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Posts from the "Bike Lanes" Category

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The Plan to Build Bicycle Highways Where Cleveland’s Streetcars Once Ran

A local group is proposing repurposing old streetcar rights of way into protected bike lanes. Image: Bialosky & Partners

A local group has proposed repurposing old streetcar rights of way as protected bike lanes. Image: Bialosky & Partners

Like many cities in America, Cleveland grew into its own as a streetcar city. In the early part of the last century, hundreds of miles of streetcars connected all corners of the city as well as its inner suburbs. The streets where tracks carried passengers — Lorain, Superior, Euclid — were the circulatory system of the city, around which neighborhood life was organized.

St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland was once bustling with activity, when it was a streetcar route. A group of Clevelandites wants to make it active again with bike infrastructure. Image: Google Maps

St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland bustled with activity when it was a streetcar route. A group of Clevelanders want to make it active again with bike infrastructure. Image: Google Maps

But around the middle of the 20th century, streetcars gave way to private cars — upending this way of life. Many Clevelanders got in their cars and abandoned historic urban neighborhoods at disastrous rates, moving to former farmlands where they could shop in big box stores. Streetcar tracks were mostly paved over and forgotten, leaving extra-wide streets behind. The retail spaces that lined those routes are now pocked with vacancies.

But some local residents see an opportunity to transform these historically significant corridors back into something vital and attractive. They call their plan the Midway — a proposal to transform former streetcar rights-of-way with landscaped, center-running bike lanes.

“It seems so obvious to me,” said Barb Clint, director of community health and advocacy at the YMCA of Greater Cleveland. Clint is also a board member at Bike Cleveland, the city’s bike advocacy group. (Disclosure: I’m also on the board of Bike Cleveland and have helped promote the Midway in Cleveland.)

Clint is a veteran of the Cleveland public sector and non-profit scene, and she knows the problems with the city’s streets well. ”We have these massive streets, with severely low volumes of traffic. They’re not comfortable to walk along, they’re not comfortable to bike along because people are driving so fast,” she said. ”We can’t preach at people and tell them they should be more physically active if we’re not providing them safe places to do so.”

Two years ago, Clint and another Bike Cleveland board member, John McGovern, came up with the first iteration of the Midway plan. The beauty of the streetcar routes is that they’re nicely dispersed throughout the city. And in almost all cases, the space is ripe for reuse: Cleveland’s streets lack the traffic congestion of larger, growing cities.

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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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Watch the NYC Bike Network Grow and Evolve Over 120 Years

Prepare to be mesmerized. Betsy Emmons has mapped the history of New York City’s bike network using the platform MapStory, where she’s currently a summer fellow. Watch the city’s greenways, bike lanes, and bridge paths expand over 120 years.

You can see the first designated bike routes — promenade-style parkways designed by Olmsted and Vaux in the pre-automotive era — crop up on Ocean Parkway and Eastern Parkway. Bike access via bridges and ferries is visible early on — these are labeled “Class L” in the data, says Emmons, which means they were designated as bike routes but did not necessarily include dedicated space for cycling.

While Robert Moses was remaking the city’s transportation system to move car traffic, most additions to the bike network seem to have served primarily recreational routes near the water. Then in the late 1970s, the first on-street bike lanes in the Manhattan core appear on Broadway and Fifth Avenue. More on-street routes show up in the 80s and 90s, and you can see the Hudson River Greenway take shape segment by segment.

As the on-street routes become a more cohesive network with the proliferation of bike lanes in the Bloomberg/Sadik-Khan years, you have to zoom in to get a better feel for all the changes. Though protected bike lanes are not differentiated from unprotected infrastructure in this iteration of the map, in a future version the underlying data could be used to show how those bikeways have recently become more common.

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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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How to Stop NYPD From Blocking Bike Lanes

Ninth Avenue, Midtown South Precinct. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/miller_stephen/status/486552074276986881/photo/1##Stephen Miller##

Ninth Avenue, Midtown South Precinct. Photo: Stephen Miller

We’re seeing a lot of photos this week of police parked in bike lanes. Fortunately, there is something cyclists can do about it in addition to submitting documentation to Cops in Bike Lanes.

Blocking a lane is not merely a sign of disrespect on the the part of NYPD. It’s illegal, and it poses a risk to people on bikes who are forced into auto traffic (and are sometimes ticketed for their trouble).

DNAinfo reported this week that NYPD plans to open Twitter accounts for all precincts. This will make it easier to complain directly (and publicly) to NYPD about police in bike lanes.

If you can make the time, you can also speak face to face with commanding officers via precinct community councils. Every precinct has a community council, and meeting info is posted on each precinct’s web page. NYPD has a precinct locator if you’re not sure which jurisdiction applies. NYPD may often come across as a big blue wall, but local officers do respond when people show up to speak with them.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Connection Over Sunnyside Yard

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Looks like DOT crews are making progress on the neighborhood bike plan for Sunnyside and Long Island City that Queens Community Board 2 approved last year. Clarence took this photo of the new bike lane on the 39th Street bridge over the Sunnyside rail yard. He says it got striped a couple of weeks ago.

The connection over the rail yard is one of the better parts of the plan [PDF], which relies heavily on sharrows to create a more cohesive network of bike routes in the neighborhood. With the construction of the Pulaski Bridge bikeway set to create a much more comfortable connection between southwest Queens and northern Brooklyn later this year, there’s probably going to be a surge in biking on these local streets.

If you’ve been using the new bike lane on 39th Street, tell us in the comments how it’s been going.

