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Protected Bike Lanes Attract Riders Wherever They Appear

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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. Second in a series.

The data has been trickling in for years in Powerpoint slides and stray tweets: On one street after another, even in the bike-skeptical United States, adding a physical barrier between bikes and cars leads to a spike in bike traffic.

Now, the first multi-city academic study of U.S. protected bike lanes is out, and a series of anecdotes have formed a very clear trend line: When protected bike lanes are added to a street, bike traffic rises — by an average of 75 percent in their first year alone, for the eight projects studied.

The bike spike showed up at every single facility measured, even those that previously had conventional painted bike lanes.

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Eyes on the Street: An Early Look at the Lafayette Protected Bike Lane

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Crews have been making good progress on the Lafayette Street redesign [PDF], the first protected bike lane project installed by the de Blasio administration. As of yesterday, the striping work had progressed from Spring Street up past 4th Street, where Philip Winn of Project for Public Spaces snapped these photos.

The Lafayette Street project will convert the northbound buffered bike lane into a protected lane from Prince to 12th Street. Some intersections will get pedestrian islands between the bike lane and motor vehicle lanes. DOT is really knocking this one out fast — Community Board 2 voted in favor of it less than a month ago. The redesign isn’t complete but people are already making good use of it:

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Safer, Saner Brooklyn Bridge Entrance on Track for Next Year

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC

After years of planning and advocacy, an effort to improve the dangerous, ugly asphalt expanse on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge is set to take a big step forward tonight. Community Board 2 is meeting to vote on a resolution in support of a plan to expand space for walking and biking, realign car lanes, and add trees [PDF] that cleared its transportation committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote last month. Construction on the first phase is on track to begin as soon as the end of this year.

The Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path consists of a long, narrow concrete chute, sandwiched between the exhaust-choked car lanes of the Adams Street bridge approach. At the intersection of Adams and Tillary Street — both very wide streets dominated by motor vehicle traffic heading to and from free bridges — pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate a chaotic mess of traffic lanes, poorly coordinated signals, and narrow curb cuts to get to or from the bridge path.

The current design isn’t just unappealing, it’s dangerous for bike riders, walkers, and drivers alike: From 2008 to 2010, according to DOT, 339 people — including 24 cyclists and 32 pedestrians — were injured at nine intersections along the stretches of Tillary and Adams near the bridge.

The heart of the redesign is the intersection of these two streets, where the widened, tree-lined Brooklyn Bridge path entrance will have much more generous proportions for pedestrians and cyclists. South of Tillary Street, a center-running two-way bike lane would continue along Adams briefly before directing cyclists to striped bike lanes next to the parking lane on the next block, as Adams approaches Fulton Street. To make room for this wider median between Tillary and Johnson Streets, the service lanes on either side of this block of Adams will be eliminated.

Image: DDC

The plan for the western blocks of Tillary Street. Click to enlarge. Image: DDC

To make the whole area feel less like a highway, the city proposes reducing the amount of overhead signage and the presence of concrete barriers. Instead of the cattle chute, for example, pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge approach north of Tillary will be separated from car traffic by vegetation and a low chain barrier.

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Cuomo Announces $67M for Bike/Ped Projects, Including Pulaski Bridge

Image: NYC DOT

[Editor's note: Streetsblog will not be publishing Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.]

Via the Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Earlier this week Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $67 million in funding for walking and biking infrastructure statewide, after advocates had pressed the state to follow through on the recently passed complete streets law with actual resources. These are federal funds that will be distributed by the state DOT.

One of the local projects that will receive funding is the protected two-way bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge, which will double the amount of space for walking and biking on this increasingly well-used connection between Queens and Brooklyn. The state contribution is $2.5 million, with the remaining $625,000 provided by the city.

NYC DOT revealed the design for the bikeway in December, and Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who has fought for the project since 2012, sent out a press release today with the news that Brooklyn Community Board 1 voted in favor of the plan earlier this week. Lentol says work on the project should begin once the weather warms up and construction season resumes. Here’s his full release:

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Green Lane Project Looking for Six New Cities With Big Bike Ambitions

Is your city trying to take its bike infrastructure to the next level? If so, the Green Lane Project wants to help.

The Green Lane Project wants to help six cities add protected bike lanes. Image: Green Lane Project

An initiative of Bikes Belong, the bike industry-supported advocacy organization, the Green Lane Project offers technical assistance and other non-monetary support to cities that aspire to add protected bike lanes. In the first round, six cities — Washington, Portland, Austin, Memphis, Chicago, and San Francisco — were selected to help advance their next-generation bike infrastructure.

