BikeAthens News

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Macon Connects, with a pop-up bike lane network

Macon, Ga

This past weekend, Macon installed the world’s largest temporary bike lane network.  (Update: the Mayor is keeping the bike lanes up for the whole week!).  Volunteers worked tirelessly for a week to create 6 miles of new bike lanes, and a few more miles of shared street (with sharrows) to tie everything together.  For background, check out this short video from GPB: so cool!

With the world’s largest pop-up bike lane network only a short drive away, we had to visit.  Here are our pictures (click on the photos twice to see them full size).  For more information on the Macon Connects project, click here

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MACORTS Public Comment: Lexington Connectivity

From July 25-August 8, MACORTS, our local MPO, is accepting public comment on revisions to two planning documents (the 2015-2018 TIP and the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan) that touch on 3 projects:

  1. The Loop 10 / Lexington Interchange UPDATE (7.28.16): the proposed revision would accelerate the ROW-phase for this project from FY 19 to FY 17.
  2. “The addition of the SR 316 at Oconee Connector Interchange Project
  3. “and the deletion of the Union Church Road Improvement Project and Simonton Bridge Road Project.”

As a reminder, this is a partial view of what the new Loop 10 Interchange will look like.  Frankly, and we’ve raised this issue with GDOT, the project as currently configured will disrupt connectivity between the Firefly Trail and the soon to be built greenway “Waffle House Connector” (which will run between Grove St. and the Loop SB Ramps):

Does this crossing work for families?

Does this crossing work for families?

For full project map, see here: https://por.dot.ga.gov/projectInfo/122600-/PDF/122600_NEPA_PIOH%20Layout2015.01.29.pdf

On the plus side, Lexington Rd will include bike lanes from just east of the Ovation Cinema to just past Old Winterville Rd.  Unfortunately, as GDOT informed us last year, due to ROW restrictions, the bike lanes will only be 4 ft. (next to 9 lanes at the widest).

Again, here is the link to submit public comment. http://www.macorts.org/tippublic.html

 

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BikeAthens Headquarters

It’s only been about 10 days since we sealed the deal to move the BRP shop and BikeAthens HQ into 1075 West Broad, but we’ve accomplished a ton of work in that time.  Our wonderful BRP volunteers disassembled the existing, dilapidated office, creating 0.85 tons of “garbage burritos.” A process that also uncovered a pair of sandals, half a cricket bat, two baseball bats, and a load of old car keys.  In its place, we are slowly building up the new BikeAthens HQ.
Jason and Brian finish it off
For the first time since its founding, BikeAthens and the BikeRecycling Program will be under the same roof.  We will now have enough space to host meetings, full bike-safety education classes, repair workshops, and social gatherings (for example, the upcoming move-in / thank you party.)  This new space will more firmly tie us to the community, and it allows us to open our doors to you–our members and supporters!
With all our progress, there is still a lot left to do fully maximize the new HQ . While we’re doing our best to re-use and scrounge materials to keep costs down, there are some things that we really need to buy or get donated that are beyond our budget. If we can raise $4,000 we can really make this place incredible!
Among our needs are:
  • LED shop lights
  • rubber floor matting
  • primer and paint
  • drywall
  • infrared heaters
  • utility sink
  • steel office door and lockset
  • AC Unit
  • insulation and tile for the ceiling

Every little bit helps. Thank you!

Give

-BikeAthens Board of Directors & Bike Recycling Program Management Council

 

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2nd Annual Quarry Ride & Camp-Out

UPDATE: Registration is now closed

May 21-22: We couldn’t wait until August to head back to our favorite swimming hole; so in continuing celebration of National Bike Month, we are hosting our 2nd Annual Quarry Ride & Camp-out!  If you ride with us from the Bike Recycling Program Shop, it’s a beautiful 35 mile ride through Watson Mill State Park, ultimately ending at a private quarry with a campground, swimming, grills/campfires, and canoeing. The quarry is located outside of Comer, Ga. and features a gorgeous swimming hole, full-service camp kitchen (with running water, covered dinning area, working stove, fridge, electric outlets, and plenty of camping spots).   Just look at the pictures from last year!

