Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Clemson Ciclovia

Did I get your attention? No, there's not one happening, but if it did, would you participate?

Photo of a Ciclovia Event
Ciclovia is Spanish for "bike path." In Bogota, Columbia, the people started hosting car-free Sundays on major roads, and called it a "Ciclovia." It was a movement to recapture the city at the pedestrian level. People came out to walk, bike, skate and run on the streets. It reconnected people to each other, the city and to a healthier lifestyle. Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, Madison, WI., and other cities in the US have hosted events with tremendous success.

I was able to participate in one of the first Ride the Drive events in Madison. A friend and I biked the typically-car-filled route several times at a relaxed pace. We stopped at a few of the stations sponsors had set up along the way - we outlined our bodies in chalk on John Nolen Dr., stopped for a few snacks, passed bicycle repair stations and admired all the different types of bicycles and bicycle riders that came out. It was really fun! (Photo credit.) What was the point? Well, besides obstructing traffic for a few hours on a Sunday, it got people out on their bikes along routes that people were familiar with in a relaxed atmosphere. There was no race, and a lot of fun.

Ride the Drive. Madison, WI.
What route do you think a ciclovia would be fun and successful to ride along in your community? In Clemson, I could see a route down College Ave and following the perimeter of the University campus - along 93 Hwy to Perimeter Road, Perimeter Road to Cherry, and Cherry back to 93, including the heart of Clemson's Campus. In Greenville, would the route include N. Main Street, S. Academy Street and include parts of the Swamp Rabbit Trail? How about in Anderson, Spartanburg or even Walhalla?

Ciclovia's are can be inspirational. They can be a catalyst for biking in a community - take bike planning and propel it into bike action, energy, momentum. It's hard to stop once you start - pedaling, that is.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Patroness of Bicyclists

Did you know that there is a Patron Saint of Bicyclists? A few friends gave me a small gift - a medallion with the Patron Saint of Bicycling - Madonna del Ghisallo - and I wanted to share the story.

The story goes that St. Mary appeared to a count named Ghisallo who prayed for help as he was being attacked by thieves in medieval times in Lombardy, Italy. He ran to the vision, and was saved. She became a local patroness of travel. A small church (see the photo below) was built in her honor by Count Ghisallo. Eventually, a local bicycle race included traveling by the site of the vision and church. And in 1949, an Italian priest requested that Our Lady of Ghisallo become the "official" saint of bicyclists. She has been watching over cyclists ever since. (Photo credit.)

Today the church is a shrine, has a small cycling museum with photos, artifacts and stories about famous cyclists. People make a tough, two-wheel, hilly pilgrimage to the site. An eternal flame to honor cyclists for died is also at the museum. (Photo credit.)

I've also seen some cool souvenirs.

This could be a cool place to visit if you're for a cycling adventure in Italy or just a jaunt off the beaten path. I like to know that someone is looking out for me when I'm on the road. A fun bicycle story to share!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Feeling Safe Enough to Ride

Life gets overwhelming and busy sometimes. There's that famous line that's cliche by now, but it still rings true: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

I've not been able to ride my bike in the last several months. Shorter days. Rain. Mostly a busy work schedule. I don't feel safe riding here, now, this time of year. When I lived in a more bike-friendly area, I would ride almost year-round. As long as the pavement was visible, I rode. Riding in the cold wasn't ideal, but it didn't keep me off my bike. And riding in the dark wasn't my favorite thing to do, either, but if work kept me late, conditions were such that I didn't fear for my life.

Safety is an interesting issue when it comes to bike riding. It's all relative. If people feel safe, they'll ride. Some will ride in almost any condition, on any road, like on Scenic Highway 11. Crazy hills next to the crazy traffic on the crazy bike lanes. Riding in conditions a little less stressful are a safer choice for a majority of bicyclists, like those found on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. If I want to ride near my house, I'm riding in conditions that are somewhere in the middle. Not crazy enough to prohibit people, but not safe enough for novice riders or children. Sometimes it gets to me. I want to scream at the cars riding too close, bang on sides, kick the doors at the next stoplight. I don't, but it would sure feel good. (Graphic credit here.)

I wish that the "bike route" that was identified with outdated signs was safer. Debris-filled shoulders that were cleaned. Bike lanes that weren't substandard, being forced to ride in the gutter pan. Speed limits or road conditions or street designs that were a little more inviting or (at least) did not encourage speeding motorists. If you check out the League of American Bicyclist's Bicycle Friendly America Program, you can check out how safe your state (and possibly community) is based on a few criteria. South Carolina is the 11th most dangerous state.

Safety is an issue when bike riding. I used to ignore it, but now I can't help it that my stress level spikes when cars buzz by. I can't wait until the conditions are such that I can get back out my bike.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Biking in Clemson

Clemson University held a Student Meeting for their Bike Plan at the end of November. There were a small, but dedicated group that attended the meeting. The University is looking at connecting the Campus, Beach (once known as "Y Beach," now called "Campus Beach") and the North and South Forest by bike. Clemson University does not own all the land to connect these places by bike lane or path, but they're working on other ways to draw connections between these places that are inviting to people who ride bikes - recreational riders, families, hard core mountain bikers, road cyclists, etc. Their aim is to develop a network that will appeal to a variety of bike riders.

At the meeting, the University was looking for input on routes that cyclists use - around campus and in the Forest. There isn't much in the way of official bike paths, trails or lanes on campus (or in the Clemson area, for that matter), but a good way of developing a good network of paths is by talking to the users. There are many trails in the Forest, but there are user conflicts, unclear trail signage, etc. If you bike on campus or in the Forest, feel free to post a comment below about places you go, things you'd like to see improve or change and other ideas. 

It was also great to hear that the University and the City are talking about their bike plan together. The City is also working on a bike plan. They are just in the beginning phases, but after input after the public meeting on the update to the City's Recreational Master Plan, public interest in developing better bikeways in Clemson is clear.  The City and University will be working on a network of connected routes and destinations. The two entities are known for working together on other initiatives, programs and events. Great things in Clemson!

Clemson is a great college town, and having a network of bike paths would help to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors to the area! It would also be great if the bike routes connected to the larger apartment complexes. There are a high number of students biking from off-campus, and providing them a safe way of getting around would do a long way. Getting the cities of Central and Pendleton to join in or write their own bike plan would also be great. 

