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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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“Share the Road” Signs Don’t Work

Delaware got rid of its “Share the Road” signs about two years ago. Though the signs were designed to affirm cyclists’ rights to the road, they were widely misinterpreted — by both motorists and cyclists — as an exhortation to cyclists to stop “hogging” the road, or as a recommendation that drivers and cyclists share a lane (leading to tight squeezes and close passes).

Bike Delaware concluded that “Share The Road” is just “‘feel good’ signage that placates an interest group but has no safety benefit.” And the state dumped the confusing message in favor of a less ambiguous one asserting that bicycles “may use full lane.”

A new survey confirms that Delaware had the right idea — and other states should follow suit. In all 50 states, cyclists have a right to the road — including the center of the lane, if that’s the safest place for them to be.

Researchers George Hess and M. Nils Peterson of North Carolina State University conducted an online survey of nearly 2,000 people to find out what various road signage means to them. On the screen, respondents were shown pictures of various traffic scenarios and street designs, and asked to interpret different signs and markings in those contexts.

When confronted with a “Share the Road” sign, a “Bicyclists May Use Full Lane” sign, or a sharrow painted on the roadway surface, did respondents think the cyclist should cede position to let the driver pass in the same lane? Should the driver wait for an opportunity to pass in the adjacent lane? Did they think it’s legal for the cyclist to take the lane? Did they think it’s safe?

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It Just Works: Davis Quietly Debuts America’s First Protected Intersection

Images: City of Davis

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 city that brought America the bike lane 48 years ago this summer has done it again.

Davis, California — population 66,000, bike commuting rate 20 percent — finished work last week on a new intersection design ordered up by a city council member who had decided that initial plans didn’t measure up to streets he’d ridden in the Netherlands.

A year later, with the help of Dutch consulting firm Mobycon, Council Member Brett Lee’s proposal for a protected intersection has arrived at Covell Boulevard and J Street. And as the Davis Enterprise reported Sunday, it’s working perfectly:

There were no standing diagrams on the street, no big street signs attached to traffic light poles announcing the difference between a standard American intersection and the Dutch-styled one people were passing through.

Everyone went in blind.

Yet for busy lunch hour traffic — well, for summer — on a Friday afternoon, motorists along Covell Boulevard zipped on through, with bicyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders seamlessly following their paths across the so-called “Dutch junction” — modeled after designs in the bike-friendly Netherlands.

No one died. No near misses. Nothing even close. Just history in the making no one seemed to notice.

It’s exactly what fans of protected intersections would have predicted for a design that arranges traffic so people on bikes and in cars can easily make eye contact with one another without looking over their shoulders.

Davis, it turned out, wasn’t alone in its vision. Austin has already built two protected intersections in a still-uninhabited part of a new development and expects people to start using them in the next few months. It’s planning two more.

Salt Lake City is currently building another downtown and plans to open it in the first week of October. Boston and Sacramento are planning their own.

“What did surprise me was how intuitive the intersection is,” Davis bicycle coordinator Jennifer Donofrio said Monday. “Observing people use the intersection, they are able to use it without any sort of education or any sort of guidance.”

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StreetFilms
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Cambridge: Britain’s Cycling Capital

In the city of Cambridge, just about an hour’s train ride north of London, you’ll find lots of people bicycling. In fact, the official bike mode share is 22 percent, but advocates believe it’s even higher and could comprise up to 50 percent of all trips in the city center.

More than protected bike lanes, the key to Cambridge’s success has been the management of motor vehicle traffic. For one, the city center is now ringed by a cordon of moveable bollards that only recede for buses, taxis, and some service vehicles. Private cars are not allowed downtown but people on bikes are free to enter at any time — which makes the bicycle the most convenient mode of transportation.

In residential neighborhoods, Cambridge has also tamed cars using a strategy called “filtered permeability” — placing physical barriers at some intersection that divert motorized traffic while allowing other modes to filter through. This prevents motorists from using residential areas as short cuts and encourages cycling. Similar techniques are employed in famous cycling cities like Groningen, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, and even here in the U.S. in places like Portland and Berkeley.

Cambridge is a growing city, and if new residents choose to drive cars, its streets could become overwhelmed by traffic. So the effort to create better streets for biking and walking continues. Recently, the city has adopted a 20 mph speed limit for most of its roadways, and a new push is on to install much more robust protected bike lanes in targeted areas where cycling feels less safe.

