Answers to most common talking points by those opposed to bicycle infrastructure

Dallas is the only major US city without on-street bike lanes. Bike lanes have proven to increase ridership and safety and most every major city in the US is currently undergoing major bicycle infrastructure build-outs. Below are answers to a few common debate points given by those opposed to building bicycle infrastructure:

1) Dallas isn’t dense enough for bike lanes, right?

Portland’s inner city density in the 1980’s (pre-bike lane years) was comparable to Dallas inner city area (inside Loop 12) now. This is THE time to build, not once more people arrive. As an example of the major growth occurring in the inner city area, Dallas downtown population was 500 in 2000, and projected to be at 10,000 by 2010.

2) Isn’t it too hot in Dallas to promote major bicycle ridership?

Tempe, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, and New Orleans have bike lanes and they’re hot. The latter three are extremely humid. Fort Worth just unveiled a plan for 490 miles worth. Melbourne, Australia hit 108 degrees during their summer this year, and they have a very high bicycle ridership with lanes. In the end, ALL cities have issues with climate (Portland – Rain, Minneapolis – Cold, Austin – Heat, Copenhagen – Freezing). This is not a legitimate excuse. Dallas has 8 months of extremely mild weather. Copenhagen “Bike Capital of the World” has 4 months of freezing weather.

3) Don’t Bike lanes bring out more inexperienced riders, who are fearful and actually pose a greater danger?

If this is the case, then one would expect to see an exponential increase in accidents/fatalities in cities with major bicycle infrastructure. Remember, a place like Portland has 150+ miles of bike lanes and 8% ridership (Dallas has 0 miles, and 0.2% ridership). Given the above assumption, the massive number of inexperienced students bicycling in lanes and crossing the path of cars at thousands of different intersection points would show exponential increases in accidents. In 2008, Portland had 0 fatalities…Dallas had 7. There is not a single study out that notes where the percent increase in ridership surpassed the accident rate in any US or European city. Multiple studies now show that the reason for the inverse relationship is due to “safety in numbers” and greater awareness.

4) Aren’t the “Safety in Numbers” studies flawed, because John Forester plotted numbers on a page using random phone numbers from a phone book to show how this test’s findings are inconclusive.

Actually, John Forester’s attempt at debunking the test was flawed. Here is a complete breakdown by the study’s author on where JF went wrong.

5) There’s a study in Denmark that shows the following: Cycle tracks increase cycling 18-20%, Cycle tracks increase accidents 9-10%, Cycle lanes were less effective at increasing cycling and it was unclear if they raised accidents more than cycle tracks. Isn’t that proof that bicycle infrastructure is a failure?

Look at the numbers again. The Jensen study referenced does not show a greater percentage increase in accident rates over ridership. That’s the key. In other words, if you had 1 accident with 100 riders one month, and 2 accidents with 1000 riders the next month, you’d have an increase in accidents of 100% (a great example of how percentages can be used to scare), but an increase in ridership of 1000%. As long as the accident rate stays below the ridership level (which it ALWAYS does, and by great margins), then the accident ratio drops. Jensen also replied to us and thoroughly vetted this attempt to mask the numbers here. His final conclusion, “Dallas should add cycle tracks. Ridership will definitely increase. Accident ratios will definitely decrease.”

6 a) Bicycle Ridership will never be high because Dallas doesn’t have a single University. That’s why the other cities can have high turnout.

We have SMU.

b) SMU is in University Park, not Dallas

University Park is 3 miles long, 4 miles from Downtown, and completely surrounded by the city of Dallas. Also, Dallas Baptist University.

c) Dallas doesn’t have a University with 30,000 students.

How did this become the magic number for successful bicycle infrastructure? For this to be a legitimate excuse to not build bicycle infrastructure, one would have to produce a city with a University that has 29,000 students, and implemented bike lanes that failed. For that matter, there isn’t a city in the US that has completely removed its bicycle infrastructure. The reality: All cities with bicycle infrastructure have not only successfully attracted riders, but they’ve all added or are in the process of adding more lanes. Also, this argument goes completely counter to the “bike lanes bring out more inexperienced riders” talking point constantly returned to. If a city has 30,000 students that you provide bike lanes for, you’d have a greater number of inexperienced riders, thus an assumed greater numbers of accident ratios.

Lastly, we’re not advocating for only 18 to 21 year olds to ride, but for seniors, children, young adults, mothers, fathers, and more to ride. Amsterdam’s successful ridership has come from focusing on safety of women and children primarily, not college students. They’ve proven that if those two demographics feel comfortable riding, all others will as well.

7) If you implement bicyle lanes, cars will expect you to ride in them, and become more hostile if you drive on the street.

