Pedestrians

the pedestrian experience in cities where cars rule

This image by Claes Tingvall needs to go viral.

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I had many years living as a pedestrian in cities designed or managed for cars, including most big American cities in the least century, and I've never seen an image that better captured how that felt. 

The bottomless void, in this metaphor, represents the essential unpredictability of the reckless or distracted motorist (there only needs to be one) combined with the destructive potential of their machine. The sidewalk is a narrow ledge on the edge of extreme danger.  Crossing the street, even with a crosswalk, works when it works, but the rickety bridge perfectly captures the inherent risk; you're still relying on people to notice you even while they're texting, reading the newspaper, daydreaming, dozing off, flipping dials on the radio, trying to figure out the controls on their rental car, or doing any of other the things people do to handle the tedium of driving.

When we face this kind of danger in national parks, the government provides safety railings to keep us back from the precipice.  We tolerate this level of danger only for well-warned hikers in deep wilderness, and for almost everyone who ventures into the city without a car.

replace stop signs with signals on major transit lines?

From Streetsblog's Aaron Blalick in San Francisco:

The latest of [San Francisco Municipal Transporation Authority]'’s efforts to speed up [major bus] lines to run into some neighborhood opposition involves its proposed replacement of stop signs with transit-priority traffic signals. Some Western Addition neighbors have protested a proposal to signalize five intersections on McAllister Street to speed up the 5-Fulton, one of the designated “Rapid” routes receiving upgrades under the Muni Forward program (also known as the Transit Effectiveness Project).

Initially, the complaints were driven by fears that signals would bring dangerous speeding to McAllister. Muni planners responded by holding more outreach meetings, and presented data showing that pedestrian injuries declined on similar streets after signals were added. They also say speeds won’t go up significantly, since signals will be synchronized for speeds below 20 mph.  [emphasis added]

Aaron emailed to ask my opinion, which is emphatically:  "Who could oppose something that's good for both pedestrian safety and transit speeds?"

Apparently, the remaining opposition is based on "feel":

Sean Kennedy, the SFMTA’s Muni Forward program manager, said the data seems to quelled some neighbors’ fears, but that the complaints have shifted. “What we hear is that there’s a lot of concern over the neighborhood feel,” he said. “And that’s something we can’t really dispute with facts. It’s an individual preference if people do or don’t like signals.”

So how much should we worsen transit, and maintain higher levels of pedestrian injury, for the sake of "feel"?

And how exactly does a signal change feel?  We're talking about small streets here, mostly striped with a single wide travel lane each way.  Will a signal make the street feel wider?  Are people associating signals with more traffic and just assuming signals will have that outcome?  Not if they're timed for transit rather than cars.  Well-timed signalization can be very effective at discouraging car traffic on transit-intensive streets, when that's the objective.

I spent a decade of my life as a San Francisco pedestrian, in dark ages when pedestrian safetly mattered a lot less than it does now.  Sure, it was nice to encounter a 4-way stop where stepping into the intersection was enough to stop traffic.  

But among global pedestrians like me, San Francisco is famous for very fast signal cycles, and it's not a place where you'll be ticketed for crossing on red if there's obviously nothing coming.  As a pedestrian, I find a few seconds of delay a small price to pay for a transit system that's actually respectful of its customers' valuable time, not to mention the high cost to the public of its drivers' time.  

Remember: If you want frequency, you want less delay, because that makes frequency cheaper!

vancouver: a source on the battle of robson square

In an online event today, I mentioned the "Battle of Robson Square" in Vancouver — an archetypal conflict between transit and civic placemaking that has arisen in a city that claims to be very pro-transit.  It's a fascinating conflict worth watching for people far beyond Vancouver.  

Fortunately, I don't need to write a post on this, because there's an excellent one by Peter Marriott, laying out the issues at stake, here.  Peter's intro is an important challenge to any urban designer who thinks transit can just "get out of the way" of a beautiful design idea.  Peter's article is also full of useful links to a wide range of voices in the conversation.

is walkability a right? how would this work in india?

