> Well yeah, but we use this specific configuration with the shared centre lane only on the lowest tier of rural roads where traffic is limited and the speed limit is 60 km/h (roughly 40 mph), and some select urban streets where they act as a traffic calming measure¹. Most arterial and collector roads have segregated cycleways, both within and without city limits. That is the basis of our road system. Cyclists and motorists mostly share only local roads/streets (30 km/h (20 mph) speed limit within city limits, 60 km/h without). The exceptions are roads where limited space means cyclists have dedicated cycle lanes which motorists may not use for overtaking, but in those cases motorized traffic won't share lanes with oncoming traffic either.
They actually say that in the video. In Germany they are mostly used in urban settings in streets with speedlimits below 30 km/h I believe. They definitely work if this is a low volume street, however the speed limits need to be enforced (a general problem in many countries IMO).
I used to work in Utrecht in the Netherlands as a contractor (doing Delphi progamming,me based the UK) and I can safely say that the bikes used to terrify me far more than the cars did, as the NL has some of the worst gridlock in Europe, so you can walk faster than the cars, even on motorways. The bikes used to sneak up on you.
As an American it was immediately clear to me the sort of road this website is suggesting we replace with edge lane roads. They are two lane, dotted-white divided, and limited to 45mph. Very common rural and exurban pattern.
This might not have been as clear outside of the North American context.
In most places, the roads I think you're referring to would be dotted yellow divided (unless you mean a 45-mph two-lane one-way road).
In many states speed limits on such roads are 55-75mph. The thing in the article isn't a replacement for those at all.
This configuration looks like an alternative to one-lane, two-way roads in the US (typically no lines, 25mph speed limit; usually only for short parts of longer rural roads; often found near dirt/gravel roads).
One lane roads in the US have room for cars to pull off on the berm to let ongoing traffic pass. This seems similar. A bike wouldn't want to cruise along the red bits of a rural road like the one in the article, becuase they'd repeatedly hit debris. However, the dotted line provide guides to cars to allow them to avoid hitting bikes as they pass, and stretches of a few dozen yards in the red zone would usually be fine.
On a 45mph road though that's a closing speed of 90mph assuming everyone's following the speed limit. It seems crazy to me to have opposing traffic sharing a lane at those speeds.
Opposing traffic is already sharing a lane at those speeds, that's what the double-white is about.
They aren't that wide and there's not a lot of traffic, the safe thing to do is in fact to stay toward the center and yield to the sides when opposing traffic is coming. This isn't that different.
the roads this is meant for are mostly empty, so you have a long time to see someone coming.
I've ridden rental bikes on roads like these between Amsterdam and Leiden.
> I felt safe and drivers were respectful and patient when passing.
A large part of this, from what I've observed living in Canada and the Netherlands, is the different perspectives borne out of each culture.
In the Netherlands, everyone grows up having been a bicycle commuter. It's how every child gets to school. So everyone has been a bicycle commuter for at least some period of their lives and can sympathize with other bicycle commuter.
In Canada, it's less common for children to ride bicycles to school. Busses are far more common or parents dropping off their kids at the kiss-n-ride. When kids do ride bicycles, it's for sport.
So if a Canadian driver sees a person riding a bicycle, he or she does not see that person as an equal; someone who is also using the road to commute. They tend to see the bicycle commuter as someone who is intruding on their space, using the road (which is for commuting) for sport. And there is some small proportion of self-appointed citizen police who will decide to "teach them a lesson", much like you have with drivers who go about break-checking. It does not take many of those experiences to instill a sense of terror for those who try to commute by bicycle.
Additionally, in the Netherlands people who drive to work still frequently ride their bicycles to run errands. Need a carton of volle melk from the Albert Heijn or Jumbo? Just hop on your bicycle and ride 5 minutes. In the Netherlands there are very few food deserts  and small, well-stocked grocery stores are close at hand for every neighbourhood. That's often impractical in Canada, where we have shifted to large RC Superstores and Walmart "Supercentres", often located distant to residential neighbourhoods, often located along stroads which are inhospitable to anyone but car drivers.
In the Netherlands, it's much easier to think, "well, that could be me tomorrow", when driving past a bicycle commuter. In Canada, car drivers see the bicycle commuter as an invader or alien species, "the cyclist", whom is different and perhaps even unwelcome. In Canada, I feel lucky if the car drivers just tolerate my presence on the road; In the Netherlands I felt seen as an equal.
I lived in the Netherlands, England, Ireland, and New Zealand; England and Ireland are not "bike countries" either, but for the most part it was actually pretty okay cycling in the city: there are enough cyclists around, roads are small, and most people understand that the limited space needs to be shared.
