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Traffic experiments in Walnut Creek

Old 04-08-22, 09:36 AM
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Joe Bikerider
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Traffic experiments in Walnut Creek

My fair city is going try a couple experiments in traffic calming on April 12. Come and have a look. From the city:

Maintenance will be holding a traffic pop-up demonstration in the Homestead neighborhood next Tuesday morning (April 12th 2022). We are planning to test two (2) different traffic calming pop-up demonstrations to understand their effectiveness and feasibility on both Homestead Ave and Walnut Blvd. The details are listed below and we invite you to come out and test drive it, bike it and/or observe. City staff will be on-site for the full duration to make layout adjustments, collect your feedback and answer any questions you may have. These demonstrations donít address the entire study area, but our goal is future longer-term improvements would.

Homestead Avenue and Mariposa Way: Lane Narrowing and Bulb Out Tuesday April 12th 2022 Time: 8:45am - 9:30am (actual times may vary slightly)

Walnut Blvd at Greenway Dr/Camrose Pl : Neighborhood Traffic Circle Tuesday April 12th 2022 Time: 9:45am Ė 11:00 am(actual times may vary slightly)

Thank you, Matt Redmond, PE Associate Traffic Engineer City of Walnut Creek 1666 N. Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 925-943-5899 x2293
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Old 04-08-22, 11:46 AM
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Joe, have you seen the plastic pylons they put on Bancroft where the Canal Trail crosses? It looks like the kind of "safety measures" some traffic engineer with zero cycling experience would think of.

Just a bad idea, makes street sweeping in the bike lane impossible, doesn't provide any barrier of protection, and makes the auto lanes narrower for 50 meters or so which the drivers don't understand.



When I was on the WC Bicycle Advisory Committee, we had some good traffic engineers listen to us about ideas like this. I remember one time they were considering taking the bike lane away on Mt. Diablo Blvd near CVS and making it bike lane during low traffic hours and traffic lane during high traffic hours - kind of like how they used to switch the traffic direction of that middle lane on the Golden Gate Bridge. We told them it was a terrible idea and why, and they listened.

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Old 04-14-22, 09:57 AM
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I think those pylons were set more to protect the canal trail crowd than for bike commuters. I've seen cars use those lanes turning into Countrywood center. Gives peds/cyclist a buffer at the light.
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Old 04-14-22, 04:36 PM
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I am not a fan of physical separation barriers on a street. Everything about the pictured set-up in Walnut Creek looks good to me, except the pylons. As DiabloScott points out, they make street sweeping impossible, meaning more flat tires.

Berkeley has installed major revisions to Milvia Street through downtown, including physical curbs between car and bike lanes for number of blocks. I don't like them. They remove all options for maneuvering when necessary, such as for broken glass or pother debris on the bike lane, when someone parks across the sidewalk and bike lane or otherwise parks in/blocks the bike lane. And yes, I've already seen this - the average DoorDash or Uber driver is not the least bit shy about blocking traffic lanes whenever it suits their purposes, and to hell with everyone else. I've had an unpleasant encounter with travelling auto detailer who thought the bike lane at a driveway cut was the perfect place to park while detailing a car, thus completely bottling up bike traffic. The curbs also cut down on - and sometimes eliminate completely - my ability to take a lane at an intersection to avoid being in the position to be "right crossed" by an inattentive driver. Put simply, the curbs cut down on my options for dealing with suboptimal and/or emergency situations, and I actively dislike that.

The Walnut Creek pylons are better than Berkeley's curbs, but they are still an obstacle to be considered in split-second decisions and definitely will make the bike lane more glass- and garbage-clogged. Not a good thing.

Perhaps better physical barrier would be rumble strips along the painted line closet to the auto traffic. The give an audible and physical clue to wandering drivers but still allow emergency bike maneuvering.
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Old 04-19-22, 09:24 AM
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There's a new trend for bicycle "safety" involving building "protected intersections" which is similar to what bikingshearer above describes. Basically a separated bike lane with curbs on both sides, creating a "channel" for riders to be in. But to me, these are some of the worst "improvements" around intersections, for many reasons. As already discussed, maintenance is a pain, cities have to invest in a street sweeper that is specifically designed to fit in the narrow bike passageways.

