Here is a wonderful NPR story on the biking boom in Portland, OR. It includes some great ideas on how to transform roadways made solely for automobiles into complete streets.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
We'd all heard about it, but it’s stunning.
Everyone talks about Paris’ system of free (well, it CAN be free if you keep your rides short!) system of bicycles, a business model not unlike the “SmartCarts” at airports. It’s VELIB…velos libre....or free bicycles.
What Velib is not is a curiosity or trivial topic of conversation. It’s a truly significant factor in the life of a city, and a phenomenal example of how things can be. It’s serious business. And it’s beginning to reduce the number of cars on the streets.
You cannot look up and take an imaginary “snapshot” with your eyes without capturing two Velibs at a time, at any given second, on virtually any street. And its has been such a roaring success in the city that the suburbs are adopting it. Before the year’s end, another 300 “Velib” docking stations in 30 suburban towns. Each station will have up to two dozen Velibs.
It’s quite a commitment. Most stations are built where cars used to be parked. (But eight Velibs fit into the space occupied by one average-size European car.) Each station must be re-paved to install the Velib “docks,” and wired to handle credit card transactions.
Here are some statistics:
• 200,000 people signed up for annual Velib each year and the number is rising.
• 6,000 miles is the distance each Velib clocks annually, on average (50 times more than the average bicycle languishing in a garage)
• 1,700 individual stations (some with up to 30 or more Velibs) have been constructed.
• 20 million euros (over $45 million at the current rate) is the gross amount of Velib revenue in the last year in Paris alone.
• 8 to 10: the average number of users for one Velib each day
• 1,500 Velibs are maintained and/or repaired daily
But it’s not just Paris. It’s in numerous other large urban centers in France and elsewhere in Europe.
check this out, and then google "velib" and just see what you get!!
Posted by Tom Bradford at 4:38 AM
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Post & Courier writers have presented perspectives on transit topics in several articles over the past week. Check 'em out.
Railways create great divide
Opponents claim train systems waste resources, others think they are solution to traffic issues
What goes around, comes around
Train linking Charleston to Summerville is far from a novel idea
REACTIONS Sunday, July 13, 2008
A sampling of the comments posted on Charleston.net in reponse to The Great Train Debate.
A magic bus for CARTA
What role will popular express route play in transit's future?
Sanford to mark biker red light legislation
The Great Train Debate: Do numbers add up here?
Factors include total number of people, as well as population, workplace densities
Local cyclists getting word out about new S.C. bike law
Don't break Coleman bike lanes
Taking notes on Tennessee's test run
Would Charleston-area commuter rails have same problems?
Charlotte finds light-rail success
Lynx draws riders, and property values along the tracks are going up
Posted by Brian Graham at 8:26 AM
Don't break Coleman bike lanes
Bicycle lanes serve an important recreational purpose. Yet they also serve an increasingly important transportation pur-pose. The latter purpose makes another strong case for building bike lanes along all of redesigned Coleman Boulevard. And Mount Pleasant Town Council, heeding that logic, made the right call Tuesday night when it sent back to an advisory board a proposal that would have removed the bike lanes for more than a half mile.
Again, the proposed detour to other streets would adversely affect not just people who ride bikes for enjoyment but the growing number of local residents who regularly use bikes to go back and forth to school, work, shopping and other destinations. Though the persisting rise in the ranks of cycling commuters, here and elsewhere, began before this year's remarkable jump in gas prices, that wrenching economic factor clearly is accelerating the trend.
However, the Coleman Boulevard Revitalization Advisory Board, a citizens committee that town council designated to craft recommendations on how best to transform that major thoroughfare, produced a plan that would move the bike lanes off of Coleman for approximately 3,000 feet between Simmons Street and Erkman Drive.
