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“Floating Parking” & Bike-Buffer Zones in Separated Cycletracks

While we were out videotaping for another Streetfilm, Gary Toth the Director of Transportation Initiatives with Project for Public Spaces (his resume includes 34 years of management experience at NJDOT) took a moment to give a short explanation on what "floating parking" is, why using it is a very smart budgetary decision by the NYC DOT, and why a buffer-zone exists between exiting drivers and cyclists.

We hope this Streetfilm is a great resource that will help ally many fears this new concept (in the U.S. anyway) is experiencing in some cities.  It shows after a very brief adjustment period that drivers do grasp it.  Along the way you'll see ample, helpful footage of some of the many configurations of the NYC's new complete streets in Brooklyn and Manhattan.


[music] 

Gary Toth:  [00:06] One of the things that occurs to me about floating parking, which is what you see behind me, where the cars are not parked directly against the curb but they’re parked against a couple of stripes that are buffering it for the bike lane.  But one of the interesting perspectives is is it’s very different from what we have come to expect from our roads around the country and Americans are like all people, we get used to a certain kind of structure, and we see something different we begin to wonder why is that happening?  And then in this instance, it’s actually a very clever way on the part of the city DOT to try to convert this to a complete street, to accomplish some of the goals of slowing down the traffic and making it safer and more vibrant for the neighbourhood.  And doing it in the way that doesn’t involve a lot of the taxpayers dollars to come in and build the infrastructure.  So the purpose of the buffered area is not really to protect the bicyclist from the door when it opens from getting what I guess bicyclists call being doored, but also it’s also to protect the motorist as he’s stepping out of the car so that he doesn’t run into the possibility of stepping out of the car and walking right in front of a bike.  So while the design that you see here with the parking being separated from the curb way is unusual in America, and therefore is causing some consternation amongst folks, it’s not unusual in Europe and it’s been proven over the years to work over there.  And it’s not unusual every time we introduce a new feature or type of design into the highway system to the street system that people begin to worry about it.  I remember reading a historic study about the first grade separated interchange that was built in New Jersey near Newark Airport in 1919 and folks began to call that Great Separated Highway that now typify all of America as the extravagant ideals of visionaries.  It took a couple of years for us to get used to the fact that horse and buggies weren’t going to be able to get onto our freeways, but over time that became mainstream.  And over a period of time this sort of approach will also become mainstream in America.   

[music] 

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://antiphonfilms.tumblr.com/ Hart Noecker

    So lemme get this straight...we can continue to flush billions of dollars down the toilet on freeway projects that destroy communities and our ecology, but bike lanes have to be budget neutral?  It's time to end the stigma of investing in new infrastructure.  If we want a cohesive, progressive new network of bike transit, we have GOT to stop caving in to the neocon mindset that tells us our projects have to be cheap and not disturb the flow of automobile traffic.

  • John Harshbarger

    @Hart Noecker, Actually disturbing the flow of automobile traffic is exactly what is needed. Putting in bicycle infrastructure helps to slow traffic and make it safer for everyone. I have seen it happen even here in Omaha. Vehicles drive slightly slower when they see cyclists on the road(normally) and the more cyclists they see the slower they go. The days of zipping through the heart of American cities at 45-50mph is hopefully nearing an end.

  • http://www.pps.org Gary Toth

    Actually, the results here are startling. Average travel time through on Prospect Park West stayed the same even though average speeds dropped from 34 to 26 mph. This is counterintuitive, but when the road was three lanes, cars would barrel down the road only to pile up at red lights -- the start and stop at traffic lights is one of the biggest causes of congestion. Also, weaving in and out -- another factor in congestion and crashes -- has probably gone down since the road improvement.

    The two above factors also are a significant cause of crashes, and as expected, they have gone down dramatically both for cars and pedestrians.

    Most importantly, the Livability of the neighborhood and the ability to get to the park have been dramatically improved.

  • http://www.pps.org Gary Toth

    Regarding spending billions on freeway projects, well, those days are long gone. While I was at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, we realized that we had hit the financial "wall" about 10 years ago. Some other states have been slower to figure this out, but the public no longer has an appetite for being taxed for transportation.

