VeloTraffic http://velotraffic.com Discussing Cycling from a Traffic Engineer's Point of View Tue, 08 Oct 2013 21:49:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 2012 ACS Non-Motorized Mode Share Estimates http://velotraffic.com/2013/09/2012-acs-non-motorized-mode-share-estimates/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/09/2012-acs-non-motorized-mode-share-estimates/#comments Sat, 21 Sep 2013 03:41:21 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=869 The American Community Survey (ACS) 2012 1-year estimates were released recently, and the Star Tribune ran a piece titled ‘Minneapolis sees surge in residents choosing to walk or bike to work’.

More than 11 percent of the city’s residents opted for one of the two nonmotorized options in 2012, the Census Bureau’s American community Survey . . . → Read More: 2012 ACS Non-Motorized Mode Share Estimates]]> The American Community Survey (ACS) 2012 1-year estimates were released recently, and the Star Tribune ran a piece titled ‘Minneapolis sees surge in residents choosing to walk or bike to work’.

More than 11 percent of the city’s residents opted for one of the two nonmotorized options in 2012, the Census Bureau’s American community Survey found. That’s a nearly 25 percent increase from the 9.2 percent who walked or biked in 2011.

[...]

In 2012, 6.9 percent chose walking to work and another 4.5 percent pedaled, according to the survey. In 2011, those percentages were 5.8 walking and 3.4 biking.

I have been written before about difficulties in making grandiose statements about mode share.  It is important to keep these numbers in context. It is a fact that the ACS estimated non-motorized mode split in Minneapolis rose 24.9 percent since the 2011 estimate, however, the same survey indicates that the non-motorized mode split fell 9.8% in 2011, 1% in 2010, and 1% in 2009.

I don’t want to be misunderstood: The data clearly suggests an increasing trend since the first ACS results were released in 2005, however, a headline suggesting there was a 25% “surge” in a single year is misleading. There is a lot of noise in the data, and the margin of error on the ACS estimates is usually somewhere around 1% as well.

Anyway, I’ll let statisticians weigh in on the reliability of the data itself, I mostly just wanted to present the same data in context with all the similar data collected since 2005. Just for fun, I’ve also shown the estimates by gender as well.

Minneapolis Commute Walking Mode Share

Minneapolis Commute Walking Mode Share

Minneapolis Commute Biking Mode Share

Minneapolis Commute Biking Mode Share

I was also curious to see the estimates for Saint Paul. Using the same reporting methodology as the Star Tribune article, the 2012 estimate for walking and biking combined increased from 5.3% to 5.4%, an increase of 1.9%.

Saint Paul Commute Walking Mode Share

Saint Paul Commute Walking Mode Share

Saint Paul Commute Biking Mode Share

Saint Paul Commute Biking Mode Share

And to save everyone the trouble of trying to compare Minneapolis and Saint Paul in the charts above, here’s the same info with the two cities on the same chart.

Saint Paul and Minneapolis mode share comparison

Saint Paul and Minneapolis mode share comparison

I’ll let others draw conclusions in the comments below or in future posts. What are your thoughts about the 2012 ACS non-motorized mode share estimates?

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Almost Bike Lanes http://velotraffic.com/2013/08/almost-bike-lanes/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/08/almost-bike-lanes/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 04:09:05 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=863 Bike lanes, generally, are a minimum of 5 feet wide. But a lot of roadways have shoulders that are less than five feet in width, which can be problematic for cyclists when this space is mistaken for bike lanes. Shoulders in the range of 2′ or less are narrow enough that it is pretty clear . . . → Read More: Almost Bike Lanes]]> Bike lanes, generally, are a minimum of 5 feet wide. But a lot of roadways have shoulders that are less than five feet in width, which can be problematic for cyclists when this space is mistaken for bike lanes. Shoulders in the range of 2′ or less are narrow enough that it is pretty clear that they aren’t bike lanes. Shoulders in the 3′-4′ range, however, can be a bit problematic. These shoulders are generally not marked or signed as bike lanes, but they can look a bit like bike lanes, which can lead to confusion and unsafe situations as motorists and bicyclists interact. Not all shoulders 3′-4′ in width are unsafe places to ride a bicycle – there are a number of other factors to consider as well, but it is generally a less than desirable situation.

Bike Lane

Bike Lane

Minnesota State-Aid design standards require a “curb reaction distance” (a.k.a shoulders) on all new construction roadways. Often, there is minimal difference between what is required by state-aid standards for a roadway without bike lanes and what is required for a roadway with bike lanes.