New Zealand, however, was a different story. The roads are huge, US-style, and a significant number of cyclists think that the road is for them and them only which, given the design, is not even entirely invalid as such. You get aggressive drivers everywhere (including NL), but the incidence in NZ was far more often than anywhere else. I think the mandatory helmet laws aren't helping either: it instils the impression that you're doing something inherently dangerous on a space not intended for you.
Actually the most careful (car) drivers I've seen was in Indonesia, where roads are for scooters first and cars second.
> I think the mandatory helmet laws aren't helping either: it instils the impression that you're doing something inherently dangerous on a space not intended for you.
Oddly, the use of helmets may alter the perceptions of drivers opposite to what you suggest. There have been a couple studies showing that drivers, when seeing a bicycle commuter wearing a helmet, give that bicycle rider *less* room upon passing, compared to a bicycle rider who is not wearing a helmet.
There's a good summary of the observed effect which also provides links to the published research:
Important to also note, when something exists commonly on streets, it ends up being expected.
When a bike is a random occasion, you don’t drive expecting one on every corner. Even if you hate it. This can create an interesting type of blindness to it (your brain just doesn’t register it).
Even if nothing changed in terms of people’’ feelings, this would be beneficial as well (which I presume, is much more common than people wanting to punish them).
I've also noticed in the US that people have a built in idea of how fast a bicycle goes - roughly 20-25 km/h, the speed that the middle school and high school students go while biking to class. I can often reach 40 km/h on my road bike, but I have to pre-emptively brake as soon as someone starts a right turn or is about to pull into the road. Because they see a cyclist, assume I'm going 20 km/h, and pull out directly in my path even though I would have smashed straight into the side of their car if I had not defensively braked.
It's like their brain just shuts off estimating speed and distance as soon as they see a bicycle, it's very interesting.
> I can already imagine the Amazon delivery van or work truck parked in the bicycle section
I've lived all over the US and I've mostly seen this on the east coast (NY, CT, MA). Totally insane to me that police don't ticket the hell out of delivery vehicles for parking in the middle of active roadways (not just bike lanes).
Drivers in this area are terrible in general, not just delivery drivers. Everyone likes to claim that their local drivers are bad, but as someone with a lot of broad experience, East Coast drivers are truly some of the worst.
Seriously. I'm in Canada but I regularly see drivers cut through bike lanes to get in and out of parking lots without checking for bikes, or turn through a bike lane at an intersection without checking their blind spots. Even seen someone drive over a concrete curb and on a protected bike lane to get around a slow moving garbage truck.
I never feel safe on shared streets unless there's a physical barrier between cars and other road users. It only takes half a second of distraction for a driver to ruin your day, or worse.
In NYC, drivers regularly drive through "hardened" bike lanes, when they're not crashing into the concrete separator.
I don't know the rules in the US but in the Netherlands the car is always at fault in case of an accident, unless it is proven the cyclist was at fault.
This makes the roads a lot safer for cyclists.
When this law was introduced years ago the Dutch also made fun of it: https://youtu.be/ivY06w83fKU
American drivers are rarely prosecuted for murdering cyclists, even if the driver was running a red light, speeding, or committing some other kind of traffic violation. Even drivers that hit-and-run regularly get off with some kind of "time served" or probation plea. Sometimes they'll be given a moving violation fine of a few hundred dollars.
This is an opinion piece from 2013 but is still accurate because enforcement has not changed since:
More recent examples:
Another example here in NYC recently. The driver ultimately blamed a vehicular malfunction and the DA basically said there was no way to disprove that so the driver walked free. By all appearances the driver got away with road rage murder.
In British Columbia this year (after some changes to the insurance system), the provincial insurance corporation, ICBC, billed a cyclist $3700 for damage to a car that hit him after the car driver blew through a stop sign:
They have just in the past month updated the policy, but there have been several instances of this in the past 12 months.
You don't know the rules, but you can probably hazard a guess.
In Toronto, a driver took their eyes off the road, reached for a water bottle on the floor, hopped the curb, hit and killed a pedestrian, and was found not guilty.
Well they said they were reaching for a water bottle. For all we know they were yelling "death to the sidewalk dweller" as they deliberately murdered someone.
In Canada, drivers are not generally held responsible for driving that is normally incompetent. So the defence would of wanted to establish that such incompetence had occurred. It had to be a mistake that anyone could make.
It's a a pretty big problem, but no one seems to care...
The laws in the US are a patchwork of state and local regulations – but the rules are "fuck you, I'm drivin' here", and "yeah I'm parked in the bike lane, whaddaya gonna do about it?"
