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interconnectivity between residential and low-speed streets

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interconnectivity between residential and low-speed streets

Old 03-11-09, 01:11 AM
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chriswnw
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interconnectivity between residential and low-speed streets

I have followed the debate regarding whether or not bike infrastructure - such as bike lanes, sharrows, MUPs, etc - are beneficial or not, and have concluded that the most important cycling amenity is the presence of a network of lower speed thoroughfares and residential streets that actually connect up. Lots of people ride bikes in inner cities, streetcar suburbs and college towns because they were all built on a grid -- it isn't necessary to use a 45 mph arterial to get around, as there is always a lower speed parallel route. Post WWII suburbs don't have many riders because because the lower-speed collector streets often terminate at the end of a subdivision (and sometimes even within a subdivision), thus forcing riders onto the arterials (which, in my experience, aren't made much more pleasant to ride upon with the addition of a bike).

Portland, where I live, has bike boulevards, which are basically parallel routes that have been modified slightly for bicycles, mainly by flipping a few stop signs to prevent excessive stoppage (which I like) and by installing certain traffic calming measures (which I have mixed feelings about). This is a pretty cheap method of improving the cycling experience in cities, streetcar suburbs, and college towns, but what about the cul-de-sac suburbs? Older cities that are on either the grid or the haphazard and yet still interconnected European style topologies are already great for biking, although they can likely use a few inexpensive improvements. It's the post-War suburbs that really need some work.

I was looking at a map of the suburbs of Denver, and they seem very bikeble when compared to Portland suburbs such as Beaverton, Gresham or Hillsboro. Even though they have curvy streets and lots of cul-de-sacs, there is generally at least one residential street that connects to each of the neighboring subdivisions. However, I don't know if that was done for the purpose of facilitating biking and walking, or if it has had a positive effect in that direction. I have also looked at certain Canadian suburbs that have adopted a "fused grid" plan, which ties terminating residential streets together with bike/ped shortcut paths and parks. Lastly, a number of suburbs have put 4 lane arterials on a "road diet", converting them to lower speed 2-3 lane streets with wide outside lanes. (Davis and Irvine, CA are also bike-friendly because their terminating residential streets lead to a network of MUPs, but that falls outside the theme of this post.)

Anybody live in any suburbs that have adopted any of the strategies that I mentioned? Any opinions on their effectiveness? I'd be curious if there are many suburbs that are attempting to adopt this model to improve bikeability and walkability.
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Old 03-11-09, 08:31 AM
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I'll say that you're correct. In places where there is a grid of residential or low-speed streets, there is not really that much of a need to travel on the high-speed arterials. OTOH, in many of the suburbs, the arterials are frequenctly the only option around. So for those places (and I live in one such place now), upgrading the arterials is pretty much the only solution. If BLs/WOLs were built on such arterials though, things would be a lot better in a hurry.
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Old 03-11-09, 08:41 AM
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My present town, Los Altos, CA, when built in the 50s used the "fused grid" plan in many neighborhoods to allow the children to walk to school. Some of the cut-thrus have been closed off, and apparently ceded to homeowners, but the vast majority still exist. The problem cities see with these cut-thrus is bicyclists look to cars like they are coming out of nowhere, so the cities feel they need to put mazes at each end of these cut-thrus to slow bicyclists to walking speed by the time they hit the street. Though I know I can ride through with two grocery bag size panniers, I'm pretty good at steering. Parents riding with children in trailers or on tandems cannot get through the mazes without dismounting. Kids who aren't good at steering also have to dismount. So your average communter that chooses to head through the neighborhood instead of staying on the arterials going around the neighborhoods will probably be ceding time.

The fused grid type of setup does help the clientel it was originally meant to serve, the children heading to school. They don't mind if it takes them a little longer. They see the mazes as fun challenges, rather than impediments. And the mazes are great at keeping school children from flying out in front of moving cars. A recent campaign to clean up the cut-thrus that were overgrown and publicize them increased the number of children walking and biking to school by 20%.

The city does regret losing some cut-thru opportunities. And, when possible, would try to get them back. The biggest thing the city gains in the cut-thrus is pedestrian and bicycle traffic to the downtown business district, which is surrounded by neighborhoods. When families can use a trip downtown as an outing the downtown businesses get more foot traffic without having to add parking. It brings enough life into the downtown area to draw new shops, and then people, in. And, of course, cities love sales tax revenue.
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Old 03-11-09, 08:56 AM
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Suburban neighborhood design is a true problem. I wish planners would require that new neighborhoods anticipate later development and build in connectors for future use.

