Monday, August 30, 2010

first foray

last friday evening we did this scattermass traffic-calming pedestrian action l. is calling "the human speed bump project." all two of us met outside the star e rose and went inside for a cup of something before hitting the streets. the organizer required us to swear commitment to "safety first." at five promptly we went out into the field.

one by one, at a distance of roughly a block apart, we crossed each and every zebra striped crosswalk, two at each intersection, working our way east to 31st and then back, sometimes the same crosswalk twice in a row if the opportunity afforded. we gave buses and fire trucks and even cyclists a pass.

the idea was to start into the crosswalk just an instant before the gesture would seem political, but when the effect would still be to cause the motorist to slow down. if the motorist had to stop, i would give a friendly wave thank you. l. had one situation where the motorist simply veered around her, a big red pickup. but that was unusual.

even with just the two of us this was surprisingly effective. we often succeeded in slowing motor traffic for two blocks at a time. with a much larger scattermass the effect might be to take back the street for primary pedestrian use. this is something people can actually do.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

a tally of two intersections

recently i volunteered to count bicyclists at each of four intersections as part of PBoT's annual effort to estimate the number of total bike trips. they are trying to do counts at about 175 intersections during peak hours in july, august, and september. not sure if they have enough volunteers to cover everything.

i chose these four intersections specifically because they have issues with which i am familiar, and because i have my own ideas about what "should" be done to make them more amenable to bike traffic.

so i admit i went into this with an agenda.

let me talk about just two of the four intersections. the intersection of northeast 28th with glisan, and the intersection of northeast 12th with irving. there is some pretty substantial throughput of cyclists through these intersections during peak hours, together with some pretty high volume motor traffic.

northeast 28th at glisan

in the space of two hours, from four to six p.m. on tuesday, july 27, i counted 277 cyclists, about two-thirds male, about one-third not wearing helmets, of which latter group not quite three-quarters were male.

i mention helmets because they had us counting that, and the male/female split, together with how many of each of the twelve possible maneuvers through the intersection -- straight through, left turn, right turn from each of the four directions -- cyclists performed.

somewhat more than half the bike traffic was straight through north or south on 28th. slightly over one-third arrived at the intersection from the south on 28th, slightly less than a third from the north. about twenty percent arrived from the west on glisan, and only about one-eighth from the east. fully seven percent were riding on sidewalks through part or all of the intersection, mostly north along 28th, which brought the nominal intersection count down to 269.

five people (not quite two percent) found it necessary to execute left turns in the "copenhagen" or "box" fashion, including at least three arriving from the west on glisan and heading north on 28th -- and this despite the fact that there is a dedicated left turn lane there.

quite a number of cyclists heading straight through north on 28th were positioned so far to the right that they found themselves trapped behind parked cars on the far side of the intersection, outside the laundromat, and had to wait to swerve out. to me, this says "sharrows on 28th, throughout the corridor" but again, i have an agenda.

northeast 12th at irving

on thursday, august 5, again from four to six p.m., i counted 302 cyclists, again about two-thirds male, about one-quarter not wearing helmets (a different crowd), of which latter group slightly over three-quarters were male.

somewhat over half of the bike traffic was straight through north or south (about two to one north in the first hour, about even the second hour). roughly one-quarter were turning left onto irving from southbound 12th, and of these more than a quarter -- close to seven percent of the entire intersection count -- executed this turn as a "copenhagen" left, many of them arriving on the sidewalk. a fair number made the turn from the left edge of the through lane, but those who asserted the center of the left turn lane seemed to be confident of their position. my observation.

in fact, more than one-sixth of the entire count, exclamation point, completed some portion of their transit through the intersection on the sidewalk -- mostly southbound on the west side of the bridge, and then getting into the bike lane on the far side of the intersection. this did not bring the nominal count down much at all, because nearly all cyclists who did some part of their transit on the sidewalk did another part on the street.

it was my impression that the northbound count was probably low, due to the construction that still continues at 12th and burnside. the counts are continuing through september, and if the construction clears up, i intend to go back and count this intersection again.


what lessons to take from this left turn business, and from the high proportion of riders taking the sidewalk (again, this is primarily a matter of southbound traffic on the west sidewalk). one: people don't much, statistically, "like" the southbound setup on the bridge in general, and they don't like the left turn situation in particular. granted, we are talking about one-sixteenth of the total bike volume here, people southbound, turning left to go irving. but even the through lane, some significant number of people don't like. if there is no striped lane, you gotta fend for yourself, and a lot (and i mean "a lot") of people just will not do it.

however. and here i am speaking as a vehicular cyclist, if you will forgive me. oh, and incidentally. quite a number of left turning motorists were firing up their cell phones for the long highway trek east on 84. quite a number. i wasn't counting them. anecdotal.

okay, so i don't really object to marking these sidewalks as multi-use paths. go for it. and you can even guide people in to the copenhagen left the way you did at weidler and williams. i get it, okay. and hey, maybe a sufficiently intrusive infrastructure will get some of these motorists off their cell phones. right now they are on autopilot.

but there are twenty-something percent of people making this left who kinda know how to do it (though some of them hang just outside the right edge of the turn lane). and what i do not want to see is something that tells motorists, "they [meaning "those cyclists"] belong over there."

not just talking the mandatory sidepath legality here, though it seems to me this kind of treatment could actually fall within 814.420. i am talking perception. you have been putting sharrows all over these sidestreets, but out here where they could do some good, nothing. and if you put up the multi-use path and the copenhagen box, and you do not put down sharrows, the message will be clear, and the vehicular cyclist will be even more unwelcome. the motorist will feel that his sense of entitlement to the travel lanes has been vindicated. sharrows are a must here, whether or not you do the multi-use path.

but these people are not entitled, they are intruders, and they need to be reminded of this. i was once one myself. man, i was mean, but i'm changing that scene, and i'm doing the best that i can. let's not continue to cut motorists slack. you wanna get vehicle miles traveled down, you gotta bring down the hammer, make it difficult, turn the tables, make them the outsider.

there. i spit my piece.

and another point. i was not stationed at the north end of the bridge, but i go through there all the time, and can tell you -- again anectodally -- that a cyclist coming off the sidewalk northbound unexpectedly when i am making a right onto lloyd to get to the left turn lane, a cyclist doing that at anything faster than a walking pace, is a problem. first hand experience just the other day. so let's not be exacerbating that problem, either.