Quote of the week: bike-bus conflicts

On the inevitable problem of curb bike lanes interacting with bus stops:

Generally, transit advocates are also bike advocates, but with regular on-street bike lanes, this conflict point becomes an unavoidable ally-versus-ally battle … As a bicyclist, I am constantly on the lookout for oncoming buses even when I’m in a bike lane. As a transit rider, the mere seconds delay to wait for a biker can cause my bus to miss a traffic signal, which can cause me to miss my transfer, which can cause me to arrive 15 minutes late to work on the day where a coworker brought in Mel-O-Glaze Donuts, which can then cause me to be donut-less for the whole morning. Like, I said, none of this is good.

Chris Iverson at the Minneapolis blog streets.mn

This came across my email just as I'd finished a meeting about a bike vs bus lane problem on Auckland's Karangahape Road.  The interaction of curb-running bicycles and bus stops is a problem on every continent and island, because it's a geometry problem.

And that means, chill!  Obviously, we push back on anyone who says that either bikes or buses are "just more important" than the other; that's just tribalism.  But then you accept the difficulty and the unsatisfactoriness of any compromise, including the one Chris proposes, the "floating bus stop" shown here in an image from the NACTO Street Design Guidelines:


This works fine as long as the bus stop isn't busy, but of course there are likely to be lots of pedestrians crossing the bike lane at the times when the bus is stopped there, so a cyclist's odds of actually passing a stopped bus on the curb side may be limited.  I also prefer "table" or shared space solutions for the bike lane that alert the cyclist to yield to peds in this situation.  

Is it perfect?  No, but there isn't a perfect solution.  We know that geometrically, so: chill!

13 Responses to Quote of the week: bike-bus conflicts

  1. Eric O May 26, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    A potential solution, geometrically, might be to make transit more appealing to the cyclist by making travel times with transit actually faster than cycling. Also… level boarding and easy storage of the bike within the bus might help. Lure them in!

  2. acv_critter May 26, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    Do you think this shared space solution would work? (top end of Swanston St, Melbourne, Australia)

  3. Miles Bader May 26, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

    I think concerns about pedestrians going to the bus island interfering with the bike-route are a bit overblown. Even American-style high-speed bicyclists can very easily just slow down when transiting such areas—they’re a very, very, small fraction of the total route, and one thing bikes are really good at is accelerating/decelerating. At low speeds, it’s not hard at all for bicycles and pedestrians to intermix.
    This is very different, for instance, from concerns about inadequate separation between bike and pedestrian paths where the issue affects the entire length of the route.

  4. JJJJ May 27, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    The other option is to have the bicycle lane on the left, which can be done on one-way streets or streets with medians.
    Also can be done by having the bus load on the left in the same manor.

  5. Patrick S May 27, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    @acv_critter – I live in Melbourne, and have to say that Swanston St design is _very_ frustrating for cyclists if you’re at all in a hurry.
    Because its’ a busy tram corridor – on a weekend you are basically constantly either stopped or travelling at < 10km/h filtering through pedestrians. In many ways this is a conscious choice by the city to make pedestrians & trams clearly #1 users of that street, cyclists #2, cars #3 (cars/delivery vans have limited access to the street). But if it was adopted broadly, cycling basically becomes a non-viable transport option.

  6. Murray May 27, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    @ Eric O, I’m not sure that your solution addresses the reason a number of people ride bikes – which is because they want to get / remain fit.
    To them, transit isn’t on their radar.

  7. Sailor Boy May 28, 2015 at 2:44 am #

    I think it is ok to say that on some routes buses/ cyclists are more important, but not very useful.
    I think that the floating stops need to indicate that peds have priority at the boarding areas, but that cyclists have priority elsewhere. This is best done by marking zebra crossings IMO.

  8. S M Sabri Ismail (sabre23t) May 28, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    This is best done by marking zebra crossings IMO.
    Best? I think the speed table [1] Jarret mentioned, would be a better solution than zebra markings. Particularly since as per example image, the bus stop area is already raised, and can be easily extended over the bike lane, making a speed table.
    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_bump#Speed_tables

  9. Sailor Boy May 29, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    May be a cross country issue here, here in NZ peds have right of way over zebras, which are often but not always on speed tables.

  10. Andre Lot May 31, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    Bike x pedestrian conflicts on a short sector over access to the bus stop is much preferable than bike x bus conflict while both types of vehicles are racing each other (bikes overtaking bus at stops and bus overtaking bikes when running).
    It’s really a no-brainer.
    Netherlands and Denmark use the layout of raised bus stops with bike lanes crossing to their right (between stop and sidewalk) extensively. It is much, much more safer, objectively and subjectively, than the way it is usually done in North America.

  11. Doug May 31, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    What about having the bike path elevate on open pillars — a little overpass/bridge/slope up and down — and pedestrians pass underneath to the stop? This would add expense and maybe a new safety issue, but it might work, maybe for some or the most busy stops. The “bridges” might even be fabricated offsite in quantity to lay along a bus line. The slope bridge could even go over the stop to provide shelter from rain, etc. (or be buttressed by a bus shelter).

  12. Al Dimond June 1, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    The picture there is of Dexter Ave N in Seattle. I live just off Dexter, bike on it often, and take the bus on it often! I was skeptical of the bus islands when they were first proposed for some of the reasons noted, but using them every day has won me over. I’m a pretty fast rider, and it’s really not hard to see people crossing the way when they are, and yield properly.
    One of the things that’s great about the islands from a transit perspective is that the bus stops in-lane. When the bus has to pull into the bike lane (as it does a few times on Dexter) the stop is much slower. The driver has to merge into the bike lane before stopping, then into the line of cars before getting going again. When waiting to merge back into the line of cars it’s blocking the bike lane, and on a street like Dexter there are actually cyclists coming up behind — they’ll either sit behind waiting to get a lungful of diesel when it pulls away, or swing out and around, holding up the bus more. There’s a long stretch of Dexter without any traffic signals, but in heavy traffic with regular signals in-lane stops are a huge win for buses because the bus doesn’t lose its place in line every time it stops. This really proves itself on NE 45th Street, where there are no bike lanes but a few in-lane stops — they’re not enough to make the #44 bus reliable, but they have improved matters.
    There are a few other places in Seattle where bike lanes move up to sidewalk level. I actually like the Dexter arrangement better, because it clearly indicates that the bike lane is for traveling, not dawdling or wandering, and sets out a particular place to cross. The PNW is full of world-champion dawdlers; in a region full of newcomers the tendency to block the way whenever possible unites us across all other divisions, young and old, rich and poor, on foot, on bike, and in cars. “Shared space” might work some places, but it invites the worst here. If you pave it like a sidewalk people will wander across it like a sidewalk. Seattle has tried a ton of different stuff for bike and transit infrastructure in the last few years, and a lot of it is monumentally goofy. Dexter, from Nickerson down to Mercer, actually works.

  13. Tom Roche August 9, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    Although this is OT, I gotta say: as a frequent bike+bus currently residing in a low-density area, when I first saw the headline (“bike-bus conflicts”), my first thought was the scourge that is racklessness, not the positioning of bus stops. The major “bike-bus conflict” I see (in RTP, NC) is inability to board a bus due to the bike rack being filled! This might be more cope-able if available real-time datafeeds included rack capacity, but I have yet to see that. As a result, given current demand and supply, one’s odds of boarding a bike are still reliably good only at ends of routes: anywhere else, sooner or later you’re gonna get bumped, which is a major drag when you’re trying to get home @ 9pm 🙁