Greater Greater Washington

Bicycling


Though a rare breed, suburban bicyclists tough it out

In outer-ring DC suburbs designed without them in mind, a surprising number of brave souls are getting around by bike, willingly mixing with cars and trucks on busy, fast highways.


Photo by cobalt123 on Flickr.

Upon my return to Silver Spring from Philadelphia for the holidays, I found myself driving much more than I'm used to in the course of Christmas shopping. While I anticipated a lot of car traffic, I've also been pleasantly surprised to see bicyclists everywhere I go, on roads nobody would consider bike-friendly.

Inside-the-beltway suburbs, while far from an ideal environment for bikers, are still a cyclists' paradise compared to sprawling outer-ring locales. Closer-in neighborhoods have relatively narrow streets and boast short distances between places of interest, while farther-out suburban areas were designed under the assumption that everyone would have a car.

I have nothing but respect for these hardy individuals I observed over the past week (all photos by the author):

Bicyclist Heroes, Route 50 & Pickett Road, Fairfax, Va.

A couple in matching coats tries to cross Route 50 at Pickett Road in Fairfax City. It took me three light cycles to make a left turn here, but they had to wait much longer for a right-turning driver who'd stop for them.

Bicyclist Hero, Dobbin Road & Route 175, Columbia, Md.

A bicyclist waits between trucks and SUVs to cross Route 175 at Dobbin Road in Columbia, a massive intersection bordered by the even bigger Columbia Crossing shopping center. This is probably the most inconvenient bicycling environment imaginable: fast roads, no sidewalks, and nearly every building is on a hill and facing away from the street, making each trip a long, tiresome trek.

Bicyclist Hero, Rhode Island Ave & Route 1, Beltsville, Md.

I found this bicyclist at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and Route 1 in Beltsville. Unlike the last two examples, the streets here aren't as broad. But since it's a mile north of the Beltway, this intersection can get very congested. Rhode Island Avenue also doesn't have sidewalks for much of its length, meaning bicyclists don't have a choice but to "share the road."

I have happily pedaled around Philadelphia and the District for a year and a half now, but I haven't enjoyed many forays outside the city. Arlington, for all of its bike lanes, is quite hilly and has some really confusing intersections. The Capital Crescent Trail is pretty, but frequented by super-serious, capital-B Bicyclists who thought nothing of shoving me or my 12-year-old brother out of their way when we biked it last summer. Nor have I had a pleasant time biking in downtown Silver Spring, where the bike network is so lacking that a route on Cedar Street was once declared the "Stupidest Bike Lane in America."

When the District can't build its planned bike lanes, it's hard to believe that surrounding suburban communities will do much better. It is heartening that Montgomery County, Alexandria, College Park and even Columbia are trying to join Capital Bikeshare or looking to start bike sharing programs of their own. Yet these remain, for the most part, inhospitable places to ride a bike, discourage their residents from choosing a healthier, greener, and much cheaper way to get around.

Despite unsympathetic drivers, spread-out communities and unaccommodating infrastructure, a considerable number of outer suburbanites get around by bike. Better planning and simple policy fixes are needed so that a safe, enjoyable experience awaits those who choose to take to two wheels.

A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

Comments

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You should try riding in some of those areas before declaring them far from ideal for bikers. Arlington hilly? Parts, but no more or less than parts of DC. Have you been to Alexandria (the City of, not the section of Fairfax County that has named itself Alexandria)? I'm hard pressed to come up with a more ideal environment for bike riding, actually...Old Town, Del Ray, Arlandria, Carlyle and the Eisenhower Corridor...all great for biking, with either significantly fewer cars than most streets of DC or with off-street, well maintained facilities.

If you've only been at this for a little more than a year and have only stuck to the same handful of neighborhoods, anything that's not what you're used to will seem daunting--but it's really not. Give it a try.

by Catherine on Dec 28, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

Our area of Arlington is great for biking. Not too hilly, streets are in a grid pattern that don't force you onto big roads, and everything is connected.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 28, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

I'm not convinced that Dobbin Rd. is the worst place to cycle. It isn't great; but, while the traffic density may seem high for the 2 blocks between Dobbin Center and the box store strip on the other side of 175, for the rest of the length of Dobbin Rd the traffic is not dense and the speeds are not that high. I think Dobbin falls within what at least a vehicular cyclist would consider safe. I remember riding to Dobbin Center via 175's shoulder and Dobbin Rd. on my 10 speed with my friends when I was in the 5th grade. The box store strip wasn't there yet, but the intersection itself looks largely unchanged from when my friends and I were traversing it as 10-11 year olds.

It should also be noted that even if there were a sidewalk on Dobbin, according to Maryland state law, anyone over the age of 12 would not be permitted to ride a bicycle on it. It should also be pointed out that crossing an intersection like that on a bicycle via a sidewalk would be incredibly dangerous. I agree that there should be a sidewalk on Dobbin; but the cyclist in the photograph is practicing a safer option.

by dukiebiddle on Dec 28, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

Columbia is "the most inconvenient bicycling environment imaginable".

That's because everyone is so poor there. If Columbia were a higher class community, biking would be easy.

by Greg on Dec 28, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

I wonder if adults use bicycles for transportation in Kentlands/Lakelands. That is a supposedly new urbanist community but the times I have been there I see only motor vehicles. Anyone else have better info?

What about King Farm?

by Ward 1 Guy on Dec 28, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

Maybe it's a low blow to call Arlington hilly (it's not really their fault), but I stand by my argument that big chunks of the region (even Alexandria - what about the areas around Landmark Mall or Northern Virginia Community College?) aren't that hospitable for biking. Nor do I think a lot of people would look at the area around Dobbin Road & 175 in Columbia and say "hey, I should bike there." I especially doubt a lot of people would let their kids bike around there today.

by dan reed! on Dec 28, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

Greg, I think he was specifically speaking of that particular intersection. Your trolling about impoverished lower class Columbians aside, Columbia actually has quite a few bicycle friendly accommodations that make bike share more viable than some of the other communities listed. Yes, unfortunately, the road network was not designed with cyclists in mind; but the entire city is networked with an interconnected bicycle path system that connects every village center, neighborhood center, interfaith center and school to every residential area. Unfortunately, the bike path system is not illuminated, and not easily patrolled by police, which makes it less than ideal for rear round commuting, but when it was designed in the 70's Columbia was at the very forefront of pedestrian and bicycle friendly design. The bike paths are actually a more direct route than any of the roads. The intersection described above is actually on the very outskirts of Columbia near the I-95 connector, and the traffic design is not consistent with Columbia proper.

by dukiebiddle on Dec 28, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

Riding with cars is largely a non-issue and, more often than not, much better than relegating yourself to segregated bike facilities in my experience. More broadly, it's a mistake in my opinion to broadly describe anyone else in a transportation network -- whether on streets, MUPs, sidewalks, and so on -- as "sympathetic". Most people could care less who you are and simply want to get to where they are going.

