Should we ban bicycles in major urban areas?

“New Yorkers on bikes are being killed at an alarming rate,” said Marco Conner, the interim co-executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group.

Across the city, 14 cyclists have been killed in crashes this year, four more than all of last year, according to city officials. New York’s streets have seen an increase in bicycling while also becoming more perilous, in part because of surging truck traffic fueled by the booming e-commerce industry.

The mayor himself acknowledged on Monday that the city was facing an “emergency.”

That is from the New York Times, you will find more detail, and some further points of interest, at the link.

Would urban bicycling pass an FDA test of “safe and effective”?  Furthermore, as a driver and pedestrian I observe cyclists breaking the law — most of all running red lights — at an alarming rate.  And surely we all believe in the rule of law, so why should we allow technologies that seem so closely tethered to massive law-breaking?

I do get that bicycles are driven by cool people who are fighting climate change.  Nonetheless, what if self-driving vehicles were connected to fourteen deaths in NYC alone?  How would we treat them?  Alternatively, what if Facebook owned all of those bicycles?

A long harangue about how the car and truck drivers really were at fault will fail to pass the Coasean symmetric externalities test.


Americans need to be protected against all forms of unsafeness and evil.
The 18th Amendment (which saved many lives and Protestant values) unfortunately was repealed but that doesn't mean bicycles should be given tacit approval by failing to ban them. After she is elected, President Kamala Harris needs to take a vigorous stand on this issue.

To all southern California based MR folks...hope you are safe. Very big quakes yesterday and especially today. Seems to have been far enough from population centers to create massive problems but still.

Have you noticed all the natural disasters our country is seeing? The disease epidemics we thought we eliminated that are back? The wars that are on the horizon? God is telling us to repent by not reelecting the Antichrist who has denied our Lord and Savior and lives a very ungodly life of lies, adultery, greed, and fornication. Jesus saves but you must repent. Repent.

"Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk"

Rev 17:1-2

It looks like the apocalypse has been receding. Christopher Hitchens died leaving The Three Horsemen instead of The Four Horsemen and Sam Harris has been off his game this year.

What I'd give to hear Hitch weigh in on Trump and our crazy political times. Wit and scholarship is unmatched even to this day.

Bicyclist activists have forced traffic laws to favor bicyclists but it creates a deadly situation for the bicyclists when things go wrong. Bicycles should not compete with cars and probably shouldn't even be on the same street with cars.

Making special bicycle laws is fraught with risk as you noted, bicyclists lose site of traffic. But bikes are awfully convenient in neighborhoods. I had a few close calls, all my own fault.

I was online and mid-comment in the The Valley when the 7.1 hit. I heard some rattling on the roof which flustered me as I said "earthquake" and hit send.

I just got up and hope injuries are low, but I was watching the live page yesterday. An amazing sequence of fair sized quakes.

Scroll down to: 2019/07/05 20:16:32, when it begins

Glad you are okay.

I did see your post break off in mid sentence. I believe it went something like: “I can’t decide if Trump is more Hitler or more like Musso—-“

It was supposed to end "Musso & Frank's." Somewhere between those two.

Glad to hear you’re fine and the damage has been minimal.

CA does a lot of stupid things, earthquake regs are not one of them.


I'm glad you're fine anonymous and I agree that CA's earthquake regs are sensible.

"Furthermore, as a driver and pedestrian I observe cyclists breaking the law — most of all running red lights — at an alarming rate."

Oh hell to the yes. DC is utterly terrible for this problem and it is always the same "type" of person. A douchy white upper class a-hole.

Good thing car and truck drivers never violate the traffic laws or it would be much worse.

"A douchy white upper class a-hole."


I have to agree with what I think New BC and Tyler are both getting at. If bicycles were not so woke, we would not be so tolerant of bicyclists' casual disregard of traffic laws and, indeed, we would recognize the insanity from a safety perspective of allowing bicycles on car paths. No one would suggest, for example, that cars should drive on bike paths.

In some ways, I see cyclists' law breaking, which includes going the wrong way on one-way streets in addition to running red lights, as deliberate assertion of woke-privilege, not just disregarding the law for convenience. In other words, unlike other law breakers, the cyclists probably think they are morally right to break the law, as in: "Bikes ought to be privileged over cars anyways, so these traffic laws shouldn't apply to bikes to begin with." As is the woke wont, whatever political outcome (in this case traffic laws) they favor, in their mind ought to *be* the outcome, proper democratic processes for determining such outcomes be damned.

Btw, if a post contains the phrase "douchy white upper class a-hole", that's the other BC, not me.

You're overthinking it. They are just a-holes who don't feel like stopping at a stop sign because it is inconvienent.

When I drive throughout DC and certain parts of NoVa, I can't relax because I'm always expecting some dipsh*t white person to dart out in front of me.

I'm actually white, over eduacted, elitist in my tastes, etc. But I can't help but notice that in DC it is ALWAYS the same type of yahoo bicylist acting super obnoxious on the roads. A smug white jackweed!

A hatred of bicycles is one of those weird American things that doesn't translate very well. It's like getting mad at vegetarians. Vegetarianism just means more animal slave flesh for me and bicyclists just means more road for me. Or doesn't New York have a rush hour?

Huh? More bicyclists *does not* mean more road for you - THEY are the favored group so it means existing road will be taken from you and given over for their exclusive use.

You must have some really fat cyclists.

Uhh DUH we are Americans you know. We're fat as fuck.

Increasing number of bike lanes have already taken a toll on dwindling parking spaces

I've corrected the statement for you, TopCat:
Increasing number of cars* has already taken a toll on dwindling parking spaces

Tyler, should we ban cars? In a moderated form, Tyler, this is a common practice in many cities. Some cities ban cars on certain days while others have permanent bans along certain routes.

Cars are multi-ton hunks of glass and steel that disconnect neighbors, take up far-too-valuable space in crowded cities, and pollute noise and toxic gases. I don't need to expand on how perfectly these repulsive traits are contrasted by the nature of bicycling. Folks turn a blind eye to the frequency, expense, and harm of car-to-car collisions. So cars hit cars, cars hit bikes, cars "door" bikes, cars hit pedestrians, and cars take up 30 sq. ft. of space while driving and parked. I would also note that car drivers seem to be perpetually angry. Hmm. Pedestrians, public transit users, and bicyclists are left to look on at the whole phenomenon with sadness.

A year to the day after a nurse at the National Hospital Center struck me on my bicycle (in a bicycle route) turning right on red from a middle lane, I awoke this morning by this inane post. Do better, folks.

"A long harangue about how the car and truck drivers really were at fault will fail to pass the Coasean symmetric externalities test."

It's because in the US, cyclists are forced to use car lanes and adhere to the rules as if they are driving a car. In other countries, they use non-busy pedestrian lanes and cycle at a reasonable as opposed to maximum speed.

I’m in agreement. Let’s look and see where bikes are best integrated into traffic flow patterns. Then imitate what works.

If it means less road users, then should decrease traffic density a bit. Seems like a matter of finding a sweet spot on the curves trading off reduction in car use for bikes vs decreased road area for cars? In the ideal.

Ahhh, so this hatred and bigotry is amplified by competition for scarce resources.

I think the biker haters are fat slobs jealous of the fit bikers. The haters wish they had the self-discipline to get off their fat asses, lose some weight, and get those bulging thighs and tight glutes the chicks totally dig.

I'm fit and I don't ride a bike. I drive to a gym, which has filtered A/C, towels, showers, etc. Bicyclists inflict their smelly, ridiculous spandex on the rest of us.

I bet you ride a stationary bike and walk on a treadmill at the gym like a gerbil.

Because most Americans hate bicycles the few bicyclists on busy roads just create more congestion. A motorcycle is a better alternative.

