Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bicycling, time, and transportation demand management

Today's Post editorializes in favor of bicycling, "Pedalmania in the District." I don't think it says very much, just that bicycling is a good thing. One of the things it heralds is the progress, finally, on constructing the Metropolitan Branch bicycling trail between Silver Spring and Union Station. Ironically, the first idea for this trail was discussed in an op-ed piece by Patrick Hare published in the Washington Post in 1989, "Geared to Everyone's Interests-A Brookland Bike Trail."

Today's editorial would have been far better had it called for stronger responsibility requirements for automobile drivers.

In countries like the Netherlands, in the case of automobile-pedestrian and automobile-bicycle accidents, the driver is automatically presumed to be at fault.

From "Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany" in Transport Reviews, by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler:

[differences in] Traffic laws [comparing the US and the UK to the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany]
• Special legal protection for children and elderly cyclists
• Motorists assumed by law to be responsible for almost all crashes with cyclists
• Strict enforcement of cyclist rights by police and courts

Sure, sometimes pedestrians and/or bicyclists are at fault, but in the current system, where it is presumed that drivers of two ton vehicles are likely to be negligent but that this is okay, drivers fail to take the proper amount of care and attention to bicyclists and pedestrians. By changing the laws, drivers would have to become far more respectful and diligent compared to the situation today.

Also see "Idaho cyclists look at sharing the road" via the Seattle Times and "The Bike Issue: Don't stop" from the San Francisco Bay Guardian. From the latter article:

In the two miles between my home and office in downtown Boise, there are five stop signs and 10 traffic lights. On a good day, I can make the journey without coming to a complete stop. That doesn't happen in my car because, of course, I'm a law-abiding driver. Yet on my bicycle, it's possible for me to cruise through all five stop signs and effortlessly cruise right on through the downtown corridor without once touching my feet to the pavement.

And in Idaho, it's completely legal.

Although cycling commuters here often bemoan the city's ineffective bike lane system and criticize the lack of public bicycle parking, nary a word is spoken about the state's progressive bicycle traffic laws. Thanks to some forward-thinking state legislators a couple of decades ago, Idaho's bike laws are the envy of cyclists throughout the country.

The concept is a simple one that allows bicyclists to keep their momentum without ever taking the right-of-way from motorists: basically, stop signs are treated a yield signs, and stop lights as stop signs. Bicycles can legally blow through stop signs as long as it isn't another driver's turn. And at red lights, bicycles must stop, but can proceed if the intersection is clear

"There are lots of good reasons for it," said attorney Kurt Holzer, who specializes in bicycle accidents. Aside from the fact that a waiting cyclist won't trip a traffic light changing mechanism, Holzer said the laws are in place for safety reasons. "If you have a bike on the right side and a car wants to turn right, the law allows the bike through the intersection, through the area of conflict, so the biker can get out of the way."

Changing policies and practices takes time.

Related to bicycling and transportation demand management and colleges and universities and campus planning and campus transportation demand management planning, remember that I have submitted an amendment to the DC Comprehensive Land Use Plan requiring transportation demand management planning, which would apply to most businesses and institututions of a certain size. It would definitely apply to colleges.

So I was looking at the Transportation & Parking Services webpage of the University of California Davis, and then compared it to comparable webpages at Georgetown University, George Washington University, American University, Catholic University, and Howard University in DC.

The UCD website is far more balanced and focused on promoting optimal mobility, not just managing parking for automobiles. Although by comparison to the other websites at DC universities, American University's website is well balanced as well, even with a page describing the restrictions the University has agreed to whereby students and staff cannot park on residential streets near the campus.

Georgetown calls transit and other non-automobile forms of mobility "Alternatives to Parking." Both GWU and Catholic University have subway stations on campus or immediately adjacent. GWU has a nice fact sheet on transportation options, highlighting subway, bus, and shuttles, as well as other alternatives to driving. While the university doesn't have a webpage comparable to the UCD or American University sites, it encapsulates much of the same information in the excellent fact sheet.

CUA doesn't highlight or otherwise call attention to their excellent location on the red line of the subway system, although they do mention bus lines that serve the campus. Here's the description from the CUA website:

Alternatives to Driving
CUA is served by the H1, H2, H3, H4, G8, and 80 Metrobus routes. The closest Metrorail stop is Brookland/CUA on the red line. Check the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) website for schedules.

The UCD website is the only one with an extensive section on bicycling. The DC college websites reviewed discuss bicycling minimally--GWU's site mentions they added 6 bicycle racks at the law school and the staff handbook mentions four bike rack locations; CUA discusses the rules for where bicycles should be locked and that they will be removed from unauthorized locations; Georgetown discusses bicycles under "Alternatives to Parking" and they do have some designated bike paths on their campus, which I think makes them unique among universities in DC. But as mentioned, the GWU fact sheet lists bicycling, registration, and the location of bike racks, and it mentions DC's SmartBike bicycle sharing program.

I mention "time" because it will take more than 20 years before the idea expressed by Patrick Hare becomes reality, and because it will take about 30 years for part of an idea expressed by Montgomery County transit advocates in 1986--a circumferential subway line (now light rail) connecting all the legs of each subway line, called the "Purple Line," and providing more east-west and north-south connections--becomes reality, even if it is less than 1/6 of the proposed total distance.

Change takes a long time before it comes to fruition, and it usually starts with the ideas and efforts of outsiders before the ideas get taken up by "the system" and implemented.

So today's Post editorial reflects a "consolidation" of improvements in the bicycling environment, while I prefer to focus on what remains to be done. And the list is considerable...

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home