Category: Bicycle Infrastructure

Dutch cycle tracks to die for…Part 2

Some traffic lights for bikes sense you are coming and turns green automatically.

Some traffic lights for bikes sense you are coming and turn green automatically.

In the Part 1 of the post, I mentioned about how “beautifully landscaped” cycle tracks are within Dutch city limits. Now, I want to dedicate Part 2 of this post to illustrate how continuous (although, this is very difficult to capture with photos) and wide they can be.

When I was in Den Bosch about a week and half ago, I was fortunate to have Andre Engels and Mark at BicycleDutch to show me around. I remembered Mark telling me that when we were on this route, he said that we didn’t have to stop for 5 km (3 miles). How is that possible, right?

Elevated cycle track leaving Nijmegen train station.

Elevated cycle track leaving Nijmegen train station.

Many cycle tracks cut through the high traffic streets via tunnels like this one.

Many cycle tracks cut through high traffic streets via tunnels like this one.

To provide safety from high volume traffic on surface streets, many cycle tracks become continuous via elevated and tunneled cycle tracks (see second and third photos from top). A great example of elevated cycle track to avoid intermixing with cars is the Eindhoven Hovenring. This is what makes riding on Dutch cycle tracks to die for. You can go a really long distance without ever have to stop. I haven’t even brought up about bike paths that go through residential areas and parks, and they are even more continuous.

This is a 3 way round about with one direction for cars, at the beach in Scheveningen.

This is a 3 way roundabout at a beach in Scheveningen.

The famous roundabout in Zwolle.

The famous roundabout in Zwolle. Note driver is yielding to cyclist.

Secondly, roundabouts at intersections are one of the smartest urban street designs. It’s efficient and I think it makes drivers drive better. What’s even smarter is the protected roundabouts for cyclists. I am not going into safety for now, but this is how you get cyclists riding continuously without losing momentum. Most roundabouts at low auto traffic volume usually are of this type which cars by law are supposed to yield to you while you keep riding through (the above photo is a specific type of roundabout for cyclists which is the first of its kind, described here).

This Arnhem's cycle track is as wide as BRT road.  You can have 4 riding abreast.

This Arnhem’s cycle track is as wide as the road for Bus Rapid Transit. You can have 4 riding abreast!

Cycle track in city center of Apeldoorn.

Really wide cycle track in city center of Apeldoorn. Note car parking is to the left of the cycle track.

Another wide cycle track inside the city center of Groningen.

Another wide cycle track inside the city center of Groningen.

Finally, in the previous post, I did briefly mentioned that many Dutch cycle tracks are wide to accommodate conversational cycling but didn’t exactly emphasize the wideness. Immediately outside city centers, cycle tracks become ridiculously wide and I love it! Some cycle tracks inside city centers are relatively wide too, as can be seen in the above photos. The wideness makes passing another cyclist easily. I never have trouble passing other cyclists and most of the time, I don’t have to ring my bell. The wideness also makes it easy to have all kinds of cargo bikes on them.

In addition, it can hold more cyclists particularly during peak hours. At every single light that turns green for bicycles, the last cyclist in the peloton always have time to cross. I know this because I am always the last one.

Some commenter said to me, “why the need to go see touristy attractions when you got cycle tracks?” This is so true. I am always amazed just being on them.

Dutch cycle tracks to die for… Part 1

Lego's own cycle track

Lego’s own cycle track

So far, I have visited as many as 7 cities in The Netherlands and as I biked through these charming towns, I notice the cycle tracks are beautifully landscaped. They are so attractive that they are almost eye candy to me. To be fair, I am not talking about bike paths that are in parks or tuck away somewhere that you have to look on a map to find it. I am talking about cycle tracks that everyday people on bikes use and riding adjacent to streets within city limits.

Note many cycle tracks are bidirectional, and many times are on both sides of the street. Moreover, many are really wide to accommodate conversational cycling. The ones that are installed in recent times are made of special red asphalt that is really smooth that any weekend road warrior would appreciate. And no flats to worry about!

Special colored asphalt that will make your slow bike seems fast

Special colored asphalt that is so smooth that will make your slow bike seems fast.

By the way, did you know that the word “landscape” originates from the Dutch? I am sure because they have to work their land to manage floods since the beginning of time that they have become experts in landscaping and among other things. This expertise can be seen in their bike infrastructure.

On a cycle track just outside of Leiden

On a cycle track between The Hague and Delft

A cycle track in the Hague

A cycle track in the Hague

A cycle track on the beach of Scheveningen

A cycle track on the beach of Scheveningen

Another beautifully landscaped cycle track in Den Bosch

Another beautifully landscaped cycle track in Den Bosch

Cycle track leading up to Hovenring in Eindhoven

Cycle track leading up to Hovenring in Eindhoven

Green cycle track in Eindhoven

Green cycle track in Eindhoven

As I am half way through my bike travel, I have more cities to discover and will post more eye candy photos of cycle tracks. So stay tuned.

