Revisioning a Street for a Community

On CycleSmartDallas, a recent post titled “Friday Bike-Lane Special” uses the above photo to justify the failures of bicycle facilities with the added comment, “advocates for segregationist bicycle facilities like being treated this way”.

Given that we’re advocates for separated transit modes in urban environments like sidewalks, bus-only lanes, and cycle tracks, I’m assuming we’re being targeted. First and foremost, this is exactly the way we would not develop a street, and deplore being “treated that way” with or without a bike lane, for one simple reason: It prioritizes cars over people. With this in mind, let’s break down our goals for streets:

– Prioritize People Over Cars
– Increase Perception of & Actual Safety
– Increase Bicycle Ridership (and Public Transit)
– Accommodate for children, the elderly, the disabled, as well as the physically fit for non-motorized modes

Now even with the bike lane, we haven’t accomplished all of our stated objectives. First, the Arizona road uses the following street hierarchy: car first, then bicycle, last pedestrian . This actually may be appropriate if in a suburban environment, where sprawl has forced distant separation of business/residential zoning from third places, and completely dismantled community. Remember, we’re advocating for cycling facilities in urban environments, where community is intact (ie. men and women can bicycle short distances to work, young and old can walk to the park and play chess, couples can take strolls from home to coffee shop, and mom’s can quickly bicycle to school with children)…for Dallas, that would be well within Loop 12. (Side note: Germany is now showing, with new experiments in car-free towns and suburbs, that there is potential for this transect to be adapted as well)

Now, let’s imagine the AZ image is within an urban transect…the car is obviously given priority by the 5 wide lanes (with 1 turn lane). The adaption technique of Vehicular Cycling, encourages (and advocates for) this car-centric planning. Perception of safety is drastically reduced, as people attempting to bicycle without facilities are only given the “Swim with the Sharks” option to commute on. Dramatically low bicycle ridership reflects this as the young, and elderly have been marginalized completely from anything but being chauffeured to school/stores/parks/theaters. While bicyclists accident rates using VC methods may be low in this scenario, safety to pedestrians and for car commuters traveling at posted speeds of 40mph just outside of the residential neighborhood (seen in the top left portion of the photo) is decreased. Here, the bike lane is a band-aided after thought as the car is still top of the hierarchy. Pedestrians are at the bottom…though they do have a wide sidewalk, but absolutely no shade (this is Arizona, btw), no place to go (zoning), and a dangerous multi-lane high-speed street to cross. This model also emphasizes large over small businesses…in other words, Wal-Mart will build next to this road.

Here is an example of how we’d actually revision the above street:

Again, our objectives are:

– Prioritize People Over Cars
– Increase Perception of & Actual Safety
– Increase Bicycle Ridership (and Public Transit)
– Accommodate for children, the elderly, the disabled, as well as the physically fit for non-motorized modes

Now let’s break down this second image from Amsterdam (which could also have been found in Copenhagen, Munich, Bogota, Boulder, Portland, Vancouver, and is the trend slowly beginning to occur across the US). The community has changed their street hierarchies to the following “people-first” model:

Pedestrian, Bicyclist, Bus, Car, Truck

Perception of, and actual safety have increased for cyclists. VC’s would dispute this, but Copenhagen’s decimal point accident levels combined with massive ridership levels easily support this case. The young and elderly can (and do) bicycle comfortably in this model. Car lanes are thinned (naturally calming speeds), and posted speeds are slowed increasing safety to motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Also, this model encourages residents to consider alternate transit, whereas the Arizona image encourages car ownership (which will now account for a lack in savings and become the second highest expenditure behind housing). This also encourages local business development, as many needs can be catered to with small store footprints (read: affordable for new business owner) at walking/bicycling distances and denser housing (ie. Wal-Mart won’t build on this two-lane street…Joe and Jane’s Neighborhood Cafe will) Other things we haven’t even delved into, but should be taken note of in “people first” planning is heightened sustainability, lowered CO2 emissions, community health (note obesity trends in US), and overall transit safety for all modes. Also, the elderly, which we’re about to experience a boom in, can continue to live and assist in this people-first community. In the car-first model, they’ll be shipped off to a distant nursing home shortly after they’re unable to drive…or become prisoners’ in their own homes.


  1. Almost all of the bicycle facilities I’ve used in Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general are geared around very different vehicle drivers. Mainly: the intersections have a lot of signals and all of the participants obey them perfectly. I can tell you that that doesn’t happen very often in Texas. Also, we have a lot of yield signs that don’t hardly even exist in A’dam.

    One thing that you’ve really missed in this particular post (maybe addressed elsewhere that I haven’t seen yet?) is the horrendous and deadly right hook. From what I observed, A’dam doesn’t seem to have this problem as much because of the tightly controlled and extremely proficient drivers. I swear I’ve never seen anyone talking on their cell phone while driving in A’dam!

    Here’s a good discussion involving right hooks with trucks. Yeesh!! Scary!

  2. Hi Eliot,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, we’ve thoroughly covered the “right hook”, and the simple “bike box” infrastructure remedy (which was developed in Amsterdam, and you know doubt noticed when visiting) for this:

    Amsterdam began adopting a people over cars strategy in the 1960’s. Prior to that time, they had the same problems we faced. What Danish planner, Soren Jensen, noted to us in this article:, was that they’re safety increased due to “safety in numbers”, which occurred after the city began adopting major bicycle infrastructure.

