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Posts from the "Bike Lanes" Category

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After Cyclists Protest, Toronto Will Protect Downtown Bike Lanes

In a victory for bike safety in Toronto, officials have agreed to add protective posts to three new downtown bike lanes.

The addition of plastic posts should make Toronto’s downtown bike lanes self-enforcing. Photo: I Bike TO

Toronto striped two buffered bike lanes in July and is preparing to add another. Local cyclists were expecting the lanes to have some physical protection to keep out illegally-parked cars and shield riders from traffic, but as we noted yesterday, they were alarmed when the city failed to add any separation besides paint.

When local bike advocates refused to accept the un-protected lanes as a finished product, Toronto officials bowed to the pressure and agreed to add protective plastic posts to the three new bike lanes. (Physical barriers, even plastic bollards, have been found to have a dramatic effect on ridership.)

Jared Kolb of advocacy group Cycle Toronto says officials shouldn’t stop there. He told Now Toronto the city should be experimenting with more substantial forms of protection such as curbs and concrete planters, especially on pilot projects like the new downtown bike lanes.

Streetsblog Chicago 40 Comments

Study: To Keep Bicyclists Outside the Door Zone, You Need a Buffer

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A buffered bike lane does a better job of encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone than a wide bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

A new study has found that bike lanes with a buffer next to the parking lane are better than conventional bike lanes at encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone.

The study, recently published by the Transportation Research Board, concludes that wider but un-buffered bike lanes aren’t necessarily better than narrower lanes in encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. If there’s enough space to make a wider bike lane, the authors conclude, that extra space should be used to install a “narrower bicycle lane with a parking-side buffer,” which “provides distinct advantages over a wider bike lane with no buffer.”

Researchers reached their conclusions after observing thousands of cyclists using various bike lane configurations in Chicago and Cambridge, Massachusetts. On one Chicago street, for example, few bicyclists rode outside the door zone when the bike lane had no buffer, then after a two-foot buffer was striped, 40 percent rode outside the door zone.

Bicyclists are more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than any other bike lane width studied.

Bicyclists are much more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than in any other bike lane width studied.

That’s because the door zone is four feet wide, and riding in the center of a six-foot-wide bike lane still doesn’t give a cyclist enough clearance.

The on-street tests demonstrated that a six-foot-wide bike lane offers no advantage over one that’s five feet wide, or even four feet wide. Regardless of the width, bicyclists still ride in the center of the lane — within the radius of a typical car door swinging open. Dooring crashes are common in urban areas like Chicago: In 2012, the last year for which data is available, 18 percent of reported bike crashes were doorings.

The researchers were studying different types of bike lanes, and how people use them, in order to refine recommendations in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ ”Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities.” The guide recommends five-foot-wide bike lanes and says four-foot-wide bike lanes can be used in other situations — but it was based on trial and error, not scientific research.

While protected bike lanes weren’t studied in this research, the authors’ observations show how proximity to moving traffic contributes to doorings. For instance, the study concluded that, “as traffic volume increases, bicyclists move away from vehicles in the travel lane and position themselves closer to parked vehicles or the curb.” Researchers observed the same response as truck traffic increased. This leads bicyclists to ride in the door zone — but with protected lanes, cyclists don’t have to ride next to motor vehicle traffic, and this isn’t a problem.

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Study: People Living Near Biking and Walking Paths Get More Exercise

Walking and biking activity increased for people living near new facilities, in three U.K. communities examined. Connect2 is the name of the nonprofit group that helped install the infrastructure. Image: American Journal of Public Health

New bike/ped infrastructure in three UK communities (labeled “Connect2″ — the name of the nonprofit group that helped install the infrastructure) led to more physical activity. Graph: American Journal of Public Health

People who live near safe, high-quality biking and walking infrastructure tend to get more exercise than people who don’t, according to a study published last week in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers surveyed randomly selected adults before and after new bike/ped infrastructure was built in three communities in the U.K. Two of the selected communities opened bike and pedestrian bridges with well-connected “feeder” infrastructure. The other community upgraded “an informal riverside footpath” into a boardwalk during the study period.

Over two years, about 1,500 people responded to annual surveys about their walking and biking habits as well as other exercise behavior. During the first year of the survey — before the bike/ped improvements had been completed — there was no difference in biking and walking levels between people living close to the project areas and people living farther away. But by the final survey year, after the new infrastructure had been built, a disparity began to emerge.

Researchers found that people living within 0.6 miles of a protected bikeway got about 45 minutes more exercise biking and walking per week than people living 2.5 miles away. For every kilometer (0.6 miles) closer respondents lived to the infrastructure improvement, they exercised roughly 15 minutes more per week. People without access to a car were most likely to exercise more in response to the infrastructure improvements.