As it is, many neighborhoods in my city are entirely cut off -- except for the entrance, which is on the four-lane road. Sux.
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Old 03-11-09, 10:46 AM
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Yeah, I managed to locate a couple of those paths with zig-zag gates at the end of them by looking at Los Altos on Google Streetview. Interesting.

The Bay Area Peninsula is one of the better suburban areas for biking. Even though it doesn't have a perfect grid, most of the cities have a lot of side street connectivity. I loved riding around Palo Alto and Mountain View when visiting my cousins as a kid. Los Altos doesn't look bad, although it looks like you have to use an arterial to cross I-85. I grew up in Fremont, which wasn't too bad. However, getting over the railroad tracks near my house forced me onto a busy boulevard.
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Old 03-11-09, 11:04 AM
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The problem is, when a lot of people buy a house in a community, one of the things they look at is vehicular traffic. They don't want their kids playing in a street that is used as a "cut through" to avoid the busy roads. Hence, builders of newer communities tend to make them with only one entrance or a maze of roads to avoid those people looking to shorten their commute. It means more money for the builder and faster home sales.
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Old 03-11-09, 11:07 AM
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All my destinations are on arterials.
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Old 03-11-09, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
All my destinations are on arterials.
Ah yes, but I have read your post about realizing how stressed out and pissed off all the drivers behind you were upon buying a rear-view mirror Not that this is your problem, but the situation is less than ideal.

Even though I ride 15-20 miles a day, I guess I have been wussified by Portland, as I almost never need to use the arterials. I'll ride on them for three or four blocks if necessary if my destination is on an arterial, but I'm glad that I don't have to use one for my entire journey.
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Old 03-11-09, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mrpleasant View Post
The problem is, when a lot of people buy a house in a community, one of the things they look at is vehicular traffic. They don't want their kids playing in a street that is used as a "cut through" to avoid the busy roads. Hence, builders of newer communities tend to make them with only one entrance or a maze of roads to avoid those people looking to shorten their commute. It means more money for the builder and faster home sales.
Well, I am trying to reach some sort of compromise solution, as I know that suburbanites like their cul-de-sacs. To be honest, I grew up on one, and loved it up until my teens, when the suburban street hierarchy started making it hard to get anywhere without a car. But you're right, some cul-de-sac dwellers won't even like bike/ped cut-throughs, as it it could potentially lead to transients filtering through or become hang-out spots for thugs. I'm not sure that bike-friendliness is really at the top of the priority list of most suburban residents anyway.

At any rate, it seems like having at least one connection point between each subdivision is a good halfway point (not that the most suburbanites care what I think
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Old 03-11-09, 12:59 PM
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I live in this subdivision. As can be seen, there's only one entrance/exit, onto a 2-lane semi-rural road (bethany rd) with 45-55mph traffic. If you zoom out, you can also see that not a single neighborhood within 4 miles or so actually leads anywhere. Neighborhood streets probably would have been nice when I started riding, but now they actually seem somewhat boring compared to busier roads.
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Old 03-11-09, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by degnaw View Post
I live in this subdivision. As can be seen, there's only one entrance/exit, onto a 2-lane semi-rural road (bethany rd) with 45-55mph traffic. If you zoom out, you can also see that not a single neighborhood within 4 miles or so actually leads anywhere. Neighborhood streets probably would have been nice when I started riding, but now they actually seem somewhat boring compared to busier roads.
How can you live like that?

Looks like a prison to me. Do you have to drive 10 miles to the deli? I could not imagine growing up and being a kid in a hell hole like that, where you could not walk anywhere.
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Old 03-11-09, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Galls View Post
How can you live like that?

Looks like a prison to me. Do you have to drive 10 miles to the deli? I could not imagine growing up and being a kid in a hell hole like that, where you could not walk anywhere.
Check out his youtube video of his bike commute along one of the the busy 45-55 mph roads that he was referring to. That's how he does it. That said, I wouldn't like living there either.

