Tag Archive for: safe bicycling

The Quarter Mile Stroad Hack

In my initial “Stroad Hack” article, I described a hack involving two intersections. I referred briefly to the quarter mile on a different stroad, but I didn’t go into detail on that.

This post will focus on the quarter mile, on Gorham Road. It stretches from left to right in the image below. I use it quite often to go to my dentist’s office.

The quarter mile on four-lane Gorham Road, from Clark's Road to Western Avenue

Use Online Maps…and Work Backwards!

Route planning has of course always used maps, initially on paper. I rely heavily on online maps in these articles, and particularly on Google’s ground-level Street View. Zooming in on Google’s satellite view lets you plan your lane choice. That is especially useful on multi-lane roads that you may be apprehensive about.

Always Use Maps?

So, is it necessary to plan every stroad route with mapping? No, I don’t think so. One of my favorite ways of riding is to explore a new area when I go on vacation. Serendipity is an important aspect of those rides for me. “Hey, that road looks interesting, let’s see what’s down there.” Cycling by the rules of the road is generally safe, even on an unfamiliar road. But you may want to choose mapping, especially when you know you will be on uncomfortable roads. It can allow you to make more informed decisions so the journey is more comfortable.

Mapping is also useful for illustration in these articles. I am using Google Earth for these images, although Google Maps works too. Custom maps are a great teaching tool!

Why work backwards?

When planning a route, it is often useful to start from the destination and work backwards. That way, you’ll see what works as you approach it — and at each step as you work backwards to the start. For that reason, I am numbering the following hacks in reverse order, going back from from the turn into the dentist’s office, to the quarter-mile segment, to the start.

Hack 3 – Lane Choice onto Western Avenue

Western Avenue, center turn lane to turn left to the dentist's office

My dentist’s office is on the left side of Western Avenue. Conveniently, Western Avenue has a two-way center turn lane where I can wait for oncoming traffic to clear, before turning left into the driveway. If I’m already controlling the leftmost through lane, moving into the center turn lane as soon as it opens up is trivial.

Left turn onto Western Avenue

Following the rules of the road for drivers, you must use the left-turn lane to turn onto Western Avenue from Gorham Road. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you can dismount and use the crosswalks. But we won’t go into that here.

What lane on Western Avenue do you turn into? Bicyclists who feel like they must always stay to the right might be tempted to turn into the rightmost lane, because “bikes stay to the right”.

Then Why Turn into the Left Lane?

There are (at least) two reasons to choose the left lane. For one, it’s more common when turning onto a multi-lane road to turn into the closest lane, Maine laws do not actually require that, though some states do, and it makes sense here regardless.

There’s an important operational reason here too: It’s only about 225 feet from the intersection to the center turn lane. It’s only about 100 feet more to the driveway. That’s only 25 seconds at 10 MPH. It makes no sense to turn into the right lane, then immediately have to change to the left lane to get to the center turn lane. If you do that, any traffic behind you will turn into the left lane to pass you, and will block your lane change. Why not just turn immediately into the left lane? Any traffic behind you will pass you in the right lane, which is exactly what you want anyway!

So there’s one hack: Turn from Gorham Road into the left lane of Western Avenue.

Hack 2 – Lane Choice onto the Quarter Mile

Continuing backwards, what about the lane choice onto Gorham Road?

Choosing the left lane when entering the quarter mile on Gorham Road

This decision is like the last one. You’re going to spend less than 1/4 mile on Gorham Road (just over a minute at 10 MPH) before you turn left onto Western. So why turn into the right lane and have to change immediately?


Granted, that’s a bit longer time spent in a leftmost lane than on Western Avenue. And that might bring up another objection, that motorists don’t expect bicyclists to travel in the left lane for an “extended” time. In”motorist time,” that may be about 10 seconds. 😉 But in our experience, visibility to people approaching from behind more than makes up for any surprise they may have. They still have plenty of time to see you and react.

If you are in a left through lane because you will be turning left shortly, try making occasional left turn signals. I think people are more patient if they understand why you are doing what you are doing. It may also be that they respect you more if they feel like you know what you’re doing. (And as a Savvy Cyclist, you do!)

