Justin Justin about 6 years ago
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Unprotected bike lanes, which are the only kind currently in Austin, are still dangerous because cars can and do weave in and out of them, park in them, use them as a passing lane, etc. When protected bike lanes are installed, injury crashes for all road users typically drop by more than 40 percent.

Simply adding a protection barrier to current bike lanes would be a start. From there any new bike lane should feature a protection barrier.

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Richard Shultz about 6 years ago

do you have web links to an example system in some city ? 

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Chad Greene about 6 years ago

Protected bike lanes certainly have their merits, but they have drawbacks, too.  They are great mid-block, but often create more points of conflict at intersections, where motorists do not expect a cyclist to zip through.  As most accidents involving bicycles occur in intersections, protected bike lanes make a bad problem worse.  A common method of reducing this problem is to put stop signs on the protected bike path at every road crossing.  For anyone who is riding more than a couple of miles, the frequent stops turn a pleasant commute into a much slower, much more physically-exhausting chore.  But to me, the most tragic effect of protected bike lanes is that they feed the perception that bikes do not belong on the road. 

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Justin Justin about 6 years ago

Richard,

You can see some videos and more photos at these links:

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=175487

http://www.streetfilms.org/physically-separated-bike-lanes/

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/vancouver-burrard-bridge-protected-bike-lanes-bicycles-cycling-video.php

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Justin Justin about 6 years ago

Chad,
I'm not sure how bike lanes create conflict at intersections. Bike lanes end at intersection, as seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/luton/2041595899/. Cyclists don't zip through intersections because they're expected to follow the rules of the road, just as they are expected to now.

No additional stop signs or traffic signals are needed because they're already there for car traffic. I can't think of any crossings where there are/would be bike lanes that are without any traffic signals.

And bike lanes are on roads, so I'm not sure how they would feed the perception that bikes don't belong on them. They're just protecting the riders on the road. The best bike lane is one that a child could use.

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Chad Greene about 6 years ago

Justin,

Unfortunately, physical barriers between cyclists and the road are often perceived as a statement that bicycles do not belong on roads. 

There is one protected bike lane in Austin, downtown on 4th Street.  It is awkward to get into and out of the path, and there is general uncertainty as to who has the right of way at each intersection. 

Speaking generally about separated bike lanes, the act of removing cyclists from the perceived dangers of riding in the road makes it easy for cyclists to forget to pay attention at intersections.  Making matters worse, the toy-sized stop signs are hard to take seriously.  As a result, cyclists often zip through intersections where they should stop.  This is not a question of whether cyclists should stop at a given intersection--instead we must ask whether cyclists will stop. 

To answer your question, separated bike lanes create conflict at intersections between even the most law-abiding cyclists and motorists.  Consider this separated lane http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/IMG_0199-bike-lane_1.jpg.  The lane creates the following four types of conflict:

1. If that Audi turns right at the next intersection, is the driver expecting to find the cycling couple in the road?  Likely result: the motorist is startled, slams on brakes, and hits or terrifies the cyclists.  Accident reports often quote drivers as saying the bikers "came out of nowhere" in this situation. 

2. Cars turning left from the opposite direction are most likely scanning for oncoming traffic in the roadway, looking at that Audi, not looking on the other side of a row of parked cars.  When turning left in the presence of oncoming traffic, motorists tend to go fast, say, to fully make the turn before that Audi comes.  The motorist is focused on getting across the oncoming lane before the Audi hits him.  The motorist may also be focused on changing the radio station, or texting his girlfriend, but he is not focused on the cycling couple until it is too late. 

3. Motorists entering an intersection from the cyclists' right will most often come to a stop with the nose of their nearly in the intersection.  They do not stop 20 feet before the intersection to look for crossing cyclists.  This is a big reason that biking on sidewalks is dangerous (and illegal in many localities).

4. Motorists crossing from the cyclists' left.  The points of conflict here are similar to those listed under (2). 

I would like to alter your statement and say that the safest (not the best) bike lane is one that a child could use.  Unfortunately, protected bike lanes are neither the safest nor the best design.  There is no perfect solution, but the simple, inexpensive bike lanes we currently have throughout Austin offer a good balance of giving cyclists their own space and keeping them as part of traffic.  I'd like to see more of them throughout the city.  

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Justin Justin about 6 years ago

Chad,

I'll answer your four questions with a question: What if there were pedestrians on the sidewalk to the left of the bike lane in the photo you provided? All four conflicts you raise would also apply. Does that mean we should get rid of sidewalks as well?

As for toy-sized signage: That's a problem of proper signage, not of bike lanes.

I guess all I can say is the safest bike lanes are the best bike lanes.

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Chad Greene about 6 years ago

Good question, Justin!  The four conflicts I mentioned are not an issue for pedestrians on sidewalks due to the speed of pedestrian travel.  Walkers are slow and they typically look and/or pause before crossing roads--they do not dart into intersections like sidewalk- and path-riding cyclists do.  That's why biking (or even jogging) on sidewalks can be pretty dangerous.

