Like the title says, I love bike racing and new bike tech but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized just how important it is that we need to get more people on bikes, especially in North America. I’ve also realized just how dangerous and scary riding a bike, or even just walking, can be on N. America’s dangerously poorly designed infrastructure.
Alas, I ended up stumbling across “Not Just Bikes” ( The bike lanes you can’t see: The Bike Lanes You Can't See - Ontvlechten - YouTube ) and “Strong Towns” ( The most dangerous type of road: What is a STROAD? - YouTube )YouTube channels and both have got me to get involved with action in my local city/state to make riding and walking safer in our city. Is anyone else here involved with safe streets/cycling advocacy work in their local community? If so, how’s it going, any positive changes to note?
I am lucky enough to have city councilman who is a vocal advocate for bike infrastructure. But just to be safe I send him emails every so often with suggestions and concerns. We have huge problem with placard abuse and delivery vehicles parking in our bike lanes.
Quite a bit of activism, but not much results from Critical Mass in Hamburg, Brussels, Jerusalem & Geneva, over active membership in advocacy organisations (I study law, so also in the respective sections), political engagement, meeting Police Officers as often as possible, and talking to everyone about it, whether they want to hear it or not. Even on Tinder. I am not a fan of driving somewhere to ride (as in drive there, ride, drive back the same day, not cycling holidays), and I despise (sorry) car guys who also cycle. The whole thing of cycling as a lifestyle and environmentalism belongs together. I got my recently retired father to become active in local politics for better cycling conditions, got my brother to ride a cargobike, and have helped countless dates and friends and fellow students to get a bicycle.
The biggest positive changes we’ve seen are more painted bike lanes (would love protected, dedicated lanes but that’s probably asking too much, lol) and lower posted speed limits.
The next big challenge is getting more bike and walking infrastructure on our city’s westside as a giant highway split the two sides of our city decades ago. Of course, the west side was the poorer side of our city so they got the worst of the big, wide highways and “stroads”.
The road bike community has sadly never been a good advocate for bike saftey and transportation. People love driving with their bikes to ride their bikes. I encourage all of is to do more for transportstion advocacy but my experience is that road cyclists fot the most part complain roads are dangerous but are for the most part too drunk on car culture to do anything about it.
This %100! I grew up in our local scene’s road bike racing culture many years ago and not much has changed. For some reason, too many of our road racing heads think it’s a badge of honor to ride on dangerous roads all the time. Yet, they are the same ones to complain that no one is racing any more. If you can’t get people on bikes in the first place, because it feels/is really dangerous, they’re never gonna pick up racing in the first place.
Wrote a whole diatribe while I was on the toilet that I deleted because it sort of went off topic. To answer OPs topic I’ve found that participating in Cycling clubs at the local level is important. Policy makers don’t listen to individuals, they listen to groups and cycling clubs especially with influential membership that are involved with local business development can exert pressure. I don’t like Not just bikes either. Seems like a guy who studied a lot of urban planning and zero Economic geography or government/civics nor has done any of these things.
Haha! Thanks for your honesty. lol Everyone does it but who admits to it (i.e. texting and dumping).
Yeah, I can see how Not Just Bikes can rub some folks the wrong way but I would then say take a look at Strong Towns. The guy is a professional engineer who’s built infrastructure and he also takes a look at how poorly designed, and dangerous infrastructure, is costly to all of us and explains it in plain English. I know NJB and Strong Towns have done collabs on this too in the past.
I agree that things don’t change unless organized groups meet with the powers that be and show up to meetings. I’ve seen that first hand and it was mentioned above by another response at just how how bad roadies and road cycling clubs have been at advocating for improved infrastructure for cycling and walking in public spaces.
There’s a reason I, as a “roadie” don’t advocate for “improved” cycling infrastructure where I am; namely, where there is a bike lane, we’re obliged to use it instead of the road. Bike lanes in my city are basically painted lines on a sidewalk, often with poorly defined entry and exit on the road. They are horrid for riding at speed on a road bike, and the legal obligation to use it when there’s a perfectly good road next to them makes me actively avoid streets with them.
