded correct


    I think when the bad bikelane design is combined with

    foolish mandatory bikelane usage, the very likely answer

    to this question helps point out why bikelane design should

    not be used, and mandatory bikelane usage law should be fought

    as a near-primary effort of bicyclist advocates, anywhere such

    outrageous law exists.



    From: *Michael Graff*

    To be complete, you'd have to ask the converse. What if the cyclist

    left the bike lane for one of the spelled-out exceptions (prepare for

    a left turn, avoid debris, etc.)? Is that an automatic free pass for

    the motorist?

    I suspect there are no statistics either way, just anecdotes.

    If the goal is to more likely prosecute at-fault motorists, that's

    really an enforcement question, not an engineering question. It's

    something that needs to be enforced on all roads, not just on the

    fraction of roads that have bike lanes.

  • Geoff
    Reply Feb 28, 2008 at 6:44 am

    I'm 100% in agreement with Bruce on this issue.

    I use the Blvd quite regularly. There is more of a danger to cyclists avoiding the runners on the shoulder in the parking lane than of cars. And taking away the option to do paceline type training on the left hand shoulder would be a great loss of a resource in the city.

    Adding a bike lane would be a waste.

    Install a bunch of 25mph speed bumps with the money.

    Add extra law enforcement on the path.

    Do ANYTHING to slow the cars down. The only problem are the drivers who insist on using that road at 40+ MPH. Cars going 25-30 mph are generally much safer for cyclists than those going 40.

    One lane of traffic will not significantly slow the majority of traffic unless you have enough 'pace car' type drivers. I do actually make it a point when traveling in a car on the Henderson bridge or the Blackstone BLVD to go the posted speed limit. And am absolutely amazed at the antics and the speeds of those flying past in an aggressive and dangerous manner.

    Adding a bike lane to the blackstone blvd would be a blow to the cycling community. Put a bike path down the center, or allow cyclists to ride on the 'running' path at slow speeds and you would then have a nice solution for everyone from the slow recreational cyclist to those who commute or ride a bit faster.

  • Don Rogers
    Reply Feb 28, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Here's another useful comment that has come in from the Chainguard list since my last post. The author provides some good insight from the Portland, OR context, then cites a lengthy chunk of John Forester's informed opinion on bike lanes and their delineation of liability. The full text of Forester's statements on many aspects of bike lanes is available here, and is worth a complete read:


    From *Ryan Conrad*

    [Don Rogers wrote]

    > – In general, in the event of motorist-cyclist crash where the

    > motorist is clearly at fault, is it more likely that criminal law

    > enforcement will prosecute the motorist if the rider was using a bike

    > lane as opposed to a similar crash on a similar road without bike

    > lanes?

    You can't be serious, bike lanes improving the legal status of cyclists? Even in states w/o mandatory bike lane laws, bike lanes can at least strengthen the side-of-the-road law. Watch out for legislation that may get passed to make bike lanes mandatory after a network of them gets installed.

    Consider Oregon's legal baited trap with regards to bike lanes: bike lanes are only required if they are deemed safe after review by a means of a public hearing. In other words, if you're riding on a road with a bike lane in DT Portland (almost always a DZBL) and choose not to use that bike lane because it's dangerous, you can still get pulled over by a cop for

    failure to use a bike lane. You can fight the ticket, but it's up to the public hearing to determine if in fact the bike lane was safe to ride in. The jury is usually comprised of non-cyclists, so it's unlikely they'll empathize with you.

    Consider another scenario: you're riding in one of Portland's deadly "blue bike lanes" that takes you through extremely dangerous conflicts with turning motor traffic. You get hit (and survive) and proceed to sue the city for installing a dangerous mandatory traffic control device. The state and city can just as easily say the use of the facility was voluntary (they would never admit to installing a dangerous mandatory facility, no jurisdiction will

    willingly allow itself to be sued), so you recover no damages.

    Oh, and Oregon's law requiring motorist's to yield to cyclists in a bike lane is rarely enforced (is a very strange requirement for motorists, basically elevates bike lanes to the status of crosswalks), so there's no point in relying on that either. I think PPD is just as confused (or just prejudice against cyclists) by that law as are motorists. It's a band-aid law with no basis in traffic engineering, so in many cases the yielding action is very

    difficult or humanly impossible for a motorist to perform.

