Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Did the Netherlands Become So Bicycle-Friendly

First of all, it's not about being bicycle-friendly.  It's more about acknowledging the crucial importance of alternative forms of transportation.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Clock Ticking on Ashley Crossing Decision

As we went to press, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley’s office was still awaiting word from the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) on the proposal to re-dedicate one lane of the Legare Bridge (northbound Route 17) for use by people on foot and on bicycles.

Mayor Riley has often expressed confidence that the ultimate answer will be “yes.”

Charleston Moves Director Tom Bradford said he’s resisting the temptation to interpret any delay as bad news. “SCDOT is under a lot of pressure right now for financial reasons, and this item probably is very low on their radar,” he said.

Bradford said he had contacted the Mayor’s office for any update that might be available, and was still awaiting word.

The Legare Bridge crossing is viewed as a crucial link in bike/ped connectivity in the greater Charleston area, and crucial as well for the East Coast Greenway which is routed along Route 17 and the West Ashley Greenway. Charleston Moves has projected extremely heavy bike and pedestrian traffic on the lane when it opens.

Charleston Moves continues collecting signatures on petitions supporting the Ashley Crossing Initiative. Thus far, over 2,500 individuals have signed the petition, and 70 institutions and organizations have adopted a resolution supporting it. The level of support was detailed in a letter from Charleston Moves to SCDOT.

Meantime, there has been a lot of “chatter” in news accounts and social media about threats of enforcing a ban in bicycling on the James Island Connector.

With BikeLaw attorney Peter Wilborn, Bradford met several weeks ago with representatives of SCDOT in the Mayor’s office. At that time, Bradford and Wilborn made it clear that they would not support the JIC bicycle ban until such time that a better, safer alternative route was opened.

Despite news and other accounts to the contrary, there has been no enforcement of such a ban, nor any move to begin warning cyclists. Charleston Moves and BikeLaw continue to carefully monitor this situation.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Help jumpstart the City of Charleston’s Bike Rack Fund

The Charleston Green Committee wants to quickly raise $2,600 to kick start the City of Charleston's Bike Rack Fund. This fund will pay for 14 bike racks which the City has committed to install at no cost.

Each rack costs $180 and will be put in locations which will encourage more biking & less driving. Your donation will be combined with others to leverage this purchase.

DONATE NOW in any denomination by going to:

Please be sure to designate that your donation go to THE CHARLESTON GREEN COMMITTEE. The deadline is 12/31/11.

Charleston Moves Nudges Harborview in a Better Direction

BIKE LANES RETURNED TO ROAD not complete yet...

Post & Courier photo

Just a couple short weeks ago, Charleston County Council voted to approve a new design for Harborview Road on James Island. It was a design that we were able to influence greatly – for the better.

We were called in by a group of James Island residents working as a new organization called “Will You Remember Our Trees?” This group was alarmed, obviously, about a new design for the road that would mean losing a significant number of the live oaks that line portions of the road. Charleston Moves recognized that Harborview Road could well be a key section of our Battery2Beach Route.

Lead by our own Chris Tullmann, we answered the call for help. When he brought the proposed road design to us, we found it to be a monster: almost 70 feet wide, with a two-way multi-use path on only one side of the road, speed limit increased from 40 to 45mph, a center (suicide) lane, and not a single crosswalk!

Harborview Road traffic clogs up with car traffic during certain periods of the day, especially when school is in session and the buses are stopping along the road. That was the main impetus for road re-construction. Our Suggested Alternative -- With RoundaboutsBut, based upon Chris’s work, we found no merit in the scope or details of the County’s plan. We found the road too wide, speeds too fast, the proposed bi-directional multi-use path unsafe. The absence of a single crosswalk betrayed the “cars-only” mindset of the engineers.

We intervened with letters to members of County Council and well-timed publicity suggesting that the project would do much more harm than good. In fact, we believe that the project, instead of helping connect many lovely neighborhoods on that portion of James Island, would instead create a monstrous concrete and asphalt “gash” through it, very likely to diminish property values, cheapen commerce and tarnish the overall quality of life.

Council re-examined the proposal and ultimately OK’d a vastly revised plan, with a shorter “suicide lane,” bike lanes restored to the sides of the road, and a sidewalk running among the trees on the south side of the roadway.

