PRR supports safe and lawful use of bicycles on roads. Throughout the United States, bicyclists have the rights and responsibilities of other vehicle operators. PRR emphasizes the time-honored, time-proved classification of bicycles as vehicles with respect to traffic law; that the right of travel by all reasonable means is universal; and that licensing of drivers and registration of vehicles are not a prerequisite for use of the roads, but rather, reflect the greater harm which can be done by larger and/or faster vehicles.
PRR opposes laws, policies and plans which in any way restrict bicyclists' rights to the road by eliminating access or by forcing bicyclists to use special bicycle facilities. Whenever a road on which bicycles are permitted is closed due to construction, emergency, or other special occasion, and a posted detour or authorized traffic control officers direct traffic onto a road on which bicycles are prohibited (i.e., a freeway), that prohibition should be suspended for as long as the detour is in effect.
Rule 2: Cyclists Fare Best When They Act and Are Treated As Drivers of Vehicles. John Forester, author of Effective Cycling
Rule 3: Bicycle facilities, of whatever type, do not make cycling safe. Cyclists still need to learn and use proper skills.
Standards and Design Issues
Bicyclists, like all other road users, need a complete interconnected transportation network. This network may include roads, bridges, tunnels and special bicycle facilities. All of these facilities need to accommodate bicyclists safely and conveniently. Most currently do, although not always at an optimum level.
All roads, except for some limited-access highways, are bicycle facilities, and should be thought of as such in design and maintenance. Roads that are good for motorists are also good for cyclists, and enhance the safety and mobility of all travelers. Road features such as adequate lane and paved shoulder widths, smooth pavements, bicycle-responsive traffic signals, wheel-proof drainage inlets, and frequent maintenance are safe and effective ways to meet the needs of bicyclists and motorists. PRR opposes any road or bicycle facility feature that could endanger cyclists.
Good Design and Planning are Essential
Bike lanes and shared use trails are specific applications for specific situations, and when designed and constructed in accordance with national and state standards can be tools to enhance mobility and safety for some cyclists. Roads, either as new construction or reconstruction, are not designed to the lowest common denominator in order that the worst drivers can negotiate them. Cyclists, as legal drivers of vehicles, should expect the same standard of design and construction.
However, just adhering to the standards does not guarantee good design, because many factors that go into good design are not part of any standards manual. Good judgment by the designer is essential. It is difficult for a designer to design effective bicycle facilities without being reasonably proficient as a bicyclist. PRR urges all bicycle facility designers to be trained in the League of American Bicyclists BikeEd program, in order to obtain and maximize this proficiency.
PRR believes that in some instances, bike lanes and multi-use paths (sometimes called bike paths) can augment the road system for some bicyclists if designed, constructed, and maintained in accordance with the national and state standards referenced below, and only by professionals fully conversant with the benefits and inherent problems in lanes and paths, and with bicyclists? needs on the road.
Shared Use Paths
Separated shared use paths may be used to provide bicycle access when no suitable road exists; to bypass barriers; to avoid more circuitous, less safe routes; and as trails in scenic recreational areas, particularly where there are few road intersections. These facilities are a valuable and attractive feature for many people. In particular, the use of rail rights-of-way preserves a valuable rail corridor while also offering a recreational opportunity. These are also popular locations for beginning cyclists to learn basic bike handling skills without interacting with motor traffic.
Another advantage can be providing bicyclists access to destinations which would otherwise not be accessible by bicycle, in locations where highways interrupt bicycle routes, or no usable public road exists. A separated bicycle facility may provide a short cut (particularly in the case of residential or office developments) or a scenic view. For these reasons, PRR supports railbanking and facilities that preserve and enhance bicycle access. But we do not support separated facilities as a first-choice substitute for bicycle-compatible road design.
In some instances, it may be appropriate to use bicycle lanes to designate street space for the preferential use of bicycle traffic. Typically, this would be in locations where substantial volumes of bicycle traffic are anticipated and where there are no, or few, road or driveway intersections, and no parked cars whose open street-side doors can injure or kill cyclists. The planning, design and installation of bike lanes should be contingent on a careful evaluation of all potential impacts of such facilities. Bike lanes should be part of an overall network and not merely isolated random installations.
Bike lanes often accumulate debris because motor vehicles, whose air turbulence creates a natural sweeping effect, aren?t driven in them. Once filled with debris, the lanes are no longer usable, yet cyclists risk being harassed by motorists who don't understand why the cyclists are driving in the travel lane instead of in the bike lane.