I don't know what conditions are like in the US, but it is not likely a bicyclist contributes more to congestion than a car does.

They have their own lanes, which are about a half of a car lane, but there are only about 1 bike per hundred cars. In good weather.

Bike lanes are very uncommon. What percent of all urban streets or roads have them?

Then you have not driven in an American city where a stubborn bicyclist (usually a white guy in my experience) rides along a major road without bike lanes, which slows traffic and a line of cars partially merges into the next lane to pass the bicyclist (which increases the likelihood of an accident with another car or the bicyclist).

slows traffic

In Yankee Eden one of the seven deadly sins.

It depends on the situation, but generally, although a bicyclist spends more time on the road per trip, they contribute less to congestion than the average vehicle. This is because they are smaller, make use of existing spare road space, and can continue moving forward when congested traffic has come to a stop. They also don't require a car size parking spot and benefit drivers in that way.

Note vehicles being slowed by a bicyclist is not necessarily the same as slowing traffic. Whether or not a bicyclist slows the overall flow of traffic again depends on the situation.

In my experience, motorcyclists are as likely as bicyclists to break the rules of the road, but are in a significantly faster and heavier vehicle and can also ride on the highway so they affect a larger number of roadways. They are also the loudest vehicles on the road and don't decrease pollution as much as bicycling does.

It's an interesting tribalism. It's only the people who can't ride bicycles (far, fast, or even slowly on a convenient beach boardwalk) who hate them.

Be this guy:

I can't believe I agree with you ... again.

I better go lie down again. I'm feeling faint.

Riding a bike for leisure on a boardwalk along the Pacific Ocean is fine. Riding on Pacific Coast Highway in the many areas where there are no bike lanes is not fine. And taking away car lanes to put in bike lanes just creates a lot more congestion and pollution (just like Arnie's private jet and other vehicles).

your claim is false

the US has cities that implement "road diets" where they deliberately screw over drivers to, among other things, creating bike lanes.

I despise the people in charge of Evanston for this.

Not all major urban areas are the same.

We should be promoting cycling infrastructure, norms, and culture prevalent in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

No, we shouldn't. Bikes are hey low efficiency.

Bicycles are literally the most efficient land transportation. Calculated as fuel efficiency they (you) do about 600 mpg. And given that as a nation we eat too much, that part is free.

They're slow. Time also has a value.

It's not wasted if you are enjoying it, or gaining from it.

Do you know that bicyclists have lower all cause morality? It's true. Higher life expectancy.

I mean what are you gonna do, *drive* to the gym instead? Be sure to use the lazy electric lift gate to grab your towel.

Oh you are so right again!

Think of it. A person spends 45 minutes in a commute in a car. After work (s)he drives to the gym, which needs parking, pays a monthly fee, works out, then drives home.

The biker commutes to work and is done. No car, parking, gas, pollution, or gym.

What's not to like?

Their smelly sweaty body odor all day long, if you're their coworker.

Gyms have showers, most workplaces don't.

"bicycles are slow".
That depends. My daily 3km bicycle commute in down Toronto is far, far faster than driving would be.
(and if your response is: "cars would be faster than bicycles if there were no downtown traffic jams, which are caused exclusively by those darned bicycle lanes", that's simply and obviously false and you should stop talking).

It's quicker to bike across downtown Baltimore than drive just about any time except late at night. Add on esse of parking (no multi block hike from a garage to reach your final destination) and the bike is definitely faster.

Slow is relative. Cars are real slow compared to jet aircraft. What, in fact, is the value of "time"? How does the value of the time elapsed in a commute to and from work compare to the time spent in bed asleep? If time is so valuable, how can someone like Warren Buffett afford to take a nap? Actually, when a cyclist causes a motorist to interrupt his progress for seconds, it's inconsequential, the motorist doesn't remember it for the rest of his life or even the rest of the day. In post-modern culture, time can supposedly be measured in nanoseconds. It's a meaningless abstraction and a perversion.

Yes. They slow traffic and create hazards to themselves, drivers, and pedestrians (and bike lanes are a total waste in most American cities). Why aren't they generally required to carry liability insurance and have a license (or equivalent) so that they can be more easily cited for traffic violations?

In a place like NYC where there is a sufficient density of cyclists already, more bike lanes makes sense. You don't put them on every street. If you add a sufficient number of them, cyclists will utilize the the thoroughfares that do have bike lanes and do less clogging of the other streets. I don't think many US cities are close to hitting this sweet spot, but it helps address both the safety and congestion issues.

Why no liability insurance? Liability insurance is necessitated by the potential damage the vehicle does. A 1500kg vehicle travelling at 80kmh does far far more damage than a 100kg bicycle (incl rider) travelling at 20kmh. That's just basic physics. A bicycle really has to be trying in order to hurt someone. The need for liability insurance is so minimal that it is not worth enforcing.

You already know this, but you are unfortunately an ignorant bicycle-hating crybaby who is only proposing these rules out of spite.

Here's what damage you might do to me: By cycling in traffic, you put yourself in an excellent position to be accidentally killed by me - meaning that even though it was not my fault, I will have your death on my conscience as long as I live. In other words, your accidental death would pretty much ruin my life.

As an avid cyclist myself, this is why I avoid roads. Why would I want to make some innocent motorist a killer?

If you think that there is a high probability that you will "accidentally" kill someone else who is legally using the road, you should stop driving. And if you keep driving, and kill someone after accepting that it was a likely outcome, your guilt would be entirely justified.

But a bicyclist can do something illegal (e.g., illegal lane change) that causes a car to crash as it seeks to avoid hitting the bicyclist, who escapes financial liability.

And bicyclists knowing how minuscule the chances of being cited for a traffic violations not surprisingly commit them at a rather high rate.

But then you are whiny bicyclist.

Um... ok so the cyclist is only risking his life while the motorist is unlikely to incur any physical harm but instead might get a ticket if he endangers a cyclist. Seems like Darwin's law would take care of the majority of insanely reckless cyclists.

As a long time urban cyclist, I would add blaming cyclists is the right call. Every couple years a cyclist is killed by a turning truck in Boston and every time cyclists scream for the truck driver to be charged with murder. We now have city trash trucks (Cambridge) with side guards to keep cyclists from going under the rear wheels - I am not sure if being crushed between a side guard and parked car is better. Yet in all this time, I have never seen an article or an advocate say the simple rule I follow - don’t go on the side of a turning truck. Some sense of personal responsibility or knowledge of the danger would save lives. No the world is not going be made safe for you, be aware of dangers and avoid them. I would also add the protected bike lane “solutions” are worse than the problem, as cyclists are not visible to vehicles at intersections until they emerge from the “protection”. Being visible is also very important. Overall I would say that most new cyclists (and there are many) do not have the knowledge of how to ride safely. One thing that does help, is running red lights, and Boston seems to have acknowledged it. In many intersections, Before the light turns green the cross walk signs goes on a few seconds a head of it - both pedestrians and cyclists get out in the intersection and are visible before any turning vehicles start. I really like that.

What do you mean the cyclists aren't visible to vehicles at intersections? Aren't they perfect visible through a side mirror?

The protected bike lanes are protected by some barrier - many times that barrier is a row of parked cars or worse a van or even worse a truck. A cyclist can not be seen.

Weird. Where I live they are "protected" by a white stripe or some thin, 2 foot pieces of plastic.

Experienced cyclist here. You're not wrong... A lot of cyclist incidents are due to cyclist error. For advocates to tell cyclists that everything is the drivers' fault does not help.

Bicycling is local. Some streets are wide. Some are narrow. Most drivers are courteous, some are obviously dealing with their own issues. Some built infrastructure is nice, some is kind of stupid.

