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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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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

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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

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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.

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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AASHTO Chief: Don’t Blame Street Design for Cyclist Deaths

This is a pretty revealing (read: depressing) exchange between a U.S. representative and the president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which represents state DOTs.

The transportation agencies that comprise AASHTO essentially dictate how streets are designed throughout the U.S. They are aware that pedestrian and cyclist deaths are not declining as fast as total traffic fatalities. But don’t worry, says AASHTO President Jon Cox, because there is absolutely no problem with the design of America’s streets.

Around 49 seconds in to this clip from a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on Tuesday, Representative Rick Larsen of Washington State questions Cox about the rising share of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities:

A few of us asked the [Government Accountability Office] to look at this trend. And one suggestion we’ve heard is that we’re over-engineering or overbuilding roads so the posted speed limit may not match the size of the road. As a result that contributes to a more unsafe road for bikers and pedestrians. Has AASHTO looked at this issue — the relationship between design standards and road safety for bikers and pedestrians?

Cox, who runs the state DOT in Wyoming — the least populated state in the union! — gave this response (emphasis added):

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The First National Survey of People ‘Interested But Concerned’ About Biking

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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.

For 10 years, urban policymakers have been talking more and more about the so-called “interested but concerned” — people who would like to bike more but who are, for some reason, held back.

Make biking attractive to those people, the thinking goes, and great things can happen to a city: street capacity rises, parking crunches ease, auto dependence declines, development costs fall, public health improves.

Since then, several local studies have explored the opinions of these people, usually within cities that were already fairly bike-friendly. But since the “interested but concerned” concept was popularized, there’s never been a study of these people at the national level.

Until now, that is.

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Engineering Establishment Sets Out to Purge Deviant Bikeway Designs

This is the masthead for the website of the bicycle committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Apparently this group's attitudes about bike infrastructure are not much more advanced then its website. Image: NCUTCDBTC.org

This is the current masthead for the website of the bicycle committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Image: NCUTCDBTC.org

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices might be the most influential group of American bike policy makers you’ve never heard of.

The committee shapes street design standards in the United States to a large extent. Their recommendations become part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a guide to street markings, signs, and signals that many professional engineers treat as gospel.

The NCUTCD consists mostly of older engineers from state DOTs. In recent years, its bikeway design orthodoxy has been challenged by a new wave of engineers looking to implement treatments that the American street design establishment has frowned upon, despite a proven track record improving the safety and comfort of bicycling. Most notably, the National Association of City Transportation Officials has released guidance on the design of protected bike lanes that the MUTCD lacks.

NACTO’s guidance is gaining adherents. Dozens of cities have implemented protected bike lanes in the past few years. The Federal Highway Administration endorsed the guide in 2013.

All this progress doesn’t seem to sit very well with some members of the old guard. In January, the NCUTCD passed a resolution [Word file] establishing a “task force” to investigate “interest groups that may not be part of the NCUTCD” that promote street designs which don’t conform to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The MUTCD is supposed to allow for flexibility and deviation from the standard when conditions warrant, which often applies to “bicycle facilities in complex urban environments,” said Joe Gilpin, an expert on bikeway design with Alta Planning. NACTO designs are, according to Gilpin, “for the most part… created from standards already provided within the MUTCD, even if it’s being put together in a different way.”

But the recent resolution is a not-so-veiled attempt to impede that flexibility.

Not every member of the NCUTCD wants to hinder change. Bill Schultheiss, a consultant with Toole Design Group and a long-time member of the committee, was alarmed by the resolution. He says the structure of the committee leads to unnecessary foot-dragging.

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StreetFilms
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National Bike Summit 2015: Talking “Bikes Plus”

From Streetfilms:

The theme of this year’s National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, is “Bikes+” or, as the League of American Bicyclists puts it, “how bikes can add value to other movements and how our movement can expand to serve broader interests.” We decided to have some fun with the theme and ask attendees what they would add to that equation and why.

The answers were quite eclectic and showcase just how broad the topic of bicycling can be. Bikes+ is getting us psyched for a great year of advocacy!

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12 Illuminating Facts About Race, Ethnicity, Income, and Bicycling

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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 hard as we try to avoid doing so, humans tend to base racial assumptions around our personal experiences.

This can sometimes lead us to odd conclusions. As Homer Simpson once put it: “White people have names like Lenny, whereas black people have names like Carl.”

This shows up everywhere in American life, including bicycling policy. One goal of the new report about race, ethnicity, class and protected bike lanes by PeopleForBikes and the Alliance for Biking and Walking was to help more people (including us) think more clearly about the actual differences between Americans of different backgrounds when it comes to biking. In addition to interviewing and profiling experts and advocates around the country, we gathered statistics and studies that helped us understand how these issues intersect with good street design. Here are 12 of the most interesting findings in the report.

1) Bicycling is growing faster among people of color

Last year, we showed how bicycling has continued to grow among young adults, but not nearly as fast as it’s been soaring among older adults. There’s a similar story when you look at our racial and ethnic backgrounds: Bicycling has become a more important travel activity for white Americans, but not nearly as fast as it has among Americans of color.

In part, this is because people of color were harder-hit by the Great Recession, which caused all racial groups to scale back expensive car trips as the number of inexpensive bike trips increased.

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