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Old 08-14-06, 05:14 AM   #1
Bikes-N-Drums
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Can Bike Paths Be Made Safer From Errant Autos?

I'm lucky to be typing this. A truck came within iches of wiping me and my lady out yesterday.

So we're riding down the bike path, which in this area is nothing more than a widened sidewalk next to the road. The road has a curve at one point. Right as we're in the curve a big pickup truck approaches us, apparently not paying attention, hits the curb and hops the sidewalk. If we had been a single second later you'd be posting another tragedy today.

So we're talking about it and wondering if we should call someone, write a letter, etc. Then I was thinking, well, who can you call, what so you say, what could be done? How can you make a bike path next to a street any safer? Guard rail? Cement posts? Anything?

Of course, this will attract the opinion that recommend I not ride on bike paths. That's fine, eventually we won't. But I am training my lady to ride, we're still in baby-steps, and we'll continue to use it for a while.

Can bike paths be made safer from errant autos?
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Old 08-14-06, 06:18 AM   #2
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Bollards
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Old 08-14-06, 06:31 AM   #3
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The type of incident you describe is very rare, and if you did something to protect against it, what would you do to protect bike paths against crashing airplanes.
I think more attention should be paid to the dangers at bike path-road intersections. Visual cues like raising the bike path 1" above street level and different colour paving will make motorists notice that bikes may be crossing, more than a little warning sign with a picture of a bike.
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Old 08-14-06, 07:29 AM   #4
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An airplane crashing into a bike path is more rare then a car or truck.

To answer your question, yes, an MUP can be made safer to protect the users against errant motor vehicle traffic.

But only if the local governing body deems it as a need. A need would be for example if there is an embankment or a ravine in which a motor vehicle could end up at the bottom of. Another reason would be if there is a repeated history along this section of roadway & trail where a motor vehicle does what this truck did, jump the curb & end up on the trail. Other factors include speed limit, Average Daily Traffic count or ADT, degree & radius of any curves, the governing body of the roadway each one may have differant criteria they follow to determine if a barrier is warranted. it is also possible that the amount or number of users on the MUP is also a factor.

Unfortunatly when it comes to making decisions like this, even when human life is involved, the system such as it is goes by a set of varying degrees. The governing bodies tend to say well one isolated incident is not enough for us to provide a barrier to protect people, but maybe if someone is killed we will take action. Of course this should not stop anyone from advocating for such a need like a barrier to help prevent errant motorists from crashing into the people that use the MUP.

You may want to check with your local P.D. & city hall to find out if there have been other reports of this happening along this section of roadway/trail. If there has been it may be enough of a reason to install some type of barrier to help prevent it.
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Old 08-14-06, 08:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N_C
The governing bodies tend to say well one isolated incident is not enough for us to provide a barrier to protect people, but maybe if someone is killed we will take action.
And there's the rub. It may have been something to consider had I been killed or injured, but since I'm not it's an "isolated incident".

And certainly this doesn't happen everyday. But it happened. And vehicles do end up on sidewalks for whatever reason - probably more often than airplanes end up on them.

I wouldn't know what to do. I don't recall ever seeing a barrier separating a sidewalk/bikepath from the street, other than the curb itself. But I do have that urgent feeling that something should be done, most likely because I nearly bit the big one. Perhaps my reaction to the incident is obscuring my logic.
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Old 08-14-06, 10:56 AM   #6
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Bike paths should not be more than glorified sidewalks.
Also, there needs to be some sort of traffic control for both cars and bikes at every crossing.
Also, they need to be designed for minimizeing those crossings.
For example, along the niagara parkway, there's a bike path
its

houses
-----
bike
----
road
----
river

This means that every damn cross street crosses the path
if it was

house
------
road
------
path
------
river

There would be no crossings.
Needless to say i rode the road.

I have no objection to bike paths being used sort of like bicycle freeways that go long distances with minimal crossings (Like a commuting trail from the burbs to downtown). however, they should not be used to get bikes off of the surface street. I find they always either create more dangers and/or inconvence riders.
If the path looks like a sidewalk, I will not ride it.
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Old 08-14-06, 11:29 AM   #7
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The AASHTO bike book, theoretically the manual for MUPs, bike lanes and the like, specs out a 42" high barrier when the se[aration from the roadway is less than 5'. If you cannot find it on the web, PM for a copy.