Now, round two of the Green Lane Project is upon us. Program administrators have begun accepting applications from new cities. The competition will likely be fierce. A total of 39 cities have been invited to apply. And any city larger than 80,000 is welcome to throw its hat in the ring as well. The last round saw 42 applications from places as varied as Wichita and Pittsburgh. A new round of six cities will be selected for assistance in 2014 and 2015.

“The winning cities will have a mix of political will, committed staff, and community support to implement ambitious plans for protected bike lanes during the two-year campaign period,” reads the Green Lane Project application.

Green Lane Project director Martha Roskowski said this time around, she expects to see a much broader mix of cities.

“Having worked with Portland and San Francisco, some of the really well known leaders in biking, I think this time we’ll have some freedom to go broader in a sense and really find those cities that are on the cusp of doing great things for biking.”

Last round’s scrappy upstart city was Memphis, Tennessee, a city that didn’t have substantial bike infrastructure but did have a highly supportive mayor, city staff, and community.

“We’re really interested in finding other cities that are at that place,” said Roskowski.

Applications are due in January. Only government agency are invited to apply.

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Eyes on the Street: Pedestrian Island Construction on Columbus Avenue

Columbus Avenue at 75th Street. Photos: Doug Gordon

DOT continues to make progress with the extension of the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane. Doug Gordon sent us these shots, taken this morning, of pedestrian island construction at 75th and 73rd Streets.

After gaining the support of Community Board 7, the lane is being extended north to 110th Street and south to 70th Street, where it will become a shared lane to 59th Street before linking up with the Ninth Avenue protected lane.

The first phase of the Columbus Avenue lane, from 96th Street to 77th Street, brought a 41 percent drop in injuries to pedestrians. Transportation Alternatives has mounted a campaign to improve bike and pedestrian safety on Amsterdam Avenue with a corresponding northbound protected route.

Columbus at 73rd.

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Amazon Will Fund Protected Bike Lane Next to New Seattle Headquarters

Here’s another case of a top company that sees safe streets for biking as talent recruitment tool. One of America’s largest retailers is chipping in to make cycling more appealing at its new headquarters in downtown Seattle.

A rendering of the Seventh Avenue protected bike lane that will be funded in part by Amazon. Image: Seattle Times

Online giant Amazon will pay for the construction of a protected bike lane on Seventh Street along the two-block stretch by its new 3.3 million-square foot office complex. The agreement was negotiated by the city of Seattle in exchange for turning over some public alleyways within the development to the company. Amazon will also pay $250,000 to help study extending the protected bike lane to Pine Street.

The Seattle Times writes that Amazon is “raising the stakes for what companies can do to encourage bicycle commuting.” Amazon will also include 400 stalls for bike parking in each of its three towers, the Times reports. That is about triple the city’s minimum requirement.

John Schoettler, Amazon director of global real estate and facilities, told the Times the company is excited to be part of the improvement. “Cyclists are part of the fabric of Seattle, and so we’re thrilled to be creating a new cycle track that will make the ride to and from downtown safer and easier for all cyclists in the community,” he said.

The city of Seattle aims to build 100 miles of protected bike lanes. Currently it has only one mile, but more are under construction. The upgrades to the Seventh Avenue bike lane will serve as a demonstration project. The protected lane will be separated from traffic by a row of trees, according to the Times.

Seattle’s City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang (coolest traffic engineer ever?) told the Times he wishes the city could have this type of street design soon “at all locations downtown.”

This type of public-private partnership on sustainable transportation projects — where the private sector partner is a company that chips in without making a loan – is not without precedent, and is becoming something of a trend. New Balance is funding the construction of a new $16 million commuter rail station near its headquarters in Boston. And Apple helped fund the renovation of a Chicago train station.

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A Refresher on How PPW Bike Lane Opponents Cherrypick Their Numbers

PPW bike lane opponents cherry-picked their own data-set to make the case that this redesign is less safe than the old three-lane speedway. Photo: hildagirl70/Flickr

While parents and kids were out celebrating three years of safe, all-ages cycling at the Prospect Park West Family Bike Ride last week, the remnants of NBBL were apparently scouring their Rolodex for media contacts who still take them seriously.

