Neighborhood Greenways Are Cool, But Oasis Greenways Are Awesome!

I submitted my contributor form to Greater Greater Washington (GGWash) today and GGWash’s staff gave me the green light, so my first blog post should be published on GGWash sometime next week. Since GGWash’s staff asked me to write differently than I write on my personal blog, I wanted to share the version I wrote before GGWash’s staff asked me to shorten my blog post and make it less technical. As I wrote in this post, I knew I would have less control over my writing when I started posting on other blogs. I’ll share my GGWash post after it is published, but as a teaser I’m sharing my longer and more technical version below.

Update: here is my first GGWash post!

A bike boulevard (DC region refers to neighborhood greenway as bike boulevard) is an outdated idea currently being used by many US cities to improve safety for all street users. An oasis greenway is a new approach that represents the future of safe street design. An oasis greenway is a long series of interconnected low-speed, low-volume, shared-space, vegetated linear parks created from an assembly of residential streets. As the below video shows, an oasis greenway is based on the Dutch woonerf.

According to Tom Bertulis’ 167-page thesis, Oasis Greenways: A New Model of Urban Park and Bikeway within Constrained Street Rights-of-Way, the nine elements that any given facility must include to be called an oasis greenway are the following:

  1. Extremely low traffic volumes, including traffic diversion as needed. While many cities in the US are focused on traffic diversion on a street by street basis, several cities in the Netherlands are focused on traffic diversion on a neighborhood or citywide basis. Houten, Netherlands, which is a suburb of Utrecht, has implemented a citywide traffic diversion plan.
    Houten Street Network

    Houten’s traffic diversion map. Source: ITDP

    As the below map shows, motorists are routed from their neighborhood road (green) onto a connector road (brown) that directs them to the outer ring road (yellow). Motorists must drive all the way around Houten until they reach another connector road that connects them to their destination. Since cyclists and pedestrians can travel through the traffic diverters, they can travel quicker than motorists through Houten.

    Houten Street Network zoomed in

    Neighborhood level of Houten’s traffic diversion map

    Watch this video to learn more about Houten.

    Since Houten was originally designed with traffic diversion, it is a unique city because it didn’t need to be retrofitted. Most, if not all, US cities will have to retrofitted with traffic diversion so here is a neighborhood retrofit example from Utrecht, Netherlands. US cities should be able to relate to this retrofit example much easier than the approach that Houten took with its citywide traffic diversion plan.

    While no US city has implemented a citywide nor neighborhood network of traffic diverters, Portland, OR has several traffic diverters. Here is a diagonal traffic diverter in northeast Portland.

    2015-07-26 16.21.38

    Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave. Photo: Ray Atkinson

    Diagonal traffic diverter at Tillamook and 16th

    Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave

  2. Extremely low traffic speeds, including traffic calming as needed. Below is a bayonet traffic calmer in Delftweg, Netherlands. While the street is two-way, the bayonet forces motorists to take turns going through the bayonet. Cyclists have a two-way trail so they can avoid the bayonet.

    DSCN0394

    Delftweg’s bayonet traffic calmer. Photo: Ray Atkinson

  3. Shared space, without sidewalks, with motorists sharing the space with pedestrians and cyclists, like a woonerf.

    Bell Street Seattle Before & After Shared Space

    Shared space on Bell Street in Seattle, WA

  4. Oasis greenways must be continuous for at least several blocks and have connectivity through busy intersections.

    Portland Neighborhood Greenway Crossing

    Portland neighborhood greenway crossing. Photo: Steven Vance

  5. Terminal vista. They must make use of the “terminal vista effect,” where the line of sight straight down the street is partially obscured, usually by trees or an on-street parking chicane. The below woonerf in Delft, Netherlands shows the terminal vista effect.

    Delft woonerf

    Woonerf in Delft, NL. Photo: Ray Atkinson

  6. Parklike, which refers to using grasscrete as the default in areas that aren’t travel-ways for cyclists and pedestrians. The below photo from Haarlem, Netherlands shows a grasscrete street.

