Greater Greater Washington

Build protected transit lanes using cycletrack bollards

Simple plastic bollards and slight changes to lanes are enough to turn a regular bike lane into a cycletrack. Could the same trick work for bus lanes?


Bollard-protected bus lane in Washington state. Image from Zachary Ziegler on Vine.

DC's 7th Street and 9th Street curbside bus lanes are famously dysfunctional. Cars use them at will, and pretty much always have. But it doesn't have to be so.

The same tricks that work to protect cycletracks can also work to protect transit lanes. Plastic bollards, also known as flexposts, send a strong message to car drivers to stay out. The Virginia Department of Transportation even uses them on highways.


Flexposts on a Dulles Toll Road bus lane (left) and the Beltway (right). Dulles photo from Dan Malouff. Beltway photo from Google.

Generally speaking, the same complications would exist for bus lanes as exist for cycletracks. Adding bollards takes up a couple of extra feet, parking for cars has to move a lane away from the curb, and you have to find a way to accommodate cars turning at intersections. But mixing zones and other clever solutions have solved those problems for cycletracks, and could work for bus lanes too.

And flexposts aren't the only cycletrack lesson we can apply to bus lanes. Red paint helps transit lanes the same way green paint helps bike lanes.


Green means bike, red means transit. Bike lane photo from Dan Malouff. Bus lane photo from NYDOT.

No matter how many special treatments like bollards or red paint an agency applies, median transitways will still function better than curbside transit lanes. Median transitways eliminate the right turn problem altogether (left turns are less common), and puts the transit lanes out of the way of parked cars, or cars pulling over to pick up or drop off passengers.

But median transitways take up more road space, because the medians have to be wide enough for stations. They simply can't fit on all streets. Where that's the case, tricks like these can help curbside transit lanes work better than the 7th Street bus lane.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

Comments

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You lost me when you said plastic bollards make a bike lane a cycletrack...

by thump on Aug 7, 2014 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Thump

From the National Association of City Transportation Officials [emphases mine}:

"Cycle tracks have different forms but all share common elements—they provide space that is intended to be exclusively or primarily used for bicycles, and are separated from motor vehicle travel lanes, parking lanes, and sidewalks."

It says nothing about the medium used to physically separate the cycle area from the roadway.

http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/cycle-tracks/one-way-protected-cycle-tracks/

And these photos show "cycle tracks" where the barrier media are plastic bollards. Take your bike snobbery elsewhere.

by Use The Google on Aug 7, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

Okay I guess HTML is removed. but my point is valid.

by Police Academy on Aug 7, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

Nice idea, but its sort of putting the cart in front of the horse. Until DDOT shows some initiative and gets its head out of the sand, dedicated transit lanes won't happen. Once they stop worrying so much about cars and finally realize buses are a useful means of moving people, then we can discuss the best ways of designating said lanes.

by Mr. Johnson on Aug 7, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

Oh yeah, we also need MPD to realize that traffic control and enforcement is a basic part of city policing. We could make the 7th Street "lanes" work right now if anyone bothered to enforce them.

by Mr. Johnson on Aug 7, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

buses get disabled, and then these could pose a problem

by asffa on Aug 7, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

@asffa

These seem more movable in that situation than barriers of cars or other things.

by GP Steve on Aug 7, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

I think one of the things working in using "plastic bollards" as separators for a bike path is that you can put them up to make a 6-7 foot lane, rather than a 10+ft lane.

If set up 6 ft from the curb, a car would have to hit every single one to drive in that lane. If you set them up 10-12ft from the curb, a car could enter and drive along or park there.

by Richard on Aug 7, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

Dan, I think the best solution is a bus lane in the middle, not the side. Check out this image from Korea: http://samaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Seoul_Center_Bus_Lane.jpg The key here is that cars don't have to cross them to make right turns. They are separated by bollards, so they're hard to enter, plus if a car does enter, they will get stuck behind buses there when the buses stop, and they won't be able to go around the buses.

The important thing to note about the Seoul bus lanes is that they tried bus lanes on the right side, and they didn't work because people violated them.

As an aside on your comment about mixing zones - does anybody really like mixing zones? They seem like they put cyclists in danger at the point they need the most protection - intersections. Today on M St I had a van racing down M St to my left. When he got to the mixing zone, he slammed on his brakes once he saw me (immediately to his right) and then floored it when he was able to get on my right side. We have to realize there are maniacs on the road and protect vulnerable road users from them.

by JR on Aug 7, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

@Richard

Fair point on how narrower cycle tracks discourage cars. So the question that comes up is how does one discourage vehicles other than buses short of putting automated gates at every intersection?

by GP Steve on Aug 7, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

GP Steve Other than running through and breaking them, how are they supposed to be removed?

by asffa on Aug 7, 2014 2:34 pm • linkreport

@JR The Seoul-style bus lanes may work well on a very wide street (you need room for bus stops), but it wouldn't work well on streets like 7th and 9th.

