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Bike Friendly Friday: Healthy Arterials

Week 4

The Downtown Athens Master Plan Implementation Committee is running full swing–just yesterday they discussed the possibility of creating TADs (tax allocation districts).  We were surprised at the flexibility and fundraising of TADs.  Their use could bring a lot of changes to downtown, and bring a lot of benefits to all of Clarke County.  In the coming weeks, the discussion will turn to the transportation and street design items of the master plan (to save space, let’s just call it the DMP).  When discussing of the role of bikes in the downtown infrastructure, the DMP unsurprisingly notes: “Key to the continued improvement of Athens downtown vitality and quality is the evolution of a very comprehensive transportation system both as means of access to and from the downtown as well as excellent access throughout it. The enhancements must include transportation by:  A. Auto  B. Transit  C. bicycle  D. Pedestrian” (p. 59)

Hmm…Sounds familiar…

 

As important as bikes—well, the people who ride bikes—are to the downtown ecosystem, it is more important that there are convenient, accessible, and comfortable routes to downtown.  Incorporating our feedback, the DMP correctly reports, “[t]he input from the bicycle community has been to develop corridors to get bicyclists to and from downtown and not necessary around inside it of it where they can move with other traffic.”  In other words, with traffic calming, shared lanes can work downtown.  It is more important to facilitate trips to downtown.  The League of American Cyclists noted the lack of bike lanes on arterial streets:

Here is what our bike map looks like if you remove all streets without bike lanes:

W need more connectivity before we have a network

Only two bike lanes reach downtown and only one extends more than a few blocks.  This is why Prince Avenue is so important.  This is why the Firefly is so important. This is why North Avenue is so important.  People will not ride downtown, until they can get downtown.  For a healthy downtown, we need healthy, complete Arterials to conveniently, and comfortably usher people to downtown Athens.

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Bike Friendly Friday: The Big Four

Week 3

Now that we are back from the bike summit, and back to regular hours, we’ll begin to focus these posts on Athens efforts to move up the Bike Friendly Community rankings.  In evaluating a community, the League of American Bicyclists looks at the 5 E’s: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation & planning.  Before the year is over, we’ll go through each criteria looking at the 2011 League feedback, as well as what we’ve done in the interim (for example, through a partnership with the Municipal Court, Bike Athens has taught basic bike safety to over 750 people in the last two years—Education [check]).

In 2011, the League ID’d the “four most significant measures” Athens should take to improve the streets for those on bike.  In 2015, the four measures provide a snapshot of how far we’ve come, and where we need to go:

1. Expand efforts to evaluate the bicycle usage and crash statistics.

  • These, of course, go hand-in-hand as crash statistics do not mean much until we know how many people are riding.  Athens has counted bikes as it relates to small scale projects, but there has not been a large, official bike traffic count.  It is hard to identify streets and intersections that need critical enhancements without knowing how many people ride in Athens.  Work to be done!

2. Offer a bicycling skills class on a regular basis [emphasis theirs]

  • While it is not open to public, BikeAthens and the Municipal Court have created a Ticket Diversion course. If you get a ticket while riding your bike, you can attend a bike safety class rather than paying the fine (does not apply to all offenses)!  The number of ticket diversion programs across the country is growing, but Athens is at the forefront.  At the time the course started, it was one of only a handful of ticket diversion programs in the US.
  • We also teach a bike skills class every month at the Municipal Court.  In the 2 years, since the program’s creation, BikeAthens has taught over 750 people to ride right, ride bright!  Perhaps we have not met the emphasized regular basis, but we are making progress.

3. Fully implement the comprehensive bike plan and continue to close gaps in the network. […] Set an ambitious, attainable target to increase the percentage of trips made by bike in the city.

  • We’ll save the first part for a more in-depth discussion, but it is soon approaching the time when Athens needs a new Bike Master Plan.  While Athens has repeatedly set budgetary goals and objectives to provide sustainable, environmentally sensitive infrastructure, and multi-modal transportation—there is not set mode-share goal.  Indeed, to our knowledge, no community in Georgia has official set a mode-share goal.  So work to be done!

4. Expanding the bicycle and pedestrian manager’s time focused on these projects.

  • Athens has dedicated transportation planners and engineers but no specific bike-ped coordinator.

