An Afterthought! A Reminder!
Why should there be physically separated bike lanes on major highways or horizontally separated bike paths on highway right-of-ways? Why are they needed? Why are wide shoulders not enough?
Rural Highways and Roads
When discussions come forth for enhancement of cycling on rural roads for people who wish to cycle rather than drive, the dialogue invariably starts with:
Should the shoulders be paved?
Then, what should be the width of paved shoulders? – Minimal 1 metre; minimum bike lane width of 1.5 metres; more comfortable bike lane width of 1.8 metres that would attract more people to cycle; bike lane width supporting social cycling with minimum of 2.2 metres but more desirably 2.5 or 3 metres; width of 2 metres plus that would negate the wind effect on cyclists of trucks or buses passing at high highway speeds; width that would allow for cyclists’ avoidance of road dirt on shoulders caused by passing trucks, snow clearance, etc.
Should the road shoulders just be marked for cycling on the pavement or signed as a bike lane or both? Should there just be paved shoulders with no cognitive demonstration to motorists that cyclists may be present?
Should there be physical separation between fast-moving cars, trucks, buses and slower moving cyclists? Then from there, the dialogue turns to what type of separation:
Should the separation simply be painting providing a virtual buffer that can be transgressed by motor vehicles poorly driven and drifting into the cycling space or used by motorists for temporary stopping or parking?
Should there be physical separation or barrier between cyclists and the rest of the road pavement users?
Should there be physical separation instead with bike paths within the road right-of-way removed from the general traffic lanes?
Should physical separation provide one-direction cycling on each side of roads or two-way cycling on one side of roads?
Instead, should there be a bike trails on their own separate right-of-ways, removed from any roads?
Urban Arterial and Other Roads
Similar discussions seem to come up for city roads, including:
Should the roadway be a shared facility with sharrow markings?
Is it enough just to put up bikeway signs on arterial, collector, and neighbourhood streets? Sign it and people will be drawn to cycling being the operative strategy or belief.
Considerations for Rural Highways and Roads
In the discussion, there is something important missing. What seems to be missing is a dialogue on factors that affect design that would increase cycling traffic and encourage people to leave their cars at home and do trips by cycling instead.
What seems to be missing is the dialogue on what will attract non-cyclists to move towards cycling. What seems to be missing is translating factors that hold back people from cycling into cycling infrastructure design and network design.
Designing Infrastructure for People
Personal confidence, personal propensity for risk-taking, personal considerations, personal convenience, degree of cycling skills, navigational skills, perceived cycling friendliness of roads, mechanical skills for maintaining or repairing bicycles, trip considerations, topography and environment considerations that limit attracting people to cycling are some of the factors that need to be overcome, which affect infrastructure and network designs. Targeting a portion of drivers for potentially inducing them to cycling instead may be more fruitful rather than designing for current cyclists if the objective is to get cycling traffic activity to grow substantially. For designing, the Maslow model of Hierarchy of Needs may be useful to keep in mind.
Influences on Cycling Infrastructure Design
Nothing fazes people more than the thought of being stranded on a highway many kilometres from civilization. Not all people carry cell phones to call for assistance.
Clumps of truck tire pieces straddling road shoulders are a prime cause for cyclists being stranded, as steel pieces separating from these rethreaded tires pieces litter road shoulders. Then, cyclists face the task of repairing a tire. Sometimes the weather is not too kind with wind, rain, cold, or darkness posing an uncomfortable environment for the task. Some people are not inclined to repair flats; so potential for flats is enough discouragement for cycling.
Law banning rethread tires and very frequent (weekly, at least) shoulder sweeping would reduce the probability of such flats. Now, will this really happen in the political environment that is with us.
Wide paved shoulders of 3 metres plus, lower highway speed and its observation may offset some risk as the distance that trucks hurl discarded tire pieces is dependent on vehicle speed. Rethreaded tire garbage tends to litter highway shoulders primarily within 1.5 to 2 metres from outside lane lines.
More realistically, physical separation of cyclists and drivers is a real solution that would attract more people to cycle. Such separation needs to be accompanied with impermeable physical barriers if cycling is right adjacent to traffic lanes or with vertical separation by distance that bike paths on road right-of-way provide. Of course with the absence of truck traffic, bike trails eliminates the potential of flats from rethreaded tire pieces.
