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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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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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5 Strategies for Equitable Active Transportation Planning and Advocacy

Cross-posted from the Alliance for Biking and Walking

Photo: John St. John via Flickr

Photo: John St. John via Flickr

It started as a lively discussion on the Bike Equity Network — a listserv for mobility and equity advocates working within walk/bike advocacy and planning — related to a Washington Post article that examined the notion of bike lanes as symbols of gentrification. The online conversation that transpired was rich, frank, and underscored the need to bring the conversation to a broader audience in a more interactive format. So this month, the Alliance hosted a highly anticipated Distance Learning Webinar: “Active Transportation & Anti-Displacement.”

Co-facilitated by Dr. Mike Smart, Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, and featuring insight from several equity leaders, the webinar was a timely and candid conversation that provided Alliance members an opportunity to hear diverse perspectives from and ask questions of advocates working within academia and advocacy — and future planners in Dr. Smart’s class.

Special thanks to Dr. Mike Smart, as well as our presenters:

Listen to the full recording on SoundCloud here and read a summary of the main takeaways below. Also catch some of the conversation that happened on Twitter via hashtag #MobilityEquity. Enjoy!

Acknowledge that bicycle infrastructure is wrapped up in larger development processes spurring gentrification, which has in many cases been done on purpose.

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Citing FDNY Concerns, DOT Removes Two-Block Protected Bike Connection

The W. 170th Street bikeway before …

The W. 170th Street bikeway before …

DOT has erased a short contraflow protected bikeway that linked the Highbridge neighborhood to the car-free High Bridge in response to FDNY concerns about the movement of emergency vehicles. The project was part of a package of biking and walking improvements in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan implemented last year, timed to coincide with the re-opening of the High Bridge to the public [PDF].

To meet FDNY’s demands, DOT will shift the parking on the south side of the street over to the curb. Instead of an eastbound contraflow protected lane and sharrows on the westbound side, DOT says this stretch of 170th Street will get a westbound buffered bike lane. The street will retain two lanes for parked vehicles.

… and after. Photo: Jonathan Rabinowitz

… and after. Photo: Jonathan Rabinowitz

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PPW Bike Lane Lawsuit Will Be Decided on the Merits — Bring It On

Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Bert Bunyan ruled yesterday that Prospect Park West bike lane opponents did indeed file suit before the six-month statute of limitations had run out. The case will proceed after all.

The outcome is a surprise, since Bunyan reversed his initial 2011 decision to dismiss the suit. The case only had legs because an appeals court kicked it back to Bunyan in 2012. But here we are.

What this means, as far as I can tell, is that there will now be a trial to rule on the actual merits of the bike lane opponents’ case. I’m waiting to hear back from the law department about whether the city can or will appeal this decision, but even if the city can appeal, why drag this out any longer? The lawsuit has no merits.

Years before DOT replaced a traffic lane on PPW with a two-way protected bike lane, Brooklyn Community Board 6 sent a letter asking the agency to study a two-way protected bike lane on PPW. Prospect Park West had a speeding problem and people wanted DOT to fix it. The bike lane-plus-road diet was the city’s response. The redesign went through the usual community board process and has worked as advertised since it was installed.

Knowing all that, the people suing the city, Louise Hainline and Norman Steisel, need their pro bono attorneys from Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher to prove that DOT’s decision to implement the bike lane was “arbitrary and capricious.”

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Finally, a Little Accountability for State DOTs on Bike and Pedestrian Safety

In a win for bike and pedestrian safety, the Federal Highway Administration announced yesterday that it will require state transportation agencies to do something they have never had to do before: set goals to reduce bike and pedestrian fatalities, and track progress toward attaining those goals.

The news is part of FHWA’s roll-out of several “performance measures” for state and regional transportation agencies. The system of metrics is supposed to make the agencies more accountable for the billions of dollars in federal transportation funds they receive every year.

