TagUrban Design

The 3-way street

Update June 12, 2011: Added a link to and excerpt from commentary by David Hembrow, a British blogger in the Netherlands.

How does a 3-way street work? Easy, just watch the video.

I like the term “aggressive yield” to describe the situation when a motorist does yield to pedestrians crossing the street, but in a way where they inch forward continually, slowly pushing, with a buffer or air, the people out of the way.

I really like the comment from Tuesday by Anthony Ball:

those red markers are just showing the limits of tolerable risk as established by years of system development. If the collision speeds were higher, those red circles would be far few – it’s simply a system finding its own point of stability.

If you really want to wreak havoc – try to control that system without corrective feedback (eg more rules, lights, controls, etc) and you’ll see the system kill people while it tries to find new stable relationships.

don’t forget that rules, signs, lights, etc have no direct impact on the system – they only work through the interpretation of the users.

What did David Hembrow have to say? David lives in the Netherlands and disagrees with the common sentiment that these conflicts are caused by selfish users.

I don’t see the behaviour at this junction as being about “bad habits”. What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.

Dutch road junctions don’t look like and work like this – they are different for a reason: it removes the conflicts and improves safety. A long-standing theme of Dutch road design is the concept of Sustainable Safety. The concept is to remove conflict so that collisions are rare and the consequences of those which remain are relatively small. Roads are made self-explanatory so that bad behaviour is reduced and the way people behave is changed.

Reading this reminds me of the work of the students in George Aye’s class at SAIC, “Living in a Smart City.” The students attempted, through an intersection redesign, to reduce the stresses that lead to crashes.

Where are the 3-way streets in your city? Grand/Halsted/Milwaukee in Chicago comes to my mind easily. Also a lot of streets in the Loop. Oh yeah, and The Crotch, at Milwaukee/North/Damen.

Chicago’s first protected bike lane to go in on Kinzie Street

Updated June 5, 2011: New information obtained from the alderman’s email newsletter; new design suggestions added based on comments. Please read the discussion in the comments below or the discussion on The Chainlink.

Tony Arnold of WBEZ reported Saturday morning, seemingly based on Alderman Reilly’s latest newsletter (see below for excerpt), that Kinzie Street will be the location of the city’s first protected bike lane.

OLD: He didn’t mention the extents but I bet on the west end it will be at Milwaukee Avenue and Desplaines Street (see photos of this intersection below), where thousands of bicyclists per day come downtown from Milwaukee; on the east end it would be either Wells Street (a one-way, southbound street), which has a treated metal grate bridge and bike lane, or State Street (a two-way street), where the bridge is completely covered in concrete. To Wells Street is 0.53 miles, and to State Street is 0.84 miles, using the measurement tool on Google Maps.

NEW: The extent is from Milwaukee Avenue and Desplaines Street to Wells Street, a distance of 0.53 miles.

I’m excited that the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) chose a good location, even though I don’t think this location meets either of my two criteria: that it attract new people to bicycling for everyday trips and that it reduce the number of crashes. It will do both, but only because that is intrinsic of this kind of infrastructure. The kind of bikeway will have more effect on this than the location. People who will use this protected bike lane are already cycling on Kinzie Street and there’re very few crashes here (there were 6 in 2007-2009).

So what makes Kinzie Street in River North a good location?

  • People will be riding and using it from Day 1. It’s a place where people are already riding. After a month, and after a year (heck, after three years), no one will be able to complain of its lack of use. For detractors, this is a main point used to advocate for bikeway removals.
  • There are low barriers to implementation: there’s a very supportive Alderman, the road is wide, and low automobile traffic (this is my observation; there’re no traffic counts recorded on the City’s website).

While I’m sure that CDOT planners and engineers have been working at a furious pace since May 16th to get this new bikeway designed and ready to install, I have a couple suggestions I hope they will consider slipping into the project plan to make it even better:

Intersection design

Problem 1: Improve the intersection at Milwaukee, Desplaines, and Kinzie. Going southbound on Milwaukee at this intersection, you are presented with two lanes. One that is “left turn only” and has a left turn signal, and one wide lane that is for “straight”. But there are three directions to go. One can turn right onto Desplaines, turn left onto Desplaines, or go straight with a slight left into Kinzie. In which lane do you position yourself and which signal do you follow? Actually, which signal to follow is easier because there’s a green right-turn light, and a regular through light. It’s really the lane and positioning that matters.

