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Amsterdam cyclists ride fastest

October 20, 2015 2 comments

Does cycling-specific infrastructure slow you down? Can you ride faster on streets than on bicycle paths?

Some cyclists, many of whom seem to be of the vehicular persuasion, argue this point vociferously. John Forester may have been the first, with this pip from 2001 (among others):

The bikeway advocates are so imbued with the imagined virtues of the Dutch bikeway system, that it makes cycling safe for the incompetent and creates many cyclists where there were few before, that they have transformed, in their own minds, the defects of the Dutch system, its slow speed and long delays, into virtues.

The argument has stuck around even into this, the year of our lord 2015, the supposed year of hoverboards and powered shoelaces. That such myths and inanities persist probably has much to do with lack of experience; apparently, most cyclists in the U.S., for instance, have never ridden in a place with real bicycle infrastructure. Even John Forester, critic-in-chief of Amsterdam-style bicycle lanes, never visited the country.

Enter Strava data:

Strava bests

Riders in Amsterdam, that city criss-crossed by bicycle lanes and infrastructure, enjoy the fastest average speed (15.9 mph) of any major city that Strava tracks. For quick comparison, here are a few other cities:

  • Los Angeles: 13.1 mph
  • San Francisco: 12.9 mph
  • New York City: 13.5 mph

To be sure, Strava results are easy to criticize for their reliance on data-hungry, athletic riders, those who belong to a demographic that can afford and use the devices Strava requires. (I find the service helpful for tracking times and distances of my daily commute and weekend rides.) However, comparing Strava riders city-to-city has a big advantage: Strava users look similar to each other worldwide, making comparisons easy. The point? Athletic Strava users — that category of fast, competent riders that Forester liked to describe — ride faster on Amsterdam cycling infrastructure than on any type of other (mostly non-cycling) infrastructure in major cities around the world. It’s time to retire the myth that cycling infrastructure slows you down.

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One small step: Beverly Hills improves Santa Monica and Wilshire

April 1, 2015 1 comment

The westbound intersection at Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills is the worst on my ten-mile bicycle commute. It has no crosswalks on its northern side, and its two right-turn lanes from Santa Monica onto Wilshire make it difficult for cyclists going straight on Santa Monica. For years, such cyclists have had to position themselves in the middle of a cacophony of cars. Here’s how it looks on Google Maps:

SMWilshire

All these problems changed this morning. Overnight, the city removed the optional right-hand turn lane and replaced it with space off-limits to motorists. The change is most likely due to the city moving the westbound bus stop from the west side of Santa Monica to the east, requiring that buses have a way of getting back into Santa Monica traffic. That was difficult when there were two right-turn lanes to Wilshire. Now, with a single right-hand lane, the buses can navigate easier.

For me, this means the single most dangerous intersection on my commute has been removed. That wide space on the first photo below, marked by chevrons, is now space where cyclists can stop can breathe a moment.

1) Looking west on Santa Monica Boulevard. Where I’m photographing used to be an optional right turn lane.

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2) Looking east from the other side of the intersection, a bus navigates back into traffic after picking up passengers

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3) After the bus has left the intersection.

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