Bikes + Innovation: Routes and Infrastructure

Nik Badminton takes a look at route and infrastructure innovations shaping where we ride.

Maybe it’s your daily commute or maybe it’s a road race or a gentle ride to meet friends across town. Whatever routes and places we choose to go on our bikes we are bound by the environments we ride in. Here then are some interesting developments in bike infrastructure and tools to help us get around.

The Iron Curtain

In Central Europe, a relatively new trail has opened that features historical landmarks along the way – The Iron Curtain Trail. The 4,225-mile (6,800 km) route runs the length of the former East/ West European division. The route combines European culture, history, and sustainable tourism. The Iron Curtain Trail zigs and zags through a variety of destination, but stays relatively flat and misses the Alps entirely. A recently released map and brochure further lay out the route and sections that look like a very cool destination for a vacation.

Crowd-sourcing Bike Routes

Crowd-sourcing data related to bike routes and other issues is something that has been going on for some time, though in limited ways. Recently this method of data collection is starting to take hold with a growing number of smartphone users. The popular fitness recording app, Strava, has now created Strava Metro. Their mission is to produce state-of-the-art spatial data products and services to make cycling, running, and walking in cities better. Using Strava Metro, departments of transportation and city planners as well as advocacy groups and corporations can make informed and effective decisions when planning, maintaining, and upgrading cycling and pedestrian corridors.

Over in Berlin, and with a similar project, was the BMW Guggenheim Lab and the Dynamic Connections Map project. This was a world-first experiment to crowd-source cycling routes and create an interactive map based in the city of Berlin. This map allowed current and potential bicycle riders to assess the Berlin biking network, rate streets on how cycling friendly they are and, as a result of data processing, unlock a potential future cycle network across that (and other) cities.

Participants were asked to select a road or street by clicking on the Google-based map provided. The rider then reported on traffic volumes, vehicle speeds, number of parked cars, visibility at intersections, and topography on the selected street. Participants shared their impression of how bicycle friendly a street is and if it provided good access to a large number of destinations, for example, schools and workplaces. They then also added whether they felt safe, neutral, or stressed when cycling through intersections and when riding a bike on their selected street. The information collected was then processed using an algorithm that designated each street to be either bicycle-friendly or unfriendly. Participants, planners, policy makers, and people simply interested in cycling could filter the data to meet their own personal needs, for example streets with safe intersections.

Protected Intersections

We a seeing more protected bike lanes being introduced in North American cities to help residents get around by bike. But, these protected lanes often lose their buffer separation at intersections, reducing the comfort and safety for people riding.

What the protected bike lane needs is the protected intersection.

A proposal for the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition by Nick Falbo from Portland, presents a vision for a safe, clear intersection design that improves conditions for all users. The idea originates from the Netherlands and reworks the concept slightly for current North American conditions.

The design introduces refuge islands along with altered crossing position and signal timing to create a safe intersection that people of all ages and abilities would feel safe in, whether biking, driving, or walking.

You can learn more about this at protectedintersection.com

Maybe it is time for more cities to get on this and get more people on bikes?

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