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So your city wants to be more bike friendly?

Best practices on designing a cycle track within difficult-to-retrofit urban infrastructure

There is a growing recognition among designers, engineers, and city officials that retrofitting urban infrastructure is a cost-conscious and viable alternative for adding bike facilities . Depending on where you live, your local roadways may offer capacity to alter traffic patterns and introduce cycle tracks, multi-use trails, and bike lanes. Cycle tracks are becoming more popular because they offer a safe transportation route that works within existing roadway footprints (often avoiding the need for restriping an entire road). They also sit at-grade with the road, eliminating the need to modify curb and gutter, utility poles, or storm drain infrastructure (usually). With this in mind, here are the top steps a consultant can take to help further a city’s endeavors to create a more bike or pedestrian-friendly downtown.

  • Ensure success by looking at the big picture. If building a bike infrastructure network, make sure it connects to the right places and destinations – so it’s a bigger conversation at a systems level.  Successful cycle tracks have meaningful destinations and logical termini (parks, schools, neighborhoods).
  • Identify how to work around existing infrastructure. In an urban area, everything is fixed, so if you can’t go larger or wider, what else can you do?
    • Look at traffic capacity and turning movements.
    • Look at other infrastructure elements like storm drain inlets, pavement conditions, and visual road signage clutter than can be minimized.
    • Assess intersections and how they can function better and to understand how pedestrians, cars, and bikes interact at these locations.
    • Check for bike parking facilities. Is the area a welcoming environment for bicyclists?
  • Remember it’s not an either/or situation. It’s not bikes vs. cars; it’s more about getting the public engaged in understanding how multi-use trails and cycle tracks ultimately benefit their community. Connected communities are healthier communities, and healthier communities offer  a greater quality of life, are places where people spend more money, and are where residents reinvest in their neighborhoods.
  • Educate – all around! Make sure those audiences that may use the cycle track understand proper bike safety, rules of the road, etc. This education will also help create an awareness of the cycle track and promote a bike sharing program, if appropriate. So, education is also a great marketing tool.

The beauty and benefit of cycle track retrofits is that they remove the mystery of complicated transportation improvements. Sometimes the solution can be nothing more than painting or marking. Such a simple approach eliminates the need for engineering drawings or permitting and makes the project something that is tangible and available to all municipalities.

Andrew Kohr is a landscape architect at Stantec, Chair of the City of Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission and recently designed the City’s first cycle track.  

It’s not bikes vs. cars; it’s more about getting the public engaged in understanding how multi-use trails and cycle tracks ultimately benefit their community. 

Sorting out cycle tracks

Stantec’s Ryan Martinson takes you on a ride through some of the benefits and challenges of cycle tracks, using Calgary, AB as an example.

Transcript of the video follows
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<p><b>Ryan Martinson</b></p> <p>We all need to move around our cities to take advantage of what they offer us in terms of living, working, playing, and learning. With our cities growing, our transportation systems need to grow as well. And that’s why cycle tracks are so great. Check it out!</p> <p><b>Rock Miller</b></p> <p>Cycle track is a relatively new form of bikeway that is being built in urban areas, particularly in downtowns. It’s basically a reassigning the way the street is used to dedicate some space for bicycles in addition to the space for cars, and one of the most important features of it is there’s some kind of a physical separation between the bicyclists and the cars.</p> <p>When you ride a bicycle in a facility like this it feels a lot more comfortable to people riding a bike, so people who are nervous about riding in a city will ride in a facility like this.</p> <p><b>Ryan Martinson</b></p> <p>As I travel through downtown Calgary, there’s a lot of people moving around by different modes. It’s busy, but everyone’s getting around safely. This is something we had to consider when we were planning and designing the cycle track network. So why aren’t more people doing this? Well like everything, there’s challenges.</p> <p><b>Rock Miller</b></p> <p>We’ve heard a number of people, particularly people that are used to commuting by cars express a lot of concern over taking away the lane of traffic. Another issue of concern that we’ve heard from a number of people is that it basically has resulted in some loss of parking along the street.</p> <p>One of the things the City did to address the parking shortage is survey nearby streets and they actually found places where they could provide some additional parking and they’ve actually come up with a net increase of about 100 stalls total for the overall project area.</p> <p>The bicycle traffic to the downtown has been increasing, the car traffic has actually been decreasing, and the City’s really established a lot of goals to increase bicycling and decrease single occupant car traffic in the downtown.</p> <p><b>Don Mulligan</b></p> <p>To be a great city, you’ve got to take some risks, you’ve got to go out on a limb, you’ve got to try new things, and lots and lots of people are resistant to change. You can give them some comfort by saying “it’s a pilot, we’re going to try it, it’s not permanent, if it doesn’t work we can either adjust it or abandon it…” And so there’s a huge power in creating a pilot project that is truly a test.</p> <p><b>Ryan Martinson</b></p> <p>So clearly there are a lot of challenges with implementing cycle tracks. Why bother?</p> <p><b>Don Mulligan</b></p> <p>When we ask people “why cycle?” the vast majority say “for exercise”, but it's not just about exercise, it's about a whole new lifestyle.&nbsp; I've been to many other cities all over the world and the cities that are best at cycling, people use it for everything. It becomes their way. We call it &quot;All day, all purpose trip&quot;. So, it's not just about going to school or going to work. It's going to visit friends, it's going to get groceries, it's going out at night.</p> <p><b>Ryan Martinson</b></p> <p>So they’re an all-around good idea, so how can other communities get started, and who can help?</p> <p><b>Rock Miller</b></p> <p>Stantec has helped cities implement cycle tracks in many communities throughout the US and Canada. We know it’s worked where it’s been done in cities before, and we have no doubt that it’s going to be working here. And the early returns really are confirming that already.</p> <p><b>Ryan Martinson</b></p> <p>So give us a shout if you want to learn more about cycle tracks in your town.</p>
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