For example, consider a new construction two-lane undivided Collector roadway without parking with projected ADT of 11,000 and design speed of 35 mph. Let’s presume the agency prefers 12 foot lane widths. State-aid design standards would require 4 foot shoulders whether the agency is constructing bike lanes or not. State-aid bikeway standards would require a 5-6 foot bike lane (the 2007 MnDOT Bikeway Facility Design Manual would recommend 6 feet…). In this hypothetical situation, the agency could choose between the following two construction scenarios:

  • construct a 32′ wide roadway (curb face to curb face), which will result in “almost bike lanes”
  • construct a 34′-36′ wide roadway (curb face to curb face), which will result in bike lanes consistent with design standards

In a new construction scenario, the difference in cost between a 32′ and 36′ roadway is not negligible, but it is also not substantial. Materials are cheap, labor is expensive – 4′ additional width requires additional materials, but little or no additional labor.

The decision seems pretty clear to me (not surprising given my obvious bias in favor of constructing bike facilities). In new construction scenarios, this is not a hard decision. In reconstruction scenarios there will often be things like trees in the way that make the decision much more difficult, and agencies still need to ask questions about how this hypothetical road fits into the overall transportation network. But I hope agencies are aware that in many cases, they are nearly building bike lanes whether they intend to or not – and that shoulder space is likely to get used by bicyclists wither it meets design standards or not. The additional cost for the 4′ difference in width is worth it – if nothing else for the ability to sign and mark the space as bike lanes that meet design standards (as this is how it is likely to be perceived by roadway users anyway), rather than being stuck with an “almost bike lane” scenario for perpetuity.

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First Look: Mississippi River Regional Trail (MRRT) Central & Pine Bend Bluffs Segments http://velotraffic.com/2013/06/mrrt-central-pine-bend-bluffs-segments/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/06/mrrt-central-pine-bend-bluffs-segments/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 02:30:14 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=818 Last fall, I really enjoyed reading the series of great posts from Chris Chavie at MN Bike Trail Navigator about the progress being made on the construction of the Mississippi River Regional Trail in South Saint Paul. Seeing as how it is now nearly a full year later, I figured construction must be just about . . . → Read More: First Look: Mississippi River Regional Trail (MRRT) Central & Pine Bend Bluffs Segments]]> Last fall, I really enjoyed reading the series of great posts from Chris Chavie at MN Bike Trail Navigator about the progress being made on the construction of the Mississippi River Regional Trail in South Saint Paul. Seeing as how it is now nearly a full year later, I figured construction must be just about wrapped up on these trails, so I went out to snap some photos and experience the new trail. This trail is a pretty big deal, and will be an important part of the regional trail network once the remaining segments of the trail are constructed (scheduled through 2015 according to the Dakota County website).

I was a bit surprised to discover that construction is not yet complete, and even more surprised to discover that some portions will need to be fully reconstructed (as you will see in the following photos). The trail is separated into two segments, Central & Pine Bend Bluffs. Chris has already done a pretty great job detailing the alignment of the trail, so I won’t try to duplicate that. I’ll mostly just post photos as a bit of a photo tour with a few bits of commentary.

Mississippi River Regional Trail Map

Mississippi River Regional Trail Map

Pine Bend Bluffs Segment

Generally, this section of trail was quite lovely. Smooth pavement and gentle curves and hills. The designers did a lovely job fitting the alignment in what is clearly rough terrain and right-of-way limitations. There are a number of locations where there are steep slopes, wetlands, and drainage ravines and I generally thought the trail was excellent.

The Pine Bend Bluffs Segment ends abruptly just south of 117th Street. A future trail is planned to continue to the south, but for the time being, the trail starts here:

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Heading north, the trail is sandwiched between two fences. This is never a good feeling for a cyclist, though I trust there was no other option through here.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment – Crossing 117th Street

The striping was a bit inconsistent throughout the corridor. Some portions were striped with a centerline, others were not. Generally, curves were marked while straight segments were not marked, though this was not always the case. Some curves were unmarked while some straight segments were marked.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

As much as I dislike having a trail sandwiched between two fences, I was a little surprised that there was no railing along the bluff side of the trail in a few places. The bluff can be quite steep and not very far away from the trail.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

In Chris’ latest post, he mentioned that some portion of the Pine Bend Bluffs segment was still unpaved, and I can confirm that this is still the situation, though it is quite unclear why this section was not paved with the rest of the trail.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment - Unfinished Section

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment – Unfinished Section

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Then I happened upon something interesting, a full failure of a sheet piling retaining wall which can be seen in the distance of this next photo.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

At this location, the trail must cross a bit of a drainage ravine. A sheet piling retaining wall design was used to allow the trail to cross the ravine. As the following photos show, this wall has completely failed, the trail has experienced extreme settling.

