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Kinzie Street: The First of Many Protected Bike Lanes for Chicago

In his campaign for mayor, Rahm Emanuel pledged to make Chicago a more bike-friendly city. And in office, he set his sights high, aiming to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes in his first term.

His team wasted no time. Chicago DOT installed the city's first protected bike lane on Kinzie Street before Emanuel's first 30 days in office were over. Leading Emanuel's DOT is former Washington, DC DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, who clearly understands the connection between safe streets and the health of a city.

Last month Streetfilms traveled to Chicago to speak with the commissioner, ride on Kinzie Street, and bask in the city's cycling excitement.

And one piece of local trivia. The Blommer Chocolate Store is right on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane and boy does it smell good. It figured prominently in my all-time favorite response to an interview question about biking.

<p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Gabe Klein:</i>  [00:02] In essence a protected bike lane is a bike lane that cushions the cyclist, gives them their own space.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>David Gleason:</i>  [00:10] We’re on Kinzie, this is the first protected bike lane of any kind in Chicago.  It’s about a half mile long.  Kinzie is a connector between two of the busiest bike lanes in the city.  It is a connection for cyclists coming into the loop.  It originally was four lanes, two lanes in each direction.  Because it was low volume and we had a lot of extra width, we were able to take out a lane in each direction and install a kerbside bike lane with flexible posts, and depending on whether parking was present or not, an additional lane of parking between the bike lane and the travel lane.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Steven Vance:</i>  [00:46] A lot of bridges in Chicago have open metal grate decks, and with the protected bike lane on Kinzie, a treatment was added so that it is flat and safer to ride across.  And I’m excited that protected bike lanes will bring more treatments to open metal grate bridges.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>David Gleason:</i>  [01:04] When we embarked on the plan to install a protected bike lane, we wanted to pay a lot of attention on where the cyclists interacted with motorists at the intersections.  So we implemented a number of treatments through the intersection.  One we’re using what’s called elephant tracks colloquially, it’s a very thick dotted line.  Additionally we use bike symbols facing turning traffic or crossing traffic so approaching vehicles know that they are crossing a bicycle space.  And thirdly we’re using coloured pavement to highlight and draw attention to the bicycle space in the intersection.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Speaker:</i>  [01:42] I’ve been biking for about two years in Chicago and I love the bike lane.  I go out of my way to take it.  I just feel so much safer riding in the bike lane.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Gabe Klein:  </i> [01:54] There was a demand and we met the demand.  And what’s fascinating about it is that we put that protected bike lane almost instantly it went from 22% up to 49% mode share over the course of a few weeks.  We’ve even measured as high as 51% mode share for bikes during rush hour, which means more bikes than cars.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>David Gleason:</i>  [02:14] This is only the first.  Chicago’s second protected bike lane is under installation right now on Jackson.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Bradley Topol:</i>  [02:20] And today we’re out on Jackson Boulevard which will be the city’s second cycle track.  We’ve already got a lot of the paint lines down on our project, and we’re currently installing flexible delineators which are part of the protected bike lane.  It definitely separates the cars and the parking area from the bike track which is the left hand cycle track.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Gabe Klein:</i>  [02:38] Next spring you’re going to see the network start to take shape, extend out into the neighbourhoods more, extend into the loop a bit more.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Danny Solis:</i>  [02:44] How I got a protected bike lane is I asked for it.  We heard about the protected bike lane that was done on Kinzie Street.  We thought it was a tremendous idea.  Now we know that it is a great idea because people are using it in droves.  And because of this connection between my two communities and the proximity to Downtown and to the Lake, we thought this would be a perfect first protected bike lane for my Ward.  And I can’t wait to get it done.  I know my constituents are going to be very happy about it.  I’m looking forward to getting more.  I know that the Mayor wants 100 miles of protected bike lanes in the city, and I want to make sure that the 25<sup>th</sup> Ward gets its fair share of them.</font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Brandon Gobel:</i>  [03:27] The Kinzie bike path here and the other protected bike lanes that are being built in the city are an integral part of the bike network that’s going to help promote bicycle commuters and commerce to move throughout the city.  </font></p> <p> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"></font></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman"><i>Gabe Klein:</i>  [03:41] It’s been a wonderful thing to launch the first protected bike lane in the first 30 days of the Mayor’s tenure.  I think it’s excited the cycling community out there and the advocates.  It’s also shown that it makes streets safer for everybody, for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle users.</font> <br></p> <p><font size="3" face="Times New Roman">[music]</font></p> Transcription Sponsored by: <a href="http://transcriptdivas.co.uk">Transcript Divas Transcription Services</a>
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  • http://stopandmove.blogspot.com/ Jass

    Its amazing how quickly stuff can get done in some cases.

    Contrast that to Boston, where a cycle track was proposed, presented...and then a bike lane was mysteriously installed, with no comment on what happened behind the scenes that voids multiple public meetings that had agreed on the cycle track.

  • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

    "with no comment on what happened behind the scenes"
    That still happens in Chicago, often. 

  • http://www.manandvan.org/index.htm Ron Van

    Not only Chicago, all cities should change their politics and become bike-friendly!

