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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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Considering the Future of Complete Streets

At their Tuesday, June 9 work session, the Mayor and Commission will begin the process of defining implementation strategies for ACC’s existing Complete Streets Policy. These implementation strategies will affect every corner of the county for years to come. We encourage you to attend the work session and to familiarize yourself with Complete Streets concepts.

More importantly, please write to the Mayor and Commissioners to let them know you support creative, flexible design and underlying priorities that do not give preeminence to motor vehicles.

The following letter outlines questions we believe Commissioners should raise at Tuesday’s work session.  Please use any portion of this letter in your comments to the Mayor & Commissioners. And by all means, please share this far and wide.

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BikeAthens and Complete Streets: Prince Avenue are pleased to see a Complete Streets Policy report updating the community on past and future projects. We hope this type of analysis occurs annually.  The specific projects referenced in the materials include designs championed by other Georgia cities that we are excited to see come to Athens (i.e., buffered bike lanes).  While we are, for the most part, satisfied with the projects discussed, we have some questions about the larger impact and direction of ACC’s Complete Streets Policy. Before we get to our those questions, we’ll note that a stronger, more impactful policy would apply Complete Streets principles to all projects, big or small. As the Complete Streets Coalition highlights:

“Under [the Complete Streets] approach, even small projects can be an opportunity to make meaningful improvements. In repaving projects, for example, an edge stripe can be shifted to create more room for cyclists. In routine work on traffic lights, the timing can be changed to better accommodate pedestrians walking at a slower speed. A strong Complete Streets policy will integrate Complete Streets planning into all types of projects, including new construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, repair, and maintenance.”

As currently written, the ACC Complete Streets Policy is restricted to new road construction or major rehabilitation. This limits the number of potential complete streets projects, and gives staff discretion to apply the Policy during resurfacing and re-striping. Amending the Policy so it applies to all projects would create a more reliable, transparent mechanism for identifying and adding meaningful enhancements to our transportation network. It would facilitate the Policy’s key objective: the creation of a “comprehensive, integrated, and connected transportation network.”

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Question: Why were the 20,000 ADT limit and 10-year Level of Service projections (LOS is a measure of motor vehicle travel delay) selected by staff as the appropriate “Road Diet” criteria?

Current research indicates 20K ADT on the corridor is not the upper limit for a successful street reconfiguration.  Since 2005, more research and experience have demonstrated the efficacy of lane reconfigurations at much higher traffic counts.  Furthermore, LOS measures one metric—travel delay, for one user group—motor vehicles.  As such, it is incompatible with the goals of Complete Streets.

This from the FHWA:

• “The ADT provides a good first approximation on whether or not to consider a Road Diet conversion.” (Emphasis ours)

• “A 2011 Kentucky study showed Road Diets could work up to an ADT of 23,000 vehicles per day (vpd).35

• “Knapp, Giese, and Lee have documented Road Diets with ADTs ranging from 8,500 to 24,000 vpd.37

• “Road Diet projects have been completed on roadways with relatively high traffic volumes in urban areas or near larger cities with satisfactory results.”

The goal of reconfiguring traffic lanes is to increase safety and efficiency of the street.  Most often, there is no effect on traffic volume, and little to no effect on travel time.

A list of Complete Streets Projects

A majority of streets saw ADTs increase after the lane reconfiguration

The above chart (PDF) shows 6 projects with “before” ADTs above 20K for the corridor; and 8 projects with “after” ADTs above 20K.   The goal of a so-called “road diet” is to increase traffic among all modes! (We’ll note that “road diet” is a poor metaphor because the reconfiguration adds value to the street—more lanes equal more users.) Road reconfigurations are designed to more efficiently allocate under-utilized pavement among all street users.

Moreover, published studies of complete streets reconfigurations rarely refer to LOS, and they do not reference 10-year LOS projections.  Indeed, the ACC T & PW follow-up report (PDF) on the original Baxter St. reconfiguration does not refer to LOS, and it does not refer to a 10-year traffic projection.  Ten years after the Mayor and Commission last considered the “Road Diet” policy, it is time to incorporate it into the Complete Streets Policy and update the “road diet” criteria to better reflect current research.

Question: Because LOS is simply a measure of motor vehicle delay, is it an appropriate measure for Complete Streets? 

LOS focuses solely on motor vehicle travel time; therefore, its use in determining appropriate multi-modal treatments is at odds with Complete Streets goals and objectives.  The North American City Transportation Officials (NACTO) agree: “LOS is one of many tools that may be employed to assess traffic conditions in cities, but it should never be the only tool used” (emphasis ours). An “A” LOS is one where there are minimal delays for cars and trucks—no stopping at lights, no stopping for people crossing the street, no slowing for people on bikes.  It is mono-modal and rewards rapid vehicular movement. Increasingly, as jurisdictions adopt Complete Streets policies, they are also adopting new metrics to better quantify how streets provide safe, convenient service to all users.  Again NACTO:

• “Chicago’s Complete Streets Manual (2013) moves away from the LOS paradigm. The manual recommends using no minimum vehicle LOS and prioritizes pedestrian LOS, requiring no pedestrian delays in excess of 60 seconds.2

• “San Francisco adopted its Transportation Sustainability Program in 2002. This policy mandates the gradual elimination of LOS.”