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Total failure of sheet piling retaining wall

Continuing north, the trail is once again quite lovely.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

There is a scenic overlook, which does indeed provide excellent scenery.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Moving along, I encountered another short trail segment where the trail passes through a bit of a wetland or pond area. Again, the trail has experienced some pretty substantial settling in this area (6″-8″), though the sheet piling retaining walls have not failed as spectacularly as the previous location.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

There are at least two locations along this trail segment where private unpaved driveways cross the trail. In both locations, the trail is stop controlled and the driveways are given priority movement over the trail. Of course, no cyclist or pedestrian will ever stop.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

The north end of the trail connects to the existing trail parallel to Courthouse Boulevard.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Pine Bend Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Pine Bend Segment

Overall the Pine Bend Bluffs Segment of the MRRT is a wonderful trail. I am curious to see how the sheet piling retaining walls have held up this past weekend with the torrential rains. HOMEWORK: someone go take some new photos and see if they look any different.

Central Segment

The Central Segment was also quite lovely, and the engineers and designers deserve some credit for constructing a trail through this rough terrain. Again, there is one short segment that remains unpaved (not pictured).

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Again, much of the trail is supported by a sheet piling retaining wall, however in this case, the tops of the piles have been capped with concrete.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

This railroad bridge received quite a lot of attention.

Mississippi River Regional Trail - Central Segment

Mississippi River Regional Trail – Central Segment

Anyway, that’s all the photos I have for now. The rest of the Central segment is typical sidepaths – critical for connectivity but not particularly exciting or photogenic.

Has anybody been out to ride the trail yet? What do you think?

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All the Best US Cycle Tracks are Street Level http://velotraffic.com/2013/05/all-the-best-us-cycle-tracks-are-street-level/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/05/all-the-best-us-cycle-tracks-are-street-level/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 11:00:34 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=790 There has been a lot of discussion in the local bicycling scene about cycle tracks lately. “Cycle track” is a bit of a generic term. It may refer to a one-way or two-way facility. It may refer to something at street level or at curb height. It may create separation between cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians . . . → Read More: All the Best US Cycle Tracks are Street Level]]> There has been a lot of discussion in the local bicycling scene about cycle tracks lately. “Cycle track” is a bit of a generic term. It may refer to a one-way or two-way facility. It may refer to something at street level or at curb height. It may create separation between cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians using paint, medians, or curbs. It may or may not include a floating parking lane. It’s complicated. There are any number of design details that may differ from one cycle track to the next. We need to be careful when using the term cycle track, as the term on its own is not particularly descriptive.

Today, I want to discuss one of these variables – elevation. There are a lot of ongoing discussions about whether cycle tracks should be at street level, or curb height. Curbs play a critical role in this discussion. In the vast majority of urbanized areas in the US, roadway space is demarcated by the use of a standard concrete curb and gutter. There are local variations, but the gold standard is a gutter pan somewhere between 12″ and 24″ in width and a 6″ tall curb. There are two primary functions of this curb: 1) to convey stormwater, and 2) to clearly demarcate exactly what is on the street and what is off the street.

MnDOT Standard B-Curb

MnDOT Standard B-Curb

For a number of years now, curbs have been becoming more and more difficult to design, primarily because of ADA ramp requirements. I want to be clear that I fully support ADA compliance and the new rules, but it is fair to say that they add a new level of complexity to intersection design, especially at signalized intersections. There are very specific rules about ramp grades, placement and orientation of truncated domes, placement of signal poles, push-button pedestals, level landings, crosswalk locations, and other features. Engineers who have been designing curb ramps for decades are scrambling to re-learn their trade.

American bicycle planning for decades has designed bicycle facilities that fit well into one of two categories: on-street or off-street. For the most part, this question is synonymous with “which side of the curb is it on?” On-street bike facilities are traditional bike lanes, and recently, facilities such as lanes marked with sharrows, or even bicycle boulevard facilities. Off-street facilities are trails or paths, such as a recreational trail or a sidepath. There have long been lines drawn in sand about whether cyclists are better off in the street mixed with traffic or separated from traffic on sidepaths. Off street trails have been accused of being not much more than glorified sidewalks (which nearly everyone can agree is not a great place for adult cyclists). On street facilities have been criticized for failing to create adequate separation between bikes and cars. Most of us agree that off-street trails are great at mid-block locations, but the intersections, where cyclists have to leave the path and enter the roadway, is where the real safety concerns are. Where do cycle tracks fit into this discussion? Which side of the curb are cycle tracks on?

