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Posts from the "Bicycle Infrastructure" Category

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How One-Day Plazas and Bike Lanes Can Change a City Forever

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition installed this pop-up lane and intersection treatment at an Open Streets event to show neighbors what a protected bike lane could look like.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition installed this pop-up design at an Open Streets event to show neighbors what a protected bike lane could look like. All photos courtesy of Sam Rockwell.

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

Sam Rockwell rides his bike every day from his home in Minneapolis to his office at BlueCross BlueShield in Eagan, 12 miles away, where he spends his days plotting ways to get other people riding their bikes too.

By all accounts, Minnesota is doing a pretty good job on that front. One way Rockwell — and his co-conspirator at BlueCross, Eric Weiss — are looking to make healthy, active transportation even better is by installing temporary “pop-up” infrastructure around the state so people can take new street designs for a test ride.

Despite relatively high levels of biking, Minnesota has somehow neglected to install even a single on-street protected bike lane — though Minneapolis has approved a plan to build 30 miles of them by 2020. Weiss, Rockwell, and the advocates they work with use pop-up installations to help local leaders and residents see how the infrastructure will look.

“We get that, ‘We don’t support it because we don’t know what it is; we’re never going to know what it is because we don’t have any,’” Rockwell said. “There needs to be some way of breaking out of that cycle.”

The pop-up strategy, he argues, is the way. “These are low-cost, quick and easy initiatives,” he said. “And also low-risk, because in the case of the pop-up cycle track, they put it up for one day on a number of different days throughout the summer, and then they just lift it out. It’s non-threatening.”

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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 three 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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Contraflow Bike Lanes Finally Get Nod From U.S. Engineering Establishment

Contraflow bike lanes -- of bike lanes that are directed the opposite way of vehicle traffic, look to be on their way to the nation's leading traffic engineering guide. Photo: NACTO

Contraflow bike lanes could soon be included in an influential traffic engineering guide. Photo: NACTO

Buffered bike lanes have been used in some American cities for decades now, and an increasing number of cities are implementing contraflow bike lanes. But only just now are these street designs getting official recognition from powerful standard-setters inside the U.S. engineering establishment.

Bike lane markings in the intersection space may soon be part of important engineering guidance. Image: Bike Delaware

Bike lane markings through intersections may soon be part of important engineering guidance. Image: Bike Delaware

Late last month, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices gave its approval to 11 treatments, including these two bike lane configurations. Committee members also, as anticipated, approved bike boxes and bike signals, which had been considered “experimental,” as well as bike lane markings that continue through intersections.

This opens the way for these designs to be included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Without recognition in the MUTCD, engineers in many cities are reluctant to install these treatments. Official acceptance in the leading design manual would help make these treatments more widespread — and that will help make American streets safer for biking.

That’s still not a done deal. The committee approval is advisory, and the group’s recommendation will now be sent to the Federal Highway Administration for potential inclusion the the MUTDC. To get final approval, the new guidelines must undergo a rule-making period where they are reviewed by other engineering institutions that have historically been averse to change, like the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Channel on Inwood Hill Park Rail Bridge

Reader Kimberly Kinchen tweeted this photo of a new bike channel on the stairs of the bridge over train tracks that separate Dyckman Fields, on the Hudson River, from the rest of Inwood Hill Park, to the east.

“It’s only on the second flight so far,” wrote Kinchen. “I assume they’ll install them on the first flight, too — still an improvement for sure.”

We’ve asked the Parks Department if this retrofit will be applied to other stairways, or if there was a request for bike channels on this particular bridge. We’ll update here if we hear back. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you’ve seen other stairways with newly-installed ramps.

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Memphis Turns Two Highway Lanes Into a Car-Free Oasis By the Mississippi

pfb logo 100x22 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.

Once you start thinking about new ways to use your city’s streets, you start to see opportunities everywhere.

That’s exactly what’s happened last weekend in Memphis, Tennessee, where half of a separated four-lane highway was converted into a safe, direct and stress-free walking and biking route along one mile of the Mississippi River. As we reported in March, Bluff City engineer John Cameron decided this spring to follow the recommendation of urban planning consultant Jeff Speck and experiment with a permanent new car-free space between downtown and the planned Harahan Bridge connection to Arkansas.

“Nothing separates downtown Memphis from its riverfront as powerfully as the current pedestrian-unfriendly condition of Riverside Drive,” Speck wrote in his 2013 report on ways to reconnect the city with the riverfront that created it.

No more. Thanks to years of temporary closures during the annual Memphis in May festival, the city knew nearby streets could absorb the auto traffic without much trouble. And in return, for the price of some plastic bollards and new street coloring, Memphis has opened one of the best streets in the mid-South for biking, walking, skating and playing.

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Slow Zone, Next Round of Bike Routes on Tap for Brownsville, East New York

Caption. Image: DOT

Blue lines show where new bike lanes and shared lane markings will be installed in East New York and Brownsville. Orange lines show existing shared lane markings, while red lines show existing bike lanes. Image: DOT

The fledgling bike lane network in Brownsville and East New York will continue to grow. The second of three rounds of painted on-street bike lanes — mapped out in a planning process initiated by neighborhood residents — is set to be installed by the end of the year, pending the support of Community Boards 5 and 16 later this month.

The neighborhood, which already has a 25 mph arterial slow zone along Atlantic Avenue, is also set to receive its first 20 mph neighborhood Slow Zone this summer [PDF]. Both community boards joined the Brownsville Partnership, an initiative of the non-profit Community Solutions, in applying for the Slow Zone. The project is bounded by Sutter, Rockaway, Livonia, and Pennsylvania Avenues and averages nearly 72 traffic injuries annually, according to DOT. There are two NYCHA complexes and four schools within its borders.

The bike lane plan [PDF] adds 14.5 miles of striped bike lanes and shared lane markings to a meshwork of north-south and east-west streets, including Pitkin, Blake, and Dumont Avenues, and Hinsdale Street, Snediker Avenue, Thomas Boyland Street, and Saratoga Avenue. While it contains no protected lanes, the plan would create a denser and better connected neighborhood grid of streets with space marked for biking.

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New Bronx River Greenway Link Would Remake Asphalt Expanse

Caption. Image: DDC

This plan to redesign a complex pair of intersections and expand the Bronx River Greenway is a huge step up from the expanse of asphalt on the street today, but it’s still missing a key crosswalk. Image: DDC

After years of inter-agency wrangling, a wide-open intersection in the Bronx is set for a complete redesign that will include a new link in the Bronx River Greenway. The city presented a preliminary design [PDF] to Community Board 6′s transportation committee last Thursday. While the plan is a big step forward, it lacks a crosswalk that would make it better for pedestrians.

Update: “We are working with DDC to have the crosswalk added to the design,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail.

Today, the multi-leg intersection of East Tremont Avenue, 177th Street, and Devoe Avenue is a difficult place to walk. Extra-wide car lanes ring two tiny concrete islands marooned in a sea of white-striped asphalt. Crosswalks are fading away, and sidewalks on the west side of Devoe Avenue are crumbling.

In March, advocates and neighborhood residents, organized in part by the Bronx River Alliance and artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín of Boogie Down Rides, created a video to show how difficult it is to walk across the intersection.

bronx_before

Current conditions. Image: DDC

The southern end of the project, which includes two spans across the Bronx River, handles cars going to and from the Cross Bronx Expressway, the Bronx River Parkway, and the Sheridan Expressway. On the northern end, East Tremont Avenue is a major crosstown street and bus hub. The plan, designed by consultant The RBA Group for the Department of Design and Construction, requires coordination between NYC DOT, the state DOT, the Parks Department, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the MTA.

“This project has been going on for years,” said Bronx River Alliance greenway coordinator Claudia Ibaven. “Since there are a lot of agencies involved, it was taking more time.”

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How Would You Make the Five Boroughs Bikeable for More New Yorkers?

Bike to Work Day is as good a day as any to take stock of how much work remains for New York to become a truly safe place to ride a bike, where everyone who wants to get places by bicycle can feel comfortable doing so.

Not bike-friendly enough: NYC didn't move up to the next level of bike-friendly cities this year. Photo: Missy S./Flickr

NYC needs to expand its bike network and the reach of its bike-share system to move up the bike-friendly city rankings. Photo: Missy S./Flickr

The League of American Bicyclists said on Wednesday that New York will not earn gold status in its Bicycle Friendly Community program this year. The rating system evaluates applicants on everything from infrastructure to education and events. New York is one of 303 communities in 48 states recognized by the program, with four cities having attained the highest level — platinum (Portland, Oregon, is the largest of the four).

New York received an honorable mention in 2004 and was upgraded to silver in 2011. This year, while the League recognized that the city “deserves an extraordinary amount of credit” for bike-share and its growing bikeway network, it also highlighted the big shortcomings in New York’s bikeability.

“Improvements to the bicycling infrastructure and the bike-share program are still limited in scope to certain areas of the city,” League President Andy Clarke said in a statement that also cited low rates of bike ridership compared to other cities and a lack of traffic enforcement by NYPD. “Looking forward, continued expansion of the bikeway and bike share system and actions arising from the welcome adoption of a Vision Zero strategy — hopefully with the full participation of the NYPD — will ensure further progress towards the Gold level.”

Local bike advocacy groups agreed that the city has to do more to bolster bicycling.

“We are encouraged by Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to increase cycling to 6 percent of all trips in the coming years,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement agreeing with the League’s assessment. “In order to reach that goal and achieve Vision Zero, the DOT should follow the rollout of its new Arterial Slow Zone program by redesigning these hazardous corridors to include protected bike lanes and other street safety infrastructure.”

