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Two-Way Cycletracks

The folks over at cycleSMARTdallas recently alerted me to a video that challenges the effectiveness of two-way cycletracks. The videographer introduces the video as follows:

After nearly getting hooked by a truck at this intersection, I walked back with a Canon Rebel. I stood on the corner for about 30 minutes at rush hour to record the madness. This is the 15th street cycletrack in Washington D.C.

American Cycletrack – 15th & K from Keri Caffrey on Vimeo.

Despite the pejorative circus music, I think the video does a pretty good job pointing out some of the challenges associated with separated bike facilities in general, as well as two-way on-street bike facilities, often referred to as two-way cycletracks. The biggest challenges include the following:

  • vehicles blocking the cycletrack
  • turning vehicles failing to yield to cyclists
  • placing the cycletrack outside the turn lanes creates unnecessary conflict points
  • the two-way facility places one direction of cyclists on the “wrong side” of the road, where drivers aren’t used to seeing them
  • the traffic signals can sometimes ask cyclists to wait a long time before being allowed through the intersection

Those in the vehicluar cycling crowd (like the folks at cycleSMARTdallas), would argue that these challenges are insurmountable through engineering or any other means – that these facilities are flawed by their very nature. I tend to think that most of the problems pointed out in the video are enforcement and cultural problems rather than a problem inherent to the facility and that we’re just experiencing some growing pains. And some of the problems (like the inability of cyclists to pass each other) are specific to this implementation rather than this class of bikeway. Still, as an engineer and a cyclist, I am certainly more comfortable with a pair of one-way cycletracks on opposite sides of the street rather than a consolidated two-way facility on one side of the street. Given the option, I would always recommend the former over the latter.

What do you think about the video, or two-way cycletracks in general?

1 comment to Two-Way Cycletracks

  • Only two of your challenges are specific to two-way cycletracks:
    placing the cycletrack outside the turn lanes creates unnecessary conflict points
    the two-way facility places one direction of cyclists on the “wrong side” of the road, where drivers aren’t used to seeing them
    Same with the video – most of their complaints have to do with gridlock, and would happen regardless of the type of facility. I mean, come on – they’re complaining about people riding at different speeds? That can happen anywhere.

    I think that building mountable curbs – meaning raised crosswalks at intersections – usually mitigates the downsides to two-way cycletracks. That obviously doesn’t work with higher-speed streets (in my opinion, most streets should be no higher than 20 mph) but those streets should also have a lot fewer intersections, so it may be possible to grade-separate at intersections. I admit that I’m a bit of an extremist.

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