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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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The Case for Baking Bike Infrastructure Into Vision Zero Projects

Is the grass just greener? London's planned cycle superhighways. Image: Transport for London

One of the major new bikeways in the works in London. Image: Transport for London

London is surging ahead with big plans for protected bikeways that span the city. By comparison, New York’s bike plans, while moving forward incrementally, feel piecemeal. Has safe cycling infrastructure become an afterthought in the city’s Vision Zero program?

The question came up yesterday during a seminar on cycling policy hosted simultaneously in the two cities, organized by New London Architecture with the Forum and Institute for Urban Design.

“Our goal is to get more people cycling, more safely, more often,” said Sarah Burr, senior strategy and planning manager for surface transport at Transport for London. “We know we’re not going to reach the targets we have for cycling by getting existing cyclists to cycle more.”

She highlighted three initiatives in London key to improving safety and broadening the appeal of bicycling for everyday trips: “cycle superhighways” made of protected paths on major streets, “quietways” akin to bike boulevards, and “Mini-Hollands,” which are transforming three of London’s 32 boroughs into models for cycle-friendly design. To make those plans a reality, London mayor Boris Johnson has committed to tripling spending on bicycle infrastructure, to almost £1 billion over a decade.

Burr’s counterpart in New York, DOT Assistant Commissioner for Street Improvement Projects Josh Benson, gave an overview of Vision Zero, covering lower speed limits, increased enforcement, the Right of Way Law, and street redesigns. He walked through three projects, one of which included bicycle facilities.

“The impetus behind Vision Zero is looking at how we can make the most progress towards zero, and I think it’s pedestrians. Pedestrians are, unfortunately, the majority of people killed and injured in traffic,” Benson said after the event. “I think in the early stages of Vision Zero, that has to be the focus. You have to look at where the problem is most severe.”

Noting that fatality rates per mile are higher for biking than for walking, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White argued that bike infrastructure shouldn’t be compartmentalized. “It’s incumbent on us here in New York to make bike lanes much more baked-in to Vision Zero than it is now,” he said, “because for risk exposure, it’s much more dangerous to ride a bike.”

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Streetsblog USA
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New Federal Guide Will Show More Cities the Way on Protected Bike Lanes

Oak Street, San Francisco. Photo: SFMTA.

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.

Protected bike lanes are now officially star-spangled.

Eight years after New York City created a trailblazing protected bikeway on 9th Avenue, designs once perceived as unfit for American streets have now been detailed in a new design guide by the Federal Highway Administration.

The FHWA guidance released Tuesday is the result of two years of research into numerous modern protected bike lanes around the country, in consultation with a team of national experts.

“Separated bike lanes have great potential to fill needs in creating low-stress bicycle networks,” the FHWA document says, citing a study released last year by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. “Many potential cyclists (including children and the elderly) may avoid on-street cycling if no physical separation from vehicular traffic is provided.”

Among the many useful images and ideas in the 148-page document is this spectrum of comfortable bike lanes, starting with bike infrastructure that will be useful to the smallest number of people and continuing into the more broadly appealing categories:

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Just in Time for Summer, Two Big Detours on the Hudson River Greenway

This detour, between 59th and 63rd streets, will last until the end of August so DOT can repaint the highway viaduct.

One of New York’s busiest bicycle routes has been interrupted this summer by two detours where the city is asking riders to dismount and walk for blocks.

Both work zones cropped up last week without any signage explaining why they were installed or how long they would last. A tipster who asked to remain anonymous reported the detours to Streetsblog, and here are the explanations we got from city agencies.

This detour

This detour at the 79th Street Boat Basin will return for a few months starting in June.

The first detour is from DOT, which says it is painting the Joe DiMaggio Highway viaduct between 59th and 63rd streets. Crews will intermittently close the bikeway between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, and cyclists will be directed to the pedestrian path along the river, where they must dismount and walk. DOT said it expects to finish work by the end of August. Observing the detour will add several minutes to bike trips on this stretch of the greenway.

The dismount zone is right next to one of the worst pinch points on the greenway, a section that’s been narrowed to accommodate construction work by the Department of Sanitation at 59th Street. Greenway cyclists will be able to bypass the Sanitation project once a newly-built segment by the water opens to the public.

The second detour is from the Parks Department, which is repairing Dock A at the 79th Street Boat Basin after damage from Hurricane Sandy. The Esplanade is closed entirely, with greenway users directed to the traffic circle by the Boat Basin Café.

That detour first popped up last week, but work has now been postponed until June, said Parks Department spokesperson Sabirah Abdus-Sabur. Construction should last for a few months, depending on weather.