If you're worried -- understandable given the prejudices out there -- you might consider taking what used to be the Road 1 LAB course.

http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/courses.php

Good luck. (This is sincere)

by Geof Gee on Dec 28, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

Dan,
Perhaps worth noting that the intersection of 50 and Pickett Road is part of the Fairfax Cross-County Trail, a 30+ mile set of trails that you can take as far as Lorton and Great Falls, with much of the distance off-road.

by Arl Fan on Dec 28, 2011 1:00 pm • linkreport

"I especially doubt a lot of people would let their kids bike around there today."

Kids aren't allowed to do anything today other than sit around within eyesight and get fat. That isn't itself necessarily a critique on the infrastructure. Kidding aside, yes, I agree, that intersection is not designed with children or pedestrians in mind - which is in part why I brought up Vehicular Cycling - a group that believes cycling is too serious business for children to be allowed to participate. Ironically, not 100 yards to the East of that intersection there is a bicycle path that runs underneath 175 that would qualify even Dutch standards (wide open, not *tunneley*) Unfortunately, due to poor planning and property rights, does not connect with Dobbin Center.

by dukiebiddle on Dec 28, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

I don't see why hills are a reasonable complaint. The hills were there before us. The question is how convenient the infrastructure is to get up them. (Would you say no matter what is done in San Francisco, it's impossible for it to be a good biking city?) Unfortunately, the article seems to be about the author's personal preferences for where to bike as much as it is about the objective biking situation.

by Paul on Dec 28, 2011 1:06 pm • linkreport

"Unfortunately, due to poor planning and property rights, does not connect with Dobbin Center"

Actually, looking at a the Google map with the bicycle feature activated, I must correct myself. Dobbin Center *IS* now connected to the bike path network. It wasn't back in my day.

by dukiebiddle on Dec 28, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Geof Gee

I ride with cars all the time. But riding with cars on a 25mph neighborhood street or even a major city street like Georgia Avenue (which I think is signed for 30mph but drivers go faster) is far, far different than riding with cars on a road like Pickett Road in Fairfax.

Pickett Road might be as wide as Georgia Avenue in DC (it's signed for 35mph), but whereas one has tight building setbacks and visual stimuli that could slow drivers down, the other has trees, wide curves and lots of visual cues to drive faster.

@dukiebiddle

You're right, Columbia has excellent biking infrastructure for getting in and around the village centers and residential areas, but it doesn't connect too well to other destinations, like the Mall, Columbia Crossing or Snowden Square shopping centers, or the Columbia Gateway office park where presumably a lot of people work. (Ironically, it's stuff like the development on Dobbin Road and 175 that killed retail at the village centers, eliminating destinations that one could feasibly bike to.)

I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I imagine a lot of commenters and readers here on GGW are avid bicyclists who can comfortably go anywhere on two wheels, even busy suburban highways like the ones I talked about. Not everyone can or wants to do that, and the answer isn't to say "oh, you should just try it and be more confident." I'm a healthy, 23-year-old male, and I don't plan on biking in Columbia (the non-bike friendly parts, I mean) anytime soon. The infrastructure is lacking.

by dan reed! on Dec 28, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

this stuff is SO locally specific, and so dependent on why you are biking

wrt to NVCC alex - its actually close to an often overlooked roadside trail that connects to the 4 mile run trail.

Landmark - yeah, that sucks, as does most of LRT from I395 out to - well as far out as it goes, I think. OTOH not that far in from Landmark is the holmes run trail.

Cross country trail - a nice venue for weekend rides - BUT - much of its is not great terrain for non mountain bikers, and mile many off road nature trails, its hit or miss with regard to good access to destinations, direct routing, etc - I bet a lot of bike commuters in the area stick to the roads anyway.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 28, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

dan reed!, I don't disagree with your final paragraph at all. I'm a proponent for well designed separated infrastructure in urban and suburban area with the population density to justify it, and think Columbia's density justifies infrastructure improvements, especially in that there is already an admittedly outdated comprehensive network in place, and Columbia need only make a few separated roadside improvements to connect even the newer box strip retail zones to make it complete.

But, the post itself is celebrating a "rare breed" of courageous souls. The thing is there not rare or courageous. The guy in the Dobbin Rd. photo, and the Rhode Is Ave. photo, are just practicing VC, which is not all that uncommon, and statistically, is not dangerous. Granted, it is not progressive or likely to increase mode share, is insufficient in that most practitioners are males between 18 and 50, which fails to be inclusive to children, seniors and those riders who are more averse to what they perceive to be dangerous. We commenters may be avid, and willing to ride on those roads, but obviously so are the riders in at least two of the three photographs above. Again, I'm not disagreeing with you, I too would like to see the improved infrastructure installed, but what you are seeing these cyclists doing is not an uncommon practice, and some cycling advocates who are unconcerned with mode share consider what these cyclists are doing to be the preferred and safer practice.

by dukiebiddle on Dec 28, 2011 1:53 pm • linkreport

Not that it's really a valid metric (see: San Francisco, Seattle) but DC is just as, if not more, hilly as Arlington.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Washington-DC-TF.jpg

DC only just in April caught up with Arlington in the League of American Bicyclists' Annual Bicycle Friendly Communities rankings.

As for NoVA--there's an off road path that leads all the way to it from Four Mile Run Trail. Which you can connect to from other trails (Mount Vernon, W&OD).

Yes, the Landmark area is pretty bad, bike-wise. It's almost like trying to ride your the National Arboretum.

by Catherine on Dec 28, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

I think Dan Reed is correct in observing that what seems OK or even desirable from the point of view of an experienced cyclist may be totally unacceptable to someone might be open to trying out bicycling as a means of transportation but doesn't have a lot of experience with riding on the road. And when parents (quite reasonably, in my view) conclude that it's not safe to let their kids ride their bikes around town, those kids will be less likely to think of bikes as a good alternative to driving when they get older. Vehicular cycling has its place, but high-quality separated facilities are critical to convincing newcomers to give bikes a try.

by Casey Anderson on Dec 28, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport

The Capital Crescent Trail is pretty, but frequented by super-serious, capital-B Bicyclists who thought nothing of shoving me or my 12-year-old brother out of their way when we biked it last summer.

What? You were literally shoved out of the way while riding on the CCT? That's outrageous!

