Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

Making Woodward Avenue more bike friendly

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Former Red Wing Chris Chelios biking home from work on Woodward in Royal Oak

The Oakland Press has an article on the newer planning efforts to make Woodward more bike friendly.

Heather Carmona, the executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, said the study is a step toward making the Woodward area more attractive to businesses and young residents, who tend to view walkability, rideability and mass transit more favorably than their older counterparts.

“The economy as a whole is forcing us to look at new ways of doing things, but this is more about making living in the Woodward area more pedestrian-friendly and livable,” she said. “We have users of all types — those who would like to walk, others who would like to ride their bikes. We’re looking at ways to make moving around without a car easier.

“Look at cities like Portland, Oregon and other cities have plans in place for non-motorized transportation,” Carmona said. “It’s one of the factors that we believe is attractive to the younger people that we’d like to see stay in the area.”

The initial plan has received much feedback. We’re not convinced the plan is where it needs to be. If you want to be like Portland (or even follow AASHTO bicycle design guidelines), you don’t put in sidepaths where there is a fair amount of cross streets and driveways.

We prefer Planner Dan Burden’s suggestions to treat the outside lane of Woodward as a local lane for turning traffic, buses, and bicycles. That lane could even be painted or marked to indicate it’s not designed for high-speed through traffic. That is an inexpensive solution that doesn’t remove a vehicle lane yet improves bicycling opportunities for intermediate and advanced riders.

UPDATE: Heather Carmona also discussed this on the July 15th Craig Fahle show on WDET. The Woodward discussion begins 38 minutes into the show.

Portland Bicycle Plan

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Seal_of_Portland_ORPortland, Oregon recently created a proposed bicycle plan.

One highlight of that plan is a supplement on Bicycle Design Best Practices, where they have compiled a very comprehensive and up-to-date collection of bicycle facilities. Some of the newer facilities (newer to the U.S. at least) include bicycle boulevards and separated bike lanes (a.k.a. cycle tracks.)

This report documents an extensive review of best practices from world‐class bicycling cities where the most innovative technology advances in designing for bicycle traffic have been proven effective. The purpose of the report is to create a guide for traffic engineers, designers and planners detailing tried and‐ tested bicycle facility designs along with essential considerations for their implementation.

Note that there are no side paths or “safety” paths shown in their best practices guide.

And while speaking of Portland, the Census Bureau recently released 2008 American Community Survey data. This data includes statistics on how people get to work. Portland not only leads the U.S. in this people biking to work, they are reporting a record increase.

Portland experienced the largest one-year increase in bicycling as commuters primary mode of transportation ever, according to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey.

“Our small investment in bicycling infrastructure and education are paying off in a big way,” Mayor Sam Adams said. “Once again the data backs up our belief that when Portlanders are given a safe, convenient alternative to driving they will get out of their car and onto a bike.” Adams has been in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation since 2004.

The data released Monday showed 6.4 percent responded to the survey that they bicycled to work in 2008. This makes Portland number one in bicycle commuting among the 30 largest cities in the country. The percentage of walkers and transit users also rose.

The city of Detroit and Metro Detroit bike commuting numbers were fairly flat. This is surprising given the greater number of bicyclists on the roads (though they may not all be riding to work.) Or they are biking to work and using transit, in which case it’s unclear how they would have responded to this census survey.

That said, there was a decrease in car use which appears to have shifted to transit.

Separated bike lanes and cycle tracks

Friday, September 4th, 2009

We got an unexpected email from the office of Portland’s Mayor. It asked, “What is Michigan’s take on Cycle tracks?”

We can’t speak on behalf of the state, but it seems there certainly are many good potential locations for cycle tracks in Metro Detroit. Woodward around Campus Maritus (especially post-light rail) and many suburban downtowns (e.g. Main Street in Royal Oak) might make great candidates.

Or perhaps even portions of Ferndale’s bike lane along Hilton would work. The few number of vehicles parking along the road make the bike lane feel like it’s further out into the road than necessary. (Ferndale followed the Chicago Bike Lane Guide which did not have cycle track designs.)

So just what are cycle tracks?

According to Portland’s press release:

A cycle track is a bike lane nestled between the curb and on-street parking, providing a sanctuary for cyclists from fast moving traffic downtown.

This design is popular in Europe and is now starting to gain traction in the U.S. Portland’s first cycle track has been written up in the Oregonian, Streetsblog, and on the Portland Transport page. There’s even a video (see below).

Even the recently released New York DOT Street Design Manual includes this bicycle facility, although they refer to them as bike paths. (Chapter 2.1.2 ) Their manual also notes that this facilities use is “limited”:

Physical separation of bikeways
can sometimes be preferable on
wide or busy streets, on major bike
routes, or along long, uninterrupted
stretches. Separation can take the
form of a painted buffer demarcating
the bike lane behind a ?floating?
parking lane, a narrow curb or median,
or a wider median with landscaping.
An alternative form of separation
is grade?separation, where the
bike path is located at sidewalk
grade or in between sidewalk and
roadway grade.