There is a host of research devoted to creating new multi-modal service metrics. See here, here, here, here (link to PDF), here, here, here (PDF), here, and here (link to pdf).

Question: Will Transportation and Public Works be developing Complete Streets Performance Measures, akin to those currently in use for motor vehicles?

The ACC Complete Streets Policy’s goals are desirable, with a strong statement of intent.  However, we currently have no method of monitoring the progress of implementation or providing feedback on performance measures.  The FY ’16 budget for Transportation and Public Works incorporates Performance Measures (PDF), but they focus on motor vehicles: “# of Miles of Roadway striping, # of signs Replaced, # of traffic signal Upgrades.” (p. C-107)  It would be easy to include goals for # miles of sidewalk created, # of miles of bike lane striped, # of low-stress intersections created, # of pedestrian signal improvements, # crosswalks enhanced. Complete Streets Performance Measures would allow the community to engage in the visioning of ACC and track policy implementation.

Question: Is the cost of utility relocation a Complete Streets cost?

This is the second time in the last few years the cost utility relocation has been raised only after approval of a Complete Streets project (College Station Bridge Replacement). The strict criteria for allowing street reconfigurations, combined with the the costs of road widening and utility relocation, raises doubts about the ability of the Complete Streets Policy as currently written to have any meaningful impact.  Road diets are only recommended on low ADT roads (and roads with little projected growth, which means they are probably not where any one wants to be). Yet, in the absence of a complete street conversion, the only solution to create extra space for people walking, people riding bikes, and people riding the bus, is to widen the road.  In those cases, the cost of the road widening or the utility relocation will put the project in danger of exceeding the 20% cost cap.  The result is a patch-work of projects that provide no connectivity, especially failing connect people to the most popular locations. Creative, flexible design and underlying priorities that do not give preeminence to motor vehicle LOS can and should reduce road widening pre-requisites for complete street improvements.

The answers to these questions will guide the future of Complete Streets in Athens and determine if we follow the example of other Georgia cities in accommodating all modes of transportation, or continue to limit transportation choices and allow motor vehicles to clog our main streets.

-BikeAthens and Complete Streets: Prince Avenue

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BikeAthens Summer Series: Wednesday Happy Hour

Summer

BikeAthens presents the Summer Series in Celebration of the best time for riding in town

To celebrate the greatest season to live and ride in Athens, Bike Athens is excited to present a summer series of happy hours, bike-in movies, group rides, etc., culminating in a bike-camping trip in August! So grease up your chains because summer is here, and summer was made for biking

Our first Wednesday Happy Hour of the summer will be at Normal Bar this coming Wednesday, the 27th. If you want to ride over in a group, we’ll be leaving from the Tracy St. Warehouses around 5. Otherwise, just meet us there or whatever.

The happy hour series is partly intended to bring business to local bars and restaurants on their less-busy nights (Monday-Wednesday), and partly to increase the visibility of cyclists contributing to the local economy around Prince avenue and downtown, so if y’all have suggestions for bars/restaurants, throw them our way!

We’ve created a Facebook event page for the Summer Series so you can stay up-to-date on the latest events!!

 

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BikeAthens: Athens, Ga T-Shirts are here!!

UPDATE: supplies are running out!

-In Green, we are OUT of women’s shirts, and only have Men’s S, M, & XL. No Men’s Larges

-In Grey, we have Men’s M and XL. NO Small or Large

We DO have ALL women’s sizes though we are running low on women’s larges.

You may have seen our new shirts at Twilight this weekend, now you can get yours for just $18!  We have both great colors in all sizes in Men’s and Women’s cuts! Its the perfect way to support BikeAthens and demonstrate your Athens love!

Two new shirts!!!

Now in Green!!


Color
Size


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Bike Friendly Friday: One Month Anniversary!

Right before BikeAthens left for the National Bike Summit, we started a new blog: Bike Friendly Friday.  Every Friday, we add new new post to further the discussion of how Athens can become a more bike friendly community.  If you haven’t been following the posts, here is your chance to catch up, as we run what TV would call a “clip show”

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.

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, San 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 an 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.

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).

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!!

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:

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.

Week 5

Last week we talked about the need for Athens to better integrate bikes into arterial street design. With greater access to downtown, more people will ride downtown, and more people will be downtown.  However, our focus on better access to downtown does not mean we think downtown and the downtown master lack opportunities for improvement.  Indeed there are a couple of tweaks that would greatly improve downtown streets for everyone.

First, Athens could consider reversing the angle of parking space to make it exiting a space easy, safe, and visible.  Pulling into a downtown space is easy.  Backing out of a space is not:

Angle-In Parking

Danger, Will Robinson!

