Day eleven, Frankfurt - final entry
I am home after a week and a half of quite interesting traveling. Saturday's bike race in Frankfurt was quite fun to watch and was a perfect end to the trip (with local hero Fabian Wegmann winning it).
But the main purpose of my trip was not the racing part - those dudes always have closed off roads when they compete. I wanted to see the Copenhagen revolution and encountered only the same old.
I know that many will disagree with my assessment of bike paths. But I think that partially stems from having it only seen on glossy brochures, nicely made videos and maybe even some short visits.
But when you go past all that and you have to ride these facilities everyday for transportation it becomes a different story. It is a story of both safety and convenience.
A bummer when cyclists have shorter green cycles!
From the half a dozen dicey situations I encountered in ten days all but one happened on side or bike paths. I was getting into right-hook situations three times in Copenhagen (once from a bicyclist). I think it is safe to say that experienced riders who also know how to ride vehicularly are less likely to get into accidents, even on bike paths.
But what about the children who cannot have the experience yet? What about the grandmas and grandpas just wanting to go for a spin (I am explicitly excluding the 70+ guy I saw on a major road, looking relaxed and happy as he slowly rode by). What about the mothers and fathers wanting to ride with their children?
Look at the people who usually do get into accidents on the bike paths. It is often less experienced people, who feel safe, but are not.
My worst encounter on the trip was on a separate bike path that you usually find connecting cities in Denmark. Before cities, they sometimes would be routed away from the main road (making trips always longer for bicyclists). In one such instance, the bike path was approximately 30 feet to the right of the main road. There was a small road coming in from the right.
As expected, there were two yield signs and the bike path crossing was marked in blue (one of those where the color hadn't faded yet!) I saw a van come up fast on my right and noticed the driver was paying attention to the main road - but not to me, the bike path, the blue color or the yield signs, so I stopped sometimes there is a fine line between riding assertively and stopping). He noticed me very late and slammed on his brakes, coming to a stop way in the bike path - on the blue color. It is windy in Copenhagen!
I can't even blame the driver much. He was driving towards an intersection and had his mind on that traffic. Yes, of course he should have always been paying attention. There were some houses nearby and children could have jumped out of a driveway any minute. But an artificially created danger spot 30 feet before the main road just doesn't make sense.
Anyway, I was mostly curious about city riding in Copenhagen. It is a beautiful city, full of bicyclists - there always have been (see this 1937 video). I have talked to people who said cycling has such a tradition in Copenhagen. You do see them everywhere. People will claim that most are riding on paths. That is true, but would people want to also see the reality?
There are so many paths in the inner circle now that it is impossible to avoid them. I have tried to find the quickest ways through town, which is always by not using the paths, but it is impossible. I did a test ride from the youth hostel to the soccer stadium twice. It took me 15:50 minutes when using as few roads with paths as possible and 18:44 when using the roads that would usually make sense (e.g. following the main roads).
On roads without paths you still see cyclists. I talked to some of them as well - none were afraid to ride where they did. Strange?
What is the most frustrating is that facilities advocates will not even acknowledge the existence of problems, which is quite negligent in my opinion. I have sent email to NACTO twice, offering advice about some of the dangers their proposed facilities have. I have never heard back from them.
What happens when the blue color is gone?
While I sort of already knew that I wouldn't see the revolution and could have saved me time and money, I am still glad I did the trip. It will be easier to answer questions from people, now that I have seen Copenhagen, city of traffic lights.
A traffic skills with the League of American Bicyclists helped me see the light of day - I hope you can give it a try some day (there is somethign near you: http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/course_schedule.php)
See you out on the roadway! Stay safe!