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Redesigning Bike Lanes to Accommodate Deliveries & Electrification
Train daddy returns, Cartken talks bots, Lyft sinks
The modest bike lane isn’t feeling so humble these days, as bicycle usage soars across the U.S. and the world. But it isn’t just the ol’ Schwinn that’s getting put through the paces - the last few years have seen a proliferation of form factors: electric bikes, shared scooters & micromobility, cargo bikes, bikes with delivery trailers, and more. In many cities, the paint on the ground signifying “bike here” was already inadequate, but in the face of these new uses the infrastructure’s short comings are even more apparent.
In light of this, NACTO just released a new working paper - “Designing for Small Things With Wheels” - that shows how bike lanes can be better designed to fit our multimodal future. Later this year, NACTO will codify the paper into the third edition of its Urban Bikeway Design Guide, which cities across the country use when designing streets. The paper directly calls out some of the issues it looks to address:
“The broader range of speeds created by the increase in electric and electric-assist devices means that planners and engineers are reconsidering design criteria for bikeway widths to accommodate comfortable riding and passing. Rapid growth in cargo bikes and trikes for deliveries and family transportation means that many devices in a bikeway are wider, longer, and have larger turning radii than typical bikes. E-scooters have smaller wheels than bicycles and handle surfaces, bumps, grates, and gradients differently than devices with larger tires.”
Updates include lane widths, intersection design, road surfaces, and network legibility.
As electrification allows for riders to go faster, and cargo-friendly form factors take up wider berths, NACTO recommends that bike lanes get bigger as well.
The new guidelines recommend up to 12.5 feet to accommodate passing space, or as much as 17 feet for a two-way bikeway. As heavenly as this sounds, I do fear that motorist friendly cities will be loathe to take away that much space from cars. And even cities that succeed will need to be extra vigilant about barriers and enforcement. Given how little respect car drivers already have for the bike lane, when they see a new one that’s as wide as a typical car lane you better believe plenty will try to drive in it…
Any biker that’s ever waited at a busy red light knows how harrowing it can be to huddle up next to idling cars. And as bikes get bigger and more plentiful, the odds of someone crowding the sidewalk or aggravating an angry driver seem to only go up. To solve this, NACTO proposes physically protected queuing areas that better protect riders and allow for two-stage (left) turns. Turning radii also need to be updated, and it’s recommended that parking is removed near driveways to improve visibility.
Surfaces & Gradients
Given the recent bicycle trend of “gravel bikes” - it seems bicyclists can handle the gnarliest of pavement. But that’s far less true for scooter and skateboard riders, where wheels are measured in inches, and there’s no air cushion or big shocks to absorb bumps in the road. For those riders, NACTO recommends a smooth - but not slick - surface. The latter differentiation is of course important for inclement weather riding, meaning that material choice is important.
Cities will also need to be extra thoughtful about the design of grade-changing features like speed bumps, given how difficult those can be on say a bike with a cargo trailer.
The last one is a fun one, as it comes down to how the bike lane network looks to riders, and that means more than just slathering on the green paint. NACTO recommends new stencils, including a very cute symbol of a person on a standup scooter, so that riders of all types feel welcome, and understand where they’re meant to ride as networks get more complex.
All in all the report (PDF) makes some fantastic recommendations that if implemented will meaningfully improve American cities. Of course the devil is in the details - cities will need to properly maintain these networks if they’re meant to truly be safe, welcoming and accommodating. Does your local government have the state capacity to not only stand up to NIMBYs and get the bike lanes on the ground, but then coordinate its agencies to ensure the lane continues to get the love it deserves?
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
What’s the antonym of “lift”? Whatever that word is, it describes Lyft’s stock the past 12 months, with the share price down about 75%. Seemingly responding to market sentiment, co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer (remember Zimride?) announced on Monday that they would be stepping down. On April 17th, David Risher will step up as CEO, following two years on the company’s board, and earlier stints at Microsoft and Amazon. Despite that pedigree, the stock has remained rather flat, as most of Risher’s experience is pre dot-com bubble, and his background in the cutthroat world of mobility looks pretty limited.
