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.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cyclist Killed by Pickup on Snouffer Road

You don't see a lot of cyclist deaths in Columbus. It seems I've read about cyclists being killed by motorists on almost every cycling blog I read but it's never happened here, since I started paying close attention.

Well, that all changed Wednesday morning at just before 4:00 am, when 19-year-old cyclist Michael T. Sonney was killed by a hit-and-run pickup driver on Snouffer Road in north Columbus. Here's the story from the Dispatch:
Bicyclist killed in hit-and-run accident on Northwest Side
Wednesday, July 25, 2007 11:02 PM
The Columbus Dispatch - WBNS-10TV

A bicyclist killed when he was hit on the Northwest Side early this morning was on his way home from a new job, his family said.

The family of Michael T. Sonney told WBNS-TV (Channel 10) that he'd just bought the bike with the first paycheck he earned at Teleperformance, a call center.

Sonney, 19, died shortly before 4 a.m. after being hit on Snouffer Road by a red pickup truck that Columbus police say left after striking Sonney.

Sonney's family said he was making the 40-minute bike ride home after his 7 p.m.-to-3-a.m. shift.

Police said last night that they are questioning the man who they believe hit Sonney.

Officers said they found the heavily damaged truck by following a mile-long trail of radiator fluid from the crash scene at Snouffer Road and Asheville Park Drive to the man's home.

Police said the man is cooperating with them and charges are pending.

Police were called to the crash site at 3:54 a.m. and found Sonney severely injured there. Sonney, who had been riding his bicycle east on Snouffer Road, died at the scene.

Police said the truck also had been going east when it struck Sonney's bicycle and kept going.

Police said their investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the accident investigation squad at 614-645-4767.

tdecker@dispatch.com

Lindsey.Seavert@10tv.com

I'll be paying close attention to this case as much as I can, because there's absolutely no reason this driver shouldn't be putting in some serious jail time for killing someone and then leaving the scene.

Also, I'd like to try to put up a ghost bike for this rider at the site of his accident, and I'd appreciate any help I can get for this. I think it's in the best taste, though, to contact his parents to make sure they won't be offended or hurt by that.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I've Been Tagged...

Hmmm... A Midnight Rider tagged me in the blogging community's "tell five things that few people know about yourself" tag game, so I guess I'll have to come up with some things:

1. When I was in fifth grade, I played Winthrop Paroo in our county community theater production of The Music Man. Yeah, I was our county's Ronnie Howard for a few weeks. If you've seen the play/movie, you know that the character had a lisp. Well, the nicest comment I got was that "that young man has such a nice voice, if only he didn't have that speech impediment." Heh... the only speech impediment I have is too much volume (according to my wife)!

2. As often as I can get away with it, I don't wear pants. I'm a kilt-wearer out of the office (and off the bike). I have two Utilikilts, a khaki Original and a brown Workman; and three traditional tartan kilts, a Black Watch, an Irish-American, and last but not least a Clark Ancient tartan kilt that my wife (a Clark) gave me! Kilts are much more comfortable than pants, any day. I've worn them to the last two weddings I've been to including one in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it's always cooler and more comfortable than pants. I haven't tried biking in a kilt yet... I don't think it'd be that comfortable, what with sitting on the pleats on the bike... but we'll see.

3. I love just about anything to do with Tiki Culture - also known Polynesian Pop. I'm constantly torn between redecorating my home as either an Irish Pub or a Tiki hut. Let me tell you, Aloha shirts and kilts look pretty good together.

4. I was in Army ROTC in college and was hoping to go active duty after I graduated with my BA and a second lieutenant's commission in the Armor branch, but President George H. W. Bush decided that it was time to reduce the number of folks in Active Duty. Basically I took my Armor Officers' Basic Course and that was it - I couldn't even find a reserve unit with all the active guys looking for reserve slots. I was officially discharged from the Inactive Ready Reserve in October, 2001.

5. My senior year in high school, I entered a lip-sync contest with four of my friends. The song we picked was "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" by the Beastie Boys. We were disqualified from the contest after some of the teachers thought we were a little bit out of control. One of my friends dropped his pants during the routine and mooned the entire audience with a pair of yellow briefs with "Beastie Buns" silk-screened onto the rear. When the local Public Access TV station aired their tape of the contest, they blanked the screen during that part. I'm such a rebel.

Man... who to tag? I think I'll pick...

Smudgemo - You Just Don't Want To
Austin - Austin C. Kocher
The Bike Nazi
Treadly - Treadly and Me
Alan - Alan Snel | Bike Stories

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nudge Nudge...

