Friday, October 28, 2011

Bike Lane Types

I've been thinking a lot lately about the differences among shared roadways, bike lanes and multi-use paths. I've been thinking about it after completing a miniworkshop at the annual APBP conference, about what's best on any street, best in any given community and what may be the ideal scenario for each type of bikeways.

I'm still trying to get my head around what's the best use for each of these, and where in *insert city name here* would each of these bikeway types be appropriate. Here are some of my thoughts:

Shared roadways. Shared roadways are typically good in residential areas or neighborhoods where there's not a lot of fast moving traffic. Shared roadways or shared bike lanes are when cyclists and drivers are obligated to share the road, and it's usually denoted by signs and pavement markings. They can also be good for retrofitting an area, but that's not always going to the solve the "we need bike lanes here" problem. I also like them on wider lanes, and in areas where on-street parking either doesn't exist or is hardly used. Depending on the streetscape, though, only some users will feel comfortable using them.
Best place to find them:  Neighborhoods, city streets that are low-speed, low-traffic volume.
Worst place to find them: On high-speed (45 mph + up) rural roads.

Shared Roadway with "Sharrow."

Bike lanes. These have been reshaping our roadway and bike routes for the last decade. Bike lanes - special travel lanes for those on bicycles. There are a couple of different kinds: conventional, buffered, contra-flow, left lane (think one-way streets). I think that they are generally great. They help improve cyclist safety. With the defined space on the roadway, cyclists are more visible to (and as a part of) traffic. They help legitimize biking. They're good for roads that carry a higher amount of traffic with mid-range speeds (35-40 mph). Depending on the streetscape and traffic, only some users will feel comfortable with them.
Best place to find them:  3 and 4 lane roads with speed limits of 35 mph, near neighborhoods.
Worst place to find them:  Arterial roads. Road with speeds limits posted at 40 mph, but travelled at 45mph+.

Multi-use paths. Assuming that they are off road, I like these for families, slow-moving recreational riders (as opposed to the fast-moving kind) and in communities where they're trying to improve park and recreation facilities. Sometimes multi-use paths are also called greenways. Riding on these paths can give novices confidence before taking to the actual road. I think that there should be some kind of signage and/or pavement to provide designated space for cyclists and non-cyclists (peds, skateboarders, rollerbladers, rollerskaters, etc). Rails-to-Trails paths can also fit in this category. However, experienced cyclists - racers and commuters - usually don't like to ride on these paths.
Best place to find them:  Recreational routes.
Worst place to find them:  In an area where bike lanes should be.

A rendering for one kind of Greenway.

plan for another Greenway

There is another kind of bikeway - Cycletracks - that interest me, but I've yet to see them or ride on them. I don't feel like I have enough information to have an opinion on these.

One kind of cycletrack.

So, here are some of my opinions and thoughts regarding the different kind of bikeways. Where do you see these fitting in your community - whether in the Upstate or any other state? Are bike lanes good to connect parks or are greenways better? How do families with young kids feel about bike lanes vs. shared roadways vs. off-road paths? Do experienced riders really not like riding on multi-user trails? What are your thoughts? I'd love to engage and learn more!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bicycle Safety 101: Cyclists, think like Drivers. Drivers, think like Cyclists.

Share the In a previous Bicycle Safety 101 post, I mentioned the that cyclists and drivers should know the rules of the road. Ignorance of the law doesn't exempt us from following it (or get us out of any tickets). But in case you don't have time to take a bicycle safety class or work on memorizing the laws, there is another way to learn how to "share the road." Let's start with addressing the cyclists.

Cyclists - Most of you have driven a car a one point or another. You know the basics: stop at stop signs, pedestrians have the right of way, give plenty of time and signal before turning, don't run red lights, dump the road rage, drive with traffic, be aware of your surroundings and always be on the look out for potential crashes that can be avoided. Follow the rules, and you'll be a safe driver. So, when you're on your bike, things aren't much different: don't red run lights, stop at stop signs, peds have the right of way, etc. Generally, following these traffic safety basics will provide for safe experience on the road, and lessen the road rage drivers feel towards you. (Photo credit here.)

