The City of Buffalo Department of Public Works has shared their current plan and its justification for Linwood Avenue on Friday (see below) identifying the project goals and their design considerations. These goals include:
• Resurface Linwood Avenue in 2012;
• Comply with Complete Streets Ordinance;
• Provide a much needed traffic calming solution for Linwood Avenue;
• To address all concerns raised by the community and utilize this information to aid in selection of the best option moving forward.
Through their consideration of multiple scenarios including two-way traffic, they identified a two-way cycle track to be located along the West side of the street buffered with a parking lane, one lane of traffic and an additional parking lane on the East side of the street to effectively implement all project goals. In addition, they have stated that the "cycle track would receive prioritized plowing to keep it clear and maintain visual cue of where cars should park."
As a bicyclist who has ridden in many cities across the country and often lust at what cities in Europe have been doing as a matter of course for decades, I personally find this exciting especially in light of the fact that there are only a handful of cities across the country that have done this and Buffalo could receive some positive national press with such a complete streets project.
Many people though are unaware of what cycle tracks are and how they will function, the benefits and the impact it can have on a street - so here is an attempt to shed some light. A definition of a cycle track can be found in Alta Planning & Design's "Cycle Tracks: Lessons Learned" workbook (pdf):
A cycle track is an exclusive bicycle facility that combines the user experience of a separated path with the on-street infrastructure of a conventional bike lane. Cycle tracks have different forms, but all share common elements. Cycle tracks provide space that is intended to be exclusively or primarily for bicycles, and are separated from vehicle travel lanes, parking lanes and sidewalks. Cycle tracks can be either one-way or two-way, on one or both sides of a street, and are separated from vehicles and pedestrians by pavement markings or coloring, bollards, curbs/medians, parked cars or a combination of these elements.
There are many advantages to this type of treatment which include increasing the comfort of bicyclists, improving clarity of expected behaviors of both bicycles and cars, has a low implementation cost and eliminates conflicts between bicycles and parking or parked cars from "dooring" cyclists. According to the National Association of City Traffic Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guidelines
, the appropriate application for buffered bike lanes would be on streets with high speeds, high volumes, large volumes of truck traffic, on streets with extra lane width or extra lanes or where there are few conflicts such as driveways and intersections. Also, several studies have shown benefits in both safety and increased ridership associated with cycle tracks. An evaluation of cycle tracks in Montreal found, when compared with roads without this treatment, roadways with cycle tracks have a 28 percent lower injury rate and 2.5 times as many bicyclists.
My excitement for cycle tracks is tempered by the fact that many residents along Linwood are upset about the lack of communication on the project. While I have personally received or have been copied on multiple messages in favor of this, a consistent point of contention is their desire to have known about this project sooner. There are also other residents that have expressed a desire to see the street go two-way, which could also have some of the desired effects of slowing down traffic but this would not be as effective in improving the street for cyclists and could also increase the traffic volume. Meanwhile, here at GObike Buffalo we have received 1,750 signatures to date on our bicycle lane request form
from people across the city demonstrating their desire to increase the number of safe bicycling facilities throughout the city.
There are tradeoffs with all street projects from circulation, travel patterns, safety and other health and environmental impacts. The City of Buffalo's Department of Public Works is always balancing these tradeoffs with the community's desire and I do not envy their position. I am inspired though by the fact that they have seriously considered this treatment because despite the current opposition, it signals a significant shift in the way we have designed our streets in the past while showing leadership for the future and a commitment to improve our city. This shift also recognizes that city's thrive when they are designed for people - not cars and it's progress such as this that keeps me and many other people from moving away.
Lead image: Cycle track in DC within a similar context
Following is the plan from the city...
Project goals - Linwood Avenue
1 - Resurface Linwood Avenue in 2012
2 - Comply with Complete Streets Ordinance
3 - Provide a much needed traffic calming solution for Linwood Avenue
4 - To address all concerns raised by the community and utilize this information to aid in selection of the best option moving forward.
Please note that one of the biggest challenges of this whole project is the addition of Linwood to the City's 2012 paving list, about 9 months ahead of the original schedule.
Article XIV. Complete Streets [Adopted 5-27-2008, effective 6-11-2008]
§ 413-68. Complete streets defined.
Complete streets are defined as facilities that are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Persons with disabilities, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders are able to safely move along and across a complete street.
§ 413-69. Implementation of complete streets and exceptions.
A. The Commissioner of Public Works, Parks and Streets shall include pedestrian and bicycle facilities in all new street construction, street reconstruction, street maintenance, public works and park projects undertaken by the City of Buffalo, subject to the exceptions contained herein.
B. The City of Buffalo Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board shall review all new street construction, street reconstruction and street maintenance projects undertaken by the City of Buffalo and shall provide consultation regarding its implementation as a complete street.
C. The inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be mandated in all new street construction, street reconstruction and street maintenance projects undertaken by the City of Buffalo unless one of the following conditions exists:
(1) Bicyclists and pedestrians are prohibited by law from using the facility. In this case, alternative facilities and accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists shall be provided within the same transportation corridor as determined by the Commissioner of Public Works, Parks and Streets.
(2) The cost of establishing bikeways or walkways would be disproportionate to the need or probable use. Costs shall be considered disproportionate for purposes of this section if the cost of including bicycle and pedestrian facilities exceeds 20% of the cost of the larger project.
(3) Where the existing right-of-way does not allow for sidewalks, bike lanes, paths or other improvements. In this case, the Commissioner shall explore alternatives such as the use of revised travel lane configurations, paved shoulders, signage, traffic calming, education or enforcement to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and persons with disabilities. If the Commissioner makes said determination, he shall reduce it to writing and file it with appropriate supporting documentation with the Common Council and Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board for its information and review.
