Friday, August 24, 2012

Charles Carmalt of the Mayor's Office Answers Questions About the Walnut Street Bike Lane

We've heard a couple repeated questions about the Walnut Street bike lane coming soon to...wait for it... Walnut Street. So we ran them by Charles Carmalt, the Pedestrian & Bicycle Coordinator at the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU). Here are his answers:

Question: Truly separated bike lane
Why not take a cue from NYC and swap the bike lane and the parking lane, creating a safer bike lane buffered from traffic by a lane of parked cars? This would make the lane safer, and prevent cars from blocking it by stopping or parking in the bike lane.

There will be parking buffered bike lanes in Philadelphia at some time, but probably on wider streets. There can be problems with parking buffered bike lanes – because a motorist’s view of bicyclists is hidden by parked cars, the potential for turning movement crashes is greater. There are methods of mitigating this – removing additional parking to “daylight” the intersection or providing special bicycle signal phases and installing bicycle signals. These types of changes to the roadway would add costs to the project and create delays in implementation. Snow clearance, street cleaning and trash collection become more complex tasks with a parking buffered bike lane. To accommodate public works vehicles, New York City and Washington have provided wider widths for their parking buffered lanes – the combined width of the bike lanes and parking buffer on 15th Street is 11’ compared to 8’ proposed for Walnut Street. 15th Street in Washington is 55’ wide curb to curb; most of New York City’s avenues with protected bike lanes are 70’ wide. Prospect Park West in Brooklyn is 50’ wide. In comparison, Walnut Street is only 44’ wide – the width of 15th Street minus both the bike lane and its buffer. Finally, every time I’ve ridden on the 15th Street bike lane, at some point my progress was blocked by a motor vehicle – a UPS truck, a taxi, a post office vehicle. Getting around a stopped motor vehicle is much more difficult on a parking buffered facility compared to a paint buffered facility.

Question: Right turns
How will right turns work? Will there be bike boxes at the intersections to allow bicyclists to move over to the right lane?

Good question. In Philadelphia, we have adopted a policy of providing a minimum setback of 10’ between the crosswalk and the stop bar at approaches to signalized intersections. This space provides some of the advantages of a bike box, but only if bicyclists use it. Marking this area as a bike box would clarify that the buffer space being provided is available for bikes.

We are working at developing approaches for marking bike boxes or other treatments, especially at locations where two streets with bike lanes intersect, such as Walnut St and 33rd or 34th Streets.


Adam said...

In response to this post (I think all the bike lanes are fantastic by the way) - he mentions "Snow clearance, street cleaning and trash collection become more complex tasks with a parking buffered bike lane.". As a year round bicycle commuter, I can say emphatically that it won't. Why? Because since the bike lanes have arrived on Spruce and Pine street, the city has only plowed the car-travel lanes. In West Philadelphia, along Baltimore, the bike lane is where they *put* the snow that they're plowing.

Stek said...

Personally I'm glad the bike lane is not parking-buffered. I find the NYC buffered lanes very dangerous, because there's too little room for escape maneuvers when pedestrians step unexpectedly off the curb mid-block, wrong-way delivery bikes come at you, and so forth. They also make it impossible to merge across traffic to make a turn from the opposite side of the street.