Physical separation of bikeways can sometimes be preferable on wide or busy streets, on major bike routes, or along long, uninterrupted stretches. Separation can take the form of a painted buffer demarcating the bike lane behind a floating parking lane, a narrow curb or median, or a wider median with landscaping.

An alternative form of separation is grade separation, where the bike path is located at sidewalk grade or in between sidewalk and roadway grade.

One major concern with this design is it makes cyclists less visible to turning traffic. To design these for safe use, one must manage (and likely limit) vehicular turning movements and reduce vehicle access points (e.g. driveways.) The Portland video shows that parking is prohibited near intersections in order to improve the visibility of cyclists to motorists.

Given these design concerns, perhaps it also makes locating these types of facilities along superblocks where there are fewer intersections to deal with.

Portland Unveils Downtown Cycle Track from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

Updates from Portland, New York and Detroit

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Portland: Attracting or Converting

There was an interesting article in Boston.com that discusses Portland, the apparently self-annointed Bike City USA.

One question: “Is [Portland] just filling a niche and attracting bicyclists from elsewhere, instead of changing the habits of residents?

According to Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, “We’re not draining the world of people who like to ride bikes. It’s facilities that make people switch over, not philosophy.’’

But perhaps the best quotes are from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in response to George Will.

Even if they could be replicated, however, the city’s policies have also made it a lightning rod for criticism from conservatives, who have derided the administration’s embrace of the city. Newsweek columnist George Will referred to Portland as “the P word’’ in a column in the spring and accused officials of pursuing “behavior modification’’ to coerce people out of cars.

In an interview with the Globe, LaHood said that such critics were “living in the past’’ and that continuing to build more highways was also coercive. “We’ve created a system that requires people to get in their cars if they want to get anywhere,’’ he said.

Cyclists and pedestrians have lived through over 80 years of coercion. It took a while, but the pendulum is swinging back a little.

Portland: How much for a used bike?

One side effect of more Portlanders taking up cycling is their used bike prices have increased.

Thankfully we haven’t heard of a similar price rise in Detroit. Such an increase could keep many Detroiters from jumping into the sport.

New York: Biking on the rise

WCBS TV has quoted  City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan saying biking is New York City’s “fastest growing mode of transportation.”

And article continues with:

The number of cyclists has jumped by 80 percent in the past decade — to 185,000 among the more than 8 million city denizens.

City officials say they’ve worked to make the city more biker friendly. They note the hundreds of miles of marked bike paths created in recent years, safety awareness campaigns and handouts of free helmets to unprotected cyclists.

Over that time, bicycle accidents have fallen more than 40 percent.

Unfortunately we do not know the number of cyclists on the road. The only information we have is from the Census Bureau. They keep track of the percent of people who bike to work. The percentage is low enough to not be very useful. In addition it does not include those cycling for transportation outside of work or for recreation. Children and seniors are also not included in the Census numbers.

Given the economy and proposed bus cuts in Detroit, the fastest growing mode of transportion in the city might be biking or walking.

Detroit is Lonely

Brian Kennedy is a former Detroiter now living in Chicago. And he’s a cyclist.

He recently visited Detroit and wrote this interesting ride report.

There are some updates to his story:

  • Comerica Park has or will soon install two bike racks near the stadium
  • Secondhand sources say that DDOT buses will have three-bike racks by Spring 2010. There had been some debate between the two- and three-bike racks, which are from different manufacturers.
  • Through my job with MTGA, I have been in contact with Brian and the Active Transportation Alliance about getting roll-on service for Amtrak trains running between Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. (“Roll-on” means you can roll your bike onto the train without having to disassemble or box it.) With the great cycling environment in all three cities, this seems like it could become very popular.

Brian also plans on returning for the Tour-de-Troit next month — and he plans on riding the Dequindre Cut and visiting the Honey Bee Super Mercado, too.

Rolling Stops for Bicycles

Monday, May 4th, 2009

In a previous post about the benefits in adopting a rolling stop law in Michigan, we said rolling stops are already a “common existing practice”. We added that having a rolling stop law would make bicyclists more law abiding by making the law more appropriate for biking.

We called it a common practice based on what we see.

However, the city of Portland recently did a field study which found 93% of cyclists already do rolling stops. It’s reasonable to expect a similar compliance rate among Michigan cyclists. Therefore, as we noted earlier, a rolling stop law would only legalize what most cyclists do already.

The Portland field study also found that 78% of motor vehicles rolled their stops. Should they adopt the same law? No.

The difference is motor vehicles rolling stops and running stops is a major source of road injuries and fatalities in the U.S. Pedestrians and cyclists are especially vulnerable.

Bicyclists do not pose this same threat to other users.

In addition, a fit cyclist can generate one-third of a horsepower. Stopping and starting places a much higher burden on cyclists than it does on motor vehicles.