Archive for May, 2011

As Council went from Plan “A” to “C” they began turning bike lanes into bike routes. They did this because bike routes are seen as cheaper and less intrusive to the motor vehicles on our streets than bike lanes. While (slightly) less paint is required to mark a bike route, bike lanes should not be dismissed so easily. Nor should the city apply them interchangeably. We should be choosing the right markings for the right streets for the right reasons.

To learn more about these treatments, we will consult the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, recently produced by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The guide has information about bike lanes, cycle tracks, intersection treatments, signals, and signs and markings.

What’s a bike lane?
A basic bike lane consists of a white stripe to physically separate motor vehicles and bicycles with painted bike symbols and arrows to signify the purpose of the lane.

Since bike lanes allow cyclists to have their own designated space on the road they mean that slower-moving bikes will not impede the flow of motor vehicle traffic thus debunking one of the opposition’s key myths.  Lanes are recommended for streets with a posted speed limit higher than 25 mph (up to 35 mph). They are appropriate for all types of riders – both experienced and novice.

Below is a before and after of Davis Drive looking North near St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church:

Before: 

After:

Benefits of bike lanes include (summarized from the NACTO design guide):

  • Increased comfort, confidence, and predictability for cyclists, allowing for even novice cyclists to feel comfortable using them
  • Spatial separation between bikes and cars
  • Increased capacities for motor vehicles, as the bikes, in their own space, do not slow cars down
  • Increased awareness of a cyclist’s right to the road

What’s a bike route?

A bike route is also called a shared lane marking. These consist of signs and lane markings which signify that a route is good for bicycles and (when properly designed) where in the lane a bicycle should ride.

Benefits of bike routes include:

  • Increases awareness of a cyclist’s right to the road.
  • Doesn’t require a greater street width as cyclists and vehicles travel in the same lane.

The design guide states that “shared lane markings should not be considered a substitute for bike lanes, cycle tracks, or other separation treatments where these types of facilities are otherwise warranted or space permits. “

Bike routes are usually best applied:

  • Where the speed differential between bicyclist and motorist travel speeds is very low.
  • As a reasonable alternative to a bike lane:
    • Where street width can only accommodate a bicycle lane in one direction. On hills, lanes should be provided in the uphill direction.
    • Along front-in angled parking, where a bike lane is undesirable.
  • To strengthen connections in a bikeway network.
  • To clarify bicyclist movement and positioning in challenging environments.

Bike routes accommodate experienced cyclists, as novice cyclists likely won’t be willing to ride in the same lane as motor vehicles. They are a visual queue for motorists that bicyclists are allowed on the road.  Since bicycles are currently allowed to ride in the street under Texas law, bike routes in Arlington would serve as an education device for motorists, but also as encouragement for bicyclists confident enough to ride in Arlington without a bike lane.

Can we use both?

There will be some instances where bike lanes are more appropriate than bike routes, and vice-versa. It is possible to combine a bike lane in one direction with a bike route in the other, to accommodate for on-street parking or a more narrow road, for example. The original proposed plan specifies that it will work with each street individually to see what treatment is appropriate for it:

In many cases, the most ideal hike and bike improvement scenario will not be achievable because of ROW issues, homeowner issues, and traffic engineering constraints. The City of Arlington should remain open to alternative solutions in these cases and utilize the entire toolbox of hike/bike treatment solutions found in Chapter 8- Design Guidelines. For example, if sidewalks are not immediately feasible due to funding constraints or ROW issues, traffic calming techniques within the roadway ROW may be acceptable ways to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

(p. 7-4)

Regarding removing vehicle parking for a bike lane, the plan states:

Parking should not be removed unless there is a great deal of public support for the bike lanes on that particular roadway, and a full public involvement process with adjacent residents and businesses is undertaken prior to removing parking.

(p. 7-9)

Bike lanes should be planned for streets because the width and speed of the road are appropriate for them. Bike routes should be planned for streets because the width and speed of the road are appropriate for them.  At implementation time the actual design may change as needed, but the plan should be for what is appropriate overall, and bike routes should not be substituted for bike lanes simply because a road “feels” too narrow.  Bike lanes accommodate the most users and therefore, when a road’s speed and geometry allows, should be the first choice.