My experience with the CCT is that there's a ton of traffic, and it's usually fast-moving. That's because it's the equivalent of the Beltway: there's no other direct, car-free route out of town to the north. If you're expecting a nice place to teach a non-cycling child how to ride a bike, the CCT isn't it. Just as you don't take a kid out on the Beltway on their first drive behind the wheel.

I've never been physically assaulted on the CCT, though.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

Outside the Beltway is an interesting conundrum. Where there are separate facilities--and the are a lot--they get fairly well used. The problem is they often do not connect with each other, which relegates them to recreational use. Not a bad thing, but not a transportation system that offers an alternative to cars, well, at all. Not that most people mind that--they don't like riding their bikes on the road, and they don't particularly like sharing the road with people who ride bikes like they do--slowly and erratically.

by Crickey7 on Dec 28, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

Vehicular cycling has its place, but high-quality separated facilities are critical to convincing newcomers to give bikes a try.

Which is why the bash of the inner suburbs, especially compared to DC, makes ZERO sense. DC has very few separated facilities compared to the extensive trail network through Northern Virginia. It's almost exclusively on-street cycling in DC. In the inner suburbs, which the author has not ridden a bike in and yet claims to know are "far from ideal" for cycling, there is the aforementioned extensive trail network and when you do need or want to ride on the road, there are many areas where this is far safer and more pleasant than much of DC (and I'm specifically thinking of Del Ray, Old Town and the Rosslyn/Ballston Corridor here).

But what do I know? I've been a bike commuter for nearly 3 years (car free for nearly 2 of them)...living in Alexandria and commuting to Arlington and DC.

by Catherine on Dec 28, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

I'm a regular commuter on the CCT and it can get pretty bad. I've never been shoved, but there have been times when I've seen bikers (or Bikers) clip runners or zig-zag dangerously through groups of people. I go pretty fast on the trail myself, but that's awful if you and your family were shoved like that.

by Cassidy on Dec 28, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

There are definitely times when the CCT can get crowded, and the speed differences can result in some parlous situations. There's no excuses for you and your brother being pushed, though.

I'd be a little wary of pointing a broad finger at super-serious bicycling types. The more serious ones tend to avoid the CCT during peak times. And just because someone clads themselves in gaudy lycra and rides an expensive, fast bike, they don't automatically become the roving ambassadors of serious cycling. The rest of us often find them obnoxious, too.

by Crickey7 on Dec 28, 2011 3:40 pm • linkreport

I live and bike around Fairfax county, and biked in DC for the last 5 years. In many ways, I find my neighborhood easier to bike in, because I can take residential side streets. The issue (and advantage at the same time) is that many subdivisions do not connect through. I have found some areas where there are actually small city sponsored trails that allow bikers and pedestrians to go from one neighborhood to the next, without being bothered by thru-car traffic.

However, your examples aren't really great comparisons. Your route 50 intersection looks a lot like North Capitol around children's hospital, or Pennsylvania near RFK stadium. DC has bad roads just like the rest of the region. WABA's 50 states ride takes you on plenty of them.

by Chabi Boni on Dec 28, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

Sometimes you just have to get it done, regardless of the facilities, or lack thereof, if you use a bike for transportation, either by choice or necessity. Back in the 80s, during a prolonged bus strike in Columbus, Ohio, I rode a bike to work every day, all winter long. Needless to say, I was also 25 years younger, and maybe had a higher tolerance for risk. Outside of the OSU campus, there were no striped bike lanes. It was an acceptable level of risk, to me, at the time. Taking taxis was out of the question and walking took too long.

by Paulus on Dec 28, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

DC has very few separated facilities compared to the extensive trail network through Northern Virginia. It's almost exclusively on-street cycling in DC.

This gets back to the eternal "utility" versus "recreational cyclist" perspective.

Getting back to the previous comments on CCT: I'd rather ride on just about any road in DC (with the possible exception of North Capitol Street) than on either the CCT or the W&OD/Custis on a busy weekend day. Much much safer to be riding on the streets, particularly ones where cycling is common. And while it's nice to have dedicated cycling infrastructure that takes you from Roslyn to Falls Church, or Georgetown to Bethesda, unless you're actually going from Georgetown to Bethesda, that's not going to help you much. I've been irregularly commuting from DC to Tyson's Corner lately, and I'll tell you, the most dangerous part of my commute is certainly not in DC--it's the last 3-4 miles from the W&OD to Tyson's Galleria.

If I get hit, that's where it's going to be.

In the inner suburbs, which the author has not ridden a bike in and yet claims to know are "far from ideal" for cycling, there is the aforementioned extensive trail network and when you do need or want to ride on the road, there are many areas where this is far safer and more pleasant than much of DC.

The problem with this type of perspective is that you're cherry-picking the various places you might ride. After all, there are plenty of segregated places to ride in DC, too. You can wait until the weekend and ride in Rock Creek Park when it's closed off to auto traffic. Or do laps around Haines Point. Or go to the Arboretum.

But the number of individual places where one can ride segregated from auto traffic doesn't tell us much about overall safety. The real metric is how safe on-street cycling is. If you've got to ride to work, or a doctor's appointment, or to get groceries, it's small comfort to know that there's safe and pleasant cycling in Del Ray--if your doctor is in Springfield or Seven Corners.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

@dan reed!

"I ride with cars all the time. But riding with cars on a 25mph neighborhood street or even a major city street like Georgia Avenue (which I think is signed for 30mph but drivers go faster) is far, far different than riding with cars on a road like Pickett Road in Fairfax."

How one rides in these environments is more similar than different -- I'm having trouble thinking of Pickett Road at the moment, but I'm assuming you're talking about a shoulderless road with few cross streets, little on street parking, and road speeds approaching 50 mph -- in my experience.

"But, the post itself is celebrating a "rare breed" of courageous souls. The thing is there not rare or courageous. "

As dukiebiddle points out, "rare breed" is a misnomer. More broadly, the post overstates the difficulties of riding on the vast majority of roads in the 'burbs. But YMMV.

by Geof Gee on Dec 28, 2011 4:34 pm • linkreport

The suburbs in DC probably aren't terribly ideal for cycling, if the comments are accurate, but it's got nothing on the San Francisco suburbs. Bikers are actually directed onto the freeway because there sometimes isn't a direct route. At least we're allowed on there, but it takes a brave cyclist indeed to push up an onramp to ride in a freeway shoulder.

by OctaviusIII on Dec 28, 2011 4:52 pm • linkreport

This post definitely reflects how I feel and what I've seen. Whenever I bike from my home near West Falls Church Metro to places like Target, REI, Tysons, or my gym on Rt. 50, it always seems hard core compared to biking in DC. I've also noticed a trend of more bikers in the non-bike friendly parts of the burbs (places like 7 Corners). I no longer do a double-take when I see someone biking on Leesburg Pike in traffic.