Any discussion of cycle tracks is incomplete without a discussion of Denmark and The Netherlands. In both of these countries, cycle tracks occupy a bit of a middle ground somewhere between on-street and off-street – a middle ground that doesn’t really exist within the US. In both countries, curbs are a bit, eh… different.  Curbs are rarely a 2.5′ wide piece of concrete. Only occasionally do Dutch streets actually have a gutter pan, and curbs are often somewhere in the 2″-4″ range. In both countries, cycle track design often uses half-size curbs, subtly demarcating space with 1″-2″ change in elevation. There is nothing similar in the US.

Dutch and Danish cycle tracks have a remarkable way of allowing cyclists to pass through intersections without ever feeling like they are going up or down a ramp, across a curb, or through a gutter. In a sense, they strike a critical balance between the messages that have stymied discussions of bike facilities in the US. At mid-block locations, they provide protection and a low-stress environment for cycling similar to off-street trails. At intersections, they seamlessly transition cyclists to an on-street location where they have the benefits of additional visibility provided by on-street bike lanes.

Take a look at this image below, which is a pretty typical Danish intersection design in the city center where space is scarce. In this image, you can see the cycle tracks extending away from the corner, and as they do, the cycle track is on top of a smallish 2″ or so curb. As the cycle tracks approach the intersection, the curbs just sort of disappear – the 2″ of elevation difference just sort of absorbed into the roadway surface. While cyclists are separated from motorists in mid-block locations by a small curb, they are able to transition seamlessly to street level at intersections. Brilliant.

Copenhagen Typical Intersection

Copenhagen Typical Intersection

This type of design is pretty straight forward and could be reproducible in the US relatively easily. Here’s a video from John Allen of a bikeway on Concord Ave in Cambridge, MA that more or less implements this design (NOTE: I am not a John Allen fan, but the video does a decent job at giving you a feel for the bike facility – feel free to watch the video on mute). I actually like this design, though I don’t think it’s quite what folks have in mind locally when they are discussing cycle tracks.

In The Netherlands, it is common to see something similar to the image below. Right on the corner there is a little raised roundish median (which a co-worker of mine once dubbed “the biscuit” and I see no reason to use any other term). A lot of folks prefer this design to the Danish design above because it offers cyclists a bit more protection if they’re waiting for a light right on the corner. Yet again, notice that there is no clear ramp for cyclists to navigate, and no gutter pan. Any changes in elevation between the roadway and the cycle track are subtle at best. The cycle tracks in the photo below have the trademark dutch red coloring, and if you look closely, you can see where the red coloring stops near the biscuit. Other than color, the transition of the cycle track to the intersection is seamless.

Typical Dutch Intersection with Biscuit

Typical Dutch Intersection with Biscuit

In the photo above, is the cycle track an on-street facility or an off-street facility? Is it proper to think of a facility like this as part of the sidewalk, or part of the roadway? In US terms, is this cycle track in front of the curb, or behind the curb? I suspect only an American (blogger) would ask these questions.

Also, a quick clarification that the question of curb-height or street-level, on-street or off-street is mostly meaningless at mid-block locations. It just doesn’t really matter. But it does matter at intersections. Alot.

So what about the cycletracks that exist in the US already? Let’s take a look at a few examples.

First let’s look at Vassar Street in Cambridge, MA. This street has one-way cycletracks that are clearly at curb height flush with the sidewalks. Decidedly off-street. How does it handle signalized intersections? Well, it doesn’t. I can’t find any good photographs online, but it’s pretty visible on Google Maps that the cycle tracks transition to traditional on-street bike lanes several hundred feet before any signalized intersection along the corridor. This design is lovely at mid-block locations, but it doesn’t address signalized intersections.

Vassar St, Cambridge, MA

Vassar St, Cambridge, MA

Below is a design from Evanston, IL of a two-way facility.  Evanston developed a bikeway along Church Street and they wanted two blocks of it to be at curb height. Please ignore the rubbish bins in the middle of the cycle track and the question of why no attempt was made to visually distinguish the cycle track from the sidewalk space and focus only on the ramp designs. This is an intersection with a driveway, but you could imagine the same thing at a signalized intersection. This is the opposite of seamless, it clumsily uses a standard ADA pedestrian ramp complete with truncated domes and gutter pans. The engineers decided to include an ADA compliant ramp on a bikeway, presumably not for blind cyclists but because a blind pedestrian might wander onto the cycle track.

