Bike Bob’s Factoid-Free* Potpourri  - Home

Tue., June 14, 1994









by Bob Soetebier


St. Louis Metro Area

Bicycling Advocacy Coordinator





     My name is Bob Soetebier and I am the St. Louis Metro Area Bicycling

Advocacy Coordinator -- a voluntary position I initiated and have held

for 15 years.  My experience and expertise includes the following:


     In order to represent bicyclists, and as as an on-road bicycling

advocate, I was appointed in 1981 by then St. Louis County Executive Gene

McNary to a four-year term on the St. Louis County Board of Highways and

Traffic.  Additionally, I served on The [St. Louis] Mayor's Ad Hoc

Bicycle Committee.  I've also had the distinct honor of serving as the

BICYCLE USA/L.A.W. Missouri Government Relations Advocate, as well as the

BICYCLE USA/L.A.W. Missouri Bicycle Touring Information Director.


     In recognition of my local, regional and national efforts in

promoting bicycling safety and advocacy of on-road bicycling, I was

awarded the 1986 BICYCLE USA/L.A.W. National "Volunteer of the Year"

Award at the BICYCLE USA Nationally Rally held that year here in St.

Louis at Washington University.  I have received similar recognition and

awards from the Ozark Area Council of American Youth Hostels, the St.

Louis Bicycle Touring Society, and from another national group,

Bikecentennial (now known as Adventure Cycling).


     I founded and had the pleasure of serving as the only 3-term

chairman of the not-for-profit Bicycle Federation of St. Louis (now

defunct.)  During my tenure as chairman of the B.F.S.L., I initiated and

spearheaded a major bicycling safety and on-road bicycling advocacy

campaign in the St. Louis Metro area.


     Over the past 15 years I have bicycled on-road over 85,000 miles.



     Now that you have a brief overview of my qualifications, I submit

for your consideration the following:


     The time is long overdue that we recognize the bicycle's valuable

contribution to our society.  Automobiles are a major contributor to air

pollution (and to the "Greenhouse Effect") both locally and nationwide. 

An automobile's engine is the most inefficient in it's first 5 to 15

minute warm-up driving period.  Most auto trips are below 5 or 10 miles,

which is well within reasonable range for anyone travelling by bicycle

within a half-hour or so.  Even if only 10% of these short trips to work,

school, library, store, etc., were made by bicycle, it would have a major

impact on our air quality and health and fitness; not to mention going a

long way toward helping achieve compliance with the regions'

federally-mandated EPA air quality-attainment standards!


     Put simply and directly:  Bicycling -- as a non-polluting,

energy-efficient, healthful transportation alternative -- needs to be

heavily promoted while we still hopefully have time to save ourselves

from our own "fuelishness"!


     Toward this end, employers should be encouraged to provide showers

and locker facilities for employees as part of their company

health/fitness plans (good for reducing insurance rates!)  Also, all

commercial businesses, places of employment, and public facilities, --

such as government buildings, libraries, schools, shopping centers,

bus/train/Metro Link stops, etc. -- should be required to provide

adequate, under-cover-from-the-weather, secure bicycle parking facilities

in highly visible vandal/theft-free areas immediately adjacent to

well-travelled entrances.


     For the good of everyone in our area, a massive public education

campaign on all levels promoting the "Share the Road:  It's the Law"

message to both bicyclists and motorists is urgently needed.  This

mass-media educational campaign should involve and employ TV, radio,

newspapers, community groups, schools, Missouri and Illinois Automobile

Associations, etc.  At the same time, this all-age/all-level educational

campaign should particularly stress that, BY LAW in all 50 states,

bicyclists have "the same rights and duties as operators of motor

vehicles"; and therefore, *belong* ON the road.


     St. Louis Metro Area [and all Missouri and Illinois] residents --

bicyclists AND non-bicyclists alike -- should all be given the

opportunity to view the excellent 41-minute "Effective Cycling" video. 

This video is based on John Forester's book and his internationally known

and respected educational program of the same name, which emphasizes

assertively defensive, vehicular-style, safe and efficient

("claiming-rightful-space-on-the-road") bicycle operation.


     As a first step toward this effort, I have already gotten both the

St. Louis City and St. Louis County Library systems to purchase copies of

the "Effective Cycling" video.  At the very least the Effective Cycling

program should also be incorporated into all Missouri and Illinois

school's "Driver's Education" programs; starting in grade school

classrooms and continuing through high school, etc.


