Is Cycling on the Shoulder Illegal?

Friday, October 2 by JerryFoster

Pt Beach Cyclist w Dog wrong way shoulderLet’s re-visit the great war between the executive branch (NJDOT) and the legislative (NJ Title 39) and judiciary (NJ Supreme Court Polzo v Essex County ruling) branches with regard to bicycling on the shoulder. Everybody does it, but is it legal?

NJDOT’s excellent 2011 Bicycling Manual recommends “riding on the right side of the road or on the shoulder.” NJDOT’s circa-1996 Introduction to Bicycle Facilities notes, “Advanced bicyclists are best served by bicycle compatible streets and highways which have been designed to accommodate shared use by bicycles and motor vehicles.” Paved shoulders are considered one form of bicycle compatible roadway.

So NJDOT encourages it, but does that make it legal? NJ Title 39:4-14.1 states: “Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”

Wait a minute, isn’t a bicycle a vehicle? Not in NJ – human-powered devices are specifically excluded from the legal definition of vehicle in 39:1-1: “”Vehicle” means every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or motorized bicycles.”

So what, it’s the same thing while riding in the shoulder, right? Not really, as the shoulder is specifically excluded from the “roadway” legal definition in 39:1-1: “”Roadway” means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.” So a cyclist riding in the shoulder would not be granted all the rights and responsibilities as the driver of a vehicle.

Aren’t we nitpicking? Motorists can’t legally drive in the shoulder anyway – cyclists can’t very well have the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of a vehicle while riding in the shoulder, as it would also be illegal.

Exactly! If a cyclist has the same rights/responsibilities to follow the rules of the road, s/he should only ride in the travel lane, not in the shoulder.

NJDOT’s lawyers, presuming to encourage only legal cycling behavior, may well point to the sentence structure of 39:4-14.1. It implies that every person riding a bicycle *outside* the roadway (e.g. on the shoulder) would not have the same rights/responsibilities as the driver of a vehicle, but that doesn’t make it illegal, since it’s not explicitly prohibited, like it is for drivers of a vehicle in 39:4-82.

Under this interpretation, it’s a cyclist’s choice whether to ride in the roadway, and be legally bound to follow all the rules of the road, or live free on the shoulder. Just think, no rules, no responsibilities – bike against traffic, blow the wrong way through stop signs, it’s all legal if you’re a cyclist on the shoulder. Under this interpretation, cyclists have an implicitly legal option to ride on the shoulder that isn’t offered to drivers of vehicles.

So which is it? Illegal or legally available w no rights/responsibilities? According to the NJ Supreme Court in Polzo v Essex County, “Bicyclists do not have special privileges on a roadway’s shoulder. Indeed, a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder. The Motor Vehicle Code does not designate the roadway’s shoulder as a bicycle lane.”

So, as far as the law with regard to cyclists is concerned, the NJ Supremes ruled that a cyclist “is directed” to the roadway, “not on the roadway’s shoulder.”

The Polzo ruling was in 2012 – why is NJDOT still encouraging cyclists to ride on the shoulder? Shouldn’t shoulders with sufficient space be designated as bike lanes? What ever happened to the Complete Streets policy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bike Commuter Journal – How Things Change, or Not

Friday, April 4 by JerryFoster

Please welcome Steve Kruse as our guest bike commuter this week – he chairs the Princeton Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and bike commuted from Princeton to Plainsboro through 2005. Steve joins us via an article he wrote almost 17 years ago, Two Wheels To Work, which appeared in the U.S. 1 Newspaper, May 28, 1997, used here with kind permission of author and publisher.

It’s great to get a view from last century, to see what has improved, and what hasn’t. Steve’s article mentions road conditions, policies, motorists both considerate and not, and several planned improvements to the area.

Steve noted that “New Jersey does not spring to mind as an especially bicycle-friendly place.” Is that still true? Maybe, but NJ DOT adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2009, so future improvements should include accommodations for biking and walking, transit users and those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As our readers know, the state has jurisdiction over only the federal highways and interstates and a few other major arteries. Fortunately for today’s Princeton to Plainsboro bike commuters, Mercer and Middlesex counties, as well as Princeton and Plainsboro have all adopted Complete Streets policies – click here to see everyone in New Jersey who’ve adopted Complete Streets.