Keep up the great energy, interest and biking!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Melo Velo Bike Swap

Last spring, there was mention of a Cycling Club forming in Clemson. (Greenville has the Greenville Spinners.) At the time, I had just heard of Melo Velo by word of mouth. They have a website up and running. One of their highlighted events is a Bike Swap this Saturday, November 19 in the parking lot of the Hudson Bagel Company in Clemson. Anyone is invited to bring equipment to sell or just stop by to see what others have. After the Bike Swap, there will be an opportunity for a bike ride. There will be three different rides for three different types of riders. Check out the website for more info.

Melo Velo, welcome to the Upstate!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

University Campuses (Repost)

In September 2011, Mia Birk came to South Carolina. I mentioned it here. She's done a lot for biking. Here's a link to her TEDx talk about her "joyride." Her most recent blog post (on her blog) is one worth reading. She talks about the value of College Campuses related to biking. The points are valuable, especially in the Upstate. Clemson University, Furman University, Wofford College, Anderson University, Southern Wesleyan University and a slew of other higher education campuses call this region home and could have a powerful influence on biking.

Some of Mia's Ideas:

  • Have a good Bike Plan
  • Hire dedicated staff to address transportation (bike) issues
  • Develop a joint bike advisory committee between the university and college town.
  • Educate students in orientation material - before they get to campus.
  • Consider changing parking policy and costs.

Wouldn't it be powerful if the University's lead the way, engaging students to consider how biking can play a role in their recreation and transportation lifestyles? Not everyone can afford a car - and not everyone can live without one.

Read Mia Birk's blog post. There are powerful ideas that come from years of experience. Shaping them to fit the needs and culture of the Upstate is something to consider!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cold Weather Biking :: What to Wear

Brrrr! There's a bite to the morning air as we move deep into Fall. November brings colder temps, but not cold enough to put up the bike for the season if you know how to dress.

I learned how to dress by biking late into November and starting in early March in Wisconsin - just as long as there was dry pavement and no snow, I would ride. That meant riding in and dressing for morning temps of 30 degrees! Was I crazy? Maybe. But I loved to ride, and I was determined not to let the temps get in my way.

Interested in learning how stay warmer during your ride? Whether your a daily commuter, recreational rider, road cyclist or a mountain biker, the tips below may help you learn how to dress for cold temperatures.

Rule #1:  Layer. A little bit of layering will go a long way. You can buy the athletic wear that's meant to wick-away sweat or hold in heat, but cotton clothing goes a long way in keeping your core warm. Layer in tight fit clothing on the first layer. Sport those spandex tops and pants. Put on your long-johns under a pair of jeans and your riding shirt. Take off the under layers once you arrive at your destination. If it's really cold, I'll wear my long spandex shorts under my biking shorts with a long pair of cotton socks underneath it all. On top, I'll wear a short sleeve cotton t-shirt, my long sleeve spandex top and then either my polar fleece vest or my light spring jacket.

Rule #2:  Hat + Gloves. No matter how much you layer, you'll need to invest in a set of hats and gloves to make it through the additional chill you'll encounter as you ride in the cold. I ride with my open-finger biking gloves until it gets really cold. Then I switch to a thin pair of polar fleece gloves with grip on the bottom. (I've tried layering two pairs of those thin stretchy gloves, but the cold still gets through.) Some suggest investing in ski gloves or buying gloves made specifically for biking in the cold. Wearing a hat will go a long way in keeping the rest of you warm. If you wear a helmet, buy a thin hat. You won't need to worry about investing in something heavy duty if your ride keeps you moving. Some riders in cold areas wear a balaclava.

Rule #3:  7 minutes. This is the amount of time it usually takes to warm up. If you can make it this far, the rest of your ride you'll be warm. At this point, you may be able to tell if you've over or under dressed for your ride. If you're sweatin' buckets, you've overdressed (and might catch a chill). If you're still cold, you've under dressed - power through and get home.

It takes practice. Experience is the best teacher. After a few rides, you'll get the hang of what you need to wear to stay warm in cold temps.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bike Lane Types

I've been thinking a lot lately about the differences among shared roadways, bike lanes and multi-use paths. I've been thinking about it after completing a miniworkshop at the annual APBP conference, about what's best on any street, best in any given community and what may be the ideal scenario for each type of bikeways.

I'm still trying to get my head around what's the best use for each of these, and where in *insert city name here* would each of these bikeway types be appropriate. Here are some of my thoughts:

Shared roadways. Shared roadways are typically good in residential areas or neighborhoods where there's not a lot of fast moving traffic. Shared roadways or shared bike lanes are when cyclists and drivers are obligated to share the road, and it's usually denoted by signs and pavement markings. They can also be good for retrofitting an area, but that's not always going to the solve the "we need bike lanes here" problem. I also like them on wider lanes, and in areas where on-street parking either doesn't exist or is hardly used. Depending on the streetscape, though, only some users will feel comfortable using them.
Best place to find them:  Neighborhoods, city streets that are low-speed, low-traffic volume.
Worst place to find them: On high-speed (45 mph + up) rural roads.

Shared Roadway with "Sharrow."

Bike lanes. These have been reshaping our roadway and bike routes for the last decade. Bike lanes - special travel lanes for those on bicycles. There are a couple of different kinds: conventional, buffered, contra-flow, left lane (think one-way streets). I think that they are generally great. They help improve cyclist safety. With the defined space on the roadway, cyclists are more visible to (and as a part of) traffic. They help legitimize biking. They're good for roads that carry a higher amount of traffic with mid-range speeds (35-40 mph). Depending on the streetscape and traffic, only some users will feel comfortable with them.
Best place to find them:  3 and 4 lane roads with speed limits of 35 mph, near neighborhoods.
Worst place to find them:  Arterial roads. Road with speeds limits posted at 40 mph, but travelled at 45mph+.

Multi-use paths. Assuming that they are off road, I like these for families, slow-moving recreational riders (as opposed to the fast-moving kind) and in communities where they're trying to improve park and recreation facilities. Sometimes multi-use paths are also called greenways. Riding on these paths can give novices confidence before taking to the actual road. I think that there should be some kind of signage and/or pavement to provide designated space for cyclists and non-cyclists (peds, skateboarders, rollerbladers, rollerskaters, etc). Rails-to-Trails paths can also fit in this category. However, experienced cyclists - racers and commuters - usually don't like to ride on these paths.
Best place to find them:  Recreational routes.
Worst place to find them:  In an area where bike lanes should be.

A rendering for one kind of Greenway.

plan for another Greenway

There is another kind of bikeway - Cycletracks - that interest me, but I've yet to see them or ride on them. I don't feel like I have enough information to have an opinion on these.

One kind of cycletrack.

