Friday, March 4, 2011

How bikes and legal parking can co-exist

Alex: Priority bike lanes.
Watson: What is the solution to the conflict between parking regulations and traditional bike lane rules?

As I discussed below, there are long stretches of Newton streets on which we want to have bike accommodations where there isn't a lot of parking, but parking is legal and the street is not wide enough for travel lanes, bike lanes, and parking in the shoulder. Because parking is legal, bike lanes are not permissible. (Note, some of these same roads have stretches where parking is legal and regularly used (at least during the day). Those stretches are a different case.) And, striped shoulders -- legal for parking and separate space for bikers where no one actually parks -- are not sufficient accommodations to attract new riders to the streets.

In sum, we've got shoulders that are currently available for biking and for parking, but without real demand for the parking and no way to make it more inviting to ride in them.

The answer to the problem is some sort of hybrid treatment of the shoulder that designates it's a place for bikes to ride, but also acceptable for parking. Putting a sharrow in the shoulder isn't a good idea, because sharrows designate -- as the name suggests -- a shared space for moving cars and moving bicycles. We don't want to create an invitation for cars to drive in the shoulder.

But, priority bike lanes might work. Priority bike lanes are, essentially, bike lanes with the bike lane stencil, but using dashed lines rather than solid lines to demarcate the lane. Priority bike lanes indicate to bicyclists and motorists where bikes are expected to travel and where motorists are supposed to yield to bicyclists. They are typically used where there is no other facility for bikes and bicyclists need to ride in the travel lane. They set out a space for bikes that cars may also use.

For the problem of the regulatory conflict on our street's shoulders, they may be perfect. Because they define a shared space, there is no need to undo parking regulations to install them. The combination of the striped line and the stencil should provide motorist with notice to expect bikes and to be careful. The stencil will invite the less advanced rider. And the dashed line will allow the accommodation to co-exist with the seldom used right to park.

There may be some design niceties about whether it might be good to bring a priority bike lane a little into the travel lane, But, otherwise, that's it: a bike lane with a dashed line rather than a solid line. The answer to the regulatory conflict that prevents us from taking full advantage of the space in the shoulders.


dr2chase said...

Just a nit, and I am being slightly "Effective" here, but "where bikes are expected to travel" rubs me a little the wrong way.

And I also don't think this is anywhere near the final answer -- it might double our wimpy ride share, which would get us all the way to inadequate. (The rest of the country is mostly pathetic, whereas we have made it all the way to wimpy.)

Have you seen this report?
"4 types of transportation cyclists in Portland". We're not going to get much traction in that big 60% blob without routes that feel really safe.

Sean Roche said...

There are two initial choices to be made in Newton. Demand "real" bike lanes, which means fighting to get rid of parking. Look for a partial solution that can be done without taking on the parking regulation.

The advantage of the "real" bike lanes is just as you state. It will have a more significant impact on ridership, but only if and after you get the parking change.

The advantage of a partial solution is that it can be done administratively. And, it should attract meaningful numbers of new riders.

Moreover, and this is the key, a partial solution now will create a greater constituency for the full solution down the road, and more clearly make the case for the priority of bikes over the occasional parked car.

Phillips said...

Great locations for priority bike lanes: Langley between, Centre and Beacon, and Beacon, between Centre and Langley. Traffic already moves slowly through those stretches.

Also, Walnut St. in Newtonville commercial district.; Lincoln St. in Newton Highlands; maybe even Washington St. in West Newton commercial district.