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#126 2013-12-06 07:50:41

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

Re: Red alert on the Drag

AMERICA’S 10 BEST PROTECTED BIKE LANES OF 2013
December 03, 2013

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer

…..As the thermoplastic dries on this year's round of terrific protected bike lane projects, we decided to scour the country for a comprehensive (and subjective) ranking of the best of the best. We talked to experts and advocates around the country, looked at technical photos and schemes and read the news reports to understand not just how these bike lanes were designed, but why. Though the word "complete" can be hard to define for something as malleable as a city street, every project on this page has been in some clear sense finished during this year.

Here's what we found….

3) Guadalupe Street, Austin
GuadGreenLane
The half-mile spine of Austin's university district is now one of the country's best examples of a complete street, with pedestrian-friendly shops, bus stops and a first-rate bike facility that connects to other lanes in an integrated network. In a time when many U.S. cities still ban comfortable biking from busy commercial corridors, Austin is showing why they're actually a perfect match….

More Here

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#127 2013-12-09 12:56:50

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

Thanks for the videos, guys.  It's not surprising that the people who are behind the installation of these sorts of 'cycletracks' across the country really like (yea! #3 for 2013!) this one.  I find it interesting to contrast that among those who support the idea here acknowledge that it is problematic as installed--why is it #3 for 2013! moments after its completion--well before we can evaluate how much/how well it is used? 

On the multiple taped passes compared to the immediately previous version--note that there were far more opportunities for conflicts on the cycletrack than before the cycletrack--with pedestrians, doors, and turning/cross traffic.  No problem with four trips.  What about 10 thousand trips?

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#128 2013-12-10 01:41:56

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 591

Re: Red alert on the Drag

The old bike lane had more opportunities for dooring than the new one (as every car has a driver, but I imagine that less than half of cars have a passenger on the passenger side) and the consequences of a dooring are higher -- get thrown into traffic (often fatal) rather than into the sidewalk (neither is good, however.)

No argument about the pedestrians through -- though we trade conflict with parking (or double parked) cars or busses for conflict with pedestrians, so maybe it's an overall win -- though I'd say a wash is more likely.  At least with pedestrians we have a clear view of them -- we're coming up on them, as opposed to cars that might be coming up on us from behind.

The old bike lane was faster -- especially since it was easy to slip into the traffic lane if the bike lane was obstructed and traffic was light.  With the cycletrack, you have to slow down or stop for obstructions.

The big unknown that I see is the effect of the intersections.  Out of sight can mean out of mind, so drivers turning west will cross the track at 21st and 22nd and maybe they'll look and maybe not.  It was a problem before as well, but this design could have made it worse.  On the bright side, those roads don't get too much traffic turning onto them, at least not compared to what goes down Guadalupe itself.

I think new riders will like the track.  Experienced riders who are comfortable riding in traffic probably may or may not, but then again -- they're the ones most likely to just take the lane before as well.  (The old bike lane was often obstructed by busses and cars, and most of it was clearly in the door zone.)

As for the list of cycletracks, I suspect that the people who made that list just heard about some new tracks, liked the look of them, and made their list.  I wouldn't assign it any more meaning than that -- somebody likes cycletracks, so they made a list of new ones they'd heard about.  I certainly wouldn't see #3 as meaning anything either, and I seriously doubt that the authors had personally ridden more than a one or two of the tracks on their list.

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#129 2013-12-10 12:35:30

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

dougmc wrote:

The big unknown that I see is the effect of the intersections.  Out of sight can mean out of mind, so drivers turning west will cross the track at 21st and 22nd and maybe they'll look and maybe not.  It was a problem before as well, but this design could have made it worse.  On the bright side, those roads don't get too much traffic turning onto them, at least not compared to what goes down Guadalupe itself.