There’s the wide-area road map to a more “bike friendly” Athens.  We’ve improved the educational opportunities in town, but there are ways to improve the other Es.  And that’s what we’ll be talking about it the weeks ahead! Remember, every Friday is Bike Friendly Friday!!

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Bishop Park Preliminary Master Plan Input

Our friends at Leisure Services have finished preliminary plans for Bishop Park, and they are looking for additional input! The Master Plan creates more access for those walking to the park, as well as increased exercise opportunities through a walking trail that circumnavigates the park!

See the plans and take a survey here: http://athensclarkecounty.com/6213/Bishop-Park-Master-Plan

There will also be two public input sessions:
Bishop Park Master Plan Public Input Session
Wed., March 25
6:00-7:30 p.m.
Bishop Park Conference Room

Information Booth at Athens Farmers’ Market
Sat., April 4
8:00 a.m. – Noon
Bishop Park Basketball Courts

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Call for Volunteers!

Looking for a way to support the Firefly Trail this weekend? Firefly, Inc. Ticket to Ride is looking for a few goods folks to work the SAG stops in Winterville and Crawford. At Winterville—right down the block—they are looking for a couple of volunteers to help with set-up and then a few to help serve riders throughout the day. In Crawford, Firefly Inc. only needs an “adult” to work with kids from Oglethorpe High from 11:30-1:30, 1:30-3:30PM (two separate shifts). If you’re not riding, sign up directly here: http://vols.pt/p5Qxeu or email Mary Cook (maryc@fireflytrail.com) and she’ll get you sorted!

Thanks for supporting local trails!

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Bike Friendly Friday–Live from the Capitol!

Week 2

We are writing this post in the almost literal shadow of the US Capitol, as BikeAthens has just finished a week at the National Bike Summit.  Three full days of workshops, networking, learning, laughing, and oh yeah–talking with Georgia Senators and Representatives about the need to continue funding biking and walking in the next multi-modal transportation bill.  We are champing at the bit to return to Athens full of energy and new ideas for how to forward our vision of a comprehensive transportation network everyone can use with confidence and ease.

Attending the summit always exposes us to big ideas–one of the biggest this year was a panel discussion about Vision Zero.  Vision Zero is a policy and a fervent belief that all traffic fatalities are preventable–that all traffic fatalities and serious injuries can be eliminated and that no level of traffic deaths is acceptable. The Bike Summit Panel included representatives from Philadelphia, San Francisco, Sand Diego, and New York City; but the rapt audience proved that many cities are interested in Vision Zero Policies.

Leah Shahum, the Director of the Vision Zero Network, leads a panel discussion about Vision Zero policies around the country

Now, one day after the Summit has ended, we are still feeling the rush from all the excitement, but as we continue to advocate for a enhanced, multi-modal transportation network; as we work to move Athens toward a Gold level Bike Friendly Community designation, you may hear us talk more about Vision Zero for Athens.

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Bike Friendly Friday

Week 1

In 2011, the League of American Bicyclists named Athens-Clarke County a bronze-level Bike Friendly Community.  The award made Athens only the third Georgia Community to receive the award.  We wrote at the time: “Athens-Clarke County was selected as a Bicycle Friendly Community at the bronze level, recognizing a strong commitment to cycling, responsive to the needs of cyclists, and with bicycle usage above average for U.S. communities. When it is time to reapply for BFC status, Athens-Clarke County will have the chance to become the first silver, gold or platinum community in Georgia.” What went unremarked is that BFC designations last only four years. 2015 is the time for ACC to reapply.

Over the next 42 weeks, we’ll be blogging here at Bike Friendly Friday to highlight the progress Athens has made in the last four years; and perhaps more importantly, begin to sketch out a road map to advance Athens to a Silver or Gold Bike Friendly Community.  So bookmark this page! As next week as we’ll update from the National Bike Summit, and place Athens bike advocacy in the context of the national movement.

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UGA Traffic Safety Research Survey

Darrell Robinson, a researcher from the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group, part of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior at the University of Georgia, and his team are currently studying interactions between car drivers and bicyclists.  They would like us to participate in a survey to gather data pertinent to their project.

The study has two parts: 1st, participants complete an empathy questionnaire, then,in Part II, we’ll read a written scenario of an interaction between a car driver and bicyclist and answer questions pertaining to it.

If you are interested in more information or have any questions, please feel free to contact Darrell (drobin28@uga.edu or 706-542-8060).

