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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Bike Lanes (painted stripe on side of road lane, with symbol and signs): 108 miles
- Bike Routes (painted symbol on road lane at distant intervals, with signs): 33 miles
- Other On-street Bike facilities (e.g., bike boulevards): 22 miles
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
- Write council and tell them to “Mind the Gap” that exists for riders of different ability. Tell them about the Plan that YOU want.
- Attend the council worksession on Tuesday, May 24, at 3:00 pm where you can hear about the proposed plans and listen to council’s reaction
- Learn more about all three plans:
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
- 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)
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.
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).
The 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.
Below is a comparison of the two plans (Source):
|Plan A||Plan B||change|
|On-street Bike Routes||33||24||-27%|
|Other On-street Bike Facilities||22||0||-100%|
|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:||email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com|
|CC:||firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com|
- 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:
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.
- watch answers from all candidates
- Robert Cluck: feels the plan needs more analysis. Mentions that parks are an appropriate place to ride a bike. Noncommittal.
- Carl Scrivner: does not support on-street bike lanes. Against.
- watch answers from all candidates
- Gene Patrick: feels that Thoroughfare Development Plan should not be coupled with hike and bike plan. Noncommittal.
- Chris Dobson: supports hike and bike plan. In Support.
- watch answers from two candidates
- Robert Rivera: looking forward to analyzing plan more, and does have some questions about plan. Noncommittal (in our view, but also reportedly against current form)
- Zack Maxwell: adamantly against road diets and the proposed hike and bike plan “in its current form.” Has many facts wrong, claiming that 36 streets are slated for road diets in the plan, when in fact only 14 street segments have proposed road diets. Against.
- Marvin Sutton: could support bike lanes. In support, but with limited evidence.
- watch answers from all candidates
- Kathryn Wilemon: acknowledges that “alternative modes of transportation will probably be used in the future” and that “planning for the future is a top priority.” A member of the council subcommittee that is studying the plan further, she notes that there is room for compromise for the plan. Noncommittal.
- Kelly Canon: outright against the proposed thoroughfare plan. Has many of the facts wrong, claiming that over 200 miles of streets in Arlington will lose travel lanes for cars, when in fact only 28 miles of lane reductions are proposed in the plan. Believes “vehicles and bicycles do not mix on one road.” Against.
- watch answers from all candidates
- Lana Wolff: says staff put a lot in the plan and that it is up to the Council to dissect the plan and come up with a reasonable plan. Added that if a neighborhood wants a bike lane they should go through the same process for a neighborhood that wants a speed bump. Noncommittal.
- Terry Meza: says she can support a plan around UTA and that connects students to downtown. Sees need in parks. Against plan in current form.
- Christopher McCain: has some concerns, but supports the plan. In Support.
- Julie M. Douglas: feels the hike and bike plan is a waste of money, that very few people will use the proposed facilities, and that on-street bike lanes are “an accident waiting to happen.” Against.
- Chris Hightower: feels that a bike plan that centers around downtown and UTA and builds outward from there will be more effective than a spread out, not-fully-connected system. Against plan in current form.
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:
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.