So, here are some of my opinions and thoughts regarding the different kind of bikeways. Where do you see these fitting in your community - whether in the Upstate or any other state? Are bike lanes good to connect parks or are greenways better? How do families with young kids feel about bike lanes vs. shared roadways vs. off-road paths? Do experienced riders really not like riding on multi-user trails? What are your thoughts? I'd love to engage and learn more!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bicycle Safety 101: Cyclists, think like Drivers. Drivers, think like Cyclists.

Share the In a previous Bicycle Safety 101 post, I mentioned the that cyclists and drivers should know the rules of the road. Ignorance of the law doesn't exempt us from following it (or get us out of any tickets). But in case you don't have time to take a bicycle safety class or work on memorizing the laws, there is another way to learn how to "share the road." Let's start with addressing the cyclists.

Cyclists - Most of you have driven a car a one point or another. You know the basics: stop at stop signs, pedestrians have the right of way, give plenty of time and signal before turning, don't run red lights, dump the road rage, drive with traffic, be aware of your surroundings and always be on the look out for potential crashes that can be avoided. Follow the rules, and you'll be a safe driver. So, when you're on your bike, things aren't much different: don't red run lights, stop at stop signs, peds have the right of way, etc. Generally, following these traffic safety basics will provide for safe experience on the road, and lessen the road rage drivers feel towards you. (Photo credit here.)

One of the biggest issues drivers have with cyclists is disregard for the law. Every time you coast through a red light, weave in and out of traffic lanes or run a stop sign, biking as a means of transportation is taken less seriously. I don't like stopping at stop signs - Stopping and starting every few blocks in an urban neighborhood is a royal pain. Rolling through that rural blinking red light is very tempting. - but they are there for a reason. As a cyclist, recognize that reason and respect it. If ya don't, ya may not get respect. So, cyclists, think like drivers: follow the rules.

Drivers - You are the majority.  In cars that are fast, convenient, good for hauling lots of people and their stuff over long distances, you rule the road. With your 1 ton mobile shelters, you win in any crash with a pedestrian, motorcycle, moped or bicycle. You had to take training (perhaps many years ago) to get a license to operate your vehicle. You know the rights and wrongs, the do's and don'ts of operating on the road. You set the tone of roadway interactions for all users.

Think about that. Depending on how you act - and react - to any situation, you will contribute to creating an environment of roadway safety or danger, calm or calamity, inclusion or dominance. Think how cyclists feel riding near speeding tons of metal, glass and plastic on a hard, rough surface with only their clothes and helmet to protect them. Combine that vulnerability with a distracted, road-raged driver. It ain't a pretty picture. (An extreme photo.)

You also probably like it when there is less traffic. If there are safe biking conditions, there will be opportunities for your neighbors to hop onto a bike - and out of their car - resulting in less car traffic for you. (Or, maybe you'll even consider doing a few trips a week by bike.) Safe biking conditions include:  designated bikeways/lanes/paths/shared roadways, lower speed limits, drivers who don't run cyclists to the curb or cut them off. Support the development of these things, and it'll be a better, safe place for the community. So, drivers, think like cyclists: be aware of your surroundings.

Consider these things - talk about 'em. It's really important if communities in the Upstate want people to use the bikeways that they're building. And then there's the whole bike feasibility argument, too - no one wants a bike lane to no where. But, here's the take away message:

Create safe, convenient roadways. Work together. Cyclists, think like drivers. Drivers, think like cyclists.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sustainable Tailgating :: Trial Run

Blake Sanders, fellow upstate bicyclist and advocate, wrote this post about his experience with sustainable tailgating at a Clemson University football game during the 2011 season. Enjoy!

It's a beautiful day in Death Valley; 80,000 screaming fans, the Tiger Rag, and the Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football. It's easy to be excited for Gameday Saturdays but in my case, it's also includes the most dreaded 60+ minutes of my week, traffic and walking. Now don't get me wrong, walking is great, but not lugging a 3-year old, albeit he is as small as me.

Go back 18 months...

I'm hosting a charrette with Clemson University Design Inquiry Students, developing an idea that will be presented to the Student Body Government in hopes of securing funding. With over 30 students/professors in attendance, we knew we would develop an incredible solution to a space on campus. Previous groups have designed memorials and gardens, placed benches, and even honored past faculty. Our group decided against redeveloping a space but rather developing a campus green in an already overused area that has received zero attention since Thomas Green drank from the Seneca River. Our design space, Highway 93, directly across from the Esso Club. An overused space during game day (primarily parking) and vastly underused during the school year, even though it is a gateway from the west.

Two hours later, our group had developed potentially a ground breaking idea that would be like non-other at Clemson, the Green Tiger Trail (A Sustainable Tailgating Experience).

Fastfoward to present time...

Luckily we have an opportunity to go to the Clemson vs. Wofford football game and my wife and I have decided we'll finally take our son, Lane, to his first game. Of course we want him to experience the pre-game festivities, but of course, without a parking pass this becomes sort of an issue. Packing the pull-ups, change of clothes, Chick-fil-A, drinks, etc. it all hits me. I recall our design charrette, talks with Dan Harding, Clemson architecture professor, and Clemson's Bicycle Planner, Tanya DeOliveria. I do it. We load up the bikes and head for "The Valley."

We park on the outskirts of Campus, Highway 93 and Highway 76 to be exact, put on our packs and head to find our tailgating spot. We pass well over 200 people walking and dragging coolers down a road closed to vehicles during our 4 minute bike ride (versus our 25 minute walk). We stop at the Lee Hall Courtyard (covered bicycle parking) and set up camp. We eat, relax in the air conditioned gallery space, take a gallery tour, and play football. 30 minutes before game time we take our final walk to the stadium (a 5 minute walk=9 minutes total commute time).

Wonderful game experience as Lane loved watching the game and the band. Tigers win in somewhat of a nail biter and we head out. A 5 minute walk to our bikes, and a 10 minute bike ride back to the car (uphill coming back).

Things for the University to consider as Sustainable Tailgating becomes closer to a reality:

  • The need for bicycle parking next to the stadium.
  • Bus/Bike transit back to the car (I must admit I didn't feel like riding after baking in the sun for 3 hours).
  • Specific tailgating spots for bike commuters.
I must thank Tanya for convincing me to write about this experience and the many others that I hope to encounter. Consider checking out an article in the Anderson Independent Mail regarding Sustainable Tailgating.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why Biking Matters to Me

As I've been blogging for several months, I've been able to find my voice, make some connections with others in the biking community and, in a part time capacity, take on a bike planning job. I have had had a lot of fun exploring biking in the upstate. There has been a lot of momentum building, and exciting projects are moving forward. The weather is also nicer here for a longer period of time from where I got my "training wheels," and it's nice to see people take advantage of it.

