Common Fallacies & Stumbling Blocks

When advocates for multi-modal transportation describe a future that is less dependent on the automobile, we are sometimes met with skepticism (or outright hostility) that may have its origins in some common fallacies. These fallacies can generate considerable angst when change to our transportation infrastructure is proposed. We aim to describe these fallacies and set the record straight so that dialog surrounding proposed change can focus less on fallacies and more on the real tradeoffs that change may involve.

Myth: We have to Bike Everywhere for Everything

Opponents of infrastructure change often falsely claim that cycling advocates want everyone to bike everywhere for everything. The real objective is to make our streets and comfortable for all travel. Most Boulder trips are within 3 miles of home and nearly 30% are less than one mile, making it possible for many trips to happen on foot or by bicycle.  

If most people already own a car, why would they not just use that car for every trip? Well, there are a host of reasons that biking or walking is superior for short trips, ranging from health benefits to social connection to easier parking. But also consider that a cold engine burns fuel at about 3 times the rate of one that has been fully warmed up. If you’re using your car for lots of short trips (which is what most people do), you’re basically always running it on a cold engine and burning through expensive fuel at a prodigious rate. If the advertised, in-city fuel economy for your automobile is, say,  26 m.p.g., you’ll be lucky to experience even 10 m.p.g. when running errands. So it makes good sense to use a bike or to walk if you don’t really need a car for your trip.

Myth: More Lanes Means Less Congestion

It is a common misconception that adding additional lanes relieves traffic and that taking lanes away necessarily worsens traffic. But adding lanes tends to invite more cars causing any relief from congestion to be short-lived. This is called “induced demand”: When we make it easier to drive, more people will drive more often to more places, and thus the streets and roads never get less crowded for long. Just look at Los Angeles, where I-405 was widened to 14 lanes but still often slows to a crawl. (Joke by some in that city: 405 stand for “four or five” miles per hour). Denver’s T-Rex expansion of I-25 had a similar result.

Myth: Fewer Lanes Means More Congestion

Roadway rebalancing” refers to reallocating road space from cars to other modes of transportation, including transit, cyclists, and pedestrians. The general aim of roadway rebalancing is to create “complete streets”, streets that are safe and inviting for all modes of transportation, not just automobiles. Sometimes this rebalancing involves the elimination of some lanes so that this road space can be used by other modes of transportation or for specific turning movements. Roadway rebalancing have considerable potential benefit for drivers and other modes of transportation as described in this videoA survey of 23 road rebalancing demonstrated that the changes created minimal problems. The Federal Highway Administration supports this in their document “Debunking Road Diet Myths".

Myth: The So-Called “Improvements” Make it More Dangerous

When infrastructure is modified in a way that makes speeding feel unsafe, drivers often mistakenly perceive that the roadway has become less safe. They may worry, for example, that sharp corner radii increase the risk of being rear-ended or that visual complexity of an intersection means that they’ll miss something critical. It is important to remember that the objective of safety-focused street redesign is not necessarily to reduce the number of crashes but, instead, to reduce or eliminate the number of crashes that result in serious injury or death.

Myth: All we need is More Enforcement

There is no question that enforcement is part of the solution.  A red light camera, for example, can drastically reduce the number of red lights run by drivers. But enforcement is expensive, temporary, and localized. Without ubiquitous and sustained enforcement (which is both impracticable and unaffordable in most places), most people will drive the speed that feels comfortable based on the design of the road (the “design speed”), regardless of the posted speed limit. Similarly, other signage, like “Children at Play” advisories, have no demonstrated impact on speed or crashes. Enforcement is necessary but it cannot create enduring, system change. Better street design is the solution.

Myth: There’s No Way to Keep My Bike Safe

Bike theft is a serious problem but it’s getting better, something you would never know if your sole source for news on the subject is NextDoor or a neighborhood listserv. Bikes thefts in Boulder dropped from 2,292 incidents in 2020 to 937 in 2023.

To prevent theft, a little bit of hardening goes a long way (because thieves are generally after a quick and easy steal) and adds considerable peace of mind. Here are things you can do to minimize the chance that your bike will be stolen.  

