Posts Tagged ‘AASHTO’

Tienken Road plans ignore cyclist safety

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

The Road Commission for Oakland County and the city of Rochester Hills are hosting a public meeting tomorrow night to discuss their Tienken Road improvement plans. It would be great to see some cyclists attend and provide comments.

Wednesday, July 21st, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Rochester Hills City Hall Auditorium

As m-bike readers know, the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) has a long history of ignoring the safety of bicyclists. They’ve continued that streak by failing to provide bike lanes in their Tienken Road plans.

We submitted comments to the RCOC a year ago regarding bike lanes on Tienken and provided justification. Those comments were never responded to and altogether ignored based on the latest Tienken Road Environmental Assessment which recommends three vehicular travel lanes and sidewalks.

No bikes lanes. No wide curb lanes. Not a Complete Street.

Our preferred option should be three 11-foot lanes with two five-foot bike lanes (or wider, buffered bike lanes.) That would be a Complete Street and support Safe routes to School.

Why 11-foot lanes? Studies show there is no safety advantage for having 12-foot lanes and they induce speeding.

Former Rochester Hills City Councilman Scot Beaton has gone even further with his suggestions and developed an alternative cross section that includes bike lanes. He’s left his comments at the end of this Oakland Press article.

We must also mention that the RCOC plans failed to include any discussion of bicycling safety despite the nearby parks, trails, and schools. Three has been three bicycling-vehicle crashes in this road corridor since 2006 — all three occurred on safety paths. RCOC’s response? Build more safety paths.

City of Rochester Hills guilty too

Just as the RCOC ignores AASHTO guidelines for bicycle facilities and best design practices, so too does the city of Rochester Hills — which helps explain why it is one of the least safe places to ride a bike in Oakland County based on crash data. Their “safety path” network does not meet AASHTO guidelines. In fact, John LaPlante, a primary author of the guidelines called the term “safety path” an oxymoron. LaPlante said the guidelines were clear that “safety paths” (or the correct term, sidepaths) are rarely an appropriate bicycle facility.

According to the Oakland Press, “Mayor Bryan Barnett said he’s happy with the outcome.”

It’s frustrating that cities like Rochester Hills and others (e.g. Oakland Township, Orion Township, West Bloomfield Township) refuse to follow the national design guidelines. It’s really up to cyclists to turn this around. Taxpayer dollars are being wasted on off-road bicycle facilities that would be much less expensive and safer on the road.

Friends of Tienken Road

And finally, it seems the Friends of Tienken Road are no fans of safe cycling or Complete Streets either. This is the group that fought against widening Tienken to five lanes.

We sent them emails with the regards to bike lane proposal, but they never responded. This is despite that fact that we helped them with their community outreach, paid for their web domain name, developed their web site, and provided free web hosting.

It seems their priority is in limiting the RCOC’s plan to three lanes of motor vehicle travel, rather than bicyclist safety (or responding to emails.)

Unable to attend?

According to the Free Press, “Those unable to attend the meeting may send concerns about the proposal in writing to the Road Commission for Oakland County, Permits and Environmental Concerns Department, 2420 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford 48328.”

Road closures proposed in Harper Woods

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

The Free Press is reporting that Harper Woods is considering blocking some roads with the thought that it may decrease crime.

Harper Woods has several major roads and sits along I-94. City officials said blocking off some streets might make escape more difficult for those who commit crimes in the city.

It might make it more difficult to bike around the city, too.

And while it likely isn’t anyones intention to block bicycle traffic flow, that’s certainly what an improperly design road closure does.

We shared those concerns with the city manager. A full road closure, as the example photo shows, forces bicycles onto sidewalks. In some places, like Catalpa between Southfield and Lathrup Village, there are no sidewalk connections.

Here is some of our letter to the Jim Leidlein, the Harper Woods City Manager (

If you do decide to close roads, I would suggest you maintain an opening in the barrier to allow bicycles to pass through. The AASHTO bicycle facilities guidelines suggest a 10 foot opening with a single bollard to prevent motor vehicle access (attached). Having a removable bollard would also allow emergency vehicle access if needed. Also per AASHTO, it would not be appropriate routing bicycles to a sidewalk in order to get around the road closure.

You might also consider your snow removal policy. You would not want to pile snow in this barrier opening and block non-motorized travel through it.

These same suggestions have been shared with Detroit’s Traffic Engineering division for Palmer Wood’s proposed barriers.

Non-motorized project review database?

Friday, January 8th, 2010

There are many planning firms in Metro Detroit that bid on non-motorized planning projects.

Some are highly qualified, well-versed in best practices, and are responsible for the great projects within the area.

