Thursday, January 22, 2009

Downtown Streets Standards Committee meeting

If you were not at the streets standards meeting tonight and worry about Trinity, I suggest you follow up at future meetings to follow this. If we do anything, we need to get it right the first time and that is always a political battle.

I'm more worried about pedestrians crossing the street than of cyclists riding there, to tell you the truth. We have built a lot of housing to the east of Trinity and somehow expect the folks to cross a high speed, wide, multiple lane road with few ped crossings, some of which are badly compromised to keep motor vehicle traffic flowing. If we build commercial properties at the Trinity Site, this will intensify the problem.

There were some designs that looked bicycle-friendly on the surface, but have some not so hidden flaws. Basically, the existing right of way width, at 80 feet, requires some serious compromises if the County is trying to do all things for all constituencies. One design, for example, shows nice bike lanes, but also includes street parking, and the bike lanes are sketched into the design within the door zone of parked cars.

see The Door Zone

and see

Multilane roads with wide outside lanes or with painted bike lanes in lieu of wide outside lanes have their problems: on a heavily used, fast road like Trinity with lots of cross streets, having cyclists riding to the right of other vehicle traffic may increase the risk of cutoff ("right hook" and "left cross") crashes at intersections. Two scenerios are important. In one, motorists pass bicyclists and then abruptly slow and turn right. In another, motorists turn left without paying attention to an oncoming cyclist on the far edge of a wide road. And Trinity has a boatload of intersections and driveways. A further bad scenerio arises when a cyclist tries to make a left turn from a bike lane rather than merging left in advance.

One design on the table had a wide, ~17 ft. multiuse path just a few feet from the roadway, which violates AASHTO best practices. What you get are twice the hazards of a regular intersection when the bike path and the roadway cross. The problems are similar to the problems sidewalk cyclists face--visibility, right of way management, cognizance of both road and path traffic by each set of operators, and compliance.

So regardless of what we do in the way of design, cyclists on Trinity will have to be skilled and reasonably comfortable in traffic as long as Trinity is a traffic-mover. I rode a street similar in design to Trinity but far worse than Trinity in vehicle miles per day travelled in East Honolulu for 9 years without incident by riding in a vehicular cycling fashion. Sadly, I had the dubious pleasure of seeing some inexperienced people on bikes, i.e., college students riding to the Univ. of Hawaii, seriously nailed because they tried to ride to the right of cars while oblivious to turning and crossing complications and opening doors. A reasonable degree of cyclist skill is needed to ensure the cyclist is aware of these hazards and to manage the risks. Take Neale Pickett's Traffic Skills course.

I'd personally prefer a conceptually simple design that integrates cyclists into other traffic without too many whistles and bells, while preserving Central Avenue as a traffic calmed slow street where no one is moving too fast and so no one has that much kinetic energy at their disposal. The biggest problem I see on Central is that some cyclists think they have no right to be in traffic and are intimidated and that a few buttheads in motor vehicles reinforce that notion.

Another option to Trinity, not discussed, is knocking a hole in some buildings and running Deacon Street all the way to MariMac and calling it a bicycle boulevard. A down side is that it would be riddled with stop signs.

Anyway, I'm a fan of not trying to do more than your resources allow. The boundary conditions are fixed by the 80 foot width (unless we add width), number of traffic lanes, and amounts of traffic we want to move. My favorite design was the one with a single, wide lane in each direction and single-lane roundabouts at all the intersections. Barring roundabouts, I'd prefer left turn lanes be included to keep traffic moving without people zooming around left turning vehicles. These could be built into a center median/ped refuge structure.

Speaking for myself here, of course.


Amy said...

That was also my favorite - the single lane, the one that I think will probably go in is option C, with the bike lanes and four lane road, etc. I would also like to see more pedestrian crossings. That road is very frustrating to get across on foot. I thought on-street parking was interesting, but adding a bike lane beside it is just going to encourage people to ride in the door zone, as you mention.

At the very least, updating the sidewalks is a must. In conclusion, I completely concur that the pedestrian side of Trinity must improve over bicycle facilities if we have to choose.

Khal said...

As far as parking? This town is already awash in a sea of parking lots and has low downtown building density. I have a 16 Mb aerial photo courtesy of Michael Ronkin, if anyone wants to see it quite vividly for themselves.

Anonymous said...

How much of this is subject to NMDOT veto since it's a state road? Can we design what we want or do we have to get permission of the state?

Khal said...

As far as I know, all of Trinity is a state route. We have to work with the State, as painful as that sometimes may be.