I thought it might be time to explore why biking matters to me.

The "quick" answer is because it's environmentally friendly, it's great for the wallet, it promotes healthy living and lifestyle choices and it's a social justice matter. What do all these things really mean? Let me explain.

It's environmentally friendly. In a world where we're addressing the issue of climate change, doing my part to minimize my impact on the planet is important to me. Whether you believe it in or it, it's still part of the national dialogue of current events. Driving my car puts 10,593 lbs of carbon emssions in the air. When I ride my bike, I don't produce those emissions. Therefore, I feel like I'm doing what I can to live a minimalistic lifestyle.

It's great for the wallet. Gas is expensive. Whether it's $3 a gallon or $4 a gallon, you still have to pay. And there's the non-ecnomic costs, too. (See above.) When I ride my bike, it costs me calories. (See below.) Biking is one of the most fuel efficient modes of transportation. Hands down. I'm a frugal person by nature, and this arguement is THE ONE that got me started. When I was a grad student, paying my own way, I looked to cut as many costs as possible. Biking saved me money on gas and on a parking permit.

It promotes healthy living and lifestyle choices. I was a competitive swimmer over the course of my academic life, from the time I was in kindergarten through my senior year in college. I loved being active, I loved the comradery and I loved eating what I wanted, er, I mean, staying in shape. As that time in my life came to pass, I still needed an outlet for my engery and to help me cope with stress. Bicycle commuting was an ideal way for me to get that physical fitness fix. Like swimming, I was up and moving early, providing me an energy boost in the morning. By the evening, I could pedal away my stress from the workday. (*Disclaimer:  I am NOT a morning person, so, those of you who claim you're not able to because you'd have to get up 20 minutes earlier, get over it.)

There have been a number of studies and hundred of stories of how biking has impacted individual lives in ways related to health, wellness and postive lifestyle choices:  losing weight, managing stress, providing a positive, fun outlet and many more. Some folks get hooked into biking, and tours take them to local farms where they learn about the benefits of eating local. Others are craving community, and joining the local bike group gives them a space to meet people who share a common interest.

It's a social justice matter. Everyday I see people in whose only means of transportation is a bike. I saw them in Madison, Wisconsin, and I see them in Clemson and Central, South Carolina. I think about these people a lot. The people I see tend to be older, less agile than your twenty or thirty-something-spandex-let's-do-this! crowd. My concerns for older folks, and anyone who rides as their major for of transportation, is providing a safe route that connects to (major) destinations. I live less than 10 miles from Clemson University, and on one road, a major route for the community, there are several grocery stores, restuarants, the library, the public recreation center, several neighborhoods/apartment complex, day care facilities, clothing stores and city hall. All of this is along a dangerous yet identified, marked "bike route." How do people who's major means of movement is by bike feel about these conditions?

I'll even go as far as to reach out to include the "peak oil" people or include the "what do we do when gas goes to $5 a gallon?" rant. Even though I don't feel passionate about these topics, building a bike network might allievate some of those concerns. It's not my favorite pro-bikeway arguement, but I'll take it.

Biking started out as a way to cut back a few dollars, but it's become much more to me over the last several years. How has cycling impacted your life? I loved it as a kid, and actually getting back on my bike as an adult was fun, but it did take some time. I have come to see it as a safe transportation option and fun recreation choice that we should have. I see investing in bikeways as a really good thing, and an answer to many problems that we face today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Community Input, Impact

Community input is essential in developing just about anything. Creating a place that's unique comes from feedback from the public:  what works, what doesn't, what's needed, what's important, etc. When it comes to bike planning and developing a bike system of trails, paths and programming, it's no different.

Community input is important in developing a bikeway that's suited to fit the needs of a community. Cities across the country (and world) can provide great examples of model programs and infrastructure, but what works in one place won't necessarily have the same success or impact in another. What works in Portland doesn't necessarily work in New York City. What works in Atlanta won't necessarily work in Charlotte. Likewise for Greenville or Columbia or Spartanburg.

In the Upstate, the City of Clemson is moving forward with a bike plan. They have two Community Input meetings. One was Tuesday, September 27th (maybe you went). The other is Tuesday, October 11th in the City of Clemson Council Chambers from 6:30 - 8:00. They need your input to create a bikeway that's unique to Clemson. It's always great to share your experience and ideas at these kinds of meetings. Articulating what's important will help planners, engineers and project managers create a bikeway (and, ultimately a community) that's suited to fit the needs of the city. (Other communities in the Upstate have engaged in similar public meetings.)

In a related note, if you're interested in learning how to advocate for cycling in your own community - kind of beyond community input - check out this post on the Palmetto Cycling Coalition blog.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bike Funding. On the Cutting Block. Again (x2).

Last night, I sat down and wrote a letter. I actually ended up writing two letters. Saying the same thing. To two SC VIPs:  US Senator Lindsey Graham and US Senator Jim DeMint. I explained to them why having dedicated funding for bicycling infrastructure and programs was important, why they should vote in favor of these things and to pass a clean extension to the transportation bill.

This photo was not contrived. I wear glasses. I drank a beer while writing it. I signed it with that pen. And it felt great.

Bike funding is on the cutting block. Again. It happened last year. It happened this summer. And it's happening again. The bicycle community - anyone from identified advocates to families who enjoy recreational rides on the weekend - is being urged to contact their US Senators. (The opposition is coming from US Senator Coburn, R-OK.) He's saying that he won't support the transportation bill if there are any bike-related funding programs. Tell your Senators that you love your bike lanes, trails, your education and awareness (SRTS) programs, and that cutting funding is not a good idea.

I spent some time in Wisconsin before moving to South Carolina. During my time in Wisconsin, I learned a bit about the democratic process, how to engage in it, why it matters and that thousands of individuals can make a difference. My time their inspired me, pushed me to actually write this letter.

Will this letter get read by either Senator? At best, it will get read by an intern or staffer, and just be placed in the "support" pile. But I see this as a win! Because all of those letters, phone calls and emails could stack up and make a difference.

I encourage you to consider contacting your US Senator. If you're in SC, then you can contact the same guys I did. If you're not in SC, then do a quick search, find out who they are (if you don't know) and contact them via email, phone or by the good ole USPS. Tell them....I bike and I vote!

Update on the Federal Funding Bill:  the bill passed last week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dream or Reality?

A regional bikeway? One that folks could hope on at any point, ride for 40, 50 or even 100 miles. For recreation. To aid them in a leisurely Upstate, Local Community Tour. Or how about just an alternative way to get around the Upstate - one that weaves in and out of small towns, neighborhoods, parks and natural areas. A bikeway system that would link to larger parks or central, communal locations. Wouldn't it be cool if bikeways from Spartanburg through Anderson - connecting Greenville, Easley, Pickens, Central, Clemson - with legs jogging off to Seneca and Walhalla, or reaching down to Greenwood or Columbia - were connected?

 Cool idea? Not really too far off - to some stretch of the imagination. With communities across the region involved with bike planning, talking to each other might help connect the dots (communities), linking them together. I think it'd be cool to have a bikeway stretching across the region. We wouldn't need the system to be fancy or too specific. Some parts might do well to have shared lane markings, while others would be better off having a bike lane. And maybe in a few downtown bikeways would turn into cycle tracks.

Acting locally, but thinking regionally.  It may also do wonders to establish a real sense of community and at the same time providing South Carolinians (and any visiting tourist) another way to get outside and play, reduce stress and the waistline, and spend time with others. With a national bike expert's visit to South Carolina occuring earlier this month, folks around the state have had the opportunity to come together, chit chat, learn and talk about the realities of bikes as a real mean of transportation and recreation.

If you know of any groups involved in developing a regional bike plan, organization or network, please leave a comment below!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Biking In The Upstate Regional Update

This was a big news week for bicycling in the Upstate of South Carolina. Several communities were highlighted in the local media for moving forward in bicycle planning and programming. Fall is great time for building momentum. Folks are back refreshed from vacations, ready and anxious to put plans into action.

Anderson County was in the news this week for their support of a visionary idea to develop a version of Swamp Rabbit Trail in the County. County Council voted to work with The Rocky River Conservancy, Anderson University and a private land owner to develop a greenway that will include bicycle paths, walking trails and a water route for those on kayaks and canoes. Their hope is to make a great park that locals can enjoy and a destination for others. I wonder if it might also connect up with the plans in the City of Anderson and even potentially the trails in the Clemson University Experimental Forest.

The City of Greenville played host to one of Mia Birk's stops in South Carolina. Mia Birk, bicycle advocate and president of Alta Planning + Design, spent three days in South Carolina. She visited Charleston and Columbia on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, she is (was) in Greenville talking with local officials, bicycle advocate, politicians and citizens sharing her experience, expertise and love of biking. Her visit it perfect timing, as Greenville's Bike Master Plan goes in front of Greenville City Council for approval on Monday, September 26. (She's a self-proclaimed "not bicycle absolutist," and sees the need for all types of transportation in every community - bike, bus and car.)

Spartanburg's role of the B-Cycle Bike Share program happened earlier this summer, but it's never too late to give innovator's some props. There are two stations ready for folks to use in the downtown. Bike sharing is all about reducing car trips for short errands, joyrides, touring around an unfamiliar city or any other reason one might need to ride a bike. To learn more about the program, how to sign up, use it and any other questions you might have, check out their website.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mountain Biking in the CEF

Ever since Atlanta hosted the first Olympic Mountain Biking events during the 1996 Summer Games, the sport has taken a foothold in the Southeast. The Upstate is a great spot for mountain biking with its rugged terrain, sweet weather and cool trails. Some folks even imagine a day when folks in Atlanta could hop on a train to the Upstate, use mass transit or rent a car to get to their destination, and make it a weekend get-a-way.

Clemson's Experimental Forest is open to mountain biking. Certain trails are well suited to the needs, demands and desire of mountain bike enthusiasts. (Others are not as well suited.) Of course, when in a national, state or local forest, one should always tread lightly and care for the Forest - the "take only photos, leave only footprints" mentality. Enjoy the ride, but make sure to take any trash or belongings with you.

Mountain bikers aren't the only ones using the Forest. Hikers, hunters, fisher(wo)men, horseback riders, Boy Scouts and other community groups use the forest. (Keep a look out for these guys on the trail!) Some community spaces and multi-day events require a reservation to help track usage and maintenance. But many of the trails are open to during most of the year, closing or restricting access only during various hunting seasons. Trails should be marked or a sign should be posted when restricted access is requested.

Enjoy the Forest - and other natural places in the Upstate - on your mountain bike. Ride hard, but take care of the trails.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Clemson Critical Mass Ride

Ever taken part of a critical mass ride? Typically, it's these rides are meant to demonstrate the "critical mass" of cyclists that exist in a given community. Promoting awareness of bikers can lead to planning of more amenities (bike lanes, paths, racks, programs), safety and an increase in health and wellness. Some rides are faster and more law-abiding than others, but rides that are well-organized are inclusive, uplifting, fun and a time to get to know other bikers in your area. Critical mass rides are meant to be a slower-paced ride so that ALL who want to bike can.

Folks in Clemson is starting a critical mass ride event. Starting this Friday, August 26, cyclists in the area will meet at 4pm at Reunion Square, also known as the intersection of SC 93/Old Greenville Highway and College Avenue in Clemson, just off of Bowman Field. Come for a short time, ride your bike, wear your helmet and help promote awareness in the Clemson (City + University) Community. This is meant to be the kickoff ride, and future critical mass rides are scheduled for the last Friday of the Month. (I won't be there because I have to work....bummer.)

Other rides, critical mass or otherwise, can be found by getting involved with your local cycling community. In the Upstate, check with your local bike shop or subscribe to the Cyberspinners list serve.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Update on Federal Funding

Earlier this summer, the Fed's put bike funding on the cutting block. Folks involved with bicycling across the country responded, contacting their state Representatives and Senators, asking them to take a stand against the cuts. With so many communities recognizing the importance of having bike amenities like bike lanes, paths, facilities, policies and programs as a means of promoting health and wellness, recreation, transportation options and environmental sustainability, a cut to federal funding seemed like a major blow.

A little while ago, People for Bikes reported that Congress decided to rethink that idea, and put cutting bike funding on the back burner. (Victory!!!!....for now...) Even though the initial push to "save" bike funding worked, the multi-year transportation bill won't be voted on until September - or later. Bike funding, as well as funding for other transportation-related projects, is still on uncertain grounds.

Staying in contact with your local congressperson, as well as staying tuned to organizations like ABPB, League of American Bicyclists and People fof Bikes will enable you, as part of the bike community, to voice your opinion and keep track of what's going on.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bicycle Safety 101: Back to School, Review the Rules

August brings about school, and living near Clemson University, one can't help but notice the influx of 20,000 people into small-town life. The return of students means an increase in traffic. Most students will be driving, some catching the bus and a few riding bikes. I would like to see more on bikes...but that is for another post.

