South Platte River Trail, Denver. Photo credit: Julie Mallis.
Take a vacation at your desk, on us
By Phil Hnatkovich, communications contributor
A lot of us use Google’s Street View application for help with local addresses and directions. But, if you leave things there, you are selling the technology short. Google’s ever-growing coverage of streets in 360 degree view allow you to book a free pleasure tour of streetscapes thousands of miles away. For streets geeks it’s a slippery slope from there to a day lost on the couch, soaking in the elements that make great urban design work.
I polled the BikePGH staff about the people-first streets and infrastructure that they love. There was a veritable flood of great examples — so much so that we’re going to follow up with another post that covers our international favorites.
Now, tumble down the wormhole with us as we tour some seriously great streets.
Market Street, San Francisco
Why it matters: A great — and colorful — example of what a complete street can be in a complicated downtown corridor.
Scott says: “Back when I lived in SF back in 2000, there was absolutely no bike infrastructure on this major downtown arterial that carries tens of thousands of people everyday by every mode imaginable. I almost got gravely injured on this street on my commute to my job on Bush Street when my bike tires got caught in the light rail tracks and my bike slipped out from under me just ahead of a Muni train. Luckily some nice, vigilant folks standing on a platform waiting for the train yanked me and my bike off the street before anything bad happened. Had Market Street been configured in 2000 like it is now my crash could have been avoided because I would have felt safer riding in a different part of the street. Between 2010-15, the city completely redesigned the functionality of the entire street downtown using bold colors to dictate what modes go where, and even added 10mph slow mixing zones where bikes and cars need to share the limited space.”
Kent Avenue, Williamsburg
Why it matters: Former truck thoroughfare becomes bikeable, walkable neighborhood connector.
Dan says: “Signs of gentrification and disparity are painfully obvious and everywhere in Brooklyn, and it’s difficult to pass through without questioning the value of it: who is this “development” for? Who benefits and who is being left behind? But as I slide into the separated bike lanes on Kent Avenue, I see people riding to work, people carrying kids, people with groceries on the handlebars, people riding for exercise; and in seeing all these people from all walks of life it also becomes obvious what the value of the “street” is. The street is the ultimate symbol of shared public space.
The complete street redesign of Kent Ave. makes a screaming statement about the community values of New York City. There’s still a lot of work to do, but they connect to the Flushing Ave. protected bike lanes, which connect to the Bedford Ave, protected bike lanes, bringing you through Prospect Park, down the Ocean Parkway protected lanes, and — before you know it — you’re in Coney Island. Go the other way and you’re on protected bike lanes into Queens or Manhattan or the Bronx. The people of New York are building a transportation network that protects all people, not just those who can afford cars.
And for what its worth, Kent Ave. used to be 2 lanes of parking and two lanes for vehicular traffic. Looks awfully similar to a Pittsburgh street that we’re all familiar with. Maybe we should start talking about building that network in our city.”
South Platte River Trail/Cherry Creek Trail, Denver
Why it matters: Twin trails form a cyclist and pedestrian highway through Downtown Denver.
Julie says: “Denver has some really comprehensive bike routes, taking you safely from protected bike lanes to river and creek trails. I looked up the most beautiful places to see the sunset within a reasonable biking distance. I decided on Sloan Lake. The directions on the map take you from a really awesome vegan dive bar to the beautiful lake. People swam in the river and the trails and roads were filled with bikers. I was pleasantly surprised with how complete and easy it was to ride around Denver on a coaster brake cruiser. I will say I definitely missed Pittsburgh’s hills. You just can’t beat that type of variety in geography!”
Duboce Street, San Francisco
Why it matters: Redesigned intersection in heavy mass-transit area balances the needs of trolley users, people on bikes, drivers, and pedestrians.
A friend of BikePGH says: “This block is just prior to the junction of the N-Judah and J-Church light rail lines and the 22-Fillmore electric trolley bus line. Just to the east of the junction is a portal to the Market Street Muni Metro subway. Three blocks to the west is the portal of the Sunset Tunnel, which provides light rail access to some of San Francisco’s western most neighborhoods. This Complete Streets application recognizes the importance of transit in this block resulting in it being the dominant feature. The restricting of eastbound auto traffic from entering Dubuce Street at this point serves to lessen congestion from left turns at the busy transit junction at Duboce and Church. It also lessens motor vehicle traffic on Duboce Street ensuring a smoother flow of light rail vehicles, most of which are coupled in two-car trains.”
Broadway & Pike, Seattle
Why it matters: A visually arresting example of a street designed for everyone.
Sarah says: “The rainbow crosswalks in Capitol Hill symbolize the city’s commitment to LGBT awareness and acceptance. The bike lanes are decked out with curb cuts, loop detectors, and bike signals at every intersection. What’s not to love?”
Pennsylvania Avenue, DC
Why it matters: A protected lane in the middle of the most famous street in our nation’s capital ups the ante for street design elsewhere.
Eric says: “There’s something to say about riding in a protected bike lane down the country’s most iconic street, framing a view of the Capitol Building. When I started going to the National Bike Summit in DC about a decade ago, there was always talk about how cool it would be if there was a bike lane connecting the US seats of power for the whole world to see. Not only did they accomplish this, but it’s a protected bike lane to boot.”
Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis
Why it matters: Segregated bike & pedestrian trail is a how-to for repurposing old or overbuilt infrastructure.
Phil says: “Like many others, I’ve been struck by the sheer amount of bike infrastructure in the Twin Cities, which goes to show that active transportation can thrive in less-than-ideal conditions. The Greenway is a remarkable asset. It’s set off from traffic, and at times the city itself — something like peddling down the East Busway.”
3rd Street cycle track, Connellsville
Why it matters: A reminder that great streets can be found right in our backyard, the first cycle track in PA connects Great Allegheny Passage travelers with the town center.
Scott says: “The OG of cycle tracks. This implementation predates just about every physically separated bike lane in the country, and it’s only a 4 1/2 hour ride from Pittsburgh along the Great Allegheny Passage to go check it out.”
Protected intersections, Davis, CA and Salt Lake City
Why they matter: Protected intersections like those recently installed in Davis and Salt Lake City make drivers, pedestrians, and people on bikes more visible to one another and reduce turning conflicts. So new that they have escaped the gaze of Google’s cameras, they are the first in what we hope will be the next wave of people-first infrastructure in the US.
— Alta Planning (@altaplanning) October 15, 2015
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