by Katherine Saltzman
DDOT’s initial concept plans for a Connecticut Avenue with bike lanes have not included details on how cyclists and bus riders will safely navigate around each other at bus stops. So we looked into how it’s been done elsewhere in the District and in other cities. Here’s what we found:
On streets where protected bike lanes have been introduced on both sides of the road, DDOT has implemented two different types of bus stops. One is a modular bike lane and curb extension that serves as both a continuation of the bike lane and as a passenger boarding area. These are temporary installations made of recycled plastic with modular pieces that can be configured to fit the needs of the street.
The other design, often referred to as a “floating” bus stop, is an elevated island for passenger boarding. The bike lane is routed behind it.
Each of these designs is intended to reduce conflicts between bus riders and cyclists, and to save buses time, as they don’t have to pull over to a curb and then merge back into traffic.
On each side of K Street at 5th Street NW, DDOT has installed modular bike lane and curb extensions.
The green part of the platform is a continuation of the bike lane, and the white stripes indicate that it’s also a pedestrian crossing. Yellow and white stripes along the platform’s street-facing edge provide a visual warning, and tactile markings provide navigation support for individuals with visual impairments.
The combined bicycle track and pedestrian boarding area has also been introduced in Portland, Oregon and other cities. When TriMet, metropolitan Portland’s mass transit agency, announced the opening of new floating bus stops in 2021, it released a video demonstrating how they function.
Floating bus islands have been installed on 14th Street NW between Florida Avenue and Thomas Circle.
To get to the boarding area, bus riders cross the bike lane at the intersection.
Along the back of the island, guardrails prevent users from inadvertently stepping into the cycling lane. Unlike the combined bus stop/bike lane, bus passengers can disembark without immediately encountering the cycle lane.
Other cities, notably those in the Netherlands and the UK, have implemented various forms of floating bus stops. In some places, the islands are practically even with the cycling lane. One example is pictured below.
Design is key
A critic of another London bike lane and bus stop combination, more like the curb extension example above, found it unsafe even for bus passengers and cyclists alike.
Floating bus stops appear to produce fewer conflicts between bus riders and passing cyclists, but there are several design elements to consider for riders with disabilities. That includes the size of the boarding areas. The National Association of City Transportation Officials says they must be at least eight feet wide by five feet long to allow wheelchair users to maneuver.
Bus islands pose additional challenges for the visually impaired. A 2019 Walk San Francisco report, Getting to the Curb: A Guide to Building Protected Bike Lanes That Work for Pedestrians, noted that “[b]lind or low-vision individuals can become disoriented when looking for the transit island or exiting from a bus onto a transit island.” Raising the bike lane to the same level – a helpful feature for people using wheelchairs or walkers – created a new challenge for visually-impaired bus riders in Glasgow, Scotland: Guide dogs trained to pause at the curb were leading their owners directly across the bike lane.
So, the challenge is to design the bus stops to ensure not only that they are ADA compliant, but that they safely accommodate the diverse mobility needs of all users.
Katherine Saltzman received her B.A. from American University and recently completed her Master’s in Urban and Economic Geography from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Prior to starting graduate school, she worked at the Water Environment Federation and has previously written for the Northwest Current, The DC Line, and Forest Hills Connection. Saltzman enjoys writing about local businesses, urban infrastructure, land use, transportation, and environmental issues. She lives in Glover Park and spends her free time tending her garden plot and walking DC.