Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cycling update

Spreading the word and passing out swag at the pit stop, Bike to Work Week 2015
Protected bike lanes are coming to Iowa! When Cedar Rapids's 3rd Avenue is converted from one-way to two-way, part of an ongoing re-orientation of downtown streets, it will include bike lanes along the curb, with parallel auto parking between the bike lane and the traffic lane. This graphic was shared at the trail pit stop at 4th St and 1st Av during Bike-to-Work Week:

The array will run about a mile, from 2nd St SE to 6th St SW. The goal is to encourage more people to ride bicycles by creating a greater feeling of safety. There's even a narrow buffer zone between the parking and the bike lane; I doubt it's wide enough to prevent dooring, but it might give the rider a bit of warning. Anyhow the unusual placement of parking spaces might remind auto travelers to look before they open their doors. At least it provides some room if the driver's aim is off when putting the car in the parking space.

The left turn boxes (lower right of the graphic) would help keep bikes out of heavy traffic when turning. I'm guessing they might not be all that necessary in light traffic, and might not appeal to our more aggressive bicyclists anyhow.
I approve of the incremental approach to bicycling infrastructure in Cedar Rapids. It makes sense that before you stripe the entire city, or dump a vat of green paint, or buffer all the bike lanes, that you would do it in a small space first to see how it works. If only we'd done this with urban renewal, or interstate highways, or multipurpose sports stadiums... Which metrics to use when assessing the buffered bike lanes might be a tricky issue. Do we count bike riders on 3rd Av (and do we have a baseline)? Car-bike interactions? Public approval?

I first heard of protected bike lanes happening in Bogota, Colombia, as featured in the documentary "Urbanized." A spin around the Internet finds them installed or planned in ChicagoColumbus, Honolulu, Little Rock...

Little Rock: Bike lanes protected by parking
...Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Seattle and a host of other cities... though not yet in Newark, Delaware, or, until now, in Iowa. The buzz about protected bike lanes is mostly happy, as you'd expect from results tilted towards biking advocacy--there do not seem to be any blogs yet on "Why Can't Everyone Just Drive Like Normal People?" (perhaps because Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is too busy). Reporter Angie Schmitt noting protected bike lanes have been associated with less auto speeding, fewer crashes, more cycling, increased retail sales along the routes, and eventually widespread public support, with--counterintuitively--no increase in auto travel times or congestion despite the reduction in traffic lanes. Protected bike lanes may take some getting used to, but I think they'll be worth it.

VIDEO: "Protected Bike Lanes 101" by People for Bikes

"Bike Lanes," National Association of City Transportation Officials,

"Protected Bike Lanes--Update 04.01.15," People for Bikes,

Angie Schmitt, "The Rise of the North American Protected Bike Lane," Momentum, 31 July 2013,

Jim Williams, "City Introduces New Curb-Protected Bike Lanes," CBS2, 19 May 2015, contains a few discouraging words

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