  • Tallycyclist

    This looks fantastic!  I'm very glad to see segregated lanes gradually implemented into certain stretches of streets in some of our major cities in the US.  A lot of people are probably thinking that so far they haven't been the most aesthetically pleasing, but they serve the purpose which is the most important accomplishment for now.  When cycling modal shares increases enough, then perhaps they can be made more permanent like many of the segregated cycle tracks in northern Europe.  

    The only concern I would have is that at some of the intersections, the parked cars come quite close, like they're trying to squeeze in as much parking space as physically possible.  It's hard to get a sense of how pleasant these junctions are just from watching the video, but maybe it's not so bad.  I see it all the time in cities where they push parking all the way up to the edge, blocking visibility for everyone.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Logan-T-Huge/100001895311343 Logan T Huge

    Due to the incline this will likely result in more cyclists being seriously injured as automobiles and heavy trucks make right turns and can't easily see the cyclists who will be moving at a higher speed than anticipated.  Good road design will make safety easy, this makes it difficult.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Logan-T-Huge/100001895311343 Logan T Huge

    Due to the incline this will likely result in more cyclists being seriously injured as automobiles and heavy trucks make right turns and can't easily see the cyclists who will be moving at a higher speed than anticipated.  
    Good road design makes safety easy and the default, this makes it difficult.

  • Marsha Kramer’s Eyebrow

    So what was there before was safer?

  • http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.com/ Karen Lynn Allen

    Since I don't live in Chicago, I can't try out this bike lane myself to see if it is a dangerous design.  So I tried look up any data supporting the premise that this protected bicycle lane increases accidents for bicyclists.

    What I found (some of this is mentioned in the video):
    From survey Chicago DOT did three months after the bike lane was installed:
    --Of surveyed bikers, nearly 90 percent of them state that they feel safe or very safe on the bike lane.
    -Nearly 50 percent of those who were surveyed reported that they feel
    that motorist's behavior has improved since the installation of the
    Kinzie bike lane.
    -Bicycling traffic during rush hour is up nearly 60 percent since completion.
    -A study from the CDOT reported that more than 40 percent of surveyed
    individuals admitted to changing their routes in the city to now take
    the new bike lane.
    -CDOT reported that currently bicyclists account for approximately 55
    percent of eastbound traffic and more than 30 percent of all traffic.

    Let's see, people feel safer.  Motorist behavior has improved. Bicyclist are going out of their way to take the new bike lane.

    I couldn't find any data or article about an accident on Kinzie Street, although it is apparent that some bikers are annoyed that Postal Trucks are parking in the bike lane.  (How are they doing that if it's protected by parked cars?) I did find some gruesome accounts of bicyclist deaths in other parts of Chicago, however. One would expect after three months that if Kinzie Street were a dangerous design people would be experiencing enough near misses that they would be much more negative about the street or even avoid it altogether. 

    It seems to me congratulations are in order.  Good job, Chicago!

  • Anonymous

    And the right-hook is never a problem with the older US layout?

  • Anonymous

    @facebook-100001895311343:disqus If you daylight the intersection (removing the last 3-4 street parking spots), drivers should be able to very clearly see the bicyclists. Not sure if this is being done on this particular street.

    But regardless, as @TAPman:disqus said, even without daylighting, it's not worse than it is with a traditional bike lane with regards to this issue. And in all other respects, it's much better than the traditional bike lane. So it's a huge improvement.

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey

    I like most of what I saw here but YES, that intersection shown over and over again looks like a left and right hook waiting to happen and I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw this.  I also believe that additional "daylighting" by the removal of an additional parking spot or two on the uphill portion would appear to be in order.  I could see even the most casual cyclist being able to come down this hill and entering the intersection at close to 30mph.  While I support the construction of cycletracks, at least with a conventional bike lane a cyclist would be more visible to traffic and could even enter the regular  traffic lane if they approach the prevailing speed of motor traffic.  The Devil is in even the finest details!!

    Finally, when are we ever going to see an independent, peer reviewed report proving the claimed benefits of left side bike lanes and cycletracks on oneway streets?  All these left side bike facilities are being built on unproven hypotheses with little empirical evidence supporting their efficacy.

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey


    I totally support the construction of cycletracks!!! 

    HOWEVER, "feeling safe" and "being safe" are two different things entirely and I'm very disappointed to see my fellow professionals trotting out this bogus statistic every time they want to "prove" the safety of a cycletrack.  Many cyclists also feel "safer' riding on sidewalks but if one looks at crash statistics in most any town, most bicycle crashes happen when a cyclist, riding on the sidewalk tries to cross a street at an intersection.  I'm not saying that this or other cycletracks are as dangerous as riding on a sidewalk but you need a MUCH better metric to truly prove the safety of any bicycle facility.

    The only statistic that seems to have any merit is the one that states that cyclist feel that driver behavior has improved with the construction of the facility.  All the other stats are just a different way of saying that cyclists "feel" safer and not much more.

  • Anonymous

    I ride by the Blommer Chocolate factory to and from work five days a week. On some days the smell of chocolate is so overpowering it takes my breath away for a moment! How great is that!?