Kids and Bikes in City Centers

This child on a push bike is really confident that he was about 30 m away from his mother, and he's not going to get run over by cars.

This child on a push bike is really confident that he was about 30 m away from his mother, and he’s not going to get run over by cars.

As a lot of us did when we were kids decades ago, we all biked and that experience became one of our fondest memories. As kids, my best friend and I would ride our bikes everywhere. We biked to our school on the weekends to play marbles, to buy sweets from the corner store, and rode just about everywhere in our neighborhood. This was all very safe to do because cars were few and drivers were considerate of people on the streets.

The signs show that cars are restricted to enter the city center at certain time of the day.

The signs to the right show that cars are restricted to enter the city center at all times of the day, except residents.

Now, we have pretty much lost that and children roaming streets on bikes are non-existent. But in these Dutch cities that I have visited so far, I felt these kids are empowered and independent. I see them having their own bikes decorated to their personal likings. I see them leading in front of their parents. I see them riding with their friends to school together. After they are done, I see them locking up their bikes. I have never seen so many kids out and about. These are scenes that I remembered growing up with.

This is in front of Saint John's Cathedral, famous atttraction in Den Bosch.

This is in front of Saint John’s Cathedral, a famous atttraction in Den Bosch.

What’s incredible about these Dutch cities, is that these all happen inside city centers. When you think of city centers, you think of traffic congestions and crowds. But when you close the city centers to automobiles or when majority of the population rides, this actually widens up the space and creates a safe place for all children alike. What these city centers offer to kids too, is that everything is there to foster their curiosity and to learn what’s out there in an adult world.

More kids inside the city centers...

More kids riding carefree inside the city center…

I am curious as to know whether Dutch children are most happy children due to biking and safer streets. Even without studies, I anticipate so.

Update:  Indeed, Dutch kids are the happiest children in the world in a UNICEF study done in 2013 (this was brought to my attention from Mark @ Bicycle Dutch).

These two kids are riding to play some kind of sports.  There's no such thing as soccer moms in these cities.

These two kids are riding to play some kind of sports. There’s no such thing as soccer moms in these cities.

This child here is leading the way.  And check out the little child on the front basket.  Happy as ever.

This child here is leading the way. And check out the little child on the front basket. Happy as ever!

This boy here is going inside the bike parking structure in the Leiden.

Here, this boy is going inside the bike parking structure in Leiden.

These bike racks can fit both adult's and kid's bike.  By having this, kids can have the same empowerment as adults, as it should be.

These bike racks can fit both adult’s and kid’s bikes which are ubiquitous. By having this, kids can have the same empowerment as adults, as it should be.

Bike Denver

Flat Irons, near Boulder, Colorado

The Flat Irons near Boulder, Colorado, not far from Denver.

We have lived in and visited both coasts of the US and have a pretty good understanding of both sides. But we never quite understood Middle America, aside from what the media shows us. So, we decided to go visit Denver, Colorado. (No, not because of marijuana legalization there.) It’s not too far of a trip to take from the Bay Area, and I heard it’s not a bad city to bike in. Denver is referred to as “the mile-high city” or 5280 which is the number of feet it sits above sea level, and it’s located next to the Rocky mountains, which are the highest mountains in the United States.

This time, we planned to travel light which meant that Nellie brought only a single backpack and I brought only my messenger bag. We left our Bromptons at home because we thought the bike-share program that they have in Denver would suffice and be more convenient. The closest bike-share station would be only a block away from our hotel, so why not. As a bonus, our hotel was located next to the only cycle track in the city, on 15th St.

This bike share station is located on the sidewalks near our hotel on 14th St. and Welton St.

This bike share station is located on the sidewalk near our hotel on 14th St. and Welton St.

As a matter of fact, the bike-share stations are nicely distributed across downtown Denver. There are 700 bike-shares in 83 stations, twice as many as in San Francisco. It’s called Denver B Cycle, and sourced from the same company as most other bike shares in the US, Alta Bikeshare. Although their mobile app didn’t work, we could locate another station without even looking for one. It’s that ubiquitous. There was this brand-new redeveloped neighborhood called Prospect which was not completely done, and a bike share station was already in place. I was impressed.

A bike share station is placed in Prospect neighborhood which is not completely finished.

A bike share station is placed in the Prospect neighborhood, which is not even fully built out.

The bike shares are always located on the sidewalks and not in the street, which I think is an ideal setup. The sidewalks there are generally very wide, up to 20 ft/6 m wide. By locating the stations on the sidewalks, you don’t feel the pressure to hurry because you are in a safe zone. Also, it’s nice to undock or dock your bike off the street, unlike how it is in SF. Bike shares invite newbies, so having them on the sidewalks makes them more welcoming.

