Bradford St Climbing Lanes Hearing

Public Hearing: Monday, January 8, 2018, during the 6 PM Provincetown Board of Selectmen meeting in the Judge Welsh Room in Town Hall, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown. Download the Public Hearing Notice | Download the Meeting Agenda | Download the Meeting Packet


The Provincetown Board of Selectmen are holding a public hearing on Monday to solicit public feedback on some options for bike improvements to Bradford St. from Central St. to Carver St. This section of the street is scheduled be repaved and re-striped in the spring.

The Bicycle Committee has been advocating for uphill climbing lanes, and this segment of Bradford St. is one of the areas most in need of improvement. Back in 2016, the committee requested climbing lanes at the fall Traffic Hearing, and the selectmen chose to defer any decision until the street was set to be repaved. Since that time, the selectmen have adopted the Outer Cape Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan as the bike master plan for town. I’ve also done some analysis on crashes throughout town, and this segment of road is one of the top 4 in the number of crashes that town reported to the state from 2002-2015.

Crash Hot Spots in Provincetown (MassDOT data)
Crash Hot Spots in Provincetown (MassDOT data)

 

The Hearing

The town’s Department of Public Works will be presenting their recommendations at the hearing and members of the Bicycle Committee will be on hand to provide public comment in favor of a climbing lane up the hill.

The meeting packet contains three alternative concepts put together by the town’s consulting engineers:

Alternative 1

The first scheme is essentially no improvements, just adding sharrow pavement markings on the street. It retains the 3 ft sidewalk on the northern side of the street, two 10-foot travel lanes, and a parking lane (of variable width from 7 to 9 feet).

Alternative 1: Bradford St Provincetown road section
Alternative 1: Bradford St Provincetown road section

The sharrows would be placed in the center of each travel lane, and according to the notes on the plan, “share the road signage shall be provided as appropriate.”

Alternative 1: Sharrows in both directions
Alternative 1: Sharrows in both directions

Alternative 2

The second concept is closer to what the Bicycle Committee recommended at the 2016 Traffic Hearing. It retains the sidewalk, has two 10-foot travel lanes, and includes a 5-foot climbing lane. Oddly, the layout indicates a “2-foot offset” between the sidewalk and the southbound travel lane, which effectively makes the travel lane 12 feet wide. I’d rather see those two feet on adjacent to the bike lane and striped to create a buffered bike lane.

Alternative 2: Bradford St Provincetown road section
Alternative 2: Bradford St Provincetown road section

Sharrows would be painted in the center of the southbound lane and again the engineers are suggesting more “share the road” signage.

Alternative 2: Sharrows downhill, climbing lane uphill
Alternative 2: Sharrows downhill, climbing lane uphill

Alternative 3

The third alternative at first glance seems strange, but the engineer’s notes clarify what they are intending. This layout is for a seasonal bike lane that would revert to on-street motor vehicle parking in the winter. Here a 2-foot buffer is painted as “no parking” hatch marks along the southern side of the street. The engineer’s notes explain:

PLANS ARE INTENDED TO PROVIDE INTERIM BICYCLE IMPROVEMENTS DURING PEAK SUMMER MONTHS. EASTBOUND BRADFORD STREET SHOULDER WILL BE USED AS A BICYCLE LANE. DURING ALL OTHER TIMES, IT WILL BE USED FOR PARKING.

Alternative 3: Bradford St Provincetown road section
Alternative 3: Bradford St Provincetown road section

Again, sharrows get painted in the center of the downhill lane. But there are no bike lane pavement markings. There is more detail on signage:

BICYCLE LANE SIGNAGE AND SHARED ROAD SIGNAGE SHALL BE PROVIDED DURING THE RESPECTIVE SEASON. NO PARKING SIGNS SHALL BE INSTALLED DURING PERIODS WHEN A BICYCLE LANE IS PROVIDED ALONG EASTBOUND BRADFORD STREET.

Alternative 3: Sharrows downhill, seasonal climbing lane uphill marked with signs (parking allowed in winter)
Alternative 3: Sharrows downhill, seasonal climbing lane uphill marked with signs (parking allowed in winter)

Summary

While all three alternatives are pointing in the right direction, the Alternative 3 seasonal bike lane seems like the one that would be easiest to do as a pilot and have less permanent impacts on parking. I have been unable to find any examples of seasonal bike lanes elsewhere, so this creative solution may be  completely nonstandard but does a good job of addressing local concerns.

Putting up more signs goes against the Board of Selectmen’s policy to reduce sign clutter (they favor pavement markings), and there are very few sign posts on this stretch (Google streetview is old but still accurate) and the overhanging trees and shrubs will likely block any new signs.

The one major downside of this entire repaving project is the lack of improvements for people walking. The crosswalks will get re-striped, but there is no plan to provide any ADA compliance for the sidewalk. The curb cuts won’t be improved, and the incredibly narrow, un-level asphalt sidewalks that are interrupted by telephone poles remain as-is.

