How Vancouver Designs Intersections With Bike Lanes to Minimize Conflicts

Vancouver, land of the 5 percent bicycle mode share. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/pwkrueger/5248539286/in/photostream/##Paul Krueger/flickr##
Vancouver, land of the 5 percent bicycle mode share. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/pwkrueger/5248539286/in/photostream/##Paul Krueger/flickr##

For the last installment of our series previewing the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference, which starts Monday in Pittsburgh, I talked to Jerry Dobrovolny, transportation director of the city of Vancouver, BC, about how the city designs intersections where there are protected bike lanes. (The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.) Members of his staff will be presenting on this topic next week.

Vancouver is famous for its livable urban core, the ease with which its citizens can live without a car (as 26 percent of downtown residents do), and its enviable investments in bicycling and transit. Read on and tell me: Don’t you wish your city’s transportation chief talked like this?

Tell me a little bit about how Vancouver designs intersections to minimize car-bike conflicts, and why a focus on intersections is important in designing good bike infrastructure.

Clearly, it’s conflict zones that require the most attention. For separated bike lanes, those conflict zones are either driveway entrances or intersections. Intersections have more interactions going on and that’s where most of the collisions occur.

Over the past number of years, as we’ve been on our journey here in Vancouver — changing the types of infrastructure that we provide — we’ve been looking around the world quite actively to learn from what others are doing, to see what’s working and what isn’t working so well. It was pretty tough for us a couple years ago, because we didn’t really have a lot of places to go in North America. When we launched our Transportation 2040 plan two or three years ago, we actually hired the bike planner from Copenhagen to help with the bike section.

Since then, in the last year and a bit, NACTO has done some amazing work, and there’s a whole variety of U.S. and Canadian cities that have done some really amazing work. So we’re having a much better dialogue between cities in North America now compared to three years ago.

I want to talk just a little bit more about the mechanics of the intersection design. I saw the Dunsmuir Street bike lane. Can you walk me through that one and what the engineering there accomplishes?

The separated bike lane on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver received the first generation of the city's intersection treatments. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/pwkrueger/5133829565/in/photostream/##Paul Krueger/flickr##
The separated bike lane on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver received the first generation of the city’s intersection treatments. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/pwkrueger/5133829565/in/photostream/##Paul Krueger/flickr##

Dunsmuir was one of the first we did. We had opened this two-way separated bike route on the Dunsmuir Viaduct that then stopped at Dunsmuir Street, so that’s why we put a two-way facility on the north side of Dunsmuir. (Ed. note: Here’s a video all about it.) When we did that design, we were very concerned about conflicts at the intersections with turning vehicles. And our philosophy there was that we wanted as many visual cues as possible, both for the drivers and the cyclists, to reduce conflicts.

Where we had space for a dedicated right-turn-only lane, we painted and created one. And so that gives visual clues and warnings to the cyclist that there’s a car wanting to make a turn across the bike lane.

What it does for drivers wanting to make a right turn is that it provides a refuge area, so they have a place they can sit without feeling the pressure of cars sitting behind them impatiently waiting for them to hurry up and make the turn because the cars behind them want to go straight through. That reduces pressure on the car, so hopefully they wait until a safe break to make the right turn.

And then also we use green paint in conflict zones.

I think there are five intersections where the street is configured that way on Dunsmuir, and then the road narrows. When it gets to the point that there wasn’t space to put in a dedicated right turning lane, we banned right turns for vehicles.

And that wasn’t insignificant. We had a fair bit of discussion and complaints from motorists, but it was a safety issue that we felt was important.

Do you not have any place in the city where vehicles can go right but you don’t have a special right-turn lane?

Not on the two way separated bike paths.

Wow.

So then the next bike lane we did was Hornby. And our approach on Hornby took it a step further where in those lanes, we use signals to physically separate the movements. So vehicles sitting in that right lane also have a right turn signal that they have to wait for, and that signal holds the bikes and pedestrians. And then there’s a red light for the turning vehicles, there’s no right turn on red, and bikes and peds get to go.

