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Posts from the Protected Bike Lanes Category

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Engineering Establishment Sets Out to Purge Deviant Bikeway Designs

This is the masthead for the website of the bicycle committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Apparently this group's attitudes about bike infrastructure are not much more advanced then its website. Image: NCUTCDBTC.org

This is the current masthead for the website of the bicycle committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Image: NCUTCDBTC.org

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices might be the most influential group of American bike policy makers you’ve never heard of.

The committee shapes street design standards in the United States to a large extent. Their recommendations become part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a guide to street markings, signs, and signals that many professional engineers treat as gospel.

The NCUTCD consists mostly of older engineers from state DOTs. In recent years, its bikeway design orthodoxy has been challenged by a new wave of engineers looking to implement treatments that the American street design establishment has frowned upon, despite a proven track record improving the safety and comfort of bicycling. Most notably, the National Association of City Transportation Officials has released guidance on the design of protected bike lanes that the MUTCD lacks.

NACTO’s guidance is gaining adherents. Dozens of cities have implemented protected bike lanes in the past few years. The Federal Highway Administration endorsed the guide in 2013.

All this progress doesn’t seem to sit very well with some members of the old guard. In January, the NCUTCD passed a resolution [Word file] establishing a “task force” to investigate “interest groups that may not be part of the NCUTCD” that promote street designs which don’t conform to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The MUTCD is supposed to allow for flexibility and deviation from the standard when conditions warrant, which often applies to “bicycle facilities in complex urban environments,” said Joe Gilpin, an expert on bikeway design with Alta Planning. NACTO designs are, according to Gilpin, “for the most part… created from standards already provided within the MUTCD, even if it’s being put together in a different way.”

But the recent resolution is a not-so-veiled attempt to impede that flexibility.

Not every member of the NCUTCD wants to hinder change. Bill Schultheiss, a consultant with Toole Design Group and a long-time member of the committee, was alarmed by the resolution. He says the structure of the committee leads to unnecessary foot-dragging.

Read more…

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United Front of Electeds Join CB 3 to Ask for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie

Advocates’ design concept for a two-way protected bike lane on Chrystie Street. Streetmix by Dave “Paco” Abraham

A week after Manhattan Community Board 3 unanimously approved a resolution asking for a protected bike lane and pedestrian islands on Chrystie Street, elected officials representing the area — from the city, state, and federal levels — sent a letter to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione asking her to follow through [PDF].

The letter is signed by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Member Sheldon Silver, Borough President Gale Brewer, and Council Member Margaret Chin. (The only elected officials representing the area who aren’t included are the state’s two U.S. Senators and the mayor himself.)

“We believe it is important to take into account the concerns of the local community board when it speaks so strongly,” they write. “We ask DOT to study this area quickly, work closely with the community on any next steps, and keep our offices informed.”

DOT says it will examine whether changes requested for Chrystie Street, such as a two-way protected bike lane, are feasible. The agency does not yet have a timetable for the study.

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CB 12 Committee Puts Parking Over Safety in Vote on Uptown Bike Lanes

DOT is proposing significant bicycle and pedestrian upgrades in Washington Heights, but the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee wants to nibble away at a protected bike lane in the plan. The committee voted to support the DOT plan but with modifications that would shrink a proposed protected bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue to preserve parking.

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan offers protected bikeways on 170th Street, 158th Street, and Edgecombe Avenue. Map: DOT

The plan [PDF] would provide river-to-river links between the Hudson River Greenway and High Bridge Park, where cyclists and pedestrians would be able to connect to the Bronx. The proposal comes after the approval of bicycle and pedestrian upgrades for the Bronx side of High Bridge Park [PDF].

The plan would result in a net loss of approximately 20 parking spaces. Most of the change is concentrated on Edgecombe north of 165th Street, where parking would be removed for the bikeway on sections of Edgecombe with two-way car traffic.

