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  #1  
Old 11-03-2008, 11:25 AM
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Question The Infrastructure Debate

A comment on one of Jonathan's recent posts, One Aerial Tram or America’s best bike network? (see comment #12), made me wonder what people think of so-called "Bike Infrastructure". Here is the quote:

Quote:
...sometimes it feels like Portland's own bike community is anti-infrastructure. There is so much in-fighting about how to do it and it seems like for many, the idea of separate bike paths is completely repulsive (how dare we suggest there be a safe option away from cars?).
So, what do folks think about Bike Infrastructure?

Some questions to consider:
  • What qualifies as BI?
  • Should BI be separated from auto traffic?
  • Integrated with auto traffic?
  • Not exist? (i.e., are existing streets all the infrastructure we need?)
  • Does separated BI convey the idea that bikes are legit transpo, or make them seem more like childrens' toys?
  • Are separated bikeways more or less dangerous than streets?
  • Are separated bikeways more or less efficient than streets?
  • etc...

If this issue is too much like "The Helmet Debate", I apologize in advance...
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Last edited by biciclero; 11-03-2008 at 11:26 AM. Reason: Added Icon
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  #2  
Old 11-03-2008, 11:58 AM
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The question of how to pay for bike infrastructure, has, I think, a lot to do with division between those favoring separated bike infrastructure, and those that don't. Incorporating bike infrastructure into general vehicle roadways allows it to be built and maintained with motor vehicle infrastructure. This can make good sense from an efficiency standpoint. I suspect that separate bike paths and lanes comparable in surface quality, lighting, etc, to general roadways would cost a lot more money to build and maintain than incorporated ones would.

Also, incorporation of bike infrastructure into general vehicle roadways keeps the option of bikes as transportation in the public's mind more than I think it would with separate bike paths and lanes.

The safety advantage and the psychological perception of safety that separated bike infrastructure offers over incorporated infrastructure is something to keep in mind though. I really believe what I hear expressed from time to time, that some would be riders are scared to ride in non separated bike lanes. I think their apprehensions might be reduced some, if and when all road users become better trained to watch out for each others safety on the road.
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Old 11-03-2008, 12:18 PM
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Lightbulb POV's...

I'm going to try to stay out of any debates right now, but as I see it, seperate infrastructure is needed, but we need to have infrastructure integrated into all road projects.

From the Ped POV...
Bikes are faster than me, and scare me. I don't like sharing the sidewalk with them, and cars need to stay off the sidewalks too.
From the Car POV...
Bikes are slower than me, and scare me. I don't like sharing the road with them, and peds need to stay out of the road too.
From the Cyclist POV.
Cars are faster than me and scare me, and Peds are slower than me, and they don't like to share the sidewalk. I'd like separate facilities to accomidate me.
This is how I see things. MUP's have their place, but there will never be a time where they will reach every destination I need to reach. I'm certainly for them, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish that ODOT and the citizens of Oregon would build MUP's like the I205 path for all of our Highways/Freeways (starting for Hwy 217).

I'm writing this at work, so if this doesn't make sense, realize I haven't had time to edit like I usually do (and I'm tired).

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  #4  
Old 11-03-2008, 02:11 PM
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Default My Thoughts

To be fair, I suppose I should state some of my thoughts on the "Infrastructure" issue.

First, I think education would be far more valuable than physical restructuring of roadways. Education is a multi-faceted concept consisting of driver awareness of bicycles/peds on the road around them, driver awareness of the legalities of riding a bike on the road and driving among bikes on the road, cyclist awareness of the legalities of riding on the road, cyclist awareness and understanding of traffic behavior, cyclist awareness of visibility issues, etc., etc. Another facet of education would be enforcement of existing traffic laws. If more citations were issued for violations of right-of-way, careless driving, running red lights (ahem!), etc. road users might learn what is acceptable and what isn't.

Besides anti-drunk-driving ads and "click-it or ticket" ads, there are no traffic safety PSAs out there. I'd love to see a "check over your right shoulder before turning" PSA--or a "racing to cut off a cyclist will save you 2.7 seconds, but it could cost a life" PSA. I also think a lot of what worries drivers about cyclists being on the road is they don't know what to do when they encounter one. Maybe some helpful hints on safe passing would ease the discomfort level.

