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Posts tagged "buffered bike lanes"

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Study: To Keep Bicyclists Outside the Door Zone, You Need a Buffer

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A buffered bike lane does a better job of encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone than a wide bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

A new study has found that buffered bike lanes are better than conventional bike lanes when it comes to encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. The study draws its conclusion, in part, based on a test done with bike lanes in Chicago.

The study, recently published by the Transportation Research Board, concludes that wider but un-buffered bike lanes aren’t necessarily better than narrower lanes in encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. If there’s enough space to make a wider bike lane, the authors conclude, that extra space should be used to install a “narrower bicycle lane with a parking-side buffer,” which “provides distinct advantages over a wider bike lane with no buffer.”

Researchers reached their conclusions after observing thousands of cyclists using various bike lane configurations in Chicago and Cambridge, Massachusetts. On one Chicago street, for example, few bicyclists rode outside the door zone when the bike lane had no buffer, then after a two-foot buffer was striped, 40 percent rode outside the door zone:

Bicyclists are more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than any other bike lane width studied.

Bicyclists are more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than in any other bike lane width studied.

That’s because the door zone is four feet wide, and riding in the center of a six-foot-wide bike lane still doesn’t give a cyclist enough clearance. The Chicago Bike Map itself recommends riding four feet away from parked cars, well outside the center line of even a six-foot-wide lane.

The on-street tests demonstrated that a six-foot-wide bike lane offers no advantage over one that’s five feet wide, or even four feet wide. Regardless of the width, bicyclists still ride in the center of the lane — within the radius of a typical car door swinging open. Dooring crashes are common in urban areas like Chicago: In 2012, the last year for which data is available, 18 percent of reported bike crashes were doorings.

Chicago has several six-foot-wide bike lanes, including those on Elston from North Avenue into the far northwest side, Division Street through Wicker Park, and Milwaukee between Division and Elston. The on-road test, using temporary bike lane stripes, took place on Division Street near California, and on Clark Street near Schiller. Both streets did not have bike lanes before, and then bike lanes of varying widths were installed, culminating in the buffered lanes that exist at those locations today. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Augusta Buffered Lanes and Repaved Milwaukee PBLs

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Augusta near Noble. The buffer encourages riding outside of the door zone. Photo: John Greenfield

Due to the cold spring, the Chicago Department of Transportation’s bikeways construction season got off to a late start. Thermoplastic pavement markings don’t adhere properly to asphalt at temperatures below 50 Fahrenheit, as evidenced by bike lanes and crosswalks in various parts of town that were striped too late in the season in 2013 and have quickly deteriorated. Therefore, it was wise to wait for warmer weather this year.

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This Logan Square crosswalk was badly faded not long after installation. Photo John Greenfield.

Now that work has begun on the 20 miles of buffered and protected lanes slated for this year, things are moving fairly quickly. This month CDOT installed buffered bike lanes on the following stretches:

  • Halsted: 85th to 75th, 69th to Marquette, 59th to Garfield, and 31st to 26th
  • Racine: 52nd to 47th
  • 26th: Kostner to Pulaski
  • Augusta: Damen to Noble

As Steven posted earlier today, Wood recently got a neighborhood greenway treatment between Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT is also nearly done reconstructing the Milwaukee protected lanes between Erie and Ogden. Those were largely obliterated by a water main project this fall, and then all of the remaining bike lane bollards taken out by motorists and snowplows over the winter.

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Milwaukee Avenue during water main construction. Photo: John Greenfield

I plan to ride the new South Side facilities next week. This afternoon, I took a quick spin to check out conditions on Augusta and Milwaukee. CDOT striped conventional bike lanes on Augusta from Central Park to Noble a few seasons ago, but as I ride in from the west, I noticed that many stretches west of Damen are badly faded. Hopefully, these sections will be next in line for an upgrade.

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Business Owners on Elston Won’t Fight Buffered Bike Lanes

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Biking on Elston, just west of Ashland. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s official: business owners along the Elston industrial corridor are giving up their fight against better bike lanes on the street.

In December, when Chicago Department of Transportation staff discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster at a meeting hosted by the North Branch Works industrial council, there was stiff resistance. Although there’s currently a protected lane on the street from Division to North, and a faded conventional lane on most of this stretch, the industrial council argued that encouraging more cycling on the street would interfere with truck movement and endanger bike riders.

In January, as an alternative to upgrading the Elston lanes, the North Branch Works lobbied CDOT to build a roundabout bicycle route proposal designed by a local architecture firm, dubbed “A New Bike Route.” However, transportation chief Rebekah Scheinfeld wrote Mike Holzer, director of economic development for the industrial council, last month pointing out that there’s already heavy bike traffic on Elston, and 26 percent of crashes resulting in injuries involve cyclists. She also noted that ANBR would add half a mile to a bike trip downtown, and the infrastructure could cost 100 times as much as the buffered lanes.

