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Posts from the Bicycle Infrastructure Category

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Feds to Traffic Engineers: Use Our Money to Build Protected Bike Lanes

The feds say there’s no excuse not to use federal funding on designs like protected bike lanes.

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

Last week, the agency released a “clarifying” document that shoots down, on the record, some of the common refrains people hear from their DOT when they ask for safer street designs. This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.

Here are the seven things FHWA wants to be absolutely clear about:

1. Federal funds CAN be used to build protected bike lanes.

In case any doubt remains, FHWA printed its own design guide for protected bike lanes. It’s okay to use federal money to build them.

2. Federal funds CAN be used for road diets.

FHWA created a whole website to help states and municipalities implement road diets that reduce lanes for motor vehicle traffic to improve safety. FHWA wants local agencies to know that federal money can be used on them.

Read more…

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North Carolina: Tell State Lawmakers Not to Outlaw Road Diets — Today

Raleigh's highly praised Hillsborough Street road diet would have been illegal under legislation proposed by state lawmakers. Image: NC DOT

Raleigh’s highly praised Hillsborough Street road diet would have been illegal under legislation proposed by state lawmakers. Image: NC DOT

The language of a bill being hashed out right now in Raleigh could determine whether North Carolina cities have the freedom to redesign streets to improve safety and promote a healthier range of transportation options.

A provision of House Bill 44 — specifically Section 7 — would prohibit reducing the width of state-managed roads to add bike lanes if they:

  • A. Carry more than 20,000 vehicles a day, or
  • B. If projections show the road diet would reduce the Level of Service — an engineering measure of vehicle congestion — below a certain level (D) within 20 years.

According to local advocates the language is the result of a single lawmaker who is unhappy about a road diet in his jurisdiction. That lawmaker was responsible for adding the language banning road diets on state controlled roads into the wide-ranging bill, which includes items such as the regulation of signs, beekeepers, and beaches.

HB 44 passed in both the House and the Senate, but the language of each bill was different enough that additional work is needed before it can proceed. State senators and representatives met in conference committee yesterday where advocates were hopeful a compromise would be hashed out that would eliminate or alter the road diet provision. According to Lisa Riegel of BikeWalk NC, the final decision may come today. That group is urging supporters to contact their elected representatives and urge them to remove Section 7.

“It is not too late,” said Riegel. “The conferees are close, but the bill is not done. We need to urge all that would like to see this provision removed to contact the Senate and House conferees today.”

Don Kostelec, an Asheville-based planner, says some of the road diets the state’s cities are most proud of — like Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street and Asheville’s College Street — would have been prohibited as the bill is currently written. The Hillsborough Street project [pictured above] is used as an example of a great complete streets project by both the North Carolina DOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

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Calgary Opens a Downtown Protected Bike Lane Network All at Once

A city map of Calgary’s pilot project.

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.

One of North America’s unlikeliest and most ambitious protected bike lane projects is now on the ground.

Calgary, the arid Alberta prairie town and natural gas capital, agreed last year on a novel strategy: Instead of upgrading one street for biking at a time, as most cities do, it would pilot a connected protected bike lane network on four downtown streets at once.

The stakes are high, and Wednesday’s official opening is obviously too soon to declare a success or failure.

But something’s working so far, reports CTV News:
Read more…

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Vancouver Set to Claim Another Bridge Lane for Active Transportation

City officials want to add another bike lane to the Burrard Bridge. Image: Vancouver

Vancouver officials want to remove a car lane on the Burrard Bridge to make room for a walking path. Image: City of Vancouver

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 bridge, pre-bike lane, via Wikipedia

The bridge, pre-redesign. Photo: Wikipedia

The three-month experiment defied predictions of carmageddon and became a permanent fixture. Thanks to the protected lane and an overhaul of the intersection on one end of the span in 2013, the Burrard Bridge has become “the city’s most popular bike route,” according to Metro.

According to the city, the bridge handled about 300,000 bike trips per month between September and November last year.

Now, six years after the first change, Vancouver is looking to remove another car lane to open up room for a walking path on the east side, and to redesign the intersection at the other foot of the bridge to reduce conflicts between drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. The main part of the span would have four car lanes and dedicated paths for walking and biking in each direction, compared to six car lanes and narrow, mixed-use paths before the 2009 redesign.

