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When should streets use sharrows, painted lanes and separation? (graphics)

Posted by on June 7th, 2013 at 10:28 am

Where, exactly, do sharrows belong?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Update: See below for a few other examples of graphics that try to answer this question.

There’s an interesting, useful bit of transportation wonkery in The Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s “Blueprint for World-Class Cycling” that came out this week: a visual guide to which sort of streets should get which sort of bike infrastructure.

This is obviously a complicated question, and it’s not something that’s ever going to be summarized by a single chart. But the question arises constantly. Last week, in a moment of heat, two Swan Island transportation advocates said the city would be better off without bike lanes near a crash-prone intersection of Interstate Avenue. Up in Vancouver, Wash., there’s a lively debate right now about whether sharrows are appropriate on a 35 mph four-lane street.

Here’s what the BTA’s new document has to say about the issue:

As BTA communications manager Will Vanlue said in a conversation this week, this isn’t the easiest graphic in the world to immediately grasp: as he observed, it’s trying to express three variables in two dimensions. But it’s a clearer expression than anything I’ve seen before of the principle that there are essentially three kinds of bikeable streets in a city, and making them bike-friendly requires a different category of infrastructure for each.

Like I said, the question of when exactly to use which facilities is very much a live debate, and I’m sure the BTA would say that case-by-case decisions are often required. But in a world where most people still haven’t thought about bike infrastructure in any systematic way, this graphic might be a useful way to outline the general consensus.

Update: Great to hear from a few other data-visualization nerds out there. Here are some more examples linked to by commenters below. First, from Allan and Washington County’s new Bicycle Design Facility Toolkit:

Second, from RJ and Transport for London:

Third, from Rithy Khut and what seems to be an unidentified textbook he’s used for a class about biking in Amsterdam:

Fourth, from Chris Anderson and Copenhagenize, is one that I’ll link to rather than embedding, since it’s presumably Copenhagenize intellectual property.

Also, the BTA’s Vanlue mentioned this chart used by the Oregon Department of Transportation. (You can also see ODOT’s “Context matrix” here (PDF).)

Each graphic definitely has its ups and downs.

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Allan
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Allan

this is what Washington county just adopted:
http://www.co.washington.or.us/LUT/Divisions/CPM/bike-facility-design-toolkit.cfm

I think its a bit better than the one graphic you posted. I hope other jurisdictions in Oregon pick a similar metric. The one thing i will say is ‘buffered’ bike lanes at 5′ + 2′ buffer aren’t that great

AndyC of Linnton
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AndyC of Linnton

If they are in fact going by this chart, then it seems likely the lively debate will continue. As well it should.
I thought I had kinda figured out where the “sharrows” made sense- “greenways”, etc- and then they went in on the St. John’s bridge, and I’ve been confused ever since.
Seems like if sharrows go in, speed limits should be reduced.

Dan
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Dan

I was nearly clobbered on a rural road in Washington County last week (Scotch Church) when a car coming the opposite direction passed another car and took up the car lane in my direction of travel. They went by my elbow in the opposite direction at 60mph. The wind caused by the car and the terror of the situation forced me off into the ditch. This is a 55mph road with a passing line in the middle, and no shoulder on the road in either direction, just a white stripe and a few inches of spare pavement on the side.

Cars passing here are not looking for cyclists, who they assume are riding on the (nonexistent) shoulder. Am I right in suggesting the dotted line on this road be changed to a double stripe, until such time that a shoulder is added here? The response I received was that this road design falls within Federal guidelines, so it’s okay as is.

Dan
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Dan

Oh, and I think Washington Park would be a nice place for sharrows. Many times throughout the day there are more bikes than cars anyway.

BURR
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BURR

That BTA graphic is rather incomplete – it should be square with two axes – Volume and Speed.

For example, it does a completely inadequate job representing the downtown streets, which are high volume but low speed.

I would argue that sharrows are sufficient on downtown streets where speeds are slow even though volumes are high.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

One issue missing (or assumed) in most of this type of graph is that the bicyclist is travelling at a typical bike speed (~10 to 12 mph) on a near level roadway and thus the speed differential (difference in speed between the bike & motorised traffic) is a measure of the problem…but in cases where you have a steep hill (like Interstate) you may have bicyclists travelling as fast or faster than motorized traffic. [The uphill facilities have the opposite problem…cyclists may be travelling as slow as a pedestrian and less stable (needing a wider track).]

This one of the problems at hand along this portion of Interstate thru Albina…an often substandard bike lane (effected by narrowness and catch basins), with fast bike and car traffic, high percentage of HGVs (freight), drivers right hooking, drivers tailgating, etc….it is often worrisome about falling and the tailgating driver behind a cyclist not having enough time to react and avoid running over a cyclist. This is why you see a higher percentage of cyclists taking the lane going downhill here.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

And I agree – I love the work that Washington County has recently accomplished with their Bicycle Facility Design Toolkit. 😉

http://www.co.washington.or.us/LUT/Divisions/CPM/upload/Final-Toolkit.pdf

davemess
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davemess

I like this graphic. Though simplistic, I think it gets most things right. People should be separated on high speed roads (as they usually prove to be the most dangerous if you get hit).