I think contraflow bus lanes may be better. Right turns and left turns into or off of the road would need some thinking, but I'm sure some city has solved that problem. Probably just timing the lights fixes it.

by David on Aug 7, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

I think contraflow bus lanes may be better

Wouldn't the bus doors be on the wrong side?

by Another Nick on Aug 7, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

Sure. But we do have some very wide streets in DC. Bus lanes down K St, Mass Ave, Pennsylvania, Constitution, Independence would make so much sense it hurts to even think about it.

by JR on Aug 7, 2014 2:52 pm • linkreport

@asffa

At the point the ground base attaches to the vertical component, the bollard could be attached with some sort of lock that could detatch the base from the vertical component.

by GP Steve on Aug 7, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

I like the mixing zones. Legally, every intersection with a bike lane has a mixing zone but a lot of drivers and cyclists don't recognize it as such. The mixing zones on L street simply make this explicit.

Bus stops need to be mid-block or after the intersection if you do this.

by JimT on Aug 7, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

@ Another nick

"I think contraflow bus lanes may be better
Wouldn't the bus doors be on the wrong side?"

This has been discussed on here many times run the buses in the opposite direction than normal traffic; with a separated lane it works and is being done in many places around the world.

by kk on Aug 7, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

yes, the issue isn't bollards or how to demarcate a dedicated transitway, it's to commit to creating a dedicated transitway to begin with.

cf. "2. Change state laws to allow local agencies to prioritize transit over automobile traffic;" from

http://www.law.ucla.edu/news-and-events/in-the-news/2014/08/ucla-school-of-law-report-identifies-ways-to-improve-public-transit-planning-and-construction-in-california/~/media/0FCD3823693D46B08804F6FE219E4B73.ashx

by Richard Layman on Aug 7, 2014 4:36 pm • linkreport

GP so the buses are expected to have such things at the ready?

by asffa on Aug 7, 2014 5:40 pm • linkreport

Put me down as anti-mixing.

I like the mixing zones. Legally, every intersection with a bike lane has a mixing zone but a lot of drivers and cyclists don't recognize it as such.

Probably more than 90% of motorists don't merge into the bike lane when turning right. And too many cyclists still attempt to pass such motorists on the right even though they have their turn indicator on.

Infrastructure that has a high non-compliance rate and appears to need massive user education before it is used correctly is not good infrastructure.

Give me built out curbs where the cyclist cuts through the curb and motorists have to make a hard 90 degree turn. Then any conflict is should be readily apparent to all. Best of all would be separate mode signals!

by jeffb on Aug 7, 2014 5:47 pm • linkreport

buses get disabled, and then these could pose a problem

Following busses would just switch to the general travel lane at the previous intersection to go around the problem bus. Worst issue is they might have to temporarily block the general travel lane on that block to make their pick-ups/drop-offs.

by jeffb on Aug 7, 2014 5:53 pm • linkreport

Fair point on how narrower cycle tracks discourage cars. So the question that comes up is how does one discourage vehicles other than buses short of putting automated gates at every intersection?

Spikes that depress when a heavy enough vehicle goes over them but otherwise shreds tires.
Another option would be spikes that depress in advance of an approaching bus, via some sort of electronic signaling device on the bus.

either one would probably prevent cyclists from also using the lane....

by Richard on Aug 7, 2014 5:57 pm • linkreport

Well if buses in bus lanes get disabled and clog things up, then they're almost as bad as streetcars. I guess we can't have BRT anymore.

by gimbels lover on Aug 7, 2014 6:35 pm • linkreport

Jeffb -previous intersections are miles away when they're discussing putting BRT on interstates

by asffa on Aug 7, 2014 7:20 pm • linkreport

@ JimT:I like the mixing zones. Legally, every intersection with a bike lane has a mixing zone but a lot of drivers and cyclists don't recognize it as such.

That is because many drivers ignore the whole bike lane anyway. I see this every single day on virtually every block with a bike lane. Drivers just put their cars wherever it pleases them. Bikers be damned.

When I ask them what they are doing in a bike lane (it's summer, open windows are great), they generally curse me out - it does not matter if I'm polite or not.

The mixing zones on L street simply make this explicit.

Yeah, and they're an annoying dangerous mess. Again, because drivers just drive into them without looking for bikers.

Mixing zones are idiocy. Bike lanes are for bikes, so cars should not merge into them. Cars also don't merge into pedestrian lanes (aka side-walks) when turning. Straight traffic has the right of way over turning traffic, so cars turning right should yield to bikers going straight, just like they have to yield to pedestrians crossing (straight).

by Jasper on Aug 7, 2014 8:59 pm • linkreport

Jeffb -previous intersections are miles away when they're discussing putting BRT on interstates
7th &'9th st are not interstates. Neither would be 16th St if they did a dedicated lane there.

One could always provide suitable transition points anyway. Just like they do today for emergency vehicle access.

by Jeffb on Aug 7, 2014 10:15 pm • linkreport

They put some of those up on Seminary where it crosses over the Beltway, apparently to try to keep cars out of the walk lanes. They lasted a few months before they were all knocked down.

by Woody Brosnan on Aug 8, 2014 7:57 am • linkreport

I don't understand why one of DDOT's top priorities right now isn't converting the H st NE streetcar tracks into a dedicated lane with paint and bollards.

by Asaf on Aug 8, 2014 10:17 pm • linkreport

Please, no more plastic bollards and visual clutter to create specialized lanes. Painted lanes are much more specific and attractive.

by Mary R on Aug 12, 2014 9:12 am • linkreport

We actually wrote a whole proposal about this kind of tactile BRT-lite concept in a proposal for George Mason's innovative transportation competition a few years back! See link and click on Pop Transit

by James Wong on Aug 22, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

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