No, its not for more cars. The good folks at NACTO-The National Association of City Transportation Officials have come out with a new Transit Street Guide and provided this self explanatory graphic of how many vehicles, transit users, cyclists and walkers can be accommodated in different transportation modes.

I like the fact that NACTO is measuring a two-way “protected” bikeway, and found it fascinating that the difference between accommodating cyclists (7,500 an hour on a two way protected bikeway) is only 1,500 shy of how many pedestrians can be accommodated.

Should we be moving to protected two-way bike lanes throughout the city?





  1. When I return from Europe I feel uncomfortable on our sprawling wide streets. Not that they don’t have some wide streets there too, but there is much more variety and far more intimacy on their streets that we lack. I’m opposed to the constant clawing back of properties in our urban areas to widen our too wide road r.o.w.s even further.
    We have more than enough road allowance for all our transportation needs.

  2. It’s all about context. And NACTO is still a group of transportation engineers who have a vested interest in there being as much ROW width as possible, so I would take their word for it 100%.

  3. I normally never comment when I am guest editor, but I wanted to thank you so much for noticing the discrepancy between NACTO advocating for sharing the road with more modes, and championing wider streets. You are right the change is not about widening, but about narrowing the street, slowing traffic, and enhancing liveabilty. Have to love the Price Tag readers.

  4. No matter what width the streets are, the allocation of that width will fall to politics. Extra width will always be under threat to be allocated to the least efficient use, as long as we refuse to charge for use of space and externalities.

  5. The worry with a central city acting alone in enacting traffic calming measures is having the suburbs continue to operate like it was the 1960s. Today the vast majority of the population in most metropolitan regions lives in a car dependent suburb. Making it harder and more expensive to access the city has the effect of pushing businesses outward to “meet” the people. We’ve seen the results: big box stores, mega mall complexes, business parks. While in theory they reduce commuting distances by moving jobs and shopping out to the suburbs where the people are, in practice they create long distance suburb to suburb trips that require everyone to drive. Sprawl begets more sprawl.

    The enabler of all this inefficient travel is urban highways, many of them built on the theory that they would enable through traffic to bypass urban areas and not mix with local traffic – a failed theory if ever there was one.

    1. It’s easy to see where you are coming from with these comments, David. However, downtown and central Broadway contain the lion’s share of office floor area and employment density, not to mention residential density, in the region. Further, many (but not all ) of the big boxes are adapting to urban conditions and have now appeared downtown and on Cambie x Broadway without quite the massive floor plates and oceans of parking out front. It can be done.

      Sprawl and transport — or their lack or expansion — are purposeful planning initiatives first and foremost. Infill and transit improvements are too, but that is a relatively new mind set in the farthest suburbs.

      1. My comments were about “most” cities in North America.

        There are many positive signs in Metro Vancouver. Not only did we resist highways in the core, nearly 100,000 people have chosen to live on the downtown peninsula rather than flee to the ‘burbs. Our suburbs are also starting to embrace urbanist concepts. Places like Richmond, that for so long built ultra low density and deliberately put schools and other buildings on old rail lines making them impossible to use in the future, are trying to create downtowns and put people on land that was previously used to park cars. They still have a long way to go, of course, but the direction is good.

        On the flip side we have a provincial government that acts like it’s 1965.

  6. I like the fact that NACTO is measuring a two-way “protected” bikeway, and found it fascinating that the difference between accommodating cyclists (7,500 an hour on a two way protected bikeway) is only 1,500 shy of how many pedestrians can be accommodated.

    Sometimes, it is good to be critical, …even from the Nacto.

    Where come from this 7500 bike/hour?

    May be from the Highway Capacity Manual (referencing papers from the 1970’s using number of the 40’s !)….this very theorical number representing the saturation capacity of a one way uninterrupted bike lane (so not the typical urban bike lane), have never been proven empirically.

    Feng Li ( Capacity and level of service for urban bicycle path in China) reported that theoretical and practical capacities of a bicycle lane are about 2000 bicycles/h/ln and 1280 bicycles/h/ln, respectively…

    That is also in line with empirical result presented by Greibe (trafitek. Denmark), using real data count…

    notice the question mark for 3m+ wide lane, but the 4500 bike/hour number than 7500…(at least for a level of service acceptable for cyclists), and that is for an unidrectional path (not biderectional).

    Where come from the 9000 pedestrians.hour
    That certainly comes from he Highway Capacity Manual too, it corresponds to a level of service C, which represents a fairly comfortable level of walking and potentially a design capacity.

    …the saturation capacity of a 3.5m wide sidewalk could be in the 17,000 pedestrians.

    At the difference of the bikes, there is lot of research on that as well as on cars. similarly,the transit capacity presented, is a design capacity for interrupted traffic which can be verified empirically (except for the “on street transitway”….)

    however, I didn’t see NACTO arguing for wider street in their “Transit Street Guide”, this is a good start, but I am concerned, that the NACTO guide recommends such arrrangement:

    It also recommends other bike+bus lanes arrangement (and lane width), which are nowadays typically avoided by the French, and probably other europeans too.

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