It's not such an unknown as a predictable trade off:  people like the idea of cycle tracks (sidewalk riding, in new speak) so much that they are willing to ignore the proven increased dangers at intersections.  There are ways to mitigate the dangers.  E.g., put a stop sign at each intersection so bikes have to stop and look before crossing, signalize the intersections to provide a car phase and a bike phase (increasing delays for both users), eliminate right turns, etc.  The only mitigation we have is green paint, which Portland's experience tells us might help motorists notice the lane and seems to reduce cyclists looking out for cross traffic and turning traffic.

dougmc wrote:

As for the list of cycletracks, I suspect that the people who made that list just heard about some new tracks, liked the look of them, and made their list.  I wouldn't assign it any more meaning than that -- somebody likes cycletracks, so they made a list of new ones they'd heard about.  I certainly wouldn't see #3 as meaning anything either, and I seriously doubt that the authors had personally ridden more than a one or two of the tracks on their list.

 

Look at who made the list:  an organization paying for cycle tracks.  See people with who like the idea, above.  "Green Lane Project" staff writer, writing for People for Bikes: 

Launched in 1999 as Bikes Belong, PeopleForBikes includes both an industry coalition of bicycling suppliers and retailers, as well as a charitable foundation. Our foundation is where we house our major programs and engage individual members, affiliate organizations, and corporate sponsors.

Over the years, we have spent more than $30 million to make bicycling better. We’ve invested $2.1 million in community bicycling projects and leveraged more than $654 million in federal, state, and private funding. We have contributed millions to national groups and programs like Safe Routes to School, the League of American Bicyclists, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, ensuring safer places to ride for both children and adults.

I am not predicting a blood bath, but it is worse now -- for riders of any skill level -- that it was before.  I have had conversations with formerly enthusiastic users of Albuquerque's bicycle sidepaths (which in many ways are better than this installation) who have pretty much given up -- "cars ignore us; if it is so dangerous on the path, I can't imagine riding in the street."

Last edited by Jack (2013-12-10 12:38:52)

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#130 2013-12-10 15:49:18

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 591

Re: Red alert on the Drag

Jack wrote:

It's not such an unknown as a predictable trade off:  people like the idea of cycle tracks (sidewalk riding, in new speak) so much that they are willing to ignore the proven increased dangers at intersections.

The magnitude of this effect is unknown -- it varies from installation to installation.  For example, this area has the benefit of historical heavy pedestrian (and cyclist) activity, so drivers should already be aware that they need to look before they turn.  Also, the speeds are relatively low.

We can guess at what the effect would be based on similar infrastructure somewhere else, but the only way to know for sure is to watch what happens.  The city did forgo a few parking spots right before each of those two cross streets so there wouldn't be parked cars blocking driver's view, so that should help somewhat versus if they did not.

The only mitigation we have is green paint

No, there's also the part with no parked cars, smaller obstructions to vision (planters) (visible here).  Now, will that make it as safe as the bike lane before (and just to be clear, bike lanes have similar problems, though usually smaller than sidewalks) ?  I don't know.

So the track trades conflict with cars for conflict with pedestrians along most of its length, and might increase the conflicts with cars at those two intersections.  It's too early to tell if it's an overall win or loss safety wise.

Look at who made the list:  an organization paying for cycle tracks.

Yes, I got that.

I am not predicting a blood bath, but it is worse now -- for riders of any skill level -- that it was before.

I'm not so sure.  I think novice cyclists will think it's safer, and so it'll encourage them to ride.  And outside of the intersections -- I think it *is* safer.  As for what happens at those two intersections, we'll have to wait and see, and compare what we see to what we saw before.

But yes, if somebody wants to haul ass, they'll want the road, just like they wanted the road before this went in.

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#131 2013-12-11 13:02:59

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

There is a definition of a word that runs along the lines of "trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  Let's call it "hopeful" in this case.  As for the effect varying from installation to installation, what is the range of variation you understand to exist?  How do the features of this installation compare to the best example you can find?  If this installation is different than the best installation, why was this installation not done more like the best one?