At its meeting Monday evening, the CB 12 transportation committee deadlocked, 2-2, on a vote to support the plan after members Jim Berlin and Anita Barberis protested the loss of parking. Berlin has a long history of prioritizing parking over street safety at CB 12, which covers a neighborhood where about three-quarters of households are car-free.

“This is a working-class area,” Berlin said, according to DNAinfo. “People don’t have the luxury of riding their bike in the morning and leaving their Beamer at home.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the working-class people I know have MetroCards,” Maria Lopez replied to Berlin, reported DNAinfo. “I drive, but I support this plan.” Lopez is also a staffer for Council Member Mark Levine. After her reply, according to multiple meeting attendees, Berlin began a condescending response by calling her “honey child.”

“The entire room gasped,” said one person at the meeting. “It was racist, misogynistic and ageist all at once, and it was stunning…I just don’t think he realized how inappropriate that was.”

Eventually, the committee agreed on a compromise resolution, with a 4-0 vote, that supported the plan but asked DOT to shorten the protected bikeway on Edgecombe in order to preserve parking.

“It was somewhat disappointing, because one particular person, their opinion can really influence what happens in an entire community. And it was clear that the people from the community that came out really supported it,” said Ana Reyes, a Washington Heights resident and executive director of I Challenge Myself. The group offers bicycle education courses to high school students, including at the George Washington Educational Campus on Audubon Avenue.

“A lot of people don’t like to ride in traffic,” Reyes said. “The benefits outweigh the loss of parking spaces in terms of the amount of  kids, particularly, that would be able to access this park.”

The plan includes a lot of big improvements for safe walking and biking in the neighborhood.

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Protected Lanes Preview: Boston, Detroit, Indy, Minneapolis, Denver & More

Shelby Street in Indianapolis is a model for that city’s two latest protected bike lane projects.

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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.

Spring is three weeks away, and that means it’s time for one of American cities’ newest rituals: announcing the year’s protected bike lane construction plans.

Every few days over the last month, another U.S. city has released plans or announced progress in building protected lanes. Even more excitingly, many are in downtown and commercial areas, which tend to have the highest latent demand for biking. Let’s take a scan from east to west of the projects that popped onto our radar in February alone, to be built in 2015 or 2016:

Boston is “heading toward” a firm plan for protected lanes on the crucial Commonwealth Avenue artery between Boston University Bridge and Brighton, Deputy Transportation Commissioner Jim Gillooly said February 9. In column the day before, the Boston Globe’s Derrick Jackson endorsed the concept on the strength of a trip to Seattle, where he rode a Pronto! Bike Share bicycle down the 2nd Avenue bike lane.

“I did something here I am scared to death to do in Boston,” Jackson wrote. “I bicycled on a weekday in the city’s most bustling business district.”

New York City is on track to upgrade several blocks of Columbus Avenue near Lincoln Square with greater protection, improving connections to the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane in Midtown, after a February 10 thumbs-up from the local community board.

Columbus, Ohio, said February 2 that a 1.4-mile bidirectional protected lane on Summit near the Ohio State University campus is “just the beginning” of plans for biking improvements, thanks to advocacy group Yay Bikes and a receptive city staff.

Detroit is installing southeast Michigan’s first protected lanes this year on a “very short segment” of East Jefferson. Advocacy group Detroit Greenways says it’s “precedent setting and could serve as a model for all of Detroit’s major spoke roads.”

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Manhattan CB 3 Asks DOT for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie Street

In a unanimous 35-0 vote last night, Manhattan Community Board 3, which covers Chinatown and the Lower East Side, asked DOT to study a two-way protected bikeway for Chrystie Street, an important link to the Manhattan Bridge bike path.

This doesn’t cut it, says CB 3. Photo: Justin Pollock

The vote follows months of dialogue between bike advocates and community groups, and comes on the heels of a unanimous vote supporting the plan by the CB 3 transportation committee earlier this month.