Possible Solution: This could be made more clear with a bike-only left turn lane (like this one at Milwaukee/Canal/Clinton) with a bike signal head (not sure if a bike-only phase in the signal cycle will be necessary).

Problem 2: Drivers in the right-most northbound lane on Desplaines may try to turn right into Kinzie and this will cause conflicting movements with bicyclists entering Kinzie from Milwaukee.

Possible Solution: Ban right turns on red at this corner (but probably all corners) and enforce the ban.

Slippery bridge

Problem: The bridge over the Chicago River has an open metal grate deck – these are very dangerous for bicycling, especially when wet.

Possible Solution: Treat them. Use concrete infill, non-slip metal plates, or non-slip fiberglass plates.

New route signage

Problem: The signed bike route signage is too late for bicyclists to base their turn decision on. The sign is at the intersection (see photo) and those who want to turn left towards Wells Street will then have to make a box turn instead of being able to make a left turn from the left turn lane.

Possible Solution: Install two signs, one before and one after the railroad viaduct which is north of this intersection along Milwaukee. The signs should say reach Wells Street via the Kinzie Cycle Track and position yourself in the left turn bike lane.

Bridge gap

Problem: The bridge seam on Desplaines at the south end of the intersection is extremely wide and deep. While not part of Kinzie, this problem could be fixed in the same project.

Possible Solution: Without reconstructing the bridge seam, I’m not aware of what can be done.

One more idea

Install a bike box at the intersection at westbound Kinzie at the top of the hill.

Where thousands of bicyclists will probably start their journey on the Kinzie Street protected bike lane.

I took this photo to try to demonstrate the confusion of where to position one’s self at the edge of the intersection if you want to travel “straight” into Kinzie Street (with a slight left). Do you put yourself in the left turn lane, or just to the right of the left turn lane?

This is history in the making – for Chicago only, of course. (These cities already have protected bike lanes.) Keep your eyes peeled for subsequent construction.

Excerpt about the lane from Alderman Reilly’s newsletter

Construction of the Kinzie cycle track is proposed to begin next week, and is expected to be completed by Chicago’s Bike to Work Day on June 17th. The Kinzie cycle track will introduce features that have not been seen to date with Chicago bike lanes, including:

  • flexible posts (delineators) to separate the bike lane from motor vehicle traffic;
  • pavement markings through intersections to indicate cyclist travel;
  • special pavement markings and signage; and
  • parking shifted off curb to provide additional buffer between cyclists and traffic. [It would be nice to know

A little street art does the body (and mind) good

“The Chicago Transit Authority [CTA] Series is an exploration of how a small change in a word can recontextualize otherwise expected results. David DuFault re-creates the CTA subway names of the original CTA stops with small modifications to change them into food names. Chicago loves its food after all. He limits himself by regulating the ‘rules’: only a maximum of two letters can be changed or by adding a word.” It should have been in the street art show, but the CTA removed it and doesn’t know what to do with it. If it returns the art, the CTA may appear to condone such trespassing of its property.

The Wellington Brown/Purple line station becomes “Beef Wellington.”

I went to the opening Chicago Street Art Show in Pilsen at the Chicago Urban Arts Society, 2229 S Halsted Street, this past Friday to check out what street artists have been up to. There was a lot of cool art on display via photographs. I believe the originator of the street art and the photographers whose prints were hung are two different people, but the exhibit didn’t make this clear. I couldn’t tell who the photographer was and who posted the street art.

The crowd at the gallery. Photo by Oscar Arriola.

I’ve seen this one. It’s on Milwaukee Avenue just north of Grand Avenue. It says, “I love you so much it hurts.”

I think Rod Blagojevich has been spotted running several times around Chicago (and the courts).

Put the first cycle track somewhere else

Updated 06-03-11: Grew the list below from 11 locations to 15 to match the full list on wiki.stevevance.net.

I propose 15 locations for Chicago (see link for ideal segments):

  • Archer Avenue (whole length)
  • Blue Island Avenue (between UIC and Pilsen, but then connecting Pilsen to Little Village via 26th Street)
  • Chicago Avenue
  • Clybourn Avenue (entire stretch, from Belmont to Division)
  • Damen Avenue (really easy south of Congress; difficult between Chicago and Congress, and north of Chicago)
  • Fullerton Avenue
  • Grand Avenue (at least California or Kedzie to Navy Pier)
  • Halsted Street (in some discrete locations)
  • King Drive (connecting downtown/South Loop to Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Washington Park)
  • Kinzie Street (connecting one major bike laned street, Milwaukee, to another, Wells)
  • Ogden Avenue (the entire street, from the city boundary on the southwest side to its dead end at the Chicago River near Chicago Avenue)
  • Vincennes Avenue (I haven’t figured out the extents for this one)
  • Wabash Street (connecting downtown and IIT)
  • Washington Boulevard/Street
  • Wells Street – this may be one of the easiest locations to pull off, politically at least, especially if Alderman Reilly pays for all or part of it with his annual appropriation of $1.32 million (“menu funds”).
  • Western Avenue

Notice how I didn’t propose Stony Island between 69th and 77th.

I selected streets where there’s already much cycling happening – whether it’s directly on that street and for long distances or neighborhoods the street passes through. I also selected streets where there’s some cycling happening but make the all-important bikeway network connections on streets with high automobile or high speed traffic (like Western Avenue) or lead to places that attract trips by bike (like train stations). And I selected streets that lead towards downtown, to transit stations, to schools, and to jobs. The segment of Stony Island from 69th to 77th leads to a small shopping district on 71st Street and a Metra Electric train station with 197 weekday boardings (from 2006 survey).

A cycle track location will be most effective where it can:

  • attract the most new riders (goal #1 in the Bike 2015 Plan)
  • make the biggest increases in safety by reducing injuries (goal #2 in the Bike 2015 Plan)
  • (and for the city’s first cycle track, be used by the most existing riders)

It is in these locations where these facilities will be quickly adopted by people bicycling to and from that neighborhood for their shopping, school, and social and work trips. It will also help lead the City and its residents to attaining the quite ambitious goals of the Bike 2015 Plan (have 5% of all trips under 5 miles by bike and cut frequency of injuries by half).

NACTO’s new Urban Bikeway Design Guide recommends cycle tracks for “streets on which bike lanes would cause many bicyclists to feel stress because of factors such as multiple lanes, high traffic volumes, high speed traffic, high demand for double parking, and high parking turnover.”

Stony Island between 69th and 77th has many lanes, high speed and high volume traffic, but low parking turnover (there’s a low density of businesses and many have their own parking lots). This area has low cycling levels and a grand bike facility here would do little to help Chicago reach the plan’s goals. We won’t see any benefit in terms of mode shift here.

Without further information on the intentions (see paragraph “On intentions” below) of those who selected this location and their goals for Chicago’s first cycle track, my surmise is that it was selected because of the roadway width (four lanes in each direction with a wide parallel parking lane, see map), where taking away a lane from car driving may be more politically and technically feasible – I believe this is the wrong way to begin a protected bike lane program.

On intentions: A former CDOT employee left a comment on my blog in December 2010 addressing the site selection: “Stony Island was recommended as a part of a Streetscape Master Plan [I can find no information about this plan]. It wasn’t like people were sitting around saying ‘Where can we put a buffered bike lane?’ It was really just a plan of opportunity since Stony Island is crazy-wide. Nevertheless, it will connect with a new bike path along the side of Marquette Dr in Jackson Park, which connects to the Lakefront Trail.”

While Stony Island could be a good demo location to prove that this type of facility won’t be harmful to drivers, as a demonstration of the power of protected bicycling infrastructure, it won’t do a good job.

A two-way protected bike lane (just like Prospect Park West in Brooklyn) in downtown Vancouver. Photo by Paul Krueger.