For bonus footage of Cambridge streets, check my post from earlier this week.

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The Top 100 Neighborhoods for Bicycle Commuting Have a 21% Mode Share

More than half of people in Stanford University's central campus commute by bike. Photo: ##http://travelchew.blogspot.com/2013_12_01_archive.html##TravelChew##

More than half of people in Stanford University’s central campus commute by bike. Photo: TravelChew

City rankings of bike-friendliness — while fabulous click-bait for their purveyors — obscure dramatic differences among neighborhoods. Los Angeles doesn’t appear on any cycling top 10 lists, but the area to the north and west of the University of Southern California has a 20 percent bicycle mode share. The city of Miami Beach is no bike heavyweight, but around Flamingo Park, nearly one in every four trips to work is made on two wheels.

Robert Schneider, an urban planning professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, wanted to go beyond the city rankings. He and his assistant, Joe Stefanich, examined 60,090 census tracts to find the top 100 U.S. neighborhoods for bicycle commuting [PDF]. They presented the results at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in January.

Taken together, those neighborhoods have a 21 percent bicycle mode share. Compare that to the U.S. as a whole, with its piddling 0.6 percent mode share.

Here’s what Schneider and Stefanich found:

  • Stanford University is a biking powerhouse. The central campus has a 52 percent mode share, the highest in the country. Five census tracts in and around the campus make it into the top 100. (Check out our coverage of Stanford’s transportation demand management program to find out more about how they did it.)
  • Stanford is not alone. College campuses in general support biking like nothing else. Of the top 100 census tracts for bike commuting, 68 are within two miles of a campus.
  • The polar vortex ate your bicycle. Seventy of the top 100 tracts have mild climates with fewer than 10 days a year with temperatures that don’t go above freezing.
  • The Amish will rival your beardiest hipsters for bike love (and beards for that matter). Only, many of them don’t exactly ride bikes but these hybrid bicycle scooters. Four tracts in rural areas of Ohio and Indiana with significant Amish populations have bike commuting rates between 15.7 and 18 percent.

It's not quite a bike, but it'll get you in the bicycle top 100. Photo: ##Inhabitat##http://inhabitat.com/amish-designers-hand-made-these-colorful-kick-scooters-on-a-farm-in-pennsylvania/##

It’s not quite a bike, but it’ll get you in the bicycle top 100. I’ve been waiting to feature one of these on Streetsblog since my last visit to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a year and a half ago. Photo: Inhabitat

The common threads you’d expect to find running through these top bicycling neighborhoods are all there: good bike facilities, lots of car-free households, higher population density, fewer hills.

This list has the same weakness as every other study on bicycling: It’s based on the American Community Survey journey-to-work data, so it doesn’t look at transportation patterns for anything but commuting, which makes up less than 20 percent of all trips.

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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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New Federal Guide Will Show More Cities the Way on Protected Bike Lanes

Oak Street, San Francisco. Photo: SFMTA.

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.

Protected bike lanes are now officially star-spangled.

Eight years after New York City created a trailblazing protected bikeway on 9th Avenue, designs once perceived as unfit for American streets have now been detailed in a new design guide by the Federal Highway Administration.

The FHWA guidance released Tuesday is the result of two years of research into numerous modern protected bike lanes around the country, in consultation with a team of national experts.

“Separated bike lanes have great potential to fill needs in creating low-stress bicycle networks,” the FHWA document says, citing a study released last year by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. “Many potential cyclists (including children and the elderly) may avoid on-street cycling if no physical separation from vehicular traffic is provided.”

Among the many useful images and ideas in the 148-page document is this spectrum of comfortable bike lanes, starting with bike infrastructure that will be useful to the smallest number of people and continuing into the more broadly appealing categories:

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The 10 States With the Best Bike Policy Tend to Have One Thing in Common

How does your state measure up on bike policy? The League of American Bicyclists is out with its 2015 state rankings, highlighting the states that are doing the most — and the least — to make bicycling a safe and convenient way to get around. Washington tops the list for the eighth year in a row, with Alabama bringing up the rear.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Washington
  2. Minnesota
  3. Delaware
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Utah
  6. Oregon
  7. Colorado
  8. California
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Maryland

Now, these states aren’t perfect, and most still have their share of highway expansion projects in the pipeline. But most of them have one key thing in common: They’re finally letting cities and towns implement street designs like protected bike lanes, which the American engineering establishment shunned for decades. Of the top ten states, seven have endorsed the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Urban Street Design Guide. Only one state that has endorsed the NACTO guide is not in the top ten — Tennessee, which the League rated number 20.