Completely impossible to generalize. But certainly in LA there are more places I wouldn't ride than places I would. In OC the opposite. Mostly because of the side roads, rather than the wandering bike paths.

Oh, river trails are great. Or rails to trails, if you got em.

Wide, not side, roads.

Though sometimes a side road is also a good choice.

You're right. There are many narrow streets with heavy traffic that intelligent cyclists avoid. Alternatives generally exist.

This is the only knowledgeable cogent comment in this thread. Having been riding for almost 40 years, I find myself more often shaking my head at cyclist stupidity than at overt hostility that has become so prevalent from automobile drivers. There’s risk associated with riding on the roads and if you do it you’re responsible for managing that risk yourself, not anyone else. Follow the traffic laws so that you’re predictable to drivers, watch for choke points, know when to take the lane and when to get the f out of the way.

I have been cycling for 55 years and have never "taken the lane". Taking the lane infuriates drivers and inspires murderous rage. The hate speech on our local FB page regarding cyclists is scary - someone is going to kill a cyclist with their vehicle deliberately someday. Already I have read a few brags from knuckeheads that have hit cyclists with their trucks "accidently". The fault was the cyclist's, supposedly.

I live in a mountain community with narrow, winding roads.

I very rarely take the lane, but it does sometimes seem safer. Like over a particular narrow bridge, which is very narrow, and 15 mph speed limit anyway. Nobody going to come up behind at 50.

Tasking the lane also makes sense when there is a right turn lane at a stoplight and the cyclist is going straight. Staying to the right of the straight lane means inconveniencing drivers turning right AND going straight.

As a few-thousand mile per year avid cyclist and racer in a major American metro, I can attest that as measured by number of violations of traffic laws and discourtesies to other road users, cyclists are the worst offenders and show the least behavioral self-awareness. Yet despite its rarity, riding safely and unobtrusively can be effortless.

I have a bike and a truck. I like them both for what either can do for me. Here in my southwest city where flooding from flash storms have caused problems a huge network of diversion channels have been built over the years to control flooding. alongside these channels are well maintained bike and hike lanes. You can cross most of the city on a bike without using a street. planning...

"so why should we allow technologies that seem so closely tethered to massive law-breaking?"

That sounds very close to saying we should ban cash - the number one technology used to facilitate lawbreaking.

Uhh well that is the analogy he is making. You need to read between the lines. He isn't talking about cyclists this is more a pushback against like anti-cryptocurrency people.

Aha. I knew there had to be a Straussian reading of this post. Otherwise it would be one the most intellectually lazy things Tyler has written. (Over 100 pedestrians were killed in NYC last year, and I frequently observe them breaking the law too..)

I rode my bike to school everyday in 1972 and I only got flattened by a car once.

Car safety technology has improved dramatically since 1972. With bikes ... helmets are more common but not universal, and lights are a little better. That's it. Relatively speaking, cars have gotten a lot safer since 1972 relative to bikes.

Bikes are great on protected bike paths. I used to ride to work in Chicago's Loop on weekends by the wonderful lakeshore bike route. But bike riding on city streets is nuts.

"But bike riding on city streets is nuts." Depends on the city. It's very safe in Copenhagen.

Los Angeles, not so much.

Disc brakes are considerably better, but not yet standard.

Dear Tyler, Nearly all drivers break laws with regularity. Would cars pass the same test you propose for bicycles? Of course not. Not to mention externalities of car misconduct are substantially higher than those of bicycle misconduct.

I don’t support bicyclists breaking laws, but to ignore the culpability of car drivers is hypocritical and, presumably, self-serving.

+1. As someone who walks to work on a daily basis and never breaks the law, cars are a considerably greater danger to me. Furthermore, the recklessness and/or negligence of their drivers results in roughly one close call, or being struck at low speed in a crosswalk, every two months.

You never cross against the light? Wow.

Experienced cyclist here. i would argue that unfortunately the average cyclist is far less careful and far less trained than the average driver, and gets themselves into a fair amount of safety trouble as a result. The average cyclist thinks that slapping a helmet on their head is the end of the safety conversation.

How many bicyclists are distracted by texting or web browsing on their phones?

Cars often break laws in a manner not likely to cause accidents. Speeding a few miles over. Not coming to a complete stop. Failing to signal. And when they do have accidents, the cages mitigate risk of injury.

Nearly every law a bicyclist violates puts themselves and others in immediate danger of grievous bodily injury.

Yep. Small town in SW PA. Almost no one drives the speed limit:
25 means 35-40
45 means 55+
65 means 75+

Seriously. Would you rather get hit by a car running a red light or a cyclist? If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, they're likely to get hurt too, while a driver is much more protected.

Especially after the pedestrian beats the living shit out of the manlet biker.

You are clearly mistaken. All car drivers have been licensed by the state, so they are clearly perfectly safe and lawful or else they would not have received their license.

If you can find a place where the majority of cars blow through a stop light in the middle of the major intersection of town, as happens in mine with bikes every day of spring and summer, please tell me about it. I want to see video.

That would probably be the same place where every driver drives under the speed limit, comes to a complete stop at every stop sign, yields to all pedestrians and precisely obeys all other traffic laws.

Bicycles strike me as pretty similar to trampolines and diving boards -- all three are fun and good exercise, but the latter two have fallen drastically out of fashion since Baby Boomers were kids due to high accident rates. In contrast, bicycles are, to this day, constantly promoted by the Great and the Good, with the dangers downplayed and somewhat covered up.

Trampolines were at one time the leading (or a leading) cause of juvenile quadrapelgia (from neck injuries).
Libertarians and Open-Borders-Sovereign Citizens like you know who might resist banning them but they should for sure be closely supervised. President Harris will want to take a positive stand on this in the future lest she be thought lax on childhood paralysis.

A strong stance on trampoline policy could swing Utah.

It's not just important to separate bikes from cars and trucks, it's important to separate bikes from pedestrians. The Brooklyn Bridge, for example, is hair-raising due to the huge number of walking and gawking tourists and the small number of cyclists going 20 mph faster than the pedestrians.

In Chicago, some billionaire has donated the money to separate pedestrians from cyclists on the lakefront path, which is terrific.

Except that neither pedestrians nor bike riders keep to their designated path. And some new parts are very poorly designed. The city approximately doubled the amount of path to not maintain very well.

For what it's worth, if I'm on an exercise loop or a fast commute, a winding path designed for weekend families is no use to me. And those families don't want fast traffic either.

I haven't seen those paths, but just saying. Paths have types.

Such a silly, one-sided opinion. Why does everybody over 60 years old hates bikes?

Bicycles = Marxism. Cars = Capitalism. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

Maybe it's just the hater quotient.

Of course a hater can shift gears (as it were) and hate bikes.

I'm under 60 and hate bicyclists on busy, narrow roads, not bikes themselves. I think bike hatred is spread evenly over the age curve.

It’s not an age thing. My dick is 9 or so inches long. maybe if it was half that size like yours I would ride a bike.

Tyler is trolling us.

"Furthermore, as a driver and pedestrian I observe cyclists breaking the law — most of all running red lights — at an alarming rate."

I think this is exceptionally important to the story. I live in one of the bicycle hotspots in the USA and even so, I see countless people running stop signs, red lights, not using hand signals, and in general just doing stupid and illegal things. This includes not only college students, who you might expect to make bad decisions in this domain, but actual adults in full bicyclist regalia as well. Not once have I ever seen anyone ticketed, or have I even noticed police paying any attention to bicyclists. In fact, I often feel stupid for actually stopping at stop signs as the deluge of idiots blow past me, straight through.

'I live in one of the bicycle hotspots in the USA and even so, I see countless people running stop signs, red lights, not using hand signals, and in general just doing stupid and illegal things.'

