Wiki Wednesday: Bike Boulevards

The inclusion of $825 million for Transportation Enhancements in the stimulus package should help pay for a lot of bike projects. Writing for Citiwire this week, transportation analyst Sam Seskin suggests investing a chunk of that stimulus money in bicycle boulevards, as opposed to bike lanes or cycle tracks. What are bike boulevards? This week’s StreetsWiki entry explains:

berk-bike-boul.jpgBicycle boulevards are lightly-trafficked streets that prioritize bicycles. Although many routes have
no bike lanes, bicyclists are free to use the middle of the street,
sharing road space with cars. Motorists on these routes expect to see
bicyclists and therefore travel with caution. Designated streets should
be distinguished with uniformly colored signs and bold pavement
markings.

For novices or younger riders, bicycle boulevards
provide a transition between bike paths and high-traffic shared roads.
But they are also quite useful for experienced riders because of their
reduced traffic and connectivity.

The cost of implementing a bicycle boulevard network is significantly less than constructing bike paths or trails.

In Portland and Berkeley, transportation planners have created bike boulevard conditions by diverting automobile through-traffic and slowing down the cars that remain. The resulting bike-friendly corridors are a key component of Portland’s strategy to increase bicycle mode share and expand the appeal of cycling beyond the "young and fearless" demographic.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    Bike boulevards are, as Tony the Tiger would say, greaa-a-a-at but are they, in stimulus parlance, ready-to-go?

    Stimulus implementation is not the time for dreaming and planning– that’s what federal reauthorization is all about.

    To adapt the wise words of one D. Burnham, now is the time to make small plans. For walk-bike activists in communities across America, the key to successful stimulus implementation will be identifying a discrete number of shovel-ready bike-ped projects for which the community can rally and demand funding.

  • Now, I’m a regional economist rather than a macroeconomist, but this recession is going to last through the end of this year at least, and the hangover of high unemployment will last for at least two years after it ends.

    And the big slow down in establishing one is MONEY. Given the money, a city or town that wants to establish a bike boulevard could go from community input and planning to breaking ground inside a year, and be done in two years.

    That fits inside the footprint of activity we want in a stimulus bill under these conditions.

  • Erin Qureshi

    As a Civil Engineer in New York City, and formerly in Portland Oregon, I have experienced first-hand how simple designing and implementing “bicycle boulevards” can be. The kind of traffic calming required to make the bike boulevards like the newer ones in Portland doesn’t require huge infrastructure changes – sometimes all it takes is an attractive round island in the intersection, which causes cars to slow down to go around them, while adding some more foliage to the neighborhood. Sometimes a few well-placed speed bumps can do the trick. I used to ride my bike a lot in Portland, and I tried to plan my trips along these boulevards. They beat bike lanes in every way. Instead of riding cautiously in a narrow strip beside speeding cars and trucks, you’re riding in the street around vehicles which aren’t going much faster than you are. I have very fond memories of meeting up with groups of friends and riding to restaurants, friends’ houses, etc., and riding on these even-more-beautiful neighborhood streets, being able to chat along the way and feeling safer and more comfortable than we otherwise would be able to. If only NYC would begin implementing something like this – then we might not have the cycling death rates we do now.

  • Okay, so what are some candidates for bike boulevards here in NYC? We’re looking at residential two-way, two-lane streets with room for cars to pass bikes or vice versa, right?

  • You could also have a one-way pair of adjacent one-way bike boulevards. What about Dean and Bergen in Brooklyn? They parallel a major arterial.

  • The largest single expense in creating bike boulevards is traffic lights at major cross streets.

    In Berkeley, we have one bike-only traffic light (bikes can go straight through but cars have to turn right) which lets bikes on the Channing bike boulevard cross Martin Luther King Way, which has lots of traffic. At other major streets, people on bike boulevards just have to wait for traffic.

    The bike boulevards have existed for over 10 years, and we have built this one traffic light. At this rate, the bike boulevard system should be complete in about the year 2500.

  • I like Mike’s idea; of course, I live between Bergen and Dean, so there may be a little bias on my part.

  • Doug Irvine

    I ride the Greenway in Queens. I take it from Cunningham Park in eastern queens to Flushing Meadows park. It is a combination of paved paths running through parks and quiet residential streets.

    It’s far from great, but the idea of simply marking residential through streets is a good one. It’s cheap (signs and green paint). It alerts drivers through the signage and repeatedly seeing cyclists.

    It also tells cyclists that if they follow the signs, they can get somewhere interesting, safely.

    The obstacles are often residential streets that are purposely designed to inhibit through traffic. But if you’re creative, you can usually find a way through. Our local DOT’s should survey riders on the best such paths and mark them.

  • My only firsthand experience with anything resembling a bicycle boulevard is Silver Avenue in Albuquerque. Apparently there’s been a push in the past few years to get it officially designated as such, and this year the City will spend $400,000 on new signs to tell people about it (check out the video and PDF).

  • I’m splitting this into two posts so that I can put in more than two links.

    The funny thing is that Silver has always been a good place to ride, especially for the two miles between Interstate 25 and Carlisle Boulevard. What makes it so pleasant, and such a nice contrast to the parallel avenues of Gold, Lead and Coal (you may detect a pattern here) is that it’s designed so that cars can’t use it as a through route, but bicycles can. At two key points, Sycamore Street and Yale Boulevard, car traffic is diverted.

    There is one nasty stretch crossing University Boulevard, the same place where one of Charles’s street lights would be helpful. However, this is the same University Boulevard where I saw a cyclist get killed by a driver who ran a red light back in 1999 (at Las Lomas Road, just half a mile to the north).

    The new, official Bicycle Boulevard would include this section of Silver, and would extend four miles northwest and two miles east. But oddly enough, the cyclists are not asking for more of what makes Silver so nice: barriers and diverters to discourage through car traffic. All they’re asking for is signs and paint. You’d think they’d take a hint from what actually works.

    When I lived there I used to fantasize about bike/ped bridges taking Silver across I-25 and the Santa Fe Railroad tracks, but that would probably cost more than $400K.

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