Sarah Goodyear in Atlantic Cities asks today if walkability should be conceived as a right.  She's talking, though, about India:

To call attention to the appalling situation faced by pedestrians in the city of Chennai, the newspaper The Hindu has launched a campaign called “Right to Walk,” which aims to "reclaim our city’s footpaths" and "goad local officials to act."

So far, dozens of readers using the Twitter hashtag #righttowalk have sent in photos and detailed accounts of sidewalks completely blocked by trash, parked cars and motorbikes, vendors, road signs, and construction.

All good.  In the US, which is much more accustomed to the language of rights, the argument should be even more effective.

As for India: obviously I sympathize with the pedestrians there, having been one myself. It's typically a brutal urban environment, and arguably even worse for cyclists, who are legion.

Dscf2117But one fact of life about the Indian city is that it's very difficult to keep any public space empty enough to offer unimpeded transport by any mode. Just as any unfenced patch of urban land is quickly claimed as somebody's home, an empty patch of street tends to be seen as available for either transport or business purposes, and naturally evolves a locally best use that may not be transportation at all.

Even the car lanes of Indian streets can be gradually reduced, in width and number, though a purely natural and unregulated process. The process goes like this: (1) so many people walk and bike in the curb lanes that motorists start avoiding them, (2) people set up tables in the curb lanes and sell things to the people walking there, and cars begin stopping to make purchases, (3) eventually the whole lane fills up with a mix of peds and commercial activity and the occasional random patch of customer parking, even to the point that durable private structures get built in the public right-of-way. In Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, I once toured a former 4-lane street that had gradually turned into a narrow 2-lane street through this gradual process that Indian planners call "encroachment."  

Key take-away:  Developing-world infrastructure has to be self-enforcing of its assignment of space, and this is a tough design problem that runs contrary to the instincts of developed-world urbanists.  Otherwise, the natural jostling process by which uses compete for available vacant space tends to prevail over all but the most vigorous demarcations.  This is why developing-world Bus Rapid Transit, and any other single-mode transport infrastructure, must have hard physical barriers to its right-of-way in order to function at all.  Otherwise, space is gradually lost to the sheer pressure from other uses.  

(The problem is especially severe for transit lanes because these only function of they are literally empty most of the time, thus allowing each bus to move through rapidly.  And in the Indian city, empty space looks like available space.)

The process by which available space gets used is comparable in some ways to the self-organization of public space that characterizes the famous developed-world shared spaces, but in India the process tends to be much more responsive to immediate physical and economic forces, including the urgency of commercial activity and the danger presented by the motor vehicle.  Cars do retreat in the face of a sufficiently large volume of pedestrians, bicycles, and informal commerce, but the struggle along this ever-moving frontier is certainly not safe, or pleasant.  

And I'm not sure how defining a "right" would change that.  Perhaps it would.

frequent service, mapped to your door

Vancouver's TransLink is one of several agencies who — with some input from me — have adopted Frequent Network brands that are designed to highlight services that are always coming soon, generally every 15 minutes or better all day and weekend.    I've always insisted that the Frequent Network can be both a short-term service branding tool (to build ridership by helping time-sensitive customers see where the network can serve them) but also a land use planning tool.

TransLink always understood it was both, and for several years has had a goal stating that half the region's population and jobs will be on the Frequent Network.  This is both a land use planning statement and a transit planning statement.  The message is not that TransLink will extend Frequent service to half the current population, but rather that it will do some of this while land use planning will also bring put residents and jobs on the existing Frequent Network.  More recently, Translink finally highlighted its Frequent Network on its maps for the public.