  • http://karenlynnallen.blogspot.com/ Karen Lynn Allen

    HI Andy,

    Sometimes I think "feeling safer" is also a way to say "this feels much less stressful and makes me like bicycling more" which is not the same thing, but it is a good thing. But I do think if people are choosing this lane over other routes, it must mean they are not having near misses. Any intersection or road that has a high accident rate also has near misses where an accident almost occurs but is avoided just in time, often due to driver or biker quick reflexes. Now everyone's tolerance for risk and danger is different, but if I have near misses on a road with cars almost hitting me (brakes screeching, me having to swerve violently) or I hear accidents have happened there, the next time I choose a different route if I possibly can. As to riding on sidewalks, because of obstacles and the fact that, indeed, at intersections drivers aren't looking for you, I don't consider sidewalks "safe" at all, though if I had small children on their own bikes and no cycle track, I would use them and be very, very careful as we crossed each intersection.

    The biggest indicator of safety is that accidents on this bike lane apparently haven't happened. But perhaps they have and there is data to support that the lane is more dangerous? Especially since so many more people are using this street now, if it were more dangerous, wouldn't a whole bevy of accidents have happened by now?

    (Actually, there is a great deal of evidence that shows that just increasing the sheer number of bicyclists on a given road increases bicyclist safety.  So a lane that appeals to bicyclists and increases the number of people bicycling tends to create safety just by its existence.)

  • Tilbbok

    Nothing wrong with trying to further improve new lanes but this seems like a huge success as it has been everywhere it has been implemented. Good job Chicago !

  • http://www.walkeaglerock.wordpress.com Severin

    Andy, the biggest reason why people don't cycle is because they don't FEEL safe. You can tell them "statistically speaking pretending you are a car while riding your bike is the safest option". People won't buy it, they will stick to the sidewalk because it feels safe. Subjective safety should be a high priority and that's what cycle tracks provide– subjective and when designed well, physical safety. Also, as more people FEEL safe they will cycle more, and more people who were previously scared will come out and start cycling and there is an undeniable safety in numbers and so, cycle tracks DO making cycling safer than some bogus door-zone bike lane or sharrows 

  • Gerald F

    Bottom line: As number of cyclists goes up, drivers become much more aware of the need to look out for cyclists.  This is why Copenhagen and Amsterdam are so safe, EVEN in areas lacking safe infrastructure.  "Feeling safe" creates more cyclists, which ultimately leads to true safety.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Iamtoddedelman Todd Edelman

    I like people from Chicago.
    This infra. gets a B-. Why does it not get an A+? First of all because it is still really short. Second, the intersection treatments as others have mentioned. The painting and heavy dots are good, and everyone is right about extending the no parking zone depending on grade, but also - as one can see at about :20 - the path becomes a lane and bikes going straight have a potential conflict with motor vehicles turning right. And how is it at the signalled intersections? Signs are bad crutches for bad design... and those signs are small. How fast is this street, by the way? Are children riding on it unaccompanied?
    Formally this repeats the classic Streetfilms cheerleading style, where the only criticism comes in the comments. This marginalizes critical views. I realize that getting a more comprehensive picture would be more difficult to do. 

  • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

    I posted a video of the protected bike lane on 18th Street that Alderman Solis was talking about.

    It was not yet under construction when Elizabeth was in town. It's still under construction, though, awaiting flexible posts, green pavement, and plates over the open metal grate bridge (which I talked about in this Streetfilms video). 

  • Dudette


    We love this lane here. I give this comment a B- and that is being generous.

  • Anonymous

    It is very apparent that this intersection has been made more dangerous by the "protected" bikelane. The turning cars simply can't see the bicyclists coming down the hill. Sure, drivers will compensate by slowing down and trying to see if a bike is coming before they turn, but it has been made more difficult to avoid collisions and sooner or later someone will screw up. Serious car/bicycle collisions are very rare at any one intersection, so it may take several years before the statistics show whether the safety of this intersection has significantly degraded, but one can see intuitively that it has been made more dangerous.

    These designs are obviously based on perceived risk by beginning bicyclists, not on actual safety risks. The protected bicycle lane may make the bicyclists feel less stressed but in the longer run they will probably be less safe.

    Someone asked why the Dutch designs, which sometimes use this approach, are safe. A couple of points: 1) They seldom put bikes between parked cars and the curb and when they do, they often have signal lights at the intersection  with a bicycle-only phase. So these right-turn "hook" conflicts don't exist that often. 2) The traffic speed in places like Amsterdam are much slower than in the USA, and those speeds are strickly enforced. Bicycles go much slower there,also, they sometimes use the phrase "accelerated walking" to describe bicycle speeds. And there are no hills to speed up bikes. Typically the bikes are only going 8-10 mph. So there is more time for eveybody to react and those collisions that do occur are much less serious. In the USA, Our slowest speed is typically marked as 25 mph and cars actually are often going 35 mph. This is much less common in the Netherlands, where a lot of these treatments are on slow speed roads.

