Archive | Transportation Operations

Road Diets

I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and heard the term “Road Diet” to describe reducing the auto capacity of a road. I found it quite curious (and a little humorous). Serendipitously I was reviewing the archive of webcasts for the PSU Transportation Seminar Series and came across a presentation specifically on the topic (video stream) by Jennifer Rosales, a traffic engineer in the local office of Parsons Brinckerhoff.
I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and heard the term “Road Diet” to describe reducing the auto capacity of a road. I found it quite curious (and a little humorous). Serendipitously I was reviewing the archive of webcasts for the PSU Transportation Seminar Series and came across a presentation specifically on the topic (video stream) by Jennifer Rosales, a traffic engineer in the local office of Parsons Brinckerhoff.

For those who don’t want to watch the whole presentation, the slides are available in PDF form (1.5M).

I also found this web-formatted image at Urban Cartography

The classic formula for a road diet is to take a four-lane road and reconfigure it as one lane in each direction, a center turn lane, and bike lanes in each direction. Jennifer’s research suggests that this treatment can be successful on streets with 20,000 average daily trips or less.

One of her case studies is 4th Plain Boulevard in Vancouver. In addition to improving mobility for bikes, she found that the street was perceived as safer and activity on the street increased. She was able to measure increased sales for businesses on the street during a period when the general district was experiencing a downturn in business.

Further, no diversion of traffic onto other streets was observed!

Have you got a street you’d like to put on a diet?

Traffic Circles in the Netherlands

One of the unique bicycle features in the Netherlands is that traffic circles (‘rotaries’ if you grew up on the east coast like I did) have a separate lane for bikes. Concrete islands help regulate the flow of autos to avoid conflicts with bikes.

www.flickr.com

Netherlands Traffic Circle portlandtransport’s Netherlands Traffic Circle photoset

One of the unique bicycle features in the Netherlands is that traffic circles (‘rotaries’ if you grew up on the east coast like I did) have a separate lane for bikes. Concrete islands help regulate the flow of autos to avoid conflicts with bikes.

The best part? Cyclists have priority in the traffic circles. Our delegation from Portland enjoyed this so much that we get kept circling for the joy of it. It was only after 3 circuits that we realized that we were preventing any cars from entering or exiting the circle. Oops…

Beyond the Woonerf, Evolution of Cycling in the Netherlands

After being dazzled by the prevalence of bicycles here, once my head stopped spinning, I couldn’t help but wonder “how did this come to be?”

We got some of the answers yesterday with presentations from Amsterdam’s bicycle coordinator and a representative of an NGO whose mission is to help other countries adapt the Netherland’s learnings to their own situations.

So where did they start? In 1950, following WWII, the Netherlands had 3.5 million bikes and 90,000 cars. As cars began to proliferate, there was an attitude that “the bikes are in the way of the cars” and an effort began to construct some 1,400 kilometers (km) of segregated bike paths.

At that time, most home-to-work trips were within cycling distance.

During the period from 1950-1975, auto trips expanded from 4.5 billion annually to 89 billion, while cycling stayed about level. However, while km cycled stayed level, fatalities while cycling tripled as auto-bike conflicts increased, in part where segregated bike paths crossed roads.

In the 70’s, the Dutch had a sort of awakening, driven by the oil crisis, rising environmental awareness and predictions of the costs of building roads to accommodate rising auto use.

From 1975-1985 km cycled went from 9.5 billion annually to 12.5 billion, driven by the build out of the segregated paths, addition of bike parking in city centers and rail stations and limitations imposed on auto parking in major cities.

The Dutch began to think that perhaps the cars were in the way of the bikes!

This transit was facilitated by several factors:

1) The national government provided 80% subsidy on bike facility capital projects.
2) Bicycle coordinators were appointed in each city and formed a network, eventually producing a handbook standardizing bike facility design.

In the 90’s the approach evolved again. With the recognition that intersections between segregated bike paths and and roads were a major source of conflict and safety, a movement to integrate bikes back into roadways began, resulting in the urban fabric we see today with bike facilities on almost every street. The learning has been that as drivers become aware of bikes, safety increases. As km cycled increased, overall accidents go DOWN. We are seeing an echo of this in Portland where as bike miles go up, accidents have stayed relatively constant.

Indeed watching a street operate here in Amsterdam is a bit like watching a ballet – all the dancers, cars and bikes, know they roles and weave together very skillfully and very safely, despite very close proximity. I almost wonder if someday they will reach the point of cultural integration of cars, trams (streetcars) and bikes where physical delineations will no longer be necessary and they will operate seamlessly on a web of nothing more than social understandings.

As one of our cab drivers said about the prevalence of bikes, “it’s just a matter of getting used to it.”

One of the Dutch innovations talked about much in America is the Woonerf, an extremely “traffic calmed” street that favors bikes and peds. I was very surprised to hear one of our hosts say they they are no longer constructed. The Woonerf was a phase, a way of raising consciousness of the interaction between peds, bikes and cars. Once the awareness had been created, the physical tools were no longer needed!

So how can we apply these lessons in Portland? We don’t start from the same base of cycling that the Dutch did, but we have made some of the same decisions (e.g., to not build the Mt. Hood freeway and invest in transit instead).

