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Posts from the Bicycling Category


Salt Lake City Cuts Car Parking, Adds Bike Lanes, Sees Retail Boost

The new 300 South, a.k.a. Broadway. Photos: Salt Lake City.

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 require space on the street, and removing curbside auto parking is one of several ways to find it. But whenever cities propose parking removal, retailers understandably worry.

A growing body of evidence suggests that if bike lanes and parking removal contribute to a street with calmer traffic and a better pedestrian environment, everybody can win.

In an in-house study of its new protected bike lane, Salt Lake City found that when parking removal was done as part of a wide-ranging investment in the streetscape — including street planters, better crosswalks, public art, and colored pavement — converting parking spaces to high-quality bike lanes coincided with a jump in retail sales.

On 300 South, a street that’s also known as Broadway, SLC converted six blocks of diagonal parking to parallel parking and also shifted parallel parking away from the curb on three blocks to create nine blocks of protected bike lanes on its historic downtown business corridor.

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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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Protected Bike Lanes Even More Useful in Snowy Cities Than in Warm Ones

7th Street, Calgary, Alberta. Photo: City of Calgary Bicycle Program

pfb logo 100x22Annie van Cleve is a guest writer for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Here’s the best argument not enough people are making for protected bike lanes: Winter.

Hear me out. If you have ridden your bike through snow or ice, you know your speed goes down as you negotiate crusty and uneven roads, often in the dark. In these conditions, not every driver takes care when passing or understands when they are stuck behind a bicyclist on a snow-narrowed street. On streets with lots of high-speed motorized vehicles, it can be especially dangerous to mix cars with vulnerable road users like bicyclists. Protected bike lanes and off-street trails and paths are needed to make bicycling safe enough to be an accessible mode of transportation for people of all ages and abilities in all seasons.

Unfortunately, this picture of winter bicycling appears grim to some people and winter has too often been used as an argument against investing in bicycle infrastructure and proper maintenance in Northern cities. Why invest in infrastructure that will go unused for half the year? Who wants to risk life and limb to pedal a bicycle through the dark and frozen winter landscape? No one, it is assumed.

Those of us organizing the Winter Cycling Congress 2016 — to be held 2-4 February in Minneapolis-Saint Paul — disagree. That’s not just because we’ve observed more and more bicyclists on the streets of the Twin Cities — the coldest large metropolitan area in the United States — over the past couple of years. Even with less than ideal on-street conditions, 20 percent of bicyclists keep riding all winter in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

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House Dems: We Won’t Support a Transpo Bill That Cuts Bike/Ped Funding

House Democrats won’t stand for any cuts to federal funding for walking and biking infrastructure. That was the gist of a letter signed by every Democratic member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week.

Rick Larsen, a congressman representing parts of Washington State, rallied Democrats to support funding for biking, walking and transit. Photo: Rick Larsen

Rick Larsen, a congressman representing parts of Washington state, rallied Democrats to support funding for biking, walking, and transit. Photo: Rick Larsen

Groups aligned with the Koch brothers and their organization Americans for Prosperity have pushed to eliminate all federal funds for walking, biking, and transit. While Democrats are in the minority in the House, by coordinating as a bloc around this issue, they’re making it harder for the extreme elements in the Republican Party to roll back active transportation funding.

The letter, initiated by Washington representative Rick Larsen, states that Democratic committee members won’t support any bill that undermines the “Transportation Alternatives” program — the small pot of money dedicated to walking and biking.

“For the House transportation bill to be bipartisan, it must not cut funding for TAP or make policy changes that undermine the local availability of these dollars,” reads the letter, addressed to the committee’s two ranking Democratic members, Peter DeFazio (OR) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC):

Communities of all shapes and sizes — rural, urban and suburban — are clamoring for TAP dollars to give their residents lower-cost transportation options that reduce road congestion, improve safety for children and families, and boost quality of life. These types of projects are also essential to helping cities and counties increase property values, grow retail sales and attract tourism. While MAP-21 gave states the option of transferring up to half of TAP funds to other transportation priorities, just 10 percent of TAP funds have been transferred — clearly showing the demand for these funds across the country. This is a good program and it deserves to continue.

Congress has yet to make much progress on a long-term transportation bill to replace the previous bill, MAP-21, which expired last year. During the last transportation bill reauthorization process, biking and walking programs took a big hit. In an email to Streetsblog, Larsen said, “I do not want to see that happen again.”

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You Won’t Soon Forget These Photos of Ghost Bikes. That’s Exactly the Point.

All images from ##'t Forget Me## by Genea Barnes.

All images from Don’t Forget Me by Genea Barnes.

You’ve seen them, locked to signposts on the side of the road. Maybe you’ve helped install one. Maybe you’ve cried at the sight of them.

Ghost bikes memorialize people who have been killed while riding bikes. The bikes don’t usually stay up for more than a few weeks or months before the city removes them or they get stolen. Artist Genea Barnes has found a way to keep the memory alive a little longer.

Her photo book, “Don’t Forget Me,” is a sad and beautiful commemoration of those who have lost their lives to traffic violence. Barnes went on a road trip around the United States to find and photograph ghost bikes before they disappeared.


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Binge Watch This Video Series Profiling Unsung Bike Heroes

From the creative minds of bike activist and filmmaker Joe Biel and feminist bike ‘zine writer Elly Blue comes a new project that I bet you’re going to love.

Groundswell is a series of videos that spotlight grassroots bicycle activists who don’t normally get much glory. Eight videos have been completed — the one above is the first and only to be posted online so far — with four more in production, and the duo has dreams of doing several dozen more. Biel and Blue have been showing the videos to audiences on their Dinner & Bikes tour, but they haven’t published any until now.

“The idea behind Groundswell was to recontextualize bicycling as a social movement and also to look at all the different people that have been excluded from that,” said Biel. “It is often people at a ground level that are the ones that create social change around bicycling movements.”

In the first published video, above, Groundswell introduces its themes by looking at the formation and disintegration of the League of American Bicyclists’ equity initiative.

“It seemed like a good centering point to begin with, because we’ve heard that same story so many times,” Biel said. “Admittedly, by their own words, the League is trying to catch up with where the national conversation about race, class, ability, and gender is already at.”

While Biel and Blue prepare to roll out the next batch of Groundswell videos, they put together some short clips to give Streetsblog readers a preview of what they’re doing. First up: Meet Portland’s Dave Griffiths, whose disability led him to depend on his hand-cycle like others depend on a wheelchair.

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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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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.


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: ##

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##

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.