And I live in one of the bicycling hot spot regions of Germany, and you don't see this in any larger amount by bicycle riders than by car drivers.

Of course, in Germany, basically all 3rd graders take part in Verkehrsschule (traffic school), where they learn the rules of being in traffic. There is a pedestrian component and a bicycle one, and those who pass the bicycle part are then allowed to ride their bicycle to school.

What is really funny is that this is another post about how the U.S. is simply incapable of doing the most basic things, such as being able to safely mix cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians in a normal city environment.

+1 But it is unfortunate and sad, not funny, and mixing traffic is not very high on the list of basic things we don't do.

Well, you are right about sad, especially since it would be so easy to do.

Particularly in light of how many American high schools offer (or used to offer) free driver's ed, so as to ensure that 16 year olds can drive.

or it is a post by a short fat old guy. Traffic laws in USA mostly treat bikes as if they're motorized. Of course, some are. I think we could do much better with making bikes safe, including requiring running lights 24/7. But don't get me started ranting about our traffic laws, they're a joke. Every two bit political body in the USA does favors by passing traffic speed laws for political purposes often payback. Our economy would grind to a halt if all of our traffic laws were enforced/obeyed 100%. Law enforcement loves selective enforcement, but if it isn't obvious that selective enforcement is just another term for corruption and government abuse of authority, then you should think harder about it.

"Some 445 people died in bicycle accidents in 2018 in Germany, a 15 percent rise from 2017. An increasing number of those deaths involved e-bikes which are popular among seniors." German Federal Statistics Office, via

Can you explain to us how our economy would grind to a halt if all traffic laws were obeyed? I am rather curious because I obey all traffic laws, and it seems to have no to minimal impact on my arriving at any given destination. As astonishing as it may sound to you, I never speed when I drive. If the speed limit is 25 mph, I do not go at 26 mph. And if I am on my bike, I stop at stop signs and signal my turns.

Yes, traffic laws, combined with their enforcement, are a joke. Hyper selective enforcement is used to maximize revenue. For highway enforcement, the favorite 'target' is a well maintained vehicle driving 10 MPH over on an empty road (when speeding is pretty safe). High probability of revenue generation with simple ticket. Low probability of having to arrest due to driver warrants, lack of license, or inebriation.

The sad thing is, with today's tech, enforcement against actual dangerous driving actions (multiple lane changing / swerving, aggressive tail gating) could be done even in rush hour traffic. Don't pull them over - use cameras on unmarked, vehicles and ticket when and where they stop.

+1 I stopped riding my bike for my commute for the same reason. Didn't want to be associated with my law-breaking fellow riders.

'Would urban bicycling pass an FDA test of “safe and effective”? '

I've often wondered the same thing; an engineer who designed a traffic system that placed, onto the same routes, people in 3000 pound vehicles traveling 35 mph and people on leg-powered contraptions that lack any protection whatsoever (except for bike helmets) would probably lose his engineering license.

The Netherlands makes it work, but drivers in America would need a massive re-education effort before the streets would be safe for bicyclists.

A better system would be one with dedicated bike paths, that are physically separated from the roads (and ideally the pedestrians as other comments have noted). Such a system would be expensive -- but so was the US's network of roads and freeways.

I live in Portland, OR, which has one of the highest rates of bicycling of any major US city. Most of the bicyclists here are good, they even use hand signals, which I've never seen bicyclists do in any other city. And the drivers are more polite than they are in other cities that I've lived in.

But I still wouldn't, and don't, bicycle on the streets of Portland. Too risky.

I've counted all of the people who I know who've been hospitalized due to an automobile accident, as well as all of the people who I know who've been hospitalized due to a bicycle accident. It's about the same number in both cases. But when we consider the exposure -- the number of trips, or miles, or hours, that my acquaintances and relatives have travelled by car and by bike, they've probably collectively had between 100 and 500 times more exposure to auto travel than to bicycle travel. So I deduce that traveling by bike is 100 to 500 times more dangerous than traveling by car. OTOH no one that I know has ever been killed in a bike accident, whereas I know two people who've died in car accidents. Probably because car accidents often occur at high speed whereas most bike accidents occur at low speed.

My experience in Amsterdam is that cars are low vehicle on the totem pole. Pedestrians, bikes, and trams all rank higher. Drivers seem to be very careful and wary. Also, cyclists do not pull the tricks that US cyclists do (running red lights, cycling on the sidewalk, etc.)

In Colombia MD where I work there's an extensive system of wooded, paved trails that pass between subdivisions and at remove from the streets and roads, except where they intersect them. Yes, bikes must share them with joggers, dog walkers and the like but it's a wonderful way to get across town.

Yes, if Portland had a system like that I would start riding a bike around town. Minneapolis seems to have some decent bike infrastructure, I noticed they even have a bikes-only (maybe pedestrians too) overpass over one of the freeways in town. Portland has nice biking/walking paths along its riverfront, but that's about it for the dedicated bike paths. (There's also the Springwater Corridor that heads away from the river to the southeastern suburbs, but that's only helpful if you live or work there -- and are willing to navigate through all the homeless camps.)

How many pedestrians are hit by cars relative to bicyclist? Probably more pedestrians than bicyclists

How many pedestrians are there as compared to cyclists?

Good point. How many bicyclist cause their accident by carelessness or breaking the law?

Unless you normalize or control you cannot say anything on the subject other than expressing beliefs or religious views on the subject

By the way, Jan, you would also have to normalize by accounting for how much street time a pedestrian has relative to a bicyclists to find accidents per street time to compare pedestrian v bicycle injury rates.

"what if self-driving vehicles were connected to fourteen deaths in NYC alone"

You seem to take at face value that fourteen is 'a lot'. How much has cycling increased? How many deaths would there be if the cyclists were pedestrians or driving cars? Let me posit fourteen is about the number you would expect and cycling is as dangerous as participating in traffic in another way.

Much the same problem in London. Even without the deaths we ought to tax and regulate road users. Why subsidise people who yell so much abuse in an already unwholesome city?

Idiots. The post is NOT about bicycles!

It is about the FDA, right? Especially since the question 'would car driving pass an FDA test of “safe and effective”?' is clearly answered by no.

Oh wait, this was a Prof. Cowen post, wasn't it? Never mind.

+1, I smell a Straussian post. Soon will get a followup post, whereby self aware people who took a side on this post will realize that their first reaction is to take the other side on the followup post.

Granted, their will be plenty of people who aren't self-aware who will take opposite sides because their emotions over weigh their logic, and there will be others that don't take a position on either or both posts.

In this context, bicycles look like tools that assist suicides. No harm to others.

Now, the full numbers :

"Citywide, 100 people have been killed in traffic crashes so far this year — or 11 more than in the same period last year — including 51 pedestrians, eight motorcyclists and 27 motor vehicle occupants."

Clearly, walking would also not pass an FDA test of “safe and effective”.

Car driving über alles - it is the American way.

Right, this is the heart of Tyler's .. troll. Let's call it that.

There are certain things, like smoking, skydiving, and bicycling, that are mature technologies and have understood risks.

1) he asks us if we should allow people to take on those risks. That's a straightforward libertarian question.

2) he asks if new and uncertain risks should be treated the same way. I think that is a bit bait and switch. Especially because a "self-driving" car is crap technology that is more likely to kill another than the user, and to cause more economic damage.

784 cyclists died in 2005 (p. 86). That would make the death rate of 0.37 to 1.26 deaths per 10 million miles.

33,041 motorists/passengers died (p. 86) from 3 trillion miles traveled (p. 15), making their death rate 0.11 per 10 million miles traveled.

I'd say both of these, without the self-driving ref herring, are low and understood risks.

He’s making a Straussian point.

+1, LOL, I came to the same conclusion above but a day later. I should have read a little further down.

