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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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The ‘Peanutabout’ Concept Could Be a Breakthrough for Diagonal Streets

A proposed design in Cambridge. Image: Kittelson and Associates via Boston Cyclists Union.

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.

Wickedly good biking ideas continue to pop up in Massachusetts.

Last year, it unveiled the country’s best state-level bikeway design guide and Cambridge opened the country’s best new bike lane on Western Avenue.

On Tuesday, the Boston Cyclists Union shared the inspiring back story behind a new concept for the long, complex seven-way intersection created by the acute crossing of Cambridge and Hampshire streets. Like a lot of good ideas in modern American bicycling history, it involves Anne Lusk, a Harvard public health professor who’s been a major brain behind the spread of protected bike lanes in the United States. Last summer she connected BCU with engineering firm Kittelson and Associates, and dominoes started falling:

In mid-September, Bike Union executive director Becca Wolfson and representatives of Kittelson met with City of Cambridge staff to present our findings regarding the feasibility of the peanut design and the conceptual rendering for it.  The City had considered and rejected as infeasible a roundabout solution for Inman, but had not considered a peanut-style mini-roundabout.  The staff were favorably impressed and have since indicated an interest in including this roundabout approach alongside the “Bends” solutions as the pubic process moves forward.

In his post, BCU writer Steven Bercu lists the various advantages of this design for people walking, biking and driving. Here are the benefits for bicycle travel:

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Cycling Is Getting a Lot Safer in American Cities Adding a Lot of Bike Lanes

Cities building the most bike infrastructure are becoming safer. Graph: American Public Health Association

Cities building a lot of bike infrastructure are becoming significantly safer for cycling. Graph: American Public Health Association

American cities still have a long way to go before they’re considered safe for people of all ages and abilities to bike. But many of them have made a lot of progress recently, especially the ones building protected bike lanes.

That’s the takeaway of a recent data project featured in the American Journal of Public Health that examines crash and injury rates for cyclists in 10 American cities.

Researchers examined 10 cities that have been “especially successful at improving cycling safety and increasing cycling levels by greatly expanding their cycling infrastructure.” The above table shows recent changes in bike network growth, cycling rates, and crash and injury rates for cyclists in those cities. Minneapolis, Portland and New York City have seen the largest drop in injury and fatality rates among this group.

The change in bike trips in each city was determined using Census data about the number of bike commuters in a city. The authors assumed each bike commute accounted two trips per day and that these trips represented one-fifth of total bike trips. The assumption was based on the most recent National Household Travel Survey, which found that about one in five bike trips is work related.

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DOT, NYPD Open to Bill Allowing Cyclists to Proceed on LPIs

The City Council transportation committee heard testimony today concerning a package of bike and pedestrian safety bills, including one that would allow cyclists to follow pedestrian signals instead of car signals.

Intro 1072, introduced by Council Member Carlos Menchaca, would improve safety at intersections by making it legal for cyclists to proceed during leading pedestrian intervals — the head start that pedestrians receive at some crossings. People on bikes routinely follow LPI signals to avoid conflicts with motorists.

Turning drivers caused nearly a fourth of cyclist deaths at intersections between 2006 and 2014, according to city crash data. The bill highlights that both pedestrians and cyclists are “extremely vulnerable to turning cars at intersections,” said committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez.

Menchaca said the bill preserves the pedestrian right of way and codifies the way many people already ride, following their instinct to get a head start and be visible to drivers before the light turns green. “Cyclists know what they’re doing,” Menchaca said.

The city will have 1,500 LPIs online by the end of the year, mostly at intersections that see a high number of crashes, said DOT Director of Bike and Pedestrian Programs Sean Quinn. DOT “supports the intent” of the LPI bill, Quinn said, and wants to adjust it to allow for exemptions to be made at “select instances, such as exclusive pedestrian phases or locations with complicated geometries,” where DOT deems the cyclist head start to be unsafe.

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CB 7 Endorses Year-Round Parks Department Greenway Detour

79th_rotunda

The detour will compel cyclists to climb an incline at the 79th Street Rotunda. The Parks Department could not say how steep these slopes are. Image: NYC Parks Department

Based on scant justification from the Parks Department, yesterday Manhattan Community Board 7 voted in favor of a permanent detour for cyclists along the Hudson River Greenway between 72nd Street and 83rd Street. Amendments to keep the main path accessible to cyclists during off-peak times either failed or were not considered, in part because board chairs Roberta Semer and Klari Neuwelt were in a hurry to finish the meeting.

The detour would take cyclists off the flat path by the river and route them onto a hilly trail that ascends a steep incline by the 79th Street Rotunda. It would also put bike traffic within a few feet of motorists exiting the Henry Hudson Parkway near the 79th Street boat basin.

The Parks Department, which controls this part of the greenway, says the detour is necessary to reduce conflicts between people walking and people on bikes. But while crowding is undoubtedly a problem at some times, Parks provided no data to assess when it is most severe or how it affects people. Nor did the agency provide quantitative information about how its detour plan, which would be in effect 24 hours a day year-round, would affect cyclists.

The Parks Department wants to start the detour, which is supported by City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, next year.

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Bikes Belong on Main Streets Because Bikes Are Not Mainly for Commuting

Broadway, Salt Lake City. Photos: SLC.

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.

Trivia question 1: Of all the trips taken by U.S. adults, how many lead to or from somewhere other than work?

The answer is 78 percent.

Trivia question 2: Of all the bicycle trips taken by U.S. adults, how many lead to or from somewhere other than work?

The answer is 79 percent.

Americans use bicycles in the same situation they use any other tool: whenever it’s the right tool for the job. These days, lots of U.S. cities and towns are trying to make bicycles a more useful and appealing tool. But people sometimes forget that the best way to do this is to make bicycles a useful tool for many jobs — not just commuting to work.

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Tonight: Testify Before CB 7 Votes on Riverside Park Greenway Detour

79th_rotunda

This elevation map gives a sense of the inclines cyclists would contend with on the detour by the 79th Street Rotunda, instead of the flat waterfront path. Image: NYC Parks Department

A late addition to the calendar: Manhattan Community Board 7 will vote on the Parks Department’s proposal to route cyclists away from the waterfront greenway between 72nd Street and 83rd Street. If you want to preserve access to the flatter, straighter, better-lit waterfront path during the majority of the year when crowding is not an issue, tonight is the time to testify.

The Parks Department wants to direct cyclists inland onto a hilly, wooded path that passes through the 79th Street Rotunda, which has a particularly steep incline and is frequently occupied by cars and trucks attempting to access the nearby boat basin. Last month, CB 7’s Parks and Environment Committee voted 4 to 1 in favor of the plan, but a strong turnout tonight could influence the final vote by the whole community board.

At last month’s meeting, some attendees asked for the detour to be limited to crowded warm-weather months when pedestrians and cyclists can’t fit comfortably on the waterfront path. They were especially concerned about icy pavement on steep inclines along the detour in cold weather. But the Parks Department was adamant about a year-round re-route.

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You Can Now Tell 311 About Bike Lane Blockers

Idling cars pulling in and out of bike lanes are a regular threat to the safety of people riding bikes on city streets. Image: @bikelaneblitz

Cars parking or idling in bike lanes regularly threaten the safety of people riding bikes on NYC streets. Photo: @bikelaneblitz

New Yorkers can now report drivers illegally blocking bike lanes via the city’s 311 website and mobile apps, according to an update from 311 yesterday.

The 311 website and the “NYC 311” app enable users to report quality of life, health, and safety complaints to the city. Yesterday’s update added “blocked bike lane” to the set of “illegal parking” violations that can be reported, as well as the option to report unsafe taxi and livery driver behavior (including blocking a bike lane) to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

One of the benefits of the update, in addition to making bike lane blockers easier to report, is that there will now be a specific record of user-reported, geo-tagged bike lane violations to 311. Until now, any bike lane blocker reported to 311 would get filed under the vaguer category of “illegal parking.”

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Cycling Is Up Across the Board in NYC, But Not Without Disparities

DOH_bikesurvey_trend

Chart: NYC Department of Health [PDF]

The number of New Yorkers who regularly ride a bike has risen markedly in recent years, and the trend is especially pronounced among high school students, according to a report published today by the Department of Health [PDF]. While the general upward trend cuts across gender, race, and income levels, the data also show that the growth in cycling is more pronounced among more affluent households than poorer households, and that fewer black New Yorkers bike regularly compared to white or Latino New Yorkers.

