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Common priority lanes for bicycles and buses ?

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  • eric.britton
    For those of you here with a taste for this sort of thing this is to give you an idea of the kinds of exchanges that are going on over at World City Bikes
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 13, 2008

      For those of you here with a taste for this sort of thing this is to give you an idea of the kinds of exchanges that are going on over at World City Bikes Forum, which you can check out at http://www.forum.worldcitybike.org. Again we post to that forum not here, but via WorldCityBike@yahoogroups.com And thanks for respecting the subject line.


      . Eric Britton


      On Behalf Of Michael Yeates
      Sent: Thursday, 14 February 2008 04:02
      To: WorldCityBike@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [WorldCityBike] Common priority lanes for bicycles and buses ?


      The Australian experience is "interesting" partly because of the numerous interpretations involved (due to a national and multiple state road authorities each holding different views) but also because the Australian experience is located in a very high speed urban environment. This means that differing views exist ... and these need airing ...!

      But first to the speed environment in urban Australia and a bit of surprisingly recent history.

      The default urban speed limit is 50km/h but this was only achieved by agreement that the generally applicable and former speed limit  for main roads namely 60km/h or higher remain. In some states (eg Queensland with which I am more familiar), it was suggested that the speed limit on these main roads not be increased above 60km/h if the road (lane) widths were inadequate to share with cyclists ie space for motor vehicles to safely overtake ... often described as a wide kerb or shared lane. It emerged that a kind of trade-off or deal had been approved whereby the speed limit on what were described as "residential" streets would be reduced to 50 in exchange for higher than 60 on major arterial roads. In addition, where local authorities had introduced local speed limits of 40km/h in response to local residents concerns about excessive speed (as distinct from speeding ie exceeding the speed limit), the speed limit in those areas that did not strictly conform to the design standards for 40km/h (85% compliance and all that) was required to be raised to 50km/h.

      40km/h can only be introduced under very strict and hard to achieve conditions, and to my knowledge, 30km/h is still not allowed except in exceptional or one-off circumstances. A major trial of 40km/h across a relatively large area in Unley a suburban local authority in Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia has still not resulted in relaxations of the 40km/h implementation criteria despite obvious success. A "SHARED ZONE" has a 10km/h speed limit and there is no standard "pedestrian priority" zone or speed limit ...!

      So the road environment is fast ... very fast by world standards and the lane widths are not narrow ... so motorists expect fast traffic ... bus passengers expect fast buses ... and unsurprisingly, when asked how cyclists might fit in such an environment, most "experts" are at best reluctant to promote cycling on such roads.

      So how can cycling be promoted in such conditions becomes the question. Unsurprisingly, off road and separated/segregated facilities are the solution ... or bans on cycling as in the BUS ONLY LANE in the photo Damon sent. The solutions therefore tend to marginalise cyclists (and pedestrians) despite the rhetoric of support (so here I see huge commonalities in the situation in Ireland as described by Simon in another very topical email).

      Against this background and based on excellent conceptual work by James Mackay in Denver, USA, it was accepted back in 1996-7 that in Brisbane, in addition to the engineered facilities, a "Share the Road" approach was not only necessary, it was essential.

      A search of GOOGLE using < yeates BFZ yellow > provides access to the concept and applications including related concepts ... essentially a means to show where cyclists were expected and on what part of the road is needed to show both motorists and cyclists HOW to "Share the Road". It to is not particularly new indeed examples from around the world can be found although not quite as "packaged" as we have tried to achieve.

      This idea of course is sacrilege or is it heretical ... or the equivalent ... to those who believe in engineering solutions. Not surprisingly it has many opponents/critics ... including many cyclists for whom the roads as they are now managed, are too much of a threat. So here we see the politics of critique v division illustrated.

      Could the roads be managed differently to make cycling safer? Why not? Indeed, to refer to Enrique Pendalosa, should a city be safe enough for children to cycle anywhere/everywhere? Should they have to be constrained to excellent bikepaths let alone substandard shared footpaths? What about the urban cyclists who combine training with commuting ... 40-50km/h is not appropriate on a bike on a   footpath shared with novice cyclists, let alone pedestrians? Where do or should they cycle?

