Last week California’s Transportation Agency, Caltrans, issued a Design Guidance document describing implementation of protected bikeways in California. The document should make it easier for California cities to design/redesign their cities to provide a better balance between all street system users. The picture shown above is one of the key design techniques. Those of us who’ve looked into bicycling infrastructure designs in Netherlands and Copenhagen will instantly recognize Caltrans received a ton of guidance from the Netherlands.
This is important because of the desperate need for better land use in cities, and encouraging more bicycling is a great way to address several problems at the same time:
- People who exercise more will be healthier and less obese
- Bicycles are quiet, reducing the noise pollution epidemic
- Bicycles require a tiny fraction of energy/material resources of other vehicle types
- Bicycles transport more people per square mile of road surface than almost any vehicle type
- Hence bicycling is a great way to reduce environmental impact of the transportation system.
American cities have for decades been designed to give preference to car driving over other kinds of transportation. As a result bicyclists and pedestrians generally face an inhospitable landscape of sprawling unwalkable cities, and a certain rate of death/injury when cars strike bicyclists or pedestrians.
The Caltrans document says:
It is the goal of the state [California] to increase the number of trips Californians take by bicycling, walking and other forms of active transportation in order to help meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, improve Californians’ health by helping more people be active, and stimulate the economy. Bicycle facilities are a vital part of the transportation infrastructure that is used by many to commute to and from work and other destinations and provide alternatives to vehicles that otherwise would transport citizens across California’s roads and highways. Class IV bikeways, also referred to as separated bikeways or cycle tracks, provide an alternative to other bikeways that may minimize interactions with other modes of travel. The objective is to foster bicycling as a means of transportation, in a manner that improves safety for all users, including motorists, transit users, and pedestrians, including persons with disabilities.
There’s a lot more, of course, including tens of pages of guidance on developing Class IV Bikeways.
This sort of Bikeway provides separation between bicycle lanes and car lanes, to reduce the incidence of bicycles riding among car traffic. This will be not only safer for bicyclists, but provide an additional buffer between cars and pedestrians.
The sort of intersection shown above is a vast improvement over traditional intersection design. I’ve been collecting videos on this site which document the advantages of improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Most of these come from a Youtube account of a person in Netherlands who has, for years, produced a tremendous amount of excellent material documenting how the Netherlands is redesigning its cities for a better balance between pedestrians, bicycles, cars, transit, etc. These videos cover topics like the benefits of protected bicycling infrastructure, the Hovenring, an absolutely amazing looking bicycle roundabout above a major highway intersection, a novel roundabout design in one city, how reconstruction of a tangled mess of a multi-way intersection not only improved everyones life, but created brand new open space from land that had been roads, and the ease with which cars and bicyclists can share the road.
America: We can have bicycling and cars existing in peace and harmony side-by-side. Really.
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