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Old 11-12-08, 09:07 AM   #1
lukey
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Help me respond to my city's plan to build bike lanes.

Last night I attended an open house where the city was unveiling their new draft "bicycle master plan".

The plan has a lot of detailed information about specific cycling facilities which they are planning to build, but it's pretty easy to summarize. Basically the approach they seem to be taking is to build semi-segregated cycling infrastructure, such as painted bike lanes and off-street trails. This essentially means that a select network will be indentified for bikes, and that those routes will get painted bicycle lanes and some additional route and road signs, plus some other measures where those are needed.

I should immediately mention that the city has a pretty poor record of actually implementing these types of facilities. I'll provide a couple of specific examples here, but these specific shortcomings are actually just to represent the problems endemic to ALL the lanes I've ever seen the city craft:
  • On one major artery, the old road design had very wide curb lanes and was used by a lot of cyclists. Near the terminus of that route was an old railway bridge where the street narrowed by probably 20 feet, causing a kind of bottleneck. Right at that narrowed underpass is the major intersection at the end of that road, busy with cars turning into and out of that narrowed section of road. The city brought in a painted cycling lane for the full length of the road, except right in that problem area, where the lane markings disappear and a sign reads "bike lane ends". I can think of dozens of places where the city creates a long bike lane only to have it peter out just in time for the most dangerous stretch of road.
  • Another cycling lane near my home is a major link across downtown, and pretty well the only north-south route designated for cyclists. It's missing signage around the places where it connects to other east-west designated cycling routes and it goes over curbs which haven't been lowered, and none of the intersections with major streets have cross-overs, etc. Essentially, it's an alleyway which has been paved, but there are no actual specific cycling improvements. The paving was recently taken up and replaced with cobblestones and brick, and some of the stuff they used is decorative and polished, and slippery as ice when wet. Etc. Just horrible horrible physical implementation.

So back to the meeting: Quite a bit of data was presented at this meeting from last night. (Like, they had schematic drawings of lots of kinds of bike lanes, and you could pick which physical setup you prefer.)

Among the items presented was a map-chart of accidents and injuries plotted by location. One of the items that clearly jumped out at me were that quite a few accidents that happen on the bike lanes we already have! And it was even clear in a couple of cases that cyclists had hit the actual cycling infrastructure itself.

Another observation that was really obvious was that two of the major cross-town express routes for cars (timed green waves on 6-lane one-way streets with many many intersections) have a very high rate of accidents for bikes. But those streets have a probably proportionate high rate of motorized vehicle accidents as well, and there are lots of pedestrian fatalities every year too, so I'm sure that cycling is dangerous on those roads, but that those roads are generally dangerous.

I was disappointed to see no analysis or typing of that accident data, at least with respect to other qualities like traffic flows. There was a simple pie-chart where the accident was "car-bike, bike-bike, bike-object, bike-pedestrian etc. There was no break-down by things like time of day, what maneuvers were being performed, where within the street things happened, etc. Quite a few of the bicycle fatalities seem to involve drunk-drivers from what my research suggests, so these are not going to be addresses by bike lanes in any direct way, for example.

So, the entire presentation seemed geared towards rigging the procedure and the information for the response that the planners seem to desire: they wish to see the public jump on the idea of more painted cycling lanes, on the roads where there are these accident dots.

Ie., "accidents happen on this road, we're going to put in place a bike lane". Rather than, "we need to bring in measures to calm the car traffic along this stretch", or "we need to add a designated turn lane at this intersection where cars strike cyclists when turning" or "we need to create some attractive alternative routes" or whatever. Basically, it was a choice of...this plan, or no other listed alternative.

I also noted that most of the culprit streets in terms of high bicycle accident rates are already identified and designated on the more general "transportation master plan" for cycling improvements (bike lanes), so the entire "cycling master plan" isn't bringing in any new measures beyond what they have planned to do already...it's basically just an extension of the same approach, with some new details.

So while there are these busy roads that have many more accident dots, and they are proposing bike lanes on those roads. Seems to be a solution: implicitly safety will increase. But will it really? What do you think...will dropping a bike lane on one of these high-way roads drop the accident rates? I've been reading studies that seem to show it doesn't hurt, but that it also doesn't help.

