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Posts from the Bicycle Infrastructure Category

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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.

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Yes, Cops Park in the Bike Lane for Emergency Pizza Runs

Ever suspect that the officer who parked a squad car in the bike lane, forcing you to swerve into traffic, isn’t really on pressing police business? Stick around and you might get proof.

A Buffalo cyclist captured this short clip showing an officer returning to his bike lane-blocking vehicle with what appears to be some pizza, hot and fresh out of the oven.

The footage seems to have struck a nerve, with half a million views since it was posted less than two weeks ago. The video also got the attention of local news outlet WBIV, which reports that Buffalo police are “investigating it internally”:

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Detroit Breaks Ground on First Protected Bike Lane Project

Detroit broke ground this week on its first protected bike lane. Image: Jefferson East Inc.

A parking-protected bike lane is coming to Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. Image: Jefferson East Inc.

The Motor City is getting its first taste of on-street protected bike infrastructure. Work has begun on a street redesign that will bring Detroit its very first bike lane where parked cars will protect riders from motor vehicle traffic.

The bike lane is part of a road diet for Jefferson Avenue in the historic Jefferson-Chalmers business district. Construction crews have begun adding landscaped islands to the street, and later in the year, the road will be resurfaced and protected bike lanes will be added, reports Jefferson East Inc., the nonprofit group helping lead the planning process.

“It will be the first in the city and, I believe, the state,” said Justin Fried, who manages the project for Jefferson East. “The goal is to calm the street, narrow the road and improve safety.”

The intersection of Jefferson and Chalmers has been a particular problem, according to Jefferson East, with a number of crashes injuring pedestrians. The first phase of the project is only seven blocks, but a second phase will extend it three miles to Grand Boulevard.

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Take a Look at Houston’s First On-Street Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Barry Ocho via Twitter

Construction crews have begun work on a two-way protected bike lane on Lamar Street in downtown Houston. Photo: Barrett Ochoa via Twitter

Is that a beautiful sight or what? This two-way protected bike lane is all the more stunning because it’s in downtown Houston.

This weekend, construction crews began putting down green paint on Lamar Street for the city’s first on-street protected bike lane, which is expected to be finished by March 8. The three-quarter-mile bike lane will connect two important off-street trails. It will be separated from car traffic by low-lying plastic “zebra” humps and will have signals specifically for people on bikes, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The bike lane takes the place of a parking lane. Way to go, Houston!

Editor’s note: We first came across this item thanks to Jay Crossley’s morning news wrap-up on Streetsblog Texas. In the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out new ways to stay current with our partners at Streetsblog Texas, Streetsblog St. Louis, Streetsblog Ohio, and Streetsblog Southeast — stay tuned.

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Boris Johnson Commits to a Protected “Cycle Superhighway” Crossing London

London's "crossrail for bikes" will be the longest protected bike lane in Europe. Image: London Evening Standard

London’s “crossrail for bikes” will be the longest urban protected bike lane in Europe, according to the London papers. Image: London Evening Standard

London Mayor Boris Johnson is showing cities what it looks like to commit real resources to repurposing car lanes for high-quality bike infrastructure.

Yesterday, Johnson announced the city will begin building a wide, continuous protected bike lane linking east and west London when the weather warms this spring. When complete, it will be the longest protected “urban cycle lane” in Europe, according to Metro UK, carrying riders through the heart of the city and some of its most famous landmarks. The bike lane will be separated from vehicle traffic by a curb, London-based design blog Dezeen reports.

While bike infrastructure is cheap, London is devoting serious resources to ensuring that this bike lane is as safe, spacious, and comfortable as it can be. The central portion of the bike route, about 5.5 miles, will cost £41 to construct ($62 million).

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U.S. Awareness of Protected Bike Lanes Is Literally Growing Exponentially

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

As people in the protected bike lane movement start to get a handle on 2015, it’s worth pausing to look at the magnitude of 2014’s success.

If any one chart can tell the story best, it’s probably this one.

There’s a word for that sort of growth: exponential.

In fact, we can even put a formula on it: approximately 38 percent growth every year since 2006, almost like clockwork.

Buried inside this trend is another one that shows how our language is changing. Last year was the year when most professionals settled on the phrase “protected bike lane” as the best way to describe these designs to a general audience.

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As Protected Bike Lane Design Evolves, New Lessons Emerge

Dedicated bike signals in downtown Seattle mean that bikes and cars never have to mix on Second Avenue’s new protected lane. Photo: Green Lane Project

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

Last year offered lots of case studies for those of us working to make the case for protected bike lanes. With the explosion of protected lanes in the United States, we have far more robust evidence — both anecdotal and quantitative — that they increase ridership, make streets safer, and benefit cities economically.

Here are some useful lessons on design from the cities pioneering the use of protected lanes:

1) People like dedicated bike signals much better than merging with a turn lane

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