    Grasscrete in Netherlands

    Grasscrete street in Haarlem, NL. Photo: Dan Burden

  7. Park and parking strip. They must have a wide area where on-street parking, parklets, trees, vegetation, and play areas are located.

    Oasis greenway park and parking area

    Rendering of park and parking strip. Rendering: Tom Bertulis’ thesis

  8. Minimal parking footprint. They must minimize the parking footprint based on a parking needs analysis. Use the below illustration to compare parking footprint of a traditional street with parking footprint of an oasis greenway.

    Oasis Greenway vs. Traditional Street

    Source: Tom Bertulis’ thesis

  9. Small and large play areas. They must have both small and large play areas, with the small play areas referring to the Park & Parking Strip and the large play areas referring to Oasis Greenway sections with “ultra-low volumes” where the play area temporarily becomes the entire cross-section of the street, not too different from when hockey is played in the street.

    Street Hockey

    Street hockey. Photo: Jonathan Tavares

While no street in the US has been designed with all nine elements of an oasis greenway, a few cities have experimented with several elements of an oasis greenway so please don’t think that an oasis greenway can only be designed by the Dutch or Europeans. Would you like to see an oasis greenway constructed in your neighborhood? If yes, where? If no, why not?

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It is not the destination, but the journey.

I’m probably one of the few master’s degree graduates who has been looking forward to using some of my newfound free time to keep writing. Since I didn’t have enough time before fall 2015 term started to finish blogging about my study abroad trip last summer to the Netherlands, I want to keep blogging about this trip. Due to how much interest there is in the United States to learn from the Netherlands, I plan to use specific examples from the United States and the Netherlands to show how the United States can learn from my experiences in the Netherlands.

My graduation cap was inspired by my study abroad trips to Denmark and the Netherlands in 2012 and the Netherlands in 2015. The words, “It is not the destination, but the journey”, were inspired by The Slow Bicycle Movement.

2016-06-11 13.44.05

Ray Atkinson’s 2016 Graduation Cap

As I discussed in my previous blog post and the below video shows, most cyclists in the United States are too concerned about arriving at their destination as fast as possible that they forget about enjoying their journey. My study abroad experiences in Denmark and the Netherlands showed me that most cyclists in these countries enjoy their journey and don’t care too much about arriving at their destination as fast as possible. Through my bicycle advocacy work at UNC Charlotte and Portland State University, I tried to advocate for cyclists to shift from focusing on arriving at their destination as fast as possible to focusing on enjoying their journey. Wherever life takes me after graduation, I plan to continue advocating for this shift and hope to someday see most cyclists in the United States enjoying their journey.

I realize world-class bike infrastructure alone cannot achieve a culture shift in the United States from fast to slow biking so we need local, regional, state, and national comprehensive bike plans. Through my next blog posts, I plan to show how the Netherlands created and has been implementing local, regional, provincial, and national comprehensive bike plans. Since the United States is light years behind the Netherlands when it comes to local, regional, state and national comprehensive bike planning, I also plan to show how the United States can learn from the Netherlands.

Traffic Diverters in Portland

I returned to Portland about a week ago from the Netherlands. While I miss the connected network of protected bike lanes and protected bike intersections that I biked on daily in the Netherlands, I’m thankful to still have traffic calming in Portland. Since a few traffic diverters caught my attention while biking today, I’m going to focus this post on traffic diverters, which is a traffic calming device.

Holman Pocket Park

During my bike ride to experience Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways, which is part of a series of open street events, I biked through Holman Pocket Park, which may be the first street to park conversion in Portland history. In case you are wondering, local residents fully supported the street to park conversion with cheering during an open house meeting. The below video shows people biking through Holman Pocket Park.

The below map shows where NE Holman St used to go through the park. For more information about the Holman Pocket Park transformation from a street to a park, visit the City of Portland’s website.

Map of Holman Pocket Park

Map of Holman Pocket Park

Diagonal Traffic Diverter

On my bike ride home from Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave because it is a permanent diverter. Many traffic diverters are temporary, which means they can be easily removed if people, especially motorists, don’t like the diverter. This is why I was impressed to see it is a permanent diverter. The below panorama shows the diagonal traffic diverter.

Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave

Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave

Since I didn’t stay long enough to get a photo with a cyclist using the diverter, I found the below photo that shows cyclists using the diverter.

Cyclists on NE Tillamook St using the diverter. Photo: David Baker Architects

The following map shows how the diagonal traffic diverter looks on a map. I talked with an elderly couple that was walking by when I was taking photos of the diverter. The couple said there are several other diverters in the Irvington neighborhood and they love how the diverters reduce cut through automobile traffic and make their neighborhood quieter. They walked away before I could ask how they felt about the diverters before the diverters were installed. From my experience with new infrastructure, people are often nervous about unfamiliar infrastructure so are usually against it until after the infrastructure is installed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the elderly couple didn’t always love the diverters.

Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave

Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave

Speaking of history, I was able to find some history about the diverter. According to Shawn Granton’s photo description, the diagonal traffic diverter on NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave was the “city’s first traffic diverter. I heard it was first installed as a neighborhood guerrilla action in the late 60’s to calm traffic, then was made official by the city.” A comment on his photo suggests 16th Ave was “the main drag”. Since 16th Ave is no longer the main drag, the diverter was successful in making the neighborhood have less cut through automobile traffic. Even though it didn’t exist in the 1960s, the diverter helped make the Tillamook neighborhood greenway possible by reducing automobile traffic on NE Tillamook St while providing bicycle and pedestrian access. I constantly saw this in the Netherlands so it is great to see this in Portland.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t finished blogging about everything I saw in the Netherlands. Fall quarter starts on September 28 so I have about two months to finish blogging about the Netherlands or else I will have to wait until after graduation next June to finish blogging. It feels great to write that I will finally be done with school soon!

Tour of Rijswijk

We toured transportation facilities in Rijswijk, Netherlands on Thursday, July 9. The below google maps tour shows the transportation facilities that we toured.

1) Delftweg, which is the old road from the Hague to Delft, has a bayonet traffic calming device to prevent through traffic and slow down motorists. The bayonet reduces the road to one direction at a time and has an “S” curve.

Delftweg's bayonet traffic calmer

Delftweg’s bayonet traffic calmer

2) De Oversteek Bridge, which opened in 2014, is a bicycle and pedestrian only bridge. The Netherlands has a goal to create a bicycle network that has safe and convenient crossings within 500 meters of each other. This bridge helps to reach this goal by creating a more convenient canal crossing.

De Oversteek Bridge

De Oversteek Bridge

3) Rembrandtkade experienced a conversion from a street with a standard bike lane to a street with a cycletrack. The first photo below shows how Rembrandtkde was designed in 2008. The second photo shows the new design in 2014. With overwhelming support from the residents, which likely wouldn’t be the case in the United States, automobile parking was removed so trees could be replanted as dividers between every two parking spaces. With the space where the trees used to be planted, a cycletrack was installed. All of this was done without widening the existing right of way!

Rembrandtkade in September 2008

Rembrandtkade in September 2008

Rembrandtkade in August 2014

Rembrandtkade in August 2014

4) Haagweg is being converted from four lanes down to two lanes so the tram ROW can be widened. Local service roads are being added to the project so bicyclists can have a safe and comfortable through road. Motorists can only use the local service road for local access only.

Haagweg

Haagweg

Da Costa neighborhood traffic calming

5a) The Da Costa neighborhood has a splay diverter because the diagonal street was being used as a shortcut for motorists.The splay diverter was employed to reduce traffic on local users. The approaches from the left and right are both one-way streets pointed towards the device. At the intersection, each street is split so drivers must choose to go right or left. No through movements are allowed, and because the approaches are both one-way in, a driver can’t weasel around the barriers and keep going. Bollards are employed to enable cyclists to cut through.