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#132 2013-12-11 16:33:28

peckham
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Registered: 2008-06-04
Posts: 1

Re: Red alert on the Drag

I lived in Germany for a couple of years, where there are are many cycle tracks on the sidewalk.  The cycle tracks are painted so that pedestrians know that they should stay clear--and they do mostly.  The street crossings are painted green so that automobile drivers are aware.  Right-turning drivers yield to bicycles going straight on a cycle path--that's a rule that is emphasized in driver education.

Getting Austin drivers to yield to anyone or anything is an uphill battle, so I wouldn't count on that happening here--it would take a huge cultural change.

In Germany, some cyclists wear helmets, but most do not.  Some obey traffic laws, some do not.  But a bicycle is considered a legitimate form of transportation, and drivers are not annoyed by cyclists (any more than they're annoyed by buses and red lights).

Steve Peckham

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#133 2013-12-11 17:00:46

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,338
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Re: Red alert on the Drag

dougmc, your take is reasonable and objective, as always.  Those with agendas always focus on only those bits that support their positions and ignore everything else, so I like that you always shoot very straight.  You also show remarkable restraint when dealing with those who don't really listen to you, or worse.

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#134 2013-12-11 19:00:22

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

peckham wrote:

I lived in Germany for a couple of years, where there are are many cycle tracks on the sidewalk.  The cycle tracks are painted so that pedestrians know that they should stay clear--and they do mostly.  The street crossings are painted green so that automobile drivers are aware.  Right-turning drivers yield to bicycles going straight on a cycle path--that's a rule that is emphasized in driver education.

Getting Austin drivers to yield to anyone or anything is an uphill battle, so I wouldn't count on that happening here--it would take a huge cultural change.

In Germany, some cyclists wear helmets, but most do not.  Some obey traffic laws, some do not.  But a bicycle is considered a legitimate form of transportation, and drivers are not annoyed by cyclists (any more than they're annoyed by buses and red lights).

Steve Peckham

I have ridden cycletracks in Germany and other European countries too.  It is true that the German cycle tracks are better respected by German drivers than American ones are in America.  That has to do with driver education, cyclist education (in the public schools!), and with a better (for the cyclists) position in the law regarding rights of way and liablity.

Nevertheless, in 1987, the Berlin police department studied bicycle crashes--at the urging of German cycling organizations--and came to informative conclusions about the increased dangers of the cycletracks.  Though the study was put on ice for some time, ultimately it lead to the removal of some cycletracks and later projects being placed on the streets instead:

It's been a long time since the 1987 police study came out; nobody talks about it here any more. The problems with sidepath placement leading to crashes at intersections and driveways are known to police and planners in Berlin, and the knowledge has spread. I don't know of any current study with this focus. The ADFC and the Grüne Radler [another bicyclists' orgnization] made the problems with sidepaths well-known. Bikeways are now, as a rule, planned as bike lanes on the roadway, or bicyclists ride in mixed traffic. Many sidepaths have been removed. We are on the way to make the new planning that started with the police study mainstream.

Don't just take my word for it, read about the study yourself.  http://www.john-s-allen.com/research/be … uppeng.pdf   (English, explaining) http://www.john-s-allen.com/research/be … apers1.pdf (German, explaining) http://www.john-s-allen.com/research/be … ahrer1.pdf  (German study)  (for English translation of the study, see http://www.john-s-allen.com/research/be … index.html  (in 4 parts)) http://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/s … dfc173.htm (Later document in English, German cycling federation press release, 1990, including the statement "Data presented by Wolfgang Rauh (ARGUS Vienna) show that bicyclists on sidepaths have more than three times the crash risk at intersections, and for this reason he compares use of sidepaths with "Russian roulette" (Figure 2).").  http://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/adfc.htm (more recent German cycling federal press release).  A listing of studies on the issue from several countries-- http://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/s … ecrash.htm 