     Everyone should keep in mind that bicycles cause absolutely no wear

and tear to our roads.  Yet, like everyone else, bicyclists pay personal

property taxes which provide money for the maintenance of city and county

roads.  Therefore, bicyclists are actually subsidizing auto usage on our

roads; NOT the other way around!  It logically follows that since

bicyclists are paying much more than their fair share of

road-maintainence costs they should not be relegated to typically

inferior-surfaced, notoriously poorly maintained, inherently hazardous

and intersectionally conflicting roadway "sidepaths."


     In addition to the validity of the above statement, further evidence

of bicyclists subsidizing auto usage on our roads was published on April

26, 1993 in the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" "Drive Time column entitled,

"Are Drivers Getting A Free Ride?"  Quoting from that column:


        "...Jim MacKenzie has a thought for you: ...Sure, drivers pay

billions of dollars a year for gas and oil, repairs, insurance and

taxes.  But what drivers pay is hardly enough to cover the real costs of

driving, Mackenzie and other researchers said in a report for the World

Resources Institute in Washington."


        "In fact, in many ways, they are getting a free ride."


     [As noted in the column, what it boils down to is this --- with all

emphasis added.]:


        "Using the research group's figures, EVERYONE in the nation --

INCLUDING BICYCLISTS, bus riders and walkers -- pays $1,200 a year to

SUBSIDIZE driving."


        "So the question arises:"




     [The above stated dollar-amount figure is based on many factors,

some of which include:  The annual cost of highway patrols, traffic

management, the effects of auto-related noise and air pollution, the

military cost of "protecting" Middle East oil supplies, etc.   Based on

their analysis, the true cost of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. in 1993

should have been at least $4.18!]


     To top this all off, bicyclists even have historical precedent on

their side:  The League of American Wheelmen -- now known as the League

of American Bicyclists; a.k.a. BICYCLE USA -- was founded over a century

ago in 1880.  It is the oldest national bicycling advocacy organization

in the U.S.  Before the "Turn of the Century" (years before automobiles

started to be mass-produced) when bicycling was in its "heyday", L.A.W.

initiated the "Good Roads Movement".  This resulted in the first

asphaltic-paved roads in the U.S., and an entire system of

asphaltic-paved roads throughout the nation! --- [L.A.B./BICYCLE USA is

still going strong today with an effective ON-road bicycling advocacy



    Now that you have been presented with undeniable and

*well*-documented legal-, fiscal-, environmental-, health- and

fitness-related information in regards to the reasons why bicycles and

bicycling should take precedence ON our roads, it is vitally necessary at

this time to turn our attention to the dangerously misguided efforts by

otherwise generally well-meaning, but incredibly naive and mis-, or

ill-informed, "separated-from-the-road" bicycle path/trail and bike lane

"facilities" advocates.  Such efforts to "get bicycles off the roads" end

up placing bicyclists in unavoidably EXTREMELY dangerous and

counterproductive riding situations.


     According to the Jan./Feb., 1994 BICYCLE USA/L.A.B."Bicyclists

Advocacy Bulletin" by Noel Weyrich -- who is the League of American

Bicyclists' new National Director of State and Local Advocacy, and is

spearheading the BICYCLE USA/L.A.B. "Bicycle Advocacy Assistance Program":


        "Using data in a recently released FHWA [Federal Highway

Administration] National Bicycling and Walking Study, they decided to

measure the air quality benefits created if five percent of all auto

trips (work and non-work) under five miles were converted to bicycle

trips.  This is the approximate level of cycling activities achieved in

numerous metro areas with reasonable active bicycle programs, including

Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Seattle."


     [Weyrich further notes in this "Bicyclists Advocacy Bulletin" ---

All emphasis added.]:


        "In both of these cases, the underlying assumption is that

scattered bicycle trails and bicycle lanes are what most effectively

boost the level of auto-to-bicycle trip conversion.  But the FHWA case

study shows this is NOT true.  Washington, D.C. has MORE miles of bike

paths THAN Seattle, BUT Seattle has FOUR TIMES the rate of bicycle

commuting BECAUSE of a comprehensive city bicycle program that provides

promotion, bike parking, and bike-friendly [NOT separate 'bike lanes']

streets.  Goal-driven comprehensive [EDUCATION/PROMOTION] programs, it

turns out, cost LESS than trails AND YIELD BETTER RESULTS."