Interested? Ok, here are the details. In many ways, this is a DIY event–we’ll be leading an informal ride that will roll-out from BRP at 10:00am.  The route is unmarked and there are no SAG stops, but we’ll probably stop for a snack break along the way (we’ll post a turn by turn queue sheet soon).  Some folks who have work obligations may announce a second wave that will ride up later in the day.  If you want to go full bike-tourer, we encourage you to take this opportunity to load up your bike and kick-off the summer bike-camp season in style.  However, if you bring your camping gear to BRP, we’ve arranged transportation, and we’ll gladly ferry your gear up and back.  Sack lunch will be provided for all riders.

35 Miles too far, or maybe you don’t think you can convince the whole family to ride?  No worries! If you and the family want to drive-up, cool!  The quarry has plenty of car-parking! If you want to create your own route and meet us at the quarry, awesome!

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Moving on up!

Y’all may have heard rumors recently that BikeAthens is on the move–now it’s official! After 8 great years in the Chase Street Warehouses, BikeAthens and the Bike Recycling Program are moving to 1075 Broad Street! More excitingly, we’ll be sharing the building with board member, and friend of the program, Pedal Driven Cycles (and we may also add a few other office-mates shortly).  Our new space will be home to the BRP shop & warehouse, and we will move the BikeAthens offices, to unify all our programs under one roof.   This allows us to create a central BikeAthens location, be more open to the public & volunteers, and host more educational classes & community events!   We are really stoked about the opportunities provided by our new location, but moving will not be easy!  Our tasks (many happening simultaneously):

  1. Prep our new space–clean out some weird clutter left by the previous tenants (baseball bats, bumpers, spark plugs), paint, and build  office space.
  2. Start triaging the current space in preparation for the physical move.
  3. Actually move all the bikes, stands, tools, parts, desks, and other related materials
  4. Set up the new space
  5. Celebrate and thank everyone who helped us move (more on “helping” part in a second ;-)
  6. Get back to work!

Clearly, this is a big project and we will need the help of the community to pull this off.   We aim to move-in as close to June 1 as possible, but the work will come in fits and starts; most likely with a couple of “all-hands-on-deck” days.  We’ve added a volunteer sign-up sheet below, with the tasks are delineated by your potential availability: 9-5, Weekends, Evenings, and “Any-Time.” As you can see, the sheets do not create an obligation for a specific date; they merely share your contact information and general availability with us.  As we create a more specific schedule, we’ll email you directly with specific times and tasks.  For example, if we plan to do some painting on a Tuesday night, we can email everyone on the “Evenings” and “Any Time” lists to let them know where and when we’ll be rolling up our sleeves!  Thank you all so much!

Current Sign-up Sheets

Title Date Open Spots  
Moving!!!! May to Early June N/A 11
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Why Chase St. Underscores the Need for an Improved Complete Streets Policy

UPDATE: Commissioner Melissa Link will likely introduce a Commission Defined-Option to address drivers’ concerns about the re-design of Chase St. between Boulevard and Rowe.  We appreciate her work on the issue; here is our take on the year-long effort to improve Chase Street for all modes of travel.

After a year of review, ACC recently released plans for new designs for Chase Street.  Near Chase Elementary, the designs included a crosswalk to serve students walking to school from the east; further down the street, the plans removed the center turn lane between Boulevard and Rowe. Staff presented this design after their professional analysis revealed the reconfiguration would introduce minimal delay, while creating space for bike improvements.  The previously suggested 4-lane to 5-lane conversion (2 travel lanes /  center turn lane / 2 bike lanes) between Rowe and Newton Bridge remained unchanged from the last round of public comment.  Not surprisingly, BikeAthens supports increasing the number of bike lanes in town and on Chase St.  Arterials without bike infrastructure carry a higher crash risk, and contradicts ACC’s mission of “facilitating a positive environment for individuals to obtain a high quality of life […] by providing innovating, high quality services and responsible stewardship of the community’s resources.”  In the next few years, new developments, like the Southern Mills, will bring even more people to the Chase St. area—people that will be expecting transportation choices.

