Do conventional road designs put Americans who walk or bike at risk? Rep. Larsen requests Federal study

Rep. Rick Larsen. Image from WA Bikes

Rep. Rick Larsen. Image from WA Bikes

US Representative Rick Larsen has teamed up with two other members of the US House to look into whether American conventional road engineering standards are putting people who bike and walk at disproportionate risk (spoiler: Yes).

Specifically, Larsen (WA-2, much of western Snohomish and Skagit Counties as well as Island and San Juan County), Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting a report on how many engineering encourage speeding:

Furthermore, we are concerned that conventional engineering practices have encouraged engineers to design roads at 5-15 miles per hour faster than the posted speed for the street. This typically means roads are designed and built with wider, straighter lanes and have fewer objects near the edges, more turn lanes, and wider turning radii at intersections. While these practices improve driving safety, a suspected unintended consequence is that drivers travel faster when they feel safer. Greater speeds can increase the frequency and severity of crashes with pedestrians and cyclists who are moving at much slower speeds and have much less protection than a motorized vehicle affords.

The requested study should “investigate the trends and causes of these roadway fatalities and the challenges associated with improving pedestrian and cyclist safety. In particular, we are interested in information about the relationship between vehicle speed and roadway fatalities, and how roadway design speeds and other common practices may exacerbate this problem,” according to the letter. Continue reading

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If Holman Road is a ‘complete street,’ then that term has lost all meaning

SDOT today hailed Holman Road as a "complete street"

SDOT today hailed Holman Road as a “complete street.” Image from SDOT.

I received a troubling press release today from SDOT. In announcing the completion of the 1.4-mile, $3.8 million Holman Road repaving project, the department and Director Scott Kubly repeatedly refer to the street as a “complete street.”

If Holman Road is a complete street, then that term means nothing.

Holman Road is a busy, mean, wide, fast and uncomfortable street the slices off Crown Hill from the rest of the city. It may be the worst street in Northwest Seattle, a four-to-five-lane car sewer cutting a diagonal across the neighborhood street grid and demolishing all walkability and bikeability in the area.

When the city decided against utilizing this repaving project as a chance to complete a safe streets redesign or a chance to revolutionize biking in Crown Hill and Northwest Seattle by installing bike lanes, they lost the right to call this a “complete street.”

Holman was and still is all about moving cars quickly at any expense, including safety of people walking and biking. Building two new pedestrian refuge islands in the middle of a terrifying highway-style road in no way makes this a complete street. That’s like rebuilding a trench full of crocodiles in the middle of a neighborhood, but hanging a few rickety rope-and-plank bridges across it and calling it a success for walking safety. Continue reading

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Seattle makes list of top ten best new bikes lanes. Twice. Again.

Screenshot from the Green Lane Project. Click to read the whole list.

Screenshot from the Green Lane Project. Click to read the whole list.

Seattle’s batting average for national bike lane lists leads the league.

Last year, Seattle made the Green Lane Project’s list of the top ten protected bike lanes for 2013 two times: Linden Ave was 5th and Cherry Street was 9th (more for its awesome origin story rather than actual quality).

Well, the city did even better in 2014. Once again, Seattle made the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project’s top ten list two times, and this time the city placed a bit higher. The 2nd Ave bike lane clocked in at number 2 and the Broadway Bikeway came in at number 6.

Of course, before we go all out on the self congratulations, the 2nd Ave bike lane has not been perfect. Aside from the fact that there are essentially no connections to this new bike lane from any neighborhood outside downtown, there were also issues with confusing signage and the design near parking garage entrances. One person was struck and injured near an entrance between Pike and Union.

To the city’s credit, they responded quickly to both issues. When the first week of use showed high rates of people driving turning across the bike lane at intersections, SDOT changed the signals and signage to make it more clear when people need to wait before turning. Within hours of the collision at the Union Street garage entrance, SDOT pushed parked cars back from the garage entrance to improve sight lines and make it easier for people turning into the garage to see people on bikes.

If I were to congratulate the city on any aspect of these bike lanes (other than the political will to make them happen), it would definitely be the city’s efforts to observe people’s behavior and make changes to get better and safer outcomes. If the city continues to learn, listen to feedback and improve their bike lane designs, Seattle will certainly continue to make these lists for years to come. But more importantly, our city will be a safer and more comfortable place to get around.