If you're new to riding your bike to get you from point A to point B (also known as commuter biking) or its been awhile since your last ride, reviewing a few safety tips will make the experience calmer, safer and more enjoyable. It's also helpful if your car-driving friends know these rules. Cyclists have the state-legislated right to "share the road" (as many signs on the roadways point out), and if all road users come to know what to expect when they see a cyclist (assuming the cyclist follows the rules), the road becomes a safer place for everyone.

Enough of the PSA (public service announcements) schtuff. Here are a few of the major rules that should be followed when riding on the road:
  1. Ride with traffic. Maybe when you were younger you were taught to ride against traffic so cars could see you and you could see the cars. This is no longer the recommend way to ride. Riding with traffic is actually safer because you are acting like a car on the road. This helps cars to better anticipate where you might turn, stop or otherwise maneuver. Make sure you ride with traffic at all times (unless otherwise noted or riding in a "contra flow" lane).
  2. Ride on the street. Not on the sidewalk. Though you may feel safer on the sidewalk, it's actually more dangerous. Folks driving cars don't expect to see bikes on the sidewalk. They don't expect them, and, therefore, don't actually "see" them. When you come to a cross street and just ride on through, you're putting yourself at greater risk for being involved in a bike crash.
  3. Obey all traffic laws. If cyclists, especially commuters, want respect from drivers, we have to earn it. Cars must follow all the rules of the road. So must bikers. If we want to keep our rights, we must respect the rules. That means stop at every stop sign, obey every traffic light and road sign, signal before performing a maneuver (aka making a turn) and be courteous to others (cars, trucks, pedestrians) around you.
  4. Wear a helmet. For safety's sake! Might mess up that 'do, but your brain is worth it!
  5. Wear lights at night, dawn, dusk or in bad weather:  White for the front and Red for the back. Wearing lights at night is state law, and it makes any cyclist much easier to be seen. There are all kinds of different types that you can buy at your local bike shop or on-line. 
  6. Be assertive. "Take the Lane." This is the idea that if a cyclist needs to make a turn, merge into a lane or make some other maneuver in traffic that they act as boldly as a car, actually taking the lane. Does this take practice, courage and a bit of daring? Yes, and others riding in traffic around you will feel more comfortable if you act with purpose.
  7. Be courteous to pedestrians (and others). Good biking karma is a good thing to cultivate. Always yield to pedestrians (it's also state law). Give the "thank you" wave to any auto that waves you through. And treat others how you'd like to be treated.
If you decide to take to the road, just remember a few of these tips. You can also review the state rules here, and the biking policies at Clemson University here. No matter if you're in elementary school, high school, college or life-long learner, in the Upstate or out-of state, avid biking commuter or car-driver, knowing the rules of the road for cyclist will help create a safer environment for all. Got a favorite tip or rule to add? Post 'em below!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Easley Update

Implementation of Easley's bike plan has been moving forward - but not without some obstacles.

In mid-July, the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee met with members of Easley's religious community to talk about a few issues that had recently surfaced. Debate about cars parking in the new bike lanes on South 1st and East 1st streets provided an opportunity to engage the community about the role and priority of biking. Religious groups are voicing their concerns about providing convenient parking to their members, especially older folks. The City has welcomed the debate, but is standing by the suggestions (and long term goals) of the bike plan. An idea about providing a weekly exemption on Sunday morning arose, but the City has said that they can't control county or state troopers writing citations to those who park in the bike lane. Parking in a bike lane is against South Carolina State law.

The Greenville News recently reported that Easley was awarded a grant to help create a multiuse path on Couch Lane. In a past post, I talked about how the area on Couch Lane was identified as a top priority in the Easley Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. Easley will get money from the Pickens County C-Fund Committee. Check out the story on your favorite search engine for more details. (To get around having to subscribe to Greenville News online, search for the article, and use the "cached" feature.)

The debate is a great way to engage the community that helps build safety, awareness and a greater understanding of the biking in the community. Everyone may not agree, but it's a process that is worthwhile - change and learning new things rarely happens over night! Great things are going on in Easley.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Carmageddon: Bike beats Plane

"Carmageddon" took place in LA this weekend.  A major highway arterial was shut down to all traffic. Jet Blue offered flights for $4, all taxes and fees included, to go the 40 miles from one LA airport to the other - all as a means of getting around a major city while a highway was shut down for a few days. A few folks who were getting sick of all the media-hype hoopla decided enough was enough:  the cycling group Wolfpack Hustle challenged Jet Blue to a friendly but fierce Bike versus Plane race!

So, here's what happened:  The cycling group challenged Jet Blue. Jet Blue officially said "no thanks" but made room for a couple that bought the $4 ticket to go from one end of LA to the other. The cyclists and the airplane riders left the same place at the same time Saturday morning to see who would reach a park nearby the airport first. Though done in good fun, the cyclists were out to prove that riding a plane 'cross town was a bit of an overkill. There were two other racers, someone who took mass transit and an inline skater (rollerblades) who also volunteered to race. Here's how they finished

  1. The Cyclists
  2. Mass Transit Rider
  3. The Inline Skater
  4. The Airplane Rider
All the folks involved had a great time, followed all the traffic laws and it provided some great PR for cyclists. Make sure to check out the links to see some cool photos and footage of the race!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Road Closed Ahead

I've got an axe to grind today. In light of the recent bicycle/auto crashes and fatalities that have happened across the state, there was cause for concern during my commute from Clemson to Central yesterday.

I was coming from Clemson University on 93 toward Central. As I was crossing the bridge on 93 over 76, there was a big "Road Closed Ahead" sign blocking the entire bike lane similar to the one found in the photo below. (!!!!!)

SC 93 is not the safest road to be biking on, but many do, including students. I was really upset that this sign was blocking. The bike lane. On 93. In an area of high traffic congestion.

Knowing my rights as a member of the public, I set out to alert the officials of the safety issues and engage them in a conversation about bicycle commuter safety rights and issues. I started out by contacting the City of Clemson to find out what was going on. I learned that it wasn't their project, so off to the DOT I was sent.

After five phone calls to three different offices, I got two stories on their policies and procedures. One guy I talked with (from X County) said that they don't put signs in the bike lanes. I was happy to hear this. We talked a bit about this, and I came away feeling like "my work here is done."

The other (from Y County) said that he saw nothing wrong with it, and that if he was out there, he would have put the sign in the bike lane - as opposed to the sidewalk. He said that we don't live in a perfect world, and someone's not going to be happy. (If the sign was put on the sidewalk, then a pedestrian would have called and complained.)

