Bike Bus: Reclaiming University Boulevard for Human Power
After completing CyclingSavvy in July, Kitzzy and Jason approached me about starting a bike bus on University Blvd. This is the perfect place to begin the bike bus commute concept since so many people live in Orlando or Winter Park and commute to UCF or the many Research Park employers. With its 3 narrow lanes in each direction, University has the perfect configuration for assertive cycling and safe group cycling.
To help scope out the ride and collect video evidence of how safe it is, Kathryn Moore of SFBC and I joined Kitzzy & Jason on Friday morning. University Blvd is 6 miles from 436 to Alafaya. It took us 25 minutes. We only had to stop at 2 red lights, all the others turned green as we arrived behind the cars that had passed us previously and were stopped there. Due to traffic platooning and upstream signal timing, we had the road to ourselves for over 3 minutes at two different times, and a couple other times for almost a minute. Traffic did get thicker as we got closer to UCF, but it wasn’t bad for us.
Watching the video, I counted almost 300 cars passing us safely or turning right to leave the road behind us. Special recognition to drivers of a Lynx bus and an Access Lynx van who demonstrated professional, safe passing (I mention this because I know people complain about them a lot). Of the cars that passed, very few even had to change lanes. We were honked at only twice (though one was notably vicious and caused all of us to jump). Neither of the drivers who honked were affected by us — neither had to change lanes. Both drivers used their horns in violation of the law:
FS 316.271 - Horns and Warning Devices
(3) The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation, give audible warning with his or her horn, but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.
Just as when Brian DeSousa and I rode to UCF and back, there were no unsafe passes and no close calls. There is absolutely nothing alarming in the rearview video.
It’s bare view (no cyclist) because I was riding in the back, so it’s and kinda boring but you get a clear view of everything that went on behind us. Here is a compilation of a few sample clips from it:
Here’s a map of where the clips were shot:
View larger map
Power and moral support in numbers
I hesitate to say there is safety in numbers because I know from experience that it is safe for a solo cyclist to ride assertively on a road like University. There could be an enhanced level of safety from (rare) physical aggression for a group of commuters vs a solo rider, or even a group of roadies. But, mostly, it’s the moral support, shared experience and companionship that makes the bike bus concept so powerful.
Also, the high visibility of a group traveling the same road at the same time on a regular basis send a powerful message to other drivers. It also has the potential to send a message to the county DOT. If we show demand, it gives us power to ask for assistance… like BMUFL signs, for starters.
Looking to the future
It may be a traffic sewer now, but I see potential for University to offer us a leap forward in cyclist accommodation/encouragement.
It is a is a perfect corridor for turning the right lane into a preferential use lane for bikes and transit (permitting merging for right-turning cars). It almost works that way now, as most drivers tend to use the inner lanes unless they are planning to turn. This has been done in other cities. It’s an infrastructure enhancement I support because it offers cyclists a full-sized lane, free of debris, allowing them to ride two-abreast, enjoy quality social interaction and get far better passing clearance than a 5ft gutter lane provides. Motorists would be required to safely merge into the lane before making turns, eliminating the right-hook aspect. Bus drivers are a captive audience for education. I suspect we’d need to educate cyclists about when it’s appropriate (or not) to pass stopped buses.
Bus/Bike/RT lane in Tuscon, AZ. Photo and R3-11 sign courtesy of Richard C. Moeur
I believe this is the way forward for arterial roads like University and Alafaya Trail. Both have high volumes of traffic going to UCF and Research Park. The potential for increasing bicycle traffic is untapped. FDOT has put undesignated 5ft lanes/shoulders on Alafaya. A study done for Metroplan in 2007 showed that less than 3% of the bicyclists actually use those. The rest are riding on the sidewalk. And it’s not a mystery why.
Starting with University Blvd, perhaps we can create a greater presence for bicyclists on all the roads leading to UCF and change the nature of cyclist accommodation to a whole lane.
Promoting the Bike Bus concept for Central Florida
This concept started with the Colonial Cycling Club—students at Colonial High School who wanted to ride to school. While hoping to inspire students at other schools to do the same, they’ve actually managed to inspire us!
Kitzzy & Jason are creating a microsite here at CommuteOrlando to promote the UCF bike bus and the concept for all of Central Florida. When they are ready, I will post a link and announcement. In the meantime, if you want to get involved—join their bus or help create one at another time or on another route—you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be joining them for another recon mission to set bus stop pick-up times tomorrow morning—leaving Fashion Square at 7AM. If you’re headed that way, join us. If you have nothing else to do, join us and keep me company on the ride back to town