A Slow Street Movement

This video has 3 of my favorite things: quiet-street connectivity, wayfinding signs and cyclists riding comfortably in the middle of the lane.

In my years of riding around town, I’ve encountered 2 primary problems for slow-street bicycling in Orlando and Winter Park. One is the damned bricks. The other is you need a GPS to navigate because there is no consistent grid. The upside of the lack of continuous parallel streets is the reduction of cut-thru traffic. If you are a good navigator, you can enjoy a lot of nearly car-free space on some of these streets. And you can make your way from one end of town to the other. There’s also an incentive to gain confidence to venture onto more direct routes.

I have nothing nice to say about the bricks.

I’m not a fan of traffic calming infrastructure. I believe sane speed should be governed by a sense of RESPECT for others (culture change). In the meantime, relentless law enforcement would do the trick (there’s a reason motorists don’t speed through school zones). I’m biased against traffic furniture by some really awful stuff I’ve seen around here.

That said, some of the Berkeley traffic calming approaches look interesting. We’ve been seeing more traffic circles here, they are a nice alternative to stop signs.

I really like the route signs (with mileage to destinations) and the huge bike stencils. Even on a smaller scale, the Sound Loop wayfinding system in Gulf Breeze clearly encourages and facilitates cycling. Those roads had no shoulders, sidewalks, bike lanes or wide lanes, but there were cyclists of all levels with all different types of bikes using the roads. That’s mentioned in the video as well: many of the streets didn’t change much physically, they just now had the signs and stencils to give cyclists a feeling of being welcome and expected in the lane.

No system should detract from promoting the understanding that cycling is possible, safe and legal on all surface streets—regardless of speed, volume and number of lanes. A system that creates a quiet, friendly roadway network for casual cyclists, kids and novices using integrated cycling is a step forward to creating a culture where bicycles are expected as a normal part of traffic. It’s good for the neighborhood residents, the whole community, children, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Discuss:

  • What did you see in the video that you like? Don’t like?
  • Would it help you or people you know be more comfortable on the road?
  • Are there unintended consequences?
  • Does Orlando have suitable roads to implement this type of system?
  • Other thoughts…?
11 replies
  1. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    I like this idea of designating streets as “bike streets”. It has two concequences that I see — (1) it tells motorists that this is a road that you will see lots of bikes on — if you are in a hurry, use another street and (2) it can tell communities that if you don’t like having your street used as a thru-street for car trafffic, get your street designated as a “bike street” and enjoy fewer cars at slower speeds.

    I think something like this could be incorporated with the “Bike to School” program. Start by designating streets that feed into the schools as “bike streets” and grow it from there …

    Keri, I will respectfully disagree with your position on traffic calming. No arguments with your statements about civility and respect, and we probably would all agree more law enforecment would be welcome. But, I think whenever a road is used as a “cut-thru” by cars seeking to get around hi-speed arterial congestion makes it a candidate for traffic-calming devices. If motorists find that their “cut-thrus” take as much time or more than simply waiting in line on the hi-speed arterial, then they are less inclined to take the cut-thru.

    Do you have some examples of the horrible traffic-calming infrastructure(s) so we can take a look at and discuss?

    I will agree with you about the cobblestone bricking of roads. “Pretty”, but pretty bad for cycling on. Does anyone know if this is simply a thought of “beautification” of the neighborhood road? Or was there some hope of slowing down traffic? The only time I have noticed traffic slowing down is because eventually the bricked streets develop all kinds of nasty ripples and potholes that really gives a car suspension (and the rider) a workout. Note to neighborhhoods who want this — please give us a bike lane if you do! (this is where Keri faints) 😉

    Could we do this in Orlando? Sure — let’s pick one smallish area (e.g. College Park area) and figure out where the schools are, then figure out what roads would make the most sense to designate as “bike streets”. Make sure to try to have the bike streets connect to the adjoining areas (e.g College Park to Downtown). Encompass existing routes already being used by cyclists ….. this could work!!

  2. Abhishek
    Abhishek says:

    It is a good idea. I have two questions:
    1. How does a bike blvd differ from sharrows?
    2. Why is everyone wearing a helmet on the bike blvd?