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Denver’s Big Opportunity for World-Class Streets

Denver might see one of its major corridors radically transformed. Image: Bike5280

Denver could transform Broadway with transit enhancements and a two-way protected bike lane. Photosim: Bike5280

Just a few months ago, Denver opened its first protected bike lane on 15th Street. But was that a one-off project or will the Mile High City change the way it designs streets citywide?

The city’s approach to the redesign of Broadway will give a pretty strong indication of how serious Denver leaders are about making safer, multi-modal streets. David Mintzer at Network blog Bike5280 reports that there are some transformative designs (including the one above) kicking around:

Given the high speed of traffic, few cyclists feel safe riding down this corridor and it is unlikely that a 5 foot wide striped bike lane would provide much comfort. Currently Broadway is an expanse of concrete with 5 lanes of speeding traffic. But there is the potential to be so much more.

The newly released Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan has published an ambitious design for transforming Broadway into a grand multimodal boulevard. Here we see [pictured above] a protected two-way bike lane conveniently placed alongside a B-Cycle bike share station and a separated bus lane on the right.

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San Antonio to Tear Out the “Best Thing” City Has Done for Cycling

Score one for the NIMBY crowd in San Antonio.

The blog Bike San Antonio called the South Flores Street bike lane the best thing the city had ever done for cyclists. Photo: Bike San Antonio

Bike San Antonio called the South Flores Street bike lane the best thing the city had ever done for cyclists. Photo: Bike San Antonio

City Council representatives have voted 10-1 to remove 2.3 miles of bike lanes on South Flores Street, which the local blog Bike San Antonio says is one of the few cases where the city put a bike lane “where one needs to be.” Council members apparently caved to nearby residents who claimed the bike lane caused traffic delays and complained about receiving insufficient notice of the changes.

The restriping of the two-way road, done during a resurfacing project, changed the configuration from four general traffic lanes to two, plus a center turn lane and bike lanes. City traffic studies found that that the bike lanes caused no impediment to motor vehicle traffic, while crashes declined somewhat. But that apparently wasn’t good enough for the majority of council, including Rebecca Viagran, who represents most of the area with the bike lanes.

The San Antonio Express-News editorial board said the decision was shortsighted and disappointing:

What we’re looking at is a failure of leadership from council, particularly from Viagran.

Not only is it a monumental waste of money to appease a small group of overreactive residents, but it also flies in the face of stated city goals to improve bike infrastructure, the urban core and promote better health.

A group of about 50 people on bikes took to the street last week in protest, the Express News reports. BikeTexas circulated a petition urging the City Council to keep the lanes, but the group noted, ”It appears that the City is simply listening to whoever shouts loudest.”

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Protected Bike Lanes Attract Riders Wherever They Appear

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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. Second in a series.

The data has been trickling in for years in Powerpoint slides and stray tweets: On one street after another, even in the bike-skeptical United States, adding a physical barrier between bikes and cars leads to a spike in bike traffic.

Now, the first multi-city academic study of U.S. protected bike lanes is out, and a series of anecdotes have formed a very clear trend line: When protected bike lanes are added to a street, bike traffic rises — by an average of 75 percent in their first year alone, for the eight projects studied.

The bike spike showed up at every single facility measured, even those that previously had conventional painted bike lanes.

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Anthony Foxx Kicks Off Nationwide Project for Better Bike Lanes

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx praised bike infrastructure as a way to get more value out of existing U.S. streets. Photo: Green Lane Project

Staring down a highway trust fund that he described as “teetering toward insolvency” by August or September, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Monday that better bike infrastructure projects are part of the solution.

“When you have a swelling population like the USA has and will have for the next 35 years, one of the most cost-effective ways to better fit that population is to better use the existing grid,” Foxx said.

Foxx made his comments to a gathering in Indianapolis of urban transportation experts from around the country, welcoming six new cities into the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project, a two-year program kicking off Tuesday that will help the cities — Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle — add modern protected bike lanes to their streets.

“I know you are the vanguard in many was of these issues, and we at U.S. DOT want to do everything we can to be supportive,” Foxx told the crowd.

PeopleForBikes Vice President for Local Innovation Martha Roskowski singled out Indianapolis, the host city, as a particularly bright light in the constellation of towns using using curbs, planters, parked cars or posts to create low-stress streets by separating bike and auto traffic.

“This city is on fire,” Roskowski said. “You look at the Cultural Trail, you look at the other projects in the works. … You don’t really know that you’re at a tipping point until later.”