Second, I think it would be a big improvement to just get existing traffic controls to work for bikes. Sensors to sense, signal cycles to be long enough to get across an intersection, separate signals if needed, additional or clearer signage letting ALL road users know what bikes might be up to or who has the right-of-way.

Third, on bike lanes and separated bike paths, I have mixed feelings. Personally, I like bike lanes, but I like to use them more as a refuge and I don't feel obligated to stay in them at all times. I rather resent the Mandatory Use law, even though there are enough loopholes to let me legally do what I need to do (mostly). I can also appreciate that bike lanes lend a (false) sense of security to less experienced cyclists that encourages them to ride when they otherwise wouldn't. I have two main fears regarding separated cycle tracks: 1) they would be more dangerous and less efficient than bike lanes, and 2) I would be forced to use them.

I haven't lived in an area with well-developed separate bike paths, but just imagining how an extensive network would look conjures up images of Murray Blvd. between TV Hwy and Farmington Rd. (Murray and Farmington is where Austin Miller ran into a bus and was killed). Separated bikeways would seem to create myriad off-intersection crossings for bikes that, without separate signals, would create a series of accidents-waiting-to-happen. If bikes are placed well off the road, outside the awareness of motorists, and then suddenly appear in the road as a motorist is making a turn, it seems like a recipe for disaster. There may be a design out there that eliminates the crossing danger; I would be interested to see it. Separate paths would also need to be dedicated strictly for bikes (no peds) or the danger factor rises again.

My other fear is based on the notion that separated bike paths would be less efficient for travel, because a likely solution to the crossing danger would be to make cyclists stop (and around here, even dismount!) at every crossing, rather than being able to continue when the traffic light is green. The other trend that seems to make bike paths less efficient is making bike paths that aren't bike paths: they are MUPs. Riding on a MUP is so close to riding on a sidewalk that one is often indistinguishable from the other. So my fear is that, in the presence of separated bikeways, I would be legally forced off of the street, where my travel is most efficient, onto such a bikeway where the number of hindrances and dangers increases.

Again, though, there is something to be said for the psychological effect on less experienced riders that would get them out on the paths when they otherwise would drive. Does that effect outweigh my fear factors? Who knows?

Disclaimer: I am not a traffic engineer and my opinions are those of a lay bike commuter--and subject to change in the face of convincing arguments.
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Old 11-03-2008, 10:20 PM
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Default Separate me ....

I'll just say that last year we spent a month in Germany (July) just South of Heidelberg in a small village called St. Leon. From what we saw in that area (besides a lot of bicycles) was very nice pro-bike integration in the villages and larger towns, and separation (wide bike paths) between the population centers.

Very nice -- I wanted to ride but lets just say families can be complicated.

I don't expect to see any type of coherent bicycle infrastructure in the US any time soon
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Old 11-03-2008, 10:46 PM
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one of the things I like about John Forester is that he is a crank, like me.

I have almost no use for striped bike lanes, and having been in Portland only a few months, with bike lanes (and bikes, exclamation point) everywhere, my observation is that a lot of them are counter-productive, and I just ignore them -- though I do recognize that there is a very poorly conceived statute out there that requires me to stay in the lane against my better judgment.

thing in the Tribune the other day about "unintended consequences" mentioned cyclists being squeezed at roundabouts. I just take the lane (again, even if there is a lane stripe telling me not to).

the green boxes also are of no use to me. when I am approaching an intersection at which I will be going straight through and a motorist might be turning right, I take the lane. you cannot be right hooked if there is no one on your left.

the bike boulevard idea has maybe some merit, provided (a) it does not attract a lot of motorists and (b) it does not imply that a cyclist "should not" be using the nearby thoroughfare. same with recreational trails.

I have met a few people who are becoming transportational cyclists who would not have started had they not been able to take sidepaths for some substantial part of their commute, but that does not mean that the entire system should be dumbed down.

education, yes. infrastructure . . . stoplights at key crossing points, lower speed limits, and some "share the road" signage.
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Old 11-03-2008, 11:22 PM
Psyfalcon Psyfalcon is offline
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Most of the existing infrastructure works well enough, even if its not perfect. Its a comprimise between peds wanting a bike free space, cars wanting a bike free space and bikes wanting a space free of either. I think thats ok as long as we keep working on a solution for right hooks, even if it is car or bike behavior modification.