My gut reaction is that, in this context, the issue that they have probably identified has to do with a dramatic need for traffic calming along certain roads. Ie., that might mean bicycle boulevards in certain areas, re-engineering the flow of motorized traffic on certain others, switching one-ways to two-ways, disbanding the timed green waves, installing islands and jut-outs from curbs, adding street parking and so on. I also have a feeling that this is possibly unfeasible politically. But the lanes they are planning I'm really not sure about, especially the way that the city almost certainly will be doing them in terms of how things get implemented.

In a major city close by to where I live, I'm aware that the city originally took the approach of using bicycle boulevards (many still exist), and that cyclists then lobbied for on-street lanes and the number of fatalities increased as these were implemented (and as less experienced riders began to use these heavier traffic routes). That city seems to have now moved on to sharrows for a lot of new projects, but some of the troublesome previously bike-laned routes are actually at this point having car lanes removed and widening the remaining lanes, etc. My city seems to be on step one of that learning curve.

Another place I lived had built up a lot of cycling lanes, but from my perspective as a cyclist, a lot of the design choices "hard-wired" some dangerous traffic patterns, and I typically tried to stay off them if I could. Just scary.

So I'm writing this because I know that other cities have already built the type of infrastructure that the planners here are currently busy designing. We're always behind the curve here. What has been the experience in places you know about, and what feedback should I give to the plan?

Beyond safety concerns, are there other reasons to oppose bike lanes? Or rather, to endorse something different? What are some alternatives I could bring to the table? What has really worked where you live?

Thanks!
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Old 11-12-08, 09:22 AM   #2
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what city?

let's see the BMP. Your recounting wafts of bias.

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Old 11-12-08, 11:12 AM   #3
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Old 11-12-08, 11:52 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by lukey View Post
The city brought in a painted cycling lane for the full length of the road, except right in that problem area, where the lane markings disappear and a sign reads "bike lane ends".
Ignoring the larger question....

I think I'll suggest that maybe that sign should mysteriously vanish overnight...
Near a freeway onramp near me, there's a bike lane and they have a sign saying bike lane ends right before that spot as well.
Thing is though, apparantly sign makers were trying to save money, since the sign is actually two pieces 'bike lane' + 'ends'. Hasn't been an issue yet but its really tempting to knock off the lower half of the sign....
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Old 11-12-08, 12:05 PM   #5
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I think I'll suggest that maybe that sign should mysteriously vanish overnight...
someone could do that while they were out at night painting their own sharrows.
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Old 11-13-08, 12:43 PM   #6
lukey
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let's see the BMP.
That's just it...the process is just now at the stage where they don't have one, but are collecting feedback from the public in order to identify priorities and projects. So there's nothing I can show you because there's currently no official documents.

It's basically as I stated it:

The city seems poised to roll-out painted and striped bike lanes on the major arteries of the city. The problem they are trying to solve is the number of accidents and injuries. That's the whole solution proposed.

Before I jump on board that idea, I'm wondering will that work, or is there something better they should be pursuing, like setting up alternate bike routes or adjusting the behavior of the motorized vehicles?

Or all these things done together?

Quote:
Your recounting wafts of bias.
I'm not clear what specifically you see my bias as the way I wrote this out, but I'd be interested to hear you expand on that idea. I'm not sure how this looks, and I do want to take a reasoned, clear approach.

I want to formulate an articulate, reasoned, evidence-based response, and I'm looking for the experiences from real-world bike infrastructure models that I haven't directly had a chance to experience. So I have no specific agenda except to bring forward ideas which will serve my community well in the future. And in order to have an effect, I need to back those recommendations up.

So I've looked at things like the painted lanes in Portland, bike boxes, and some of the other things I mentioned. It would help to have numbers and studies.

I know that do have a lot of opinions, mainly based on my own limited set of experiences as a cyclist for the past 20 years. I ride recreationally, I commute 365, and I even compete a little.

But for example, yesterday I was riding in a different city from the one where I live. That particular city has a kind of "patchwork quilt" of various approaches to the issues of cyclist safety.