PART I (link active until Friday, March 6th)

PART II is now open. (active until April, 3rd)

Thank you!

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Complete Streets: Prince Avenue Survey

 

Let's make it safe for this guy, too!

Even uni-cyclists use Prince!

UGA Public Relations grad students working with Complete Streets: Prince Avenue have created a survey to better understand why we support complete streets on Prince Avenue. Fill out this quick survey to let them know why you support improved safety for those traveling by bike and feet (and car)! Thanks!

https://grady.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_bjXlz4mBH9eg4bb

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The Continuing Saga of Hickory Ext.

Hickory Extension, the street planned as a cut-through the former Selig Development (now known as “The Mark”), is closer to construction, and is on track to proceed with a street layout that does not accommodate bicycles. Complicating matters, the street is private with a public access easement, which means ACC may not have much oversight over final design (though Commissioners are still closely following the project’s progress).

Short recap: the original site plan for the Selig property did not contain the Hickory St. Extension.  The connection’s absence put the site plan in conflict with the Transportation Concept Corridor Map (TCCM), which showed a potential Greenway connection, and a street connection, between Broad and Oconee.  After much debate, Commissioner Girtz put forth a Commission-defined option of two “protected” bike lanes placed between the sidewalk and parked cars. This design would use parked cars as a buffer between bikes and traffic, similar to designs seen here: http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/cycle-tracks/one-way-protected-cycle-tracks/ (but with front-in parking rather than parallel).  His Commission-defined option for the Special-Use Permit was approved in July or August of 2013. When the Selig project dissolved, so did the plans for Hickory.  With The Mark moving forward by right, new site plans were drawn.  Current designs for the development show a bike lane striped directly behind front-in parking:

Designs for Hickory

You can see the bike lanes abut the parking spaces

In a December 3rd, 2014, letter, Transportation and Public Works approved this design, agreeing the bike lanes adequately accommodate cyclists.  Indeed, the letter goes further to argue that this design is preferable to parking protected bike lanes.  We disagree.  Bike lanes striped behind front-in parking are hazardous to cyclists.  Protected bike lanes, including those that use parked cars to shield bikes from moving traffic have become best-practice design for urban environments.

AASHTO advises against the current proposed design

Athens has yet to place bike lanes behind front-in parking, for good reason.  True, Athens does not have any written standards concerning bike lane design, our policies are purposefully context-sensitive; however, the Complete Streets Policy explicitly references the AASHTO (American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials) guide.  During the 2013 debate about Hickory, we noted: “The 2012 edition of the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities specifically recommends against such a design: ‘Bike lanes should normally not be placed adjacent to conventional front in parking.’” (Emphasis ours.) The AASHTO Guide continues to say that if bike lanes are striped adjacent angled parking great care must be taken to make the design safe for cyclists. The two pictorial examples of a compromise:

Bike lane with buffer

Here, there is a few feet of buffered space between the wide bike lane and front-in parking

 

 

 

 

Back-in parking

Here, the parking configuration has been switched to reverse angle (back-in)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left, there is a buffer between the parking space and the bike lane. On the right, they have switched to back-in parking.  Again, these are compromises; compromises that do not exist in the current layout.

Protected Bike Lanes are preferred by planners and cyclists

Protected bike lanes have become the standard for urban environments as they are the safest design; and as a result, they attract the most use.  As noted by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO): “By separating cyclists from motor traffic, [protected bike lanes]can offer a higher level of security than bike lanes and are attractive to a wider spectrum of the public.”  Of the 187 protected bicycle lanes currently in use in the United States, 1/3rd use parked cars as a physical buffer between the bike lane and the motor vehicle lane (1/3rd use flexible posts, 1/3rd use curbs).  24% percent are 1-way parking protected bike lanes, the same configuration as suggested for Hickory Ext.  It is not only planners that have discovered the benefits of parking protected bike lanes; cyclists also love them.  In city (PDF p. 28) after city, bike counts surge on streets with protected bike lanes.  In survey (PDF p. 19) after survey (PDF p. 28), cyclists indicate they overwhelming prefer protected bike lanes to other facilities. Rather than feeling “trapped” cyclists prefer having their own dedicated space to ride.

