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Posts from the Bicycle Infrastructure Category

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When to Use Protected Intersections? Academic Study Will Offer Advice

An intersection in Austin gives room for a driver to stop mid-turn while people bike past rather than putting cyclists in a driver’s blind spot. Photo: Greg Griffin

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.

If 2015 was the year protected intersections arrived in the United States, 2016 is the year the country’s bikeway pros are starting to really figure them out.

Inspired by Dutch streets, protected intersection designs use a few simple tricks to rearrange traffic at intersections so that people on bikes and in cars don’t have to constantly look over their shoulders for one another.

Last week, Portland State University announced a $250,000 project that will use simulations to put people on virtual streets and test their use of protected intersections. The goal: create data-driven standards to tell cities where protected intersections are needed.

“At what traffic volume?” asked Justin Carinci, a spokesman for PSU’s National Institute for Transportation and Communities. “At what speeds?”

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Fast Changes to City Streets: A 9-Step Guide for Creative Bureaucrats

Marshall Avenue and Monroe Avenue, Memphis, Tenn. Photo: John Paul Shaffer

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.

For most of the 20th century, cities answered transportation problems by adding more pavement.

More freeways. More lanes. More parking lots. More things that couldn’t be reversed or revised.

So it made sense, at the time, for the public process around civil engineering projects to focus, above all else, on not making mistakes. Generations of city workers embraced the value of “Do it once and do it right.”

But today’s transportation problems are different, and so are the projects that respond to them. Naturally enough, the process of planning and designing such projects has begun changing, too.

From the experimental lawn chairs scattered across New York’s redesigned Times Square on Memorial Day 2009 to the row of plastic posts on Denver’s Arapahoe Street after a bike lane retrofit last fall, city projects are tackling big problems with solutions that are small, cheap, fast and agile. But until now, no one has created a short, practical guide for cities that want to create a program to do things like these.

Today, we’re publishing that guide.

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5 Strategies for Equitable Active Transportation Planning and Advocacy

Cross-posted from the Alliance for Biking and Walking

Photo: John St. John via Flickr

Photo: John St. John via Flickr

It started as a lively discussion on the Bike Equity Network — a listserv for mobility and equity advocates working within walk/bike advocacy and planning — related to a Washington Post article that examined the notion of bike lanes as symbols of gentrification. The online conversation that transpired was rich, frank, and underscored the need to bring the conversation to a broader audience in a more interactive format. So this month, the Alliance hosted a highly anticipated Distance Learning Webinar: “Active Transportation & Anti-Displacement.”

Co-facilitated by Dr. Mike Smart, Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, and featuring insight from several equity leaders, the webinar was a timely and candid conversation that provided Alliance members an opportunity to hear diverse perspectives from and ask questions of advocates working within academia and advocacy — and future planners in Dr. Smart’s class.

Special thanks to Dr. Mike Smart, as well as our presenters:

Listen to the full recording on SoundCloud here and read a summary of the main takeaways below. Also catch some of the conversation that happened on Twitter via hashtag #MobilityEquity. Enjoy!

Acknowledge that bicycle infrastructure is wrapped up in larger development processes spurring gentrification, which has in many cases been done on purpose.

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American Sharrow Inventor: “I Was Always Under Pressure to Do Less”

Sharrows, what are they good for? A recent study suggests that one thing shared lane markings don’t do is improve safety for cyclists. The conclusion has sparked an online debate and some detailed defense of sharrows in the right conditions.

The original sharrow, developed by a Denver bike planning in the early 1990s. Image: The Bicycle Story

The original American sharrow, developed in Denver in the early 1990s. Image: The Bicycle Story

Seattle-based journalist Josh Cohen produces the Bicycle Story podcast, and in his new episode he digs into some of the history of sharrows in America. It’s illuminating stuff.

Cohen interviewed traffic engineer James Mackay, who pioneered the use of sharrows in America when he worked for the city of Denver’s bike program in the early 1990s. Mackay said the agency culture — one that resisted taking any risks to improve conditions for cycling — was a factor in the design:

I thought at that time of a sign to define that bicyclists were intended users of the road and define lane position and to confirm that jurisdictional agencies understood that bicyclists would be using the road there. We came up with a design that had the bicycle symbol, the bicyclists with the wheels, inside an arrow outline and it was quickly called the bike in the house with the man jumping barrels at home.

