BikeAthens News

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Bike Improvements: Current and Arriving NASAWL*

*Not as soon as we’d like

In addition to the cool improvements to Lumpkin, here are updates about a few other local projects:

Riverbend Parkway goes GREEN

When ACC went to re-pave Riverbend Pkwy, they realized the lanes were veeeeery wide—almost 22 feet!  With all that space, when they re-paved the street, they marked-in Athens first buffered bike lane.  The buffered bike lane adds more space and clarity to street. At the intersection, ACC again used GREEN paint to highlight a potential conflict area. As you can see, the green lane directs bikes to avoid the right turn only lane.  This makes people on bikes more visible and should reduce the chance of a “right hook.”

Now everyone has some more elbow room

Now everyone has more elbow room

Green1

Green “Paint” highlights the bike lane

The green lane highlights how to avoid "right hooks"

The green lane highlights how to avoid “right hooks”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Baxter

Back in October, we wrote about the Baxter Re-Paving At the time, the permanent lane makings and not applied. Now that new stripes are baked into the street (almost literally!), its time for an update—

First, you may have noticed there are now “sharrows” in the center of the lane between Milledge and Rocksprings. ACC Transportation and Public Works placed them at our request. We asked for sharrows because the lane dimensions never allowed enough space for a 4-foot bike lane.  The lane widths for most of the block are tightly constrained to their minimums.  As we noted in October, the 3 feet of extra space on Baxter is a rideable shoulder.  It is not a bike lane and we did not want it marked as such. If you are riding, you can use the shoulder if you want. But given its narrow width, you may also ride in the travel lane to make yourself more visible, provide space to avoid objects in the street, and discourage un-safe passing.  The “sharrows” also alert drivers that people on bike may be in the travel lane.  Would we like a wide, protected bike lane on Baxter? Of course, but for this re-paving project, the only real option involved new lane configurations through different pavement markings.  It’s not ideal, but the “sharrow” clarifies of a tough situation.

The sharrow clarifies that that this is NOT a bike lane.

The sharrow clarifies that that this is NOT a bike lane.

Further down the hill, as Baxter snakes toward Alps (or vice versa), the source of stress is the stormwater drains, which encroach into the bike lane.  While ACC did not have the opportunity to correct this during the limited re-paving project, ACC Transportation and Public Works did respond to our concerns with new reflective markings that highlight the storm drains.  Again, not an ideal situation—but the ultimate solution was not available during the limited repaving opportunity.

College Station Update

Construction on the long-anticipated College Station bike lanes is scheduled to begin shortly, with ACC Transportation & Public Works expecting construction to be completed by fall! Yay!  The bike lanes will get riders to the College Station bridge, which is currently under construction–the GDOT website says its 53% complete.

We’ve received a lot of concerned comments about the bridge work.  If you have ridden or driven over the bridge, you’ve noticed half the bridge is complete and the lanes are open. However, the completed section does not have marked bike lanes (the total project is only 53% percent done).  We are looking into it, and GDOT has told us that finished bridge WILL have bike lanes.  The project should be finished this October, and we’ve been told it will have bike lanes by then. Of course, knowing the bike lanes will be added in October does not make the crossing less stressful for all the people who use College Station as their daily commuting corridor. Still, this is all the information we have at the moment. UPDATE: We’ve heard back and that seems as specific as GDOT can get.  So bike lanes will arrive sometime before October 31, weather permitting.

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MLK Day of Service–Thank You to All who Volunteered!

UPDATE: Thank you to all the volunteers who helped us clean the warehouse!  See read more about the event and pictures here!

Monday, January 18th–BRP Warehouse

As the t-shirts say, it’s not a day off, it’s a day-on.  And this MLK Day–Monday January 18th–the Bike Recycling Program needs your help recycling bikes and preparing our warehouse for a new year of providing free transportation options to fellow Athenians.

Like past years, a bulk of the work involves separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak, to determine which bikes stay in the warehouse and which bikes will go to the CHaRM Center. We will working from 10:00am to 1:00pm to strip unsalvageable bikes, sort quality parts, and reallocate storage space.  This event is kid friendly, as long as they are accompanied by parent or guardian.  Please wear closed-toed shoes and clothes that can (and will) get dirty.  We will provide water, some snacks, and all the tools you’ll need.

Thank you!!!

Current Sign-up Sheets

No sheets currently available at this time.

