Using example of Wang’s death, Economist argues for protected bikeways

“Calmer traffic is just the beginning,” argues The Economist in a short article this week calling for protected bicycle facilities. To illustrate their point, they point to the death of Mike Wang, who was struck and killed in a hit-and-run in July:

DYING while cycling is three to five times more likely in America than in Denmark, Germany or the Netherlands. To understand why, consider the death of Michael Wang. He was pedalling home from work in Seattle on a sunny weekday afternoon in late July when, witnesses say, a brown SUV made a left turn, crunched into Wang and sped away.

The road where the 44-year-old father of two was hit is the busiest cycling corridor in Seattle, and it has clearly marked bicycle lanes. But the lanes are protected from motor vehicles by a line of white paint—a largely metaphorical barrier that many drivers ignore and police do not vigorously enforce. A few feet from the cycling lane traffic moves at speeds of between 30 miles per hour, the speed limit for arterials in Seattle, and 40 miles per hour, the speed at which many cars actually travel. This kind of speed kills. A pedestrian hit by a car moving at 30mph has a 45% chance of dying; at 40mph, the chance of death is 85%, according to Britain’s Department of Transport.

The article then goes on to look at protected bike facilities, making the point that in many northern European cities, Wang would rarely have been exposed to fast-moving traffic. This is a similar argument to the one we made, arguing for a redesign of the South Lake Union segment of Dexter, which is currently designed to carry far more motor vehicles than it currently does.

The city is currently working on wide, buffered lanes for the section of Dexter between SLU and the Fremont Bridge. Paving work on the third and final section of work is set to begin next week.

The article ends by comparing bicycle safety in Portland to Seattle. While their comparison is a little misleading (both regions have, unfortunately, seen people killed while biking in recent months), their point is taken.

A few American cities have taken European-style steps to make streets safer for cycling, most notably Portland, Oregon, which has used most of the above ideas. The result: more bikes and fewer deaths. Nearly 6% of commuters bike to work in Portland, the highest proportion in America. But in five out of the past ten years there have been no cycling deaths there. In the nearby Seattle area, where cycling is popular but traffic calming is not, three cyclists, have been killed in the past few weeks.

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57 Responses to Using example of Wang’s death, Economist argues for protected bikeways

  1. kingcountyvoter says:

    Sounds great. Now lets license bikes to raise the money to pay for it.

    • Todd Holman says:

      Yeah, I’m ok with this idea. The only problem is — government doesn’t tax one area and spend it in that area. Sorry but your car tabs and other auto taxes aren’t paying for new roads.

      • Eli says:

        I’d be thrilled to pay $50 a year to license my bike if it got me safe bike infrastructure and eliminated comments like yours.

      • james in the CD says:

        street projects (ped, bike and car infrastructure improvements) in Seattle are paid for by sales tax – per your logic, if I don’t drive a car, then why then do my sales tax monies go to maintain roads for cars?

        please advise.

      • Todd Holman says:

        James I’m not arguing with you. My point exactly. The taxation laws are stupid. The honey pot is so blurred it’s not fair anyway they propose it. I am simply saying w/o any political implications that if there WERE a fair way for me to contribute to the construction of a safer biking environment — I’m open to that. Please somebody let me know what the hell that is.

    • Chris says:

      Raising money through licensing has been a failed enterprise just about everywhere.

      • Todd Holman says:

        Again I don’t disagree. It all sucks. The point I’m trying to make is I don’t mind paying for my fair share if that get’s us more safer, reliable biking alternatives.

      • Chris says:

        “Paying your fair share” has always been a straw man argument. Most bicyclists own cars and pay the same property and other taxes and people who don’t ride bikes.

      • Todd Holman says:

        Fine. What should we do?

      • Gary says:

        First figure out “what is a fair %”, is it number of users? Wear on the road?

        If it’s wear on the road it should be weight/axle based. In which case bicycles skate free as they do almost no damage at all, while garbage trucks and buses do the most.

        Or would you prefer a # of users /space consumed fee, in which bicyclists at 3% of the users get hit with 3% of the total collected?

  2. Mike Perry says:

    This article fits with what I see from where I live on top of Phinney Ridge where a bike lane was recently added to Phinney/Greenwood North. It’s dangerous for even athletic adults to mix in busy streets with trucks and SUVs, and it’s certainly no place for kids on bikes, even when they’re accompanied by parents. That’s something I learned in the early 1980s, when I commuted by bike from north of downtown, up Eastlake to Wallingford.

