motorist visual alert to look left and right at intersections
Demanded a bike path to Broward Community College campus in an editorial for the student paper, The Phoenix. Mr. 11, 1977, “We have to realize that the future of the car is limited. It is too wasteful and polluting to be used in a world where the ecology and natural resources are rapidly going downhill.” I told you so is my journalist legacy.
Worked with Student Government Association to build support. Conferred with county engineers to price two miles of four foot wide asphalt path along SR 84, connecting lower speed, less trafficked roads to be designated as signed bike routes. Riverland Road and College Avenue. Came in at twenty grand for their machine that laid 4′ strips. (Probably cost a few million for standard 10-12′ width, now. More with an EIR.)
Used my mangled bicycle from recently being hit by a dozing driver as a prop to convince county commissioners to fund bike path In May, 1977. Commissioners voted unanimously to get bicyclists off dangerous road. Covered by the local newspapers before hearing, got brief sound bite for camera after approval. Watched with family on local news that night. Maybe ten seconds, definitely not fifteen.
SR 84 was the type of high speed road with few intersections where separate paths are safer, if properly designed and maintained. Speed limit was 55 mph. Most bicycle fatalities are on roads with 40 plus mph average speed.
Rode the poorly maintained path a few years later, flat tire from the broken glass shattered on it, covered with sand in places. Signs never put up on connecting bike route roads. (Fifteen years later that SR 84 path was paved over for I-585, Expressway to Everglades. Required to replace it by law, never did.)
Most traffic engineers then and now have little interest in providing affordable, efficient, clean, healthy human powered transportation. The profession has been focused on enhancing motor vehicle flow since its conception.
The problems with paths and the focus of bicycle activists on paving them became apparent forty years ago. Unfortunately, lessons learned have been lost. They’re expensive, thus scarce, primarily for recreation. Poor maintenance of paths and momentary inattention causes most common rider only crashes. Collisions with other cyclists, pedestrians, pets happen frequently. Cyclists are more likely to collide with motor vehicles at intersections where paths intermittently interact with traffic, because drivers are even less likely to see them outside the traffic zone and cyclists roll through in all clear’s mode.
Given up on separate but unequal bike paths, when first “Bike Day” was proclaimed by Broward County on Feb. 28, 1981, based on proclamation written and submitted by me as president (and sole member) of the Broward Bicycle Lobby. Bike to Work Week declared by Broward county and seven local cities for May 18-22,1981 in support of Lobby’s “fighting for bike lanes and routes”.
Bicycle acivists wanted our right to the road respected, preferably our own lane. Bicycle safety funding then was mostly for separate paths, mainly recreational routes. Standards for federal Class I bicycle facilities were 10-12′ wide paths, rarely met but far more expensive than bike lanes and signed routes,
Influenced by Dave Forester, certified in his Effective Cycling course, riding one afternoon in Miami during Dan Burden’s 1982 Bicycle Policy Convention weekend. Ride visibly, predictably, legally as traffic and fear not in the valley of the shadow of death. Although Florida statute claimed that “every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all the rights and be subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle”, same strategy seemed less safe than in California and Massachusetts where Forester rode.
Mean streets back then. Cyclists routinely yelled at, “ride on the sidewalk”, “get off the road”, honked at furiously, bottles thrown in front of, death threats and attacks. Plenty of invisible collisions, too.
Entitled drivers, clueless police, anarchist cyclists following their own traffic drummer. Dangerous mix. Began organizing second class citizens to fight for civil rights and equality like other outsider groups with Broward Bicycle Lobby. A few cycling advocates met and discussed how to claim our right to the road. Occasional kooks.
As chairman of Bicycle Advisory Committee for Broward County 1981-83. wrote first draft of legislation requiring any new, widened or repaved roads to include FDOT approved bicycle facilities. Priority Bike Lanes or Signed Routes. Wrote an anti-automobile rant published as op-ed in the Ft. Lauderdale News, March 6, 1983, after collision with sausage truck. Instead of spending billions on subsidizing motor vehicle traffic, “we could rebuild railroad tracks, buy buses and trams, install bicycling lanes and sidewalks for walkers, and encourage ride sharing for far less cost and greater return on getting people from one place to another.” Early Velorutionary rant.
Learned that bike lanes have their own hazards, obstructions, confusion where they end, at intersections, the tendency of motorists to use them for passing, turning right, parking or opening doors into. Pedestrians stepping off sidewalks. Usually it’s only a painted line. Segregation with painted lines can’t stop a distracted driver. Placing cyclists outside drivers focus on traffic lane makes them less visible. Statistics are scrimpy, but simply adding bike lanes is not necessarily safer than riding with slower speed traffic sharing the lane. Education funding and programming gets squeezed out by the expense of paving separate paths or lanes. Paint may be cheap, but separating bike lanes with barriers that block cars from using them is not.