It will be interesting to see what pubic comment is like at the meeting. Hearings are usually poorly attended, and if they are attended they only seem to bring out people who are against anything new. Hopefully we’ll see some support from the selectmen to at least try something new on this stretch of roadway and make a small step toward improving safety on Bradford Street.


Resources

Repair Stations Coming Soon

The repair stations are here!

The Bicycle Committee is working with the town’s Department of Public works to nail down the details for their installation.

They will be installed at the West End and Johnson Street parking lots adjacent to the parking pay kiosks.

These are Dero Fixit Stations that the town purchased through the Cape Cod Commission’s Bike Rack Grant Program. We also picked up a pair of Air Kit 3 outdoor air pumps that will be installed alongside the repair stations.

These new public repair stations will be available year-round, unlike the five bike shops that open in the spring and shutter in the fall. They will also provide a platform for teaching people simple bike repair tasks.

Unfortunately, the cold weather and holiday schedules make it look like installation won’t take place until sometime in early 2018.

While you’re waiting for these to come online, take a look at Dero’s map of repair stations – they are all over the world!

Dero Fixit Map

Dero Fixit Map

Sharrows & Safety & Shank Painter Road

Herring Cove sharrow
A local example of sharrows at Herring Cove in the Cape Cod National Seashore

There’s a blog post at Streetsblog that’s making the rounds that says sharrows don’t do anything for safety:  “Study: Sharrows don’t make streets safer for cycling.”

I’ve been working with Provincetown 365 to advocate for bike pavement markings on a couple of streets in town where we have a lot of bicycles and no sidewalks or bike lanes, so I dug a bit deeper to see if the study was applicable to our streets here.

What this study says

The study’s title is “The Relative (In)effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows on Ridership and Safety Outcomes.” I was curious about the conditions that the study’s authors looked at and wanted to find out the road configurations (lane widths, number of lanes) and the speed limits on those streets. The blog post didn’t mention those details and didn’t link to the actual study, so I reached out to Nick Ferenchak — one of the study authors — to find out more about the study’s details.

I asked specifically about his perspective on putting sharrows on low-speed (25 MPH) two-lane roads with narrow travel lanes (11 ft), which are the conditions on Shank Painter Road, and he said:
“If shared lane markings are used on bicyclist-friendly roads (it sounds like your narrow and slow roads may be bike-friendly) or as way-finding, they may very well be beneficial.”

In looking at the Chicago data used in the study, it was interesting to see that the rate of bike commuting here in Provincetown is 4x that of Chicago (we are at 8% and Chicago is at 1.6%).

I tracked down the study online for more details. In short, the study looked at wide, multi-lane urban roads with 35 MPH speed limits. And it compared sharrows to on-street bike lanes. Their analysis was based on census commuter data, not actual observed trip counts, and didn’t account for destinations or bicycle-friendly locations with bike parking.

The authors recognized the limits of their work and gave a caution about misinterpreting its conclusions. Here’s the section on page 15:
“While the conclusions of this work may be misconstrued by some as primarily a call to reduce the number of sharrows, the true goal of this research is to instead ensure that resources are focused on providing more bike infrastructure that has been proven to be effective at meeting its goals. This will most likely translate into more bike lanes in many scenarios.”

The study didn’t say sharrows were unsafe. It said that they weren’t safer than bike lanes. That’s like saying walking in the street isn’t safer than walking on a sidewalk. Seems like common sense.

Tactical improvements

The sharrows and bike lanes proposed by Provincetown 365 are a tactical, interim solution until the road can be reconstructed with sidewalks and permanent separated bike lanes. (The town’s FY2017 Capital Improvement Plan has funds earmarked for this in 2021.) The Cape Cod Commission’s 2012 Shank Painter Road Corridor Study and the 2015 DART Report both recommend adding bike lanes and sidewalks, but those improvements are years – and millions of dollars – away.

Proposed bike markings on Shank Painter Road
Proposed bike markings on Shank Painter Road

It’s important to note that the current proposal isn’t just sharrows. It’s a combination of marked bike lanes, sharrows, and “bikes may use full lane” signs. It’s a baby step toward a goal of making town more bicycle-friendly through simple, inexpensive improvements that take our local context and experience into consideration.

Adding sharrows makes no change to the road’s current layout. All that sharrows do is help educate everyone to expect bicycles. The proposed bike lanes fit in the existing layout where the road’s fog lines were repainted a number of years ago. So adding bike lane markings helps reinforces the existing use.

I’ve discussed the idea of sharrows on our local roads with Lou Rabito (MassDOT’s Complete Streets Engineer), Glenn Cannon (Technical Services Director at the Cape Cod Commission), Barbara Jacobsen (Program Manager at MassBike), and Josh Zisson (a lawyer who specializes in bicycle law).

may use full lane sharrowThese experts all concur that sharrows are appropriate on our local roads where posted speed limits are 25 MPH or less. And from a technical standpoint, all current guidance from AASHTO, NACTO, and MassDOT indicates that sharrows should be placed in the center of the lane where lane widths are 12 ft or narrower.

