Tag Archives: buffered bike lanes

Equitable Bike Advocacy Includes Bike Infrastructure

Even as mounting evidence such as a research report from Governing reminds everyone that bikes aren’t just for white urbanites, biking has continued to gather a reputation as a domain of hipsters. As a result, despite the diverse ridership, the folks actually advocating for bike improvements have continued to not exactly mirror the people majority of people who are doing the pedaling. Unsurprisingly, this has lead to some friction and calls for more diversity in bike advocacy. The advocacy organizations haven’t missed the memo and have begun efforts like LAB’s Equity and Women Bike initiatives. Additionally, more community-based groups like Slow Roll Detroit have taken a more active role in advocating for bikes as not just transportation alternatives, but vehicles for social change in the community.

Nevertheless, many bike advocacy organizations and staff might consistently not look very much like the largest class or group of people biking. But that might not be inherently a bad thing. The changes that they (usually) advocate for do stand to help disadvantaged communities (of color) just as much as they help MAMILs. There’s no denying the safety benefits of dedicated bikeways and few would argue that a comprehensive network of bikeways that connects a community together and to destinations where its residents can find work, school, recreational activities, and more is somehow detrimental to the communities in which it is located. With many disadvantaged communities already ticking off a higher number of people taking trips by bike, making those trips better and easier to undertake will almost certainly provide an improvement in numerous facets of their lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A man and woman ride salmon on Route 66 in San Bernardino, CA. Bike infrastructure would immensely improve the bikeability of this location.

But what if the community isn’t asking for bike infrastructure? Certainly, there is a concern that advocating for infrastructure in underserved communities that aren’t asking for them is forcing something on the community that they don’t want. Thanks to both the lingering after effects of the highway building era then decades of disinvestment and neglect and because of a concern that bikeways bring gentrification, some advocates are even going so far as to say that disadvantaged communities should not get bike infrastructure and that focusing on “northern European” designs and solutions is out-of-place in communities that frequently have mostly non-white populations. But there are two major issues with the strategy of advocating for bikes by not advocating for bikes that will ultimately do more harm than good.

First and foremost, there’s the safety aspect. Where good, quality bike infrastructure exists, biking tends to be safer. As such, it really sounds extremely backwards to suggest that in the areas that often already have some of the most dangerous streets of a region, safety improvements shouldn’t be undertaken because the community hasn’t asked for them. At the end of the day, people still will continue to have to ride in those areas, often in conditions that are embarrassingly deplorable on many different measures. Not only do they deserve to have a safe place to ride, but it is they who need it most as they frequently have few travel alternatives and many have already been victims of traffic violence too. This is a heightened issue in regards to projects that involve once-in-a-generation opportunities to change the layout of a thoroughfare. Those should not be passed.

kennedylaan intersection
A bikeway in Utrecht provides connections for all to the city center and train station.

Additionally, the backlash against bike solutions that are primarily Danish and Dutch as being inappropriate in communities of color is misguided. There are some things that are just done better in some places than in others and as it so happens, those two countries do bikes well. Not only do they tick off the highest rates of biking in the world, but the stellar provisioning for bikes provides those at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder a viable affordable option for transportation so the poor aren’t forced to own a car. That’s crucial because while certainly there are plenty of disadvantaged households in America that don’t own a car, many more are practically forced to because it’s the only realistic option in their community, something that’s really becoming a problem in suburbs.

Secondly, bikeways are a commodity and like all commodities, follow the general principles of economics. Students of the discipline know that the availability of something is directly related to its price. In this case, the fact that good, quality bikeways are still relatively scarce in this country means that the few places that they do exist attract a premium in price as people and businesses seek out locations near them. The best way to counter that is not by keeping bikeways out of some neighborhoods, but to instead make sure that they’re everywhere. Ideally, that means that the plan should not be just single lanes here and there, but entire networks that form a comprehensive grid of LTS2 bikeways that are installed as completely and quickly as possible.

