Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Downtown Streets Plan and Bicycling

I have asked to have the revised Downtown Streets Standards proposal put on the agenda for this Thursday's Transportation Board meeting. The original wording regarding bicycling approved by the Transportation Board is first. Then the new wording, which the Transportation Board just received to look at.


Objective 1C: Bicycles: Street standards will strive to incorporate elements that enhance safety, comfort, and mobility of bicyclists
1. Develop a long range plan for a network of bike routes;
2. Street standards will include marked bike lanes, shared lanes or separate bide/ped paths as appropriate to the street type and bicycle network where possible;
3. Bike Facilities: Street standards will include bike racks and other bicycle storage/parking facilities appropriate to the street.


1.1. Bicycles. Street designs will strive to incorporate elements that enhance safety, comfort, and mobility of bicyclists. Some elements to be considered are listed below.
1.1.1. Plan Adherence. Designers shall, to the extent possible, adhere to any County plans for a network of bike routes.
1.1.2. Bike Lanes. Wherever possible and appropriate, street designs should include marked bike lanes, shared lanes or separate bicycle pedestrian paths as appropriate to the street type on which they are located.
1.1.3. Bike Facilities. To the extent feasible and appropriate, street designs should include bike facilities including but not limited to bike racks, and storage and parking facilities.
1.1.4. Separate Pathways. Where feasible, bicycle paths separate from the street right- of-way shall be considered.

My concern is the original wording put all types of facilities on an even basis, and left facility design to be "appropriate to the street". The new wording specifically calls for a primacy of separate bike paths where feasible, i.e., "shall be considered".

I have two objections. First, this diminishes our rights to the road by encouraging the thinking that bicyclists don't belong there but on a separate facility. Secondly, I wonder if the DT Streets task force fully understands what they are asking for. Adding paths complicates street design, needs more right of way, and if not done right, can make bicycling more inconvenient and no more safe since if a path looks like a glorified sidewalk or sidepath, it will have the same problems as riding on the sidewalk, i.e., increased conflicts and confusion at intersections. This is why the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) does not endorse sidepaths built alongside roads if the paths intersect the roads. So a bike path would have to be carefully designed to do any good and once built, you would be expected to be using it.

Cycletracks are an ongoing experiment in Europe and are being tried in some U.S. and Canadian cities. They are designed to defeat the hazards cyclists face on road-parallel sidepaths through extensive engineering features such as separate colors, dedicated bicycle-specific traffic signal cycling to hold cars while bicyclists have right of way and vice-versa, and other engineered features designed to manage traffic at conflict points and where turning and crossing are required. Further, they dismiss with the notion of "bike-ped multiuse paths" seen so often in U.S. design. These therefore cost money and while may be a good idea in big cities with big city problems, I am not convinced we need them here.

Your comments now or at the Board meeting are welcome

John Allen's table of contents on bike paths. He has thought about these a lot.

Alta Planning on Cycletracks
Alta Planning: Cycletracks Lessons Learned (pdf)

Two points:
1. Whatever we do, cyclists cannot be less welcome or more inconvenienced on our roads.
2. If cyclists want, and special facilities are built in BombTown, we write the check to do it right based on all the available best practices and lessons learned.

League of American Bicyclists Equity Statement


Jim Nariel said...

You have a few more revised comments - why has this increased?

Well structured article though

Khal said...

I always revise and post subsequent drafts when I write something. The mere act of writing encourages one to re-think and re-write. At least when you wife was a career English professor.

Neale said...

Khal, I can't make it to the meeting, to whom can I address my comments for the most benefit?

Khal said...

Leave comments here and also send an email to

Jon said...

How did this pan out?

Khal said...

The document is still in review, Jon.

Neale said...

Any news on this?