Nonetheless, perhaps creating a parking protected bike lane on Hickory Ext. would reduce the usable space for cyclists.  This is speculative until the final design is selected and constructed, but there are many easy and cost-effective methods for preventing cars from encroaching on the bike lanes (flexposts, parking curbs, etc…).  More importantly, as we will examine in a moment, the current design with bike lanes behind front-in parking does not provide a full bike lane of operating space.

Supporters of the current design also say a parking protected bike lane would be too difficult to integrate into the streetscape.  Luckily, there is a guide to help facilitate those changes.  The NACTO Design Book contains voluminous technical guidelines; and as mentioned earlier, there are 187 real world examples.  As illustrated above, the authoritative AASHTO Guide also provides alternatives to the current design.

Parking Protected Bike Lanes Do Not Increase Traffic Conflicts.

To this point, we have talked only about bikes (we are named BikeAthens); does a parking protected bike lane increase the chances of pedestrian-bicycle collision; after all, pedestrians will have to cross the bike lane to get to their cars. The most thorough study of protected bike lanes in the US did not find an increase of pedestrian-bicycle collisions (PDF p. 134).  Most residents surveyed did not think the protected bike lanes lead to an increase in pedestrian danger (PDF p. 136). Any conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians would, at least, be visible, low-speed interactions.

Even if one accepts the argument that a parking protected bike lane would increase the conflict points (and we do not); the current proposed design does not reduce the total amount of conflicts on the street. What is clear, the current proposed design does increase the number of conflicts between cars and bicycles.  Every car or truck entering or exiting a parking space must cross the bike lane.  The current plans show a center lane that would allow cars in both directions to pull into a parking space. Of more concern, to exit a space a car must back through the bike, perhaps with vision obscured. These conflicts would occur at higher, motor vehicle speeds.

Finally, placing bike lanes so close to front-in parking effectively reduces the operating space of the bike lane to near-zero.  Under the current configuration, to avoid a car suddenly exiting into the bike lane, a cyclist should ride to the very left of the bike lane.  However, riding to the left puts a cyclist close to the travel lane—an uncomfortable position even for experienced cyclists.  The proximity to front-in parking spaces makes the travel lane the safest place to ride despite the presence of bike lanes.  For cyclists, the street would operate much the same as street without a bike lane.

The Current Proposed Design Does Not Accommodate Cyclists

As the bike lanes currently proposed for Hickory Ext. do not conform to AASHTO standards, decrease the amount of useable space of bicycles, and increase number of car-bicycle conflicts, we do not think the current design accommodates bicycles.  We recommend the design is changed to a protected bike lane, or at the minimum, changed to reflect greater consideration for cyclists’ safety, as recommended by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials.

What Happens Next?

There is a plan review tomorrow, 10:30am, at the Planning Department.  We will attended to see if the plan has changed and give comment, if possible.  From there, we also know the Commissioners are interested in this project.

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GOHS Grant Renewed

 

The BikeAthens Board of Directors is proud to announce that for the third year, BikeAthens has received a grant of $46,900 from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS).  Using these grant funds, BikeAthens will continue to conduct bike safety seminars throughout the coming year. Over the last 12 months, BikeAthens taught bike helmet safety in local schools, taught monthly bike education classes at the Municipal court, and participated in on-campus events to educate UGA students. With this year’s grant funds, BikeAthens will expand and improve these programs. We have already hosted two bikes rodeos, distributed 50 helmets, and given away over 50 pairs of lights!  We will organize at least two more kids’ bike safety events in the spring, and look to create more summer programing for kids.

A vast majority of local bicycle accidents involve cyclists that are not wearing helmets, and riders over the age of 30 are three times as likely to wear a helmet as a cyclist under 30.  Nonetheless, bicyclists under 18 years of age still account for approximately 30% of Georgia’s bicycle fatalities.  To address this problem, BikeAthens will use a portion of the GOHS grant funds on helmets that BikeAthens will distribute at our safety seminars and at other public outreach events during the year. In addition to bike helmets, BikeAthens will also distribute bike lights in an effort to make Athens cyclists visible to all. BikeAthens and GOHS expect that making bikes and their riders brighter will reduce the number of accidents that occur during times of low light.

As an organization, BikeAthens has been proud to partner with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.  We are excited to extend this partnership in effort to make Athens safer for all road users: cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike.

Please contact Tyler Dewey at ExecutiveDirector@bikeathens.com or for more information.

 

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