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Portland designer/planner unveils ‘protected intersections for bicyclists’

Posted by on February 19th, 2014 at 11:54 am

Portland-based urban planner and designer Nick Falbo’s latest project aims to expand the benefits of protected bike lanes — places where people can ride with physical separation from auto traffic — all the way to intersections. Falbo calls them “protected intersections” and he’s launched a website and new animated video to help spread the idea.

The problem with protected bike lane (a.k.a. cycle track) designs in America is that they disappear at intersections. The favorite treatment of U.S. planners has been to create “mixing zones” where people in cars and people on bikes share the lane just prior to the corner. This design creates a weak link in the bikeway right where it should be its strongest. In contrast, cycle tracks in Dutch (and other) cities have dedicated space for cycling all the way to the corner and then bike-specific signals to get riders through safely.

Utrecht study tour-48

A standard intersection in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

With his protected intersections for bicyclists, Falbo is trying to translate that Dutch design into an American context. As you can see in the image below, there are four key elements to the design: a corner refuge island, bicycle-friendly signal phasing, a forward stop bar, and a setback bicycle crossing.

Drawing taken from video shows four key elements of the design.

In an email to the Active Right of Way list this morning, Falbo said, “I hope to hit a few conferences this year pitching the these elements to whoever will listen.”

While he’s obviously enthused about the benefits of this design and committed to moving this idea forward, Falbo acknowledges there are some major challenges to overcome like large truck movements, auto capacity impacts, and how to make the design work well for people who walk and/or use a mobility device.

Falbo intends to tackle these challenges and post updates on his design to ProtectedIntersection.com, which he hopes will, “develop into a clearinghouse for exploration, examples, images, references related to the Protected Intersection design concept.”

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Gerik
Guest

Physical and temporal protection at intersections. Brilliant and clearly depicted. Three cheers for Nick Falbo! Seriously, this is great, thank you.

Adam H.
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Adam H.

Now this is what I’m talking about. Copy the Dutch design. They already figured this stuff out years ago – no need for American cities to reinvent the wheel.

Here’s hoping this design actually gets implemented in Portland and other American cities.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Many years ago I attended the University of Illinois where there were several bicycle facilities that consisted of two-way, separated paths adjacent to, but physically separated from the streets and sidewalks.

These facilities are not without problems. The separate bike facilities were nice where there were no intersecting driveways or streets, but where there were, big problems were evident. Bicyclists were in an unexpected location for turning motorists. I personally saw more than one collision between bicyclists and motorists and between motorist and motorist because of this. The facilities at the U of I did not feature separate signal phases for bicycle movements. The separate signal phase could alleviate this, but as Nick acknowledges a separate signal phase has significant impacts on motor vehicle capacity and potentially on pedestrians, as well. (Yeah, I know no one reading this cares about motor vehicle capacity, but some others in the community do, believe it or not.)

Don’t get me wrong; I think it would be great if we can develop an approach to transportation more like the Dutch, but before we can make such significant changes, I think bicyclists will need a much higher share of the transportation use than currently experienced. I think we’ll also need to demonstrate a higher compliance with existing laws if there’s going to be any likelihood of implementation.

Let the flames begin.

Emily G
Guest
Emily G

YES!! A million likes for this intersection design. One question: what about drivers turning right on red? I assume there would be a no right on red sign, but some drivers interpret that as a suggestion, rather than a definite. Maybe the tight turning radius would slow them down enough?

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

a safer design but also one that creates choke points and may therefore not be appropriate when bike traffic is heavy. i suspect that on a busy route in portland many cyclists would simply cycle around these islands if they were to become congested (i witnessed this behavior in amsterdam, btw). i think the best solution for busier bike routes is dedicated bike signalling.

Bill Walters
Guest
Bill Walters

I don’t see anything that keeps walking folks (of all ages including very young, plus their dogs) from doing their thing all over the bike lanes. Seems like whenever walking and biking lanes are neighbors, they get all mixed up. Need only check out the SW Moody cycle track and the Moody crossing at the Tram to see that in action. Volume is light enough on Moody to limit consternation, but in a downtown setting like this appears to be? Yikes.

Champs
Guest
Champs

If cycle tracks are already a challenge to sweep and plow, I’m less than gung ho about putting four awkwardly shaped debris pockets at their intersections.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

J_R “nice where there were no intersecting driveways or streets, but where there were, big problems were evident.”

This couldn’t be more obvious. Cars waiting in the bike crossing at every. single. intersection.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

The Simultaneous Green phase resembles a square shaped roundabout for bikes only.
If you let this run for 15-30 seconds at a time in a high traffic intersection AND bicycle riders treated it like a roundabout (entering traffic yields to traffic in the circle/square loop) it might go a long way towards demonstrating to automobile drivers that roundabout intersections work better too.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

Adam H.
Now this is what I’m talking about. Copy the Dutch design. They already figured this stuff out years ago – no need for American cities to reinvent the wheel.
Here’s hoping this design actually gets implemented in Portland and other American cities.
Recommended 4

Yes! And a thousand cheers to Nick Falbo for doing this!

While communities in the US have been making strides towards more protected infrastructure the lack of protection at intersections is *the* 800-lb. gorilla in the…intersection to conquer.

Thankfully, the best practices related to these have already been established through trial and error done on the part of the Dutch for decades. Sure, some local US-specific mods may need to be made, but these kinds of designs absolutely need to be implemented here.

Ok, so earnest question…how do we get these ASAP?

1) First of all, are there any communities in the US whose environment (political/planning/code-wise) would allow these today?