      So is this a question of what is possible in road management? If so who is stopping the export and/or implementation of the more (r)evolutionary ideas?

      The question of buses and bikes is very similar. There are multiple solutions for multiple needs. The USA has for example a fleet of some 30-40000 buses with racks on the front ... see < Sportworks > website and others. This is one solution. It works. It even escaped to Brisbane but is now in the process of being closed down.

      Bikes can use bus lanes ... indeed in many ways, there should be no debate about this.

      So where is the debate coming from? The bus operators? Cyclists? Or those who manage the road environment basically for motorists? And how many of those motorists are also cyclists and/or bus passengers? How many of them vary their perspective depending on circumstances and mode of travel at the time?

      The consultation phase, let alone the final versions of the ARRB report did not seem able to include the obviously very closely related issue of speed management.

      The road environment was a given, not a variable. Not surprisingly the report is not very supportive of bikes and buses sharing bus lanes and it achieves that recommendation by a number of means. One is the need for what might be described as requiring optimal conditions eg wider BUS LANEs ... which of course is almost impossible politically and technically.

      But then experience kicks in ... and those in the know, enjoyed it immensely ...!

      For a short while Brisbane had a variable peak flow BUS LANE system on Coronation Drive (see GOOGLE MAP) now handed back to general traffic in a classic example of what Vukan Vuchic and others describe as the HOV or HOT "backslide" problem.

      But while we had that BUS LANE, it was possible to cycle with virtually NO TRAFFIC in the lane ... because of the headway and travel speed relationships while moving and the platooning effect of the traffic lights. It was great to have a 3.3-3.5m lane to cycle in... with stationary traffic wishing it could also use the lane.

      But convincing cyclists to use it was almost impossible, not least because the connections to the "normal" cycling network, the bikepaths, were dreadful to the point of being almost a impossible to use.      

      In fact most suburban buses (other than expresses and long "jump stop" buses) travel at about the same AVERAGE speed as an urban cyclist ... even in a BUS LANE.

      Our BUS LANEs allow cyclists, taxis, registered 'luxury' limos, and emergency vehicles as well of course as buses.

      I have attached a couple of photos ... and there are some "bad" examples at http://www.bicycledriving.com/bfz/bikelane.htm which show what can and does happen with relying on bike lanes and assuming they are safe.

      But the question really is and it applies to almost all innovations based on previous experience somewhere else), is it political or technical matters that decide where cities and towns end up? In my view far too many technical experts are afraid to apply their technical expertise to counter dominant political views ... and the problem of bikes sharing the BUS LANEs with buses is just one example.

      I have photos of BUS+BIKE LANEs in Germany and France from the 1995-7 period ... so nothing new about the idea ... and the evidence is that these are fine ...!

      So is the problem of sharing the road including with buses in BUS LANEs really based on false perceptions and/or the predict and provide approach whereby if more cyclists were encouraged on the road, there would be more KSIs ? The answer is yes. Would changes to road management make a difference? Yes?

      However, in practice Australia remains so dangerous that many well known people have refused to cycle on the roads here ... and paradoxically, it is this behaviour which not only ensures that the Australian road safety performance for pedestrians and cyclists appears good despite the threat/risk of high speed urban traffic because exposure ie participation is so low that almost nobody gets killed cycling or walking but it also tends to support the use of off-road and segregated/separated facilities ... and THIS does nothing to reduce the CAUSE of the risk/threat ...

      Indeed the main cycling advocacy/lobbying groups publicly support separation and off road facilities here ... and those who promote these ideas are very welcome. Others not so?

      One of the major (false)? perceptions of these causes of threat/risk is the "need" for buses to travel at 60 or 70km/h ... same as the cars. But by use of BUS LANEs, there is no need for that sort of speed between bus stops ... even better when bus priority which also benefits cyclists and taxis is implemented.

      Of my visits to many European cities, I found the example of Edinburgh and its extensive conversion of kerbside lanes to green BUS LANEs to be an excellent example in principle although not without some problems ... but THAT is no reason to not pursue the model but fix the problems.