However, bike infrastructure is obviously also becoming a victim of its own success. As early advocates undoubtedly had to find a way to justify to their communities why money should be spent on infrastructure that “no one uses“, study after study was undertaken in relation to the economic impact of bikeways. Most of these studies have shown that bike infrastructure can bring positive economic change to a corridor or area. But those improvements do not happen in a vacuum. Increased receipts and especially values lead to higher rents. Once again, the solution isn’t found in not building, but in building everywhere. But, that does mean that going forward, it is perhaps time to lessen the focus on the potential financial benefits of any single project in favor of safety benefits that it would provide (though people also seek to live in places that are “safe”, so that makes it a similar driver of demand).

So with that in mind, organizations interested in engaging in equitable advocacy should do one of two things. When faced with substantial projects, such as placing or moving curbs, the bike aspect absolutely should not be compromised. In many communities, projects like that only happen once a generation or less. It is imperative that whenever they occur, that the very best designs for both safety and efficiency are used because redoing it later would be costly in not just monetary terms, but also lives and political capital. However, for projects that are less involved, it might be better to take some time to further engage the community to develop a concept that truly works for them instead of just ferrying outsiders through.

As more bikeways get built, more communities are asking for them. We need to make sure that they’re able to access those changes and benefit from them. While bikeways do bring change to a community, that change doesn’t have to be bad if the community gets involved to make sure that it works for them, including by broaching other topics that go beyond the bike aspect. Communities need to get in front of change and embrace it instead of waiting for it to arrive and trying to delay it. Doing so will bring many benefits for all.

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Consequences of “Draconian” Bikeways: Improved Left Turns

A couple days ago as I approached an intersection, I prepared for my left turn the normal way: merged out of the buffered bike lane and continued over to the left turn pocket. While I sat there in the queue waiting for the light to change, it struck me that the turn would’ve been faster if I’d been able to go straight then made the turn at the corner. This is the type of turn, also known as the “Copenhagen left“, is all but forced by the design of protected bike lanes that prevent people on bikes from leaving them away from intersections. That’s not a major problem, but it has resulted in the protected intersection finally getting recognized as a sensible way to deal with bikeways by Americans. (Though they’re also a great option for intersections even when the roads in question don’t have protected bikeways.)

Many folks bemoan that fact and assume that it would be slower and more inconvenient than being able to turn by merging across traffic to do so. However, most traffic signals are timed in a manner as above whereby missing a light often means a lengthy wait in a stew of exhaust fumes. (Or worse yet, not being detected at all if no cars are already waiting.) At that point, making a Copenhagen left instead would at worst, require just half the waiting of the “proper” left. If all-directions green signaling is used and phased favorably, bikes would have guaranteed faster travel through the intersection almost every single time.

These sorts of improvements and enhancements are what need to be brought up in planning and design discussions to build a transportation system where the bicycle is not just a tool of the poorest of the poor or those who “enjoy” biking, but available to all users regardless of skill level. These infrastructural changes can promote that by not just offering facilities that score high on the safety scorecard, but that also are vital in creating  an environment where a bicycle is timely alternative to driving not just for racers, but for normal people too.

Weekly Review

With a new year comes new plans and development. As we head into the second full week of the year, a lot of exciting things are already shaping up for you to get involved in. Here go a couple.

Jurupa Valley General Plan
The City of Jurupa Valley is holding several meetings concerning the completion of an Interim General Plan.

The City of Jurupa Valley has had a challenging history in its short life. Right after coming into existence, Jerry Brown yanked a major funding source from them and there was concern that the City might be quickly dissolved back into a pocket of Riverside County. Nevertheless, they’ve managed to survive and as they look to celebrate a fifth birthday soon, they’re al looking to become more permanent and want to plan what they’ll be in the future. The City is looking for guidance and input as they seek to develop an Interim General Plan. They will be holding several meetings over the next four weeks, so check out the list [PDF] and attend the one that works best for you.

Perris Optimus Logistics Center DEIR

TODAY [PDF] is the last day to submit any comments you might have to the City of Perris that pertain to the planned Perris Logistics Center in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Report [PDF] for the project. In typical fashion, the plan is to scatter stoplights, dedicated turn lanes, and other similar “improvements”. Stuff that is patently bad for bicycling. Of great concern are the intersections where the roads will balloon in size. That’s not good for speeds and definitely not good for fostering a comfortable riding environment.