While the challenges of suburban biking can be difficult, there are also some advantages. First, there's a pretty extensive set of shared use trails, although navigating among them can be tricky due to poor signage and the first few/last few miles off the trails are always the tricky ones. That said, the shared use trails make covering some ground very quick and often times very scenic.

Second, there are often quiet neighborhood streets you can utilize and if you ride on the sidewalks, you're much less likely to run into pedestrians or anyone else. Some car sewers like Rt.50 also have service lanes which are very bike friendly.

Third, I've actually noticed that many suburban drivers are MORE friendly towards bikers than in DC. Maybe it's that their instinct when they see a biker is to think "child" or it's the more relaxed pace of life in the burbs, but cars often go out of their way to give me the right of way on bike. In fact, the only car that's passed me too closely was a cop! That said, suburban drivers often have a blind spot for bikes because they're not expecting to see them on the road, in the crosswalk when turning right, etc.

there are many areas where this is far safer and more pleasant than much of DC (and I'm specifically thinking of Del Ray, Old Town and the Rosslyn/Ballston Corridor here).

I don't think the author was thinking of the places you just mentioned. Think more like 7 Corners, Bailey's Crossroads, Landmark, Annandale, and Tysons. That said, it's important to dispel the notion that we can't bike in places like those because the more people bike, the more drivers will be used to sharing the road, and the more biking will become "normal" behavior.

by Falls Church on Dec 28, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

I think the article was mainly about the outer suburbs, not Arlington - gee some people are defensive!

I enjoy biking in Arlington, however Fairfax County (where I live) is another story. I'm glad that some brave souls "get it done, regardless of the facilities, or lack thereof", but the typical outer suburb design - lots of dead end streets with traffic funneled on a few high auto volume through corridors - is a nightmare for all but the "elite" few.

by Fred on Dec 28, 2011 4:59 pm • linkreport

@oboe: It seems like you're saying that streets are *only* for utility riding and trails are *only* for recreation. If so, I strongly disagree. I can count the number of times I've taken to the MVT for fun, but I've used it hundreds if not approaching a thousand times over the past several years. Pretty much any trail in Northern Virginia can get you very close to where you want to go and then you take roads the rest of the way. Or roads the whole way if you prefer. Why the either/or?

The problem with this type of perspective is that you're cherry-picking the various places you might ride.

So is the author! That's my whole point!

...small comfort to know that there's safe and pleasant cycling in Del Ray--if your doctor is in Springfield or Seven Corners.
....neither of which are actually in Alexandria or Arlington and therefore have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

The issue is, again, that the author seems to think that the close in suburbs are "far from ideal" for cycling even though he's never ridden in them while, until April, the League of American Bicyclists had DC and Alexandria tied at Bronze for bicycling friendliness and Arlington leading the metro area at Silver. (CaBi, the cycletrack and the Penn Ave lane pushed DC into the Silver category).

Why would my doctor be in Springfield, anyway? Because I live in Northern Virginia? It's just as likely for someone living in Alexandria to have a doctor in Springfield as it is for someone on Capitol Hill to have a doctor at/near Sibley, or Springfield, or White Flint for that matter. Ie...it doesn't happen often (there are many doctors much closer, or close to one's work) and is often a matter of choice (or really bad luck). Like most people, I've arranged things so that just about everything I need to access on a regular basis is convenient. To me, "convenient" means it's a bike ride away. Even my cats go to the vet via bicycle!

by Catherine on Dec 28, 2011 5:17 pm • linkreport

I agree with others who say that it's very locality-specific. I recently moved to Bowie, which I think we will all agree counts as outer-suburbs. Since I work into Bowie, I can have a quite charming ride to work, with the exception of a slightly dicey entrance to the office park. There are other destinations in Bowie (or houses we could have bought) that would cause awful rides. But the same thing was true when I lived inside the Beltway.

by Jon on Dec 28, 2011 5:44 pm • linkreport

Personally, I avoid specialized bike infrastructure like bike lanes and bike paths like the plague, because studies show they increase intersection conflicts, making me less safe. I much prefer a standard road with no special markings that are supposedly for my benefit. Door zone bike lanes are an epidemic in DC and my heart is in my mouth whenever I see cyclists rolling along within a couple of feet of car doors which might open at any moment and thrust the cyclist underneath a truck.

And why would it take 'bravery' or 'toughness' to ride in the street - that's the safest place to ride!

The couple trying to cross Route 50 at Pickett Road in Fairfax City had to wait so long because they are acting as pedestrians. If they would ride in the road they'd be safer and they would get through that intersection quicker too.

Why you mention sidewalks in relation to cycling is a mystery - cycling on the sidewalk is illegal in most places, and for good reason too - the statistics show that cyclists using the sidewalk are between 2 and 12 times more likely to be injured or killed. The road is far safer. Sure, it looks dangerous, but in practice it is safest.

I have cycled on that Cedar Street bike lane. It is indeed stupid, though I've seen worse. The other problem in Maryland is that cyclists don't have the option to avoid badly designed bike lanes or paths - use of bicycle infrastructure is mandated by law here.

So please, be careful what you wish for: bicycle infrastructure makes many cyclists 'feel' safe, but it actually makes us less safe. More of it is not a good thing for cyclists, unless they have a death wish. The road remains the safest cycling infrastructure. Use of the road is not 'brave' - it is smart.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Dec 28, 2011 6:03 pm • linkreport

By the way, a couple of commenters bring up the idea that VC is not for children. Nonsense! I teach my daughter VC - she's 8. We ride together to school, admittedly she's using a Trail-a-Bike, but next year I fully expect her to be on her own bike. Our daily commute takes us along 16th Street in Silver Spring, which is a busy 6-lane highway - and perfectly safe.

VC is the safest mode of cycling. People think it's for 'expert' cyclists or only for those who go fast. It is not. It's simply the safest way for any cyclist to get from A to B. It has an undeserved bad reputation because people are scared of 'mixing it up with traffic'. In cycling, fear is dangerous in itself, because it lures people into avoiding safe practices. In cycling, visibility = safety, and if you're riding in the gutter or on the sidewalk, you're less visible and therefore less safe. Ride in the road where you can be seen - it's the only way to be safe.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Dec 28, 2011 6:11 pm • linkreport

When I was 12 I knew a lot of suburban cyclists out in MoCo. We generally rode on the sidewalks or shoulder of roads not mixed in with the car traffic though.

by Doug on Dec 28, 2011 6:48 pm • linkreport

@Catherine:

@oboe: It seems like you're saying that streets are *only* for utility riding and trails are *only* for recreation

Sorry, no that's not what I was trying to say. My point was that, if you're going to be riding for utility, you're going to be riding on streets (perhaps trails as well, but streets are non-negotiable). People who ride only for recreation have the luxury of sticking solely to trails.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 10:24 pm • linkreport

"It's just as likely for someone living in Alexandria to have a doctor in Springfield as it is for someone on Capitol Hill to have a doctor at/near Sibley..."

