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Posts from the Bike Lanes Category

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Room to Breathe: The Feds Just Made It Easier to Fit Bike Lanes on Streets

Photo: Adam Coppola.

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 large car is less than seven feet wide. But thanks in part to an obscure federal rule, millions of miles of traffic lanes on local streets around the country are 12 or more feet wide.

Lanes that wide, it’s now known, make urban streets less safe. They give many people a false “freeway” feeling behind the wheel, leading to speeding and worse. And for cities looking to boost the appeal of biking, wider lanes mean less room for buffers, planters and other separators that dramatically improve the biking experience.

But for road projects that get federal funds, dangerously wide auto lanes have often been suggested or required.

Until yesterday.

Though they rarely make headlines, the “13 Controlling Criteria” have loomed large in the work of traffic engineers across the country since they were adopted in 1985. The idea then was to create a simple, hard-to-break list of basic guidelines for street design: shoulder widths, grades, cross slopes and how close to the roadway an “obstruction” (such as a tree or post) would be allowed.

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When to Use Protected Intersections? Academic Study Will Offer Advice

An intersection in Austin gives room for a driver to stop mid-turn while people bike past rather than putting cyclists in a driver’s blind spot. Photo: Greg Griffin

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.

If 2015 was the year protected intersections arrived in the United States, 2016 is the year the country’s bikeway pros are starting to really figure them out.

Inspired by Dutch streets, protected intersection designs use a few simple tricks to rearrange traffic at intersections so that people on bikes and in cars don’t have to constantly look over their shoulders for one another.

Last week, Portland State University announced a $250,000 project that will use simulations to put people on virtual streets and test their use of protected intersections. The goal: create data-driven standards to tell cities where protected intersections are needed.

“At what traffic volume?” asked Justin Carinci, a spokesman for PSU’s National Institute for Transportation and Communities. “At what speeds?”

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Fast Changes to City Streets: A 9-Step Guide for Creative Bureaucrats

Marshall Avenue and Monroe Avenue, Memphis, Tenn. Photo: John Paul Shaffer

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 most of the 20th century, cities answered transportation problems by adding more pavement.

More freeways. More lanes. More parking lots. More things that couldn’t be reversed or revised.

So it made sense, at the time, for the public process around civil engineering projects to focus, above all else, on not making mistakes. Generations of city workers embraced the value of “Do it once and do it right.”

But today’s transportation problems are different, and so are the projects that respond to them. Naturally enough, the process of planning and designing such projects has begun changing, too.

From the experimental lawn chairs scattered across New York’s redesigned Times Square on Memorial Day 2009 to the row of plastic posts on Denver’s Arapahoe Street after a bike lane retrofit last fall, city projects are tackling big problems with solutions that are small, cheap, fast and agile. But until now, no one has created a short, practical guide for cities that want to create a program to do things like these.

Today, we’re publishing that guide.

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Pop-Up Protected Bike Lane Demos Now Being Funded by States, Too

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A 2013 protected bike lane demo in Minneapolis. Image: Bikeways for Everyone.

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 practice that began as guerrilla activism and was later embraced by professionals as “tactical urbanism” — using live on-street demos to test the effects of changes to city streets — hit a milestone last week.

For what seems to be the first time ever, a live on-street demo of a protected bike lane has been funded by a state transportation department.

The $10,850 grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation, announced September 29 as part of a $15 million grant cycle, is a sign that the on-street demo is becoming a common step in the process of planning street redesigns.

It will pay for a weeks-long test of planter-protected bike lanes on East Pratt Street in Baltimore.

“We’re not committing to have a complete buy-in to try something,” said Caitlin Doolin, a bicycle and pedestrian planner for the City of Baltimore. “We can take it out if it doesn’t work or modify it or what have you.”

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Via Streetsblog California
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Late Late Show’s James Corden Opens Fire on Coronado Bike NIMBY’s

Mocking people who fight safe streets improvements and bike lanes is hardly a new sport. From the subtle humor of the bicyclist crashing into Stephen Colbert’s desk to Jon Stewart’s rant about Dorothy Rabinowitz and the freakout about Citibike.