Significant improvements have also been made to onstreet bike lanes in West Windsor, which are beginning to form a network. Steve mentioned staying out of the “door zone” of onstreet parked cars on Harrison – Princeton’s shared lane pavement markings (“sharrows”), including on Harrison, guide cyclists (and notify motorists) to the safe lane position away from cars. Plainsboro continues to extend it’s network of paved multi-use paths. The League of American Bicyclists have designated West Windsor and Princeton Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Communities, and Princeton University earned New Jersey’s first Bicycle Friendly University award.

As you read Steve’s article, what do you notice has changed? What has not?

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Is Roszel Rd a Complete Street?

Thursday, June 20 by JerryFoster

Roszel Repaved 3Roszel Road has recently been repaved, with new curb cuts on the sidewalk (one side only) to bring them into ADA compliance. Does that make it a Complete Street? Let’s look at the road in the context of it’s use to find out – we’ll use NJDOT’s Smart Transportation Guidebook (STG) as an objective source of a Complete Streets definition in the context of the road’s use.

Roszel connects Alexander Road (between Rt 1 and the train station) to the Carnegie Center office park, and is home to Tyco’s corporate headquarters among other office buildings. STG calls this context a Suburban Corridor, while West Windsor’s master plan classifies the road as a Principle Collector – STG calls this combination a Community Collector, and provides guidelines we’ll use to compare with the current design.

The NJDOT guidelines recommend paved shoulders and medians or a two-way left turn lane, since Roszel is a multi-lane road – neither of which were implemented.

Sidewalks are recommended “as appropriate”, with a footnote detailing specifics for state and federally funded projects, so sidewalks on one side might be appropriate in a charitable interpretation, but we believe sidewalks on both sides are appropriate in this case.

Bike lanes are listed “Evaluate for suburban and urban contexts” so their absence in the current road is mainly problematic because there are no paved shoulders or sidewalks on both sides to accomodate those cyclists who are not comfortable biking in the road. There’s still time to paint sharrows in the right lane, to encourage bicyclists to use the shared roadway.

Overall, a significant opportunity was missed – Roszel provides a connection to one of our town’s major employment centers, and paved shoulders, sidewalks on both sides and bike lanes/shoulders would have been much more bike and walk friendly. Given the low volumes, a 4-to-3 lane road diet would have been ideal and inexpensive, with no loss of roadway capacity.

What do you think?

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Proposed Changes to Clarksville / North Post Intersection

Saturday, March 30 by JerryFoster

The WWBPA has long been concerned about safety along Clarksville Rd, especially after a pedestrian was seriously injured while walking his dog at the intersection of North Post Road, near the municipal complex. Mercer County’s proposed changes (pictured) partly address and partly heighten these concerns, and should be remedied to make all legs of the intersection safer.

Following up on our letter to the county supporting the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s recommendations contained in their corridor study, Taming Traffic, we recently followed up with the following letter to the Mercer County Freeholders:

Dear Freeholders,

I am writing regarding the upcoming ordinance on the intersection of Clarksville and North Post Roads in West Windsor. As a citizen living very close to this intersection I observe the daily interactions of vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles. As a trustee of The West Windsor Pedestrian and Bicycle Alliance I am concerned with all aspects of safe streets for pedestrians and bicyclists and want the County as well as the Township to remain committed to Complete Streets planning for safe bicycle routes everywhere.

The plans for North Post Road are very troubling. Heading south towards Conover, unlike all the other intersection approaches, there are three lanes of vehicle traffic instead of two.

My concern is safety for children and adults crossing this portion of the intersection heading to the Mercer County Library, Municipal Building, Senior Center and Post Office. This crosswalk is heavily used by pedestrians and the increase of vehicle lanes to four across is extremely unsafe for pedestrians, and there is no safe lane for bikes.