Cars are already hostile to bicyclists in the road and expect them to stay off the road. I’ve been honked at, encroached on, and had brakes squealed/engines revved on more occasions that I can count in Dallas, and we have no bike lanes. The person in charge of informing the Dallas public at large that bicycles are allowed on the road did not do a good job of spreading that message.

8 ) Dallas doesn’t have the culture for bicycling that other cities do.

According to Mia Birk, former planner of Portland, Oregon, neither did they. Ridership started out only slightly greater than Dallas. Roger Geller, the new planner stated, “If you build it, they will come.” Now, the city has built a 120 Million dollar industry surrounding bicycling, including a major tourism, and production industry. Also, Cyclesomatic proved that the culture can be fostered and grown.

9) So where exactly are you going to build these bike lanes. Dallas is sprawled out, and it’s going to cost a fortune.

You wouldn’t create bike lanes throughout the entire metro area (read our article titled: The Transect for more). A major bicycle infrastructure should largely be developed within an urban zone (ie. inside Loop 12). Beyond that, the sprawl is an obstacle. As the inner city grows, you can’t add more car lanes. The only option is to accommodate multi-modal traffic. This is exactly what Chicago, Seattle, NYC, DC, Portland, Phoenix, Atlanta, Boston, et al. have begun doing, and to great success.

10) There’s debris in the bike lanes. No one’s going to clean them.

Dallas already provides street sweeping once a week on all Downtown streets, and once a month on all major thoroughfares. Also, as of a 2007 Dallas County roads report, the cost for street sweeping is $17.44 per mile.

11) Aren’t bike lanes far too expensive to implement?

Bicycle lanes in most cities are installed when the City happens to be resurfacing a road anyway. This allows the money to come from the regular budget for repairing a road and requires very minimal costs. Plus, less wear and tear occurs within bike lanes, requiring far less maintenance on the surface, since the cause of most pot holes is due to heavy trucks. Also, the return on investment for streets with bike lanes, and businesses surrounding these has proven to far offset any cost. Remember, you’re not building roads to move people as quickly as possible (that’s what highways are for), you’re building them to allow interaction between commerce and individuals, as well as transport. Forsaking the former for the latter has shown drastic effects in increased accidents, crime, and health.

For roads that aren’t being repaired, but lane implementation buildout was sought, cities around the US have opted for the following funding methods:

– TIF (Tax Incremented Financing) Districts : In Oak Cliff, we’re lucky enough to already have three in place, and they are currently allocating funds for pedestrian/bike amenities.
– PID’s (Public Improvement Districts): We have one being planned now by merchants all along multiple corridors in Oak Cliff. The Uptown PID currently pays a portion of upkeep for the MATA trolley, the Katy Trail, and McKinney Avenue streetscapes
– Parking Improvement Districts: This is a very popular way that urban communities are now applying to develop infrastructure projects from streetcars, bike lanes, and more. A municipality will build out a parking structure near an area that is tight on space to allow more businesses to bring in greater traffic. The funds brought in from these Parking Districts are then channeled to infrastructure improvements.
– Federal Grants: Safe Routes to Schools, Main Street Improvements, TIGER grants, and a host of others are all being applied for now by members of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, and other agencies to bring in funds for bicycle infrastructure. It’s the exact same funds other cities have applied for and used to build out their networks.
– Friends of Organizations: From rails to trails, to historic building renovations/upkeep, “Friends of” organizations are built out throughout the nation using fundraisers, grants, and more to build and create infrastructure projects on a routine basis.

12) Why are you comparing Dallas to Northern European cities? We’re nothing like them.

Portland used Copenhagen and Amsterdam as its model when developing its multi-modal infrastructure plan. NYC just completed its street redevelopment program with the aid of Gehl Consulting from Denmark. Currently Gehl is working with Mexico City on a plan for its downtown. So yes, European cities are a fair model. Watch the following clip where you’ll see Copenhagen streets in the 1960’s that looked much like ours. Full of parking lots and high speed roadways. Year after year, they began rolling these back and creating a more pedestrian friendly environment. Note that, the interviewee states “When we implemented this, everyone said ‘we’re Danes not Italians…we don’t have a culture for walking!’. 40 years later…

13) Do you just hate cars? Taking away a lane for bicycles will cause a nightmare for traffic.

I own two cars, but I understand that we can’t continue to build our inner cities for automobiles only. Also, every study has shown that an increase in ridership occurs when you accomodate multi-modal traffic, and that the end over end volume levels out, and capacity remains unchanged.

14) Don’t Bicycle lanes increase accidents due to Right Hooks, confusing left turns and more?

First thing to note, a study of auto/bike crashes from Jan. 1, 2007, through June 30, 2009 in Fort Collins, Colorado noted that “Right Hooks” accounted for only 13% of accidents on bicycles and no fatalities. Left hand turns accounted for 9.3%. Where did the bulk of accidents occur? Broadsides, or collisions where a cyclist is running perpendicular to the flow of traffic accounted for over 60.5%.

