$ Pitch: The 27-mile Iceman Cometh Challenge is around the corner & is the focal point for a purchase of land by the state to connect the Kalkaska to Traverse City trail. The deal is that only $25-grand is needed, by end of the year, $8,000 is needed by the end of the week to seal the deal; still doable. The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy is the lead organization raising funds and they could use help. To give, visit the GRTLC website and select “Kalkaska Connector”. If you have questions, call 231-922-1245.
- TC-TALUS finally approves Grand Vision transportation land use reports. Weekend winter reading for all.
- In other visioning news, MEC is launching a 50 year vision for Michigan and is looking for comment. —>
- Elsehwere, Bike-o-Meter shows live popularity data for city cycle hire schemes.
- Rouge, crazy, scofflaws on bikes are really just misunderstood people “responding to an environment that doesn’t always serve their needs.” Agreed.
- 3 car garages less popular, front porches on the rise…Latest Census Highlights. Studies show that these trends signal the next economic boom.
- Michigan gets excited about high-speed rail (slow down kids, 110-mph ain’t that fast) & TV 7&4 still asking “Should we?“related… NYTimes raises the question, will we ever really see “high speed”?
- Note to self: don’t prioritize the work. prioritize the outcomes. (@webb)
- America’s “bridge between past and future could be built in the #GreatLakes” (@GreatLakesGuy)
- Becoming a YIMBY for livable communities via Discovering Urbanism (@StreetsblogNet) we’ve made that point
- There’s always such a specific stab count –”MAN STABBED 18 TIMES IN CHEST”–Who’s counting stabs? (@SarahKSilverman) good point.
The Great Lakes Cyclone knocked out a lot of traffic lights and several people sent messages noting how it actually improved traffic behavior. I’m sure there is some engineering term for the phenomena. What people noticed though was that in intersections where back-ups were expected, there were none. In an emergency, drivers tend to naturally alternate; they use their brains and figure it out. It’s the basic premise behind roundabouts and naked streets. The video below shows how the latter works, and works well. Note: shared space streets aren’t fool proof and have criticisms.
UPDATE 1:45 pm: After further reflection & discussion, I’d like to walk back 10% of the snarkyness expressed in this post. Indeed, the improvement made to E. 8th St. is cause to be pleased and is adequate. It was pointed out to me that the 1.5 ft gutter pan, although not for riding, does offer someone on a bike room to breathe and the range to express their mobility. I’ve emphasized my earlier appreciation below and mention again, thank you to the City for improving this stretch of 8th St.
Sometime this past week the City of Traverse City re-striped the 8th Street ‘experiment’; a calming of the section of 8th Street between Garfield Ave. and Munson Ave. You may recall that in 2009 the city commission requested that this section be re-striped from four lanes to two, a turning lane and bike lanes. That sort of happened…once it was reluctantly striped the bike lane was 2.5 feet wide and the middle turning lane was a massive 14 feet wide. It’s claimed that it was a mistake and that when the paint faded, it would be redone correctly.
It’s redone; it’s better. It’s now more comfortable riding in the bike lane. 2 extra feet adds a lot of security. Thank you very much.
However, and here is where I’m showing my ingrate tendencies, I think this minimal approach to bicycle infrastructure is unacceptable, unnecessary and overly cautious (concerning motorists).
AASHTO (American Association of State of Highway Transportation) guidelines for bike lanes in this situation, high vehicle counts and speeds above 25-mph (posted 35-mph), calls for a minimum 5 foot bike lane. Bike lanes are sometimes smaller, but only where space simply doesn’t allow it. As the guide writes, “On extremely constrained, low-speed roadways with curbs and no gutter, where the preferred bike lane width cannot be achieved despite narrowing all other travel lanes to their minimum widths, a 4-ft wide bike lane can be used.” (AASHTO 2010 Bike Guide).
This 8th Street cross-section is 46 feet wide with a gutter; there is room for improvement. In a more ideal world, the 12′ turning lane (shocking that it was originally 14′!) is narrowed to 11′ and we’d technically and honestly add another mile of bike lane to the city’s current total of 3 miles (downtown, Woodmere).