See also

Turn-around in Germany: Germany, the country that started the trend toward separating cyclists to clear the roads for cars, now is going the other way. “Fahrradstraßen” (bicycle boulevards) are streets that are turned over to cyclists as the main users. Cars are still allowed, but are considered secondary users. Munich, the largest city in southern Germany, is installing on-street bike lanes and signs that legitimize cycling on the street (above), even where there are separate paths. This approach has been successful: Cycling has increased by 70% [ http://www.radlhauptstadt.muenchen.de/radlnetz/ ] in the last nine years.

  http://janheine.wordpress.com/2013/05/2 … a-summary/ 

The _objective_ take on the matter--are cycle tracks safer or less safe?--has been answered in study after study after study.  The ones with the _agenda_ ("let's try to attract more riders by installing cycle tracks that poll well among non-riders" "let's get the cyclists off the streets" "let's increase modal share" "let's fund cycle tracks in the hope that we'll sell more bikes/be contracted to install more concrete (Green Lanes Project/Bikes Belong)") ignore the information that is inconvenient to their agenda.  As for me, if I found it credible that cycle tracks would make things better, I'd be first up to demand them. Instead, I'd rather see what Munich has done to increase ridership, because it has been proven to work.

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#135 2013-12-19 17:29:23

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

Boy, was I ever wrong about that green paint!  I shouldn't have assumed without giving the 'cycletrack' sidepath a closer look first.

Now that I've ridden the thing, I note what I didn't from the video or the plans--the green paint is in the areas where the rider is 'protected' and not through the intersections/curb cut entrances.  Now isn't that interesting?  The usual thing about the colored paint idea for bike lanes (green lately, because green is environment-y, formerly blue commonly and red some places) is to give an unmissable extra visual alert to motorists who would cross a bike path.  See the installation on Dean Keeton under I-35 or further west by the law school, see the Portland "blue lanes" project.*  Here on Guad, the green is painted where it isn't too visible to a motorist, because it's a green lane behind parked cars, and is not painted (but for stripes and chevrons) where the right-turning or left turning or cross traffic driver crosses the hidden path.  I wonder what the genesis of that design is?  Was it to avoid what was found in Portland, that the riders tended to trust the paint and not look out for traffic at intersections?  Is it only to help keep pedestrians off of it?  Is it just a "trade mark" sort of thing for the "Green Lanes Project?"  (paint is more slippery than asphalt, so stopping distance is increased?)  So, forget what I said about the green paint being something to mitigate the hazard the segregation creates for the riders--it's no mitigation at all (and no, the planters don't count as mitigation, they are part of the segregation that creates the hazard in need of mitigation.)

*See also further south on the same installation on Guad where riders are given a particular (but good only sometimes, so don't trust it) place to merge left to continue south instead of turning right on MLK--compare:  http://vimeo.com/55674540

Last edited by Jack (2013-12-19 17:29:49)

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#136 2014-01-06 21:16:30

btrettel
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Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Red alert on the Drag

My impressions of this cycle track are slowly becoming more negative. Having used it perhaps 15 or so times now, I am continually surprised by the wrong-way cyclists and oblivious pedestrians. I normally try to avoid AirZounding pedestrians, but after having to slam on the brakes a few times, I've started letting out "warnings" for particularly scatterbrained pedestrians. Hopefully it'll encourage them to look.

I tried out the transition near MLK, and thought it was way too unsafe to use. Unfortunately, from the start of the cycle track to down there, there is no good place to exit the cycle track. Right now my personal policy for this road is exactly what I thought a few months back: use the cycle track only if I am stopping somewhere to the right of it; otherwise I take the lane the entire way. I've taken the lane there a number of times now, and in contrast to m1ek's predictions, no one has honked or done anything bad. I haven't heard anything from the police, but I don't imagine they would care because I can keep up with traffic there.

I think the Drag would benefit from adding a bike signal to the traffic light cycle in a few spots. Having been almost hit from going straight (not on the cycle track, though) while a driver was turning right or left, I think separate signals are necessary if we're going to have separated lanes to avoid conflicts. It seems that too few drivers check the bike lane before turning.

Jack, I think the green paint is pretty silly too. Not sure what the point of it is.