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Bicycles May Use Full Lane

When people are riding their bikes, seeing a Share the Road sign is a powerful affirmation of their rights as operators of legal vehicles. When people drive, Share the Road can be a gentle reminder to always be courteous to people on bikes and to give 3-feet passing distance.  However, rigorous examination of the sign’s effectiveness reveals a schism between how “cyclists” and “drivers” receive Share the Road’s message. The difference between the groups’ interpretations increases confusion and conflict. It leads us to conclude Athens-Clarke County should no longer use Share the Road signs on approved bicycle routes.  In its place, ACC should install the clear, informative, and unambiguous Bicycles May Use Full Lane.

R4-11

This argument has 3 points: 1) due to Share the Road’s unclear presentation, different user-groups have starkly different interpretations of its message 2) the Share the Road sign does not provide any relevant, actionable information, and 3) scientific research, engineering expertise, and bicycling education curricula all support the conclusion Bicycles May Use Full Lane more clearly announces the rights and responsibilities of people on bikes and in cars.

First: Share the Road has an ambiguous target group—who should share?  While this seems like a rhetorical question—the sign reminds drivers to be polite and give people on bike a wide-berth, right? Actually, many people behind the wheel see the opposite: they believe the sign is aimed at bicyclists, and they think the sign instructs people on bikes to quickly move to the right-most edge of the street.  This ambiguity about the sign’s intended audience (cars or bikes); this confusion about who should share (bikes or cars), led Bike Delaware to mount a successful campaign to remove the sign from all state roads. In 2013, DelDOT agreed to suspend installation of Share the Road signs, and replace Share the Road with Bicycles May Use Full Lane when maintenance requires.

 

Lumpkin, headed south towards Baxter

Lumpkin, headed south towards Baxter

Intersection of Westlake and Lumpkin

Westlake & Lumpkin

Milledge, just not of Southview Dr.

Milledge & Southview Dr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondly, the Share the Road sign also does not provide any information about legal rights and responsibilities.  Nor does the sign give any instruction about how cyclists and drivers should behave.  When developing the Bicycles May Use Full Lane, one technical advisory group stated: “The current signs [Share the Road and the bicycle silhouette] provided in the MUTCD cannot properly instruct road users in safe overtaking. […] This sign assembly does not convey a clear message, as different users have different understandings of what sharing of the road means” (Page 2).

Georgia state law certainly goes beyond simply encouraging people to share the road, it describes very specific behaviors. Under Georgia state law, when riding a bike you may ride in the center of the lane [§40-6-294]—indeed two people may even ride side-by-side [§40-6-294].  (Note the careful use of may versus must.) When passing someone on a bike, the driver must give 3-feet safe passage [§40-6-56].  These sections of code delineate specific actions; they prescribe behavior above-and-beyond the aspirational call to “share.”  Share the Road does not highlight the 3-foot safe passage statute.  It does not tell people where to position their bikes. State law is not reflected in the text.  State law is not reinforced by the signs’ graphics.  Anecdotally, at BikeAthens we often hear complaints from drivers about legal bicyclist conduct—complaints of “bikers using the left turn to turn left, or grumbles about people riding in the center of a narrow lane.  These are perfectly legal maneuvers that are being obscured by the overly-simplistic, “share the road.”

Third, ACC should install Bicycles May Use Full Lane on adopted bike routes that still lack bike lanes because the sign clearly and unambiguously describes safe, legal riding behavior.

On streets with narrow lanes, Westlake Rd (ACC Bike Route 6) for example, there is not enough space for a car and bike to operate side-by-side, with the legally required 3 feet separation.  To discourage drivers from attempting to squeeze past, bike-safety classes, ours included, teach students to ride in the center of the lane—use the full lane—to discourage dangerous passing.  (Note: Drivers may cross a double yellow line to pass a bike, if safe to do so. [§40-6-46 (c)]).  Bicycles May Use Full Lane thus summarizes an important lesson in safe-riding: on narrow roads the safest position may be the center of the lane. The technical guidelines found in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) similarly note, “The Bicycles May Use Full Lane (R4-11) sign (see Figure 9B-2) may be used on roadways where no bicycle lanes or adjacent shoulders usable by bicyclists are present and where travel lanes are too narrow for bicyclists and motor vehicles to operate side by side.The Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign may be used in locations where it is important to inform road users that bicyclists might occupy the travel lane.”  Truly, the Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign does more than merely reflect state law—it clarifies, informs, and educates everyone who drives or rides past.