"why should we allow technologies that seem so closely tethered to massive law-breaking?"

Pretty sure cars and cellphones are the top technologies used while committing crimes. Might as well ban the internet too since there are probably more crimes committed there than in real life.

Yes let’s ban bikes, cars are so much safer.... When it comes to law breaking, it seems that cars break more laws than bikes, at least in Denmark: The difference is that bike law breaking is visible (running a red light) but a car less (speed). Let’s price correctly externalities (congestion, pollution, noise, danger to others) first before thinking about a ban. Also, let’s build bike lanes. American streets are so wide that bidirectional bike lanes can be fitted pretty much everywhere.

Tyler Cowan, the smartest idiot on the internet :)

Ah! Read to the end. D, just an idiot :)

How easy is it to build safe bikepaths wholly separated from cars? We have very few in Los Angeles (besides the famous Venice Beach one). But I don't know if that is because L.A. is simply more full than most other cities. (L.A. did not have adequate land set aside for parks and the like compared to, say, Chicago.)

The problem is intersections.

Right. It's like the difference between light and heavy rail. The latter has its own right away and isn't stopped by intersections, so it's much faster.

In a heavily built up city, it's vastly expensive to jam in a new bike path that doesn't conflict with intersections, except along, say, a wide beach. It was easy to build the beach bike path in Santa Monica and Venice in, I believe, the 1970s because they had a hundred yards of empty, roadless and to work with. But those opportunities are rare.

Anyway, if I was designing a new exurb from scratch, I'd love to put in separate bike and pedestrian paths. But it seems hard to retrofit bike paths into a crowded street grid.

This May be Tyler’s finest moment.

He has been preaching about mood affiliation and how it pollutes thinking and readers have been nodding in agreement without ever internalizing.

Master class is writing on display.

He may be preaching, but this anticipated reaction is clearly wrong after 50 comments - 'A long harangue about how the car and truck drivers really were at fault....'

There is much to that sentiment. Sit at any intersection and count who runs red lights. You will find an intersection where cyclists win. Drivers and cars are dangerous and reckless - especially when frustrated and pissed off at traffic. I won’t even mention how many times I have almost hit by a driver deciding to use the bike lane as a right turn lane without looking, it probably does not result in many deaths because cyclists learn quickly to expect it. If expect drivers to be morons, you will be safe.

That is either a fiction or a very local situation. Most places I drive and ride bicyclists don't do that because it would be nuts.

MB is right, by a mile.

Name yo intersection

Tyler - No doubt you have such a high opinion of your loyal readers that you think no further explanation is needed after invoking the "Coasean symmetric externalities test", but maybe just for fun next time you might actually try making the argument. This is a blog, after all.

That phrase is just pseudo-scientific blather. Most studies show that putting biking facilities in transportation corridors increases total throughput. But, since he's a driver, he cares only for himself.

'But, since he's a driver, he cares only for himself.'

There is an excellent chance that Prof. Cowen simply use Vienna Metro to get to the Arlington Campus - it is likely cheaper and faster than driving. Especially if he used a bicycle from and to Vienna Metro.

This Financial Times article is a robust defence of urban cycling.

Cyclists cause less road congestion, emit less carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, leading to less congested cities with cleaner air and lower carbon footprints.

It's visibly annoying when a cyclist slows a driver down or skips a red light in front of pedestrians, but would invisibly be much worse if they were driving a diesel car in rush-hour, slightly delaying many cars behind them and emitting no2 that slightly increases the all residents' cancer risk.

There are large life-expectancy benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise, which should outweigh the risk of death by crashing for the cyclists themselves, which is actually lower-risk per mile travelled than walking.

Yes, at a population level the death and injury caused by accidents needs to be balanced against the health benefits from increased exercise. There might well be fewer cardiac arrests etc among cyclists.

Cyclist's lungs trap particulates emitted by diesel engines. They actually clean the air.

This will be making my top 50 MR posts of the year. One of Tyler's finest trolls!

'One of Tyler's finest trolls!'

Just like this one - 'A simple model of Kawhi Leonard’s indecision' (or not).

Last year (2018) there were 200 traffic deaths in NYC, with 114 of them being pedestrians. In 2018 there were 10 cyclists killed.

While the number of daily pedestrians is far greater than daily cyclists (775k), I’d argue as self propelled vehicles, the risk is greater to a pedestrian than a cyclist.

(Therefore ban pedestrians.)

Not my trade, but I think you'd assess risk according to deaths per passenger mile or deaths per time in locomotion.

It may be a great deal riskier on a bicycle, but it's a small problem and the risks are voluntarily assumed.

I do get that bicycles are driven by cool people who are fighting climate change.

Another indication, in case we needed one, that the moderators are, vis a vis the great mass of faculty, what the alt-right types call a 'controlled opposition'.

Overweight, sedentary folks don’t like road cyclists. and target them with their cars and trucks. I know because I am a road cyclist. Cell phones also create great risks for both drivers and cyclists; for the cyclist the driver using her cell phone is a distracted driver. Banning the use of cell phones while driving would help, but cyclists are far outnumbered by overweight, sedentary drivers who should be encouraged to get on cycles and off their lard asses.

Social hypochnodria.

The key difference between a bike and a car is that when a bike and a car get into an accident, the bicyclist will be the one injured or killed while the driver and car will be perfectly fine in almost all cases.

This means that bicyclists assume the risk of biking and failing to observe safety precautions (of course this must also be balanced against the health benefits of cycling, which likely outweigh the accident risk by a wide margin). Therefore there is no need to regulate cyclists except where they create risks to pedestrians (just like pedestrians are almost never ticketed for jaywalking, at most that would be a legal defense for the driver if the pedestrian sues after the accident). On the other hand, when drivers don’t drive safely, they create safety risks to others and not just themselves, which is why traffic laws on drivers are needed.

The problem is one of laws not being enforced *at all.* Washington, DC created a bunch of bike-only lanes and then did nothing as cars used them to drop off their sweeties, FedEx trucks blocked them for deliveries, and even police themselves routinely parked in bike lanes in the course of doing their business.

It's a little better now in the areas where there are physical barriers separating bike lanes from the cars, but when cyclists see their lanes being routinely blocked by cars without consequence to the cars, they see a Wild Wild West where nothing is enforced. If cars don't play by the rules, why should they?

Also - do a search for "Idaho stop" and see that there's more to running red lights than meets the eye.

Protected bike lanes are not the solution. With them the problem exists of getting from where you are to the bike lane and then to where you are going. You still need to ride on the roads at some point.
The infrastructure exists for bike travel we just need to follow the rules in use for it. Education and enforcement would go a long way to solving this problem.

The car culture in the US is that they own the road and everyone else should get out of their way, bicyclists think they won't be prosecuted so can break the rules at will. Distracted and aggressive road use doesn't help either.

But they sure help. I ride most days in New York, and even as an experienced cyclist, my route from A to B is always influenced by the existence of bike lanes. Basically, I use them, even if the route is less direct or perhaps inefficient.

"The car culture in the US is that they own the road..." Well, given who pays for the road, they kind of do.

No, fuel taxes pay for roughly 40% of roads. So 60% is paid for by the public at large. Considering that cycling creates roughly 0 marginal wear and tear on roads, and cyclists pay pro rata for truck delivered goods like everyone else, drivers are on net subsidized by non drivers for their use of the roads.

From roughly 10 years ago... Taxes from fuels paid for the roads. Money was taken out of the fund to create bike trails and such, then added back from taxes to cover the shortfall. If gas taxes just paid for streets, it would cover the costs. If it's different now (and can't be that different) gas taxes should be raised to cover the costs and bike trails should be covered by bike taxes.