Separate right turn signals for cars, bikes and pedestrians on Vancouver's Hornby Street bike lane. Photo: ##http://theprudentcyclist.com/2012/06/lessons-from-vancouvers-hornby-street-cycle-track/##The Prudent Cyclist##
Signals separate right-turning motorists from cyclists and pedestrians on Vancouver’s Hornby Street bike lane. Photo: ##http://theprudentcyclist.com/2012/06/lessons-from-vancouvers-hornby-street-cycle-track/##The Prudent Cyclist##

The more signal phases you add to an intersection, the longer each person has to wait, so that seems like a hard tradeoff to make.

Absolutely. That’s why I’m the most hated man in the city.

You can’t create time, so it’s all about tradeoffs. Every time you add an additional movement, it has to take away time from the other movements.

We’re also considering scramble intersections, where you halt all vehicle traffic and allow pedestrians to travel in any of the directions, diagonals included. But that takes time from other movements. We actively wanted to include some scrambles and we analyzed dozens of intersections and we couldn’t find one where there would be a major improvement that would offset any of the disbenefits. We used to have scramble intersections in the seventies, and we took them out because of the congestion.

So, we were trying desperately to install one and through that analysis we found locations where a leading pedestrian interval could improve the safety and efficiency of the intersection.

I think DC only has one scramble. But the leading pedestrian interval is a huge help.

But again, there’s a learning curve there because people aren’t used to not getting the green immediately.

Have there been innovations since Hornby, or is that where you are now with intersection design?

There’s always innovation. The most recent separated bike lane is along Point Grey Road.

But I should step back a minute. Our Transportation 2040 plan has a couple of clear policies around cycling. Number one is that we need to design the system for All Ages and Abilities — we call that Triple A. And the reason for that is, we know where our target market is to grow cycling, and our target market isn’t to design for confident cyclists. Our target market to grow cycling is to design for kids, seniors, people that are interested. We know that there’s 50-60 percent of our population that’s interested in cycling but they’re very concerned about safety and proximity to cars.

Did Vancouver do its own study on that? I know there’s a similar study out of Portland.

Yes, Kay Teschke at UBC did a study for Metro Vancouver that has similar results to Portland.

Kay Teschke’s work also analyzed what types of facilities people wanted to use. The first choice were paths in parks: beautiful green trees, birds singing, nowhere near anybody. But as you started to move into a more dense urban area, there were two clear choices: Either traffic-calm the vehicles so there’s a very low number of vehicles on the road and then I would be okay riding mixed with traffic. Or, if it’s on a road that has a large number of vehicles, then physical separation between the bikes and the cars.

Those were the two. If you want me to ride my bike, give me one of those two. So that’s exactly what our plan concluded.

We have a couple hundred kilometers of neighborhood bikeways through single-family or neighborhood streets, and we traffic-calm them to be below 1,000 vehicles a day, preferably under 500 a day. Then we’re okay with bikes mixing with cars. And if we can’t do that — commercial areas, downtown, busy streets where we can’t drop the volume of vehicles significantly — then it’s physical separation.

So for Point Grey Road — a fairly long addition to the bike network — there’s a combination of both. Most of the first section is in a commercial area on a busy road, so we provided a physical separation. Then we close the road, and so west of McDonald, we traffic-calmed to about 500 vehicles a day.

Kay also did an additional study on safety. She looked at a dozen or more different types of bike facilities and then at the safety on each of those. And I don’t know if it should be a surprise, but the types of infrastructure that people felt most confident using were the safest. Plain and simple. No surprises.

Now as we go forward, looking at projects, our first question is: What can we do with the street, how many vehicles are there today, can we traffic-calm it down and reduce it to a quiet neighborhood street? If the answer’s yes, then we do that. If it’s a bustling commercial area with either goods movement or transportation connections — if you can’t drop the volume — then it’s a separated bike route.

I imagine there are places where you can’t do either, that some of those bustling streets don’t have space on them.

That’s on our too-hard pile that we’re dealing with now. For example, as you come off the Burrard Bridge, Cornwall is a neat little commercial area about three blocks long. We put a separated bikeway for the first block, and we haven’t completed the next couple blocks — and that’s exactly the issue there. It’s a very, very busy bus corridor; it’s a very busy commercial corridor; and the street right-of-way is quite narrow. So we haven’t tackled that.