All we need is one “trailblazer” to get these going in real life to show other places it is possible here and allow people to experience them in real life. The less exotic/experimental/radical these things seem to engineers/city planners/city councilmembers/the public at large the better. Some bicyclists unfamiliar with them in person even sometimes have some understandable concerns about their design on paper but I suspect most of these fears will melt away for most of those people upon actually experiencing well-designed infrastructure treatments like these.

2) If no community is currently willing/able to make these street-ready now, then second-best is a strategy that involves demoing these things.

If so, how we do we get those off the ground? I know at least personally I’d love to volunteer my time and efforts into something like this but am unsure what the best channels are to do so.

Peter
Guest

This is very well thought out, but it might be difficult to implement, especially on Portland’s tight streets. In retrofit applications, the tight curb extensions and tight radii are great for bikes, but not so great for freight trucks. In new construction, property and right of way lines might be a problem.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Compliance problems would likely sabotage the safety aspects of this design, as good as it may be. The two big ones: “No right turn on red”, and “Stop here on red”.

Rights on red are really only dangerous to cyclists/peds in two instances:
1. Driver staring left turns right without looking just as the through signal turns green and the crosswalk fills with bikes/peds.
2. Driver turns right on red while a separate bike signal is green for through bicyclists.

Both of these problems should be eliminated by posting protected intersections “No right turn on red”, but there are plenty of drivers who will never give up their “right” to make turns on red, regardless of signage.

As Oliver mentions above, the other issue would be drivers failing to stop before the crosswalk/bike crossing. Usually, this is due to anticipation of making a right on red, causing drivers to cruise right through the crosswalk before stopping to check cross traffic, but some drivers just don’t care about blocking crosswalks.

One other issue crops up in my mind as well–regarding blind spots. I’ve noticed that an increasing number of drivers have a blind spot that is right in the center of their windshields. Modern cars seem to come with some sort of mobile device that blocks the view out the front of the vehicle, so that even if a crossing cyclist/pedestrian were directly in front of such a vehicle, the driver still wouldn’t see them.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

Emily G
YES!! A million likes for this intersection design. One question: what about drivers turning right on red? I assume there would be a no right on red sign, but some drivers interpret that as a suggestion, rather than a definite. Maybe the tight turning radius would slow them down enough?
Recommended 3

Absolutely. Forbidden right-on-red should be standard with these designs, but thankfully the design also allows for checks on drivers disobeying this due to the fact that:

1) bikes’ waiting lines are physically and visually so much further ahead of cars so both bike and car can see each other.

2) the turning radius is tighter

3) the setback crossing point for bikes means there’s a full car length between turning cars and bikes, as demonstrated in the video.

These all go a long way towards protecting people on bikes even if a driver flouts the right-on-red rule. But also, prominent signage and enforcement of no-right-on-red especially in the first weeks and months of these things going live should be strict. There’s no excuse–it’s not like no-right-on-red intersections are a foreign concept to American drivers so they should already be familiar with that anyway.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

J_R
Many years ago I attended the University of Illinois where there were several bicycle facilities that consisted of two-way, separated paths adjacent to, but physically separated from the streets and sidewalks.
These facilities are not without problems. The separate bike facilities were nice where there were no intersecting driveways or streets, but where there were, big problems were evident. Bicyclists were in an unexpected location for turning motorists. I personally saw more than one collision between bicyclists and motorists and between motorist and motorist because of this. The facilities at the U of I did not feature separate signal phases for bicycle movements.

Yes, those sound like very substandard implementations and that’s unfortunate.

But of course that’s just further proof that it’s not protected infra that’s the inherent problem, it’s *poorly designed* protected infra that’s the problem. If designed in the way Nick’s video demonstrates 99% of those problems would be fixed 99% of the time.

J_R
The separate signal phase could alleviate this, but as Nick acknowledges a separate signal phase has significant impacts on motor vehicle capacity and potentially on pedestrians, as well. (Yeah, I know no one reading this cares about motor vehicle capacity, but some others in the community do, believe it or not.)

Yes, those are valid concerns for urban planners/engineers planning these things out, but they’re not insurmountable problems. Smart signalized timing and even features like bike sensors + beg buttons in the refuge area can all go a big way towards addressing this.

This is of course without mentioning the modeshare-increasing power of this kind of top-notch infrastructure. As some of those cars become bikes some of the time, car traffic proportionately diminishes as an issue with each point in bike modeshare gain.

Some also had similar fears about protected cycletracks, but now that those have been around for several years in the US now the data are starting to come in. For example studies on LOS (level-of-service or car throughput) in Long Beach, which has been really expanding its cycletrack network, have found that LOS remains unchanged even as bike modeshare and bike lawfulness/compliance have shot up in areas with protected infrastructure. I’d be willing to bet that with good design at intersections similar results would be seen.

J_R
Don’t get me wrong; I think it would be great if we can develop an approach to transportation more like the Dutch, but before we can make such significant changes, I think bicyclists will need a much higher share of the transportation use than currently experienced. I think we’ll also need to demonstrate a higher compliance with existing laws if there’s going to be any likelihood of implementation.
Let the flames begin.

But that’s really the chicken-and-the-egg issue here. Modeshare is to a huge degree so low now precisely *because* current infrastructure is so bad. There is no one silver bullet to increase modeshare and as always a multi-pronged approach should be taken, but protected infrastructure (including at intersections) is a huge deal especially on busier streets.