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Four Cities Race to Finish the Country’s First Protected Intersection

A protected intersection under construction at Manor and Tilley in Austin, fall 2014. Photo: City of Austin.

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.

Sometimes, change builds up for years. And sometimes, it bursts.

Fifteen months after American bikeway designer Nick Falbo coined the phrase “protected intersection” to refer to a Dutch-style intersection between two streets with protected bike lanes, the concept hasn’t just ricocheted around the Internet — it’s been approved by four different cities.

The cities of Austin, Salt Lake City, Davis and Boston are now in a four-way race to create the first working protected intersection in the United States.

The holy grail of bike infrastructure: Low-stress traffic crossings

Photo from Utrecht, Netherlands: J.Maus/BikePortland.

The promise of the design is simple: Instead of forcing people in cars and on bikes alike to look constantly over their shoulders for one another, protected intersections arrange traffic so that everyone can see what’s going on simply by looking forward.

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Tampa Installs Its First Green Bike Lane

Tampa recently added a buffered green bike lane. Photo: Tampa Tribune

Tampa recently painted its first buffered green bike lanes. Photo: Tampa Tribune

There are splashes of green appearing in downtown Tampa, as the city installs its first buffered bike lanes on Platt, Cleveland, and Brorein streets, complete with green intersections.

The Platt Street redesign trimmed the one-way, three-lane road down to a two car lanes plus a buffered bike lane. (The bike lane on Cleveland will offer a travel option for cyclists heading in the other direction.) The city also lowered the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph.

The new bike lanes are part of a wider city effort to change Tampa’s record as a dangerous place for walking and biking, says Karen Kresf of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, a business association.

“Our mayor understands the fact that Tampa Bay is rated number two in the country in the Dangerous by Design report,” says Kresf, referring to the Transportation for America report that ranked the most dangerous cities for walking. “Our local governments are finally taking that seriously.”

Read more…

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Biking and Walking Get About as Much Research Funding as Chicken Trucks

When traffic engineers don’t want to install protected bike lanes, they’ll often say that more research is needed to prove their safety (because any results from outside America don’t count, of course). But then when opportunities arise to study the safety of protected bike lanes, the engineering establishment doesn’t take advantage. And so the cycle repeats itself.

A study examining "husbandry" vehicles, or trucks that carry livestock, received almost as much research funding this year as walking and biking. Photo: Wikipedia

A study examining “husbandry” vehicles — trucks that carry livestock — received almost as much research funding this year as walking and biking. Photo: Wikipedia

Case in point: The National Cooperative Highway Research Program recently approved $30 million for transportation research, but hardly any of that will go toward studying the biking and walking infrastructure that many American cities are seeking to implement.

Just $750,000 of the $30 million will go to study bike and pedestrian infrastructure. That’s a measly 2.5 percent. For comparison, nearly as much money — $600,000 — was awarded to a single research project about vehicles that carry livestock.

This research funding matters. When an influential trade group like the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials refuses to officially endorse protected bike lanes, the excuse you’ll often hear is that there isn’t enough data to prove the designs are safe. But the same cadre of engineers also decline to fund safety research into those designs.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program is overseen by the Transportation Research Board, AASHTO, and the Federal Highway Administration. These same groups appoint most of the members of the powerful National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has been slow to adopt new templates that can improve the safety of cycling.

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Salt Lake City to Install Nation’s First Protected Intersection for Bicycling

Salt Lake City has plans to install the first protected intersection for cyclists. Image: Salt Lake City via KSL.com

This intersection design Salt Lake City plans to install minimizes potential conflicts between cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. Image: Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is on track to implement America’s first protected intersection for bicycling this summer.

The intersection design is based on a Dutch template that minimizes potential conflicts between people biking, driving, and walking. For example, it allows cyclists to make a left turn in two stages without crossing against oncoming car traffic. It will be part of a protected bike lane running a little more than a mile through a central portion of the Utah capital.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials said that to the best of its knowledge, this will be the first protected intersection design in the United States.

This intersection treatment is best known from Dutch streets. Last year, Portland-based Nick Falbo campaigned to introduce the basic template to America and submitted a protected intersection design to a competition at George Mason University. His video is a great introduction to how protected intersections work. Falbo and the team at Alta Planning + Design were consultants on the project working with Salt Lake City transportation officials.