Though not everything we (and the Will You Remember Our Trees? group) had hoped for, it was a vast improvement over the plan considered earlier.

The “Remember Our Trees” group generously credits Charleston Moves with making it possible to re-open the discussion. They tell us that until we got involved, county officials were not listening.

We will be working for further improvements. Re-opening the discussion, essentially, means that the engineers go back to square one. There’ll be a new public comment meeting next year.

We believe that at least one roundabout (at Fort Johnson Road) would be a great improvement. Another one a short distance up Harborview from that point would be good, too. They could meter traffic and further shrink the length of the “suicide lane.” No plan on the table (not even the improved one) deals with the real choke point: the narrow causeway leading up to the James Island Creek, and the two-lane bridge over that body of water. Bike and pedestrian connectivity over that stretch of Harborview still hasn’t been dealt with. (The our concept, with two roundabouts, are pictured here.)

So, our work on the Harborview is not done.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Charleston Moves RoadWatch

We're monitoring more and more road projects in and around Charleston.  That means we're able to make suggestions that make our streets and roads more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Here is a partial list of those projects compiled by our Vice Chair Chris Tullman who is leading the charge in this area.

CHATS (Charleston Area Transportation Study) 2012-2014 enhancement grants.  12 great projects are looking for some additional funding (max of 400k), of course there isn't enough to fund all the good ones  :(  We have to decide which ones get us the most bang for the buck right now   ...and if we can pull the cash back from past projects that never got used - that might fund a few more good ones that are ready to go now!

Ben Sawyer Causeway
Updated plans call for a slight 2 foot lane shift of the vehicle lanes to create space for an 8 foot wide multiuse path (where existing sidewalk is).  The 2' lane shift will give space for a 2 ft shoulder on both sides of the road with 11 ft vehicles lanes in each direction.  There will be a planted buffer between the vehicle lanes and the multi-use path.
We were pushing for more space on the roadway as well - 4 foot bike lanes.  There just isn't space on the causeway.  Any additional width to the multi-use path or to the shoulder width (to make a bike lane) triggers retaining walls or fill into the coastal salt marsh.  Neither one is an option at this time... costs jump ~$1 M for an additional 1' of space... and $2.4+ M for the space needed for a bike lane.  We hope that this will increase the comfort level of cyclists to use the Multi-use path, and those on the road to have a little more room with some shoulder space.  We have requested that the Bridge get painted shoulder lines as well.  We can not get Sharrows placed since we have not been able to get bike lanes on both sides of the bridge... yet.  We also have requests in for safe crossings to get to and from the Multi-use path.  On Sullivan's Island it may be easier to get one... the Tolers Cover / Gold Bug.
Roadwise is also requested a reduction of the speed limit from Tolers Cove (Gold Bug Island) to Sullivan's Island.  DOT has already stated they will not consider a reduction from Tolers Cove to Mt Pleasant at this time.
This is one of the 12 CHATS (Charleston Area Transportation Study) funding request projects.  Also a request to SCDOT to move their paving/painting budget for Ben Sawyer to 2012 (currently scheduled around 2015).

Coleman Blvd redevelopment - Shem Creek to Chuck Dawley Boulevard
Plans for on street parking and bicycle lanes for Coleman Blvd.  There is discussion about at a large two-lane roundabout in front of Royal Hardware.  However,  we are not sure what those plans look like yet. Still in the sketch plan / brainstorming stage.

Route 41

For this strategically crucial road, plans for a new bridge over the Wando call for a 4 lane bridge design.  good while only 2 lanes are used (3rd and 4th lane saved for future traffic), but horrible if we loose that access in the future because of short term planning.   Haven't heard any more about this one... anyone else hear any rumors?  Trying to find out more through BCD CoG and Charleston County Parks (new park on 41 north of 17)
Clements Ferry Road is getting 4 miles of new bike/multi-use path (and re-painting as part of the re-paving)... starting next year at the Thompson Island end (there is also one of the 12 CHATS project to connect over to Daniel Island in 2 phase project).  Longterm plan will continue the access all the way down Clements Ferry to Cainhoy.  So, that  41 Bridge mentioned above will be a key link for that loop to be a safe option.