"Considering that cycling creates roughly 0 marginal wear and tear on roads"

That's a silly argument. For most roads, the leading cause of wear and tear is the weather. Cyclists bear just as much responsibility for that as drivers.

In terms of transportation norms, the rule of law in New York seems relatively weak. I'm usually a pedestrian or cyclist, but once every few years I'm a driver as well. As far as I can tell, everybody is breaking the rules most of the time, and there is a lack of enforcement, or at least it seems very arbitrary. If you're not seeing this, you're not paying attention. To my eye, it often seems like the NYPD themselves are perhaps the most cynical about the rule of law. Maybe it's bias on my part, but I can't help but notice every time I see a police car parked in a bike line, a police car speeding for no apparent reason, or a police car that comes to a red light, slows down, and then drives through.

Now, to Tyler's title, I could perhaps be open to Tyler's modest proposal of banning bicycles, but could we seriously start by reducing the number of cars in New York? Or at least start incrementally, like allocating one avenue (or Broadway) exclusively for non-motorized transportation. During rush hour the allocation of space in Midtown Manhattan for different user types is absurd: pedestrians are far and away the largest group of users, but are nonetheless allocated an insignificant amount of space (sidewalks), so that disproportionately privileged group of road users, cars, can have more space.

The most interesting aspect of this post is the Mayor's characterization of this as an "emergency", once again demonstrating he's fool, albeit one who knows what pushes the buttons of the his politically active constituents. Cycling death are about 1% of drug overdose deaths.

In 2017, there were 1,487 unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City (NYC) compared with 1,425 in 2016, an increase of 62 deaths."

With all due respect to the commentors at MR, not a one of you passed the “Coasean symmetric externalities test”. I am a cyclist and have been for almost 70 years (20 in California where I, like Steve
rode to school and also got numerous tickets for of all things-speeding and riding in no bike zones) and 50 years in Idaho where I was unaware of the “Idaho Stop”. All of your observations about breaking laws by both cyclist and drivers are valid points. When I was a teenager, I was told by an older (motor) cyclist to “always ride like you are invisible and everyone is trying to kill you.”, best advice I ever received. So every cyclist (and small car drivers) should observe one law and that is from physics: mass counts more than rules and regulations. If you want to take the chance, by all means ride the road, I will be riding mountain bike on single-track trails and take my chances there. I'll second Jan's troll remark—well done Tyler.

"New Yorkers on bikes are being killed at an alarming rate..."
"...Across the city, 14 cyclists have been killed in crashes this year, four more than all of last year, according to city officials."

Actually that does not sounds alarming at all for a city of 10 million people and with equal agglomeration size. Seems like classic overreaction for me.
I imagine for a country without proper cycling culture there will be a rocky path to walk until it becomes gradually safer (see: London), but I can not see the cyclists loosing in the end.
For Tyler I can only recommend to hop on a saddle and see how it looks like from the other side. I mean a proper economist should observe the problem on the field.

Here’s a libertarian suggesting a ban on bikes because some people use them to break the law, harming only themselves.

Yet I suspect riding bikes increases rather than decreases life expectancy.

What’s actually needed is safer routes for bikes.

The corporate media has fed us the picture of bicycling as an independent free-spirited lifestyle choice, and of the bicycle industry as consisting chiefly of dreadlock'd twentysomethings operating out of small independent storefronts.

The truth is quite different. Schwinn and Cannondale, for instance, are mere tentacles of Dorel Industries, a global megacorporation whose four top executives each received over $2.5 milllion in compensation in 2017.

The bicycle corporations don't care how many of their customers die or suffer permanent head and spinal injuries, so long as it doesn't affect their bottom line. It's time that we stopped buying their corporate lies and demanded that they started putting people before profits.

"0.37 to 1.26 deaths per 10 million miles"

Oh yeah, that's an industry built on death.

Since the other posters are taking this at face value (and not as satire, allegory, or something else)...

There’s a general paradox that cycles (scooters etc) actually do help alleviate a number of problems related to last mile transportation, parking, congestion, etc. However, in doing so, they create a whole new set of challenges that aren’t really solved by most practices. Even with a great bike route (say the W&OD), city streets are necessary to get the last mile to the office. A bike lane is nice, but prevalence of turns and obstructed visibility become an issue.

Frankly, when I cycle, the best thing going in urban-ish areas are through streets that aren’t major thoroughfares (say 11th street in the Ballston neighborhood by Mason). Then you’re at a manageable volume with one lane, you move at the speed of the cars, and while stops are frequent a slow rolling stop (like most drivers do) works most of the time so momentum isn’t totally broken.

The worst places are the suburban office parks with impenetrable freeway crossings and endless cul-de-sacs.

'Since the other posters are taking this at face value'

Of course - the FDA is a horrible agency which should be abolished so as to allow more people to die in bicycle accidents.

Or something like that, right?

I don’t follow. By at face value I simply mean posters are treating Tyler’s comments as actually supporting banning bikes in some localities...and not a Tyrone-esque satire or comparison to something else.

What on earth did you think I meant?

Cars should be banned altogether. City polution is one of the biggest killers of the era and they get no accountability for that. They take up so much urban space that could be otherwise used for walking, tramways, dwellings, and by far they don't pay the fair price of that precious space.

Car drivers, your time is over.

And as TC does very well in worrying about, cars are killing machines. They kill other car drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, all in horrible accidents. Who do cyclists/pedestrians kill? No one.

I agree there is a problem of bikers flouting traffic laws. In my city we have very few bike lanes and on-street parking (leaving no shoulder in many places), so I will go through a red light (after stopping and checking for oncoming traffic, of course) to get ahead of the traffic in my lane. When I have a bike lane (especially a protected one), I feel no need to do this and will wait for the green.

I would clarify that most roadway users flout traffic laws, regardless of what specific mode of transportation they use. The difference is that most people have learned to predict and adjust to how people flout the laws using cars, but are still figuring out how they do it with bikes. Paradoxically, the best solution may actually be more bikes, so that cyclists figure out the right and wrong ways to flout laws (hint, flout them in the way everyone else flouts them), and drivers learn to better predict cyclist behavior.

I’ve found the best solution is nailing bikers with my car and the high fiving the police officer who responds to the wreck. I’ve started putting spandex pants decals on my bumper to signify kills. I’m up to four already.

BTW, I also tend to take a slight “head start” at lights when possible and of course roll through stop signs after checking that no cars are there.

Drivers in the US are on a bad trend (especially compared to Europe) in killing pedestrians too.

A few potential points:
1) People traded cars, especially station wagons, for SUVs. SUVs are heavier and and have higher grills, both of which maximize injury to pedestrians and cyclists. A large reason for the shift is government regulation of vehicles:
2) The obvious issues of increased distraction of not only phones, but also car operating systems. They are almost all poorly designed - how do I shift from park, how do I change the radio station?
3) Societal issues - why do other cultures seem to value pedestrian/bicycle rider lives more than the US? Whether it's stopping at crosswalks or assigning default liability to drivers?

The societal values are key. Why do some societies have cyclists who obey traffic laws, while others have a cycling culture that has complete disregard for traffic laws? As a cyclist with the first set of values, I feel like I'm in the minority in the majority of US cities.

As a New Yorker, I feel pretty confident that climate change chic is not the motivation for increased bike use. It's Citibike, meaning fairly reliable universal availability of bikes that are too difficult/annoying/cheap to steal, combined with a steady deterioration in subway service quality and a steady increase in the price of taxis and subways. (Both of which have been increased by ~10% in the past ~year.) It costs something like $30 to take a taxi from Stuyvesant HS to Lincoln Center. With West Side Highway traffic, this takes about the same amount of time as biking along the Hudson, which is far cheaper and more pleasant.

Seems like a straightforward case of demand elasticity for motorized transit.