I live on Capitol Hill and my doctor's at Georgetown.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 10:29 pm • linkreport

Okay, I had to Google what VC was. And when I read the rules associated with it I thought to myself 'that's exactly how I ride when I ride in an urban environment!' ... Good to know what we're seeing in DC on the ground by and large is NOT 'best practice' from informed cyclists' viewpoints.

by Lance on Dec 28, 2011 10:29 pm • linkreport

Why does the author keep mentioning sidewalks? It's illegal in most states for an adult bicyclist to use the sidewalks. You have to ride on the road -- that's the law.

Like others, I avoid CCT entirely. Too many children and slow movers, and I ride at 15-20 mph -- I'm safer on the roads.

by Justin on Dec 28, 2011 11:27 pm • linkreport

"Why does the author keep mentioning sidewalks? It's illegal in most states for an adult bicyclist to use the sidewalks. You have to ride on the road -- that's the law. "

IIUC thats only true in designated urban areas - its NOT illegal to ride on the sidewalk anywhere else - however IIUC in that case you must ride at pedestrian speeds.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 29, 2011 9:04 am • linkreport

sidewalk cycling is legal in DC - except for the downtown business district - and VA -except where banned such as Alexandrai. It's illegal in MD, except where allowed by law such as Montgomery County. I'm not aware of the national status (whether it is mostly legal or illegal).

by David C on Dec 29, 2011 9:15 am • linkreport

Sidewalk cycling may be legal in certain areas, but it is not safe. The article presents the sidewalk as if it's a safer option than the road. Studies show that it's between 2 and 12 times more dangerous, because of intersection conflicts.

Cycling on the sidewalk should be illegal, because it's really dangerous and it gives novice cyclists a false sense of security.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Dec 29, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

I think the jury is still out on sidewalk cycling. The studies I've read show that riding against traffic on the sidewalk is very dangerous, but riding with traffic on the sidewalk is only a little bit more dangerous and possibly not statistically significant.

The methodology is sometimes flawed as well and there is a selection bias. For example, kids are much more likely to ride on the sidewalk. Kids are also much more likely to be in crashes - and the reason probably has more to do with them being a kid than being on the sidewalk. Even adults who choose the sidewalk over the road are probably more likely to be novice cyclists. And I'd expect novices to be in more crashes.

But banning sidewalk cycling is to take away a tool that many cyclists rely on. In fact, in DC there are several sidewalks that are signed bike routes, and they're often significantly safer than the road.

I suspect it may be true that more often than not, riding on the sidewalk is less safe. But there are probably many situations where it is safer than riding in the road. And in cases where it is "unsafe" that can fixed simply by slowing down and being more cautious.

So, I'm not particularly eager to have it made illegal and thus take away a tool that I use pretty much daily. I'd rather see more education about how and when to sidewalk cycle.

by David C on Dec 29, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

Ive seen the studies and they do not necessarily distinguish the local sidewalk conditions. The main danger from riding on the sidewalk is cars coming out of driveways - however there areas in NoVa where there are long stretchs of side path with no driveways. There are also where there a only a few, and a novice cyclist can simply walk his bike across them. He can also take them at at pedestrian speed (IE the speed that someone backing out is expecting on a sidewalk).

Similarly they do not necessarily distinguish among different roads.

The other danger is pedestrian incidents - again there are many side paths here where at any given time there ARE no pedestrians.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 29, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

I have seen many studies. Trust me, the jury has returned a verdict on sidewalk cycling: it is very much more dangerous than cycling in the road, no matter how old the cyclist is. The main danger from sidewalk riding is not driveway exits - it's intersection conflicts, just as is the case for bike lanes and paths - except sidewalk riding results in even more deaths and injuries.

What studies are you looking at? Hopefully not the discredited 1997 Moritz study.

In 2001, Wachtel et al did a good quality study which concluded in part: "Bicyclists on a sidewalk or bicycle path incur greater risk than those on the roadway (on average 1.8 times as great), most likely because of blind conflicts at intersections. Wrong-way sidewalk bicyclists are at even greater risk, and sidewalk bicycling appears to increase the incidence of wrong-way travel."

In 2011, Reid and Adams published what is the latest review of data on the issue. They noted that riding into a street from a sidewalk was the second most common cause of cyclist fatalities.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Dec 29, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

Catherine noted the difficulty of biking to the National Arboretum. I just wanted to let folks know that the National Park Service has just published a draft environmental assessment for Phase 3 of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail which is proposing a pedestrian/biking bridge to link the trail with the National Arboretum. The trail will also linl with bike paths in MD. The draft is available for comment. I hope folks will support the bridge to the Arboretum.

by Jeanne on Dec 29, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

IBC

Anyone who is A. in an area where traffic is so bad as to need to ride on a sidewalk or B. Is too afraid to do VC - can dismount and walk their bike at an intersection. Since they are taking a pedestrian path they need to behave as a pedestrian at intersections. Riding in a sidepath and riding across the intersection mounted is a hybrid style of riding, and I think that is what is dangerous.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 29, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

The Wachtel study is one of the ones I'm talking about. 1.8 is the average for both wrong-way and right-way cycling for older and younger cyclists. For with traffic it is about 1.25.

And they only studied two roads. Part of my point is that it may be more dangerous on 75% of roads and less dangerous on 15% (with the remainder being a wash). So choosing only two roads from the first category will throw the study out of whack. They make that very point "Sidewalk bicycling adjacent to busy streets with many intersections presents special dangers..." In other words, they are talking about one type of street - and specifically ones with poor sightlines. But there are many types of streets - as AWalkerinTheCity points out.

Nor can their study possibly account for experience or skill. If novice cyclists over-select the sidewalk, then naturally the sidewalk will appear to be more dangerous.

You're talking about "on average" numbers. And I'm talking about site specific locations. On average, you're probably right. But I think I can find a lot of locations where sidewalk cycling is not less safe. And so why make that illegal? Shouldn't we let cyclists decide what is safest for them? If not, I guess we should ban mountain biking, because mile for mile it's less safe than sidewalk cycling.