In New York at least, drivers are almost never prosecuted for hitting cyclists or pedestrians, even if the driver is at fault.
Just a nitpick, a car driver is by default 50% liable when involved in an accident with a weaker road user (cyclist, pedestrian, skateboarder, etc). That just means their liability insurance will have to cover the costs.
For most crashes and/or road traffic accidents, no "fault" is usually determined, FAFAIK.
The funny detail is that cyclists can choose to prosecute the car driver if they want the car driver to take on 100% liability, and in that case fault will be determined. But if a judge then finds the cyclist at fault, the car driver's liability decreases to 0% and the cyclist gets nothing.
> For most crashes and/or road traffic accidents, no "fault" is usually determined, FAFAIK.
This might be true. On the other hand, I know that especially in fatal accidents, forensic analysis is sometimes able to tell whether the driver was speeding or was exhibiting other kinds of illegal/reckless behavior, in which case prosecution for 3rd degree murder (dood door schuld) is usually pursued.
I wouldn't use something like this in the SF Bay Area, at least in winter months. The drivers are courteous enough, but Califonia paints bike lanes with green paint that becomes slick if wet or covered in leaves.
The worst part is that cars get super confused / angry when bicyclists use the car lane instead of the "perfectly good" bike lane.
Have you been on Tunitas Creek Road? It's in San Mateo County and runs from the top of the hill at 35 down to 1 on the beach.
It's a pretty narrow road through redwood forest and since cars avoid it, cyclists treat it as a bike route.
I agree that there are too many signs in Canada that don’t help because the roads feel like they support higher speeds.
I don’t think roads need to be mentally taxing as that just causes fatigue to already tired workers commuting. What you can do is offer visual and sensory cues so that the speed limit feels natural. For example, narrowing lanes, gradient changes, road material changes.
I enjoyed riding on this style of road near Amsterdam. It struck me as a very efficient use of space for roads that don't experience high volume traffic on a regular basis. Drivers naturally slowed down and waited their turn to pass when they saw cyclists and oncoming traffic. It made me wish that things like this would exist in the US.
But again, all of my experience riding in the US tells me that this style of road is a terrible idea without two prerequisites:
1. significant increase in difficulty of obtaining a license
2. enforcement of penalties when drivers murder cyclists and pedestrians
The number of times that people have dangerously cut through a bike lane, done high speed close passes, swerved and accelerated into incoming traffic to do a dangerous pass while going 20mph over the speed limit, randomly pulling over to park directly in front of me in a no parking zone in the bike lane, etc, that I have seen in the US, makes me dread this kind of road.
> ITT: People who've never done any research on this issue making very American conclusions.
Skimming the other posts here, people are drawing American conclusions on how drivers would behave. And can you blame them? Drivers have gotten away with slaps on the wrists for killing cyclists and pedestrians for too long in America.  These edge lane roads only work if drivers believe that cyclists also belong on the road. But that isn't the case in America.
Unless the States start punishing distracted driving, and enforce stricter licensing requirements, we'll continue to rely on urban planners to protect other road users with infrastructure against idiocy.
> ITT: People who've never done any research on this issue making very American conclusions
As an American, it could be that I've experienced and heard of active hostility to bicyclists. It seems like a uniquely stupid American thing. I'm sorry if this is also the case in Europe.
There exist optimization criteria besides "reduce the number of deaths". In particular, the enjoyment of drivers is an important optimization criterion.
>In particular, the enjoyment of drivers is an important optimization criterion.
Yeah but it's not (it shouldn't be) important for every road. And that's the point. We want roads that drivers prefer for "enjoyment" (I have never enjoyed driving a vehicle) and roads that optimize for bicycle rider and pedestrian enjoyment. The drivers can stay on the driver roads and bicycle riders and pedestrians can stay on the bicycle and pedestrian roads.
> it's not (it shouldn't be) important for every road.
It is important for every road, but sometimes it makes sense to prioritize other traffic types (which is why the OP is reasonable in some circumstances).
> I have never enjoyed driving a vehicle
You are not a modal American in this regard.
Which drivers? Lorry drivers? Race car drivers? Soccer moms? Commuters? Motorcyclists? Regular cyclists? Jockeys? Draft-horse drivers?
I grant you that it certainly is a criterion for optimization, but I would call it important only for race tracks, not public roads.
> Which drivers
Somewhere on the pareto frontier. You can do a good job for most of them.
> but I would call it important only for race tracks, not public roads.
Utility theory doesn't stop working off a race track.
I think the big problem is nobody knows what the heck they’ve encountered.
If you do it naturally people can figure it out: make the road very narrow but technically wide enough for two cars and people will hug the center naturally.