In the diagram, the 2 biggest problems I see are one, having to cross traffic twice to make a left, which takes more time, and increases the chances of an incident due to crossing traffic twice. Worse, is cars making a right from across a lane of parked cars to where the cyclists are. If it's a green light, and the rider wishes to continue straight, they will be at speed coming into the intersection, where a car may want to turn right, has to look across a lane of parked cars, and into the separated bike lane before turning. I don't think it's in the mind of most drivers to look all the over to the bike lane to see if there's a rider even with, or slightly behind them 2 lane widths away before turning right. I could see a lot more right hooks in this type of "protected" intersection. Also, those huge bulb-outs look like a place where there'd be a lot of pedestrian loitering or gathering (especially in a downtown area, or at peak times), causing additional nuisance to riders. I'd much rather be in the lanes here, where I'm more in line with the drivers' field of vision, and have my tail light flashing in their eyes so they see me. Not separated by 2 lanes and over a line of parked cars. Sometimes I wonder who are these bicycling "advocates" and if they actually ride bikes...

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Old 04-19-22, 11:29 AM
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There is a "protected" intersection such as cthenn shows in North Berkeley at The Alameda and Hopkins, near where I live. Not a fan. Pedestrian crowding is not an issue there, and there are no hard-curbed channels leading up to it, but it still poses problems. The main one is that it causes unnatural flow for bikes going through the intersection. You either have to make a quick right-left ess turn going into the intersection or jog left to go with regular traffic. This is adding a level of distracting spatial complexity at exactly the time when your attention should going to making sure no car is about to right-cross over the top of you; the street set up should be reducing distractions, not adding to them. The reverse left-right ess turn on the other side of the intersection is merely annoying, but the whole set up is suboptimal from where I sit, perched on my trusty two-wheeled steed.

In some measure, I understand where all this is coming from. I have multiple decades of experience riding in traffic, and while there are roads I will not ride on, I am not frightened by normal traffic, even normal heavy traffic. I get that others do not have that experience or that level of comfort on the road. And I appreciate that communities are finally trying to promote cycling and making the infrastructure more accommodating to us. But the answer is not adding inflexible bike canyons to the sides of streets. If it isn't a completely separate bike or multi-use path, use paint, rumble strips and signage (and maybe pylons, although as noted above, I am not completely sold on them either) to promote awareness and to give cyclists some space, but space we can bail out of if the need arises - and the need does arise.
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Old 04-19-22, 12:13 PM
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Seems incredible that no one has developed a small narrow version of a street sweeper for MUPs and physically separated bike lanes?

That you can't have a bike lane that's physically separated because you can't sweep it seems like a dumb reason not to do it. Almost as if the Wright brothers said there is no point working on this airplane because there are no airports to land them at.
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Old 04-19-22, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by billridesbikes View Post
Seems incredible that no one has developed a small narrow version of a street sweeper for MUPs and physically separated bike lanes?
These absolutely exist https://sf.streetsblog.org/2018/06/1...reet-sweepers/
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Old 04-19-22, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by nathand View Post
They aren't really great for distance though. we have one for parking decks(pretty sure its actual design was for sidewalks). I dont think I would want to ride around a city in it to get to a path.
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Old 04-19-22, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by sloppy12 View Post
They aren't really great for distance though. we have one for parking decks(pretty sure its actual design was for sidewalks). I dont think I would want to ride around a city in it to get to a path.
Wouldn't you just stick one or two on a trailer and drive them to the stretch that needs to be cleaned and pick them up afterward?

