|On July 28, 2002, I asked Fred Meredith,
League Cycling Instructor and cycling journalist, who lives and works in Austin, Texas:
should the rate of car-door collisions be so much lower in Austin than in Santa Barbara,
even though nearly half as much of the facility mileage (as described in the study) is
BLWP? Are the streets just very wide so the bike lanes are not in the door zone? Is this
angle parking rather than parallel parking? Is it very low-turnover parking? Or what, if
anything, can you identify as being responsible for this low figure? Or is the study maybe
just wrong somehow about the mileage on BLWP streets (or other streets with parallel
parking), or the rate of car door collisions?
Well, John. That's a good question. I'd like to think that it has something to do with
the fact that we have 4 LCIs in Austin, a cycling newspaper that tries to deal with the
issues as they crop up, a large group of cycling activists (with a radio program on the
local KOOP FM radio) and even our pro bike lane contingent gets stirred up when there is a
proposal for lanes like the Cambridge accident scene.
In actuality, I think that the majority of the University area cyclists deal with lots
of streets that don't allow at the curb parking. There is also probably the fact that
there are two separate entities (maybe even three) where a dooring might be reported.
There's the city police, the University police, and the county sheriff's dept.
We have an activist who writes a regular column for Cycling News and goes to the
sources for injury and fatality statistics and then charts them on a map so that each year
we can show in print where people are getting killed (both cyclists and peds). Besides the
idiots who still try to cross the Interstate on foot, there are some "hot"
streets and intersections in town.
In the past two years there has been a big push by the grass roots activists (some Gen
X elements and other anti car, etc.) to have no parking signs put in all bike lanes. Of
course the residential streets in the blue-collar neighborhoods are not going to stand for
that. They have all converted their garages into rec rooms and their driveways into
storage for the boat or the car they are working on so they need the street for parking.
Fortunately for Austin, two of the major north-south bike routes (by designation and by
usage) are in up-scale neighborhoods where generally the only vehicle parked at the curb
is the landscaper's truck.
These both have traditionally had bike lanes on them with reasonably good treatments
(bike lanes discontinued before intersections and two car travel lanes indicated with
paint into and out of the intersection and then a transition to one car lane and a bike
lane on the other side of the intersection.
One of these routes, Shoal Creek Blvd (which does not have real "blvd"
qualities over most of its length) has become an alternate commute route for cars trying
to avoid a congested parallel freeway. The kids wanted no parking and wide bike lanes, but
the residents wanted to maintain parking and slow the car traffic. The city was
considering parking on one side of the street and bike lanes on both sides resulting in a
Cambridge type situation in one direction, but not the other.
That plan got mixed reviews so Charlie Gandy [another Texas bicycling advocate] as a
consultant came up with the alternative traffic calming treatment pictured in the July
issue of Cycling News and "Guest Editorialized" by John Schubert in the August
issue. It's a 6' parking, 4' bike lane, 10' travel lane arrangement in each direction.
Worse dimensions than Cambridge, but with fewer actual parked cars at this time. That
So, as you can see, I don't know the answer to your question, but can speculate.
Also, we don't fit the profile for our fatalities and serious injuries. MOST of our
fatalities and car/bike injuries are coming from overtaking motorists rather than left
turning motorists. True, they are mostly at night and involve cyclists without proper
lights and reflectors and choosing the poorer of possible alternative routes (like going
home from work at midnight past a bunch of bars). We have had a rash of daylight
overtaking crashes in Texas over the past few years too. I'd be curious as to the total
and accurate statistics for the state.
In a later message, Meredith indicated that in fact, Austin streets with parallel
parking and bike lanes are very wide:
John, I don't know if this has anything to do with your previous question about Austin,
but it is a big push for the bike lane advocates in Austin that there be no parking
allowed in them and therefore, without extremely wide streets we have basically no bike
lanes next to parking lanes. Mostly it's cars parked IN bike lanes and the program is
working on that as evidenced by the email I just received below.
[e-mail addresses below have been altered to avoid harvesting by spam robots. Change
"* at *" to "@" to contact these people.
Delivered-To: bikin-fred *at* macconnect.com
To: mdahmus *at* io.com, bill_canfield *at* mentorg.com
Cc: austin-bikes *at* topica.com
From: Stephen.Kreidler *at* ci.austin.tx.us
Subject: RE: BIKE: Shoal Creek bike lanes
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 08:16:01 -0500
Reply-To: Stephen.Kreidler *at* ci.austin.tx.us
Linda and I have issued 182 citations in 2002 throughout the City to vehicles parked in
no-parking bike lanes, blocking sidewalks, and blocking curb ramps. I have seem a dramatic
decrease in cars parked in no-parking bike lanes since we initiated issuing citations in
December of 2000. The Parking Enforcement Department also issues citations for parking in
no-parking bike lanes, but most such bike lanes are outside their patrol areas. The
Bicycle and Pedestrian Program staff are specifically responsible for all no-parking bike
lanes, all over the City.