Supporting this conclusion, the latest peer-reviewed research found Bicycles May Use Full Lane increased both knowledge of safety & the rules of the road among novice cyclists and car commuters (Share the Road signage did not).  The study surveyed 2,000 people, and the authors concluded: “‘Bicycles May Use Full Lane’ signage showed notable increases in comprehension among novice bicyclists and private motor vehicle commuters […].”  The study’s authors suggest,” departments of transportation consider replacing “Share the Road” signage with “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs, possibly in combination with shared lane markings, particularly in places where lawfully passing within the same lane is not possible.”

Bicycles May Use Full Lane’s clear, unambiguous message is more appropriate for Athens official bicycle routes.

***

Talking with ACC, we have heard they do not like to put up signage “that merely reflects state law.”  We agree that so-called sign pollution can lead to people ignoring signage.  However, in this situation, the current signage miscommunicates and muddles state law. in contrast, Bicycles May Use Full Lane goes beyond reflection to clarify people’s rights and responsibilities. It suggests where people should position their bikes. It reminds drivers that bikes are vehicles. Bicycles May Use Full Lane makes the streets safer.

We have also heard that some in ACC believe Bicycles May Use Full Lane would confuse visitors from outside the county, and ACC should wait until the signage is adopted state-wide. Respectfully, we do not see how the clear wording of Bicycles May Use Full Lane would cause confusion. To the contrary, since many visitors from out-of-county may not be used to driving in a bike-friendly community, the concise, informative Full Lane signage would increase driver understanding.

Upgrading to Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs is small, easily achievable method for improving safety for all users. This is not the final step, but installing Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs will make Athens streets safer. And that is the ultimate goal: safe, complete streets for all of us.

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Baxter Bike Lanes: Good News / “Bad” News

All of us who drive, ride, walk, and bus on Baxter St. have noticed the brand new pavement ACC recently laid down.  While we always appreciate a newly paved road—riding freshly paved blacktop is one of life’s greatest pleasures—it’s also a bittersweet reminder of the long, strange history of Baxter bike lanes.  Here’s a run down of the good news / bad news on the Baxter bike lanes.

Again, the good news—Baxter was repaved!  And its super smooth!  But for the moment, that smooth ride comes with a caveat—the temporary painted lanes are not the typical 4-Foot Width. (Click to enlarge)

They measure 3'4" outside of Chonell's

They measure 3’4″ outside of Chonell’s

Why does this matter?  According the American Association of State Highway Traffic Officials (AASHTO), 4-feet is the current minimum width for an official bike lane (p. 22).  This recommendation is unchanged from 1999; and actually, for streets with curb and gutter, the recommended width is 5- to 7-feet.  In 1999, after Baxter was to converted to its current configuration, ACC reported that since they did not provide the 4-feet needed for bike lanes, they would call the edge of the road a “shared bicycle area,” and they marked it with dashed lines, as seen on Hawthorne. For the moment, Baxter has been repaved with the “shared bicycle area” dimensions. However!!! There is good news: these markings are only temporary!!! According to ACC Transportation & Public Works, they will be widened to 4-feet when the lanes markings are made permanent (ABH story may be behind paywall).

Further up the hill, between Milledge and Rocksprings, there is not enough pavement to create 4-foot bike lanes, which means those will have to remain as unmarked bike-able shoulders.

3 Feet, like between Milledge & Rocksprings is the absolute minimum operating space

3-ft, like between Milledge & Rocksprings is the absolute minimum operating space

We appreciate this space and will use it when it is clear of debris, but it is not a bike lane.  (We will address appropriate signage for this block in a follow-up post.)

Unfortunately, there is still a safety issue on Baxter that cannot be easily solved by lane markings.  Over the years, and multiple repavings, the “mouths” of the stormwater drains have opened to where they now extend half-way into the bike lane, drastically reducing the bike lanes’ useable area.  A close looks illustrates the problem.

It is a tight squeeze that leads to people on bike either swerving in and out of the bike lane, or more likely, avoiding the bike lane altogether

The encroaching slope leaves only 16 inches of safe space to ride.  At night, especially, this creates a real, serious hazard to people on bike.  For that reason, ACC will use reflective marking to alert riders and drivers to the hazard. We raised these concerns with Commissioners back in May when ACC released the list of roads to be repaved, but we admit this may be a problem that cannot be easily solved upon repaving (or perhaps our concerns were lost in the shuffle).