While there, I rode through a traffic-calmed neighbourhood and I was caught in a near-miss (right-hook) at a congested area around a traffic light. I rode along another route with a striped bike lane, and at a particular intersection, I needed to make a left turn to continue on the bike lane. I first moved out into the centre of the lane, held my arm out to signal, and when it was my turn, started to make the maneuver. A car which was behind me on the road also started driving when I started to move and did a near sideswipe as the driver proceeded to drive straight through the intersection, veering around me to overtake me mid-left-turn. I'm lucky I heard the engine and did an extra shoulder check. I think the driver simply didn't pay any attention to me, because I wasn't visually important traffic (somehow). I eventually rode along a major artery where Sharrows have been painted. Along that road, I was passed by heavy truck traffic (ie., cement mixer, garbage truck, city bus etc.) and all those vehicles slowed up and passed by waiting for a space and changing lanes to go around me. Another passenger car honked from a couple of hundred feet back and gave me a lot of room as it passed.

I do have to say that those experiences are all filed away along with a ton of other ones. I have a few opinions as I'm routinely riding in at least 3 major cities, and get to experience a lot of these ideas implemented first-hand. But: what is it like where you live? Are there other models which have been applied? What sorts of infrastructure really seem to work in your city?

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If you want to make a difference, join a local organization. If none exists or you don't like them, organize, organize, organize.
Yes...I get all that. (I've worked for a long time as a bicycle advocate and done a lot of lobbying and sitting through useless committee meetings, and I've actually gotten a ton of changes accomplished. Including some regionally important ones. )

I do appreciate the point you're making. Right now, the city here is looking to the public for ideas for what sorts of infrastructure they should look to develop, so that's what I'm hoping to be exploring here. This is a short-term opportunity to put in ideas that aren't being considered, if those would work better than the one plan they actually have tabled.

Quote:
I think I'll suggest that maybe that sign should mysteriously vanish overnight...
Yeah...but what to do about the narrow bridge footings and the lack of lane stripes? I mean, is the half-measure taken of any advantage? Bikes still have to merge back into the car lane, sign or no sign. Do you feel safer on a painted and striped bike lane, anyhow? Do you have access to any stats that show that such things work to reduce collisions?

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someone could do that while they were out at night painting their own sharrows.
Are sharrows the best way to go? Do they work in your city?
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Old 11-13-08, 01:12 PM   #7
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Lukey-

WHAT CITY????

Take a look at the MUTCD for starters.

http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2003r1r2/html_index.htm

there is a lot of good stuff out there about planning for bikes in communities.

the thunderhead alliance and r-t-c conservancy might be good clearinghouses for further research if not directly applicable to your community.

Last edited by Bekologist; 11-13-08 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 11-13-08, 04:26 PM   #8
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the city here just did a really nice job making a new bike route. They got rid of on-street parking for one thing. The only thing I could have asked for is to reduce the number of places you have to stop on the route, as it is you have to stop at every block.
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Old 11-13-08, 04:31 PM   #9
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What sorts of infrastructure really seem to work in your city?
Narrow right lanes. The best bicycle infrastructure already exists. Where I live we call it "public streets". They go everywhere you would want to go!

Here in Dallas, most of out streets are four lane arterials with 10' to 12' right lanes, curbed with no on street parking. Perfect for cycling. Your very own 10' to 12' bike lane that is always swept clean.
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Old 11-13-08, 07:46 PM   #10
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The city seems poised to roll-out painted and striped bike lanes on the major arteries of the city. The problem they are trying to solve is the number of accidents and injuries. That's the whole solution proposed.

Before I jump on board that idea, I'm wondering will that work, or is there something better they should be pursuing, like setting up alternate bike routes or adjusting the behavior of the motorized vehicles?
There is zero -- none, nada, nil -- evidence that bike lanes reduce accidents and injuries.
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Old 11-17-08, 09:38 AM   #11
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There is zero -- none, nada, nil -- evidence that bike lanes reduce accidents and injuries.
Yeah...that is my impression based on my own personal experience. Lanes are kind of stress-free riding, but cars pass by pretty closely and every intersection is a bunch of close-calls.

Do you have any studies or statistics you would be able to point me towards?

What sorts of infrastructure are measurably safer?
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Old 11-17-08, 10:08 AM   #12
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the government has codified bike lanes and bike infrastructure to the extent have design manuals in place to help your city forward with thier bike master plan, lukey.

by the way, let me ask one more time -

WHAT CITY?????

there's quantifiable evidence modest investments in bicycling infrastructure has myriad positive effects on all sorts of social fronts, lukey.