Ultimately, the Frequent Network, if properly mapped and promoted, should sell real estate, because the high level of all-day access should have a clear value as a city as a whole becomes more transit-oriented.  So this kind of micro-mapping should be really handy:

Ftn_skytrain_walksheds-1-2
This map (click to enlarge and sharpen) of transit access in New Westminster, British Columbia is by Jonathan X. Cote, a City Councilor in that city and also an urban planning student at Simon Fraser Univerisity. He takes the standard walking distances of 800m to rapid transit and 400m to local transit and plots the portion of his city that has access to those networks.  I've seen these maps before, and even if they are not drawn they are what lies behind any coherent statement about what percentage of population and jobs have transit access, within a given walking distance, to service of a given standard.

Remember:  If your city wants to do really honest transit analysis, it needs very small analysis zones.  This map shows you the kind of clarity that you get when you can analyze right down to the parcel.  You don't need that much fine grain, but the zones need to be small.  And a parcel-level map like this is certainly ideal for land use planners, who need to minimize walking distances for the centroids of transit-oriented developments. 

Notice what a good tool this is for analyzing bus stop spacing as well.  You can move the stops a little apart and count how many parcels fall out of the walkshed.  Out to about 400m (1/4mi) spacing the answer is usually "fewer than you expected."

the photo that explains almost everything (updated!)

You've seen photos like this. A large group of people, with images comparing the amount of precious urban space they take depending on the mode of transport they use.  This new one is by Australia's Cycling Promotion Fund.

CanberraTransportPhoto_x3_3600px

This photo makes at least three important points, two of them probably not intended.  In this one image you can see that:

  • Bike racks on buses (and most other transit) can never be more than a niche market

The rack on the bus in pic #1 carries two bikes, which is great for those two people.  But if all the bikes in pic #2 try to get onto the bus in pic #1, we have a geometric impossibility.  Bike racks are already as large as they can be if the driver is still to be far enough forward to drive safely.  A non-folding bike inside a transit vehicle takes the space of several passengers, so could fairly be accommodated only at several times the fare.  In the ideal sustainable future, you will have to park your bike at the station, or return your rental bike, just as Europeans do.  If transit does accommodate your bike, you really should pay a fare premium that reflects the rough number of passenger spaces displaced, or the supply/demand ratio for 2-3 bike racks vs 20 people wanting to use them.

 Dreamers along these lines may well be right about many suburban areas, where demand is sparse and the land use pattern precludes efficient transit.  But when all the people in this picture want to travel, driverless cars may take less space than the cars shown here, but they will still take far more space than a bus would.  The scarcity of space per person is part of the very definition of a city, as distinct from suburbia or rural area, so the efficiency with which transport options use that space will always be the paramount issue.  

(Of course, this very thought experiment presumes that we will actually achieve, and culturally accept, driverless cars that require very little space between them, in which the prevention of ghastly accidents — especially with pedestrians and bikes who may appear with zero warning and minimal stopping distance — is achieved through the absolute infallibility of human-designed hardware and software.)

To make the same point more generally:

  • In cities, urban space is the ultimate currency.  

We spend too much time talking about what things cost in dollars and not enough about what they cost in space.  That, of course, is because urban space is perversely priced to encourage inefficient uses of it and discourage efficient ones.  If you're going to claim to be able to visualize how technology will change the world of 2040 — as the techno-futurists claim to do — you should also visualize what a political system ruled by people now under 40 would look like.  These people are much less emotionally attached to cars, care about environmental outcomes much more, and value urban space much more than their parents do.  Given that the revolution in urban pricing has already begun (see the London and Singapore congestion charges, and the San Francisco and Auckland dynamic parking systems), isn't it foolish to assume that today's assumptions about how we apportion urban space will still rule your techno-utopia?

UPDATE:  A reader points out one other key point, which is that

  • the photo understates the space requirements of bikes compared to the other two.  