Roskowski praised Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, for six years at the front of an Indianapolis transformation that has seen the city use better bike infrastructure “to be resilient, to be sustainable, to be competitive and to beautiful.”

“Five years from now we’re going to look back and say, we really changed how we thought about transportation in America,” Roskowski said. “Yes, we’re all going to drive cars still. But there are other elements to transportation.”

Six focus cities

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You Can Now Bring Street Transformations to Life With Google Street View

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If you ever want to show someone that it’s possible to change streets and cities for the better, Google Street View can now help you do it.

Google recently made it possible to view archived Street View images. This means it’s easier than ever to show what streets looked like before and after a redesign. (Thanks to the Institute for Quality Communities at the University of Oklahoma for bringing our attention to this new feature.)

We were able to animate a few street transformations from around the country with the new Street View feature. Above you can see the arrival of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail on North Street. People for Bikes called the project the second-best protected bike lane in the United States.

Allen Street on New York’s Lower East Side features one of the city’s most unique bikeways, which runs in the center of the street and is part of a boulevard-style median, complete with small plazas like this one in what used to be the middle of intersections:

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Taking the Wrong Route to Bike Lane Benefits: A Rebuttal to 538

FiveThirtyEight went viral in our circles earlier this month, with a post titled “Bike Lanes Don’t Cause Traffic Jams If You’re Smart About Where You Build Them.” Our colleagues and friends, people who love to ride bikes and want to make cities more bikeable, sent this article zooming around the tightly-wound corner of the internet that is all about #bikes. The post had a much-welcomed conclusion, backed by data, charts, and statistical tests: Bike lanes have a negligible effect on congestion. Streetsblog noted the implication that complete streets need not be a zero-sum game, while arguing that bike lanes should be measured by safety, connectedness, and other measures beyond congestion.

But even if you wanted to look at how these bike lanes affected congestion levels, the FiveThirtyEight analysis emphasizes the wrong measure. The article primarily uses a volume-to-capacity ratio (V/C), the number of cars that go by a certain point on a road counted against that road’s theoretical capacity. But counting how many cars go by doesn’t measure congestion. To see why, think about a street with an intense traffic jam. In stop-and-go traffic, only a few cars would pass by a traffic counter over say, five minutes. Then think about that same street late at night, when it’s practically empty: The same low number of cars might pass by the same counter in a five-minute span. This makes it clear that congestion is really a measure of traffic density, not volume. Taken statistically, these counts of cars don’t tell you anything about congestion.

We object to the V/C analysis, but we also think the data in the FiveThirtyEight article contains some important insights. Just before their main argument, the authors write:

[E]ach road seemed to have about the same traffic volume after its bike lane was installed. Running a statistical test… confirmed that there was no difference in [average daily traffic] before and after the installation of the bike lanes.

Hold on. This is an incredibly powerful statement: These roadways were able to move the same number of cars and provide space for people on bikes. Reducing a roadway by one lane and achieving the same volume of cars means you’re doing more with less, not that the roadway is necessarily experiencing congestion. The authors reinforce this point later with an example from New York City, which directly measured travel times before and after the addition of bike lanes, and found that travel times didn’t change. Again, hold up — there was no change in travel time! This is what really matters when you talk about congestion.

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Bike Lanes Don’t Lead to Congestion, But Some of Them Should

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After bike lanes were installed in Minneapolis, there were more cars per unit of road space, but still not enough to meet the threshold for congestion.

Gretchen Johnson and Aaron Johnson have posted a nice debunking of typical “war on cars” rhetoric over at fivethirtyeight.

Johnson and Johnson gathered before-and-after traffic data from 45 miles of streets where Minneapolis installed bike lanes. They also looked at how Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West bike lane affected traffic conditions.

They found, in short, that after the installation of bike lanes, traffic conditions did not meet the threshold of “heavy congestion,” and the impact on space for motor vehicles was moderate enough that drivers’ travel times would likely be unaffected.

None of the 10 Minneapolis streets reached a level where “minor incidents can cause traffic jams,” although the bike lanes did edge two streets into the “mild to moderate” congestion category. The authors, a transportation consultant and aeronautics Ph.D., write that this “mild to moderate” level is “where traffic is still moving smoothly but you might notice that it’s a bit harder to move from one lane to another.”

Meanwhile, on Prospect Park West, NYC DOT reported that there was no evidence that travel times increased after the installation of a two-way protected bike lane. The two Johnsons, after reviewing the data, say “we agree.”

These are the findings you would expect to see when a street redesign converts excess space for cars into room for bikes. Afterward, there’s less wide-open road space encouraging motorists to drive fast, and on Prospect Park West the city observed a big reduction in speeding after the bike lane was installed.

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