But even more concerning is the callous disregard for the City’s Trails Master Plan [PDF], which includes bikeways on many of the streets identified in the EIR analysis as needing widening improvements. What’s more, the traffic analysis was done by the same consultant group that did the Trails Master Plan. It seems like they should have the files on their computer still since the City approved it not even two years ago. All they had to do was look back at the document to realize “oh crap, maybe this isn’t a great idea” for the majority of the stuff that they put in the Traffic Analysis of the EIR.

No surprise, that conversation apparently didn’t occur and without robust standards, we have to fight to get anything beyond BIK LANs next to an expressway. Hopefully, Caltrans develops competent standards for Class IV cycletracks, especially for applications when one is necessary versus using a painted Class II lane. The VMT-based traffic analysis standards are also something to look forward to and will hopefully help alleviate this kind of nonsense for future projects.

Share Info!

That’s all for today, but there’s almost certainly more going on. If there are any projects or planning that you know is occurring, get in touch and share it! One that we’re looking out for is the  Draft Environmental Impact Report for the forthcoming World Logistics Center project that is under consideration for the City of Moreno Valley. That document is due within the next month or so. At that time, it will be interesting to see what comes out of that as far as traffic mitigation goes, though history hasn’t shown the consultants who do most of the traffic analyses for this area to be particularly inclined to do anything beyond throw around traffic signals and turn lanes. But we’ll see for sure soon. Until then, ciao!

Update: The City of Chino is also preparing to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for a project being dubbed the “Brewer Site”. More information on that project is to be found at the link above. This is an exciting new time for projects like this since the traffic impacts must now  be evaluated using VMT instead of LOS and plopping houses in the IE for people to drive to LA/OC/(SD) will require far stronger mitigation measures for local trips and really an opportunity to get some innovative new solutions. So check it out and get some comments in, even if only a few lines.

Progress Report: Orange Blossom Trail in Redlands

It appears that 2014 is ending on a higher note for bikeways here in the Inland Empire, particularly in San Bernardino County. Redlands is joining Rialto in getting work done on a trail that has been in the pipeline for a long time: the Orange Blossom Trail. When complete, the Orange Blossom Trail (OBT) will form a loop through the City of Redlands from the Santa Ana River Trail, providing a direct bikeway connection from Redlands to other towns downriver.

Currently, scattered portions of the OBT currently exist where completion has been required as a condition of development. However, the segment now under construction is being done thanks to two grants received by the City for this specific purpose. This segment will also form the longest continuous portion of the OBT to date, stretching a total of 1.3 miles from Grove St. To Wabash Ave. With a total grant award amount of $877,695, the OBT’s price tag clocks in at $675,150 per mile, which is over $300k per mile cheaper than the price normally attributed to a Class I bikeway. [Note that the official legal designation for a Class I bikeway is a bike path, not trail.] And the OBT includes a bridle path.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at how the OBT is being constructed. From Grove St. to Judson Ave., actual train tracks are still present. For that portion, they have elected to build a 10′ wide Class I bikeway on the north side of the tracks and a 6′ wide bridle path on the south side. They are separated by the tracks themselves which at Grove St., has created the perfect gap for skateboarders. The track continues to a couple feet past Judson Ave., after which the bike and bridle paths converge. After converging, they continue along the roadbed of the railroad.

It appears that they’re completing it in segments instead of the whole length at once. Thus far, parking spots, gutters, and ramps have been completed at the Grove St. end and both the bridle path and bikeway are completed almost to Judson on that block. Gutters and ramps have not yet been poured at Judson, but the bikeway and bridle path pick up again and are completed to a couple more streets down in a similar fashion. The asphalt is wonderfully smooth and is (at least at present) decent wide enough to allow people to ride 3-4 abreast.

While a trail is good, a network of bikeways is great. Redlands is quietly getting the network aspect covered as well. Over the last few years, streets have been getting (buffered) bike lanes as the City carries on with its repaving initiative. Several of those streets cross the trail and provide excellent access opportunities to it. Additionally, the trail goes directly to the University of Redlands [property] and empties onto a relatively quiet street that would be a decent bike boulevard. Other schools are also located along the route, so it has the potential to provide an outstanding SRTS opportunity.