    Although Oregon is somewhat unique with it's complicated bike laws, it is easy to see that bike lanes are not and never were intended to protect cyclists' safety or legal standing. They force a cyclist into a catch-22 dilemma with no legal protection whatsoever, all for the convenience of motorists. That's "bicycle friendliness" I guess. I personally choose to avoid dangerous bike lanes and risk ticketing, since legal protection does not exist anyways. It's sad how the safest, most efficient form of riding is illegal, but that's life.


    Portland, OR

    Here's [John Forester]'s take on it from

    6) Bike lanes help define liability in case of an accident.

    "I see no circumstances in which this definition would aid a cyclist.

    In the one case in which it might be relevant, the motorist who comes up

    behind a lawful cyclist and hits him, the motorist is at fault

    regardless of whether or not there was a bike lane.

    If the road surface is defective and causes an accident to a cyclist,

    the road authority is liable, regardless of whether or not that

    particular portion of the road surface is part of a bike lane.

    Consider motorist intrusion into a bike lane. Everybody knows that

    motorists have to use bike lanes; on streets with bike lanes, they can't

    get out of their own driveways without using the bike lane. If a

    motorist exits a driveway without yielding the right of way and hits a

    cyclist, it makes no difference whether or nor a bike lane exists. If a

    motorist makes a turn without yielding, and thereby hits a lawful

    cyclist, it makes no difference whether or not a bike lane was present.

    Because everybody understands this situation, in case of dispute both

    judges and juries will follow the law.

    However, this is not true for cyclists who are to the left of a bike-

    lane stripe. Consider the cyclist who is setting up for a left-hand turn

    at the next intersection and has left the bike lane. A motorist exits a

    driveway from the cyclist's left and makes a left turn, hitting the

    cyclist. The cyclist has severe injuries and can't talk for a time. The

    accident report will list the cyclist as at fault for not being in the

    bike lane, in violation of 21208 (California Vehicle Code number). The

    motorists' attorney argues, with specious accuracy, that had the cyclist

    been in the bike lane where he belonged, his client would never have hit

    him. If the cyclist can't talk, or can't remember the accident (a

    regrettably frequent event), in a legal sense he is done for. Even if he

    can explain that he intended to turn left, he is open to the argument

    that he put himself in danger by leaving the bike lane unnecessarily

    early. Motorists never have to make similar arguments; cyclists have to

    make such arguments because, in the context of American motoring

    society, the bike-lane laws were advocated, written and enacted by

    motorists to make cyclists do just that.

    Words that appear to express the fair notion that the roadway is

    fairly divided between motorists and cyclists were actually intended,

    and in fact are used as, methods of discriminating against cyclists."

  • Reply Feb 29, 2008 at 5:45 am

    <img src="; alt="Bike Lane?" align="left" hspace="10" vspace="10" />Sorry, I can't resist. This picture was posted to the Brown Cycling email list and it gave me a good chuckle. I figured it wouldn't hurt to include a little levity in this discussion. I assume it was someone's idea of a joke. Although it does stop and make you wonder, do city planners see something like this and think, hey, we could put a stripe there and call it a bike lane 😉

  • Reply Feb 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    If people simply rode bikes instead of drove, all the above words would be unnecessary. Ironic, it was postbellum Wheelman clubs who successfully advocated paved roads in the 19th Century, and here they are begging for scraps. Again, I blame cyclists, their eagerness to argue minutia, and lack of consensus.

    Do you know the percentage of the $600 billion/year federal transportation budget spent on bicycling infrastructure improvement/maintenance? I calculate it at .004%. Considering their are 1/3 as many cyclists as motorists, this 4:10000 ratio is ridiculously unbalanced. Ultimately, you won't see many cars anyway. Who on minimum wage or unemployed during this recession will be able to afford the average $7500/year total expense motoring represents?

    I just attended latest RI TAC meeting. Of incoming federal TIP dollars, 50% pays for debt interest. By 2015, 100% will go strictly to debt maintenance. Automotive roadbuilding is therefore not sustainable. There's already talk of abandoning highways rather than maintaining or plowing. Most of RIDOT's personnel have already been diverted to dealing with bridges, many of which are ready to collapse because of unfortunate lapses in washing and upkeep. All bicycling improvements not already earmarked for 2008 have been postponed indefinitely.

    So, stripes on Blackstone Blvd is just a silly diversion compared to magnitude of state's problems.

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