Curb height two-way cycle track at an intersection via Steve Vance on flickr

Curb height two-way cycle track at an intersection via Steve Vance on flickr

However, take a look at this same facility about one block down the road in the picture below. At this point the same facility has transitioned from a facility that is decidedly off-street and curb-height to one that is decidedly on-street and at street level (notice how there is no middle alternative – it’s either on or off?) Some folks won’t like this design because it lacks a curb or median separating motorists from cyclists. However, there are a few things that I really like about it. Notice how it completely avoids the question of ramps, curbs, or ADA compliance. Cyclists do not navigate gutter pans, ramps, pavement joints, or truncated domes. They are functionally quite different than riding on a sidewalk. Even more, it allows the existing gutter, curb, sidewalks, ADA ramps, crosswalks, etc. to be 100% standard US design.

Street-level two way cycletrack via Steve Vance on flickr.

Street-level two way cycletrack via Steve Vance on flickr.

Ok, I can hear people thinking that I’ve picked some of the worst possible examples of cycle track designs to make my point. Ok, point taken. It’s because I honestly am not aware of great curb-height (or half-curb-height cycle track designs in the US. If you have examples, please let me know. And again, the question is really not about mid-block locations – it’s the intersections that matter, and curb-height cycle tracks complicate what is already a complicated set of rules governing intersection and ramp design.

Now, think of your favorite cycle track that has been developed in the US or Canada, and let’s see how it handles issues like half-curbs, ramps, crosswalk locations, and ADA compliance.

Here are some photos:

New York 9th Avenue via Steve Vance on flickr

New York 9th Avenue via Steve Vance on flickr

Dunsmuir Vancouver Cycle Track

Dunsmuir Vancouver Cycle Track

Washington DC Cycle Track

Washington DC Cycle Track

15th Street, Washington DC via Dan Reed on flickr

15th Street, Washington DC via Dan Reed on flickr

Montreal Cycle Tracks

Montreal Cycle Tracks

All the photos above are street level facilities. They have no impact on curb height, ramps, crosswalk locations, and ADA compliance. Engineers are free to locate pedestrian curb ramps and crosswalks wherever they please. Are there other favorites out there?

Here’s my point: Curb-height cycle tracks introduce a level of complexity to the design of intersections that is unnecessary. I am not aware of a US city that has successfully translated the elegance of dutch cycle track design into a US context with half-curbs and biscuit islands or a full curb-height design that navigated ADA requirements. Meanwhile, cities all across the US have implemented street-level cycle tracks separated from motorized traffic with medians or parking. In many agencies, it is safe to say that the engineers are not champing at the bit to design cycle tracks at all, let alone a facility that requires them to fundamentally re-imagine all of the curb ramps, which are already tricky enough as it is. I am not suggesting that we settle for less-than-stellar facilities. The word I am hearing from cities like New York and Washington DC is that they are having phenomenal success with their street-level facilities. This is also not to knock on communities like Indianapolis that have developed networks of facilities that are entirely off-street trails – these facilties are great, but they’re quite a bit different than cycle tracks.

I do not doubt that US engineers are perfectly capable of designing any type of facility they set their minds to. We are seeing a number of creative bikeway designs emerging from US cities that have figured out ways to navigate some of these questions. I will be the first to tip my hat to the first US engineers and agencies that are able to implement the grace of Dutch cycle tracks. In the mean time, my hunch is that US cities will have the most success if we keep our cycle tracks at street level.

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Bikeway Functional Class http://velotraffic.com/2013/04/bikeway-functional-class/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/04/bikeway-functional-class/#comments Tue, 23 Apr 2013 17:46:39 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=778 I’ve been reading a lot of bike plans lately, and there seems to be a pretty wide variety of frameworks used by agencies to categorize bikeways. In particular, I’m intrigued by the variety of systems used by cities to create functional classifications for bikeways, and how some plans do or do not attempt to correlate . . . → Read More: Bikeway Functional Class]]> I’ve been reading a lot of bike plans lately, and there seems to be a pretty wide variety of frameworks used by agencies to categorize bikeways. In particular, I’m intrigued by the variety of systems used by cities to create functional classifications for bikeways, and how some plans do or do not attempt to correlate bikeway facility class with functional class. This post is mostly just my personal notes, though I thought some folks might find it interesting. Below is a crude simplification of the plans I’ve been reading. Please let me know if you think I’ve missed something major.

