Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicago lawsuit should be a wakeup call for New Jersey towns

The Chicago Tribune is reporting of a $3.25 million payout to the family of a 4 year old girl who was tragically killed why trying to cross the street with her mother and brother.  The basis of the lawsuit is that the City of Chicago did not properly install the stop sign, maintain the crosswalk and the the "No Parking" zone began closer to the stop sign than the law requires.

In my travels all around New Jersey, I see exactly the same conditions that a Illinois court found lead to this girls death.  I've long worried that non-compliance with design standards and New Jersey parking laws not only creates hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and other motor vehicle drivers, but that they also will leave municipalities open to litigation.  It would seem that my concerns are well founded, at least in some parts of the country and I don't see why such a lawsuit couldn't make traction in the New Jersey court system.  Hopefully, towns will learn of this and make the corrections before we have to find out.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 2014 Challenge - Designing the "Bike Paths for the 21st Century"

The Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives have been touting victory with the transportation bill. Saying that money for frivolous bike paths was reduced in the MAP-21 Transportation reauthorization. Clearly there is a ideology held in by some in Congress that believes that money for transportation is being wasted on circular paths in parks.

So what is a bike path?

In the US there really is no such thing, unless you are thinking about bike exclusive cycle tracks. Paved paths whether on the side of a road or along an exclusive right of way are shared use, in fact depending  on who you ask shared use paths are routinely referred to as jogging paths. In the design process this conflict between bikeway and jogging path sometimes creates a product that neither side is happy with.

So maybe it is time create a new class of bikeway. One that suggests that a bikeway is a transportation facility that prioritizes bicycle travel over other modes. Not every shared use path needs to be a first class bikeway, but routes that are intended to be regional first class bikeways shouldn't be designed like the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

Cycling Superhighways, especially this one in Copenhagen has been getting a lot of media buzz this week. Over the past few years the Netherlands and Denmark have been upgrading bicycle connections between cities and suburbs. These connections are engineered for comfort and minimal delays using a network of off road trails, underpasses, cycletracks and the green wave which a network of green traffic signals timed for bike speed 10-14 mph.

Unlike Europe which has preserved its railroads corridors as railroads the US is full of the grade separated abandoned corridors and converted rail trails Perhaps the best of the best is the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis which is sometimes called a bicycle freeway.

Whatever we want to call these bicycle superhighways is an assignment for someone else, but just like interstates it is important that first class bikeways are built to a standard that is higher than the traditional shared use path.

We put forward some ideas as to how a bicycle highway could function.

Regional Significance: 
  • It should be least 5 miles in length and provide access to major destinations or employment centers
  • Connects with other bicycle and transit facilities
  • High maintenance standards (Snow and debris removal, pavement smoothness standards)
  • Properly signed and numbered (e.g. Bikeway 1) 

Off Road Design Standards:
  • Minimum 12 ft with centerline striping or dashing 
  • In high pedestrian traffic areas at least 10 feet of bikeway along with a parallel pedestrian path 
  • The bikeway is open 24 hours and lit in high use areas 
  • Major roads - Grade separation where feasible, signal protected elsewhere (no yellow flashers) 
  • Minor roads - Intersection design guidelines with roads that have lower volumes and speeds
On Road Design Standards: 
  • Cycle tracks where possible 
  • Green Wave signal timing in urban areas 
  • Green Bike lanes that are buffered whenever feasible
  • Bicycle Boulevard standards for shared roadways

MAP-21 expires in 2014, beginning next year there will be intense debate over bicycling will begin again with opponents will be dragging out their old "frivolous bike paths" argument. Developing the concept of cycling superhighways and selling its merits to the next Congress is a discussion that needs to begin now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Morristown passes its own Complete Streets Policy

Our good friend, Kendra Arnold of Bike and Walk Morristown informed us just a few minutes ago that Morristown has passed its very own comprehensive Complete Streets Policy.

One of the most telling parts of a government entity's commitment to it's Complete Policy is in the Exceptions.  While the policy is otherwise very good, the exceptions are a little vague and could be manipulated to scrap otherwise worthy / needed complete street projects. "d" is particularly concerning as there is no definition of "disproportionate cost." The standard is that bike/ped improvements not exceed 15% of the total project cost.  The vague exceptions of concern are below.
c) Detrimental environmental or social impacts outweigh the need for these accommodations.

d) Cost of accommodations is excessively disproportionate to cost of project.

e) The safety or timing of a project is compromised by the inclusion of Complete Streets.
Putting that aside another mutual friend, Gerald points out that the policy places emphasis on planning for future bicyclists and pedestrians.  A good cool point.  Also the checklists are pretty neat and make it simple for implementers in the future to follow the policy.

Good job Morristown!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Atlantic City's Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Comes on the Heels of a Tragedy

This blog has reported (here and here) on the deplorable walking and biking conditions in Atlantic City. On Monday July 9th this concern rose to the top of the local news when wheelchair bound Daniel Tavarez was killed trying to cross US 30 at Pennsylvania Ave by a hit and run driver.

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This tragedy has put the issue of traffic safety fresh on people's mind, but maybe this time the call for change won't disappear with the next news cycle.

Monday, July 09, 2012

LAB: Finding a Route Forward Under MAP-21

Originally published on the League of American  Bicyclists blog.

Last week (in June), Congress did what many thought impossible – they passed a new transportation authorization bill. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday (July 6). Unfortunately, that achievement came at the cost of a balanced bill that keeps strong dedicated funding for biking and walking projects.

The new bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), weakens and cuts dedicated bicycle and walking programs.

This is certainly going to slow progress towards a bicycle friendly America. Many people are asking “What do we do now?” The answer is in the language of the bill itself and, perhaps, in an advocacy model we’ve been developing over the past several years.

