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Bike network continuity in neighboring cities

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Bike network continuity in neighboring cities

Old 02-29-16, 12:51 AM
  #1  
jade408
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Bike network continuity in neighboring cities

This is a bit of a rant!

I biked to the city next to mine for an event. Not a very long ride. The border between the cities is contiguous, and mostly runs east west. The street grid is contiguous as well. It is very difficult to tell one city from another, they look pretty similar across the borders. Many of the main north/south thoroughfares in the cities are contiguous as well.

The street network is mostly a grid, so while I map my route, I just glance at it before I leave. I don't always read the details because I somewhat know the neighboring city, and many of the streets. But I am also quite fuzzy on which intersections are bike friendly, dangerous and so on as I never seem to take the same route.

Now on to my ride. So I was headed north, and I took one street that I know runs all the way to my destination. The street character changes as you head north. In my city it is commercial for a couple of blocks, then a mix of residential and commercial, but a pretty quiet 2 lane street with street parking and a striped bike lane. It runs parallel to a major street and has few destinations on my city's side. Right at the city line (give or take a few blocks) it changes character completely, it becomes a major thoroughfare. The freeway drops off on to the street and it is the primary north/south throughfare for neighboring city. I knew that I wouldn't want to ride that section (lots of hazards). There is no bike infrastructure.

Now there is a parallel route on either side, one bicycle boulevard and another with striped lanes. I was expecting to see a few signs to push me over to the quieter street as I got to the line (the streets start getting one way, and it is pretty difficult to cross the 6 lane stroad, with few left turn arrows, and I wanted the easiest route.

Unfortunately all of the signage disappeared. And once I got into the thick of the busy-ness, I just took a low trafficked one way street (in the wrong direction) just to get out of the hairy street.

So my question is, why can't neighboring cities collaborate on the bike infrastructure and put helpful signage in if the lanes aren't going to continue. Pretty much every link between our two cities is exactly the same. You go from buffered bike lane or bike boulevard to chaos with no signage to guide you to the nearby low street route.

Are any cities doing this well? My neighboring ones certainly aren't. And our street grid is unobstructed. The city lines are so random, there are some streets where you can enter the same city 2 times, and enter two different cities in a 3 mile radius. Another flips back and forth several times in a mile.

Is this too much to ask?

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Old 02-29-16, 04:28 AM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post

Is this too much to ask?
Yes. Considering that often within a city they can't seem to make bike networks "work," how in the world would you expect adjacent cities to get their acts together.
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Old 02-29-16, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
...
So my question is, why can't neighboring cities collaborate on the bike infrastructure and put helpful signage in if the lanes aren't going to continue. Pretty much every link between our two cities is exactly the same. You go from buffered bike lane or bike boulevard to chaos with no signage to guide you to the nearby low street route.

Are any cities doing this well? My neighboring ones certainly aren't. And our street grid is unobstructed. The city lines are so random, there are some streets where you can enter the same city 2 times, and enter two different cities in a 3 mile radius. Another flips back and forth several times in a mile.

Yes, there are neighboring cities doing this well. Somerville, Boston and Cambridge (our fair city) MA for example. In fairness, the border between Boston and Cambridge is a river, but not long ago biking across a bridge led to dramatically different bike friendliness.

However, the border between Somerville and Cambridge is one of those very funky borders.

There used to be a joke that if folks told you that they lived on the Cambridge-Somerville line that they lived in Somerville and wanted the Cambridge cachet. Now the joke is that if someone tells you they live on the Cambridge-Somerville line they live in Cambridge but want the Somerville hip. Either way, there are houses whose interiors are literally split by the border - and enough of them that there are policies covering public school district(s) for these houses.

Some of this is the result of accidental history - the Paul Dudley White Bike path is one of the oldest in the country, runs on both sides of the Charles River originally also along one bank into Newton (and a corner of Watertown). So this established early on multiple cities cooperating on a single bike project, but again, greatly helped along by another accident since the banks along the river were controlled by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC, now DCR). The path has since been further extended out to Waltham.

Another thing that launched cross jurisdiction cooperation was the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, the 500th rail trail running northwest through the towns of Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. It took only a few years for Cambridge to get the link from East Arlington to Cambridge, and another few years to have a spur heading to Somerville, and most recently, a spur to Belmont.