Seattle Bicycle Master Plan

No clear functional classification, though some routes are in cluded in the Urban Trails and Bikeways System (more research needed to figure out what this means)

Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030

  • Major City Bikeways
  • City Bikeways
  • Local Service Bikeways (all streets not included in one of the above two classifications.)

There is no relationship between functional class and facility type.

Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan

  • Principal Arterial Bikeways
  • Minor Arterial Bikeways
  • Collector Bikeways
  • Neighborhood Bikeways

There is an informal correlation between bikeway functional class and facility type, especially at the high end of the functional classification (Principal Arterials are exclusively trails, as grade separation is one of the criteria).

Denver Moves

Plan does not establish a functional class, though it does establish an “Ease of Use” classification

Austin 2009 Bicycle Plan Update

Plan establishes Super-Routes “intended to serve as attractors to less experienced bicyclists”. Otherwise, does not establish a functional classification. Has also integrated “Ease of Use” into existing facilities map.

Richfield (MN) Bicycle Master Plan

  • Local Routes
  • Recreational Routes
  • Commuter Routes

The plan establishes the functional hierarchy (which it also applies to people and destinations), but does not apply the functional classification to any particular routes.

Rosemount (MN) Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan
West Saint Paul (MN) Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan

(same consultant author)

  • Regional Trail
  • Main Route
  • Local Route
  • Access Route

The plans make broad recommendations about facility types that permits nearly any facility type on any functional class, with the exception that bike boulevards are not recommended for Main Routes

Edina (MN) Comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan

  • Primary Route
  • Secondary Route
  • Priority Regional Trail

Plan does not establish a relationship between functional class and facility type.

Philadelphia Walk Bike Pedestrian Master Plan
Pittsburgh Bicycle Plan
Fresno Bicycle plan
Red Wing (MN) Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan

No functional classification

 I’m trying to determine whether a bikeway functional class is useful or if it is just an unnecessary complication that doesn’t really facilitate plan implementation. On one hand, it seems logical. On the other hand, as a resident of Minneapolis, the city’s bikeway functional class map doesn’t seem to have had any influence whatsoever in determining what is constructed or not constructed, and some of the designations seem a bit arbitrary and/or unnecessary. What do you think? Is a bikeway functional class a useful way to categorize bikeway facilities?

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B-Cycle B-Connected http://velotraffic.com/2013/03/b-cycle-b-connected/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/03/b-cycle-b-connected/#comments Sat, 16 Mar 2013 02:01:56 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=773 Streetsblog reports that B-Cycle bike share company is rolling out the B-Connected system that allows season pass holders from one city use B-Cycle systems across the nation.

B-Cycle B-Connected

From the post:

Beginning next week, annual memberships from this bike-sharing company will be honored in 15 cities where B-Cycle operates…

[...]

This is the . . . → Read More: B-Cycle B-Connected]]> Streetsblog reports that B-Cycle bike share company is rolling out the B-Connected system that allows season pass holders from one city use B-Cycle systems across the nation.

B-Cycle B-Connected

B-Cycle B-Connected

From the post:

Beginning next week, annual memberships from this bike-sharing company will be honored in 15 cities where B-Cycle operates…

[...]

This is the first time a bike-share company has allowed members to use other cities’ systems when they travel without having to pay extra. Will Alta Bicycle Share follow suit? Alta already runs systems in Boston and D.C., with new ones set to come online soon in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Portland. A similar move could create quite a network.

This is a wonderful development. If I had the kind of job where I traveled for business, this would be enough to sell me a season pass in my hometown, even if I only really planned to use it while traveling. One would hope that eventually the operators of bike-sharing systems using the Public Bike Sharing Company technology (including those managed by Alta) can implement the same reciprocity policies. Eventually, we might even hope the two competing proprietors would be able to offer subscribers rides on each other’s systems. Perhaps what each proprietor loses in terms of strategic advantage they would recoup by bolstering bike-sharing nationwide.

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Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake http://velotraffic.com/2013/03/pedestrian-and-cyclist-detection-with-full-auto-brake/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/03/pedestrian-and-cyclist-detection-with-full-auto-brake/#comments Thu, 07 Mar 2013 00:00:21 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=770 Copenhagenize posted this video about a system called Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake by automaker Volvo.

I don’t know any details about where or when the system will appear on vehicles in the wild, but it is certainly a welcome development that can’t come soon enough. The more we can do . . . → Read More: Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake]]> Copenhagenize posted this video about a system called Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake by automaker Volvo.

I don’t know any details about where or when the system will appear on vehicles in the wild, but it is certainly a welcome development that can’t come soon enough. The more we can do to remove stopping decisions from drivers the better. I have no doubt that computers will be more effective at identifying and correctly yielding to non-motorized users than humans are. I only wish the cyclist in this video wasn’t portrayed as being completely oblivious to surroundings, as it is just as likely to be deployed in a situation where the driver is oblivious to surroundings.

I wonder if widespread deployment of this technology would lead to brazen cyclists and pedestrians who make risky or illegal movements knowing that Auto Brake will stop the vehicles regardless of who has the right-of-way. I wouldn’t think so, unless it turns out that we are all savages after all, which I hope is not the case.

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Crosswalk timing issues http://velotraffic.com/2013/01/crosswalk-timing-issues/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/01/crosswalk-timing-issues/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 04:49:10 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=762 I am quoted in this article on KARE11 about the FHWA adjusting crosswalk waking speeds from 4.0 ft/s to 3.5 ft/s in 2009:

Crosswalk timing an issue in many MN counties

Reuben Collins is a traffic engineer behind Streets.mn – a blog dedicated to safer transportation – and says the best solution hasn’t been . . . → Read More: Crosswalk timing issues]]> I am quoted in this article on KARE11 about the FHWA adjusting crosswalk waking speeds from 4.0 ft/s to 3.5 ft/s in 2009:

Crosswalk timing an issue in many MN counties

Reuben Collins is a traffic engineer behind Streets.mn – a blog dedicated to safer transportation – and says the best solution hasn’t been implemented.

“When you think so many households have video-game consoles that can detect pedestrians and pedestrian movements in our own living rooms, we should have this technology in traffic signals,” said Collins.

He says it’s possible for signals to sense when someone is in the intersection, but why sensors aren’t used, Collins believes, goes back to a culture centered around wheels more than walking.

“I am not sure all the agencies out there will have the resources to necessarily comply with this. This is not new guidance. It’s been on the books for several years and agencies are just now starting the process,” said Collins.

Some additional context for the quote that didn’t make the article is that there are a lot of reasons why Crosswalk Occupancy Detection hasn’t been widely deployed. Culture is one. Cost, reliability, and a lack of local experience with the technology are other reasons.

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LEGO City Ambulance Bicycle Crash http://velotraffic.com/2013/01/lego-city-ambulance-bicycle-crash/ http://velotraffic.com/2013/01/lego-city-ambulance-bicycle-crash/#comments Fri, 11 Jan 2013 15:38:58 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=753 This is old news, but new to me.

The popular children’s toy LEGO produces one set of blocks that allows children to reenact a bicycle crash. The set is called “Ambulance”, but the person needed medical attention has apparently just crashed a bicycle.

Lego City Ambulance Bike Crash

I would not have expected this . . . → Read More: LEGO City Ambulance Bicycle Crash]]> This is old news, but new to me.

The popular children’s toy LEGO produces one set of blocks that allows children to reenact a bicycle crash. The set is called “Ambulance”, but the person needed medical attention has apparently just crashed a bicycle.

Lego City Ambulance Bike Crash

Lego City Ambulance Bike Crash

I would not have expected this from a company based in Denmark. At least all of the LEGO people are still smiling, so this must have been a particularly hilarious crash.

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Requiring Motorists to Merge into Bike Lanes Prior to Right Turns http://velotraffic.com/2012/10/requiring-motorists-to-merge-into-bike-lanes-prior-to-right-turns/ http://velotraffic.com/2012/10/requiring-motorists-to-merge-into-bike-lanes-prior-to-right-turns/#comments Wed, 24 Oct 2012 18:29:12 +0000 http://velotraffic.com/?p=712 Right Hook Crash Type (via floridabicycle.org)

One of the most common crashes that occurs involving bicyclists on urban streets is the “right-hook”, or the crash that occurs when a right-turning motorist fails to yield to a through bicyclist traveling the same direction in a bicycle lane.

Engineers, Cyclists, and Lawmakers alike have long known . . . → Read More: Requiring Motorists to Merge into Bike Lanes Prior to Right Turns]]>

Right Hook Crash Type (via floridabicycle.org)

One of the most common crashes that occurs involving bicyclists on urban streets is the “right-hook”, or the crash that occurs when a right-turning motorist fails to yield to a through bicyclist traveling the same direction in a bicycle lane.