    Part of the problem lies with a current urban planning fad called “traffic calming.” It assumes that all our traffic woes lie in unobstructed, fast-moving arterial traffic and that the answer is to “calm” the flow by introducing obstacles to that flow.

    Those bike lanes you mention above is one of their standard ploys. Adding bike lanes to busy arterials, they can change a street with two lanes in either direction into one with one lane in each direction along with a rarely used center turn lane. That’s precisely what they’ve done with Phinney/Greenwood where I live. An increased number of bikers now mix with four lanes of traffic crammed into two lanes. Its death in waiting for bikers.

    The result is obvious: more congestion, angry drivers who pay less attention to bikers, and a fatal mix of heavy traffic-in-a-hurry with bikes. I particularly shudder when I seen a well-meaning parent on a bike with a small child in a cart behind them.

    I’m a great believer in protected bikeways. I used the Burke-Gilman to commute when I studied at the UW and loved it. But for much of Seattle, there’s simply no place to put a bikeway. In my neighborhood there’s no space. Hundreds of homes would have to be purchased and demolished.

    That’s why I think we should look into transforming quiet residential streets into clearly marked bikeways. We need to work out some sort of mutually satisfying deal for those who live along them. The city would restore arterials to their normal, healthy state as well as reduce and slow auto traffic on those side streets in exchange for encouraging bike traffic on less used streets. For a parent with small children or an elderly person, bikes pose far less risk than cars rushing through.

    • Lisa says:

      I disagree with the fact that the traffic calming devices aren’t the way to go- I think one lane in each direction and a turn lane does indeed, as studies show, improve safety for all road users. I do however, strongly agree with the concept of transforming residential streets to bikeways. I know at least north of the ship canal, there are several residential style streets already used by many casual cyclists as alternatives to the busy thoroughfares. If we could add some signage and a few more stop lights, our bike network would be greatly enhanced.

    • doug in seattle says:

      I don’t think we should return arterials to a “normal, healthy state” because they are better in their current configuration. We need fewer four lane speedways, not more. The city changes these roads for many reasons, not just for cyclists.

      That said, I think Seattle could use more bicycle boulevards, which is the common term for the bicycle prioritized residential streets you describe.

    • LWC says:

      “The result is obvious…”
      Interesting: all studies of these sorts of rechannelizations before and after don’t support your conclusions. The roads are, in fact, safer for all users, including cyclists with kids in the back.
      Anecdotal folk knowledge fails again!

      • nwgal says:

        I agree with LWC. I’ve looked at the studies. The poster who claims “obvious” results that are contrary to what the studies show– obviously hasn’t.

  3. Gary says:

    I’m currently reading John Forrester’s book, “Effective Cycling” and in this case, I think the Economist has it wrong. It’s not a protected street that bicyclists need, it’s one where the bicycle can nearly keep up with traffic that is required. Portland’s Bike Blvd’s are the best example.

    In Mr. Wang’s case, a cycle track would still have exposed him at the moment of crossing the intersection to the left hand turning vehicle. In addition, it would have also obscured him even more as he approached it, by placing other things between him and the road.

    When I first looked at cycle tracks, they looked like the cat’s PJ, but now I see their limitations. They work when the road does not have a lot of intersections, and those intersections are controlled by lights for the cars turning.

    All of these things, cycle tracks, off road paved trails, sharrows, bike lanes have a use, but for safety, nothing beats slowing the cars down. It gives drivers so much more reaction time.

    • Al Dimond says:

      I’ve read Foerster, too, I bike in lots of places where his advice is indispensable, and I love bike boulevards. But I think there’s also a case, in dense urban areas, for an essentially pedestrianized bike network.

      The key elements to safety on a bike are visibility and predictability. These can be met on a good pedestrianized network (it happens all over Europe), it’s just that speeds are lower and the expectations are a little different. The slow speeds and clearly pedestrian character of the paths helps some of the problems that you have at, say, Burke-Gilman intersections; and, because there’s a lot of traffic, you can justify traffic signals that include the cycle path. It doesn’t look at all like vehicular cycling, because it isn’t, but it does work.