At the April 19th Mayor and Commission Agenda Setting meeting, two residents of N. Chase Street worried about removing the center turn lane because of concerns the removal may make it more dangerous to enter and exit their driveways.  Now, we will not discount their experience, just as they would not discount ours.  So we have a terrible situation: people who bike on Chase risk being hit by fast moving traffic; people who live on the street think removing a shared center turn lane will place them at greater risk for a car collision as they enter and exit their driveways.  How can the Commission balance such scales?  Who must bear the brunt of the Commission’s final decision?

Ultimately, this dilemma reveals the limitations of the existing ACC Complete Streets Policy. Complete Streets aim to make our streets safer for all users.  If a street becomes safe for people on bike by making it more dangerous for people in cars, it is an incomplete street.  If a street can only stay safe for people in cars by shifting all the risk to people on foot and on bike, it is an incomplete street. Putting the safety of one group against the safety of another is not a solution. Simply suggesting people avoid the corridor altogether is not a solution.  Nor is is making the street so intimidating, people on bike simply avoid it (of course, some do not have a choice but ride everywhere). We can do better.

Complete Streets

ACC Complete Streets Checklist (PDF)

As ACC’s Complete Streets Resolution states: “ WHEREAS, Athens-Clarke County’s Complete Streets guiding principle is to design, operate and maintain Athens-Clarke County’s streets to promote safe and convenient access and travel of all users.”  (p. 5 emphasis ours. Note: the policy available online does not incorporate changes made in the adopted Commission Defined Option.) Or as similarly affirmed by the National Complete Streets Coalition: “Everyone, regardless of age, ability, income, race, or ethnicity, ought to have safe, comfortable, and convenient access to community destinations and public places–whether walking, driving, bicycling, or taking public transportation.”  The debate about Chase St. has fallen far from this ideal. If we had a stronger Complete Streets Policy, perhaps we could have created a stronger community vision, focusing on connecting Chase while remaining sensitive to the different community contexts.  If the Complete Streets Policy contained a more nuanced implementation plan, perhaps we would not find ourselves playing a zero-sum game even as the street remains incomplete.

In the end, we are left with a process that forces neighbors to ask the Commission to protect their safety by making the street more dangerous for others. This cannot be how we move toward promoting safe and convenient travel of all users.  Therefore, regardless of the final decision on the configuration of Chase, we hold to our vision of vibrant, walkable streets across all of Athens-Clarke County, and we renew our request to strengthen the Complete Streets Policy to ensure Chase Street, indeed all our streets, are safe for ALL users.

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Twilight Cafe Area Volunteers Needed!

Yep, that’s right! BikeAthens will be back at Twilight, hosting a Cafe Area for the 3rd time!  We’ll be watching the races from 5:00PM till the end of the Men’s Race.  It’s going to be epic, as always.

To organize such a fun event, we will need your help!  We are looking for volunteers to work “back of house” selling drink and food, and we will need a few folks at the door to handle tickets and wristbands.  Once your shift is over, all volunteers are welcome to stay and watch the race!

Current Sign-up Sheets

Title Date Open Spots  
Moving!!!! May to Early June N/A 11

 

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Top 5 Ways to Celebrate #BikeMonth (a little early)

Here are 5 activities to get you ready for National Bike Month.

National Bike Month officially starts May 1, but can’t wait that long so we are getting a jump on the festivities!  Just look at what we have planned for next week…

Continue reading this post

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Kids Bike Safety Rodeo!

April 2, 2016 UGA Veterinary Medical Center Parking Lot

10:00am-2:00pm

This Saturday, we are once again teaming with Safe Kids Athens to host a kids bike safety rodeo, as part of their Safety Day events at the UGA Vet School. The kids bike rodeo will provide elementary school kids a safe (and fun) space to practice essential on-bike skills, such as avoiding obstacles, signaling turns, and stopping on a dime.  BikeAthens and Safe Kids Athens will also provide helmet fit checks and basic bike checks.  For more information, check out the flyer!

This Saturday!!!

This Saturday!!!