Demand overrides conditions

I’ve been surprised at how people characterize some of our roads as “fast” or “highways” or “unsafe”. Shank Painter Road, where we proposed this combination of bike lanes, sharrows, and “bikes may use full lane” signs, is used by lots of people on bikes and on foot despite its current configuration. It’s not a comfortable street if you’re not in a car, but people use it anyway.

Shank Painter Road existing conditions from the 2015 DRT Report
Shank Painter Road existing conditions from the 2015 DART Report

There are numerous destinations here with lots of bike parking — Stop & Shop alone has six bike racks for customers. The dog park has bike parking, as does the bank, church, the two housing developments, the gym, and most of the restaurants. (Oddly, the police station, fire station, and municipal pay parking lots are devoid of any public bike parking.) According to the property manager at Province Landing, the largest housing development on the street, residents own many more bikes than cars.

Some of Stop & Shop's bike parking
Some of Stop & Shop’s bike parking

The speed limit here is 25 MPH and that’s the fastest speed limit on any town road (with the exception of the state-controlled four-lane highway and the short segments of roadway the state controls and posts at 30 MPH). And in terms of safety, since 2012 there has only been one reported crash involving a bicycle and one involving a pedestrian on Shank Painter Road. The large majority of bike crashes in town take place on the bike paths in the Seashore, not on our local roads.

Sharrows are a good start

It seems that sharrows are an effective tool when used to remind everyone to expect bicycles on our streets. Most of our year-round residents took their drivers license exam decades ago before these treatments became common, so they seem foreign (they’re in the current Massachusetts Driver’s Manual). But to our hundreds of thousands of visitors from out of town, sharrows and bike lanes are part of the streetscapes they experience every day.

If town wants to increase biking and walking (which the Local Comprehensive Plan and town-wide policy goals do indicate) and educate everyone that biking is welcome here (which is an objective of the town’s Bicycle Committee), pavement markings are a cheap and easy way to get started while continuing to plan for more substantial and permanent road improvements.

Resources:
Study: Sharrows don’t make streets safer for cycling, Streetsblog, January 2016
The Relative (In)effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows on Ridership and Safety Outcomes, (paywall, $20 to purchase the study)
Provincetown 365 web site
Provincetown 365 Shank Painter Road Bike Markings Proposal Slides, Facebook photos
Provincetown 365 Shank Painter Road Bike Markings Proposal Video, Facebook video
FY2017 Capital Improvement Plan, Town of Provincetown
2012 Shank Painter Road Corridor Study, Cape Cod Commission
2015 DART Report, Town of Provincetown
MassBike web site
Bike Safe Boston, blog of attorney Josh Zisson
AASHTO bicycle design guidelines
NACTO bicycle design guidelines
MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning & Design Guide
Provincetown Bike Rack Map
Provincetown crash reports, getcrashreports.com
Province Lands Bicycle Accidents, page 24 of Outer Cape Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan’s Phase One: Data Collection Transportation Data, Cape Cod Commission
Massachusetts Driver’s Manual, Chapter 4: Rules of the Road, page 11
Provincetown 2000 Local Comprehensive Plan, Town of Provincetown
Provincetown Board of Selectmen’s Town-Wide Policy Goals for FY2016, page 6, Town of Provincetown
Provincetown Bicycle Committee, Town of Provincetown

Outer Cape isn’t waiting for the Master Plan

At last week’s Outer Cape Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan workshop, it was clear that the master plan process isn’t delaying near-term bicycle improvements. Martha Hevenor, planner for the Cape Cod Commission, said that the master plan is expected to be completed in the winter of 2016-2017.

Motion-activated bike crossing beaconsCape Cod National Seashore
Lauren McKean, a planner at the Seashore, provided an update on the plans for installing motion-activated bicycle crossing beacons at five locations in the Seashore, three of which are in Provincetown. She also announced that the Seashore is in the process of obtaining funding to rehabilitate the Head of the Meadow bike trail in Truro and that the project may also include a 0.6-mile extension of the trail. Funding will be in place next year so construction could possibly commence in 2017.

Continue reading Outer Cape isn’t waiting for the Master Plan

Outer Cape Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan Rolls On

OCBPMP3-01
Workshop #3 slides (PDF)

There were a number of great updates at the Outer Cape Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan workshop in Provincetown on November 12.

Route 6 Multi-Use Path Option
Martha Hevenor of the Cape Cod Commission revealed that MassDOT is willing to look at putting a separated multi-use path alongside Route 6. This is a big shift, and hopefully shows a change in direction now that MassDOT’s separated bicycle facility guidelines have been released.

Continue reading Outer Cape Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan Rolls On