I recently commented on a Guardian article discussing recent deliberate attacks on cyclists in the UK, which uncritically presented the statement:
I reproduce it here, for ease of navigation:building segregated bike lanes [is] proven to be the best way to prevent such deaths
Reference required? It is rather a controversial matter. It is true that the countries where extensive segregation of cyclists has long been practised (Denmark, the Netherlands) have markedly better safety records than their neighbours. They are no paradise though: there are still 200 cyclist deaths a year in the Netherlands, for example.
But their segregated networks have been obtained at a certain price: the exclusion of cyclists from many parts of the road network (and its superior surfaces and direct travel lines), and slow and complicated junctions.
A Canadian study has showed higher accident rates for cyclists who habitually use footpaths rather than the carriageway. Most collisions happen at junctions. Footpath (and cycle lane) users generally find themselves at a positional disadvantage with respect to the traffic flow just when they most need to be correctly positioned.
A pre-eminent Dutch road safety expert has just published a paper (paywall, sorry) admitting that, in part, his country's superior cycling safety record is because their cyclists ride more slowly. They have to, on often tight cycle paths. Waits at complicated junctions can be long too.
Building cycle paths does reduce the space available for other modes. Such paths are the cowardly choice of the policymaker too timid to confront head-on the reality that the private motor vehicle is a dysfunctional form of urban transport, but nevertheless would, understandably, appreciate less noise, pollution, danger and fewer parking spaces in their town centre.
It has little to do with increased road safety for cyclists though: in fact, life for the cyclist may well be more difficult after they have been implemented, though if this also means fewer motor vehicles in town, this may be nicer for everyone.
Here's a video from the UK of the kind of angry entitlement we can expect from motorists once a cycle path, however unsatisfactory, has been built alongside a main road. Talk about realpolitik! (Cyclists in the UK retain their right to ride on the road, and are not obliged to use any cycle path.)
Thanks to the authors of these tweets for inspiring this post:
Plus il y a de cyclistes, moins ils ont d'accidents. La preuve par les statistiques de 8 pays. pic.twitter.com/cfTo0f2wQX— Olivier Razemon (@OlivierRazemon) October 2, 2015
@OlivierRazemon n'oublions pas l'inexistence des pistes cyclabes protégées en France vs Pays-Bas.— Christian denHartigh (@cdenhartigh) October 2, 2015