Advocates for walking and biking pressed FHWA to include bike and pedestrian safety measures in the performance standards, after they were initially excluded. Andy Clarke, former head of the League of American Bicyclists, now with the Toole Design Group, said the League helped solicit more than 11,000 comments in favor of creating performance measures for bike and pedestrian safety.

FHWA must have been listening. In its announcement, the agency said, “Non-motorized safety is of particular concern and improving conditions and safety for bicycling and walking will help create an integrated, intermodal transportation system that provides travelers with real choices.” Translation: The feds value walking and biking.

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DOT Proposes East-West Bike Route on 31st Ave in Queens

DOT's proposed 31st Avenue bike lane would connect the East River waterfront to the Flushing Bay Promenade. Image: DOT

In line with a proposal made last year by the Queens Bike Initiative, DOT’s 31st Avenue plan would create a bike route between the East River waterfront and the Flushing Bay Promenade [PDF]. Image: DOT

Last summer, a group of Queens residents began organizing as the Queens Bike Initiative. Their mission: to push the city to build bike connections linking their neighborhoods in northern Queens to the borough’s parks. Nine months later, DOT has presented a plan to stripe a bike route on 31st Avenue [PDF], which the Queens Bike Initiative is lauding as the first step toward realizing their greater vision.

Between new bike lanes in Astoria, the second phase of the Queens Boulevard bike lane coming to Elmhurst and Corona, and the protected lane on 111th Street, the Queens bike network is set to grow significantly this year. Still, there are few east-west bike routes, especially in the northern part of the borough.

Last week at Queens Community Board 1, DOT presented the first phase of an east-west route that will eventually connect Socrates Sculpture Park to the Flushing Bay Promenade. This phase consists of painted bike lanes and sharrows on 31st Avenue, from Vernon Boulevard to the BQE, and will be completed this year. DOT does not a have a timeline for the next leg of the route, which is located in Community District 3.

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DOT Unveils Plan for a Two-Way Protected Bike Lane on Chrystie Street

DOT plans to install "Jersey barriers" to protecting cyclists turning from Canal Street onto Chrystie Street. The existing design uses sharrows to guide cyclists on Chrystie Street at that location. Image: DOT

The Chrystie Street redesign would place concrete barriers between the bike lane and motor vehicle traffic flying off the Manhattan Bridge. Image: DOT

DOT unveiled its plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Chrystie Street last night [PDF], a project that promises to drastically improve safety and reduce stress for people biking to and from the Manhattan Bridge.

Chrystie Street is one of the most important bike routes in the city. On average, more than 6,200 cyclists ride over the Manhattan Bridge each day from April through October, according to DOT, and Chrystie Street is the key connection between the bridge and the First and Second Avenue protected bike lanes. Last July, DOT counted nearly 3,000 daily cyclists riding on Chrystie Street between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

DOT painted bike lanes on both sides of Chrystie in 2008, but it’s a treacherous ride: Cyclists are often forced to weave in and out of car traffic to avoid illegally parked vehicles. Last year, 16 cyclists and 14 pedestrians were injured within the project area.

Volunteers with Transportation Alternatives have pushed for a redesign of Chrystie for more than a year. In 2015, a design concept for a protected bike lane by Dave “Paco” Abraham won the support of Manhattan Community Board 3 and nearly every elected official who represents the area.

DOT presented its plan for Chrystie to the CB 3 transportation committee last night. It calls for a two-way protected bike lane along Sara D. Roosevelt Park from Canal Street to Houston Street. The two-way path will have a three-foot buffer, and the combined travel lanes for bikes will vary between eight feet and nine feet wide, depending on the total width of the street. To align with the new Chrystie bikeway, the southbound bike lane on Second Avenue will be shifted over to the east side of the street for the two blocks between 2nd Street and Houston.