I'm just saying let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater and instead use education to teach safe/smart sidewalk cycling.

by David C on Dec 29, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

While sidewalk cycling shouldn't be illegal, there should definitely be better education on the dangers of sidewalk cycling and how to cycle safely...like on CaBi's website. That would be a much better investment in safety than handing out free helmets.

by Falls Church on Dec 29, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

Riding to the Arboretum actually isn't that bad. From the "Starburst" intersection, you can take the lane all the way to R Street (or get on the wide, underused sidewalk at Mt Olivet Rd).

by oboe on Dec 29, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

I wish the Arboretum would reopen the entrance on M street. That would make it a lot more accessible for bikes and people on foot.

by Doug on Dec 31, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

If you ever find yourself in Helsinki in the summer, you should check out the absolutely fantastic systems of cycle paths. Bicycles are forbidden from going on the roads, and rather ride on a designated area of of the sidewalk or on wide, well-graded dedicated cycle trails that are set well back from the road and run through parks, along the coast, and through quiet neighbourhoods. All lit and with under- or over- passes to deal with any large roads. They are so well used that they have traffic issues! Comparing this to the situation in DC makes me want to cry, but on the other hand maybe we should dare to dream...

by Rachel on Dec 31, 2011 9:54 pm • linkreport

I wish the Arboretum would reopen the entrance on M street. That would make it a lot more accessible for bikes and people on foot.

Totally agree. It's worth a visit to the old M Street gate sometime, on the back side of the Arboretum. It looks like something out of "King Kong" where a once-used gate has been blocked up against some supernatural force of evil. Creepy.

by oboe on Jan 1, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

Bicycles are forbidden from going on the roads, and rather ride on a designated area of of the sidewalk or on wide, well-graded dedicated cycle trails that are set well back from the road and run through parks, along the coast, and through quiet neighbourhoods.

No thanks.

This illustrates the divide between recreational and utility cycling quite starkly: What happens if there's no segregated cycle track between my house and my work? It's great that people have a place to ride that's pleasant and stress-free. But at the end of the day, if you can't get from Point A to Point B, it's a failure. Even in places like the famously pro-cycling Copenhagen area, you may eventually need to get on the road. Banning cycles is not only capricious, but also unconstitutional in the US.

by oboe on Jan 1, 2012 2:36 pm • linkreport

In Tysons there has been nothing but talk about how to incorporate bike lanes into every road except Rt 7 and 123, which will remain vehicular priority roads. As a person who works 3 miles from home, but it still takes 25 minutes to get to work, I can't wait for safe bike paths. Unfortunately as of right now in Tysons/McLean you take your life into your own hands if you dont stay in a car at all times (which is evident by the scary rise in pedestrian fatalities this year). Hopefully over the next year we'll start seeing some of the "anticipated" work become finished work.

http://thetysonscorner.com/blog/?p=307

by Tysons Engineer on Jan 1, 2012 6:36 pm • linkreport

@David C. The Wachtel study is not the only study on this issue. There are a number of other studies (Williams 1989, Aultman-Hall 1998 and 1999, Reid 2011) that prove beyond any doubt that sidewalk cycling is always unsafe. And we should not let cyclists choose for themselves a method of cycling that's going to get them hit by cars, if only because when people doing stupid things end up in hospital, health insurance premiums go up.

'Safe/smart sidewalk cycling' is an oxymoron.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Jan 2, 2012 9:02 am • linkreport

Ian, I've read those studies and they don't prove "beyond any doubt that sidewalk cycling is always unsafe." They do show that on average those who ride on the sidewalk are in more crashes than those who ride in the street. But Aultman-Hall notes that:

"Although average event rates on sidewalks may be higher than similar event rates on roads or paths, simply educating cyclists to stop cycling on sidewalks may not be prudent as these cyclists have higher event rates on roads than nonsidewalk cyclists."

So her conclusion is that inexperienced cyclists ride on the sidewalk. And she studied two cities, one of which the safety advantage for riding in the road was not statistically significant.

Always is a pretty high standard and you set yourself up for failure by talking in absolutes. Even LAB teaches safe sidewalk cycling as part of their classes. Sometimes, but not often, it is the better decision.

by David C on Jan 2, 2012 9:20 pm • linkreport

I live in an "inner ring" suburb in Prince Georges County that is less than 2 miles from the DC line, and approximately 7 miles from the US Capitol Building and would seem to be perfect for bike commuting, but that is far from the case. Sadly, although PG County (really MNCPPC) has done a pretty good job of constructing bike lanes along the Anacostia River and its tributaries, many of the bike lanes that run through parkland simply END when they get to the DC line, at which point cyclists are forced onto congested, dangerous roads near Brookland, Anacostia, or the New York Avenue area. Extending bike lanes through Anacostia park to meet those already existing lanes in Maryland would seem to be a no-brainier, but neither the National Park Service nor the DC Goverment seem to be taking any tangible steps in this direction. Any advice or insight for a frustrated bike commuter?

by JR on Jan 3, 2012 11:04 am • linkreport

Coming soon...
Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART) - The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail network is a set of trails proposed to follow along both sides of the Anacostia River for its entire length in DC. East of the river, it will stretch from the Douglass Bridge to the DC boundary. On the south end it will connect to the extant section of the South Capitol Street Trail. On the north end it will connect to Prince George's County's Anacostia Trail. Two sections of this trail are already open (1) from the Douglass Bridge to 11th Street SE and (2) between the CSX rail line and Benning Road NE. A section that bridges over the rail line and connects to 11th Street is currently being built.

Future construction includes the section north of Benning Road, which includes the trail along the the river and another to Eastland Gardens, and a new Anacostia River crossing south of the Arboretum. This is currently undergoing Environmental Assessment review. Once completed this trail will be the first north-south route east of the river and will connect Ward 7, Ward 8 and Maryland as well as the six river crossings in DC. A cyclist in Anacostia could ride as far as Wheaton or Beltsville on the new DC/Maryland trail network. The trail could be further enhanced with a river crossing on either the current or a future New York Avenue Bridge.

http://www.thewashcycle.com/2011/02/critical-anacostia-riverwalk-trail-section-takes-another-step-forward.html

http://ddot.dc.gov/DC/DDOT/Projects+and+Planning/Capital+Infrastructure+Projects/Anacostia+Waterfront+Initiative/Anacostia+Riverwalk+Trails

by oboe on Jan 3, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport

@Oboe -- Thanks for the info.

by JR on Jan 3, 2012 12:55 pm • linkreport

David,

I've taken the LAB Smart Cycling course. I've also passed the League Instructor exam and taken part in the League Instructor seminar. LAB absolutely does NOT teach safe sidewalk cycling except when teaching the pedestrian left turn, which league instructors teach as an optional and non-recommended tactic for fearful cyclists or poorly positioned cyclists turning left. The tactic involves cycling through the intersection on the road and using the pedestrian crosswalk to cross the street, then starting again on the road. That is NOT sidewalk cycling.