Rethread tires pose another danger to cyclists. With speeds of 100 km or more being frequently undertaken by drivers, the lateral discarding of rethreaded tire pieces causes a missile effect as the pieces are dispatched to road shoulders. Would one want to be in the way of a 100 km baseball pitch or a rethreaded tire piece? It is bad enough to be unfortunately in the way of a rock being projected by a car, which just happened to cleanly shear off a bicycle tire stem during a steep climb. The potential danger to cyclists during the act of a truck tire casting off a rethreaded piece is real. Fortunately, the probability is low. Of course, if you are unfortunate to be in the way, statistics become meaningless. Potential cyclists seeing the highways littered with rethreaded tire and other garbage cast off by trucks, cars, and snow clearing activities is enough for some to consider cycling on these types of roads as not the thing to do.
Wind Effect on Cyclists
A blast of wind from a high-speed truck or bus passing by is enough to unsettle many cyclists and a discouragement for the less risk-takers to cycle on fast speed roads. Strong cross winds can increase the intensity of the wind’s slipstream unnerving the less confident cyclists. Sometimes, one needs to cycle towards passing vehicle to stay on the road, during very strong winds. Otherwise, the verges will great you. The wind envelope from large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, has been well documented but not considered in designing for cycling along high-speed roads.
Air Pollution Envelope
Some research has been done on the effect of poor quality air or emissions emanating from motorized vehicles on cyclists adjacent to these pollution producers. Results has shown that cyclists are polluted less if removed from a car by a metre and more so, if farther away. One study focused on relationship of air pollution on neighbouring streets to arterial streets and found that the pollution is less. So, it seems that the amount of pollution present that was emitted from cars, trucks, buses, and other motorized vehicles is dependent on distance and decreases as the distance increases. More research is required to fully understand the linearity relationship of distance and the amount of pollution absorbed, the pollution bubble.
The research supports the use of bike paths on road right-of-ways and off-road bike trails for decreasing the effect of pollution on cyclists.
In 2006, I came to realize the effect of highway noise on people. Until then, I just saw it as undesirable noise and put it aside. On a trip from Vancouver, B.C. to Chicago, IL, I saw the impact that noise can have on a cyclist as I watched my cycling colleague suffer with each passing truck and cars. Noise emitted from cars, tracks, and buses has an envelope and dissipates with distance. That noise envelope is not well understood. There is need for clear documentation of the model. The model needs implementation with any work done on any road or any bike paths being built. The effect of noise on people needs to be eliminated or much reduced for cycling infrastructure. Proper application of the noise envelope will have direct impact on cycling traffic volumes.
Moving towards Wide Shoulders and Preferably to Bike Paths or Bike Trails
For highways, there are good arguments that cycling will be encouraged if wide shoulders, bike paths, or bike trails within 500 metres of the traffic lanes are provided. Wide shoulders will only entice a smaller number of potential cyclists. The number will grow as bike paths on road right-of-ways are provided and even more when bike trails are provided within the cycling catchment area of roads or about 500 metres. Road garbage, wind effect, air and noise pollution will have been reduced or eliminated. There are other justifications for physical separation and the wider separation the better. Some of these are economic and others are local retail business contributors.
Of course, only paved paths should be considered. Research has shown that gravel paths require 30% more energy than paved paths. 30% more energy is sufficient to dissuade many not to cycle or cut daily distances down where touring does not become feasible.
Use of Bike Paths and Bike Trails during Snow Periods
Two-way bike paths and bike trails open up the potential for increased business along the cycling facilities and their destinations during low cycling periods when the paths and trails would be covered by snow. Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing become a use of these facilities, a tourist attraction, and reason for coming to the area. For more remote cycling infrastructures, considerations should be given towards drawing in local economic benefits that snowmobilers bring. Defiantly, ATV’s should not be allowed on these facilities considering their demonstrated history of destructiveness to trails.
An Afterthought, A Reminder
The Banff Legacy Trail is a fine example that separation increases cycling traffic. After all, there are excellent wide shoulders on the Trans-Canada Highway where we used to cycle on in less cycling numbers than we experience on the new trail now.
The Banff Legacy Trail, Banff National Park of Canada, Province of Alberta
Links – Banff Legacy Trail
http://actionplan.gc.ca/initiatives/eng/index.asp?mode=8&imode=7&initiativeid=129&id=4836 ) (parallels the Trans Canada Highway (Why #1) through the Banff National Park (http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx)