Bike lanes are wonderful. We’ve already seen that bike lanes create jobs, save lives, and help local economies. Now from New York City there is a transportation report that says adding bike lanes can reduce traffic delays.
So what happened here to overcome the traditional idea that bike lanes lead to car delay? No doubt many factors were involved, but a DOT spokesperson tells CityLab that the steady traffic flow was largely the result of adding left-turn pockets. In the old street configurations, cars turned left from a general traffic lane; in the new one, they merged into a left-turn slot beside the protected bike lane (below, an example from 8th and 23rd). This design has two key advantages: first, traffic doesn’t have to slow down until the left turn is complete, and second, drivers have an easier time seeing bike riders coming up beside them.
So the ineptitude of the current Toronto mayor got me thinking of how things could have been different with forethought of climate change. It’s worth noting that Rob Ford spent the flood idling in his SUV:
Just spoke to Mayor Rob Ford, power is still out at his house. He's in the SUV with his kids trying to stay cool #TOpoli#stormTO
The barrage is part of a comprehensive system of flood control to decrease flooding in the low-lying areas in the busy quarters of the city. During the heavy rains, a series of nine crest gates activate to release excess storm water into the sea when the tide is low. When high tide comes in, giant pumps drain excess storm water at at a rate of one Olympic-size swimming pool per minute.
Although large areas of green roofs have many benefits for cities, such as reducing air pollution and helping to combat the heat island effect, Rotterdam’s priority was for water retention, since the city has a shortage of areas where water can be stored following heavy rainfall. Water management has always been a major concern in the Netherlands, since approximately 60% of the country lies below sea level. The analysis of the potential of green roofs in Rotterdam that preceded the introduction of the subsidies focused heavily on their capacity for water storage in order to reduce peak water discharge following a rain storm and help prevent flooding.
Once established a green roof can significantly reduce both peak flow rates and total runoff volume of rainwater from the roof compared to a conventional roof. Green roofs store rainwater in the plants and substrate and release water back into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration.
The amount of water that is stored on a green roof, and then evapotranspired into the atmosphere, is dependent on the depth and type of growing medium, type of drainage layer, vegetation used and regional weather. The FLL Guidelines should be followed to ensure that actual runoff will be in accordance with calculated runoff.
A green roof can easily be designed to prevent runoff from all rainfall events of up to 5 mm and as part of a SuDS strategy, should reduce the volume of surface or underground attenuation required at the site boundary. In summer, green roofs can retain 70–80% of rainfall and in winter they retain 10–35% depending on their build-up (Green roofs benefits and cost implications, Livingroofs.org In association with ecologyconsultancy, March 2004). The difference is due to a combination of more winter rainfall and less evapotranspiration by the plants because growth is not as vigorous during the winter months.
Edit: I like this tweet from Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmat as a good conclusion to this post:
Suddenly spending $ to maintain all of that not-so-sexy infrastructure and to plan for climate change seems wildly appealing. #TOflood
Mayor Bloomberg in New York City has been clear that streets are meant to move people around and not just cars. The efforts the city has made to open up streets to people are working and the most recent push comes from their new bike sharing program.
“I expect to use it most days when it’s not raining,” McGlinn said after his journey, during which passersby flashed him thumbs-ups. “I expect to save money, although that’s not the primary reason why I’m doing it — it’s just nicer.” … New York’s version opened yesterday for people who purchased annual memberships, as most businesses were closed for the Memorial Day holiday. The first of 6,000 Citigroup Inc (C).- sponsored bicycles available from 330 solar-powered docking depots in Manhattan south of 59th Street and in sections of Brooklyn will open to the riding public next week.
In Moscow, they also launched a bike sharing program this past week. Unlike New York, Moscow has not spent the past couple years improving transportation networks so upon announcing the new bicycle program, officials proclaimed their intent to expand infrastructure for safe riding.
Moscow city hall has announced that it will develop a total of 131 kilometres (81 miles) of cycle paths by the end of this year, a small figure compared with other large cities around the world.
“Cycling will develop and in two years maybe it will find a compromise with cars, and drivers will understand that cyclists are also a part of the city,” said rider Vitaly as he sat on a bench next to his newly-rented bike.
The city has promised to widen the network to 120 locations and expand outside the centre by the end of July. The system will close at the end of October ahead of winter.
As Toronto fights smart planning and removes sustainable transportation infrastructure (indeed, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so), New York City Mayor Bloomberg continues to espouse how great bike lanes are. In NYC they have added a lot of miles of bike lanes and found local business get more business, neighbourhoods become nicer, and more people can get around easier than they did before!
With the release by NYC DOT this week of a report showing the economic impact of their street projects, Bloomberg wove the economic case into his speech. “Talk to merchants everywhere we’ve put protected bicycle lanes [and pedestrian plazas]… They will tell you that business is dramatically better than it was before.”
Bloomberg called New York City’s legacy of mega-highway building by former DOT Commissioner Robert Moses a “mistake” because “we bulldozed neighborhoods.”
With the mistakes of the past fading from view, Bloomberg seems to understand the direct link between how streets are used and whether or not a city succeeds. “We’re using the streets in ways they had not been used in a long time,” he said, “Cyclists and pedestrians and bus riders are as important — if not, I would argue more important — than automobile riders.”
While he acknowledged that bike lanes “are always controversial” he defended them by noting that, “more and more people are using them.”
Looking ahead, Bloomberg said he has no plans of letting naysayers or controversies stop the progress. “Transportation… it’s not sexy and it certainly invites controversy,” he said, but added, “We’ve just got to keep developing, keep building, sensibly, with some plans and community involvement; but not stopping.”
As you can probably guess from my recent series of pro-bike lane posts, I am rather embarrassed by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his archaic approach to transit. When he’s out of office we may get to see some good news coming from Toronto again.
The damage of Hurricane Sandy is still being fully realized and we won’t know the full cost of the damage for a little while. What we can do for know is to look into ways to lessen the damage the next time an anthropogenically influenced storm hits the city. The Atlantic has put together some previously thought-out plans for preparing New York City for flooding from ideas that are used elsewhere in the world.
As ocean levels rise this will be a more pressing issue for New Yorkers and other cities on coasts.
Here’s what I think will be the easiest for NYC to implement, but I haven’t been there for years so I could be way off.
2. Elevated infrastructure. There are very few buildings in the entire state of New York built at grade at elevations below sea level. But New York City has constructed one massive piece of infrastructure below that threshold: the subway system. As we saw this week, flooding can devastate an underground network of tunnels, train platforms and corridors. So how do you keep more of that water out? For one thing, elevating subway entrances would help. Bangkok, another low-lying city susceptible to rising tides, has built precisely these kinds of subway entrances. They’re raised a meter off the ground and include built-in floodgates.