Monday, July 30, 2007

Mayor's Bicentennial Bikeway Plan

Last Thursday, Mayor Coleman and City Council member Mary Ellen O'Shaughnessy hosted a public meeting of interested parties and stakeholders in support of the city's Bicentennial Bikeway plan. Here's the official press release:
City’s Bicentennial Bikeway Planning Clicking Into High Gear

(Columbus) Flanked by dozens of bike riders, Mayor Michael B. Coleman and Councilmember Maryellen O’Shaughnessy biked from City Hall to North Bank Park today to announce the launch of the City’s Bicentennial Bikeways Plan to add off-street trails and on-street bike lanes, and to make biking safer for residents.

“This is a great season for biking - for fun, fitness or even to save gas, but we need to make it safer and more convenient for riders and teach drivers to respect bikes,” Mayor Coleman said. “Too many people in Columbus have been hurt or killed walking and biking, and the City is refocusing our neighborhood and traffic planning to be bike and pedestrian-friendly.”

The Bicentennial Bikeways Plan is a continuation of Mayor Coleman and Councilmember O’Shaughnessy’s long-standing commitment to pedestrian safety. Not only is the City stepping up programs to slow traffic in neighborhoods and build sidewalks, but it also is including bike lanes and sidewalks on major road projects, such as Hard Road and Morse Road.

“This is an exciting project,” said Councilmember O’Shaughnessy, an avid bicyclist. “It’s a good time to be a bicyclist in Columbus, and it’s going to get even better.”

Columbus maintains 87 miles of bike trails, bike lanes and posted bike routes, and plans to add some 60 miles of trails in the next four years. The Mayor and Councilmember O’Shaughnessy are investing $255,000 to hire a nationally known consultant to plan for more – and safer – commuter and recreational bicycling.

“Our bikeways and green paths are what connect us – they tie and bind the region together. The Columbus Bicentennial Bikeway Plan is also good for our air quality, helps relieves congestion and enhances our quality of life,” said Chester R. Jourdan, Jr., Executive Director of the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC).

Work on the plan started this week, as the City of Columbus, MORPC, Burgess & Niple, and Alta Planning + Design began conducting an inventory of existing bike trails, lanes and posted routes, as well as an assessment of support facilities like bike racks, drinking fountains and benches. The next step is to study vehicle traffic, lane width and crossing protection on bike lanes to make them safer.

“The Transportation and Pedestrian Commission is excited that the city has engaged the help of ALTA, the nation’s best bicycle planning organization, and we look forward to working with the City to implement the recommendations and adding a critical asset to the viability of Columbus,” said Michael Wilkos, a local planning expert and Commission member.

The Bicentennial Bikeways Plan will include:
  • New trails, lanes and posted routes for both recreational and commuter bicyclists;
  • Improved street-crossing protection, with signals and signage;
  • Bike racks, lockers and shower facilities;
  • A public awareness campaign for bicyclists and motorists;
  • A long-term plan for improvements, staring with the capital investment in the Bicentennial Bond Package, which will go to the voters next year.
Much of the legwork and many suggestions are coming from residents and bicycle advocates, who are members of a stakeholders’ group that met today to map out the next phases of the Bicentennial Bikeways Plan.

Photos of today's ride and a digital map of existing trails and routes are available upon request.
Well, he's saying all the right things. And it's true that there have been bike lanes put in on Morse Road. But as I've said in my Wish List posts and a few other places, there are some things that I think the city doesn't necessarily see that we regular cyclists do see. Let's look at the bullet points above, one by one:
  • New trails, lanes and posted routes for both recreational and commuter bicyclists;
Absolutely needed. I will freely admit that I keep waffling back and forth about the value of bike lanes... I do think they will get more people out on the road and more out of their cars, but at the same time I think they send the wrong message to motorists. I've talked enough about that issue, though... and I think any plan that takes cyclists in mind more than they are now is a positive.
  • Improved street-crossing protection, with signals and signage;
Also needed. I'd like to add in, though, that the sensors that detect vehicles for traffic lights need work as well. I wrote a message to the city engineers about a faulty detector at Arcadia and High, I'll post more on that later.
  • Bike racks, lockers and shower facilities;
No doubt these are needed. I'd like to see public input as to the types and locations of the racks.
  • A public awareness campaign for bicyclists and motorists;
I tend to cringe when I hear things like this... I don't think that public awareness campaigns do as much as action followed by critical media coverage. For instance, if the police were to actually start ticketing for any vehicle doing rolling stops, failure to use turn signals, speeding, cycling on sidewalks, etc. and the Dispatch was to cover it, that would mean so much than feel-good "look out for bikes" campaign.
  • A long-term plan for improvements, staring with the capital investment in the Bicentennial Bond Package, which will go to the voters next year.
This scares me. Ohio voters are notoriously anti-change, and this has the potential to upset the applecart. Change NEEDS to happen. It's not just about global warming, but about general wellness of our community. All the things that make biking great are not only good for stopping global warming, but also reducing pollution, obesity, traffic congestion, and road rage issues. But Ohio voters at large aren't that progressive, IMHO.

I hope I'm wrong, but past performance isn't on their side. Or, our side.

3 comments:

  1. I tried to put some context around this on my post: http://www.considerbiking.org/site/viewtopic.php?t=185. Everyone, be sure to come to the public meeting Sept 26, 5-8pm at North Bank Park Pavilion. The first draft of their recommendations will be available at that time, and comments will be accepted!!

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  2. Don't panic on the 2008, Bicentennial Bond Package... this isn't for Ohio voters, it is for Columbus voters... a different group. The City does a "Voted Bond Package" every 4-5 years, and the last round passed by an average of nearly 65% of the vote. This is how sidewalks, sewers, parks, fire stations, etc. are paid for, and the Mayor is just articulating that he wants to add some Bike-friendly elements to the package. As long as it is supported by bike community it should be a strong package.

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  3. That's comforting, Mike. Thanks for that news. You're right, the mayor seems to have put this into a good package that will include a lot of stuff, and as much as I'd like to have overwhelming support for any bike-related bond issue, I'm happy to have it put in with an "all-or-nothing" issue just to have it actually pass.

    The key thing is getting things started properly - if the trends around the nation will apply here, just creating the infrastructure will bring a lot of cyclists out of the woodwork to start using the amenities available.

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