New advocacy report: Getting Bikes on Bridges
Bridges are critical links in transportation network. As veteran Seattle bike and pedestrian planner Peter Lagerwey says about all bridges, large and small: “If you can’t get across the bridges, nothing else matters.” Seventy‐one thousand bridges in the United States are considered structurally deficient, with a major defect in structure or deck. These bridges will require replacement or rehabilitation. When that happens, bicyclists need to be ready to campaign successfully to have bicycle accommodations included in the project.
Our latest Advocacy Advance report gives bicyclists answers to tough questions engineers will ask and tells the stories of current and successful bridge-access campaigns. How did advocates get a multi-use path included in the largest infrastructure project in South Carolina? How did Missouri advocates improve accommodations on three bridges? How are Boston advocates taking advantage of a $3 billion state bridge rehabilitation law to improve bridges for bicyclists?
To find out, read the Advocacy Advance report, Bridging the Gaps in Bicycling Networks: An advocate’s guide to getting bikes on bridges.
Date & Time: Wed, December 15, 2010, 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM (Eastern)
Registrations will close at Wed, December 15, 2010, 12:00 PM (Eastern)
Perhaps the most famous successful bridge‐access campaign is Wonders Way, a 2.7 mile long, 12‐foot‐wide, bi‐directional, shared‐use facility on the Ravenel Bridge, over the Cooper River, Charleston, S.C.
After the jump, read an excerpt from the report to learn how to counter some of the arguments against accommodating bikes on bridges. (Read the whole report for links and sources.)
ANSWERING COMMON CHALLENGES TO BIKE ACCOMMODATIONS ON BRIDGES
Bridge access is a perennial issue for bicyclists and, through the years, we have heard common objections. Here are some of them, accompanied by successful counter-arguments.
“The federal government won’t let us.”
Not true. The U.S. Department of Transportation has frequently reaffirmed the need to accommodate cyclists on bridges built or refurbished with federal money. The U.S. DOT’s policy statement on bicycling and walking recommends “integrating bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on new, rehabilitated, and limited‐access bridges” with connections to streets or paths. The federal government does not own many bridges, and it does not provide design guidance; they direct people to the AASHTO guide.
Title 23 United States Code section §217 requires that bridges being replaced with federal funds include safe accommodation for bicyclists:
Bicycle transportation and pedestrian walkways
(e) Bridges.– In any case where a highway bridge deck being replaced or rehabilitated with Federal financial participation is located on a highway on which bicycles are permitted to operate at each end of such bridge, and the Secretary determines that the safe accommodation of bicycles can be provided at reasonable cost as part of such replacement or rehabilitation, then such bridge shall be so replaced or rehabilitated as to provide such safe accommodations.
The Federal Highway Administration Web site summarizes this way: “Federal surface transportation law places a strong emphasis on creating a seamless transportation system that all users can enjoy and use efficiently and safely.”
“Bikes are not allowed.” (for interstate bridges)
No federal law prohibits bicycles on interstates or other highways. In fact, there are numerous examples of interstate or other major bridges with bicycle accommodations: the Woodrow Wilson Bridge that carries I‐95 across the Potomac River near Washington, D.C.; the George Washington Bridge (I‐95) over the Hudson River; I‐90 floating bridge across Lake Washington in Seattle; the Golden Gate Bridge (US 101) in San Francisco; and the Cooper River Bridge (US 17) in Charleston, SC. See Appendix III for more examples of bicycle accommodations on major bridges.
However, individual states have restricted access. A 2001 report from the Mineta Transportation Institute describes the policy in each state. Western states often allow bike access on interstates, inpart, because there is no alternative available. Even when states prohibit bicycling on the interstate highway, bicycle accommodations can and should be provided on interstate bridges (with connections for bicyclists from other roads).
Federal law requires the consideration of bicycle and pedestrian travel. The federal statute on bicycle planning and pedestrian planning, 23 U.S.C. 217(g), states:
(g) Planning and Design.—
1. In General — Bicyclists and pedestrians shall be given due consideration in the comprehensive transportation plans developed by each metropolitan planning organization and State in accordance with sections 134 and 135, respectively. Bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways shall be considered, where appropriate, in conjunction with all new construction and reconstruction of transportation facilities, except where bicycle and pedestrian use are not permitted.
2. Safety considerations —Transportation plans and projects shall provide due consideration for safety and contiguous routes for bicyclists and pedestrians. Safety considerations shall include the installation, where appropriate, and maintenance of audible traffic signals and audible signs at street crossings.