Evaluating Convenience

I sometimes would still have had time to change lanes if I turned into the right lane here. But I don’t know that when I make the turn. And, whichever lane I choose, motorists behind me in that lane will have to change lanes. So it comes down to a balance of convenience: how convenient is which lane for me, and how many motorists will have to change lanes? Results vary by location, by time of day, and by what the traffic happens to be at that moment. But in this place, I don’t try to overthink it, and simply choose the left lane. The next and final hack makes that even easier.

Hack 1 – When to Turn Right onto the Quarter Mile

Here’s one I never learned until I took CyclingSavvy, even after I had been become a certified instructor with another national cycling program. I’ll frame it as a question:

Q: When would you not want to take a right turn on red?

Everyone makes right turns on red, right? Why wouldn’t you? Bicyclists don’t like delay any more than motorists do. (Consider how many cyclists don’t bother stopping at lights if they think they can make it through. And how many pass even a short line of stopped cars on the way there.)

Red Lights Create Gaps

The answer never occurs to most motorists, including me before I started bike commuting. But you may have noticed it if you’ve cycled in traffic for very long: traffic travels in packs.

And why does this happen? In urban and suburban areas, it’s because of red lights. A red light collects a line of traffic while it’s red. Then it turns green and the whole pack surges forward.

The flip side to this is that red lights also create gaps. While that light is red, the only traffic entering the intersection is turning into it from the left or right (as we are in this case). This is nearly always much less traffic. Therefore, there are gaps for as long as the light is red. And effectively longer, because you’ll have traveled away from the intersection!

We have videos in our Truths & Techniques and CyclingSavvy Mastery courses showing gaps of more than a minute in length created by long light cycles, even at rush hour. You can also see it in this Smart Moves video about riding across a high-speed interchange.

Waiting for the Green when Turning Right…

So, a very basic hack that you can use at every signalized right turn is: Don’t turn right on red. Even if you are allowed to turn right on red, you may wish to wait. Waiting for your green guarantees that you will have a gap with very little or no traffic behind you (except the few that turn onto the road during that time).

Of course, if traffic is light, it may be fine to turn right on red once the initial pack is clear of the intersection. This is especially so if you have the sight distance to see that there is no more oncoming traffic for quite a while. That’s fine. This is a tool, not a hard and fast rule.

As I turn right from Clark’s Road onto the quarter mile segment on Gorham Road, though, the traffic from the left is coming around a curve, so it’s impossible to tell how long until more comes. And it will probably be traveling at the posted speed (or greater) by that time, maybe even racing a yellow. So I almost always wait for the green here.

A curve reduces sight distance for traffic from the left when entering the quarter-mile segment of Gorham Road.
Notice the curve in Gorham Road, limiting the distance from which you can see traffic coming from your left as you wait to turn right.
The curve on Gorham road that reduces sight distance
Google Street View looking left from Clark’s Pond Parkway, about to make the right turn.

Car behind you?

What if, you may ask, there is a motorist behind you who would like to turn right on red?

Positions to allow motorists to turn right on red when waiting to turn right on green into the quarter-mile segment

Well, you can simply move over and motion for them to go ahead. Whether you move depends on the geometry. In this case, the right turn lane gets wider, so I tend to stop at the extreme left side of it. That way, I leave room for a car to turn on my right. I’ll motion for the driver to do that if necessary.

Where the turn is more squared off, you may not be able to extend this courtesy. Moving to the right can put you in a position to be cut off by turning drivers when the light changes.


In this article, I showed a typical bike trip from my office to my dentist’s office around the corner. In that trip, I utilized two different CyclingSavvy stroad hacks. First, I chose to wait for a green light to make the right turn onto Gorham Road, to ensure that I could turn into a gap, and be well established on the road as I prepared to turn left onto Western Avenue. In many cases, I’m already pulling into the left turn lane before any traffic catches up to me!

