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Posts from the Bicycle Infrastructure Category

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The ‘Peanutabout’ Concept Could Be a Breakthrough for Diagonal Streets

A proposed design in Cambridge. Image: Kittelson and Associates via Boston Cyclists Union.

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.

Wickedly good biking ideas continue to pop up in Massachusetts.

Last year, it unveiled the country’s best state-level bikeway design guide and Cambridge opened the country’s best new bike lane on Western Avenue.

On Tuesday, the Boston Cyclists Union shared the inspiring back story behind a new concept for the long, complex seven-way intersection created by the acute crossing of Cambridge and Hampshire streets. Like a lot of good ideas in modern American bicycling history, it involves Anne Lusk, a Harvard public health professor who’s been a major brain behind the spread of protected bike lanes in the United States. Last summer she connected BCU with engineering firm Kittelson and Associates, and dominoes started falling:

In mid-September, Bike Union executive director Becca Wolfson and representatives of Kittelson met with City of Cambridge staff to present our findings regarding the feasibility of the peanut design and the conceptual rendering for it.  The City had considered and rejected as infeasible a roundabout solution for Inman, but had not considered a peanut-style mini-roundabout.  The staff were favorably impressed and have since indicated an interest in including this roundabout approach alongside the “Bends” solutions as the pubic process moves forward.

In his post, BCU writer Steven Bercu lists the various advantages of this design for people walking, biking and driving. Here are the benefits for bicycle travel:

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Protected Bike Lanes Are Sprouting Up in Walmart Country

This new temporary protected bike lane is part of a network in northwest Arkansas, supported by the Walton Family Foundation, of the Walmart fortune. Photo: Walton Family Foundation

This temporary protected bike lane is one of several in northwest Arkansas supported by the Walton Family Foundation. Photo: Walton Family Foundation

Can protected bike lanes get people biking for transportation in northwest Arkansas?

The Walton Family Foundation wanted to see. The foundation, which is supported by the Walmart family fortune, has been studying the way people get around in the Bentonville area, including the cities of Rogers and Bella Vista, which is world headquarters of the Walmart corporation.

The foundation counted people biking on local trails, and while usage was significant, the organization concluded based on the time of day people were biking that most were using the trails for recreation, not transportation.

So beginning last month, the foundation embarked on a month-long pilot project to quickly build out protected bike lanes connecting the three cities and their trail systems. The idea was inspired by foundation staffers’ trip to Copenhagen.

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Cycling Is Getting a Lot Safer in American Cities Adding a Lot of Bike Lanes

Cities building the most bike infrastructure are becoming safer. Graph: American Public Health Association

Cities building a lot of bike infrastructure are becoming significantly safer for cycling. Graph: American Public Health Association

American cities still have a long way to go before they’re considered safe for people of all ages and abilities to bike. But many of them have made a lot of progress recently, especially the ones building protected bike lanes.

That’s the takeaway of a recent data project featured in the American Journal of Public Health that examines crash and injury rates for cyclists in 10 American cities.

Researchers examined 10 cities that have been “especially successful at improving cycling safety and increasing cycling levels by greatly expanding their cycling infrastructure.” The above table shows recent changes in bike network growth, cycling rates, and crash and injury rates for cyclists in those cities. Minneapolis, Portland and New York City have seen the largest drop in injury and fatality rates among this group.

The change in bike trips in each city was determined using Census data about the number of bike commuters in a city. The authors assumed each bike commute accounted two trips per day and that these trips represented one-fifth of total bike trips. The assumption was based on the most recent National Household Travel Survey, which found that about one in five bike trips is work related.

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American Traffic Engineering Establishment Finally Approves Bike Boxes

Bike boxes are going to become part of the standard street design guidance. Photo: NACTO

Bike boxes are on their way toward becoming a standard street design measure. Photo: NACTO

The wheels of change grind slowly at the institutions that guide the American traffic engineering establishment, but they are moving forward.

This week, U.S. DOT issued interim approval for bike boxes [PDF], a treatment that positions cyclists ahead of cars at intersections.

Dozens of American cities currently use bike boxes — some for the better part of the past decade — and the federal government is now satisfied enough by the results to conclude that they lead to “reductions in conflicts between bikes and turning drivers” and less crosswalk encroachment by both drivers and cyclists.

Cities installing bike boxes will still have to submit a request for “interim approval” to the Federal Highway Administration until a final rule is adopted, but now bike boxes will be perceived as less risky by transportation engineers.

The committee responsible for approving new bike infrastructure treatments for the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices recommended approval of bike boxes nearly three years ago. The same group has been dragging its feet on protected bike lanes, a key obstacle to their widespread installation.

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Edmonton’s Quick-Build Protected Bike Lane Grid: “A New Model” for Change

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities connect high-comfort biking networks.


The most interesting thing about this week’s best bike infrastructure news isn’t what’s being built. It’s how it’s being built.

Two years ago, the sprawling Canadian prairie metropolis of Calgary decided to buck tradition and test an entire “minimum grid” of protected bike lanes through its downtown, all at once. Calgary’s proposal survived a nailbiting 8-7 council vote thanks to a first-rate campaign by local advocates and the swing vote of a suburban conservative who said he’d simply been persuaded that for just $7 million, a quick-build biking network was worth a try.

It worked. Bike counts doubled almost immediately; at last count they’re up 132 percent across downtown and biking is up citywide by every available measure, a win in Calgary’s war on congestion.

On Monday, Edmonton proved how contagious a good idea can be.

Edmonton’s council voted unanimously to do essentially the same thing, creating a connected system of comfortable bike routes in its downtown.


An overhead view of the post-protected bike lane planned for 102nd Avenue. Image: City of Edmonton.