The new Salt Lake City bike lane on 200 West will include just one protected intersection. Construction will start in August and will take about two months, local news station KSL reports.

The intersection of 300 South and 200 West in Salt Lake City is on track to be the first protected intersection in the U.S. Image: Salt Lake City

The intersection of 300 South and 200 West in Salt Lake City is on track to be the first protected intersection in the U.S. Image: Salt Lake City

Hat tip to Jacob Mason.

Updated: (5/7/15 at 3:08 p.m.) to include information about Alta’s involvement in the project. 

 

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Minneapolis Sets Out to Build 30 Miles of Protected Bike Lanes By 2020

Minneapolis is planning to construct 30 miles of protected bike lanes over the next 5 years. Image: City of Minneapolis

Minneapolis is planning to construct 48 miles of protected bike lanes over the next 10 years. Click to enlarge. Map: City of Minneapolis

Minneapolis is one of the best cities for biking in the U.S., and it wants to get better. Last week the city released a plan to build 30 miles of protected bike lanes over the next five years and a total of 48 over 10 years.

Minneapolis has an expansive, widely used trail system, and its 4.5 percent bike commute mode-share is second among major American cities, after Portland, Oregon. Still, it currently has fewer than two miles of on-street protected bike lanes.

“Biking is part of our identity. It’s part of what makes Minneapolis a great place to live and protected bike lanes are the next step forward,” said Ethan Fawley, director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. “It’s investments in quality of life, it’s investment in health and access that helps attract people here.”

The 30-mile plan is expected to cost about $6 million, with funding coming from city, county, and federal budgets. Minneapolis will also save money by folding bike lane construction into regularly scheduled road resurfacing projects, according to the Star Tribune. The paper notes the entire plan will cost less than building a single mile of roadway.

The city has tentatively identified 19 corridors that will get protected bike lanes. About half are in downtown or the University of Minnesota area. The other half are in outlying neighborhoods that aren’t currently well-served by bike infrastructure, said Fawley.

Fawley says the plan will undergo a public comment period but he doesn’t expect there to be much resistance or major changes. The city had hoped to install 8 miles of protected bike lanes this year, but it doesn’t look like it will quite reach that goal, due to some construction delays.

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Which Matters More — A Bike Network’s Connectivity or Its Density?

The "connectivity" of bike infrastructure a city has matters, but not as much as some other aspects. Image: University of Minnesota

Adding to total bike lane mileage without creating a denser network does not seem to affect ridership. Image: University of Minnesota

What’s the secret to designing a bicycle network that will get people riding?

A pair of researchers at the University of Minnesota recently set out to test the theory that a connected bike network — where bike lanes provide continuous routes between many possible destinations — is a major determinant of how many people bike. What they actually found was a little unexpected. Connected bike infrastructure matters, according to the study [PDF], but not as much as the density of bike infrastructure.

UMN’s Jessica Schoner and David Levinson used GIS software to map cities’ bike networks and rank them according to connectivity, size, density, and other factors. (“Connectivity” is basically a measure of the degree to which bike lanes intersect within a city, and “density” is a measure of bike lane mileage within a given area.) Then, using Census data, they determined the relationship between each factor and the number of people who commute by bike.

Bike lane density was the most important factor, with each standard deviation (about 1 kilometer of bike infrastructure per square kilometer) associated with an additional 150 bike commuters per 10,000 commuters. For connectivity, one standard deviation correlated to an additional 37 bike commuters. Other factors — the overall size of the bike network, the directness of routes within the system, and fragmentation (separate clusters of bike lanes within the same city) — were not shown to have a statistically significant effect.

Schoner and Levinson caution that correlation does not equal causation, so it’s unclear whether the dense networks enticed more people to bike, or if higher numbers of cyclists helped create denser bike networks. The study also did not distinguish between protected bike lanes, painted bike lanes, and off-street paths, so it does not account for the degree of separation between cyclists and traffic.

But the study does indicate that the density of bike lanes within a city could be an under-appreciated factor in getting more people to ride. “These findings suggest that cities hoping to maximize the impacts of their bicycle infrastructure investments should first consider densifying their bicycle network before expanding its breadth,” the authors concluded.