Splay diverter in the Da Costa neighborhood

Splay diverter in the Da Costa neighborhood

5b) Even though signage is rarely effective for traffic calming (how effective are speed limit signs?), signage has been effective for traffic calming in the Da Costa neighborhood. As the below street view screenshot shows, motorists can’t turn left or right at the intersection so are forced to proceed straight through the intersection. Cyclists are allowed in any direction.

Signage used to create reversing one-way streets

Signage used to create reversing one-way streets

The below map shows the intersection of Bilderdijklaan and Da Costalaan with one-way street arrows pointing at the intersection.

Map of reversing one-way streets

Map of reversing one-way streets

6) We only stopped in the old center of Rijswijk for a minute so I didn’t have time to take any photos. The old center of Rijswijk is a pedestrian mall so most automobiles are prohibited.

7) The Netherlands has been doing amazing things with roads that were designed for automobiles. Huis te Lindelaan, which is a main arterial from the 1960s, now has cycle tracks on it. In addition, as the below photo shows, Huis te Lindelaan had a road diet to create one-lane crossings. I find it interesting how there is automobile parking on the main arterial and the service road because I believe automobile parking should only be on the service road. Main arterials are only for through traffic so motorists should drive onto the service road before parking.

Road diet to create one-lane crossing across Huis te Lindelaan at Doctor Colijnlaan

Road diet to create one-lane crossing across Huis te Lindelaan at Doctor Colijnlaan

8) Rijswijk built a new town center near the new train station

Rijswijk's new town center and rail station

Rijswijk’s new town center and rail station

9) Steenvordelaan, which is an access road to the shopping center, had its speed limit reduced to 30 km/h and transit friendly traffic calming implemented.

Traffic calming along access street to shopping center

Traffic calming along access street to shopping center

10) Sir Winston Churchilllaan road diet at Eisenhowerplein. Sir Winston Churchilllaan used to be a huge road with a horrendously long crosswalk. By reducing traffic to one lane in each direction, and adding pedestrian refuges between each lane and between the road and tram tracks, the distance was broken down into manageable segments. Traffic modeling showed that since this area was primarily governed by the signals on either side of the segment, and not the pedestrian crossing in the middle, that the flow would be relatively unaffected by a reduction in lanes.

Bicycle and pedestrian crossing across Sir Winston Churchilllaan

Bicycle and pedestrian crossing across Sir Winston Churchilllaan

Advisory Bike Lanes

I’ve been getting sicker since last week so it has been challenging to bike and participate in course activities. When I arrived at my apartment after class over the past week I went straight to bed so now I am behind on blogging. My coughing got worse yesterday and a 30+ mile group bike ride was planned for today so I had to miss my first group bike ride. Hopefully I can ride tomorrow in Houten.

Last Wednesday, July 8 we went on our second Delft facility tour with a large group of students from Northeastern University to visit bicycle and pedestrian only underpasses and bridges, standard bike lanes, and advisory bike lanes. As with the first Delft facility tour, details about the facilities can be found in the below map and on the Northeastern University blog.


I’m responsible for writing about one facility and providing a comparison to the United States. Since advisory bike lanes are rare in the United States, I chose to focus on advisory bike lanes. The below photo shows how an advisory bike lane works. As Peter Furth made clear to our class after almost every student misunderstood how the street works, the photo is incorrect in calling the center area a “lane” because the entire street is a shared-use space and has no travel lane. Travel lanes are usually understood to be for one direction and for one column of travel. Streets with advisory bike lanes have shared-use space because motorists are allowed to merge into the advisory bike lane when navigating an oncoming motorist.

Advisory Bike Lane

Advisory Bike Lane

The below photo is an example of two automobiles navigating advisory bike lanes on a rural road near Utrecht, Netherlands that I took during my previous study abroad trip. The use of two advisory bike lanes instead of two travel lanes forces motorists to pay attention (motorists have to navigate oncoming traffic since they don’t have an entire travel lane to themselves), which forces motorists to slow down (motorists aren’t going to speed when they have to navigate oncoming traffic).

