Saturday, October 16, 2010

open note to dan gutierrez

hey, dan, a voice from the past.

saw your post on the CABO boards the other day, where you say roger geller told you thus and such to your face at the LAB bike summit three years ago.

specifically, you said roger
told me to my face at the [2007 summit] when I asked him about the driver rights in Portland, that those who prefer to act like drivers will just lose their rights in Portland, Oregon, in order to further the City's social goal of promotion of bicycling through mandatory segregation.

gotta say it, dan, that sounds like you are paraphrasing rather than quoting. maybe the original sounded more like
"dan, we are working toward a future in which the private automobile is completely secondary in the urban transportation mix, and unless someone works to get the far to right law and the mandatory sidepath law repealed, which is not PBoT's role, but which we do not oppose, and in fact our master plan for 2030 includes express statements that we want to have that conversation, then yes, someone who adheres to vehicular principles will find himself outside the law. but we are not going to let that stop us from implementing strategies that will lead us ultimately to complete streets."

ya think?

and for those on this thread who have tossed about the word "charlatan." that word has a dictionary definition. it means someone who pretends to an expertise he does not in fact have, in order to deceive someone. this could be seen as a slander, if we are talking about someone's profession. the guy has a masters from tufts in urban and environmental policy, which maybe should be a hint why he sees things differently than you do. but presumably you are not calling into question the quality of the education he received at tufts. he has himself been a vehicular cyclist for thirty-odd years, quite a number of them on the streets of boston.

i have it on reasonably good authority that roger has moved on from this conversation. you guys are fighting a rear guard, and you find yourselves defending a status quo that was created by the dominance of the private automobile and need not be preserved.

r. willis

back to the fifties

sat in on this community advisory committee stuff on the fifties bikeway project a couple of weeks ago. a number of neighborhood associations and business associations at the table, but a very bicycle friendly crowd, and if anything the voices from the table were pushing rich newlands farther than he seemed ready to go. he backed away early from moving the entire route south of lincoln off 52nd into some convoluted side routes through the neighborhoods. by the end of the meeting, he seemed willing to just do some crossing work and signage there and focus the identified route as 52nd, but he was still hesitant about the extent to which the city can expect to remove onstreet parking without substantial pushback from the residents.

and that is where we still are today, when i joined the crew for a ride of the route, to discuss specifics at a number of selected intersections. maybe cut back the curb extension at 57th and hancock, maybe some signage at the unsigned crossing of hancock with 53rd, maybe an advance stop line at halsey, maybe some lane striping and possibly a box at glisan, that kind of thing. whether to divert traffic south of glisan or do a partial diversion at everett. whether to put a HAWK beacon at the intersection with burnside. i could go on.

we ran into something really quite remarkable at 52nd and madison, coming down the steep hill from salmon. the moms and kids, and actually even dads, were out in force, with signs and chalk on the street, lying in wait for this group to arrive, to again ask the city (in the persons of mr. newlands and sarah figliozzi) to put in speed bumps and a four-way stop.

there was a moment of confusion that might have become awkward, but [someone in our group] said loudly and in an exaggerated tone, "yes, we have come from the sky to bring you speed bumps," and then we all stopped and had quite a conversation, lasting several minutes. how they are lying at the bottom of two descents, how often there are crashes or near crashes, how intersections a block in either direction have been given stop signs, and so on.

biking away, ms. figliozzi told me they are ineligible for a four-way stop for some reason i did not quite get, but that the likely outcome will be speed bumps with a two-way stop giving the bikeway on 52nd dominance. her concern seemed to be how to sell this to the residents who would see it as a half-measure.

the low point of the expedition was the intersection of 52nd and foster. six lanes on the diagonal, two and a center turn lane on 52nd. parking lots and vacant buildings and pavement everywhere. i don't know what the traffic volumes are, let's just say high. what is needed there is comprehensive redevelopment, bringing store fronts to the sidewalk and putting the parking lots behind. unfortunately, that is not where the city is headed with this, yet. the little ceasar's pizza just went in a couple of years ago.

and then the whole what to do about 52nd on south thing. will five-foot lanes be enough? if six, then we have to get rid of parking on one side, but which side? get rid of parking on both sides you have enough room for buffered bike lanes, but you might be removing enough clutter that motorist speeds will increase. they are already a bit high.

in the end, whatever comes out of this process will be more friendly to cyclists than may float with stakeholders who have not yet been part of the process. moving the route away from 52nd south of lincoln seems to be off the table, so we are looking at some kind of intrusion into the space that motorists have come to understand 52nd to be, and probably removing quite a bit of onstreet parking.

mr. newsome and ms. figliozzi seemed anxious about the rollout, wondering whether to so a mail-in survey first or just go ahead and stage a bunch of public forums. in which manner it would be more productive to deal with whatever pushback will surely come.

postscript 10/18

i was talking with someone about this entry, who said these two, rich newlands and sarah figliozzi, seemed to know what they were doing, having learned from past experiences dealing with upset neighbors. this person felt that his own experience of the route would be improved by the proposed treatments.

i agreed to both points, but with slight reservation. part of the reason i wanted to get involved in the 50s bikeway planning process though i myself seldom use the route, was to be able to talk with whoever from PBoT as they go through that process. these two were thinking, what if we take a survey and people say "no"?, should we frame the question so that bikes are not the centerpiece somehow?, etc.

i said put on a lot of public forum stuff early and then if people don't come, to hell with them. that's why i was so impressed with these people standing at the corner of 52nd and madison. they live there and they care what the hell is going on. people want to protect their onstreet parking, let them show up and identify themselves, none of this return a survey nonsense.

then maybe when they actually engage with their neighbors, they will come to see that accommodations should be made for other human beings. if you take the other approach, hide the ball, how do we educate them?, you get the perception, and ultimately the reality, of demagoguery and totalitarianism.