Parked cars block our view as we back into traffic. This configuration is also tricky when we’re riding: we cannot see (or make eye contact with drivers), and cars may suddenly into our path. Flipping or reversing the angle of parking solves this traffic dilemma.  Reversing the parking angle means we’d back into the space, and pull into to traffic:

Flip it and Reverse It

On this DC street, drivers can see and be seen!

With this configuration, when we exit the space, we have a full view of oncoming traffic.  When on a bike, we can now make eye contact and communicate with drivers.  Visibility is improved! Safety is improved! And it really does not change street operations. The parking movements are the same; the order is simply reversed.  Last, it’s cheap! This change can be made during street repavings at no extra cost!

Second, Athens should bring shared streets to downtown.  But wait! you say, don’t we already share the road?  Shared streets go much further than a mere sign: shared streets subtly reorganize street-space to give equal priority to people on bikes, people on foot, and people on cars.  Shared streets work by eliminating by blurring the lines between uses. Rather than pushing people to the edges of the road and placing cars in the center, shared streets allow more mixing between walkers, and riders, and drivers. Shared streets often eliminate curbs and lane lines and they post low speed limits.  While this seems like chaos, it can greatly improve street safety.  It turns out a little bit of chaos makes everyone pay a little more attention. The graphic cross section of a shared street looks fairly…pedestrian:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The aerial view of Seattle shared street better reveals how a shared streets looks and operates more like a plaza:

The aerial view looks more like a plaza or promenade, but cars are not prohibited.

The Downtown Master Plan currently calls for more sidewalk space—Pedestrian Corridors—along College and Jackson.  Why not shared-streets?  A shared street design would allow College and Jackson to act like true Promenades without closing the street to cars.  Sounds like a win all around!!

 

Permalink for Bike Friendly Friday: One Month Anniversary!

 

Bike Friendly Friday: Truly Shared Streets

Week 5

Last week we talked about the need for Athens to better integrate bikes into arterial street design. With greater access to downtown, more people will ride downtown, and more people will be downtown.  However, our focus on better access to downtown does not mean we think downtown and the downtown master lack opportunities for improvement.  Indeed there are a couple of tweaks that would greatly improve downtown streets for everyone.

First, Athens could consider reversing the angle of parking space to make it exiting a space easy, safe, and visible.  Pulling into a downtown space is easy.  Backing out of a space is not:

Angle-In Parking

Danger, Will Robinson!

Parked cars block our view as we back into traffic. This configuration is also tricky when we’re riding: we cannot see (or make eye contact with drivers), and cars may suddenly into our path. Flipping or reversing the angle of parking solves this traffic dilemma.  Reversing the parking angle means we’d back into the space, and pull into to traffic:

Flip it and reverse it

On this DC Street, drivers can see and be seen

With this configuration, when we exit the space, we have a full view of oncoming traffic.  When on a bike, we can now make eye contact and communicate with drivers.  Visibility is improved! Safety is improved! And it really does not change street operations. The parking movements are the same; the order is simply reversed.  Last, it’s cheap! This change can be made during street repavings at no extra cost!

Second, Athens should bring shared streets to downtown.  But wait! you say, don’t we already share the road?  Shared streets go much further than a mere sign: shared streets subtly reorganize street-space to give equal priority to people on bikes, people on foot, and people on cars.  Shared streets work by eliminating by blurring the lines between uses. Rather than pushing people to the edges of the road and placing cars in the center, shared streets allow more mixing between walkers, and riders, and drivers. Shared streets often eliminate curbs and lane lines and they post low speed limits.  While this seems like chaos, it can greatly improve street safety.  It turns out a little bit of chaos makes everyone pay a little more attention. The graphic cross section of a shared street looks fairly…pedestrian:

The shared street cross section looks familiar

The aerial view of Seattle shared street better reveals how a shared streets looks and operates more like a plaza:

The aerial view looks more like a plaza or promenade, but cars are not prohibited.

The Downtown Master Plan currently calls for more sidewalk space—Pedestrian Corridors—along College and Jackson.  Why not shared-streets?  A shared street design would allow College and Jackson to act like true Promenades without closing the street to cars.  Sounds like a win all around!!

For more information on Shared Streets:

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3042421/fast-cities/street-smarts?partner=rss

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3037471/on-a-new-shared-street-in-chicago-there-are-no-sidewalks-no-lights-and-no-signs#1

http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/bell_street/boulevard_park.htm

http://chicago.curbed.com/archives/2014/09/08/chicagos-first-shared-street-is-coming-soon-to-uptown.php

http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130730/uptown/argyle-become-citys-first-with-shared-street-concept

http://www.planetizen.com/node/72620  (has a link to a good pdf of the project)

Permalink for Bike Friendly Friday: Truly Shared Streets

 

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:

We 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.

Permalink for Bike Friendly Friday: Healthy Arterials

 

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!!

Permalink for Bike Friendly Friday: The Big Four