Part of it was the city of Denver’s reluctance to do much of anything for bicycles. So I figured, this would be a less expensive approach versus the conventional bike lane markings. A lot of the agencies don’t want to do anything involving change or spending money for bicycles. I was always under pressure to do less as the Denver bicycle planner.

He told Cohen that he even had to fight with city officials to implement sharrows properly:

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Houston Unveils a Bold New Citywide Plan for Bicycling

Houston's new bike plan proposes to take the city's "low-stress" network from what you see on the right in the long term, to what you see on the left. Source: Houston Bike Plan

Houston’s new bike plan envisions a real network instead of disconnected segments. Source: Houston Bike Plan

The same team that helped overhaul Houston’s bus network is turning its attention to the city’s bike network.

This week, recently-elected Mayor Sylvester Turner unveiled the city’s first bike plan since 1993. The plan envisions a network of low-stress bikeways — a welcome improvement over Houston’s previous bike plan, from 1993, which mostly consisted of “share the road” signs and sharrows on wide, high-speed roads, according to Raj Mankad of OffCite, a blog of Rice University’s Design Alliance.

In 2012, Houston voters backed the creation of the Bayou Greenways network, 150 miles of linear trails along the city’s low-lying bayous. But without on-street connections, the greenways would be fragmented and people would have to bike on dangerous streets, writes Mankad.

The new plan calls for about 800 miles of on-street bike lanes — up from just 8 miles today — and about 400 additional miles of off-street paths. Though the plan doesn’t give a concrete timeline for completing the network, the goal is to achieve “gold-level” status from the League of American Bicyclists by 2026.

The estimated cost would be between $300 and $500 million. To put that in perspective, the pricetag is at most one-tenth of what the region is pouring into the “Grand Parkway,” a third ring road for the region.

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How Cities Clear Snow From Protected Bike Lanes: A Starter Guide

A Kubota sweeper/plow, center left, clears the sidewalk at 300 South and 200 West, Salt Lake City. Image: SLC.

pfb logo 100x22This post is by Tyler Golly of Stantec and Michael Andersen of The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes.

As protected bike lanes have spread from city to city across North America, a problem has followed: snow.

Most protected bike lanes are too narrow for standard street plows. So how are cities supposed to keep them clean?

Last year, the two of us decided to try and help more cities solve this problem by researching the best equipment to use for clearing snow from protected bike lanes. We wanted something like PeopleForBikes’ past post about the best sweepers for clearing protected bike lanes of leaves and debris.

But after talking to city staffers across North America and Europe, we realized that the challenges of winter are different than the challenges of fall. The reason is that winters themselves are so different from city to city.

The snow that piles into a protected bike lane in Chicago is very different in quantity, weight and thaw pattern than the snow in Calgary, which is very different than the snow in New York City.

Moreover, there’s just not as much variation among snow-plowing equipment. As one staffer we spoke to put it, the perfect plow rig for your bike lane is the biggest one that isn’t too big.

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Study: Sharrows Don’t Make Streets Safer for Cycling

Sharrows are the dregs of bike infrastructure — the scraps cities hand out when they can’t muster the will to implement exclusive space for bicycling. They may help with wayfinding, but do sharrows improve the safety of cycling at all? New research presented at the Transportation Review Board Annual Meeting suggests they don’t.

Sharrows are useless and perhaps even harmful, a new study found. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

Sharrows without traffic-calming won’t do much to make cycling safer. Photo: University of Colorado Denver

A study by University of Colorado Denver researchers Nick Ferenchak and Wesley Marshall examined safety outcomes for areas in Chicago that received bike lanes, sharrows, and no bicycling street treatments at all. (The study was conducted before Chicago had much in the way of protected bike lanes, so it did not distinguish between types of bike lanes.) The results suggest that bike lanes encourage more people to bike and make biking safer, while sharrows don’t do much of either.

Ferenchak and Marshall’s study divided Chicago into three geographic categories using Census block groups: areas where bike lanes were added between 2008 and 2010, areas where sharrows were added, and areas where no bike treatments were added. They then looked at how bike commuting and cyclist injuries changed in these areas over time.

They found that bike commute rates more than doubled in areas with new bike lanes, compared to a 27 percent increase in areas with new sharrows and a 43 percent increase in areas where nothing changed.