Roads are comparatively safe, engineered for riding fast, and take you to places.
I support making cyclists and everyone safer on the roads (and here we have to look at our own behaviour, too, sometimes) and overall less car-designed infrastructure in cities, but “Let’s build more bike paths”? Not particularly interested.
Part of advocacy is about being involved in the decision making and giving advice on how to make bikepaths better. There is nothing worse than bikepaths designed by non cyclists. And also on making changes in law so you are not forced to ride on them if they aren’t properly designed.
So far mostly from lack of free time, or rather preferring riding my bike than spending time arguing with the authorities I have only gave money to the local advocacy group by being a member of the association and being a regular critical mass attender.
I agree on MUPs. Where I live (Scottsdale, AZ) we have 6’-8’ bike lanes on pretty much every main and secondary road. The road crowns are extremely mild and there are no drainage ditches/sewer grates in the bike lane. It’s a brilliant system that alleviates conflict between car drivers and cyclists while being cost effective, robust, useful for actual daily transport and suitable for the speeds that e-bikes and roadies are going. These also give a rider the ability to switch to the main travel lanes to avoid obstructions and overtake slower riders far more safely than a path.
They allot for a road diet without eliminating an escape path for motorcyclists. I think MUPs are very pretty and are a nice thing for a politician to stand in front of but their space and cost requirements in the states and the fact anything more than 10mph on most of them is pretty dangerous makes them limited for actual serious infrastructure.
Edit:I don’t like hard barriers for bike lanes either. They don’t prevent cars from going over the lane anyways and limit the ability for cyclists to use the entirety of the road and put motorcycle riders at higher risk for no benefit. It’s the bicycle infrastructure equivalent of the TSA.
This is where your cycling community could advocate for changing the laws and advocate for better bike/multi-use lanes. Take a look at Tucson, AZ or even Lake Tahoe where the paths can and are easily used by pros to train on. Heck, you can do massive rides in Tucson and never really get on a road.
Again, not sure where you live but the USA has some of the most dangerous roads in the developed world and we have broken records for pedestrian, vehicle, and people on bicycle deaths for the last two to three years. On the main road next to my house, there have been 3 pedestrian/cyclist deaths and countless injuries alone in the last 18 months, including 1 child. There’s a great article on deadly “stroads” in the USA here: How a stretch of US-19 in Florida became the deadliest road for pedestrians - Vox and they are unfortunately everywhere. 40,000+ deaths/yr. and over 85,000 seriously maimed or injured/yr. is simply unacceptable in the richest, most powerful, nation on the planet, no?
I’ve ridden and raced road bikes since 1996 and since that time, I’ve had at least a half-dozen friends and close acquaintances die while training. I consider myself very lucky that I have not been hit and injured/killed myself. I was hit by a truck as child but was very lucky to come away mostly unscathed minus a black eye.
When built and applied correctly, bike/MU paths can be a game changer for safety but also a better driving experience. Additionally, where applicable, better designed roads that don’t incentivize speeding/reckless behavior can make the bike riding and driving experience better for all.
Just spent some time in a city, not to be named, that absolutely did it all wrong. What a freaking mess and ugly too. However, despite it being an entirely “slapped together” ped-bike-auto cohabitation, I could tell from the sheer extent of it that this was a civic priority. As annoying as it was for, say, an experienced rider, the Frankenstein did very clearly make all participants aware of the multi-use nature of the streets and sidewalks. As result of that, I got the impression very serious accidents and fatalities were unlikely.
I’m involved with WABA and some other cycling advocacy work in Washington, D.C. and like you I’m a pretty big fan of Strong Towns and enjoy NJB’s videos as well. We’ve made a lot of progress lately on getting more miles of bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes, but there’s still a long way to go. The network of protected lanes is pretty poorly designed, so even if the lanes themselves are fine, they often don’t go anywhere useful, or disappear at the most dangerous intersections. Furthermore bike lanes become temporary parking during busy hours and there’s almost zero enforcement of parking laws, people will even park right in the middle of the curbs for a protected lane.
