The Manhattan Bicycle Experiment

Bicycle facilities come in many shapes and sizes from shared lanes with cars to median separated “cycle tracks”. Dallas is considering a number of these and we saw them in stick figure form at the bike meeting a few months ago, but what do they really look like and more importantly what are they like to ride? We can’t all go to New York to see them, where they have built two hundred miles of bike facilities in the past two years, but BFOC member Andrew Howard liquidated his frequent flyer and hotel miles to bring us this report:

Luckily, I had the most beautiful day to document the New York bicycle experience. While New York may not be the exact development pattern or culture that Dallas should follow, they are testing a number of new bicycle facilities and public spaces that we can learn from. Most of the streets in New York City are one-way, but the facilities can be applied to some of Dallas’s large two-way streets. Overall, I found New York to be uber-bike friendly and the facilities to be safe and fun to ride.

West-side bike trail with bicycle signals provide for safe crossings.

Just like any City, must bicycling takes place on small residential streets, these have been retrofitted with green bike lanes.

These buffered bike lanes provided greater separation between the traffic lanes and the bike lane. They proved to be safer and provided more room for maneuvering away from opening car doors and turning vehicles. Notice how the treatment changes to a shared bike facility at the intersection, this provided bike riders with a visual hint that the intersection is a shared space between bicycles and cars.

By far the most enjoyable bike lane was the european inspired “cycle track”, which provides a separation between the travel lanes and the bike lanes, in this case parked cars provide the buffer. This treatment seems to have slipped off the list of tools available for Dallas to consider.

The improvement went beyond being functional and addressed beautification and new spaces for pedestrians, like this one in Madison Square.

The amazing thing is that New York’s people seem happier. The subway works better, Times Square is safer and people of all ages are riding. New York did this as a demonstration, using inexpensive materials and testing out how people would use the new facilities then strategically programming permanent street changes. NYC DOT, the equivalent of Dallas’s Public Works department, directed staff and budget toward getting these facilities up fast without the need for new funding. I believe Dallas can learn from the Manhattan Bike experiment and will outdo NYC. In fact they think we already have in some ways. More to come as Jason goes to NYC today to participate in the Project for Public Spaces’ training session on Streets as Places.

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