Cities Around America Respond to Cleveland's "Backwards" Bike Lanes, And Everyone Agrees We're Doing It Wrong

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SATINDER PURI
  • Satinder Puri
As many have noted this year, and as we covered in a recent feature article on the topic, Cleveland's decision to install bike lanes with the buffer between the rider and the curb and not the rider and the cars has been roundly criticized by Cleveland's biking community and any number of experts around the country. Cleveland road engineer Andy Cross, who has basically unilaterally and with no evidence decided that it's the right thing to do, has been steadfast in his proclamation that having the buffer between the rider and cars would lead to cars turning right into bikers. Anyway, that's the short version of events.

PeopleForBikes.org wondered what people with Andy Cross's job in other cities thought about what Cleveland was doing, so they sent out a bunch of emails and awaited the responses from experts in Seattle and Indianapolis and elsewhere. The reactions came back and it seems everyone roundly agrees that Cleveland is in fact doing it ass-backwards. 

Mark Zwoyer, PE, assistant administrator of the department of public works in Indianapolis:

We probably would not use this in Indianapolis. We use cross hatch buffers to separate the bikes and the motor traffic, but not to offset bikes from the curb.

Dongho Chang, PE, chief road engineer in Seattle:

Buffer seems to be in the wrong place. We'd want to buffer the bikes from travelled vehicle lane.

Jonathan Lewis, AICP, assistant director of planning in Atlanta's transportation department:

I feel like I’m missing something? Why is the buffer next to the curb? I don’t see an upside. In Atlanta, during torrential rains, the curbside bike lanes flood. I guess that’s an upside to this design, but it doesn’t seem worth the trade-off. It is not a configuration we would consider in Atlanta.

Nathan Wilkes, PE, of the transportation department of Austin, Texas:

I think the photo shows well where the rider wants to be. In Austin, TX we always put our buffer to traffic where there is the most value in creating separation between fast moving traffic and the person on the bicycle to create a bicycle facility that a larger portion of the population is comfortable in. The only use I have seen as shown in the photo is if there were parked cars to the right of the bicycle lane where there was more concern about the door zone than the moving traffic. ... In short it looks to be a waste of buffer material applied incorrectly.

Rachael Bronson, associate city planner for the Denver Department of Public Works:

Without parallel parking, I’d prefer this to be on the car side. Or maybe buffer on both sides if there are a lot of access points where bikes may need a buffer on the curb side.

She cc'd Michael Koslow, PE, a senior engineer at Denver DPW, who added:

I agree that car-side buffering would be better; however if there’s additional room it’d be good to keep bicycles toward the middle of a wider lane for conspicuity by drivers.

Matthew Dyrdahl, AICP, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in Minneapolis:

We typically buffer the other side, meaning put the buffer between the travel lane and the bicycle lane.

He cc'd Simon Blenski, bicycle plannner in the Minneapolis Public Works Department, who added:

We typically install a buffer on the travel lane side. We have installed buffers on both sides of the bike lane where there is excess space and where parking is adjacent to the bike lane.

I can only think of one example where we only have a buffer on the curb side and not the travel lane side. It is an exceptional case on Hennepin Ave S between 12th St and 13th St, where there is a wide parking bay next to the bike lane. The buffer was placed in the excess parking bay width.

We have never done a buffer directly adjacent to a curb with no parking present.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯




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