      You’re right that a cycletrack would not have protected a cyclist crossing the road — nothing could. I think part of a good cycletrack system would include removing left-on-green and right-on-red movements along it.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Well, it’s very hard to say what would have happened if there were a cycle track. But, for the sake of argument, a car turning left need to turn across two general traffic lanes and a bike lane. That bike lane also does not have a treatment at that crossing (typically in Seattle, green paint). If there were only one general traffic lane, the bike lane were wider and there was a pavement marking signifying the existence of a bicycle facility across the intersection, I would be willing to bet it would be easier to avoid a similar incident. That’s not to say the driver would still not have been extremely negligent, but there would have needed to be far more negligence involved (assuming this incident was due to negligence, which we can’t know since the coward fled and has reused to come clean on what happened).

  4. Gary says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLE1S_7ZqCQ

    Think! UK did a whole series on these. It’s amazing to watch.

  5. Gary says:

    Here’s the bike one.

  6. doug in seattle says:

    The Economist did not think it through, as Wang’s example does not argue well for cycle tracks. He was killed while negotiating an intersection, and all manner of fortified bicycle lanes would not have made him safer.

    Sometimes road design can do nothing. Sometimes it really is an awful, inattentive driver who is completely at fault.

    But I do think cycle tracks are a move in the right direction. Forester’s book outlines a method of cycling that only a few can truly carry out. Urging people to get out and tear it up on the arterials will never, ever work. Plus, if he had his way we’d tear up every MUP in Seattle and environs and that would be no fun. He would argue for riding up I90 over Snoqualmie Pass rather than using the John Wayne trail. No fun!

  7. SinceDayOne says:

    A buffered bike lane would be nice, but would only work in a limited number of areas/routes around here, most of which would be more “recreational” routes, rather than commuting routes. As noted, the incident (it wasn’t an “accident” – it was a selfish, arrogant driver who instructed the SUV to do what it did) happened at an intersection where the bicyclist is always at risk. BTW – did the driver get identified and caught? I’ve been on vacation and haven’t followed up on any outcomes of the investigation…assuming the SPD are following up?

  8. Peter says:

    I have no real evidence, just anecdote. But after having communted (only occasionally, I cannot claim any moral high ground) on an electric-assist bike (http://www.optibike.com) for the last few years I’ve a growing sense that bike vs. car complexity goes way down when they’re all going roughly the same speed. I’m often struck now by the contrast when I go anywhere on my normal bike.

  9. Michael Wolf says:

    I am a long time bike commuter. I am also a car commuter when it suits me. I am more than happy to pay fir bike lanes. I already do, in fact. But, there appears to be a strong emotional need by the vocal minority that posts to see direct evidence like a “bike tax” even though, if you think about it, not only do nearly all cyclists already pay for all these bike projects, but car drivers benefit by reducing car traffic as we struggle to stay below the critical volume where studies show gridlock precipitously occurs.

    I need to point out that over the last 20 years I have noticed a significant reduction in car aggression or inconsideration. Those social problems arise out of perceptions that cyclists are a marginal group and we humans have a tendency to pick on marginal groups.

    There is definitely a logic around using money, tax allocation to clear the roads for dedicated car drivers by subsidizing cycling and bus or train commuting. The benefits are: quicker car commutes, faster commercial transportation, lower health care costs, less CO2 emission. The impediments seem mostly emotional, and as such we who bike must know that most people get it, and things are improving.

  10. kingcountyvoter says:

    Why not just do away with gas tax and license fees for cars. Pay for everything with property tax. Then no one will care how you transit on the road.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Because a several-ton car causes astronomically more damage and requires far more funding (free parking!) than riding a bike. That’s why the taxes and fees should be different. Transportation is not a zero-sum budget item for governments, so to balance the books, funding should rest on the shoulders of users who cost the most. Providing incentives for people to choose modes that cost cities less also makes sense if you are trying to balance a budget.

  11. Doug Bostrom says:

    I’m wondering what it is about traffic in the USA that invalidates the statistical results cited in The Economist? Several comments here make remarks to the effect that bicyclists on protected bike paths would still be in danger when crossing intersections with automobile traffic, etc., yet the statistics gathered in Europe seem to indicate that’s not the case, or that is to say those effects are buried in the positive statistical benefits of choices made there.