Despite the best efforts of some extreme members of Congress – and thanks to the efforts of our congressional champions (Rush Holt here in New Jersey) – bicycling and walking projects are still eligible for federal transportation funds. This means bicycling and walking projects can be built with some of the largest pots of money, like the Surface Transportation Program (STP) and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), as well as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). This critical point is the key to making the most of the new bill.

But this is not new. Bike/ped projects have been eligible project types in those programs for 20 years. We have long known that creating a transportation network that includes active transportation infrastructure will require more than the 1.5 percent that was set-aside for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School (now combined into “Transportation Alternatives”). That’s why the League and the Alliance for Biking & Walking, with funding from SRAM, created Advocacy Advance.

The Advocacy Advance program holds Action 2020 workshops for advocates and transportation agency staff to share best practices for maximizing funding under the eligible funding programs. We’ve been to Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania and we have upcoming workshops in Missouri, Virginia, and New York. Learn more about the workshops and consider applying to bring an Action 2020 workshop to your community.

We’ve already seen the tactic of fighting for eligible funds paying off.

Bike Delaware recently scored a major win and set an excellent example for advocates in other states. They teamed up with Nemours Health and Prevention Services (a health group), several bike-friendly members of the General Assembly, and Delaware’s bike-friendly Governor, Jack Markel, to pass and fund Walkable Bikeable Delaware an initiative to dedicate state funding to vastly expand the state’s trail network. After securing $5 million in the state budget last year, the Assembly recently passed next year’s budget which included a whopping $13.25 million for walking and bicycling.

This is in and of itself a major win. But the leadership in Delaware has the vision and ambition to use the state dollars as a match for federal funds. They have already used Walkable Bikeable Delaware funds from last year’s budget to secure the first ever Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds for a bike project in state history. Delaware is pointing the way forward for bicycling both in its state-level commitment to funding infrastructure and in its use of federal funds that have bicycling eligibility, like CMAQ.

Read article on the LAB blog HERE>>>

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Driver attempts to kill Bradley Beach Bicyclist in hit & run

News 12 New Jersey is reporting that the driver of a black four door Mercedes tried to kill a bicyclist on Ocean Park Avenue late in the evening of July 4th.  Tom Bowker was riding his bike when he observed the Mercedes driving at excessive speed and yelled at the driver to slow down.  

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The driver then put his vehicle in reverse and struck Bowker.  After striking Bowker the first time, the driver of the Mercedes then put his vehicle into drive and struck Bowker again head-on, as Bowker was trying to get up and get out of the roadway. 

This time Bowker was thrown onto the hood and windshield of the Mercedes and dragged for more than a block and a half.  All the while Bowker and the female passenger in the Mercedes were yelling at the driver, "Stop!  Your going to kill him!"  Bowker said that while he was hanging onto the car the driver was smiling, seeming to enjoy horror he was inflicting on Bowker.

Bowker was lucky and escaped the assault with relatively minor injuries in the form of cuts and bruises on his feet and legs.

If anyone has any information regarding this incident that are encouraged to contact Bradley Beach Police at 732-775-6900

The suspect is described as a:
  • White male
  • In his late 20s
  • Thin build 
  • Thin beard with short dark jelled hair

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Little Delaware to spend $13.25 Million on Walking & Biking

The following comes to use from our friends at Bike Delaware.  Delaware ups the ante in the bike/ped arms race in the Bicycle Friendly States rankings.  Can New Jersey keep up to little bitty Delaware?

VICTORY FOR CYCLING: Delaware General Assembly Votes $13.25 Million for Walking and Bicycling

Senator Robert Venables (left), Governor Jack Markell (center) and Representative Helene Keeley (right)
Both the Delaware House and Senate voted unanimously last night to approve a capital budget for the state of Delaware, including an unprecedented $13.25 million for walking and bicycling, a 90% increase over last year’s state commitment to walking and bicycling.
Ironically, the unanimous vote in the Delaware Senate at around 8PM came just a little more than 24 hours after the United States Congress voted to eliminate the main federal programs for walking and bicycling.  As there was not enough time to amend the bill, Delaware’s capital budget also still includes authorization for a state contribution (a much smaller sum of $388,000) to the Transportation Enhancements program, even though that program now no longer exists.
Governor Jack Markell, Senator Robert Venables (D-Laurel) and Representative Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington) all played key leadership roles in this victory for walking and bicycling.  Senator Venables was recognized last year as the 2011 Bike Friendly Elected Official for his leadership.
“Our Governor, his Cabinet, and both sessions of the 146th General Assembly have made historic progress for Delaware in improving the built environment of Delaware,” said John Hollis of Sussex Outdoors and Nemours Health and Prevention Services.  ”These nationally recognized improvements will give all Delawareans opportunities for a healthier lifestyle through walkability and bikeability.”
Calling last night’s vote an “historic accomplishment”, Bike Delaware Vice President Bill Osborne said it “would not have been possible without the confluence of several independent forces. First and foremost is the vision and leadership in both the Executive and Legislative branches of Delaware. Add to that the passion and commitment of the consumers/constituents who evidenced their support. Plus we had the essential benefit of an improved economic forecast that made this a decision of inclusion rather than substitution.”
The $13.25 million total commitment by the state is made of up two separate line items, $10.25 million in the Delaware of Transportation and $3 million in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.  Both Departments are cooperating to create an interconnected network of shared-use trails and pathways that will support non-motorized travel and recreation opportunities for Delawareans and visitors.
The Delaware General Assembly approved $10.25 million for DelDOT to make “Bike and Pedestrian Improvements”