So we provided two alternatives a block away that provide a long term connection — one is a recreational route along the water, through and along parks at a slower speed, and the other is a block on the other side that is more of a commuter route, and we traffic-calmed the volumes on that neighborhood street.

Commercial Drive is also identified in our transportation plan, and we’ll be looking at that over the next couple years. Again, a very, very busy bus corridor; a very, very successful commercial area; very narrow right-of-way. So your choices are bikes, parking, buses, cars. We’ll be looking at that in the next couple years.

I should say our approach overall is to look at the areas where we have the highest potential for ridership so we’re getting the biggest bang for the buck. So we’re choosing routes not just on overall connectivity citywide — it’s looking specifically at gaps in areas where we have high density, a lot of demand, origin-destination, good demographics for cycling so we get a good response right away.

I talked to people at DDOT recently and they were saying that for their long-range plan, it was similar. They’ve already done all the low-hanging fruit, all the easy stuff they can do without major tradeoffs. And the next things they’re going to do in terms of cycling infrastructure and transit infrastructure are going to be those harder choices. It sounds like you’re in a similar place.

Yeah, and I’m not sure it gets easier. I keep waiting for it to get a little easier. You’d think that as the infrastructure is in place and people get used to it — as they start to have experiences with it — some of the concerns they have about change and uncertainty, you’d think, would start to go, because they have facilities they can look at and have a little more certainty about what the “after” will be. But I haven’t seen that yet.

That wraps up our pre-conference buzz. Tune in next week for coverage of the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference itself — or say hi to Payton and me in Pittsburgh!

  • Samuel Harper

    Cool article. One point I noticed that isn’t quite right.

    “Do you not have any place in the city where vehicles can go right but you don’t have a special right-turn lane?”

    “Not on the two way separated bike paths.”

    Right turns here without a lane across a separated path.
    https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.2777723,-123.1311845,3a,75y,262.47h,72.04t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sdhFd9_5eMWrwTvxBncHkhw!2e0

    Also at Cornwall and Cyprus since the south end reconfiguration of the Burrard Street Bridge and the York bike path.

  • Bob Loblaw

    The engineers of Vancouver still haven’t figured out that left turns should only happen where left turn bays exist. Vancouver is a gong show of horrible, inefficient planning.

  • Justin

    After reading this article and how transportation planners in Vancouver B.C Canada approach and solve these problems as well as the strategy they formed to do it, this is what in most cases exactly what SFMTA and the city and county of San Francisco should be doing, in busy areas i.e downtown SF where there’s a lot of traffic, enough space and many cyclists, the preferred option is to build a PROTECTED bike lane, and other places in residential areas i.e most of the western neighborhoods of SF as long as the traffic is calmed, low and at a safe speed, a conventional bike lane, sharrows or none at all is adequate and good enough to travel by bike. In other cases, in this case when the article was talking about when you can’t do both because there isn’t enough room and it’s busy, or here in SF it’s that, but add the steep hills and a lot of traffic, find ways to divert the bicyclists through a more pleasant and calmer and flat path/street and then give the option to transition back or of course stay on as usual, this is how SFMTA should be approaching, doing so that is efficient, safe and all inclusive. By taking that strategy there will be some common sense and sanity in getting it right hopefully

  • Alon Levy

    Too bad crossing most major streets requires pushing beg buttons.

  • Adrian

    You can just build induction sensors into the pavement. Done. No more beg buttons.

    That said, I have no idea how much that, or programming the signal cycle will cost.

  • lop

    Do people carry enough metal for those to work?

  • Clayton Mitchell

    Yeah – just so the readers don’t get their hopes up of using Vancouver as a model, the bike lanes are terrible….they’re used by a very small portion of the population and they’ve created terrible congestion (which of course is bad for the environment). Don’t be fooled – this guy is hardly someone you want to interview for best practices.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I think the main purpose of bike lanes and cycletracks in any city is to increase safety and comfort levels for vulnerable road users, not to help with car congestion. Besides, based on the photo it would appear that at least Dunsmuir St is not congested all the time.

  • bob

    Hi Samuel – the google map image you linked to shows the one-way bike lane on burrard. The answer was about specifically about 2-way bike lanes, as indicated in your quote.