      So yes, of course buses and bikes can share an ordinary lane width BUS LANE ... especially if/when bus stops are in locations that suit cyclists and bus passengers rather than the through traffic capacity of intersections ...!

      Can that be improved, of course. How? It does not matter much as long as the cyclists are on the road ...!

      Michael Yeates
      Cyclists Urban Speedlimit Taskforce
      Australia ...

      At 06:25 AM 14/02/2008, urbanbicyclist wrote:

      A few years ago, The Australian Bicycle Council commissioned ARRB
      Transport Research to develop guidelines for managing interaction
      between buses and bikes in the road network. The ARRB Project Leader
      was, Ian Ker (iank@...).

      Ian is no longer at ARRB but the report available through the
      Australian Bicycle Council. http://www.austroads.com.au/abc/

      Actually, here is the report!


      AP-R266/05 : Bus-Bike Interaction within the Road Network

      Buses and Bikes are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size,
      mass and manoeuvrability but frequently operate in the same road
      space, especially adjacent to the kerb and at intersections. Both
      buses and bicycles are effective alternatives to the private car for
      travel in our towns and cities and are being promoted by governments
      on this basis, but they can come into conflict as well as working

      This report reviews the interaction between buses and bicycles within
      the road network and suggests ways in which any adverse impacts on
      cyclists or bus operators and passengers can be minimised. Issues and
      ways of addressing them were identified in consultation with both bus
      and bicycle stakeholders, to ensure that the outcomes reflected a
      balanced view of bus-bike interaction.

      Specific Issues have been addressed in specific 'Information Notes',
      which are included as part of this report. These are also available as
      individual documents, in electronic form, on the website of the
      Australian Bicycle Council (http://www.abc.dotars.gov.au ).

      These Information Notes do not replace existing guidelines (for
      example, the Austroads Guides to Traffic Engineering Practice) but are
      intended to complement them, to draw attention to issues that may need
      to be addressed in specific situations and to suggest ways in which
      they can be resolved or, at least, adverse impacts for cyclists and
      bus operators and passengers can be minimised. Users should also refer
      to local State or Territory Guidelines for bicycle facilities.

      The information in these Information Notes should be considered in the
      current review and rewrite of the Austroads Guide to Traffic
      Engineering Practice.


      As an aside, in Melbourne, bicycles are allowed in some bus lanes
      (Johnson St), but not necessarily others... I have attached some
      photo's of the morning peak inbound bus lane in Victoria Parade, East


      Damon Rao

      On Feb 10, 2008 6:03 PM, Morten Lange <morten7an@...> wrote:
      > I would like to introduce quickly this good note from Morten Lange from
      > Reykjavik and suggest that we treat this as another of our discussion
      > topics, as we did so creatively with the helmets issues. So let me give the
      > stage to Morton as he happens up our discussions on this important topic.
      > Eric Britton
      > ****************************************************************
      > Hi,
      > Here in Iceland, politicians are finally awakening slowly and have begun
      > using priority lanes for buses. However, no other vehicles are allowed on
      > those lanes. But, this practice is not yet supported by laws nor sanctions
      > for violations, and this will be changed during the next months.
      > The parliamentary committee discussing the law proposal has invited us to
      > present the case for allowing cyclists on these lanes. We have already
      > brought forward the arguments about cycling being a mode that one wants to
      > boost. (Sustainability and health ) + this is feasible, referring to
      > practice in other countries.
      > The prime arguments against will be about safety, that cyclists will slow
      > down buses, and that allowing bicycles invites a slippery slope situation.
      > Bicycles and taxis on bus priority lanes ! Electric and methane cars next ?
      > All multi-occupancy vehicles ?
      > This issue must be relevant in many cities where cycling is being promoted,
      > by CityBikes / Bikesharing schemes or otherwise.
      > Does anyone here have any compelling reports, evaluations, statistics on
      > such shared-use priority lanes ?
      > Arguments pro et con?
      > Which arguments usually weigh in most heavily ?
      > I know shared-use priority lanes have been implemented in London (own
      > experience) , Paris, Oslo and more places. I have a vague sense that they
      > work well, for the most part, but some bus-drivers might think of the
      > cyclists as a nuisance ?
      > Best Regards,
      > Morten Lange


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