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Arlington Crowd Gets Euro Cycling Lesson

Arlington cyclists interested in the local application of European lessons in cycling filled the Central Library auditorium last night.

Over 100 Arlingtonians gathered to watch a film about European cycling practices and discuss their possible application in Arlington. This occurred during a special meeting of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee at the Central Library on Monday night. The event was organized by the committee as part of its efforts to broaden the base of public participation in cycling advocacy in Arlington. 

The evening was centered around a 45-minute film produced by a traffic engineer after he attended a travelling conference called the International Scan on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety & Mobility. The film examined the details of how different European countries approached the integration of cars, cyclists, and pedestrians on their streets. In Denmark, for example, there were many traffic signals dedicated exclusively to governing the movements of cyclists. The film noted that in Switzerland the government thinks that simply increasing the number of cyclists is an important component of increasing the safety of cycling.

During the screening, the audience reacted with recognizable envy (seeing cars yielding on a right turn to cyclists in the bike lane), surprise (very high cyclist compliance with traffic signals, low helmet use), and interest (handrails at stoplights). After the film, discussion was lively. Some viewers thought that it was possible that Arlington could ultimately become as cycling friendly as Copenhagen, but that it was a very long term prospect. Others pointed out that many of the engineering approaches used in Europe are already in place in Arlington (bike lanes, sharrows) or coming soon (colored bike lanes).   

One cyclist from Kentucky, in town to attend a conference, remarked that he was very impressed the state of cycling in Arlington and hoped that his hometown could one day match it. There was a strong consensus among the audience, however, that Arlington needs to do more. Many attendees remarked upon the need for better road safety education – amongst both cyclists and the larger population. Other needs voiced include signage for cycling-friendly routes, more bike parking near businesses, and improved trail maintenance.  

The event closed with a call for citizens to get more involved in cycling advocacy in Arlington. They were urged to tell Arlington’s political leaders that funding for cycling programs should not only be protected, but expanded. Cyclists were also asked to help put a familiar face on cycling by letting local businesses know that cyclists are their customers and neighbors. Finally, those who were interested in learning more specifics about Arlington’s ongoing efforts were welcomed to attend the regular monthly meetings of the Bicycle Advisory Committee.

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The film, broken into parts by city, can be viewed here.

Geof Gee March 08, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Just based on the description, there are a few films that tell a similar story. A fundamental problem, IMO, of emphasizing engineering changes is that European solutions are integrated with European laws, geography, and structure. Given your example of cars yielding to bikes during right turns, an obvious example is strict liability. Safety in Numbers -- Smeed's Law -- is really interesting. Based on conversations with traffic engineers and what I can discern from the literature, it appears that collisions/crashes/whatever increasing at a nonlinear rate with volume is widely accepted; although they argue whether the relationship is casual. Personally, I think that there is a component that is a direct feedback but that there are serious statistical issues with measuring it. Unfortunately, the present trend in advocacy is to inflate the casual effect. That written, according to whether you're talking about between or at intersections, Jensen uses 0.7 or 0.5: http://tinyurl.com/2aatpyg. Bicycle life has an interesting presentation on Safety in Numbers and presents some correlations: http://tinyurl.com/4kd2cmv. Jacobsen estimates 0.3 for California cities although it uses sample based data and is clearly biased towards zero: http://tinyurl.com/6ea7hcz. So even if the casual effect is half or a third, it would still be meaningful, IMO.
Geof Gee March 08, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Clearly I left my brain at home today and swapped "causal" and "casual". Guess it's time for another cup of coffee.

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