Also, compliance goes up with better infrastructure. To prove that it’s not just some hivemind cultural Dutch thing, places in the US as diverse as Long Beach to New York to Chicago have noticed compliance with bike laws goes up with better protected infrastructure. Current rule-breaking is not because most people on bikes *want* to do things like ride on sidewalks and the like—those are mere coping strategies for dealing with the current status quo of terrible infrastructure.

As I’ve said before, if you build good infrastructure and then someone still flouts it, *then* we can absolutely throw the book at them as there’s no excuse.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Excellent work communicating these ideas, per usual, Nick. This is getting towards the types of bike infrastructure that even committed automobile users should be able to get behind simply because it eliminates so many conflict points and opportunities for “unpredictable” vehicle (both bike and car) movement. A few questions:

1) There is a lot of concrete real estate dedicated to the curb extension, wedge island, etc. Do you think this space is usable as stormwater catchment, plantings, benches, and the like? Or will visibility be too impinged? This is likely a case-by-case question but I’ve found in my projects much more funding success when we’re able to kill two or more birds with the same stone (not to relive Portland’s unfortunate “sewer fees for bike lanes” PR nightmare from a few years back….)

2) Do the Dutch have solutions for reducing bike/ped conflicts at these intersections? It looks like peds are supposed to wait back inside the bike lane channel, but as this functions like a general curb extension for people on foot, I can foresee people wanting to advance as far as possible into the extension before the crossing signal turns. This will be bot a design and behavior issue.

Anyway, nice work. I look forward to following the evolving discussion.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

Bill Walters
I don’t see anything that keeps walking folks (of all ages including very young, plus their dogs) from doing their thing all over the bike lanes. Seems like whenever walking and biking lanes are neighbors, they get all mixed up. Need only check out the SW Moody cycle track and the Moody crossing at the Tram to see that in action. Volume is light enough on Moody to limit consternation, but in a downtown setting like this appears to be? Yikes.
Recommended 1

That’s definitely a valid concern and will probably inevitably be an issue to some degree with novel designs, but I think as sheer numbers of bikes increase on these pedestrians will get used to the concept of these as exclusive bikeways because they’ll have to. If everyone’s always ringing their bell at you or yelling at you for being in the cycletrack most people will eventually get it, especially as they become more commonplace.

Of course maybe one way to further reinforce the point is to include frequent bike-symbol and ped-symbol stenciling/paint in the appropriate places especially in the first implementations of these.

Once locals get the hang of them I actually think the only remaining issue over time ends up being tourists unfamiliar with these designs. In Amsterdam the only place these were really a problem were in areas immediately between Centraal Station and the most prominent tourist hotels across a busy arterial. There was always a constant stream of tourists flooding out of the station to the hotels with luggage who’d cross the arterial and think they were safe in the refuge island or mid-block cycletrack only to find within 15 seconds some fast-approaching bicyclist dinging their bell and glaring at them. And then another. And another every 10-15 seconds thereafter. But as someone who biked through that area often I still don’t think even that was all that bad. People catch on quick. Bells, glares and even yelling HEY go a long way when absolutely necessary 🙂

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

Peter
This is very well thought out, but it might be difficult to implement, especially on Portland’s tight streets. In retrofit applications, the tight curb extensions and tight radii are great for bikes, but not so great for freight trucks. In new construction, property and right of way lines might be a problem.
Recommended 0

Of course this kind of treatment won’t work for every intersection, but just for a little spatial perspective and comparison the average Portland street in pretty much any area of town (even downtown) is quite a bit wider and more spacious than the average Dutch road/intersection. Yet they seem to have had few problems implementing these everywhere. Meanwhile Portland still finds plenty of room to do road diets.

The reality is that though these designs may look like they take up more room, they actually don’t necessarily need to take up any more room than a conventional bike lane. It’s just that instead of putting the curb to the right of the bike lane it goes to the left of it and the refuge islands are built outside of the turning radius cars *should* be observing anyway but usually don’t in practice because what would be perfect spots for refuge islands today are currently just intersection asphalt.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

The solution is to switch to smaller trucks. Full-size 55′ trucks should not be allowed in dense urban environments anyway, because they pose a safety threat to all road users.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

MaxD
I agree! I also don’t see very good protection for peds from cyclists! One only needs to attempt to walk on the Esplanade or Springwater to encounter a problem with a ragin’, impatient cyclist.
Recommended 0

I’m not exactly sure what you mean by not seeing protections for peds from cyclists in this design. In the type of design Nick showed in his demo, peds and bikes are indeed fully separated.

Springwater and the Esplanade are multi-use paths (bikes+peds officially supposed to use the same surface) whereas these designs are the opposite of MUP.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

paikikala
Copy, at the intersection anyway. One thing I see in the Dutch videos is long blocks without driveways, not something we have in Portland.
Where are the dimensions?
Recommended 0

There are definitely parts of the Netherlands with short blocks and many driveways, too. The problem is relatively easily addressed–here’s an example:

http://youtu.be/6imqI8VfwNo

In my experience living in the Netherlands that more suburban-style spatial development (low density, frequent driveways, etc.) that you see in the Dutch vid above is a lot more common than many might think. After all not everyone lives in the medieval center of Amsterdam or Utrecht, of course, so they’ve naturally had to find solutions to a great many of the same design challenges like driveways that face many American communities.

paikikala
Guest
paikikala

two travel lanes (20 ft) a left turn lane (10 ft) and two parking lanes (16 ft) is 46 ft curb to curb. Most 2-lane streets in Portland are 36 ft curb to curb. Then to auto space add a buffer on both sides (3′ x 2 or 4′ x 2) a bike lane on both sides (6′ x 2) furnishing zone for trees and poles (3′ x 2 or 4′ x 2) and sidewalks ( 6′ x 2 to 12′ x 2) and we’re talking about a lot of public right of way, (46+6+12+6+12) 82 feet minimum. Combining the buffer and furnishing zone only gets back 6 feet, so 76 ft is the minimum. Who can afford 76-ft wide rights of way (most are 50-60 feet)?