With that being said, even with intersection conflicts, there have been multiple engineering techniques applied to overcome right hooks and left turn issues, including bike boxes, the Copenhagen-Left, no-right turn exclusions, and more. There was a rudimentary attempt at drawing a right-hook failing point by a bike lane opponent, but her methodology would have also shown how a jogger on a sidewalk could also be injured by crossing an intersection via sidewalk. Again, Portland had 0 fatalities in 2008 with 150+ miles of on-street bicycle infrastructure and 8% ridership. Dallas had 7 fatalities with 0 miles of on-street bicycle infrastructure and 0.2% ridership. Also, Copenhagen, the world’s bicycle capital, has the highest ridership levels (over 50%), and lowest accident rates (decimal point levels). New York City just released its 200+ page guide on street design. Multiple examples of how to overcome many intersection issues are noted here.

15) Experienced Cyclists do not want bike lanes.

Not so. Read multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong’s take on bike lanes. Also read Boston’s new bicycle coordinator’s, racing champion Nicole Freedman, take on bicycle infrastructure. Lastly, League Instructor Paul Dorn gives a great account of the failure of Vehicular Cycling advocates position on bicycle infrastructure here.

16) So you expect to put bicycle lanes on every streets?

No. We are for a mix of infrastructure buildouts including bicycle boulevards for some residentials (mixed car and bike roads, that discourage pass-through traffic, and make safer for children in neighborhoods), and separated bike lanes on streets at 35 mph or greater, but not all streets. Separated (ie. dedicated) bike lanes have proven to bring the highest increases in ridership. Also, intersections are key areas to focus on for traffic calming. If an intersection feels unsafe, a bike lane will fail at increasing numbers to a high degree.

17) The Katy Trail is expensive, and no one rides to work on it.

The Katy is actually fairly successful for being a long linear park, which is why it was built…not as a commuter bikeway. Because of this, there are very few connection points onto the trail from the streets it crosses, and at its terminus, you are dropped onto a one way street. It would be no different than building a long highway with no ramps onto it except at a distant end and beginning point, and at its end you were dropped on a one way going the wrong way. You would expect little commuter traffic.

18) Why are you so adamantly for this?

Several reasons. 1) Our generation demands this type infrastructure, and our friends and family are leaving in droves for cities that adopt them like Portland, Chicago, and Austin. Some orginally claimed these cities have a different culture, but we’ve proved through Cyclesomatic that a major culture exists in our area, and it just needs to be fostered and cultivated. Our friends and family weren’t moving to Portland in 1990, but they were in 2009. 2) The infrastructure allows a more pedestrian friendly business environment, that allows for more “eyes on the street” which increases safety, and improves the environment, all while supporting more local business. We’ve already lived through the alternative.

19) We only need education. Everything else is far too expensive.

First of all, education for whom? All drivers? All bicyclists? Most likely both. So a statewide education campaign that educates all drivers and bicyclists wouldn’t be expensive? I’ve never seen a vehicular cyclist ever quantify the actual number required for a successful education campaign that will both increase ridership and safety. Also, all drivers go through testing currently, and we still have 42,000+ fatalities on the roads a year. And to be successful, wouldn’t you have to regularly reeducate (ref. the number of drivers receiving tickets and regularly being re-educated via defensive driving courses)? So when developing a cost for education, you’d have to find a number that first educated all drivers, and second, reeducated them on a semi-regular basis, you’d then fold in a added layer of beaurcracy via the DPS to manage testing and the overall statewide administration of this program. The proven option for cities to increase bicycle ridership and safety is to create facilities and educate.

20) Painted bike lanes create a false sense of security. Do you really think that “magic paint” is going to stop cars from hitting you?

First of all, our preference is for completely seperated bicycle lanes, physically divided with bollards, curbs, or step ups. With that being said, even a painted lane would be a step in the right direction. To follow the “magic paint” thought process, one would also be an advocate of removing traffic lights as well, because they do nothing to physically stop cars from hitting others.

21) It’s irrational to fear being hit by a car. Rear end collisions are rare, and riders just need to get out there and conquer their Cycling Inferiority Complex.

This is THE most common talking point developed by Vehicular Cyclists, and is usually followed with some kind of condescending “Man Up”, or “Grow a Pair” kind of 1950’s weak attempt at getting timid cyclists to feel confident about having a truck bare down on them. This is not only childish, it completely disregards the natural feelings of a large population that is natually averse to risk, like mothers, the elderly, and children. The idea that an SUV pounding down your back at 40 mph with a texting teen behind the wheel, while you pedal with your child on a booster seat down a road to the grocery store, is not something one simply educates away. The key to increasing ridership is increasing the perception of safety, as well as the actual safety. If something is percieved as unsafe, it will be left to a fearless minority. Plese review the following article where we elaborate on this in great detail.