On my commute, I'm on a few roads for about a mile each with few intersections. I really like bike lanes here (Hocken-Jenkins and the Cedar Hill past the mall) since it gives me some space. They don't work so well in downtown/pearl... and there is probably an intermediate state on the east side. Dedicated facilities would be great, although not really needed, and I could deal without a bike lane but...

Mainly, I think we need a few bike arterials now. Connect Beaverton- Tigard without a highway. Connect Beaverton- Portland without a highway. Gresham with Portland. Downtown, in traffic, I'll take my lane, but its not something I want to do for 10 miles at a time. Its easily 45min between Portland and Beaverton, and I do not want to be fighting with traffic the entire time.

I'll ride on Farmington- BH Highway (nice aquarium store out on it) but there is a reason I go down the Hwy 26 bike path after climbing Broadway rather than around the hill on Terwilliger. I really have no desire to play vehicular cyclist for 5 miles of major road, complete with many shopping plazas and intersections, every day.

Look at google maps on the east side. If you want to go E-W the major Arterials are Powell, Burnside, and Division. It looks like everything else either dead ends in a park or another street at some point. Wouldn't a 10 mile bike highway or two between Gresham and Portland be nice? How about lit unlike the springwater? We do light interstates after all (for cars with dot approved headlights...)
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  #8  
Old 11-04-2008, 03:33 AM
brettoo brettoo is offline
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We need as many physically separated bike tracks as possible. All these theoretical worries vanish in the face of their demonstrated success in cities like Copenhagen, all of which experienced a vast multiplication of bike usage after installing them. They move many more bikes faster and much more safely than our current methods (painted lanes etc.). And they provide a much higher return on public investment than spending on more car-only lanes. I've ridden on them in Holland and they totally transform the way potential riders think about bicycling. Suddenly, they feel (and are) safer, and that removes the major obstacle for many people who otherwise would love to bike. We don't have to speculate about this -- the evidence of experience is indisputable. The only question is whether we'll have the political leadership willing to either raise taxes or divert spending from car-centric infrastructure to pay for them. And then to figure out where to start installing them.
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Old 11-04-2008, 10:08 AM
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Default Hearty second...

Assume for the moment that special infrastructure for cyclists is somewhere between a neutral and a slight negative in terms of safety. (I know, this is debatable, but I base my belief on the fact that most infrastructure does not deal with bicycle-motorist conflicts at intersections, which is where the vast majority of motorist-cyclist collisions occur.)

If we don't get people to actually ride their bicycles, vehicular cyclists will have won the battle but lost the war.

One thing that is not debatable is that special bicycle infrastructure greatly encourages novice and borderline cyclists to actually leave their polluting sofa at home and to pedal their way around town. Look at everywhere from Davis, California to Amsterdam, The Netherlands (oh, and southeast Portland ).

If we actually had a 15% or 20% mode split, the facilities question would take on an entirely new characterization as we debated the efficiency and safety issues as a pressing public concern, instead of a tempest in a teapot by a bunch of recidivist cranks.

Sure, let's build the facilities, if that's what it takes to get people to ride, but let's not forget the fundamental question that--in the long run--we may turn around and decide they are a public safety hindrance.

IMNSHO I think the two biggest issues for cyclist safety are 1) education (gawd, I see cyclists doing stupid things), and 2) motorists. Keep in mind that the cyclist accident rate in Amsterdam is three percent of that in the US, and almost no one there wears a helmet. No, it's not because of the separated bikeways; it's because the motorists are less likely to risk a cyclist's life in order to drive at a high speed while drinking a 64 ounce Diabetes Special and talking on a cell phone.

--jason "I wear a Styrofoam hat so you can drive like an idiot" p.

P.S. -- the jury's still out on the green "bike boxes." Anyone over there in Portland think they're safer because of them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rawillis3 View Post
one of the things I like about John Forester is that he is a crank, like me.
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The driver of a motor vehicle may only pass a person operating a bicycle by driving to the left of the bicycle at a safe distance and returning to the lane of travel once the motor vehicle is safely clear of the overtaken bicycle. For the purposes of this paragraph, a “safe distance” means a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic....

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  #10  
Old 11-04-2008, 04:44 PM
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Relevant new article: http://www.urbanvelo.org/issue10/urb...10_p64-65.html
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