Posts Tagged ‘bike lane’

When I came to this bike lane in Baltimore, I had to stare at it for a minute or two before I realized why it looked so unusual to me: it is the first time I’ve seen a bike lane in the US that is painted green for its entire length.

In Portland, we started using green paint a few years ago in our bike boxes and have since expanded its use to other conflict points, like the weave area after the start of a turning lane where cars are crossing the bike lane. As a driver, the green paint is effective at grabbing your attention and reminding you to double check for cyclists before entering that area.

In visiting the Netherlands this summer, I was struck by the fact that most of the bike facilities there are paved with red asphalt.  I don’t know if it actually accomplished anything on the network of cycletracks (other than the fact that it looked really cool!), but on shared roads it was a clear way of demarcating which parts of the road belonged to which modes.

One thing that’s consistently frustrating as a cyclist is when cars stop in the bike lane.  Something tells me I’m not alone there.  I’d imagine that, if nothing else, coloring your bike lanes is marvelously effective at reducing this, and it probably helps keep moving cars from drifting into the bike lane as well.  But I wonder if using color for a whole bike lane might reduce its effectiveness at conflict points, where it’s no longer a drastic change that grabs a driver’s attention.  Conversely, maybe ubiquitous color serves as a constant reminder that lots of people use bikes on the road in question.  Perhaps the color also helps with the public relations aspect, such that the “interested but concerned” pool of potential cyclists is encouraged by the literal and figurative visibility of the infrastructure.  But is this all worth the fairly significant (as bike projects go, at least) extra cost of coloring these lanes?

I spent a large chunk of my 20’s doing information design, and so I’ve long been interested in the usage of colors and how we react to different colors displayed in different situations.  This is an interesting topic, and I’ll be curious to see how cities use color like as they build cycling infrastructures and how it winds up working.

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I have a sort-of philosophical fascination with the chicken-and-egg aspect of right-of-way allocation on roadways.  Should projects reflect the fact that most people still choose to drive as their primary mode of transportation, with facilities for transit, bikes, and the like being added to the mix only as demand for them materializes?  Or should planners try to induce demand for alternatives by allocating capacity for them in advance of demand, hoping to prove the sagacity of that old mantra from Field of Dreams?

I certainly tend to think the latter notion is the smart one, and as the concept of complete streets grows more popular, I think a large majority of people who plan transportation projects for a living probably agree with me.  But politically, such things can be more easily said than done, as controversy over the proposed reallocation of right-of-way on North Williams Street has clearly demonstrated in recent months.

With that in mind, I think the folks responsible for the design of the new-and-improved Sellwood Bridge deserve a big pat on the back.  For cars, the new bridge features the same lane configuration as the old one–one lane in each direction.  But for bikes and pedestrians, the itty-bitty sidewalks on each side are now wide, comfortable paths, clearly demarcated to separate the bikers from the walkers.  In addition to the off-road bike path, there’s also an on-road bike lane in each direction.  The project clearly anticipates (and intends to induce) heavy usage from cyclists, essentially providing them a fast lane and slow lane in each direction.

It gets better.  A few miles downriver, construction continues on the Caruthers Bridge, which will carry nearly every mode of transportation you can think of except for single-occupancy vehicles across the Willamette.  The Caruthers (or whatever it will be called when it’s completed) will serve light rail, bus, streetcar, bikes, and peds.  Combined with the new Sellwood Bridge, that’s a lot of additional capacity for alternative modes to cross the Willamette without adding a single new lane for cars.

This is something that I really can’t see happening in too many other American cities, and I hope these bridges rightfully become points of civic pride as their construction continues.

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