    So the USA is not the Amsterdam in many fundemental ways - Dutch cities are small and compact and people go slower. If Chicago wants to reduce street speeds to  about 18-20 mph and strictly enforce those speeds with heavy policing and speed humps, etc., you could get away with these designs. Push for the motor vehicle speed restrictions BEFORE putting in these "protected" lanes!

    Someone asked about a peer review study of the safety of bicycle facilities. The city of Copenhagen did a before-and-after study of various facility designsm, including this design. It was very well designed, extensive and reviewed. They found ALL of them decreased safety when normalized for the amount of bicycle and car traffic. This design was particulary bad for increasing pedestrian/bicycle collisions and increasing bicycle/car collisions at intersections. In the study, the safer the bicyclists felt the higher the increase in accident rates, sometimes very significantly. But they concluded the facilites were a success because bicyclists liked them, but they absolutely did not increase safety and generally degraded safety. Places like Copenhagen can get away with decreasing safety as bicycling is already very safe there for reasons similar to the Netherlands that do not occur in US cities.

  • Tallycyclist

    It's really about design at the intersection if what you want to achieve is absolute safety, as most collisions do happen there.  Yes, drivers in Denmark and Holland are way more careful about watching for cyclist.  But why is that?  Because of integrated infrastructural design and decades of planning which have led to a culture where driving and cycling are more of less equal in the transportation equation.  

    Whether or not the intersections are statistically safer with/without separated infrastructural doesn't matter much to the 95% of the commuting population who are not bike enthusiasts.  If they don't feel safe riding a bike along roads, most won't do it, or will quite within the first few attempts.  Some of our US cities have only started to put in bike lanes, separated lanes and other amenities in the last decade or so.  Our cycling rates remain around 1% in 2011.  So even if 'vehicular cycling' is statistically safer, it has failed to increase modal share significantly in any way in this country. Most people don't want to 'take the lane' or 'share the road' with 5000 lb vehicles in a culture where many drivers see them as an annoyance.  Those of us who do this also don't necessarily enjoy it.  

    The study you mentioned about Copenhagen has been open to much criticism because it has some loose ends in the methodology.  Furthermore, it states that whenever separated infrastructure is put in, the number of cyclists increases.  Until more people cycle, how are we ever going to develop a culture where cycling is viewed as mainstream for transportation?  

    In my previous post I mentioned my concern about the parked cars being too close to the intersection in this video.  Daylighting would help alleviate this situation, as others have already suggested.  It's going to take time to develop a real bike-commuting culture in this country.  Even if we transform our cities to be like Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen or Copenhagen overnight, we aren't going to achieve the same cycling rates or safety stats. as Holland or Denmark immediately.  It took time for them and they already have 40 years head start.  But if we keep maintaining status quo, it's pretty obvious that in 50 years, at best things will still be same old same old in the US.  

  • http://twitter.com/IanBrettCooper Ian Brett Cooper

    A bike lane that camouflages cyclists from motorists' view (by allowing parking between the lane and the road) and which therefore exposes them to an increased incidence of right hooks and left crosses cannot be seriously described as 'protected'. This is a dangerously exposed bike lane - a bike lane that only 'seems' protected to those who are relatively new to cycling. A more accurate description might be a 'cyclist trap', designed to lure new and unseasoned cyclists into a corridor so that they can be most easily killed. Essentially, infrastructure like this is an open air, free range cyclist slaughterhouse.

    At 00:42 on the video you can even see a cyclist swerve out of the lane because he sees a motorist threatening to right hook him! Even this video, touting the bike lane, shows how dangerous it is!

    At 2:34 the video shows a left hand bicycle track - this is even more dangerous, as at intersections, from a motorist's perspective, cyclists are coming from an unexpected direction. How this bike lane transits to streets at intersections is not explained, but it cannot be good. Again, we're talking about a very dangerous installation.

    Whoever designed and approved these death traps should be fired. When this infrastructure ends up killing cyclists (as it must), these people should face trial. But they won't, because no one who has authority has any idea why these things are so dangerous. Why? Because the people who design, approve and oversee these projects, and the police, doctors, lawyers and judges who deal with the accidents they cause, are not experienced cyclists (they're not usually cyclists at all).

    I mean, am I one of the only people who can see this? Have DOT and most of the cycling community lost their minds? When will cyclists and transportation engineers catch on to the fact that bicycle infrastructure like this seems to be designed to get cyclists killed? This sort of thing would be fodder for The Daily Show if it wasn't so horrifying.

    I advise cyclists to avoid this death trap at all costs. With deadly infrastructure like this, I thank the stars that Illinois has no mandatory sidepath use law. If it ever does, for your sake, use a different street - one that doesn't force you into a killing zone. The road is far safer than this. Drivers can see cyclists on the road. With this thing, drivers see cyclists about half a second before they run them over, and by that time, it's too late to prevent it.

    Bike lanes 'feel' safer, so there's a demand for them, and cycling will indeed increase due to infrastructure like this - but injuries and deaths will increase exponentially. Anyone who knows the real risks knows that bike paths and bike lanes are at least twice as dangerous as riding on the road with traffic. Studies by Aultman-Hall (1998 & 1999), Wachtel (2001), Jensen (2007) and Agerholm (2009) have all confirmed this time after time (please, look them up). I hope the idiots who approved this are eventually held accountable - they have access to the studies too, so they should know better!