The plan, which would replace faded bike lanes with a protected bikeway alongside Sara D. Roosevelt Park, is receiving consideration now because the bumpy street is scheduled for milling and paving, offering an opportunity to refresh its layout. “We are looking to resurface the road this year, so we will come back to the community once a design is put together,” DOT Manhattan Liaison Colleen Chattergoon said at the transportation committee meeting.

“The community board has spoken,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron spokesperson Danny Weisfeld, “and it’s important for the DOT to follow up on the request.”

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CB 3 Committee Asks DOT for Protected Bikeway on Chrystie Street

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Advocates’ concept for a two-way protected bike lane on Chrystie Street. Streetmix by Dave “Paco” Abraham

The community board covering the Lower East Side and Chinatown is set to ask DOT to transform the Chrystie Street bike lane from barely visible stripes blocked by double-parked cars into a two-way protected bikeway along Sara D. Roosevelt Park, connecting the Manhattan Bridge with the Second Avenue protected bike lane.

The transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 3 voted unanimously Wednesday night to ask for the upgrades on the recommendation of Dave “Paco” Abraham and other Transportation Alternatives volunteers, who presented the idea last month [PDF]. The request is moving ahead now because Chrystie Street is scheduled for milling and paving this year, providing an opportunity to redesign the street.

DOT staff at Wednesday’s meeting welcomed the resolution. “We are looking to resurface the road this year, so we will come back to the community once a design is put together,” DOT Manhattan Liaison Colleen Chattergoon said.

At the southern end of Chrystie Street, the city is planning to rebuild the Manhattan Bridge bike path landing to include a pedestrian-friendly plaza space next to the bikeway. At Chrystie’s northern end, advocates hope a two-way bikeway on the east side of the street can eliminate the need for southbound cyclists on Second Avenue to maneuver across multiple lanes of car traffic in order to continue southbound.

Believe it or not, there’s a bike lane here. Photo: Google Street View via Brooklyn Spoke

Between Canal and Houston, the two-way bikeway would only cross automobile traffic at Grand and Delancey Streets, since other cross streets in the neighborhood form “T” intersections and do not continue through the park. The two-way bikeway alignment could also create opportunities for pedestrian islands on the crowded street.

The redesign request is supported by the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition. Kathleen Webster, the group’s president, asked the committee to make sure the resolution noted the senior centers, schools, elderly population, and high pedestrian volumes in the area, including a senior center within the park itself. CB 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer asked the committee to request that DOT conduct community visioning sessions to inform the final design. Both requests were added to the resolution.

The resolution now goes to the full board, which meets on February 24 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 124, 40 Division Street.

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Eyes on the Street: Un-Plowed Bikeway on Parks Department Turf

Photo: Commenter BBNet3000

Pike Street has a bikeway and a pedestrian path, but you wouldn’t know that based on the Parks Department’s snow removal practices. Photo: Commenter BBnet3000

Most of NYC’s bridge paths and protected bikeways seem to have been cleared well in the aftermath of this week’s snowstorm, judging by the lack of snowed-in bike lane photos in the Streetsblog inbox.

It’s a different story on Parks Department turf. This stretch, flagged by commenter BBnet3000 yesterday morning, is the center median bikeway on Pike Street leading to the East River waterfront. (It remained unplowed late this morning.)

The Pike Street bike and pedestrian paths have been ignored by the Parks Department. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Pike Street bike and pedestrian path this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Landscaped malls run down the middle of Pike and Allen Streets on the Lower East Side. While the street is under the purview of the Department of Transportation, the malls themselves fall under Parks.

DOT redesigned the street in 2009 to add protected bike lanes and more pedestrian space. Since then, a few blocks have been upgraded from paint to permanent materials. On those blocks, the bikeway is now controlled by the Parks Department. So when it snows, that means a patchwork of agencies are responsible for keeping the bike lane passable on a single street.