22) Who supports bicycle infrastructure on a national level?

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended cities implement bicycle lanes to curb obesity trends along with the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood, citing Portland as THE model for 21st century US city planning. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently reference complete street implementation by name or in principal, and the much anticipated Moving Cooler report released by the Urban Land Institute discusses the impact CS have on lowering greenhouse gases. There are now 108 US cities officially ranked as Bike-Friendly, with major bicycle infrastructure in place, and hundreds more are online now or in various stages of development. In six years, our sister city of Fort Worth will stripe 470+ miles of bicycle lanes, and rank as one of the most impressive bicycle communities in the nation.

23) By “forcing” bicycles into their own space, you are relegating me to a second-class citizen.

For this argument to be legitimate, two things would have to be noted:
a) Since no state allows bicycles on all roadways (ie. highways/tollways) with automobiles, you’ve already attained the self-anointed title “second-class citizen”
b) This automatically lumps all pedestrians and handicap people in wheelchairs on sidewalks as “second-class citizens”.


  1. Great Post! May I add a few points…

    6-Wewill have a University in Dallas that bost student population projections of 16,000 to 20,000 in 2035 It will be easy to reach as DART will expand service to it in 2018.

    There are a number of auto traffic engineering programs that can also add to pedestrian and bicycle safety if they are properly used. These can be adapted for Dallas and will work to improve both driver and rider experience:

    Traffic Calming- Bicycle safety is not always about providing a dedicated lane or facility. By law bikes are vehicles and can use any street that is not particularly excluded. The problem is many neighborhood and collector streets have been designed to move auto traffic quickly and the speed diferential between bikes and cars makes for an unsafe environment. The City of Dallas Speed Bump Program seeks to relieve this issue with you guessed it speed bumps. Many cities around the country are seeking to expand these programs to use more traffic calming tools that reduce vehcile speeds and improve the cycling experience. Check out what El Paso is doing,

    Access Management- This is a term engineers use to describe driveway and other curb cut reduction techniques. Think of it this way, less driveways less cars pulling out in front of you and less braking that is needed. The State Department of Transportation has taken a firm stance on this. Municipalities may write access management ordinances to compliment them. These are usefull in the long term development of bicycle facilities on major streets, by reducing the ability for businesses to have multiple driveways and improving the continuous curb condition that cyclist desire.

    Context Sensitive Design- Texas Department of Transportation recently adopted this approach and the City of Dallas is wise to it as well. This changes everything about roadway design and enables complete streets to occur at a project development level in Texas. Used to we designed roads for traffic capacity needs, now we begin the design process by asking the community what they want built for transportation. Evidence of this approach can be found in the State ending the Trans texas corridor project in favor of asking the community how to address traffic congestion in local areas.

    Dallas can achieve a bicycle friendly community! We are building the culture, Cyclesomatic proved that and youth outreach like Mercy Street Bicycle Workshop are creating the next generation of bicycle advocates.

    Andrew Howard

  2. Excellent work, Jason! You a great advocate and communicator!

  3. Good points, Andrew. Another thing to note is that we should not be focusing our advocacy on only 18 to 21 year olds, but for seniors, children, young adults, mothers, fathers, and more to ride. Amsterdam’s successful ridership has come from focusing on perception of safety for women and children primarily. They’ve proven that if those two demographics feel comfortable riding, all others will as well.

  4. uhhhh Dallas County Community College ?! **70,000** enrolled registered students !

  5. Here’s my question, you might call it the “last mile problem”: If bike lanes are only built gradually or in selected neighborhoods it seems that the probability of having bike lanes on the majority of your route from A to B will be very low for a long time. If riding on the road is too dangerous and you can’t get where you need to go using only bike lanes, how do you expect people to adopt bicycling as a means of transportation?

  6. Remember, we’re not advocating for bike lanes on residential streets (as noted in the Transect article), which most cyclists can ride on comfortably, though we would like to see bicycle boulevards adopted on various residentials to dissuade pass-through traffic and allow children safe play in streets (these are not bike lanes, but bike priority streets). For streets over 35 miles per hour (secondary arterials), we do seek separated bicycle infrastructure, to allow cyclists safe passage into major retail and business corridors (ie. Fort Worth Avenue, Hampton in Oak Cliff). Until they are built, you will see little to no bicycle traffic on these streets. It’s the main reason why you see people bicycle in their neighborhood, but typically locked away from cycling beyond.

  7. […] the usual bit of controversy. One issue: are bike lanes really a good idea? On the BFOC blog, Jason Roberts offers a lengthy and informative rebuttal to those who doubt the value of bicycle […]

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