Secondly, I turned directly into the left through lane, twice. In both cases, it was because it was a short distance to another left turn, so it was not worth starting in the right lane and then changing. Traffic turning behind me has a clear lane on my right to pass me in.

These two general purpose hacks are applicable on any stroad, in a great variety of situations. Having these tools in your toolbox will greatly ease the friction that you might otherwise experience on such car-centric roads. They are what makes you a Savvy Cyclist.

Bidgee, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Does a Stop Sign Just Mean “Stop”?

A stop sign just means “stop.” Or does it?

Children can’t muster the attention to address subtleties, and so parents and teachers drill them in simple rules. So, just “stop.” Or “stop, and look both ways.”

With time and experience, though, all but the most stiff-necked among us place rules in some perspective.

We don't just obey the traffic law: we make it work for us

Testing the rules — flouting the rules — can be a phase of growth in adolescence. With CyclingSavvy, we go beyond that, and “beyond” means that we don’t just obey the traffic law, we make it work for us.

Now let’s apply that idea to stop signs.

Stop, and yield

A stop sign law doesn’t just say “stop.” Stopping is only the first action a stop sign requires — not the most important or most demanding action either.

That action is yielding. Yielding prevents collisions. A building, vegetation, parked car, etc., may hide traffic in a cross street, so pulling forward and blocking the crosswalk may be necessary. It may, then, be necessary to yield more than once.

No driver can claim “right of way”. That claim is upside down, because you can start out, then find that you have to yield. The rules of movement are about cooperation, not entitlement.

Bristol Street at Webster Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, May 29, 2018

How many times might it be necessary to yield at the little intersection in the photo? Hint: all vehicles are parked except the gray one moving right to left.

Three times — before the crosswalk if another pedestrian is stepping into it; again, on entering the street, and once more when able to peek around the gray SUV illegally parked on the right corner.

If sight lines are very poor, it may even be necessary to inch out slowly into the cross street, requiring traffic in that street to yield. And if there is another vehicle behind you, you can’t back up. Not so simple…

Stickler for stopping?

Customs vary, and police may or may not be sticklers for the letter of the law about stop signs. In Massachusetts, where I live, hardly anyone comes to a full stop except to pass a driver’s licensing exam, unless necessary to yield.

It is especially inconvenient for a bicyclist to stop, lose momentum, put a foot down and have to restart. So, I’m not going to be stiff-necked about full stops. It is of paramount importance though to send the message that you will yield, by at least slowing to a crawl when you haven’t reached the stop line yet. Showing that you will yield maintains respect for bicyclists, which is already in short supply.

You can be a stickler without putting a foot down! CyclingSavvy shows how to do the “balance stop”: braking to bring the bicycle’s wheels momentarily to a stop while shifting body mass forward to maintain momentum and balance. It’s legal.

Often, too, you can slow to reach an intersection at the same time as a gap in cross traffic. We practice slow riding in our course.

Stop signs and groups

It is most efficient to approach a two-way stop riding two abreast. Each side-by-side pair of bicyclists in a well-organized group checks for cross traffic before entering the intersection. At a 4-way stop, the cross traffic is also required to stop, and a group of bicyclists may move through together like a bus. This is more efficient for the cross traffic too. Every individual still should check for cross traffic.The CyclingSavvy Club Rider Essentials course describes this technique while acknowledging that it is not technically legal. It could become legal with changes in the law.

Stop signs and shared-use paths

Shared-use paths create a quandary where they cross streets. Drivers on the street must yield to pedestrians, as at any crosswalk. Yet stop signs are often posted facing the path to warn bicyclists to slow and stop. Because bicyclists are faster than pedestrians, this may be necessary so motorists can see the bicyclists in time to yield. So — two contradictory rules apply: the crosswalk requires drivers in the street to yield — but the stop sign requires bicyclists on the path to yield. All too often, bicyclists on the path and drivers in the street both yield, causing unnecessary delay and confusion.

Very often, a vehicle would have cleared the crossing before I reach it, and nobody would have had to wait if it had just kept going. But to cross safely if one driver stops, a bicyclist must wait till drivers in every lane stop. I don’t think that there is a good solution short of installing traffic signals, which are expensive and impose their own version of delay!