Local cyclist organizations, including Charleston Moves, understandably objected. Charleston Moves director Tom Bradford argued in a letter to Mount Pleasant Town Council:
"By settling for now-you-see-them-now-you-don't bike lanes, the planners are saying 'bikes belong — just not here.' It is a critical flaw. We realize it's a difficult challenge to fit all the elements in, but we believe it is imperative to go back to the drawing board on this element."
And now town council, realizing that "critical flaw," has told the advisory board to try again. Yes, keeping bike lanes along the entire route of the new, improved boulevard likely would incur extra expense for an already-costly project now priced at $4 million. But failing to do so would impose long-term costs of its own.
As Mr. Bradford wrote of the redesign's stated goals for "mixed use":
"Diverting cyclists is inconsistent with the wonderful atmosphere planners hope for. They want pedestrians, they want people strolling and shopping, and they want a calm, lovely street. But they want to shunt cyclists to side streets? It makes no sense and is inconsistent with the best planning practices seen in other urban areas."
The advisory board — and town council — should assure that such "best planning practices" will be followed by maintaining those bike lanes along the entire length of Coleman Boulevard.
Posted by Tom Bradford at 3:59 AM
Friday, July 11, 2008
Announcing the “debut” of a new non-profit organization: SCGreen.
If you're interested in issues like: energy conservation, green building & renovation, clean & safe renewable energy, clean air & water, healthy local food, green jobs, efficient & clean mass transit, safe bicycling & walking pathways, greenways, parks & open spaces, sustainable development, 'green' businesses, intelligent land use & urban planning, wildlife protection, and other green & sustainable issues, then www.SCGreen.org will be the place for you.
We will "operate" an online, web-based network of people, news and green & sustainable resources. This website will be collaborative and interactive -- "of the people, by the people and for the people."
SCGreen will support South Carolinians in changing our lifestyles, business practices and, occasionally, our laws as well. We hope to harness and focus the expertise, energy, and enthusiasm in SC for building a green and sustainable South Carolina.
SCGreen needs your input. Please consider filling out our survey at www.SCGreen.org to help guide the development of this new resource. It will only take a few minutes.
Please also consider forwarding this email to other folks who you think might be interested in helping SCGreen develop.
Posted by Tom Bradford at 12:48 PM
Charleston County’s third and final round of public workshops are next week, presenting draft goals and strategies for the Charleston County Comprehensive Plan revision. Good opportunity to get alternative transportation concerns out there.
Monday, July 14, 2008 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the following locations:
-East Cooper Area Wando High School 1000 Warrior Way, Mt. Pleasant
-Central/Urban Area (Including North Charleston, Charleston, West Ashley and James Island)Rutledge Memorial Baptist Church2014 Bees Ferry Road, Charleston
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the following locations:
-Johns Island and Wadmalaw Island (Including Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island) St. John’s High School 1518 Main Rd., Johns Island
-West County/Edisto Island Baptist Hill High School 5117 Baptist Hill Road, Hollywood
City of Charleston Planners, a group of John's Island residents, Charleston Moves, the Coastal Conservation League and a number of others had opposed a Charleston County Roadwise plan to widen Maybank Hwy to four lanes. The Post and Courier today published a story detailing the case against that plan, with statistics about how much better an alternative would work.
This is great news for those of us who favor "calmer" traffic that is conducive to use by cyclists, pedestrians and mass transit.
Here is the story:
Network of streets favored
Consultants recommend dropping 4-lane
By David Slade (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Johns Island - A network of new two-lane streets would be a better
solution to traffic than widening Maybank Highway, a consultant told a
crowd of more than 100 people Wednesday evening.
Florida-based Hall Planning and Engineering had been hired by
Charleston, Charleston County and the Coastal Conservation League to
evaluate the options.
Company President Richard Hall essentially agreed with what the city has
been advocating: that Charleston County's Roadwise program should drop
plans to make Maybank Highway four lanes wide, plus a turn lane, in
favor of the new-streets alternative.
The thinking is that an expanded street network, particularly around
Maybank Highway and River Road, would spread traffic out and improve
traffic flow, without damaging the rural character of Johns Island.