Better to change the parking lane into protected bike space.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

Chris I
Bingo. It’s the cyclists themselves that prevent this from being an issue. I’ve heard so many people complain about the “crazy cyclists” in Amsterdam. In reality, it is their fault, as they wandered into the cycletrack. It’s just something that will have to be dealt with for a while.
Recommended 1

Exactly. It’s the sheer increase in modeshare that further and continuously reinforces the fact that cycletracks aren’t for pedestrians.

If every 15 seconds someone’s whizzing by and yelling to get back on the sidewalk, you’ll probably get the hang of it. And if some pedestrian somewhere someday steps on a cycletrack where no bike happens to be around? Well, out of all problems I wouldn’t worry too much about that one.

Yeah, re: “crazy cyclists,” people on bikes are actually in general very mild-mannered in the Netherlands. There’s a certain peace, freedom…even joie de vivre in being on a bike in a safe space that will get you to your destination in a predictable, safe and low-stress fashion the entire way.

However, if you step into the cycletrack you will get some understandable glares and bells–because it *is* your fault!

People will figure it out, though. There’s always a learning curve for some people with new stuff, but I really don’t think that’s a reason *not* to build better protected infrastructure.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

paikikala
two travel lanes (20 ft) a left turn lane (10 ft) and two parking lanes (16 ft) is 46 ft curb to curb. Most 2-lane streets in Portland are 36 ft curb to curb. Then to auto space add a buffer on both sides (3′ x 2 or 4′ x 2) a bike lane on both sides (6′ x 2) furnishing zone for trees and poles (3′ x 2 or 4′ x 2) and sidewalks ( 6′ x 2 to 12′ x 2) and we’re talking about a lot of public right of way, (46+6+12+6+12) 82 feet minimum. Combining the buffer and furnishing zone only gets back 6 feet, so 76 ft is the minimum. Who can afford 76-ft wide rights of way (most are 50-60 feet)?
Better to change the parking lane into protected bike space.
Recommended 0

You’re not gonna hear any complaints from me about turning a parking lane into a bike lane! 🙂

I think my point is just that if there already is room for a conventional bike lane (which also sometimes necessitates parking removal especially since the newer conventional lanes Portland and some other places have been building are paint-buffered which require even more space) there’s probably also room for this.

Nick’s video just shows a better way to do intersections with roads that already have room for bike infrastructure. (And if they don’t currently, they might be getting a road diet anyway…I think the point is we might as well favor protected infrastructure as a part of road diets as opposed to paint-buffering and conventional intersection treatments everywhere).

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

spare_wheel
a safer design but also one that creates choke points and may therefore not be appropriate when bike traffic is heavy. i suspect that on a busy route in portland many cyclists would simply cycle around these islands if they were to become congested (i witnessed this behavior in amsterdam, btw). i think the best solution for busier bike routes is dedicated bike signalling.
Recommended 2

Your suspicions are unfounded in practice. There is vast evidence that this design works — look at the Netherlands where this intersection design is everywhere, and the crash rate is far lower than the US.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

It looks like this design almost mandates that people on bikes make a Copenhagen Left to turn left.

I really hope that PBOT is willing to give this a try on a few continuous blocks somewhere.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

MaxD
Gezellig,
the part that concerns me is the part where are bikes are supposed to stop behind the crosswalk then proceed across. Based on my experience with Portland’s cyclists 9and I am one), they can be can quite impatient, even hostile, to peds. I could see bikes staking up in the crosswalk, or cruising through it and having conflicts with peds.

I guess I’m still just trying to understand and visualize your concern–regardless of whenever a person on a bike proceeds through the intersection (whether early or not) they won’t be endangering pedestrians at least because in this design bikes and pedestrians don’t ever share the same crossing space through the intersection. Just as the cycletrack is separate from the sidewalk, they both have separate dedicated widths when it comes to the crossway.

In Nick’s video the pedestrian crosswalk is the wider, zebra-striped crosswalk and the cycletrack crossway is the narrower one.

Not only are the spaces separated, there wouldn’t even be much incentive for bikes to intentionally veer over into the pedestrian zebra stripes because on a bike it’d be out of your way to the right. As a bike crossing that type of intersection your goal is to go as straight ahead as possible to either 1) continue straight ahead for the next block or 2) turn left once crossing to the next refuge island.

The teardrop refuge island also creates an area to the left of the bike stopline, giving every incentive for bikes to queue up there as opposed to in pedestrian territory.

I’m not an urban planner/civil engineer but as someone who simply lived in the Netherlands (and both walked and biked all the time) I can say these things do work beautifully 99.99% of the time whether you’re a ped or on a bike. So whatever spatial specs/light timing/etc. those people have figured out it’s largely working.

Btw, as for impatient attitudes and non-compliance, well-designed infrastructure goes a long way towards diminishing these problems. When it’s clear that everyone has their own dedicated space it’s only natural for most people to comply without even thinking about it because the built environment encourages it. I guess there’s more than just one reason protected infrastructure is sometimes called “low-stress.” 🙂

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

dwainedibbly
It looks like this design almost mandates that people on bikes make a Copenhagen Left to turn left.
I really hope that PBOT is willing to give this a try on a few continuous blocks somewhere.
Recommended 0

Except that unlike lefts in Copenhagen you’re protected by the refuge island while you’re waiting instead of out in the street so it’s much safer.