A one-way protected bike lane on 9th Avenue, New York City’s first cycle track. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Successful bike parking

UPDATE, 04-23-10: I start to further address distance in the discovery of “Bike Parking Phenomenon A.” Also on my Master’s Project website.

Not every concept, skill or tool can be further and further simplified. Does anything really take just 3 steps?

1. Set it, 2. Forget it, 3. No third step! (This article is about bike parking, not Ron Popeil’s Showtime Rotisserie!)

I believe I can simplify bike parking. Here are my two rules to have successful and well-used bike parking:

1. Put bike parking as close to the front door as physically possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bicycle riders use a substandard sign pole or tree instead of a high-quality bike rack because the bike rack was an additional 20 feet from the front door. UPDATE: As Dave Reid points out in the comments below, close parking increases security. Additionally, I’ve now written about the phenomenon where people lock to inadequate fixtures when high-quality bike parking is nearby, what I call “Bike Parking Phenomenon A” or the “50 feet rule.” Every foot makes a difference!

The bike parking in this photo sits only 20 feet away from the front door to a popular Chicago, Illinois, restaurant.

The bike parking in this photo is too far away from the store entrance for bicyclists to consider using it.

2. Choose the right bike rack. How do you know? Give bicycle riders a bike rack that’s easy to use and secure (i.e. don’t let the bike rack be the weak point in the bicycle’s security).

Six u-racks (also known as inverted-u, or staple racks) line the sidewalk in front of Kuma’s Corner in Chicago, Illinois.

If these two tips aren’t good enough, read through the online brochure, Bicycles at Rest, from the Capital Bike & Walk Society, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Bad and great bike parking

How can you tell the bad and good of bike parking?

By inspecting a few examples! Check out my photos and descriptions of good and bad bike racks and parking spaces. I took all photos of bike parking in Chicago, Illinois, except where otherwise noted. I’m the expert because I’ve installed hundreds of bike racks for my employer, where I also developed an innovative web application, and I’ve locked up to to so many bike racks over the past four years I’ve lived here.

Good

Bike parking is best installed within view of a business entrance, and within 50 feet. If the bike parking is too far away, bicyclists tend to lock their bike to the closest object which isn’t as suitable as a heavy duty U-rack. The U-rack is a great bike rack: it supports the bicycle at two points (no kickstand or juggling necessary) and and users can lock the wheels and frame easily; square tube is best. See the action at Kuma’s Corner, in Chicago, Illinois.

Near the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, bicycle riders will spot these decorative, but still useful, bike racks in front of a large office building. The post and ring style can still accommodate locking the front wheel and frame. Users should use a second cable or lock to grab that rear wheel.

Indoor bike parking is always the best! This surface-mounted U-racks (arranged in a parallel series on rails) and the wall-mounted bike rack provide multiple options at the Skokie Yellow Line station in Skokie, Illinois. When installing wall-mounted bike racks, always install surface-mounted bike racks because some bicycle riders cannot lift their bikes.

See plenty more examples on my Flickr. UPDATE: Check out John Luton’s collection, Bicycle parking 101.

Bad

It’s hard to tell, but this round-tube wave rack is installed too close to the curb at the base of this wall, preventing a bicycle rider from using a U-lock to grab the bike rack, front wheel and frame. Most bike rack types should be installed at least 3 feet from any obstructing object.

The grill rack (typically seen at elementary and middle schools) is the worst bike rack available. Bicycles fall over. The design prevents users from locking their frame and front wheel to the bike rack. The tubes for locking have a very narrow diameter and thickness. This photo shows the odd ways people use the grill rack – thankfully, everyone locked their bicycles correctly, but not according to the bike rack’s design!

A garbage bin is not a good place to lock a bicycle. The bicycle will likely be in the way of pedestrians or people who want to throw away garbage. Also, as you can see in the photo, bicycle riders can only lock the frame to the garbage bin. This particular location is a strip mall in Chicago, Illinois, that does not provide any bike parking for the thousands of customers each day (a small portion of which would like to ride their bicycles).

There might be more examples of bad bike parking than good. See more photos here. UPDATE: Check out John Luton’s collection, Bicycle parking 101.

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