  • Samuel Harper

    Hey Bob, I don’t see any signage or maps that indicate this is only a one way path.

    While it would predominately be used by southbound bicyclists bound for the Burrard Bridge there doesn’t seem to be any reason or indication it couldn’t be used northbound as well.

  • Clayton Mitchell

    Sure – the safety argument is always one facet. The congestion argument is one that cyclists constantly espouse and apparently in New York it’s been done fairly well. Obviously increasing congestion hurts the environment and cyclists also advocate that they’re helping reduce emissions by riding bikes. So all these things should be considered when implementing bike lanes – not just safety. And don’t be fooled by the photos either – Vision Vancouver is amazing at releasing data and photos that supports their point of view – if you get a chance read about all the community groups complaining and law suits that have been launched against them for secrecy and withholding information. Again, no one should look to that guy for best practices. At least if you believe in democracy.

  • Stan Ford

    I use the bike lanes everyday and I do not find them terrible. The daily number of bike users is increasing as the bike lanes are connected. Vehicle traffic in an urban setting will always be congested. The only way to have more people safely move about a city is to reduce motor vehicle lanes and give the space to pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.
    I suggest that you try cycling in the bike lanes and experience the joy of commuting rain or shine.

  • Clayton Mitchell

    I actually like the seawall bike lanes – they’re more useful for what I need. Unfortunately though, my job doesn’t permit me to be riding that much for commuting (most people don’t like stinky sweaty people showing up for work and meetings). Also note that the number of bike users is not increasing – bike trips have only increased within a four month period and on some lanes (huge bell curve for ridership). The only data they have on the number of bike users is through surveys and some data suggests that it’s remained flat for the last two years (already past the inflection point?).

    They could be done a lot more effectively to account for everyone – cars, transit, and pedestrians as well.

  • Richard Campbell

    On the separated bike lanes, most of the bike signals are timed, no button press required. Also, some other crossings are being upgraded to timed signals. Still, in the urban core, there is typically enough bike/ped traffic to justify upgrading all of them.

  • Richard Campbell

    Induction loops typically don’t work very well. Timed signals are best but the buttons work well too.

    A study from Portland found that a good number of people even regular cyclists don’t know how the loops work.

  • Richard Campbell

    Crashes cause around 25% of congestion and it is the worst kind; unpredictable long delays. A few seconds every day to improve safety saves everyone from long delays due to crashes.

    Then there is the huge amount of time spent by those in crashes recovering from and dealing with the consequences of the crash. I expect anyone who has been in one would say a few second or even minutes per day would be a small price to pay to avoid being involved in a crash.

    The protected signal phases also improve pedestrian safety further decreasing crashes.

  • Stan Ford

    I disagree. Left turn lanes are a last resort. Building left turn lanes requires a wide road right-of-way and high left turn demand. The cost of constructing a left turn lane at an intersection is about $3.0 million for one direction. A left turn lane increase the number travel lanes and results in negative consequences such as longer traffic lights cycles and longer and more dangerous distance for pedestrians to cross.
    I suggest that you attend any road related open houses sponsored by the City and present your questions to the traffic engineers to learn more about the complications in designing our road right-a-way.

  • Clayton Mitchell

    Crashes do not cause 25% of congestion – you have been seriously guilty throughout social media of providing inappropriate data….every source you have used is very flawed in methodology and even applicability to Vancouver’s situation. You use that data because you are the head of a lobby group and it helps to support your cause.

    For instance, you also advocate that drivers are subsidized, but no peer-reviewed literature has ever included the opportunity costs of not having efficiently moving roads for cars and public transit (in other words, the cost of limiting road use for cars and public transit). You’re natural predisposition is likely to include data that shows how cycling benefits businesses now, but most of the data that shows that is limited to a couple of types of businesses, such as restaurants and coffee shops (an interaction effect). Our economy is mostly supported by B2B businesses, not B2C organizations.

    And if you’re so concerned about pedestrian safety, why are you constantly acting as an apologist for cyclist on sidewalks in Vancouver, which is completely illegal and there are numerous anecdotes of people getting hurt by cyclists riding on sidewalks? Those “safe” bike lanes, since being installed have increased congestion (isn’t Vancouver the second most congested city in North America according to GPS data?) and increased risk for pedestrians because they have helped perpetuate a sense of entitlement to cyclists (you haven’t helped).

    Also note that the latest accidents challenged by cyclists in court have resulted in a loss to a cyclist because they were acting illegally (this is in B.C.). It is unfortunate that they have to spend a lot of time recovering, but they were acting irresponsibly. Even Geoff Meggs, a person I’m sure you would support, ran a stop sign and hit a car (and suffered damage to his leg I believe). Gregor Robertson the mayor of our city, another person I’m sure you would support, was almost hit by a bus running a red light on his bike.

    So, the next time you read about a poor elderly woman that has been sent to the hospital after being hit by a cyclist on the sidewalk (which has happened at least a few times on Denman), know that you’re a factor in the cause.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Obviously photos can be selectively published, but I doubt Google Streetview has a pro-bike agenda and its middle-of-the-day(?) photos of Dunsmuir St show a roadway that looks anything but congested. No doubt there must be congestion from time to time, but if traffic calming and/or the addition of a cycletrack helps make a street more comfortable for those on bike or on foot, I’m all for it.

    As for safety being “one facet”, I’d argue that safety should be weighed more heavily than car congestion when it comes to road treatments. Congestion can be alleviated by drivers taking alternate routes, carpooling, or using public transit (or even biking themselves), but only municipalities can build safer infrastructure.

    Over the last 50 years or so, North America has bent over backwards to make car driving convenient and congestion free, so I don’t lose too much sleep when road infrastructure improves safety and comfort for vulnerable road users even if it slows down traffic in the city. In my opinion, fast-moving car traffic is not appropriate in city centers anyway.

    As someone who drives far more often than I bike, I can tell you that one of the reasons I don’t bike more often is because the roads (still) seem very inhospitable to fairly timid cyclists like me. Build a cycletrack and I’ll use it for sure.

  • Dudely

    Whoa! You got some crazy ideas there. is this some sort of collective guilt thing?
    All the other people cycling in the world did not hit that elderly woman. Only the one individual did.
    Who knows why that person was cycling on the sidewalk but if something is a pattern, then it makes sense to find out the causes and not just blanket-blame a class of people.

  • Clayton Mitchell

    I don’t blame all cyclists at all – no one has, no need to extrapolate. There are responsible ones, just like there are very irresponsible drivers, as well as responsible ones. But people like Richard Campbell and HUB supporters have consistently (and you can go back and read their quotes from other articles) excused cyclists from his behaviour because they say it’s not safe to be riding on streets (sure it may not be, in some areas, but hardly a reason to justify illegal behaviour that causes harm to an individual). He and they help perpetuate illegal activity by cyclists and give them a sense of entitlement.

    For instance, they have also claimed that cyclists shouldn’t have to be insured – well then, how do we find out who these individuals are if they’re going to commit these kinds of actions considering that most of them ride away? Hold them accountable? At least with cars, the majority of the time we can track down those individuals because they have identifiers.

    These groups don’t really care about public safety – they are selfish individuals that care about one thing and maybe that’s their purpose because they’re lobby groups. Lobby groups that are given money by governments to do advertising on their behalf (at least HUB is), which is also questionable, but another story.

    And it’s not just one elderly women, there are numerous accounts of people getting hit by cyclists in Vancouver on sidewalks. ICBC, funny enough, doesn’t keep stats – hospitals do though, and people share their stories. But by no means would I say that all cyclists are irresponsible and like that. There are many “good” ones.

  • Dudely

    Well, my anecdotal observations are that many more people are cycling now. Friends who never considered it are now buying bikes. More people are cycling on the streets, some places you can’t find anywhere to lock up your bike. The cycling revolution really has happened. From a grass roots underground movement to now having a place at the table is nice to see. Now others who had never been part of it before are benefitting from having another transportation option.
    Vancouver’s streets had congestion before any of these bike lanes went in so you can’t blame them for what is caused by people being forced to drive for every trip.
    In a world where one mode has been given such privilege for so long people tend to see it as normal and have a skewed sense of balance. In that world, a few crumbs thrown to another mode is interpreted as undeserved entitlement.

