BIKER / PEDESTRIAN AND STREETCARS
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BICYCLE / PEDESTRIAN (BIKE / PED)
Potiential Streetcar Track Hazards
Hazards that need to be addressed during the planning stage of laying streetcar tracks in your town. It will save lawsuits, injuries and lives.
A grassroots, Portland-based transportation advocacy group, has launched a campaign to make the newly constructed streetcar tracks in the Pearl District and on the Eastside safer for cycling.
Here is a summary of the list of immediate concerns along with proposed actions:
A truck turns right from Broadway onto Larrabee.1)
Problem: Increased potential for right hook crashes
Location(s): NE Broadway and N Larrabee Ave; N Broadway and N Williams Ave. (Lane configurations have been changed at both locations due to presence of streetcar line).
Fix Requested: Install a bike box on Broadway at Larrabee. Request immediate special traffic enforcement of right turn yield to bicycle lane compliance in these areas.
2) Problem: Unsigned/unmarked hazardous conditions on Lovejoy ramp.
Location(s): Westbound NW Lovejoy St lanes between NW Broadway and NW 9th Ave
Fix Requested: Temporary signage approaching or at the beginning of the ramp (westbound) alerting bicycle traffic to changes in traffic movement, (new right turn at 9th, slow for sharp turn); potential for track/wheel entrapment, and instructing “jug-handle” left turn maneuver.
3) Problem: Lack of way-finding to and around the new Lovejoy couplet. Lovejoy used to be the designated bike route in and out of Northwest but the streetcar project has all but decommissioned the street for bike use.
Location(s): NW Lovejoy St and connecting avenues between NW 9th and NW 13th.
Fix Requested: Way-finding signs should be placed to direct bicycle traffic through and around the new design as they approach Lovejoy from side streets.
Despite miles of new tracks, Portland
Streetcar Inc has not installed any
4) Problem: Wheel entrapment and slip hazard on new east-side rail installations.
Location(s): NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and NE Grand Avenues
Fix Requested: Temporary signs warning of track hazard should be placed during construction at any point where new rail installation begins in the pavement. Permanent signs warning of track hazard should be placed where bike routes cross the alignment, where the tracks change lanes, or where the tracks turn on or off of the street.
Below is a Google Map of the problem locations created by Active Right of Way Streetcar Safety Working Group. You can also download the letter which details the problems and solutions here (PDF).
Hunter and others involved in the Streetcar Safety Working Group have scheduled a meeting with Portland Streetcar Inc. to address these and other concerns for the first week in January.
Bikes & Streetcars – Let’s be Best Friends!
Posted on January 19, 2011 by Mia Birk
Last week I was privileged to participate in an extraordinary design workshop for a streetcar project on Seattle’s Broadway Street. I say extraordinary not just because of the caliber of talent from Portland, Vancouver BC, Montreal and Seattle, but because of the complexity and vision of the project itself, as our team – led by Mark Dorn of URS Corp. – is integrating both streetcar and a two-way separated bike lane (a.k.a. cycle track) in lockstep with each other. If we succeed, we will show that bicycles and streetcars can and should be best friends.
A complex urban environment characterized by high-density housing, small storefronts, large medical and educational buildings, steep running and cross grades, and plenty of traffic.
Broadway Street envisioned with streetcar and a two-way cycle-track.
When I was Portland’s Bicycle Coordinator in the 1900s, Portland was planning its first streetcar line. Since the streetcar tracks were to run in the right-most travel lane, my colleagues and I were understandably concerned, particularly as the streets in question were also streets designated for bike lanes. The potential for cyclists to crash on tracks seemed very high. We felt like the streetcar planning team was deaf to our pleas, that we were simply annoying gnats hovering about, always whining as they deftly swatted us away. And when the streetcar opened, and cyclists started crashing, we felt no thrill of vindication.
The City then modified one of the problem spots; the new design did the trick from a cycling standpoint, but at the expense of pedestrians on the sidewalk. Not a great compromise.
The next line opened with an improved design, partly owing to the availability of space in a newer area of town.
In 2005, I was invited to a meeting to discuss bike-related issues for an impending extension of the first line. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, city staff, advocates, URS engineers, and the brilliant Rick Gustafson from the firm Shiels Obletz Johnsen (which leads streetcar finance and operations), I realized that every last soul at the table frequently cycles for transportation. Not only did this show me the extent to which we had succeeded in bringing people into the fold of bicycle transportation, but also that, within a decade, cycling had been elevated from an issue of annoyance to one of sincere concern.
Over the course of the next few months, we analyzed the impacts of the proposed streetcar extension, from alignment options to potential solutions to avoiding turning across tracks at dangerous angles, designing intersections, and installing wayfinding signage. As part of another project, we conducted a survey that documented cyclists’ crashes on existing tracks and an exhaustive literature search of design guidance from around the world. We offered options, from placing streetcar tracks on the left or center of the road instead of the right side, physically separating cyclists from tracks, or developing parallel (but excellent) bikeways.
Our process of working through the details with the affected neighborhood, user, and business groups led to a consensus, in the case of NW Lovejoy, that a parallel bikeway was a better approach. The already-constrained environment (on-street parking, narrow bike lanes, extruded sidewalks/platforms, and two narrow travel lanes) would be made even worse with additional angled tracks and a two-way to one-way shift. To make it acceptable from a bikeway standpoint, all the on-street parking would have to be removed, an unacceptable trade-off from a business standpoint. Now that the parallel bikeway has been implemented, a fair amount of debate is underway in Portland’s cycling community. Part of that has to do with driver behavior on tracks, part has to do with the symbolism of removing an official city bikeway from Lovejoy, but it’s also about the details of the design, which are far from perfect and continue to be tweaked. In another case, streetcar design was modified to place the tracks and platforms in the middle to allow for right-side bike lanes.
In the meantime, the City of Seattle was dealing with the aftermath of their first streetcar line. Without due consideration given to bicyclist safety and tracks laid in the right lane, cyclists started crashing and complaining. Alarmed, then-Seattle DOT Director Grace Crunican asked for guidance on future lines. And that’s what led to the project on Broadway Street and a commitment to ensure that from now on, bicycles and streetcars are planned together.
Seattle’s Broadway is a wonderful project from a good intentions standpoint, but a really tough one from a design standpoint. While the vision is to create an excellent bikeway akin to Vancouver BC’s Dunsmuir Street or the many two-way paths/cycle tracks in Montreal, the challenges are enormous.
Of particular concern is bicyclist/motorist interaction at intersections and driveways, steep grades, bicyclists’ turning movements, and, of course, interaction with tracks. Every decision will involve trade-offs with motorist movement, parking, or access. To be sure, like Portland’s emerging streetcar lines, debate and design-tweaking will go on long after the project is supposedly complete.
Both streetcar and bicycle transportation are highly effective, sustainable solutions with multiple benefits. Bicycling leverages enormous health and environmental benefits, while streetcar leverages development. Both use space efficiently and forward economic progress. Together, they signify the dawn of a powerful new era of transportation efficiency.
And one thing’s for sure: designing streetcar lines without serious consideration of bicyclists will cost more in the long run, as it’s always harder to fix things than doing them well in the first place.
BEWARD of crossing streetcar tracks at a too shallow angle. Sudden entrapment will occur and throw rider off of the bike forward of the bikes path.