Bike lanes are sometimes seen as a traffic-calming device, but it is more likely that the bike lane stripe will encourage motorists to drive faster because they expect all cyclists to be only in the bike lane. Absent the stripe (and therefore, the bike lane), motorists have no such expectation and are more likely to drive slower.
Drawbacks of Special Facilities
Some advocates of separated bicycle facilities imply that it is possible to have a separate parallel transportation network linking most destinations with separated bicycle facilities. This is not efficient or possible. In built-out urban areas, separated facilities can only be constructed by removing something else. On existing streets where widening is not possible, a travel or parking lane must be removed in order to fit bike lanes.
Because most good bicycle facilities are ordinary roads, PRR does not support general public statements that state or imply that separated bicycle facilities would be generally preferred. Still, separated bicycle facilities have become quite popular in the U.S. It is important to understand their appeal, but it is also important to understand their disadvantages.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to design a SAFE sidepath-style separated bicycle facility in most locations. The reason, in addition to high cost, is that 80% of all bicycle-motor vehicle crashes occur at intersections. Every driveway or side road is an intersection, and sidepaths greatly complicate those intersections in ways that impact safety. A separated facility puts cyclists at increased risk in these locations due to turning and crossing conflicts. Complex intersections demand that the bicyclist proceed at slow speed, watching for intersecting traffic from unconventional directions. This fact is counter-intuitive, and most riders attracted to separated facilities are unaware of it. Poorly designed bike lanes and bike lane intersection treatments can have the same adverse effect. Thus, a false sense of security can be conveyed by separated facilities.
Separated multi-use paths are so popular that they are frequently congested. Under these conditions, bicyclists must ride slowly for the sake of safety and courtesy. This, too, is counter-intuitive; many novice bicyclists do not recognize how easily they can go too fast for conditions. The need to ride slowly increases trip times, to an extent that may make these facilities less desirable than use of the road, where it is usually possible to safely travel faster.
Special bicycle facilities have sometimes been viewed as the only way to provide improved access and mobility for bicycle traffic. These facilities have sometimes been developed in the absence of, or as a substitute for (1) programs for the development or improvement of the road network to accommodate bicycle traffic safely, and (2) efforts to educate the public about vehicular-style cycling.
In many instances, special bicycle facilities have been poorly designed, inadequately maintained, or unnecessary. Any government agency that builds any kind of facility roadway, bike lane, or path must apply a standard of care in the design, construction, and maintenance of that facility. Failure to do so exposes the agency to liability. The problems posed by unsafe bicycle facilities have been aggravated in many locations by laws which require the use of these facilities when they are on or parallel to an existing road. Fortunately, Pennsylvania no longer has such a law.
With the construction of any bicycle facility comes an obligation to maintain it. A dependable on-going source of funds for this purpose should be identified at the time the project is conceived. Regardless of the source of design and construction funds, maintenance is usually the responsibility of the municipality in which the facility is located.
Since 1981, the bicycle facilities design standards of the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have been reasonably good (though not perfect), but are not by themselves sufficient to guarantee a good facility. Some bicycle facilities built after that date have not met those standards.
Efficiency of the Road System
PRR has previously noted that well-designed roads benefit all users. Building such roads is a very cost-effective use of tax dollars, because it does not take anything away from other users to provide for bicyclists.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) Guide to Bicycle Facilities
State of Florida 1998 Bicycle Facilities Design Manual
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Accommodation Training Course # 38061
Dr. William Moritz, Adult Bicyclists in the United States
PennDOT Highway Design Manual 1, Chapter 2 (Bikeways and Pedestrian Facilities)
(Approved by the PRR Board of Directors, January, 2007)
Recognizing that cyclists rights to the road includes the responsibility for using the roads in a safe and lawful manner, PRR supports fair and equitable enforcement of traffic laws on motorists and cyclists alike.
However, law enforcement against cyclists must be done in consideration of the innate operational characteristics of bicycles (e.g., the limitations of human power on acceleration and braking, the vulnerability of cyclists to weather features, the need for cyclists to keep a safe distance from parked cars and hazards near the edge of the road, and within lanes too narrow for bikes and motor vehicles to safely share side-by-side). While we recognize that all law enforcement is necessarily selective and at the discretion of the enforcement officer(s), we oppose enforcement that targets minor infractions while ignoring other more serious infractions.
We recommend that enforcement against cyclists and motorists include a strong education component. Most cyclists have never had any formal training in proper cycling, nor are they aware that such training is available. Therefore, many of them commit violations out of ignorance. Many motorist infractions are also borne of ignorance of the law and an unintentional failure to see cyclists, although some are clearly acts of hostility.