A candidate for Mayor in Toronto has released a proposal for a bicycle plan that relies heavily on a comprehensive network of bicycle boulevards. In short, I think this is exactly what Columbus needs.
Her plan builds on the bike plan’s signed routes by calling for bike boulevards criss-crossing the city on quieter streets. According to Wikipedia, a bike boulevard is “a shared roadway which has been optimized for bicycle traffic. In contrast with other shared roadways, bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic, but typically allow local motor vehicle traffic.” Hopefully, that is what she means by bike boulevards.
We’ve talked about bike boulevards here in the past, particularly in reference to the Bicentennial Bikeways Master Plan. Columbus even has one bike boulevard on Milton Avenue to connect two segments of the Olentangy Trail. I don’t know that we’ve ever really fully described what one is, but it basically has the following characteristics:
- Low traffic volumes – A bicycle boulevard needs to be rideable for everyone, including young children. This means that residential streets are usually preferable.
- Traffic control priority for cyclists – A bicycle boulevard should be like an on-street path. It should be a quick through route that forms the backbone of the bicycle route network. Cyclists shouldn’t have to stop at every intersection. That means stop signs will need to be removed from the bike boulevard at many intersections. Traffic signals will be needed to help cyclists cross busy arterials.
- Traffic calming – To prevent motorists from taking advantage of the traffic control priority and turning the bike boulevard into a high-volume street, there needs to be traffic calming. This could be as simple as speed humps, or more complicated devices like diverters or cul-de-sacs with gaps only wide enough to let bikes through.
- Special signs and markings – Bike boulevards have large sharrows marked on the street, often with the word “BLVD” as well. Berkeley in particular has developed a nice guide signage system for their bike boulevards.
If anyone wants to work on a map of proposed bike boulevards, maybe using Google Maps, I’d be happy put it into GIS as I have the time. That would allow it to be exported as a detailed PDF. Perhaps I’ll get something started and we can build on it from there. General ideas for bike boulevards:
- Connect off-street trails and existing bike lanes by using bike boulevards as “on-street trails.”
- Provide alternates parallel to major streets.
- Cross barriers (e.g., rivers, railroads, freeways) where possible.
- Connect to universities.
- Connect to downtown and other job centers.
- Connect to high schools.