The second area of concern is the north side of the intersection on North Post Road. The plan shows a 17 foot lane with no provision for a separate bicycle lane, or even a shoulder. There is more than enough room for a vehicle lane as well as a bicycle lane, and this heavily used part of our town needs to have that bicycle lane marked. North Post Road is a popular route to and from the Municipal Complex and County Library and to and from the train station as well as the very popular Farmers Market.

The West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance sent a letter in September 2012, supporting changes to this intersection as described in the 2007 report from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (“Taming Traffic” p.38; diagram p.37). We strongly request you follow through with improving the safety here by following that plan (which does not include any separate right turn only lane).

Clarksville Road divides our community in two if traffic taming measures are not implemented. We need safe complete streets especially around our schools and libraries.

Unfortunately, I will be out of town for the March 28th meeting or would be there for the public hearing. I am asking for you to approve an ordinance with the safety of pedestrians in mind. A four lane road is not a safe road to cross.

Thank you in advance for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,
Kathleen Brennan
WWPBA Trustee

Please contact our officials with your support for making the Clarksville and North Post intersection safer for everyone – motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

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An Upgrade to Mercer County Park

Sunday, June 17 by silvia

Thank you,  James Jenkins, for this report:

As a frequent bicycle commuter through Mercer County Park, I was recently surprised to find significant road construction taking place on the main park road.

The appearance of road construction crews was an indicator of some great news for users of the park.  The once-gravel shoulder of the main park road is now paved and lined as a bicycle lane.  Previously, bicyclists using the main park road had to contend with a very narrow lane for traffic and bicycles.  In addition, the transition between paved road and gravel posed a potential safety hazard.  The problem no longer exists.

Kevin Bannon, Mercer County Park Commission’s executive director, is obviously thrilled with the completion of the project, too.  He pointed out that the road situation was one of the more common complaints heard from park users.  He requested the funding for the project in 2010 and received approval from the Freeholder Board and County Execute Brian Hughes (who, I’m told, is also a huge fan of the project).

The cost of the project is $601,614, which includes all logos, striping, signs, crosswalks and turnarounds.

Thank you, Mercer County! We know the park is already popular with bicyclists, and this will make it safer and even more appealing for a wider range of cyclists. The WWBPA hopes we can one day see a bike route or multi-use trail through the park to Mercer County Community College.

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More Bike, Pedestrian Improvements Planned

Monday, June 4 by silvia

West Windsor residents will continue to see improvements in bicycle and pedestrian safety around the township over the next year, thanks to continuing Capital Budget Programs.

Money has been allocated to extend bike lanes on Edinburg Road between Village Road East and the east entrance to Mercer County Park.  Cyclists, remember that when the bridge over the Assumpink (and a stretch of Old Trenton Road) is closed for replacement later this year, you can take a shortcut through Mercer County Park and continue through West Windsor on Edinburg. Just yield to pedestrians on the path!

Funds also have been budgeted for to build the missing links in the path running parallel to the Dinky tracks on the Alexander Road side between Vaughn Drive and Route 1. This will be a great help for those wanting to bike-commute to work but not wanting to be on Alexander Road. One day we hope it will link to a bike and pedestrian bridge over Route 1.

There will be improvements in the timing of traffic signals along Alexander Road, which should make crossing safer for pedestrians. The township will also continue with its crosswalk improvements, signage and striping enhancements, and sidewalk repair where street trees have caused damage.

The final phase of the Meadow Road improvements will be started, including a sidewalk from Clarksville Road to Duck Pond Park, making the park accessible from the new apartments on Clarksville Road and the Jewish Community Center accessible from the Estates at Princeton Junction.

And finally, this year will see the conceptual design for resurfacing of Canal Pointe Boulevard.  The WWBPA is hopeful that the township will follow the suggestions made by Orth Rodgers and enthusiastically supported by the WWBPA to put Canal Pointe on a road diet — giving it one travel lane in each direction, center turning lanes for left turns, decelleration lanes for right turns, and bike lanes.