Charleston's Maybank Highway plan
Charleston County's Roadwise plan
Road-widening projects would threaten grand live oaks that line the
A top priority, Hall said, should be eliminating the bottleneck on
Maybank Highway approaching River Road, where traffic crossing the Stono
River is squeezed from two lanes on the bridge to one on Maybank.
The concept favored by Hall calls for creating a two-lane road parallel
to Maybank Highway, between the bridge and Fenwick Hall.
Each two-lane road would be one-way, doubling the lanes to and from the
Near Fenwick Hall, more two-lane roads would be added, all leading to
With at least four ways to get from the bridge to River Road, traffic
would be dispersed along with the backups at the intersection, Hall
The proposed network of roads would resemble a pitchfork, with the
bridge being the handle.
"I think the pitchfork idea sounds good," said Marissa Reilly of Johns
Island. "Something needs to be done about that bottleneck."
Hall said his report is not in its final form yet. County Council is
expected to review the report later this month.
Members of the audience for Hall's report, at the Johns Island branch of
the Charleston County Library, were largely supportive of the concept.
Some peppered him with questions about traffic, trees and property
rights. Where and how, asked several people, would the city or county
acquire the rights of way needed for all these new roads?
Hall said some property owners have already been contacted and agreed
with the plan.
He said many of the proposed roads would be centered around three
village-like areas the city would like to see develop along Maybank
Highway, and property owners would likely allow the roads because it
would increase their property values.
Pearse Webster, of Wadmalaw, commutes daily to James Island but is not
interested in seeing Maybank Highway widened.
Webster didn't really like the idea of creating lots of new streets,
either. He said it seemed preferable to widening Maybank Highway, but he
objected to the city's concept of town centers.
"If I wanted to live in a place where multi-story buildings come right
up to the road, I would have moved to New York," he said.
Hall said that if what Johns Island really needed was a four-lane
Maybank Highway, he would have recommended that option.
Posted by Tom Bradford at 2:20 AM
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I've yet to pick-up a hard copy, but the Stratton Lawrence's cover story of the 9 July City Paper is "We Are Traffic. Can you share the road with us?" Follow this link to the article. It does a good job of explaining the new state bike safety law and discusses current bike happenings throughout Charleston. http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A48095
Posted by Brian Graham at 1:18 PM
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Thanks to the work of Councilmen Gawrych and Santos, the Mt. Pleasant Town Council made a step forward tonight with regard to the issue of having a continuous bike lane along Coleman Boulevard. Recognizing the many strong elements of the overall plan, Mr. Gawrych made a motion to advance the plan while recognizing that modifications are necessary to address building heights, public parking, and bike lanes. During discussion, he noted that he "doesn't agree with the current configuration for bicycles", and that Mayor Riley has moved forward with improvements along East Bay. "Bike routes should extend from the Battery to Sullivan's Island," he said. Councilman Santos, who voted in the past to protect bike access, further underscored our case saying that he "supports a continuous path" and that we need bike access.
Carl Miller and I spoke up on the issue during public comment. Cathy Miller and other Charleston Moves Board members and friends were in attendance. Joel McKellar, in his comments to the Council, reminded them that the Planning Commission had recommended a continuous bike lane. He also said the staff is looking into other options for bikes.
Next step, to attend the CRAB meeting slated for sometime in July (the 23rd? stay tuned?) to continue to advocate for continued improvements that bring us into the 21st century! Let's push for consideration of a two lane road, possibly with parking converted to travel lanes during peak hours, or other design solutions that enable true multi-modal options.
Thanks to all for support on this key issue.Signing off - Alys
Monday, July 7, 2008
The Coleman Blvd. revitalizations plan is coming up for a crucial vote of the Mount Pleasant Town Council Tuesday evening (7/08) at 7pm at the Town Hall.
Charleston Moves has been very favorably impressed by the plans with the significant exception of the fact that planned bike lanes are not continuous over the entire scope of the plan. Please see the postings below and go to the Town's website to review them for yourself.
Posted by Tom Bradford at 11:35 AM
Sunday, July 6, 2008
....the following letter is being sent to members of the Mount Pleasant Council by our friend Alys Campaigne
Dear Members of the Mount Pleasant Town Council:
High gas prices. Concerns about obesity. A resurgence of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods amidst demands for improved quality of life. Growing numbers of people cycling or taking transit to work. We read about these trends on an almost daily basis. Politicians face pressure to find alternatives without delay. Unfortunately, solutions to our transportation woes are not of the quick fix variety. We can’t overhaul our street networks overnight.
That’s why the decisions you make on the Coleman Boulevard Revitalization plan are so important. No single plan will solve our region’s transportation woes, but, taken together, they will define us and leave a lasting legacy. The current amendment to the plan includes a number of outstanding improvements that will help enliven the Boulevard. I applaud the hard work that has been made to date. The glaring omission – that the Planning Commission recommended be addressed – is the inclusion of design elements that will enable a continuous bike lane along the street.
After listening to debates on this matter it appears that many Council members consider biking as a largely recreational pastime. That view is short sighted. Just today an op-ed in the Post and Courier describes Amsterdam where 37% of the commutes are made by bike. Sure, Mt. Pleasant isn’t Amsterdam, but in the course of my day, I may bike my children to school, commute to work, and take my bike trailer to go to the library, the shops, the Village Bakery, Dunkin Donuts, Shem Creek, or even the movies on Houston Northcutt. I use my bike as a preferred transportation alternative. For increasing numbers of people this is the case despite the fact that it is presently quite a dangerous endeavor.
Adding a continuous bike lane along Coleman is not only the decision that must be made to improve the safety of pedestrians, drivers, and bikers, it is also of critical economic import. To keep Coleman unfriendly to cyclists is to miss an easy way to enliven the street and draw people to the growing number of cafes, businesses and shops along the way. As long as Coleman remains unsafe for cyclists, local residents will choose to get in their car to run errands. Once in the car, they may as well drive to Town Center or other shopping centers rather than patronize our local shops. We should be making Coleman’s destinations the preferred alternative for nearby residents. We should be doing everything we can attract cyclists coming over the bridge to our shops and gathering places.
Let’s have Mt. Pleasant be a leader in creating a vibrant Main Street. Don’t limit the good work that has begun by failing to include multi-modal alternatives. Now, more than ever, the limitations of single passenger vehicles are being felt. Please vote to support the amendments and push for the Planning Commission’s recommended changes to include a continuous bike lane going forward.
Posted by Tom Bradford at 5:37 PM
England announced its first cycling city — Bristol. The U.K's transportation secretary made the announcement. To make the city a safe place for cyclists ages 8 to 80, the government plans to spend over $22 million (USD). The city's press release says the effort is to make "cycling a real alternative to the car."
Posted by Tom Bradford at 12:10 PM
Town of Mount Pleasant
Dear : July 5, 2008
Our organization, with numerous members in Mount Pleasant, applauds the Coleman Boulevard Revitalization plan. Planners at Urban Edge Studio and the Town have much for which to be proud. It should go forward, with one exception.
By settling for “now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t” bike lanes, the planners are saying “bikes belong—just not here.” It is a critical flaw. We realize it’s a difficult challenge to fit all the elements in, but we believe it is imperative to go back to the drawing board on this element. Please consider our thoughts on the matter:
The alternate route suggested is cumbersome and unsafe. A cyclist traveling south on Coleman would have to cross the street at Erkman Drive (Taco Bell), go to King Street, turn right; go to Whilden Street, turn right and then go back to Coleman where he or she would have to cross over Coleman again in order to continue south on Coleman.