More importantly, city staff would demonstrate that they understand that people on bicycles are transportation, that they deserve respect and that bikes belong. I guess this ingrate will have to wait a few more years for that opportunity since there are no bike lanes in the works for 2011.
What Can We Imagine In Our Parks?
NOTE: The Traverse City Parks & Recreation Commission, on which I serve as a volunteer, is updating the City’s 5 Year Parks & Recreation Master Plan. We’ve held a public workshop, are still collecting survey input and now have a Draft Plan that needs public review & public comment (PDF). It will be available through November 19, 2010. Please direct comments to Lauren Vaughn. Copies are also available at the City Clerk’s & City Manager’s offices, as well as TADL. What can you imagine?
Last week I asked, where is the Grand Vision in your life? There was a mixed response. Depending on your perspective it is either an exercise in futility or accomplishing what it set out to do, suggested as articulating a community vision.
However, it was always more than simply a vision. There were wide expectations that the public process and subsequent study would result in enough common ground for implementation of Grand Vision Goals and Objectives–I understand now, that will not be the outcome. Rehashing the past will get the community and region nowhere fast; history is always selective and filtered.
The next question is, how will the community move forward? The answer apparently is, “the same as it ever did.” That will mean different things to different people, but one way to describe past community development is disjointed, opaque and myopic.
We simply haven’t had the leadership, from luminaries, neighborhood groups, government units, agencies and organizations to apply community wide vision and strategies outside narrow interests. When I’ve been to Grand Vision working group meetings, and I look around the table, I typically see representatives from organizations and agencies paid to represent their interests. Some are more pro-active and others are more defensive; all of them are well intentioned and good people, however, the result is often inaction. One could argue, it’s a success that at least they are at the same table. I agree with that.
Luckily, Times Change.
Across the country people are expressing a desire to live in more walkable neighborhoods, focused around plenty of creative parkland, vibrant public spaces and with a hyper-local focus–the 20-minute neighborhood is a clear example. The future cultural and economic engine isn’t suburbia, but rather the re-emergence of neighborhood life.
An article in the latest Washington Monthly titled, The Next Real Estate Boom, sums up the situation well:
“The baby boomers and their children, the millennial generation, are looking for places to live and work that reflect their current desires and life needs. Boomers are downsizing as their children leave home while the millennials, or generation Y, are setting out on their careers with far different housing needs and preferences. Both of these huge demographic groups want something that the U.S. housing market is not currently providing: small one- to three-bedroom homes in walkable, transit-oriented, economically dynamic, and job-rich neighborhoods.” (Article written by Patrick C. Doherty and Christopher B. Leinberger.)
I would also add, that it’s not just the housing market that’s lagging. Looking at the Grand Traverse region, our planning and infrastructure are simply not laying the ground work for the needs of the next 30-years.
The city, despite good intentions with its infrastructure policy of spending $1-million/year on streets and sidewalks, continues to prefer status-quo maintenance over building what we will need in 30 years. It’s important that we get it right the first time, because once completed, we won’t return to a street for another 30-40 years. To achieve this, in the city and the region, demands applying what we know about the current situation:
- Gas prices will increase. 2008 wasn’t a fluke.
- Our current infrastructure model is not economically/ecologically sustainable.
- Collaboration across agencies and interests is vital.
- What motivates new, innovative, entrepreneurial people is not suburbia and streets built solely for cars.
The Grand Vision Realized
The several year process of the Grand Vision has raised awareness of the need for planning and, to some degree, is improving the planning literacy of the public. The breakdown of the Grand Vision into interconnected networks has made clear that when we talk about transportation, we are primarily talking about land use issues and how those policies impact, and are impacted by, economics, agriculture, energy, housing and natural resources–loosely, including transportation, the six working groups regional networks of the Grand Vision.
At times I’m ready to call The Grand Vision dead. But, that’s not how visions work. Visions live and breathe. They change and become reflective. Often, they are forgotten only to be remembered in a flash of clarity when we stop, look around and notice that our paths have taken us to exactly the place we had hoped. Visions are realized by embodying them and making them a part of our daily choices.
Next week, I hope to will have a short list of actionable items that I’d like to see come out of the brand/organization/money attached to The Grand Vision.