A short item from Post columnist David Seifman notes that unidentified “critics” of the PPW redesign “insist that all of the DOT’s numbers are misleading.” That’s what Norman Steisel, Louise Hainline, and assorted other friends and acquaintances of former DOT commissioner Iris Weinshall said when they sued the city to remove the PPW bike lane. In fact, DOT’s crash numbers for PPW — which show a small reduction in pedestrian injuries and a small uptick in total motor vehicle crashes involving injury in the two years after the redesign, according to Seifman — are collected using the same methods the agency has always used to measure the impact of traffic-calming projects. It was NBBL and their lawyer, Gibson Dunn attorney Jim Walden, who cherrypicked numbers and fabricated a bogus methodology to suit their needs.

As Streetsblog reported back in 2011:

For example, when NBBL and Walden alleged that DOT counted crashes that didn’t happen on Prospect Park West, the city explains, they failed to understand how NYPD records traffic crashes at intersections. In those cases, police record one street as the “on” street and the other street as the cross street. Because most crashes occur at intersections, it is standard DOT practice to count a crash as occurring on a given street if it is listed as a “cross street” in the police report. NYPD may, for instance, record a crash that happened at the intersection of PPW and Third Street as happening “on” Third Street, with PPW as the cross street. When studying safety on the PPW corridor, DOT counts such a crash as happening on PPW, while NBBL would have disregarded such a crash, en route to compiling a dataset that doesn’t adhere to the methodology employed by DOT all over the city.

Meanwhile, with speeding down drastically compared to the old three-lane highway set-up, people feel safe using PPW in ways they never would have considered before. But the NBBL crew keeps on plodding along, spending time and energy just to undermine projects that let people do this:

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Does the Gender Disparity in Engineering Harm Cycling in the U.S.?

Research has shown that women are more comfortable biking on protected bike lanes, but the male-dominated engineering profession has discouraged this type of street design. Photo copyright Dmitry Gudkov

A study published in this month’s American Journal of Public Health finds that highly influential transportation engineers relied on shoddy research to defend policies that discourage the development of protected bike lanes in the U.S. In their paper, the researchers point out that male-dominated engineering panels have repeatedly torpedoed street designs that have greater appeal to female cyclists.

The research team, led by Harvard public health researcher Anne Lusk, examines four engineering guides published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials between 1974 and 1999. All of these guides, treated like gospel by engineers across the country, either discourage or offer no advice about protected bike lanes, despite the fact that research has shown that women, in particular, are much more likely to bike given facilities that provide some separation from vehicle traffic.

Lusk found that many of AASHTO’s official claims regarding the purported safety problems of protected bike lanes were offered without supporting evidence. AASHTO refused the consider data demonstrating the proven safety record of protected bike lanes outside of the United States. And since there have been almost no protected bike lanes in the U.S. until quite recently, AASHTO based its position against protected bikeways on domestic street designs like sidewalk bikeways, not real bike lanes designed specifically to integrate physically protected bicycling into the roadway.

The researchers came to this rather damning conclusion: “State-adopted recommendations against cycle tracks, primarily the recommendations of AASHTO, are not explicitly based on rigorous and up-to-date research.”

Lusk and her team carried out a safety study of their own, examining crash reports on protected bike lanes in 19 U.S. cities. They found that protected bike lanes had a collision rate of about 2.3 per million kilometers biked — lower than the crash rates other researchers have observed on streets without any bike lanes. (Those rates vary from 3.75 to 54 crashes per million kilometers.)

Lusk’s research also suggests the lack of gender balance in the engineering profession may have contributed to the resistance to protected bike infrastructure. Researchers found that in 1991 and 1999, AASHTO’s Bikeway Planning Criteria and Guidelines were written by a committee made up of 91 and 97 percent men, respectively.

“The AASHTO recommendations may have been influenced by the predominantly male composition (more than 90%) of the report’s authors,” Lusk writes.

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A Bike-Parking Protected Bike Lane Grows in Manhattan

A few years ago, it was a pretty big deal when on-street bike parking was installed in any city.  Though it is always welcome news, today it hardly merits a mention.

But you can find another milestone on the protected bike lane on Ninth Avenue (which was NYC’s first), where three bike corrals have been installed between 36th and 40th Streets. Replacing car parking in the floating lane with bike parking is definitely a first for New York City, and it’s quite possibly the first example in the United States.

We found that small businesses seem to love them already, as you can see in this short report.