Monday, 23 November 2015
Complete Streets part two
This is the part two of the Complete Streets examination. Go look at part one here: http://cyclinginedmontonfromtheeyesofateen.blogspot.ca/2015/11/complete-streets.html.
Now, we get onto what the city actually recommends on the streets themselves. The lanes for motor traffic, bus lanes, cycle lanes/tracks, and sidewalks. I know it goes into bus stops too, but I covered that here: http://cyclinginedmontonfromtheeyesofateen.blogspot.ca/2015/11/bus-stop-bypasses.html.
So the city recommends sidewalks. Big surprise. But why? Because pedestrians are small, vulnerable and slow. But why do bicycles get to mix with motor traffic at speeds well above their own? They have only medium speed and are just as vulnerable, and they are small, with no protection. Not to say that pedestrians should not get sidewalks, of course they should except on the absolute lowest possible speeds and volumes, walking pace and only the residents of that very street would ever consider driving on. The Dutch have a word for this type of street, woonerven.
The city however sets a low bar in relation to sidewalks. 1.5 metres wide. The Dutch have an absolute minimum of 1.8 metres and 2 metres is standard width, wider ones are common though, especially in commercial areas and near schools. The city (Edmonton) also believes that sidewalks at least on one side of the street can be removed if there is a shared use path instead. This is almost never done in the Netherlands in urban areas. This is because there is a mass and speed difference big enough to cause injuries when you have both pedestrians and cyclists. In rural areas there are no shared use paths. They are bicycle paths you are required to walk on if present. Cyclists come first, makes sense given the distances. But Edmonton is almost always urban, so this is mostly irrelevant. Sidewalks at intersections are also not well designed. They are somewhat accessible, with the ramp (but with the wrong angle) and semi detectable ridges, but that is all. The corner radius is also extremely wide, so mistakes about failing to yield to pedestrians is very likely. Image here:sidewalk at intersection. I made a design that really is familiar to Dutch pedestrians.
I took my inspiration from pictures like this one and this one. They are much more pedestrian friendly along sidewalks.
Onto cycling provisions. On the introductory page, it lists what kind of treatments to apply to what road. I cringe. It says along non bike networkstreets (which is a myth. Every street must be usable in safety unless it is an expressway or freeway and it would not provide a useful link, like a ring road), there are a few options. Local: Not required. This is not quite true. It should be a 30 km/h traffic calmed low volume road. Otherwise, it is not safe enough.
Collector roads can get nothing, bike lanes, buffered bike lanes or sharrows. Sharrows are never considered the bicycle facility in the Netherlands. Some municipalities do paint bicycle logos on fiestraats, but they are never the only thing about it, it comes with the right of way over side streets, traffic calming and red asphalt to provide a smooth surface and wayfinding. And they are main routes. Bike lanes do have a place on some collector roads, but they should be used with extreme caution. If you have a street that needs buffered bike lanes, it is a street where you need a cycle track. Like these two pictures from streetmix prove: buffered bike lanes, buffered bike lanes converted into cycle tracks, the space is there. Nothing is also a bad idea. There is a large enough speed difference and collector roads have too many cars for mixing.
It recommends for arterial roads on non bike network streets: wide curb lanes or wide curb lanes and shared use path. OK, who came up with this idea, because you have just one a one way trip to my yelling? It does not take an engineering degree to know that force equals mass times acceleration. To make it a little easier I am going to use speed, but I know that is technically incorrect. 60 km/h, times 2 metric tonnes. Not a good outcome. And you just have to ask anyone if they would be willing to cycle with motor traffic. I doubt you will find 1 good specimen of vehicular cyclists within an hour on an ordinary city street. And if you have wide curb lanes and shared use path, well now you are dual networking, making it easy for me to say that you are implying that cycling must be in two groups, fast and unsafe or slow and safe. For cycling to be any sort of useful transport, it must be fast and safe. It can NEVER be a choice between one or the other.
And even vehicular cyclists would enjoy the Dutch cycle paths (Even other paths when they are wide enough and fast enough, like this cyclist in London shows: CS2 phasing), as they are wide, subjectively and objectively safe, efficient, you bypass red lights many a time, get priority on roundabouts and minor side roads, and you get to take shortcuts that cars cannot take, even getting twice as much green time as cars on some interactions. And even if cycling was divided into those two groups, which one would be in the majority? The VCs or the slow and safe prefering ones? By far the latter, so you should design it for their needs. Roads don't have an extra lane so that cars that want to go at 300 km/h on a 60 road can do so just because a small portion of the population might want to that fast.
On bike routes, well, not much better. Bike boulevard, sharrows and bike lanes on local access roads. Bike lanes might have their uses sometimes on access roads, but for the most part there are low enough volumes that it is safe to go in the middle of the road. Vught cycle lanes, but if you have a main cycle route through an access road, bike boulevards are best. Mark Wagenbuur made a video about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhfWk7B-N8Y.
On collector roads, it suggests sharrows, bike lanes and buffered bike lanes. I have explained what is wrong with these before, but only bike lanes would have any potential on these roads, and if you can, cycle tracks are better than cycle lanes.
On arterials, we have a few more options. We have cycle tracks (finally), buffered bike lanes, bike lanes, and shared use paths with wide curb lanes. I explained the problems with shared use + wide curb lanes, but bike lanes, even buffered, still have no place on arteries. There is too much speed and volume for this to be OK. Cycle tracks must be used here.
