Cycle path debate

Cycle path debate

The cycle path debate concerns the issues surrounding the provision and use of cycle paths. A "cycle path" or "bike path" is a track or road designated for use by cyclists that is physically separated from roads used by motor vehicles. It may be built for the purpose, or it may be an existing path marked as a cycle path. Some cycle paths are shared with pedestrians.


Cycle paths are widely used in parts of Europe, especially in towns in the Netherlands, and are also frequently seen on American college campuses. Most cycle paths are in urban areasFact|date=February 2007; however, they can also be intended to link towns and cities, such as the National Cycle Network in Britain. Cycle paths are often made alongside canals or on the trackbed of disused railways.Cycle paths are essentially utilitarian in nature and they should not be confused with bicycle trails, off-road tracks used by recreational cyclists. Cycle paths should also not be confused with cycle lanes (or bike lanes) which are portions of roadway designated for bicycle use with a painted stripe.

Specific local cycle paths have been controversial amongst local residents, cyclists and transport planners [cite news
title=Cyclists told to get off and walk at oral hearing on Seamus Quirke Rd
date=July 2002
publisher=Galway Cycling Campaign
] . Some confident and experienced cyclists prefer to ride on the roadways, sharing them with motor traffic, instead of riding on a cycle path [cite web
title=MassBike Policies
publisher=The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
] . In 2004, the state legislature of Iowa considered legislation that would have prohibited cycling on four-lane (dual carriageway) roads if the government decided that an adjacent parallel alternative route was readily available to cyclists [cite news
title=Anti-bicycling bill considered in Iowa this week
publisher=Missouri Bicycle Federation
] .

The UK Department for Transport asserts [cite web|url=|title=LTN 1/04 - Policy, Planning and Design for Walking and Cycling - Paragraph 3.4.4|publisher=Department for Transport, UK] that all types of cyclist will use high-quality well-maintained traffic-free routes if they are more direct than the equivalent on-road alternative and there are no personal security issues. The core of the cycle path debate is that very few cycle paths meet all these criteria.

The Department also usefully recognizes five types of cyclist [cite web|url=|title=LTN 1/04 - Policy, Planning and Design for Walking and Cycling - Paragraph 3.4.3|publisher=Department for Transport, UK] :
* Fast commuter - confident in most on-road situations, and will use a route with significant traffic volumes if it is more direct than a quieter route
* Other utility cyclist - may seek some segregation at busy junctions and on links carrying high-speed traffic;
* Inexperienced utility, commuter and leisure cyclist - may be willing to sacrifice directness in terms of both distance and time, for a route with less traffic and more places to stop and rest. May travel more slowly than regular cyclists
* Children - require segregated, direct routes from residential areas to schools, even where an on-road solution is available
* Users of wide or long equipment such as trailers, trailer-bikes, tandems, and tricycles.

Designing a suitable path to cater for all these types of users within available budgets is very hard to achieve.

Arguments in favour

* People who are frightened of cycling with motorists may be willing to pedal on paths from which motoring is prohibited.
* Cycle paths help motorists go faster by reducing the number of cyclists on the roads.
* Cycle paths can provide routes for cyclists in addition to the roads e.g. by cutting through a public park
* A cycle path which parallels a pedestrian path would help separate cyclists from more maneuverable pedestrians. Paths designed specifically for dual-use may have a white line separating the two different classes of traffic, especially if the width is not much more than most sidewalks.

Arguments against

* Generally the start and end of any cyclist's journey is on the road system, so using cycle paths often involves a diversion.
* The maximum safe speed on a cycle path is usually lower than on a road, so journeys on cycle paths take longer than on roads.
* Cyclists must slow down even more when pedestrians may be present, as cyclists are less maneuverable and can crash.
* Cycle paths are rarely as well-constructed or maintained as roads. They are often narrower than roads, have tighter corners, worse lighting, poorer surfaces, and more obstacles.
* Cycle paths are often built for two-way traffic instead of providing one-way paths on both sides of a road (for cost reasons), making the cyclists who are traveling (legally or illegally) against the expected direction of traffic less visible to motorists.
* The majority of injuries to cyclists are not caused by collisions with motorists, so moving cyclists from well-constructed roads to poorly-constructed paths may result in more injuries.
* Cycle paths are generally less frequently cleaned of debris and snow/ice than roads.
* The authors of some studies have concluded that the average rate of injuries per road cyclist varies inversely with the number of cyclists on the roads, so converting cycling trips from road to path may decrease general safety for road cyclists.
* By reducing the number of cyclists on roads, cycle paths allow the motorists to go faster and pose a greater danger if a collision does occur.
* Sidewalks which have been later re-designated as cycle paths may contain various obstructions including bus stops, pillar boxes, telecommunications cabinets and pedestrians. This can be a particular problem in the UK.
* Cycle paths are frequently shared with pedestrians. Some of these have a white line down the middle to segregate cyclist and pedestrians, but that doesn't stop pedestrians from walking on them and forcing cyclists to slow down.
* The cycle path network is unlikely to become as extensive or interconnected as the road network; hence it is less convenient and will inevitably result in cyclists untrained in Effective Cycling being exposed to the road network eventually.
* In some countries the introduction of segregated facilities may be a first step towards the banning of cycling on roads.

Many advocates now talk of "recreational trails", "shared-use paths", or "community paths", recognizing that avid cyclists find cycle paths less than ideal, while they have become very popular for other uses, including walking, jogging, inline skating, wheelchair excursions, cross-country skiing as well as more casual cycling.

In Reading UK the tarmaced path at side of the Kennet and Avon canal used to have prohibition notices. When cycle provision became fashionable they replaced them with cycle path signs. Then local councillors trumpetted their green credentials because they had "added" cycle provision. It actually made no difference to the number of cyclists using it; some observers say it actually fell.

Intersection issues

The crossing of a road by a cycle path is an intersection. The DOT states that most accidents happen at intersections.Fact|date=October 2007 Because traffic on a path is given a lower priority than that on a road, path cyclists are required to slow down and give way, thus discouraging cycling.

Cycle paths can be very dangerous at intersections with roads. When the path entrance is set back from the road, motorists often have difficulty seeing cyclists approaching from the path. Research presented at a conference at Lund University in 1990 found that accident rates for cycle users crossing the intersection on a set-back path are up to 11.9 times higher than when cycling on the roadway (see diagram). [" [ "Russian roulette" on sidepaths - sidepaths are the target of criticism] " - Rauh, W. (ARGUS Vienna), p. 78 of the proceedings of the Velo Secur 90 conference, Issues of Bicycling Safety, Lund University, 1990] This research has found some response in that cycle paths are now often merged back onto the road just before an intersection. However, the research does not differentiate the type of cyclist against the accidents.


ee also

*Segregated cycle facilities
*Effective Cycling
*vehicular cycling
*Non-motorized vehicle access on freeways

External links

* [ City of Chicago Bike Lane Design Guide]
* [ Why have shoulders and/or bike lanes?] - Oregon Department of Transportation
* [ Engineering and Planning : Bike Lanes] - Bicycle Transportation Institute
* [ Bicycle Blunders: Blunders in Planning & Engineering] - LAB Reform
* [ A critical look at bike facilities including bike lanes] - John S. Allen
* [ A critique on a sidepath-style bike lane design] in Cambridge, Massachusetts
* [ Analysis of the major arguments about bike lanes] - John Forester
* [ UK Department for Transport, Local Transport Notes]
* [ Study on the causes of bicycle and pedestrian injuries] - Jane C. Stutts and William W. Hunter

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