Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Four E's: Revisited

We had a great meeting of the BikeWalk Network last night. We are working with the city to get an updated version of the "Getting Around By Bike" map. We have booked two bands for a fundraiser concert. The first annual BikeWalk Blues Fest is all set for October 8th at the Progressive Center, 1270 South Gadsden Street.

I started to talk about my intention to blog on the Four E's and I had a rude awakening. The other advocates told me the items listed in the Implementation Section of the Bike/Ped Master Plan for Education, Enforcement and Encouragement were just examples. The MPO had made no commitment to actually implement them. When I had read through the listed projects, I saw the headings like "Example Summary of Year One through Five Projects for BikeWalk Network"but I understood that to mean the projects were determined, but the goals and budget numbers were examples.

mea culpa.

Apparently what we got with the bike/ped master plan was a facilities plan. All of the policies and people are optional. So we skip over the first three E's for now and I'll jump right into Engineering in the next couple of days. The first four items in the Executive Summary are "Programs" and they are county-wide. They are 1) Access To Schools, 2) Education, Enforcement and Encouragement, 3) Signal, Intersection, and Striping Retrofit Program, and 4) Facility Inventory and Maintenance Program. Each has a budgeted cost, but who knows if that is an example or an actual recommendation accepted as part of the plan.

I'll take these on one at a time, summarize what the BPMP has to say and then try to evaluate what is happening with these programs.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What Drives Us

The tally is in for our annual bloodbath by motor vehicles.

In 2005 the bloodshed hit a 15 year high. 43,443 of my fellow Americans made the ultimate sacrifice to our four wheeled Moloch. Nice. I find NHTSA's slogan ironic: "People Saving People".
Their mission is laudable:

Our mission: Save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related
They just don't seem to be very effective. I suppose I can't blame the people of the agency. I imagine in a government environment that is hostile to safety and regulation and is funded by big automobile manufacturers, they are probably funded far less than they would like to be.

I debated the relevance of this post to BikeWalk Network and what it wants to do for our community and I realized that this is one of the primary focuses of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy. By making ourselves visible and accepted users of the transportation infrastructure we help to save lives. We do a lot of other good things, but saving lives is a good, solid motivation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Four E's

In Alexander Dumas' Classic The Three Musketeers, there were four heroes, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan. Only three of them were musketeers, hence the name. In Bike/Ped Advocacy we have the Four E's. There are five of them and one of them doesn't really start with an 'E'. They are: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Eemplementation. You can see which one doesn't quite fit in.

In the Bike Ped Master Plan (BPMP) we have a huge section on Engineering and smaller ones on Education, Enforcement, and Encouragement.

The hard part is Eemplementation. That is, getting the funding and actually doing what is in the Plan.

So, I will break up the proposed elements of each of the Four E's from the BPMP in a series of blog posts here. I will try to determine what components have been implemented and give a little report. This may take some time.

Engineering will be the last E I cover because it has the most components. I'll start in the next day or so with Education. I'll try to focus on what is in the plan, though I have to say a lot of things are not in the plan that I want to be there.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ramping Down

A colleague recently brought to my attention an article in the August 8 edition of the local Traffic Doctor column in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper. I include the original text here in the event of link death.

Dear Traffic Doctor:
I'm disappointed that the curb cut from the walkway through Oakland Cemetery onto West Brevard has been replaced with a curb. Other bicyclists and I used to go through the cemetery regularly.

The Traffic Doctor responds:

David Earle, construction chief in the city's Streets and Drainage Department, is sorry for your loss--but he's making changes to accomodate the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) law.

"We eliminated the 'ramp' for two reasons," he wrote by e-mail. "One, it is a midblock crossing. One hundred yards to the east is a traffic light with crosswalks. This would be the SAFE place to cross, not midblock.

"Two, there is not a sidewalk or ramp across the street from where the ramp was. So if a blind person feels the ramp with their cane and they walk down the ramp, they would be walking out into the road with no place on the other side to take safe refuge. Basically trapped in the roadway.

"Also, if a person in a wheelchair sees and uses the ramp, they are caught in the same scenario, trapped in teh street.

"We have worked along Brevard and brought all the dangerous ramps and walkways into compliance. This area is part of the Frenchtown zone that we are currently working on and is one of 15 zones that will be brough tup to current ADA standards in the city limits. That is why we corrected the noncompliant ramp in front of the cemetery."

Here is my response to this column, in the form of a letter to the Traffic Doctor, which I cc:ed to David Earle, the engineer who responded to the good doctor's question.

Dear Traffic Doctor:

I was displeased to read David Earle's, construction chief in the city's Streets and Drainage Department, response to Anonymous who expressed disappointment at the removal of the bicycle facility at the intersection of Brevard and MLK, allowing access into the cemetery. I have used that ramp many times in the past while travelling on MLK, a low-traffic, safe, residential street that is preferred by bicyclists.

While I have great respect for the city's efforts to bring facilities up to ADA standards, this ridiculous crusade to remove any facilities that might encourage pedestrians to use existing crosswalks is counter-productive. The city wants to protect us by making it more difficult for us to get around. The city has determined that any intersection where motor vehicle traffic is not brought to a stop by a stop sign or traffic signal is a "midblock crossing" and they are discouraging pedestrians from crossing there by removing facilities that help or encourage those crossings. The city ignores the fact that at an intersection such as this one where sidewalks exist on both sides of the street, an unmarked crosswalk exists as defined in 316.003(6)(a) F.S.:


(a) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway, measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway.

It is a legal and valid place for pedestrians to cross the street. It is an unmarked crosswalk. It is not midblock; it is at an intersection.

image is aerial photograph of the intersection

Mr. Earle gives two reasons for the removal of the ramp. The first is that this is not a safe place to cross the street. Nonetheless it is a legal place to cross the street. It has an unmarked crosswalk and sidewalk being built on the other side of the intersection. He does not address the use of this ramp as a bicycle facility. When the Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan was adopted by the MPO, it became part of the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). On page five of the Executive Summary of that document the number six community priority project is a bicycle route on MLK Jr. from North Monroe to FAMU Way. This ramp was an existing part of that bicycle facility that has now been removed.

Now consider first that an unmarked crosswalk exists here to cross Brevard Street and that this crossing has been identified as a desired bike route that is now part of the LRTP. A bicyclist already has the right to ride on the road according to 316.2065 (1) F.S and to make a left turn from MLK headed north onto Brevard headed west. This manuever involves crossing two-way traffic on Brevard street and is no less safe than crossing the street entirely, provided the opposite curb allows access to exit the roadway. We had such access when the ramp was there. We no longer do. This change has made using this future bicycle route LESS SAFE, not more safe.

image shows wood framing for sidewalk on south side of Brevard Street, opposite the cemetery

The second reason given for removing the ramp is that there is not currently a sidewalk on the south side of Brevard Street. That is true, though there had been one up until about a year ago and if the framing on the ground there currently is any indication, there will soon be one again. Will Streets and Drainage replace the ramp once the new sidewalk is built? As for his discussion of ADA implications, I am not so familiar with ADA that I know what part of it suggests restricting blind and disabled people from crossing the street where it is legal to do so. Perhaps it is appropriate to offer no facilities except where it is most safe to cross. However, the nearest safe crossing is a long, hot, unshaded 125 yards away. For wheelchair travellers, the route to that nearest safe crossing is worse than a washboard road.

While the sidewalk is impeccably edged, the clumps of grass growing through the cracks in the sidewalk are monstrous and probably violate ADA far more than the existence of a "midblock" ramp.

About 100 yards to the east along this sidewalk is a driveway that slants down to the road. The flat part of the sidewalk narrows to accomodate the slope of the driveway. Surely this is one of those necessary engineering compromises to accomodate a driveway across a sidewalk, but it seems to me a greater hazard to a blind person using a cane to track the right edge of the sidewalk and find it suddenly tilting away to the street at a location that truly is midblock. It suggests that the priorities for motor vehicles supersedes those of pedestrians and even of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA justification for removal of this ramp is shaky at best. I actually contacted a blind neighbor who walks with a cane for his input and he conceded that the scenario described by Mr. Earle of a blind person trapped because of this ramp was possible, it was not likely or logical since most blind people who walk with canes do so in areas they are familiar with their surroundings. When in an unfamiliar place he would listen for traffic and determine with the cane if the ramp was a driveway or a roadway and if he was still unsure, he would not venture into the road. My question for Mr. Earle is if any ADA complaints were made about this ramp.

It is an engineering challenge to weave bicycle, pedestrian and motor vehicles into a unified transportation system and I have great respect for those who undertake the task. I thank Mr. Earle and his colleagues in Streets and Drainage and Traffic Engineering for their hard work and their efforts to consider all transportation users.I think they missed the mark in this case.


Mr. Earle replied that he would pass along my comments. I'm guessing he's passing them to Traffic Engineering or the the ADA guru who came up with the ADA argument against this ramp.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What's in a Link?

What's with all the links?

I just added them in the last day or so. I wanted links associated with what this blog is all about--making biking and walking viable in our cities. So far, most of what we get for "alternative transportation" is lip service. Most of the battles we fight are boring, beauracratic ones. Get projects identified, listed on the municipal transportation plan, funded, planned, and built. It's dull and it takes forever and these links connect us to people who know how to do it.

The League of American Bicyclists is the only national bicycling advocacy organization. Thanks largely to their work and a few bicyclists in Congress, we have the TEA-21 Act, a partial renewal of the original ISTEA. I'll talk more about that later, but it's the paltry federal funding for bike/ped facilities and it goes a long way.

The Florida Bicycle Association works hard in Florida to promote cycling, educate cyclists and motorists, and help local advocacy organizations with their battles. FBA worked hard to get the "Share the Road" license plate. They produce the Law Enforcement Guide and provide training for police on how to enforce the law when it comes to bicyclists.

The CRTPA (crap-teh) is the Capital Regional Transportation Planning Agency for the greater Tallahassee area that now includes all of Leon County and some of the surrounding counties. This particular link is hot-linked (their site uses frames *ugh*) to the Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan that the CRTPA passed back when it was just a little MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization--more on this later). The BPMP was adopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan, the guiding document for development in Leon County, and has the force of law. Since then, it has been largely ignored. The BPMP lays out some specific goals and projects. BikeWalk Network, the advocacy organization, is following up on the BPMP to see that it gets implemented.

Florida DOT Safety Office is the Bike/Ped office. That office produces a great deal of literature for general consumption about bike safety and pedestrian safety. Some of it is even aimed at motorists. They are a resource and an authority on the way things are. Sometimes they have great insight into the way things ought to be.

Florida Statutes lay out the legal basis for bicyclists and pedestrians. Most of the transportation laws are based on a Uniform Traffic Code that is standard for most states. This is where we go for our understanding of the way things were intended.

The National Center for Bicycling and Walking
(NCBW) also known as is probably best recognized as the organizer of the ProWalk ProBike Conference series. It's next conference is in September in Madison, WI. Oddly enough, primary sponsors of the conference are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, nit-seh) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA, feh-wah?) whom I generally regard to be from the dark side. Another big sponsor is Bikes Belong, an organization made up of bidnezz people from bicycle companies like Shimano, Trek and Specialized. In their own words:
Bikes Belong is the national coalition of bicycle suppliers and retailers working together to put more people on bicycles more often. Through national leadership, grassroots support, and promotion, we work to make bicycling safe, convenient, and fun.
In an environment where automotive and petroleum companies are buying federal policy, it's nice to know that Big Bikes is finally getting organized and throwing its weight around.

The next few links are pedestrian advocacy organizations that I don't know much about with the exception of Walkable Communities. Dan Burden was our very first DOT Bike/Ped Coordinator for the state of Florida and he was very good. He laid a solid groundwork in an environment that was not overly receptive to his purpose. He has since moved on and gotten a lucrative consulting gig travelling the country and advising cities on how to develop more walkable communities (hence the name). Feet First quotes Dan on their home page and I'm sure America Walks is intimately familiar with his work.

The Surface Transportation Policy Project
is a diverse, nationwide coalition working to ensure safer communities and smarter transportation choices that enhance the economy, improve public health, promote social equity, and protect the environment. I know it best for it's "Mean Streets" report that found four of the top ten deadliest cities for pedestrians in the country are in Florida.

The Association for Commuter Transportation had their Southeast Conference in Tallahassee a few years ago. We had some local advocacy that dovetailed with it but never got far. The local affiliate organization is CommuterServices of North Florida, the primary sponsor of Commuter Choices Week, an annual event that bribes drivers to ride the bus for a day in exchange for bagels and a T-shirt. The 2006 event is the week of September 22. I'll be promoting it shamelessly and trying to springboard people to real changes in their commuting habits.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) contains the standards for building facilities. It is a powerful friend and an awesome foe. If you want a facility built and you can support the design with the MUTCD, then you can talk with the Traffic Engineers in their own language and show them that it can be done. If, on the other hand, you want to do something that has not been done before--and many many bike/ped solutions fall into this category--then you must attempt the vain and hopeless argument that it should be done although it has never been done before.

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances is another double-edged butter knife. Their purpose is to standardize traffic laws so you don't have to ride on the other side of the road when you cross state lines. Remember that Uniform Traffic Code thing I mentioned back up by the Statutes, these are the sheepdogs who keep state statutes on the UTC ranch. If they push for good laws that help, protect and promote bicyclists and pedestrians, those laws are likely to role out in state statutes. If they push laws that restrict our mobility, then we have a harder time at the local level.

So that's the big link round-up. I've got a lot more to say about several of these and a lot more to learn about several others. I know no one is reading this blog yet, but if you want to recommend a link, click on over to comments and make your case.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A few links

We had a nice short meeting at the All Saints Café on Thursday night.
Things are moving along apace. Look here for news on a big fundraiser concert for local bike/ped advocacy happening in October.

Updated the blog with some links to advocacy organizations, local, state, and national

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Conspirators Unite!

The BikeWalk Network will meet tonight at 7:00 p.m. at All Saints Café.
We will identify the items that the MPO promised us in the Bike Ped Master Plan that we are going to push them to implement first.
We will plan for our presence at the Transportation Alternatives Event in Kleman Plaza in September.
We will introduce our website and this blog and our Yahoo group,

There's plenty for everyone to do.