    Case in point, and not to pick on Gary:

    In Mr. Wang’s case, a cycle track would still have exposed him at the moment of crossing the intersection to the left hand turning vehicle. In addition, it would have also obscured him even more as he approached it, by placing other things between him and the road.

    That sounds like a variation on the “I don’t fasten my safety belt because I might become trapped in my car.” Yes, people are -very occasionally- hindered from exiting their automobiles by seatbelts, yet statistics show the superior wisdom in using them, just as the statistics in the article Tom brought to our attention show the statistical virtues (and hence concrete benefits) of separated bike paths.

    In the interest of pushing this discussion forward, what specifically is it about the USA that would lead us to conclude that recreating the exact same conditions that -work- in Europe won’t work here?

    • Gary says:

      I’m saying that “cycle tracks” don’t have their place, they do. I’m just saying that the intersection where Mr Wong died wouldn’t have benefited from one. Unless the street was narrowed from 4 lanes to two, and a light was installed at that intersection. Since no one is talking about putting Dexter on a road diet, or installing lights at all of the cross streets, a cycle track here would be worse than the current bike lane.

      Oh, and they work well in Denmark because the roads are already narrow. And they have lights, or 4way stops at the intersection.

  12. kingcountyvoter says:

    Then how about we pay for our roads (and our increased wear/maintenance) and you pay for your bike paths (with hardly any wear whatsoever).

    • erik says:

      happily, once every driver reads “the high cost of free parking” and begins paying the fair price for the average of 3 parking spots in the united states for each vehicle.

      • kingcountyvoter says:

        So until then you feel perfectly justified in paying zero?

        Without bikes cars would get along just fine. Without cars bikes wouldn’t.

      • Al Dimond says:

        “So then you feel perfectly justified in paying zero?”

        Zero is probably closer to correct on an absolute scale than $50/yr. The right amount on an absolute scale is probably small enough that administering the fees would cost more than the fees would bring in. When cycling is so ubiquitous that it becomes a real funding issue, in absolute terms, then let’s talk about doing something.

        “Without bikes cars would get along just fine. Without cars bikes wouldn’t.”

        Before cars were common in cities the cities got along just fine. People didn’t have to travel such great distances for daily necessities. Shops were located in walkable neighborhoods. Businesses didn’t disregard all considerations of their workers’ daily commutes (today, they externalize the costs of cheap exurban office park rent onto the environment in the form of sprawl and their employees in the form of commute distances — the employees primarily externalize their share of the costs further onto the environment in the form of emissions and onto communities slashed in half by superhighways).

        Anyway, if there was a bucket I could drop money into to pay just for bike boulevards I might drop a percent of my year’s salary in there (that would amount to way more than a 100% sales tax on my cycling expenditures in an average year). If only there was a bucket I could drop money into toward the removal of I-5 through Seattle… I’d live like a freaking monk and give every spare penny.

  13. Doug Bostrom says:

    +1 on Al Dimond’s remarks, particularly the invisible trap we’ve crept into regarding assuming huge, pervasive, unaccounted transport costs.

  14. ODB says:

    “Paying zero”? This has been said hundreds of times, but most bicyclists own cars. S0, for example, I pay the same as anyone else to license my car, but when it’s time to commute to work by bike, I get a transportation system that’s not very good for bicycles. A car commuter, by contrast, pays the same amount and gets a system overwhelmingly geared to his needs. Where is the fairness in that? Because local media have declared war on McGinn, with bicycle issues as the weapon of choice, minor efforts to redress this unfairness are relentlessly and falsely trumpeted as catering to a supposedly freeloading minority.

    Just for perspective as to how much SDOT’s budget is funded by vehicle license fees, check out page six below, where it constitutes all of $4m out of a $64m operations and maintenance budget for 2011.

    http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/ctac/020111%20CTAC%20SDOT%20Budget%20_FINAL.pdf

    “Without bikes cars would get along just fine.” If Mike Seely waved a wand and caused the 4% of Seattle commuters who now ride bicycles to suddenly start driving single occupancy vehicles, cars would most definitely *not* be fine. There would be worse congestion and less parking. Drivers would be more pissed off than ever. And then Nicole Brodeur would find a way to blame McGinn for making war on cars.

    • kingcountyvoter says:

      License fees??? who cares about that the real idea is that a non gas vehicle using the road needs to contribute a gas tax. This would apply to electric cars as well as bikes.

