Monday, August 23, 2010

TWLTLs have failed on Needham Street, make room for bikes

Most of the mile of Needham Street is three-lanes: two lanes in each direction sandwiching what is called a two-way left-turn lane or TWLTL. Here's the theory behind a TWLTL. A driver wanting to turn left into one of the abundant driveways along Needham Street pulls into the center lane and waits for a gap in traffic that's going in the opposite direction. Traffic in the same direction can proceed. The turning car doesn't block traffic. And, the turning driver can wait without anxiety until a safe gap for turning appears.

It's a similar theory for a driver making a left turn into traffic. Once the driver has a safe gap in the traffic she's crossing, she can turn into the center lane. From there, she can wait for a gap in the traffic she's joining. The left turn is broken into two elements that don't require simultaneous gaps in both directions.

Great in theory. But, after years of observation on Needham Street, definitely not working in practice. So, the TWLTL is a waste of real estate, real estate that could be put to much better use for bike lanes. No, not bike lanes in the center of the street. Re-stripe to put the travel lanes together and put nice big bike lanes along the curbs.


Anonymous said...

Just because people don't use them properly all the time, it doesn't mean that they are not useful. If you have really spent any time observing, it would be pretty obvious to you that the traffic backups caused by the New England Mobile Book Fair traffic alone would make this idea complete idiocy. This does not even include the clusterf@$k it would cause at the TJ Maxx/Marshalls.

Did you count the number of bikes travelling on the road? I would say the average is less than 1 per day during my travels up and down Needham St in the last 10+ years.

Sean Roche said...

Want to solve the problem at NEMBF? Take advantage of the light, close the Needham Street entrance, and move the entrance to Columbia Ave. (What to do with the Needham Street frontage? Put in a nice coffee shop, a perfect complement to a book store!)

One bike per day? My wife works in the building just to the west of the McDonald's. There are at least a dozen people who ride to work every day. Jeesh, no wonder drivers keep hitting cyclists. They don't see them.

More importantly, the point of bike lanes isn't just to accommodate existing riders. After all, they manage to bike on the street without accommodation. The point is to attract new riders who won't ride on Needham Street without bike lanes.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point on how to help NEMBF traffic.

However, you would need to eliminate that turn lane in order to have room for bike lanes. Or are we now widening the road at this point or end the bike lanes through the intersection?

It also does nothing to address TJ/Marshalls. It's bad enough now that there are pedestrians crossing with alarming regularity between the 2 shopping plazas without making use of the crosswalk nearby. Get rid of the TWLTLs and something bad is going to happen.

I don't drive down during commuting time so maybe that is when these masses of bikers are going through, but the rest of the time I see nada.

And I do keep an eye out for bikers. I have a good understanding of physics and the last thing I would want to do is hit one.

Nice try though.

Love the rain the last few days and the pleasant reductions in bikers it has brought.

Sean Roche said...

At the signalized intersection, where there is a need for a turning lane, you wouldn't keep a separated bike lane. The bike lane would merge with the through-traffic lane. Standard design. Done all the time.

I doubt bike lanes would do anything to improve or worsen the pedestrian situation between TJ Maxx and Marshall's Plaza. If there's demand, there needs to be a crosswalk, at least.

Anonymous said...

There is a crosswalk Sean, just not where they want to cross. Gee, I think you would have noticed that during your "years of observation"

Just keep making it up as you go along. Maybe nobody will notice. If they do, you can just ignore the post and move on to some other bullsh!t entry.

Sean Roche said...

Know all about the crosswalk. In fact, I've submitted a request to Mass Highway to put the pedestrian crossing sign back up.

But, as people are crossing from TJMaxx to Marshall's, there needs to be a crosswalk there. Maybe it means "moving" the existing crosswalk down. I doubt that would work as people will cross from Starbucks/Pizzapalooza/Splash at the existing crosswalk, even if the existing crosswalk is removed. So, the answer is, as I wrote above, add a crosswalk.

Steve R said...

Those who walk on Needham St. have to survive at the margins, walking on intermittent sidewalks covered in trash and gravel, pausing at frequent curb-cuts, crossing parking lots, taking care to observe traffic moving in myriad directions, and making out-of-the-way loops and u-turns to cross Needham St. at the infrequently marked (and fading) crosswalks.

And then, as if those on foot don't suffer enough indignity and danger, they are ridiculed for attempting to shorten a route.

Nice. I can see why anonymice don't want to use their names.

But god forbid anyone suggest a street be closed to car traffic, forcing drivers to make a few turns and go a few hundred yards and 30 seconds out of their way.

The hostility of many drivers to bikers and pedestrians has often puzzled me: why by hostile to the more vulnerable?

Anonymous said...

c'mon, the idea of getting rid of those turning lanes with the self serving purpose of putting in bike lanes is absurd. Fix the street first, so you don't need the lanes, then decide what you're going to do with the space. If you can't fix the street, don't make it worse so you can get what you want. Stating you have years of observation proves nothing and is just plain arrogant. Those lanes provide space to avoid an accident. What happens when a driver swerves into the bike lane to avoid a car that is invading its lane? I'm a proponent of cycling, but you've got to admit that some of the hostility comes from experience of receiving it. Sean and some of his fellow cyclists seem to think they have halos over their heads. Why no discussion of the bicyclists that refused to listen to a police officer trying to control traffic? Do you think drivers would get away with that type of behavior?

Anonymous said...

You must mean this:

The Cambridge cyclists were or derly, Pina later noted in a police report, but when they arrived at the intersection, several cyclists stopped and held up traffic, allowing other cyclists to pass through a red light. Drivers were blaring their horns and yelling at the cyclists to move, and the cyclists were yelling back at the drivers, Pina wrote.
That’s when things started to go wrong. Pina said he saw the potential for a vehicle to hit a cyclist. He walked into the street and started ordering the cyclists to stop, but they just swerved around him, he said.