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“Share the Road” Signs Don’t Work

Delaware got rid of its “Share the Road” signs about two years ago. Though the signs were designed to affirm cyclists’ rights to the road, they were widely misinterpreted — by both motorists and cyclists — as an exhortation to cyclists to stop “hogging” the road, or as a recommendation that drivers and cyclists share a lane (leading to tight squeezes and close passes).

Bike Delaware concluded that “Share The Road” is just “‘feel good’ signage that placates an interest group but has no safety benefit.” And the state dumped the confusing message in favor of a less ambiguous one asserting that bicycles “may use full lane.”

A new survey confirms that Delaware had the right idea — and other states should follow suit. In all 50 states, cyclists have a right to the road — including the center of the lane, if that’s the safest place for them to be.

Researchers George Hess and M. Nils Peterson of North Carolina State University conducted an online survey of nearly 2,000 people to find out what various road signage means to them. On the screen, respondents were shown pictures of various traffic scenarios and street designs, and asked to interpret different signs and markings in those contexts.

When confronted with a “Share the Road” sign, a “Bicyclists May Use Full Lane” sign, or a sharrow painted on the roadway surface, did respondents think the cyclist should cede position to let the driver pass in the same lane? Should the driver wait for an opportunity to pass in the adjacent lane? Did they think it’s legal for the cyclist to take the lane? Did they think it’s safe?

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Protected Bike Lanes 7 Times More Effective Than Painted Ones, Survey Says

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Alki Avenue, Seattle.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

We all know that if your goal is to get meaningful numbers of people to ride bicycles, protected bike lanes are better than conventional ones painted into a door zone. But how much better?

Well, adding a bike lane to a four-lane commercial urban street increases the number of American adults who say they’d be “very comfortable” biking on it from 9 percent to 12 percent.

Making that bike lane protected increases the number to 29 percent.

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The finding comes from a survey of adults in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas by the National Association of Realtors, conducted by Portland State University and published this summer. It’s some of the clearest, simplest evidence yet that for people of every demographic, a door-zone painted bike lane on a busy street makes far less difference to people’s biking comfort than one with a physical barrier between bike and car traffic.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Raise Your Kids in the Car, Says Stupefyingly Awful Web Site

Heresy. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Heresy. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Want to talk to your kids? Stick them in the car.

That’s the word-for-word headline atop a recent post on Driving, a Canadian web site that also believes lowering speed limits in cities — you know, those places where kids and parents walk — is “an exercise in futility,” because drivers.

Both columns were penned by the same writer, Lorraine Sommerfeld, who among many other things suggests that “allowing” people to cross the street is a good way to teach courtesy. But the gist of her advice boils down to: “The family vehicle might be the single best place to talk to your kids, when you’re all held captive.”

Take it away, Family Friendly Cities:

While maintaining the attention of your child long enough to talk to them is a challenge for any parent, we shouldn’t be accepting of an environment built so poorly that we have to hold our children ‘captive’ in a car in order to talk to them.

Let’s ignore the fact that attempting to seriously engage your child in a thought provoking conversation is another distraction while hurdling a two ton piece of metal through space while risking the lives of others. Accepting that the car is the best place to engage, learn, and understand your child is disturbing … Children were meant to run, jump, play, or [engage in] just about any other form of movement that doesn’t include being restrained inside an automobile. The same can be said for how they learn about their environment and how, as parents, we teach, engage and converse with them.

Children learn nothing about the world at 30 mph. They cannot feel the world, they cannot smell it, and they certainly aren’t moving slow enough to experience all of its nuances. Unless a child’s parent happens to be a Picasso with words, talking to them about the world while captive in a car will do very little to expand their experiences with the real world.

We should probably add that health experts say car crashes are the leading cause of death for Canadian children. Auto collisions are a leading cause of child mortality in the U.S., with more than 9,000 kids age 12 and under killed in the last 10 years, according to the CDC. All things considered, it could be that rearing from the rearview mirror isn’t the best idea.