    If you get a moment, check out the article we posted from Jan Gehl, Danish Planner, regarding drivers and driver attitudes in the 1960’s, and changes in infrastructure:

    The most eye popping example of this in the US is the recent survey released noting “road rage” in US cities. Dallas ranked second overall in the nation…Portland (with 170+ bike lanes) ranked lowest overall:

  3. One more article you’d probably appreciate regarding the changing of drivers attitudes when greater numbers of cyclists exist is here:

    Specifically, the quote from Dr. Julie Hatfield:

    “It appears that motorists adjust their behavior in the presence of increasing numbers of people bicycling because they expect or experience more people cycling. Also, rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and therefore be more conscious of, and sympathetic towards, cyclists.”

    In other words:

    Bicycle infrastructure increases ridership
    Ridership increases awareness
    Awareness increases safety

  4. Click url for my take on BFOC AND Cycle*Dallas posts using that particular picture (warning – some humor content)…

  5. Hi Steve,

    Funny post. 🙂

    The greatest schism I see in the two views between Cycle*Dallas and BFOC is that, though we’re both advocating for bicycling, we’re doing so in correlation with attempting to reduce automobile use, and applying solutions that have successfully produced this result. Our target group to advocate for are children, and the elderly. If we create an environment that makes these two groups feel comfortable about riding, then everyone in between will feel comfortable as well. Cycle*Dallas is focused on the middle group, and adapting to existing environments.

    Though the solution we’re proposing may seem “expensive”, realize how this initial costs will be offset…first of all, less maintenance (pot holes, resurfacing, etc.), since less lanes are given over to cars/trucks (which create the damage), increased economic development along the routes (businesses want to be where people want to be), and health costs. With Heart conditions leading the pack on US health problems, we’re saving on healthcare costs overall.

    There is no transit infrastructure in the US that pays for itself, whether it be airports, streets, trains, light rail, etc. Saying one model is “expensive” is relative, when all modes are expensive. What you have to include is the surrounding ROI on creating the infrastructure. Car advocates have attempted to state that gas taxes cover their costs, but TXDOT themselves showed the realities that in some instances, we’d have to pay as much as $2.22 per gallon to truly cover the costs of our roads:

    If you add in the fact that we’ve now bailed out the car industry itself, the taxable figure goes up.

  6. THIS URL shows the ONLY non-freeway route going east that’s available to a cyclist. What’s the BFOC proposal there? I don’t see children or the elderly (except myself) riding it. That may change as the area gets built up further around the employment center.

    I ride that road every day. Will my taxes be going to fund cycle access installation in OC while I continue to ride such roads, or will such access be paid for by local improvement districts imposing added taxes on themselves?

  7. Westport Parkway is far beyond an urban formed transect. By looking at Google maps, it appears to between a T2 and T3 transect:

    Remember, we’re advocating for bicycle infrastructure within an Urban transect.

    “Will my taxes be going to fund cycle access installation in the OC?”

    Your local property taxes where you live in Colleyville? no

    Your state gas taxes? no

    Federal taxes doled out by NCTCOG for the region? possibly…their most recent RFP’s have specified “bicycle infrastructure” projects.

    Yes, we’re advocating Public Improvement Districts, TIF’s, Parking Districts, and MMD’s…all of which are used throughout the nation (with different names) to fund a multitude of infrastructure projects…these projects all fall within the area’s footprint. Dallas’ Uptown Improvement District PID helped fund the Trolley, Katy Trail, and landscaping for McKinney Avenue. Without this PID, the area would look radically different.

    Remember, we’re not adding new roads, we’re revising existing. The taxes paid for maintenance & administration of any street…say FW. Avenue, would be used to “calm” the streets. Since you’re taking a lane away on either side, cost of maintenance goes down.

    From Roger Geller in Portland: “Since 1991, traffic over the Hawthorne Bridge has increased 21 percent, an increase seen around the country. But unlike other cities, all of the increased traffic has been bikes, not cars. While other places are digging up millions of dollars to widen roads, Portland’s increased bike traffic is accommodated by bike paths, which are millions of dollars cheaper to build and maintain.”

  8. Local Improvements are a WONDERFUL thing. A community helping itself and setting its own direction. Far be it from me or, from any bureaucrat, to undercut or second guess such efforts.

    On the bad side, I can’t say I like the idea of taking lanes away. It engenders motorist ill will towards the perceived “perpetrators,” and it crowds the motorists in on me, as a cyclist, in the remaining lanes. Their congestion doesn’t affect me as badly as it does them, but the added congestion definitely raises the barrier for people that might “graduate” from the segregated facilities as their horizons expand and their confidence grows, because that remaining road WILL be tougher to ride – and possibly even more motor-centric than today when transportation engineers at least have to give lip service to all road users. Ultimately, cycling goes everywhere, and that means also on the road, at least in our lifetime.

    Myself, if the road’s smooth, I’ll figure out how to deal with it in a safe manner however things change. If the paths are smoother, quicker, and safer (a tough combo, to be sure), I’ll certainly prefer them.

    Regards, and thanks for the perspective. Keep plugging.

  9. mannytmoto – Thanks for digging up all the links. I’ll take a look at them this week.

    One thing to keep in mind when comparing cities like Amsterdam as a model… it is not a big city, especially in the center.

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