As for your assertion that the studies don't prove what I suggest beyond a reasonable doubt, I don't think one sentence in one study (and two studies with selection bias - Moritz and Lusk) outweigh the conclusions of ten different studies and reviews, all of which conclude that cycling on the sidewalk is much more dangerous than cycling in the road. When cycling on the sidewalk, every intersection becomes a death trap. I've seen too many reports of sidewalk cyclists who have been killed in collisions with turning motorists to sit idly by while people misstate the risks. If you want to cycle on the sidewalk, you have every right to do so (though only in Montgomery County - in the rest of MD it's illegal). But please don't encourage others to do the same - it is incredibly risky.

Here's what the studies say about sidewalks, bike lanes and bike paths:

1987 Grüne Radler review: Police Bicycle Crash Study (Berlin, Germany)
"...with increasing experience, it became ever clearer that the sidepaths are dangerous - more dangerous than riding in the roadway. There is a simple reason for this: the design and location of the sidepaths conflict with the most important principle of traffic safety, the slogan 'Visibility is safety'."

1997 Moritz: A Survey of North American Bicycle Commuters (USA and Canada)
Study claims increased safety on bicycle specific infrastructure, but the accident site data is flawed - many of the accidents taking place while on bicycle paths or lanes were considered to be on the roadway because only the final crash site was considered.

1998 Aultman-Hall: Commuter Cyclist On- and Off-Road Incident Rates (Ottawa-Carlton, Canada)
"The relative rates for falls and injuries suggest it is safest to cycle on-road followed by off-road paths and trails, and finally least safe on sidewalks... Results suggest a need to discourage sidewalk cycling, and to further investigate the safety of off-road paths/trails."

1999 Aultman-Hall: Bicycle Commuter Safety Rates (Toronto, Canada)
"The relative rates for falls and injuries suggest these events are least common on-road followed by off-road paths, and finally most common on sidewalks... These rates suggest a need for detailed analysis of sidewalk and off-road path bicycle safety."

1999 Franklin: Two Decades of the Redway Cycle Paths (Milton Keynes, UK)
"...the most alarming experience of the Redways is their accident record. Far from realising gains in safety, they have proved over many years to be consistently less safe than even the 'worst case' grid roads for adult cyclists of average competence. This is not an accolade for the grid roads, for their safety performance is not good in relation to lower speed roads of more traditional design. But the segregated Redways have proved to be worse. "

2001 Wachtel: Risk Factors for Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections (Palo Alto, California, USA)
"Bicyclists on a sidewalk or bicycle path incur greater risk than those on the roadway (on average 1.8 times as great), most likely because of blind conflicts at intersections... intersections, construed broadly, are the major point of conflict between bicycles and motor vehicles. Separation of bicycles and motor vehicles leads to blind conflicts at these intersections."

2007 Jensen: Bicycle Tracks and Lanes, a Before - After Study (Copenhagen, Denmark)
"The safety effects of bicycle tracks in urban areas are an increase of about 10 percent in both crashes and injuries. The safety effects of bicycle lanes in urban areas are an increase of 5 percent in crashes and 15 percent in injuries. Bicyclists’ safety has worsened on roads where bicycle facilities have been implemented."

2008 Agerholm: Traffic Safety on Bicycle Paths (Western Denmark)
"the main results are that bicycle paths impair traffic safety and this is mainly due to more accidents at intersections."

2009 Daniels: Injury crashes with bicyclists at roundabouts (Flanders, Belgium)
"Regarding all injury crashes with bicyclists, roundabouts with cycle lanes appear to perform significantly worse compared to... other design types"

2009 Reynolds: The Impact of Transportation Infrastructure on Bicycling Injuries and Crashes: A Review of the Literature
Review claims increased safety on bicycle specific infrastructure, but the review cherry picks and misrepresents data - only the 2009 Daniels study (out of 26 studies reviewed) concerned bicycle specific infrastructure safety, and the review misrepresented its findings.

2011 Lusk: Risk of Injury for Bicycling on Cycle Tracks Versus in the Street (Montreal, Canada)
Study claims increased safety on bicycle specific infrastructure, but its street comparisons are flawed - the streets compared were in no way similar other than their general geographic location. Busy downtown streets with multiple distractions per block were twinned with bicycle tracks on quieter roads with fewer intersections and fewer distractions.

2011 Reid: Infrastructure and Cyclist Safety (UK)
"...evidence suggests that the points at which segregated networks intersect with highways offer heightened risk, potentially of sufficient magnitude to offset the safety benefits of removing cyclists from contact with vehicles in other locations."

------------------------------

Visibility is safety. Sidewalks ALWAYS make cyclists less visible to other road users and result in more collisions with motor vehicles.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Jan 17, 2012 10:40 pm • linkreport

Any thoughts or literature on the relative safety of on-street riding with a child trailer? I'm a confident (and fairly competent, I believe) cyclist, but I'm always a little worried that taking my children in a trailer while commuting on roadways is more dangeourous than sidewalk riding, especially since my on-road routes are often big, fast streets such as Rhode Island Ave, or Bladensburg Rd.

Thoughts/advice on how to ride as safely as possible?

by JR on Jan 18, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

Ian,

1. Almost all of those studies are about sidepaths, bike lanes, cycletracks and trails. We aren't talking about sidepaths, bike lanes, cycletracks and trails. One of the studies is about bike lanes in roundabouts, which is pretty far from sidewalk cycling. But if you truly believe all these facilities are dangerous, then you should also be telling everyone to get off the 15th Street cycletrack and the Capital Crescent Trail - and especially the Mt. Vernon trail, which is basically a sidewalk along the GW Parkway. Why are you only picking on sidewalk cycling. You're position should be that cyclists always belong in the road - ALWAYS. So let's shut down the trails and bike lanes.

2. These studies are all base on averages. I've already conceded that on average sidewalk cycling is more dangerous. My point is that sometimes it is not.

3. Wachtel chose two roads NOT at random and determined that there were more crashes. That's not science that can be projected out to every sidewalk everywhere in the US. Only three of these studies (and one is really a repeat) are about sidewalks. I've already discussed those and why they aren't enough proof of anything. Mainly Wachtel used cherry-picked roads and a very small sample size and Aultman-Hall, who you've listed twice, directly contradicts your conclusion that everyone should stop riding on the sidewalk - as I noted above.