Elsewhere on the Network: The League of American Bicyclists has a new report on equity of access to cycling infrastructure, and nextSTL analyzes the difference between “urban” and “suburban” in St. Louis.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Poll: 71 Percent of Americans Favor 10-Cent Gas Tax Hike (The Hill)
  • DC Is the First School System to Teach Every Kid to Ride a Bike (CityLab)
  • Why Any Effort to Get People to Try Biking Is a Winner (Bike Portland)
  • Don’t Forget the Next Step After Placemaking: Placekeeping (RPUS)
  • Beyond “Accident” vs. “Crash”: Media Should Hold Drivers Accountable (CityLab)
  • Study: Speed Cameras Reduce Speeds, Save Lives (WTOP)
  • A Critique of Car-Based Family Time (Family Friendly Cities)
  • Uber Drivers Get Class Action Status in Suit Against Their Not-Quite Employer (Think Progress)
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3 Reasons Politicians Like Building New Roads More Than Fixing Old Ones

The cost to construct this bridge ($600 million) is more than the estimated $500 million it would cost to bring Minnesota's 1,191 "structurally deficient" bridges into a state of good repair. Guess which the state is moving ahead with. Image: Minnesota DOT

The $600 million it will cost to build this one bridge is more than the estimated $500 million needed to bring all of Minnesota’s 1,191 “structurally deficient” bridges into a state of good repair. Guess which project Minnesota is moving ahead with. Image: Minnesota DOT

American transportation policy places a premium on delivering big, shiny new things.

As much as the big state transportation agencies and their political bosses love pouring concrete, they tend to avoid keeping the things they build in good working condition. Many state DOTs still spend upwards of 90 percent of their annual budgets on new construction, according to Smart Growth America, despite all the ink that’s been spilled about structurally deficient bridges across the land.

The question is why? Why do new projects continue to hold such political appeal, even while the public is bombarded with messages about the fragile state of American infrastructure and business-as-usual practices bankrupt the current system of transportation funding?

We reached out to civil engineer and big thinker Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns for his take. Drawing from his experience as a municipal engineer, he said the problem boils down to three factors.

1. Building new infrastructure is less complicated than fixing existing infrastructure

“From the position of the construction worker on the ground, it’s so much easier to do something new because you don’t have to deal with all of the existing problems. You have the elevation of people’s sidewalks, you have people who don’t want to have the street shut down. It is just like a logistical nightmare to do maintenance. When you’re doing something new, where you control the site, it takes away the messiness.”

2. New projects tend to be more popular with the public

“People almost always respond positively to new stuff. They’ll tolerate the hassle of construction when you’re doing something that’s new. But if you say we’re going to take this bridge and tear it down and put it back the way it was, it doesn’t make anything better for them. It’s just maintenance. You don’t have anything new tomorrow that you didn’t have today. When you do maintenance projects you get pushback from people. They’ll tolerate new stuff because they perceive it as the necessary thing for things to get better. You know in like three months you’ll be able to drive a lot quicker.”

3. New construction is easier to finance

“Why do you rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Most federal and even state funding programs assume maintenance to be a local issue, so it is easier and more streamlined to get money for new stuff than for maintenance.”

Streetsblog.net
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Biking the Last Mile in Suburban Copenhagen

Bike parking at the Friheden Street transit stop in suburban Copenhagen. Image: Google via Greater Greater Washington

Bike parking at the Friheden Street transit stop in suburban Copenhagen. Image: GGW

Tooling around on Google, Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington stumbled on the above image from suburban Copenhagen.

What’s right with this picture? Note the (a) bike parking lot at the Friheden Street transit station, just across the (b) sidewalk from the (c) bike lane.

Writes Malouff:

One of the most important uses for bicycles is as a last mile tool, to get from one’s home to a transit station, or from a transit station to one’s final destination.

Anywhere you have a transit station with a lot of other buildings a mile or two away, bikes can help connect one to the other. That includes suburbs.

If you provide the necessary infrastructure, and treat bicycling like a serious option, people will use it.

Unlike central Copenhagen, which is dense and difficult to drive a car through, the area around Friheden Street is suburban and relatively low density. Actually it looks a lot communities around the Washington Beltway. [See Malouff’s post for images.]

I admit I’ve never been to Friheden Street. I’ve never even been to Denmark. Frankly I have no idea if it’s a pleasant community, or what the less desirable things about it may be. I’m sure there are trade-offs to it, compared to an American suburb.

But I happened to be on Google Earth looking at Copenhagen, which is famously a bike paradise, and wondered what its suburbs look like. I turned on Google’s transit layer and started looking at the areas around suburban stations. Friheden Street just happens to be one I zoomed in on.

And look at all those beautiful bike racks.

Elsewhere on the Network: Walkable West Palm Beach on why the Dutch don’t need helmets or high-viz clothing to bike (hint: it’s street design), and ATL Urbanist reports that someone on Twitter is trolling Atlanta.

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Today’s Headlines

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Here They Are — The Sad Benches Where No One Wants to Sit

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This lovely “place I don’t want to sit” comes from Drew Ackermann in Gambrills, Maryland. His wife tested it out just for laughs.

Last week, Gracen Johnson over at Strong Towns introduced the phrase “places I don’t want to sit” to describe the lousy, leftover public spaces where someone has plopped down a bench or two as an afterthought. The seating, in these cases, helps crystallize how unsalvageable our public realm becomes when everything else is planned around moving and storing cars. Who would actually want to sit there?

So Strong Towns and Streetsblog encouraged folks to Tweet their own examples at #PlacesIDontWantToSit. You all dug up some hilarious-but-sad places — here are some of the lousiest ones.

This submission comes to us via Kansas City-based Tweeter The Pedestrian Path, who added the helpful white arrow to point out the sitting space:

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Streetsblog.net
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Jersey Pays Subaru to Bring Another Parking Crater to Downtown Camden

Camden, New Jersey, took home the 2015 Golden Crater award for the nastiest parking scar in the country, and it looks like state and local leaders aren’t about to let the city rest on its laurels.

Subaru plans to bring a suburban office complex to downtown Camden, New Jersey. Image via South Jerseyist

Subaru plans to bring a suburban office complex to downtown Camden, New Jersey. Image via South Jerseyist

Joseph Russell at South Jerseyist reports that, thanks to over $100 million in tax breaks from Governor Chris Christie and the state legislature, Subaru is preparing to move its North American headquarters from nearby Cherry Hill to downtown Camden. Russell says the Subaru project was billed as “a game changer for the city” — a development that would bring jobs while revitalizing the downtown Gateway District. But the site plans, revealed last week, depict a low-rise office building surrounded by asphalt.

The plans call for a building shorter than the current headquarters in Cherry Hill. Brandywine Realty Trust, which has developed some wonderful buildings in Philadelphia, wants to build a squat suburban headquarters located in a sea of over 1,000 parking spaces.

From the perspective of those who thought, maybe, these tax breaks might actually lead to positive change in the city, as everyone working toward them has claimed, disappointment is the kindest word for what we are feeling. Devastation, bewilderment, and disgust are far more apt. This project could not be more disengaged from the city. Those parking spots guarantee that every single Subaru employee will drive in to work in the morning, stay on campus to eat lunch, and drive home at night. They will not interact with the city. Even if they wanted to, they are hardly given the chance. Employees would have to traverse a punishing sea of asphalt to get out of the suburban-style office park.

This plan, should it get built, will set the city back decades. Successful cities and towns all around the country are working to undo the harm caused by sprawling development. Here in New Jersey, office parks like this are going empty as people seek dynamic, urban environments to work in. What Subaru is doing here is guaranteeing that South Jersey will pay for the privilege of living in an increasingly obsolete development model, truly a dying past, for decades to come.

As for local access to jobs, Russell cites a Philadelphia Inquirer story by Inga Saffron, who points out that, though only 65 percent of Camden residents have access to cars, the Subaru site will be separated from the downtown transit hub by a mile-long walk along a “mini-highway.”

Elsewhere on the Network: The Political Environment says Milwaukee traffic congestion doesn’t justify spending billions on new roads, and Bike Delaware explains the problems with “Share the Road” signage.

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Today’s Headlines

  • As Green Line Costs Rise, Massachusetts Transpo Chief Switches Stance (Boston Globe)
  • Schumer to Feds: Use Leftover Sandy Money on Hudson Rail Tunnels (The Hill)
  • Advocates Want to Restore Amtrak Service Lost Since Katrina (The Hill)
  • Train Service Returns to Holyoke, MA, After Half Century (NEPR)
  • Amtrak Tests Out Bikes on Trains for Chicago-DC Line (Pittsburgh Gazette)
  • The Man in Charge of Building Charlotte’s Light Rail (Charlotte Observer)
  • Pittsburgh Burbs Embrace TOD (Tribune-Review)
  • Year One Status Report on Grand Rapids’ Silver Line BRT (M Live)
  • New Haven Goes Green for Biking (New Haven Register)
  • Why You Don’t See Vacant Lots Along the Phoenix Light Rail (AZ Central)