These are my critiques of bicycling research papers. Such “research” is better described as “pseudoscience,” or “junk science.”

The following quote from page 40 of Transportation Research Board (TRB) SPECIAL REPORT 292, Safety Research on Highway Infrastructure and Operations is strongly applicable to most bicycling research.

“One outcome of the shortage of trained highway safety researchers is that the technical literature is all too often characterized by poor-quality research leading to unreliable conclusions. [See Hauer (2002a) for examples.] In most research fields, peer review is effective in restricting the number of unsatisfactory research investigations appearing in the professional literature. In the road safety field, however, a shortage of qualified reviewers has sometimes led to low barriers to publication. As illustrated by the previous examples, the publication of poor-quality research can have a lasting and deleterious effect on efforts to improve road safety.”

2 Responses to “CRITIQUES – Read this first”

  1. Jeff Morrow Says:

    I don’t disagree with your findings and critique of the BCI, or the issue with transportation research as a whole. However, as a designer, there are absolutely no tools out there for any kind of comparisons of bicycle facilities. So, flawed as it is, the methodology does provide some sort of relative comparison between two alternatives, understanding the limitations of the model. It is difficult to assess what would be a “bicycle compatible” roadway since there are so many levels of expertise, comfort, and so forth. It would be interesting to analyze bicyclists ratings of various routes and compare that to the geometric configurations of the routes and the vehicle mix, speeds, etc. and try to correlate that to some sort of predictive model. Anybody have a few hundred thousand laying around?

    • Wayne Pein Says:


      Thanks for reading and your reply.

      It’s no surprise that high speed and density together are less comfortable for bicyclists and more problematic operationally.
      Separately though, each metric can be very “bicycle compatible.” Consider a low traffic but high speed rural road favored by recreational bicyclists. Or a dense but slow speed (congested?) urban center which is simple for bicycling (except for the hornet’s nest of turning movements).

      Most bicycle facilities are programmed for urban/suburban areas, because that’s where the bicyclists and prospective bicyclists are. But bicycle facilities by their nature and overlay onto an existing infrastructure tend to manufacture conflicts at junctions.

      This is jus tone reason why knowledgeable bicyclists prefer liberal use of Shared Lane Markings and Bicycle May Use Full Lane signs. These create “bicycle facilities” with a clear concept of operation.

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