January 26, 2012

Bike lanes and downtown - How does Columbus fit in?

Edit 1/28/2012: I wasn't happy with the title. I apologize for the harshness of the original title. 

I often try to give the impression that I don't care about stuff, but honestly, I care a lot. I care that a reader can feel assured that he/she can state facts found on this blog and be able to quote this blog without making an ass of his/herself. Sure I joke around, but I am optimistic that our school system has educated people to know when I am joking about historical figures.

I will summarize my beef so that readers who are uninterested in bicycle gossip can live their lives. A press statement (discussed below) had some inaccuracies whilst reporting on the state of bicycling in Columbus. With that said, Columbus could be a lot more bike friendly which includes increasing bicycling infrastructure.

Recently, Consider Biking has been working on "Connect the Core" which aims to add bicycle lanes or bicycle tracks downtown. Within their summary, the cost for 12+ miles of bike lanes would cost ~$140,000, this is less than what we've been spending on the bike shelters. Although I'm iffy on bike lanes, that's a relatively good price and sometimes a city should just dive in. 

One part of the push is using a recent report released by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. One fact included in the Consider Biking press release is that "[The report] also shows that Columbus is the 2nd largest city without on-street bike lanes in downtown." This news has also traveled to Columbus Underground with this headline: "Report Says Columbus is Second Largest City with no Downtown Bike Lanes."

The problem with this statement is that the report's scope of work does not focus on the downtowns of the 51 cities studied. Searching for the word "downtown" returned only 3 instances of the word within the report. Looking closer at the data shows that Dallas is the only city studied which has no on-street bike lanes. According to Census Data (through Wikipedia), Dallas is the largest city studied which has no on-street bike lanes. From there, it's easy to extrapolate that Dallas is the largest city studied that has no bike lanes downtown.

Columbus is the 15th largest city by population. What about the other 13 cities? As I said, the report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking did not include any breakdowns of downtown areas. I suspect that the least dense places would be least likely to have bike lanes downtown.


City
On-Street bike Lanes
City Population Rank
City Density (per sq. mile)
Bike Lanes Downtown
New York
407
1
27016
Yes
San Francisco
100
13
17169
Yes
Chicago
115
3
11844
Yes
Philadelphia
431
5
11380
Yes
Los Angeles
167
2
8092
Yes
San Jose
400
10
5359
Yes
San Diego
325.5
8
4020
No
Columbus
20
15
3624
No
Dallas
0
9
3518
No
Houston
206
4
3501
No
San Antonio
236
7
2880
?
Phoenix
371
6
2798
Yes
Austin
168
14
2653
Yes
Indianapolis
59
12
2270
Yes
Jacksonville
320
11
1100
No



The above chart is of cities with populations greater than Columbus arranged from least dense to most dense. Using Google and looking at the "Bicycling" layer of Jacksonville, FL yields this map:

Jacksonville has no bike lanes downtown according to Google Maps
A quick Google search for Jacksonville and downtown bike lanes also leads to this article (Dated August 10, 2011):
"'No bike lanes downtown, but cobblestones? Come on.' — graffiti on a small building at Fishweir Park.
The author obviously hasn't found an appropriate forum to express himself, but he did raise a couple of legitimate public policy issues. So, I asked City Hall for an explanation.
Since most streets are too narrow for bike lanes, Mayor Alvin Brown's spokesman says, they're being added when roads are built or widened. You don't see them downtown because roads there were built before they became fashionable."
Indianapolis and Austin both appear to have bike lanes in their downtown. San Antonio has a disjointed connection of bike lanes downtown. Houston does not have bike lanes within their inner-belt:

Blue = innerbelt. See Google maps for more
Even according to Houston's GIS system, the inner-belt only consists of signed bike paths and multi-use pathways which is all that Columbus has downtown. Hell, even downtown San Diego doesn't look like it has bike lanes downtown:

Blue = Inner-belt/Ocean. See Google Maps for more.
The takeaway message is that according to a recent report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking and Census data, Dallas is the largest city without bike lanes. According to personal research done by Biking Columbus, Columbus is the 4th or 5th largest city without bike lanes downtown, albeit most large cities have multi-use paths downtown and the term "downtown" is difficult to define.

See below for what Columbus looks like:

See Google Maps

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking so much time and effort to support the effort to analyze the Assertion made by Consider Biking. You are obviously passionate about making Columbus a better place to bicycle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Strike the words "to support the effort" . Typo, sorry

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Jody. I am looking forward to see how Connect the Core progresses. Depending on how long Columbus takes to finish their downtown makeover, it seems unlikely that we can get any bike infrastructure downtown in 2012, but I'm sure that Consider Biking's initiative will give Columbus the best chance to get cycle tracks/protected bike lanes.

      BTW, I've toned the title of the post down. Again, I apologize for the angst of it.

      Delete
  2. Thanks Cole, this must have been a lot of work. I'm not convinced bike lanes make or break a city's bikeability or safety factor, but it's good to know Columbus isn't the only fairly large city without bikelanes downtown.

    As a bike commuter I like using bike paths more than bike lanes. So far, my experience with Columbus has been overall good biking on city streets with cars (even on one way streets).

    I'd love to see funding placed into education programs for bikers and drivers. Maybe one of Columbus's bike advocacy groups could have an attention grabbing headline about Columbus's lack of bike education programs....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that bike lanes are not the end-all be-all of bicycling. But I really like the idea of protected bike lanes and if we can get some of them downtown, it would look cool at the very least.

      Delete
  3. Still, it's not exactly an enviable position to be one of the worst equipped large American cities when it comes to bike infrastructure, although poorly implemented infrastructure is even worse and usually dangerous. That's something else that should be taken into consideration.

    However, it's not exactly rocket science that a cohesive system radiating out from Downtown makes more sense than what the city has done: placed bike lanes on isolated strips of suburban style 50 MPH roads near 270. Trust me, it makes all the difference for other would-be cyclists when you can ride uninterrupted from your neighborhood to Downtown and beyond on roads with a stamp of approval for bikes on them.

    The city needs to change the traffic signal pattern on one ways so that drivers will no longer expect to pass through a dozen green lights at 40 MPH or higher (unlikely, since I had waited years for that to change at all) and I'd rather see sharrows than bike lanes on multi-lane, one-way streets like 3rd and Spring. Like I always do, where there's more than one lane, the far-right lane is all mine. I've calmed traffic a bit in doing so and for the most part no one cares since there are other lanes to choose from: just needs sharrows to get a few more people to try doing the same. At the same time, if the lanes are placed well outside of the door zone and speeds are calmed they're not too bad, though unnecessary where there's more than one lane traveling in the same direction to serve as the passing lane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keith,

      While Columbus is down the list when it comes to bike infrastructure, I know you are of the opinion that Columbus has plenty of bikeable roads and I completely agree with that.

      I also agree that bike infrastructure should radiate from downtown along with having connections to other areas of note (Hilltop - Grandview, Grandview - OSU, etc.) I think that the idea should be to have multi-use paths for long-distance trips from suburbia and have them pop out at ares with bike lanes. Morse Road, for instance, should have been paved all the way to the Alum Creek Trail. It's somewhat worthless, although I know Columbus is attempting to paint as roads are being resurfaced to reduce cost.

      Again, I mostly agree with the idea of taking the lane, but if there is a significant amount of bikers or if a City wants to design a road to handle a significant amount of bikers, a cycle track is a good idea to consistently calm traffic while enticing more than people like us.

      Ultimately, the infrastructure needs to be planned out in such a way that maximizes cyclists and provides for ease of biking (i.e., turning).

      Delete

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