In NYC trucks are required to stick to major thoroughfares (truck routes) unless making a local delivery. Flagrant disregard for this regulation is a source of many of these deaths. Trucks use smaller roads where they don’t fit to bypass traffic, make shortcuts, etc. Enforce the existing regulation and keep trucks off of local streets where they don’t belong and fatalities will fall.

Similarly, if bikes were required to stay away from major thoroughfares the problems would be fewer.

Sounds like a great plan. I’ll take a pic of every truck I see illegally driving on small side streets in NYC and you take a pic of every biker on the interstate and outside of bike lanes on the major avenues and we’ll keep a running tally.

If you believe people who are now operating bicycles have a unique disregard for traffic conventions and human safety, recommending a change that would move a significant fraction of those people from bicycle saddles into the drivers seats of cars and trucks seems a strange recommendation.

As a starting hypothesis, "James is an ass, with little regard for social norms, human safety, nor the rule of law beyond his own immediate likelihood of punishment," passes Occam's test over, "James is an ass, etc., but only when operating a bicycle."

I know this is a straussian troll, I know this is a straussian troll....

And yet...

How many of those dead bicyclists were killed by the bicycles? How many were killed by drivers of cars or trucks?

The proper question is: "How many of those dead bicyclists were killed by dangerous decisions made by bicyclists including themselves?"

In the linear form of history and technological development bicycles predate the automobile by many decades. Roads were originally established for the use of pedestrians, animal-drawn transport and, later, bicycles, none of which had a particularly adverse effect on the other from a safety standpoint. Automobiles changed this relationship, intruding on the pathways of previous forms of transport. In reality, walking, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles have "grandfather's rights" over cars, whose use should be forced to conform to the existing standards.

As a further example, aircraft aren't allowed to land and take off from limited access highways. Cars have a pre-existing right to their use. Bicycles are also banned from most of the US Interstate system.

Even our simple-minded ancestors quickly realized that the adoption of automobiles would create massive changes in society. That's why a completely new system of regulation was brought into being. Licenses for both drivers and cars became mandatory. Law enforcement's focus changed from theft and mayhem to <a href=""traffic control. The idea that people that have refused or neglected to give up their normal means of transportation and rejected the automobile should become some sort of second-class citizen is disgusting.

Where's rayward saying bikes and cars need to drive only on separate streets? More seriously, how much would it cost if bikes had to pay for their own trails and paths like cars do?

I looked is up, concrete costs for sidewalks is $20 per foot, the cost of asphalt likely $5 per foot (I extrapolated). The main ride from me to downtown is about 5,000 feet and some 300 bikers take the trip a day.

OK, you do the numbers, I am getting a cup of coffee.

Assuming land is free and a path is a pretty small 6 ft wide, that $500 a piece. I'd guess maintenance would be $100/ yr after that. Cars typically would pay $300 in taxes per year on gas, but usage is much much higher.

At it's core, the issue is that the road infrastructure is designed to be accommodating towards motor vehicles and not bicycles. At every turn, design decisions favor the interests of motor vehicles at the expense of bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

For example, stoplights and stop signs *don't make sense* for bicycles. A bicycle can stop within a few feet, a bicycle accident doesn't yield death and thousands of dollars of property damage. For an example of how infrastructure can be designed to facilitate both bicycles and motor vehicles, the Netherlands offer a compelling example.

There, most intersections are circumscribed by a bicycle roundabout. Motor vehicle traffic stops outside the roundabout, pedestrians have a right-of-way crosswalk adjacent to the roundabout, and bicycles yield as they enter and traverse the intersection in the roundabout.

The failure to implement any traffic designs that do not uniquely advantage motor vehicle traffic is solely responsible for the conflicts between cyclists and other vehicle traffic, often to tragic effect. This, and other more obvious concessions (like on street parking, free of charge), represents an enormous rent, a subsidy, paid for by society towards motor vehicle traffic.

Certainly roads are built for cars. But why? Because cars are a huge convenience as compared to what came before. People want to move around in cars because it is faster and more comfortable than the alternatives.

Our current layout of suburban and exurban living would not be possible without cars. The store or job would be too far away without them. While I'd like to see more bike paths there is a limit to how far we can go with that given all the existing buildings and their physical footprint.

Subsidy: cars pay a lot of taxes. Relative to mass transit their subsidies are very low. Read Randal O'Toole's books on transportation for the details.

Roads were initially built (and paid for) by cyclists before the combustion engine was invented.

Cars are really really good, particularly when you're moving more than 15 miles.

Cars are really really inconvenient, slow, dangerous, and expensive when you're moving a few miles in the city, especially when you take some 'hidden costs' like land use into account.

You're right, cars and our (USA) urban layouts go hand in hand. Certainly, when in the mid 20th century entire city blocks were bulldozed in a national effort to make it possible for white folks to move outside of the city (and away from black neighbors) and commute many miles into the city. Your argument is circular -- the key point is that the current system is not efficient. A lot of time and energy is wasted.

Excluding gasoline taxes, which vary state-by-state in their relationship to overall state tax income and road funding, people pay for roads regardless of their use of them. Furthermore, motor vehicles cause significantly more damage to the road surface.

None of your points are really that coherent when they aren't outright incorrect.

We have fewer Biker Bros and fewer Climate Change Warriors and that is an emergency?

I don't think that Professor Cowen feels the same way about electric scooters. Maybe not as many deaths, but certainly many, many more injuries and costs. Why? Because they represent new technologies and people use them more in pursuit of economic activities.

Hmm, I wonder how many pedestrians were killed by automobiles in NYC this year?
65 until May alone? Maybe we should ban walking!

of course with self driving cars, the owner is imposing the risk on others, whereas with bikes, the operator is taking on the risk for themselves.

a better question is why do we allow private aviation; which i wonder everytime a small plane crashes into a house while trying to land

No, that's a stupid question.

The number of people killed in general aviation accidents in this country is shy of 400 a year, about half of them the pilots themselves. About 600 people are killed in a typical year due to being hit by trains. You for eliminating the railroads?

General aviation suffers about 0.95 fatal accidents for every hour of flight time. A licensed pilot who logs an average number of hours in flight per year and flies for 60 years has a lifetime probability of being in a fatal accident of about 2%.

Right now, the annual number of fatalities per licensed pilot is running at about 67 per 100,000, which is higher than the rate for licensed drivers at 14 per 100,000. However, as recently as the 1940s, the annual rate for licensed drivers was similar to that for licensed pilots today.

nonsense. in a post about 14 deaths, discussing general aviation is perfectly fair game. besides this is about principle.

nice knee jerk lobbying though

What, the moderator is making an issue of minor risks, ergo you should too?

I'm not cut any checks by any trade association.

There isn't any 'principle' under discussion. The only thing under discussion is 'McMike's insistence on making silly complaints about people whose business interests and hobbies are not 'McMike's.

It's only silly until some jack*** weekend warrior drives his plane into your house.

No one can have a pilots' license because a single-digit population are killed on the ground in crashes. No one can have a bathtub because a similar population drown every year. That's good sound thinking.

lol both of you flyboy dingbats are too far up your own tailhooks to notice that this is precisely the point of the bike post

Odd to go from there's been a spate of bicycle fatalities in NYC recently to should we ban bikes in urban areas.

I just quickly ran some numbers. About 12% of the population bikes at least a few times each month, and about a quarter regularly commutes by car. 37 people were killed inside a vehicle last year, and only 10 died on a bike. This is after an initiative, which was specifically designed to reduce car crashes. So the number of people dying on bikes is less than the number of people dying inside of cars adjusted for relative popularity. That's without even getting into the pedestrians killed by cars. In this instance, reducing the numbers of cyclists would decrease safety. If safety was the top priority, motorcyclists should be the top concern. 39 of them died last year.