But yeah, that's precisely the type of disconnected residential topology that I was referring to. Thanks to degnaw for providing the example.
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Old 03-11-09, 02:15 PM
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This is the way most of South Florida is. Neighborhoods are a circular mess
that basically have one way in/out. The entrances dump onto 45mph(55 irl),
4 laners that require left turing into opposing lanes, etc......
I have to admit, it wears me out sometimes.....Its hard to relax when theres
the Battle of Crimea going on all around you
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Old 03-11-09, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by degnaw View Post
I live in this subdivision. As can be seen, there's only one entrance/exit, onto a 2-lane semi-rural road (bethany rd) with 45-55mph traffic. If you zoom out, you can also see that not a single neighborhood within 4 miles or so actually leads anywhere. Neighborhood streets probably would have been nice when I started riding, but now they actually seem somewhat boring compared to busier roads.
This is how all of Augusta, GA is built. It's all major arterials with division after division branching out, but don't connect to each other. It makes it impossible to bike through the city, which creates a ton of hostility to those who do. (I was yelled at on a daily basis and saw other bikers about every other week.)

It is also the 5th fattest city in the nation.

I think if they could match the 540 million dollars they spent last year on treating conditions that stemmed from lack of physical activity, they'd have a decent infrastructure in a few years, and a nice one in a few more after that.
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Old 03-11-09, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by GodsBassist View Post
This is how all of Augusta, GA is built. It's all major arterials with division after division branching out, but don't connect to each other. It makes it impossible to bike through the city, which creates a ton of hostility to those who do. (I was yelled at on a daily basis and saw other bikers about every other week.)

It is also the 5th fattest city in the nation.

I think if they could match the 540 million dollars they spent last year on treating conditions that stemmed from lack of physical activity, they'd have a decent infrastructure in a few years, and a nice one in a few more after that.

Thats crazy !
I spent time in Augusta(Milledge Ave?) in the early 70's and I dont remember it like that.
We rode Stingrays all over. I did get fat though..My relatives only served HUGE
meat products and potatoes every night !! Might be why Im a strict veggie today
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Old 03-11-09, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by -=Łem in Pa=- View Post
Thats crazy !
I spent time in Augusta(Milledge Ave?) in the early 70's and I dont remember it like that.
We rode Stingrays all over. I did get fat though..My relatives only served HUGE
meat products and potatoes every night !! Might be why Im a strict veggie today
The central part of the city isn't so bad, although that just outside downtown/Broad St area can be a pretty shady part of town. Most of the developments have spread out to the sides of the city, which is where you run into the problem the OP is talking about. I had gone in to Broad St a couple times (I think by way of Milledge Rd, actually) and it wasn't a half bad ride at all.
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Old 03-11-09, 03:53 PM
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^^^ I think that came out wrong !!! The 'Thats Crazy' part

I meant that its crazy what happened to Augusta compared to how I remember it.
Hopefully, no offense taken
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Old 03-11-09, 04:34 PM
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Haha, none taken, i knew what you meant. It's interesting to see how the city developed from the central areas out as it sprawled, though.
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Old 03-11-09, 09:50 PM
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I love fuse grid plans. By the time I was six, I was able to connect a path 4 miles into the heart of the city with only 100 feet of busy-ish road. All the neighborhoods butted against each other, but there were no paths other than the one left by my tires. I developed strong sprint skills running from crazy middle-class men that cared more about their green grass than my safety.

I think the suburbs could be worked into a really safe bike infrastructure with residential cul-de-sac roads with short connecting MUPs, but you're still going to have to pedal a lot to get anywhere.
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Old 03-11-09, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mondaycurse View Post
I think the suburbs could be worked into a really safe bike infrastructure with residential cul-de-sac roads with short connecting MUPs, but you're still going to have to pedal a lot to get anywhere.
Indeed. I didn't really get into MUPs with my first post, but here is the neighborhood that I lived in until I was about 11: http://maps.google.com/maps?ie=UTF8&...10986&t=h&z=17 17 cul-de-sacs all connected by a MUP. There are three instances of this in Fremont, Calfironia. It doesn't really get you beyond the immediate neighborhood, but it was great when I was a kid. It was well-used by numerous people in the neighborhood, and people liked it because it allowed their kids to walk to the local elementary school. Today, I am not sure I'd like dodging the kids, dog-walkers, slow-riders and sketchy characters on the path. I'd probably use it to get from one cul-de-sac to the next, without spending much time on the actual path. Also, just to the west of that subdivision is an impassable strip of barren land, disconnecting you from everything in that direction. Fremont isn't the worst, as far as side street connectivity goes, but there are definitely some major gaps.
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