  • Clayton Mitchell

    Vancouver’s streets were never as bad as they are now. Not only due to cycling lanes though – Vision has also done a horrendous job with pedestrian-controlled crosswalks, those silly timers (where people think, I can cross a street in 3 seconds), and the lack of light synchronization.

    But notice the argument – it’s not about creating bike lanes, it’s about how they’re implemented. There are even cyclists that don’t agree with how they’ve been developed.

    Vision should not be used as an example of best practices for anything transportation infrastructure related. Period. All they’re doing is supporting their rich developer friends (and rich friends). Anyone say Point Grey Road?

    And before the old, well if you can’t afford to live there stuff comes up, I grew up in Caulfeild, I’m used to being around money. Their decisions are a slap in the face to the regular person. Anyone that can’t see that is blind.

  • Dudely

    Thank you for the clarification.
    Yeah, any time that I’m forced onto the sidewalk, I only do it when nobody is walking there first and if anyone is walking, I dismount. It’s their turf I’m a guest on so it’s only fair.
    We have a lot of street people who find a bike somehow and cycle the way they do everything else in their lives. Recklessly. Unfortunately in some people’s minds I and they are the same creature.
    There is a difference between excusing behaviour and explaining the cause of it.
    At the one Hub meeting I attended there was a lot of talk about protecting pedestrians’ safety. There was a sense that walking and cycling had a common enemy so therefore were natural allies.
    I also didn’t see any indication of selfishness nor of being a mouthpiece for the government.

  • neil21

    “The more signal phases you add to an intersection, the longer each person has to wait, so that seems like a hard tradeoff to make.

    Absolutely. That’s why I’m the most hated man in the city. You can’t create time, so it’s all about tradeoffs. Every time you add an additional movement, it has to take away time from the other movements.”

    What about non-signal intersection designs? Don’t those clear more quickly?

    Haven’t we all been impressed by the Dutch island and Dutch roundabout designs?

    I believe they’re harder with on-street two-ways, but that would speak against those as a cycle track design choice.

    Signals everywhere seems an wasteful time and money expense, when there are other options.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Wow. I didn’t find this article all that revealing save for Vancouver’s desire to traffic calm streets to make them more bikable sans any specific bicycle facilitation (a’ la Germany).

    What is more revealing is the dissent found in the comments.

  • Dudely

    Re. the dissent in the comments. Like many places there’s a cultural divide between different parts of town and types of people. (Also it’s a municipal election year.)
    Overall, I find most people in Vancouver now feel that cycling infrastructure is a good thing and want to see more of it. There are a few folks though of course who have a different viewpoint. It depends on their lifestyle. People in the suburbs tend to drive more (because of the lack of alternatives) so can’t imagine anyone biking or walking to the store or to work. They look to Vancouver and think we’re nuts.
    But I already see much less opposition than a few years ago I guess mostly because they’re not a new thing anymore. Now the discussion is more on how they’re designed and their effect on other things and not on their existence.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    It’s exactly the dissent about bikeway design that I’m talking about. There is this push for protected infra that violates basic road rules coming from NACTO, the consulting community, People for Bikes and even the League of American Bicyclists and many cyclists aren’t happy about what they are being told the future of cycling is going to look like.

    By contrast, I learned today that the ADFC (German Cycling Association) had successfully pushed for more on-street facilities to be built in place of sidepaths. I quote:

    “The assumption that sidepaths installed up to now are always the safest for cyclists will finally be overturned. Cyclists are hard to see on these sidepaths, which are narrow and often in very poor condition, and this is hazardous above all at intersections and driveways. Planning for traffic must from now on reflect the needs of cyclists better. And – cyclists and motorists must act sensibly and respectfully toward one another.”

    and

    “New sidepaths must reflect applicable technical rules. Then they will be so attractive for speedy and comfortable cycling that no mandatory-use law will be necessary.”

    This is not the direction I see things going in the US and Canada. I see facilities being built that are useless for experienced cyclists and pose real risks to naive novices. There is a better way. At least the German cyclists are smart enough to know better.

    For John Allen’s complete translation of the ADFC April 2013 press release see: http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?page_id=5220

  • Gezellig

    German cycletracks in certain German cities are indeed often old, outmoded and at times even unsafe. But a cycletrack is only as good as the design that went into it.