These planned improvements show that West Windsor truly deserves its Bicycle Friendly Community designation. The WWBPA thanks township officials and the township council for these projects.

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Penn Lyle Road Improvements Completed

Thursday, December 15 by JerryFoster

It’s a challenge to keep up with all the improvements that have been completed this year, including the long-planned Penn Lyle Road project, which includes repaving, bike lanes and sidewalk connections. Thanks to the township for getting this done, even including porous pavement for the sidewalks!

Penn Lyle Road is a key connector between WW-P High School South and the bike lanes on Woodmere Way and Village Road, as well as to the Trolley Line Trail, a multi-use path that connects to Community Park and on to the bike lanes on Rabbit Hill Road, Bennington Drive and Southfield Road.

Including the new multi-use path along South Post Road, you can now bike from Mercer County Park, at either the Mercer Oaks Golf Course or at the Caspersen Rowing Center, to Village Elementary School or Grover Middle School, and on to McCaffrey’s grocery store, all via bike lanes or multi-use paths.  There are few gaps left in the biking or sidewalk network in the eastern part of the township.

Naturally, experienced bicyclists don’t regard these improvements as necessary, since they (we, actually) are comfortable driving our bikes in traffic, following the laws like anyone else on the road. For casual bicyclists, however, the bike lanes and paths provide the extra perception of safety that enables them to bike places they would not feel comfortable reaching without those facilities.

Please keep in mind that there are some things to watch out for when biking in a bike lane or on a path. Whenever there’s an intersection or driveway, many drivers  pay attention to the middle of the road to look for a car approaching, but may not look to the edge where the bike lane is, and so may not notice a bicyclist entering the intersection or driveway. Also, if cars are backed up, someone turning through a gap in the cars may not see an approaching bicyclist (or a pedestrian on the sidewalk at a driveway), since the driver is paying attention to the gap in cars but not yet to the space beyond. Just keep an eye out for these common causes of crashes, and you’ll be able to avoid them.

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Help West Windsor Get Three Grants

Wednesday, October 5 by silvia

Part of the Dinky Line Trail

West Windsor is applying for three bicycle and pedestrian-friendly grants from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. One will help pay for an extension of the Dinky Line Trail behind the office buildings along Alexander Road between Vaughn Drive and Route 1, giving bicyclists a safe alternative to Alexander Road and giving office workers a pleasant outdoor retreat. (See the map here: Dinky Line Trail Extension Map.) It falls under the Safe Streets to Transit program. Another, part of the Bikeways program, would help extend the bike lane on Edinburg Road to the eastern entrance of Mercer County Park, creating a family-friendly route to the park. The third, part of the Roadway Infrastructure Program, would allow for the repaving of New Village Road between Edinburg and Old Trenton Road, including the bike lanes and ensuring that ramps at the crosswalks are suitable for those on wheelchairs, pushing strollers and others. While at least the first two are in this year’s capital improvement budget, any state funding obviously means less local money (via property taxes) will be needed.

These grants are highly competitive, and state officials made clear at the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition‘s summit early this year that community support for the projects is an important consideration.

Of course, the WWBPA will write letters as an organization, but we’d also like to see some from individuals. Write a letter to the mayor (we are told they want original signed letters, not emails) this week for each project you want to show support. The Municipal Center address is 271 Clarksville Road, West Windsor NJ 08550. Apologies for the short notice, but the township wants the letters by Friday. The letter does not have to be long. Any personal experience with the area and why the improvement is needed would make it even better.

Help us show we want these improvements!

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I Bike. I Walk. I Vote.

Thursday, September 15 by silvia

From the League of American Bicyclists: This year, around $700 million of Federal transportation funds, which in reality is less than 2% of total transportation dollars, will be spent on bicycling and walking.  In 2012 that figure might be a big fat zero.

We expect that in the next few days, Senator Coburn (R-OK) will ask Congress to eliminate the federal Transportation Enhancements program – the primary funding source for the past 20 years for bike lanes, trails, bike racks on buses, bike education etc.  This isn’t safe or smart; it’s not good for the economy or the environment; this is bad health policy and bad transportation policy. But they are going to try because they don’t think bicycling matters.