After half a decade of lobbying for separate bike paths then bike lanes, realized in 1982 that educating riders, pedestrians and motorists how to share the road safely is the most economical, effective and rapid route to improving safety and traffic courtesy.
Created the first Share the Road /Bike Route sign to educate both cyclists and drivers directly. Friend Tom Andrew, sign maker extraordinaire, designed graphic of bicyclist and motor vehicle with three feet clearance. Printed one sign on county transportation department blank summer, 1982.
Intended to educate salmon cyclists not to ride against the current. Drivers to allow an arm’s length clearance. Both to expect and accept the rights and responsibilities of Sharing the Road. Cyclist in traffic lane, motorist passing safely.
A non-threatening aphorism, meant to calm the waters. Share The Road as bicycle safety mantra was coined from discussion and readings. Image based on sign seen in Germany in 1980.
This sign intended for installation along designated bike routes; roads chosen for 14′ curb lane width or scenic routes with lower speed limits. Discovered that the official symbol, the headless horseman, a riderless bicycle crossing traffic, must be used when project funded with Federal Department of Transportation (FDOT) monies. Exceptions can be granted through a tortuous process beyond my skill set. Visionary/Activist Not Bureacrat.
Screwed it to garage wall. Behind me in photo for Ft. Lauderdale News article. Sent letter with sign photo to Bicycle Forum, #10, summer 1983 issue published by Dan Burden. Explained the safety benefits and cost savings of signed bike routes over lanes and paths. “One of the problems has been the lack of a good standard sign that shows both cyclists and motorists what to expect on” roads designated as bike routes.
Went viral without attribution. Share the Road went national without credit or cash. The graphic has been copied or influenced other versions, an internet image search turned up a few dozen close variations. At least one copied the German sign because the cyclist was still on the left.
Twenty three states have since passed mandatory 3′ clearance bicycle passing laws, including Florida and California. Not one has yet changed their signs. Marin county, CA uses two signs, a standard Headless Horseman on one and Share the Road on the other, County transportation has never responded to my offer of free use of one that would cost half as much and show how. Does traffic behavior change because of signs? Not unless the graphic shows them how.
Share the Road was a meme ready to travel nationally, but went into hibernation. The great lull in bicycle safety planning and design of the Reagan Republican years. All these lessons learned and battles fought have been forgotten by the present generation of bicycle activists and traffic enginees. Bike lane lines and sharrow signs are being re-painted in cities and suburbs across the land. Paths are paved to nowhere in particular.
There are some full lane, barrier protected bike lanes being built in New York City. Not without controversy or opposition. Results are still not in, but few cities will surrender that much motor vehicle space to bicyclists. Engineers are designing barrier separated bi-directional bike lanes crossing intersections. Predictable results from motorists failing to yield to invisible salmons riding against flow.
The battle for actually sharing the traffic lane with motor vehicles has been abandoned as not feeling safe enough without a painted line.
Activists are again demanding separate paths and specially marked bike lanes. What our generation fought for, shed blood for, offered martyrs, the Lost Generation, has seemingly been abandoned without awareness of what’s been given up.
Cyclists riding legally and visibly with traffic on roads with lower speed limits are safer than on separate paths or in segregated lanes. Drivers and Cyclists have mostly learned these lessons, if reluctantly and unevenly.
Now it will be back to “ride on the path, use the lane” no matter what hazards they present. The majority of cyclists who must use the vast majority of roads that never will have lanes, signs or paths will be safer with drivers willing to share the road at lower speeds.
Traffic Culture is learned locally and individually, but best practices and habits can spread widely and rapidly through public education. Midwifing the birth of Share the Road, even though actual sign languished for thirty years, is history forgotten without blog/memoir.
Changing the most dangerous behaviors through education can reduce collisions and particularly hazardous habits. In 2005, reworked the Share the Road/Bike Route sign for educational graphic. Then designed Look Twice for One Less Car graphic to direct motorists to see bicyclists riding with traffic and also look right for pedestrians. Common collision causes covered.
Calming traffic through visual, physical and psychological tactics is more effective and less expensive than sporadic enforcement. Education of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians on basic safety guidelines for safer, less stressful streets can create a slow traffic culture.
Changing behaviors is more affordable than enforcement, and more rapidly implemented than engineering approaches. Appropriate measures in these fields are needed, but their expense can easily crowd out education funding.
Focusing on education and traffic calming practices is the best way to achieve greater bicycle and pedestrian safety. Seemingly futile effort to clue this generation in to the lessons of the past. Regularly write letters to engineers, activists, politicians, editors, columns where given space, websites, FaceBook to educate through analysis. Rarely get responses because activists, politicians and engineers seem wedded to paving separate and unequal paths and widening roads with segregated lanes. Moving on to prophesying Complete Streets with enclosed electric motor assisted tricycles, human powered transit the monorail Cycle Train and Bicycle Buses. Hopefully not thirty years ahead of my time this time around.