Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dunwoody Village Parkway - Out of the Box Ideas


Just over two years ago I submitted to various Dunwoody city officials my informal "out of the box" thoughts on what to do with Dunwoody Village Parkway. Not being a trained traffic engineer, I was only limited by my first-hand experiences from living in Europe, what I could find on the web and just plain old-fashioned brainstorming. My first idea was a "Cheap & Cheerful" solution which would have cost:

Paint for re-striping
Four Chicanes: 8 Cement Raised Beds (4 on each side), Soil, Trees & Shrubs
Paint for re-marking a Bike/Ped Shared Use Path
Various Street Signs
This solution could have been a temporary fix requiring NO heavy construction until a long-term solution was studied, engineered, budgeted and constructed.

We're two years past then, and today Dunwoody is holding it's first public open house specifically for the parkway.

A highlight of some of my ideas I'll be bringing to the meeting tonight:

  • Remove several curbcuts
  • Add a couple of Roundabouts (Traffic Calming)
  • Insure there are buffers between motor vehicles, parked cars, bicycles and pedestrians

Here's what my daily commute used to look like when I lived in Copenhagen

To review my ideas with additional photos and examples, please take a look at this presentation here.

If you want to provide your suggestions, please contact the Dunwoody Director of Public Works Michael Smith at Michael.Smith@dunwoodyga.gov or 678-382- 6701

Here's a couple of photos from Boulder, Colorado: Note the simple use of planters to separate bicyclists from the motorized traffic.

 

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

3rd Annual BRAD - Bicycle Ride Around Dunwoody

Hi Friends,

Here's a biased event notice. 

I’m proud to announce that I'm working with the Dunwoody Preservation Trust this year as the Ride Director for the 3rd Annual BRAD – Bicycle Ride Around Dunwoody, on April 16th at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody.


As part of Lemonade Days, the Dunwoody Preservation Trust is sponsoring the third annual Bike Ride Around Dunwoody, a recreational bike ride for individual riders and families who would like to support Dunwoody becoming a more bicycle-friendly community. Entry fee is only $10 per rider, $15 after 4/10. Proceeds from this low-cost event will be used to purchase & install bike racks throughout our city. Three different distances covering all abilities with staggered start times means everyone finishes around the same time. There will be an eight mile ride for intermediate riders (which will pass through Dunwoody Village); and a 3.5  mile ride for younger children and a 29/37 mile ride for the "roadies".

We’re having a DJ to make it “festive” for the start & finish. At the end, food (Chick-fil-a) and refreshments will be served and prizes will be given away to riders in a drawing.  This year we have several hotel stacation packages and other exciting gifts to lucky winners.
 
Please go here for more info & to register: http://www.dunwoodylemonadedays.org/BRAD


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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cobb County SPLOST: $280M for Transportation, $0 for on-street Bicycle Facilities

I just had a WTF moment. But this future isn’t won for bicyclists in Cobb County. Yesterday the 4-year SPLOST vote was narrowly passed and there's not a dime dedicated to on-street bicycle facilities.

I’d be curious to know if anyone that rides a bicycle in Cobb County; or someone who might have an inkling to help the county and it's cities be more bike-friendly, or even belong to BikeCobb, an all-volunteer organization focused on bicycle advocacy and education: 

a) knew there was a new SPLOST & vote for Cobb County & their cities; and 

b) went to any public meetings or contacted any elected officials in Cobb or their cities to ask about incorporating bicycle projects on this SPLOST? 

Because if you look at any of the SPLOST documents and do a search for BICYCLE, you won’t find any. There’s $280 Million in Transportation Funding over the four year period and I didn’t see a single entry for on-street bicycle facilities such as Bike Lanes or Cycle Tracks.  I’d love to be big-time wrong, and maybe in some individual transportation project plan there’s bike facilities.

I’ve been living in Dunwoody for the past two years, turned over leadership of Bike Cobb last August and have not kept up with the goings on in Cobb. I didn’t even know there was a new SPLOST and vote held. Can someone please turn back the clock, get some residents of the county to attend the public input meetings and get some of the Bike Projects as defined in the 2009 Bike/Ped Plan incorporated into this SPLOST? How about getting yourself appointed to the citizen SPLOST oversight committee?

Does Cobb County and its cities think that we are supposed to NOT “Share the Road” and only ride on those intermittent 10-ft wide cement sidewalks aka “Multi-Use Trails”? Yes, those are nice for the casual and novice user once there is a network built that actually goes somewhere to benefit more than just recreational weekend riders or triathlon training, but we need some on-street facilities, too. Remember: Bikes are vehicles. I did a ride last weekend and crossed from DeKalb, to Fulton to Cobb. The only time I got honked at and "buzzed" was in Cobb…. This is not the message that needs to be sent – that we’re supposed to stay off the road.

Now fellow roadies, don’t try to give me the “I don't want bike lanes because they get dirty” argument. Do you really think that New York City just said “Share the Road” and magically they're well on the way to doubing their bicyclists out on the streets? No. They have the political will and are adding real AASHTO standard and recognized Bicycle Facilities and Accommodations … of ALL types.

I’m just one person and I’m already spreading myself too thin in the non-paying / volunteer bicycle advocacy world. I don’t know if this puts fire in someone's belly in Cobb County enough to take this on, act as a "Champion” and see about us getting some on-street bike facilities…Otherwise, let’s just ride back & forth on Columns Drive on the weekends, or just stay out of Cobb to go bike riding.

I apologize in advance for butting in on your problem in Cobb. If you folks have been active in the SPLOST process and nothing came of it, that sucks. Did anyone at least talk to the County Commissioners? In the future, why not “circle the wagons”, use the Bike Cobb organization to get the word out and take a call for action?

The next step is up to you.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fixed Drain Grates - is Sandy Springs working towards Bike Friendly?


Honey or vinegar? What attracts more flies? Which approach works best to get things done? Sometimes its a combination of both. In 2008, as a (then) resident of the City of Sandy Springs, GA I reported several "Wrong-Way Drain Grates" to the Public Works Department. A couple of days later a puzzled contractor met me at one of the locations and I explained to him the issue: Drain grates running parallel to the direction of traffic is a serious safety concern for bicyclists. The wheels can easily get caught in them and the bicyclist could have serious injuries. The contractor took a can of spray paint and sprayed around the grate. Over the next 3+ years occasionally I would check back in with the city to see if they were going to do anything about them, but never received a reply that they would take action. Until now.

I was out for a ride yesterday enjoying the beautiful spring weather and what did I see to my happy surprise? They have begun to fix the drain grates!! The photo above was taken on Spalding Drive, just south of Darlymple here.

Now how did this come to pass?

#1: I became self-educated in what are bicycle-friendly accommodations. One of my first stops for me in surfing the web was to checkout the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition's site. On it, they had a place that you could report "Wrong Way Drain Gates" in Atlanta. Had I not stumbled across this posting, I'd never have known that this was a serious issue that can be corrected by following standard best practices recognized by transportation planners across the United States.

#2: I went to City Hall. I met with Public Works and Transportation Planners. I asked friends to join me. I met with several Council Members individually, discussing all sorts of bicycle friendly accommodations. I spoke about a lot more than just wrong-way drain grates. In preparation for my engagement, I studied the Atlanta Regional Commission's 2007 Bike/Ped Plan, focused on their recommendations and pitched them to the city. I'll be writing more about these later, but here they are in a nutshell:

·         Routine Accommodation
Bicyclists and pedestrians provided for when new roadways are constructed and for new and retrofitting existing roadways
·         Complete Streets
·         Re-stripe Candidates
Develop and adopt a protocol for roadway re-striping to better accommodate bicyclists on roadway segments where excess pavement width is available.
Performed coincidentally with resurfacing projects
·         Improve Crossings (Ped & Bike)
·         End-of-Trip Bicycle Facilities
Parking/Racks/Storage, Lockers, Showers
Work / Offices, Retail, Schools, Government, etc.
·         Neighborhood Connectivity
Cul-de-Sacs / Dead Ends (open up to bike/ped)

In 2009, I presented to Sandy Springs a proposed Bicycle and Pedestrian Friendly Vision.

In early 2010, in response to hearing Mayor Eva Galambos reportedly stating,"Nobody Rides Bikes in Sandy Springs", I created an on-line petition and in about five days had over 300 signatures countering Galambos' assumption, and presented this to their Mayor and Council. 

I wish Sandy Springs could just do a "File -- Save As" and take their neighbor to the north - Roswell and copy their policies, programs and planning efforts for bicycling. Things like their Complete Streets policy. I wish they'd adopt an Action Plan to Become a Bicycle Friendly City, and start working towards it as we have done in my neighboring town of Dunwoody.

If Sandy Springs wants to become a Bicycle Friendly Community, and treat bicyclists as equals with motor vehicles as published by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood (R) I urge their elected officials and staff to start taking a closer look at what the League of American Bicyclists has to say, and then look at regional cities Chattanooga, Chapel Hill, Cary, Charlotte, or even their next door neighbor, Roswell. They all have been formally recognized as a BFC.

It's never too late to begin. Heck, any city I've been to in Europe that offers bicycle accommodation (and let me tell you -- there's a TON of European cities that I'd never get caught riding my bike in) has had to deal with retrofitting on layers from HUNDREDS OF YEARS of  development. From the Romans, through Medieval times when they built walled cities, to Napoleon, when he tore down many of those walls, to two World Wars of devastation.

It just takes some political will, public outreach and understanding that roads are not exclusively for motor vehicle use. The monies that pay for today's roads and bridges are NOT solely paid for out of motor vehicle fuel taxes and tolls. In fact, only just over 50% of the funds to do these projects -- and keep us automobile centric -- are derived from motor vehicle fuel taxes. Revenue comes from numerous sources, including sales & property taxes and other imposed fees. 

So now you know how to respond to those naysayers when they tell you that bicyclists aren't paying for the roads they use. Just about every bicyclist I know owns and operates a car, too. We're educated, professional and respectable citizens, pleading from the grassroots to be listened to.

So what can YOU do to help Sandy Springs become bicycle friendly? 

It's simple enough to sign up on their Bike Sandy Springs Yahoo and Facebook groups. But what it really takes is only 3-4 dedicated individuals willing to give a few hours a month and LEAD. Interested? Let me know and I'd be more than happy to guide you through the process and reinvigorate bicycle advocacy in Sandy Springs.

I've rambled on long enough. Now it's time to get out an enjoy this fantastic spring day!

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Friday, March 11, 2011

North Metro Atlanta Multiuse Trails: The Facts

Here's a Sampling of what’s proposed/planned in the North Metro Atlanta Area:


“Construct a multi-use trail within power line easement from existing trail system in Cobb County, crossing Chattahoochee River with new bicycle and pedestrian bridge, through Morgan Falls Park, east to Colquitt Road, north to Pitts Road - Project to link to other on road bike facilities, including City of Dunwoody.”

Will provide the ability to:
§  Safe pedestrian and bicycle access across the Chattahoochee River into East Cobb / Columns Drive. Will interconnect with Bob Callan Trail and Silver Comet Connector. Silver Comet Trail runs from Smyrna to Anniston, Alabama.
§  Will go north to Roswell and connect into their trail system (towards Lake Lanier)
§  These extensions will make it possible and practical to commute via bicycle between Alpharetta, Roswell, Dunwoody and Cobb County.

Benefits will include:

§  Providing unimpeded access to the Chattahoochee River and National Park Land for everyone, not just a few homeowners.
§  Providing children with routes to school that reduce their dependency on parents’ automobile and government provided buses. The “Safe Routes to School” Program seeks to open up “Dead End” cul-de-sac neighborhoods such as those found on Columns Drive. Instead of driving 3-4 miles, kids can walk or ride their bike to school.
§  Reducing roadway congestion, thereby saving energy and improving air quality
§  Providing more direct and safer travel routes for bicyclists and pedestrians
§  Increasing residents’ ability to walk or bicycle to restaurants, shopping, entertainment, recreational facilities, and places of employment. These extensions will make it possible and practical to commute via bicycle between Alpharetta, Roswell, Dunwoody and Cobb County.
§  Increasing opportunities for recreation and exercise, thereby reducing the trend toward obesity
§  Sustaining development and property values


Thirty-seven (37) separate studies on multiuse trails by government agencies and academia show that:

§  An overall approval of pedestrian/cycling trails existed within the local community after they were built.
§  Fears about decrease in property value and increase in crime were seldom voiced after those concerned read the studies. 
More information may be found here.

Examples of similar, existing trails:

Roswell Riverside Trail
                §  Runs along the Chattahoochee River in Roswell

§  Runs from Smyrna to Ga-Ala state line, then connects to Chief Ladiga Trail to Anniston. Typically listed as an amenity in real estate listings. (Do an Internet search for “house for sale silver comet trail” & see how many property owners include having this amenity nearby.)
§  Many neighborhoods have created and advertise their own additional side access trails to the Silver Comet 
 
§  Links south to Roswell's Riverside Trail and north into Forsyth county, eventually to Lake Lanier  

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Meeting last night on Roswell Riverside Trail Extension


I was there last night. Instead of reinventing the wheel, here’s a couple of postings:


My thought number one to the author: Find out if they all were Roswell residents. My thought number two:  Why make the issue seem scary and confrontational with the word “Concern” in the headline?. Thought number three: The vast majority of the article takes snippets of quotes from the opponents. Is this "We report, you decide" journalism?  

And another from Roswell area Blogger, Andrew Telker

The usual suspects were there. Missing were the soccer moms, little league coaches, K-12 kids, and single twenty and thirty somethings (well, maybe some were in their 30's.). We heard no new arguments from the traditional NIMBY opponents.  Let's try, shall we:


1. "I live on Azalea Drive and people walking by on the trail is going to disturb my peace" Huh? You live on a road that has thousands of motorized vehicles a day.


2. Crime. litter, high-speed bicycles coming around as I walk, parking, traffic, etc.  Huh? Roswell already has the trail. Go down and talk to your neighbors. 


One retired guy that was quoted in the top story  who said “Wildlife is just as important as bicyclists" was standing next to another retired guy who talked about saving the turtles. They stood next to each other during the meeting and left together. They live in East Cobb over by Columns Drive and have a big conspiracy theory going on thinking that all of north metro Atlanta's recreational bicycle traffic will eventually converge in their public road. These folks appear to be in their 70's and somehow FEAR families and children being outside enjoying themselves. They have attended ANY kind of public meeting about recreational trails -- Lower Roswell Rd in East Cobb, Morgan Falls Bridge, etc. Nearly 3 years ago they convinced the Cobb County Commission to pass an illegal statute to prohibit bicyclists from riding 2 abreast in Columns Drive which is provided for in GA code 40-6-294 (b):
Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

Here's what these folks think here.

The document is reportedly signed by Larry Savage. Last year Savage ran unsuccessfully for Cobb County Commissioner against Tim Lee last year  http://larrysavageforcobbchairman.org/
Under his bio he quotes he was,”instrumental in resolving conflict between neighbors and bicyclists resulting in new rules for bicyclists.” on Columns Drive. Did he "resolve conflict"? Has the conflict been resolved, or are there still simmering tensions?

Be afraid. Do not underestimate these naysayers. These folks are out there. They have PLENTY of time on their hands, are well organized, come to meetings, have money and attorneys and will stop at nothing to prevent bicyclists from interfering in their 1950’s way of life.

You want to make a lasting impact and have your opinion heard? Bring the kids, skip an evening workout, club meeting or after work social and PLEASE come to these darn meetings.

Roswell is accepting email comments through March 18th at: rrpd@roswellgov.com

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American Diabetes Association Promoting Motor Vehicle Driving

Hi Friends,

I am signed up to participate in the Tour de Cure ride ride on May 15th in Fairburn, Georgia and received an email from them about a "gas card" promotion. If I were to raise a certain amount, then I'd be eligible to be in the drawing to win a $100 gas card.

This is unsettling. The LAST thing the American Diabetes Association should be doing is encouraging more people to remain dependent upon driving in their cars. I would prefer they promote an active lifestyle of other viable transportation means such as walking,  bicycling or promoting the national program, "Safe Routes to School", which is a very poorly funded federal program attempting to unwind all of our car-centric cul-de-sac non-sidewalk suburban sprawl "developments" built over the past 30 + years in America; encouraging children K-8 to walk or ride their bike to school. In 1969, nearly 50% of children got to school by walking or biking. Now it is only 15%.I could go on & on providing facts & figures.

I'm sure there are dozens of other promotions the American Diabetes Association could leverage to encourage active and healthy lifestyles. Seriously. I'm very disappointed.


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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Georgia & My Town, Dunwoody -- Rides to the Capitol

Don’t miss the 6th Annual Georgia Rides to the Capitol event. Show your state officials that you care about bicycling and the recently-introduced 3-Feet Safe Passing bill!

The Dunwoody group will meet at 9:30 AM at the Fresh Market in Dunwoody Village and proceed on a police-escorted route along Mt. Vernon Rd and will link up with Roswell & East Cobb riders on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. We’ll travel at a leisurely 12 mile per hour pace, but novice riders and families may want to join the five-mile group ride leaving from Decatur with Mayor Bill Floyd.

REI will be having give-aways and Fresh Market will have fruit & snacks. Our friends from the Perimeter Transportation Coalition will be on-hand, as always encouraging folks to think of ways to get "out of your car" in getting to work.

Click for the City Press Release
and here for the Dunwoody Start info flyer 

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