Urbification: Taking the sub out of Calif. suburbs

Walking. Bicycling. Alternatives to Driving Everywhere. Social justice. Alternatives to suburban boredom and waste. And the infrastructure and technology needed to get there.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Complete Streets: A dangerous image?

Transportation for America is steadily moving forward its agenda which includees "complete streets." Quoting from TFA's Web site, "Complete streets mean those who have to walk each day don't have to risk their lives on roads that are dangerous by design."

But in pursuing this agenda, is TFA always serving the interests of bicyclists for better coexistence with cars on the streets that all must share? Maybe. But today I found a link to this image on the Complete Streets Web site, as part of its Flickr slide show.

Granted, the main purpose of this photo is to demonstrate the goodness of bus shelters for public transit passengers. But look at the photo more closely. We see a busy arterial street, engineered for a 35 to 45 mph speed limit. Beyond the bus stop, the rightmost lane is so narrow that the only safe thing for a bicyclist to do is take the lane...or, to ride on the widened sidewalk. It's common in the suburbs to see a sidewalk narrower than this due to low pedestrian traffic volumes. But this looks all too much like a side "path" where bikes are welcome, timid bicyclists will choose to ride, and aggressive motorists will expect all bicyclists to ride. In other words, a dangerous image for bicycling.

I intend to read the proposed legislation accompanying this TFA call for action, and as long as this dangerous image is associated with this legislation, I don't intend to support it. Too bad, because the provisions for pedestrians are laudable. It's what's left unsaid here that disturbs me. Do bikes belong on this street?


  • At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Dave Reid said…

    I'd say any good true complete street, would make bike infrastructure as part of the design.

  • At 9:21 PM, Blogger John Schubert said…

    Aye, but Dave... not every "bike infrastructure" is a labeled set-aside. In fact, we're usually better off if it isn't.
    In my corner of Pennsylvania, labeled set-asides are, fortunately, rare. When there's money to repave the road, all road users benefit. When it snows, we don't wonder if they'll plow the snow into the bike lane -- they simply clear the road.
    Scott, this was a great call -- seeing the potential downside in this photo. It's unfortunate, because it's an attractive-looking streetscape, and it's nice to see a half-decent bus shelter. So I'm not overjoyed to be finding fault with it. But the design does encourage unsafe behaviors, as you said!

  • At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What is sub-par about the accomodation for bicyclists this path provides? Just because you might not be able to always ride full speed on a path like that when sharing it with other pedestrians and bicyclists, doesn't mean that only "timid" riders will use it; it's perfectly fine - and safe - for bicycling. This path makes the street complete in my view, and I think it would be a waste of money to improve on-street bicycle facilities in this case when a high-quality off-street one exists just adjacent.


Post a Comment

<< Home