One place where the trail will almost assuredly fall short is where it meets other roads. Standard engineering practice doesn’t like “mid-block” crossings, but it’s past time to get over that hesitation. There are several potential solutions to raise their specter and thus, safety, too. Instead of the default having the trail stop, they should design it so that it only has to yield at larger roads such as Dearborn or Judson and has full priority at smaller ones. Raised tables with HAWKs and islands would be ideal ways to help provide a stop-free experience. Unfortunately, those will have to be for a future grant.

The best part about the OBT is that it is being done by the City, not as part of a development. Often, trails put in by developers are ultimately useless and only loop around the development. Even though the OBT isn’t connected with any single development at all, it still has suffered a similar fate as there are several completed sections further west that don’t connect to each other.

Still, once it’s completed, it will be more useful than a loop around the community. It passes near a diverse collection of neighborhoods that ranges from mobile home parks to  moderate-sized McMansions. Additionally, it passes near jobs (including Esri), shopping opportunities, and schools. As a result, the OBT could really unify the residents and provide a good non-motorized route for getting across a good portion of the City. It’s far past time for this to be done, so it’s great to see that the work is finally happening. It will be a welcome addition to the Inland Empire when completed.

Here’s how it looks right now:

Separate but Equal

This post has been sitting in draft for a bit. Originally meant to be a bit of a follow-up post to All users vs. all access, it got repurposed today by some other antics that are more fitting of using this title. Enjoi.

Gutierrez and separation
Dan Gutierrez had this to say about separated infrastructure today.

Chalk up another one for outrageous/ridiculous claims column. Today saw [vehicular] cycling promotion reach a new low with Dan Gutierrez taking the time to compare separated bike infrastructure with the racially charged history of Jim Crow era. While he undoubtedly isn’t the first to draw the comparison, Gutierrez took it a step further and likely greatly diminished any positive impact. What started as a simple complaint about some new buffered bike lanes quickly reached epic heights of stupidity when he decided to really make a point by producing a graphic (original here).

The appropriate response was best summed up by a Dutch acquaintance who offered the following response:

“Wait, lemme get this straight, is this guy trying to compare the absurdity of segregation/apartheid with the lifesaving safety of good bike infrastructure/bikepaths?”

Indeed he is. This is a new twist on a common rallying cry in favor of the placement of bikes in the general travel lanes with cars/trucks/buses/??? vs. providing cycletracks. The assertion is that bikes are vehicles and are thus driven, not ridden. So as driven vehicles, operating them should be done according to “rules of the road as drivers of vehicles” and not anywhere they feel. Buffered bike lanes/cycletracks would produce a wrinkle in that by keeping bikes in those lanes the majority of the time.

The claims used against cycletracks (or even BBLs) are usually no less absurd, as has been seen already. There certainly is a danger that horrific stuff may end up on the ground, but even the Dutch don’t get everything right. Due vigilance by advocates is certainly necessary to make sure that only good stuff gets built, but there is no reason to continue the adamant crusade against infrastructure that would mitigate at least 40%  of cycling deaths as well as dramatically increase ridership. The status quo is lethal, as shown by the dismal comparison of American and Dutch cycling safety, so say nothing of the demographics represented in the pedals.

Loon fietspad
According to Gutierrez et al., this cycletrack would be better if it were scrapped because its existence is evidence of inferiority.

There is a real opportunity for such facilities to improve things. A ‘segregated’ facility does not have to be inferior nor inconvenience the users, as has been seen numerous times by the posts done by various individuals suck as Mark Wagenbuur, Mikael Colville-Anderson, etc. of the superb facilities and great leaps being taken in their local areas to encourage cycling. In many cases, they often result in a cycling experience that is superior to that of those driving. Meanwhile, we’re stuck with “the Cult of the Johns” and partners who refer to anyone not wanting to ride in the midst of traffic with choice adjectives such as “ignorant, frightened, mentally lazy, and traffic incompetent“.

This can only serve to hamper the ability for both current cyclists to gain acceptance by a wider swath of the population as well as being greatly callous and tone-deaf to history. The black community still deals with the residuals of the Jim Crow era far too often and there are many alive who actually remember using ‘COLORED’ facilities. This is not a legacy nor is it a an honorable image to invoke into the push to save lives. One can only hope that the vehicular cyclist crowd doesn’t shoot progress in the other foot too.