Don't get me wrong - we have hop-skip-jump infrastructure - just they are more likely to hop-skip-jump in the middle of a city instead of at the borders between cities and towns. But also if you looked at the state roads around here, you'd be amazed at how often you have to turn left or right to stay "straight" on the state road too.

Originally Posted by genec View Post
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
Is this too much to ask?
Yes. Considering that often within a city they can't seem to make bike networks "work," how in the world would you expect adjacent cities to get their acts together.
WHY IN THE WORLD SHOULD WE *NOT* expect this?

Final Jeopardy assignment for you. The category is Maya Angelou.
In her portrait and very short essay in "I Dream A World" by Brian Lanker she said this is the saddest sight to see.

Do-doo-do-doo-doo-do-dooooo.....

-mr. bill

Last edited by mr_bill; 02-29-16 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 02-29-16, 08:03 AM
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We should expect better, but based on reality, don't depend on it. It just won't happen... neighborhood to neighborhood bike networks are a joke... city to city are a prayer.
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Old 02-29-16, 08:24 AM
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Yeah, you should see Tampa. In the older neighborhoods the streets don't even line up with adjacent neighborhood. They are off by half a block. Throw in the highway system, river and strip centers sometimes there aren't any quiet back roads you can make a contiguous journey on. You're forced to either do a bizarre zigzag or take major busy roadways. Somethings that have gotten better, but you do wish someone would create a few corridors to make the cycling easier.
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Old 02-29-16, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
We should expect better, but based on reality, don't depend on it. It just won't happen... neighborhood to neighborhood bike networks are a joke... city to city are a prayer.
What you say just won't happen *HAS* happened. Past tense. Has happened.

You want to learn from us?

-mr. bill
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Old 02-29-16, 09:23 AM
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Different cities have different structures.

Many cities swallow up suburbs. While the street grid is sometimes disturbed a bit in swallowing up the suburbs, often streetside bike paths go through, at least on main arterials.

Eugene/Springfield would be a pair of sister cities here in Oregon. For the most part they are physically separated (river, and other features). Through some stroke of luck and genius, the off-street bike paths actually serve as major connectors between the two. Some of the arterials connecting the two are very busy, so the bike network is very important.
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Old 02-29-16, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
What you say just won't happen *HAS* happened. Past tense. Has happened.

You want to learn from us?

-mr. bill
HAS happened? Really? Maybe in a few rare places... but for the most part in the US, most cities are poorly bike networked internally, and not at all connected to other adjacent cities.

I can cite loads of examples in and around the cities in so cal; heck even Portland... which has a pretty extensive network in the city, "runs out" to their own suburbs, and across the Columbia (where there ARE bike bridges) the bike networks just fade away.
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Old 02-29-16, 09:35 AM
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Even in and around "bike city" Davis, which does have a good connection to Sacramento, fails if one wants to go to cities to the north and west.

I have not been cycling in SF for a while... there is a very dense area... I wonder how well it is connected to say Daly City for example. Anyone in that area?
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Old 02-29-16, 11:33 AM
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I live in Oakland, and the interconnectedness of Berkeley/Oakland/Emeryville are hit or miss (as mentioned above). Not sure about San Leandro, Albany, El Cerrito. All of these cities share a street grid there are no natural barriers.
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Old 02-29-16, 11:43 AM
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Yes, it's too much to ask or expect.

Cities grow and develop haphazardly, based on happenstance. A popular, successful business might attract more causing a quiet area to become not so quiet. Streets can become busier and one city may want to widen them, or modify intersections, while another has other budget priorities.

You're the captain of your ship, and can adapt and adjust in your route choices far easier than city planners can change infrastructure. Consider yourself very lucky to have a life good enough that this is a problem by comparison.
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Old 02-29-16, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Even in and around "bike city" Davis, which does have a good connection to Sacramento, fails if one wants to go to cities to the north and west.

I have not been cycling in SF for a while... there is a very dense area... I wonder how well it is connected to say Daly City for example. Anyone in that area?
Will be on my annual pilgrimage again.


Let's see, I've biked from SOMA (the new brand name) to City College San Francisco/Balboa Station, but that's one stop closer to San Francisco on the BART and of course *still* in San Francisco.