Cars passing in advisory bike lanes

Automobiles passing in advisory bike lanes

Even though motorists and cyclists likely don’t think about how much safer they are when motorists slow down, advisory bike lanes increase the likelihood that motorists and cyclists will survive a crash because motorists are forced to go slower than they would be if they had an entire travel lane to themselves. The below infographic explains how people are more likely to live if we build our infrastructure to force motorists to slow down. Since cyclists have the advisory bike lanes to themselves and motorists are required to yield to cyclists when using advisory bike lanes to navigate oncoming traffic, cyclists are not forced to pay attention or slow down.

Driving slower saves lives

Driving slower saves lives

Even when there isn’t oncoming traffic, motorists in the Netherlands try to give cyclists as much space as possible. The below photo, which I took on a rural road near Utrecht, shows a motorist moving into an advisory bike lane so my classmates can feel safer while biking in the other advisory bike lane. In addition, notice how there is no center line and the advisory bike lanes are red. Coloring bike infrastructure in the Netherlands is very important because it guides cyclists to where they need to ride and informs motorists where to expect cyclists. This appears to work better than the “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs in the United States because cyclists are now predictable, which is important for all street users.

Motorist moving into advisory bike lane

Motorist moving into advisory bike lane

As the below photo from Delft shows, advisory bike lanes are just as common on urban streets and can be used by large trucks. While I didn’t see any oncoming traffic try to navigate around the large truck, I assume there is enough space for a car to maneuver around the large truck. Even though the truck driver probably doesn’t enjoy driving on streets with advisory bike lanes, the truck driver is forced to slow down, which saves lives. Since the Netherlands prioritizes safety over speed, everything in the Netherlands is about slowing automobiles and making streets and roads safe for all users.

Large truck using a street with advisory bike lanes

Large truck using a street with advisory bike lanes

Advisory Bike Lanes in the United States

If I am understanding advisory bike lanes correctly, I believe advisory bike lanes can be installed on streets with “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs or sharrows because these streets don’t have enough space for a standard bike lane. Even though Peter Furth’s 2009 report on Bicycle Priority Lanes: A Proposal for Marking Shared Lanes is recommending the use of bicycle priority lanes, the inspiration for bicycle priority lanes is the suggestion lane (AKA advisory bike lane). This means that he supports the use of advisory bike lanes on streets that don’t have enough space for a standard bike lane. While I don’t have the cross section measurements, the below photo shows an example of where I believe advisory bike lanes could be installed in Charlotte, NC.

Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign and Sharrows in Charlotte

Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign and Sharrows in Charlotte (Photo: Matt Magnasco)

The next step in understanding the feasibility of installing advisory bike lanes in the United States is discovering whether the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) allows the traffic control device. According to Peter Koonce’s blog post about advisory bike lanes, the MUTCD requires the use of a center line in the following cases so advisory bike lanes could not be installed where a center line is required..

MUTCD requires center line in these cases

MUTCD requires center line in these cases

Protected Intersection in Delft

During our first facility tour in Delft with a large group of students from Northeastern University, we visited a woonerf, protected intersection, single lane roundabout, bicycle boulevard, and a two way cycle track. A summary of all of these facilities can be found in the below map and on the Northeastern University blog.


I’m going to focus on the protected intersection at Ruys de Beerenbrouckstraat and Princes Beatrixlaan and provide a comparison to the United States. The below photo shows a panorama I took of the protected intersection. Notice the use of the white shark teeth, which are yield markings. Unlike in the United States, it is very rare to find a stop sign in the Netherlands. Stop signs are reserved for crossings where people need to stop.

Protection intersection

Protection intersection at Ruys de Beerenbrouckstraat and Princes Beatrixlaan

Even though it was a tough decision, I decided to focus on the protected intersection because four bike friendly cities in the United States are currently racing to install the first protected intersection in the United States. The article includes two great videos that explain what a protected intersection is. In case you have trouble opening the link, here is one of the videos.

In addition, the protected intersection in the Netherlands includes a wacht signal (wacht is Dutch for “wait”) that is integrated with the bike signal. Since signal time varies, the wacht signal can adjust the signal time to the actual amount of time that remains. This is one reason why the wacht signal doesn’t use a number count down system.