PDD interviewee… Over at OttOmate, Cartken CEO Christian Bersch explains the delivery bot company’s approach to regulation, delves into the details of their partnership with Grubhub, and shares the startup’s deep technical background that includes the likes of Google X, Apple Self Driving Group, and Bosch.
Paris gets it! The City of Light looks to snuff out dark stores, as a court ruled that officials could regulate the locations of the mini-warehouses that power instant delivery brands. While the sector isn’t quite as battered in Europe as it is in the U.S., this ruling would have been a lot more consequential a year ago. Parisians may also crack down on “les scooters” - as a referendum on their continued operation goes to voters on Sunday. And just to rub it in our faces, take a look at some of the beautiful car-free “school streets” the city has built out in the past few years.
Berlin might get it too: Germany’s capital rivals NYC for the number of unbuilt, half-built, or destroyed segments in its metro system (although for obviously very different reasons.) While the city has opened a few incremental extensions over the past few years, it’s been too cash-strapped to embark on the major projects seen in some other European metropoles. Now an obscure change to federal cost-benefit calculations could mean a whole lot more projects qualify for Deutsch dinero. Many of the proposed projects have been on the books for a good century or so, but a couple look quite novel, including “U0” - a new circular line that would actually be bigger than the existing S-Bahn ring. This would put Berlin in rarefied air as one of the few cities to have two circle lines. American cities have zero ring lines, but we should of course note that Houston is hard at work on a third belt-highway that will eventually be about 170 miles long. 🌎🔥
Trash on the curb? NYC’s seemingly never-ending saga about “where do we put the trash” takes another spin around the sun, as stakeholders at the Vanderbilt Avenue open street demonstrate that garbage could go in curbside containers. Honestly at this point this is like watching a toddler learn to walk…
Speaking of curb usage… POLIS Network released a new report on dynamic curbside management, highlighting the ways different European cities make use of their precious street and sidewalk real estate. Examples include parklets, bike parking, loading zones, and even trash collection!
More news from Curbivore ‘23: dot.LA takes a look at the lessons learned from “Grading on a Curb: The State of our Streets & Cities in 2023.” And OttOmate explores “Cooking Up Something New: New Tools, New Menus, New Spaces.”
It’s a virtual brand massacre! Uber Eats was one of the companies that helped usher in the virtual restaurant craze, where one kitchen pumps out different cuisines under myriad names and labels. But as cluttered search results degrade the delivery dining experience, the company is now halting restaurants from listing identical menus across multiple listings. It’s instead encouraging restaurateurs to turn to its Certified Virtual Restaurant Program, directing kitchens to work with familiar orgs like Nextbite, VDC, and Acelerate.
Speaking of behavior change… Construction material delivery startup Ruck has some interesting insights into how you can (or can’t) nudge entrenched users onto new technology tools. A good read for any delivery entrepreneur.
So where are all those EVs going? New data breaks out the location, and demographics, of electric vehicle purchasers across California. Given their continued high price points, it’s no surprise that most EV buyers are upper income and live in the state’s wealthier coastal zip codes. The question is how equitable is it to subsidize transportation for the wealthy, as opposed to spending that money to improve public transit that would benefit everyone…
Bentonville biking: Walmart is looking to shift 10% of commuters at its Arkansas HQ onto sustainable modes of transport, a laudable goal given that generally only 1% of local employees get to work by anything that’s not their own car. That said, until the company starts charging for parking, lays down a light rail line (I spy abandoned tracks just blocks from their offices) or does anything besides ask nicely - it’s going to be a pretty uphill battle.
A few more links, and one career tracker: Congrats to Marcel Porras on making the move from LADOT to Metro as the new “Deputy Chief Innovation Officer.” Matt Newberg talks delivery bots with Dmitry Shevelenko. Tipping up. Lithium prices down. QRs bad. Uber Eats is coming after the guy that throws you a $10 cotton candy after you flag him down across the baseball stadium. Good Eggs looking more like bad apples. Miami Beach slow streets in trouble (they’ll probably be underwater soon anyway.) Biden OKs clean trucking rules in California. Americans flock to bleak suburbs. Amazon looks to clamp down on costly reverse logistics. Train daddy or pain zaddy - Andy Byford gives American railroading a second go.
Until next week!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew