Why Doesn’t “Share the Sidewalk” Work?

America is an entitlement society. Unlike European – or even more strikingly, Asian culture – we don’t share. We don’t cooperate. Every special interest group has their own identity and expects their own separate but equal facility.

Non-transport example: look at how Portland solved the dogs in parks problem. Not by getting dog owners and non-dog owners to cooperate and follow common sense rules of civility better. No. Instead ugly chain link fences were erected like miniature Berlin walls in our parks, creating dog only areas and in the process further atomizing both our social and physical shared resources.

But this is a transport blog, not a dog blog. So how about sidewalks and bike lanes? Why do we need bike lanes AND sidewalks even in constricted downtown right of way situations where the space simply doesn’t exist?

And in those cases where there isn’t enough room – why does a winner take all ethic operate so that NO bike lane is built but sidewalks are FULL IDEAL width?

Without going into any details – hard fought “visionary” urban corridor plans like Burnside and Hawthorne where bikes have been basically shut out could have looked really different if a shared bike/ped facility had been designed. But even in the case of the Burnside plan, which has 30′ wide sidewalks no one knows what to do with – the possibility of mode sharing was never mentioned. To do so would be to risk having every bike person and every ped person in the room start throwing chairs at you. Why?

Our new South Waterfront Greenway will have strictly separated bike and pedestrian pathways (at double the price for one). Peds will get all the waterfront views and ambience, bikes, banned from waterfront access, will be pushed back into the shrubbery – so they can “go fast”. This decision was made by city of Portland planners in secret with no opportunity for public input or comment. They said it was obvious this was the only right way. Why?

Why can’t bikes and pedestrians share facilities and why can’t new facilities be designed to encourage sharing? Examples from Europe – and Asia are staring us in the face. In Japan tens of thousands of bike commuters share the sidewalk with pedestrians every day. No one dies or even gets into fist fights. [www.japanesestreets.com for amusing if not engineerocentric view of what it is like on an urban street in Japan.]

Every thoughtful transportation planner in the Metro area will tell you the problem with advancing Portland’s bike masterplan is that all the “low fruit” has been picked. All the easy streets with sufficient right of way for bike lanes have been converted. What is left is the dreaded parking removal option or just a bunch of discontinuous routes never to be completed. Why can’t anyone look at shared sidewalk facilities to fill missing links?

To study the hows and whys of successful sharing I will be spending 7 weeks in Japan starting this August on a fellowship grant from the Architectural Foundation of Oregon. I hope to file some communiques from the field and have more to tell you when I get back. Meanwhile, please get me your questions and comments for my upcoming research! I hope to use all of you reading this blog as a brain trust for my fellowship. If we can’t share the sidewalk, let’s at least share ideas.

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29 responses to “Why Doesn’t “Share the Sidewalk” Work?”

  1. While I like the idea of sharing, I’m a little bit skeptical of how it works. The slowest I can ride my bike is about 5 mph (and I readily take to the street to go faster), pedestrians average 2.5-3.5 mph. On a 10 foot sidewalk (usually with street furniture reducing the effective width to 6 ft.), that’s a pretty big conflict.

    The best case I can think of for heavy use mixing is Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplanade. It works reasonably well there, but there are still lots of opportunities for conflict.

    So are there physical arrangements or codes of conduct that make this more workable?

  2. I walk at 5 mph – and I haven’t yet had a injurious collision with those slow moving 3.5 mph peds. Why can’t a bike do the same?

    Not everyone can be a fast walker like me, but everyone can be a slow cyclist. I guarantee you – you can ride much slower than 5 mph if you want to. Mini-skirted, platform shoe wearing women on the sidewalks of Japan – and their grandmothers – ride at about 2 -3 mph or even slower.

    I must say that typical American bikes and the attitudes that create a market for them are part of the problem. In Japan small folding bikes with tiny wheels are popular. When you ride one, in an extreme up right position, you really don’t feel very different from a pedestrian. In America everyone is either Lance Amstrong or John Tomac – on a bike that is a copy of a copy of a copy of a racing bike. We see bikes as recreational devices that you can occassionally commute on – however uncomfortably.

    I am not advocating turning the cyclists of Portland loose on the downtown sidewalk network tomorrow. The crowded 10′ wide sidewalk is a worse case scenario. I am saying that Portland is deliberately ignoring the flexibility of an occassional shared use facility. Examples:

    Recent street development near Union Station in the Pearl has no bike lanes because 12′ sidewalk on both sides of the street were deemed essential (despite the fact that one street side fronts up against blank railway owned property that will never see development). A shared 14′ sidewalk could have been put in ( other asymmetrical design alternatives w/two way bike traffic on one side are also intriguing). But sharing is wrong. So the decision was – all sidewalk, no bike lane. Although the City’s Bike Advisory Committee wanted them, this was not a critical place for bike lanes, just a recent example I’m aware of. It happens all the time, all over the Metro area.

    Another and perhaps better example is the West Burnside plan. It proposes huge sidewalk widths (on the order of 30′), created by turning Burnside into a one way street. Although I attempted to bring up the idea of a shared use facility, no one would consider it seriously for a single second. Because sharing is wrong.

    The lack of sharing is also a reason why parking removal is such a tremendous uphill fight. It is bikes vs. parked cars. Hardly a fair fight. What if it was pedestrians AND bikes vs. parked cars? It might make a difference when business owners started to think about the value a double width sidewalk and higher volumes of people going by in front of their storefronts. Think about what might have been accomplished on Hawthorne Blvd with this approach.

  3. Help me a little with the Burnside example, which I familiar with because I served on the stakeholder committee. As you say, there is a section (about 2nd to Park) that will have VERY wide sidewalks. However, other parts of the corridor have much narrower sidewalks, for example in the portion of the corridor from 16th to 23rd we’re only going to have 10 foot sidewalks and 10 foot travel lanes (and as you know, I tried VERY hard to take out one of the auto lanes to free up more real estate). Where would we have put bikes in that section? I think this WAS a case where the bikes and peds were aligned against the cars, and we didn’t prevail.

    Instead we created a bike corridor on Flanders, including a SHARED bike/ped bridge over the freeway, in the plan.

    Is there value in a 5 or 6 block biking opportunity if it’s not connected to a corridor?

    Perhaps the real problem is Portland’s blanket exclusion of bikes from sidewalks downtown (Front to 13th, Jefferston to Hoyt)? Absent that, sharing of the 30 foot sidewalk possible on Burnside would not be a problem, right? How about if we create a code exclusion for that section?

  4. It may be just me, but it may have something to do with people getting tired of being run down by people on bikes. I can’t tell you how many times here in Gresham and in Portland that my daughter and I have almost been hit by fast moving bikes– and we were on the sidewalk. The Springwater Trail here by where I live is even worse– they ride side-by-side and won’t move out of a pedestrian’s way. We’ve had to step off the trail even though the signs specifically state fast moving traffic is to be kept to one side.

    I also see many, many people on bikes completely disobeying the law by riding on sidewalks, going through an intersection on a red light, etc. The worst is when you’re in a right-hand turn lane with the bike lane on your left. I’ve had many bike riders come flying by on the right-hand side just as I’m making my turn. Lucky for them I’m a much better (and cautious) driver than most, otherwise they would have been hit.

    It could be that many of the people sitting on these committees are tired of stuff like this, which is what causes their votes to go with peds as opposed to bikes.

    I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that might have something to do with it. I don’t judge all bikers by those ones, but I wish there was something I could do about it.

    I almost wish there were some kind of “bikers license” and plates for bikes necessary to ride bikes on streets. We’ve got to start cracking down on all of these bad bike riders so that all the good ones out there aren’t tarnished by them. Until then I’m afraid all good bikers (like my husband and brother-in-law) might get a bad rap for these bad bikers, which means they’ll always be a last consideration.

  5. Let’s put the question in another context: is there any value in having a pedestrian walkway that only extends 5 or 6 blocks ? OR – is there any value in having a roadway that only provides cars access to a paltry 5 or 6 blocks of shops and residential highrises? Of course. Why is it that ONLY bikes are assumed to not need access to particular areas if the route doesn’t “go anywhere”? Maybe where you want to go is right there in those five or six blocks.

    Burnside is a particularly good example of a road that is extremely intimidating to bikes, yet more and more boasts a variety of desirable destinations. For the cost of some paint, a sign and a slight change to City ordinance language, Portland could encourage bike access into this latest urban paradigm zone. A dead end shared route for bikes and peds would also serve as a permanent marker for future connections. We couldn’t muster the political will to remove a lane on Burnside today, but we may tomorrow. Or maybe, with the efficiency of combining bikes and peds together – full lane removal would no longer be necessary. Sometimes saving even a few feet (say a 14’ shared sidewalk as opposed to a 12’ sidewalk and a 5’ bikelane – makes all the difference).

    So yes, Chris, I agree a change to City ordinance to allow bikes on the superwide Burnside sidewalk would be a step in the right direction – and would cost nothing. Little known fact: such an exemption already exists in the Park Blocks.

    I argued with City Council unsuccessfully for another exemption to allow bikes on sidewalks and spare cyclists the serious risk of riding next to streetcar rails on selected downtown streets. I predicted cyclists would break legs and arms as a result of the rails and I have sadly been proven correct on this. However, the city response – then and now – has been: better for a cyclist to die on the street than to share the sidewalk (so far no cyclist fatalities associated with the rails, but I predict it is only a matter of time). Sharing is always wrong. Everyone must have their own unique facility, however redundant, built to their own unique standards. If there isn’t enough space or money to implement ideal standards then – you get nothing, especially if you are on a bike.

  6. I too was going to mention the Springwater Trail but only with good things to say. I walk the trail, stay to the right and bikes fly by on the left with a ring of their bell as they approach.

    I am sure on weekends, in places like Greshams’ Main Park there are times where there is so much traffic that the only safe thing to do and to help everyone enjoy themselves is to move to the grass.

    I do wish that flexibility was used more for the sidewalks of Portland and licensing users or their bikes would help on sharing the facilities. Bikers should be accountable just like a car driver since a pedestrian being struck by a bike going 20 to 30 miles an hour could be fatal. Sharing of wider sidewalks would require better signage and brickwork/painting for pedestrians (especially with children) to understand their surroundings.

    Ray Whitford

  7. This has everything to do with the difference in bike cultures that have emerged in Europe and the US. In the US the bike industry over the past 30 years has marketed increasingly specialized bikes at the fitness, racing, and mounain bike community. Modern commuting bikes are not even sold in the US market. Which means people who buy new bikes tend to end up either with: (1) bikes designed for road racing with such close tolerances and exotic materials that one cannot even mount fenders and racks on them, or mountain bikes with full suspension that also barely take racks and fenders.

    Take Cannondale, for example. They have lots of European models that would be perfect for commuting in Portland with integrated fenders, lights, racks chain guards etc. When was the last time you saw one of these in an American bike shop?


    A bike like the Cannondale Street Nexus Headshok or Street 800 in the above link would make a perfect commuting bike for Portland. When was the last time you say anything remotely similar in an American bike shop.

  8. This has everything to do with the difference in bike cultures that have emerged in Europe and the US. In the US the bike industry over the past 30 years has marketed increasingly specialized bikes at the fitness, racing, and mounain bike community. Modern commuting bikes are not even sold in the US market. Which means people who buy new bikes tend to end up either with: (1) bikes designed for road racing with such close tolerances and exotic materials that one cannot even mount fenders and racks on them, or mountain bikes with full suspension that also barely take racks and fenders.

    Take Cannondale, for example. They have lots of European models that would be perfect for commuting in Portland with integrated fenders, lights, racks chain guards etc. When was the last time you saw one of these in an American bike shop?


    A bike like the Cannondale Street Nexus Headshok or Street 800 in the above link would make a perfect commuting bike for Portland. When was the last time you say anything remotely similar in an American bike shop.

  9. Sorry about the double post. I didn’t see my comment the first time around.

    As for the sharing concept. I think the more fruitful approach would be to think more seriously about car/bike sharing of the main roadway rather than bike/sidewalk sharing. The way to accomplish this is to really slow down car traffic on major bike thoroughfares. For example, Portland could create bikeways by taking certain surface streets or certain lanes on surface streets and slowing them down for car traffic by putting in things like speed bumps and islands that have cutouts for cyclists. Car drivers will still have access but will be forced to slow and and this will discourage all but local access by auto, freeing up more space for bike commuters to ride more comfortably and safely in the street.

  10. Kent –

    I agree. I think Hawthorne Boulevard is a perfect example of where the right lane ought to be shared by bikes and autos and expected to move at bike speeds.

    The problem for bike users is that our speeds are quite varied. The typical bike commuter moves along at a pretty good clip that is probably acceptable. As Chris points out in his My Commute post, its pretty easy to keep up with traffic in downtown Portland especially with the lights timed the way they are.

    On the other hand there are a lot of recreational users who are the “sunday drivers” of biking. This includes families with small children. They move very slowly and fit right in on a sidewalk assuming the kids are paying attention.

    But just as commute speed bikes don’t mix very well with pedestrians, recreation speed bikes aren’t going to mix well with traffic on Hawthorne.

    At least that is true as long as we assume modes need to be channeled into exclusive right of way with signalization to make everything work. But there are the new European streets where they have eliminated all the traffic signals, curbs etc and are letting people negotiate their own rules. I compare the result, as I have heard it described, to what you see at a busy state park campground. Kids, cars, pedestrians etc all sharing a common road space by cooperating.

    Of course the key to all such schemes, as you point out, is substantially slower auto speeds. How do we convince people that the benefits of speed don’t outweigh the benefits of slowing down traffic? I don’t know, but I think the place to start by trying to get the state speed limit residential streets reduced to a speed safe for pedestrians instead of one safe for people in cars.

    The difference between getting hit at 25 MPH and 15 MPH is the difference between walking away with bruises and a trip to the morgue. And that doesn’t consider the ability to avoid the accident altogether.

    If the traffic on Hawthorne was moving at 15 mph we wouldn’t need to tell bikes they can share the lane. They could do naturally it just as they can downtown.

  11. Ross:

    I’m definitely not thinking of streets like Hawthorne for a bike thoroughfare. Too many cars moving too fast. Seems to me that a far better alternative would be to slide 3-4 blocks north to Salmon St. Re-sign all the intersections along Salmon so that it is a non-stop run from 39th to the river and put creatively designed speed bumps and traffic islands along the route to prevent it’s use by car commuters looking for a shortcut. If they are designed so that bikes can pass through at full speed then you’ll have a good bike commuting corridor. Residents along Salmon will have full access to the street and will probably be happy to see the high-speed auto traffic eliminated.

    Anyway, that’s just off the top of my head. There are probably better examples than Salmon St. I only used it because you mentioned Hawthorne. There are a lot of residential areas that are looking to reduce the speed and volume of car traffic. Those would be perfect roads in which to deliberately slow traffic by creating a multi-use road in which bikes and other human powered vehicles have preference.

  12. I agree with Ross that Hawthorne would be great place for an experiment in shared use. The right lane would be signed for local auto trips (with “right turn only” signs at each light), transit (with curb extensions) and bikes. Yes, “playing tag” with TriMet is not ideal, but the speeds of these three modes are comparable and drivers of bikes, cars and buses will have to communicate. What finally slows things down is lots of people using all modes, all together..i.e. congestion! Then a pedestrian would be able to just walk across Hawthorne as well. Why not try this between 30th and 39th?
    Lenny Anderson

  13. Screw that, we need bike STREETS. Take an entire lane from traffic, 12′ wide or so, and separate it from traffic with a string of land-mines and 14′ tall concrete barriers. NOW let the SUV drivers try to run me over!