Isle of Palms Connector
The Connector Roadway had multi-use paths from the bridge to Rifle Range installed. The current project will widen the IOP connector roadway from the bridge to Route 17, tying into the Route 17 work going up past 41 to Wando High School.  We requested the 4' shoulders that can be used for bike lanes (they will not do signalized intersections for bikes at this time because there is not a high volume of users), also the sidewalks should be completed on both sides of the road.  Both should tie into the 6' multi-use path the town has built along Hungry Neck Blvd / Sweetgrass Basket Parkway / Watermark to Bowman.
For the IOP Connector Bridge - A quick analysis was done on costs to put barriers for a protected path on the Isle of Palms (IOP) Conn bridge. This would have a full length of the bridge barrier line, plus have to raise the existing outside barrier to meet bicycle and pedestrian requirements.  This estimate came in about $3.5 M... that is a big price (and another reason they should have just done it right the first time!). This would create a safe place to walk, run, ride with some protection from the vehicles on that bridge with a posted speed of 55 mph... average speed of 60+?   It is just way beyond the limited budgets we have these days.  Isle of Palms would also have to redo the big intersection at the base of the bridge with its own significant cost to update.
So, the new idea is to do a phased approach.  We may be able to do something with Paint, Buffer Space, and rumble strips and/or plastic posts... and a reduced posted speed limit for much much less.  This would be able to create a wide bicycle lane with some protection (that could be used by pedestrians - even if not "labeled" for it).  Reducing the speed limit and lane widths will help create this space for this path.  Rumble strips and a painted island could give extra space to keep drivers in their lane.  As more and more people use this space, it will be easier to see the Need for the barriers, and IOP can use the time to update their intersection on the island, and raise additional money to pay for it.

Rifle Range Road:
The town would like to get sidewalks and a Multi-use path (8' sidewalk) between Six Mile and Hamlin (proposed to CHATS for funding).  Rifle Range Road north of the IOP connector is on the designated East Coast Greenway route.  There are still no plans for bike lanes on Rifle Range Road.  Unfortunately, the new light at Six Mile Rd does not have wider shoulders installed as part of the work.  They added turn lanes, but built in an obstacle to future connections.  One future option might be a multi-Use path can connect through here.  We all lost a great chance to have bike lanes go in with the new school was built... sad.
The proposed sidewalks and multi-use path on Rifle Range should draw people on bikes and walking/running, especially as Charleston County park works to connect all the parks with equal access for all.  The town would like to have access, but there is currently no funding for any work in this area.  It is on the list of projects though.
There are rumors of another traffic light going in on Rifle Range in the next year.

Mathis Ferry Road:
No plans for work here except for a tie-in at Bowman Road (site of the huge 'flyover) and at Wingo Way intersection for the rt 17 work.  This may help the intersection for access to the waterfront pier park.  No designated bike lanes on Mathis Ferry or Wingo Way, but there will be sidewalks and crosswalks.  Also some of the intersections accessing the area will have wider shoulders and level space behind the curb.

Rt 17 & Johnnie Dodds:
Our watchfulness brought results.  Formerly included on final plans, bike disappeared from work plans, but now they are confirmed on both Frontage roads in both directions (section of Sharrows used in a couple corners due to over-tracking of 18 wheeler trailers); a wider shoulder on Mathis Ferry from Frontage/Wingo Way across 17 on Houston Northcutt past the E Frontage Rd... and working on extending to Whole Foods and Harris Teeter shopping center entrances.  All rt 17 intersections will have signals and crosswalks (including a new one at Wingo Way).  Wingo Way will get a new Multi-use path from Mathis Ferry down to the waterfront park (in the next year??).  Anyone riding from the park on Wingo Way will at least have some pavement markings and traffic signals to get across to the Frontage Rd.
The new Bowmen Bridge under rt 17 will have sidewalks and bike lanes... the signals can be set to detect bikes in the future, they will be setup to do that at this time (additional cost for limited use)... you may want to try some Rare Earth Magnets on the bottom bracket for tripping the loop detector signals in the mean time.

