Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dreaming of a Bicycle Friendly Spruce and Pine

The implementation of an east west bicycle route through Center City is a top priority of the Bicycle Coalition. But the lack of political will to remove street parking and/or travel lanes on city streets has been and remains a large hurdle that only strong public support can overcome.

The Pine and Spruce street pair have always stood out as potential candidates. They are mostly residential and small business so truck and bus traffic is lighter than on parallel streets. And they are simply great urban streets, architect Bob Thomas describes Spruce St in Center City as the 18th and 19th Century history of Philadelphia with colonial era homes in the east and the elegant brownstones in the west.

View Larger Map

Two quick and dirty concepts of Pine St involve removing one of the two travel lanes and replacing them with bike lanes:

The first photo is a 6' bike lane with two feet added to the sidewalk and one foot added to the remaining lane. The second is a physically separated bike lane with a three foot buffer between the bike lane and the inside parking lane much like 9th Avenue and Grand St in Manhattan.

There are other options of course that wouldn't involve lane removal, examples are signage, traffic calming and sharrows. Any or all these elements could be applied together to create a bicycle boulevard.

We welcome your thoughts on how to make Spruce and Pine bicycle friendly streets.


Anonymous said...

Please, please don't advocate putting a bike lane inside of parking. This will make the intersections much more dangerous as cross-traffic will have a hard time seeing bicycles approaching the intersections and bicyclists will have a hard time seeing the cross traffic.

Pine and Spruce are already pleasant bicycling streets. Why do something to make them more dangerous?

John Boyle said...

To mitigate the right hook problem
New York City uses "mixing zones" and bicycle traffic signals at intersections.

Mixing zones resemble mini right turn lanes where turning cars yield to and then merge with bicycle traffic.

Anonymous said...

I think the first step would be repaving the streets. Both streets are full of potholes, which deters me from riding on them in the first place!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!!! I think that any ideas to improve bicycling in center city should be considered and applauded. I agree, however, that a bike lane inside of a parking lane would be potentially hazardous due to (likely oblivious) pedestrians and intersections. Therefore, I would vote for the first option. Yay bicycle coalition and Bob Thomas!

Dr. Phila said...

Visibility problem at intersections? Why not eliminate one parking spot at the intersection and replace it with a median/ped island. Having a separated lane is important for the perceived (and realized) safety benefit to novice level cyclists. These are the ones that would be encouraged to bike more with these proposed improvements. In a city that is known for it's angry drivers, separated lanes are almost a requirements for beginners and even intermediate riders. Hell, I've been riding for well over a decade and I'm consistently freaked out by Philly drivers. And yes, a little asphalt would do wonders to improve everyones ride

Mike Dee said...

Please remove that lane inside the parking.

It will be hard enough to convert one travel lane into a bike lane, why go after some crazy scheme such as an interior lane?

Taggart said...

Interior lanes are not crazy ideas; they are just different, and require changing behavior. Sharing a wide open space with a 2000+ lb object made of metal that can easi;ly accelerate up 20-30 miles per hour (mush faster than I can on my bike) is as crazy, if not crazier. To stay upto date on the implementation of seperated bike lanes, everyone should check out pretty often, as they do a great job of chronicling NYC's growth of physically seperated Bike lanes, and all the progressive (some in-house, some euro insprired) ideas the NYCDOT is trying. There are many streets in Philly where a physically seperated lane is a fabulous idea: 38th street, baltimore, lancaster, spring garden, etc. Pine should probably start with a bike lane, but once again, these ideas are only crazy to some people because they have never had the pleasure of biking in a physically seperated lane.

Anonymous said...

Taggart - Copenhagen tried these physically separated bike lanes and found they significantly increased accidents. Both with people crossing the path after getting out of busses, cars and at intersections.

Most of those accidents with those 2000+ objects you fear happen with turning and crossing vehicles at intersections. Getting hit from behind or side swiped is a very rare accident in urban areas. Anything that makes you less obvious at the intersection puts you at more risk.