One of the biggest issues drivers have with cyclists is disregard for the law. Every time you coast through a red light, weave in and out of traffic lanes or run a stop sign, biking as a means of transportation is taken less seriously. I don't like stopping at stop signs - Stopping and starting every few blocks in an urban neighborhood is a royal pain. Rolling through that rural blinking red light is very tempting. - but they are there for a reason. As a cyclist, recognize that reason and respect it. If ya don't, ya may not get respect. So, cyclists, think like drivers: follow the rules.

Drivers - You are the majority.  In cars that are fast, convenient, good for hauling lots of people and their stuff over long distances, you rule the road. With your 1 ton mobile shelters, you win in any crash with a pedestrian, motorcycle, moped or bicycle. You had to take training (perhaps many years ago) to get a license to operate your vehicle. You know the rights and wrongs, the do's and don'ts of operating on the road. You set the tone of roadway interactions for all users.

Think about that. Depending on how you act - and react - to any situation, you will contribute to creating an environment of roadway safety or danger, calm or calamity, inclusion or dominance. Think how cyclists feel riding near speeding tons of metal, glass and plastic on a hard, rough surface with only their clothes and helmet to protect them. Combine that vulnerability with a distracted, road-raged driver. It ain't a pretty picture. (An extreme photo.)

You also probably like it when there is less traffic. If there are safe biking conditions, there will be opportunities for your neighbors to hop onto a bike - and out of their car - resulting in less car traffic for you. (Or, maybe you'll even consider doing a few trips a week by bike.) Safe biking conditions include:  designated bikeways/lanes/paths/shared roadways, lower speed limits, drivers who don't run cyclists to the curb or cut them off. Support the development of these things, and it'll be a better, safe place for the community. So, drivers, think like cyclists: be aware of your surroundings.

Consider these things - talk about 'em. It's really important if communities in the Upstate want people to use the bikeways that they're building. And then there's the whole bike feasibility argument, too - no one wants a bike lane to no where. But, here's the take away message:

Create safe, convenient roadways. Work together. Cyclists, think like drivers. Drivers, think like cyclists.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sustainable Tailgating :: Trial Run

Blake Sanders, fellow upstate bicyclist and advocate, wrote this post about his experience with sustainable tailgating at a Clemson University football game during the 2011 season. Enjoy!

It's a beautiful day in Death Valley; 80,000 screaming fans, the Tiger Rag, and the Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football. It's easy to be excited for Gameday Saturdays but in my case, it's also includes the most dreaded 60+ minutes of my week, traffic and walking. Now don't get me wrong, walking is great, but not lugging a 3-year old, albeit he is as small as me.

Go back 18 months...

I'm hosting a charrette with Clemson University Design Inquiry Students, developing an idea that will be presented to the Student Body Government in hopes of securing funding. With over 30 students/professors in attendance, we knew we would develop an incredible solution to a space on campus. Previous groups have designed memorials and gardens, placed benches, and even honored past faculty. Our group decided against redeveloping a space but rather developing a campus green in an already overused area that has received zero attention since Thomas Green drank from the Seneca River. Our design space, Highway 93, directly across from the Esso Club. An overused space during game day (primarily parking) and vastly underused during the school year, even though it is a gateway from the west.

Two hours later, our group had developed potentially a ground breaking idea that would be like non-other at Clemson, the Green Tiger Trail (A Sustainable Tailgating Experience).

Fastfoward to present time...

Luckily we have an opportunity to go to the Clemson vs. Wofford football game and my wife and I have decided we'll finally take our son, Lane, to his first game. Of course we want him to experience the pre-game festivities, but of course, without a parking pass this becomes sort of an issue. Packing the pull-ups, change of clothes, Chick-fil-A, drinks, etc. it all hits me. I recall our design charrette, talks with Dan Harding, Clemson architecture professor, and Clemson's Bicycle Planner, Tanya DeOliveria. I do it. We load up the bikes and head for "The Valley."

We park on the outskirts of Campus, Highway 93 and Highway 76 to be exact, put on our packs and head to find our tailgating spot. We pass well over 200 people walking and dragging coolers down a road closed to vehicles during our 4 minute bike ride (versus our 25 minute walk). We stop at the Lee Hall Courtyard (covered bicycle parking) and set up camp. We eat, relax in the air conditioned gallery space, take a gallery tour, and play football. 30 minutes before game time we take our final walk to the stadium (a 5 minute walk=9 minutes total commute time).

