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Old 07-20-02, 07:02 PM   #1
Dan Smith
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Bike lanes in Madison, Wisconsin

We were recently in Madison, Wisconsin, where I was a graduate student some years ago, and I noticed some changes in the layout of University Avenue. I'm curious to know what people think of this layout.

Most of the traffic is one-way.

In one direction, the rightmost lane (closest to the curb) is a bus lane. Then comes a bike lane, then automobile lanes. Thus, the bike lane is BETWEEN the bus lane and the automobile lanes. In the other direction is a single bike lane, going in the OPPOSITE direction as the rest of the traffic, and separated from it by a small divider.

The attached picture shows a pair of views, one in each direction.

On the one hand, it's obvious that they took bicycles seriously... on the other hand, this configuration seems weird to me.

Is this a good arrangement?
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Old 07-20-02, 09:36 PM   #2
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My theory about bicycle facilities, in general:

An intelligent solution simplifies a complicated issue, while a bad solution complicates a simple issue.
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Old 07-20-02, 09:58 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by LittleBigMan
simplifies a complicated issue, while a bad solution complicates a simple issue.
Agreed. The other thing I'd be worried about here is what happens to the bike lane when the town planners decide the road needs an extra traffic lane.
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Old 07-20-02, 10:58 PM   #4
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Bike lanes....bad idea generally.......

Quote:
On the one hand, it's obvious that they took bicycles seriously... on the other hand, this configuration seems weird to me.
This arrangement takes a bad idea (Bike Lanes) and makes them worse. Why encourage cyclists to ride against the traffic? Why sandwich them between autos and buses? This is nuts.

But....back to original thought. Bike lanes.....bad idea generally. What happens at corners, when the cars are turning and haven't had to notice us because we had our 'own' lane? What happens when the bike lane (usually at the side of the road is full of broken glass or gravel, and we have to use the 'real' road. And.....what happens when the 'bike lane' disappears as it always does at some point?

Bike lanes. I prefer to think of streets and roads and boulavards and lanes and avenues as VEHICLE lanes. And am happy to share them with my gas-guzzling friends. But DON'T make me a 'separate and unequal' bike lane.

Sorry......rant, I guess.

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Old 07-20-02, 11:27 PM   #5
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Get ready for all those conditions on a Keys tour this winter.The mishmash of lanes and paths in the larger towns were terrible frequently even changing sides of the road at high traffic locations.I tried to avoid them as much as possible but many of the drivers now exspect bikes to use the paths .But any a minor negative to a great trip
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Old 07-21-02, 07:42 PM   #6
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I would like to see how it actually works with traffic.
It certainly is a better system than we have here;
here the bike lanes are painted on the road and
posted on the polls, but cars are allowed to park in
them so that we have to ride in the car lane anyway.

A few years ago, I was in a city with the same kind of
set up as the photo. I was in a car, but buses, bikes
and cars all seemed to be moving well together.

So I won't flatly say it is a bad idea. At least they are
trying something! That's 100% more than most
communities are doing.
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Old 07-21-02, 08:25 PM   #7
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Re: bike lanes.

I think a lot depends on where you live and ride. I hate the bike lanes I have seen (and sometimes had to use) in Philadelphia, Lansing and East Lansing on the Mich State University campus. I want to be SEEN by the cars and when you have bike lanes that parallel or intersect the 'regular roads/streets', the cars don't see you.

I have had far fewer problems with cars using the regular, often paved bike lanes that almost all communities provide. They call them streets. Used responsibly, whether in a car or on a bike, they work well in many places. Bike lanes are like sitting at the children's table at Thanksgiving dinner...only a lot more dangerous, I think.

Bike routes that are designed and built separate from regular street and roads can be great...like the Lansing River trail and the many rails to trails routes being developed because they don't (ALMOST completely) involve interaction between cyclists and motorists. For me, it all or nothing. Either I am a vehicle using a street.......or a vehicle using a dedicated, separate pathway. Bike lanes are handy, I suppose, but hide deadly possibilities.

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Old 07-21-02, 08:44 PM   #8
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Despite the negative reaction they get on this board I actually like the few bike lanes that exist in Broward Co. Fl.Maybe the fact that shouldered roads and wide lanes are nonexistant or rare respectively make the lanes seem like a luxury.They always go to the left at right turn car lanes avoiding that problem which may be important because I had a negative reaction to the bike lanes in the Keys that went to the right of turning lanes.The Madison Wisc. setup is interesting as buses are always encroaching on bike lanes here but don't like the idea of high speed buses passing on the right.
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Old 07-22-02, 10:31 PM   #9
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While I understand the militant anti-bike lane fever, I don't entirely agree with it. I don't have a problem with the concept. The problem is that most bike lanes simply stink.

The layout of University Avenue in Madison looks nuts to me. Was there even a problem in the first place? Wouldn't a wide right lane serve the same purpose as a bike lane without giving the impression that bicycles should be confined to the bike lane?

