Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bus stops which don't cause problems for cyclists

This is old infrastructure dating from
the 1980s which no longer exists in
Assen. It was already understood how
to prevent conflict between cyclists,
bus drivers and bus passengers
Buses and bicycles do not mix well. While buses are very large, cyclists are very vulnerable. While average speeds through a city can be similar, buses stop and start regularly, pulling into and out of bus stops as they do so, while cyclists gains their efficiency by not having to stop and start.

The best bus stop bypasses are those
you don't even notice while cycling
like this example in Assen. A four
metre wide cycle-path behind
the bus-stop, with cycle-parking.
Putting cycles and buses in the same space is simply bad design. Conflict is caused as cyclists get repeatedly cut-up by buses pulling into bus-stops, cyclists then have to either wait behind or overtake the bus in order to be able to continue at a reasonably consistent pace. This can happen many times on long streets leading to frustration amongst both the cyclist and the bus driver, and that sometimes contributes towards dangerous incidents, of a type which you don't have to look too far to find on youtube these days. It's very disappointing to find combined bus/cycle lanes are part of London's "Superhighways".

To see all the explanatory captions this video must be viewed on a computer and not a mobile device. Note that the first example no longer exists. There is a programme of constant improvement in Assen.

There are ways of removing conflict between buses and bikes, and much of this can be achieved at the bus-stop itself, even on roads without cycle-paths, by giving the cyclist a better option than to ride with the bus.

That's as close as I could get to where
the bus-stop used to be. Note huge
sewage pipes. Everything is being
renewed at once.
The first example in the video is of an older bus-stop. Examples like this have existed in the Netherlands for at least thirty years (definitely by 1981). My video showing the first type dates from 2008. This stop doesn't actually exist any more as the entire road was considered to be a little past its time, and is now in the middle of a major face-lift which will deprioritize it as a through route for motor vehicles.

The second example in the video, with the cyclist completely segregated from the road, is on a relatively new cycle-path from here to Groningen, part of what was at one time my commuting route. In the video I'm travelling at approximately 35 km/h. I have ridden here at 40 km/h. The cycle-path is designed to support high speeds.

A third example, not in the video:
This stop shows how much the same thing can be achieved on a road (in this case in Eindhoven) where there is inadequate space to have a cycle-path, a bus-stop lane and the road itself. The bus-stop is between the cycle-path and the road, taking up a space in what would otherwise be a row of resident's car parking spaces. When the bus stops, it blocks the road, but not the cycle-path. The road can be narrower than before because it does not need to be wide enough to allow for buses passing cyclists or one driver passing another. In this case also, the cycle-path is continuous along the road on both sides:

Grotere kaart weergeven

In all these cases, which are not exceptional but typical of bus-stops in general in the Netherlands, subjective safety of cyclists is enormously improved over cycling in a lane with the bus because the bus is far from the cyclist. Being next to a bus is precisely the sort of thing that puts people off cycling. The examples with full segregation obviously work better than the older example with the on-road cycle lane. However, the example with the online lane is something which takes up little space and costs little money and should be relatively easy to get support for in other places. Note that being away from the bus also improves journey times for cyclists by removing the need to stop and start for buses.

See more examples of well designed bus bypasses.


Clark in Vancouver said...

I totally agree with this. Roads and streets should never be designed for buses and bikes to use the same lane. They are modes that are too different and the conflict created between them is scary and dangerous.
Mixing the two is not uncommon in North America though. There are diamond shaped markings on some roads indicating any non-private motor vehicles to go there. This lumps together buses and bikes for some reason. It really shows that the road planners don't consider non-motor vehicles to be as important.

Vancouver, BC, Canada now has a good example of a bus stop on a street with a dedicated bike lane. They smartly chose streets without buses on them for the separated bike lanes but there is one bus route that I guess needed to have its stop on it.
It works well. The people waiting for the bus cross an elevated bit of the lane to get to the island to get on the bus. Signs for both alert about the other. Pedestrians have priority.

Micheal Blue said...

I have this experience with city buses during my bike-commute to work sometimes; sigh. Thanks for showing how it can be resolved. Ah, well, hey, you don't have the Rocky Mountains
and Lake Superior is larger than Holland...