    21st Century transportation investments will have to accomplish more than move cars from point A to point B. If us practicing engineers want the public to fund our work, our projects will have to add value to communities.

    The genius of the NYCDOT projects is that they embody this principle. Their collective body of work over the past three years is more about making neighborhoods and districts better: they are investing in communities, not bridges and pavement. Elected officials pay heed: bridges and pavement don't vote, nor do they buy goods in our downtowns and shops!

  • gecko

    Kent Ave pictured above is a virtual Sunset Strip.

  • Rob B.

    Given all the negative news in the past few months, I wish I could be as sanguine as Gary Toth.  Let's hope he is right.

  • Montage!

    I love separated cycletrack montage!

  • kwk

    Seems that if cars to parked at a 45degree angle then possible dooring would be completely eliminated.

  • Peturbed

    Thanks for making this video. It was informative, hopeful and calming to watch.
    May the haters all suck on a tailpipe!

  • fwyflier, NOT

    I like the buffer zone...but in CA. there are just too many INCONSIDERATEF
    drivers here (except, maybe in Davis). A K-railing or NJ type concrete barrier would be better in majority of the communities in CA.

    I really don't like seeing the opposing bicyclists as depicted. I would think that if you turned the streets into one-way streets with buses on the right side of the road and bicyclists on the left, it may be
    more efficient.

    I'm not sure if Cal Poly, Pomona still has a student project entitled "Bikeways for Urban Streets"
    written in the 1980's.

  • jooltman

    Seeing kids buzz by confidently--in the street!--is what Class 1 protected bike lanes are all about.  They are safe, efficient, and a boon to busy families.

  • http://liveufc.com Live UFC Stream

    buffer zone :) nice article and i am a bicyclist too. this website is so nice and helpful

  • RandyS

    Inspiring. Very close to what we are planning for our first floating parking installation on Western Ave. in Cambridge, MA with construction starting this summer (see http://www2.cambridgema.gov/cdd/et/infra/western/)

  • http://www.cityofdavis.org/bicycles Tara Goddard

    Hey not a fwyflier - thanks for the shout-out. ;)

    Gary - my main concern with cycletracks (and their ilk) is intersection design. So often the photos and videos of these facilities just shows the midblock. It looks like the facilities in the video used some innovative paint treatments at intersections (and mostly put the separated facility on the left side of one-way traffic?). I'd love to see details of this. 

    I definitely believe that cycletracks/buffered bike lanes/etc have a powerful role to play - but of course the devil is in the details. Nice video!

    Tara
    Bike/Ped Coordinator
    City of Davis

  • J. Racki

    I moved to NC from Northern CA and MISS the bicycle/pedestrian friendly infrastructure. So, when I go home I grab my bike and go with my parents and bike from Woodland to Davis for a morning bagel/coffee at Pete's Coffee house.
    City of Woodland keep up the great work on connectivity! It's the KEY Foundation for a bicycle/pedestrian friendly city!

    So, Northern CA is ahead of the game compared to NC. Changes are slowly happening here in NC.

    A shout out to Jim Knoppka, Trail Coordinator for City of Folsom, Jim, great job on all the trails/bikeways in Folsom, I can see them on Google Earth!

  • http://www.cityofdavis.org/bicycles Tara Goddard

    Found some great info about intersection treatments for cycletracks here: http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/intersection-treatments/cycle-track-intersection-approach/.

  • Grace

    Investing in communities is long overdue, but it's all about balance. Tipping the scale towards tranist oriented development and neighborhood livability is a welcome sign but lets not forget that while the bridges and pavements don't vote they need to be in decent shape to move the goods into our downtowns.

  • Ken

    Took me awhile to get to this but what a great piece!  Having an authoritative voice like his commenting on DOT's work is huge.

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  • EcoAdvocate

    but you could have cars pulling INTO the bike lane, that would be very dangerous, and longer vehicles would either stick out into the main traffic lane or encroach on the bike lane (since more width of the street would be needed for angled parking there may not be space for a buffer zone).
    I like this how it is---'cept we don't see enough of 'em...yet!

  • EcoAdvocate

    it makes walking potentially safer too, as long as people look out for bikes/peds the main traffic lane crosswalk is now much shorter