Just don't draw any lines and even on wide (>2 cars) roads people seem to hug the center pretty naturally (IME, there are probably cultural differences between how people drive in different places that matter here).
The strange part about this road is that there were so many lines by the edge of the road, that's legitimately pretty confusing. I'm not sure if it's confusing in an unsafe way, but it's definitely uncomfortable.
I'd love to know if someone has a link to someone knowledgeable comparing "all these lines for edge lanes" to "just don't draw anything".
I suspect lines really are only needed when you want to fit maximum lanes in a given space - many of the four lane roads here would turn into one lane each way without lines.
Yeah, I think the "North American" way to make this design coherent would be frequent sharrows markers, low speed limits, and no other lane markings. The sharrows markers would make it clear "yes cyclists are supposed to be there" and the lack of lane markings would make it clear "shift left as you need".
the only reason the "share the road" signage is accepted in america is because drivers interpret it to mean that cyclists should give way to motorists. "other road users should share with me" rather than "i need to share with other road users"
try going to a community meeting and suggesting that a "share the road" sign be replaced with a "cyclists may use full lane" sign and see how much pushback you get.
I’m not particularly concerned with the wording on the sign, but this sentiment is exactly why I prefer “sharrows” over designated bike lanes. They very clearly indicate that cyclists are expected to be a part of traffic.
In my experience—at least in Seattle which is more bike friendly than baseline in the US but certainly not on par with Portland—drivers are far more likely to yield to cyclists with these markings than where a bike lane is present. In contrast, I’ve had drivers try to run me off the road, screaming mad, when I had the gall to perfectly legally ride in the main road where a bike lane was present. Even when there was plenty of space for them to pass.
2: Several of my cyclist friends disagree with me on this, but I find the particular bike lane exceedingly dangerous. I frequently avoided it when it was on my daily commute route, after numerous frightening close calls. Riding along with the aggressive drivers really did feel safer.
When installed correctly - that is, in the very center of the lane - sharrows are slightly better than a "share the road" sign. Too often, cities install sharrows on the very edge of the lane, creating a suggestion that cyclists are only permitted to ride on the edge of a lane and that drivers should continue passing without giving adequate space.
My towns main street has sharrows directly in the "door zone" between the street parking and the traffic.
And of course all the normal criticisms of sharrows hold. Mainly that they're much more visible to cyclists than to cars, creating a false sense of security where cyclists feel entitled to a lane while drivers disagree.
My experience has been the opposite of yours. In the last city I lived in they had "sharrows" on some of the streets, and cyclists would get angry when people drove on those streets. Apparently when cyclists suggest that you share something with them, they mean they get to use it and you don't, which isn't my understanding of the term.
could you talk more about your experience? i don't believe cyclists in any meaningful number believe that sharrows mean cars aren't allowed, so i'd like to know more about the details of your experience (was it in the US or elsewhere, what city, information about the cyclists who had this belief and how you came to know they thought this)
I feel that to implement these in the US you’d want to start by marking those country roads, but even then it would take time. L
It almost feels like it works better unmarked.
In the Netherlands this used instead of segregated cycle lanes, but in addition to a strong network of cycle lanes.
Most commonly you find them down very old, narrow, country lanes, where there simply isn’t space for true segregation. But equally, there’s usually no need to use these roads a cyclist, as there are normally more direct dedicated cycle routes. You frequently only use them because your specifically looking for a scenic route, or something a little unusual to cycle down.
In other parts of the world, they will also have their place in space constraint locations, or in large networks of small country lanes, where providing segregated infrastructure simply isn’t possible or viable due to lack of space, or extremely low volumes of traffic.
I personally think the UK could benefit substantially from these types of roads, if country lanes where converted. The lanes are barely big enough for bi-directional motor traffic, and occasionally not even that wide. Providing edge lane roads would encourage motor traffic to remain in the centre of the road, where they’re substantially less likely to collide with cycle or pedestrian traffic, which may be hidden around one of the many blind corners.
When faced with uncertainty, car drivers tend to slow down. That's the general advantage here.
It's not better than a properly separated bike path, but it is better than a painted bicycle gutter that motorists are comfortable driving 50mph inches from.
Based on the picture, I don't see a big difference between this and the "painted bicycle gutter that motorists are comfortable driving 50mph inches from". Is it the single center motorized lane that is the important distinction?
I agree that paint alone is not bicycle infrastructure.
But, when comparing paint with paint, this will slow drivers down more than the standard divided two car lane two way road they are accustomed to, due to the single center motorized lane that you pointed out.