North of Division Street, Allen Street’s bikeways are mostly cleared, whether the section is maintained by Parks or DOT. On Pike Street south of Division, the bike lanes managed by Parks are snowed-in. Pedestrian walkways along the entirety of the mall, also maintained by Parks, are completely covered in snow.

The Parks Department, responsible for 29,000 acres of land, says it has 900 staff working on snow removal. It operates 44 plow trucks assigned to a Sanitation Department detail and has 200 additional vehicles on snow removal, including smaller plows and salt spreaders.

“Our first priority is to clear park perimeters to ensure safe access for pedestrians,” said Parks Department spokesperson Sam Biederman. He added that crosswalks, bus stops, hydrants, and catch basins along park perimeters in high traffic locations — such as transit hubs and civic centers, or near schools, recreation centers, and senior centers — top the department’s priority list for snow removal. “Interior paths of all types are a lower priority during snow storms,” Biederman said. “We will be clearing snow from interior play spaces and interior walkways throughout the week.”

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Pieces in Place for AASHTO to Endorse Protected Bike Lanes… by 2020

Part of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, installed in 2011.

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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.

The bible of U.S. bikeway engineering, last revised just before the modern American protected bike lane explosion, will almost certainly include protected lanes in its next update.

That’s the implication of a project description released last month from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

AASHTO’s current bikeway guide doesn’t spell out standards for protected bike lanes. Its updated edition is on track to be released in 2018 at the soonest. A long wait? Yes, but that would still shave seven years off the previous 13-year update cycle.

“Back in 2009, we maybe had a few miles of separated bike lanes in this country,” said Jennifer Toole, founder of Toole Design Group and the lead contractor who wrote AASHTO’s current bike guide. “It was written right on the cusp of those new changes. Now we have all kinds of experience with this stuff. And data — we’ve got data for the first time.”

AASHTO’s richly detailed and researched guides are the main resource for most U.S. transportation engineers. Some civil engineers simply will not build anything that lacks AASHTO-approved design guidance.

However, dozens of cities in most U.S. states have now begun building protected lanes with the help of other publications.

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Dutch Suburbs Are Like America’s, and Protected Bike Lanes Work Fine There

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This post is part of The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

This is the first in a two-post series on Dutch suburbs.

People the in U.S. street design world — sometimes even people who write for this very website — regularly say that U.S. development patterns mean that Dutch street designs can’t be immediately adopted in the States.

That’s a lot less true than you might think.

Of course some ideas can’t/won’t port over wholesale. But especially by European standards, the Netherlands is actually probably one of the most spatially similar places to much of the U.S. Guess where this is:

Count the fast food signs, the car lanes all leading up to a big freeway underpass. If not for the protected bike lane this could be Anywhere, North America. But this is actually in Amsterdam proper.

The reality is that only a minority of Dutch people live in the medieval centers of Amsterdam, Gouda, and Utrecht. Though many tourists visiting Amsterdam for a couple of days don’t typically see this, many Dutch people’s daily reality includes stuff much more like this:

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Vote to Decide the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014

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If you’re searching for reasons to feel positive about the future, the street transformations pictured below are a good start. Earlier this month we asked readers to send in their nominations for the best American street redesigns of 2014. These five are the finalists selected by Streetsblog staff. They include new car-free zones, substantial sidewalk expansions, superb bike infrastructure, awesome safety upgrades, and exclusive transit lanes.

Which deserves the distinction of being named the “Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014″? We’re starting the voting today and will post a reminder when we run the rest of the Streetsblog USA Streetsie Award polls next Tuesday. Without further ado, here are the contenders:

Western Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Before

Before

After. (We're using a rendering because the project is not quite yet 100% complete.)

After. (We’re using a rendering because the project is not quite 100 percent complete.)

The Western Avenue road diet narrowed dangerously wide traffic lanes on this one-way street to make room for safer pedestrian crossings, a raised bike lane, and bus bulbs. Brian DeChambeau of the Cambridge Community Development Department, the lead agency on the project, adds these details about the redesign:

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