If you don’t already know him, meet James Corden, host of the Late Late Show. Corden focuses on America’s Most Famous NIMBYs, the white-haired residents of Coronado who took to City Hall to stop the influx of safe street projects graffiti-ing the streets.

I’ve been a fan of Corden since he appeared in Dr. Who a couple of years ago, so I highly recommend watching the entire clip. If you can’t here are some highlights.

“The problem of too many bike lanes ranks somewhere between, ‘my new BMW’s air conditioner works a little too well,’ and ‘The Starbucks near my house doesn’t take $100 bills,'” Corden exclaims near the start of the clip.

Later, after a woman compares a plan to increase the number of bike lanes to taking her daughters to a tattoo parlor for full-body-tattoos, Corden snarks, “If you are going to town hall to complain about bike lanes, you’re kids are definitely going to get tattoos.”

But he save the best for last. After a thirty-second call to arms where he promises a ride to Coronado to paint our own bike lanes if the NIMBYs win the day, Corden channels his inner-Braveheart when he declares, “You may take our bike lanes, but you will never take our freedom…to ride in those bike lanes.”

Incidentally, if someone from the Late Late Show is reading this, and you are planning to do more on Coronado, drop me a line on Twitter @damientypes or leave a note in the comments. Let’s talk…and ride…

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The World’s Nuttiest Bike Lane NIMBYs Live in a San Diego Beach Community

coronado_bike_lane

Look at this visual cacophony long enough and it will induce a dizzying type of vertigo.

Think you’ve read about every possible NIMBY objection to bike lanes? Think again. These recent comments from a public meeting in San Diego’s affluent Coronado beach community are definitely, um, different.

At the meeting, city leaders were bombarded with objections — not about parking, traffic, or “scofflaws” on bikes, but about the “visual pollution” of painted stripes on the road. There’s just something about a bike lane stripe that aesthetically revolts these people in a way that, say, a dashed yellow center stripe never will.

Local news station KPBS.org says Coronado is a “haven for bicyclists” (the League of American Bicyclists named it a silver-level Bike Friendly Community in 2013). Apparently, it’s also a haven for world-class NIMBYs, as evidenced by these amazing comments captured by KPBS (we left off the names to be merciful):

  • “You are covering Coronado with paint stripe pollution.”
  • “The graffiti on the streets does not help our property values.”
  • The lanes “bring to mind a visual cacophony that if you look there long enough it will induce a dizzying type of vertigo.” [Editor’s note: This one wins!]
  • “These black streets with these brilliant white lines everywhere … believe me, it takes away from your home, from your outlook on life.”
  • “It’s very similar to personally taking all three of my daughters to a tattoo parlor and having them completely body tattooed.” [Editor’s note: Okay, maybe this one.]

Now that you’ve had a laugh, here comes the not-funny part: As a result of these ridiculous complaints, the City Council voted not to continue with a plan to add 12 miles of bike lanes. According to KPBS, from 2005 to 2013, bicyclists were struck by motor vehicle drivers more than 800 times in Coronado, resulting in 48 severe injuries and 7 fatalities.

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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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Modern Road Design in 7 Words: Cities Aren’t the Hoses, They’re the Gardens

Austin, Texas.

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.

Every bike lane believer has heard a variation on this concern: Won’t our cities grind to a halt if we redesign our streets to have fewer passing lanes for cars?

Last week, Minnesota writer Bill Lindeke offered a terrific response on his personal blog.

It was prompted to a letter from a person troubled by two of Minneapolis’s new protected bike lanes, which replaced passing lanes on 26th and 28th streets. The letter writer asked: won’t the traffic overflow, just as surely as a too-narrow pipe or hose will malfunction?

Lindeke’s reply is excellent. He begins with the story of a recent day when he turned on a hose for a friend watering a garden. At first he opened the valve all the way, but it was too much; his friend asked him to turn the flow down a bit so she wouldn’t damage the plants.

If our big goal as a city was to keep the most water flowing, then designing streets to maximize volume would be the obvious solution.

And in fact, that’s how traffic engineers have traditionally thought of traffic, as cars circulating like blood through corporeal arteries. Just like cholesterol clogging arteries, congestion was seen as inherent vice. A lot of money, public space, and social resources were spent on unclogging our streets to maximizing the “flow” of cars.

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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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