Legalize it! Discussing Protected Bikeways with Caltrans

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Our Senior Bicycle Coordinator, Michelle Mowery, tests a protected bikeway on Rosemead Boulevard in Temple City. By next year there will be statewide standards for this type of facility that physically separates cars and bicycles on the roadway.

In September 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law A.B. 1193. This law, known as the Protected Bikeways Act of 2014, requires the California Department of Transportation, Caltrans, to establish a new category of bikeway in the state’s Highway Design Manual, the technical design guide that governs bikeway treatment statewide. Currently there are three categories of bikeways – Class I bike paths, Class II bike lanes, Class III bike routes – and A.B. 1193 calls for the addition Class IV cycle tracks, or separated bikeways. Cycle tracks are common in Northern Europe but there are only a handful of such bikeways in California, and part of the reason is because of the absence of formal guidance at the state level. However, where separated bikeways (facilities that physically protect bicycle users from motor vehicle traffic) are implemented, they have been wildly successful and attracted a wider range of users! In May, Caltrans met with a broad coalition of bicycle advocates and local transportation agencies to discuss cycle track designs to hear some initial feedback as the design process for Class IV cycle tracks is being initiated.

To learn more about creating design standards for a new “Class IV” bikeway aka cycle track, we conducted an interview with Kevin Herritt, Caltrans’ Chief of Office of Geometric Design Standards. We would like to thank Herritt for taking the time to answer to some of the questions many in the bicycling community have had on their mind since A.B. 1193 passed.

LADOT Bike Program: What is it like creating a new bikeway standard?

Kevin Herritt: An exciting opportunity for Caltrans and me personally.

When was the last time the bikeways section of the CA Highway Design Manual (HDM) was updated this substantially?

In May 2012 HDM update (a.k.a. the Complete Streets update); it separated out Class II Bikeway guidance from Chapter 1000 and distributed it throughout the manual to enhance visibility and usability.

Caltrans recently hosted a summit to kick off discussion about Class IV bikeways. Do you have any initial thoughts on how it went?

At the end of the summit many positive responses where expressed by the 60+ attendees. These external stakeholders generally left the summit encouraged that the guidance would be developed in a positive manner because of the meaningful and productive dialogue that was held at the summit between all of the diverse stakeholders present.

What were some of the most recurring comments or ideas during the summit?

Preliminary highlights captured during the debriefing session at the summit indicated that flexible guidance that allows community choice, uses graphics and pictures to communicate the guidance, does not “reinvent the wheel”, and that is written in a manner that is usable and understandable to the many users of it, not just engineers, was desired by the attendees.

What is, in your opinion, the most difficult part of engineering for cycle tracks?

Intersection and driveway designs will be challenging because of the interaction between bicyclists and motorists that occurs in this “mixing zone.”

Last month the FHWA unveiled guidelines for cycle tracks, will this at all influence the process in California?

We will be reviewing the FHWA published Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide (May 2015) to see how that guidance applies to the needs of the stakeholders in California and relates to a desire expressed by the stakeholders at the summit which was to not “reinvent the wheel” when creating the guidance for California.

Has Caltrans looked at the Dutch CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic? Given the success of bicycling in The Netherlands, has Caltans considered adopting the standards in this manual?

Similar to the FHWA guidance, we will also be reviewing the Dutch CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic to see how that guidance applies to the needs of the stakeholders in California.

On that note, Dutch-inspired “protected intersections” have many bicycle planners excited at the moment, has the initial discussion considered adopting this style of treatment for intersections? 

This style of treatment for intersections will be reviewed.

Looking ahead, is there an approximate timeline for progress and is there a deadline for final design standards?

State Assembly Bill 1193 (Assembly Member Ting) which was signed into law by the Governor (Chapter 495, Statutes of 2014) requires Caltrans to establish and publish minimum safety design criteria for Class IV bikeways by January 1, 2016.

Are there any benchmarks that are being set before the final product?

A final report is currently being written for the summit which will be available as soon as it is completed.  A schedule to deliver the final product is also currently being developed, but has not yet been finalized.

Will there be opportunities for the public to be more involved in the process? What forms of outreach are being used to engage the bicycle planning community?  How can the public stay updated on progress?

A webpage is being developed to communicate with the stakeholders in attendance, the people interested in the summit that could not attend but completed our survey initially, and the public in general. The Class IV Bikeway website is still under development, so unfortunately I don’t have a URL to give you at this time.  I also do not know when we will be going live with the site, but our desire is to have it available sooner rather than later and it is a priority to get accomplished.

In addition to the web page being created, Caltrans will also utilize the California Bicycle Advisory Committee (CBAC) to share progress and engage the bicycling community in California.  CBAC membership includes representatives from the California Bicycling Coalition (CBC), California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO), the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, four (4) local/regional organizations with bicycle advocacy as their mission, a statewide youth-oriented organization, and seven (7) State, local and regional governmental agencies to provide advice and input during the process.

Is there a point of contact with Caltrans the public can reach if they have questions or general comments regarding bicycling and Class IV bikeways?

For questions and/or comments, I would be the point of contact within Caltrans that the public can reach if they have any questions or general comments regarding the development of the guidance for Class IV Bikeways (Kevin Herritt can be reached at kevin.herritt@dot.ca.gov).  If there are questions or comments in general about bicycling, the point of contact should be Paul Moore. Paul is in the Bicycle Facilities Unit that is responsible for the Caltrans Bike Program. The Bicycle Facilities Unit acts as the Department’s bicycle advocate. That unit’s objective is to improve safety and convenience for bicyclists. The unit also provides policy, funding, planning and technical expertise in bicycle transportation and is in consultation with federal, state, and local transportation agencies, Caltrans headquarters and District staff, legislative staff, and the public. Paul can be contacted at paul.moore@dot.ca.gov or:

Paul Moore
Bicycle Facilities Unit
Division of Local Assistance, MS-1
California Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 942874
Sacramento, CA 94274-0001
Phone: (916) 653-2750

If the questions or comments are about specific projects, the District Bicycle Coordinator for the District/location the bike facility is or will be in should be contacted. The following site has a list of those names. See: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/bike/contacts.html and the following link shows a State map with the Caltrans districts on it: http://www.dot.ca.gov/localoffice.htm

Lastly, do you have any thoughts you would like to share on any part of this process?

The only additional closing thought I have is that gathering input from stakeholders at the beginning of the guidance development process has been a very positive experience and likely will be used by Caltrans again in the future.

5 replies
  1. B C
    B C says:

    “On that note, Dutch-inspired “protected intersections” have many bicycle planners excited at the moment, has the initial discussion considered adopting this style of treatment for intersections?”

    Great Question!

    CalTrans’ answer? (and response to the excitement?):

    “This style of treatment for intersections will be reviewed.”

    Ugh! CalTrans bureaucratic fear and sluggishness, maybe even resentment, seems to shine through. Are the ‘Friends of Vehicular Cycling’ still in place at CalTrans?

    Reply
    • maxutility
      maxutility says:

      Yeah, this whole interview reads like they are talking to someone solely in charge of a bureaucratic process, but with no actual knowledge of the subject at hand. Hopefully Caltrans has some people with actual knowledge working on this and not just some highway designers “reviewing” some Dutch documents.

      Reply

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