The Street Ballet of a Bike Lane Behind a Transit Stop

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Why don’t more cities escape the curse of bus-bike leap-frogging by putting bike lanes between transit platforms and sidewalks?

Though “floating bus stops” and similar designs are being used in many cities, others have avoided doing so, sometimes out of concern that people will be injured in collisions with bikes while they walk between platform and sidewalk.

But is this actually a thing that happens? An intersection in San Francisco that uses a similar design seems to be working just fine.

The annotated video above shows one minute of the self-regulating sidewalk ballet.

Seleta Reyolds, the San Francisco Municipal Transportaiton Agency’s section leader for livable streets, calls the corner of Duboce Avenue and Church Street “a great example of how to design for transit-bike interaction.”

Though it’s only been open since June 2012 and hasn’t worked its way into the city’s official collision records yet, Reynolds said she couldn’t find any record of a complaint arising from the intersection.

A few details worth noting:

  • This block is unusual in that it’s closed to cars in the same direction, even on the other side of the transit stop. This removes any risk of right hooks due to limited visibility, an issue that other such designs must handle differently.
  • The relatively narrow bikeway here, with a curb on each side and a flat grade, prompts people to move at manageable speeds. This wouldn’t work as well on a slope.
  • There is no fence here between platform and bike lane. This gives people maximum visibility and maximum flexibility as they negotiate past each other.

A key lesson here is that what’s often true of car traffic — that the safest designs are the ones that avoid as many potential conflicts as possible — is not true for people on bikes and foot. In pedestrianized areas (a British study of 21 such spots turned up exactly one bicycle-related collision in 15 years) people are very good at negotiating around one another. Sometimes, we can all just get along.

Video shot by Charly Nelson. You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

  • seattlebiker

    Thanks Michael, it’s nice to see this design operate well. It would be really great to see a similar example from a street that has significant downhill grades… resulting in higher bike speeds entering the mixing zone. Living in a hilly city (Seattle), many of our multi-modal corridors are pretty steep.

  • LAifer

    This is a lovely video. It’s also a bit misleading about the possibilities for this kind of multimodal intersection, because just a few feet up the street from it there’s plenty of car traffic along Duboce and its quite unlike this one spot with bikes and transit passengers only. This one location doesn’t have cars as Duboce ends at Church St, so cars are diverted prior to the intersection to other streets. Yes, one small block that’s really interesting, but, practically speaking, it’s not very applicable elsewhere, even in most of San Francisco.

  • coolbabybookworm

    There are all kinds of applicable places in San Francisco and elsewhere: anywhere with a transit stop. It may mean lane reductions for cars, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible.

  • dave

    These are being built for the new downtown circulator in Denver- http://www.rtd-fastracks.com/images/uploads/dus/BusBulb.jpg. But because of lack of funding the lane jogs to the left after every bus bulb rather than continuing as a fully parking protected bike lane.

  • Albert

    I notice this is a 2-way street, which is much less likely to see wrong-way cycling than the mostly 1-way streets that NYC was saddled with long ago.

    Until a saner, pre-auto, 2-way condition is restored, the most conflict-free bike/bus configuration for a 1-way street might be just to place a bike lane and a bus lane on opposite sides of the street.

    Of course, that might threaten to take space now devoted to motor vehicles, so I won’t hold my breath.

  • Kevin Love

    Wow. It only took until 2012 for somewhere in the USA to catch up to where The Netherlands was in 1953.

    Today, most Dutch bus stops have cycle bypasses or route the cycle path entirely behind the bus stop.

    See:

    http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/riding-around-the-bus-stop/

    or:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2013/08/ten-bus-stop-bypasses-for-bicycles.html

    Infrastructure that separates bus stops from cyclists is entirely normal, common and everyday in The Netherlands. Let’s work for the same situation in the USA. Yes, we are 6 decades behind, but I believe that we can catch up.

  • oooBooo

    If this works, bring the lake front bike path in front of the Shed where it used to be instead of the longer route around the back of it 😉

  • Nathanael

    Two-way avenues in Manhattan would make almost all taxi trips much quicker. It’s an idea whose time has come.

  • Chris J.

    Yes, biking this stretch is quite pleasant even with lots of pedestrians. I wish I could say the same for crossing the Church Street intersection to get to that point (i.e. after biking the Duboce Bikeway behind Safeway which connects Market to Church). I’ve never been clear on the “correct” way for a bicycle to make the diagonal crossing at that intersection. There’s a dense mesh of Muni tracks at that intersection, and cars and Muni are frequently trying to make their way. With four stop signs, bicycles coming from a fifth diagonal direction, and Muni cars often ambiguously stopped, it’s never clear when to cross and how (e.g. diagonally or by doing an “L”).

  • Guest

    Here’s a Google Streetview picture of that intersection from the opposite direction:

  • Guest

    Here is a Google Streetview picture of that intersection from the opposite direction:

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Yes this works because the passenger platform is well designed by being wide.

    Most earlier designs that DID NOT work had the passengers practically stepping into the bike lane when they got off the bus. Here there’s plenty of room for alighting passengers to wait out of the way of cyclists. There is also plenty of room for disembarking passengers to get off, get out of the way of other disembarking passengers, gather their bearings, see the cyclists coming, and navigate safely around the cyclists. It’s amazing what good design can do but I’m not surprised as the SFMTA does damn good work.

    Plus it really didn’t hurt that about 70% of the passengers didn’t cross the bike lane and went over to the Safeway.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Plus, note all the caveats. The block is closed to cars. Street is flat which limits cyclists speed to that not much faster than pedestrians..

    Like I said previously, this works because the SFMTA did their homework and didn’t just slap this facility anywhere. Unfortunately too many agencies doing this type of bike / transit work are not savvy enough to understand these nuances like the SFMTA.

  • Joe B

    “People on bikes and foot are very good at safely crossing each others’ space.”

    This is very much not true on Santa Monica’s beach bike path, especially on summer weekends. Pedestrians often step in front of an oncoming bike without looking or congregate on the path to chat. Scariest is when a stationary pedestrian steps backward or sideways in front of an oncoming bike.

    I agree that the 60 seconds of video you posted looks great, but I don’t think it’s necessarily applicable to other situations. What does it look like when it’s moved to a low-ridership street? Do pedestrians still watch out for the occasional oncoming bike? What does it look like when no bus is in sight and riders are wandering aimlessly around the stop? What does it look like when exiting passengers want to move towards the curb rather than parallel to it as they do in the video?

    I have drivers entering/exiting cars step out in front of me without warning on a daily basis, and that’s when there are speeding cars just a few feet from them. (At least then I can often swerve to avoid them, which I couldn’t do in this narrow lane.) Why do we think they would pay more attention when they’re protected from those cars by a wide raised buffer?

  • Eric Cramer

    Someone should just create a triathlon path that goes from one end of a city to another. A running path, followed by a bike storage facility with bike path to another bike storage facility and then a swim at the end to cool off.

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