Waterloo Iowa Struggles with Traffic Roundabouts

Background Reading


As with Chicago’s small business owners being reluctant to allow BRT :

The agencies estimate that the proposed BRT configuration could cut travel times through the Central Loop corridor by three to nine minutes per trip. The tough part is going to be convincing local merchants and average citizens that removing travel lanes for faster bus service is a smart idea – there has already been resistance to proposed BRT corridors along Ashland and/or Western from business owners.

Roundabouts would replace traffic lights at some intersections on University Avenue under a proposal to restructure the road between Cedar Falls and Waterloo. Photographed Monday, February 18, 2013. (BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer)

Roundabouts would replace traffic lights at some intersections on University Avenue under a proposal to restructure the road between Cedar Falls and Waterloo. Photographed Monday, February 18, 2013. (BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer)

Small business owners are struggling with the implementation of roundabouts on University Avenue. The reason given by one such business person was:

Larry Wyckoff was concerned that additional right of way needed for roundabouts could close down businesses, and making on-street accommodations for bicyclists could be dangerous and put the cities at risk for liability in case of an accident.

Does that not sound familiar? It should. We Illinoisans fought long and hard for the right to be considered “both permitted and intended users” of the roadway and lost in the Boub vs. Wayne Case. So it is interesting to see Iowa struggling with the same issue more than a decade later.

Being Circumspect About Traffic Redesign Is A Good Thing

Like most everything that comes along, there is always an initial blush of enthusiasm and then after the “honeymoon period” things settle into a normal routine of “bitching and moaning” and that my friends is from the supporters of cycling not its opponents. A case is point is the $450,000 installation of a Protected Bike Lane (PBL) along Dearborn Street. But there were hiccups along the way.

The most recent issue was a bridge that crosses the Chicago River at the north end of the Dearborn PBL. This past winter riders were being injured while crossing the metal grating on the bridge because it did not have special plates installed. As of a week or so ago that problem has been rectified. But in the ensuing period after the grand opening of the Dearborn PBL you could read all manner of grousing about the overall condition of this “showcase” bicycle infrastructure. Now that the thing is almost “fixedriders are joking about what to complain over next:

Reply by Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi 16 hours ago
I think it is really finished (except for all of the fixing of pavement and drainage). The plastic bollards are up all the way across the bridge.

Reply by Jenn_5.5 mi 15 hours ago
Now what will I complain about!?!

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi 15 hours ago
There’s always the weather.

Liberals are fairly good at being dubious about things like “pipelines” and “Fracking“. However they often turn off their BS Detectors when confronted with something they have been told is “good for the planet“. Cycling is good for the planet. Having cyclists recognized as partners on the roadway is also great. But the kinds of solutions being presented are either poorly implemented in some cases or are never going to get “real and honest buy-in” from the very urban cyclists for whom all of this infrastructure improvement is being built.

In theory things like PBLs using “Bike Boxes” are great! But all you need to do is ride along the stretch of PBLs beginning with Dearborn followed by Kinzie and then Milwaukee and Elston and here is what you will see: impatient riders who place an ultimate priority on reaching their destination as quickly as possible.

They ignore traffic controls primarily because it “slows them down“. The last thing these kinds of riders want or understand is “traffic calming” where it applies to their movement. So I doubt that if riders are concerned enough about “quickness” they are going to relinquish that priority to a system that builds in a two-stage turn when following a line of cars (or better yet leading them) around a corner would suffice.

Traffic Planners Who Build PBLs Are Not Being Realistic

Everyone in the Chicago Urban Cycling Community gives lip service to PBLs. But using “Bike Boxes” will never be a priority among folks who are concerned about “green waves” on Dearborn Street. Here in Chicago we have run up against the reality that trying to build 100 miles of infrastructure is overly optimistic.

Our implementation of many of the current stretches of bike lanes has been good to shoddy. But in the places where we have been “shoddy” we have been “epic in our failure“. This includes laying striping over crumbling asphalt that even Chicago cops were amazed to see. And from there it has been downhill in stretches of the South and West side where these bike lanes interfere with on-street Sunday parking. And dimwit would know that Church Parking is of paramount importance in African-American neighborhoods. But Liberals are often blinded by their self-righteous take on what is best for everyone and so plunge ahead without really being certain of the investment by the community in their vision.

What is really troublesome is that Chicago has decided to redefine protected bike lanes to fit their budget. That is really no surprise but what is still puzzling is how little attention is being paid to the laying down of buffered protected bike lanes. Clearly the notion of the “Door Zone” is not foremost in the minds of the folks laying down bike lanes adjacent to parked cars.

And when they do implement PBLs as they did on Dearborn Street, the entry and exit from the car by the driver places them in the northbound half of the bike lane. In fact any driver leaving or returning to their vehicle is walking in the bike lane because there is no other option. Of course the ChainLinkers have been going ballistic because pedestrians are walking in “their” lane (can’t you just smell the entitlement?) while swearing at pedestrians in “Zebra Crosswalks” who actually have the right-of-way at all times.

Bicycle infrastructure according to Ron Burke (Active Transportation Alliance) will solve all of our cyclist “scofflaw” behavior problems. But like Gabe Klein (CDOT) he is likely to find at the “end of the day” that there are going to be increasing numbers of cyclists (assuming that Gabe’s grandiose predictions of an increase in cycle commuting ridership of between 300 and 500 percent ever comes true) who are complaining about their lanes being place too close to parked cars and their turns being delayed by what they think of as “stupid bike boxes“.

If our cycling advocates do not get this problem under control there is going to be a great deal of “shucking and jiving” necessary to refute the future complaints of John Kass and others.