Streetsblog USA
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From Minneapolis, Evidence That the Census Undercounts Walking and Biking

Biking jumped 58 percent in the Twin Cities region between 2000 and 2010. Photo: Wikipedia

Biking increased 58 percent in the Twin Cities region between 2000 and 2010. Photo: Wikipedia

The U.S. Census is the most widely cited source of data about how Americans get around. It’s updated regularly and it covers the whole country, but it comes up short in a number of ways. The Census only asks about commute trips, and commuting only accounts for about 16 percent of total household travel [PDF]. What happens when you measure the other 84 percent?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota set out to design a better way to track how people move around the Twin Cities region, and one key finding is that walking and biking appear to be growing a lot faster than the Census indicates.

The UMN survey asked about 1 percent of the region’s residents to keep a travel diary, recording every trip. This resembles the National Household Travel Survey, a more detailed but infrequently-conducted cousin to the Census data on commuting, but the sample collected by the UMN team was much bigger. That’s especially important for measuring less prevalent modes of travel like walking and biking. The UMN study also provided more detailed information about people’s origins and destinations than the National Household Travel Survey.

The UMN team found that driving decreased in the region between 2000 and 2010, while biking and walking grew. Cycling rose over that period from 1.4 to 2.2 percent of trips. That’s about 190,000 daily trips, or a 58 percent increase. Meanwhile, walking grew from 4.5 to 6.6 percent of trips, a 44 percent increase, or almost three quarters of a million daily trips. Residents of the Twin Cities region typically make about 12 million total daily trips.

What’s especially interesting is that the share of biking and walking trips in the UMN survey is much bigger than what the Census indicates — about two to three times larger.

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City Council Members Ride to City Hall to Celebrate Bike Month

Seven City Council members rode their bikes to work yesterday in observance of Bike Month — up from five last year. They came in two groups, one starting from Union Square and the other from Brooklyn Borough Hall, before gathering on the steps of City Hall. Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms was there to capture it.

Council members on bikes included Robert Cornegy Jr., Ben Kallos, Brad Lander, Mark Levine, Carlos Menchaca, Andy Cohen, and Helen Rosenthal. They were joined at City Hall by Antonio Reynoso and transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Most of those the council members belong to the 18-member Progressive Caucus, which organized the ride with Transportation Alternatives, StreetsPAC, Citi Bike, and Bike New York.

In a press release, the Progressive Caucus backed more bike lanes, improved access for bikes in buildings, and the continued expansion of bike-share.

“I believe that we can find a way to balance the needs of bike riders with the concerns of pedestrians and community members,” Progressive Caucus vice-chair Helen Rosenthal said in the release, “and I look forward to increasing bike safety, improving bike access, and creating biking infrastructure to benefit all New Yorkers.”

Although they both spoke about the importance of cycling safety, Kallos and Cornegy back a bill that would exempt MTA bus drivers from criminal penalties if they strike a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way.

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Upper West Siders to DOT: Citi Bike Stations Need to Be Closer Together

DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations between 59th and 107th streets. Map: DOT [PDF]

DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations between 62nd and 107th streets. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT [PDF]

Citi Bike is coming to the Upper West Side, but the expansion map DOT revealed last night has big gaps between stations. Like the map for the Upper East Side, the UWS plan calls for fewer stations per square mile than the current Citi Bike service area.

Both neighborhoods are among the densest residential areas in the city and have major destinations like hospitals and museums. If stations are too few and far between, the system will be poorly-equipped to provide good service.

At a meeting of the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee last night, DOT showed the draft map for 39 bike-share stations between 62nd and 107th streets [PDF 1, 2], the product of a public planning process that stretches back several years.

Nearly 200 people showed up. While there was no shortage of Rabinowitz-esque opposition to “commercialization” and the loss of free on-street parking, most people were eager for bike-share’s arrival.

“We recognize that every parking space is needed and valued by the community,” said DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione. “But listen, there’s a trade-off. This is a great amenity and a great asset for the community.” The crowd then erupted in booming applause.

Several audience members told DOT they wanted stations spaced closer together, and closer to major destinations. “I don’t think this is going to be enough bikes to satisfy the need,” said Pamela Margolin, who lives on West 81st Street across from the Museum of Natural History. “We need to have enough bikes to make it work. I don’t think those two stations [near the museum] are going to be enough.”

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StreetFilms
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Varick Street Gets a Granite Bike Path

As any bicyclist can tell you, a bumpy ride on cobblestones is no fun. In NYC, the DOT has implemented its first granite bikeway on one block of Varick Street to make it easier for cyclists and to keep them off the sidewalks.

