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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ithaca Bike Symposium and Bike Boulevards

With the Rochester Bicycle Master Plan almost completed, one of the options for providing access is bike boulevards as noted below.

Summary Jon Schull and Scott MacRae’s Trip to Ithaca Bike Symposium 11- 19 &20, 2010

We were fortunate to attend the Ithaca Bike Symposium. Unable to make the afternoon sessions, we joined the Bike & Beer Gathering Friday Night. We met some Ithaca bike advocates and were introduced as the “Rochester Brothers” because Jon and I both put Rochester after our first names.

The next morning Mia Burke, Alta Planning, former bike coordinator for Portland, Oregon 1993-1999 who now runs a 60 employee national bike consulting company gave a talk on Bicycle Boulevards” or “Neighborhood Greenways”. Here are the highlights.

60% of the population is classified as “Interested and Concerned” and these folks are that the population that responds Bike Boulevards appeal to. (There are the 1% young and fearless and 7% are enthused and confident, 30% are uninterested in bicycling.)

Bike Boulevards or Neighborhood Greenways, have been very successful in Portland but the first one is a challenge since the community does not know what to expect. The cost is $250,000/mile so they may not be cheep compared to the $10-20,000/mile for painting lanes. They are ideal to set up on streets that run parallel to preferred routes. The preferred traffic volume is 3,000-4,000 but 1,500 or lower is ideal. Some bike boulevards are now shooting for <500 cars/day.

There are different levels of commitment for Bike Boulevards or Neighborhood Greenways. The first level is signage and pavement markings. Another is prioritizing traffic so that the cyclists don’t have to stop frequently. They also traffic use traffic calming (slowing) techniques like elongated speed bumps, traffic circles and curb extensions to slow traffic ideally to 15-25 mph. A higher level of commitment is auto traffic diversion to a different street. Adjoining street dwellers often complain about this driving more traffic to their streets but this is typically less than expected because traffic disperses more to other non adjacent streets.

Public involvement is important and the process should not be rushed into. The neighborhood needs to be surveyed and canvassed as well as ride and public workshops all contribute to educating the neighborhoods on the positive effects. This includes the increase in land values of neighborhoods around bike boulevards.

They use median and refuge islands which are separate from the pedestrian islands to allow the cyclists to cross busy streets. A street may be blocked off from 2 way car traffic and become a one way street but allow bikes to go 2 ways.

A popular trend is to combine “bike boulevards” with “green streets” which includes bioswales and storm water management as well as green plantings to improve the livability for everyone. The park service people like this because it can create an atmosphere of a mini park in a park inaccessible area. Bike Boulevards are one part of the puzzle of making a community bike friendly.

A great video on Portland, Oregon’s Bike Boulevard Program is available at:


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