Posts Tagged ‘safety paths’

Google Maps now providing biking directions

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

It was a bit of surprise seeing a Google booth at the National Bike Summit.   They are here to announce biking directions on Google Maps. This is a nice complement to the driving, walking, and public transit directions.

The routing algorithm doesn’t shy away from routing cyclists on some main roads, like Woodward Avenue. Perhaps we can use this as another reason to make Metro Detroit’s streets more bike friendly.

One major issue: Google is showing sidepaths/wide sidewalks as legitimate bicycling facilities when they are not according to national design guidelines. This makes us think SEMCOG may have provided this data to Google. Despite our comments against doing so, SEMCOG included sidepaths/wide sidewalks as bicycle facilities maps. We’ll bring this issue up with Google.

Here’s part of the announcement from the League of American Bicyclists:

This new feature includes: step-by-step bicycling directions; bike trails outlined directly on the map; and a new “Bicycling” layer that indicates bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly roads. The directions feature provides step-by-step, bike-specific routing suggestions – similar to the directions provided by our driving, walking, or public transit modes. Simply enter a start point and destination and select “Bicycling” from the drop-down menu. You will receive a route that is optimized for cycling, taking advantage of bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly streets and avoiding hilly terrain whenever possible.

Visit to try out this new feature. Biking directions for Google Maps is currently in Beta.

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

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.