  • http://twitter.com/IanBrettCooper Ian Brett Cooper

    "But I do think if people are choosing this lane over other routes, it must mean they are not having near misses."

    They won't, until they do. And they will, at least twice as often as they would if they avoided the bike path and cycled on the road.

    The problem is, people don't tend to assess safety using logic. They use anecdotal evidence instead. they say "Well, no one has died on this bike path yet, so it must be safe". But cycling is a very safe activity. You're not going to see deaths every month even on a very dangerous road or path. But when you double the danger, the danger is doubled, even if you don't recognize it - even if it looks safe and makes you feel safe. Contrary to popular opinion, statistics are far more reliable than gut feeling.

  • Anonymous

     Tallycyclist - do you mean it is OK to knowingly create facilities that are more dangerous than an untreated street but that naive bicyclists THINK are safer,  and actually advertise them as an improvement, just to attract more bicyclists?

    Even if you think that "safety in numbers' will eventually make the more dangerous facilities safer, is it moral to expect bicyclists to unknowingly sacrifice themselves to your goal?

  • http://twitter.com/IanBrettCooper Ian Brett Cooper

    Peteathome wrote: "Tallycyclist - do you mean it is OK to knowingly create facilities that are more dangerous than an untreated street but that naive bicyclists THINK are safer,  and actually advertise them as an improvement, just to attract more bicyclists?"

    Pete, I've talked with DOT officials here in Maryland who admit that outright. DOT's mandate seems to be to get as many people as possible onto bikes, no matter what the cost. The ones I've communicated with openly admit that their function is to cater to cyclists' fears and desires, and that safety is secondary.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.


    Although there are obviously some improvements that could be made in a perfect world to many of the US style adaptions of the European protected cycletrack the absolute truth is these roads are so much safer than they used to be and to suggest otherwise is not being truthful, and it dilutes the effectiveness of anything you are trying to say.

    In NYC we have had the same designs in effect for over three years now and there has not been one fatality in the lanes, ridership has doubled in 4 years, and the streets are safer for every mode of travel.

  • rc nyc

    Essentially, infrastructure like this is an open air, free range cyclist slaughterhouse.
    What are you smoking Ian Brett Cooper?  We should stay away from that stuff 'cause it's causing come nasty hallucinations.

    What are you talking about?  Do you own a bicycle?  Have you ridden these lanes?  Get a clue.

  • Tallycyclist

    peteathorme- as I said below, I'm not convinced they did a great job at the junctions.  Nowhere did I ever say that it's okay to KNOWINGLY create infrastructure that is more dangerous.  I don't work for any DOT or know any individuals who work for the DOT in Chicago, so I cannot say what their motivations were.  Maybe you have the inside-scoop about this, in which case you can make such assertions.  

    I don't even really know how to respond to your statement about 'bicyclists potentially sacrificing themselves for my goal.' You make it sound as if I'm the culprit for the demise of people who have lost, and continue to lose, their lives in traffic accidents due to poor traffic planning, or that I have some malicious idea that will kill people unnecessarily.  People are 'unknowingly sacrificing their lives' in auto accidents everyday because our urban planning is in general very poor and our streets are dominated by too many metal boxes.  

    I don't have numbers to post right now about cycling safety stats, but you can't just take percentages for face value without looking at other variables.  Maybe some of our roads without any infrastructure aren't statistically more dangerous because the few cycling on them are experienced.  And if nobody is cycling on them then potential fatalities for cyclists is going to be 0%.  I like that percentage as it means no cyclists are dying.  But that doesn't help with making our cities more livable or easing congestion if nobody is cycling. 

    Is it possible for DOT to make the wrong decisions, certainly.  I would like to see more separated infrastructure like those in Holland, which are statistically and subjectively safe.  We probably aren't going to see anything like that anytime soon, unfortunately.  Only time will tell how this new lane in Chicago will hold out.  The alternative is to keep the status quo of car-centric planning, forcing most people to drive everywhere.  And then we're probably unfortunately not going to ever see less-than 30,000 + auto traffic-related fatalities each year in the US.   

  • http://twitter.com/IanBrettCooper Ian Brett Cooper

    How do you know these roads are much safer? Have you compared injuries and deaths before and after? No fatality in three years is not proof that the road is safer. I mean, how often do you think roads like this have fatalities - it's not that often - nowhere near. Cycling is a very safe activity.

    You don't know that they're safer, and the studies show that they are not. To simply assume and insist that they are safer when no study has been done to prove your point is to fall into the same uncritical thinking that supports these death traps. And to suggest that I'm not being truthful when the studies so clearly support my argument is disingenuous.

    We need facts, not hope and blind acceptance of the most optimistic view. Hope and acceptance of bad design, in cases like these, kills. You can ignore the facts all you like, you can close your ears to the truth, but the studies do not lie. All your insistence that things are better only serves to injure and kill more cyclists.

