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Posts from the Bicycle Infrastructure Category

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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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Salt Lake City’s Groundbreaking Protected Intersection Is Open

The second protected intersection in the country is open in Salt Lake City, another milestone for American bike infrastructure.

Using paint and concrete islands, the intersection of 200 West and 300 South lowers the stress level for cyclists, makes them more visible to drivers, and reduces turning conflicts:

Salt Lake City’s protected intersection comes two months after Davis, California, rolled out the first one in America in August.

Alta Planning led the design of the project, and you can see a few scenes of people biking, walking, and driving through it in their clip above.

Salt Lake City's new protected intersection. Photo: Alta Planning

Salt Lake City’s new protected intersection. Photo: Alta Planning

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Boulder Cyclists Ride to Protest Bike Lane Removal

Yesterday's protest. Photo:

Yesterday’s protest. Photo: Moishe Lettvin

Cyclists in Boulder took to the streets yesterday to protest the City Council’s unanimous decision Tuesday night to undo a large chunk of the Folsom Street protected bike lane.

A four-to-three-lane road diet and flexible posts to separate the bike lane from traffic had been installed on a 12- to 18-month trial basis, part of what the city called its “Living Labs” initiative, aimed at increasing the city’s bicycle mode share to 30 percent by 2035. Segments of the road diet and bike lane protection will now revert to the previous design after a scant couple of months.

The removal marks only the fourth time an American city will remove a modern protected bike lane, according to People for Bikes. By most measures, the bike lane was working well. But City Council members caved to pressure from motorists who complained about slightly longer travel times.

The ride was reminiscent of some of the 2012 protests in Toronto when former Mayor Rob Ford ordered the removal of the Jarvis Street bike lane.

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State Engineers Warm to Protected Bike Lanes for Next AASHTO Bike Guide

Linden Avenue, Seattle. AASHTO’s current manuals recommend against separating bike and car traffic with curbs or parked cars under any circumstances.

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.

The professional transportation engineers’ association that writes the book on U.S. street design is meeting this week in Seattle — and talking quite a bit about protected bike lanes.

As we reported in January, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is considering bringing protected bike lanes into the next edition of its widely used Guide for the Development of Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities.

For that to happen, AASHTO’s design committees will need to vote to include such designs. Based on interviews over the last few weeks, members have some disagreements over the issue but tend to agree that it’s important.

Tony Laird

Tony Laird of Wyoming DOT.

I asked Tony Laird, state highway development engineer at the Wyoming Department of Transportation and vice chair of AASHTO’s technical design committee on non-motorized transportation, what he saw as the major issues in the lead-up to AASHTO’s next bike guide.

“The hottest issue right now is what we’re calling protected bike lanes, what we called cycle tracks for a while,” Laird replied. “There’s a lot of demand for some guidance and consistency for what those look like… I think by the time we put together that new bike guide it’s going to have new guidance on protected bike lanes.”

Eric Ophardt of the New York State DOT, who also serves on the non-motorized committee, also cited new bike lane designs as the top issue he sees.

“The big thing is the bike paths and sidepaths that are being built all over this country,” he said.

Though physically separated bike lanes are only one of several issues on the committees’ plates, it’s one that people remain likely to disagree about.

Lynn Jonell Soporowski of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and another member of the non-motorized committee, is dubious about protected bike lanes, saying that Kentucky cities don’t have much room for such facilities.

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Massachusetts’ Bikeway Design Guide Will Be Nation’s Most Advanced Yet

Images from MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.

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.

Bikeway design in this country keeps rocketing forward. The design guide that Massachusetts is planning to unveil in November shows it.

The new guide, ordered up by MassDOT and prepared by Toole Design Group, will offer the most detailed engineering-level guidance yet published in the United States for how to build safe, comfortable protected bike lanes and intersections.

“It’ll be a good resource for all 50 states,” said Bill Schultheiss, a Toole staffer who worked on the project. “I think it’ll put some pressure on other states to step up.”

There are lots of details to get excited about in the new design guide, which is scheduled for release at MassDOT’s Moving Together conference on November 4. But maybe the most important is a set of detailed recommendations for protected intersections, the fast-spreading design, based on Dutch streets, that can improve intersection safety for protected and unprotected bike lanes alike.

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Tactical Urbanism Win: Cyclist Protects Boston Bike Lane With Flowers

Boston cyclist Jonathan Fertig created a temporary protected bike lane in Boston this week using $6 potted mums he bought at the hardware store. Photo: Jonathan Fertig

Boston cyclist Jonathan Fertig created a temporary protected bike lane in Boston this week using $6 potted mums he bought at the hardware store. Photo: Jonathan Fertig

Even the most delicate barrier between bikes and auto traffic can change the behavior of drivers and make cycling a lot more appealing. Case in point: An ingenious bit of tactical urbanism in Boston this week resulted in a bike lane protected by $6 pots of hardware store mums.

Jonathan Fertig told Streetsblog he was upset the city had striped bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue, near where a truck driver killed surgeon Anita Kurmann in August, but hadn’t yet installed flexible posts that would prevent drivers from parking in the lane. So he took matters into his own hands Sunday by adding a row of potted mums, an idea he says he cribbed from the “Tactical Urbanism” manual written by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia. Amazingly, the plants remained in place and untouched for several days, until the city returned this week to install the posts.

“The tops of the flex posts are open, so I’m actually planning to put a bouquet of flowers in each one on my way home as a statement that I’m still here, and that honestly I’m not satisfied with the city’s solution at this intersection,” Fertig said, adding that he’d like to see a more substantial protective barrier at the site.

Fertig followed up his flower pot coup with these random orange-cone curb bumpouts this week.

Fertig followed up his flower pot coup with these random orange-cone curb bumpouts this week.

Meanwhile, Fertig’s efforts caught the attention of the Boston Globe, which published a surprisingly sympathetic story that put the city on the defensive over the delay in adding protective bollards.

Fertig used the platform to announce a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for future interventions of the same type. The campaign has raised more than $3,200 in just two days.

Fertig has used some of the money on projects like using orange cones as temporary curb extensions [pictured at right]. He said he simply dropped the cones on his way to work.

Given the large amount of money raised so far, Fertig said he might explore more comprehensive tactical urbanism projects, like a Better Block demonstration.

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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.

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