      Just because you have a token car in the garage is meaningless. It is the actual use of the road that counts. And cars pay for actual use through gas tax (some a little more some a little less depending on mileage).

      Obviously there are other taxes that come into play as well, but even if you are home bound all citizens receive value from a functioning road system so all get to contribute at some level. The incremental use is where this discussion resides.

      • Gary says:

        Yet again, another confused driver. It’s easy to see how you became confused, thinking that your gas tax payed for roads, it does, the Federal Highway and State roads. But here in King County most of the roads (by surface area & distance) are neither, they are local roads, paid for by property & sales taxes. Both of which are paid for by everybody, car drivers, kids, old people with walkers, bicyclists. And local roads are the one’s that bicyclists ride on as the speed differential on highways is too big.

      • kingcountyvoter says:

        It took me just a few seconds to find this…

        Fuel Taxes

        The 18th amendment to the Washington State Constitution dedicates motor fuel tax collections to “highway purposes”. Revenue generated from the gas tax is distributed to counties, cities and state accounts. The state receives about half of the total revenues collected. These are the funds which support the WSDOT highway programs as well as the Washington State Ferry System, which is deemed a state highway system by constitution. Highway construction, maintenance, preservation, administration and debt service on highway construction bonds are all funded by these revenues.

        The other half of the fuel tax revenues are distributed directly to cities, counties and other agencies for roadway programs that are not part of the state highway system.

        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Finance/fueltaxes.htm

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Yes, that is the intent of the gas tax. However, if you have not noticed, politics has deemed it nearly impossible to raise the gas tax to keep up with needs and raising costs of road work. Therefore, here is the SDOT funding source breakdown:

        http://publicola.com/2010/08/31/we-all-pay-for-the-roads/

        Grants & Other: $96.9 (29 percent)
        Debt: $77.4 (23 percent)
        Bridging the Gap (a property-tax levy passed by voters in 2007): $60.9 (18 percent)
        General Fund: $42.3 (12 percent)
        Reimbursables: $42 (12 percent)
        Gas Tax: $13.4 (4 percent)
        Cumulative Reserve Fund: $7.6 (2 percent)

        Also note that the vast majority of those gas taxes go to freeways, which bicycle riders are not allowed to ride on. If bicycle users were to start contributing to this fund, then i would expect things like a bike trail on the I-5 express lanes…

        The point is, the gas tax does not even come close to paying for roads. In fact, it pays so little that the general fund must pick up the tab for car-only projects and mega projects (remember that tunnel? Or how about the spokane St viaduct? Or the mercer project? And on and on…).

        So instead of arguing over who pays what, let ask our city to do it’s job (as mandated by the city’s complete streets ordinance) and provide a safe and efficient transportation system for everyone.

      • kingcountyvoter says:

        At a minimum roughly 30% of gas taxes go cities and counties for local roads.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Do you have a citation for that number? I don’t doubt it, just have never seen that breakdown.

        Either way, the gas tax is insufficient to pay for even just the motor-vehicle-only projects, let alone projects for other road users. We are paying for this transportation system of ours mostly with taxes paid for by everyone (especially in Seattle). We need a transportation system that meets everyone’s needs. Safe and efficient travel for everyone should be our government’s goal.

      • kingcountyvoter says:

        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/AC3F7237-BDA3-4F2A-A0B9-4A72CB97576C/0/Wheredoesthegastaxgo.pdf

        37.5 cents collected per gallon
        11 cents to counties and cities

        I suspect some of the 287 projects benefit a city or county directly as well.

      • Gary says:

        It looks like you are still confused, those 11 cents/gal that goes to the city of Seattle accounts for 4% of the total spent on roads. Yet cars, account for way more wear on roads than do bicycles because they are heavier and there are more of them, and they are driven on those roads more.

        So in fairness, that tax should be raised to say, $2.75 /gal as cars are 90% of the traffic, not 4%. If what you want is a user fee tax system.

      • ODB says:

        “License fees??? who cares about that” You proposed license fees for bikes in the very first post in this thread. You have a short memory.

        “the real idea is that a non gas vehicle using the road needs to contribute a gas tax. This would apply to electric cars as well as bikes.” Ok, now we get “the real idea.” A non-gas gas tax. I have no idea what you’re talking about as far as a workable taxation scheme. Please elaborate.