  • http://twitter.com/IanBrettCooper Ian Brett Cooper

    I've been cycling for 40 years and cycled tens of thousands of miles in 15 different countries. I have passed the LAB bicycle instructor exam and taken the instructor course. The only accident I've had in 40 years of cycling was on a segregated bike path. I've owned 9 different bikes in my life and cycling is my primary mode of transportation. I've never owned a car. When it comes to cycling, I assure you I know my stuff. If I'm smoking anything, it's reality.

    What are your qualifications? Ever taken a cycling course? How much mileage and years of cycling do you have under your belt? Do you have a clue?

    Segregated infrastructure is a death trap. It sends people into intersections with no visibility and at a severe risk of being hit. You cycle on these things if you want, but if you get hit, don't come crying to me, because I've warned you. Ignore the warnings at your peril.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.


    Just examine the facts on the NYC DOT on before and after stats on all of their projects. CASE CLOSED! reductions on all of these streets in deaths and injuries for bikes, peds, AND motorists and a safer cycling environment. Those are FACTS and these paths have increased cycling and people who want to. Really you need to do some research. I'm so happy the Vehicular Cycling crowd's narrow views on cycling no longer are the mainstream or we would still have only small handfuls of cyclists in cities

  • http://twitter.com/IanBrettCooper Ian Brett Cooper

    Point me to the links to the DOT data and I will show you exactly why they are suspect. Case closed? People tend to say that when they want the case not to be studied too deeply. Let's take a look at the data. The case will be closed when it's been critically assessed.

  • Rich Froh

    I have watched a lot of videos about cycling in traffic.  These include: cycling in bike lanes, on cycle tracks, as a "gutter bunny" (hugging the right curb), and as "Savvy Cyclist". Once you have seen these comparisons and actually tried the different ways of riding, it is very difficult to choose any of the  "cyclist inferiority" ways of riding.

    like Ian, with many bikes owned and many miles of riding (although I own motor vehicles too and hold a commercial driver's license with endorsements), my only "close calls" on a bicycle were on cycle tracks or riding to the far right of the roadway.  The further to the left I ride, the fewer "close passes" vehicles make and the earlier motorists move over into another lane to pass me.  The more that I drive my bike like any other vehicle, the more civility I experience from other drivers.

    It is correct that ignorant people choose cyclist inferiority methods of commuting by bike.  Although ignorance is a curable condition, instead it is the exalted status of victimhood (WATCH OUT FOR US!!!) that our bike lobby seeks on behalf of tomorrow's teeming masses of "miceaclists".  Our current national policy is to promote cyclist inferiority riding in keeping with the "leading brand" of "bike advocacy" - as opposed to the "better brand", which promotes cyclist equality and real safety over "feeling comfortable' and "butts on bikes" numbers.

    The USA has much bigger distances, population, and cultural obstacles to conquer than Europe when it comes to transportation bicycling challenges. Playing "catch-up" with Europe (where bike facilities are already being out-grown!) is a terrible idea! We need new and better solutions that empower cyclists and make bicycle transportation highly efficient, safe, and practical. Here is a proposed road "treatment" - Treat the road like you have a right to use it, because YOU DO! 


  • Vehicular Pedestrian

    Ian Brett Cooper:

    Here's an idea: You and your small, exclusive, bearded, male, 50-something-year-old clan of vehicular cyclists from the 1980s can still bike all over Chicago in the middle of the roadway with the cars. There's nothing stopping you fellows from doing that. There are still TENS THOUSANDS of miles of un-protected motor vehicle travel lanes for your vehicular biking pleasure. No one is going to take that away from you any time soon.

    Apparently, you have not noticed that there is a huge number of your fellow citizens who have never felt comfortable biking in car lanes with cars. Many of these citizens would very much like to try biking on Chicago streets. We would like to join other world cities in biking with our children, our groceries and our elderly friends in safe, protected bike lanes. We see these kinds of bike lanes making streets safer and more pedestrian and bike-friendly all over the world. We want to try this in Chicago now in a few spots.

    So, please, while we try out this new idea, do us a favor and mind your own business. Protected bike lanes are working very well to make streets safer in NYC, Washington D.C., London, Paris and many other cities around the world. I live in Boston and you vehicular cyclists have done ENORMOUS damage here in holding back this city's infrastructure and insuring that our city is far less bike-friendly than it has to be.

    See, Ian. You are one kind of cyclist. You are not every kind of cyclist. Not everyone rides a bike like a 50-year-old bearded man. The way that you want streets to work is not necessarily best for the majority of your potential fellow cyclists.

  • http://twitter.com/IanBrettCooper Ian Brett Cooper

    I agree that there are tens of thousands of miles of roads that we cyclists who are not afraid of the road can use. I'm just trying to prevent other cyclists from being injured or killed on infrastructure that is incredibly dangerous. What are you doing? 'Cos to me, it seems like you're trying to get people killed. You have every right to ride on dangerous infrastructure if you want. But I think people who are unaware of the danger need to be warned.

