PSU Grad Student and KAI Senior Planner Studies Protected Bikeways Around the U.S.

June 07, 2014

As a senior planner for Kittelson & Associations, Inc., Nick Foster, AICP, has worked on a diverse array of transportation projects spanning from Alaska to Florida. Most recently, however, Nick was back in the classroom as a graduate student at Portland State University (PSU).

During his studies, Nick participated in conducting a national study of protected bikeways in Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C. The study assessed the safety, operations, economic impacts, user experience and perceptions of new protected bikeways in those cities.
The report resulting from the study, “Lessons from the Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S.,” details the research effort, in which the team collected and analyzed 168 hours of video, 2,283 surveys of residents living near the lanes, and 1,111 surveys from cyclists intercepted riding on the new facilities.

“They have had protected bike lanes in Europe for a while now, but they are relatively new to the U.S.,” Nick says. “Over the last two or three years, more cities have started building them and the number of cyclists on the road has increased as a result. But there still are concerns about how well people understand them and how well people use them.”

Among those concerns, he adds, is the potential increase in travel time for motorists and loss of parking accessibility to businesses when protected bike lanes are implemented. In order to make room for the bike lane, roadway space is often reallocated by narrowing travel lanes, removing travel lanes altogether or removing on-street parking lanes. “One interesting finding related to that is that even in an area where they actually added 20 more parking spaces along NE Multnomah Street in Portland, people still felt there were fewer parking spaces. So perceptions don’t necessarily reflect reality,” Nick says.

Chris Monsere, Ph.D., co-chair of the Transportation Research Board's Safety Data, Analysis, and Evaluation committee, was the lead researcher. Dr. Monsere is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science.

Co-lead researchers were Kelly Clifton, a fellow of PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions and a professor of civil and environmental engineering; Jennifer Dill, Ph.D., director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium and a professor in PSU’s Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning; and Nathan McNeil, a research associate in the School of Urban Studies and Planning.

Nick says his graduate studies and the protected bikeways project complemented his interest in transportation research, and allowed him to experience planning in a way that expands upon the work he does in KAI’s Boise office.

“It was a good chance to reevaluate how I did some things beforehand and take a fresh look at what other people at other agencies are doing across the country. It gave me a chance to gain a different perspective on what we do,” he says.

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