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This past week the Council Subcommittee (formed to analyze the proposed hike and bike plan) was presented with their third option – Plan C – which actually adds some additional on-street bike routes back in. Only some though.  

While this is an improvement from Plan B, the amount of coverage and connectivity is still drastically less than what is proposed in Plan A and what is in the current 2002 bike plan. Plan C, with its focus on bike routes and not bike lanes, does little to bridge the experience gap between novice cyclists that only feel comfortable riding in parks on trails, and experienced cyclists who already feel comfortable riding in the street with traffic. As the original plan points out:

Bicyclists typically have a wide range of skill levels from expert to novice. These skill levels are commonly designated as Type A, B, and C. Type A bicyclist is an expe­rienced adult who is capable of riding in motorized traffic in a shared road situation. Type B bicyclist has less experience and is most comfortable riding in a separated bike facility such as a bike lane. Type C bi­cyclist is a recreational bicyclist who is most comfortable on a low-volume residential road or off-road greenway (often a child or senior adult). These groups are not al­ways exclusive and are often mixed on a shared-use path. It is critical to ensure that safety and convenience of all users of a transportation system are accommodated in all project planning and development projects. At a minimum, the facilities will be designed for Type B bicyclist use, with the overall goal to meet the needs of Type C bicyclists to the greatest extent possible. In areas where specific needs have been identified (i.e., near schools), the needs of appropriate types of bicyclist will be ac­commodated.”

(Source: Arlington Hike & Bike Plan, Chapter 8: Design Guidelines, 8-4)

Bike routes (which are painted symbols on the street at distant intervals, not stripes) tend to serve already experienced cyclists and mostly function to raise awareness of a cyclists’ right to be on the road – a great thing, but they’re simply not enough to accommodate Arlington moving forward over the next thirty years. To make Arlington more bike friendly, Plan “C” needs to be updated with more bike lanes. The entire idea behind updating the Plan in the first place was to make Arlington more accessible, by more people, through bicycling and walking. Until the Plan reflects that with more bike lanes, Arlington is getting a raw deal.

 

Check out our analysis of all three plans below:

Plan A: 163 miles of on-street facilities ($980,000), 118 miles of off-street trails ($71,700,000)
The original proposed Hike and Bike System Master Plan was developed by city staff and consultants over the course of almost two years with substantial public input. The plan is available for download here.

“The primary goal of this Master Plan is to create an integrated, seamless transportation and recreation framework to facilitate hiking and biking as viable transportation alternatives throughout Arlington. The Plan defines an important connection between public health and the diminishing access to outdoor landscapes and provides action-oriented guidance for the development of an interconnected system of greenways, on-road bicycle facilities, and sidewalks.”

[ from the executive summary of the plan, available here (PDF) ]

The 163 miles of on-street bike facilities in the original plan consists of:

Plan B: 41 miles of on-street facilities ($200,000), 61 miles of off-street trails ($37,650,000)
Plan B was created in response to a vocal minority of opposition and their misinformation campaign. The original Hike & Bike Plan has been scaled back significantly, with input from the City Council subcommittee formed to further study the original plan (Councilmembers Shepard, Bennett, and Wilemon).

The 41 miles of on-street bike facilities is made up of the following different types of facilities:

  • Bike Lanes: 17 miles
  • Bike Routes: 24 miles
  • Other On-street bike facilities: 0 miles

Plan “B” is a drastic step backward from not only Plan A, but also the 2002 bike plan already in place. Implementing Plan B will not produce the stated goals of providing connectivity and safety to a wider range of Arlington residents that choose to walk or ride their bikes.

Plan C: 61 miles of on-street facilities ($230,000), 61 miles of off-street trails ($37,650,000)
At the request of the subcommittee, staff has added back in approximately 20 miles of bike routes to Plan B.

The 61 miles of on-street bike facilities is estimated to be comprised as follows:

  • Bike Lanes: 17 miles
  • Bike Routes: 42 miles
  • Other On-street bike facilities: 2 miles

What you can do

With all the controversy surrounding the hike and bike plan and our recent elections, you may have been hearing many people say that “the mixing of cars and bicycles is unsafe” (especially with drunk drivers on the road) or that parks or even sidewalks are an appropriate place to ride a bicycle.  You may question those notions, as someone who rides on streets.  Or you may share those sentiments, as someone who may not feel comfortable riding on the street.