Wonderful game experience as Lane loved watching the game and the band. Tigers win in somewhat of a nail biter and we head out. A 5 minute walk to our bikes, and a 10 minute bike ride back to the car (uphill coming back).

Things for the University to consider as Sustainable Tailgating becomes closer to a reality:

  • The need for bicycle parking next to the stadium.
  • Bus/Bike transit back to the car (I must admit I didn't feel like riding after baking in the sun for 3 hours).
  • Specific tailgating spots for bike commuters.
I must thank Tanya for convincing me to write about this experience and the many others that I hope to encounter. Consider checking out an article in the Anderson Independent Mail regarding Sustainable Tailgating.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why Biking Matters to Me

As I've been blogging for several months, I've been able to find my voice, make some connections with others in the biking community and, in a part time capacity, take on a bike planning job. I have had had a lot of fun exploring biking in the upstate. There has been a lot of momentum building, and exciting projects are moving forward. The weather is also nicer here for a longer period of time from where I got my "training wheels," and it's nice to see people take advantage of it.

I thought it might be time to explore why biking matters to me.

The "quick" answer is because it's environmentally friendly, it's great for the wallet, it promotes healthy living and lifestyle choices and it's a social justice matter. What do all these things really mean? Let me explain.

It's environmentally friendly. In a world where we're addressing the issue of climate change, doing my part to minimize my impact on the planet is important to me. Whether you believe it in or it, it's still part of the national dialogue of current events. Driving my car puts 10,593 lbs of carbon emssions in the air. When I ride my bike, I don't produce those emissions. Therefore, I feel like I'm doing what I can to live a minimalistic lifestyle.

It's great for the wallet. Gas is expensive. Whether it's $3 a gallon or $4 a gallon, you still have to pay. And there's the non-ecnomic costs, too. (See above.) When I ride my bike, it costs me calories. (See below.) Biking is one of the most fuel efficient modes of transportation. Hands down. I'm a frugal person by nature, and this arguement is THE ONE that got me started. When I was a grad student, paying my own way, I looked to cut as many costs as possible. Biking saved me money on gas and on a parking permit.

It promotes healthy living and lifestyle choices. I was a competitive swimmer over the course of my academic life, from the time I was in kindergarten through my senior year in college. I loved being active, I loved the comradery and I loved eating what I wanted, er, I mean, staying in shape. As that time in my life came to pass, I still needed an outlet for my engery and to help me cope with stress. Bicycle commuting was an ideal way for me to get that physical fitness fix. Like swimming, I was up and moving early, providing me an energy boost in the morning. By the evening, I could pedal away my stress from the workday. (*Disclaimer:  I am NOT a morning person, so, those of you who claim you're not able to because you'd have to get up 20 minutes earlier, get over it.)

There have been a number of studies and hundred of stories of how biking has impacted individual lives in ways related to health, wellness and postive lifestyle choices:  losing weight, managing stress, providing a positive, fun outlet and many more. Some folks get hooked into biking, and tours take them to local farms where they learn about the benefits of eating local. Others are craving community, and joining the local bike group gives them a space to meet people who share a common interest.

It's a social justice matter. Everyday I see people in whose only means of transportation is a bike. I saw them in Madison, Wisconsin, and I see them in Clemson and Central, South Carolina. I think about these people a lot. The people I see tend to be older, less agile than your twenty or thirty-something-spandex-let's-do-this! crowd. My concerns for older folks, and anyone who rides as their major for of transportation, is providing a safe route that connects to (major) destinations. I live less than 10 miles from Clemson University, and on one road, a major route for the community, there are several grocery stores, restuarants, the library, the public recreation center, several neighborhoods/apartment complex, day care facilities, clothing stores and city hall. All of this is along a dangerous yet identified, marked "bike route." How do people who's major means of movement is by bike feel about these conditions?

I'll even go as far as to reach out to include the "peak oil" people or include the "what do we do when gas goes to $5 a gallon?" rant. Even though I don't feel passionate about these topics, building a bike network might allievate some of those concerns. It's not my favorite pro-bikeway arguement, but I'll take it.

Biking started out as a way to cut back a few dollars, but it's become much more to me over the last several years. How has cycling impacted your life? I loved it as a kid, and actually getting back on my bike as an adult was fun, but it did take some time. I have come to see it as a safe transportation option and fun recreation choice that we should have. I see investing in bikeways as a really good thing, and an answer to many problems that we face today.