Either way, this demonstrates the need for:

  1. A Complete Streets Policy that applies to all projects!  Repavings are the perfect opportunity to collect public input on the state of street, and a public forum would flag safety issues like gaping stormwater drains and start the discussion of potential solutions.  It is always better (and often less expensive) to address these issues before repaving, rather than after.
  2. The skinny bike lanes on Baxter evidence a need for a Complete Streets Implementation Committee to ensure the needs of all users are being addressed on these critical street improvement projects before the projects occur. It is ACC Transportation & Public Works job to keep our streets repaved and long-term projects on schedule.  There should be a Complete Streets Implementation Committee to proactively identify projects that ACC can adapt to improve the streets, not use for cars, but for all of us who bike, walk bus, and—yes—drive in Athens.
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Athens Resident Swaps Car for More Sustainable Transportation

by Ally Hellenga

Athens, Ga. — At a time when money was tight and gas prices were steep, one woman made a vow never to be dependent upon a car again.

Lauren Blais had made $60 in tips waitressing—a really good amount for a Monday night, if you ask her. After a long shift at work she climbed in her car only to find the bright orange gas dial pointing toward empty.

“Every penny I made that night went into that gas tank,” Blais said. “I started to cry. I felt like I hadn’t worked at all. All the money had gone into getting me to and from my part-time job.”

Having been commuting from her house in Jefferson to Gainesville, Winder and Athens for five years, Blais was ready for a change. In 2011, she moved to Athens where she held true to her vow to break free from her gas-guzzling mode of transportation.

Despite not having stepped foot on a bicycle since she was a kid, Blais made contact with BikeAthens and attended their Bike Recycling Program’s used bike sale where she bought her 1980s cruiser-road bike, which she named Bluebelle-a-RoTo, or Bluebelle for short.

“I feel like I am a BikeAthens success story,” Blais said. “I came from suburbia and could hardly ride a bike, but because of BikeAthens I have become a regular commuter who understands her rights and responsibilities on the road.”

As a result, Blais’s days are much different. Every morning, Blais checks the weather and uses her “personal formula” to determine how best to dress for the ride and the rest of the workday. Her rule of thumb is to wear one less layer than she would normally wear if she were not riding her bike to work. Then, she straps on her helmet, tugs on her $4 orange construction vest from Harbor Freight and flicks on her bike lights. Toting some of her belongings on her back, Blais puts the remaining items into a wooden, recycled cilantro crate she attached to the back of Bluebelle, and cruises 2.6 miles up Milledge and over Lumpkin Street into work on her bike. “If I am feeling lazy, I’ll take the longer route further up Milledge that doesn’t have as many hills,” Blais said.

Once in the office, Blais removes as many layers of clothing as possible. In the warmer months she borrows her co-worker’s fan for five or ten minutes to cool off. For Blais, one perk of biking to work is that she always gets a front row parking space. An even better benefit, she says, is that she comes to the office fully awake, energized and ready to take on the day.

Though biking is Blais’ primary form of transportation, she also uses the bus system, walks or asks a friend for a ride. “Biking doesn’t have to be an all or nothing commitment,” Blais said. “Like a growing number of millennials, I consider myself multimodal.”

What started as a transportation activity to save some money, has quickly turned into a hobby, passion and new lifestyle choice for Blais. Biking has also brought Blais closer to the Athens community. “While I’m out on my bike, I frequently see folks I know, and it’s easy to pull over and have a brief chat, or bike with someone for a minute.” Encounters such as this, make Blais feel even more connected with Athens.

When she’s not biking, Blais enjoys walking around Athens and exploring neighborhoods. She also takes aerial dance classes at Canopy. “I’ve become more physically active as I’ve gotten older, and biking is just one of the ways this new lifestyle manifests itself,” Blais said.

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Ride That Owns Itself II

Back for a 2nd year, the Ride that Owns Itself II, will once again wind its way through the most beautiful roads in all of Georgia. This year, we have 3 fully supported routes–26.2; 42 and 66 miles–that tour the bucolic countryside north of Athens.  This year’s ride and after-party is sponsored by Ted’s Most Best, where your ride registration ($30 / $40 day of)  includes a pizza/calzone and beer (or non-alcoholic beverage).  What a deal!

All the ride profits will go to support our Bike Recycling Program’sHoliday Bikes 4 Kids Drive.”

Ride registration includes the fully supported ride, dinner / drink, and a BikeAthens Membership.