The plans showing the connection to the Multi-Use path that goes by the new East Cooper Hospital needs some work, but should be updated prior to construction.
Bowman Road
Adjacent to the McDonalds (and Bicycle Shoppe), Bowman will get a new bridge over Shem Creek - 80' wide = five lanes for vehicles and some sidewalks. Apparently the town got a waiver from SCDOT 6 years ago so they don't have to meet Complete Streets??  Permits done; design complete -- they don't want to even talk about a change.  Chris says he will keep working on it. He has a couple ideas to "sketch up" if Charleston Moves has sufficient funds. (He points out that this is beginning to sound like the Ben Sawyer Bridge project where things change at the last minute and they hope no one notices.)

Ravenel Bridge
We keep proposing the new access around the bridge ramp when you approach from Coleman Blvd going south/west... the idea seems popular, but there are wetlands there. They may be tidal and brackish as well... all makes it more complicated to do now.  It should have just been done as part of the bridge ramp originally.

The Battery2Beach Route
The first priority is to get some signs Up.  In Mount Pleasant, the B2B designation is being used almost officialy in discussions about the Ben Sawyer Causeway and portions of Coleman Boulevard, indicating genuine "buy- in" at the local level.  Next project is to meet with SCDOT and get them to agree to a design for the B2B signs (They didn't like our first 2 options... apparently SCDOT didn't think cars could read them at 45mph, and didn't understand they are for people going 2-20mph.)
Participating in the Charleston Moves-backed Cost-Benefit analysis of the B2B project, Engineering students from the Citadel have completed an Engineering Study. They did a GREAT job presenting at the Design Charrette in September.  County Council wants to pick this up and run/ride with it!  Recent town meetings the route has been referred to as the Battery 2 Beach route - it is accepted.  Good news.
The overall Economic Impact Study - Grad Student Tiffany Norton's Masters Thesis from College of Charleston - has just been defended this week.  It's excellent work, and Charleston Moves will be talking more about it in the coming weeks.

There is at least as much going on in each area around Charleston.  I started a map of a few of the projects and issues that I knew about:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More on College of Charleston area Traffic Chaos

Within the past few days, there has been a flurry of e-mails concerning zig-zagging skateboarders, unpredictable bike riders, and pedestrians making not-so-safe maneuvers.  It has once again gotten the attention of City Hall, not to mention Charleston Police and Campus Security officers.
Here's a portion of an e-mail sent to city hall by someone who works in the neighborhood.

.....we have a serious, and increasingly dangerous, traffic problem in our neighborhood that I believe you need to have more attention given to.  The problem relates to the College of Charleston students as they stream back and forth between the campus and their apartments each day.  The street on which the problem can be best observed is St. Philip Street, and the best time is between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning.  Whether they are walking, riding bicycles, or on skateboards there is a total disregard for all traffic regulations. 

At the intersections the pedestrians totally ignore the pedestrian traffic lights and just walk in any direction without even looking at the lights, or the cars that are at the intersections.  Away from the intersections they also cross at will, and walk in the streets without any hesitation or consideration for the automobile traffic.

There is a huge increase in the number of students riding bicycles to the campus from their apartments some blocks up St. Philip Street for example.  This morning I counted 17 bikes in one pack coming down the street.  These cyclists totally disregard the traffic lights and roll through the intersections without hesitation on either a green light or a red light.  They ride on both sides of the street, or right down the middle.  They pass cars which are stopped at intersections on either side making it very dangerous for the cars to move forward, or turn, when their light turns green.  Just this morning as I sat at the corner of St. Philip and Vanderhorst I was unable to move forward when the light turned green.  A bike running the red light braked to a stop right in front of me as my car started to move, and of course he flipped me the bird.  My necessary hesitation led to numerous pedestrians, bikes and skate boards flooding through the intersection against the red light so I had to sit and wait with the nose of my car already out in the intersection.

And then there are the skateboards.  While less numerous than the bicycles the skateboarders seem to revel in their disregard for the traffic regulations, and the fact that they have, at least temporarily, “Seized the Streets”.

Last of all there is the issue of bikes and skateboards being ridden on downtown sidewalks, and those riders expecting pedestrians to get out of their way so they can continue at an un-interrupted pace.  I take a noon walk downtown almost every day, and there have been several times when bikes or skateboards have made contact with me at corners, etc.  On a few occasions there has been a policeman nearby, and I have reported the incident.  There is not much they could have done because the abusive biker or skateboarder was already blocks away.