If you haven't done so already, please fill out the Columbus Bike Planning Survey before July 31st!

And then... come to the Simply Living meeting about the Columbus Bike Plan on Wednesday, August 29 from 7:00-9:00 pm. The meeting is at Whetstone Library, come one come all!

But to repeat: fill out the survey! Fill it out! Fill it out! Now! Don't wait!

And pass it on to everyone you know!

Also - Alta Planning has released their latest documents on the city-wide bike plan on their website... check it out! (Requires Adobe Reader)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's Your Walking Score?

I was alerted to a neat site today by the Bike Riding Donut Guy. It's called Walk Score, and the idea is that you put in your address and it tells you where all the key facilities available to you in walking distance. It also gives you a score based on 100 to let you know just how conducive your area is to walking based on the stuff nearby. My home in Clintonville had a 66 out of 100 - not bad, but it could be better.

It doesn't appear to take into account things like the presence of sidewalks, it seems, or safe routes to walk... just locations of key services.

Obviously, it's for walking, but it can certainly be used for biking, too. Check it out.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Columbus Cycling Wish List #3

The third thing I would wish for on Columbus streets is either: a removal of the metal detector/sensors at traffic lights or a re-adjustment of those sensors for cyclists. I frequently sit at corners for a few minutes, frequently with cars behind me, because the sensors don't pick me up.

The worst is when cars who sit SO far back from me that they can't trip the sensor themselves. I normally appreciate being given room like this, but not at times like this. And I can't blame those drivers, they don't normally have to think about things like that.

I would prefer to remove the sensors altogether and simply return to a system that is simply time-based - that would do more to discourage car driving and encourage traffic calming. But I'd be happy with either.

Edited 2:19 pm: gtdesign posted a link to a product that motorcyclists apparently use when they encounter this very problem, as well as this Do-It-Yourself remedy to the issue.

Columbus Alive Features Bike Articles

It was a bit weak, but Columbus Alive made the effort to show a bit about bikes and how to get around in Columbus this week. The article with B1 Bicycles' Casey Karnes was good, and alert reader B Adler gave me a link to video of the interview, which goes a bit further than the original article did. They also did the predictable "required gear" page and a feature on the various multi-use trails in town.

I know they had the best intentions in mind, but it bothered me a bit that they did the interview with Casey Karnes who talked about bicycle commuting a bit, and then did profiles on the various bike trails avaiable in town, trails which exist primarily for recreation. I know people DO use them for commuting, but the whole point is that streets don't exist just for cars - they exist for people. And that includes people who ride bikes.

Still, kudos to Columbus Alive for putting out the articles... this is the time to promote bikes!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dispatch Multi-Use Path Story Is Misleading

The Dispatch put out a pretty interesting article Wednesday about the traffic on multi-use paths in Columbus. Though they're commonly called "Bike Trails" they're really for everyone to use. And that's caused some grief for many people.

I've reprinted the article below since the Dispatch requires a login to see articles after a certain amount of time.

This article doesn't cover the problems adequately, as usual. But this time they also went a step WORSE and had an online poll attached to the article that was entitled: "Do bicyclists observe the rules of the road when passing pedestrians on trails and paths?" This poll turned into a major bitch session where motorists recalled all sorts of issues they have with cyclists on the ROADS, not the paths. Very irresponsible by the Dispatch. But of course, the Dispatch gets lots of money from the auto dealers in town, so what do you expect?

The rules of the paths are as follows (from the Columbus Parks Department website:
All Users
All City of Columbus Codes are enforced.(www.ci.columbus.oh.us)
Motorized vehicles are not permitted. Be courteous and predictable to other trail users at all times. Keep right, always pass on the left, giving audible warning to pedestrians, skaters and other bicyclists. Maintain single file when others are within 100'. Pets are not permitted on Greenway Trails. Keep dogs on leash (maximum length 6 feet) when walking near a trail and clean up after your pet. Dispose of litter in waste receptacles. Alcohol is prohibited on trails in park systems.

Bicyclists and Skaters
Yield to pedestrians. Give audible warning when passing pedestrians, skaters or bicyclists. Ride and skate at a safe speed. Slow down and form a single file in congested conditions, reduced visibility, and other hazardous conditions.

Pedestrians
Please stay to the right side of the trail except when otherwise designated. Watch for other trail users. Be especially alert when running. Listen for audible signals and allow faster trail users (runners and bicyclists) to pass safely.
Here is the article. I've noted my issues with it below.
County exercise paths not always happy trails
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 3:33 AM
By Kathy Lynn Gray
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

In a perfect world, bicyclists in Franklin County could ride trails without veering around ambling walkers or skidding to a stop because an errant dog has crossed their path.

