Friday, January 16, 2015

Riverside's First Two-Way Bike Lane

It's not quite a cycletrack, because it's not protected along most of its length, and it's only a block long, but it's a pretty major improvement in the cycling infrastructure around UCR. It's Riverside's first two-way on-street bike lane!
It runs from the Bannockburn Apartments on Canyon Crest to here, the intersection of Campus Drive and University:

Except that, as you'll notice from the directional arrows there, it doesn't quite do that. The lane is designed to funnel cyclists headed southbound on Canyon Crest into the UCR campus, and so the contraflow lane ends at a point where the lane intersects a major campus walkway:
I should be clear, I like this facility. I ride it almost every day. I think the concrete curb protecting cyclists is awesome and long-overdue, especially since it prevents the (illegal) passenger loading operations that regularly blocked the bike lane and walkway portal at this corner. That said, I think that there are major problems on both ends of the lane.

The lane starts basically mid-block on Canyon Crest, at the north end of the stoplight at Bannockburn's driveway. I cannot see any way for cyclists to legally and safely transition between riding in the traditional, southbound with-traffic lane on the west side of Canyon Crest to entering the contraflow lane. The only thought I could come up with is that cyclists are supposed to dismount, use the crosswalk at Bannockburn, and mount up again to enter the new lanes on the east side of the street.

What actually ends up happening in practice is this:

Cyclists either simply ride the wrong way down the existing northbound bike lane, or they cross the street somewhere in the middle and ride in oncoming traffic to get to the new lanes.

Something similar happens on the Campus Drive section of the bike lane, with cyclists from campus ignoring the fact that the lane is one-way (eastbound) at that point, and proceeding westbound behind the new curb and all the way down to the University Village.

Granted, both of these maneuvers were happening long before this facility went in. In putting in the contraflow lane, the City painted what cyclists were doing anyway. But I fail to understand why the lane was stopped at Bannockburn, rather than extended at least to Linden St., or ideally to Blaine St. That way, cyclists could enter the lanes when they turned on to Canyon Crest, and they would be able to ride legally and safely the entire length of the street. To my (admittedly untrained) eye, the street width looks pretty constant from UCR all the way to Blaine St.

Furthermore, I strongly advocated for the extension of this facility down University to the University Village. The City could have removed the existing westbound lane, shifted the whole street over, and added that lane back in on the south side of University. I even rode with Charlie Gandy to outline such an option, back when he was working with the City. As-is, I have to dodge several salmoning cyclists (and worse, scooter-riders and skateboarders) every time I ride from the UV up towards campus. The new cycletrack only encourages this behavior.

Lastly, there is one major safety issue with the lane-- the lack of bollards on the Campus Dr. side. Cars are used to turning right around that corner, and some still do so, only to find themselves on the wrong side of the concrete barrier. Once a car is in the lane, there is no way for them to leave but to drive through it, which many do in a panicked hurry. I myself nearly got run over by a Jeep Cherokee in the lane while taking the pictures for this article.

So, in summary, Riverside now has a two-way on-street bike lane. It is flawed, but it is a step in the right direction. We need to keep the pressure up on the City so that they extend this facility to its rightful conclusions on both ends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Not Everything Is About The Commute

As I've written several times before, there is a persistent bias in how we talk about transportation infrastructure in this country-- the bias towards "commuters" and "commuting." Good transportation infrastructure requires a commitment to all-day, daily service-- especially when it comes to public transit-- while a focus on "commuters" tends to lead to anemic peak-only service or overgrown roadway infrstructure.

Now I'm getting comments on my Facebook page about how California HSR should serve "commuters," and lamenting the fact that the poor will not be able to afford the fare to commute from depressed Central Valley cities to coastal urban areas... presumably every day, for work.

That is insane.

High speed rail, both here and abroad, serves intercity travel markets. Intercity travel is sometimes business-related, but it is rarely related to the daily commute. More often, it is the college student returning home to visit their family, or the vacationing couple on their way to somewhere sunny, or the grandparents going to meet their grandson for the first time, or the academic on their way to a conference, or, yes, the salesman on his way to a meeting to snag a new client. Intercity carriers rarely, however, serve the fry cook on his way to a distant burger shack. HSR will be a great opportunity for Central Valley residents, but it will be an opportunity for them because it will create jobs in the Central Valley, first through construction and later through maintenance and operations.

While I'm sure that some well-off coastal workers may decide that they would rather buy a mansion in Fresno than a condo in San Francisco, and who will be enabled in that hope by HSR, they are not the design users of the system. HSR can be completely successful even if there isn't a single person who uses it every day. HSR trips should be an infrequent thing for most people, just as Southwest trips or long drives up I-5 are today.

HSR is both valuable to our transportation system and completely useless at getting people from home to work. It can be both things at once.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I am not an unequivocal supporter of the California HSR project-- I really don't like what they have planned for the "Riverside" station in particular-- but I am very happy to see that the project broke ground yesterday in Fresno. The first construction phase will go north, from Fresno to Modesto. Future phases will bring the train all the way down to just outside of Bakersfield, and still further future phases will bring it in to the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

I've ridden HSR in four countries now, and it is the way to travel 500-ish-mile distances. We need this. We're finally seeing some progress, 7 years after Prop 1A. Let's hope this train keeps rolling.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Woo IE!

San Bernardino's E Street won the Streetsie for Most Dramatic Street Transformation, beating out several dramatically-changed streetscapes in places as distant (and dense) as Boston and Pittsburgh.

I feel slightly guilty that I still haven't actually ridden sbX.