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    Andrew asked:
    “Do you have some examples of the horrible traffic-calming infrastructure(s) so we can take a look at and discuss?”

    The most obnoxious traffic calming is on Kewanee Tr. I’ll take a photo. It takes a wide lane (with a stupidly-placed fog line 2 feet from the gutter) and pinches it at regular intervals. The design intention appears to be to route cyclists (who are clearly expected to ride on the 2 ft edge) into a gutter to the right of the pinch island. The gutter is, of course, full of debris… as if the intention wasn’t insulting enough.

    The result is constant conflict with overtaking traffic. The motorists get pissed if you just hold a line in the lane, they try to race you to the pinch point if you’ve yielded the lane. A couple pinch places even have center medians. I’ve seen motorists race past a small group and almost smack into the median. I’ve seen motorists race past a couple cyclists and nearly hit the front rider as they met oncoming traffic in the pinched area. The passing opportunities are limited by curves, oncoming traffic and the constant pinch points. Do you think this slows them down? No. They still try to drive 35mph and resent anything in their path (even cyclists riding close to the speed limit).

    Another point of annoyance is speed bumps. Some humps are benign for cyclists and I don’t mind them so much. The brick ones Orlando uses are jarring. They degrade the quality of a quiet route. And I’ve lost count of the number of times a motorist has passed me, cut in and slammed on the brakes in my face for a speed bump. Why? Because he wanted to drive fast between the bumps and brake for each one. (we could have a fuel consumption and emissions discussion about that, too)

    Then there are the lovely narrow, median-separated lanes in Baldwin Park. A motorist can’t pass a cyclist there.

    Derbyshire Rd. has both speed humps and pinch points. Also, they’ve allowed the pavement to degrade so that the entire right tire track is jarring and unrideable. All to try to control the endless stream of motorists cutting through the neighborhood.

    IMO, motorists just learn to outsmart the stuff. They speed between bumps, they travel a street every day so they’re not tricked by pinch points and other visual lane-narrowing. I don’t have any experience with chicanes, so I don’t know how they affect cyclists or motorists—I noticed they used those in Berkeley.

    The bottom line is, if you lack the foundational respect for neighborhood streets and the people who live on them, you’re probably not going to be fooled or deterred by traffic calming infrastructure.

    In the traffic-calming paradigm, we all pay for the sins of the disrespectful. We should do more to change the social structures and not be distracted by band-aide solutions provided by physical structures.

    As for the bricks. The new ones are used for traffic calming. Winter Park has destroyed several good bike routes with brutally rough bricks designed to slow motorists. If they are designed to be brutal for a vehicle with four 8-inch tires, imagine how they feel on a vehicle with two 1-inch tires. Again, why are we—who do not speed, cause injury, make noise, devalue neighborhoods—paying for the sins of the disrespectful?

    Honestly, I’d take the Livingston-style bike lanes over the bricks, but most of the roads are not wide enough for that. I propose we put concrete bike lanes down the MIDDLE of the lane!

  4. Keri
    Keri says:

    Hi Abhishek!

    Good question about the sharrows. I think the wayfinding route system is one differentiating factor. Also (I suspect) the intention was to really increase the emphasis of it being a bike route. Since sharrow implementation got bastardized in the MUTCD compromise, I’m inclined to favor this bike boulevard mark.

    Regarding helmets… well, ’cause helmet use has been drilled into the American cyclist psyche.

  5. Eric
    Eric says:

    Andrew said, “But, I think whenever a road is used as a “cut-thru” by cars seeking to get around hi-speed arterial congestion makes it a candidate for traffic-calming devices.”

    I disagree. I say this because I hardly ever use the “hi-speed arterials” if by that you mean Mills, Colonial, 436, etc. & not I-4.

    Take a two lane road and add two lanes, what happens? Does traffic decrease? Does it move more quickly? Yes it does, at first. But after a few months, traffic counts double and then the counts double again and after a year or two the congestion is back.

    Why is that? Where do all those added cars come from? They come from the “cut-thru” traffic. No need to make many left and rights, they go to the new bigger road.