And joggers, walkers and dogs could stroll along paths without fear that speeding bikers might mow them down.

The reality? Most exercise paths in the county are for everyone, racers and slowpokes alike. And a few jerks end up in the mix.

"I think bikers are kind of rude, some of them anyway," said Clintonville resident Janine Mast, 30. She was jogging yesterday along the multiuse trail at Antrim Lake near Worthington with her dog, Zoe, and friend Liz Arcaro, 33, of Delaware.

"There are two or three bikers who come by and tell us to move over or go single-file."
Well, yes. The rules of the multi-use paths say that when other people are within 100' of you, you need to stay single file.
Biker Steve Twigg says he, too, has been yelled at on the trail -- by walkers.

"They say, 'Slow down!' or 'What do you think you're doing?' or other idiotic things they have no business saying," said Twigg, 34, a salesman at BikeSource in Clintonville. "The biggest issue I run into is people who think that bikers are a nuisance. You should expect to see cyclists on the bikeway."
Technically, this is wrong, too. It's a Multi-use path... not a bikeway.
That tension between bikers and pedestrians, especially joggers with dogs, has been common for years on local trails.

"Some riders complain about the dogs, because some of them will be walking and cover the whole path," said Brad Westall, a trails planner for Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks.
As seen in the rules above, pets aren't allowed on the trails. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that 95% of the problems are with people who use those retractable leashes - the ones that let the pets get more than 6 feet away from the owner. Also against the rules.
And he said the department gets complaints about competitive bikers traveling faster than the posted 15-mph speed limit.

"We'd encourage those folks to stay off the trails," Westall said.
That only makes sense. And the speed limit is posted at most access points to the trails that I've seen.
Lisa Staggenborg and Fred Yaeger of Worthington, who were riding recumbent bikes on the trail into Antrim Park yesterday, have had some sour experiences with bikers.

A friend of Yaeger's ended up in the hospital for four days after a bicyclist slammed into him when he was jogging on the trail and stopped to look behind him.
Bad account here. The friend didn't say HOW he turned around... did he get off the path to take a look or did he stop in the middle of the trail to look, or what?
"People who are going slowly are irritating, but people who are going fast can hurt you," said Staggenborg, 49.

Yaeger, 60, watches out for what Staggenborg calls "speed demons" on wheels.

Some walkers say they've never had a problem.

"I'm not bothered by the bikers," said Robert Brandenburg of the North Side as he was plowing through his usual 2 or 3 miles a day yesterday on the trail at Whetstone Park on the North Side.

Behind him were Patty Chandler, 74, Vicki Baack, 63, and Winifred Stutz, 82, who have been walking three abreast along the Whetstone path in the early morning for years. The Clintonville residents have found most bikers along the trail polite enough.

To reduce problems, the city has widened its trails to 12 feet in recent years, Westall said. Trails have been expanded and new ones added so there are about 42 miles countywide, compared with about 10 miles just 10 years ago, he said.

A bike-only path has been discussed, but none is currently planned, Westall said.

His advice?

"As you're having a good time, be courteous and try to maintain a safe distance around yourself. And respect each other and abide by the rules."

kgray@dispatch.com
Basically, this all shows the need for more bike acceptance on the city's streets. Bikes don't have many other places to go in Columbus than the paths - and not all those people who are on the path are there for recreation. As we saw in the post about the unannounced closing of the Olentangy Trail, many use it for commuting purposes. I have. A lot of students have, as the path goes through OSU.

Another problem, though, comes from people with their Walkmans or iPods playing too loud. If they can't hear when cyclists make efforts to notify them, they shouldn't be upset when they are surprised while getting passed.

Basically, though, people need to learn that their actions have repercussions and that they are responsible for themselves. That'd solve a lot of the problems on the trail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Columbus Cycling Wish List #2: More Access to Paths

The second item on my wish list just occurred to me. There are lots of good multi-use paths in Columbus, but it seems that access to them can be hard to find at times. I'd like to see there be more entrances to the paths - perhaps one every 1/2 mile or so. I'd think one per "major" road that the path crosses/passes over would be adequate.

Edited 7/16/2007 2:26 pm: Meredith posted a comment about improved signage for the trails, and I couldn't agree more. I feel there should be a sign on major cross streets and right in front of any entrance to the trails to let folks know where they are. So for example, on the Olentangy Trail's entrance at Clinton-Como Park at the west end of Weber Road, there should be a sign right at the entrance on Weber Road, and also one at Weber Road and High Street.