Paths often have stop signs even at one-lane roads and driveways where motorists will be traveling very slowly and sight lines are wide open. This overuse of stop signs leads to disrespect for them.

Stop sign overuse
Stop-sign overuse in Orlando, Florida

Stop, and then walk?

Or signs may instruct bicyclists to walk across. This may make sense for people with poor bike-handling skills. But, the safety advantage of walking with a bicycle broadside to the cross traffic is open to question, and also, for sure, it takes longer.

Stop sign and walk bikes sign on a shared-use path
“Walk across, do not ride” — some can’t be bothered to. Cape Cod Rail Trail at Underpass Road, Brewster, Massachusetts, summer 2001.

No stop sign and so, no stop?

The absence of a stop sign should not lead to the assumption that yielding is unnecessary. At an uncontrolled intersection, drivers yield to traffic coming from the right; at a T intersection, the driver coming up from the bottom of the T yields. (Why? Turning drivers must yield to through traffic, and this driver can only turn right or left.)

Sidepaths and barrier-separated bikeways often overturn the usual rules of movement, placing through-traveling bicyclists in the path of turning motorists. Signs may instruct the motorists to yield, but bicyclists must be prepared to scan for motorists coming from behind, and yield to avoid being hit.

Be prepared to yield in case a driver coming from behind doesn’t see you. Cambridge Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Motorist’s view of the same location.

Stop-sign politics

There is a strong tendency in the USA to micromanage priority at intersections using stop signs. Political pressure leads to the installation of stop signs where yield signs would be sufficient — sight lines are clear. This can lead to a “cry wolf” situation devaluing the message of stop signs where they are really needed. It also can lead people to assume that there is no need to check for cross traffic if there is no stop sign, as in examples already given in this article.

In western mountain states, like Montana, you will find that most residential intersections have no stop signs. The default rules for yielding apply. As a bonus, motorists are conditioned actually to look for conflicting traffic as they approach intersections instead of just looking for a stop sign. The result is they are very good at seeing and yielding to pedestrians.

Could it be that unnecessary stop signs dumb down the environment and make us all less safe?

Stop-signs and the spirit of the law

The saying that we make the law work for us reminds us to create safe space in which to ride. We take actions beyond the requirements of law to make our intentions clear, and to find empty space on busy streets. And sometimes, we lightly bend the law, or expand on it, when its word is too blunt to live up to its spirit. That is often the case with stop signs.

Another CyclingSavvy saying is “don’t let the paint think for you.” We might also say: “don’t let a stop sign — or the absence of one — think for you.” As I hope that this article has made clear, the traffic law offers only a framework for behavior. Stop signs and the laws that apply to them do not remove the need for situational awareness. Simple rules may be the best we can do for schoolchildren, and for assigning fault in case of a crash. Mature behavior in the real world has to be based on respect for law — but goes beyond the requirements of law. It also accounts for mistakes other travelers may make, and it fundamentally reflects the spirit of the law, a spirit of cooperation.

Aiming for good bicycle lighting

We are now in the time of short days and long nights, and so it’s a good time to talk about bicycle lights.

And there’s good news. Thanks to efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs), bicycle lights can be bright while drawing meager power from a small battery or generator.

Even better news — they won’t draw all the cash out of your wallet.

Like the horsepower race…

The trend can go to excess. Some of today’s bicycle headlights have product names like “Atomic”, and I kid you not, “Blinder” — only too true. Brighter, brighter, brighter… 200, 400, 1000 lumens. (The lumen is a measure of light output.)

The lumen war reminds me of the mid-20th-century horsepower race among big American cars. As in “my car is better than yours because it has a V8 engine with more horsepower!”

Why beam pattern matters

Lumens count light in every direction, but it matters in which direction the light goes. Any bicycle headlight bright enough to light your way should have a special beam pattern, like a car headlight, for at least four reasons:

  • Efficiency:  There is no point in using electrical power to produce wasted light.
  • Clarity: Light thrown upward illuminates dust, fog, mist, rain, snow — washing out the bicyclist’s view of the riding surface.
  • Glare reduction: a headlight that spews light upward glares into the eyes of oncoming bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians. Stray light from a properly-designed headlight is still bright enough to reveal you.
  • Even illumination: a well-designed, shaped headlight beam tapers down in brightness closer to the bicyclist, avoiding a hotspot.

Good bicycle lights have shaped beam patterns

A good beam pattern looks more or less like this, if you shine the light at a wall:

Shaped beam of a well-designed bicycle headlight
Shaped beam of a better bicycle headlight

Germany’s bicycle lighting standard recognizes this. Several brands of bicycle lights with a shaped beam pattern are available, meeting the German standard. Increasingly, the German standard is being adopted by manufacturers in other countries as well.

Still, many bicycle headlights being sold in the USA have a round beam pattern like the one shown below. These headlights cannot illuminate the riding surface evenly without glaring at eye level and above.These lights are appropriate only for off-road riding, and even then not when there is oncoming traffic.. Some lights do let you switch beam patterns.

Round beam glares into people's eyes unless aimed low
Round beam glares into people’s eyes unless aimed low

Any bicycle headlight should throw some light to the sides, to render the bicyclist visible to cross traffic.

Aiming a headlight

For a shaped beam to work correctly, the cutoff needs to be just below horizontal. Check out this video of the beam from my headlight as I walk my bicycle toward my garage. The flat top of the beam slowly rises up the garage door.

Aiming a taillight

A taillight’s beam pattern is less critical. Drivers who can approach at speed will be directly behind you. Aim a taillight level and directly to the rear. As the video shows, you test aim by rolling the bicycle away from a wall. The center of the beam should stay in the same place. The taillight should throw light to the sides too, but need not be as bright there. The headlight and any side-facing reflective material will also be visible from the sides.

What about flashing mode?

A flashing headlight is useful in daylight and at dusk but should be avoided in full darkness for three reasons: 1) it’s difficult for motorists to judge your speed and location from a flashing light; 2) a flashing headlight announces that you are on a bicycle = SLOW. This could inspire motorists to violate your right-of-way. 3) an ultra-bright white LED on a flash pattern could cause a seizure in someone who is vulnerable them.

A flashing taillight also announces that you are on a bicycle, and that is a good thing for motorists to recognize when approaching from behind. It’s best to use a rapid flash pattern for the taillight. If you have two taillights, you can use one on flash mode and one on steady mode.

Good bicycle lights for daytime use?

Some bicyclists, especially those who ride on rural roads, use lights during daylight hours, to be more visible. To be noticed, lights have to be much brighter during the day than at night. Any light used for both day and night should have a different mode for each.

You might ask “isn’t the round beam pattern better for daytime use?” Well, no. To make a shaped-beam headlight work as a daytime running light, re-aim it a bit higher. A shaped-beam headlight also generally has a wider beam pattern than one with a round beam pattern, making it stand out for drivers farther from straight ahead.

More general information

More general information about lights can be found in John Brooking’s article on this blog.

Happy cyclingSavvy group

Webinar Starts Today

In a few short hours

CyclingSavvy’s free one-hour Zoom webinar, Introduction to CyclingSavvy, starts today:

6 PM Pacific time
7 PM Mountain time
8 PM Central time
9 PM Eastern time

Because of demand, the American Bicycling Education Association has purchased lots more Zoom room.

California CyclingSavvy Instructor Gary Cziko will present. The Webinar will include live chat with three other instructors, and a Q&A session. If you can’t make it, ABEA will be posting a recording. We’ll announce where YouTube has placed it, once we know.

Bike club/organization members

Your club’s requested donation of $100 will give all club members free access to the Zoom Webinar for Bike Clubs and Group Rides, being held at the same time next Wednesday, December 16, 2020.

Club leaders, register here. Choose the Benefactor level. Include your organization’s name in the “Company” box. Note that your club is a Webinar Sponsor in the “Comments” box.