Here at BikeAthens, we love cycling for the way it builds community.  Like last year, we are doing something different with our ride.  Rather than having a group start, we are aiming for a group finish. Our check-in / registration table will be open from 8:00am-12:00PM; you and your group may hit the road whenever you’d like, with the goal that we’ll all finish around the same time, about 2:00PM.

Suggested start times: 9:00AM for the 66 miler.  10:00AM for the 42miler. 11:00am for the 26.2 

REGISTER NOW!

This is how we roll

Even though it rained hard last year, this group was all smiles!
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The Fall Classic Group Ride

UPDATE: Due to the cool, wet weather, we are canceling tonight’s group ride.  The streets are too slick and the weather too uncomfortable.  We’ll see y’all next month!!

The weather is cooling, the Dawgs are winning, the trees are turning–it must be getting close to fall–the perfect time of year to ride! As always, the last Friday of the month–Sept. 25th–BikeAthens will be leading a short, easy, casual, and sociable ride around downtown Athens.  We will start at 6:00PM at City Hall (the College Avenue side).

These rides are a perfect opportunity to bike Athens with the safety of a large group of fun people.  Plus, Joe Kmiec, has planned another great route on some of our favorite scenic streets.  Look forward to seeing you on the 25th!  Oh, and bring water and bike lights!  If you need bike lights–send us a note, and we’ll bring some for you!!

Group Ride 9.25.2015

A variation of one of our favorite routes

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A Complete Streets Open Letter

In advance of the Mayor and Commission Regular Meeting on Sept. 1, at which they will vote on the repaving of Chase Street between Rowe and Newton Bridge, we signed-on to the following open letter:

“Dear Mayor Denson and Commissioners:

The undersigned request that you suspend plans to resurface Chase Street until a more comprehensive approach to Athens-Clarke County’s Complete Streets Policy can be developed.

While ACC has a Complete Streets policy, we also have other policies that work to limit the types of improvements being considered in this instance. Other initiatives, such as safe Routes to School, seem to carry little weight in infrastructure improvements as currently planned.

We understand that Chase Street, which bisects the Boulevard neighborhood and is an important connector for the city, is in need of resurfacing. We are frustrated that current policy does not require, much less encourage, ACC to use this resurfacing project as an opportunity to implement a wider array of changes to make the roadway safer and more comfortable for all users.

Small-scale improvements, such as signage, signal timing, and crosswalk upgrades, not to mention accommodating bicycle traffic — all of which could have a dramatic improvement in the safety at intersections and along the entire corridor — are not being considered under current plans, even though they embody the purpose and intent of our Complete Streets policy.

In order to provide a safer roadway for all users, we ask that you suspend repaving Chase Street until we have developed comprehensive Complete Streets ordinances that capitalize on every opportunity to make our streets safer and accessible to everyone.

Sincerely,

Athens for Everyone

BikeAthens

Chase Street School Council

Complete Streets Athens

Historic Boulevard Neighborhood Association

Historic Cobbham Foundation”

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How to Strengthen the Athens Complete Streets Policy

1. Apply Complete Streets to all projects.  Despite well-stated goals, the Athens Complete Streets Policy only applies in limited situations—all new construction and reconstruction projects of local roadways, excluding resurfacing activities. This narrow scope restricts Complete Streets to expensive, infrequent projects.  It also prevents Athens-Clarke County from implementing impactful (and inexpensive) small-scale enhancements, such as increased signage and improved signal timing, that can improve crosswalks, intersections, or entire corridors.  Expanding the scope of the Complete Streets Policy to all projects gives ACC staff the flexibility to meet community goals without expanding the budget.*  As the Mayor and Commission are fond of saying, a Complete Street Policy that applies to all projects gets the most bang for the buck.

We are already seeing the Complete Streets Policy’s limitations have a negative impact on our transportation system.  The remainder of Chase Street is scheduled for repaving in the spring; with the section between Broad and Prince already complete .  The repaving will literally turn Chase St. into a blank slate, which we could reconfigure to reflect community preferences.  However, since the Complete Street Policy specifically excludes “resurfacing activities” staff cannot look at changes on most of Chase.  According to the policy, they cannot examine the potential of new striping, new crosswalks, or even new street signs.  Even though Chase is on the bike master plan, even though it is home to Chase St Elementary School, ACC staff cannot use Complete Streets to introduce positive change.