Yes, hopefully they try this out!

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

spare_wheel
you paint a very idealized picture of cycling in the netherlands. dutch cyclists are not only justifiably rude to clueless peds but are also far more likely to engage in scofflaw behavior that their neighbors to the north. during bike rush hour in amsterdam it’s not uncommon to see cyclists jumping signals and spilling into auto space at intersections. and i should note that i’m a huge fan of this type of rebellious “taming the bull behavior” by cyclists and peds (e.g. jaywalking).
Recommended 0

Well it’s just my experience but it is a picture painted from having lived in central Amsterdam, worked in a medium-sized town about 50km away and visited many parts of the country.

Both as someone who biked and walked every day I didn’t personally find scofflaw behavior to be all that common or noticeable. Sure, there are always going to be a few bad apples, and the more people are doing something (like biking) the more actual numbers of violations you’ll find but percentage-wise I’m sure their rates of noncompliance are much lower than those in most American communities with much more Wild-West infrastructure. For every signal jumped in the Netherlands you’ll probably have another 100-200 or more who approach the intersection and wait.

Clarence Eckerson
Guest

Where you see a large sneckdown, start imagining treatments like these!

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I am not convinced that this sort of complicated design is necessary or feasible or affordable in Portland. I also confess to a fear that as more elaborate separated cycle infrastructure is installed, the expectation will mount that cyclists must ride there and “stay off the road!”. I ride all over Portland, on roads both with and without bike infrastructure, and I don’t want to be segregated off of “my” roads.

THAT BEING ADMITTED . . . I would very much like one largish, two way, well traveled, accident prone Portland street to get this treatment, with seven or ten consecutive intersections of this design, as a real world experiment. Let’s spend $5 million (? more ?) and see how well it works.

By the way, is there a version of this design for one-way streets?

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

Chris I
The biggest problem in Amsterdam are the motorcycles that use the bike lanes.
Recommended 0

Agreed!

I also totally disagree with the Dutch policy of allowing mopeds on cycletracks.

There’s actually a vigorous ongoing debate in the Netherlands about whether or not they should continue to be allowed. As things currently stand, Dutch road law distinguishes between several kinds of motorized cycles and pathways:

–> if you have one of those small (under 25km/hr max capacity) mopeds/scooters you’re actually *required* to use cycletracks signed as a Mandatory Cyclepath.

–> If it’s signed as an Optional Cyclepath those small mopeds/scooters can only use the cycletrack if they have an electric motor.

–> Signed Cycle+Moped Path: mopeds of any speed and engine capacity must use these cyclepaths.

It’s all kind of crazy, and can occasionally be really unnerving as a bicyclist.

Thankfully this is one problem a place like Portland won’t have as the rules are totally different and there aren’t distinctions between Mandatory and Optional and Moped+Cyclepaths anyway. Though I do wonder how things will evolve in the eyes of the law if e-bikes ever catch on in a big way, but that’s probably a whole ‘nother story.

Gezellig
Guest
Gezellig

John Liu
I am not convinced that this sort of complicated design is necessary or feasible or affordable in Portland. I also confess to a fear that as more elaborate separated cycle infrastructure is installed, the expectation will mount that cyclists must ride there and “stay off the road!”. I ride all over Portland, on roads both with and without bike infrastructure, and I don’t want to be segregated off of “my” roads.

But as a pedestrian you probably naturally abide by the fact that you’re not always given free rein to be in just any part of any roadway at any time. As a pedestrian on most streets you’re “segregated” onto a different channel (sidewalks) suited for walking.

This just carries that channel concept over into biking.

I wonder, does your concern about being on a different channel of the road (like a cyclepath) have to do with fearing being slowed down especially for left turns? In my experience with well designed intersections (like those in Nick’s video) it’s almost never an issue. Smart signalized timing can effectively turn these types of intersections into a squarish roundabout for bikes so you’re not waiting long or even at all to turn left. And of course on a bike you get a freebie anytime right turn in an intersection where vehicles (and those bikes behaving vehicularly) are required to stop at red.

I find that many high-stress vehicular lefts at least seem to take longer than these protected lefts I was used to in the Netherlands because you can usually just sail through those in one shot.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

There needs to be clear visual separation of some type so that it’s obvious what to do where.
Two examples in Vancouver, BC. One is Carrall Street. The cycle track and the sidewalk are at the same height. People walk on the cycle part all the time quite unawares.
The other is Hornby St. The sidewalk is higher with a curb separating it from the cycle track. At some spots, usually at driveways the cycle track rises to the same level as the sidewalk. There are markings to make it obvious that there’s a crossing there. All it takes is a polite little bit of bell dinging for people to look up and move to the side.
But the first few weeks when the Hornby cycle track went in, it didn’t work so well but then people learned and it’s all good now.

Clark in Vancouver
Guest
Clark in Vancouver

Adam H.
Ban large trucks above a certain length from the city center. Delivery companies will have to adapt. This works in many Eurpoean cities, where large trucks deliver to places outside the city center, then transfer to smaller trucks.

This sort of thing is done to a certain extent already in most cities. Large trucks bring goods to the warehouses and then smaller ones bring them to the stores. All it would take is to have more of that. Those dispatching the trucks will know the city and what size truck could go where.