I talked to him about considering the fact that bicycles have a slower reaction time and farther stopping distance than pedestrians. And this area (which some might say is crazy to ride in, though there is a designated bike lane) is busy with cars, traffic lights, on ramps, off ramps and other distractions. Maybe putting this sign in the bike lane was not the right choice, considering those other factors. He also mentioned that bikes are like autos, and have rights and responsibilities to the road. Therefore, as a bicycle commuter, I had a right to ride in the car/truck/semi lane, too. Even though the road was closed, I still had a right (rights vs invites) to be there. So, the "Road Closed Ahead" sign in the bike lane didn't mean I had to stop riding my bike - I just had to take my life into my own hands - more so than I was already doing.

He wasn't biting, and we politely agreed to disagree, but I hope that, yes, another bicyclist commuter politely pushed a button that needs to be pushed. If we aren't looking out for our safety and rights...others might not be either.

Am I a little crazy to ride here? Maybe not really. If you're familiar with the area, you may know that most of the off-campus housing for Clemson students is on this route, and many use it to commute during all hours of the day and night. You may also see the bike lanes and signs, which not only (kinda) alert cars that bicyclist have a right to the road, but also alerts any potential bicycle commuter that this is a designate route - and you're free to use it. Finally, it's short ride from campus to grocery stores, restaurants, video rental places, the gym and rental housing. It's an area with a variety of use in short amount of space that could be the ideal bicycle commuting route - especially for penny-pinching students.

I came away with not being completely sure what the DOT's policies are, but I hope that my phone calls cast another ripple in the growing sea of bicycle and non-auto traffic commuters, helping build awareness that we're out there, we're vocal and we really just want to get home safely.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Balancing Act: Bike + Ped Funding on the Line (again)

Heard the news lately? Some of the folks up in Washington have decided that they'd like to cut funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

I read a brief email from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) about the issue. I wanted to learn more, so I visited the Association of Bicycle and Pedestrian Professionals (APBP) website. APBP is an organization for those involved with promoting, planning, policies, programs, etc. that have to do with pedestrians or bicyclists. You can choose to officially join the organization (pretty inexpensive, in the world of professional memberships).

What's going on, you may ask? Key members of the Senate and of the House have voiced their opposition to bicycle and walking funding. House Chairman Mica (R-FL) announced that his Transportation bill will eliminate all dedicated funding for bike/ped projects:  Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancement funds and the Recreational Trails program. In the Senate, Senator J. Inhofe (R-OK) who is key negotiator, has stated that getting rid of funding for these projects is one of his TOP THREE priorities. I really hope that the men and women that we elect to represent us can see how bicycle and pedestrian projects have benefited folks across South Carolina (and beyond!).

APBP has a great article on how this proposed cut in funding appears to go against the grain of growing acceptance and interest in bicycle and pedestrian programs across the country. They state the importance of these programs in support of the economy, job growth, public health, community development, recreation and public support. If there is growing interest in these programs, then why is this on the chopping block? Same thing happened last summer, as budgets were tight then, too. I am upset, though, because investing in bicycle and pedestrian programs promotes the use of more sustainable (financial, environmental, economical, the list goes on....) activities. (There has recently been several studies about the link between bikeways and job growth.) What harm is there in building more routes, systems and networks that enables people of all ages and abilities to get around without having to invest in a car, be at the whim of a bus system and/or be at the mercy of the gas pump? Additionally, this blog has kept up with the active, growing bicycle plan, programs and networks in just the Upstate of South Carolina. What about the rest of the country?

If you'd like to take this a step further than educating yourself (and your friends), contact your congressmen/women. Tell them, politely, how you feel and why you feel that way. The APBP article does provide a quick, handy way to contact your representatives via the world wide web (which I did). Although, I've heard that a written, snail-mail letter is better, please consider contacting them either way.

Keep your eyes and ears posted for more. Contact your representatives. And keep biking!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Auto Assistance (Insurance) Group that Supports Bicyclists

Ever heard of Better World Club? Mean either, until about two months ago. I was paging through an issue of Utne Reader, a magazine I used to subscribe to, but now get from my local library. (Thank you, Picken's County Library System!) I love the magazine for it's collaborative approach, alternative viewpoints and more progressive materials and advertised products.

Anyhow, I was thumbing through it, and I came across an ad for Better World Club (BWC). I remember reading that it was an alternative to AAA, and that they were bike-friendly. This sparked my interest.

So, about a month later, I got around to looking up BWC online. My parents have been AAA member for as long as I can remember. My husband and I have been members, and I value their road-side assistance program and some of the travel services. I love the big, comprehensive, free maps that AAA provide. It's nice to have some in the car, and that you don't have to be completely dependent on a working connection to the internet or a GPS device.

I was really curious about this other car insurance/road side assistance copy. Looking around their website, there were several really cool things that I discovered:
  1. They offer bicycle road-side assistance. They have a service that offers to pick you up and drop you off in case of an emergency. Many commuters, or commuter-want-to-be's, talk about wanting to ride to work, but fear what will happen to them if their bike breaks down and they really need to get somewhere. BWC's program offer's a possible solution.
  2. They offer discounts and benefits. The benefits and discounts aren't quite up to the stock that AAA has, but it's growing. BWC offers rental car, hotel, bike and other discounts. Check out their website for details. (The discounts for autos and bicyclists are found in a few different locations on their site.)
  3. They advocate for bicycle rights. According to their website, AAA does not! WOAH. To me, that is huge. If I'm advocating for bicycle rights, why do I belong to an organization and pay a membership that is in direct conflict to what I support? I've done a fair amount of research on this topic, and feel pretty confident that BWC is correct in this verdict.
So, what does this mean? My husband and I have not yet switched, but we are strongly considering it. I would strongly encourage you to consider this, too. Additionally, they are also advocates for environmentally-friendly travel, not just the oil-friendly kind. I also requested a car insurance quote from them, just to get an idea what we might be working with. The quote I got from them was very reasonable.

If you're looking for an auto or bike road-side assistance program that will offer you special discounts on insurance, hotels, rental cars, bike accessories, travel and other things, including advocating for bicycle rights, I ask you to consider checking out BWC.

Full Disclosure:  I don't know anyone or will get anything for blogging about Better World Club. After finding out more about them, I thought others might like to know more, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Local Projects Continue to Drive Regional Momentum

There has been a few things going on in the world of biking in the area.

In May, The Greenville News reported that folks in Easley were considering putting a shared-use path on Couch Lane. (See the letter "A" in the photo below to see where Couch Lane is as compared to Highway 123.)