Monday, October 4, 2010

because this sh*t matters

i took the reopened broadway bridge into downtown the other day. they have restriped the last block approaching the bridge from the east, between benton and larrabee, so that the bike lane now hugs the right curb, inside the right turn lane.

before all this construction to put in the streetcar tracks, the bike lane had been to the left of the right turn lane for the last half block. there was a half block gap after benton that functioned, however inadequately, as a transition across the turning lane.

of course, i always took the travel lane anyway from at least ross, disregarding the bike lane against the curb, so that the merge to the through lane was a matter of only a few inches and i did not have to compete with motorists merging right. but with the lane striped solid all the way down to larrabee this becomes somewhat more overtly a political act.

there is an advanced stop line at larrabee, and one supposes that this will soon be marked as a bike box.

this was not on greg raisman's project list presented to BAC two weeks ago, incidentally.

when i got home, i sent somewhat intemperate e-mails to the entire crew at BAC (minus one, whose e-mail address i have not been able to unearth) and to rob sadowsky and gerik kransky over at BTA. "another genius move by PBoT," i said, and a couple of people reacted at least slightly negatively.

but it does seem to me that we are careening down a dangerous path with these bike boxes in lieu of proper lane placement and sharrows, and those who are positioned as advocates for cyclists either are silent or have affirmatively bought in to these treatments.

BTA is participating in the ribbon cutting for the burnside/couch couplet next tuesday, october 12. they have been promoting this with a variant of the "build it" logo saying "built." what the hell was "built" for cyclists? a striped lane on couch from 6th down, inside two right hooks and a bus stop, and a sidepath through an s-curve onto the bridge where lane widths and a tight radius at the last right turn pretty much force motorists to encroach. thanks a lot. "built."

oh, and a green box at couch and grand, which accomplishes nothing at all on the green signal phase. again, thanks. that atrocity actually was on greg's project list, at the very top, and no one at BAC said sh*t. but BTA has endorsed it.

but neither his project list, nor any project list anywhere that i have seen, says anything about whatever is going on at broadway and larrabee, and they do not include the reconfiguration of broadway at williams. it is my firm impression that neither of these was even reviewed by the BAC, [not] much less given a rubber stamp.

in a follow up message to rob sadowsky, i said, "i am good with advanced stop lines, and i am good with restricting right turns on red. my issue with the bike box is that it reinforces very forcibly the far to right and mandatory sidepath requirements."

for me, the descent on couch from 14th to MLK, downhill, with the lights timed to something less than 20 mph, is very comfortable. until you get to the lane striping at 6th. then all of a sudden you are told to squeeze to the right and let motorists overtake you in a not very wide travel lane. and then there is a bus stop and the right turn onto grand. i simply take the lane, and i defy anyone to show me that this facility, which was not included in the 1998 bike master plan, and which violates the technical specifications of that plan, can be treated as a mandatory sidepath.

this is what got that woman hurt the other day, not the absence of a bike box. indeed, a bike box would have had zero effect, because what happened to her happened during the green signal phase.

now, of course, i do realize that until PBoT gets these PSU studies squeezed through MUTCD the bike boxes, as such, are not mandatory sidepaths. but (a) they eventually will be, despite the weaknesses in the PSU studies, and (b) even now, before mandatory status kicks in, we have the problem of public perception.

i already get grief from the occasional motorist for not using the bike lane on couch from 6th to MLK or on the s-curve ramp onto the bridge. and i already get grief from the occasional motorist for not using the existing bike lane configuration on broadway from ross down to larrabee.

but if you push the striped bike lane over to the curb and put in a bright green box, even if the mandatory sidepath statute might not technically apply here or there, motorists (you know, those dull-witted motorists we all love to hate) will be led to believe that cyclists "belong over there," and not here, competing for space in the travel lane.

i reminded rob that when he and i first met, at the alice awards, just before he formally stepped into the executive director's chair, i described myself to him as a "vehicular cyclist" by inclination, self-taught, having read forester's book only after the fact, and i said, as i often say to people to explain my perspective, that "forester and i are no longer on speaking terms." there is actually a story behind that, and someday maybe i will tell it.

but the point is, i "get" that separated facilities have a place, and i "get" that we have to make it noticeably less convenient for motorists to run roughshod over all other modes. i do. i got rid of the car awhile back. but we have a very long way to go, and in the meantime we are putting in poorly conceived half-solutions that serve only (or largely) to exacerbate the problems.

people talk about encouraging the newbies, or whatever, and the "educational" function of some of these treatments. by striping a lane on couch from 6th to MLK, or by pushing the bike lane to the curb on broadway from ross to larrabee, and especially by capping these treatments with bright green boxes that serve no function at all during the green signal phase, we are encouraging and educating "newbies" to put themselves in harm's way.

BTA is identifying itself with the wrong side of these issues, and it would appear that BAC has been cut entirely out of the loop.