A website plug for MapCrunch. A site that provides random streetviews from Google Map’s. It’s like taking a road trip around the world and never getting out of the car, or, in this case, off of the roof of the Google van. The novelty wears off pretty fast, but for geography and street geeks like myself, it’s fun comparing. And, as happened this morning, landing on a street where I’ve walked/stood is pretty cool. Tip: hit sideshow for auto pilot.
Leaf Blowers Are A Pain In The Arse
(I hope it rains all week)
A weekend in the U.P. woods reminded me of the noisiness of city living. Some of it is fine, like a constant hum that reminds you that you are here. Other noises, like the whining of leaf blowers, have very few redeemable characteristics (if any) nor reasons to be accepted as part of the public noise-shed. They are relatively new inventions (30 years +/-) and are trying to replace a very effective tool: the rake.
This week’s New Yorker has the scoop on one community’s ongoing debate with the leaf blower titled, “Blowback: The Great Suburban Lead War.” Apart from griping about them with friends and chiding my neighbors, I didn’t realize the debate had escalated to war or that there are other reasons to despise the machine, like air pollution. One hour of blower use is equal to the tailpipe emissions for an automobile driving 350 miles. In addition, the fine dust particulate material kicked up and spread indiscriminately across the neighborhood contains all those lawn chemicals people use to degrade their lawns.
What most of us notice is the noise and despite often being considerably above local noise ordinances, the leaf blower persists. In fact, in Traverse City, it gets a pass in our local noise ordinance (652.05-b). That’s dumb…Is there anything to be done? Considering all the other crap we put up with, leaf blowing is best dealt with as local as possible; public shaming works on many people.
The above mentioned article describes the fight that Peter and Susan Kendall of Orinda, California are leading, but the fight is certainly not the first nor the only one. It’s sensitive, because what would otherwise be a private affair, someone taking care of their own lawn, has now expanded beyond private property lines in a very visible audible way.
I prefer the rake; I wished others did as well. Here are 5 good reasons:
- Raking is just as quick
- Raking is great exercise (AARP endorsed)
- It’s better for your lawn
- Save money.
- Your neighbors will like you better
There’s probably more…
Is anyone else bothered by leaf blower noise?
Or, perhaps it’s an indispensable tool for you…please share the reasoning.
NOTE: In New Yorker fashion, the above article digs deep and highlights the interesting socio-economic dynamic of the the Orinda debate.
“Va Fa Napoli, Hipster”
Revenge of an elderly man…”damn hipsters!” Film by Matt Weckel, Andrea Fumagalli, David Castillowith Blue Barn Pictures, Inc.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I continue to post new, general roundabout information at the Michigan Roundabouts page.
Monday’s Quote and Then Some
I’ve said it before: If a driver cannot handle negotiating clearly labeled rights of way at simple, small intersections at low-speed, why are we actually giving them the right to be maneuvering heavy, dangerous vehicles on public streets crowded with other cars, pedestrians, cyclists, etc etc?
~ Tom Vanderbilt, concerning a roundabout controversy in Winnipeg
Vanderbilt, author of the previously cited and highly recommended Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), expresses a perfect response to a common critique of modern roundabouts. The idea that people can’t learn to adapt to a different, but proven, technology would be laughable if it wasn’t so often cited as reason not to do something.
I also appreciate his response to a gentleman’s “it’s a hazard” comment concerning roundabouts.
“I’m glad he thinks that! Because intersections are hazardous locations! But what proceeded them — four-way stop-sign controlled intersections — are hardly a panacea, and indeed linked to far more fatal crashes than roundabouts.“
Following the links to the video in Winnipeg certainly shows that poorly implemented roundabouts do lead to confusion, but what’s left out of the article is that:
- The confusion actually helps to prevent serious crashes
- With time, the confusion subsides as people learn to negotiate the intersection.
Everything shown in the video happens at signalized intersections as well, including a motorist without the common sense to yield to a family walking across the road–that type of negotiation, however clumsy, happens everyday at signals.
It takes a brain to drive through a community, with or without roundabouts. A smart community builds a roundabout with an awareness campaign to smooth the transition and assist people in employing their mental and social skills.