Gezellig
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Clark in Vancouver
There needs to be clear visual separation of some type so that it’s obvious what to do where.
Two examples in Vancouver, BC. One is Carrall Street. The cycle track and the sidewalk are at the same height. People walk on the cycle part all the time quite unawares.
The other is Hornby St. The sidewalk is higher with a curb separating it from the cycle track. At some spots, usually at driveways the cycle track rises to the same level as the sidewalk. There are markings to make it obvious that there’s a crossing there. All it takes is a polite little bit of bell dinging for people to look up and move to the side.
But the first few weeks when the Hornby cycle track went in, it didn’t work so well but then people learned and it’s all good now.

Nice! Yeah, I think most people catch on and get the hang of this kind of stuff.

Clark in Vancouver
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El Biciclero
Compliance problems would likely sabotage the safety aspects of this design, as good as it may be. The two big ones: “No right turn on red”,

How it works in Vancouver, BC on Hornby Street, is there is a right turn signal light for the right turning car lane, then that goes red and then the green bike signal is lit. (The straight ahead car lane is green during both.)
In practise it’s important (as at any intersection) to be alert and make sure that the cars have indeed stopped for the red light before starting to cycle through. If you do that it’s all fine.

When the Hornby separated cycle track went in, the city was smart. They had happy friendly smiling flaggers out for the first few weeks to help people figure it out and know what to do. Folks who go that way all the time learned it pretty quickly.
It’s working very smoothly now considering that it’s a busy downtown intersection with a lot going on.

Gezellig
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Clark in Vancouver

El Biciclero
Compliance problems would likely sabotage the safety aspects of this design, as good as it may be. The two big ones: “No right turn on red”,
How it works in Vancouver, BC on Hornby Street, is there is a right turn signal light for the right turning car lane, then that goes red and then the green bike signal is lit. (The straight ahead car lane is green during both.)
In practise it’s important (as at any intersection) to be alert and make sure that the cars have indeed stopped for the red light before starting to cycle through. If you do that it’s all fine.
When the Hornby separated cycle track went in, the city was smart. They had happy friendly smiling flaggers out for the first few weeks to help people figure it out and know what to do. Folks who go that way all the time learned it pretty quickly.
It’s working very smoothly now considering that it’s a busy downtown intersection with a lot going on.

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That’s a great idea to have friendly flaggers guide people through the process in the beginning. They could reinforce car signals for any confused drivers while also being able to answer pedestrians’ and people on bikes’ questions right there. Cool!

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John Liu
As a cyclist who is comfortable riding with and in traffic,

That’s great that you can do that right now, but (making some broad assumptions here about your present age) what about when you’re 80? Would you have been able to do what you currently do when you were 8?

What if you became disabled and used a motorized wheelchair (those are allowed on bike lanes as per Oregon law) and found–as many do–that even “good” sidewalks are often less than ideal for getting around quickly and easily so it’s either that or exposing yourself to the dangers of the main road and/or conventional bike path?

The thing we need to remember is that these types of designs benefit so many more people than conventional infrastructure which mostly only serves those of us who are healthy/young/confident enough to do these types of things and have decided specifically to do so.

John Liu
I do not want to be segregated to 4 foot wide cycle tracks clogged with the “interested and timid” or whatever the term is.

In practice that’s almost never a problem.

Plus, let’s face it–Portland is not a particularly dense city. So even if bike modeshare increases there’s a natural upper limit to just how many bikes are going to be out there at any given point.

Look at a typical ride through the center of Rotterdam. It’s a city with:

–> about the same population as Portland (both around 600k within their actual borders and 2.9mil in their greater metro areas)

–> much greater average density (about 3000 people per square kilometer as opposed to Portland’s 1700)

–> much higher modeshare (in fact, at about 25% its bike modeshare is the goal Portland has set for itself)

–> a major river crossing through the middle of the city (just like Portland) with many bridges spanning its width, all potential “bottlenecks” for all those bicyclists.

Rotterdam is also uncharacteristically spatially “American” in many ways with wide avenues, skyscrapers downtown, etc. Yet despite all this look at what getting around by bike in Rotterdam typically looks like:

http://youtu.be/mQyea9aqbcQ

It’s clear that the guy filming this is a fast rider as he overtakes almost anyone he comes across, and it doesn’t ever seem to be a problem. Having lived in the Netherlands with this type of pervasive infrastructure, I have to say this was much more my daily experience than being stuck behind the huddled yearning slow masses or something. In practice it’s just almost never a problem, even with the fact that most Dutch people tend to cycle at a pretty leisurely pace.

If Rotterdam looks like that with way more density and modeshare than Portland has, I really don’t think Portland’s going to be having pervasive problems with cycletrack bottlenecks.

John Liu
I also do not want drivers to be relieved of their duty to drive carefully and respectfully around cyclists, by the excuse that bikes don’t belong in the road. I am dismayed by the suggestion that building cycle paths or bike lanes mean cyclists must stay off the rest of the road. If that is where we are heading, I’ll oppose funding or building any such cycle infrastructure.

I get that the egalitarian ideal of everyone sharing the road is great, and actually this really should be the case in many slower streets (cycletracks needn’t go everywhere). To the extent possible I’d even like to see little or no separation between road and sidewalk on some of those to visually “force” drivers in such areas to be “unsure” and consider others.

That being said, we accept that with vast disparities of power and size cars and pedestrians do not belong together in busier higher-volume roads. So since we already accept the provision that sidewalks must be present, the remaining question is—in those scenarios are bikes’ power and size abilities vastly different from those of cars, thus deserving their own separate channel, too? The pragmatist in me that also accepts separation for pedestrians says yes.