From 2007 to 2014, the share of adults who report biking at least once a month rose from 12 percent to 16 percent, and from 2009 to 2013, the share of high school students who report biking rose from 17 percent to 25 percent.

The report is based on two broad surveys that include questions about cycling activity. One of the surveys samples 9,000 adults each year, and the other is completed by about 10,000 high school students every two years.

Cycling activity rose in every borough except the Bronx, with the largest gain in Manhattan, where the share of adults who cycle at least once a month rose from 12 to 22 percent. Regular cycling increased from 12 to 16 percent in Brooklyn, 12 to 15 percent in Queens, and 10 to 13 percent on Staten Island.

“This report shows that not only are more and more New Yorkers cycling, but that the increases are widespread,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett in a statement. “We will continue our work with DOT and community partners to promote safe active transportation across the five boroughs.”

A gap has opened up, however, between the most affluent households and other households. Among households earning at least four times the federal poverty line, the prevalence of regular cycling increased from 13 percent to 21 percent. Cycling increased among all other households, but not as much, and the prevalence of regular cycling now stands between 13 and 15 percent for other income tiers.

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Bill Giving Cyclists a Head Start at LPIs Gets a Council Hearing Next Month

Momentum is building for Council Member Carlos Menchaca’s bill to allow cyclists to proceed at traffic signals at the same time that pedestrians get the go-ahead. Intro 1072 would affect intersections with leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) — signals that give pedestrians a head start to establish themselves in the crosswalk ahead of turning motorists. If the bill passes, cyclists can legally take the same head-start.

The City Council transportation committee plans to hear testimony on the bill on November 15, along with six other bills related to walking and biking.

The text of Menchaca’s bill reads:

A person operating a bicycle while crossing a roadway at an intersection shall follow pedestrian control signals when such signals supersede traffic control signals pursuant to local law, rule or regulation, except that such person shall yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

In practice, that allows cyclists to legally advance with the walk signal at intersections with LPIs. As you can see in the above clip from Brooklyn Spoke’s Doug Gordon, shot at Atlantic Avenue and Hoyt Street, people are already doing that.

The Menchaca bill officially sanctions the behavior and sends a subtle message that signals intended regulate driving don’t always make sense when applied to cycling. With a head start, cyclists can establish themselves in drivers’ visual field and stay out of blind spots.

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No More Stalling: DOT Redesigns Gerritsen Ave After Teen Cyclist’s Death

In the coming weeks, Gerritsen Avenue will get a two-way protected bike lane, concrete pedestrian refuges, and bus boarding bulbs aimed to calm traffic and create safer access to the park. Image: DOT

By next month, Gerritsen Avenue will get a two-way protected bike lane, concrete pedestrian islands, and bus boarding islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT will install a two-way protected bike lane and other traffic-calming measures on Gerritsen Avenue, the street next to Marine Park in southern Brooklyn where a drunk driver killed a teenage cyclist this summer [PDF].

On the night of July 19, Thomas Groarke, 24, overtook another driver on the left and sped into the wide painted median on Gerritsen near Gotham Avenue, then fatally struck 17-year-old Sean Ryan, who was riding his bike southbound, the Daily News reported. Three other people were injured in the crash. Groarke’s blood alcohol level was found to be twice the legal limit.

Gerritsen Avenue is a wide street with a speeding problem and a history of traffic injuries and deaths. Since 2007, there have been four fatalities on the street, according to DOT, including three in the past two years. After the deaths of Joseph Ciresi and James Miro last fall, the Times looked at the street’s reputation as a drag strip.

The city has tinkered with the design of Gerritsen Avenue before. After a motorist severely injured 12-year-old cyclist Anthony Turturro in 2004 at the same intersection where Ryan was killed, the city implemented a four-lane-to-three-lane road diet with a painted median. In 2008 and 2009, the city floated concrete pedestrian islands and painted bike lanes for Gerritsen but backed off after local residents protested the changes. The only change implemented was to narrow the medians to make room for a “wide parking lane” (instead of painted bike lanes).

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