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Posts from the Bike Lanes Category

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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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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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Avoid Bikelash By Building More Bike Lanes

Market Street, San Francisco.

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.

Here’s one reason the modern biking boom is great for everyone: more bicycle trips mean fewer car trips, which can mean less congestion for people in cars and buses.

But there’s a catch. A recent study shows that when bicycle use rises but cities don’t add bike lanes to put the new bikers in, traffic congestion actually gets worse.

In some situations, it gets a lot worse.

A study measured travel delay on a street with bikes but no bike lanes

NE 47th Avenue, Portland.

HOOOONK.

It’s happened to most regular bike users; it happened to me last week. Biking to meet friends at a restaurant, I had to pedal two blocks uphill on a street without bike lanes. As I started to push up the slope, a man zoomed his car around me, straddling the two lanes and laying on his horn as if I’d done something wrong.

I’d love to be out of your way too, I wanted to tell him. But this parking lane would have to go.

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Take a Look at Houston’s First On-Street Protected Bike Lane

Photo: Barry Ocho via Twitter

Construction crews have begun work on a two-way protected bike lane on Lamar Street in downtown Houston. Photo: Barrett Ochoa via Twitter

Is that a beautiful sight or what? This two-way protected bike lane is all the more stunning because it’s in downtown Houston.

This weekend, construction crews began putting down green paint on Lamar Street for the city’s first on-street protected bike lane, which is expected to be finished by March 8. The three-quarter-mile bike lane will connect two important off-street trails. It will be separated from car traffic by low-lying plastic “zebra” humps and will have signals specifically for people on bikes, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The bike lane takes the place of a parking lane. Way to go, Houston!

Editor’s note: We first came across this item thanks to Jay Crossley’s morning news wrap-up on Streetsblog Texas. In the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out new ways to stay current with our partners at Streetsblog Texas, Streetsblog St. Louis, Streetsblog Ohio, and Streetsblog Southeast — stay tuned.

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Dutch Suburbs Are Like America’s, and Protected Bike Lanes Work Fine There

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This post is part of The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

This is the first in a two-post series on Dutch suburbs.

People the in U.S. street design world — sometimes even people who write for this very website — regularly say that U.S. development patterns mean that Dutch street designs can’t be immediately adopted in the States.

That’s a lot less true than you might think.

Of course some ideas can’t/won’t port over wholesale. But especially by European standards, the Netherlands is actually probably one of the most spatially similar places to much of the U.S. Guess where this is:

Count the fast food signs, the car lanes all leading up to a big freeway underpass. If not for the protected bike lane this could be Anywhere, North America. But this is actually in Amsterdam proper.

The reality is that only a minority of Dutch people live in the medieval centers of Amsterdam, Gouda, and Utrecht. Though many tourists visiting Amsterdam for a couple of days don’t typically see this, many Dutch people’s daily reality includes stuff much more like this:

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Three Street Design Pros on the New Golden Age of Traffic Engineering

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail creates the feeling of an off-street trail in the middle of a Midwestern downtown.

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.

James Bond needs a Q. Scooby-Doo needs a Velma. Katniss Everdeen needs a Beetee.

And today’s urban biking movement won’t get far without engineers, either.

As the country’s civil engineers converge for their profession’s annual pilgrimage to the Transportation Research Board conference, people of every discipline who are using protected bike lanes and other tools to make biking mainstream might take a moment to consider the potential of a group that too many modern bike advocates cast as villains: engineers.

For Linda Bailey, executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, there’s no better monument to this potential than the country’s Interstate Highway System.

“They made these facilities where people — amateurs! — drive 80 miles an hour within inches of each other,” Bailey said. “And very rarely does anything go bad.”

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Vote to Decide the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014

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If you’re searching for reasons to feel positive about the future, the street transformations pictured below are a good start. Earlier this month we asked readers to send in their nominations for the best American street redesigns of 2014. These five are the finalists selected by Streetsblog staff. They include new car-free zones, substantial sidewalk expansions, superb bike infrastructure, awesome safety upgrades, and exclusive transit lanes.

Which deserves the distinction of being named the “Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014″? We’re starting the voting today and will post a reminder when we run the rest of the Streetsblog USA Streetsie Award polls next Tuesday. Without further ado, here are the contenders:

Western Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Before

Before

After. (We're using a rendering because the project is not quite yet 100% complete.)

After. (We’re using a rendering because the project is not quite 100 percent complete.)

The Western Avenue road diet narrowed dangerously wide traffic lanes on this one-way street to make room for safer pedestrian crossings, a raised bike lane, and bus bulbs. Brian DeChambeau of the Cambridge Community Development Department, the lead agency on the project, adds these details about the redesign:

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“Build It for Isabella”: Putting a Face on Why People Hesitate to Bike

build for isabella

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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.

Eight years ago, Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller wrote one of the most influential pieces of modern American bike-planning theory when he divided the potential transportation bikers in his city into four distinct groups:

It was an antidote to one of the most common and dubious ways people think about about bicycling: by dividing the world into “cyclists” and “non-cyclists.” Because of course that’s not how things really work.  People are constantly choosing whether to use a bicycle for a trip; the fact that most Americans choose not to isn’t so much about their fundamental nature but about their culture, their resources, and their streets.

Geller was just spitballing with the percentages displayed above, but they were more or less validated by subsequent academic research. And though this framework didn’t capture everything — dangerous traffic is far from the only barrier to bicycling — it was a new, deeply useful way of thinking and talking about the ways infrastructure affects our choices.

Here at Green Lane Project HQ, Geller’s concept has been a major force behind our work helping cities build protected bike lanes.

But like Bob Edmiston of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, who has created a useful riff on the concept with a character called Wendy (“the willing but wary cyclist”), we think these phrases are sort of a mouthful for people outside the world of bike pros. And we also think they don’t fully capture how much is at stake on our city streets.

So we’ve been looking for a new way to capture the concept.

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In Austin, Posts and Paint Bring a New Bike Bridge From Good to Great

All photos: Nathan Wilkes

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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.

Here are a few images from Austin bikeway engineer Nathan Wilkes that show how a protected lane can cheaply add a lot of value to a larger project.

The bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Little Walnut Creek, visible in the top right background above, officially opened Monday after 17 years of planning. It created a direct link between Hart Elementary School and the residential neighborhood to the north — but the link also required pedaling on a wide street that many people would see as unsuitable for children.

Furness Drive before the new bike lanes. Image: Google Street View

The new bidirectional protected bike lane, Wilkes wrote in an email, “is on both sides of the bridge and makes seamless transitions between on and off-street infrastructure.” The 1.1-mile biking improvement cost $20,000, compared to $1.2 million for the bridge itself.

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