The bicycle industry lobby Peopleforbikes has posted the image below, identified as an official rendering, of the proposed bikeway on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.
PeopleforBikes praises the political developments which led to this project and describes it as a “win.” My response is “what were the designers thinking, if it can be called thinking?” And “does PeopleforBikes expect to gain any credibility by supporting this?
Even putting aside general debates about “cycle tracks”… let’s just look at some specifics of the design here.
This is much less and also much more than a “protected bike lane”, PeopleforBikes’s description. Being separated from the other lanes by a barrier, it is not a bike lane but a bike path — one of substandard width. Most of the installation as shown is intended to serve bus passengers. Bicyclists get the narrow strip which is left over.
The roadway has been narrowed by one lane’s width, but more than half of it has been given over to a traffic island for a bus stop, and less than half, to the bikeway. The bikeway is not as wide as either the bicyclist or the pedestrians in the foreground are tall: only about five feet wide, between vertical curbs. Because bicyclists need to track two feet from a curb to avoid the risk of a pedal strike, the bikeway is only wide enough for a single line of bicyclists.
Bicyclists’ speeds on level roads range from approximately 8 to 25 miles per hour. One bicyclist overtaking another on this bikeway risks handlebars’ tangling, or a pedal strike. Overtaking a cargo tricycle is clearly impossible. Expect crashes, and parades of bicyclists limited to the speed of the slowest.
There is only that one bicyclist shown…if bicycle traffic were as heavy as PeopleforBikes would like, the bikeway would be clogged.
The bikeway is adjacent to a sidewalk. Expect pedestrians in the bikeway, and bicyclists riding on the sidewalk, or the bus lane, because the bikeway is slower.
The fence shown to the left of the bikeway (apparently to prevent pedestrians from crossing at an undesignated location) is nonstandard for either a pedestrian or bicycle barrier — bicyclists and pedestrians alike would topple over it. The fence is immediately adjacent to the bikeway, and that also is nonstandard.
The intersection in the foreground is signal-controlled, but the special crosswalk to the bus stop beyond the bicyclist is not. Now, imagine a crowd of pedestrians who just got off a bus, crossing in that crosswalk. If more than a few bicyclists have to wait, they will back up into the signalized crosswalk in the foreground, and into the intersection. Green paint in the crosswalk indicates, as it so often does, “we broke the rules when we designed this.”
With pedestrians in the locations shown, the bicyclist shown has to have crossed the walkway against the light. That doesn’t reflect on the design itself, but it does reflect on the people who approved the rendering, and the the designers.
The striped, angled cutaway in the traffic island serves to allow large trucks and buses to turn right without dragging their wheels over the curb. But it is delimited by raised rubber barriers which might survive one or two days of wear and tear by trucks. The stripes also define the cutaway as a no-drive zone.
A truck apron is usually made of durable, slightly raised, distinctive paving. What were the designers thinking?
The tree overhanging the bikeway would drop leaves into it, an issue I brought up in an earlier post on this blog. The bikeway is shown as impeccably clean in the illustration, but it is too narrow for a standard street-cleaning machine.
I have read elsewhere that this bikeway would cross 26 intersections and 49 driveways.
The right one-foot width of the bikeway is the gutter pan, and there is a seam between it and the asphalt pavement. These seams break up, and can trap bicycle wheels. Water collects in the gutter, as also shown in videos which my friend Gary Cziko has taken from his bicycle. He describes them as follows:
1. The first video at http://vimeo.com/88343481 is a combined front and rear view while cycling on Figueroa northbound from Exposition to 7th Street, where the cycle track is planned. It was made at mid-day on a weekday with fairly light-to-moderate traffic.
2. The second video at http://vimeo.com/89685353 is rearview also northbound at evening rush hour starting a bit further south than the first video.
Gary has more to say about his videos but I’ll leave it to him to comment.