At the end of March, CDOT project manager Mike Amsden presented a slightly modified design for the buffered lanes, with the travel lanes widened from 10.5 feet to 11 feet, to North Branch Works, and now the council is grudgingly accepting the plan. The bike lanes are slated for construction in late 2014 or early 2015.

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Elston Has a Speeding Problem — A Safe Bike Lane Can Help

Without protected bike lanes on Elston, bicyclists will continue to get the truck route squeeze

Without protected bike lanes on Elston, bicyclists will continue to get squeezed between trucks.

To reach Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal of having five percent of trips under five miles made by bike, bicycling will have to appeal to a much broader base of people than it does today. CDOT’s bikeway projects will only succeed at that goal if new cyclists feel safe and comfortable while riding in these lanes — which, in turn, largely depends on whether they feel safe from nearby traffic.

Elston Avenue, where a proposal for buffered bike lanes has proven contentious, is a good place to measure how fast people are driving — and whether bike lanes provide sufficient separation from speeding cars. CDOT has proposed a buffered bike lane from North Avenue to Webster Avenue, and, at some point in the future, an extension further north through Avondale and beyond. The North Branch Works business association isn’t pleased with the proposal, saying that it will impede truck traffic.

John Greenfield and I spent last Tuesday morning measuring drivers’ speeds at two different locations on Elston. We used our new radar speed gun — donated by Streetsblog readers — to collect data on northbound drivers on Elston at Blackhawk/Magnolia, where Elston bends slightly, and on Elston at Willow, next to the Creative Scholars Preschool. The Blackhawk/Magnolia intersection is part of the stretch of Elston that has a bike lane separated from traffic by flexible posts, and the Willow intersection is part of CDOT’s new project area.

The proportion of speeders was high at both locations. At Blackhawk/Magnolia, 37.6 percent of drivers exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, and at Willow, 32.3 percent of drivers were speeding. We measured vehicle speeds for 15 minutes at each location, capturing 100 drivers apiece. While ideally a larger sample would be collected to gauge the extent of speeding, our measurements suggest there is a higher proportion of speeders on Elston than on other bike routes known for high speeds, like Marshall Boulevard and 55th Street.

High motor vehicle speeds not only pose a danger to people who bike, they also discourage people from biking in the first place by increasing the perception of risk. Likewise, bikeways that provide greater separation from speeding traffic not only reduce the risk of injury, they also lead more people to bike by increasing the perception of safety. To compensate for the high level of speeding on Elston — and the preponderance of truck traffic — the street should have the safest bicycle infrastructure available.

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Chicago Building Four Miles of Protected Bike Lanes This Year

Can you believe this road was expanded from 4 lanes to 6?

CDOT will install a buffered bike lane on Harrison Street through this asphalt monstrosity built for the Congress Parkway interchange expansion.

The City of Chicago announced a new slate of bikeway projects today, outlining about 15 miles of new buffered bike lanes and a little more than four miles of protected lanes to be built in 2014.

Under the plan for this year, protected bikeway construction in Chicago would continue to outpace every other American city except perhaps for New York. But the city still embellishes its progress by counting buffered lanes as protected lanes, saying that it is already halfway to the goal of building 100 miles of protected lanes by 2015. (In fact, just under 17 miles of protected bike lanes have been built.)

It’s unfortunate that the city continues to mislabel buffered bike lanes, not only because it’s misleading but because it cheapens the substantial progress being made in Chicago — often in the face of difficult obstacles like the Illinois Department of Transportation ban on protected bike lanes on state jurisdiction streets, including Clybourn Avenue and parts of Elston Avenue. (The ban has now been lifted on a trial basis on Clybourn.)

This year, about 4.25 miles of new bike lanes will be physically protected from traffic by parked cars and/or flexible posts. CDOT Assistant Director of Transportation Planning Mike Amsden said in December that the city is considering using curbs for protection on Clybourn Avenue from Division Street to North Avenue — a stretch that traverses the intersection where cyclist Bobby Cann was fatally struck by drunk driver Ryne San Hamel — and State Street south of 26th Street. The news release says this is still being designed. (CDOT said at the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council meeting in March that curb separation was “still on the table.”)

The new protected bike lanes are:

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“A New Bike Route” No Substitute for Safer Biking on Elston

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The ANBR route map. Note that the route is slightly less indirect than shown because the street marked as Marcy is actually Clybourn.

Last month when Chicago Department of Transportation staffers discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster at a meeting hosted by the North Branch Works industrial council, there was stiff resistance from local business owners. Although there’s currently a protected lane on the street from Division to North, and a fading conventional lane on this stretch, they argued that encouraging more cycling on the street would interfere with truck movement and endanger bike riders.

As an alternative to upgrading the Elston lanes, the industrial council is now pushing a bike route proposal designed by the architecture firm MAS Studio and bankrolled by Topology, a real estate development company. Dubbed “A New Bike Route,” it features an itinerary connecting the east end of the upcoming Bloomingdale Trail, AKA The 606, to buffered lanes on Wells south of Division, mostly via side streets. The roundabout route includes Cortland, Marcy (although the street shown on the map above is actually Clybourn), Kingsbury (Topology’s office is located at 1422 North Kingsbury), Scott, Cleveland, Hobbie and Hill.

“The idea is to make a bike route that is a good ride as an alternative to simply designating a bike lane for a city street,” said Tom Melk, project leader for Topology . “The route weaves its way past retail areas, the Clybourn Metra stop, schools, and employment centers, and through parks, avoiding anonymous areas like the Elston industrial zone.”

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Rendering of ANBR on Hill Street by Seward Park.

“The focus is to create a good ride, an interesting ride, and an efficient way to connect Milwaukee Avenue and the new 606 to Michigan Avenue, River North and the Loop while avoiding difficult, unfriendly intersections… or routes through long tedious and uninteresting neighborhood areas,” he added. “Who wants to bike down Elston anyway?”

Actually, lots of people do. CDOT counts conducted in late summer of 2012 observed an average of 219 cyclists on Elston at Division per two-hour peak period. It’s also clear that upgrading the Elston bike lanes would make even more people choose it as a bike route. Bike counts on the street showed a 55 percent increase in cycling after the protected lanes were installed.

While the stretch between North to Webster is wide enough for protected lanes, the business owners are dead-set against the buffered lane proposal, let alone extending the PBLs north, because they fear more cyclists on Elston would interfere with their shipping operations. Their main reason for promoting the ANBR proposal is to get bikes out of the way of their trucks.

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Elston Businesses Want Easier Trucking at the Expense of Bike Safety

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The Elston Avenue protected bike lane at Division Street. Photo: John Greenfield

On Wednesday morning the North Branch Works industrial council hosted a meeting for business owners on the city’s proposal to upgrade barely visible conventional bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster to buffered lanes, focusing on the section south of Cortland. Joe Robinson, a member of Bike Walk Logan Square who teaches at a school located on this stretch, attended the session, in which Chicago Department of Transportation discussed the plan with attendees. Although there is a protected lane on Elston between Milwaukee and North, and this section is wide enough for PBLs, Robinson said there was stiff opposition from the business owners to merely striping buffered lanes with paint.

“CDOT tossed this group of businesses a bone [by proposing buffered lanes instead of PBLs], at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians, and the group hardly acknowledged it,” Robinson wrote me. He added that the owners of industrial businesses instead expressed concerns about the new buffered lanes encouraging more bike traffic on Elston. “There was a lot of talk about large trucks having enough room, being able to turn out of driveways, and being able to access loading docks.”

Robinson said safer conditions for biking and walking are sorely needed on this stretch. “There are no lights or stop signs between Cortland and North, and folks use that stretch like it’s a highway,” he said. “I would guess that the majority of drivers speed, and a good percentage of them approach or exceed 40 mph.” Drivers use the existing bike lane as a passing lane and to avoid rough pavement, he said. He added that after a new office building opened at 1765 North Elston with hundreds of employees, curbside parking spaces on this stretch began filling up early in the morning, and truckers have taken to parking in the bike lane while waiting to pull into loading docks.


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Looking north on Elston from North.
 

Mike Holzer, director of economic development for the North Branch Works confirmed his organization is strongly opposed to new buffered lanes, let alone protected lanes. “The majority of business owners in the room [on Wednesday] were concerned about cyclists’ safety. We’re thinking that Elston shouldn’t be designated as a bike route, period, that there are better alternative routes for cycling.”

Holzer said the corridor was designated as a Planned Manufacturing District in order to secure the area for industrial growth. “There are multiple loading docks and drive-through doors on Elston, as well as buildings built right up against the sidewalk,” he said. “The feeling was that this is not a place where you should encourage cycling.”

Holzer says he himself is a real-deal bike commuter who frequently pedals from his home in Logan Square to his office at 1866 North Marcy, just west of the new buffered lanes on Clybourn. “I still stay off Clybourn,” he said. “It’s not a great street to ride on either. I take Cortland to work, and if I’m going to the Lincoln Park Zoo or downtown I’ll knit together a route that takes smaller streets like Marcy and Willow and stays off of heavily trafficked ones.”

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Eyes on the Street: New Buffered Lanes on Wells Street in Old Town

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All bike lane pictures were taken on Wells between North and Lincoln. Photo: John Greenfield

This weekend might be the Chicago Department of Transportation’s last hurrah for building bike lanes before the construction season ends. The molten plastic striping doesn’t properly adhere to asphalt at temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so the last several days of frigid weather put a halt to CDOT’s efforts to install 20.7 more miles of buffered and protected lanes before the deep-freeze sets in.

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Photo: John Greenfield

This weekend it’s supposed to warm up to the 60s, although rain is also predicted, and then it’s supposed to dip back into the 40s. Perhaps bike advocates should gather under the Picasso in Daley Plaza this evening to chant “No rain!” in hopes that innovative bikeways like the Broadway buffered and protected lanes, one of the first Chicago PBLs on a retail street, can be completed by Monday.

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Photo: John Greenfield

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Eyes on the Street: New Buffered Lanes on North Halsted

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Looking south on Halsted, north of Fullerton. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation is currently hoping to install up to 20.7 more miles of buffered and protected bike lanes before the close of the construction season. However, since thermoplastic striping doesn’t properly bond to asphalt at under 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the current freeze is delaying these projects, so it’s unlikely all of them will be completed this year.

“We don’t want to stripe when it’s too cold and have the pavement markings come up next year,” said CDOT Project Manager Mike Amsden. “Our ultimate goal is 100 miles by May 2015. We’re in a good spot to hit that goal.” It’s good that the agency now recognizes that haste makes waste, since portions of lanes striped too late in the season last year on Desplaines and Division have largely disappeared.

This afternoon I took a quick spin on Halsted between Fullerton and Diversey in Lincoln Park, where CDOT recently upgraded conventional bike lanes to buffered lanes. The crew ground out the old markings and restriped the new lanes on the existing asphalt on this half-mile stretch. This means, unlike the quarter-mile section of Halsted just north between Diversey and Wellington, which got buffered lanes when it was repaved last year, this new stretch lacks the buttery-smooth texture of fresh blacktop, but the pavement is still in good condition.

The new bikeways include dead space striped on the left side of the lane to help distance bicyclists from car traffic, and hash marks on the right side to encourage cyclists to ride out of the door zone. The buffered lanes are nearly as wide as the now-slimmed-down car lanes on this 50-foot-wide roadway. This road diet seems to be encouraging drivers to respect the speed limit, and when I rode them most motorists were doing a good job of keeping out of the buffer zone.

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Eyes on the Street: New Buffered Bike Lanes on Madison Street

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Riding east on Madison towards Pulaski. Photo: John Greenfield

Well-designed protected bike lanes are generally far superior to buffered lanes, because it provides actual physical protection from moving cars, not just paint on the road, which encourage more risk-averse people to ride. On the other hand, if protected lanes are off the table, well-executed buffered lanes are nothing to sneeze at.

The Chicago Department of Transportation recently striped buffered lanes on two miles of Madison Street between Pulaski Road and Central Avenue in Austin and Garfield Park. At around 80 feet wide, this four-lane road wide could accommodate four travel lanes, two parking lanes and two protected bike lanes, and it’s not a state-jurisdiction roadway. The Illinois Department of Transportation is currently prohibiting protected, but not buffered, lanes on state roads. Therefore, protected bike lanes were an option on Madison.

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Madison at Laramie. The position of the bike lane and parking lane could easily have been reversed. Photo: John Greenfield

However, after the street was slated to be repaved as part of the city’s Arterial Streets Resurfacing Program, CDOT chose to build buffered lanes instead of protected ones. It’s likely the decision was informed by the fact that it’s harder to make a case for protected lanes in neighborhoods that aren’t already bike-friendly.

“Many of [the current bike lane] projects are in parts of the city where we don’t have a lot of bike infrastructure yet,” CDOT Project Manager Mike Amsden recently told me. “We’ve heard on a regular basis when we’re talking to stakeholders in these communities that, ‘You need to walk before you can run.’… Putting in a buffered lane is a great start. It can help get people out riding and start that mode shift.”

When I took a spin on the new lanes yesterday during the evening rush, I did see a dozen or two people on bikes. Almost all of them were male, some were riding in the bike lanes but pedaling against traffic, and many others still opted to ride on the broad sidewalks instead. That’s an understandable choice, since biking alongside four lanes of fast car traffic must seem unsafe to inexperienced cyclists.

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