A Bike Lane That Follows You

This has to be one of the niftiest ideas I've ever seen for bikes.

Byron Loibl, a graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art, has created a light that simulates a bike lane line two feet to the left of you. You strap in on the back of you bike (well, you install it) and it creates a line that motorists can see and use to figure out how far away from you to stay and be safe.

Simple, but brilliant. My only questions are how well it shows up during the day and how it's powered...but this is an every-little-bit-helps moment here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Addressing Crew Stadium Problems

Unlike most Columbus residents, my home team is not the OSU Buckeyes... it's the Columbus Crew. I've mentioned before that I've biked to Crew games with mixed results. I've never had any problems with traffic and getting into the stadium - I think that most folks realize I'm not holding them up since I enter through a different access point to the parking lot, and I don't park in a parking space. I'm sure there are some who are rankled by my ability to do so, but that's their own fault for driving instead of cycling.

To my point, though: the General Manager of the Columbus Crew, Mark McCullers, was interviewed by the Columbus Dispatch about the status of Crew Stadium and the need for improvements. The major improvements he mentioned were all about the parking situation at the stadium, naturally.

If you've never been to Crew Stadium (shame on you! ;) ), here's the situation: Crew Stadium's parking lots are two-fold: the VIP lot, which is close to the stadium and nicely paved; and the regular lot, which is basically a big dirt field. Until the past couple years I'd always parked in the regular lot. But I always arrived early to games to either tailgate or to do work with the team's website (I was a feature writer and programmer for the website for several years), so I was able to pick my parking spot pretty easily. Having seen some of the spaces in the lot after rainy days, it can be hard to get in and out of the lot or tailgate there (and tailgating before sporting events is very big in a college football town like Columbus) without becoming a muddy mess.

Though a VIP parking pass isn't that expensive when you look at coming to around 16-18 games a season, they are limited in quantity and many folks in Columbus think it's ridiculous to have to pay for parking anywhere (too much car culture). So the Crew is actually losing fans because of the parking situation.

Though it's not going to be THE answer, I've asked the Crew on two occasions now to install bike racks. After reading today's article, I suggested their installation as well as creating some sort of bicyclist promotion to get people to try to ride their bikes in more often. If people know that bike racks are an option at the stadium and they'd be rewarded for using the racks for their bikes, they might be more inclined to use them. And putting them close enough to the front gate would help discourage thieves.

More bicycles would mean fewer cars, which is always a good thing. And though it won't solve the problem of poor parking lots, it could certainly help.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Columbus Cycling Wish List #1

In looking around the city at the cycling infrastructure, I've noted some things that I think could be better (and realistically so, I think - no pipe dreams allowed in this particular post). I'm going to start a wish list for my thoughts about ways to improve things for the various cycling infrastructure meetings that are upcoming in town... starting with:
No parking on streets designated as Bike Routes. The purpose of a bike route is to give cyclists a place to ride safely. The city has many bike routes; in fact, one runs by my house on Calumet Street. But it's a street that has lots of street parking, which isn't safe for cyclists who are trying to avoid being doored. Remove the street parking, put in bike lanes in place of those former parking areas, and you create the very environment that bike routes are supposed to have.

Tour de France is Back!

Last year, on one of my other blogs (before this blog was started), I talked about my love of the Tour de France. This year, Jim Caple of ESPN beat me to it. His reasoning is a bit different than mine, but many of his reasons I agree with entirely. Read and enjoy!

Road Rager Runs Down Cyclist In Columbus

I got a disturbing email from a reader last week... she was asking if I knew of any bicycle-specialist attorneys after having gotten into a confrontation with an SUV driver. I'll leave it to her own words:
Some guy with major road rage here in Columbus, confronted my boyfriend and I today, then purposely ran my boyfriend over with his SUV and asked him if he wanted more.

My boyfriend is okay and the guy was charged with assault with a vehicle...
I've asked for more information on this, and apparently the rider in question is going to start her own blog to discuss this issue. I'll let you know more when she lets me know more.

Suffice to say, I'm very upset by this. Till now, I'd not heard of any such issues here in Columbus. My experience has indicated that most Columbus drivers give deference to cyclists, either out of respect for them (optimistically) or out of concern that they have no idea what the cyclist is going to do (more likely). But obviously this is not the case all over town.

I don't know what part of town this reader is from - I'll let you know more when I hear more.