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#1 2016-11-05 17:57:28

AusTexMurf
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From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Has The Ideal Low-Cost Bike Lane Separator Finally Been Found ?

Has The Ideal Low-Cost Bike Lane Separator Finally Been Found ?
November 02, 2016
Michael Andersen, local innovation staff writer
For years, the City of Austin has been on a wonky but important quest for one of the holy grails of bike infrastructure: the perfect low-cost bike lane separator.
concretebuttons

Every common bike lane protection option has drawbacks. Plastic posts collapse. Precast curbs are complicated to install. And lots of the other options aren't mountable by an ambulance or garbage truck.

Now, Austin thinks it might have found the grail. Or you might call it the Goldilocks of bike lane protection: not too flimsy, not too pricy.

It's a pre-cast concrete "button."
concretebuttonstallt
Photo: City of Austin.

As you can see above, these domes can be useful for more than just marking bike lanes. Here, they combine with painted polka dots to create a low-cost curb extension to improve walking safety and separate a bike-share station from the street. As of late summer, Austin had installed more than 1,000 of them around the city and had another 2,000 in storage, waiting to be deployed.

The buttons aren't seen as a substitute for permanent raised bike lanes like you'd see in the bike-friendlier parts of Europe, Asia or South America. But raised lanes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile or more, so at best they're likely to be installed bit by bit as roadways are rebuilt. But the buttons are clearly a step above paint when it comes to separating bikes and cars. And because it'd be possible to uninstall these buttons, they're compatible with the quick-build project delivery concept that's been pioneered by Austin and other cities: install projects quickly but keep tweaking them after they go in.

Each button cost Austin $11.75 before paint or installation. Including installation, Austin engineer Nathan Wilkes said, the cost per button is $20. Assuming 10-foot spacing (which Wilkes said "seems to work well") that's $10,000 per mile of bike lane protection. That compares to $40,000 to $80,000 per protection-mile for the durable plastic "zebra" separators developed in Barcelona, Spain, which Wilkes also describes as having "much promise."

Here's Austin's official spec sheet for the concrete buttons:
roundbuttonspecsheet
The city's biggest challenge so far, Wilkes said in an email, has been making sure the buttons stick to the surface of the road. But the city's been getting better at that.

"We have found that if the surface is clean (repeated cleaning with wire brush and leaf blower/compressed air until no debris blows away), free of paint (direct attach to asphalt or concrete), and that the bituminous covers the full base of the button that we have had good results," Wilkes said. "We are using bituminous dispensed out of a pushcart such as this one."

Another downside: the buttons are just three inches tall, which Wilkes feels isn't quite enough of a visual barrier. A 4.5-inch flat top button like the one described below, he said, would be "much closer to my ideal":
flattopbuttonsspecsheet
Austin has actually installed some of these larger flat-top buttons itself, using a series of concrete casts that city staffers made themselves using a set of salad bowls from a local dollar store. But Wilkes hasn't yet found a concrete company willing produce an entire run of the flat-top buttons. In part, that's because concrete products require tremendous quantities to turn a profit. Compounting the problem: concrete is so heavy that shipping it for more than a short distance gets expensive, so scale is hard to achieve for any single facility.

Doug Hottel, who manages Austin's orders as the sales manager for Trantex Transportation Products, said their manufacturer was able to make it work at the low price Austin negotiated because the button product had already been developed for use with transit projects.

"Unless it's a big order, they're really not that interested in doing something like this, because they don't want to stop their production line," Hottel said.

In other words, the main thing standing in the way of low-cost protected bike lanes may be that not enough cities are building protected bike lanes fast enough.

Not yet.

The Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes. Our next phase is the Big Jump Project, which will select 10 very different neighborhoods and districts and help them quickly connect biking networks. Find out how your city can apply here.

http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entr … bumps-spec

Last edited by AusTexMurf (2016-11-06 04:24:46)

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#2 2016-11-06 14:34:59

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 260

Re: Has The Ideal Low-Cost Bike Lane Separator Finally Been Found ?

Has anyone riding a bicycle ever hit a large hard bump in the road and felt good about it?  These seem more dangerous than useful to me.  Not just for bicyclists, also for motorcyclists and ever for drivers of small cars.  I would rather base safety features on something other than placing in the roadway objects that can spill cyclists.  Would giant potholes be even cheaper?

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#3 2016-11-06 20:56:11

McChris
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From: Blackland
Registered: 2008-10-31
Posts: 36
Website

Re: Has The Ideal Low-Cost Bike Lane Separator Finally Been Found ?

I am not a fan of these buttons at least in one specific application. The cycletrack on Arroyo Seco is separated from the main vehicle lane with these. Residents of the area treat the cycletrack as a multi-use path, so there are frequently pedestrians walking dogs (and taking up both lanes) or joggers running with bike traffic wearing headphones. Because of this, it's often desirable to leave the bike lane to navigate around these rude users. The buttons are spaced too closely together to easily get out of the bike lane and into the main lane, so I'll have to brake until a dog owner reels in their mutt, etc. Obviously, part of the problem is that it's unclear if this facility is a cycletrack or a multi-use path, but the buttons make it all the more dangerous,

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#4 2016-11-07 15:41:37

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 260

Re: Has The Ideal Low-Cost Bike Lane Separator Finally Been Found ?

According to the article, Nathan Wilkes thinks 10-foot spacing works well for buttons like these.  McChris, what is the spacing for the installation you find bad?  The illustration has them packed a lot tighter than 10 feet apart.  In my experience, if you need to move left across a line of pylons, it's pretty hard to look back to be sure you have no overtaking traffic problems while at the same time looking ahead to see whether you might hit a pylon within 10 feet.  These are probably more likely to spill a rider than the pylons. Note also that Wilkes says he'd like them to be even taller, which IMO would make them worse, not better, for every roadway user.

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#5 2016-11-08 21:27:04

McChris
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From: Blackland
Registered: 2008-10-31
Posts: 36
Website

Re: Has The Ideal Low-Cost Bike Lane Separator Finally Been Found ?

I frankly don't have a good guess of the measured distance between the buttons, but my qualitative sense is that they're too close to safely exit the cycletrack at a moderate recreational cycling speed. (I'm not fast, and I'm definitely not a racer.) If I did want to exit, I feel like I'd have to slow down and make a turn (as opposed to veer around them) and that presents its own problem once a cyclist is in the main vehicle lane. The next time I use that facility, I may stop and compare it to the length of my bike. The spacing is probably a little longer than the length of my bike, but not by much.

Mostly, I wish there were signage indicating either that it's a cycle facility or the proper operation by pedestrians. (Don't use both lanes; be mindful of cyclists.) There are already a lot of signs around that facility.

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