I don't think dropping the separation and eliminating parking near the intersection to have a merge zone near the intersection is going to work. For one thing, the blocks are too short so you'd just have to eliminate all parking except for a few feet at the beginning of each block. And even if you do have this merge area near the intersection, bicycles are still going to be invisible on the other side of the parked cars. Suddenly they shoot out into visibility near the intersection. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

Eliminating a lane and putting the bike lane to the right, away from parking is better, but still will encourage right hooks.

An additional light phases is just going to make the intersection slower and tempt more bicyclists to run the lights. That would probably increase the intersection accidents.

Spruce and Pine are pretty slow streets and already pleasant to ride on. I point these streets out to outsiders as to why Philadelphia is a relatively bike friendly city already.

Anonymous said...

There should be no more bike lanes until something is done to stop the dangerous and reckless habits of bicyclists who constantly violate traffic laws and put others safety at risk.

Traffic lights apply to bikes, and so do stop signs. Furthermore, it's illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk. Let focus on safety first!

Taggart said...

charmed quark,

I'm not sure about Copenhagen's experience, but when I was in Vienna, everyone seemed to love them and their use was well supported and understood. We should pay attention to how these lanes play out in New York and Portland, for an idea of how well they can go over in US cities.

To battle the "shooting out of bicycles into visibility", you elminate one parking spot from the start of the block and two from the end. Instead of cars parking there, you have highly visible dividers like the photo suggests. As the block eneds, you don't provide any more of a left-turn-way than is provided now, but you have had the bicyclists running along side you for over 20+ feet and if they don't see you or you see them in this time, then both people are driving way too fast and irresponsibly.

I can't really agree that these streets are bicycle friendly. Perhaps to the experienced biker they are, but like someone else said, they are badly covered in pot holes. A single hit/slip into a pothole, causing a wobble or fall, and then a car in either of TWO lanes can hit you. In my opinion two lane roads allow for much faster driving/racing of cars then single lane roads. If you want to have a calmative effect on traffic, the right thig to do would be reduce the number of lanes to one and add a bike lane. (In my experience, one lane roads seems lsower and safer than two. South street seems better after it drops to one lane, Bainbridge has a very nice rhythm with one lane). I think I still prefer the open lane on the right, but these seperated lanes might be what it takes to get more people into biking.

What do you think of these options on the larger streets I mentioned?

We won't obviously ever agree completely, as even the experts don't:

Right hooks are always going to happen when cars aren't used to driving with bicycles. Whther it's a two lane road with no bike lane, or a one lane road with a bike lane, right hooks seem to depend more on the driver's behavior than anything. I don't know how adding a bike lane will change that.

Anyway, be safe.

Anonymous said...

Bicycle safety starts with bicyclists themselves. That means bicyclists must abide by all rules of the road including traffic control devices such as stopping (foot on the pavement) at all red traffic signals, stop signs and not racing down hills out of control unable to stop like on North Interstate. Bicyclists are killing themselves. The current status quo is one of politicians only listening to the babble of bicyclists and looking the other way ignoring the facts that bicyclists routinely and intentionally disregard traffic laws. The percentage of bicyclist violations per trip/usage is greatly higher than for motorists.

For improved bicycling safety, what is needed instead of more bicycle infrastructure is a much higher level of strict and rigorous law enforcement targeted specifically at bicyclists who choose to disrespect or ignore any and all traffic laws. Additionally, to change the bicyclist mindset from one of freeloading irresponsibility to one of accepting accountability, sharing the road also must include sharing the financial responsibility. That includes not only a bicycle tax and/or registration and license fee directly paid for by bicyclists, but also bicyclists purchasing their own headlights (no more freebees), using them or be the recipient of a traffic citation.

Anonymous said...

Bikes are vehicles under the law and need to be operated as such. I'm not automatically opposed to bike lanes, but the notion that we should put bikes in a separated space that will effectively be part of the sidewalk is wrong and dangerous.

As others have pointed out, a very large fraction of bicycle crashes with cars take place AT INTERSECTIONS. Separated bike lanes or sidepaths make this serious problem much worse while providing only minor safety benefits.

