Bicycling is one of the least understood forms of transportation. From the perspective of safety, it is often perceived to be better off bicycling on a side path rather than on a road. But this is not necessarily the case. Using education to inform travelers of the hazards to consider may help us make adaptations for safer behaviors, and assist us with making more informed choices. Here are some things to look for related to side path bicycling safety from The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities:
- Motorists may not see the bicyclists in both directions when turning across the sidepath
- Bicyclists crossing intersections at intersections may be at unexpected speeds (speeds faster than pedestrian speeds), which may increase crash frequency
- Motorists waiting to enter roadway may block the sidepath crossing
- Stopping the bicyclist at cross-street driveways are inappropriate and typically not effective
- When sidepath ends, one direction of bicyclists will be going the wrong way
- A sidepath may need additional road crossings
- Signs posted for roadway users are backwards for contra-flow riders
- Barriers are sometimes needed to keep roadway traffic from conflicting with sidepath cyclists, which may obstruct view of each other
- Sidepath is sometimes constrained by fixed objects
- Some bicyclists will use the roadway instead of the sidepath because of operational issues described. Furthermore, some states prohibit bicyclists using roadway when sidepath is present
- Bicyclists can only make a pedestrian-style left, which will increase crossing delay
- Bicyclists may not be in the view of drivers turning left or ride from adjacent roadway/driveway
- Bicycle-motor vehicle crashes may still occur at sidepath crossing locations
- Signs and markings have not been shown to be effective at changing road or path behavior at sidepath intersections
The US DOT blog ran this headline last week. “Collaboration the key to improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety.” It was announcing the release of a report following up on the Road Safety Assessments that were performed across America with a focus on bike and pedestrian safety. Here’s the report: https://www.transportation.gov/ped-bike-safety/pedestrian-and-bicyclist-safety-assessment-report
As part of the Safer People, Safer Streets initiative, the FHWA partnered with local agencies and stakeholders all across the country to look at pedestrian and walking conditions, and reported back on what they found. Their holistic approach cuts across disciplines and agency boundaries, building new communities of practice. This effort is a strategic realignment, placing people at the center of transportation, not any one travel mode. Bicycling and pedestrian facilities are key components of a complete transportation system.
The Federal Highway Administration has been working to establish a strategic agenda for advancing bicycling and walking transportation. They’ve been developing resources, building recommendations and initiating projects to foster conversation and raise awareness around biking and walking transportation safety, access and choice. This report gives a narrative of the effort so far and discusses projects under development and next steps forward. It is a compendium of tools and resources for citizens, professionals and managers.
Here are some excerpts from the report. Page numbers noted are from the PDF file. Check out Appendix 4 of the report for a full list of resources and tools for active transportation.
“The assessments for the Secretary’s initiative focused on building relationships.” (p16)
“During the assessment, participants observed cyclists riding on the sidewalk rather than on the roadway, which while not prohibited in that area, could indicate that cyclists do not feel comfortable biking on the street.” (29)
“Comprehensively addressing a problem may require more than one approach, including both engineering and non-engineering solutions.” (35)
“Many agencies have an incomplete picture of the extent of the use of and demand for safe walking and bicycling facilities.” (37)
“Many roadway designs, whether constructed decades ago or quite recently, have prioritized driver comfort and safety over pedestrian and bicyclist comfort and safety. Observed characteristics of disconnected networks for non-motorists included: Wide, multi-lane roads, without pedestrian facilities such as a median refuge or high-quality bicycle facilities, that contribute to high speeds and increase risk of exposure for nonmotorized users. (20).
“In every moment, we have a choice: Embrace life or run from it. It’s all too easy to watch the news and get convinced the world is an unfriendly place, and make decisions out of fear, effectively running from life. One of the greatest gifts bicycle touring has given me over the years is continually restoring my faith in humanity through the kindness of strangers.” –Heather Anderson, in Adventure Cycling free trial issue, bicyclingheather.com
I’m not as courageous as Heather Anderson, who has bike toured solo in Africa and all over the world. But I did get more adventurous than usual this weekend and turned down some new roads. I would love to go long distance bike touring but you don’t have to take some big trip to have an adventure. Try taking some of the dirt roads in the East Mountains just outside of Albuquerque. There’s so much to explore by bike here. Or read a story in a magazine or a book. Adventure is one step away with determination and imagination.
I rode Route 66 from Albuquerque all the way to Edgewood. There is an elementary school called Route 66 Elementary. Past, future, and especially present, bicycling works great.
I had planned to explore some dirt roads heading south off 66 from Edgewood, and find my way to Chilili. But the roads were rough and the country seemed fierce–it was so wide open it scared me–so I mostly kept to the paved roads. One of the rules I abide by is when my instinct says no, I don’t go. I still had a great time rambling. I found a new favorite road, County Line Rd., which straddles Bernalillo and Santa Fe County. And got a better feel for place.
It’s so open in Edgewood you can see all the way to the Sangre de Cristo mountains up north. They are topped white now. I rode past a Wal Mart Super Center north of Edgewood. I was pretty surprised in such a rural area there was this behemoth store. Churches were letting out and the Fall day was gorgeous. After five hours out I returned home and felt I had lived a lot, really done something. And the people in the East Mountain communities are very kind. Today I took an easier ride on the Bosque Trail and got my first close up of the returning Sandhill Cranes. Looking forward to going down to the Bosque del Apache Wildlife refuge with Mai. Maybe she’ll let me ride my bike there. She always teases me, maybe she won’t pick me up and I’ll have to ride home. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad with all these roads to explore.