Monday, July 30, 2012

Clemson University Bike Plan

About a year in the making, Clemson University has completed their bike plan. After public meetings, student, staff and faculty input and an examination of peer universities, CU has a plan of action. You can check out the plan here.*

The plan will help guide bikeway (bike lanes, shared roadways, bike paths and trails) development at Clemson - on campus and in the forest. There are provisions for bike racks, signage, intersection improvements and other related things. About 41 miles of bikeways are proposed.

The one thing this plan has is infrastructure. Infrastructure is the stuff you ride on and lock your bike to. The one thing the plan does not have is programming. Programming is the group bike rides, psa's and riding incentives. The infrastructure piece is critical to having a place to ride. The programming piece is key to learning the best places and ways to ride (that includes you, too, drivers!). My guess is that the programming piece will come in time - whether it be in an additional programming bike plan or as different departments (CORE, CEF, Parking and Transportation Services, etc.) feel that they have the resources and the right timing to take things on.  

The plan also has this cool "ideas in need of champion" section that addresses possible future things Clemson could do to promote other bike-related events or things:  developing new policies, improving connections between the campus and forest, enforcement ideas, teaching ideas, etc. This shows that the University is aware of the issues that the plan does not address, yet still alludes to some issues that should be addressed.

CU did their homework. There's a section that talks about the history of bike planning in the area and there's another section where other university and outdoor rec/mountain biking areas where reviewed. There's a look at bfu's and some nationally-known, regionally-located rec programs. 

I could go into greater depth about the plan, but I encourage you to check it out for yourself. I think this is a great step for Clemson, the Upstate and this region of the country. Universities can be great leaders, and with USC improving their biking status, South Carolina has its two major universities committing to some progressive policies and philosophies. Which, of course, can only lead to great things for the people of this state. And maybe, in this category, there can be some friendly in-state rivalries where we push each other to better things.

Check out the plan. Tell someone about it. Support biking in your local community.

*Full Disclosure:  I've been a part of the bike plan project at Clemson over the last year so, I may be a bit biased. I'm interested in your feedback, though. Please feel free to post your appropriate comments. Happy Trails!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peter and the Bicycle Superhighway

There's a article in the New York Times about the bicycle superhighway in Denmark. It's this stretch of bikeway that runs between Copenhagen and Albertslund, a nearby suburb. 11 miles of pavement just for bikes. But this isn't the first I've heard about it. In March, during our visit to Savannah, I heard about this bikeway when we met Peter from the Netherlands.

Peter was a friendly guy who had recently taken a job in the States. Over breakfast, before his scheduled bike tour around historic Savannah, we were able to talk a bit about biking in the Netherlands. The Dutch are internationally known for their “super-star” biking status. Their innovations in bicycling infrastructure and policies would make any entrepreneur or transportation engineer jealous. I soaked in all the international wisdom I could.

He talked about this superhighway and how it was the first of its kind. Innovations like this really helped all kind of bicyclists get from point A to point B on a daily basis. He talked about how biking is integrated into the culture, the lifestyle. Each member of his family had a bike, and they had an extra "junker" in the garage for house guests, totaling 6 bikes in the family. His three kids, including the one attending university, all rode their bikes to school. The kids have bicycling safety and education classes integrated into elementary curriculum. He talked about the fact that his eldest would like to own a car, but the cost of gas is prohibitively expensive for most Dutch. (Think like $15 or so a gallon.) The cost of owning a car was also more expensive than it is in the US.But since the country has invested in bikes since the 1960's, not owning a car isn't a big deal. 

I've also heard that the Dutch have done simple things like teach students in driver's ed to open the driver's side door with the right hand. This naturally causes a person to look over their left shoulder before the open a car door, and does a great deal to prevent incidents of "dooring."

Talking to someone who lived the life that I'd only heard about from others was such an exciting opportunity! It validated everything I'd heard, and he got a kick out of talking to a bicycle planner in the US. He was flattered to boast about the success of his country! We bonded over an international conversation, comparing notes about two different countries, two wheel transportation and a bowl of oatmeal.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Q: What is that white stripe on McMillan Road at Clemson University?

A:  A bike lane.

Bike lane on McMillan Road
The first bike lane since the mid-1990's has made it's debut on Clemson's campus, in time for the new school year. I'll follow up with how I know what this is in a later post, but after I spotted it on the evening of Friday, July 13th, I was elated.

The bike lane on McMillan Road is not (yet) completed. The bike lane pavement markings and signs have yet to be installed, it's only along portion of the road and to most people it'll appear to be a bike lane to no where - but it'll come together soon.

Clemson University adopted it's first Bikeways Master Plan in June 2012. The plan is scheduled to be available on-line later this summer. The plan outlines the University's bikeways network that will be developed over time.

It takes time for a bikeway network to come together. At first, bike lanes, shared roadway and paths can appear disconnected and disjointed. But pieces of the system are typically installed over years, taking advantage of scheduled resurfacing (repaving), grants and other roadway or transportation enhancement projects. This is a good way for communities to keep the cost of developing bikeways down - everyone likes their tax dollars used in an efficient manner. If you're every curious about the progress or plans of bikeways in your community, surf the web or contact your local planning department for the bike or transportation master plan. This will understand where you community is with bike planning - and may give you an opportunity to become a local champion for bikeways.

If you're coming to Clemson in the fall or live in the community, check it out and spread the word:  biking is alive and well at CU.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

AASHTO Bike Development Guide

Bike lanes, paths, parking and general infrastructure are designed and installed by following local, state and national standards. Just like roads, bike facilities are legitimized and best understood when they look similar. Guidelines, laws, and policies are used to shape what our national bike network looks like on the open road.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SC DOT) has guidelines and recommendations that planners, engineers, construct workers and other use when they plan, design and construct bicycle facilities. Some cities might also have ordinances that provide guidance on bike parking or bike lane installation for a local area. The most influential guidelines come from experts at the national level. 

2012 AASHTO Bike Guide
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, commonly called AASHTO, literally writes the book on bikeways. It’s called the Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, and the updated version came out in June. It’s been highly anticipated and long-awaited in the biking world. The previous guiding document was published in 1999. Bike lanes, parking and paths have come a long way since that time!

This is the bike planning and designing bible. The information found in this books helps professionals design bicycle facilities, gives guidance to help solve unusual design problems and aims to accommodate bicyclists on all types of roads. Since it’s developed by AASHTO, “the voice of transportation,” this book is taken seriously by professionals in the field. Admittedly, this stuff is a bit dry, but it’s the nuts and bolts of how our bikeways are being developed. It’s a design manual, and definitely not a page-turner – unless you’re trying to solve some transportation design riddle.

It’s not available online to read for free (yet), but previous versions are. If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about bike planning, engineering and development, I suggest checking it out. I’d also suggest checking out the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Manual on UniformTraffic Control Devices, commonly referred to as the MUTCD.