Bicycle Boulevards

Bicycle Boulevard Initiatives
In recent years, the City of Ithaca has made a concerted effort to improve conditions for bicycle users; new bike lanes have been painted, new multi-use trails have been built, and over 100 new bike racks have been installed.

However, little progress has been made in creating a city-wide network of on-street bicycling facilities suitable for new riders, families, children and others who prefer routes with lower motor vehicle traffic volumes and speeds that conveniently connect to key Ithaca destinations.
Bicycle Boulevard in San Luis Obispo, CA
To provide for these users, the Engineering Office, the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council, and volunteers have been researching the feasibility of creating a "Bicycle Boulevard" network in Ithaca. Cities such as Portland, Oregon; Berkeley, California; Tucson, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minneapolis; and Madison, Wisconsin; have successfully created such networks.

What Bike Boulevards Are
Bike boulevards are not bike lanes; rather, they are low-traffic and/or traffic-calmed routes where bicyclists and motorists share the travel lanes and where bicycle travel is generally prioritized and encouraged over motor vehicle travel. Network designs differ from city to city but they all share similar attributes such as:
  • Traffic calming
  • Signs and pavement markings
  • Convenient routes
  • Prioritize bicycle use
The primary goal of this initiative is to increase the level of bicycle use within the City of Ithaca, particularly in "The Flats" area. Though some people currently do travel via bicycle in Ithaca, bicycles are not utilized to the level they could be. Improving bicycling facilities will encourage existing bicyclists to ride more often and will encourage those hesitant of bicycling to give it a try. To achieve the goal of increasing bicycle use, two factors are addressed:
  • Safety – First and foremost, a reasonably safe bicycling environment is necessary. Bicycle users face two key hazards: Colliding with a fixed object or falling (occur most often, but generally result in little injury), and collisions with motor vehicles (which seldom occur, but can result in severe injury). Even if certain streets pose little risk to inexperienced cyclists or young riders, increasing the perception of safety or further reducing the possibility of negative interactions would be important to increase ridership. To maximize safety (and the perception of safety), routes with lower motor vehicle speeds and volumes have been selected, and, where speeds and/or volumes may be too high, traffic calming measures could be used.
  • Convenience – Bicyclists (like motorists and pedestrians) benefit from easy-to-follow, direct routes that make good connections to popular destinations. Clear and informative way-finding signage will guide bicycle users to and along the bike Boulevard routes, and will connect them to key destinations as well as to other bicycling facilities, such as bike lanes and the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. Convenience will also be improved by formally allowing two-way bicycle travel on a 3-block section along Cascadilla Creek that currently only allows for one-way traffic, and by re-orienting four stop signs to decrease delays for bicyclists.
A secondary, related goal is to install traffic calming devices to reduce the negative impacts of motor vehicles on residents and pedestrians, as well as bicyclists. These traffic calming measures will coordinate with, and increase the effectiveness of, existing traffic calming devices throughout the city. Over the past decade various traffic calming devices have been installed in the city, and numerous citizen requests have been made for traffic calming in additional locations. Traffic calming adds to the overall quality of life in neighborhoods and makes the streets more livable and more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Some public outreach has already been performed, but we welcome additional input – your comments and suggestions matter, please share your thoughts with us.

Update - September 26, 2012
The Bike Boulevard Plan (PDF) was adopted by the Board of Public Works on September 24, 2012. Now the city will begin the effort of securing funding to begin construction of the bike boulevard network. A number of different factors will impact how quickly funding can be secured; public support for the project and the availability of federal funding are key variables. At this point, it's not possible to say how many years it may take before the network is constructed. View a map of the proposed network (PDF).

Learn More About Bicycle Boulevards