Evidently this street is WAY too wide for the traffic it carries. That seems to be the major problem. My suggestion would be to put grass on both sides and definately eliminate the wrong-way bike lane. Sheesh! That is a stupid idea, and seemingly an endorsment of cyclists riding the wrong way - a leading cause of cycling accidents.

Having the bus lane to the right of the bike lane makes some sense because busses pull over to the curb and stop a lot. I kind of like that idea, as well as the fact that there's no parking, so no dooring problem.
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Old 07-22-02, 10:56 PM   #10
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I prefer operating in vehicular style, so I'm biased against bike lanes and in favor of wider traffic lanes. When I'm in traffic, I don't want to have to come out of a bike lane to prevent being cut off by someone turning.

Also, cars generate nice draft as they pass and crunch up the broken glass so it's blunt and doesn't give me flats. Anyone else notice the amount of debris and broken glass in bike lanes, compared to the traffic lane?

[rant]

In my home city, we have a paved bike trail that was designed to be cute/scenic (sscyco knows the one I mean). Lots of blind corners, unnecessary corners, rollerbladers with dogs on 20-foot retractable leashes, kids on training wheels, 15mph speed limit... no thank you! I'll take Trent Ave., heavy trucks (driven by excellent professional drivers) and the usual batch of autos any day. If the trucks start going around with dogs on 20-foot leashes attached to them, I'll reconsider...

[/rant]
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Old 07-23-02, 03:03 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by JRA
While I understand the militant anti-bike lane fever, I don't entirely agree with it. I don't have a problem with the concept. The problem is that most bike lanes simply stink.
Yes, and this is the big issue that I have with bikepaths/lanes. They're always poorly designed. To be honest, I really think the most effective method is to build roads with decent shoulders on them to begin with, and this wouldn't be a problem.
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Old 07-23-02, 11:05 AM   #12
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I actually rode these bike lanes in Madison and I think they make a lot of sense.

First of all, I like bike lanes. They at least acknowledge that bicycles have a right to be on the road - a fact that many motor car operators will dispute.

The advantage of having the bike lane on the left of the bus lane is that you don't get stuck behind a black smoke belching bus. You also don't get crowded between an intimidating bus on your left and door opening parked cars on the right.

I like the bike lanes in Madison. I don't live there, but I was sure envious of the bicyclists who do.

BTW, the Madison buses have bicycle racks on them. I bicycled all over Madison a couple of weekends; south to north, west to East, and back again. As far as state capitals are concerned, Madison is not so big. It would be very practical to live automobile free in that city.
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Old 07-23-02, 06:04 PM   #13
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Where I come from, unless the city (or county, whatever) agrees to sweep the lanes on a regular basis, they become sand traps.
The end result is that a perfectly usable, wide street becomes a narrower, less usable street because the usable part is now covered with debris.

Whether there is a stripe on the side of the street or not, unless the quality of the pavement is adequate, cyclists must ride far enough to the left (or right, depending on the country) to avoid all road hazards and still maintain a straight line.

My attitude about adding bike lanes to the street is, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Of course, the engineer's attitude may be,
"If it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough design features yet."

I respect Mike's opinion about the Madison bike lanes, however, especially since I respect Mike in general. But I might disagree with him about bike lanes, in general.

However, I did notice in Dan's pics what looked like a small ridge separating the bike lane from the street. That could cause an accident.
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Old 07-23-02, 09:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by mike
First of all, I like bike lanes. They at least acknowledge that bicycles have a right to be on the road - a fact that many motor car operators will dispute.
Yes, but try pulling out of the bike-lane for any reason (maybe avoiding a pothole or broken glass) and then see what sort of reaction you get.
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Old 07-24-02, 09:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by LittleBigMan

Whether there is a stripe on the side of the street or not, unless the quality of the pavement is adequate, cyclists must ride far enough to the left (or right, depending on the country) to avoid all road hazards and still maintain a straight line.
Wisconsin does a pretty good job of keeping streets clean. Winter can be a challenge due to snow.

From what I hear from Pete and others, Atlanta roads/streets seems to be particularly challenging place for bicyclists
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Old 07-24-02, 08:03 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by mike
Wisconsin does a pretty good job of keeping streets clean. Winter can be a challenge due to snow.

From what I hear from Pete and others, Atlanta roads/streets seems to be particularly challenging place for bicyclists
Mike, this is my dream for cyclists: that they get the safety they deserve!

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Old 09-02-02, 08:20 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by peterabelard
Why sandwich them between autos and buses? This is nuts.
Near the university and capitol building in Madison, there are some streets where cars do not rule. They are allowed, but pedestrians own the street. In this part of the city, I would be less worried about cars than I would about making sure that I keep a watchful eye for pedestrians.

Of course, the beauty of this part of Madison makes the eastern part of Madison all the more depressing. The very eastern part of Madison is a very generic car-centric blandsville of collector roads and box stores and strip malls.
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