     As can seen by the many well-documented attachments, so-called

"bicycle paths" and "bike lanes" are inherently hazardous "facilities",

and should most definitely NOT be promoted for bicycle use (neither for

recreational or transportation purposes.)  Such "separated-from-the-road"

"facilities" are very expensive to design, construct and maintain -- and

they are rarely, if ever, adequately maintained.  In addition, they are



     According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,

NINE OUT OF TEN of ALL auto/bicycle collisions occur at intersections

with sidestreets and driveways, with the bicycle rider getting hit

head-on or broadsided; not "run over" from the rear!  It is precisely

because of their INHERENTLY hazardous and unavoidable intersectional

conflicts with EACH AND EVERY sidestreet and driveway that so-called

bicycle sidepaths actually double or triple [at MINIMUM] the incidence of

auto/bicycle collisions, AS OPPOSED TO riding upON a parallel or adjacent



     Other hazards involved with bicycle-path use include (but are not

limited to):  Narrowness of width; overhanging branches; build up of

debris; congestion (from joggers, walkers, rollerbladers, other 2- and

3-abreast bicycle riders, etc.); lack of maintenance; the threat of

head-on collisions between bicyclists and other bicyclists, and

pedestrians, due to two-way bicycle traffic on a single path; which can

also result in even more hazardous auto/bicycle intersectional conflicts!


     More than 30 states, including Illinois, have repealed their

"mandatory-use" sidepath laws specifically because of the inherent

hazards involved with bicycle path use, AND because of the attendant

financial liabilities of such separated-from-the-road bicycle

"facilities".  As an example of such taxpayer financial liability:  The

city of Austin, Texas lost $4.5 million dollars from one single bicycle

path-injury lawsuit! --- Unfortunately, the state of Missouri still

retains it's dangerous "mandatory-use" sidepath law.  Regardless, with,

or without, such a mandatory-use sidepath law on the books, the inherent

hazards of such facilities do not diminish.


     The following is quoted from L.A.W./BICYCLE USA's 1989 "How To...

Repeal a Mandatory Sidepath Law":


        "The most obvious complaint is that bicyclists may be forced to

use inadequate, dangerous, badly maintained paths that do not necessarily

take them where they want to go.  They are almost always slower and less

direct than the roadway."


        "Separate bike paths are notorious for collecting all kinds of

debris -- broken glass; litter, gravel and sand; soil and plant material

-- and for having poor surfaces -- potholes; crumbling edges; no

markings; dangerously positioned utility covers." --- "All of these

problems not only make the paths uncomfortable to ride, they add to the

danger.  Cyclists have to swerve to avoid hazards, or skid in the loose

debris [*particularly* at intersections!]  Inadequate lighting merely

compounds the problem at night." --- "The very regular maintenance

required to prevent these hazards developing, and to ensure snow and ice

clearance in the winter, can make the paths very expensive to keep in

'usable' condition."


        "In most situations the very nature and design of sidepaths makes

them more dangerous than the ordinary roadway."  "Riding along the

ordinary roadway bicyclists enjoy the same right of way AND PRIORITY

[emphasis added] as all other vehicles.  On a sidepath that priority is

lost at every intersection with a side road and driveways.  Each of these

intersections adds to the exposure and danger of a cyclist using the

path."  "Cyclists on a sidepath are frequently obscured from motorists'

view by utility poles, trees and shrubs, parked cars, phone boxes and

other obstacles.  This makes intersections more dangerous, as a bicycle

may appear 'from nowhere.'"


        "A cyclist on the roadway, by contrast, will usually be clearly

visible to motorists.  This should ensure that motorists are aware of the

existence of cyclists and they will be expecting to see them at

intersections and other locations.  On a sidepath, cyclists are 'out of

sight and out of mind.'  As a result, cyclists are actually more likely

to have accidents with other vehicles when using a sidepath."


     Also, quoting from the July, 1993 Bikecentennial "BikeReport"

magazine monthly "Advocacy Update" column written by John Williams,

editor of "Bicycle Forum" magazine (he also conducts nationwide bicycling

advocacy training seminars for bicyclists and highway department

officials for Bikecentennial and the Bicycle Federation of America):


        "For bicycles, the most commonly used manual is the AASHTO

[American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials] Guide

for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 1991."  "... the types of

facilities the [AASHTO] Guide recommends against...the worst include: 

Bike paths adjacent to  roadways.  These include sidewalk bikeways and

similar ideas and they can be deadly.  They make intersection conflicts

between motorists and bicyclists even worse than they already are.  From

the motorist's point of view, bicyclists entering cross streets from a

path come out of 'nowhere'."