  • Get a Bike Index Shield - In addition to registering with Bike Index, a free bike registry, get one of their adhesive shields for your bike so that thieves will know that your bike will be more difficult to sell.
  • Secure Locks & Racks - Use secure locks (e.g. U-Locks) locked to the frame and preferably the wheels too, racks that are sturdy (e.g. inverted U racks), racks firmly secured to the ground, and racks in a visible space.
  • Don’t have the fanciest bike on the rack. If you know that you’ll have to leave your bike for long periods of time in places where bike theft is likely, consider using a beater bike (a junky old bike) for these trips so that it’s just less attractive to thieves.
  • Insure and/or Use tech - If you are likely to have the fanciest bike on the rack it may be a good idea to insure your bike and/or invest in newer anti-theft features. Newer e-bikes have some optional but powerful anti-theft features, including motion-sensing alarms, GPS tracking, smartphone alarms, and motor locks. Even older bikes can be fitted with hidden Apple tags in various clever ways. Inexpensive, battery-operated, motion-sensing alarms are also sold for motorcycles but that work equally well on a bike.
  • Protect Your Garage - If you store your bike in a garage, and your garage has a pedestrian door, be sure that any windows on that door are not transparent (i.e., frosted or covered) or that your bike (and other valuables) are stored in a location that is not visible from the window. Also, ensure that any pedestrian doors have a robust lock.
  • Take the Bike up to your Apartment If you live in an apartment or condo, the safest thing to do is find a place to store it inside.  Here are a few hints on how to store a bike in a small place.
  • Use Door Alarms -There are now inexpensive battery-operated door alarms that can be fitted to a side gate, pedestrian garage door, and/or a bike shed to alert you instantly if the door is open or there is motion in the area. These alarms can be configured to deactivate from your smartphone and/or during certain regular times of the day. 
  • Lock your side gate - If your bike is stored in a backyard shed or rack, consider adding a lock to the side gate. There are side gate locks that can be locked or unlocked from either side with a key that you carry with you or store in a nearby password-protected lockbox.
  • Get theft-deterrent hardware - To protect removable components on your bike from theft, consider purchasing theft deterrent nuts, an axle lock, and/or a seatpost lock. These are relatively inexpensive items that will make stealing these components more work than it’s worth.

Myth: Bikes Don’t Work in the Winter

First, let’s be clear that, in Boulder, one can be  a fair-weather-only cyclist and still realize all of the benefits of cycling, from improvements in physical health to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to better social connections. We just don’t have that many days per year when the weather is a serious impediment to riding. And the number of those days can be further reduced with some simple adjustments to your kit and clothing. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Winter tires – When the temperature drops, the rubber of which most bike tires are made gets cold, hard, and, therefore, slippery. But one can buy winter bike tires that are made from rubber that remains soft and grippy even in cold temperatures or tires that have metal studs that provide sure footing on ice. There is even a Colorado-based small business that makes snow chains that can be fitted to nearly any bike. Also note that many e-bikes are now outfitted with fat tires that provide decent traction even in snow.
  • Internally geared bikes with belt drives – While still new enough to command a premium, there are both regular bikes and ebikes that replace chain and derailleur with a belt and internal gearing that is almost completely unaffected by water, snow, dirt, or magnesium chloride.
  • Wind-proof, lightly-insulated clothing – Cycling (even on an e-bike) is sufficiently energetic that it’s usually possible to stay warm without a lot of thick, insulating layers. The real issue is windchill and precipitation. Happily, one can now find affordable, windproof, waterproof clothing that can be layered over regular clothing so that you can easily transfer from bike to building without needing a totally new outfit.
  • Helmet liners – Most bike helmets are designed to allow good ventilation, a feature that isn’t so helpful when it’s cold out. But inexpensive windproof helmet liners or a balaclava are now available that can protect your ears and the rest of your head from the cold. These make a remarkable difference when the temperature drops.
  • Bar mitts and gloves – If your fingers are particularly sensitive to cold, you can now find neoprene sleeves which fit over most handlebar grips that block the wind and provide enough insulation that your hands will be warm enough either bare or with whatever gloves you normally wear in the winter.



Report a Maintenance Problem, City of Boulder

City of Boulder: To report a street maintenance related problem (potholes on the bike path, paths blocked by snow), complete the form and provide your contact information.


Report County Road Service Issue

Boulder County: To report a street maintenance related problem (potholes on the bike path, paths blocked by snow), complete the form and provide your contact information.


Report an Aggressive Driver

If you find yourself in a situation with an aggressive driver, remember you can dial *CSP (*277), free of charge. Report “real time” aggressive driving behavior to the Colorado State Patrol.


Report a Close Call – Inquire Boulder

Have you had a close call with a bicycle, pedestrian or motorist? This data is important and used in analysis of the safety of our streets.


Bike Theft Prevention & Registration

Learn tips and tricks for preventing your bicycle from being stolen, like registering your bike on Bike Index and knowing which lock to use how to properly use it.

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Join the Advocacy Committee

We aspire to help Boulder become a dynamic and sustainable city that maximizes the safety, comfort, and convenience of its residents and prioritizes long-term environmental stewardship.

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