        “cars pay for actual use through gas tax (some a little more some a little less depending on mileage).” Exactly. Bikes also pay gas tax “depending on mileage,” i.e., while a Chevy Suburban pays gas tax based on 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway and a Prius pays based on 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway, bicycles pay based on infinity mpg city (nothing highway). Applying the metric that is applied to motor vehicles, cyclists already pay gas tax at the appropriate rate.

  15. Kevin says:

    kingcountyvoter: can you tell us where exactly the funding for road construction and maintenance in Seattle comes from? I use bike lanes for bike commuting and recreational riding. I also own pay Seattle property taxes, car tabs, sales tax and gas tax. I don’t see how I am NOT paying for road maintenance currently, as a “cyclist”. I don’t understand the argument that cyclists are not already paying for road costs.

    Also, “without cars” there would be many fewer dead cyclists.

  16. dan says:

    I think the city needs less bike lanes and way more safe bikers. You can put a bike lane on every street but it will not buffer traffic from entitled idiots on bikes that feel its their right to….

    Go 30 in a 25
    Blow through stop signs
    Fly between cars stopped at lights
    Cross anywhere on a street without yielding
    Come out of bike lanes randomly without looking at traffic
    Ride 2 or 3 wide with full disregard to traffic piling up behind them
    Ride at night with dark clothing and no lights
    Cross driveways and entrances at full speed without looking
    Buzz pedestrians

    Bikers want to feel they have a right to the road but want NO accountability. You want to inconvenience drivers with bike lanes on every street. I think its time to inconvenience and make bikers more responsible. You want a right to the road? thats fine, you just need to play by the rules of the road and when you don’t, you pay just like the rest of us…

    Fines for not staying within a bike lane
    Fines for not riding on the correct side of the street
    Fines for running traffic lights and stop signs
    Fines for speeding
    Fines for impeding automobile traffic
    Fines for crossing a double yellow line
    Fines for putting pedestrians at risk
    Fines for careless riding
    Fines for not riding with lights at night
    Fines for not wearing a reflective high visibility vest at all times

    All in all I think responsible safe bikers will save more lives than bike lanes ever will. It seems all bike lanes to do is add a false sense of security that gives riders a bit to much comfort. They become less aware of their surroundings, less careful and sometimes entitled and cocky. To those people, I wont say you deserve harm but I cant say you didn’t earn it.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Dan, do you want me to blame you for ever drunk driver who kills someone or every hit-and-run? No. Because that would be unfair to hold all drivers accountable because someone else who chose the same transportation method did something irresponsible and dangerous.

      So it does not make sense to do the same for people who choose to bike.

      Also, many of the things you listed are not the laws. You should perhaps brush up on what the law says. For example, a reflective vest is not required (only a front light and rear reflector is legally required, though I would urge people to go further with rear lights and other reflective options, of which there are tons). It is also not legally required that people ride in the bike lane. I urge you to give bicycling a try, and you will likely find yourself on a street where conditions make it safer not to be in the bike lane at all times (for example, people parked in a bike lane or a bike lane that was I stalled too close to parked cars or bike lanes with potholes, etc). I guarantee you that 99 percent of the people not riding in a bike lane are doing it for their safety, not to make you angry.

      As for the other fines you listed that are already against the law, I agree. Traffic laws should be enforced for all road users. However, people in all modes break traffic laws constantly (have you ever driven over the speed limit?), and the police will never be able to enforce them all. This is why safely-designed streets make more sense than relying on enforcement.

      • erik says:

        also, passing on the right side of cars stopped at a stop sign or red light is totally legal as well, so long as there is room for the bicyclist to do so, as it is lawful (but MUCH less safe) for a driver to pass a bicyclist on the left while in the same lane of traffic.

      • Doug Bostrom says:

        All good points from Tom.