    Bad cycletracks are bad. But that doesn’t mean you throw out the entire concept, as the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club seems keen to do, even with top-notch best practices easily experienced in the country next door.

    Hembrow has a good post on this exact topic here:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2010/05/german-cycle-paths-vs-dutch-cycle-paths.html

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Gezellig,
    You and I agree 99% of the time and here we still do even though I think you misinterpret the ADFC’s position on sidepaths / cycletracks. They basically say something that I’ve heard Andy Clarke, LAB Executive Director say more than once, “if a bicycle facility is truly well designed, then cyclists of all abilities will willingly use it.”

    Unfortunately what I see often held up on this blog and by People for Bikes’ Green Lane Project fails this test miserably. Anybody who likes to ride a bike at speeds over 12mph and even those who don’t, should be very wary of what our national advocates are petitioning for. I’m not happy what see and “you” shouldn’t be either. I also heard lots of blow back about useless protected bike infrastructure from club cyclists in one of America’s most bike friendly cities this summer. I’m worried there disgruntlement could turn into an all out revolt if the US national advocates aren’t careful (PFB, LAB, etc.).

    I believe that well design sidepaths / cycletracks / protected bike lanes are a critical tool to making bicycling safe and accessible for all. The ADFC seems to believe the same thing but they want local designers to have the options to explore other facility options.

    Thank you for sharing the David Hembrow video. From what he shows I agree that German sidepaths and horrible compared to the Dutch. I will be in Southern Germany next week and I’m taking my road bike with me. I look forward to riding many of the well designed sidepaths and bicycle routes that use old field and forest roads, most of them paved. Most of those that I’m familiar with are simply small roads only open to a limited amount of farm and forestry traffic. Elsewhere, local country roads have been closed to through-traffic and only cyclists and car drivers with business in the villages those roads serve can use them. To me Germany is cycling heaven and I can’t wait to go!

    With regards!

  • HamTech87

    Having recently spent a few days in Vancouver, I’d have to say “bravo”! Sure there were some spots where the wayfinding signage could have been better. But the wonderful bike lanes, coupled with the dozens of places to rent bikes including my hotel, made bicycles seem very welcoming. (Made up for the lack of a BikeShare system.) Also, the presence of lots of greenery separating the bikes from the car lanes were a thing of beauty.

    Transit was also great. The bus system seemed to have lots of frequency. The metrorail from the airport was clean and fast, even at a late hour. And there were plenty of people using metrorail late on a weeknight, the sign of walkable, transit-friendly “city”.

    As for traffic, my transplanted New Yorker friend just laughs when he hears complaints. He’s lived in Vancouver about 10 years now. He says that the new protected lanes on streets and bridges have not made his car commute to work any longer, and he guesses that it might be shorter.

  • Mark

    The intersections he is referring to are in a tight downtown core, I don’t believe there would be adequate physical space for those design types. Definitely not for roundabouts.

    Also since roundabouts in high volume/speed areas are not used here, it would be pretty chaotic to throw them into the mix in only a couple spots.

  • neil21

    Not sure how “tight downtown core” and “high speed areas” can be talking about the same place.

  • Mark

    Traffic in the Vancouver core is relatively light outside of rush hour, it’s nothing like New York or similar cities. It’s quite possible to hit the 50 kph speed limits on the streets these separated lanes are on, since the lights are timed to allow you to keep getting greens at the speed limit, and I consider that pretty high speed for a downtown.

    They are also only 2 travel lanes wide, hence the “tight”.

    I just don’t think there is the physical space for those (much better) types of designs.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the current designs are perfect, but it’s an OK compromise for now that required a lot of political balls to actually implement.

  • Gezellig

    Just got back from Seattle and Vancouver! For the most part both places had amazing weather which made biking around both places all the better.

    “if a bicycle facility is truly well designed, then cyclists of all abilities will willingly use it.”

    At a broad level, this is true. My point is that when it comes to busy arterials, “well-designed” pretty necessarily entails “physically separated,” though obviously there are many levels even within *that* in terms of good vs. bad design.

    “I also heard lots of blow back about useless protected bike infrastructure from club cyclists in one of America’s most bike friendly cities this summer.”

    Blowback from the less-than-1%, though.

