Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder)

Most cyclists in America are aware that the Netherlands is a cycling country. So much so, that nationwide, 27% of all trips in the Netherlands are by bicycle. Digest that statistic for a moment. That means, over one quarter of all trips in the Netherlands are by bicycle. So how’d the Dutch arrive there?

A lot of articles on the subject point to a movement in the 1970s calls “Stop de Kindermoord” which literally translates to English as “Stop the Child Murder.” The following is a quote from David Hembrow on a blog post of his:

1973 was also the year that the pressure group “Stop de Kindermoord” (“Stop the Child Murder”) started. The object of this group was to point out the number of deaths caused to children and to campaign to reduce them. They successfully influenced the Dutch government to re-emphasize building of segregated cycle paths, and to make money available to pay for them. This resulted in both a rise in cycling and a reduction in cyclist deaths, reversing the previous trend. It has been a success not only for child cyclists, but for all cyclists, and indeed for the population as a whole.

In my opinion, campaigning for children is the best way to make progress in America. People for Bikes has recently taken this idea and started their own campaign: Build it for Isabella. It’s a simple concept: “Every new bike project should strive to be usable by a 12-year old.”

Here’s Isabella:

Isabella
Source: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/green-lane-project/pages/build-it-for-isabella

When considering current designs of infrastructure in the Denver area, I have a hard time imagining Isabella riding on most of our infrastructure.

For example, can you envision her sharing the road when sharrows are involved?

Denver Sharrows on Sherman St

What about even buffered bike lanes like this?

Champa St Bike Lane

Or is this more like it?

Bannock Cycle Track

The above looks like something Isabella could safely ride on, if she’s heading toward the photo. But what about the bike lane for those riding away from the photo?

I would also like to point out that protected tracks like pictured above are not enough. Protected intersections are also necessary. The Bannock cycle track posted above abruptly ends, leaving Isabella on the sidewalk, mixing with pedestrians and riding through crosswalks. (The sign in the photo below cautioning cyclists to slow has since been removed.) There is no clear indication of where she can safely ride from here.

Bannock Cycle Track Ends

We even have here in Denver, the first of what cycling advocates are calling a protected lane in the form of the 15th Street Bikeway. It has many positive design elements, such as:

  1. A protected buffer from the rest of traffic (done with plastic sticks bollards).
  2. Intersection treatments, like green zebra strips.
  3. Bicycle signals at the end of the track.

Here again though, the design has serious deficiencies that would keep Isabella’s parents from considering it safe for her:

  1. “Mixing zones” where cars need to turn left across the bike lane.

    Source: https://www.denvergov.org/bikeprogram/BicyclinginDenver/15thStreetBikeway/tabid/444594/Default.aspx
  2. A lack of interconnected routes.
  3. Abrupt ending of the lane where cyclists must merge back in with traffic.

Denver can and should do better. If we ever want to cycling to reach double digits modal share, or to see our children cycling like the Dutch we need to do better. This video is something that I think we can achieve in American cities:

How the U.S.’s Bicycle Infrastructure Fails the Rural Cyclist

Greetings long time readers. Thanks for bearing with me during my hiatus from posting as well as the moving around of things. If you’re still reading this, you’re a dedicated friend. 🙂

I’d like to take a moment and discuss Cherokee Schill’s fight in Kentucky. The basic gist, she’s been fighting a court battle over whether or not she has the right to ride in the middle of a lane on a busy highway running between two towns in Kentucky. I’m not familiar with the highway or traffic conditions at all, so I’m not going to express an opinion except for this, she should have never have been placed in a position to have to make that choice.

The U.S.’s bicycle infrastructure has failed Cherokee Schill and has failed every other cyclist who has been forced to make the choice of taking the lane on a busy highway and possibly incurring the wrath of local law enforcement (even if the law allows you to take the lane) or riding in a shoulder poorly designed for cyclists. Either option is also not seen as safe by the general public, nor is either option pleasant for cyclists who chose to brave these highways.

We can do better. Infrastructure for cyclists, where it exists in the U.S., is piss poor. This is doubly so for rural highways where motorized traffic speeds are much higher.

Take a look at this video:

This is great cycling infrastructure from the Dutch. They’ve got this figured out.

Compare that to conditions that Cherokee Schill encounters on her commute:

Yes, Cherokee had a shoulder. It’s difficult to tell, but there is a rumble strip on that shoulder that is no fun for cyclists to cross. It also difficult to see if and what kind of debris exists on the shoulder. That’s not a road that the large majority of people in the U.S. would ride their bicycle on, much less on a daily basis for their commute. Kudos to Cherokee for braving that road.

Bicycling will never become mainstream for transportation in the U.S. until we step up our game and design and provide infrastructure that is on par with that of the Dutch.