Howard/14th or Market to Valencia(love the green wave) to Cesar Chavez to San Jose to gah don't remember a quieter street a block north of San Jose, under the freeway near Glen Park Station, to the end and hung a right at argh don't remember the name to Ocean.

But one could of course never expect to have their prayers answered for a connection between San Francisco and Daly City by bicycle.


Vague recollection I would have stayed on argh don't remember the name to get to Daly City Station. Let me check.

Ah, Alemany, right, and then I would have paralleled the tracks on Delong.

Or, I could just take my bike on the BART.


It's been my experience that it's a waste of time to pray for things when my prayers have been already answered yes. It annoys the hell out of the $diety$.

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Old 02-29-16, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
I live in Oakland, and the interconnectedness of Berkeley/Oakland/Emeryville are hit or miss (as mentioned above). Not sure about San Leandro, Albany, El Cerrito. All of these cities share a street grid there are no natural barriers.
You absolutely *should* expect good interconnections between Oakland and Berkeley and Oakland and Emeryville and Berkeley and Emeryville.

Strava Heatmap shows Mandela Pkwy to Horton the most popular route between Oakland and Emeryville for example.

Too bad about the unnatural barriers between the three cities.

-mr. bill
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Old 02-29-16, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Cities grow and develop haphazardly, based on happenstance. A popular, successful business might attract more causing a quiet area to become not so quiet. Streets can become busier and one city may want to widen them, or modify intersections, while another has other budget priorities.
Cities often grow around arterials, so if the paths are maintained along the arterials, it will help a lot, but certainly the merging of two previously independent urban centers can be haphazard.

Waterways are often unique areas. Somehow Eugene was able to acquire/annex a huge amount of parkland along the Willamette river, which has grown into a good bike path network along the river. And, since the river divided Eugene and Springfield, and various outlying communities, the riverfront network has been a bonus for cyclists going between the cities.
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Old 02-29-16, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
You absolutely *should* expect good interconnections between Oakland and Berkeley and Oakland and Emeryville and Berkeley and Emeryville.

Strava Heatmap shows Mandela Pkwy to Horton the most popular route between Oakland and Emeryville for example.

Too bad about the unnatural barriers between the three cities.

-mr. bill
Mandela Parkway is a crazy street! It is too far west for many of my destinations. But it is actually a decent bike route north of about Grand or so. But at Grand you are in freeway onramp land and cars go very fast.

Mandela literally dead ends in a strip mall parking lot. And this is the worst strip mall parking lot known to man ever. Satellite view.

It is scary in your car. Each store has a parking lot with multiple entrances that let out on to the throughfares and few of the intersections have stop signs. I live pretty close and never want to bike there. All routes are not very fun.

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Old 02-29-16, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Cities often grow around arterials, so if the paths are maintained along the arterials, it will help a lot, but certainly the merging of two previously independent urban centers can be haphazard.
In this case the neighboring cities grew up at the same time. Not much has changed in these sections other than the normal turnover of business. Nothing since the bike lanes have happened, other than the areas are "gentrifying." Berkeley is a notorious infrastructure blocker, but bike lanes are benign even for Berkeley. They have been linked up for over 100 years, and that was the street grid then too, so there was no need not to think more critically together about bike lanes striped in the past 10-15 years.

Waterways are often unique areas. Somehow Eugene was able to acquire/annex a huge amount of parkland along the Willamette river, which has grown into a good bike path network along the river. And, since the river divided Eugene and Springfield, and various outlying communities, the riverfront network has been a bonus for cyclists going between the cities.
That makes sense. Over the past couple of decades there has been work on a "Bay Trail" And ti is going through many cities and counties. This is connected cleanly from Oakland to Emeryville to Berkeley to Richmond now. Eventually it will finish contiguously to Fremont and continue for about 40 miles. It runs along the water. There are some weird gaps (inconsistent road quality), but it is getting fleshed out with a master plan.
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Old 03-01-16, 12:31 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Even in and around "bike city" Davis, which does have a good connection to Sacramento, fails if one wants to go to cities to the north and west.
Huh? the nearest cities west of Davis are Dixon (southwest, easily reached via the bike path out of town to the west and a quiet ride south from the path's end) and Winters (same bike path followed by the very popular very low car traffic Putah Creek Rd to the west). You'll see very senior citizens and children riding those routes, so it's far from a failure. On a typical evening in the Spring, one would see about one hundred cyclists on a ride between Davis and Winters, which isn't bad for a city of 66k.