This graphic is interesting considering the debate about Foster. By this graphic, Foster would be sufficient with bike lanes, and doesn’t necessarily require separated bike facilities.

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

For the sake of just public articles, I actually like the BTA chart better (and this is a rare “I like the BTA” quote so take a picture, it will last longer!) – I think the WA Co. chart is definitely much more comprehensive if I were sitting down trying to figure out city design plans with people that don’t know anything about infrastructure – so you want to make it simple, but not TOO simple to make city employees feel like high schoolers. Regardless, I could look at the BTA chart for half a second and immediately go, “Yup that exactly makes my point that the police officer was a dumb broad for saying we should have sharrows and ‘take the lane’ on Interstate during rush hour.” Whereas I had to stare at the WA Co. one for a second longer. I knew it was there, but I had to actually connect the dots a moment longer.

RJ
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RJ

Transport for London has a good diagram for this as well. Page 63.

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/businessandpartners/lcds_chapter4.pdf

Rithy Khut
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Rithy Khut

I prefer this one taken from a report I read.
http://wp.me/a1yhfM-28

CPAC
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CPAC

This chart is missing an important variable: frequency of intersections. That’s where the real problems are.

Lenny Anderson
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Lenny Anderson

By this criteria, Intersate Avenue or at least parts of it would earn a separated bikeway. That sounds good to me, but in the meantime how about a bikelane AND sharrows on that downhill section where cycylists can maintain something close to legal speed?
Intersections and narrow stretches of roadway are the real challenge. Visibility and reducing overall motor vehicle speed should be guiding principles.

Chris Anderson
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Copenhagenize did one that is simple to read but with a little more nuance: http://www.copenhagenize.com/2013/04/the-copenhagenize-bicycle-planning-guide.html?m=1

was carless
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was carless

Would love to see some separated (not just buffered) cycle tracks out in Washco – Beaverton & Hillsboro along major arterials. Some of them have 45+ mph speed limits – the # of people who feel safe cycling or walking along those streets inches from traffic must be microscopically low.

Shinji
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Shinji

All the graphs presented here seem to take account of the traffic volume and speed of motor vehicles alone. On the other hand, the Dutch design manual published by CROW takes account of the traffic volume of bicycles as well. This is a more rational method, I think.
http://www.crow.nl/nl/Publicaties/publicatiedetail?code=REC25
bicycles

Andy Morris
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Andy Morris

Its amazing I’m still alive, somehow I’ve managed to ride to work and back for seven years, do 30 to 80 miles per week, sharing roads where traffic goes up to 70 mph, with no facilities at all.

Perhaps in the name of safety I should stop cycling, and write to my politician demanding more facilities before I even consider looking at my bike. In the mean time I shall drive to the gym to sit on a spin cycle for 1:20 mins a day.

Please stop pretending to represent cyclists interests.

Barbara
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Barbara

What strikes me with all of these charts is that we should have separate bicycle tracks along streets with fast traffic. Barbur is a good example. Cars are allowed 45 mph, frquently going at 55. There are no intersections between Miles and Hamilton. This screams for a separate bicycle track. Similar with Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. Also remember that speeds like that aren’t even allowed in European towns and cities. The upper limit is 50 kmh or 30 mph. You would only experience the speeds of Barbur outside cities or on completely separated (from pedestrian, bicyclists, housing and interesections) freeway-style roads.

Andy Morris
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Andy Morris

Barbara
Also remember that speeds like that aren’t even allowed in European towns and cities. The upper limit is 50 kmh or 30 mph. You would only experience the speeds of Barbur outside cities or on completely separated (from pedestrian, bicyclists, housing and interesections) freeway-style roads.

We have quite a lot of urban roads limited to 50mph in British cities, cycling along them, whilst not fantastically pleasant, is in my experience just a bit of a slog. You can control the lane and move between lanes quite easily with a little bit of care.

We also have motorways, on which bicycles are prohibited.

We have some old country roads, which have been ‘improved’ to the speed of motorways but are still technically just ‘roads’. These are quite unpleasant to ride on and generally avoided by cyclist. There are usually quite a lot other quieter road going in the same sort of direction so its not a big problem. There’s one big very busy fast road going into Cornwall where a separate, slow traffic only road would be handy.

are
Guest

spare_wheel
I never denied that dutch-style treatments would not be safer than no treatments.

whoa. is that not a triple negative? can’t quite not follow you here, spare.

Pete
Guest
Pete

A good place for sharrows? How about the drivers’ education manuals of every state in the nation so that people who don’t bike know how to behave around bicyclists positioning themselves accordingly…