John Liu
Thus, while I’d like to see protected cycle tracks and intersections tested and, if successful, used in the locations of highest need, I do not want Portland to be covered with the things. Which we can’t afford to do anyway, not in anyone’s wildest dreams.

But I think you’re making the assumption that cycletracks are inherently more expensive than conventional lanes. For various reasons (especially related to the expense of surface materials/foundations required for conventional lanes as extensions of always-expensive car infra) and the fact that cycletracks require less maintenance they have sometimes even come out to be cheaper than conventional lanes.

davemess
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davemess

Nick, where would you see one of these intersections going in Portland? Clearly it would need to be an intersection with some space to work with? Something like Foster and 82nd? Do you think it could work downtown?

Ed
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Ed

Gezellig

That being said, we accept that with vast disparities of power and size cars and pedestrians do not belong together in busier higher-volume roads. So since we already accept the provision that sidewalks must be present, the remaining question is—in those scenarios are bikes’ power and size abilities vastly different from those of cars, thus deserving their own separate channel, too? The pragmatist in me that also accepts separation for pedestrians says yes.

It’s not really the disparity of power and size that’s a problem, it’s just speed. You can drive a compact car on the freeway right next to a double semi-truck, and that’s a HUGE size difference, but it’s no big deal because you’re both going the same speed and traveling straight forward. On the other hand, driving at 30 on the freeway would actually be very unsafe, no matter what size vehicle you have.

A pedestrian, walking can’t possibly keep up with even the slowest traffic, so it makes sense to separate them to the side. On the other hand, bikes actually *can* keep up with traffic, at least on some streets. So I think it makes sense to integrate bikes when possible, and separate them when necessary (whenever the traffic speed is over 30, basically).

Clark in Vancouver
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Clark in Vancouver

Gezellig

That’s a great idea to have friendly flaggers guide people through the process in the beginning. They could reinforce car signals for any confused drivers while also being able to answer pedestrians’ and people on bikes’ questions right there. Cool!

It worked out very well. I suspect some of the flaggers were subjected to abuse at times but they seemed to have some training to deal with that. The ways that opposition to change comes is fairly predictable so it can be prepared for.
I also noticed on another project here, the Comox Greenway, when some crazy woman was yelling from her car window some rant to all the workers who were laying the concrete forms out, one of them went and chatted with her and gave her a business card to contact the relevant city department. It was all very civil and nice.
Sometimes criticism isn’t of the project but is of the process. (Or so the detractors claim when they don’t get their way.) If that’s really the case, then the process should be one that everyone feels included and part of it.

Paul
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Paul

I really like the idea of physically separated cycle tracks. I would definitely ride more if they were available.
I would add my voice to those who expressed concern about autos’ right on red turns. Also, if all motorized traffic is stopped in all directions at the same time, traffic flow is going to be serious impacted, possibly causing serious backups.

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Opus the Poet
I communicate with some people from the Netherlands in making my blog, and their experience with the infrastructure is they can get anywhere they would need to use a car to get to without using a car and it’s much nicer on a bike, so why use the roads? Each mode of travel (foot, bike, and motor vehicle) has infrastructure designed to best accommodate it in the environment with minimal conflict with other modes. Even driving is more pleasant there than here.

Exactly. Each mode of travel is ideally designed for its requirements. It seems to me that comments here against separation have a lot to due with fear of too-close proximity to others on bikes but in practice this is almost never a problem.

As Nick Falbo’s video notes, people on bikes are pretty good at negotiating space and staying out of each others’ ways, and it’s pretty rare to truly be “stuck” behind someone. For that to happen on any regular basis would require modeshare and density way greater than Portland envisions.

John Liu
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John Liu

If you want to see how congested these curbed cycletracks will get, go to N. Williams or the roads to/from the Hawthorne or Broadway bridges during commute hours. Cyclists are stacked up behind each other in the bike lanes.

Fortunately, with painted lanes the faster riders can take to traffic lanes, either to pass slower riders or simply to ride there.

Now, imagine 4 and 5 times the volume of bike traffic (“build it and they will come”, right?), many of the additional riders being slow ones, and all those bikes trapped in a 4 or 6 foot curbed cycletrack. The quality of riding will be lousy, there will be too much rider-on-rider conflict, and we’ll all have to ride at the speed of the slowest riders. About 12 mph, I observe. Throw in cargo trikes, mobility scooter, someone towing a trailer of kids, and riding a bike will be a frustrating, jaw-clenching slog instead of the fun, fast, exhilarating thing it is today.

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El Biciclero
Force me to ride at 7 mph behind all the 8 and 80-year-olds in the cycle track while cars whiz by at 20 – 25 (a speed I could go given the right terrain…)?

You and I will (hopefully) be one of those 80 year olds one day, too, and might appreciate some extra protection. The thing is bike infrastructure shouldn’t just serve the small percentages of us who are healthy and brave enough to bike vehicularly.

And that being said, for those with the need for speed it’s pretty unlikely that any theoretical cycletrack in Portland would be positively crammed with slow bicyclists in any pervasive way. In practice it’s quite easy to pass someone or someone(s) on a cycletrack in any case. In practice a well-designed cycletrack really is much more liberating than confining.

El Biciclero
Force me to always stop prior to making any left turn (because I have to cross two streets to do it) while cars may just turn when it is clear or when their single left turn signal is green?

But with smart signalization you wouldn’t have to *always* stop before making any left turn. With timed signalization + protected intersection you can often sail through and it’s still green for you to turn left once you reach the other side. It’s basically a squarish roundabout.