What are the transformations of awareness that we need to create to move Portland (without a lot of support from the national government) to the next level of cultural integration of our modes? What physical infrastructure can help lead to these mental changes?

Who Gets a Drivers License?

There it was again in the newspaper last week — a throw away line about immigration and drivers licenses in a larger article about immigration and border patrols between Mexico and Arizona. Governor Richardson of Arizona said “I have the most migrant-friendly state” as he cited a policy of issuing drivers licenses without regard to immigration status. Now, what I can’t understand is why immigration status has any thing to do with being a safe driver, which is what a driver’s license is supposed to make sure you are. If you are a pedestrian, bicyclist or even another car driver, wouldn’t you rather be concerned with how safely the driver in the lane next to you is operating their vehicle rather than whether or not they are living in the US legally? The fact that many people use their drivers license as identification has nothing to do with why drivers licenses were required in the first place.

A number of years ago, California had a ballot measure that would have denied public health services to undocumented residents. Public health workers argued and protested against implementation of the measure, I think successfully, because they realized that infectious diseases do not care whether they are being passed from legal residents or non-legal residents. Medical experts have probably never seen an infection virus that asked for legal resident documentation before settling in to cause serious illness.

Identify theft and concerns about terrorists infiltrating our country are hot topics in media today. Identify theft is one issue. But does anyone really think that a person who has come to the US to blow up a building is really worried about whether or not they have a drivers license? Besides, I’ll bet Timothy McVeigh who was a legal US citizen showed his drivers license to rent a truck before he filled it with explosives and drove to the Oklahoma City Federal Building. A drivers license does not prove that some one is unhinged.

Back to Arizona Governor Richardson and his migrant friendly policy. Checking the DMV websites of both Oregon and Arizona, both states ask for similar documentation. Proof of who you are in the form of one or two specific pieces of identification and one or two items from a secondary list of possible documents. The lists look to be the same to me. Neither list states that one must have a legal immigration status or be a US citizen in order to take the test to make sure you know how to drive safely and carry a drivers license. Makes sense to me.

Crossing the Willamette on Sunday (sans Bike)

If you’re not one of the 19,000 of us who will be crossing and re-crossing the Willamette River on Sunday during the Providence Bridge Pedal, then you might want to look at the following to help get around. TriMet has provided information on bus detours and Mike Pullen from the County passes along the following:

As usual, the event will require some changes in how motorists get around the city, especially when crossing the Willamette River. Several bridges -– including the Broadway, Burnside, Morrison and St. Johns — will remain open to vehicular traffic in both directions, despite the presence of cyclists and walkers.

Here is the traffic plan that will be in effect for Bridge Pedal:

– The Sellwood Bridge will be closed westbound from 6:30 am to 8:30 am.
– The Ross Island Bridge will be closed westbound from 6:30 am to 10:30 am, with TriMet bus service operating in both directions.
– The Marquam Bridge will be closed northbound (upper deck) from 5:30 am to 11:00 am.
– The Hawthorne Bridge will be closed eastbound from 6:00 am to 10:30 am, with TriMet bus service operating in both directions. The outside eastbound lane will be closed beginning Saturday evening.
– The Morrison Bridge will be open in both directions. One eastbound lane will be closed from 6:00 am to 8:30 am.
– The Burnside Bridge will be open in both directions. One westbound lane will be closed from 6:30 am to 11:00 am.
– The Steel Bridge will be closed in both directions from 6:30 am until noon. TriMet bus and MAX service will operate in both directions.
– The Broadway Bridge will be open in both directions. One eastbound lane will be closed from 6:30 am to 11:00 am.
– The Fremont Bridge will be closed southbound (upper deck) from 5:30 am to 11:30 am.
– The St. Johns Bridge will have one lane open in both directions, with two lanes closed from 8:00 am to 11:30 am.

Bridge Pedal will also require traffic changes on several state highways and Portland streets Sunday morning, including:

– I-5 and I-405: Motorists approaching the Marquam Bridge on northbound I-5 will be routed to northbound I-405 during the temporary Marquam Bridge closure (from 5:30 am to 11:00 am). The two right lanes of southbound I-405 to northbound I-5/Marquam Bridge will be closed. Motorists on southbound I-405 will be able to access southbound I-5 at all times. All lanes of southbound I-5 will remain open at all times.
– U.S. 30: The right lane of eastbound U.S. 30 will be closed between NW Kittridge Ave. and the St. Johns Bridge.
– Naito Parkway will be closed in both directions between SW Columbia and the Steel Bridge. NW Naito Parkway/NW Front Ave. will be closed southbound from NW Nicolai to the Steel Bridge. SW Naito will be closed northbound from SW Harrison to SW Columbia.
– SW Macadam Ave.: One northbound lane will be closed between the Sellwood Bridge and Ross Island Bridge, with some delays accessing areas east of SW Macadam Ave.
– Access to OMSI will be open, with delays.
– N Willamette Blvd. will be closed eastbound between N Richmond Ave. and N Portland Blvd.
– N Greeley Ave. will be closed southbound from N Killingsworth St. to N Interstate Ave.
– N Ivanhoe St. will be closed between N Leavitt Ave. and N Philadelphia Ave.

The Broadway, Burnside, Morrison and Hawthorne drawbridges will not be able to open for river traffic between 6:00 am and noon.