(4) Where the Commissioner determines that the inclusion of bicycle and/or pedestrian facilities on a roadway would constitute a threat to the health, safety and/or welfare to the motorists and/or pedestrians and bicyclists of the City of Buffalo. If the Commissioner makes said determination, he shall confirm it in writing and file it with appropriate supporting documentation with the Common Council and Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board for its information and review.
§ 413-70. Planning, design and maintenance of facilities.
Bicycle and pedestrian facilities will be planned, designed, developed and maintained in accordance with guidelines adopted by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) or other guidelines approved by the City of Buffalo.
Observations made - existing conditions:
- Two Lanes of Traffic
Linwood is configured as a 38 foot wide one way northbound street with parking allowed on both sides of the street except between the hours of 6pm and 11pm on weekdays as follows
8' parking - 11' travel - 11' travel - 8' parking
- Low Traffic Volume
Traffic counts taken by the GBNRTC show an average of 3200 vehicles per day (year 2012 count) on the busiest section of Linwood (between Utica and Ferry).
This volume of traffic could easily be accommodated by a single lane of traffic.
- High Speeds
Cars traveling at speed that appear to be well in excess of the 30 mile per hour speed limit.
GBNRTC data from 2012 shows that on the block between Utica and Ferry, only 25% of vehicles are traveling at or below 30 mph.
15% of vehicles are traveling at speeds higher than 40 mph. (GBNRTC data attached)
- On several visits to the street over the last 2+ weeks I have noticed a number of cyclists riding in each direction.
Reinstall existing condition
- Does not address Complete Streets or provide any traffic calming
Convert Linwood Avenue to two way traffic
- 8' parking - 11' vehicle with "sharrow" - 11' vehicle with "sharrow" - 8' parking
- Traffic signal systems would need to be redesigned and the cost of necessary traffic signal modifications would approach $1M
- DPW requires petition of 75% of property owners in favor of change from one way to two way vehicular traffic
- Requires approval of the Common Council
- Would likely add overall traffic volume to the street
-Northbound vehicle volume would likely decrease
-Southbound vehicle movement would attract drivers looking for a quick alternative to Main or Delaware, especially in the morning commute
- Would likely be effective in slowing vehicle traffic speeds
- Cyclists would share the travel lanes with vehicles
Add single bicycle lane for northbound traffic in "standard bicycle lane location"
- This would accommodate cyclists in one direction only.
- Single lane would be located on the east side of the street.
- 8' parking - 16' for vehicles and hatched striping - 6' bicycle lane - 8' parking lane
- While this would technically comply with Complete Streets, it would likely do very little to calm the traffic on Linwood.
-There would still be a wide travel area
-Aggressive drivers might try to squeeze past slower drivers, potentially causing more "side swipe" collisions
Add two bicycle lanes for northbound traffic in "standard bicycle lane location"
- This would accommodate cyclists in one direction only.
- A bicycle lane would be striped on both the east and west sides of the street.
- 8' parking - 5' bicycle lane - 12' vehicle travel lane - 5 foot bicycle lane - 8' parking lane
- This could have a calming effect on traffic, though the total pavement width between parked cars would remain at 22'.
- Without narrowing visual cues, i.e. physical barriers pulled in closer to the travel lane, there would likely only be a minimal decrease in vehicle speeds.
Add one bicycle lane in each northbound and southbound direction in "standard bicycle lane location"
- 8' parking - 5' bicycle lane - 12' vehicle travel lane - 5' bicycle lane - 8' parking lane
- This option was ultimately eliminated because the southbound bicycle lane would have to be separated from northbound vehicles by yellow striping located 13' east of the west curb line.
-This could be misconstrued as a southbound vehicle lane due to the 13' offset from the curb.
-Northbound vehicles would have to cross the approaching bicycle lane to park on the west side of Linwood.
Add protected bicycle lane for southbound direction
- 5' bicycle lane - 8' parking - 12' vehicle - 5' bicycle lane - 8' parking lane
- Clearing of the 5' bicycle lane between the curb and parking lane could not be done with existing plowing equipment.
*Proposed option (see above)
Add protected two way "cycle track" on the west side of Linwood
- 5' SB bicycle - 5' NB bicycle - 1' striped buffer - 8' parking - 11' travel - 8' parking
- Would likely be effective in slowing vehicle traffic speeds
- Would likely cause a reduction in vehicle traffic volume
- Would create a protected facility for cyclists to travel in both directions
-Some cyclists already use Linwood in both directions
- Is arguably the most effective option which meets both primary goals
-Complies with Complete Streets
-Provides traffic calming features
"Floating" parking lane
• Would be delineated by a 1 foot wide stripe
• Cones would be placed on the stripe to lend clarity while parkers adjust to the new configuration
• Lines would be painted to indicate driveway locations and "No Parking" areas
• Parking enforcement will be a key during early educational process
• Minimal parking spaces may be lost near intersections for visibility
• 10' cycle track would receive prioritized plowing to keep it clear and maintain visual cue of where cars should park
• May require assistance from Parking Enforcement in form of "mini-tows" to clear the cycle track
• People utilizing driveways on the west side of Linwood will need to be aware of the cycle track, though this is generally not much different than awareness of people on the sidewalk
• Left turning vehicles must yield to cyclists, as they must with pedestrians in the crosswalks as well
• Signs will be posted at the intersections reminding drivers of this.