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Justin Justin about 6 years ago

So then walking pedestrians never get hit by cars?

It seems like your argument is boiling down to "people not in cars shouldn't be able to move quickly around the city because cars might not properly yield the right of way." However, that's the fault of the driver, not the jogger/biker.

Beyond that, your argument is based on your belief that intersections are the most dangerous part of the road for non-drivers. This is neither true for pedestrians nor bikers according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Specifically for bikers, 64% of accidents happen at non-intersections - which is exactly where the protected bike lanes would be and are needed.

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Chad Greene about 6 years ago

Justin,

It seems ill-advised to endanger cyclists through poor design, with intent to fault drivers for the inevitable accidents.

I do appreciate some separated bike paths--the ones which go miles without any road crossings are like a luxury to ride on.  My argument is that physically-separated bike lanes in an urban setting are not as safe as they seem.  Given the chance that their installation may increase risks to cyclists, I would prefer to spend our meager cycling infrastructure budget on other projects which would build a safer, more efficient network of biking facilities.

I have avoided citing any statistics, because taken out of context they do not carry much meaning.  For a given study, severity of accidents taken into account, urban vs rural, daytime vs nighttime, whether motor vehicles were involved, whether the data was taken from accident reports or controlled studies, etc, all have significant impacts on the meanings of bike accident statistics.  Below are some links to a few safety studies, where it is clear that we cannot describe the effects of any cycling infrastructure by simple percentages.  I did a little searching, but I could not find either of the numbers you cite--I'd be interested to read the details of the studies you mention. 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0001-4575(95)00041-0
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0001-4575(03)00009-5
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2006.07.002
http://www.bicyclinglife.com/Library/Accident-Study.pdf

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Kelso Kelso about 6 years ago

Segregated facilities for bikes, pedestrians, and cars on boulevards that are wide enough to handle it would be a huge improvement over the existing bike infrastructure environment.

Copenhagen, Denmark has unusually wide streets and is set up this way.  I believe this is a primary reason why it's one of the top cycling-friendly cities in the world.

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Justin Justin about 6 years ago

Chad,

I tend to use facts and figures because I find them to be more accurate than unproven and unbacked statements like, "physically-separated bike lanes in an urban setting are not as safe as they seem."

You can find the accident figure I state here: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811156.pdf

Table 1, which states, "Pedalcyclist fatalities occurred more frequently in urban areas (69%), at non- intersection locations (64%), between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (28%), and during the months of June (9%) and September (12%)." So protected bike lanes are needed most in urban areas at non-intersections.

Getting to your studies:

The first one concludes, "The results suggested that speed-reducing countermeasures changed drivers' visual search patterns in favor of the cyclists coming from the right, presumably at least in part due to the fact that drivers were simply provided with more time to focus on each direction." Slower and more attentive drives crash into bikers less - are you suggesting that we should add speed-reducing countermeasures (eg speed humps) to major intersections in the city? There's nothing about bike lanes vs roadway biking in this study that I can see.

In order to see the conclusion of the second study, you need to purchase it, which I'm not willing to do. I'd love to read it if you'd like to share a copy.

The third study talks about how speed increase in drivers means more severely injured bikers, not a huge surprise. But it does seem to run counter to your argument that intersections are the most dangerous place for bikers - I don't know many cars that can handle a right turn at 50+ mph.

The last one states, "This study did not examine the difference, if any, between roads with and without designated bicycle lanes." So I'm not sure how it applies to designated/protected bike lanes.

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Austin Common Sense about 6 years ago

I agree with Kelso's comment. I like the idea of segregating pedestrian, bike, and motor vehicle traffic similar to the awesome bike path existing on Cesar Chavez going towards Mopac. (part of the Lance Armstrong Bike Way) It's off the road, safer, and motorists don't have to change lanes or slam on the breaks when a slower riding cyclist is in the right lane which causes traffic to bog down.

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Chad Greene about 6 years ago

Justin,

I apologize, I forgot that most folks don't have access to the doi links.  They were intended to highlight the complexities of these types of traffic studies, and make clear why we cannot simply quote percentages as evidence for the superiority of any type of infrastructure.  For example, your earlier statement that 64% of accidents happen at non-intersections was false.  The paper you cite states that 64% of the pedalcyclist fatalities that NHTSA studied occurred at non-intersections.  Do you see the differences?

Referring to the Watchel and Lewiston paper, you say:

The last one states, "This study did not examine the difference, if any, between roads with and without designated bicycle lanes." So I'm not sure how it applies to designated/protected bike lanes.

That sentence came right after the following recommendations for urban roadway design:

"Intersections, construed broadly, are the major point of conflict between bicycles and motor vehicles. Separation of bicycles and motor vehicles leads to blind conflicts at these intersections. It also encourages wrong-way travel, both on sidewalks or paths and on the roadway at either end, further increasing conflicts. Shared use of the roadway in the same direction of travel leads to fewer conflicts and fewer accidents."