Another policy, the so-called “Road Diet” policy*, does allow consideration of improvements on one small section of Chase, but ACC can only look at the impact on motor vehicles.  Under this policy, staff cannot consider the health, safety, and welfare of other users.  Bike lanes may be included on that small segment of Chase, but this is not a bike improvement project. BikeAthens supports all bike lanes, especially on the Chase segment frequently used by mountain bikers.  Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the way disjointed policies result in disjointed, unconnected infrastructure.

If the Complete Streets Policy applied to resurfacing, staff could look at the entire corridor.  They could balance the needs of all people using the street to ensure Chase safely, efficiently serves all Athenians.  Now, we have talked at length about Chase, these issues apply equally across Clarke County.  New road construction and reconstructions are rare—repavings and other projects are not.  They often provide the best opportunity to quickly and cost-effectively bestow corridor-wide benefits.  For these reasons, the Mayor and Commission should revise the Complete Streets Policy and apply it to all projects.

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*A Strengthened Complete Streets Policy supports 6 of the 8 ACC FY16 Goals and Objectives.

**Road Diet is a misnomer.  Projects that more efficiently use public-right of way do not take anything away from motor vehicles, and most often increase the streets capacity to move people.  As bike lanes are vehicle lanes, these projects can also add lanes to the right of way.

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2. Adopt Performance Measures.  Once the Complete Streets Policy applies to all projects, how do we ensure our aspirations become reality? One of the best things Athens can do is adopt Complete Streets performance measures and integrate them into the Annual Budget.  Performance measures give the community, and the Unified Government, benchmarks to evaluate progress, select projects, and review past successes.

There’s an old saying, “What gets counted, gets done.” Other communities with strong complete street policies—communities that often show up in the same best-of rankings as Athens—have adopted Complete Streets performance measures.  Performance measures can be simple and adjusted to suit Athens unique needs.  BikeAthens Policy Committee is reviewing potential Performance Measures, but this list is a good starting point for discussion:

  • Total miles of new, retrofitted, or rehabilitated bike lanes, bike routes, and shared use pathways
  • Bicycle, Pedestrian, and transit Level of Service
  • Total miles of pedestrian accommodation added
  • Percentage of transit stops accessible via sidewalks and bicycle facilities
  • Crosswalk and intersection improvements
  • number of new curb ramps and ADA accommodations
  • Rate of children walking or bicycling to school

Once we have the general measures, we can select the amount of each we want to accomplish during the fiscal year. TP & W staff tracks completed projects—but officially adopting Complete Streets performance measures allows all of us to more fully participate in the visioning of the future of our transportation system. How many crosswalk improvements do we want? How many new, retrofitted, or rehabbed bike lanes? Should we set more ambitious yearly targets? What should we prioritize? We cannot answer these questions until the Mayor and Commission officially adopt performance measures.

Transportation & Public Works already includes performance measures in the budgetary process.  But at the moment, the measures included in the budget only refer to motor vehicle improvements:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T & PW staff are certainly working to improve the transportation system for people who walk, bike and bus, but without performance measures it is difficult to know the type of projects they are pursuing and how many they plan to accomplish in a financial year.

In addition to providing a roadmap for future improvements, performance measures also create a stronger tie between the budget and ACC’s adopted budgetary goals and objectives.  While the T & PW section of the FY ’16 budget already allocates money to replace out-dated street signing, it is unclear that allocation includes bicycle signing. The T & PW budget includes money for new-striping, but it is unclear if that includes an allocation of bike lanes and “sharrows,” where appropriate.  Integrating performance measures into the Complete Streets Policy and budget ensures these critical projects are not afterthoughts that can be implemented only with budget leftovers.

Ultimately, the current Complete Street Policy is too narrowly drafted.  Its limited scope limits the opportunities to improve Athens streets. For Athens to meet its goal of providing “infrastructure that is supportive of sustainable growth, is environmentally sound, and is fiscally sound,” it must give staff more flexibility to undertake multi-modal improvement projects.  The Mayor and Commission should strengthen the Complete Streets Policy by 1) ensuring it applies to all projects and 2) adopting Complete Streets Performance measures.

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To further the discussion, we are reprinting comments made in favor of Complete Streets at Tuesday’s Mayor and Commission meeting.

From Clint McCrory:

Athens’ Complete Streets policy needs to be revised and strengthened. In practice it is limited in scope, and it includes exceptions that undermine its effectiveness.

I was surprised to learn recently that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Complete Streets policy is stronger and much more comprehensive than ours!