        Of the infractions or transgressions Dan cites, here are some we see from motor vehicles, in vastly greater numbers and much more dangerously:

        Go 30 in a 25 (except, make that 45 in a 30, or 35 in a school zone with kids present)
        Blow through stop signs (and stop lights)
        Cross driveways and entrances at full speed without looking (come to think of it, how exactly is this a transgression, if the vehicle/bicyclist is in a traffic lane?)
        Buzz pedestrians (and pretend we don’t see them, so we can “make that light”)

        One thing I will say is that bicycles ought to be legally required here (as in Germany, England, Holland, many other places where bicycles are taken seriously as transport) to have proper lighting. My thinking on this has been trained recently thanks to a number of heart-in-mouth incidents leaving our driveway, which is at the bottom of a long hill on 35th Ave NE, with frequently poor sight-lines due to parked vehicles. The problem in this situation comes particularly in the evening. Bikes and/or riders equipped only with reflectors or reflective apparel and approaching a vehicle perpendicularly get no benefit from reflectors; reflectors depend on on-axis headlamps from other vehicles to be effective and of course car headlamps at 90 degrees to a bicycle cannot bounce any light off of the bicycle’s reflectors. A cyclist descending the hill in question here in the dark without lights is practically invisible to vehicles entering the street. Add to this mix glare from other traffic, a wet street with a few leaves on it and a good head of speed built up by the bicycle and we end up with a potential nightmare situation. I’ve become extra-cautious about this situation but it’s never a good idea to depend on the vigilance of random strangers.

        Our bicycle lighting laws are actually reflective of the toy status we accord bikes here, treating them in the eyes of the law primarily as the lifestyle analog of a tennis racket and only secondarily as a tool for transport. Even so, lots of cyclists are hip to the need for lights and take steps to equip their bikes with lights. Many others pretty reasonably assume the bicycle they bought is implicitly fit for the purpose of transport, not pausing to think how they’d feel ripped off if they bought an automobile and then had to attach headlamps to it with magnets or some similarly Mickey Mouse arrangement.

      • Gary says:

        On Reflectors: A construction worker cat III safety vest works wonderfully. It’s inexpensive and you can wear it on top of any cycling gear you choose.

        On Lights: http://www.dinottelighting.com/ are the best. Well built, brilliant illumination, and excellent customer service. Well worth the money.

  17. RachaelL says:

    Your headline misses the point. I finally read that Economist issue (subscriber but I was a week behind) and I think the protected lanes part is not the main thrust — and as many have pointed out protected lanes would have done nothing (by themselves) for Wang. Yes, it talks about protected bike lanes but as a larger part of ensuring that bikes are separated from cars when the cars go fast … and when they mix, cars are not allowed to go any faster than 19mph (where the risk of death should there be a collision is less than 5%.) If Dexter — the busiest bike corridor in the city — required cars to go no more than 20mph, then the driver that hit him wouldn’t have been worried about beating 40+ mph opposing traffic during his turn. Hopefully that would have meant more time to look and less likelihood of a collision. I don’t think the point The Economist is making is that protected bikeways are somehow the critical bike infrastructure. They are not — lower prevailing speeds on mixed use corridors are. Conveniently, lower speeds are also what make roads safer and more pleasant for pedestrians as well. All the rest — protected bikeways, special signaling, etc — are there so the roads can be more easily shared in a way that isn’t terribly inconvenient to any road user while still being safe.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Thanks for the comment, Rachel. You’re right that the Economist story considers both strategies. I focused on the protected bikeway for Dexter because, for a road that wide (it’s HUGE), a protected bikeway seems like the more likely solution (and, like all traffic calming, would also slow speeds). The mixed streets they hint to are typically skinny streets where a bikeway would not fit. In those cases, they often slow all traffic to a reasonable speed for proper road sharing. These strategies are similar to our neighborhood greenways efforts, where the goal is to create an environment where everything moves at a more human rate.

      • Gary says:

        Hi Tom,
        If the city installs a protected cycle track on Dexter, it needs to also reduce the traffic lanes from 4 to 2. And it needs to put lights, with left turn lanes triggering a left arrow at ALL the intersections where the cycle track crosses a side street. And the city needs to add curb bumps to narrow the road at the intersection to bring the crosswalk distance shorter. Columbus Ave in NYC comes to mind.

        http://www.streetfilms.org/complete-streets-its-about-more-than-just-bike-lanes/

        Otherwise you’ve just made it harder for drivers to see the bicyclists in the cycle track.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Of course! I would never argue for a poorly-designed protected facility. I’m not sure the signals are always needed (modern design guides like NACTO should have those answers), but designs with curb bulbs and other efforts to improve visibility at intersections would certainly need to be considered. I think SDOT is aware of these issues and, despite past mistakes with some bike facilities, I have faith in their ability to design a safe facility.

  18. Pingback: THE GOLDEN HOUR | life(cycles)

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