However, I still don’t like using bike shares when I would like to mindlessly wander throughout the city exploring. The 30-minute grace period was always on my mind because I didn’t want to accrue penalties. Also, docking/undocking is a huge hassle when you have to do it every 30 minutes. My opinion is that bike-shares are good if you know where you are going and only need it for going short distances. It would not be good for recreational our touristic cycling and for going long distances.

The only cycle track in the city on 15th St.

The only cycle track in the city on 15th St.

Our hotel was located next to the only cycle track in town on 15th St. It was nicely done with crossbikes and protected barriers, but the intersection was not protected. Also, what I don’t get is why the cycle track was on the left-hand side. I heard that another cycle track is coming to a nearby street on Broadway, a north-to-south commercial corridor which should make a better network of bike paths.

A crossbike with a right turn bike box.

A crossbike with a right turn bike box.

Another commercial corridor in downtown that is bike-friendly is the popular shopping area, the 16th Street Mall, which is closed off to cars. There are hundreds of shops and street vendors located on this long stretch. The identical tiles on both the street and sidewalks give it a very pedestrian-friendly feel to it. No need for bike signage.

16th Street Mall is closed off to cars except buses and bicycles.

The 16th Street Mall is closed off to cars except buses and bicycles.

Denver has a bike modal share of 2.9% in 2012 (20% jump from 2011), most of which I see riding on the extensive Cherry Creek bike trail. The Cherry Creek trail stretches 11.2 mi/ 18 km from Cherry Creek Reservoir in the south and through downtown in the north. It serves for both recreation and transportation. It’s a must if you do visit Denver and go for a bike ride. Some of the best scenery within the city is along this riverside bike trail. The water running next to it is surprisingly clean!

You see both recreational and utilitarian cyclists on the Cherry Creek bike trail.

You see both recreational and utilitarian cyclists on the Cherry Creek bike trail. I like how there are street signs installed on the bridges, so you know where you are going.

People actually go rafting on the creek and the water is pretty clean.

People actually go rafting and kayaking on the creek and the water is pretty clean!

Confluent People street art by local artist, Emanuel Martinez, under Speer Blvd. and Little Raven St.

The “Confluent People” mural by local artist, Emanuel Martinez is located at Speer Blvd. and Little Raven St.

What I like about Denver is it’s numerous parks, and the majority of them you can really bike within them for quite a distance with flat topography. City Park is my favorite and has a zoo and the Museum of Science and Nature. It’s located not too distant from downtown. Another park I recommend is Washington Park in the Pearl St. neighborhood. It’s voted as the most favorite park in Denver by the locals.

Denver City Park

City Park, not too far from downtown Denver, is a great place to bike recreationally.

Denver Bicycle Cafe

Our favorite cafe is the Denver Bicycle Cafe. You can get food, beer or coffee while you wait for your bike to be fixed.

Denver Bicycle Cafe

Denver Bicycle Cafe also has comfortable outdoor seating (not shown here).

Coolest looking bike corral in Pearl St. neighorhood.

A nice looking bike corral in the charming Pearl St. neighborhood.

Green Cyclery bike shop in Pearl St.

Cute little Linus bikes in the Green Cyclery bike shop on Pearl St.

Nice window dressing!

Creative window dressing using bike wheels!

I still think Denver has some ways to go in terms of bike infrastructure and reducing their use of cars. But I admire how much they are embracing the ideas of New Urbanism and I feel like they are doing the bike thing better and faster than many other American cities. For example, their 15th St. cycle-track was completed this year and now, the city is proposing another cycle-track on Broadway St. In addition, I really like their ubiquitous bike-shares, but it’s just not ideal for visitors to use them to explore the city because of the time limits. Visitors and recreational riders should rent a bicycle instead. Their Cherry Creek bike path is great fun to bike on and quite scenic, but then, it doesn’t go in every direction to really serve bike commuters. However, I do think that overall, the city government gets it and it’s just a matter of time.

A couple of more things I want to mention for anyone who is going to visit Denver and bike around. You may need some time to adapt to the higher elevation. At higher elevations, oxygen is less concentrated and so your body will have to adjust and breath shorter but more frequent breaths. At first, you might feel worn out faster when exerting yourself. However, the air is just fine for Denverites who are known to be very active outdoors. So once you adjust, you should be fine. Also, one of the fun things you can do in Denver, if you are of drinking age, is to ride your bike around to all the different local breweries and do some free tastings. Denver has great local beer! Many can be easily reached by bike.

Happy Trails!

Buffered Bike Lanes in South San Francisco!