    That’s kind of like saying we should be concerned that the <1% of sports-car-owners who are in a club racers organization dislike urban arterials because they don't get to use their cars to their fullest potential there. Well…that's not what those stretches are for. Urban driving means you don't get to use your automobile to its fullest speed potential because of the social contract of being in a crowded space with many others.

    The same principle even applies to being an urban pedestrian–few joggers would select a sidewalk along a crowded downtown urban thoroughfare as their first choice to best their record mile time. The space just has to be shared with too many other stakeholders for that.

    The same applies to separated bike infrastructure along busy thoroughfares, and the more it happens the more it continues to attract "converts" from the Interested But Concerned. The kind of stuff People for Bikes et al. advocates is the everyday utilitarian bike-to-get-around infrastructure.

    A friend of mine I visited in Seattle (who then joined me for the Vancouver leg of my trip) hadn't ridden a bike since he was a kid. I cajoled him into doing a daily bike rental with me in Vancouver and after no more than a minute biking down the Hornby cycletrack he was like, "wow, this separated bike lane is amazing…it totally makes you enjoy using a bike to get around. If I had this at home I'd totally use it."

    He continued gushing about the experience and seemed continually amazed as we went around from separated lane to separated lane and he began to see how awesome it can be to bike to get around. As a Seattle native (and someone who doesn't live or work near one of Seattle's few cycletracks) he'd only ever known biking as an off-road athletic endeavor for PNW outdoorsy types or something "insane" people do on roads, but this totally changed his perspective on what it can mean to bike to get around and how low-stress it can be when that infrastructure is separated and connective.

    Sure, this is anecdotal but nearly everyone in my friends/family circle I've introduced to biking on separated infrastructure this way has reacted similarly. And all the studies indicating there are huge reserves of Interested But Concerned residents out there back this up.

    I point this out even in light of my recognition of the many ways Vancouver's infra is still not up to best-practices. Yet they're still getting some pretty good bang-for-the-buck from their nascent network so far and are apparently finding that it's organically increasing interest amongst the broader populace for biking in general and hence the support for better biking infra.

    Now if only Seattle and Vancouver could get rid of their modeshare-killing mandatory helmet laws. :p (probably easier for Seattle since it's just a city thing whereas Vancouver's issue is that it's a provincial law).

    Ich hoffe, dass du deine Reise nach Deutschland genossen hast!

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Agreed that one should not expect to be able to go full-tilt in the city and that protected infra is sorely needed but some of the infra that club riders didn’t like were sidepaths in the suburbs that then removed the shoulder space they used to us.

    Also, that 1% (I’d argue its more like 5%, particularly out West) are likely putting in the vast majority of bicycle miles traveled in the US (I’d say 70% right now) and will for the foreseeable future. Too bad we will likely never know that number.

    And I’m all for infra to get people from point A to B. It just needs to work well. Much of the stuff People for Bikes advocates for is crap!

    My favorite new quote is as follows:
    “If someone advocates infrastructure like this (bi-directional cyclepaths) and actually believes it is good, they probably shouldn’t be advocating bicycle infrastructure.”
    – Mikael Colville-Andersen
    Source:
    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2014/06/explaining-bi-directional-cycle-track.html

    I’m sure that was a shot across P4B’s bow!

    PS – Germany is great save for the super aggressive drivers. Had a great 48 mile ride today on a mix of open (very small) and closed roads. Some bikes routes are great, some suck, others way too circuitous and not all will get you to your final destinations (whole towns!). In many places I would still favor riding in the road if it were legal and/or not piss off most drivers over here. The open roadways are most often much more direct from Point A to B.

  • Robert Jarman

    Another thing I like about Vancouver is that it has discovered civilisation, AKA the protected intersection. It is planning to build a second one on the north side of the Burrard Bridge.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Vancouver Set to Claim Another Bridge Lane for Active Transportation

|
In 2009, Vancouver converted a southbound car lane on the west side of the Burrard Bridge to a protected bikeway using concrete dividers, freeing up the sidewalk for pedestrians. On the east side, the city converted the existing sidewalk into a bike path. The three-month experiment defied predictions of carmageddon and became a permanent fixture. Thanks to the protected lane and […]