Do you ever find yourself driving Barry Road west of I-29 asking yourself why no one ever uses the bike lanes?
You are not alone. I've been doing a lot of research lately on cycling and the on-street bike lanes built in the past decade have been psychologically studied to only attract 10% of the population. Essentially a product (bike lanes) is being put to market that 90% of the population will never use. How can I make that statement? Well let's dig into some information provided by Montgomery County Maryland (download the PDF here) which breaks people into the following four categories:
Basically the population falls into these four types: screw biking, I'd like to bike but don't know where safely, I'm on the road but only where a lot of cars aren't, and I'm wearing spandex and using a bike that costs more than your first car. I started out as one of the "interested but concerned" and worked my way up to borderline "strong and fearless. I'd put myself in the highest category because I've been riding downtown and back home by looping across the Heart of American then returning via Kansas on the Fairfax Bridge. During these rides, I've used Independence Avenue, Grand, and even Broadway through Penn Valley Park. Read about how I started and what I recommend for a great and cheap starter bike here.
This data is all summarized into some tables that compare the number of cars on the road and the speed of the road for the types of users. Here is what psychology tells us 50-70% of the population will react.
Here is the chart for the highest user.
What do these charts tell us? When a road is posted over 45, no one will use bike lanes. That's why you rarely see bikes on Barry west of 29 and Chouteau Parkway even with bike lanes. Why? Because speed kills. How do I know, I've seen the data in various places which is simply illustrated by the chart below.
To tell you the truth, current engineering standards require major arterial streets like these to be designed for 50mph and posted at a 45mph speed limit. It takes a design variance and all sorts of angst, hand wringing, and gnashing of teeth to get a reduced design speed on a project. I've gone through the effort because I know that higher speed limit designs cost more, impact more property, and are unsafe. A perfect comparison of a road designed for moving cars as fast as it can is NW 68th Street between Waukomis and US 169 versus a road designed to fit within its environment and to reduce speeds to make it more safe like the NW 72nd and Waukomis Drive improvements right near Lake Waukomis built in 2012. Which one of these streets would you rather live or walk on?
It's a strange engineering mentality. I think it's professional negligent to design any street in an urban area over 35mph. However, engineers historically only look at traffic flow and the higher speed limit a street operates at, the more cars it moves. I could do a long post on how designing something at a higher standard is perceived as being safe when actually it's more deadly but I need to get back on topic on bikes and wrap this post up so I can go to bed.
What types of bike facilities do you need to familiarize yourself with? These:
What you need to be careful of is letting an engineer get lazy and just make a sidewalk five feet wider and calling it good. These wider sidewalks are called sidepaths and when they are installed along a street with a bunch of intersecting streets and driveways it's not going to be used because it's not that safe. Picture NW 64th Street from the Line Creek Trail at Waukomis west over to Route 9 as an okay sidepath because the path isn't interrupted every two hundred feet or so.
I am tending to think a bike lane like Sherbourne Street in Toronto is a good application on new construction because it keeps the cyclist in the line of sight of everything and the raised curb allows snow plowing of the street to place snow there. The raised curb give a texting or distracted driver a chance to recover and get back in their lane.
These are just my thought and you can read some more about my philosophy here in this nice article David Martin spent the time writing.
What I'd like to hear are your thoughts so please take the time to take some surveys and mark your calendars with public meetings coming up at the end of the month by visiting the official BikeKC Plan update site. Also if you are on Twitter™ check out and follow Bob Gunderson........and enjoy the snark.
Well before I bid you good night, DO THE SURVEY NOW!!!!!