North, there's Woodland, the county seat. The county is on a one-mile grid and six of those roads connect Davis to Woodland. Only Rd. 98 and road 102 are not ridden (even though Rd 102 has a bike lane, it just has too many cars and trucks for most folks to tolerate it). A dear friend who lives in Davis and works as a substitute teacher enjoyed riding to Woodland schools on the interesting rolling art pieces he used to make. It's not as if one has to be hard-core to ride between the two cities. If you want to go on to Esparto, just do the old north by west jog route (the same way the DC has re-entered Davis from the Capay Valley for decades). It's hardly a failed connection. I've ridden it with people who were literally on their first inter-city rides and none of them were intimidated in the slightest.

How far afield do you need to go? There's just a lot of farmland with a freeway through it as you go north. To the west of Winters, there's just Lake Berryessa and then on to either Napa or Lake counties. Hwy 128 isn't ideal, but it's always got quite a few bikes on it. Same with the connection to Vacaville. The real barrier is to the south since the Rio Vista area grew and thus blocked off access to Antioch (narrow levee roads don't play nicely with large traffic volumes), but there are many alternative ways into the (L)east bay via Vacaville.

Does one really need separated paths between cities when 1.) the cities are tiny and 2.) the roads are mostly empty? I think not. You may be hard pressed to find this situation in SoCal, but it's still the norm in the agricultural regions of NorCal.

By the way, Davis hasn't really been a bike city in decades. There's been a mild recovery of late, but it still has a loooooong way to go. There's a real difference between roads full of bikes and devoid of cars and what it currently has (some roads with bikes and all roads full of cars). It may recover some day, but let's not give crowns back until they're earned.
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Old 03-01-16, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
This is a bit of a rant!...

So my question is, why can't neighboring cities collaborate on the bike infrastructure and put helpful signage in if the lanes aren't going to continue. Pretty much every link between our two cities is exactly the same. You go from buffered bike lane or bike boulevard to chaos with no signage to guide you to the nearby low street route.

Are any cities doing this well?...Is this too much to ask?

Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
Yes, there are neighboring cities doing this welll. Somerville, Boston and Cambridge (our fair city) MA for example. In fairness, the border between Boston and Cambridge is a river, but not long ago biking across a bridge led to dramatically different bike friendliness.

However, the border between Somerville and Cambridge is one of those very funky borders.

Some of this is the result of accidental history - the Paul Dudley White Bike path is one of the oldest in the country, runs on both sides of the Charles River originally also along one bank into Newton (and a corner of Watertown)...The path has since been further extended out to Waltham.

Another thing that launched cross jurisdiction cooperation was the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, the 500th rail trail running northwest through the towns of Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford....

Don't get me wrong - we have hop-skip-jump infrastructure - just they are more likely to hop-skip-jump in the middle of a city instead of at the borders between cities and towns. But also if you looked at the state roads around here, you'd be amazed at how often you have to turn left or right to stay "straight" on the state road too.
Nice description and interesting history, @ mr_bill. Those bikepaths you mention are indeed gems in Boston. I have ridden the grand Lakeshore Bikepath in Chicago, and when I returned Boston and rode the PD White path I thought to myself, ”This is so Bostonian.”

I have posted my own so-called “Cyclists’ Guide to Metro Boston” with this link to my post about Metro Boston MUPS:

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Boston as a compact East Coast urban environment has a nice set of bikepaths that connect the downtown area through the midtown as it were, and out to the residential neighborhoods and inner suburbs, providing utilitarian byways for cycle commuting or recreation, though these paths are not completely connected. These include:
  • the Paul Dudley White bikepath ...
  • the Southwest Corridor (Pierre Lallement) bike path... .
  • the Jamaica Pond Bikepath ...
  • the Minuteman Bikepath...
  • The Minuteman Historical Site...
  • Other including including Cape Cod:…
Though as noted above, MUPS in the City Proper are not completely connected, the gaps are fairly short and can be navigated quickly with caution.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 03-01-16 at 06:28 AM.
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