Once you put these three systems in motion, the cars and bus will need more space in one dimension — forward and back.  However, in motion, the mass of bikes will expand in two dimensions, it will need to be both longer and wider for all the bikes to move safely.  This could have been rectified in the photo by consciously spacing the bikes to a distance where riders would feel comfortable at a brisk cycling speed that ensures not only stopping distance but also space for passing.  Masses of cyclists on a recreational ride may all agree to ride in tight formation at the same speed, but in daily life cycling infrastructure must accommodate the the fact that people in a cycling crowd will have different desires and intentions around speed, which affects lateral spacing and stopping distance.

portland: the grid is 30 years old … thank a planner!

Thirty years ago next week, on Labor Day Weekend 1982, the role of public transit in Portland was utterly transformed in ways that everyone today takes for granted.  It was an epic struggle, one worth remembering and honoring. 

I'm not talking about the MAX light rail (LRT) system, whose first line opened in 1986. I'm talking about the grid of frequent bus lines, without which MAX would have been inaccessible, and without which you would still be going into downtown Portland to travel between two points on the eastside.  (Full map here.)

Portland grid\

What did it look like before 1982?  Here's a bit of the 1970 network (full map here).

Portland 1970

The 1970 network consisted of bus routes radiating from downtown across the gridded eastside, which constitutes about 3/4 of Portland.  If you were anywhere on this network, you had a direct bus downtown — a slow, circuitous, and infrequent bus.  Very few routes ran better than every 30 minutes during the day.  Only two routes ran north-south across the east side, and both were too infrequent to transfer to, so you couldn't really use them unless both ends of your trip were on them. 

How did the 1982 network transform the possibilities of mobility in the city?  

  • The old network was solely about going downtown.  The new network was about going anywhere you wanted to go.
  • The old network was infrequent.  The new network required easy connections, so it was designed to run at high frequency (most lines every 15 minutes or better all day).  Remember: Frequency is freedom!
  • The old network was wasteful, as many overlapping lines converged on downtown.  The new network was efficient, with little overlap between lines, and with lines spaced further apart to the extent that the street network allowed.  This is how the resources were found to increase frequency so much.
  • The old network was complicated, with routes often zigzagging from one street to another.  The new network was simpler, easy to keep in your head.  Many streets that were formerly served by a patchwork of overlapping routes, such as Division, now had a single route from end to end, so that you needed only remember "the Division bus."  Transit became an intrinsic part of the street.

If you're in a hurry, skip to "Thank a Planner!" below.  But if you have a couple of minutes, let's explore more deeply how the grid transformed Portland, and why it was so controversial at the time.

In both maps above, that wavy line across the middle of eastside Portland is the Banfield Freeway, where the first and backbone line of the MAX light rail system runs today.  In the 1970 image, look for the line marked "1" extending north from the Banfield in the middle of the image.  This is NE 42nd Avenue (a bit of which is labeled 41st, but don't let that distract you).

In the old network the bus line along 42nd came from the north edge of the city, once an hour.  Partway down it merged with another branch, to form 30-minute frequency.  When it approached the Banfield, it turned west and zigzagged into the city via the Lloyd district.  Once it turned west off of 42nd, it was duplicating other routes the whole way.  If you wanted to go somewhere else on the eastside, the bus was not much use.   Frequencies were poor so it was very hard to make a trip involving multiple routes.

If you lived on NE 42nd in 1982, you were confronted with massive change, the sort of change that makes people scream.  Never again would you have a direct bus to downtown Portland.  Now you would be on the new 75, which would run continuously north-south all the way across the city.  And if you wanted to go downtown, you would have to transfer (as we called it in those days). 

But on the bright side, the 75 would run every 15 minutes, so transfering wasn't hard.  And in return, you got all the other benefits of a frequent routes that would let you connect quickly to reach destinations all over the east and north sides of the city, without going downtown.  

This is always a tough sell, because many people value transit only for the commute downtown.  These people tend to complain when the network is optmized to serve many kinds of trip at once, which is exactly what the grid does.  A frequent grid is the ultimate in versatilityequity and freedom.  It does not pick favored destinations for favored markets. Instead, it delivers anywhere-to-anywhere mobility for wherever you might want to go.  Today, the non-downtown elements of the grid, especially 72 and 75, are among TriMet's most productive lines.  