Paul Martin said...

You should see how we do it in Australia. Look and learn folks! ;)

This is a new bus stop and the new 'shared' path behind it will continue in the foreground. The advertising board is a nice touch to help hide both passengers waiting and any oncoming pedestrians or cyclists. Gold standard stuff from the Asia Pacific cycling experts (or so they say...)

More on this 'improvement' here.

Reaperexpress said...

This is an excellent point, and I have been saying this for a while. One notable thing about this issue is that pretty much everyone agrees: probably even the most hardcore on-road cyclists. I ride mostly on-road (pretty much the only way to legally ride in Toronto), and encountering a bus is definitely the worst single thing that is likely to happen on a ride. Once you catch up to a bus, you're stuck.

I'd like to see proper bus-stop design become standard practice here in Canada (and around the world, of course), but what's notable about this issue is that it is extremely feasible to fix. Changing the location of the cycle lane around a bus stop is relatively trivial, and does not require a complete redesign of the street, like some other changes would. It's also lot harder to screw up than some other aspects of cycleway design, such as intersections. As long as the cycle path and bus stop are both sufficiently wide, and visibility remains clear, you have a great piece of infrastructure.

I think the main reason good bus stop design is not present is that road designers haven't given the issue any thought. The current standard practice for cycle infrastructure in North America is to paint a line. That's it. There is no consideration of conflicts, interaction, and subjective safety. There is very little design involved, and they rarely consider making any modification of the physical infrastructure, even though in this case doing so would be quite easy and would make a big difference.

Simply bringing more attention to this issue would likely make a large impact, since once planners acknowledge the issue and cyclists demand better, there will be no excuse for not building such a simple solution.

Zmapper said...

One caveat that I should mention especially for those in the US. The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, requires a level 5' by 8' clear landing pad next to the buses front door. Some cycle track designs in the Netherlands appear to have a bus stop island narrower than 8 feet wide. Now they might be able to get away with a narrower island if the bike lane is at the same level as the sidewalk so the wheelchair ramp can be level but that invites pedestrians to walk in the bike lane.

Another issue is that if two articulated buses stop at the same stop at once (Not unreasonable in larger cities) there could be possibly 200+ people swarming the bike lane at once. Assuming that no other roads are available, how do you accommodate that many people at once while still providing safety for bicycles.

This stop layout works great for Suburban Arterials in particular. Our buses here run mostly hourly, some every 20 or 30 minutes, so there isn't much opportunity to play leapfrog with the buses thankfully.

Joseph E said...

Moving the bus stop to the left (on Continental or American streets) also improves the experience for bus riders. The bus can now stop right in the middle of the motor vehicle lane, without having to pull out of traffic to the right. This saves time, and is much less jerky.

Cars may have to wait a few seconds for the bus to stop, but this solution is much safer for everyone, and better for people on bikes, on foot, and on the bus.

David Hembrow said...

Zmapper: Disability access is something I'd not thought to include in this post. Actually, between here and Groningen many short sections of cycle-path are raised behind the bus-stops to the same level as the sidewalk and bus-stop for precisely this reason. It doesn't cause a problem with people standing on the cycle-path because the cycle-path is obvious, and it is well used so it's obvious where not to stand.

The stops shown in this post are both quite small. You won't find two bendy buses stopping at once here. Larger stops can cope with many more people. For instance, this much larger stop is designed to cope with multiple buses at once but still accommodates bikes very well.

Frits B said...

I doubt that any local bus in the Netherlands is equipped with access for a wheelchair. Not because there are no disabled people in wheelchairs, but because we have separate local networks of small buses that do have such access and which can be called to pick you up at home and drop you off you at your destination. Trams and trains are a different matter; they are all accessible to wheelchairs.

Zmapper said...

Frits, we nearly all agencies in the US operate something like that. Normally it is called Access-a-Ride or Dial-a-ride or something along those lines. The ADA that I mentioned requires agencies to operate "complementary" paratransit to any place within 3/4 mile of the bus route. ADA regulations also require all buses built after 1990 to be handicapped accessible.