    I am not sure I understand this, but many people take ownership over the street in front of their house. They want to decide who drives in front of their house and don’t like “outsiders” driving there. So they demand some sort of traffic calming in an attempt to reduce that traffic.

    The “ownership” and demand for traffic calming is why we have all the new bricking projects going on.

    I will agree that there are too many people that speed through neighborhoods. Once again, this comes down to a law enforcement problem.

    Every time the cops set up a radar trap in my neighborhood, I cheer up. They catch so many speeders that if they kept things up it could be like Windermere back in the ’70’s and we wouldn’t have to pay any property taxes — tickets could finance city government.

    But the answer to lack of law enforcement isn’t traffic calming — it’s more traffic enforcement.

  6. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    A bike boulevard is a street (or series of streets) to which motor vehicle access has been somewhat limited. All blocks have motor vehicle access, but through motor traffic is limited, either by full or partial roadway closures (that cyclists can ride through). The other key feature is that stop signs are placed so that cross streets yield to the bike boulevard. So you get a long route with little auto traffic and few, if any, stops.

    I rode the first one in Palo Alto, CA. It’s very nice. It only takes a couple closures to cut the traffic levels. Look for 1300 Bryant Street in Google Maps and go to street view. There’s a canal crossing that’s only open to bike and ped traffic, a mid-block closure, and very cool directional diverter with bike loop detectors at the intersection with Embarcadero Road.

    You need a good grid system to make a bike boulevard work, because you’re “sacrificing” a through street that could be carrying more auto traffic. Orlando is poorly laid out for them due to the lakes and expressways interrupting the grid. Most suburban areas have no grid to speak of. Sanford and St. Cloud could do them, though.

    A good candidate is a street on which residents are complaining of excessive cut-through traffic.

  7. Keri
    Keri says:

    “Orlando is poorly laid out for them due to the lakes and expressways interrupting the grid.”

    I suspected as much.

    I’m curious if a similar idea can be applied to bike routes that haven’t had traffic diverted from them. Winter Park has sortof made an attempt at this on Palmer with the sharrows. Recognizing that a collector like Palmer would not be suitable for the full-on bike boulevard treatment, what if we took some of those residential collector roads and made a much bigger deal about them being bicycle routes? Something that screamed it. Along with a route system that connected people to places across town.

    For example… I have a good route to connect Winter Park/Maitland to the Altamonte Mall using streets that are low-speed and relatively low-volume, but they are collectors and they do see thru traffic. I wonder if there is a way to boldly designate such streets to convince the cyclists to act like they belong there.

    Just a thought toward both promoting cycling and convincing people to be assertive. The more we can do to stop bicyclists from feeling like interlopers, the better.

  8. Eric
    Eric says:

    I drove Palmer the other day. The markings are in the middle of the lane. As a motorist, I would have no idea what the sharrow markings were for.

  9. Keri
    Keri says:

    The sharrows on Palmer are placed correctly as indicators of a shared lane… not suggested lane position. And Kudos to Winter Park’s traffic manager, Butch Margraf, for watch-dogging the process to ensure it was done right.

    Winter Park has done quite a bit of PR about the sharrows, but certainly more education is needed with regard to cyclist safety and traffic control devices (TCDs).

    More education is needed, generally, with non-cycling-related TCDs and laws as well. How many motorists do you see making a right on red without stopping and yielding? They seem to have forgotten that part. Nor do they ever noticed the WALK sign for pedestrians before making a right on a green light… and they get in a snit when a ped tries to exercise right of way. We saw the FDOT officer changing lanes in the intersection in Fred’s video, motorists do that all the time. I bet if you polled motorists few would know the difference between a solid and dashed white line. So yeah, I don’t have high hopes for them knowing what a sharrow means.

    But if we have the will to do the education, we have the opportunity to piggyback general info about cyclists rights, responsibilities and safety.

  10. Eric
    Eric says:

    I have the same problem with speed humps. Most places use a double arrow leading up to it. But some places just have a couple of horizontal lines.

    Either way, on an unfamiliar street, in the dark, with no signs, it is hard to tell what the heck is up there until it is too late.

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