Last edited by btrettel (2014-01-07 12:45:27)

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#137 2014-01-07 13:35:17

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

What you are finding is what m1ek & I predicted.   The predictions are based on a long history of experience, scientifically examined, of facilities like that one, many of which are better, not less well, designed and installed.  Remember how everyone on this "People for Bikes" "Green Lane Project" (industry-funded project, not cyclist grass roots at all) looks with envy at the Coopenhagen and Dutch cycle track models and how they emphasize what people (who don't ride bikes) "want" for their bike facilities.  What do the Danes and the Dutch find when they examine their own facilities?  See here* under the topic of "Bicycle Tracks" on page 4 http://publications.gc.ca/collections/c … 90-eng.pdf for conclusions of studies by the Danish Road Administration and the Dutch National Road Safety Research Institute.  They don't help safety.  See the same publication for "Comfort versus Safety" on pages 6-7 which notes that the popular choices are not the safer choices.  I can only conclude that the Green Lane Project has donated their way into Austin's bike/ped program with enough money to get the traffic engineers to ignore what has been obvious for decades.

*a Canadian government publication

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#138 2014-01-07 21:11:25

btrettel
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Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 60

Re: Red alert on the Drag

I am aware of those studies. I read a number of blogs from vehicular cyclists (and pro-bike-lane cyclists too). My own approach is a hybrid of the two, which vehicular cyclists understandably might complain about being somewhat unpredictable, but it is what it is. It'd take me a while to detail all of my thoughts. I'd really like to sit down and read the 150 or so studies that I have saved, and assimilate them into a more consistent theory of bike safety, but grad school keeps me too busy.

Bike lanes can be done well, but they too often aren't (door zone, drivers don't look before crossing, close passing is sometimes encouraged, drivers sometimes park in them, etc.). Unfortunately, it seems that these sort of separated tracks probably can't be fixed, at least without adding a bike phase to the traffic light cycle. Plus they're extremely expensive. I think the money would be much better spent on other cycling projects, or even a more general project like smoothing out the roads.

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#139 2014-01-08 11:45:27

Jack
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Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

I think you are right.  Part of what the Dutch, Scandanavian, and German cycle track experience has shown is that the cycle track either needs separate signalization cycles or at a minimum prohibited turning from the adjacent road.

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#140 2014-02-20 16:38:02

bizikletari
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Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

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#141 2014-02-21 13:26:46

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

So, the reality meets the prediction!  The thing is, the "protected" design of that facility is only about 1/3 of what would be needed to make it work both conveniently and safely.  See http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entr … ersections for the "rest of the story."  Without those extraordinary additions, what we have now is not only worse than what the street had, it is worse than having nothing.

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#142 2015-06-03 17:36:17

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 329

Re: Red alert on the Drag

Alan Hughes has posted info on the ongoing Guadalupe project.  http://austintexas.gov/sites/default/fi … 4-5-15.pdf has very interesting comments compiled at the end.  http://austintexas.gov/guadalupe offers links to data on crashes and crash locations.

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#143 2015-06-04 15:41:51

Darron
Member
Registered: 2014-05-22
Posts: 113

Re: Red alert on the Drag

That is a lot of slides!

Looking at the accident map it is clear that the majority of accidents involving peds/cyclist occur at intersections (intersections along Guadeloupe and along 24th being the biggest contributors), however the survey doesn't even ask any questions about intersection safety.

Even the comments barely touch on this glaring problem and most comments about cycle paths safety refer to the strait areas.  I agree its dangerous when pedestrians walk into the cycle path or cars use it for parking but the fact is intersections are WAY more dangerous and little to no attention is given to improving them.  There are a lot of small and large things that can be done to improve intersection safety, anywhere from prohibiting right turns on red (keeps cars from encroaching on cycle traffic that is going trough) to separate bike signals that let bike through first.

Even with improvements intersections will still be the most dangerous part of anyone's bike trip but it seems like the city wants to increases bike traffic while at the same time completely ignoring intersections.  That is a lot of people put in harms way.

Darron

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