“It’s obvious that cycling in New York has been on an upswing; what’s absolutely necessary at this point is to keep that momentum,” said Bike New York President and CEO Ken Podziba in a statement. ”Silver isn’t anything to sneeze at, and with sustained efforts at educating and engaging New Yorkers in regards to cycling, I have no doubt that we’ll ‘get the gold.’”

You can argue with the Bicycle Friendly Community designations. Is New York really worse than gold-rated San Francisco? Does any American city actually deserve a platinum rating? But there’s no denying that the ratings are a great conversation starter.

With that in mind, what would it take, in your view, to make New York a real bike-friendly city? Consider this an open thread.

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Imagining a New Atlantic Avenue for de Blasio’s New York

atlantic_parking

With the dangerous, highway-like conditions on Atlantic Avenue, much of the surrounding area is under-developed. A chain link fence surrounds this parking lot near Franklin Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue is one of New York’s most prominent streets, and in most respects, it is completely broken.

Stretching more than ten miles, Atlantic cuts through several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens while functioning mainly as an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

It is plagued with constant, speeding traffic. The avenue’s wide, highway-like conditions induce drivers to floor it, and as a result Atlantic is one of the most dangerous streets in New York City. When Council Member Steve Levin took a speed gun out to Atlantic, he found 88 percent of drivers were going more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven.

When the city announced that Atlantic would become the first street in the “arterial slow zone” program, with a 25 mph speed limit and re-timed traffic signals, it was welcome news. Atlantic is the kind of monster that has to be tamed if the de Blasio administration is going to achieve its Vision Zero street safety goals, and the new speed limit is a good first step.

In the long-run, though, Atlantic Avenue and the many other city streets like it will need much more comprehensive changes to not only eliminate traffic deaths, but also accommodate the economic growth and housing construction goals that City Hall is after.

Today, much of Atlantic Avenue is an eyesore, especially along the stretch east of Flatbush Avenue. It’s basically an unsightly speedway, and land values along the eastern portion of Atlantic have historically been depressed. Empty lots sit beside carwashes and parking lots. Grassy weeds poke up through a decrepit median. Some portions fall under the shadow of elevated train tracks — the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which otherwise runs below ground.

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we imagine an Atlantic Avenue that is an asset to the neighborhoods which surround it, rather than a challenge to work around?

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California Endorses the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide

It wasn’t a total surprise, but exciting nevertheless for bicycle advocates gathered at the NACTO “Cities for Cycling” Road Show in Oakland last nightCaltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty announced that the agency will endorse the use of the National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Street Design Guide, giving California cities the state DOT’s blessing to install modern infrastructure like protected bike lanes.

Received with enthusiastic applause from the crowd of bike advocates, city officials, and planners, Dougherty said:

We’re trying to change the mentality of the department of transportation, of our engineers, and of those that are doing work in and around the state highway system. Many cities around California are trying to be forward thinking in terms of alternative modes, such as bike and pedestrian, as well as the safety of the entire system, and the very least we can do as the department of transportation for the state is to follow that lead, to get out of the way, and to figure out how to carry that into regional travel.

Imagine how this commute on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland would feel with a protected bike lane. Photo by Jonah Chiarenza, www.community-design.com

NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide, launched last September, is the product of collaboration between the transportation departments of its member cities around the U.S. The guide provides the latest American standards for designing safer city streets for all users, incorporating experience from cities that have developed innovative solutions into a blueprint for others to use. It supplements, but doesn’t replace, other manuals such as the Caltrans Highway Design Manual and California’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

As the state’s transportation department, Caltrans has control over the design of state-owned highways, but the design of local streets and roads is left to local jurisdictions — with one exception. Bicycle infrastructure throughout the state has been dictated by the car-focused agency because local engineers rely on Caltrans-approved designs to protect local municipalities from lawsuits. As a result, city planners were often hesitant, or flat out refused, to build an innovative treatments like a protected bike lanes that don’t appear in Caltrans Highway Design Manual.

“It’s a permission slip for cities, for engineers and planners, to do the good, well-vetted, proven work that we know we can do to make our street safer,” said Ed Reiskin, president of NACTO and director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “It’s only a first step — ultimately, we’d like to see the changes in the Highway Design Manual to see it actually integrated into Caltrans documents. But this is a huge step forward, and great leadership from Malcolm Secretary [Brian] Kelly and Governor [Jerry] Brown,” who commissioned a report that recommended Caltrans adopt the NACTO guide.

The guide includes design standards for infrastructure including bike boxes, physically protected bike lanes, contra-flow bus lanes, and even parklets. Although these improvements have been implemented in cities in California and the world, they have been considered “experimental” until now. The NACTO guide has only been endorsed by two other states, Washington and Massachusetts.

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