The DOT Design Policy Manual states: “It is the policy of the Georgia Department of Transportation to routinely incorporate bicycle, pedestrian, and transit accommodations into transportation infrastructure projects as a means for improving mobility, access, and safety for the traveling public.”

Athens’ general Complete Streets policy echoes this goal. Unfortunately, the restrictions this Commission has placed on implementation of our policy have resulted in a piecemeal approach to transportation planning.

For example, our Complete Streets policy applies only to new construction or road widening projects, and not to resurfacing projects.

In contrast, the Georgia DOT manual states: “While it is not the intent of maintenance or resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation projects to expand existing facilities, opportunities to provide or enhance safety for pedestrians and bicyclists should be considered during the programming phase of these projects.”

Considering re-striping when a road is resurfaced should be an important tool to create a diverse, integrated transportation network.

But when a road is resurfaced, the only design modification that is considered under Athens-Clarke County policy is 4- to 3-lane conversion. And the warrants for 4- to 3-lane conversion refer to automobile traffic (vehicular usage and crash rates); bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users are not part of the picture.

Athens should be a model city for implementation of the Georgia DOT Complete Streets policy. Let’s get to work on that!”

From Aaron Redman:

“Dear Mayor and Commission,

My name is Aaron Redman and I am a resident of 1055 Baxter St. in Commission District 10.  I first just want to say thanks to Commissioner Hamby as he has been very receptive to my inquiries and concerns involving transportation in general and complete streets issues in particular.  That is what I would like to speak in regards to tonight.  While I am pleased that a Complete Streets policy was adopted in 2012, there are several issues within the policy that hinder it from achieving its stated mission of promoting safe and convenient access and travel for all users.  

First, the current Complete Streets Policy only applies to new road construction and reconstruction, but not repaving.  Many more streets would be improved with bike lanes and pedestrian accommodations if ACC would apply CS to repaving rather than only when a road is totally dismantled to bare soil and rebuilt. Other cities in the region who also have adopted similar CS policies, such as Chattanooga, TN include complete streets during repaving as it represents a great opportunity to improve transportation options for all users at minimal cost.

Furthermore, performance measures need to be added to the policy so that staff have tangible goals to work towards regarding CS.  For example, Chattanooga details the following:

  • Total miles of bike lanes, bike routes, and shared use pathways
  • Total miles of pedestrian accommodation added
  • Percentage of transit stops accessible via sidewalks and bicycle facilities
  • Rate of children walking or bicycling to school

The ACC CS policy contains no such benchmarks and without them, how can you gauge the success of CS, or even tell if the policy is effective in the first place?  

In closing, applying CS to repaving and adding performance measures would go a long way to the goal of ensuring the safety and convenience of all users of the ACC transportation system.

Thanks,

Aaron”

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A Complete Streets Open Letter

ACC Public Forum with Implications for Bike Safety and Complete Streets

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who cam to the Public Forum!!  Public Input is open here for 10 days–until August 3rd!

On Wednesday, July 22, ACC is accepting comments on proposed changes to three streets in Athens (Chase Street, East Hancock, Riverbend Parkway), adding bike lanes in two cases (see below for details). While some small positive outcomes may result from these changes, they are not designed in a way that provides meaningful improvements to bike and pedestrian safety/accessibility in Athens. As citizens concerned with the lack of a coherent approach to implementing ACC’s Complete Streets policy, we urge you to attend this forum and ask questions about the way public input is being gathered and how staff decisions on bike and pedestrian issues are made. Also, please let the Mayor and Commission know that you want to see meaningful public debate on traffic management for bike and pedestrian safety, and that the current approach to implementing ACC’s Road Diet and Complete Streets policies is not adequate.

Step 1: Attend the “Public Forum” for “3 Lane Conversion Review” on Wednesday July 22 from 5-7pm (you can drop in anytime) at 120 W. Dougherty Street. This event does not require that you do any public speaking.

If we want to see an integrative and effective approach to bike and pedestrian safety in ACC, we must show there is public interest. Attendance at this meeting will show that there is widespread interest in the way ACC determines how to make changes in transportation policy to improve bike/pedestrian infrastructure. City staff, elected officials, and other concerned residents will be present.