    Ok, a bit over the top, but it would be nice to have for the little kids who would otherwise get run over. It could also act more like a wide multi-use path if you included the sidewalk on one side of the street.

  14. Riding a bicycle on either Lovejoy or Northrup is suicidal. Especially when wet, I’ve seen both normal cyclists and police officers crash in really nasty accidents when their tires get loose. Bicyclists also tend to ride on the right side of the rails, so when they go by a loading platform, their pedals are mere inches from the concrete.

    It is much, much safer to ride down Marshall or Kearney and cut over to another street – and doesn’t take any more time! I really don’t see why bicyclists take those suicidal runs down the street when there are safer streets to ride on, with lower traffic. Same with Hawthorne and Belmont.

  15. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the issue of slope– bikes going uphill can more appropriately share space with pedestrians than bikes going downhill. I’d like to see more asymetrical street design.

    And remember, except in downtown, Portland sidewalks *are* shared, although its generally (but not always) slower and less safe to bike on sidewalks.

    I think a lot of bike design comes from existing cyclists who have different desires than the person who is not yet a cyclist but might become one. Many beginners feel safer sharing with pedestrians, but many experienced cyclists feel better riding in the street where they are more visible to perpendicular traffic. Good design should accomodate both types of users, but guess which group provides the political input?

    Finally I think its great the South Waterfront trail will be separated. Halleluhah, in fact. Cyclists like me seek trails just as motorists seek freeways. I go out of my way to get on one so I can go fast and fume-free. I praise the rain because it means fewer pedestrians I am obligated to slow down for. Yet at the same time I wish I didn’t have to keep quite such an eagle-eye on my kids when we walk along the esplanade dodging the speeding commuters.

  16. I disagree with the idea that in a park-like setting bikes and peds just naturally belong on their own separate facilities.

    In order to better inform myself about City of Portland design proposals I did a literature search and internet call for comments on how well these separated facilites perform some years back. Due to the professional list serve I used respondents tended to be planners, bike/ped coordinators for DOTs, etc. – highly sophisticated commentators.

    In summary – some respondents felt they worked well, but many others did not. This was based on first hand experience and hard numbers. The most informed respondent provided me with the results of a multi-city study she had done on separated facilities. She and others found that compliance with the separated facility rule was a problem. While the overwhelming majority of cyclists stayed on “their” pathway (over 90%), a large percentage of peds (especially children) strayed over into the bike path (as much as 30% of all ped traffic). This caused slowdowns, near misses and general bad feelings all around.

    We have heard some comments from folks who feel that novice cyclists, cyclists with small children, etc. need a kinder, gentler facility. Is this really a separated bike only path set up so cyclists can “go fast”? And since so many respondents said that high percentages of peds – usually the most clueless ones – wandered into the bikepath anyway – is this set up all that much safer?

    Why is it that the City didn’t even bother to look at a shared model, possibly with visual cues like paving or paint that would allow greater flexibility of use? As a cyclist I often enjoy going no faster than walking speed and enjoying direct adjacency to the river. Why should all cyclists be denied that experience? Shouldn’t there have been some broader thought given to design alternatives before selecting a model that costs more to build and has the potential to alienate two user groups even more?

  17. Rick –

    I am from Minnesota originally and around many of the lakes in Minneapolis they have separated bike and ped paths. Pedestrians did wander onto the bike path and when inline skates came into vogue there was a battle over which path they were supposed to use. But I could still ride around of the lakes much faster than I can the esplanade or or springwater trail. I think both shared paths and separate facilities have their place.

    I agree with you bikes should not be entirely banned from the pedestrian path if they are moving at pedestrian speed. But I think you would find you rarely actually want to bike that slowly.

  18. When traveling several years ago through The Netherlands and Belgium I marveled at the way these countries had constructed many of their dense urban bikeways. They were essentially shared sidewalks, with the outer few feet dedicated to bicycle travel and the inner portion for pedestrians. Often, the only indication as to who went where was a subtle difference in the color of the bricks in each area, or a brick dividing line.