Wacht Signal

Wacht Signal

Even though more cyclists are usually waiting at stop lights in the Netherlands, I wanted to share the below photo to show you how cyclists in the Netherlands often make use of objects so they don’t have to dismount from their bike. Notice how the cyclist is holding onto the pole, which has a device installed to trigger the bike signal, so he doesn’t have to dismount from his bike. Also note the bicycle and pedestrian refuge island, which provides a safe location for cyclists and pedestrians to wait if they don’t make it all the way across the intersection.

Cyclist in Delft waiting at the watch signal

Cyclist in Delft waiting at the watch signal

According to Peter Koonce, who is a transportation engineer in Portland (OR), Portland is the first city in the United States to install a wacht signal. Here is a video that explains how the wacht signal works in Portland. I hope more cities in the United States start using the wacht signal because they help cyclists know how long they actually have to wait for the signal to turn green and should encourage cyclists to stop running red lights. Even though I find it hard to believe since I often see cyclists run red lights in Portland, a study at Portland State University found that 94% of cyclists in Portland wait at red lights. With the installation of wacht signals, more cyclists may be willing to wait at red lights.

How did the Dutch prioritize people over cars?

Even though I could discuss my bike trip yesterday from Delft to Kinderdijk, which has the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands, I thought it would be useful to provide some history first. Most people in the United States think the Dutch have always prioritized people over cars. As this article and the below video show, the Dutch prioritized cars over people during the prosperous post WWII era. Changing ideas about mobility, safer and more livable cities and the environment led the Dutch to prioritize people over cars.

An example of the shift to prioritizing people over cars can be seen in Delft. Since the mid 1990s. Delft has been creating a pedestrian zone that also allows cyclists. Beestenmarkt, which is located in Delft, was a parking lot from 1972 to the mid 1990s. In the mid 1990s, Beestenmarkt was transformed into a car-free square. The adjacent restaurants have divided up the car-free square into seating areas for their customers.

Beestenmarkt in Delft, Netherlands

Beestenmarkt in Delft, Netherlands

Here is a panoramic photo I took while sitting on a bench in the center of Beestenmarkt. The kids are blurry because they were moving quickly while playing soccer. My smartphone was only able to get about half of Beestenmarkt in the panoramic photo before the panoramic ended. I still can’t believe Beestenmarkt used to be a parking lot for automobiles!

Panoramic of Beestenmarkt from sitting on bench in center of Beestenmarkt

Panoramic of Beestenmarkt from sitting on bench in the center of Beestenmarkt

Creating a Pedestrian Zone

This article provides details on how Delft has been creating pedestrian zones. The below photo shows how the Zuidpoort Poller System, which is often used with bollards, is used to create a pedestrian zone. Before Delft started installing the Zuidpoort Poller System in 2001, manually removable bollards were used to create a pedestrian zone. Having to manually remove the bollards created access issues for special access vehicles such as delivery trucks or emergency equipment so Delft started installing the Zuidpoort Poller System in 2001. According to this blog post, the Zuidpoort Poller System allows “locals to use the streets but not regular network traffic. Residents have a garage door opener type radio device and they may pass freely. Other motorists (such as taxis) come up to the intercom come up to a station preceding the bollard and talk to someone to let them through.”

Zuidpoort Poller System and Bollards in Delft, Netherlands

Zuidpoort Poller System in Delft, Netherlands

Could cities in the United States create pedestrian zones? Yes! However, creating successful pedestrian zones can be very challenging, especially in the United States. Making Pedestrian Malls Work: Key Elements of Successful Pedestrian Malls in the US and Europe provides a detailed comparison of pedestrian zones in the United States and Europe. While pedestrian zones have been successful in Europe, most of the pedestrian zones installed in the United States have been removed. Of the approximately 200 pedestrian zones installed in the United States by the end of the 20th century, only about 15 remain in use today. Until the United States starts prioritizing people over cars, pedestrian zones will not be successful in the United States.