    It would be far better for everyone if bicycle advocates became CYCLIST advocates and looked out for the welfare of cyclists rather than the welfare of bicycle manufacturers. Bums on saddles sells bikes - it doesn't keep cyclists safe. Maybe if bike advocates spent their time educating people about the real dangers caused by traffic fear and about the real safety of cycling legally and confidently in the road, instead of lobbying to get ribbons of concrete poured alongside roads, streams and railways, fewer cyclists would get killed and injured

    By the way, I'm 49. I don't become 50-something until next June. Yes, many cyclists who are unafraid of traffic are older, but that doesn't mean they're wrong. People my age and older grew up in an environment in which road cycling was encouraged by a government and a society which knew where the real risks were. That knowledge got lost somewhere along the way. Hopefully, we'll find it again. In the meantime, cyclists who shouldn't die will die. I don't like that and I won't be silent while it's happening.

    Heck, I'm not even against bike infrastructure if it's done right. The problem is, it's never done right. Protected bike paths would be a great idea if they had underpasses at intersections which would prevent intersection conflicts (which are the cause of the vast majority of bicycle-car collisions). But they never do, because underpasses are expensive.

  • Jprosenfeld

    Unlike Ian, I am neutral on most bicycling infrastructure. I am merely pointing out an intersection design that is going to make the bicyclists using it obviously less safe than if no treatment was made. Pure and simple. I think that if a design makes bicyclists "feel" safer, it should make them "actually" safer. Not be an illusion.

    I think it IS possible to make non-vehicular bicyclists feel safer and also to be safer. Unfortunately, it would be expensive to do it right and it also involves things like the strict enforcement of vehicle speed laws, the addition at intersections of new lights and light phases that would slow everybody down, and so on. But I'm not against that if we can get the political will to do so.

    But defending any and all infrastructure, even if it is obviously designed with no consideration to safety, strikes me as an odd form of advocacy.

  • Jprosenfeld

    Any idea of the snow removal plan for these? I know Chicago is good at snow removal on some of the paths. Special plow? Or do they take the poles down in winter?

    We have a similar road treatment in my area and the plows just use the side lanes as places to put the snow in the winter. So it makes it worst for us as the lanes are unusable for bicycling when it snows and what's left of the road lane is too narrow to share. So in winter they make a road that would have been sharable unusable.

  • http://www.walkeaglerock.wordpress.com Severin

    To those seeking to make excuses against infrastructure and the safety of bicyclists:


    You can thank me  later!

  • Anonymous

    There is a big contradiction in your argument. You say that the fact that there have been zero fatalities on the protected bike lanes of NYC proves nothing because cycling is already very safe. You say that bike paths are twice as dangerous as riding on the road. And then you call bike paths "cyclist death traps". How can a risk of "very safe" multiplied by two suddenly become a "death trap" risk? At most, I'd call it "almost very safe".

    I looked up the paper by Agerholm, and found that it does not support your "death trap" claim AT ALL.

    First of all, they found a NON-statistically-significant increase of 14% in injuries (21% for cyclists). They didn't look at fatalities, (evidently because it would be hopeless to try to obtain statistically significant results from fatalities as the numbers are too small). 

    Second, the Danish cycle paths have a different design and allow mopeds, which were the only type of road user that had a "nearly significant" increase in injuries (the conclusion, if you ask me, is that mopeds on bike paths are a bad idea). I'm not convinced that the results are applicable to the bike paths in NYC and Chicago.

    Third, I find the way in which the authors estimate the "expected" number of accidents highly questionable. They compare with a "control road" that didn't have a bike path added, and assume that the road that got the bike path should change its accident rate to the same extent as the control road. That is, as if the introduction of the bike path had no influence in the number and kinds of road users. In fact, what was observed is that the number of accidents decreased slightly when the bike paths were introduced, but not as much as it decreased on the reference roads.

    To give a concrete example, imagine that, in NYC, we put a bike path on 1st Ave but not on 3rd Ave, and we used the latter as our "control road". After a few years, we find that the number of bike accidents on 3rd Ave. decreased 30%, while on 1st Ave it decreased only 5%. The Danish authors would treat this as a "35% increase", obtained by dividing the new rate for 1st Ave by an "expected rate" that is 30% smaller than the rate before adding the bike path. But it could very well be that bike traffic on 3rd Ave decreased 30%, while on 1st Ave it increased 100%! (taking not only some 3rd Ave users who decided to make a detour to use the bike path, but also new users that decided to bike only because the bike path became available.) This would mean that the actual per-user rate stayed constant on 3rd Ave but decreased by more than 50% on 1st Ave.

    I haven't looked at the other studies you cite, but given what I saw here I wouldn't be surprised if you weren't also misrepresenting their results, or their applicability to the situation in NYC or Chicago, or the studies themselves had questionable methodologies too.

  • Joe R.

    @qrt145:disqus It's difficult to say whether the protected bike lanes make things better or worse because there are confounding effects.  The biggest one is that installation of the protected lanes narrowed the roadway, and slowed down motor vehicle speeds as a result.  If there is any increase in safety, then this might be the primary reason for it.  Cars going more slowly are less likely to injure cyclists/pedestrians, and less likely to hit them in the first place.  The only true way to see if protected lanes make things better or worse for cyclists would be to compare a road which has one to a road which doesn't, but only if both roads have similar traffic speeds and volumes, and are located fairly close to each other (so geography/driving habits of disparate locations don't add confounding effects).
    I don't doubt that protected lanes make novice cyclists feel safer, and there's safety in numbers if we can get more people riding.  The real question though is can we do better?  I think we can, but that means spending more money for total grade separation.  A route which has bikes, and only bikes, on it will be the safest way for a cyclist to travel, as well as the least stressful.