“A new model of public consultation”

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A “Dutch Junction” With Glow-in-the-Dark Bike Lanes Now Exists — in Texas

Officials from the Texas Transportation Institute built this "Dutch-style" unsignalized intersection with solar power-generating bike lanes in College Station, Texas. Photo: TTI

The Texas Transportation Institute built this Dutch Junction on the Texas A&M campus in College Station. Photo: TTI

It’s America’s first unsignalized “Dutch Junction” — a type of intersection with protected space for cycling. It even has solar luminescent bike lanes. And here’s the kicker — it’s in the heart of Texas.

The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M led the design and installation at a campus intersection in College Station. The Dutch Junction is designed to keep bicyclists out of the blind spots of turning motorists, preventing right-hook collisions.

The bike lanes use a special solar material that emits light at night. Photo: TTI

The bike lanes are marked with a special material that emits light at night. Photo: TTI

The concept is similar to the “protected intersections” that have been installed in Davis, California, and Salt Lake City. But this intersection is controlled by signs, not traffic signals, which makes it unique in the United States, according to TTI.

The bike lanes are also coated with a material that absorbs solar energy during the day and transmits it into light at night to keep the path visible.

The intersection gets a lot of bike and pedestrian traffic, writes TTI. Students in the college’s engineering and design programs will study the effects of the new design as part of their coursework.

Here's another view of the intersection. Photo: TTI

Here’s another view of the intersection. Photo: TTI

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El Paso’s Bid to Create a Regional Active Transportation Network

A lot of regional transportation agencies talk a good game when it comes to improving biking and walking, but El Paso’s Metropolitan Planning Organization is actually doing something about it.

Trails like this one, along the Rio Grande, will connect the El Paso region, thanks to funding from the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization. Photo: El Paso Southwest

The El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization wants to complete more trails like this one, along the Rio Grande, throughout the region. Photo: El Paso Southwest

The organization passed a new rule that designates seven key corridors as the “active transportation system.” Next, the MPO will identify gaps in the walking and biking network and issue calls for projects that complete the missing links.

The rule is part of the MPO’s efforts to increase walking and bicycling rates and improve air quality. “We are now planning for people versus added capacity projects that just satisfy vehicles,” said Alexandra Riccillo, a transportation analyst with El Paso MPO.

Cities that respond to the MPO’s request will have to provide 20 percent of the project cost, with the remaining 80 percent coming from federal funds. “Now that we have in essence a specific [call for projects], the money’s already there,” said Riccillo

The rule also requires Texas DOT to implement walking and biking upgrades whenever the agency conducts road work on the active transportation network.

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Atlanta Looks for Options Where Bidirectional Protected Bike Lanes Intersect

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities connect high-comfort biking networks.

Bidirectional protected bike lanes, which put both directions of bike traffic on the same side of a street, aren’t ideal. But they can be useful in a pinch.

Like all protected bike lanes, well-designed bidirectionals are more comfortable to more riders than having no bike lanes on busy streets.

This month in downtown Atlanta, something interesting is happening for the first time in the United States: two bidirectional protected bike lanes are crossing each other at a four-way intersection.

Fortunately, both of them are on the “left” side of signalized one-way streets. This is generally the best way to use a bidirectional protected bike lane, in part because it prevents total chaos in situations like this one.

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Of Course the GOP Transportation Platform Is a Catastrophe

In the past few years, Congressional Republicans tried and failed to turn the federal transportation program into a highways-only affair. Still, the GOP isn’t giving up on eliminating federal funds for transit, walking, and biking.

Donald Trump may have made his name building on the most transit-rich real estate in the nation, but he hasn’t changed the party’s stance on transportation at all. The transportation plank in the newly updated GOP platform [PDF] is as extreme and hostile to cities as ever.

Here are some of the lowlights:

1. Eliminating federal funding for transit, walking, and biking

The Republican Party platform calls for cutting all federal funding for transit, walking, and biking.

The loss of federal funding would cause chaos for transit agencies and transit riders, disrupting and diminishing capacity to operate, maintain, and expand transit systems. The reason this proposal goes nowhere in Congress is that even a sizable share of Republicans realize it would be disastrous to kneecap transit in the nation’s urban centers, where so much economic activity is concentrated.

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Report: As Cities Add Bike Lanes, More People Bike and Biking Gets Safer

safety_in_number_charts

Cities adding bike infrastructure are seeing a “safety in numbers” — more people on bikes plus lower risk of severe or fatal injury. Graphs: NACTO

The more people bike on the streets, the safer the streets are for everyone who bikes. This phenomenon, originally identified by researcher Peter Jacobsen, is known as “safety in numbers.” And that’s exactly what American cities are seeing as they add bike infrastructure — more cyclists and safer cycling — according to a new report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials [PDF].

The report is part of NACTO’s research series on implementing equitable bike-share systems. NACTO makes the case that large-scale bike-share systems can improve access to jobs in low-income communities by extending the reach of bus and rail lines, and — citing the safety-in-numbers evidence — that good bike lanes have to be part of the solution. Otherwise dangerous street conditions will continue to discourage people from biking.

NACTO tracked changes in bike commuting, bike lane miles, and cyclist fatalities and severe injuries in seven U.S. cities that have added protected bike lanes and bike-share systems over the past decade or so. In all seven cities, cycling has grown along with the bike network, while the risk of severe injury or death while cycling has declined.

In five of the cities — Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Portland — the absolute number of cycling deaths and severe injuries fell between 2007 and 2014, even as cycling rose substantially. In the two other cities — San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — deaths and serious injuries increased somewhat, but not as much as the increase in bicycle commuting.

New York City, for example, has added about 54 miles of bike lanes per year since 2007. Chicago has added about 27 miles per year since 2011. Over that time the risk of severe injury or death while cycling has decreased by about half, NACTO reports.

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