Even though bicycling projects create more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects and cutting enhancements won’t impact the deficit – the money just won’t be spent on bicycling – some Members of Congress want to  force us backwards to a 1950s highway-only mindset: as if oil embargoes, congestion, smog, the obesity epidemic and climate change never happened.

Now is the time to Save Cycling, so we are asking you to contact your Senators and urge them to support continued funding for biking and walking. Don’t let them take away this vital investment program for smart, sustainable, safe transportation choices.

And as America Walks notes, the Transportation Enhancements program has also been the primary funding source for sidewalks, crosswalks, trails and more. If Sen. Coburn succeeds, it would mean an immediate end to funding for Transportation Enhancements.  It would also mean that our chances of sustaining any funding for bicycling and walking (including for Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails) in the long-term reauthorization bill would be more difficult.

West Windsor has gained numerous sidewalk extensions and bike lanes in recent years, and these projects haven’t been exclusively funded with local tax dollars. Let’s make America more bikeable and walkable. Let’s have complete streets — streets that work for all users.

Need an instant e- letter to send to our senators? Here’s one from People for Bikes.

Watch the League’s video.

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Sharrows Are Coming to Princeton

Saturday, July 30 by silvia

From Friday’s Princeton Packet:

Sharrows, or shared lane markings, will be installed next month on roadways in the two Princetons.

The thermoplastic markings will allow cyclists and drivers to safely “share the road” along the area’s streets that are too narrow for separate bike lanes.

Nassau Street will be marked from Route 206 to Snowden Lane. Markings will also be placed on Wiggins Street and Hamilton Avenue in the borough. In the township, the markings will be placed on Harrison Street to Mount Lucas Road.

Harrison and Witherspoon Street will be marked their entire lengths.    A maximum of 87 symbols will be installed in the borough; and the State Department of Transportation will install additional 60 on Nassau Street. Approximately 72 will be installed on the township roadways.

The borough’s share of the installation costs is $14,800. The township is paying the remainder of the $29,920, or $14,400. Each symbol costs about $170. The actual number of symbols that end up being installed will determine final cost.

Traffic Lines Inc. of Farmingdale will be doing the work for the two municipalities.

Installation will begin mid-August.

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More Sidewalks and Bike Lanes!

Thursday, June 16 by silvia

What an incredible year for new sidewalks and bike lanes in West Windsor!

Schlumberger sidewalkYou’ve probably already seen the improvements around the train station, including better crossings, the sidewalk on the Schlumberger side and the striped shoulders that give cyclists some added comfort. There also are three key links in the sidewalk network that went in last month and finally allow people to walk to and from the Toll Brother developments, Windsor Haven and the farmers’ market over the railroad bridge on Alexander Road and to the library, Maurice Hawk and the Arts Center. Those parking at the Wallace Road lot for Arts Council events now have a much more direct walk as well.

Now work has started on Penn-Lyle Road that not only will repave the road surface but add sidewalks to the east side of the road between Village Road West and Stony Brook Way as well as bike lanes on both sides of the road. This will let more students walk or bike safely to High School South.

We also hear that work is progressing for the multi-use trail planned along South Post Road near the ballfields. If all goes smoothly, the project could soon go out to bid, with an aim of construction in September or October.

The WWBPA has long advocated for these improvements, and we thank township officials, including the mayor and council, for making them.

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Merchants Say Bike Lanes Good for Business

Sunday, February 20 by JerryFoster

According to a study of the economic impact of traffic calming measures in San Francisco, “Sixty-six percent of the merchants believe that the bike lanes have had a generally positive impact on their business.”

The 2003 study, by Emily Drennan of San Francisco State University, notes:

“Small business owners can be the most vocal opponents of traffic calming projects because they fear losing revenue due to changes to the streetscape.

Some research suggests that traffic calming projects can actually improve business conditions and raise revenues for small businesses (Lockwood, 1998).