Donations will pay for work being developed exclusively for club and group cyclingHere’s a preview of the new online Group Ride Leader course currently in development:

Here are the sponsoring organizations as of December 8, 2020. Yours can still be on this list!

  • Bicycle Club of Irvine (CA)
  • Big Orange Cycling (CA)
  • Cincinnati Cycle Club (OH)
  • Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists (AZ)
  • GS Andiamo (CA)
  • Major Taylor Cycling Club Los Angeles (CA)
  • Riverside Bicycle Club (CA)
  • San Diego Bicycle Club (CA)
  • Velo Club La Grange (CA)
  • WeeklyRides.com (NC)

Would You Ride A Bicycle Through Here?

If you’ve taken the CyclingSavvy course, you’ll recall the video of John Alexander’s bicycle ride across a huge highway interchange.  At less than 10 miles per hour, on an Elektra Townie bicycle.

If you haven’t seen the video, watch it here, and relax. John’s bicycle ride was boring, not daring.

John — and Keri Caffrey, riding behind him with cameras to record it all — had the road almost entirely to themselves, through thoughtful choice of lane position, and by taking advantage of traffic-signal timing.

My own gnarly bicycle riding challenge

I face a similar situation later this month. I have two doctor’s appointments about a mile apart. By far the shortest route between the two doctors’ offices passes through a similar huge highway interchange. I could take a much longer way there, and this longer ride would also include backtracking on a poison-ivy-infested sidewalk.

On Monday, I checked out the route in a car, with a dashcam running:

OK, here’s a challenge for you:

How would you ride this?

Would you ride it at all?

Have a look in Google maps

The image below shows my route, from right to left, in Google Maps. (When I drove, I went straight through on Route 9 rather than turning into William Street. That doesn’t change anything important.)

Google map of gnarly route for bicycle ride

Google will let me share the location but not the route information. Here’s the location in Google Maps. You can play around with Google Street View and get a closer look.

map view of Google Maps, featuring yellow Google Dude
Google Dude is the yellow fellow in the lower right corner of Google Maps

Not familiar with Street View? If you’re using a computer, click on Google Dude, the yellow fellow in the lower right corner of Google Maps. Drag the green fog under his feet to any street that lights up in blue, release the mouse button, and there you are.

You can move around using the the keyboard’s arrow buttons.  The right and left buttons turn you around. The down button is your reverse gear, up button moves you forward. Or click on the image and drag with the mouse.

Once you’ve dropped your Dude, there’s a “compass” in the lower right corner that also makes it easy to turn around:

Google Dude view of William Street
Compass in lower right corner (in Google maps) spins map to the view you want.

Once I dropped Google Dude on the road, I spun the compass to point Dude in the direction I’ll be riding next week. I clicked on the street to move forward, and stand with Dude in the middle of any road.

The arrow in the black box at the upper left corner of the screen takes you back to the overhead view.

On a tablet or smartphone, you can tap and swipe the screen to access these same features.

This bicycle ride is possible!

I have discussed this route with a few other people and found at least two, maybe, three different ways to manage it. I don’t consider the ride difficult even for a novice cyclist, but savvy strategies can make it much more convenient. (Hint: see my description of John Alexander’s ride above.)

Please post comments and suggestions. I’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks with video of my ride.

I love to ride my bicycle, but I have my limits. Arriving at the doctors’ offices drenched in sweat during a pandemic or with rain would exceed those limits! If necessary, I’ll ride the route on a different day to shoot the video.

Your turn now.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this ride.

Crowd of bicyclists

Bikeway Study: Strategies to Improve Bicyclist Safety

 In Part One of this series, I discussed how most bikeway studies fail to address the key factors that lead to crashes, and I described the basic findings of Metroplan Orlando’s new bikeway study. Part Two went into deeper detail to show how cyclist direction, position and speed affect crash risk. In this final part, I’ll discuss how data from the study should inform attitudes and strategies to improve cyclist safety.