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The Many Benefits of a New Bike Plan

UPDATE: The Mayor has called and gathered a Bike & Pedestrian Master Plan Committee–the first meeting will be Aug. 22nd, 2016

In 1999, to some fanfare, Athens prepared to stripe the county’s first bike lanes (this almost 25 years after Athens first attempts at a comprehensive bikeway system).  Two years later, ACC approved a Bike Master Plan (BMP) with a 2020 planning horizon.  The BMP designated 16 routes that would create a web of connected bikeways.  At the dawn of the 2016, a review of BMP progress demonstrates it is time for a new plan: one that acknowledges the sea-change in bike planning, one that incorporates current, inclusive designs to promote and encourage safe use of our public streets, one that gives us true transportation choices. A new bike plan will bring many benefits, among them: advanced, best-practice designs; improved design-selection criteria; and low-cost solutions to quickly create a connected network of safe and comfortable bike routes.

Yes, the current BMP is old, but age is not necessarily a disqualification.  The 16 identified bike routes are ideal future corridors, and the map-level plan remains great aspirational goal.  A new BMP, however, is necessary to update the standards for designing successful bike project.  When the 2001 BMP was adopted, the main bike-infrastructure design guide was the 1999 American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide for the Development of Bicycles Facilities (PDF).  The recommendations found in the guide—wide outside lanes, discouragement of protected bike lanes, no use of green, high-vis markings—have since been superseded by the 2012 update of the AASHTO Guide (PDF).  Furthermore, in the past 15 years, new designs have become accepted and understood to increase the safety and accessibility of urban biking.  The Federal Highway Administration, for example, now endorses the North American City Transportation Officials Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The NACTO guide provides design guidance for the types of bike lanes that lead to measurable increases in the number of people biking, with a reduction in crashes.  Want to build a protected bike lane, bike boulevard, or a bike box? Look to NACTO.  Updating the BMP to reflect these advances in bike planning and design, will make it easier to bring these designs to Athens streets.

ACC’s own data reflects a need and desire for more inclusive bikeways that are designed for people worried about and/or uncomfortable riding in traffic. During the ’01 BMP process, 61% of respondents reported being “uncomfortable” on a shared street. Only 41% claimed to be “very comfortable” in a bike lanes.  New designs address these concerns. Protected bike lanes combine the comfort of a off-street path with the convenience of a bike lane.  Look at the two children using a protected bike lane in MA:

So easy, a 4 year old can use it!

So easy, a 4 year old can use it!

This is a bike lane an 8 year old can use.  This is a bike lane an 80 year old can use. This is a bike lane we can all use with “comfort and ease.

As standards for bike lane design have evolved in the past 15 years, so have the metrics used to select which type of bike facility to install on specific streets.  When the ’01 BMP set out to measure existing conditions, they used a formula called bike-Level of Service (BLOS). BLOS inputs various street conditions—lane width, traffic speeds, percentage of truck traffic— in attempt to quantify the comfort level of hypothetical cyclists.  The lower the number the formula generates, the more comfortable the street for someone on bike, in theory. The output is then converted to a grade: ‘A’ for the most comfortable, ‘F’ the least comfortable.  By changing the data to reflect potential improvements, we can see how adding bike lanes, or other designs would improve BLOS. This can help guide design selection, by identifying designs that provide the most BLOS improvement. But given it’s limitations, it is probably best that a new bike master simply disregard or de-emphasize BLOS (for a more detailed discussion of BLOS, look to the bottom of this post).

 

 

If we do not use BLOS, how do we choose the correct designs?  Luckily, there are much simpler methods for choosing bike improvements.  For example, look at this simple decision matrix.

 

A simple decision matrix

A simple decision matrix

3 Steps to "Facility Selection"

3 Steps to “Facility Selection”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of jamming a bunch of numbers into a spreadsheet, this design-selection guide is intuitive to understand—the more cars, the faster the cars—the more protection for people on bike. A similarly simplified selection criteria would make the next Athens bike plan more transparent and accessible. More importantly, such a plan would ensure installed-designs address real-world concerns rather than the output of the BLOS formula.