And there are other planners that ignore best practices and AASHTO — and as we’ve seen, they often bid low. They give us projects like the proposed transit center in Troy and Birmingham which mixes bicyclists and pedestrians on narrow winding sidewalks with 90 degree blind turns. Or a non-motorized plan in Oakland Township where the topic of bike lanes “never came up.”

To many local governments, price and familiarity are major determining factors in selecting planners. Local officials typically do not have the experience to determine which planners have the competency to do a non-motorized project.

As far as we know, there is not a relevant certification for non-motorized planning.

One option is to have a database of planning project reviews. MDOT has an internal database for their construction projects which rates projects and helps boost the more qualified contractors. It seems Metro Detroit could benefit from a similar public system where city officials and bicycle advocates could get unbiased reviews of area planners. It could help cities disqualify bids from planning firms that ignore best practices for non-motorized projects.

Does this already exist nationally? That would be optimal as regional and national firms often bid on local projects as well.

Cycling for Cities: A Detroit Perspective

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Earlier this month, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) started a new Cities for Cycling project with a kick off event in Washington DC, which we were able to attend.

But first, what is NACTO? While the more popular American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is for states, NACTO is the equivalent for large U.S. cities. NACTO has 14 member cities, including Detroit.

Their mission is to “encourage the exchange of transportation ideas, insights, and practices among large central cities while fostering a cooperative approach to key national transportation issues.”

The Cities for Cycling project mission is to “catalog, promote and implement the world’s best bicycle transportation practices in American municipalities.”

Bicycling is good for cities. Providing safe, comfortable, convenient bicycling facilities is a cost-effective way for American municipalities to improve mobility, livability and public health while reducing traffic congestion and CO2 emissions.

Cities for Cycling focuses on implementing world-class bicycle transportation systems through design innovation and the sharing of best practices. American municipalities are increasingly pioneering new designs and adapting international best practices to local conditions. To assist this local-level leadership, the Cities for Cycling project works to share and promote state-of-the-art practices that ensure safe traffic conditions for all modes of travel.

Why Cities for Cycling?

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner and NACTO president Janette Sadik-Khan also gave another reason for this project. (more…)

Road design class for bicycling comes to Detroit

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Mike Amdsen discusses possible improvements to the bike lane in front of GM's RenCen headquartersThe Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has a training program for traffic engineers and planners that centers around designing roads for cycling. This year that program came to downtown Detroit.

What makes this program so effective is it’s led by John LaPlante, inarguably America’s leading expert in bicycle facility design. LaPlante is the primary author of the AASHTO guidelines for the development of bicycle facilities. He’s also a key figure in bicycle signage standards (via the MUTCD from the FHWA) and AASHTO’s pedestrian facilities design guidelines.

Laplante worked for the city of Chicago for 30 years include a stint as the Acting Commissioner of Transportation. In this role he was responsible for the planning, design and construction of all roads, bridges and mass transit facilities in the city of Chicago including their bicycle network.

Also leading the training class was Michael Amsden, the Bikeways Planner for the city of Chicago. Mike led us on a six-mile bike tour that made planned stops where he discussed options for improving the bike-friendliness of streets and intersections. Those stops included the mysteriously appearing and disappearing bike lane along Atwater and the super scary Broadway/Gratiot/Randolph intersection.

Representatives from the city of Detroit (5!), Wayne County, SEMCOG, Royal Oak, Corktown, MDOT and others were in attendance. Extra kudos go to the city of Detroit staff since the class coincided with the city’s first unpaid furlough.

Nearly all of the training was from the MUTCD and soon-to-be-release updated AASHTO bicycle guidelines.

One common theme was it’s best to implement bicycle facilities without removing much on-street parking. Removing parking only makes enemies and there usually are alternatives.

For example, some low-volume roads with on-street parking cannot accomodate bike lanes because they are not wide enough. If the parking is sporadic, one could simply stripe 7 foot parking lanes and add bike route signage. Most of the time, bikes would have access to an entire 7 foot lane, and with limited traffic, could easily skirt around parked cars. This is similar to Lincoln in Birmingham, except there should not be bollards (i.e. posts) in the road.

LaPlante also reinforced the message that in most cases sidepaths should not be built and designated for bicyclists. I noted that many Oakland County communities, including Oakland County itself, called sidepaths “safety paths.” LaPlante response was, “Safety paths? That’s an oxymoron.”

A big thanks goes to John Stroh III and his staff for providing an excellent meeting location at the Stroh River Place along the Detroit RiverWalk.

Here is our Detroit bike route (which we mostly followed) along with photos. You’ll likely want to view the map in a larger window in order to see the photos.

View Training Wheels – Detroit in a larger map