Seems pretty applicable to me.

Again, I am not wholly against protected bike lanes.  I would simply hate to see more money spent to build awkward, inconvenient infrastructure that creates more conflicts, such as the 4th Street bike path.  I should also add that placing a barrier between existing bike lanes and car lanes would trap cyclists between the barrier and the curb, in a gutter of debris, it would prevent cyclists from being able to pass each other or ride side-by-side, and it would pinch motorists in toward the center line, increasing their chances of head-on collisions.  Would a barrier be worth the drawbacks?  My daily commute down Shoal Creek, North Loop, and Duval is actually pretty nice as it is. 


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Alvaro Garcia almost 6 years ago

Hello, I think that we can begin by putting raised pavement markers with retroreflectors between the bike lanes and car traffic.  These are extensively used to alert a car (by feeling a little bump underneath and by sight) where the limit of the lane ends.  This will help distracted drivers stay out of the bike lanes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raised_pavement_marker

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Coa Bicycle Program almost 6 years ago

There is a lot of great commentary here, and we appreciate your enthusiasm for this discussion.  Nationally as well as locally we hear that bicycle lanes are the number one requested improvement to the bicycle network.  Separated bicycle lanes or buffered bicycle lanes, are also growing in popularity.  Our City Council just passed a resolution in support of the National Association of Transportation Official’s Urban Bikeway Guide.  This guide includes the newest developments in bicycle design standards; and we participated in its creation.  It is an exciting time in the Bicycle Program!

 

The City is working towards the use of separated bicycle facilities as appropriate. Existing separated facilities include the cycletrack on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway separated by the MetroRail Red Line on 4thStreet from Trinity to Red River, the paint-separated bike lanes on W. 5thStreet from Campbell to Baylor, and on South Congress from Oltorf to Ben White.

 

Planned separated facilities include the 3rdStreet Reconstruction Project (estimated completion Spring 2014) which will connect to the existing Lance Armstrong Bikeway 4thStreet cycletrack with bicycle lanes on Trinity and Rio Grande Street from MLK to 29thStreet will have a two-way cycletrack running along the western edge of Rio Grande within the next two years.   The Rio Grande cycletrack will connect to the existing and planned improvements along Rio Grande, completing the Downtown Bicycle Boulevard

 

As stated in our Bicycle Plan, the City hopes to include separated bicycle facilities wherever possible.  Also on the horizon is a Trails Master Plan which will lead the way to more connected trails and greenways throughout the City.



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Erin Driggers over 4 years ago

I do not like speculation, although I usually find that common sense is often supported by research. It is common sense that when a bike and a several thousand pound metal cage moving at much higher speeds converge - it will likely result in a fatality for the biker. It is also common sense that a bike is much more difficult for a driver to see than another car. So when the two share a road, accidents will increase. For those who do not find this bit of common sense obvious, there is ample research that shows protected bike lanes decrease accidents and fatalities anywhere from 28% to over 40%. Here is just one conservative study:

http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2011/02/02/ip.2010.028696.full

Studies also show that when protected bike lanes are created, more citizens bike, which leads to a healthier populace and reduced gas emissions. Again, I find this to be common sense but please look into the research and data.

What does the city of Austin have to gain by creating more protected bike lanes? Fewer fatalities, fewer injuries, a healthier populace, and a healthier environment. I think this is a very important issue because this isn’t about convenience or ideology or popularity; it is about protecting citizens’ lives in a very real and calculable way. 

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carolyn thompson about 2 years ago

Planning for more bicycle traffic is great! We have some of the best weather ever and the more we switch to being able to use our bikes safely ...wow... right now I am a bit scared to ride mine in many areas... with the cars... Yet this town is already moving towards this and I applaud everyone who worked so hard to push this grand idea!!!

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Sharon Blythe 7 months ago

Not only the City of Austin planners are uninformed of the people's needs in Austin. I realize its vogue in other cities to have bike lanes on every street but bike lanes are not appropriate for some streets when the suggestion is made to remove traffic lanes and replace them with bike lanes as CAMPO is suggesting with Jollyville Road in northwest Austin. This idea will make the traffic much worse and really there are few bikers that would use the bike lanes anyway. But Bike Austin is pushing hard to inconvenience most of the people with just a few bikers wanting their own lanes. Removing traffic lanes on Jollyville Road is a silly idea!!! This idea causes more major traffic issues. Bikers need to just watch out for traffic and not blow through red lights and stop signs.

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Phaedra Koonz about 1 month ago

Wow, Sharon is likely one of those people to watch out for on the road.
It's time for people in cars to stop being selfish about the roads, and a right to exist without dying. There is no reason to fear removing traffic lanes on Jollyville, since there is a major highway running parallel. If you don't like the traffic, be part of the solution: ride your bike, or take public transit.

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