The 2001 BMP further presented improvement recommendations for all 16 routes, but because it was developed before the revolution in low-cost bike infrastructure designs, the recommendations relied heavily on major reconstruction. Faced with the extreme costs of widening multiple streets, the ’01 BMP often relied on signs and “sharrows.”  (Signs & Sharrows are not infrastructure and they may not improve the safety of the street.)  Cities around Georgia are making quick progress on their bike networks by searching for low-cost opportunities to add bike lanes within the existing right of way.  Athens needs a new BMP to look for these important, inexpensive opportunities.  We need a BMP, that will go bargain shopping, if you will. Creating more space within existing right of way keeps costs down; and it can also speed up the timetable for network completion. We’ve watched and waited for 15 years as the ’01 BMP make slow progress towards partial implementation.  We can do better.

Before the current plan expires, we must adopt a bicycle master plan that reflects the new reality of bike planning and design. To meet its mission “to provide an open and responsive government, facilitating a positive environment for individuals to obtain a high quality of life and local organizations to achieve success by providing innovative, quality services and responsible stewardship of the community’s resources, to benefit current and future generations,”  Athens-Clarke County should fund a bike master plan to provide innovative, quality bike infrastructure. With such a plan in place, we can move forward toward a safe, equitable, and efficient bike network that provides true transportation choices for all of us.





 

Ok, let’s dive deep into the challenges of relying solely on BLOS.

  1. Gathering the raw data to feed into the formula consumes a lot of human resources and the operations of the formula are obscure. Someone must gather all the data on lane-width, pavement condition, truck traffic etc…and then feed it into a complex, weighted formula. It is a black box.
  2. The output BLOS grades give little indication of what the street looks like or how comfortable the street actually is for people on bike. For example, HWY 441 (Commerce Rd), HWY 29, and College Station Rd all had a BLOS of ‘C’ but they have much different characteristics and vastly different comfort levels.  At the time, College Station had 5 foot bike lanes, while HWY 441 and HWY 29 had wide shoulders. We have trouble believing people on bike would give these roads the same grade.
  3. The BMP “goal” BLOS of C does not improve conditions for most riders. The ’01 Master plan surveyed 176 people about their riding habits. Only 21% self-reported as a novice.  Even with the population skewed towards experienced cyclists, only 41% of respondents reported they felt “ very comfortable” in a traditional bike lane. Contrast to the 76% that felt “very comfortable” on a trail. If experienced cyclists are not “very comfortable” in a bike lane, we rhetorically ask how a network of BLOS ‘C’ roads such as HWY 441 (Commerce Rd), HWY 29, and Kathwood Rd.—roads without even bikes lanes!—will assuage people’s concerns.
  4. The BLOS method does not consider the gaps in the network or the stress of navigating a complex intersection.  For example, Alps has wide bike lanes which connect to Baxter.  Nonetheless, it is extremely stressful to make a left turn from Alps to Baxter when you are on a bike.  You must either cross in the crosswalk as pedestrian (which eliminates the benefits of biking), or you must cross two lanes of fast moving traffic to enter the left turn lane.

One final note—the ’01 BMP also revealed startling lack of low-stress streets in Athens, at least inside the study area.  Examining the 2001 BLOS data (which to BikeAthens knowledge has not been updated), further underscores the need for a new BMP to help Athens better create a network of safe, low-stress bikeways.  The ’01 BMP measured 125 street segments, on 54 streets.  107 had a BLOS of ‘D’ or lower.  Only 5 have a ‘B’ or higher.  Of the 26 segments making up the 16 official bike routes, 15 still have a BLOS of D or worse. Currently, only 6 of the street segments, at most, have a BLOS of ‘B.’  We say BLOS of ‘B,’ at best, because adding a bike lane is no guarantee of sharp BLOS improvement.  College Station’s first section of bike lane was included in the original analysis, and that segment received a ‘C.’

True, a low percentage of ‘A’ and ‘B’ BLOS roads may not matter, if those ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads were connected!  But when bike infrastructure is isolated, it dampens the impact of the existing infrastructure.  A bike lane that is interrupted or connects to a busy street does little to encourage people to use the bike lane. Athens bike network should have a central web of infrastructure that is very comfortable for a majority of users of all abilities.

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