Cycle tracks just as popular as trails

cycletrack Originally uploaded by Payton Chung

Last week, one of my classes presented a proposal for new bicycle facilities in Old Town Alexandria, including some protected facilities. The city expects that expanding Capital Bikeshare to the neighborhood, which they plan to do later this year, will result in an increase in novice cyclists on their streets and want to create facilities that they might be more comfortable with. (Currently, there are several streets marked with sharrows.) The plan that our class developed includes a few one-way cycle tracks (like this one in Vienna), along with buffered bike lanes, contraflow bike lanes, conventional bike lanes, and more sharrows.

Will new, more protected facilities appeal to a broad population of cyclists? A 2006 UBC survey of Vancouver bicyclists — ranging from those who cycle at least once a week to those who cycle less than once a year, almost one-third of adults — says yes. In fact, the cyclists rated cycle tracks almost as highly as they rated trails, long considered the gold standard in attracting a broad range of bicyclists.

On a scale of -1 to +1, the bicyclists ranked…
0.5 paved off-street paths (trails)
0.4 unpaved trails
0.4 cycle tracks on major streets with barriers
0.4 bicycle boulevard, minor street

These, and minor streets marked as bike routes, were strongly preferred over all other road types (mostly those with no facilities, rural or urban). In particular, “Regular cyclists were willing to cycle on many of the 16 route types, but those who cycle less often, including women and people with children, did not feel comfortable cycling on major city streets, even with bike lanes, but did like the [cycle track] option.”

I’ll see if I can find more detailed data in one of the academic articles; it would be interesting to look deeper into which facilities are most popular by transect zone & cycling experience level — i.e., which facilities exist in T4 areas, and which are most likely to appeal to different kinds of cyclists.