Motorists usually opt for the quickest, most direct route. It is the same for cyclists. Eager to get to their destinations, they won't take a side route. Crossing the boulevard to follow “bike path” signs would be dangerous and slow them down. And as the roadway switches from bike lanes to no bike lanes (and then back again) both cyclists and motorists would be re-calibrating their expectations and physical positions, creating an unsafe situation.
It’s true that a car door opening into the path of a cyclist is a hazard. But it is a more acute hazard when there is no striped bicycle lane because in such cases, motorists may have the sense (consciously or unconsciously) that cyclists won’t be there. A consistent, painted bike lane makes it clear that bicyclists are a factor. Nothing should interrupt or confuse that understanding.
Taking the larger view (from a planning standpoint), diverting cyclists is inconsistent with the wonderful atmosphere planners hope for. They want pedestrians, they want people strolling and shopping, and they want a calm, lovely street. But they want to shunt cyclists to side streets? It makes no sense and is inconsistent with best planning practices seen in other urban areas.
We think the Council should assert unequivocally that bicycles belong. Clearly, more and more of us will be using bicycles for basic, short-range transportation. We are all coping with higher fuel prices as well as our state’s epidemics of obesity and diabetes. We all hope for the day that our children can walk or ride bikes to school. We hope you recognize these factors and vote accordingly.
Again, we applaud this plan. But we believe continuous bicycle lanes are critical to the vision. We are not reassured by any vague prospects that Coleman may eventually shrink to two lanes and allow for the bike lanes. We suggest that you approve the plan with the provision that the bike lanes be made continuous.
Tom Bradford, Director
Posted by Tom Bradford at 8:45 AM
Thursday, July 3, 2008
The Mount Pleasant Town Council's Planning and Development Committee met on Wednesday (July 2) to further consider the complicated plan for the re-development of
Coleman Boulevard. Overall, is a comprehensive, perhaps even audacious plan to turn a four-lane wasteland of mostly sprawl into the "Main Street" of Mount Pleasant. It's a commendable project.
It carefully delineates rules about how close to the road buildings must be and how tall the can be at any point along the roadway. There are sidewalks and multi-purpose activity areas, specifications for pocket parks and green spaces. Most buildings will have to be close to the roadway and most will have to have display windows to attract shoppers on foot. Restaurants will be able to set up outdoor dining in the multi-activity areas. Even the landscaping is laid out, at least in broad brushstrokes. It appears to be a good illustration of the "new urbanism," a welcome relief from the humdrum planning (or lack of it) in the Lowcountry.
The fly in the ointment, again, is the tentative plan for "now-you-see-them-now-you-don't" bike lanes on the boulevard.
Clearly, the planners are between a rock and a hard place as they attempt to squeeze their vision for the roadway into a strictly limited amount of space. In their view, on-street parking is critically important. The median they have planned is important, too. So, on a 3,000-ft.-long stretch of the Boulevard where on-street parking is part of the design, a bike lane doesn't fit into their plans.
Another part of the planners' fondest hopes is that they will be able to sell Town officials on the idea of reducing auto traffic on Coleman from four lanes to two, essential for totally changing the character of the thoroughfare to a slower, pleasant main street. IF they eventually succeed in selling this two-lane plan, the continuous bike path would survive after all.
So, it's a complicated picture. The overall vision appears to be quite good, especially if it includes Coleman Blvd. as a two-lane roadway. It's still very nice without that option, but as things stand right now, the bike lanes disappear for 3,000 feet, and then re-appear. City planners defend this by assuring the public that the bike lanes can be re-routed to parallel streets.
Our position continues to be that "now-you-see-them-now-you-don't" bike lanes are bad. Most cyclists eager to get to their destinations won't take a side route. As the roadway makes the transition from bike lanes to no bike lanes (and then back to bike lanes) both the cyclists and the motorists will have to re-calibrate, not a safe circumstance. Motorists will ponder the question as to whether cyclists using the no-bike-lane belong there or not (the law, of course, gives cyclists every right to be there).
Notwithstanding cyclists' constant danger of being "doored," we think this now-and-again bike lane approach is unsafe, even silly. And it is ultimately discriminatory.
But it also flies in the face of the wonderful atmosphere the planners are hoping for. They want pedestrians, they want people strolling and shopping, and they want a calm, lovely street. But they want to shunt off the cyclists? It seems to fly in the face of what they're hoping to achieve. We'd suggest they go back to the drawing boards and their calculators and try again.
But in the meantime, just in case the two-lane plan gets no political traction (a liklihood?), we should press our case for a continuous bike lane.
As our friend Alys Campaigne (a Mount Pleasant resident who's been helping in our effort) puts it: "While each of these single decisions may seem small, together they either add up to a great place that promotes pedestrian-friendly, walkable streets with options for transportation, or [on the other hand] they keep us tied to the single-passenger automobile."
Posted by Tom Bradford at 12:12 PM
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Here are a couple interesting articles from today's Times. The first is apropos of Brian Graham's project, specifically his map of Charleston bike racks.
Posted by Carlin at 12:23 PM
The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG) is soliciting input via a survey from Lowcountry residents and employees to help guide the direction of the area's long-range planning process. Here's the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=iaEht4pbebD8alAighz1Yg_3d_3d
Additionally, a one day public regional forum will be held on July 26 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the North Charleston Convention Center for anyone interested in providing further input into the future of our region. Results from the survey will be shared at this meeting. You can also request the results be emailed to you when you take the online survey. For more information, log on to the Web site www.OurRegionOurPlan.org.
This is an excellent opportunity to provide the COG with views from the community on the need for more and better bicycling infrastructure, outreach and education information, and the benefits that more cycling opportunities will provide to the Lowcountry (e.g. intrinsic environmental, intrinsic health, economic, tourism, etc.). After you answer the closed-ended questions, there is opportunity to provide open-ended comments.
Brian Graham is working on his Master's paper in urban planning at Clemson. That paper is to be a bike/ped plan for the City of Charleston, something we should all get behind. Here's his "wish list:"
There are several items that I have proposed as part of my Bicycle & Pedestrian Action Plan that I could use the input of local bike/ped advocates/ experts/ supporters/ etc. These are the things that I am soliciting input/suggestions for from local peoples. If you could please forward it to the Charleston Moves board, I would appreciate it.
--Where are the public/ private bicycle racks in the city?? (Follow link below to add them directly to an online map or please provide intersections and/or "in front of Earth Fare on Folly Rd" for example)
I've set-up a public, interactive Google Map that community members can map bicycle rack locations that they know of/ use.
--What roads seem ideal for re-striping to create bike lanes or should have 'sharrows'?? (these roads should seem wider than others, have well maintained pavement and/or seem to have a lot of bicycle traffic)
--Are there specific roads you can think of that do not have sidewalks that, in your opinion, need them??
--Where would you suggest that bicycle/pedestrian activity should be counted to document a demand for facilities?? (these should be in the form of intersections or specific locations, 'King/Calhoun,' for example)
--What type of bicycle/pedestrian/motorist education programs would you like to see the City of Charleston support?? (obviously there is a need to educate these groups in different ways, but what do you think those methods should include exactly?)
--How should bicycle and pedestrian activities be encouraged/ marketed in the City??
Please send your suggestions/ answers to the above questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your assistance.
City and Regional Planning Department
Masters Candidate, 2008
Posted by Tom Bradford at 7:56 AM
Brian Graham, a Clemson graduate student creating a Bicycle & Pedestrian Action Plan for Charleston, needs your help. As part of his work, he is documenting all the bicycle rack locations within the city. If you know of a rack, please follow the link and add a marker to the interactive Google map. Or, place a marker to request a rack in a certain location. This online map will remain an interactive tool for Charleston bicyclists (commuters, shoppers, tourists, etc.). A more formal map will be created and submitted to the City of Charleston.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE MAP
Posted by Tom Bradford at 7:45 AM