26 April 2010

Beyond Bike Lanes

This just in from UTNE Reader

Beyond Bike Lanes
Despite a recent boom in the number of U.S. bicyclists, fewer than 1 percent of us regularly bike to work. According to the January 2010 Governing magazine, a number of city planners see that statistic as evidence “that some more radical bicycling strategies are in order.”

“It’s time to think beyond bike lanes, [the planners] say, and start using bike-only traffic signals, traffic-protected ‘cycle-tracks,’ and other street designs that are common in European cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where up to 40 percent of all trips are made on two wheels.”

Obstacles to achieving this sort of Scandinavian efficiency include red tape, legal concerns, and wariness about departing from the bible of urban street design, the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has been slow to adopt bike-friendly designs.

The good news is that forward thinkers at the National Association of City Transportation Officials, representing more than a dozen major cities, have banded together to launch Cities for Cycling, an information clearinghouse that allows municipalities to experiment with nonstandard designs and share best practices. Portland, Oregon, is already forging ahead with bike boxes, marked areas at intersections that allow bikes to wait at red lights in front of cars.

7 comments:

JC said...

For the first time transportation planners in the city of Denver, Colorado view there job as "moving people" versus "moving cars." This a paradigm shift that is necessary to begin incorporating a more multi-modal transportation solution including the ultimately efficient bicycle.

Denver's Greenprint and Strategic Transportation Planning calls for an increase in bicycle commuting from .5% to 10% by 2018. With the recent launch of the nations first city-wide bike share, B-Cycle, and the multiple infrastructure plans funded by ARRA Denver is moving in the right direction!

Kim said...

"Obstacles to achieving this sort of Scandinavian efficiency include red tape, legal concerns, and wariness about departing from the bible of urban street design, the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has been slow to adopt bike-friendly designs."

Not just in the US of A, that sound just like the UK as well :-(

Take back our city said...

Count Canada on that list too... I live in Alberta with people that seem to want to be stupid to the last drop of the oilsands.

didrik said...

Oddly, one of the obstacles here in the California is the "old guard" cyclists themselves. Our city proposed a bike box at particular intersection only to have the "cycling advocates" rage (via email thread) on how dangerous bike boxes could be to novice cyclists. They came up with all kinds of ways that someone could use them improperly--both cyclists and motorists--resulting in catastrophe. Instead of discussing how to tweak the design to accommodate these concerns, they flat out rejected the bike box. Sadly, this seems to happen with every bike lane, cycle track, or whatever is proposed. The current cycle culture seems to be a significant barrier to the new one. Bummer.

Andy B from Jersey said...

Sorry but bike-boxes are fatally flawed without inclusion of the red-yellow signal phase (right before the light turns green) that is standard on all European traffic signals. I highly ever doubt AASHTO and the MUTCD will ever make the adjustments.

BTW, the California MUTCD and the standards within for aiding cyclists through intersections are far superior.

I'm all for dedicated bicycle facilities that make people safe and also make them FEEL safe which is equally important if you want more people to ride. However some of the solutions going around in the US in the past several years have me very worried that accepted practice is going down the wrong and dangerous path.

Also, you would be surprised by the number of "bicycle planners" designing facilities here in the US that have very little actual bike riding experience.

Neil said...

Andy - cycling in any facility is pretty safe, even poorly thought out ones. The biggest barrier is making people feel safe...if more people feel safe, more people bike, which in turn makes them actually safer.

As a result, while I have my reservations about bike lanes on the right side of a road, along with bike boxes and a few other questionable features, I'd rather have one than not simply because it gets more people on their bikes. The biggest barrier to real safety is being unusual.

Steven Vance said...

The Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is more than a bible. It's the law. If you want to do something different than what's in the book, you have to obtain an exception. So, green bike lanes in Chicago were installed with an exception on an "experimental basis."

Also, I think AASHTO has way too much influence on the updating of the bible.