'reducing accidents' is not a proven result of lack of bicycling infrastructure either. i suspect your city is willing to look wisely at other communities with heavier concentrations of safer bicyclists in america and abroad and apply some of those multifarious methods.
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Old 11-17-08, 01:28 PM   #13
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Lukey, are you so afraid of identity theft you can't tell us where you are? I guess i'm lucky that I live in a 400 year old town based on walking and cow paths. Where you just take the lane because 95% of the roads are one lane with a 25 MPH limit.
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Old 11-17-08, 01:29 PM   #14
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<snip account of par for the course municipal floundering>
I got two words for you man.

Sharrows. Sharrows.
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Old 11-17-08, 02:01 PM   #15
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I want to formulate an articulate, reasoned, evidence-based response, and I'm looking for the experiences from real-world bike infrastructure models that I haven't directly had a chance to experience. So I have no specific agenda except to bring forward ideas which will serve my community well in the future. And in order to have an effect, I need to back those recommendations up.
You'll find that there isn't much good information for a real scientific analysis. You'll also find that people and organizations (like the planners in your city) will present analyses disguised as science anyway. This nonsense happens on both the pro- and con- sides. These analyses are easy to refute with simple logic if anybody will listen.

Here is some of the available research on bike facilities (scroll down to "FACILITIES"): http://www.industrializedcyclist.com/lies.html

I don't know where you live but try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As Bek says there are streets that can be improved with the addition of a well-designed bike lane. My personal feeling is that there are few of these streets that would not be improved even more with the addition of large double-chevron sharrows placed just right of center of the rightmost lane. I'd like to see these large sharrows just about everywhere and mini-sharrows in left turn lanes.

The ultimate bike facility isn't on the street at all. It's a fully separated MUP that cuts a diagonal through the city, usually following a river or railroad bed and thus passing beneath the street grid, and connected to the grid via ramps. A non-stop bicycle highway. Most cities have at least a few routes that can be so exploited and they should be. This is a lot more expensive than slapping down some sharrows though.
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Old 11-20-08, 12:33 AM   #16
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I got two words for you man.

Sharrows. Sharrows.
Yeah as long as you don't live in a city where they decide to put the sharrows next to the curb on a lane that is not wide enough to share, and if you rode on the sharrow would get your shoulder clipped by a passing mirror. They also put them at the right side of the curb lane on a road with 4 lanes that narrows to 2 after the intersection so most of the curb lane auto traffic is turning right. I always move over in this lane to avoid right hook, shouldn't the sharrows encourage that?
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Old 11-20-08, 08:00 AM   #17
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...i'm lucky that I live in a 400 year old town based on walking and cow paths. Where you just take the lane because 95% of the roads are one lane with a 25 MPH limit.
Sounds like equitable sharing arrangement. BTW, new designs for urban areas can be that way too:

Quote:
A Path to Road Safety With No Signposts

"I WANT to take you on a walk," said Hans Monderman, abruptly stopping his car and striding - hatless, and nearly hairless - into the freezing rain.

Like a naturalist conducting a tour of the jungle, he led the way to a busy intersection in the center of town, where several odd things immediately became clear. Not only was it virtually naked, stripped of all lights, signs and road markings, but there was no division between road and sidewalk. It was, basically, a bare brick square.

But in spite of the apparently anarchical layout, the traffic, a steady stream of trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians, moved along fluidly and easily, as if directed by an invisible conductor. When Mr. Monderman, a traffic engineer and the intersection's proud designer, deliberately failed to check for oncoming traffic before crossing the street, the drivers slowed for him. No one honked or shouted rude words...
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Old 12-02-08, 04:57 PM   #18
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If you do nothing else, get the city engineers to look at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pete.me...-of-the-month/ and preceding ones.
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Old 12-02-08, 05:52 PM   #19
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The ultimate bike facility isn't on the street at all. It's a fully separated MUP that cuts a diagonal through the city, usually following a river or railroad bed and thus passing beneath the street grid, and connected to the grid via ramps. A non-stop bicycle highway. Most cities have at least a few routes that can be so exploited and they should be. This is a lot more expensive than slapping down some sharrows though.
Exactly...

Now if we could just get cities to allocate funds for such facilities as they do for all other transportation needs.
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Old 12-02-08, 05:54 PM   #20
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All bike lanes are bad, bad, bad!



They are the enemy of cyclists!

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