Saturday, December 14, 2013

musings from Mr. Kruse re: Alexander Street

The Alexander Street University Place (ASUP) Traffic & Transit Task Force
"evaluates and makes recommendations concerning long term traffic needs 
of the Princeton community that may be affected by the proposed Princeton 
University Arts and Transit Project, including benefits of implementing transit 
from the NE Corridor rail line to Nassau Street."

The "progress and preliminary findings" of ASUP's Transit Study are in this
56-page presentation from last month. One of the goals (page 6) is "maintain
bicycle-friendly atmosphere". Kind of a smug declaration that the atmosphere
is (or has been) bike friendly,  or even adequately equipped with bike racks.

Having never been able to attend ASUP's weekday/lunchtime meetings, some
thoughts on this topic are collected here. Starting with the question "what does
the community of local (and future) bicyclists really want?" I can offer these two:

1. they want protected (physically separated / segregated / buffered) bike lanes.

        That's to say, some amount of space between cyclists and cars, whether
        implemented using "jersey barriers", bollards, or even just painted stripes,
        as can now been seen in New York City, Montreal, Europe, etc. In terms of
        "best practice", this type of facility is what a busy town should aim for [*].
        But in terms of "some amount of space" you then need to answer the
        question "who is willing to sacrifice their space, to get adequate width
        for bike lanes and car traffic to coexist ?". Four possible answers, of
        which the first three are almost certainly non-starters, are "get rid of
        all the parking meters", "cut down a bunch of trees", "redo your town
        as a grid of one-way streets", and finally "find a suitable street which
        can accommodate 2 lanes in each direction, with no parking meters"

        The Complete Streets Design Handbook from Philadelphia describes
        the considerations behind six kinds of bicycle lane (conventional,
        left-side, buffered, contra-flow, climbing, cycle tracks) and shared-
        use paths. It's a big document (182 pages - the bicycle component
        is at page 96 or 98) but well worth reading. Of particular relevance here
        are "buffered" lanes, and "shared-use" paths. The type of bike facility
        chosen depends on the speed/volume of traffic. Equally interesting is
        this 15-page presentation State of Bicycling Safety authored by Charles
        Carmalt, the pedestrian/bicycle coordinator in Philly, where he shows
        some before/after data for the different types of "safety improvement".
        Recall that Charles put together a bike plan for Princeton in 2002

        If you survey our town asking "where could there reasonably be
        a proper bike lane someday?", you hone in on Alexander - as long
        as you ignore that terrifying old truss bridge, due to be replaced 
        within a year or two. Alexander is wide, it's (mostly) straight, it 
        slopes down to the canal but (unlike Washington) isn't too steep, it
        parallels the Dinky line and serves commuters and students, etc.

        However bike facilities on Alexander will - I assume - be much as
        described in this 2-pager from almost 3 years ago. To summarize:

        - there will liberal deployment of sharrows (dashed blue lines),
          which become necessary since the Arts & Transit Village includes
          retail stores, restaurants, and (I assume) curbside parking meters.
          Depending on your opinion of sharrows, you the bicyclist may
          feel better or worse when riding on the revamped roadway.

        - the shared-use path (aka "sidepath", green line) will remain,
          on the south (Springdale golf course) side of the street only.

        - there will be a connection from Alexander, past the new Dinky
          Station (which will likely someday be the hub of bike sharing)
          to a "major cross-campus path" all the way to Fitzrandolph 
          via Streiker Bridge (purple line). This will be welcomed by
          cyclists in the Riverside part of town who commute by train.

2. a second item on the bicyclists' wish list is "how can I ride with
    my kids to/from the towpath without having cars honk at me on
    Harrison or Alexander ?".

         I have a few ideas related to serving this demand, which for
         today I need to defer.

         As more information becomes available about whether how
         bicyclist traffic will be supported and encouraged on the
         revamped Alexander Street corridor, I'll try to post it here.

[*] footnote about bike lanes, and about how certain improvements
   have greatly boosted retail activity in various parts of New York City -
   this is a stimulating 15-minute TED Talk by Janette Sadik-Khan.

1 comment:

  1. Alexander is a moving target, with the University doing their thing and the ASUP committee due to report back. All the answers are in that Complete Streets Guide, we just need to make sure it gets implemented. One thing that's worth mentioning is that a one-way system is exactly what ASUP is likely to propose, and that will free up a lot of space for bikes (and/or transit).