While Rotterdam just completed its amazing Green Connection project and Copenhagen is almost done with its admirable Bicycle Snake, South San Francisco just got its first buffered bike lanes. Yes, it’s pretty lame when you are comparing it to those inspirational projects, but it’s a great feat for such a place where it’s a ghost town after 6pm. So, kudos to South City!

South San Francisco, the Industrial City. Courtesy of hillbabies.blogspot.com

South San Francisco, the Industrial City. Courtesy of hillbabies.blogspot.com

For those of you that don’t know South San Francisco, it’s actually a neighboring city south of San Francisco (not part of SF) and it’s known as the Industrial City. It’s the birthplace of biotechnology and it’s basically an office park where freight trucks, delivery trucks and cars are all you see. The city is mostly comprised of very wide streets with speed limits upwards of 40 mph/64 kmh, and barely any pedestrians strolling on narrow sidewalks.

So, it’s surprising to see a road diet of a street of 4 car lanes into 2 car lanes on Forbes Blvd. The road diet starts at the cross street of DNA Way and ends at Allerton Ave. And to top it off, the city added buffered bike lanes- the first of its kind in South San Francisco. Pretty cool, eh?!

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Eastbound on Forbes Blvd.

I have never ridden on such a smooth paved street in the States for as long I can remember. I know this is not going to last though because after awhile, the condition will deteriorate and as you know, we have a lack of infrastructure maintenance. For now, I feel more safe because I don’t have to look down on the road for cracked pavement or potholes. I can have my full attention on the road ahead. And as a matter of fact, you will find yourself riding faster. Also, the buffer zone makes me feel safe as well.

A few of these pedestrian signals are installed.  You have to press a button to cross.

A few of these pedestrian signals are installed. You have to press a “beg” button to cross.

However, it’s too bad that the speed limit is still posted at 35 mph/56 kmh. Does it make any sense on a 2 car lane street? You have a road diet, with wide medians to calm traffic, and new crosswalk signals installed; and still the speed limit is at 35 mph/56 kmh? At least, install a protected barrier on the buffered area of the bike lanes.

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Eastbound on Forbes Blvd.

Moreover, when you reach the intersection, you have to share the space with autos.

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Forbes Blvd and DNA Way intersection.

Lastly, the buffered bike path should be extended all the way to the Caltrain station (see blue arrow in bottom image). It’s a logical next step. This will provide a safe passage for the last mile commuters. I truly hope the city is working on it.

Green arrow: beginning of new bike path.  Red arrow: ending of new bike path.  Blue arrow: need to expand to Caltrain, public transit system in the area.

Green arrow: beginning of new bike path. Red arrow: ending of new bike path. Blue arrow: need to expand to Caltrain, public transit system in the area.

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This is at the intersection of Forbes Blvd. and Allerton Ave.  This is how it used to look before the road diet.  Courtesy of Google Maps. 

Vehicles blocking bike lanes pt. 2

This parking patrol on a Saturday morning with no cars on a two vehicle lanes directional street, and he still parks on the bike lane.

On a Saturday morning with no cars on a two vehicle lanes one directional street, this parking officer blocked the bike lane instead.  He can’t even park next to the curb to give citations.

Pathetic! Bike lane is blocked by two trash bins. That is how bicyclists are treated.

Pathetic! Bike lane is blocked by two trash bins. That is how bicyclists are treated.

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UPS truck parked on the northbound side of Franklin St. in downtown Oakland – May 2014.

Hello fellow bicyclists,

Last time, I wrote a post about bike lanes being blocked by all sorts of things from delivery trucks to piles of dirt. I had never seen a vehicle parked outside a bike lane, but there was this UPS delivery truck that to my surprise did something out of the ordinary-park on the outside of the bike lane. I wanted to thank the driver but he/she wasn’t there. But this time, I saw another UPS truck parked outside the bike lane and was able to catch the driver. I asked the driver, “Is it the company’s policy to not block bike lanes? It’s the second time I’ve seen this.” She shook her head, no. Then I asked, “Did you purposely park there to leave the bike lane open?” To my surprise, she said that she just didn’t want to block any cars that wanted to park or leave. Anyhow, I still wanted to let her know that it’s a good thing she didn’t block the bike lane because it can be dangerous for cyclists to have to weave out into traffic when bike lanes are blocked. She said, “No wonder! There was this female cyclist earlier waving to me to say thank you but I didn’t understand.” I hope that the UPS driver, knowing what she knows now, will do the same thing everywhere when she’s behind the wheel.

Yep, we bicyclists still get no respect!

rewarer

UPS truck parked on the southbound side of Franklin St. in downtown Oakland – June 2014.

Be safe and cycle well!

I gave the driver of this USPS van and he nodded. I think he knows why I did that. Respect!

Similar to the UPS parking spot, another delivery van parked outside of the bike lane. I gave this USPS driver a big ‘thumbs up’ and he nodded. I hope he knows not to block bike lanes.