Advocates in Florida were able to gain bike access to selected bridges on limited access facilities (LAFs), such as interstates, by citing the safety record in states like Arizona. Florida Bicycle Association board member, Mike Lasche, says, “We eliminated the safety concern, by citing the Arizona study that showed that Arizona had only nine bicycle crashes over 11.5 years, on its 2,000 miles of LAFs. During this same period, Arizona had 25,563 bicycle crashes statewide. Thus, LAFs accounted for less than four hundredths of one percent, 0.035 percent, of all their bicycle crashes, a miniscule portion.” They then successfully argued that minimum speed requirements did not apply because cyclists would be on the shoulder.
“It costs too much.”
When a city builds a street, it doesn’t ask how much the drainage and sewage will cost before including them, nor does the city raise concerns about liability. They are included because the street wouldn’t be complete without the utilities. The same should be true of space for bicyclists and pedestrians on bridges. These accommodations should not be an add‐on or an afterthought. As FHWA guidance suggests, they should be automatically included at the beginning of a project because bridges should be built for everyone, including the one‐third of the U.S. population that does not drive and people who choose to ride and walk.
Building bridges with biking and walking facilities is the best way to avoid costly retrofitting. In some cases, traffic levels will allow traffic lanes to be narrowed to provide space for bicyclists.
Furthermore, since biking and walking facilities should be automatically included, they should be paid for with the same sources as the rest of the bridge, whether it is federal funding, tolls, bonds, or other mechanisms. Federal Bridge Program funds may be used for biking and walking elements, such as bicycle lanes on roadways, paved shoulders, and new or retrofitted sidewalks.
Federal Surface Transportation Program funds may be used for biking and walking elements, such as bicycle lanes on roadways, paved shoulders, shared use paths and trails, and new or retrofitted sidewalks.
Bridge projects using federal funds must include bike access as long as bikes are allowed on both approaches and safe accommodation does not represent an excessively disproportionate cost. FHWA suggests “excessively disproportionate” as “exceeding twenty percent of the cost of the larger transportation project.”
Twenty percent is also the standard set for disproportionality in the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is the percentage of total costs, not the dollar amount of the facilities that should deem bike/ped facilities excessive or not. Under normal conditions, a large financial cost is not an appropriate reason not to accommodate bicyclists. Even on large projects like the bridge at the Port of Long Beach, where the separated bicycle facility could cost $45 million, it would cost less than 5 percent of the bridge’s $1 billion total.
“No one will use it.”
You cannot measure demand for a bridge by counting the number of people currently swimming across the river. That goes for car drivers as well as cyclists. Another strategy is to point to well‐designed bridges that have large numbers of bicyclists and walkers. Advocates in the San Francisco Bay Area got a bike path included on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge by using bike counts on the Golden Gate Bridge: 220‐250 bikes per hour. Twenty percent of all of the traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, Ore. is made up of bicyclists. New York City’s bridges carry nearly 40,000 inbound cyclists per day in the spring, summer, and fall.
Failure to provide accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists means a lifetime of detours and stymied travel. Bay Area advocates also point out that the shuttle that takes cyclists over the bridge with their bikes is over‐subscribed. A rider typically needs to arrive by 6:30 a.m. to have a reasonable shot at a spot. Few commuters have the flexibility to deal with the uncertainty of getting a spot.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia created this map to illustrate the number of no‐car households within 1.5 miles of the bridge. There are creative ways to illustrate latent demand. Nearly 50 percent of the households within two miles of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge do not possess a car. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia created a map showing the number of no‐car households within 1.5 miles of the bridge access points and included it in their well-crafted report, “Crossing the Delaware for Transportation Independence.”
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia created this map to illustrate the number of no-car households within 1.5 miles of the bridge
Read the whole report for more Q & A and case studies.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this:
Reasons to include cyclists on bridges
Accommodating cyclists and pedestrians on bridges brings numerous benefits to communities. Here are just some of the benefits:
• Economic development
• Increases opportunities to improve health
• Connects communities
• Promotes sustainability
• Creates a legacy – bridges can last 50 to 100 years
• Provides alternate emergency route and a maintenance/repair lane
• Costs are small part of total bridge
• Incorporating non‐motorized accommodations is cheaper than building a separate biking and walking bridge; and finally,
• They’re popular
Walnut Street Bridge. A closed auto bridge was converted to a walking and biking bridge has helped revitalize downtown and the waterfront in Chattanooga, TN. (Photo http://www.bikekatytrail.com/walnutstreet.asp)