The grid redefined the role of transit in serving Portland's livability objectives.  When you think of everything that makes Portland both livable and culturally distinctive, you're probably thinking about the historically dense and gridded part of the city.  This is where almost every cool urbanist outcome of the last 30 years — from food carts to bike lanes to office-over-retail — has sprouted and thrived most successfully. Rail gets all the press, but the MAX light rail line would not have worked without this grid to connect with it.  (The reverse is not true: the grid worked well for four years before the MAX line opened, though MAX was certainly an improvement that achieved further ridership payoffs.) As Gregory Thompson and Jeffrey Brown put it in a recent paper :

If the 1983 and 1986 restructurings had not happened, LRT would have been a competitor with the CBD-focused, poor quality parallel bus routes that already were there, and there would have been no high quality bus routes intersecting the LRT at right angles. Portland would have enjoyed much less patronage than it has since experienced on both its LRT and bus routes.

Where did all the money for the new high-frequency crosstown lines come from?  Removing duplication. Look again at the your ride on 1970's route 1.  Once it turned west off of 42nd, it duplicated other routes the entire way into downtown.  Now look closely at the routes approaching downtown from further south in the old map.  They ran on so many closely-spaced parallel streets that they were effectively duplicating one another as well, wasting service.  The grid plan found many resources by removing these duplications and moving to wider and more consistent spacing of lines across the whole city.  In the same process,the grid introduced the idea that it's OK to walk further to a more frequent and useful service — the foundation for transit's link with walking (and with all of walking's public health outcomes) today.

The grid was also a radical simplification, making it easier for people to keep the network map in their heads.  Now, bus lines would often follow the same street from end-to-end, so you could remember easily that there's a Division Street bus, say, and an 82nd Avenue bus.  In the old network, if you wanted to go from 20th & Division to 82nd & Division, you had to go downtown and back, because these two parts of Division were covered by different routes.  The beauty of the grid is that your transit directions are sometimes as simply as walking or driving directions:  "Take the Division bus out to 82nd, then take the 82nd bus south."  The transit lines are just part of the street.

Imagine, in 1982, the struggle involved in implementing this.  Vast numbers of people lost their direct bus to downtown, at a time when going downtown seemed like the only purpose of transit to many existing riders.  Transit agencies tend to listen most to their existing riders, who have adapted their lives to the system as it is, so it takes real courage for them to seek new markets instead of just catering to the existing ones.   Imagine the disruption, the rage, the recriminations, not to mention the apathy from people for whom buses just don't matter, no matter what they're achieving.

Thank a planner!

If you can imagine how hard this was, consider thanking the planners who took all this abuse and persisted in pushing the plan through, because they believed in everywhere-to-everywhere networks and knew this would work if it were tried.  I'm especially thinking of:

  • Ken Zatarain, who was a TriMet service planner at the time and who is still at the agency.  Thank him at:  zataraik AT trimet DOT org .
  • Thomas G. Matoff, the single most important mentor in my own transit career, and probably the critical player in pushing the grid through.  Tom, who was service planning manager and thus Ken's boss, was an eloquent, passionate and persistent advocate for the grid both inside and outside the agency.  He was the first person I've met, and one of the few I've known, who could convey how essential network design is to the life, joy, and prosperity of a city.  Tom went on to be General Manager of Sacramento Regional Transit and is now working on the Sonoma-Marin rail project in California.  Thank him at:  tmatoff AT sonomamarintrain DOT org .

I'm dead serious:  If you value being able to get around Portland in all directions, thank them.  In other words, do one of these things:

  • shoot emails of appreciation to the three emails above, copied to me (jarrett AT jarrettwalker DOT net), with "Thanks for the grid" in the subject line, or 
  • leave a comment here, or 
  • say something on Twitter with the hashtag #PDXGrid .  

