Taginfrastructure

Curb connoisseur

My sometimes traveling companion Brandon makes fun of me thinking I only travel to check out the curbs in every city. It started when we visited Portland together and yes, my camera was often aimed towards the ground. Here is a roundup of what curbs look like in other cities – I could only find these five photos that really focus on the kerb. 🙂

Starting in Chicago, Illinois

A curb and ADA-accessible ramp in Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The City of Chicago, as part of a lawsuit, agreed to renovate thousands of curb cuts across town that did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1993. This particular location was more involved than others because of the real brick crosswalk. It had to be removed and then replaced after the level of the street was raised.

Moving west to Portland, Oregon

In a long walking tour of Portland, Oregon, with PBOT worker Greg Raisman, we came across my first ever mountable curb. It’s a raised part of the street and motorists in small vehicles will probably avoid driving on it. It was installed because this is part of a truck route and it’s easy for truck drivers to roll on top of it without driving on the sidewalk.

Jumping south to Tucson, Arizona

A typical bumpout or curb extension, as seen in Tucson, Arizona. This design is not unique to Tucson, but I point it out because this one comes with accompanying signage telling people bicycling and driving that they must stop when they see a person trying to cross the street.

Taking the train over to San Francisco, California

An atypical situation in San Francisco, California, (not the tracks, but the way the tracks terminate in a mound of danger) that I hope gets corrected right away. In downtown San Francisco, there are very wide crosswalks made with colored stone that sets it apart from the rest of the roadway. But the sidewalk ramps are still very narrow. Also, granite curbs are more slippery than concrete. This all just seems like a bad situation, but it looks pretty.

Flying the long way to Milan, Italy

I have it on good authority that Julius Caesar was at the curb dedication ceremony here in Milan, Italy, and saw far into the future people chatting about bicycles on the sidewalk.

Crawling a little north to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Curbs in Amsterdam, Netherlands, play a vital role in a calm and managed all-mode transportation system. Here the curb is a ramp up onto the sidewalk and separated bike lane that leads into a neighborhood street. Mounting the curb should signal to the driver that they are entering a different space that has different rules and responsibilities.

Bridges of Portland

Like Chicago, Portland has many moveable bridges that connect major parts of the city. In Chicago, you have to cross the Chicago River from the west or north to get into the central business district (or loop). For Portland, you’ve got to cross the Willamette River from the humongous east side to the west side and central business district.

But that’s where the similarities stop. While Chicago has twenty bikeable bridges* from Lake Shore Drive on the east to Roosevelt Road on the south, they are each 200-500 feet long and bicyclists ride amongst normal traffic (except for northbound Lake Shore Drive). To ride on the bridges in Portland, bicyclists ride on bike-specific facilities across five bridges, all over 1,000 feet long.

There is only one lane for people riding bikes.

From north to south:

  • Broadway – Sidewalk with one-way bike traffic and two-way pedestrian traffic in each direction.
  • Steel Bridge – Narrow sidewalk on the lower level with tw0-way bike and pedestrian traffic.
  • Burnside – Bike lane, one in each direction.
  • Morrison – 15-foot wide path for bicyclists and pedestrians, in both directions. The City of Portland has construction details on this new path.
  • Hawthorne – Sidewalk with one-way bike traffic and two-way pedestrian traffic in each direction.

It’s great that people riding bikes are accommodated but all of these bridges are excellent examples of “afterthought planning.” There are tens of thousands of people riding bikes across the bridges each day in very close quarters (see this video I made of people riding and walking on the Hawthorne Bridge). Expensive changes are being made now (or have recently been constructed) to accommodate the high volumes of bikes on the bridges.

Complete streets policies are being adopted across the country that attempt to address our past experience with transportation infrastructure construction: bikes will be accommodate throughout all aspects of planning, design, and construction to ensure people riding across these bridges on bikes don’t have to tread carefully between joggers and high curb next to automobiles and buses traveling at 30 MPH.

The Burnside bridge has a typical bike lane.

The Columbia River Crossing (a highway bridge replacement project between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington) will be a failure for residents from the day it opens if it does not include facilities that allow for comfortable and convenient biking.

I didn’t appreciate the riding environment on any of the bridges** except for the Burnside bridge. This one seems most like the twenty Chicago bridges I have the choice of riding on each day on my commute to work – they look and act like typical streets. While bike-specific facilities like those on the five Portland bridges are not necessary, taking care to make cycling across bridges convenient and comfortable is a priority.

There’s only one path on the Steel Bridge and its on the lower level. You should probably only use this bridge recreationally because it doesn’t connect well into the street grid at either end.

*Only two of these twenty bridges have bike-specific facilities. Wells has a bike lane and a treatment to make cycling safer on the open-grate metal bridge. The Lakefront Trail traverses the Lake Shore Drive bridge.

*I did not ride on the Morrison bridge during my trip in April 2010.

Traffic: It never ends

Automobile congestion on the Kennedy Expressway* (I-90/94), taken from the L tracks above Lake Street in Chicago, Illinois.

Other things that never end (a roundup of sorts):

Fietsen in Nederland (bicycling in the Netherlands)

If you and I have chatted about bicycling in the past six months, I’ve probably mentioned the Dutch in our conversation.

Why?

I want a Dutch bicycle. Explaining this one will take another blog post – compiling all my reasons takes a long time. But in addition to cool bikes, here’re a couple other things they do:

  • They (the Dutch) make bicycling better (safer and easier). More people ride their bikes than drive cars for a majority of trips. They have the lowest cycling injury and fatality rate.
  • They build bicycling infrastructure beyond what I can imagine. Bike highways connect small towns and big cities. 4,000 space parking garages.

I started reading a blog called “A view from the cycle path” written by Briton David Hembrow living in The Netherlands. He writes about bicycling history in the country, posts ridership statistics, discusses his commute, and sends readers to more information about it all.

I also read Marc van Woudenberg’s blog, Amsterdamize. I found it either via Flickr, or via web search, when I looked for other WorkCycles Fr8 owners and users. I want the Fr8 bike (pictured below). I can get one from the local WorkCycles (build their own bikes and sell other manufacturers’) dealer, Dutch Bike Chicago.

Remind me to post my paper and presentation about the past, present and future of bicycle planning in The Netherlands I will submit for my Sustainable Development Techniques class at UIC.

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