Having said that, I am in agreement with nm+ on the issue of urban paths. Ride with traffic and be seen by traffic.
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Old 08-14-06, 11:59 AM   #8
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Big, attractive boulders can help. But nothing is 100%.
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Old 08-14-06, 01:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nm+
For example, along the niagara parkway, there's a bike path
Interesting example from a west coaster. There are some stretches of that bike trail that are all right, like the climb up queenston heights in the woods, but by and large it is crowded and slow on weekends, thus I road ride on the parkway. Every time I ride down there, like clockwork, some old man in an old, wide car honks at me and motions me towards the path.

One time after doing this he got stuck behind the people-mover on the way into Niagara Falls and I caught up with him and asked why he was honking. He told me of course that I should ride my bike on the trail so I didn't delay him. I told him if he was in a *hurray* the QEW (a controlled-access freeway that runs basically parallel) was pretty much the next road over and he would find no bike-related delays there.

He rolled up the window and said nothing. He'll honk at me again next time though.

I guess I am a bit off topic.
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Old 08-14-06, 01:49 PM   #10
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In Dana Point, CA they are building a wall to protect runners and cyclists from being hit by cars. It will be 1.5 miles long and similar to the concrete barriers used during highway construction. See the thread in this subforum entitled "I need a wall to protect me from cars!".
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Old 08-14-06, 03:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bikes-N-Drums
And there's the rub. It may have been something to consider had I been killed or injured, but since I'm not it's an "isolated incident".

And certainly this doesn't happen everyday. But it happened. And vehicles do end up on sidewalks for whatever reason - probably more often than airplanes end up on them.

I wouldn't know what to do. I don't recall ever seeing a barrier separating a sidewalk/bikepath from the street, other than the curb itself. But I do have that urgent feeling that something should be done, most likely because I nearly bit the big one. Perhaps my reaction to the incident is obscuring my logic.
Your reaction is not obscuring your logic, at least I do not think it is.

I do have some questions for you though. How much of a height is between the road surface & top of the curb? I am not advising you take a tape measure & check. I'm asking because when a roadway is resurfaced the governing body, city, county or state can go so high, which shortens the distance between the road surface & the top of the curb. They can so high because there is a minimum height a curb has to be before they have to replace the curb & they milk that min. height for all it's worth. The upside is it saves on construction costs. The down side is the min. height requirement will only keep certain vehicles from jumping the curb. Trucks, SUV's & other larger vehicles can easily jump the curb because of their larger tire size. So has this roadway been resurfaced & the distance between the top of the curb & the road surface been reduced which would have caused the truck to jump the curb?
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Old 08-15-06, 03:03 AM   #12
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There are studies coming out of the UK at the moment that are indicating that sticking up barriers and so on hardens the image of the roadway and results in a faster driving speed, therefore your safety isn't really enhanced by their presence. It all comes down to human perception and inherent risk level mentality. Short of a rather dismal looking high and thick concrete barrier, not much will help.

What you need to consider are some softer options that work on the reducing the speeds and treat each individual road section seperately and on it's own merits. Speed into the corner you refer to could probably be reduced with a light chicane on entry and a short rumble strip patch. Then an effective barrier need only be a high curb of maybe 18 inches, painted yellow for visibility.

This is sometimes considered the "Doctor Approach" in civic design. Treat the cause instead of the symptom. Here the cause is speed.
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Old 08-15-06, 04:22 PM   #13
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Berlin Germany had bollards installed along the bike trails. They also put them along the streets to keep cars from parking on the sidewalks. (Berlin drivers are truly amazing and they will park ANYWHERE.) One car somehow got onto the bike trail and was parked there. I saw a bicyclist whiz by, whirling his lock and chain like a bolo, and take out the car's rear window.
Bicyclists fight back in Berlin.

Seriously though, better driving lessons (requiring Driver's ed in high schools) and crackdowns on bad drivers would help more than a preventive barrier. A drunk would just crash through it.
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