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Documentation of misrepresentation of the
research record in the Bicycle Safety Related
Research Synthesis

Spurious safety claim for Corvallis, Oregon bike lanes
Misrepresentation of Kaplan's facility type categories


Spurious safety claim for Corvallis, Oregon bike lanes

Newspaper article from which unsupported conclusions were drawn

The following article originally appeared in the Corvallis Gazette-Times of December 4, 1982. It was reprinted as a sidebar to an article by Michael Ronkin in the March, 1993 issue of Pro-Bike News, a newsletter published by the Bicycle Federation of America. The article implies that the construction of bicycle lanes is related to a reduction in reported bicycle accidents. However, the article also describes education and law-enforcement efforts. The article does not constitute a research report, and it does not contain information which supports a claim of increased safety for bicycle lanes. Rather, it indicates an alarming number of accidents on the streets with bike lanes. See my additional comments in my review of the Synthesis.

Accidents Wane with Bike Lanes

Bicycle accidents dropped by more than half in the year since Corvallis installed 13 miles of on-street cycling lanes, according to city engineers. Complaints about the system are also down, traffic engineer Brian Fodness said today.

"Every once in a while we hear some rumbling," Fodness said, "but many more comments are of a positive than negative nature. I think the community has adjusted."

Fifteen more miles of bike lanes are on the drawing board and will be installed when money is available, he said.

When the first lane-striping program started in mid-1981, the City Council asked for a one-year progress report. This report was to go to the council today. It shows:

  • Sixteen bicycle accidents were reported between October 1981 and September, 1982, down from 10 the year before.

  • Of those 16 accidents, only five occurred on streets with bike lanes and those all involved bikes being ridden after dark without lights.

  • Bicyclists are for the most part using the lanes, except when the lanes are blocked by fallen leaves, debris or illegally parked cars.

  • Ghosts of old pavement markings still show through in some places, but addition of extra reflection markings has helped solve the problem.

  • As their budget allows, police are ticketing cyclists who break traffic laws, such as requirements to ride on the right and stay off downtown sidewalks.

  • Where the new lanes took parking spaces, most motorists have found other places to park.

Only five houses were left without any parking, on or off the street, and city engineers have helped owners solve that problem, Fodness said.

"What we've tried to do is identify ways owners could make improvements to their own property," Fodness said. "Most of them were easy to satisfy, a couple were a little bit more difficult."

It took a while, Fodness said, but both cyclists and motorists seem to be getting used to the lanes. Education programs sponsored by the city, schools and local cycling groups have helped, he said, and those programs will continue.


Letter from Steve Rogers of the Corvallis Department of Public Works

The following is a letter which Steve Rogers of the Corvallis, Oregon Public Works Department was kind enough to send to me. The letter documents my comments on the assertions in the Bicycle Safety Related Research Synthesis about bike lanes in Corvallis.

Letter from Steve Rogers of the Corvallis Department of Public Works (19 kB GIF)


Misrepresentation of Kaplan's facility type categories

The following table, from page 76 of Jerrold Kaplan's Characteristics of the Regular Adult Bicycle User, contains a category for "On-Street Bicycle Facility (Lane, Route)." There is no separate category for bike lanes. The Synthesis misrepresents Kaplan's figures for the category "bike lane, route" as applying only to bike lanes. See my further comments in my review of the Synthesis.

Table of accidents by facility type from Kaplan report (5 kB GIF).


Kaplan's questionnaire, reproduced on page 108 of his report, also has no separate category for bike lanes:

Question on accident locations from Kaplan's report (3 kB GIF)


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Contents (except cited material) 1999 John S. Allen

Last revised 24 January 2003