After having several close encounters over the last few days I decided to walk over to the College of Charleston Police Office this morning after I parked my car.  I spoke with an officer and expressed my frustration and concern.  He told me that they were becoming more active in ticketing the bicycle violators, but could not yet address the skateboards due to some issues at the city level.  While we talked students streamed by down St. Philip Street with their now typical disregard for the traffic rules.  Moments later, as I started to walk back to my office, I observed a young lady on a bicycle incorrectly pass a car that was trying to turn into the St. Philip Street parking garage.  She squealed and crashed her bike onto the pavement.  She got up, got back on her bike, and continued down the street on the wrong side, laughing all the while with her bicycling companion.

I really think that the city needs to start a serious crackdown on the pedestrian, bicycle and skateboard traffic in the neighborhoods near the College of Charleston.  It may involve putting policemen at each intersection periodically for some period of time, and issuing tickets until the students get the message that they have to obey traffic laws.  I am really concerned that someone is going to get serious hurt or killed.....

Charleston Moves weighs in with the following response to the overall situation:

Charleston Moves is alarmed about precisely the same things. 

It's clear that many students bring bikes or obtain them upon their arrival but have no concept that they are governed by same rules that apply to automobile drivers. ....consistent, stiff enforcement is important.  But it is just one part of the answer.

For our part, we are trying to step up our educational activities on the campus, distributing literature and videos, etc.   One of our members has begun weekly "Ride-Right" bicycle rides, teaching young people the rules of the road and then providing them with a slice of pizza.  For now, his rides are a demonstration project, and we hope to be able to increase their frequency next spring. 

We are in active talks with a number of CofC officials to find more ways we can address this problem. Because we are an all-volunteer organization, of course, there is always room for improvement. We're looking for increased support from the public to step up our efforts.

While Charleston's bike/skateboard phenomenon may be unruly and dangerous, we are still far better off than if each of these young people were driving cars for the thousands of short trips they make daily. In fact, though uneducated about the rules of the road, these students really nave no choice but to use bicycles or skateboards.

Other cities faced with advanced versions of the same problems we're facing have adopted a limited ban on automobiles in specific areas or during specific time periods. The results in many cases have been more than satisfactory. They have resulted in popular overall improvements to quality of life. But for now, we're not advising anything quite so radical for Charleston. 

The most effective way to achieve more order is to paint white paint on black asphalt -- bike lanes marked showing the direction the traffic they channel should be going. The huge number of folks employing human-powered transportation around the campus (especially on St. Phillip, Canon, and Calhoun) now more than demands painted bike lanes on these streets. (Removing some on-street parking may be unpopular but we've got to face the music.)

We at Charleston Moves have also been considering the possibility of offering bicycle ridership classes that violators could take in lieu of paying traffic fines.  If we are able to do so, we will present this proposal to the city in the near future.

As we are seeing around the nation and around the world, this is a phenomenon with all the earmarks of permanency and growth.  As you point out, it's essentially a good thing. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

These photos were sent to us by an acquaintance at the State Ports Authority.  
They are photos of guests from the cruise ship AIDA LUNA enjoying Charleston by bike!  
The vessel and her 2,000 guests arrived in port this morning during a 19-day voyage from New York to Barbados.  It’s a largely German and European group.  Beyond the biking, shopping, eating and exploring the city by foot, some guests are taking an expedition to Cape Romain.  Others are visiting Boone Hall, Magnolia Gardens, and other historic sites.
We at Charleston Moves have long thought disembarking cruise passengers should have immediate access to bicycles to zip around CHS.  Think of this: Soon, technology would make it possible for them to have GPS devices that tell the CHS story based upon their GPS position..

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ABC News 4 broadcast a report last evening that the City of Charleston and The South Carolina Department of Transportation were discussing a ban on cyclists on the James Island Connector. Other media outlets have taken up the story today.
Here's what we know:
The fact is that SCDOT and the City of Charleston have had on-again, off-again discussions about this for the entire life of the Connector.  There was some renewed discussion following the death of Dr. Mitch Hollon.  
However, (and we know this conclusively) there are no specific plans to erect signs barring cyclists from the connector. 
Charleston Moves has taken the position that since the JIC is still THE SAFEST was to cross the Ashley for cyclists, no step be taken to bar cyclists from it unless and until a better alternative is in service.