Well, our roads were made for bikes (learn more about the Good Roads Movement, in which cyclists helped lead the way to having paved roads in the first place) as well as cars.

There are rules of the road that car drivers and bike riders must follow so that we can all safely and comfortably get to where we need to go.  And they’re pretty simple:

  • ride in the same direction of traffic
  • follow traffic laws – that means stopping at lights and stop signs
  • ride to the right, unless:
    • passing another vehicle
    • preparing to turn left
    • avoiding some obstacle in the road
    • the right-most lane is less than 14′ and has no adjacent bike lane, then take the lane
    • the road is too narrow for a cyclist and car to safely ride side-by-side, then take the lane
    • it’s a one-way street with more than 2 lanes (such as the Center/Mesquite couplet), in which case you may ride in the left or right lane
Also, you must:
  • have a brake
  • have a front, white light when riding at night
  • have a rear, red light or reflector when riding at night
  • signal when:
    • turning right: put your left arm up at a 90 degree angle or put your right arm straight out
    • turning left: put your left arm straight out
    • stopping: put your left arm down at a 90 degree angle
  • wear a helmet, if under 18 years old (Arlington specific)
The full bike laws are available at BikeTexas, taken from the Texas Transportation Code, chapters 545 and 551.  Arlington’s regulations are available here.  Bicycle Austin also has a Right to the Road handout that you can print and keep with you for reference or to give away to help educate on sharing the road.  It’s a great resource and we highly recommend it!  Another great resource is BicycleSafe.com which shows 10 potential conflict situations and how you can ride to avoid them.
Each municipality may have its own additional laws concerning bicycles.  In many cities bicycles are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk.  Why?  Because the many driveways and curbcuts can make riding unsafe, as drivers who are turning into or out of such driveways are usually not expecting to encounter a relatively fast-moving bicycle on the sidewalk, so they are more apt to have accidents:
Arlington traffic regulations (PDF) are not explicit about sidewalks, but they do say that “no person shall operate or use a bicycle or motor vehicle…on a trail or path not designated for use by such vehicle,” and we could assume that sidewalks are not designated for use by bicycles.
Now you know the rules.  As a driver you know what to expect when you see a cyclist, and as a cyclist you know what is expected of you when you’re riding in the road.
But let’s say you’re 8 years old.  Or 80.  Or want to ride your bike with someone who is.  Or you’re uncomfortable riding on the road. For those new to cycling or who simply can’t or don’t want to get out on the road with car drivers, on street-bike facilities can give you a higher level of safety and comfort, but still allow you to use your bike for transportation and get where you need to be.  And let’s face it, if you’re 8 or 80, you can’t drive either.
On-street bike facilities can provide the flexibility and safety needed to allow everyone, from 8-to-80, to ride their bicycle to their destination, so they can work, go to school, and spend money in our great city.
We’ll give more info on the benefits and types of on-street bike facilities soon, but in the meantime, our friends at Bike Friendly Oak Cliff have a great FAQ section on bike lanes.

The mission of the world wide Ride of Silence is to honor bicyclists killed by motorists, promote sharing the road, and provide awareness of bicycling safety. Riders ride in complete silence for the entire ride. The Ride of Silence started in Dallas in 2003 to honor a fallen cyclist and has since grown to be a worldwide memorial event. Learn more about the ride.

The ride takes place this Wednesday, May 18, departing at 7pm after a brief ceremony. There are multiple rides happening in the metroplex, including Dallas and Fort Worth. Join in to honor fallen cyclists and promote sharing the road.

If you couldn’t make Monday’s subcommittee meeting, you may have read in the Star-Telegram article: “Arlington’s latest plan drastically cuts proposed on-street bike lanes“.

This is no joke. The Plan presented by the Council Subcommittee is such a cutback from the Plan recommended by P&Z in February, it’s actually a regression from the 2002 bike route plan Council asked staff and the consultant to update. So “yes,” the City’s political leadership has spent $250,000 and 1.5 years of staff time, and positive citizen participation to take Arlington’s hiking & biking infrastructure backwards.  

Don’t believe it?

 This plan is “Plan A” as recommended by P&Z in February (Source).