Local Roundabout Discussion
Locally, roundabouts are still on the table, but it’s uncertain where they stand on Division St., which was where the most effort has gone towards introducing them to the community. There may be other 1st opportunities being looked at that aren’t so high-profile.
Design, Design, Design
I do know that there has been a walking back from the roundabout compromise along Division St. by some in the community. Mainly, the concern that they don’t adequately satisfy the non-motorized accessibility concerns crossing east-west. Admittedly, there is a level of the untested, but I fail to see how a calmer, more predictable corridor complete with enhanced crosswalks at the roundabouts won’t improve conditions. It is still the only elegant compromise we have that attempts to satisfy everyone. We can choose to make people as much as a priority as possible, if we apply some of the leading edge designs.
But, without knowing what will be recommended by staff once roundabouts return to the city commission’s agenda, I prefer not to get too deep into the topic. Needless to say, many of the arguments I’ve continued to hear against modern roundabouts remain anomalies and related to poor design, implementation and poor driver education/consideration. I’m still in favor of putting them into the tool-box.
I’ve enjoyed the back-and-forth generated from this week’s post about the Grand Vision. The activity has helped illuminate different issues and ideas for moving forward--its certainly a subject worth picking up next week. I wish more would contribute, and to make it easier, you can send me an email and remain anonymous–no reason needed. The people most passionate about the process are often those who hold positions that don’t allow them to comment freely.
If you do post or send comments, I’ll read them on Monday. This weekend I’m unplugging and heading to divinity…yes, grabbing the beagles and heading to the U.P. Enjoy!
- Mixed emotions about the proposed pedestrian tunnel–does the Grand Vision include burying people & letting cars reign? More soon…
- Who is Grand Rapid’s Bike Man?
- The car bike…give me some space, bro’.
- Royal Oak orders an active transportation plan…(TC gets questionable mention).
- America Walks is looking for signatures: the Vision Statement. Appreciated: the connection to health: “Transportation and development design decisions will explicitly consider public health outcomes.” One reason why that’s important.
- The importance of the Obama administration’s infrastructure policy to complete streets and locally, Grand Traverse County & the City awarded $$$ from HUD’s Sustainable Community Challenge Grants to “”integrate affordable housing, good jobs and public transportation.” TC’s mayor gives it some context.
- Grand Traverse Road Commission makes its pitch for road mileage. Personally, I’m not seeing any improvement in their priorities to warrant it; the recent salary increases are also not weighing in their favor. Livable wage or not, for fun let’s consider the $100,000+/- a year salary that many of our local officials receive, including the GT road commission manager. That amount places them in the top 5% in the U.S. and in the top .66% of the world. Not bad…
- How to attract & keep innovative talent in a company? Charles Landry argues that companies need to focus less on the internals and work more on improving their communities. The same conclusion is drawn from the WorkPlace Study by Grand Valley Metro Council in Grand Rapids. The council’s motto for the project: “Design for Dignity, Delight, and Worth” (PDF)
- YOU GUYS I’m FINE. Really. Just my inaugural crash on my new bike. (@sleepypasture)
- Drivers, look out! GT County had 581 vehicle-deer crashes in 2009, and it’s that time of year again. (@RecordEagle)
- Cyclist at fault in crash, former cop says…not sure the cyclist would agree if he could defend himself. (@MIBicyclists)
- The subsidized McAmerican Dream is in need of revision (@IBIKEDALLAS)
- One necessary key here is reduced speed. RT @TheCityFix: “Naked Streets” Without Traffic Lights Improve Flow and Safety (@tomvanderbilt)
- “We are bloated with information and starved for wisdom.”-Elizabeth K Lindsay @ #bioneers (@AmandaKovattana)
The separated bike lane project of Vancouver explains the need well. The difference between separated lanes and trails, is that the priority is transportation, not recreational mixed use. The goal is helping people feel comfortable enough to ride their bikes wherever they need to go. The acceptance of experimentation in the introductory video below is refreshing. And, having used them before, I really appreciate the bike boxes used to ease left turns. Dreaming of places for these in TC…8th street anyone? State St.? E. Front? Garfield?…
Have a weekend!