You will almost never see me on a sidewalk in NYC for any reason, but I confess, I have used the sidewalk for this one block in the past. The smooth granite is a great idea.

I got to speak with Nick Carey, a project manager with NYC DOT’s bicycle program, about how the project came to be and how the department might use the same idea for future bike routes.

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DOT Redesign of 165th Street in the Bronx: Road Diet and Painted Bike Lanes

An extra-wide section of E. 165th Street in the Bronx is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and pedestrian islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

Extra-wide E. 165th Street in the Bronx is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and pedestrian islands. Image: DOT [PDF]

A section of E. 165th Street near the Grand Concourse is set to get a road diet, bike lanes, and concrete pedestrian islands under a DOT plan to cut down on traffic injuries [PDF]. While the redesign would be a big improvement over the status quo, it doesn’t take advantage of the widest sections to put in protected bike lanes.

Between Walton and Sherman Avenues, E. 165th Street is 75 feet wide, expanding from one lane in each direction to two. There’s a lot of open, unmarked asphalt.

With a design like that, it’s no wonder the street is among the most dangerous in the Bronx, with a higher crash rate than 90 percent of the borough’s streets. There were 16 serious injuries on E. 165th Street between Jerome Avenue and the multi-leg intersection with Melrose, Park, and Webster Avenues from 2009 to 2013, according to DOT. Two people were also killed at the intersection with the Grand Concourse, including Yvette Diaz, struck by a hit-and-run driver who was turning left while she was walking in the crosswalk.

Left-turn crashes are especially common on E. 165th Street. Half of all collisions involving pedestrians on this section involved a driver failing to yield, 50 percent higher than the average rate in the Bronx. In addition, 28 percent of all crashes involved a driver turning left, nearly three times the borough-wide average.

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StreetFilms
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The Philadelphia Bike Story

Of U.S. cities with more than a million residents, the one where people bike the most is Philadelphia. In 2012, the U.S. Census estimated Philadelphia’s bicycle commute rate at 2.3 percent [PDF], higher than Chicago (1.6 percent) and New York (1.0 percent).

It’s just about always been that way. That comes as a surprise to many people, since Philadelphia doesn’t have a lot of bike infrastructure. But there are other street design and urban design factors at work, many due to the fact that Philadelphia is an old city.

For one, the city has a lot of narrow streets. That makes it tougher to add bike lanes, but it also means motorists tend to travel at speeds that don’t intimidate people on bikes. On average, people also live closer to their jobs than in most other places, making bike commuting a better option. Stop signs are more prevalent than signals, and where there are traffic lights, the sequencing is short, so people on bikes don’t have to wait long at intersections. In the end, most people bike because it is the fastest, most convenient option.

Thanks to Alex Doty, executive director of the Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and all the other bicyclists I got to speak with. They’ll tell you plenty more reasons why biking is good there, and how it could be better.

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Canarsie Set to Get On-Street Bike/Ped Connection to Jamaica Bay Greenway

The proposed bikeway (in red) joins a lane installed last year on Paerdegat Avenue North. Map: DOT

The proposed 1.75-mile biking and walking path (in red) will connect to the Jamaica Bay Greenway. Map: DOT

DOT has proposed a 1.75-mile on-street biking and walking path from Flatlands Avenue to the Jamaica Bay Greenway [PDF]. The plan received the support of Brooklyn Community Board 18, which had rejected bike lanes proposed for other streets in the neighborhood.

The project route follows Shore Parkway, E. 102nd Street, Seaview Avenue, and E. 108th Street, which border Canarsie Park and Fresh Creek Nature Preserve. It would function as a protected path for both biking and walking on streets that currently lack sidewalks along park edges. To create a safe bike connection to the Jamaica Bay Greenway and Canarsie Pier, Jersey barriers will be added along the northern edge of Canarsie Circle. The multi-lane rotary will also get a road diet and high-visibility crosswalks, improving safety for the 16,000 visitors who get to Canarsie Pier by walking or biking each year.

To making room for the path, eastbound Seaview Avenue will be trimmed from three lanes to two between E. 102nd and E. 108th Streets. Car parking will be removed from E. 102nd Street but will be added to Seaview, resulting in a net addition of approximately five parking spaces, plus a new bus stop island. The northbound traffic lane on E. 108th Street will also be eliminated.

Community Board 18 voted to support the project at its meeting on April 15, according to DOT. The agency expects to install it early this summer.

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