Vancouver Adds Cycletrack to Burrard Bridge by Frank Lopez on May 10, 2010 | 65 Plays

I was surprised last week when my opinion piece arguing that it was time for L.A. to begin investing in separated bike lanes was met with some resistance based on Caltrans code.  While my research hasn’t found the code stating why these lanes are illegal and dangerous, it’s clear there’s still some debate on this issue.

This morning, a Streetfilm appeared that illustrates why separated lanes are more safe and something that most cyclists seek out.  Frank Lopez reports from Vancouver:

It’s been 15 years since Vancouver residents started petitioning for
a bike lane on one of the bridges that connects to downtown. In the
summer of 2009, the city implemented a test lane on the historic Burrard Bridge and almost immediately cycling was up 30%.

Cycling advocates and wheeled commuters explain the advantages to having a protected bicycle path.  Recent reports seem to show most are happy with the implementation and residents favor continuing the trial by a margin of 2 to 1.

  • Brent

    The Caltrans Highway design manual states in Section 1003.2, Paragraph 1(a) the following:

    “Bike lanes shall not be placed between the parking area and the curb. Such facilities increase the conflict between bicyclists and opening car doors and reduce visibility at intersections. Also, they prevent bicyclists from leaving the bike lane to turn left and cannot be effectively maintained.”

    I would argue that the reasoning behind the design directive is flawed.

    The manual is available on the DOT’s website.

  • A bike lane does not equal a bicycle path. While a painted bike lane (Class II) might be a bad idea in this configuration, a Class I bike path so designed ought to be able to work within the legal walls set up in the MUTCD.

    Also *ahem* 6th Street Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Spring Street Bridge *ahem* I can think of a few bridges in LA that could use this treatment heading into or out of downtown LA with marginal impacts (if any) to auto delay and throughput.

  • Anonymous

    Just to be clear, the requirements I’ve mentioned are in the Highway Design Manual, not the MUTCD. These are two different publications.

    I don’t think you’ll find too many civil or traffic engineers willing to jeopardize their licenses by approving designs that conform to neither the State requirements nor the consensus recommendations of the AASHTO and ITE, unless it can be clearly shown that the benefits outweigh the potential for harm to the public.

    By all means, innovative designs should be considered, but their proponents have the burden of establishing the relative merits of these approaches over the present standards.

  • Joseph E

    Long Beach thinks it is legal to put a bike lane between the parking and the curb. According to the city employees at the Long Beach Bike Fest, a contract has been signed and construction should start in 1 month on parking-separated bike lanes in downtown long beach.

    Both Broadway and 3rd thru downtown, to Alamitos Ave (where then become two-way), will give the left parking lane to a bike lane, and the parking will be moved over into the current left lane. They had picture and engineering documents displayed at the event. Bikes will have something to trip the signals to go straight or turn left, and for right turns they will either use the cross-walk or merge out of the bike path/lane into the 2 remaining travel lanes.

    If this is illegal, someone needs to tell Long Beach. They already show this “Class 1 bike path” as existing on the bike map printed for the festival, since it will be done in 4 months.

    See this news release from a couple weeks ago:
    http://www.gazettes.com/articles/2010/04/21/community_news/doc4bcf503216993450289047.txt

  • Anonymous

    Someone certainly does need to tell Long Beach.

    If I lived there or used any of those roads, the lawsuit would have already been filed.

  • Brent

    @Anonymous:

    It may be, however, that the design guideline only applies to a Class II bike lane, where a Class I bike path doesn’t have the same restrictions. (Umberto points this out, too.) I realize the difference is definitional, but it will be a powerful defense for the city to any lawsuit.

  • Joseph E

    Long Beach already has a bike lane that looks exactly like the one in the Vancouver video, on the bridge from Downtown to the Queen Mary. I road on it today. One lane (northbound) is separated from traffic by concrete barriers, making a two-way, protected bike lane. There is also a separate pedestrian sidewalk alongside. It works well going north from the Queen Mary or Hotel Maya. Unfortunately, heading south it can be hard to find the entrance to the bike path. Perhaps we could get one of the southbound lanes devoted to walking and biking, as well; the bridge never has any traffic, and doesn’t need 3 lanes each way.

    I know that a parking-protected bike path is a different situation, but it works in New York and many European cities. Furthermore, the majority of bike riders in downtown Long Beach seem to be using the sidewalks. Giving them a lane will help pedestrians, and will be safer than the sidewalk. Changes to the signals may also help reduce problems with cars and bikes turning. I think it will work, and it will make people feel safer on their bikes, which is the real issue keeping most people from riding.

  • Also, on the Solano Beach stretch of PCH, there is a bike lane that is between the curb and parking. I don’t think anyone is suing Solano Beach, so it does appear there is ambiguity in the language/definitions.

  • I don’t think there is too much ambiguity now actually. A “bike lane”, i.e. a Class II facility, cannot be designed in this way. A “bike path”, i.e. a Class I facility, can be designed this way, have been designed this way, continue to get designed this way, and will only be stopped by those that exploit the ignorance and fears of their colleagues.

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