Friday, August 26, 2011

Bike Route Network

At this month's Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last night, I got in a bit of a heated discussion with some of the other members. Many members of the committee are, as far as I can tell, primarily interested with improving the quality of recreational cycling within the city. That's all well and good, and I of course understand the joy of a good bike ride, but (as my readers know) I'm much more interested in using bicycles as a tool for sustainable transportation- to get people out of their cars and into a healthier, greener lifestyle. I've talked about this divide before, but it was very much on display last night.

The Committee proposed setting up a system of bike routes that could be compiled into a map book, signed and promoted by the City, and possibly be given priority in maintenance. A good thing, certainly, except for one detail- most Committee members saw these routes as loops or "rides" that people could follow in order to spend a day out on their bikes. Loop rides are great if you want to enjoy a bit of fresh air and exercise, but ultimately rather problematic if you want to do that on the way to somewhere of consequence.

I argued that what the City needed was a grid system of bike routes. Such a system, with lines stretching across the City, would be easy to understand, easy to follow, and could then serve as the basis of a way-finding system for more complex routes. Despite assurances that my ideas were good and valid, I think I was nearly alone in this opinion. However, the Committee Chairman asked to see the sort of grid network that I would propose, so here it is:

View Riverside Bikeways Network (proposed) in a larger map

The network is inspired in part by the Backbone Bikeway Network that the LA Bicycle Working Group came up with, and that was eventually largely adopted in LA's Bike Plan. Numbering was inspired by San Francisco, but Long Beach also has a similar system.

The driving idea behind the map is to link neighbourhoods across the City, primarily by using existing bicycle infrastructure. Every route except for #6 substantially follows existing or soon-to-be-built (Route 8) facilities. Nearly everyone in Riverside is within a mile of a numbered bike route, and in most cases could access one via low-traffic, neighbourhood streets. (The biggest exception to this is much of Woodcrest and Washington St., which lack bike facilities at present.)

While the lines look complicated, and in some cases have strange jogs in one direction or another (Route 7 at California, or route 2 at Kansas)- but ideally each of these routes would be signed on the street. Rather than having to memorise the safest route through an area, cyclists could simply follow the signs for their route. The network would not obviate the need for more local, neighbourhood bike facilities, but it would answer questions like "How do I get to downtown from Tyler Mall safely?" (Answer: ride up Magnolia, catch Route 10 at Van Buren to Route 1, and take that to Route 2.) It would also, as I mentioned before, create a framework upon which to build more complex loop rides. Want a quick family ride near UCR? Try the triangle created by routes 2, 5 and 7, all on at least Class II bike lanes. How about a ~15 mile ride on the south side of the city? Take 3 to 12 to 5 to 8. Want to do the ride that the BAC chairman mapped out as an example? I'm extrapolating from memory, but I'm pretty sure it'd be something like 7-5-3-12-1-2. Rather than having to try and guess which streets are safe and go from there, cyclists new to the area would have simple cues to direct them to safe, simple bike routes between any two points in the city.

So... what do you all think?


Rene said...


My friend with his two girls (9 and 7) along with my kids (8, 7, 4 1/2) rode from my house near Mission Inn and Locust Ave. We used Santa Ana Trail. We planned to stop at Van Buren, but we went ahead and get off on Tyler Ave. What a nightmare to navigate through the unpaved dirt sidewalks on Tyler Ave. (Looking at your map, we should get off on LaSierra Ave). We had no clue what lies ahead. However, we managed to arrive on Magnolia Ave and have a lunch. Then, we rode on Magnolia Ave on sidewalks and get off on Palm Ave (very busy crossing). It's a nice ride for us. 19 miles total for the kids. We're proud of our kids, of course - my 4 1/2 son rode 19 miles. Anyone can do it!

It's frustrating that there are lousy exits off from Santa Ana Trail. That's something that needs to be improved. (That's for BAC members who may read this comment.)

Your map is excellent to begin with. I suggest that you create another map to include various possible loops so that hopefully, your view and BAC's view can blend and work together.

I do believe City needs to invest in biking infrastructure for transportation first then put recreational loops on the top of it.

I would like to see Brockton Ave reduced to one lane both way from Jurupa to 14th St. It's a massive 4 lanes that is wasteful. I can imagine reducing that to two lanes that will benefit the residents of Wood Streets most.

I still think the route on Market is not safe. I won't allow my kids to ride on bike lanes on Market Street. We tend to ride on sidewalks from downtown Riverside to visit my sister in Wood Streets.

Recreational cycling and sustainable biking transportation CAN CO-EXIST.

JN said...


So you know, riding on sidewalks in Riverside is against city code- RMC 10.64.310. Despite popular belief, it's also more dangerous than riding in the street, given that the children aren't prone to darting. (The 4 1/2 yo might be a problem here.) Cars aren't looking for quick-moving cyclists on sidewalks, and sidewalk riding results in 6 times more injuries than riding with traffic.

Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of the Market lanes myself- especially with half of them closed or blocked off heading southbound at the moment. I used them in my route map because they're the only bike facilities at all downtown. (I'm pushing for sharrows throughout downtown, but I'm guessing you probably wouldn't find riding sharrows terribly safe either.) Public works says that they want to expand the standard bike lane size from 5 to 8 feet around town- and an 8 foot bike lane is plenty big.

Michael said...

I like the idea of a grid so that you can commute. Creating a bunch of "rides" is a waste of time, because with a decent grid, you can create your own ride by piecing together different grid sections. If the Committee's idea of a ride is the silly Downtown Bicycle Loop (which is poorly signed, by the way), then they better think again.

I like the grid layout you proposed, but some of the segments need major upgrades! Sections of Arlington Avenue have no bike line, narrow traffic lanes, and large trees that have heaved up the pavement (especially the section near Notre Dame High School). Your proposed network would go a long way toward prioritizing future bike lane projects. Great work!

JN said...

@Michael- Arlington between Indiana and Magnolia has long been one of my greatest frustrations with the City's bike infrastructure. Did you know that that is actually a designated Class III bike route? It's miserable to ride. You'll note that there is a warning symbol above that section on the map, calling attention to its awful condition. I don't think lanes are forthcoming, but I am pushing hard for sharrows when the new MUTCD comes out.

More broadly, the only bike facilities that presently cross the CA-91 freeway are the lanes on La Sierra Ave. and the lanes on Magnolia Ave., both within half a mile of each other. Van Buren may have lanes when the bridge replacement project is complete. Jefferson Ave. and Third St. will soon have lanes that cross the freeway, but they are sorely needed.

Michael said...

@JN - Wow, sharrows in Riverside? You are brave. I don't think anyone on the Parking, Traffic, and Streets Commission even knows what they are. They'll probably come up with an excuse like, "oh we can't do that here," and given the quality (or lack thereof) of the typical Riverside driver, they may have a point.

One thing I've been noticing lately is a lot of people riding their bike against traffic. Maybe the Bike Advisory Committee should do an aggressive bicycle safety campaign to educate riders. We have a lot of new riders now.

JN said...

Michael- Corona has sharrows along 6th street, why not in Riverside? And this Parking, Traffic and Streets Commissioner knows exactly what sharrows are.

I would like to see both an aggressive safety campaign and more enforcement of bicycle traffic movement- perhaps modelled on traffic fines. For the first offence, a cyclist would be required to attend a safety class, and their fines would be waived after completion.

Michael said...

JN - "Why not in Riverside," indeed. I have lost count of how many times I have said that on so many issues. I like the sharrows idea, and it's probably the only viable solution for that stretch of Arlington. I'm glad there is at least one person on the Parking, Traffic, and Streets Commission that looks for innovative solutions. Thank you for serving on the Commission, and I hope you can get some allies on board to implement some changes.