While making a vehicular left you have to stop sometimes, too, when the light is red. So I just don’t see the issue.

And btw, in designs as in the video as a bike on the cycletrack you always get a free right on red which you don’t get (at least not legally) when you’re biking vehicularly and want to turn right on a red.

El Biciclero
I don’t ride my bike because I have all day to get places and I like to go slow…

As someone who also absolutely used my bike living in the Netherlands to get places in small amounts of time (nothing like that adrenaline rush as you race to an appointment) I can confirm that even in my experience doing this all the time (because I’m often cutting my timing a bit close) in Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands I almost never felt constrained or slowed down by others. It’s really easy to pass people and people do it all the time. In practice it’s not constraining or speed-inhibiting at all.

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davemess
“But I think you’re making the assumption that cycletracks are inherently more expensive than conventional lanes. For various reasons (especially related to the expense of surface materials/foundations required for conventional lanes as extensions of always-expensive car infra) and the fact that cycletracks require less maintenance they have sometimes even come out to be cheaper than conventional lanes.”
Do you actually have any proof of this? Moving curbs is ALWAYS going to be more expensive than throwing down some paint. And in Portland it’s always going to be about reconfiguring, not building a new intersection from scratch.

Whenever a street comes up for redesign, curbs and lots of things get torn up anyway. A lot of conventional lanes built in recent years in the US have been the result of money-requiring road diets that were going to happen anyway. Then they striped a conventional lane because that’s what standards say to do.

Regardless of how you feel about the design of Cully, for example, I do remember it being mentioned on Bike Portland that the cycletrack option ended up being cheaper than a conventional lane studied for that stretch would have been.

I’m confused by your less maintenance idea. Cycletracks will require specific equipment and personal to clean them. Bike lanes can usually easily be cleaned by standard street sweepers. I’m sure you’re insinuating filling cracks and pot holes? Sure that might be the case in the auto lanes, but a freshly paved bikelane rarely needs resurfacing very often, unless it is a point where auto cross (which a cycletrack will also have).

Some cars and trucks do obliviously veer onto painted conventional lanes, so the wear-and-tear does add up, especially since those heavy vehicles can’t veer into a separated cycletrack.

As for specific equipment and personnel and costs for cycletracks, it’s hard to find many places that talk about costs, even in Dutch. (Most of the articles I could find about ongoing city costs related to bikes had to do with the nuisance of dealing with all those abandoned bikes being left places so that seems to be of greater concern).

Cycletracks there seemed in general a bit cleaner in comparison to sidewalks–not sure if this is because people whizzing by all the time cause any loose papers/trash to end up elsewhere.

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spare_wheel
In central portland we do not have a single major road that resembles the monstrous waste of livable space depicted in your video (nor are there any skyscrapers). Some of the surrounding suburbs do have 8-10 lane arterials but these areas will likely remain hostile to cycling long after portland achieves it’s mode share goals.
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That vid wasn’t to compare roads or building heights per se but what 25% modeshare can look like in a city with roughly the same population as (and even greater density than) Portland.

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Adam H.
Agreed. Even the Netherlands has shared streets. The difference there is that in these “fietsstraats”, cars are treated as guests and people on bikes get priority. This differs from the free-for-all nature of American streets (even the low-volume neighborhood ones).
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Yes, I don’t think anyone thinks there should cycletracks on every street ever. There are lots of other smart things cities can and should do depending on local context:

-> road diets
-> bike blvds/neighborhood greenways
-> allowing contraflow bike lanes on one-way (for cars) streets
-> one-way street for cars whose flow alternates every block or 2 to allow local car access but prevent thoroughfare-type activity
-> banning cars outright on some streets
-> retractable bollards restricting certain streets to cars only at certain hours, etc.

The fietsstraat and its related cousin the woonerf are also *great* examples of non-protected infrastructure that can work really well.

But protected infrastructure should absolutely be considered in some high-stress environments where these types of treatments won’t work.

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John Liu
If you want to see how congested these curbed cycletracks will get, go to N. Williams or the roads to/from the Hawthorne or Broadway bridges during commute hours. Cyclists are stacked up behind each other in the bike lanes.
Fortunately, with painted lanes the faster riders can take to traffic lanes, either to pass slower riders or simply to ride there.
Now, imagine 4 and 5 times the volume of bike traffic (“build it and they will come”, right?), many of the additional riders being slow ones, and all those bikes trapped in a 4 or 6 foot curbed cycletrack. The quality of riding will be lousy, there will be too much rider-on-rider conflict, and we’ll all have to ride at the speed of the slowest riders. About 12 mph, I observe. Throw in cargo trikes, mobility scooter, someone towing a trailer of kids, and riding a bike will be a frustrating, jaw-clenching slog instead of the fun, fast, exhilarating thing it is today.
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A bridge is a natural bottleneck so I’m not sure if comparing roads near one and at rush hour is necessarily a representative indicator of how an average protected lane in the city will be performing.

That being said, beefing up infrastructure on and near the bridges is clearly of importance, too.

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spare_wheel
comparisons of bike lanes with cycletracks were conducted in denmark and germany. these studies are rarely cited by proponents of cycletracks for obvious reasons.

Those studies compared German and Danish versions of cycletracks with conventional lanes. German and Danish cycletracks are indeed often subpar as they expose cyclists to unnecessary danger and stress. They should not be copied.

German cycletracks are often narrow and much more likely to be within the doorzone of parked cars, and both German and Danish cycletracks usually suffer from unprotected intersection design.