Plan AThe plan revealed on Monday, “Plan B,” (Source) was cut back by staff at the request of the council subcommittee that was formed to study Plan A.Plan B

Below is a comparison of the two plans (Source):

  Plan A Plan B change
Bike Lanes 108 17 -84%
On-street Bike Routes 33 24 -27%
Other On-street Bike Facilities 22 0 -100%
Off-street Trails 118 61 -48%
Total Bike System 282 102 -63%
Estimated Cost for On-street Bike Facilities $1,000,000 $200,000 -80%
Estimated Cost for Off-street Trails $71,700,000 $37,600,000 -48%
Total Estimated Cost for Bike System $72,700,000 $37,800,000 -48%

Why are these changes being proposed?

Council has felt pressure from the plan’s naysayers to reach a compromise.  Those who oppose Plan “A” have spent a lot of time spreading myths and misinformation about the Plan, but very little time researching their own positions. This new Plan “B” is a false compromise, an average between Plan “A” and basically nothing. This false compromise is apparently a way to appease a vocal opposition, which has treated both supporters and the City Council very poorly during this debate.

As one Bike Friendly Arlington supporter recently wrote in an e-mail to council:

Reducing the Bike & Hike Plan to only $200,000 in on-street bike lanes to get the opposition to calm down is like rewarding a child throwing a tantrum. By appeasing the disrespectful, threatening citizens of Arlington instead of the friendly, helpful citizens of Arlington, you will only make your jobs and the development of Arlington more difficult.”

“I’ve witnessed they way you’ve been treated during public forums, and several of us have been treated the same way. We’ve been yelled at by the ornery opposition, we have been told that we are worthless, and we have been threatened. Many of our yard signs have been run over by vehicles and we’re becoming more afraid that the opposition won’t stop there. Once they are satisfied with how they’ve held Arlington back using brute force and bad behavior, they will move on to a new issue which they will treat with the same distaste and intolerance.” (emphasis ours)

What can you do?

  • Vote this Saturday, but also Write the subcommittee and CC: the rest of the Council.  Tell them how you feel about the two plans. Let them know that Plan “B” is a false compromise and a step backward. Pacifying the opposition with a scaled back plan is not the answer to Arlington’s walking and bicycling issues.  To e-mail, just copy and paste:
TO: robert.shepard@arlingtontx.gov; jimmy.bennett@arlingtontx.gov; kathryn.wilemon@arlingtontx.gov
CC: robert.cluck@arlingtontx.gov; mel.leblanc@arlingtontx.gov; sheri.capehart@arlingtontx.gov; lana.wolff@arlingtontx.gov; robert.rivera@arlingtontx.gov; gene.patrick@arlingtontx.gov
  • Come to the upcoming meetings:
    • Tuesday, May 17, 3:00pm: Subcommittee meeting, with more potential cuts
    • Tuesday, May 24, afternoon: Subcommittee presents their revised plan to council for review
    • Tuesday, June 14, 6:30pm: Tentative date of public hearing and city council vote
  • Learn more about both Plan A and Plan B:

City elections May 14, 2011!

Election Day is May 14th, but early voting is going on now (every day!) and lasts till Tuesday, May 10th. See our previous post on early voting information, and join us to bike the vote!

About the Candidates

While we are not going to tell you who to vote for or endorse specific candidates, we will provide a summary of what they have said about the proposed hike and bike plan, including this (poorly shot, apologies) video of them responding to a question about it at the Young Men for Arlington Candidates Panel on April 5.

Mayor

District 8 (at-large)
District 3
District 4
District 5:

More Info

The City’s secretary has ballot and finance information here. You can learn about all the candidates through the Chamber of Commerce’s website: VoteforArlington.com.  The League of Women Voters has a good candidate handout (PDF).

And here are some news articles that can inform you on the positions of various candidates and what they’ve said at public forums:

Star Telegram: Citywide article 1, Citywide article 2, and Mayor.

Arlington Citizen Journal: District 3, District 4, District 5, and District 8

The Shorthorn: District 5 article 1 and, District 5 article 2

What’s my district?

Everyone has a specific district they live in and some of those districts’ council positions are up for a vote this year: Districts 3, 5, and 4.  There are also council members that represent the city as a whole. The “at-large” positions to vote on this election are The Mayor and District 8. Here is a district map. The online version, including the incumbents can be found on the city’s webpage here.





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