Having separate buses for those in wheelchairs sounds like a good idea, until you get down to the details. The subsidy per ride required for the paratransit vehicles is normally between $25 and $40 per ride. Contrast that to the subsidy required for local bus routes which normally varies from below a dollar to $5.

Paratransit also restricts freedom-of-movement for the disabled. Agencies normally require users to call a day ahead so they can schedule rides efficiently. Obviously, a fixed-route city bus requires no advance scheduling.

Kansas City has chosen to contract out paratransit to the taxicab companies instead. This means that you can just call 30 minutes ahead of when you are ready to go and chances are an empty taxi is in your area. Fares are normally set up with a $2 or $3 base, then the government pays for everything up to $11-$15, then the user pays for anything above that. The advantage for the taxpayer is that the maximum subsidy is $10 or so.

And to tie this back in to the original topic, how do taxis and bicycles interact in the Netherlands? Having separate taxi "stops" defeats the whole door-to-door nature of a taxi.

Tallycyclist said...

Zmapper: The numbers you gave for the subsidies on these dial-a-ride type programs can indeed be surprising. Anyone who does not have a disability can of course argue whether it's right that part of their tax money is going to a relatively small group of people. But I feel that it shouldn't always be about fairness (however that may be defined) or getting 100% back for what you put in every situation, necessarily.

After all, these subsidies are being spent so that some of our disadvantaged neighbors can get around. Plenty of other subsidies (often greater amounts going to those who arguably don't need it) are being spent elsewhere, some of which for the sole purpose of allowing very few individuals to get even richer. Some examples would include the agricultural subsidies for things like corn especially, or all the money going into military defense, war, etc. You mentioned other options that would allow for more streamlining/flexibility and lower cost to the taxpayer. If these work well, then they should be explored more and implemented.

I know this is getting off tangent from the post, but just wanted to give my 2 cents on subsidies. It's always easy to frown upon money being spent on welfare or disadvantaged groups of people, thanks to our often negative coverage and perspective given from our media. But in the grand scheme of things, you have to consider how much is going towards what, to whom and for what purpose. If it benefits society overall, I support it. If it's just making a few individuals get richer in the business game, then at best society isn't gaining much.

Peter Furth said...

On disability, yes, Dutch buses carry people in wheelchairs. In the photo of the more modern bus stop, the curb is elevated higher than usual so that, in combination with the low-floor buses that have been standard there for a long time, a wheelchair can quickly enter and leave the bus without requiring use of a motorized lift. Also, remember that "disability" includes more than wheelchair users; people who use walkers (and strollers) appreciate the high platform / low floor combo, too.

David, in the second example you said that when the bus stops it blocks the road. But it looks like there's a place for the bus to stop in the parking lane. Or is that space so narrow that the bus still blocks the road?

David Hembrow said...

The first part of the video shows a bus-stop from a few years ago. It doesn't exist any more, so I couldn't make a new one. This was before the bus-stops were modified to make it easier to get on and off.

In the last two years there has been a lot of upgrading of bus-stops going on. By now, I think almost all are easily accessible. This also means that the cycle-path raises behind the bus-stop so that people can get from sidewalk to bus-stop across the cycle-path without having to change level.

Sorry, but this isn't shown in the video.

Peter: The bus-stop where the traffic stops behind buses is the third example, which is not in the video but is shown only in the photo from Eindhoven. This photo is also quite old, from 2006 when we were considering living in that area (it was taken out of the window of a house that I looked around - hence the strange perspective).

Steven Vance said...

When I was living in a certain neighborhood a year ago, I wanted to create an "island bus stop" to prevent two things:
1. Cyclists from interacting with buses.
2. Drivers from illegally driving in the bike lane.

This is the design I came up with.

However, after further consideration, I've realized that the area could support a fully protected bike lane. I just haven't designed it yet.

Reaperexpress said...

I just stumbled across this old post from Portland, Oregon which is a perfect example of how stop design is done wrong elsewhere in the world. An interesting point is that the comments are actually blaming the infrastructure rather than the road users (unusual for North America), though few people seem to have much idea how (easily) it could be fixed.