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Bike Jobs: Development Director at Bike Works + 2 at Cascade

Did you know that the bicycle industry in Europe has created 650,000 jobs? That’s more than the continent’s mining and quarrying industry, and more than the number of people employed by the Big 3 US auto makers combined.

Well, join in the jobs bonanza that is bicycling! Below are a few bike job listings floating around Seattle recently (if you know of any others, please let us know in the comments).

Development Director at Bike Works

Liz Nixon looking totally cool before delivering veggies.

Liz Nixon looking totally cool before delivering veggies.

Want to be the force behind funding Seattle’s biggest little bike non-profit? Well, Liz Nixon is stepping down after doing an excellent job helping Bike Works grow in recent years — far beyond the little yellow house on S Ferdinand Street in Columbia City.

So Bike Works needs a superstar fundraiser to join the team. Apply by January 16. Details:

Position Summary: The Development Director, in partnership with the Executive Director and Board of Directors, is responsible for meeting or exceeding the organization’s annual fundraising goals. This position provides direction and establishes priorities for a variety of areas within development including the annual campaign, major gifts, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, special events, and agency marketing and communications. The Development Director is also key member of Bike Works Leadership Team providing direction around strategic development and organizational culture.

Classification: Full Time Exempt, plus benefits

Continue reading

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Watch: ‘Bike Snohomish County: It’s Here And Away’

With some fantastic trails, including the recently extended Centennial Trail, Snohomish County has teamed up with Washington Bikes to market itself as a bicycling destination.

Though built-up neighborhoods and commercial districts in the county have a lot of work to do to become safe and comfortable places for people on bikes, the recreational opportunities are definitely stellar.

This is also why the county, region and state should work together to rebuild and improve the Whitehorse Trail, which was destroyed along with many homes and lives in the Oso Landslide.

The video below it the latest manifestation of the county’s bike marketing effort. What do you think?

Here and Away from Transect Films on Vimeo.

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Dexter will be closed overnight this week, will reopen with better bike lanes

Image from SDOT

Image from SDOT

How shared turn lanes will work. Image from SDOT

How shared turn lanes will work. Image from SDOT

Dexter Ave will be closed overnight Monday and Tuesday between Denny and Mercer so crews can repaint the street with a new complete streets design that includes wide parking-protected bike lanes and a center turn lane.

Construction work is not totally finished on the street, though. While work is wrapping up near Harrison, it is ongoing near Republican. And, of course, Mercer construction changes are still in place.

The new street design, which was designed by SDOT but paid for by WSDOT as part of the deep bore tunnel project, will also be the city’s first experiment in using a NACTO-approved low-budget protected bike lane design that involves shared bus stops and right turn lanes. Buses will also still pull to the curb instead of bus islands like were installed on the north section of Dexter.

The big question will be whether shared bus stops and turn lanes meet the “all ages and abilities” standard pushed by safe streets groups. And, of course, we will be watching closely to see if the left turn conflicts are solved by addition of the wider bike lanes and the new center turn lane. People making quick left turns were how Mike Wang was killed and how Brandon Blake was seriously injured on Dexter in recent years.

More details on the overnight closures, from WSDOT: Continue reading

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Washington Bikes helps add road safety measure to Federal budget

Image from the League

Image from the League

Image of Senator Patty Murray from WA Bikes

Image of Senator Patty Murray from WA Bikes

Washington Bikes, the statewide bike advocacy organization, has helped add a measure in the Federal budget to improve road safety across the nation. Working with Washington Senator Patty Murray, the League of American Bicyclists and WA Bikes worked to make sure the safety of non-motorized travelers is considered by USDOT and state transportation departments.

It’s not often WA Bikes has a hand in influencing national policy, so this is pretty exciting for the Pioneer Square-based non-profit.

In essence, the budget tells USDOT to develop a “non-motorized safety performance measure” by next autumn. States will also need to “set a goal of reducing biking and walking fatalities in their state, and report back on their progress,” according to a joint press release from WA Bikes and the League.

The organizations are asking their supporters to thank Senator Murray for her work to make sure this makes it into the budget. You can do so using the League’s handy web app.

More details from the League and WA Bikes: Continue reading

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