    They were well used and I certainly enjoyed riding them as they were a positive separation from traffic without sacrificing access to common destinations.

    Excited by these examples I was determined to bring this design back to Portland and see if we could borrow this latest European “innovation.” However, the more I looked into it the more difficult a fit it seemed for an American city.

    Following are the differences between here and there that dissuaded me from pursuing this design in Portland:

    On-Street Parking. In the European cities there was essentially no on-street parking. In American cities it is along almost every block face. The presence of on-street parking presents several potential challenges for cyclists. One is the possibility of dooring, which is not much different whether it’s on the passenger side of a car or the driver side. However, because passengers are not accustomed to looking for cylcists on sidewalks, it could be more of a problem, at least initially. More significantly, the other problem with on-street parking is that it further removes cyclists from a motorist’s view. This could be especially important at cross-streets. A right-turning motorist might not notice a cyclist set back 10′ from the roadway. In the European cities, the bike portion of the sidewalk was right up against the roadway, essentially where a bike lane would be in Portland, ensuring that cyclists were easily seen by motorists. That is one advantage of bicycle lanes: cyclists are easily seen by motorists.

    Street Trees and Street Furniture. In the European cities there were very few trees or other street furniture on those sidewalks with bike paths. I’m almost confident enough of my memory to say that there were “none”: neither trees, nor benches, nor parking meters, nor trash cans, nor bike racks. Nothing. Here the outside zone of our sidewalks is filled with such street furniture and trees. To create a clear space for cyclists, let alone to make them somewhat visible to motorists, we’d likely have to do away with such sidewalk elements.

    Driveways and Short Blocks. Motorists turning right across the sidewalks or crosswalks would probably present the biggest threat to cyclists. Many of our blocks have driveways leading either to off-street parking lots or parking garages. With each opportunity to turn right, the chances of a crash with a cyclist is increased. In the Dutch and Belgian cities there were generally no driveways. They have very few off-street surface parking lots and their parking structures are infrequent. There, the only opportunities for conflict were generally at the intersections, which seemed to occur much less frequently than here, with our 200′ blocks.

    Intersections and Costs. One problem faced by sidewalk-riding cyclists is how to turn left at an intersection. The European cities with sidewalk riding by design address this with a completely separate system of signals for bicyclists. Riders get their own, exclusive left-turn signal at many intersections. At some intersections they also get their own through signal so they don’t conflict with right-turning motorists. While Portland has a couple examples of these (at the Rose Quarter and the west end of the Broadway Bridge), creating a comprehensive system would be very expensive. It would also snarl automotive traffic more than it does in the cities I saw in Europe where the traffic volumes were much lower than what we have in Portland.

    Travel Speeds and Operator Behavior. The Dutch and Belgian cyclists that I saw rode very slowly, probably slower than 8 mph. I constantly found myself needing to slow down in order to “do like the Romans.” The motorists in these cities also drive much more slowly than American motorists–the basic speed in many Dutch and Belgian cities is 30 kph (18-19 mph). Motorists over there also behave much better around cyclists. In 3 weeks I saw no aggressive behavior by motorists, no speeding, no horn-honking, fast swerving and passing, yelling, etc. We just don’t yet have that level of calm, civility, and courteousness here.

    Complaints about cyclists behaving poorly around pedestrians abound in Portland. One need spend just a few minutes on the Espalande during a nice Summer’s day before observing several pedestrians startled by cyclists unaware of the fear they inspire among pedestrians by riding fast, passing closely, swerving and weaving. Of course, the same is true in observing motorist-cyclist interactions.

    We did consider shared sidewalk designs for some blocks in South Waterfront and also along Interstate Avenue. However, while the above differences may seem subtle and individually not insurmountable, taken together they were enough of a deterrent for me to shelve–at least for now–any thought of wide-spread use of shared sidewalks along Portland’s streets. While there may be situations where it could now work, I believe that the cultural and urban design differences between Portland and the Eurpopean cities I saw are too significant to currently advocate for shared sidewalks.

