Posts Tagged ‘AASHTO’

Birmingham/Troy Transit Center off track?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

When it comes to understanding the needs of bicyclists, there are certain organizations and professionals that we don’t expect much from because they embrace the status quo even when it doesn’t work.

But planners should get bicycling. To be good, they must be looking forward and embracing the future.

That’s why it’s so very frustrating to review the work of planners that apparently don’t get it.

Examples include:

  • A sustainability study for Farmington Hills that all but ignores increasing bicycle use (Hooker | De Jong)
  • A county parks and recreation plan that assumes parks users won’t ride their bikes to the parks (Carlise Wortman)
  • A trails and pathways plan for Oakland Township that ignores the basic AASHTO guidelines for good bicycle facilities (Carlise Wortman)

And perhaps we can add another plan, the Birmingham and Troy Transit Center.

The most obvious failing is the tunnel design which runs beneath the railroad.

According to a recent Metromode article, Carrie Zarotney, president of the Birmingham-Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, noted the public interest in the center’s bikeabilty.

Last June, at the transit-oriented development charrette held to raise awareness of the project, the public made it “…very loud and clear that there was a need for pedestrian-friendly access and bicycle paths, so not only could you walk through the tunnel but you could bike through the tunnel.”

Then why does the August 2009 plan route cyclists onto a convoluted sidewalk route against AASHTO design guidelines?

The tunnel has very poor sight lines at the entrance and exit that are unsuitable for mixing cyclists and pedestrians. With this design, it may not take many?collisions?before bike riding in the tunnel is prohibited.

It appears there was little to no thought given to making a simple and clear bicycle pathway connection between the roads on either side of the railroad tracks. Did the planners not realize that a major residential area and downtown on one side of the tracks would generate bicycle traffic to the residential and shopping areas on the other side (and vise versa)? Why didn’t they accomodate it using the AASHTO bicycle design guidelines?

Right now there is no direct and safe way between these two areas for bicyclists. This plan does little to help that.

Another big issue is bike parking. It appears there are approximately 200 car parking spaces, yet there is one bike rack that should hold about four bikes.?The bike rack is also poorly located according to the Bicycle Parking Guidelines set forth by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. This bike parking does not appear to be covered.

There doesn’t seem to be a bike rack on the Birmingham side.

There are no bike racks near the bus stops (even though they are shown in the sample photos.)

Adding a bike rack is an easy point for buildings looking to gain LEED status, which this one apparently is.

We will be sure to submit these comments to Birmingham and Troy.

With Troy’s recent non-motorized planning efforts, this important tunnel connection must be properly designed to accomodate bicycles, whether they are using the transit center or not.

And if they are using it, they need adequate bike parking.

Safety Paths: Not Safe for Cycling

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

First, let’s clarify what safety paths are. The term safety path is apparently a local definition usually nearly exclusively within Oakland County, Michigan. AASHTO’s Guidelines for the Development of Bicycling Facilities contains the generally accepted standard terms and definitions for bicycle facilities. According to AASHTO’s definitions, safety paths are wide sidewalks.

Also from the AASHTO guidelines:

Utilizing or providing a sidewalk as a shared use path is unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. Sidewalks are typically designed for pedestrian speed and maneuverability and are not safe for higher speed bicycle use. Conflicts are common between pedestrians traveling at low speeds and bicyclists… At intersections, motorists are often not looking for bicyclists.

It is important to recognize that the development of extremely wide sidewalks does not necessary add to the safety of sidewalk bicycle travel. Wide sidewalks might encourage higher speed bicycle use and increase potential for conflicts with motor vehicles at intersections, as well as with pedestrians and fixed objects.

There are two major studies that compared bicycle safety on roads and sidewalks.


Bicycling safety in Oakland County: It’s not about the money

Friday, June 27th, 2008

In a prior post, we noted that many road agencies and municipalities in Metro Detroit are the major roadblock to getting safe bicycling facilities.

For example, the Road Commission of Oakland County refuses to acknowledge much less use best practices for bicycling facilities. They ignore the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) guidelines for bicycling facilities. They ignore Federal Highway Administration guidance. They ignore bicycling safety studies that show their policies have been consistently found to be unsafe.

We appreciate the fact that Craig Bryson, Public Information Officer for the Road Commission for Oakland County responded:

The Road Commission for Oakland County has no objection to bikers. We simply have no money available to make costly improvements to roads to allow bikers. We cannot afford to simply maintain smooth pavement on the roads or even begin to address the massive congestion that clogs our roads everyday. It would be very difficult to justify spending scarce resources on bike facilities when we can’t maintain the existing roads. If you are proposing additional funding just for bike facilities, we’re more than willing to listen.

However, Craig isn’t correct. It’s not about the road money.


What Bike Helmet Advocates Don’t Tell You

Monday, June 9th, 2008

If we’re going to make bicycling safer in the U.S., we need to be honest about what needs to be done.

The primary safety solution from many groups is to wear a helmet. But, according to research, wearing helmets is not the best way to improve bicycling safety. Creating safe bicycle facilities, increasing bicycle use, and educating users are the best means for improving safety. The results from the Netherlands support this. It’s one of the safest places to bike in the world yet almost no one wears helmets.

What do you call a cyclist wearing a helmet in the Netherlands? A tourist.

Helmet use Fatalities per 100 million trips
U.S. 38% 21
Germany 2% 8.2
Netherlands 0.1% 1.6

One study summarizes the six priorities that Germany and the Netherlands use to make biking so safe:

  • Better Facilities for Walking and Cycling
  • Traffic Calming of Residential Neighborhoods
  • Urban Design Oriented to People and Not Cars
  • Restrictions on Motor Vehicle Use
  • Traffic Education
  • Traffic Regulations and Enforcement

The big challenge in Metro Detroit is many road agencies and municipalities don’t know what better bicycling facilities are. For example, the Road Commission of Oakland County refuses to acknowledge much less use best practices for bicycling facilities. They ignore the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) guidelines for bicycling facilities. They ignore Federal Highway Administration guidance. They ignore bicycling safety studies that show their policies have been consistently found to be unsafe.

And similarly, many cities have followed the Road Commission’s lead. Rochester Hills and West Bloomfield have pursued wide sidewalks (ironically called “safety” paths) despite the overwhelming evidence that these are not safe options for cyclists.

If we truly want safe cycling, we need to start by forcing our local road agencies and municipalities to use best practices and provide safe non-motorized transportation options for cyclists. This should be our primary campaign. And that message needs to come from cyclists, citizens, AAA, medical professionals, health experts, the Traffic Improvement Association (TIA), and others.

This doesn’t mean helmet use should be discouraged. Helmets can lessen injuries when cyclists are hit. But it’s much better to prevent those “hits” in the first place.