You might also ask the two mayoral candidates about how important the frequent grid is to their vision of the city, and whether they think it should be enhanced.

Why does this matter?  Because even today, there's disagreement in Portland about important the frequent grid is, or even whether a complete everywhere-to-everywhere network (which requires high-frequency buses as well as rail) should be a priority at all.  Some view the grid as unimportant, for example, because they view bus service as unimportant.

Purists might argue that the grid never made it to its 30th birthday, but rather perished at 27 in 2009.  That was the year that TriMet cut all-day frequencies below the 15-minute threshhold that is widely accepted as the definition of "frequent enough that you can use it spontaneously, without building your life around the timetable."  Since the grid relies on easy connections to achieve its goal of easy anywhere-to-anywhere access, the 2009 cuts began to undermine the whole idea of the grid. TriMet avoided doing this in its first round of cutting after the crash, but felt it had no alternative in the second 2009 round.  

Will the grid ever be restored to its necessary frequency?  Will it ever be expanded and enriched (as regional land use planning generally assumes it must be) with even better frequencies?  Not everyone in Portland thinks this is a priority, so you might want to express your view.  

More on the history and spectacular outcomes of the grid if you click below.  But even if you don't click, thank a planner!

Continue Reading →

san francisco: cable cars and green lights

A traumatic memory from my old neighborhood, still exactly as I remember it:

DSC00788

The California Street cable car still doesn't influence traffic signals, even in the era of GPS.  Here at California & Hyde, the car stops in the median of the street, requiring passengers to cross a traffic lane to board or alight.  Note the green traffic signal to the right, which tells motorists it's ok to speed past the cable car as people get on and off.  The man in the black coat and cap, waiting to board, must stand in a traffic lane that has the green signal.  To the motorist, he appears to be crossing illegally, yet it's the only way to get to the cable car.

This is not a high-traffic intersection.  Surely all lights should turn red when the cable car is present.

I lived a block from this point for seven years (1987-94) yet almost never used the California St. cable car.  This was why.

san francisco: the freeway spirit lives?

About 18 years ago, when I was chairing the Citizens Advisory Committee of the San Francisco County Transporation Authority, I remember a day when staff effusively advised that they'd gotten budget to put up green signs around the city to help motorists better identify the streets.  The green sign in this picture, for example.  

DSC00781

This is on Jones St. northbound approaching Sacramento St., but there are many similar cases.  (Trivia note: One of these signs appears in Gus Van Sant's fine film Milk, which is set in the 1970s.  It was the film's most glaring anachronism.)

Nobody asked my committee's opinion when these signs went up.  And today, briefly touring my old neighborhood, I find that these signs are still there.  Has nobody questioned them in all this time?

Most readers will see the issue at once, but if you don't, here we go:

The motorist faces a stopsign.  That means they should be looking at the crosswalk in front of them, and the other traffic approaching.  What's more, they should be stopped, or stopping, which means that their focal length should be short; they don't need a sign that's meant to be read at high speeds.   Yet high speed is implied by the green sign's large typesize, high position, and "freeway font"; the green sign has the same color, font, and typesize typically used on California freeways.

San Francisco's standard black and white streetsigns are the most legible I've encountered anywhere in the world.  They are a global model for simplicity, clarity, and grace.  There's one right below the green sign in this pic, in front of the tree.  The text on these signs is over 1.5 inches high.  If you can't read that black-on-white sign while stopped at a stopsign, or decelerating to it, your vision is so poor that you shouldn't have a drivers license.  Only seriously dangerous drivers need the green sign.

Then there's the question of focal height.  A sign placed very high, like the green sign here, is pulling the driver's eye away from the ground plane, which is where the squishable pedestrians and cyclists are.  Extreme type size also encourages reading the sign from further away, which means focusing further away, which means a greater risk of not seeing the pedestrian in front of you.

