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, bikegreenville.blogspot.com, 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.