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Streetsblog NYC
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America’s Biggest Bike-Share Operator Now Makes Its Own Bikes

Motivate-Bike-and-Mystery-Man

Ben Serotta assembles one of the first models of Motivate’s new bike. Photo: Motivate

Motivate, the company that runs bike-share systems in several large American cities, is now manufacturing its own bikes. That might explain why the timetable for Citi Bike expansion has been getting a lot firmer.

When the current Motivate management team took over last fall, they inherited two big problems. Most of their systems ran on flawed software that crippled reliability and frustrated riders, and the manufacturer of their bikes had gone bankrupt.

Now both issues have been addressed: Replacement software from 8D Technologies installed this spring has a proven track record in other cities, and the new bikes — designed by Ben Serotta — clear up how the company’s fleets will be expanded and replenished.

The new bikes will be used in the expansion of Citi Bike starting later this year, in Jersey City’s upcoming bike-share system, and in any future system operated by Motivate. Bike-share docks will be compatible with both the new bikes and the old models made by Bixi.

Motivate_Green_BikeThe new design retains the thick boomerang-shaped frame — the notable differences are in the guts and components of the bike. Gearing has been adjusted so riders don’t spin so much in the low gear. The seats, notorious for cracking and retaining moisture in the current models, got an overhaul. “The construction and material are both supposed to improve wear,” said Serotta, “plus the hole in the middle allows water to drain and not puddle in the middle… and provides a more comfortable, better ventilated ride.” (Nigel Tufnel will be delighted to see that the seat post size now goes to 11.)

In designing the new bikes, Serotta worked in tandem with Motivate’s head mechanics. In a short email interview, he explained that process and how it shaped the end product. Below is a lightly edited version:

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Honolulu’s First Protected Bike Lane Cuts Sidewalk Biking 65 Percent

An opening ceremony for King Street’s protected bike lane in December. Photo: Being 808

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.

A few months after Honolulu opened its first protected bike lane, it’s the latest to demonstrate a very consistent trend across the country: Almost every protected bike lane immediately cuts sidewalk biking by at least 50 percent.

From August 2014 (before barriers were installed) to February 2015 (after), the number of people biking on King Street (both directions, road bed and sidewalk combined) soared 71 percent.

And in the same period, says Honolulu bicycle coordinator Chris Sayers, the number of bikes on the sidewalk plummeted 65 percent.

That’s no big surprise, because someone biking on a sidewalk is just trying to ride in the protected bike lane that isn’t there. When cities make part of a street comfortable to bike in, people naturally choose to use it.

That makes things better for everybody, Sayers said.

“It just sort of organizes the whole roadway better,” he said.

We’ve been in touch with bike coordinators around the country who’ve done similar counts, and compiled every such study we’re aware of into the chart below. Honolulu’s finding is strikingly consistent with the others, all of which saw between a 27 percent drop in sidewalk biking (L Street in Washington DC) to an 81 percent drop (Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, New York).

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10 Tips for Cities Ready to Replace Car Parking With Safe Space for Biking

Former parking spaces in Boulevard de Maissonneuve, Montreal. Photo: JasonParis

pfb logo 100x22

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.

A curbside parking spot is just 182 square feet of urban space. But for advocates of better American bike infrastructure, few obstacles loom larger.

Right now in San Diego, a long-brewing plan to add better pedestrian crossings and a continuous protected bike lane to the deadliest corridor in the city is fighting for its life in large part because some merchants on four commercial blocks don’t want to risk removing any auto parking.

Before and after plans for University Avenue in San Diego.

The merchants aren’t wrong that private parking spaces have commercial value to nearby properties. But bike lanes, street trees and better sidewalks would have commercial value too — and creating San Diego’s first comfortable crosstown bike network would also bring value to the entire city, not to mention lessen retailers’ dependence on car parking.

For cities everywhere, converting on-street parking spaces into anything else is one of the greatest challenges in urban planning.

Though it’s probably never been done without a fight, many cities have succeeded. Here are the best approaches we’ve seen from North America and beyond.

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