The Valencia Street Bike Lane Merchant Survey uses business interviews to gather qualitative information about the effects of the Valencia Street bicycle lanes on small businesses in the area.”

Over 65% of the merchants surveyed supported more traffic calming measures.

How about in West Windsor? Will merchants support traffic calming on our Main Street, Rt 571?

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Buffered Bike Lanes Bring Out the Bicyclists

Thursday, January 27 by JerryFoster

Buffered Bike Lanes Work for Kids

The data is in! Implementing buffered bike lanes in New York City resulted in a 190% increase (nearly tripled!) in bicycling based on before and after counts. More significantly for pedestrians, the percentage of bicyclists on the sidewalk fell from 46% to 4%, and 32% of these cyclists riding in the bike lanes were children legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk!

Buffered bike lanes, which are placed between the sidewalk and the on-street parked cars, are a key feature of the Princeton Junction Redeveloment Plan, although they are replaced in the Transit Village area by the Shared Space concept, which mix bicycle and motor vehicle travel lanes.

According to a recent report, these dramatic results were for weekday counts between 7am-7pm. Weekend counts more than doubled (125% increase), and cyclists riding on the sidewalk fell from 20% to 4%, 43% of whom were children legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk.

Want to have fewer people biking on the sidewalk? Implement buffered bike lanes – they work for bicyclists of all ages and abilities.

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Bike Lanes Do More For Jobs Creation

Friday, January 14 by silvia

Here’s a study we like: dollar for dollar, building bike infrastructure creates more jobs than road works.

The findings, publicized by the League of American Bicyclists and quickly making its way around the blogosphere, examined the costs of engineering, construction, and materials for different projects in Baltimore and found that bike lanes create about twice as many jobs as road construction for the same amount of money. (Pedestrian infrastructure also tops roads.) Some of it has to do with the need for labor compared to materials. You can read the entire study here.

For those who say roads are paid for with gas taxes and tolls, well, no, they’re not. Not by a long shot, as this analysis points out.

High Point to Cape May

High Point to Cape May Bike Route

As the LAB points out, it’s one more way bicycle infrastructure is good for the economy. An LAB study notes that bicycle industry and bicycle tourism can boost local employment levels and economic activity. West Windsor is fortunate to be located along the East Coast Greenway, with hotels and other businesses that are accessible from the route, and just off the state’s mapped route from High Point to Cape May (Note: this file is more than 50 MB; be patient while it downloads–the guide is worth it).

For more routes, see the NJDOT’s Biking in New Jersey Tours.

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Bike Lanes, Paths or Highways?

Friday, November 26 by sandy

Separate bike lanes and paths, or share the road? This is a lively debate in the bicycle advocacy community,  almost as controversial as whether bike helmets are good for cycling because they save lives or bad because they discourage too many potential cyclists (also known as the “dork factor”).

Some say paths separated from the roadway are safer and encourage more cyclists. But such paths are costly, have their own conflicts (different speeds among cyclists and between cyclists and pedestrians). Plus, the law says bicyclists have a right to the road (and must follow all the rules of the road). By taking their place in the road, share-the-road proponents say, drivers must acknowledge the presence of cyclists and either pass them safely or go at a slower speed. Poorly designed bike lanes, such as those too close to parked cars and/or traffic, might mean less safety, as one study found. The WWBPA has recommended a two-foot buffer between a lane of parked cars and a bike lane to prevent cyclists riding into a door that is being opened (“dooring”).

One idea in between is “bicycle boulevards,” which optimize low-volume and low-speed streets for bicycle travel and discourage cut-through vehicle traffic (a plus for residents!). In Denmark, Copenhagen is extending its bicycling network outward into the suburbs, creating what the blog Copenhagenize calls “bicycle superhighways,” for commutes of six miles or more. Other interesting ideas are “green wave” traffic lights, which coordinate the signal timing to hit green lights along your route, “branded” signage for specific routes, even bicycle service stations along the way.

What’s your take?

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