Meanwhile, the rate of cyclist injuries per bike commuter improved the most where bike lanes were striped, decreasing 42 percent. Areas that got sharrows saw the same metric fall about 20 percent –worse than areas where streets didn’t change (36 percent), although the difference was not great enough to be statistically significant.

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Gaze Upon Lincoln, Nebraska’s Awesome New Curb-Protected Bike Lane

Need a reason to feel hopeful for 2016? Check out this video from the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, showing off the city’s new curb-protected bike lane.

The N Street protected bike lane provides a link between two major trails. Image: Downtown Lincoln Association

The N Street protected bike lane provides a link between two major trails. Image: Downtown Lincoln Association/Alta Planning + Design

The N Street protected bike lane covers a 17-block stretch in downtown Lincoln. It includes bike-specific signals and landscaped medians as wide as nine feet. The redesign debuted two weeks ago, according to the Journal Star, and motorists are still figuring out how the whole thing works.

The bike lane helps fill a “critical link” in the city’s 128-mile trail network, according to the Downtown Lincoln Association. The project was completed with help from the Great Plains Trail Network, which provided $340,000, or about 10 percent of the $3.5 million cost.

Nicely done!

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What Other Cities Say About Cleveland’s Unusual Bike Lane Buffer

Cleveland’s seemingly backward buffered bike lane on Lorain Avenue. Photo: Satinder Puri.

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.

For all their benefits, protected bike lanes can be complicated. Between maintaining barriers, keeping them clear of snow and preserving intersection visibility, it’s understandable that cities opt not to include them on every street project.

Buffered bike lanes, though, are pretty simple: if you’ve got at least two feet of roadway to spare, you lay down some hash marks between car and bike lanes and double the comfort of biking on a street.

Except in Cleveland, apparently.

When the above image started circulating online this summer, many people assumed some sort of miscommunication was afoot in Cleveland. The main point of a buffered bike lane, as made clear by everyone from AASHTO to NACTO, is to separate bikes from moving cars and/or the doors of parked cars, not to protect bikes from curbs.

But as more information emerged and it began to seem as if Cleveland was not only doing this intentionally but might be planning to repeat the design elsewhere in town, we wondered whether this might be a new trend in street design.

So we emailed cities around the country and asked their bikeway designers to say whether they’d ever want to use this setup. Here’s what they said.

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Miami’s “Underline” — The Vision for a 10-Mile Greenway Beneath the Rails

Miami's "Underline" proposes making the derelict space under Miami's Metrorail into a "10-mile linear park." Image: Theunderline.org

The “Underline” would remake the leftover space beneath Miami’s Metrorail as a 10-mile greenway. Image: The Underline

The idea for Miami’s “Underline” came to Meg Daly after she broke both her arms in 2013.

Unable to drive, Daly, who lives in Coral Gables, started taking Miami’s Metrorail to physical therapy. When she got off at her stop, she would walk the last mile under the shade of the elevated rail platform.

“I just kind of had this moment of discovery,” she told Streetsblog. “I ended up walking beneath the train tracks. I was like, ‘There’s so much space here.'” She thought the neglected but nicely shaded area could make for great walking and biking.

Now, just a few years later, a real plan for a 10-mile linear park called the Underline is moving forward. Daly heads the nonprofit group Friends of the Underline, which is finishing up the master plan for the project. The group received $650,000 for planning and design, funded by the city of Miami, the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation, and others.

The Underline would run 10 miles from South Miami, through Coral Gables and on to Miami's Brickell neighborhood under the elevated Metrorail platform by U.S. 1. Map: The Underline

The Underline would run 10 miles from South Miami, through Coral Gables and on to Miami’s Brickell neighborhood under the elevated Metrorail platform by U.S. 1. Map: The Underline

The Friends of the Underline vision is to create an inviting place for active transportation running through one of the most densely populated urban areas in the American South.

Miami’s Metrorail corridor runs 10 miles between South Miami, Coral Gables, and Miami, terminating in the walkable Brickell neighborhood. The corridor roughly parallels US-1, a traffic-clogged urban highway that runs up the eastern coast of Florida.

About 100,000 people live within a 10-minute walk, Daly says. But active transportation options are limited, largely because of South Florida’s notoriously wide, dangerous roads.

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