We’re definitely improving, but its really hard when your city is treated as playground or commuter destination for people living in wealthier suburbs and exurbs. Most of our city council is pretty amenable to better walking and biking infrastructure, but the mayor, congress, and surrounding counties aren’t all that concerned. Also, don’t even get me started on how poorly WMATA is run (but at least you can bring bikes on the metro I guess?).
I’m usually pleasantly surprised by how vocal our competitive cycling community/ hobbyists/ “roadies” here in DC are in supporting better bike infrastructure, transit, and walkability. As others have pointed out in this thread good commuter cycling infrastructure may not always be good for fast road riding. However, I think that more people commuting and running their daily errands on bikes leads to more people getting involved in riding as a hobby in the long run, and lots of people here share that vision.
Are you talking about bike lanes on the road or designated MUPs? I’m just confused because I’m two hours north of Tucson and the pros that are down there, that I follow typically do their workouts on the road on bike lanes. Don’t see them on MUPs doing intervals and having used the Tucson bike paths it seems like that would be pretty dangerous to do but maybe we’re crossing wires on terminology.
The vast majority of cyclist fatalities in New York occur in the outer borough and involve people that use their bikes for work rather than recreation. These are the people I see needing better bike infrastructure and traffic control. as a very broad generalization I would say the average CT reader has more, time, money, and expertise to lend to bike advocacy than a typical delivery worker. That being said there is some very cool work being done by https://losdeliveristasunidos.org/. I think that it’s incumbent on those of use with the advantages of time and money to advocate for safer streets for all.
I think this is a good and overlooked topic for Cycling Tips. About 18 years ago I helped start our local (county) advocacy group after frustrations with commuting by bike and concern about patients becoming more sedentary. Thought there was need to have a paid advocate to represent cyclists at the governmental level. In some ways the organization has exceeded my expectations but in other ways has failed to really move the needle in getting people on bikes. The city and county government is now populated with cycling advocates (some were previous directors of the advocacy organization) and bike paths are now part of any new road project. The group has been doing a lot of school safety bike training and started a co-op type bike shop, mainly targeted at underserved populations. However, traffic has increased and road safety is still a huge problem with a couple of deaths every year from cyclists hit by trucks and cars. People are understandably reluctant to bike on a daily basis. This is a long term problem and will require reducing car travel inducements (increased housing density, not requiring multiple car parking spots for workplaces/apartments, restricting downtown parking spots). As Bill Gates has said, people way overestimate what can be done in one year and way underestimate what can happen in 10 years.
I should film my commute from home to work (5 kms to La Défense, the biggest business district in Europe). I have “cycling infrastructure” nearly the whole way and none of it makes sense:
painted bike lanes used mostly for parking and by motorbikes to dodge traffic
lanes on sidewalks with sketchy access (curbs, too narrow, in a turn, poles in the middle so that cars don’t park on sidewalks - and often a combination of several of those factors)
Stop signs always on the bike lane, so that bloody cyclists won’t slow poor motorists down (share a thought for that SUV engine that has to get 2 tons moving again because of a pedaling moron)
Cycling lanes on the edge of roundabouts, where you have to stop to let all cars pass before you can cross (and as the raison d’être of a roundabout is uninterrupted traffic flow, you NEVER can cross)
And of course the most dangerous places are not equipped (because that’s where it’s the hardest to do): big crossings and bloody bridges (narrow with 2-way roads where 2 stupid SUVs barely fit, and where moron drivers overtake you when there is no room to do so because “cyclist = slow = I don’t to wait = f*ck it I overtake - safely protected by my moronic 2 tons SUV”)
I’ll stop ranting here, you get the picture ^^ And yes, death to all SUV drivers
And most of France is similar, stupid afterthought infrastructure with one aim: do not disturb motor traffic with bike lanes.
In a nutshell on France: left, Rotterdam main station. Right, Paris Gare du Nord (2nd biggest train station in France in number of travels - with trains to the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany).