Thursday, September 28, 2006

Concrete Example

Blair Stone Road and Governor's Blvd

"Even the hardest concrete never quite sets." - Spinal Tap

Concrete companies have a very special place in the city. It turns out, you can't build a whole lot of infrastructure without concrete. Sidewalks, driveways, overpasses, slabs for houses, and even street curbs all involve a good bit of concrete. It's one of those things we just can't grow the city without.

What we could do without is the concrete spills on the road that pile up randomly, harden and create roadway hazards. There are big nasty ones like the lump in the right-hand northbound lane of Monroe Street just north of Gaines and there are annoying ones like on Myers Park Drive, just west of the train tracks near the DOT building. If you look for them, you'll see concrete spills all over town.

Unlike the cigarette butts and fast food debris that comes out of other types of vehicles, concrete is very hard to clean up. The longer it sits, the harder it is to clean up, which is why reporting a concrete spill is important to do right away. The local concrete companies have set up a rotating schedule of responsibility for cleaning up concrete spills. When it's their turn, they are supposed to clean up the mess, even if they didn't make it.

I don't know whose turn it was a month ago when I noticed a spill on my commute home from work. It started at the corner of Blair Stone Road and Governor's Park Blvd and went all the way to Mahan. It was mostly just drips and it was mostly cleaned up. So kudos to the quick cleanup crew. You can still see the concrete drips, but they are only skin deep and don't pose a hazard for most of the distance. However, the job isn't complete.

I had called Streets and Drainage two weeks ago about the remaining large and dangerous lump of concrete at the southeast corner of Blair Stone and Governor's Blvd. It's near the bottom of a fast hill in the right lane, exactly where I'm flying down the hill at 30 mph on my way home. Very dangerous. The other problem is in the bike lane going over the train tracks between Park and Mahan. As soon as the pavement changes from asphalt to concrete, the cleanup stopped. The concrete blankets the bike lane.

Blobs of concrete in the bike lane on Blair Stone overpass

Or it did blanket the bike lane until the heavy rain we had last week. That caused the concrete to pill up into rocky blobs. The situation went from annoying to hazardous. So I called Streets and Drainage again today (The phone number is 891-5300.) and asked if there was any follow-up. No. I call them, they see whose turn it is to clean up the mess, they call that company. That's the end of it. So we not only have to identify spills right away, but we have to hound them until it's cleaned up.

When I say we, I mean you and I, the road users. Bicyclists are affected more than motorists for two reasons. 1) Small bumps that car drivers don't notice can cause serious problems for our smaller wheels. 2) The chutes on cement mixers that drip concrete on the road usually drip toward the curb, exactly where we are riding.

I don't know whether to curse the concrete companies or applaud them. Is it so hard to clean out the chute before driving around? Can't they design a cement mixer that doesn't drip? Since they know it's an ongoing problem, can't they be more careful about preventing it? On the other hand, what other businesses acknowledge their messes and clean them up like this? What other drivers who make messes on the road are ever held to account and forced to clean up after themselves?

When is a concrete spill too old to clean up? Fresh ones can be scooped up with a shovel. Some old ones will be around until the roads get resurfaced. How about the spill on Blair Stone? It's about a month old. How much effort does it take to clean up? I took a hammer to the big lump at Blair Stone and Governor's Blvd. In less than five minutes it was a pile of crumbles. I spent a minute of that standing out of the road to let traffic pass. If I had had a chisel, it would have gone even faster.

Concrete spill before demolition

Same spill five minute later

Those hazardous blobs up on the overpass? A gentle tap with a hammer knocks them loose. They would probably clean up pretty quickly with a shovel.

Blobs come up easily with a hammer

We've got a lot invested in our bicycle infrastructure. We have to participate in the design process to get bike lanes planned and funded, follow up to make sure they get built, and then continue to be vigilant so they don't get clogged with debris and hazards like lumps of concrete. Keep your eyes open on the road and report any hazards or debris to Streets and Drainage at 891-5300. Also, let other bicyclists know about the hazards so they can watch out and follow up.

UPDATE (10/21/06): As of Friday, the concrete spill on the Blair Stone bridge has been addressed. It is not completely cleaned up, but someone made a good effort. I suspect it was Streets and Drainage. I sent an email to all of the city commissioners. Thanks to those responsible. I originally posted this on September 28. I called Streets & Drainage twice and emailed them once through the City's Mean Streets site. None of that got action, but I emailed the commission on Tuesday and had a resolution on Friday. Thank you Commissioner Gillum, the one commissioner whose office replied to my email.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What is a moped?

This little story started with a co-worker who leaves his F-250 truck at home and rides a scooter to work. You can just imagine the cost savings for gas on a ten mile commute. The scooter has a top speed around 30 mph, though and he rides it on roads with average speeds over 50. Good news, I told him, our top ranked DOT project will add bike lanes to Mahan near his Buck Lake home. Bike lanes do him no good. He asked a friend of his who is a police officer if he is allowed to ride in bike lanes. The cop says no, he would be ticketed for riding his scooter in the bike lane.

I was sure that couldn't be right. So I went looking through the statutes and other reference materials. Here is a page I found hosted by the Florida DOT Safety office with the Statutes and interpretation of law by the State Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator.

In the comment under “Roadway position for mopeds”, it says:
Comment:  Since roadway positioning rules for mopeds
are the same as those for bicycles, and Florida traffic
laws do not provide an exception where bicycle lanes are present,
moped operators traveling more slowly than other motor
traffic on a street typically ride in bicycle lanes, where provided.
However, per definition of "moped" (s. 316.003(77), F.S.),
the motor of a moped cannot propel it faster than
30 mph on level ground.

Here is the legal definition of a moped from Florida Statutes:

316.003(77) MOPED.--Any vehicle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels; with a motor rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground; and with a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged. If an internal combustion engine is used, the displacement may not exceed 50 cubic centimeters.

Incidentally, the definition of motorized scooter refers to basically a skateboard with handlebars. It specifically says "no seat". So the scooter my co-worker rides is not a moped because it has no pedals, not a motorized scooter because it has a seat. Technically, it is a motorcycle.

Still, we're talking about a vehicle with a 50 cc engine, not capable of going over 30 mph. Dwight Kingsbury of the DOT Safety Office provides this insight:

Re: mopeds. If an officer felt a moped (going slower than 30 mph)
should be cited for using a bicycle lane, what specific section could
be cited? I know of none, given that moped operators are required
to observe the same rules re roadway position as cyclists and no
exception is made for bicycle lanes. A hair-splitting discussion
could be conducted about this; the fact is that it has become
common practice and seems to be accepted by law enforcement in
Florida when the moped is doing less than 30. Consequently,
I don't see a great need to clarify the point.. maybe a more
important need is to update Florida's obsolete definition of "moped",
since few mopeds still include a human pedal-power option.
See Wisconsin's laws for a more current definition.
So I saw Wisconsin's laws:

Wisconsin Statutes 340.01(29m)

Moped means any of the following motor vehicles capable of speeds of not more than 30 miles per hour with a 150-pound rider on a dry, level, hard surface with no wind, excluding a tractor, a power source as an integral part of the vehicle and a seat for the operator:

A bicycle-type vehicle with fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power and an engine certified by the manufacturer at not more than 130 cubic centimeters or an equivalent power unit.

A Type 1 motorcycle with an automatic transmission and an engine certified by the manufacturer at not more than 50 cubic centimeters or an equivalent power unit.

Consider this, we catch enough flack from jackasses like Tony Grippa who want to stop spending money on bike lanes, even when the City has already said they pay for themselves through greater roadway stability and subsequently longer life between resurfacing. Adding bike lanes adds 2% to the cost of a roadway project and bike lanes are now in the City, CRTPA, and State standard cross sections for collectors and arterials. Still, we catch hell that they are underused. We have to fight to add them to roadway projects.

Here is a potential ally. Moped/scooter riders. If you could commute by scooter, but had a scooter lane, would you leave your car at home? Even with the less efficient engine on a scooter, wouldn't you save gas money? Are the bike lanes so crowded that we don't have room for scooters? I have been looking at electric scooters for a long time, but I can't even ride one the two miles to work safely. I feel safer on my bicycle.

I would like to see Florida update it's moped definition in keeping with most other states (not just Wisconsin) and to explicitly allow mopeds (motorcycles up to 50 cc) to use bike lanes. What do you think? Come on, tell me why I'm wrong.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pick your Projects

At last week's MAC meeting, the Committee voted to reject the DOT Major Project Priority List (Agenda Attachment D2-A) because it contained no bike/ped specific projects, even though all of the projects include bike/ped facilities. I suggested that the committee review the Bike Ped Master Plan for suitable projects. Jack Kostrzewa noted that only DOT projects are eligible and he requested that I review the BPMP (pages 3-5 to 3-7) and submit my results to Peter Koeppel for distribution to the committee.

First, I want to point out that I misunderstood the number one project, Mahan from Dempsey Mayo to Walden. I had the geography all backwards in my head and thought this was east of I-10. I went so far as to suggest a better section of Mahan would be from Buck Lake to I-10. This project is in fact that section. It picks up where the road narrows from multiple lanes to one lane each way at Dempsey Mayo, just down the hill from the Buck Lake Intersection and it goes almost to the I-10 interchange, just past the new Publix. This is a great section of road for bike/ped access because it provides a connection from all of the Buck Lake neighborhoods to Capital Circle, which has bike lanes already. So, even if the MAC doesn't not influence the ranking, this project will be a good piece of the network.

The eligible projects identified in Section 3 of the BPMP are these:
FDOT 4098031 Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Projects at various locations.
FDOT 219777 Widening, bike lanes, sidewalks on Capital Circle SE from Park to Connie (just south of Apalachee)
FDOT 2197481 Widen to four lanes, sidewalks, bike lanes on Crawfordville Hwy from Four Points to Rivers Road (where 319 and 61 split)
FDOT 2197701 Gaines Street and Bloxham Street from Lake Bradford to Monroe. This project is still being defined by the Gaines Street Committee and the City of Tallahassee and may no longer be a DOT project.
FDOT Streetscape Enhancements to Lafayette Street from CSX overpass to Paul Russell. This is impacted by the Canopy Roads Committee.
FDOT 406326 North Monroe Street Resurfacing will add paved shoulder from Gadsden County Line to I-10 and will add sidewalks from Crowder to Hopkins (north of I-10)
FDOT 2225892 Add sidewalks along North Monroe from Lakeshore to Northmont. This crosses I-10.
FDOT 4063331 Resurfacing, add sidewalks part of the way on West Tennessee Street from Capital Circle NW to Ocala Road. This project appears to have already begun.

Of these eligible projects, only FDOT 2225892, sidewalks on Monroe across I-10 is exclusively a Bike/Ped project at a specific location. Streetscape enhancements to Lafayette, and Bike/Ped Safety projects also are Bike/Ped projects, though they are less well defined in terms of scope and design.

In terms of overlap with the DOT proposed Major Project Priority List:
Item 15 on the MPP List overlaps with part of FDOT 406326 and will include bike lanes and sidewalks from Crowder Road to I-10. That also connects nicely with FDOT 2225892, sidewalks across I-10. Item 15 is only a PD&E project, however.

Item 2 on the MPP List, Crawfordville Hwy from Munson Slough to LL Wallace Road overlaps with FDOT 2197481, from Four Points to Rivers Road, parts of which have already been completed. Item 2 is a construction project.

FDOT 219777, Capital Circle from Park to Connie does not overlap with the MPP List, but it does help to complete bike facilities on Capital Circle, several sections of which are in the MPP List (Items 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14).

Those are the facts. My suggestion, as a citizen and non-member of the Committee, is that the project to best send a message for DOT to prioritize Bike/Ped projects is sidewalks on Monroe across I-10 (FDOT 2225892). The number 2 MPP project is also part of the BPMP and should be recommended. The number 1 MPP is a very good project and connects a large residential area to the existing Bike Ped network. That's just my opinion and I don't have a vote.

Friday, September 08, 2006

BikeWalk Blues Fest

Commuter Choices Week

Commuter Choices Week in Tallahassee is Sept. 25-29

Sign. Up. Now.

C'mon. You get a free T-shirt. Register online.

Do it now.

Commuter Choices Week is the one week out of the year when you say to yourself, "Gee, I wonder what it would be like to not drive my freakin' car every day." and then you do it.

Don't be afraid. Drop your excuses. Decide to do it.

Here is my offer. Email me at and I will come to your house with a map one day during Commuter Choices Week. I will ride with you along a safe route from your home to your work. I will give you information in advance to help you plan and prepare.

You can do it. Seriously.

For downtown workers, there are two Free Food Opportunities that come with Commuter Choices Week.

Monday, September 25 at the Old Capitol is a Kick-Off Luncheon from 11:00 to 1:00.

Friday, September 29 at Kleman Plaza is a "Thank You" Luncheon from 11:30 to 1:30.

Ride your bike, walk, take the bus, carpool, vanpool, hitchhike--just break the habit of one-to-a-car motorized travel for one week out of the year. Even if you can only do it for a couple of days during the week, for your own sanity, give it a try.

Think about this: If everybody found another way to work one day out of the work week, traffic would be immediately reduced by almost twenty percent. 20%. One fifth.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Yesterday was the first meeting of the Crapta Mac, the CRTPA Multimodal Advisory Committee. This was the first meeting of that committee. It was formerly the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). BPAC had 11 citizen seats, 6 from the county and 5 from the city. The new committee includes seats for StarMetro, Commuter Services, FSU, FAMU, TCC, Wakulla County, Quincy, and one other (Midway?) and reduced the number of citizen seats to 8. Something like that.

Many people in the community were initially upset at the dissolution of the BPAC. Those who voted for it consider it a shake-up that may strengthen the voice for Bike, Ped and Transit travelers. The Tallahassee Democrat even covered the change.

The good news is, the majority of the committee is Bike Ped people from the old BPAC. Last night their agenda included setting priorities for the committee, which they pushed off to a subcommittee session so they could take their time with it. I am impressed by what I have seen so far.