    Roger Geller
    Bicycle Coordinator
    City of Portland

  19. On my last trip to Europe I spent some time in Antwerp and saw an interesting solution to the issue of cafe tables blocking the sidewalk. Restaurants with outdoor seating did not put it in the sidewalk, the built a platform in what would otherwise be the parking strip (with a wall on the traffic side) and put the tables there!

  20. Roger G’s arguement against trying shared sidewalks anywhere in Portland seems to be along the lines of:

    1. They work great in Europe
    2. We aren’t like Europe
    3. Therefore, they can’t work here

    I understand safety concerns, etc., but fail to see why we can’t create our own American solutions to our own American situations. Just saying “the European model won’t work in America, so forget it” doesn’t do the shared use proposition justice.

    A few examples: Concerns about cyclists being doored by passengers exiting the right side of vehicles parked at the curb are very exaggerated. The whole concept of shared use sidewalks as I’ve suggested is – cyclists move at slower speeds (again, I am advocating this as a solution for short segements, special districts, etc. – not wholesale route replacement). Any cyclist will tell you that many dangers, including dooring, are much reduced when cyclist speeds are reduced. In addition – the urban furnishings zone that Roger mentions, typical to almost any Portland sidewalk with sufficient width to be a shared use candidate – acts as a buffer to dooring. While different from Europe, it has its advantages.

    I fail to see how the presence of a furnishings zone invalidates sharing a facility. Japan has a great deal of urban furnishings on their sidewalks, yet cyclists and pedestrians still effectively share the “throughway” segments.

    Similar to dooring – right turning car hazards, while certainly a concern – are reduced as cyclist speed is reduced. Perhaps unlike Europe, I would advocate for some physical treatments such as blue painted crosswalks, signage, maybe even “buttons” on unsignalized pavement xings to further ameliorate the hazard. If cyclists move no faster than joggers on a sidewalk – how are they more at risk than joggers in this situation? We are not seeing massive deaths of runners in Portland, I question if cyclists would be more at risk.

    Many responses on the shared use proposal seem to almost willfully take a 10′ or 12′ sidewalk just as it is today as the model. Rather, I am suggesting that introducing bikes into a shared use facility should be done in conjunction with redesign and retrofitting. As I have pointed out – widening a sidewalk by a few feet is a possibility on many streets where there isn’t sufficient room for a bike lane. What I question is why there is zero interest in even trying a few such facilities on a demonstration basis. Back to my original blog statement – I think a basic reason is that the shared use approach threatens the entitlement ideology of segregated modes.

    As for the behavioral problems of cyclists and peds – a few hundred years ago carriages in European cities deliberately ran down pedestrians in the street with impunity. Through a developing sense of shared civic responsibility, an increasingly egalitarian society and better physical infrastructure – Europeans became the polite, well behaved pedestrians, cyclists and drivers we see today (generalization of course). If Portland and America continue indefinitely on the “all modes must have all the space they need to all go as fast as they want” where do we find the space and the money? If we don’t start trying to act more cooperatively today – what is our tomorrow going to be like?

  21. Rick, I’m having a tough time with the ‘low speed’ part of the argument, and maybe haven’t seen enough of it in Europe to understand. I DON’T WANT to go under 5mph, even for short segments. If I have that short a trip, I’ll just walk. Can you describe the demographics or trip characteristics of the folks you think would travel this way?

  22. I can offer one demographic of people who would like to bike at ~5mph on a sidewalk. When I take my kids to a destination downtown, I would rather amble along slowly on the sidewalk. And I do– I’ve never had an officer so much as raise an eyebrow when I’m with my kids, and I usually get smiles from pedestrians. Another demographic is all those people who are just too scared to ride in downtown traffic. Just let them slowly ride the 8 blocks to waterfront park and then they’re fine with being on asphalt for the rest of their ride to sellwood or wherever.

    I’d like to see a 5mph speed limit on downtown sidewalks, but with all modes allowed. Easy to enforce: if it takes more than 25 seconds to cross a block face, you are going to fast.

    I think people would find this fair and it would really help get people on bikes who wouldn’t otherwise.

