So This is What Complete Streets Comes Down To?: NMA E-Newsletter #573

The Complete Streets Act of 2019, U.S. House Bill 3663, is creating a lot of rhetorical questions on our part. In NMA E-Newsletter #552, the title question was “An Appropriate Balance for Whom?” in response to the bill’s declaration that the needs of walkers and bike riders must be accommodated before those of drivers on all new and improvement road projects. That edict would force a script flip of how Americans travel daily.

A recent article in the ITE (Institute of Transportation Engineers) Journal gives us a glimpse into one such bizarre road design. Let’s start with two images of the advisory bike lane (ABL) concept outlined in the Journal:





There is a single lane for two-way motorized traffic, and two bike lanes outside of that center lane dedicated to bicyclists heading in opposing directions. When vehicles approach each other head-on in the middle, the drivers both move into the bike lanes temporarily. No safety issues there for bicyclists, and no blame for motorists who are trying to avoid a direct collision without bumping angry, blind-spot riders off of their bikes, right?

We referred to ABLs as a concept a bit earlier. But according to Michael Williams, a consultant writing for the ITE Journal, this design ─ which he also refers to as “edge lane roads” ─ is operational in more than two dozen locations in North America. The application is targeted for urban or suburban roads with average annual daily traffic of 6,000 vehicles or less.

And, one presumes, a proportional number of bicyclists. That would be, according to data on daily modes of transportation from the 2016 U.S. Census, approximately 20 cars or trucks for every individual bicycle on the road.

That ratio significantly understates the number of vehicles vs. bicyclists on the road at any given time, considering that the average daily trip (distance and time) by car is longer than by bicycle. At the recent national conference on Vision Zero and Road Diets sponsored by the NMA in Los Angeles, attendees played a little game. When looking out the glass windows of our meeting venue onto bustling Venice Boulevard, which recently had gone through its own forced restriction of car lanes, we counted five bicyclists traveling in the west bike lane over the course of about an hour.

This is why we must defeat the Complete Streets Act of 2019 and similar efforts to restrict driving to absurd levels. Watch for continuing NMA email alerts and e-newsletters about the role you can play in helping us do just that.

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