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Glen and Trottenberg Predict Growth for Citi Bike, Plazas, and Bike Lanes

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT will focus on bringing pedestrian plazas to more outer borough neighborhoods like Corona, Queens. Photo of Corona Plaza: Clarence Eckerson

Two key de Blasio administration officials sounded optimistic notes today about the expansion of the bike lane network, public plazas, and bike-share.

While bike infrastructure and public space projects haven’t been high-profile de Blasio priorities, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg indicated that they intend to make progress on both fronts.

Speaking at a Crain’s real estate forum today, Glen said initial investors in Citi Bike are satisfied, despite the program’s financial troubles, and that more private financing may soon be secured to help the bike-share network expand:

Ms. Glen said that she is in the process of working with an investor team to infuse more capital into the bike share program and “get it back on the road.” There are no plans to include public funding for the program in the 2015 capital expense budget, she said.

“Citi Bike has fundamentally changed the gestalt of lower Manhattan and parks of Brooklyn,” she said.  “The mayor and I are fully committed to seeing the program expand.”

Meanwhile, Trottenberg told a New York Building Congress forum today that the challenge for DOT is keeping up with requests for pedestrian and bike improvements. Kate Hinds at WNYC reports:

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Three Years After Voting Down Bike Lane, CB 10 Weighs Bay Ridge Bike Plan

Three years ago, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio cheered as Brooklyn Community Board 10 helped kill a bike lane proposal. Tonight, there’s a very different story unfolding: Responding to CB 10′s request for new bike routes, Mayor de Blasio’s DOT has proposed a bike lane plan for the neighborhood.

Our plan is your plan: DOT is proposing bike routes (in light blue) after receiving suggestions from CB 10. Map: DOT

DOT is proposing bike routes (in light blue) after receiving suggestions from CB 10. Map: DOT

The plan under consideration tonight [PDF] is different than the one from 2011, which attracted media attention at the height of the “bikelash.” Back then, DOT proposed adding bike lanes to extra-wide Bay Ridge Parkway. Even though it wouldn’t have taken away car lanes or parking, local politicians and community boards objected to the idea of making room for cyclists on a busy road. DOT ultimately folded and ditched the plan.

Bay Ridge Parkway is not part of the new proposal, which covers more miles than the previous plan but does not reach into Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst. DOT is considering bike routes on Fort Hamilton Parkway, 68th Street, 72nd Street, and Marine Avenue, which were requested by CB 10 in 2012. The board also asked for bike lanes on Seventh Avenue near the Gowanus Expressway, but DOT is suggesting an alternate route on Sixth Avenue instead.

Like the plan from 2011, this proposal doesn’t change the underlying geometry of streets very much. It includes a mix of shared lane markings and painted bike lanes, not protected lanes, and it does not remove any car lanes or parking spaces. Shared lanes would be added on Sixth Avenue from 67th Street to Fort Hamilton Parkway, on Fort Hamilton Parkway from 92nd Street to 101st Street, and on Marine Avenue from Colonial Road to Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Painted bike lanes would be installed on Seventh Avenue from 66th Street to 67th Street, on Fort Hamilton Parkway from Sixth Avenue to 92nd Street, on 68th Street from Third Avenue to Sixth Avenue, and on 72nd Street from Colonial Road to Sixth Avenue.

The CB 10 transportation committee unanimously recommended a vote in support at its meeting last Tuesday. The committee asked DOT to study safer intersection designs on Fort Hamilton Parkway at 65th, 86th, and 92nd Streets, as well as at 65th Street and Seventh Avenue, according to notes from the meeting posted by Transportation Alternatives volunteer Michelle Yu.

DOT says it will install the bike routes next year, and according to committee member Bob HuDock, the agency will return to the committee to address those intersections this fall.

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CB 6 Supports Murray Hill Bikeway If DOT Will Move It to Other Side of Street

A proposed two-way bike path on 37th Street would be safer on the north side of the street, but CB 6 asked DOT to move it to the south side after opposition from condo owners. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 6 threatened to stall bikeway improvements connecting the East River Greenway with Murray Hill, because a group of condo owners opposed one piece of it. But a last-minute compromise seems to have cleared the way for the project.

The plan [PDF] would improve the surface of the East River Greenway near Glick Park, add shared lane markings to crosstown streets, and convert a block of the First Avenue bike lane to a two-way path. It would also add a two-way bike lane on one block of 37th Street to connect First Avenue with the East River Greenway.

At last night’s meeting, residents of The Horizon condominium tower testified against the 37th Street path because it would remove a loading zone on the north side of the street, immediately outside their building. Supporters of the plan were outnumbered. Intimidated by the opposition, a CB 6 member offered a resolution to send the issue back to committee, where it would have to wait until the community board resumed meetings in September.

Things looked bleak until the end of the meeting, when board members began to discuss a compromise: moving the path to the south side of the street.

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The Street Ballet of a Bike Lane Behind a Transit Stop

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.

Why don’t more cities escape the curse of bus-bike leap-frogging by putting bike lanes between transit platforms and sidewalks?

Though “floating bus stops” and similar designs are being used in many cities, others have avoided doing so, sometimes out of concern that people will be injured in collisions with bikes while they walk between platform and sidewalk.

But is this actually a problem? An intersection in San Francisco that uses a similar design seems to be working just fine.

The annotated video above shows one minute of the self-regulating sidewalk ballet.

Seleta Reyolds, the San Francisco Municipal Transportaiton Agency’s section leader for livable streets, calls the corner of Duboce Avenue and Church Street “a great example of how to design for transit-bike interaction.”

Though it’s only been open since June 2012 and hasn’t worked its way into the city’s official collision records yet, Reynolds said she couldn’t find any record of a complaint arising from the intersection.

A few details worth noting:

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