Step 2: Submit written comments on the three proposed projects to ACC; send a copy to your County Commissioner and the Mayor, and copy us at completestreetsprince@gmail.com

ACC will accept written comments on the proposed changes Wednesday night and via email through August 1st. This is your chance to express concerns related to any or all of these projects, and to ask broader questions about the process of implementing Road Diets and Complete Streets policies that affect bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

ACC’s “Road Diet” policy only applies to 4-lane streets. This rigid approach does not provide the flexibility to choose appropriate projects or designs. Its narrow focus results in isolated pockets of bike lanes, and it provides no mechanism for improving corridors for pedestrians. The Complete Streets policy only applies to new construction, and has many exceptions. Let city staff and elected officials know you want to see a comprehensive approach to transit management that takes bike and pedestrian safety seriously.  Email the Director of Transportation and Public Works David.Clark@athensclarkecounty.com,  the Mayor at Nancy.B.Denson@athensclarkecounty.com and find your Commissioner’s email here (better yet, email them all!) https://www.athensclarkecounty.com/168/Commission-Information-Biographies

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Information about the three proposed projects:

Chase Street: The proposal is to convert the street from 4 lanes to 3 lanes with bike lanes in each direction between Rowe Road (just inside the loop) to Dairy Pak Road. While all of Chase Street from Prince Avenue to Dairy Pak is scheduled to be resurfaced, only this northernmost segment has four lanes. As such, only this segment is being considered for the possible addition of bike lanes under ACC’s Road Diet policy.

Between Boulevard and Rowe, Chase Street is currently three lanes. Therefore, this section does not fall under the purview of ACC’s Road Diet policy, and no improvements to bike/ped infrastructure are being considered by staff at this time. This is a missed opportunity created by ineffective policy.

East Hancock: The proposal is to convert 100 feet of eastbound left turn lane (traffic turning left from Hancock to Thomas) to 100 feet of westbound left turn lane (traffic turning left from Hancock into the courthouse parking deck), and to convert the eastbound through lane (which currently dead ends at the new Classic Center expansion) to a shared left and through lane.

How is switching direction of one auto travel lane a Road Diet or Complete Street project?!

Riverbend Parkway: The proposal is to add bike lanes and the first buffer areas in Athens  to this very wide divided two-lane road, for a total length of about 1/2 mile of new bike lanes. Though this is a dead end road, it is almost 2 miles in length, with a number of apartment buildings and houses on it. Furthermore, Riverbend Parkway T’s into Riverbend Road, a 1.5 mile road connecting College Station and South Milledge. Riverbend Road has bike lanes — so this proposal does modestly extend the bike lane network.

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Questions:

How were these three projects (East Hancock Avenue, North Chase Street, and Riverbend Parkway) selected from the master list of road resurfacing projects released in early summer? Why/how were they prioritized over other possible resurfacing projects?

Has staff ruled out adding bike lanes to Oneta Street, also scheduled to be resurfaced this year?

How are the Bike Master Plan and Safe Routes to School integrated into these decisions? Do these proposed changes enhance the goals of those programs?

How are these projects funded? Does the funding specify or prioritize projects that improve pedestrian and bike safety? If so, how does the East Hancock Avenue project improve bike or pedestrian safety?

How do these projects fit with the recently compiled pedestrian and bike crash data? Are these bike lanes being added in places with bike safety issues? Will the new bike lanes connect in a meaningful way to other areas of town with bike lanes? Why is the entire Chase Street corridor that is being resurfaced/reconstructed not being considered for Complete Streets treatment to increase bike and/or pedestrian safety in a meaningful and useful way?

Under what circumstances is public input required for resurfacing or reconstruction of roads? What is the difference between reconstruction and resurfacing with respect to Complete Streets and Road Diet policies?

Why was there no discussion of Complete Streets features on Chase, when the section from Broad to Cobb Street was reconstructed this spring? Will Complete Streets and/or Safe Routes to School policies be considered when Prince Place is resurfaced?

What is the next step from this public input session on making a decision about these traffic proposals? Is there a public record of comments received and is City staff required to address comments?

In considering long term planning efforts, is there compatibility between ACC’s Complete Streets and Road Diet policies? Which takes precedence when these policies conflict? Given the relatively recent adoption of a Complete Streets policy, shouldn’t we be talking about how they can be integrated? Since the Road Diet policy is only applied to 4 lane roads and the Complete Streets policy only applies to new road construction, the majority of ACC streets are almost automatically eliminated from any consideration of bike lanes or safer pedestrian pathways under current policy.

If our goal is an integrated network of complete streets, and we are not doing it here, where do we start?

Tyler Dewey

Tony Eubanks

Clint McCrory

Jennifer Rice

#wearetraffic

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