As a commenter from the Netherlands pointed out somewhere else on this post, this paint only approach is supposed to just be one cost effective tool for very low throughout roads, the lower end of a panoply of system-level methods to design separation between ped, cycle, and car velocities, part of a system that first prioritizes proper cycleways over paint-only methods.
Unfortunately in North America we really have to crawl before we can walk on this one.
Except given American drivers insistence on their own primacy and infallibility on the road, I can’t envision an edge lane working.
The main road closest to my house was recently (3 years ago) re-striped from two lanes each direction to 1 lane + bike lane. Car frequently ignore the bike markings and simply use the bike lane for aggressive passing of vehicles going the speed limit. I damn near got run down from behind by a bro-dozer making one of these aggressive moves in the bike lane.
Too many American drivers are self-entitled wankers, and suburban roads are too wide and too fast, for this to work. (Of course, wide road, no reason for this model, but I suspect American drivers simply wouldn’t tolerate this design)
These are also mainly used on fully residential streets and basically codifying existing rules. They behave very similarly to streets without a center line & sidewalk/bike lanes. I also think cost does become an issue when implementing larger streets/bike lanes (let alone the fact that larger streets make people go faster) on every single residential street.
I assume it’s space/right-of-way related.
But, like you, I have questions about how this configuration would work (in the US, in my case). I can see it working well in towns and suburban roads in some European nations - I’m thinking Scotland here - where default speeds are lower, roads are already shared with parking (so single-tracking is a known procedure), and drivers generally aren’t assholes.
In the US, most suburban streets are posted at 25-40mph, and actual speeds tend to be higher yet, which seems WAY too fast for edge lane roads or any other mixed use roadway. Heck, in my area, we have dedicated (but not protected) bike lanes and on some roads, they’re downright scary because the traffic 3’ away is going 50mph.
there's no need to be anti-car (it's fruitless anyway) to be in favor of a more diverse mix of transport. we'd have plenty of space for mixed mobility if we just converted all on-street parking to protected bike lanes rather than implementing these edge lane roads, which seem to be a solution looking for a problem (lack of space, in this case).
the important bit is segregating traffic by inertia and mass. i'd personally love to see all the car/truck thoroughfares (roads) put underground, with people getting explicit priority on the above-ground, mixed-use streets.
Space is at a premium in many places, possibly every place where such a road might be placed.
One of these roads is two blocks away from me. I’m going to go have a look at it later today, but the road it’s on is very similar to the road I live on: two direction street, residential parking on both sides, not four car widths’ wide, so people are already “taking turns” and used to it.
I bet it works exactly like the street I live on, only using more paint.
This configuration is for streets without enough room for a dedicated bike lane. An edge-lane road is as wide as a standard two-way with no bike lane.
it seems like the sort of thing that would work well in a space that already has a culture of sharing the roads amongst various transportation modes, and where drivers are already generally respectful and courteous towards other road users. I can see why it works well in the netherlands.
I think it's a little naive to imagine it would work in north america. drivers here need more than a gentle reminder to not run other users off the road.
Well as another Seattleite who bikes a lot, I have to say that infrastructure is only part of the solution. I chose my neighborhood on the basis of bikeability - it was literally the most important metric. And demographics and narrow streets trumped bike-specific infrastructure by a wide margin.
Upper middle class folks are much less likely to kill you regardless of what sort of road they're on (I can pretty much predict the probability of bad interactions simply based on looking at what folks are driving). And in the absence of any effective law enforcement with regards to traffic laws improving your priors is fundamental. (Heck in the WA state 10% of fatal crashes are due drivers who don't even have a license at all https://wtsc.wa.gov/download/12727 - apologies for the cert warning on the above)
And the other thing to look for is narrow streets (big feature of my neighborhood here) which keeps vehicle speeds down.
And don't bike after 10 PM at night (that's what buses and Uber is for) - too many impaired drivers after that point.
And keep in mind that separated infrastructure does little or nothing at intersections and driveways. There's a notorious separated lane across I-5 from me where lots of my friends have had bad interactions (including injuries) at parking garage driveways (a particularly nasty case is associated with the garage for a medical practice - we theorize that folks are coming out after unhappy doc visits distracted by the prospect of looming financial ruin - another US-specific feature ;-)
I take the lane there (which is scary as it makes drivers cranky, but again given the demographics they're not homicidal (at least so far)) but it beats getting squashed by someone speeding out of the garage.
I think the way forward in the US lies in achieving automated (and therefore safe and cheap) public-ish transport so we can give an alternative to the folks that can't drive safely and get them from behind the wheel. Short of that infrastructure (if built correctly) can be helpful but like bike helmets gets way more attention than warranted.