     The following are some of the more important pertinent excerpts

quoted from the American Association of State and Highway Transportation

Officials "Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 1991".  [All

emphasis is added.]:







PROVIDE for the VAST MAJORITY of bicycle travel.  Existing highways,

often with relatively inexpensive improvements, must serve as the base

system to provide for the travel needs of bicyclists."


        "Improvements for motor vehicles...should avoid adverse impacts

on bicycling."  "...overall goals for transportation improvements should,

wherever possible, include the enhancement of bicycling."  "Roadway and

roadway maintenance improvements can reduce conflicts between

pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists and can correct conditions unsafe

for bicycle riding."  "Roadway conditions should be examined and, where

necessary, safe drainage grates and railroad crossings, smooth pavements,

and signals responsive to bicycles should be provided."   "It is

important that grates and utility covers be adjusted flush with the

surface, including after a roadway is resurfaced."  "The grates should be

replaced with bicycle-safe and hydraulically efficient ones."


        "Neglected maintenance will render bicycle facilities unrideable,


"It is usually more desirable not to construct a bicycle facility than to

construct a poorly planned or designed facility.  ...emphasis should

usually be given to low-cost improvements (e.g., bicycle parking, --

["Bicycle parking facilities are essential to encourage utilitarian

bicycling.  To be effective, bicycle parking must offer protection from

theft and vandalism.  Desirably, it should also provide protection from

weather damage."] -- removal of barriers and obstructions to bicycle

travel, roadway improvements, and non construction projects such as mapping.)"


       "In general, multi-use paths are undesirable; bicycles and

pedestrians do not mix well."  "Walkers, joggers, skateboarders, and

roller skaters can, and often do, change their speed and direction almost

instantaneously leaving bicyclists insufficient time to react to avoid

collisions."  "Similarly, pedestrians often have difficulty predicting

the direction of an oncoming bicyclist will take."  "BICYCLE PATHS CAN




ACCIDENTS OCCUR AT INTERSECTIONS."  "At intersections, motorists are

often not looking for bicyclists...particularly when motorists are making

a turn.  Sight distance is often impaired by buildings, walls, property

fences, and shrubs...especially at driveways."


        "Some problems with bike paths located immediately adjacent to a

roadways are as follows:"


        "MANY bicyclists will use the roadway INSTEAD OF the bicycle path



HARASSMENT BY MOTORISTS who feel that in all cases bicyclists should be

on the path instead."


        "Bicyclists using the bicycle path generally are required to stop

or yield at ALL cross streets and driveways, WHILE BICYCLISTS USING THE




        "Stopped cross street motor vehicle traffic or vehicles exiting

side streets or driveways may block the path crossing."





     In addition, to better accommodate all roadway users and promote

shared-road use, the American Association of State and Highway

Transportation Officials "Guide for the Development of Bicycle

Facilities, 1991" recommends widening right-hand lanes to a width of 14

feet without a curb, or 15 feet with a curb wherever possible.  It is

VERY important to note that this is in addition to any additional width

added by roadway shoulders, which are typically non-continuous, debris

laden, poorly surfaced, crack- and pothole-plagued, and ill maintained.


     To further promote and increase bicycling activity for

transportation, health and fitness, and recreational and tourism benefits

throughout the region, I would hope that you would all take the time to

peruse the attached copy of my "MAJOR ON-ROAD BICYCLING ADVOCACY

GOALS".   This list of my proposed on-road bicycling advocacy goals was

formally presented last year to the newly-formed Missouri Bicycle

Federation.  The goals were endorsed and published in their quarterly

newsletter.  I believe you will find that achieving the stated goals

would be of tremendous benefit to all area residents.


     In addition, I've attached a copy of the very informative brochure,

entitled:  "Improving Local Conditions for Bicycling."  This excellent

brochure was produced by John Williams, editor of Bikecentennial's

"Bicycle Forum" (the Journal of Bicycle Programs.)  This brochure

contains some excellent suggestions which can be easily and readily

implemented on a local and region-wide basis.


     This concludes my public statement.


     Thank you very much for your time and attention.




For Better ON-road Bicycling,



Bob Soetebier


St. Louis Metro Area

Bicycling Advocacy Coordinator