  23. Greg –

    I don’t think you are riding on the sidewalk during the commute period or at lunchtime. And while small kids with parents would seem fine, older kids without them would not stick to the 5 mph. I did enough door-knocking about neighborhood problems to know that kids on bikes can terrorize older people who are using the sidewalks. I’m not sure that we shouldn’t be teaching kids that if they are riding their bike they belong in the street and then make the streets safe for them to ride. Ot maybe the other way around.

  24. Rodger wrote:
    “One need spend just a few minutes on the Espalande during a nice Summer’s day before observing several pedestrians startled by cyclists unaware of the fear they inspire among pedestrians by riding fast, passing closely, swerving and weaving.”

    Then why not have striped bike lanes here, as well as parts of the springwater corridor? Both bicyclists and pedestrians deserve to have safe and comfortable places to travel.

    I agree with Rick, we need to think more creatively and not be bogged down by how things have been done, and are currently done. Why not try to make a sidewalk with a bike lane work in new developments like the South Waterfront.

    Just look at the Dutch. They experimented with removing sidewalks, street lanes, and traffic signs altogether, creating an area of traffic “chaos” to make their streets safer, and it has worked.

    “…no signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it’s unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous – and that’s the point.”

    From: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html

    Uncertainty breeds caution

    The idea of “shared space” is to denude a street of most of its conventional markings and features and create a different urban landscape in which motorists and pedestrians are put on an equal footing, so to speak. Drivers start to behave in a very different way amid the new uncertainty, moving slowly, making eye contact with pedestrians, and becoming aware of much more than whether the lights have gone red. Or so the theory goes.

    Evidence from Dutch towns is impressive. Safety records have improved, local officials report, and accidents, when they do happen are far less serious, because of the slow speeds.

    Yet overall cross-town speeds are no slower than before, because intersections are far more fluid and snarl-ups are rare.

    “We have fewer accidents and the accidents which do happen are less severe,” says Koop Kerkstra, a senior official in the northern Dutch town of Drachten. “We see a better flowing of traffic than when everything was regulated. With the new infrastructure, they can flow through Drachten in much less time.”

    Drachten is one of a half dozen northern Dutch towns experimenting with the new deregulated traffic system. But Mr. Kerkstra says it’s not just about safety.

    “What we find important is that we want to design the public space more as a meeting place where social activity is important,” he says.

    From: http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0127/p01s03-woeu.html

    Also: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html?pg=3

  25. I’ve never really understood why every street must have a bike lane. What happened to sharing the streets?

    I am living temporarily in Seoul, South Korea where there are masses of bikes sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians. It is very disruptive and seems almost dangerous with the bikes weaving through the pedestrians (although I’ve never seen a collision). It’s frustrating for pedestrians just trying to walk down the street as well as for the cyclists having to go basically walking speed. I have often wondered why they don’t just ride on the street, but with they way they drive here it’s probably very dangerous.

    So why not allow those who want to amble along on the sidewalk with their bikes to do so, providing there’s enough room (not so sure along Hawthorne with it’s amazingly narrow sidewalks) and those who want to go faster along with traffic to do so as well. Why must we get so high tech and up tight about these things?

    The key for safety whether it’s for pedestrians or cyclists is to get the cars to slow down. That means narrowing traffic lanes, adding stop lights where there aren’t any for long stretches (as well as timing them), widening sidewalks, adding street trees, furnishings, and on-street parking where there are none.

    *A note about street parking – enough converting 2 lane arterials to 4 lanes during rush hour by eliminating parking. Those cars along the curb keep pedestrians safe. It pushes the travel lane out another 8 or so feet away and provides a physical barrier between them and the careening autos. Cars will go slower with two travel lanes than four. Probably more important, however, is the appearance of safety. If a street seems dangerous or unpleasant to walk along, people won’t walk along it. It will never get activated with pedestrians and will remain an auto sewer.

  26. *A note about Japan. There are probably never fist fights in public, a testament to their amazing ultra-nonconfrontational culture.

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