Crowd of bicyclists

Jacobsen’s widely-cited study

In a 2003 paper in Injury Prevention [1], Peter Jacobsen found that higher bicycle use went with lower cyclist crash rates across geographies (European nations and California cities) and over time (United Kingdom and The Netherlands). As cycling (and walking) increased, it seemed that the overall crash risk dropped. In the discussion section of the paper, Jacobsen wrote:

“It seems unlikely that people walking or bicycling obey traffic laws more or defer to motorists more in societies or time periods with greater walking and bicycling. Indeed, it seems less likely, and hence unable to explain the observed results. Adaptation in motorist behavior seems more plausible and other discussions support that view.”

Though Jacobsen provided no behavioral data to support this explanation, it has become popular among bikeway proponents. When skeptics point out conflicts created by many bikeways, advocates have a handy response: “But there’s safety in numbers…” Others have questioned Jacobsen’s math [2].

Does Jacobsen’s conclusion hold water?

Our bikeway study shows whether that assumption holds water. Did rates for motorist-caused or bicyclist-caused crashes increase or decrease with larger numbers of bicyclists?

I divided the twenty streets into five groups of four each, ranked from lowest to highest bicyclist counts over 10 years. The table below shows enormous differences in the amount of bicyclist travel. There was 60 times as much bicycle use on the busiest streets as on the least busy.

Quintile Streets by Bicyclist ExposureLowest Quintile2nd Quintile3rd Quintile4th QuintileTop Quintile
Bicyclist Miles Traveled819,0005.344 M9.674 M13.341 M49.218 M
Miles Between Motorist-Caused Crashes19,00046,00039,00049,00045,000
Miles Between Bicyclist-Caused Crashes13,00073,000125,000205,000198,000

I left the lowest 1/5 out of the analysis, because the bicyclist exposure and the numbers of crashes are tiny. Even from the second group to the top group, there’s a nine-fold increase in bike use:

Orlando bikeway study: miles between bicyclist- vs motorist- caused crashes
The results? There is little difference in the risk of motorist-caused crashes. (Remember, a higher number — more miles between crashes — means lower crash risk.) But bicyclist-caused crashes were 170% to 180% lower for the top and fourth quintiles!

Better overall bicyclist behavior is responsible for the “safety in numbers” effect. [3]

It’s plausible that motorist behavior improved some small amount on the higher usage streets, but that would probably be masked by the reduced risk due to slower cyclists on the sidewalks.

Three of the four streets in the 4th quintile (with the lowest risk for cyclist-caused crashes) are two-lane streets with bike lanes. These are just the type of streets touted as “bike-friendly.”  Bikeway advocates like to say that bikeways attract potential cyclists who are “interested but concerned.” [4] Wouldn’t “interested but concerned” cyclists generally be more cautious and less likely to cause crashes?

The streets in the top quintile are all high-speed, high-volume, four- and six-lane arterials. Their obvious risks should encourage cyclists to use extra care.

It’s possible that motorist behavior does improve with still higher bicycle use. On the busiest cycling streets in the Orlando bikeway study, a bicyclist would pass any given point about once every eight minutes. In some European cities, bicyclists are almost always in sight. Motorists’ expectations would be radically different there.

Study results: crash risks and numbers

Orlando bikeway study: key to the three graphs below

Key to the three graphs below

In this bikeway study, ten times as many cyclists were using bike lanes on the bike lane streets as were using the travel lanes on the comparison streets. Almost all bicyclists on the comparison streets were riding on sidewalks. But there was only 28 percent more bicyclist travel overall on the bike-lane streets. Most of the increase in bike lane use was due to bicyclists switching from the sidewalk to the bike lane.

Orlando bikeway study: Estimated miles of travel on streets with and without bike lanes

Though the bike lanes in this bikeway study presented a 53 percent lower crash risk per cyclist, four times as many motorist-caused crashes occurred in bike lanes on bike-lane streets as in travel lanes on the comparison streets. Almost all of the motorist-caused crashes on the comparison streets, and more than 3/4 of them on bike-lane streets, occurred on sidewalks and crosswalks.