Seems the objections to protected bike paths are:
1) Too hard to clean - Seems like a solvable technical issue.
2) I don't like to cycle that way, riding in traffic is OK for me. - Fine, but shouldn't we try to figure out how to get more people cycling, not just make it convenient for us bike nutjobs?
3) Drivers of automobiles will be confused or angry. - Oh, boohoo.

But the big reason for me to have these, as shown in some studies, is that properly designed protected bike lanes reduce cyclist AND pedestrian deaths. And I'm all about reducing chances of my death. The reason appears to be that protected lanes have the secondary effect of calming traffic. Narrower streets make cars drive slower, make slower wider turns, and reduces unsafe driver behavior (i.e. you went from 2 lanes in each direction to 1 lane with a turn lane and projected bike lane unsafe lane changes are nearly eliminated.)
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Old 04-19-22, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by billridesbikes View Post
Wouldn't you just stick one or two on a trailer and drive them to the stretch that needs to be cleaned and pick them up afterward?

Seems the objections to protected bike paths are:
1) Too hard to clean - Seems like a solvable technical issue.
2) I don't like to cycle that way, riding in traffic is OK for me. - Fine, but shouldn't we try to figure out how to get more people cycling, not just make it convenient for us bike nutjobs?
3) Drivers of automobiles will be confused or angry. - Oh, boohoo.

But the big reason for me to have these, as shown in some studies, is that properly designed protected bike lanes reduce cyclist AND pedestrian deaths. And I'm all about reducing chances of my death. The reason appears to be that protected lanes have the secondary effect of calming traffic. Narrower streets make cars drive slower, make slower wider turns, and reduces unsafe driver behavior (i.e. you went from 2 lanes in each direction to 1 lane with a turn lane and projected bike lane unsafe lane changes are nearly eliminated.)
I kinda doubt it. we maintain a pretty large area and just drive it but its from a central spot. the things are pretty heavy and dont have great clearance.
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Old 04-20-22, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by billridesbikes View Post
Seems incredible that no one has developed a small narrow version of a street sweeper for MUPs and physically separated bike lanes?

That you can't have a bike lane that's physically separated because you can't sweep it seems like a dumb reason not to do it. Almost as if the Wright brothers said there is no point working on this airplane because there are no airports to land them at.
Not being able to sweep it is a reason not to do it, not the reason not to do it. For other reasons, see my posts above
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Old 04-20-22, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by curbtender View Post
I think those pylons were set more to protect the canal trail crowd than for bike commuters. I've seen cars use those lanes turning into Countrywood center. Gives peds/cyclist a buffer at the light.
Well if that was the intent, it was a ridiculous execution. The pylons on the southeast-bound side are before the trail crossing, and end right after the trail. Just the opposite for the pylons on the northwest-bound side.
Keeping cars out of the bike lane is a fine idea near where cars want to get past stopped traffic into a turn lane or something, but that is not the case here.

It looks like the real intent was to prevent bikes from making left turns from the bike lane onto the trail by merging into traffic (which is the correct way to do it)... ie by making them turn right onto the trail, push the button, and then cross the road with the trail crossing green light. I can see why a traffic engineer thinks that's safer, but there's nothing explaining that to the riders. Also, the pylons make it dangerous for bikes in the bike lane because there is one less option for emergency maneuver... like if somebody crashes in front of you.

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Old 04-20-22, 03:52 PM
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From what I remember, it extended past the trail on both sides. Next time I'm out that way I'll take pictures. I've not seen trash pile up in the lanes like in west county bike lanes, so I'd guess there is a better financed maintenance crew.
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Old 04-20-22, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by curbtender View Post
From what I remember, it extended past the trail on both sides. Next time I'm out that way I'll take pictures.
I have it on video. Two pylons past the trail, 50 yards or so in front of the trail.


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Old 04-20-22, 06:46 PM
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That's what I remember. I've seen stopped traffic there and people using the bike lane as an extended right turn lane. It also keeps vehicles from pulling over there and creating a blind spot. And I'm guessing your theory of them making you use the crossing light is correct.
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