So what does the city even set as standards for these facility types? Lets start with sharrows.
Up to 4500 vpd and up to 50 km when cycling directly in front of cars and 60 in a side by side system. This is nowhere even remotely close to competent use of sharrows. 30 km/h is the maximum speed and up to 2000 vpd are the maximums, in fact, 4500 would earn a street cycle tracks to me, as would 50 km/h speeds (roads with bike lanes would get 40 limits). And sharrows at best can only remind drivers that cyclists can use the roads, but this sort of information is better reflected by road design, not what is on the asphalt.
Bike boulevards are good ideas, but one of the places they suggest is a block or two off a main road. This can be more useful when the main road has no destinations right off it or there is a service street, but most of the time, the bike boulevard is being used to justify not building a cycle track/lane on the main artery which usually in the areas where there is a parallel block a hundred metres left or right, has all the commerce. By not building cycle tracks on the main road, you cannot get to the commercial areas where you can work or shop or eat. The city does suggest a separated bike infrastructure on the main road, but does not require it. There are some places these make sense. For example, when there are a pair of T intersections between two main roads with cycle tracks but they are separated by a kilomere of local access road, where the access road is a straight line. But let's look at the city's recommendations for the design. Up to 3000 vpd, 1500 preferable, preferable is OK, but there should be a maximum of 2000 vpd. Equal to or less than 40 km/h speed limit, 50 max (30 is the only safe speed where in the right volumes, cars and bikes can share on urban roads), so that needs to be lowered. Vancouver has success with 30 limits.
It has a diagram of what can go where on a bike boulevard. Bike boxes, traffic calming, signalized crossings, etc. First, let's get rid of the bike box. There is more than enough room in Edmonton for a short stretch of bike lane which can be protected with a small curb on the approach to a traffic light. Traffic calming is good, make sure that speed bumps have sinosidual profiles for easy cycling, the right of way over side streets is important but nobody ever said that stop signs were required. What about cyclists coming from the cross street onto the bike boulevard? Signalized intersections are not required at many intersections. Here is an example of a bike boulevard crossing a main road: Den Bosch bike boulevard roundabout, and anther example at the north end: Den Bosch bike boulevard yield sign controlled crossing. Both good unsignalized intersections with minimal delay to everyone.
Bike lanes have flaws too. First, they should be avoided in general, pretty much only useful on collector roads like the one closest to my house because I just want to keep the parking on one side to create a chicane and not anger the residents, and it has only 1000 vpd and could have a 40 limit. But if you need to build a cycle lane, you should do it right. It should be surfaced in red asphalt. Green doesn't work as well as asphalt dye, not because you can't do it, but you have to have a clear base, which is not easy to get. Ordinary asphalt can have red dye. It is distinctive but not too showy, and it keeps the colour for a very long time. This is also a good idea for cycle paths, but is required at conflict points. Second, the width must be right. 1.75 metres is the minimum in many cities across the Netherlands, and 2 metres is the standard. This is what Edmonton should follow, maybe rounding the 1.75 up to 1.8 metres. There should never be more than 2 lanes for motor traffic, maximum 2 per direction, with the addition of a left turn or right turn lane but not both, The bike lane must transition into a cycle track at major intersections, signalized intersections, roundabouts and bus stops, and preferably when there is parking or loading. This makes it possible to avoid those conflicts. There should not be more than 4000 vehicles per day, above that, cycle tracks are needed for subjective safety. The city suggests 1.8 metres as standard, and then contradicts itself by saying when the truck volume is less than 5% of the total number of vehicles, the bike lane standard is 1.5 metres and if over that, 2 metres. If the truck volume is over 5% that is worth a cycle track to me. Include buses in that figure.
Cycle tracks are recommended in the city guidelines when the volume is over 10000 vpd, or if the speed limit is over 50 km/h, when there is extra width, on high transit or truck volumes, on frequently congested roadways and or if there is room on the left side of a one way street. It says the standard width is 2.1 metres, though it can be reduced to 1.5 metres, the standard buffer width (it does not specify what the buffer is made of, only that it has vertical separation) is 50 cm, but contradicts just after the parenthesis by saying 1 metre is preferred for snow storage, while the Dutch prefer 1.5 metres and have a minimum of 35 cm, because 35 cm is better than no separation (buffer width not track width), but a Copenhagen curb easily leads to falls off the track. They have a minimum of 2 metres and a standard width of 2.5 metres.
It does not talk about bidirectional cycle tracks. This could mean that bidirectional cycle tracks are not preferred or that they should be like shared use paths except with a sidewalk too. In the Netherlands, bidirectional tracks have 3 metre absolute minimum widths. But this is for secondary routes. It is also the standard width for a minuscule shortcut between cul de sacs for example. 3.5 metres is the standard width for secondary routes and is the minimum for primary routes, 4 metres is the standard for primary routes.
A problem for cycle tracks is that none of the recommendations would endorse a cycle track being used as a path through a park with a separate sidewalk or similar off street and completely away from motor traffic. But these paths are essential in a cycling city. It creates the unraveling of cycle routes from car routes. Also, the speeds I say where cycle tracks are required is when the volume is over 4000 vpd, the speed limit of 40 km/h or more, and always on an through road and most of the time on distributor roads.
I am going to stop here and leave the rest for a third post. This is long, and to continue would take several hours to work on.