    Regarding vehicular cycling, I'm actually the same age as Ian, and as a result this has been the way I've been forced to ride due to lack of suitable infrastructure until recently.  To me there's nothing sacrosanct about vehicular cycling.  It just represented a practical way to deal with a problem for which governments were unwilling to spend any money on until very recently.  I for one would welcome cycling infrastructure which lets me ride free from the stress of constantly dealing with multi-ton vehicles.  The fact that I'm fairly competent at it after 33 years is irrelevant. I'd just as soon not have to deal with it any more-at all.  For that to happen though, we need to do better than protected bike lanes, which at best are a halfway house. 

  • Cathykora

    Great news for such a large city and in the Midwest! Another step for cycling and better air quality.

  • http://twitter.com/biketo Herb

    Ian Cooper:

    You are cherry-picking your studies. Most of the recent research on protected bike lanes such as in Montreal, NYC, and Copenhagen shows that protected bike lanes mean fewer crashes and fewer injuries for cyclists, and at the very least that they don't make any difference in risk but that they get many more people using the bike route. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks at any rate. It's a bonus that cycle tracks appear to be safer than a similar road with no cycling facility. If you look on wikipedia you can see that there is plenty of research that supports cycle tracks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segregated_cycle_facilities

    You said: "You don't know that they're safer, and the studies show that they are not. To simply assume and insist that they are safer when no study has been done to prove your point is to fall into the same uncritical thinking that supports these death traps."

    I'm not sure why people should take you at your word. You don't make any claim in the comments that you're an expert in such matters and that you can point to a comprehensive survey of the studies to prove your point.

    I'm a CAN-Bike Instructor (Canadian cycling safety course) in Toronto but I believe a lot more in providing some cycling skills to people rather than try to get their buy-in to the "vehicular cycling" dogma. I don't think it's a coincidence that the hotbed for vehicular cycling right now seems to be southern Florida with the "CyclingSavvy" folks. Very few people bike in Florida, they have virtually no cycling infrastructure, no political power to put in cycling infrastructure and have a fairly high fatality/injury rate given the cycling population compared to places like Toronto. I was told this by a visiting CyclingSavvy instructor. Their education program seriously drifts into hard-line dogma, giving me the impression that such dogma is much more likely to be borne where almost no one bikes.

    Most cyclists in major North American cities want bike lanes now and are smart enough to know that some measure of skills comes along with it. But that is a far cry from "vehicular cycling". Likewise, there is no sign of a counter-revolution in the Netherlands and Denmark against all their protected bike lanes.

  • Chris Mcnally

    great video, thanks! This gives me hope about the future of cycling everywhere in the US.

    I was a "vehicular cyclist" living in Boston and commuting by bike for about 6 years, then I moved to NYC 6 years ago during this incredible bike and bike infrastructure boom. It took me a long time to appreciate bike lanes. Like many "vehicular cyclists" I thought bike lanes were death traps, convincing cyclists they were safe but setting them up for crashes. Many bike lanes were striped in the door zone. Any experienced cyclist can see that 'contra flow' bike paths contradict motorists expectations and present problems. Certainly the issue of the right hook is a problem in the 'parked car protected' bike lanes like Kinzie.

    HOWEVER. After a number of years with these various NYC attempts at bike improvements, I think we are learning and making it better for cyclists.  There are problems, but the most incredible thing is that it seems every time we install a new piece of infrastructure, more people are inspired to cycle. And as we learn what cyclists need, these treatments are improving. I would recommend anyone check out Allen St in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for what might be the best cycling infrastructure on a roadway in the US.

    My point is that some bike infrastructure may be hazardous to start, but the increase it brings in the number of cyclists improves everyone's safety, and the more cyclists we have the more and better infrastructure we get and this will eventually make cycling safe for everyone.

  • Ian Brett Cooper

    What was there before was safer, because cyclists were not lured into a facility that forced them into conflict with turning motorists. Before, all cyclists were expected to use the road, and in the road you can take the lane when approaching a turn, thus preventing most turning conflicts. You can't do that on a cycle path.

  • Ian Brett Cooper

    Copenhagen and Amsterdam are safer because cycling speeds are much lower. Yet cycling, even in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, is less safe than it could be, because cycle paths and lanes, by their very nature, increase turning conflicts and reduce overall safety.

    In the US, we don't have a plan to reduce traffic speeds. So far from making things safer, our push to install bicycle infrastructure will result in more casualties.

  • Brian Donovan

    Wonderful. Cars kill bike and walkers. Keep them separate.

    unprotected roadside bike lanes are death traps.

    Holland paints a line down the sidewalks for walking and cycling. Works great.

  • Brian Donovan

    Holland is 5 times safer, no helmets, not road side bike lanes, and you can ride on the sidewalks. Most of the the US studies are garbage.