4. You must've taken a different LAB class than me.

5. These studies do not account for selection bias (inexperienced cyclists choose the sidewalk).

So, we'll just have to agree to disagree. But good luck in getting everyone to abandon area bike trails.

by David C on Jan 18, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

@ JR: I cycle on 16th Street and Georgia Avenue with my 8 year-old daughter on a trail-a-bike almost every day. These are 6 lane highways with 35mph speed limits (which means that in practice, road speeds are up to 45mph). What I generally do is use the practices I learned in the League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor course - I take a prominent position in the rightmost lane (in the middle of it, following the MD transportation statute 21-1205a6) so that drivers can see me well in advance of reaching me. When I do this, they have plenty of time to change lanes. Studies show that cycling this way reduces the risk of collision virtually to zero - it's far safer than cycling on the sidewalk, where intersection conflicts are virtually guaranteed.

Georgia Avenue is more difficult than 16th Street, as it has parking in the right lane, which effectively makes the lane to its left an extra wide lane - but either way, cycling well away from the edge of the road makes you more visible and therefore safer.

Please don't allow cultural fearmongering about cycling make you cycle less safely than you should. Cycling on the road in traffic is at least twice as safe as cycling on the sidewalk. It's also about twice as safe as driving a car. Many times, parents of my daughter's friends tell me that they don't feel safe cycling their kids to school, yet the studies show that they are taking a greater risk by driving their kids to school.

@ David: I don't know where you get the idea that I want everyone to abandon bike trails. That's a straw man and I think it's bit of a cheap shot.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Jan 18, 2012 10:11 am • linkreport

@ David:

1. Sidewalk cycling is illegal in many places. Studies on sidewalk cycling are rare because it is an illegal and unsafe practice. Also, many European sidepaths are no different from sidewalks other than the fact that they are controlled, which makes them safer - yet even so, still not as safe as the road, as the studies point out.

Some of the studies do cover sidewalks specifically:

1998 Aultman-Hall: Commuter Cyclist On- and Off-Road Incident Rates (Ottawa-Carlton, Canada)
"The relative rates for falls and injuries suggest it is safest to cycle on-road followed by off-road paths and trails, and finally least safe on sidewalks.

1999 Aultman-Hall: Bicycle Commuter Safety Rates (Toronto, Canada)
"The relative rates for falls and injuries suggest these events are least common on-road followed by off-road paths, and finally most common on sidewalks.

2001 Wachtel: Risk Factors for Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections (Palo Alto, California, USA)
"Bicyclists on a sidewalk or bicycle path incur greater risk than those on the roadway (on average 1.8 times as great), most likely because of blind conflicts at intersections.

2. Not sure what you're getting at here, other than to once more trot out your unsupported assertion that sidewalk cycling is sometimes safe. Where are the studies supporting your assertion? What peer reviewed study claims that riding on the sidewalk is sometimes safer than the road? I suggest there isn't a single one.

3. Wachtel, I'm sure, did lots of things. But your problem is not what Wachtel did or didn't do. It's that you're unwilling to support your own argument and are therefore simply trying to chip away at the supports for mine. But I still have tens studies backing me up. What do you have, other than your opinion?

4. Based on what you've written, it seems you took the Smart Cycling course, which is free and takes a couple of hours. I took the League Certified Instructor course, which costs $200 and involves a written exam and much more intensive practical learning over a few days.

5. The studies do indeed account for cyclists who choose the sidewalk. Some of them specifically mention sidewalk riding, for goodness sake!

by Ian Brett Cooper on Jan 18, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

I don't know where you get the idea that I want everyone to abandon bike trails.

From your citing of several studies that indicate that trail riding is more dangerous.

1. I already discussed the three studies you cite and their flaws above.

2. Not sure what you're getting at here You aren't sure of the difference between saying something is true "on average" and something is always true?

Where are the studies supporting your assertion? I'm not the one trying to tell other people what to do or ban some type of legal activity. The claim that sidewalk cycling is always more dangerous is yours and you haven't proven it.

3. But I still have tens studies backing me up.

No, you have 3. And 2 of them are identical. The other seven are about other bike facilities.

5. The studies do indeed account for cyclists who choose the sidewalk. Some of them specifically mention sidewalk riding, for goodness sake! Maybe I wasn't clear. The possibly difference is the cyclist themselves. Cyclist A is experienced and chooses the road. Cyclist B is inexperienced and takes the sidewalk and is in a crash. Is that the sidewalk or the cyclist. If inexperienced cyclists overselect the sidewalk it makes the sidewalk look more dangerous. Or perhaps it's the road. What if people choose sidewalks on particularly dangerous roads? No surprise then that they would be in more crashes on those stretches, since the road is already more dangerous. Or perhaps experienced cyclists, who select the more road more, know how to avoid dangerous roads and inexperienced cyclists, who select the sidewalk more, don't. Again it throws the averages off.

I'm talking about self-selection biases. The only way to account for that is to have cyclists bike their route on-road one day, and in the street the next, and then count the number of crashes for each type. That is, though, totally unethical.

I am chipping away at your position. It is not my fault you can't defend it beyond restating it over and over. I don't have to prove you wrong to be right, since my position was that the jury is still out. You have not proven that it is settled that every sidewalk is more dangerous than the road next to it.

Furthermore, you've cited studies calling into question the safety of trails. If you believe those studies are valid then you should also advocate the end of trail riding, right? Or are they invalid. In which case why did you cite them?

by David C on Jan 18, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

Me: "I don't know where you get the idea that I want everyone to abandon bike trails."

David: "From your citing of several studies that indicate that trail riding is more dangerous."

Study authors are not me.

The rest of your post has been answered before. I'm not going to restate points I've already covered twice. I restated them because I figured you had maybe missed them. Now it's clear you're avoiding them and creating ad hominem arguments because the studies indicate facts that don't fit in your ideology.

Sidewalk cycling is illegal in most places specifically because it is unsafe. The vast majority of the studies show that it's unsafe. Sidewalk cycling is legal in only one county in MD - Montgomery. Thus, you are the one with the burden of proof here. If you want to convince anyone, you're going to have to bring more than your assertions that sidewalk cycling is sometimes safe.

So you cycle on the sidewalk if you want. I'll stick to the road, that numerous studies, the LAB, the British CTC and even the governments of the UK and the US agree is safer. If you get struck in an intersection, don't come crying to me. I've done my bit.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Jan 18, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

Study authors are not me.

OK, so why should studies that show that sidewalk riding is dangerous mean you should not ride on sidewalks, but studies showing that trail riding is dangerous not matter when deciding whether or not to ride on trails?

Sidewalk cycling is illegal in most places specifically because it is unsafe.

I'm not sure that's the reason, but it's not illegal in most of DC or other parts of the DC area.

The vast majority of the studies show that it's unsafe.

Three studies - one of which is a repeat of another and the other is a study of exactly two streets - hardly constitutes a vast majority.

So you cycle on the sidewalk if you want.

That's all I'm asking for. Let the riders decide where is the safest place for them.

by David C on Jan 18, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

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