I like Spruce and Pine fine as is, although both streets definitely need repaving. I'm willing to support one lane plus a normal bike plane. But these separated lanes are a terrible idea.

Dr. Phila said...

I don't think people here are really getting the point. Safety is the most important factor in addressing how to get more people to cycle. Giving cyclists their own space where they have assurance to wobble without getting crushed by a garbage truck is the path to getting more cyclists on the road. The more cyclists are on the road the safer it will be for all cyclists.

Anonymous said...

neutered poodle - I think what you meant to say is "Giving the APPEARANCE of safety is the most important factor in addressing how to get more people to cycle."

Safety is what we were talking about. Separated side paths, which is what the lane to the left of the parked cars is, have the worst safety record of any approach, much worst than no facility at all. Surely there are better ways to get more cyclist on the road than by fooling them into thinking they are safer when they are actually less safe.

Anyway, the only advantage I can figure for the separated bike lane is that cars can't park on it, although they might block it at the "merge" end of things. Otherwise, it is a horrible idea.


Andrew J. Besold said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew J. Besold said...

Wow! What a discussion.

Separated, protected bike lanes (cycletracks) can be made very safe with proper engineering. New York City is proving this. However I don't know if such an application is required on Spruce and Pine. The volume of traffic and width of the streets do not seem to warrant them. A regular bike lane should suffice. Chestnut and Walnut are more appropriate locations for protected bike lanes due to volume and speed of traffic along with the width of the streets.

And yes, cyclists need to grow up; follow traffic laws, use lights at night and ride under control.

"Ride like a Pro" I like to say, just as you would expect of drivers.

Christopher Wink said...

I have to say I also don't much want to see designated bike lanes.. for now. I don't believe there's enough traffic and I've never had much trouble biking there.

Speaking of bike lanes, I was going to e-mail this over your way to see if you care, but I don't see a contact page here on this blog.

I saw the streets department is adding a bike lane on Cheltenham Ave. See a photo of it near the intersection with Bustleton in Frankford.

Anonymous said...

While the idea of separated bike lanes is intriguing, I think it more appropriate on more heavily trafficked streets some of which have been mentioned (38th, Baltimore, etc.)
that said, since it has been mentioned, rather than getting all self-righteous about bikes and the rules of the road, how about noticing that at least two states (I believe) are now experimenting with allowing bikes to treat stops as yields. A much more reasonable demand than stopping at every light and stop sign.

Unknown said...

why are so many bicyclists opposed to accommodations for bicycles. Is it because they are macho cyclists aware of their own needs but not of other types of cyclists? I understand the argument for "rightful place on road" but those roads were designed - and continue to be - purely for motorist benefits. I understand some of the technical concerns about each of the options, but can't cyclists rally around doing something? I do NOT think either Pine nor Spruce in their current form are safe for cyclists. You have to have 200 percent viligence not to be car doored. I know several people who would ride if either of the options mentioned here were implemented. Stop quibbling and get behind doing something. Philly's current state of surface transportion only discourages me from cycling for commuting, day to day errands.

Matt said...

I just commented in favor of the separate lanes over at the "Coming Soon, Bike Lanes for Spruce and Pine" post. I was very surprised to see the negative comments in this thread. To look to New York or European cities as a model, it is not avid or fitness based cyclists that make the difference. What makes a truly successful bike city is when the average civilian uses a bicycle for average activities like shopping or going to work. I am a long time avid cyclist and it has taken me a period of adjustment to learn to ride very differently when I am going to the store than when I am on a training ride. I think years of aggression of city drivers has promoted this aggressive approach from city cyclists. I think we will have to embrace things like separate bike lanes, slower speeds, and adherence to traffic laws if we want to turn a corner as a city of cyclists. That outlaw approach made a skewed sense when the city refused to acknowledge the needs of cyclist or to enforce laws against motorists who infringed upon the rights of cyclists. In the positive future I'd like to see, these habits of accommodation will be traded off for a safe and cycle friendly infrastructure. Thank you to everyone here for their efforts to this end.