Including the buffer, the bikeway will vary between 11 and 12 feet wide, depending on the width of the street. Image: DOT

Including the buffer, the bikeway will vary between 11 and 12 feet wide, depending on the width of the street. Image: DOT

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Explore National Transportation Change Trends by Age Group

Cross-posted from City Observatory

In some ways, the urban renaissance of the last decade or two has been quite dramatic. Downtown or downtown-adjacent neighborhoods in cities around the country have seen rapid investments, demographic change, and growth in amenities and jobs. Even mayors in places with a reputation for car dependence, like Nashville and Indianapolis, are pushing for big investments in urban public transit.

Because many of those who work in urban planning live in or near these walkable, transit-served neighborhoods, it may be easy to imagine that their changes are representative of the overall pace of transition to a more urban-centric nation. Butas we and others have discussed before, in at least one way — transportation — change has actually been excruciatingly slow at the national level.

According to the American Community Survey, from 2006 to 2014, the proportion of people using a car to get to work declined — from 86.72 percent to 85.70 percent. Even among young people, the shift seems underwhelming: from 85.00 percent to 83.94 percent. (Though, as we stressed last week, these Census data only cover journey-to-work trips and tend to overstate the extent to which households rely exclusively on cars for their transportation needs.)

The changes for transit, biking, and walking are, obviously, similarly small. Transit mode share increased from 4.83 percent to 5.21 percent; among those 20 to 24, the increase was 5.53 to 6.35 percent. The overall share of walking commutes actually fell.

In fact, we’ve built a little tool to let people explore these data in an interactive way, selecting mode type and age ranges to see how things have changed, and haven’t, over the last almost-decade. The tool displays the same data in two ways: first, as a graph (above), and then as a simple table (below), for those who find that easier to read. (On the graph, yes, we have allowed the y-axis to begin at numbers larger than zero — in large part because the changes are so small that a chart that began at zero would be unintelligible. We will trust our readers to be sophisticated enough at reading graphs to understand.)

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Bike Counts Rising Fast at Automated Counters Around the World

Medellín, Columbia. The country has two Eco-Counters.

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.

The battle to make biking a viable transportation or recreation choice for more people is fought mostly at the local level: a protected bike lane here, a BMX course there, a new mom-and-pop bike shop down the street.

But it’s sometimes nice to remember that this fight is happening, on some level, every day in every country around the world.

And at least in the industrialized world, Team Bike is generally winning.

That’s the takeaway from the first three years of data from Eco-Counter, a France-based firm that has installed 12,000 automated people-counters around the world to measure bike and foot traffic. One is in front of the Strathmore Building on the campus of UCLA; another is on the Avenida Figueroa Alcorta protected bike lanes in Buenos Aires; a third is on the car-free Sillsteg Bridge in Innsbruck, Austria.

Starting in 2013, the company began analyzing data from 1,500 of these counters to create something unique: an index that tracks changes in bike counts across all these locations year after year.

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The Boulevard of Life, Phase 2: DOT’s Plan for Queens Blvd in Elmhurst

qbphase2injuries

Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this 1.2-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard from 2010 to 2014. Image: DOT

Last night DOT presented a plan to redesign Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst with protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements to Community Board 4 [PDF]. While local Council Member Danny Dromm has supported the project, DOT may have to proceed without an endorsement from CB 4, judging by the reactions of key board members.

Queens Boulevard is designed like a surface highway funneling east-west motor vehicle traffic across the borough. It’s unavoidable for people walking or biking, but also deadly.

DOT installed 1.3 miles of bike lanes and safer pedestrian space along the Queens Boulevard service roads in Woodside last year. The current plan would basically extend that design 1.2 miles from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue. A third phase through Rego Park and Forest hills is slated for 2017, and then capital reconstruction of the street would begin in 2018, casting the recent changes in concrete.

Like the design in Woodside, the next phase of the redesign aims to improve safety on Queens Boulevard by making the service roads function more like local streets, with more predictable motor vehicle movement and a continuous bike lane and pedestrian path running along the median.

qbphase2

The basic template for the second phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign. Image: DOT

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