Imagine My Surprise…

Background Reading


There are lots of interesting notions that Urban Cyclists have. Much of what is believed is based on heresy rather than fact. One respondent in the current debate surrounding the origins of the term ‘jaywalking‘ on the ChainLink Forum wrote:

Reply by Bob Kastigar yesterday
I had posted this on another discussion group, and received a reply with another link. I’m not agreeing with all of this, but some are interested in history and background.

City streets before autos were not nearly as bucolic as Peter Norton likes to portray them. By the turn of the century the biggest urban problem was horse manure and dead horses in the streets of cities like New York and Chicago. And it was definitely not more safe…

“In New York in 1900, 200 persons were killed by horses and horse-drawn vehicles. This contrasts with 344 auto-related fatalities in New York in 2003; given the modern city’s greater population, this means the fatality rate per capita in the horse era was roughly 75 percent higher than today.

Data from Chicago show that in 1916 there were 16.9 horse-related fatalities for each 10,000 horse-drawn vehicles; this is nearly seven times the city’s fatality rate per auto in 1997.

The reason is that horse-drawn vehicles have an engine with a mind of its own. The skittishness of horses added a dangerous level of unpredictability to nineteenth-century transportation. This was particularly true in a bustling urban environment, full of surprises that could shock and spook the animals. Horses often stampeded, but a more common danger came from horses kicking, biting, or trampling bystanders. Children were particularly at risk.”

Automobiles ultimately were the answer. After the chaotic transition that Mr North describes, cities became cleaner and safer for pedestrians and the poor children who had to play in the streets.

From a Berkeley paper that is a bit long but extremely interesting:

This rather curious response was what caught my attention:

Reply by Jeff Schneider yesterday
Interstate highways are very safe for cyclists. None are killed there, because none are allowed to be there. When people are removed from streets, they are much less likely to be killed there. But is that what we want?


Here in fact is what the Federal Government itself has to say about this:

Bicycles on Freeways

There are no Federal laws or regulations that prohibit bicycle use on Interstate highways or other freeways. Although a State may prohibit bicycles on freeways, prohibition is not a Federal requirement. Most western States allow bicycles to use Interstate highways or other freeways. Many of these States restrict bicycle use in urban or other congested areas.

In some locations, the Interstate highway or other freeway may be the only reasonable route, or may be preferred compared to other steep, narrow, or winding routes. A State should consider safety and traffic concerns along the freeway and along alternative routes when considering whether or not to allow bicyclists to use freeways.

The Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities 1999 from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognizes that bicycles may use freeways (see page 60). To order a copy, go to the AASHTO Bookstore.

Section 166 of title 23 allows motorcycles and bicycles to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) facilities, unless either or both create a safety hazard. If so, the State must certify, the Secretary must accept certification, and it must be published in the Federal Register with opportunity for public comment.

My First Encounter With This

A great book on cross country touring

A great book on cross country touring

In the early 1990s I was planning a cross country trip (at least in my head). I think the impetus for this sort of thing came as a result of reading Free Wheelin’.

I distinctly remember reading his encounters with highway traffic while following the Adventure Cycling Association maps of the time.

Perhaps before the ChainLink denizens spread any more of their patented illogical reasoning and hearsay, they might want to spend a few choice moments actually reading something.

Enough said.

Bicycles and Interstates

Bicycles and Interstates