In short, the message of the green sign ("read me from a distance, like you're on a freeway, driving fast") contradicts the message of the stopsign and crosswalks.

Motorists choose their speed and focal length based on a range of signals, not just explicit commands and prohibitions.  These signs may be appropriate on high speed multi-lane streets, where you may need to change lanes to turn once you've recognized a cross-street.  But what are they doing at stopsigns?

I'm sure there are manuals that say this is compliant to standards.  But many bad ideas are endorsed by manuals.  Does the green sign make sense?  Argue with me.

DSC00785

PS:  "Wait, Jarrett didn't say he'd be in San Francisco, and he didn't call!"  Sorry, it was just two days, and I'll be back soon.

bicycle vs transit problems

Bicycles have always had an anxious relationship with local-stop street-running transit, both bus and streetcar.  On a street without separate bike lanes, bikes and local-stop transit tend to end up sharing the "slow" traffic lane — typically a lane that's either next to the curb or next to a row of parked cars.  The difficulty lies not just in the obvious ability of rail tracks to throw a cyclist, but more generally in the fact that many cyclists like to move at something close to the average speed of local-stop transit — generally 10-20 mph.  With buses at least, the pattern is often for a local bus and a cyclist to "leapfrog," passing each other over and over, an uncomfortable and mildly risky move for both parties. 

Streetcars are much less likely to pass a cyclist than a bus is, and this, come to think of it, may be one of the many little reasons that streetcars often end up being slower than buses when you control for other differences (in right of way, fare handling, signaling, enforcement, etc).  Cyclist friends have often told me that they prefer cycling alongside streetcars rather than buses becuase streetcars don't make surprising lateral moves.  This is true, though of course the lateral motion of buses is a normal part of how they get through traffic, and how they often keep moving in situations where a streetcar would get stuck.

Mia Birk has a good article today arguing that bicycles and streetcars can be friends.  So far, though, the only examples she cites of really successful bicycle-transit integration are from streets where there's plenty of space to separate the two modes, such as Portland's King/Grand couplet.  She's involved now in a consulting team looking at how streetcars will interact with cyclists along a proposed line on Seattle's Broadway, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. 

Birk is clear that the basic design of the starter streetcar lines in Portland in Seattle — operation in the right-hand (slow) lane next to a row of parked cars — didn't provide good options for cyclists needing to avoid the hazard of the streetcar tracks.  She wants to see better separation, but when looking at a dense urban street like Seattle's Broadway, it's hard to see how they'll deliver that without undermining either on-street parking or pedestrian circulation.  She notes one situation in Portland (14th & Lovejoy) where the streetcar-cyclist conflict was arguably resolved at the pedestrian's expense:

14th-and-Lovejoy
… and she's clear that this isn't the outcome she's after.  (This idea of a bike lane that passes between a transit stop and the sidewalk is common in the Netherlands.  It can work well as long as there's ample sidewalk width.  It's less nice in situations like this one where the remaining sidewalk is constrained.)

If I sound a little cynical about the prospects for harmony between local-stop transit and cyclists, it's because this is a geometry problem, and geometry tends to endure in the face of even the most brilliant innovation.  The examples in Mia's post seem to confirm that if the street is wide enough, it's easy to separate cycles and transit, but that if it isn't, it isn't. 

When the problem is this simple, it's not hard to reach a point where you're sure you've exhausted all the geometric possibilities.  At that point, you to make hard choices about competing goods, producing something that all sides will see as a compromise.  Hoping for new innovative solutions can become a distraction at that point, since no innovation in human history has ever changed a fact of geometry. 

Finally, if a streetcar ever does go down Seattle's Broadway, it had better be compatible with buses as well.  Broadway is an important link in the frequent transit network, with lines that extend far beyond the local area and thus make direct links that a starter streetcar line cannot replace.  What will happen to these buses?  If they share the streetcar lane, what will their role be in the streetcar-bicycle dance?

Photo: Mia Birk