Could the same have been written about Copenhagen (and many other cities) in 1970? What changed in those cities? Why? Given current tech trends, what might be changing over time?

14 per year in NY is not much. Car death are likely about thousands per year.

The proper comparative measure is death per mile driven.

Data I have seen before (quite superficially) put cycling per mile death about about X 10 that of cars. similar to that of motorcycles.

Given that cycling is usually shorter, the effective death rate can be seen as somewhat lower.

Law enforcement should increase. Can design harsher penalties for riders breaking the law given the difficulty to persecute.

Singapore forces identification on e-scooters. and impounds e-scooters without a visible license plate. SHould do same on bicycles.

I observe nearly every driver on nearly every road breaking the speed limit. Surely we all believe in the rule of law. Furthermore, all of those bicycling related deaths also involved a car. Additionally, there are plenty of car-car related deaths, yet very few bicycle-bicycle related deaths. Maybe we should ban the car? What if it was facebook driving those cars?

Or maybe we can just stop having bullshit conversations like this and use logic and reason.

I’ll take no bicycles in exchange for no motorcycles. The latter are a huge public nuisance for the noise alone. How many people and babies are waking up in the middle of the night for these scumbags? The magnitude of the externality is basically like giving someone a license to sucker punch one person in the face every time they leave their house. If we’re going to allow that you have to allow bicycles too.

I commute via bike down riverside park from the upper west side to wall st every day (without crossing a single trafficked street) but I’m thinking of moving. I won’t move to the east side, because the bike lanes aren’t protected, and I keep thinking about what price an apartment would have to be to get me there, and about how all of the statistical value of a life papers are ultimately set in west Africa, when really we should be isolating commuting bikers in New York and combining that info with a price data set from scraping no fee rent Craigslistings

I hope this is just some subtle joke that I'm not getting. Where is the externality? Why should we not trust people to make their own choices here? Are we really talking about this huge change based on the deaths of 14 people in a metropolitan area of more than 20 million?

How many pedestrians were killed in collisions last year? We should ban walking next. Let's issue an order to bees that they aught not sting. Let's wag our sliced digits at paper that is prone to papercutting. Only the government is responsible for our personal safety.

Sixty-five people have been killed so far in 2019, up from 50 at the same time in 2018, according to New York police department data. (

Many bicyclists tend to be scofflaws, and quite arrogant about it. Seems to me that aggressively policing, punishing & fining cycling behavior would be a more logical first step than bans.

Note you only want to discourage law breaking that inconveniences vehicle drivers. But you should encourage law breaking that benefits drivers. A large portion of bicycle law breaking is good for reducing congestion. Of course, in Australia we're allowed to break the law, which makes things easier.

at what point did I say I want to stop enforcing motor vehicle laws?

I don't think you did.

You made the argument for banning cars. Cars are doing the killing

In Australia local governments want people to cycle to reduce congestion. Often they want people to cycle to and from public transport hubs. They thought bike share programs could get people from train stations to work, but they found very low use by women of these share bicycles. This is because there are mandatory helmet laws and avoiding helmet hair is apparently worth driving to work and paying several thousand a year for parking.

I totally agree. Did you know over 14 people were breathing when they got shot and all of them died. Breathing is connected to 14 deaths in New York ALONE!! I think DeBlasio should crack down on this breathing thing before it gets out of control.

Practically everyone who rides a bike in a city is a reckless militant violating traffic laws every block and asserting right of way they dont have.

zactly. and as a result of their choices, they get flattened by a driverless car thats distracted by a text message.

still looking for the problem statement..,

It seems that no one noted an obvious fact: cyclists almost do not impose hazards on other people. While cycling itself is fairly risky, the risk is mostly confined to the cyclist himself. As an adult person, a cyclist should have a right to take that risk and go cycling.
Needless to say, but driving imposes substantial risk (and various disbenefits: noise and pollution) to the persons outside the car: both to other motorists, and to the pedestrians/cyclists/electric scooter users/etc. Thus, in my opinion, there is a clear case for limiting and regulating driving in a way that just does not exist for cycling.

The technology exists today for “geofencing”. Cars could easily be electronically forced into “golf cart” mode whereby within an area specified by GPS coordinates, they are limited to 20 mph and, say, 25 horsepower. There’s no valid reason why we need cars with 300 hp careening through tight city streets.

Motor vehicles are FAR more deadly and violate traffic laws at a higher rate than cyclists. So, based on a fully informed view, allow me to rewrite a paragraph for you - blog post title may need to be changed.

"Would urban driving pass an FDA test of “safe and effective”? Furthermore, as a cyclist and pedestrian I observe drivers breaking the law — most of all running red lights — at an alarming rate. And surely we all believe in the rule of law, so why should we allow technologies that seem so closely tethered to massive law-breaking?"

You would do well do better educate yourself on this specific topic before sounding off next time. I respect your credentials in your field of work, but you missed the mark here, by a long shot.

Stick with allowing bikes. The electric scooters and bikes are solving the “last mile” problem and adding sufficient volume to justify infrastructure. Meanwhile, as safety features improve and eventually self-driving cars arrive the accident (and driver annoyance) rate goes down. Don’t bail out when solutions are likely round the corner.

Very statistically ill-informed argument. The most obvious reason for the increase in cycling deaths is increase in cycling! Doesn't mean cycling itself has become more dangerous, probably the opposite in fact (numerator can increase while denominator increases even more).

Don't have facts from the US ready to hand, but I'm based in the UK, and here cyclists are somewhat less likely to die per mile traveled or per "trip" than pedestrians. In London, for instance, there are 38 fatalities per billion cycling "trips", versus about 54 per billion walking "trips". That people go into a panic around cyclist deaths versus the many more pedestrian deaths is post-hoc rationalisation. People are annoyed at "law-breaking" cyclists, so want to find a reason to ban cycling. I've never seen any statistics that cyclists are more likely to break the law than pedestrians (jay walking) or drivers (speeding). Neither have I seen any evidence that it's cyclist law-breaking that's responsible for these fatalities. A disproportionate number of cyclist fatalities in London are people who obediently stay behind motor vehicles then get crushed when the cars or trucks turn in front of them!

In any case, the point isn't about banning motor vehicles, but about where the marginal additional law enforcement effort can make the most difference. Since the vast majority of traffic fatalities (of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists) are due to bad driving, it's clear that the focus should be on changing the behaviour of drivers.

Walking is more dangerous than cycling, per mile. Should we ban urban walking?

What next? Ban swimming because people occasionally drown? Skiing bevause they sometimes crash into trees? Heck, I know, let's ban driving! Lots of people lose their lives doing that too.

There's so much going on here.

If you're going to invoke Coase, why jump straight to banning bikes in urban areas? How about some analysis as to who is the least cost avoider? Public policy in the United States, including the large allocation of urban land to publicly subsidized roads and parking spaces, is already heavily tilted to promote the private automobile use. Going further to ban other modes from using public roads is hardly the obvious Coasean outcome.

Since when is the FDA's "safe and effective" standard the sine qua non of public policy? Are cars "safe and effective" by this standard?

This post seems like some combination of trolling and mood affiliation, intended in part to lower the status of bicycled riders. Not Tyler's best work.

Tyler posted an interesting question, but since no one seems to have understood it, we're left with a different question: Why are these sorts of arguments so unpersuasive?
How can we have GDPR and bicycles??

Homo economicus would point to a Hansonian X is not about Y to show that we are acting with our true interests, we just won't tell you what they are.
A Cowian might suspect the answer lies in status. Take down those nerds in Silicon Valley! But as Tyler points out, we also have a good target in those hipster bikers.
I fear the answer less in Caplan: we simply are unable to take information learned in one setting and apply it in another. Sad!

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