Engineers, Cyclists, and Lawmakers alike have long known that this configuration of right-turning motorists positioned to the left of through bicyclists is problematic, and there are a number of regulations and design standards in place to prevent or mitigate these challenges.

For example, current state law requires motorists to merge into the bicycle lane prior to executing a turning movement. Minnesota Statute 169.19 Subd. 1 says the following (emphasis mine):

(g) Whenever it is necessary for the driver of a motor vehicle to cross a bicycle lane adjacent to the driver’s lane of travel to make a turn, the driver shall drive the motor vehicle into the bicycle lane prior to making the turn, and shall make the turn, yielding the right-of-way to any vehicles approaching so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.

There are also design standards in place that are intended to communicate these regulations to motorists and bicyclists. The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (2012) allows engineers the option of using dotted lines at intersections based on engineering judement. The dotted lines are intended to indicate to motorists and cyclists the area where it is appropriate for motorists to merge into the bicycle lane. It also says the following (Chapter 4.8):

State vehicle or traffic codes should be consulted as well, as the presence of a solid bike lane line at the approach to an intersection may discourage motorists from merging before turning right, as required by law in some states. [...] In such cases, a dotted marking should be used or the bike lane should be dropped on intersection approaches where right turns are permitted.

The MnMUTCD also allows the optional use of a dotted line, though there is little guidance provided about when it is appropriate. However, the MnDOT Bikeway Facility Design Manual (2007) mostly avoids the question and simply recommends placing the bike lane to the left of right-turning motorists.

No Dashed Lines at intersection of Park Avenue & 31st Street.

This is not a perfect solution, primarily because we have learned that many motorists do not merge into the bicycle lanes prior to executing turns, and many motorists and cyclists are not aware that this is the current state law. In addition, some cyclists do not feel comfortable with the idea of motorists merging into bicycle lanes under any circumstances. Local agencies are not using a single strategy, and one will encounter bicycle lanes that are dotted at some intersections and not dotted at others, even along the same roadway.

At the same time, many communities, including the City of Minneapolis, are experimenting with markings referred to as “bicycle boxes” or “bike boxes” as a different potential strategy to reduce “right-hook” crashes. Bike boxes, which are typically only installed at signalized intersections, have many intended functions, but there are two specific functions relevant to the discussion of “right-hook” crashes. The first is that they implement an advanced stop line and often prohibit right-turn-on-red, which allows bicyclists to pull ahead of  motor vehicles stopped for a red light and establish position within the motorists primary field of vision. The second is that they do not used dotted lines, thus discouraging motorists from merging into bicycle lanes before turning right. Instead, motorists are asked to yield to through bicyclists, then turn across the bicycle lane from the motor vehicle lane. This, it seems, is in conflict with current state law.

Typical Bike Box installation. Notice the white lines outlining the green box are all solid, rather than dashed. (image via Portland Mercury)

Bicycle boxes are not currently an approved marking in the MUTCD, and communities that wish to use them must request permission to experiment with the markings from the FHWA. The City of Minneapolis has done this for bicycle boxes that are currently in-place in at least one location (the Franklin Avenue/East River Parkway/27th Avenue intersection).

The City of Portland is currently experimenting with bicycle boxes in a number of locations as well. Sarah Mirk reported on the Portland Mercury Blogtown that the City of Portland recently provided the FHWA with a progress report of the performance of the experimental markings. Among the initial findings is that the number of right-hook crashes has increased at several locations where the experimental bike boxes are installed. Ms. Mirk provided the following commentary and summary of the memo to the FHWA:

What appears to be leading to the new crashes in that people are biking through the intersection faster, overtaking cars that are turning right. While the bike boxes have been good at stopping right hooks when both the car and bike are starting up from being stopped at a light, 88 percent of the crashes happened at a “stale” green—not from a dead-stop but from a turning car striking a cyclist who’s in motion, pedaling down the block and through a green-lit intersection.

The question of whether or not motorists should be instructed to merge into bike lanes is unresolved, and recent news articles indicate that the City of Minneapolis has requested clarification from the state legislature about the intent of the law requiring motorists to merge.

I’m probably not hiding my bias very well. Laws requiring motorists to merge into the bike lane make sense to me, both as a professional engineer and also as a cyclist. However, it’s also true that this safety strategy isn’t really compatible with some of the newer bicycle facility types (e.g. on-street two-way cycle tracks, bike boxes). As the range of bicycle facility types continues to expand, our directions to drivers on how to safely interact with bicyclists is also going to become more complex. The need for a more complex safety message is not an advantage, but it may be necessary.

 

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