A post on GGW about a near miss on Connecticut Avenue near the spot where Alice Swanson was killed triggered a debate about bike lanes. One we've had a few times here. [Full disclosure: I started out for them, then become more ambivalent, but have since moved back into the pro-bike lane camp]. Later he linked to a study that attempts to be neutral on the debate.
This paper critically reviews the claims of advocates on each side of this controversy and finds that what passes for hard fact is often conjecture and exaggeration, including assertions about car-bike crashes, and the potential of both bike lanes and education to affect bicyclist safety and behavior.
Unfortunately, the paper comes off as a bit wishy-washy, the message being "Bicycling is not an exact science, so keep an open mind." Though these recommendations all make sense
- Replace “experience” or “skill” levels theories with the concept of a normal and natural continuum of levels of traffic tolerance. Drop the idea that there are two kinds of bicyclists; one kind described by terms such as experienced, skilled, expert, real, serious, assertive, knowledgeable, vehicular, adult, commuter, fearless, elite; and the other kind falling into categories like inexperienced, unskilled, occasional, recreational, timid, phobic. An either/or, right/wrong, black/white way of thinking is the one-eyed prophet’s trade mark. The built environment is a form of nonverbal communication. It’s meaning is imprecise and subject to various interpretations. It will elicit different emotions and behaviors from different cyclists.
- Know, but don’t worship, crash statistics; and respect cyclists with all levels of traffic tolerance. Some people think skydiving is life’s ultimate experience. Some would not dream of engaging in what to them would be such a frightening activity, no matter how much training they were offered. This second group is not phobic and neither are those who feel uncomfortable bicycling in heavy traffic.
- Advocate more flexibility in bike lane design to make the system image more closely reflect an accurate mental model of healthy car-bike interactions.
- Take a problem-solving approach to bicycle transportation planning. That is, start by gathering information about the bicycling obstacles and opportunities specific to a site, analyze the problems, then—and only then—choose fitting solutions from among many possibilities.
- Beware of miracle cures and silver bullets. When someone claims fantastic accident-reducing powers for bike lanes, or bicyclist education, or whatever, you can bet it’s an estimate, not documented fact, and that it’s based on limited and biased information. There is no single “miracle drug” that alone will create a healthy bicycling environment.
- Broaden safety-oriented and comfort-oriented programs by striving to nurture bicyclists’ “sense of competence.”
He does "make a case for hybrid lanes, but only to illustrate that there are alternatives to current bike lane designs that are worth pursuing". Hybrid lanes are what we would now call sharrows.