The street is highlighted as a high-priority area in the recently completed Bicycle and Pedestrian Master plan. It's also a high traffic area, and the community is really excited about the development this path. It's great to see plans in Easley moving forward. (To read more about this project, you can either subscribe to The Greenville News online or search for it in your search engine, and click on the link to circumvent paying for access to the news site.) If there has been an update, feel free to post it in the comments.

There has been a lot about biking in the news in the City of Greenville. One of my favorite biking blogs,, has been doing a great job covering the local action in Greenville. The author has a nice post on City Council Candidates on Bike Lane Funding. There is also a post about some work that the DOT is scheduled to do on Pelham and Roper Mountain Roads. There is a lot of good information on the projects, why they are relevant to the biking community in the region and the plans that have listed these projects as priority areas. Please read this post, and consider subscribing (or frequenting) the Bike Greenville blog.

Anderson also continues to push forward with implementing their Trails and Greenway Master Plan. They have recently put in a few bike lanes. Look for more from them in the future.

Clemson University has also started to do some bikeway planning. The project has just started, but there will hopefully be some great things in the future.

If there's anything else going on that's been missed, please post an update below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Daily Commute: Where the Sidewalk Ends

I commute to work. I enjoy my daily excuse to ride with the wind, get exercise and enjoy the great outdoors.

On my ride, there are several different things that are common biking and pedestrian concerns (obstacles, barriers, weaknesses) that appear in communities across the country. Using my daily commute, I'd like to address a few of issues as a forum to engage dialogue, explore ideas and learn. (If you're interested in following this series, the posts will begin with the titled "Daily Commute.")

Here is one of the first intersections that I come across: 

It's actually kind of peaceful. There are a lot of trees and rolling hills (as you can see). To the right, there's a small park where a stream trickles by and a baseball diamond where the local little league plays. To the left, the road dips under the railroad, and intersects with Highway 93. The intersection in the photo is rarely congested, and it is the only way to get across the railroad tracks without having to wait for the train for miles. It's a pleasant crossroads.

But. But there are a few major connectivity and safety issues.

  1. Where the sidewalk ends. The sidewalk ends, abruptly, on the near right side of the road, and picks up, across the street, on the far left side. There are no sidewalks on the near left or far right. For pedestrians (joggers, families, daily walkers, little leaguers, etc) this isn't safe. There is also a lack of a curb or clear boundary where the road starts and the sidewalk begins. This area could use a little spit and polish.   

  2. Head and Shoulders. The shoulder appears to be quite wide (and is) in the foreground. Traveling by a neighborhood to get to this point, the wide shoulder is ideal for cyclist (as long as it's kept clean of road debris.) But, after the intersection, the shoulder disappears, forcing the cyclist to into the flow of traffic, creating a dangerous opportunity for a auto/bike crash. This area needs to be examined, and some decisions need to be made about widening shoulders, putting up signage or other ways to get ride of the cycling barrier. I often find myself riding on the shoulder, and then jumping to the roadway. Please Note:  Cyclist generally have a choice when riding in an area that does not have disclosed or apparent bikeways (lanes, paths, etc). They can ride on the shoulder or on the road. In South Carolina (as in many states), cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities to be on the road as an automobile. They can take up the same space or spot as a car, but that also means all traffic laws and signals must be obeyed.

  3. Rights versus Invites. Does this area look bike-friendly to you? For being next to a neighborhood and just off of downtown ("downtown" Central, SC, that is), this area does not appear to be safe or inviting to many bike riders. Would you allow your children to bike here? Would you feel comfortable crossing this intersection? Even though cyclists have rights to the road, sometimes the area is not inviting. Communities can take steps to address the comfort level of cyclists, automobile drivers and pedestrians, making the location (intersection, park, neighborhood, path) a safer place for everyone.
I would say that this area has a lot of potential to create a great community space and crossroads. With the park, stream, little league field, neighborhood and downtown just on the other side of the tracks, there are lot of things to draw people to and through the area. What a great space!

Where are the places like this where you live or work? How might they be improved to address pedestrian, bicycle and automobile safety, health and wellness? Talk with friends and neighbors, local officials and planners to help plan for a better community.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Riding in the Bike Lane

This was is just too good to pass up. Seen this youtube video? It's funny, to the point and not over the top or rude. After getting a ticket for not riding in the bike lane, a cyclist in NYC put this clip together. It tells the story of how bikers sometimes feel. But, no matter your love (or disdain) for cyclists, check it out. It'll make you laugh.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NACTO's Urban Bikeway Design Guide

Ever wonder where bicycle paths, lanes, signs and other amenity designs come from? Local officials, planners and advocates typically collaborate to decide what works best for their community, but there are organizations and documents that provide guidance when designing bike facilities.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials, or NACTO, has recently released the Urban Bikeway Design Guide through their Cities for Cycling Initiative. This document is a collection of bikeway best practices from a group of national and international bike planning experts. 

NACTO is an organization for large central cities across the US to engage in dialogue, exchange ideas and share resources as related to transportation issues at the local level. NACTO started in 1996 as a means for large (think NYC, LA, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Minneapolis)  local governments to talk about their transportation issues in a more meaningful manner. Since the DOT's policies were lead by the Federal government, and executed at the State level, local governments across the country had few means to address their concerns. The USDOT, AASHTO, APTA and PTI supported the establishment of NACTO.

The Urban Bikeway Design Guide is an important document to any city, university or community that is developing a bike plan and implementing bike facilities. The Guide's website is easy to navigate, and the guide has a ton of information. It was developed so any advocate or planning professional would be able understand the photos, matrices, diagrams and text in an easy to follow format. Just like any comprehensive guide, I would recommend taking some time to peruse the pages before diving in. There's information on:

So, why is this important, you may ask? Why do we need some big 'ole document telling us what to do? It's just as important to have this as it is to have the guidelines for our other transportation networks. Engineers and designs built our railroads, waterways (think big ships and ports, rivers, or even recreational lakes and streams), airports, bus terminals and roadway system. They are developing our bikeways, too.

Our transportation and recreation systems will be enhanced by local leaders learning from the experience of the bike pioneers. Commuters and recreational riders will benefit from safely designed paths. Cars, trucks and other roadway traffic will flow better with bikeways that are more identifiable and defined. Overall, this guide helps commuters, engineers and local officials plan for and execute a safe, comprehensive transportation system - locally (of course!)

Take some time to review the guide, website and its recommendations. Feel free to post a comment here and let me know what you think.