Colly Kreidler, Engineering Technician
City of Austin Bicycle and Pedestrian Program
Transportation, Planning, and Sustainability Department
1011 San Jacinto
Stephen.Kreidler *at* ci.austin.tx.us
Additional comments as of March, 2003, afte Fred Meredith visited Santa Barbara:
Since you used some of my previous speculative comments on your website in discussing
dooring incidents, might I speculate further based on my more recent experiences in Santa
Barbara county and (possibly) a better understanding of how Santa Barbara may differ from
There may well be a relationship between bike lanes and car doorings, but it need not
all be because bike lanes encourage closer proximity to the parked cars. Though I believe
that is a concern, especially in Austin with some of the rediculous interpretations and
designs that have been proposed here.
I noted (during a recent two-week visit) that most bike lanes in Santa Barbara were
much wider than Austin's and some could be ridden even two-abreast without being in the
dooring zone of the parked cars. [Also, on Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Oxnard,
there is a bike lane which has an equally wide "no parking" lane to its right to
protect cyclists from being doored by vehicles parked along the seawall next to the
highway. Quite innovative for a p & p project. Now, getting used to riding just three
feet from the 70 mph motor vehicles with all that vacant space to the right -- that was
I suspect that some of Santa Barbara's high dooring statistics are a function of better
reporting than Austin or maybe most other cities. Santa Barbara is very bicycle aware and
I'm sure that Ralph Fertig, one of the activists with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition
can probably throw some light on the matter for us. (His email is <sb-ralph *at*
We do know, from past history, that greater awareness can result in better attention to
a situation and account for better reporting. All it would take is a person on the city
council saying, "If we are going to put in all these bike lanes, we better start
keeping track of bike accidents that happen in the lanes." I suspect that following
through with that kind of mentality would account for big numbers -- possibly even doing
some interpreting or lumping together bike lane and non bike lane incidents. You often
find what you are looking for just like to a man with a hammer everything looks like a
Cliches aside, I still don't know what factors are actually involved, but my own
observations are that with Austin and Santa Barbara both having lots of bike lanes, Santa
Barbara's bike lanes are for the most part much safer than Austin's. That flies in the
face of the statistics and is the reason I suspect that something more is involved and it
is probably worth pursuing to find the answer.
I replied to this message:
Your message not only raises the question not only of why the reported percentage of
dooring collisions is low in Austin, but also of why it is so high in Santa Barbara if the
bike lanes are so good. Are the crashes occurring on the streets with bike lanes, or
elsewhere? Are cyclists ignoring the available width in the bike lanes and riding too
close to parked cars? Are other types of crashes being underreported?
And Fred's response was:
Well, John, all I had to do was read your response and reread my post and some
intuitively obvious factors revealed themselves.
Santa Barbara appeared to have more bicyclists per acre than I usually see in Austin
(downtown and throughout the non-University part of town). Since I was there during the
holidays, the university was not in session and traffic in that area was limited to some
locals, bicycle transients and students with nowhere to go. In that light, I'm guessing
that normal bike traffic throughout Santa Barbara is even higher than what I observed. My
perception of Austin's bike traffic includes the University of Texas area and I still
think that though Santa Barbara is smaller, it has more cyclists -- or persons on pedal
Santa Barbara, even at Christmas, has a booming bike rental trade for tourists. Along
the beach and for many blocks inland you can see lots of bikes ridden by marginally
competent people -- tourists, I suspect. That too could contribute to Santa Barbara's high
dooring incidence. Just considering the blvd, by the beach there is a busy flow of both
cars and bikes. Some bikes on the paths, some on the street, and cars coming and going,
picking up and letting off passengers -- ideal situations for dooring when untrained
cyclists and out-of-town motorists are involved. I mention the visiting motorists since
their home towns probably do not have comparable situations with so many bikes sharing
space with cars in a very distracting environment like the drive along the beach.
Anyway, I don't know why it didn't dawn on me earlier that Santa Barbara's bicycle
friendliness (yes, often in the form of lots of bike lanes -- miles and miles in fact) and
the tourist trade could be responsible for some of the statistical disparity.