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I strongly suggest that anyone who likes this facility should check out the shortcomings detailed John Allen's web page:


Thanks for that info, Andrew - very helpful!

The Gehry-esque buildings in the picture are interesting.

I ridden these cycle tracks a lot, and although there are quite pleasant, pedestrians walking in them are a BIG problem. There has not been a single time when I have ridden in these lanes when I have not had to either ring my bell or swerved onto the sidewalk to avoid a pedestrian walking in the cycle track. I think if there was some kind of physical separation (preferably grade separation) between the cycle track and sidewalk, pedestrians would not be as tempted to walk in it.

Wow, lots of problems with that design! I think this photo is the most telling from your link, Andrew:


Clearly the path needs to not be at the same elevation as the sidewalk, and the area between sidepath and street shouldn't look so inviting to pedestrians.

My immediate question on seeing this post is, how do you pass a slower cyclist? There's no space, from the look of it.

But I can't see a physically separated path making sense unless it's for strictly through traffic. Like Andrew's link points out, you gotta get to destinations on the left side of the street.

I've never ridden this cycle track but the more I get a look at these facilities the more skeptical I am that they will work under heavy use. Besides the problem of keeping stray pedestrians out of the facility, it seems like it would be a problem for faster riders to pass slower riders. I suppose this isn't the worst design flaw but it would be enough to make me consider riding in the vehicle travel lanes. A similar situation occurs on a few of the parkways in the DC area. The Rock Creek parkway has a separate multi-use trail that is pretty slow to travel on compared to riding on the parkway. Safety is one aspect of any transportation facility design and separate bike paths do a fairly good job of safely separating modes. But utility is another criterion and I suspect that the utility of these facilities is pretty limited. All that being said if these kinds of facilities encourage more cycling then they might be worth the investment.

John Allen's site is great because it points out the distance between bicycle facilities that sound good in the abstract but don't actually function very well.

I'm generally pro-bike lane and anti-sidepaths/cycle tracks for precisely the reasons that he points out:

1) lack of visibility to turning cars
2) pedestrian conflicts
3) difficulty in passing slower cyclists or avoiding obstacles
4) access to the left side of the street
5) snow removal (more of an issue in Boston than DC, but still)

One other thought: Putting a cycle track on a different level than the sidewalk (but still above the street) may aid in solving 2) but it makes 3) much worse.

Though it was written years ago, I feel like I touched a nerve with the author of Andrew's link! Perhaps I should revise my statement to just "keep in mind when discussing bike facilities."

When I was there, there was low traffic of all kinds (ped, bike, auto), but the pedestrians were at least staying out of the cycle path. And it was September, so there was no snow.

I did see one cyclist pass another - with an audible warning allowing the slower cyclist a chance to move over a bit, the extra space between the path and the trees allowed a safe pass. Grade-separating the cycle path from the sidewalk and island would have made this move much sketchier.

The biggest complaints in the linked critique seem to do with through traffic vs. local traffic - the one way cycle paths don't serve very well for arriving at a destination along Vassar St. Perhaps such separated facilities (wide enough to pass) would be more appropriate on a connecting road with fewer intersections and destinations - like connecting roads between campus and student neighborhoods.

i walked in one of those lanes just recently. nowhere else to go -- too crowded. but i applaud the right idea. it's hard to believe that entire area has so many students, and train transit, and it's still so completely car-dominated. thought there were supposed to be some smart people over there? and the top urban planning school in the nation?


Interestingly, some of my complaints about regular bike lanes apply here. With bike lanes, there's an expectation that cyclists must be in them at all times; and some cyclists seem to think they offer some amount of protection. And yet, some of the lanes in Washington are overly-planned in such a way that cars can't possibly stay out of them and cyclists aren't particularly protected - the relatively new lanes up in Adams Morgan are an example of this.

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