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Monday, December 20, 2010

National Bike Summit 2011-Washington, DC

There are more people riding bikes than ever. Yet half of all U.S. trips are three miles or less, and more than 90 percent are made by car. The National Bike Summit has improved bicycle-friendliness and livability in many communities, but the need and opportunity to improve physical activity, safety and livability in the U.S., while reducing congestion, gas emissions and our dependence on oil – remains greater today than a decade ago.

These issues seem difficult to solve but the answer is simple. The answer is the bicycle. Now is the time to ask Congress to make strategic transportation investments that foster healthy people and healthy communities. Join us March 8-10 in Washington, D.C. to act on a simple solution – the bicycle.

The National Bike Summit 2011 in Washington is an opportunity to make sure that budget decisions in these tough economic times take into account bicycling and walking as appropriate means of transportation and important economically for recreational tourism.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Walkable Cities

Living in a neighborhood with sidewalks on every block, large shade trees, speed calming traffic circles, and a small city park near an elementary school I wonder at the practical sense of suburban life without such amenities. Our streets and sidewalks are used constantly by walkers, joggers, bike riders, children, the elderly, and everyone else in-between to go about daily life. This kind of community by design is becoming a more desirable choice for Americans as they deal with long commutes, suburban isolation, and a car-centric life. Reading today about the most walkable and bikeable cities in the country brings home the reality of the places we live as People Places. We cannot go back to an idyllic past but we can go forward with the wisdom of the past to build better communities and to look at positive changes for our current living environments. (Oops, time to take the dogs for a walk.)

"The great economic reset we are in the midst of extends even to Americans' choices of places to live. The popularity of sprawling auto-dependent suburbs is waning. A majority of Americans--six in 10--say they would prefer to live in walkable neighborhoods, in both cities and suburbs, if they could." More on the most walkable cities can be found here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let's Be Creative and Save Lives

After a long discussion in committee centered around lowering the speed limit in a mid city pedestrian zone it became apparent that city planners and traffic engineers have a basic concern for non-impeded traffic flow. This is not news to those who look to better ways to provide for safe pedestrian crossings, designated bike lanes, and a sense that a city is, in fact, walkable or bikeable. The resistance to slowing traffic was spelled out in the sentence,"The road was built to move traffic around the city efficiently." At this particular zone it is not uncommon for autos and trucks to reach speeds of 50 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone. Lowering the limit to 30 miles per hour was seen as the best scenario for safety but the engineer involved stated that because of the way the road was designed traffic would move at a much higher rate of speed. One solution the group arrived at was to put the street on a Road Diet by reducing lanes in the zone from four 12 ft. with no medium to two lanes with a center island and turning areas. It has been shown that by adding elements along and in the roadway that physically show a driver that there is an awareness that this zone is a much different travel space than the rest of the long boulevard. With this comes a rise in caution and greater awareness of speed. By changing the texture of an intersection with stone pavers, using audible strips before entering the zone, and providing well signalized crosswalks a driver is much more alert to the presence of foot and bicycle traffic. Fortunately this roadway is scheduled for major sewer and water line work in the coming year and we now have an opportunity to redesign the streetscape with a better end result in mind. Increased driver awareness can take many forms as discussed above but education for drivers is essential in local campaigns and in short PSA's such as this one. After all, speed does kill.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mini Adventure Series

A new addition to the Mini Adventure Series has just recently been released. The series, by Knoxville locals Elle Colquitt and Jon Livengood, provide a series of invigorating recreational bike rides. The first book of the series describes rides on the back roads of the Knoxville area, the second is for off road mountain bike trails throughout the state, and the third is on the back roads of the Chattanooga/north Georgia area. That book also has urban routes listed. Elevaton gains and distances are included along with cue sheets.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas time - example of bike decor

Well, it's that festive time of year again. One of my friends (Pete Hines) from Michigan, who loves to build a variety of lights for his bike, has built the following setup for his bike shown here.

(Photo courtesy of Angela Todd.)

Last year, at the annual Tour de Lights in Knoxville, we had more than 400 riders. Let's hope for an even larger showing this year at the fourth annual event. Events such as this one are not only fun, but can go quite a ways toward raising awareness of issues.

(Edit: Please note that due to forecast rain, the Tour de Lights this year has been rescheduled to the same time, but a new date. The date of the event is now Tuesday, December 21.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Girls who walk, bike to school do better in tests

It's just been reported that girls, but not boys, who walk or ride to school tend to do better in school. The reasons for these results are not entirely clear, and the study has quite a few limitations. Regardless, such is one more reason to support biking and walking, and the safe routes to schools program. Making it safe enough for students to bike and walk to school is good not only for health, but for academic performance as well.

On the topic of risk, it's notoriously difficult to estimate in an objective manner. The most extreme example is probably people being afraid to have their kids walk/ride to school due to a fear of stranger abduction. Such abductions happen, but are extremely rare. But because those few abductions receive much press, the fear of such gets exaggerated. On the other hand, benefits from increased socialization and improved health are less visible in the short run so parents have a tendency to opt out due to the former when they don't have all the facts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Legislative Action

We probably overuse Portland as an example of the place we want to go in terms of cycling and walking but there are obviously lessons to be learned. This is a podcast with the Executive Director of the Oregon Bicycle Transportation Alliance discussing the organization's legislative agenda for 2011. It includes information on the vulnerable user law they passed last year and a technical fix they want next session. It is a valuable look into legislative workings that are probably true for any state. The fiscal situation is definitely similar to every other state in the nation.

Economic Benefits of Open Space, Recreation Facilities-Complete Street Thinking

Recent studies show that people living in walkable neighborhoods get about 35–45 more minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, and are substantially less likely to be overweight or obese, than do people of similar socioeconomic status living in neighborhoods that are not walkable. Living close to parks and other recreation facilities also is consistently related to higher physical activity levels for both adults and youth. One national study found that adolescents with easy access to multiple recreation facilities were both more physically active and less likely to be overweight and obese than were adolescents without access to such facilities.

The Complete Streets program recently adopted by the Tennessee Department of Transportation is aimed at targeted infrastructure which provides safe bicycling, walking, other recreation facilities in every community in the state. The positive economic and social benefits of this kind of wise investment, although involving more initial costs, result in strong returns over the long term. For more on how we benefit from this kind of policy in our state read more here

Bridging the Gap - Must Read ABW Report

Hot off the presses this afternoon, Bridging the Gaps in Bicycling Networks: An advocate's guide to getting bikes on bridges is your first step in securing these critical links within your community's transportation network. Click here to download your copy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Bicycle and Pedestrian Policy at TDOT

On the heels of a successful meeting with Governor Elect Bill Haslam's staff on this past Friday, Bike Walk Tennessee advocates were pleased to read that the Tennessee Department of Transportation has recently strengthened its bicycle and pedestrian policy.  The entire policy can be viewed here, but this is a list of major improvements to the policy:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Culture of Fear

Commute Orlando has an excellent blog with many thought provoking posts.  This one is especially interesting to me.  Culture of Fear.   It finally explains why Britain's Cycle Touring Club, their equivalent of our LAB, is so opposed to mandatory helmet laws. The comments get into the infrastructure discussion but don't mention my biggest peeve, the incessant promotion of Stranger Danger.
For the record, I always wear a helmet but given the choice of a reasonable road or multi use path, I take the road.