Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Well There's Your Problem...

Visited the wonderful city of Portland Maine this past Sunday and Monday (beating the First Night rush).  Sidewalk snow clearing was mediocre the further you got from the Monument Square/Tourist area but not bad really considering the large amount of snow that fell.

My girlfriend and I took the Downeaster as we usually do and we unfortunately were not able to walk the very nice pedestrian bike path that leads from the transportation center to congress street and downtown as it was under a foot and a half of snow.  Roads were bone dry though (as usual)
That nice green line is the normally convenient bike/ped path
Took a 4 minute bus ride on the METRO Route 5 bus which was fine.  We stay at the Inn at St. John a small B&B with amazingly good rates and a pretty good location along Congress St.  Fun fact it has been an inn since the original Portland Train Station was located across from it along St. John Street, it is unfortunately now a strip mall, but the Inn is still very nice and about a 15 minute walk from downtown.

What? Seems fine to me...
I had a heck of a time reporting this issue to the city though I think I managed to finally do so.  Note to cities; there are lots of folks out there like me that care about their home town/city or communities they travel to.  If there is an issue they would like to report it if possible.  Making it very hard to nearly impossible to do so is not so helpful.

Eh Volie!  It still worked, though I am not sure for how long...

I am not sure if I should be walking
and the walk light is out or not walking
and the don't walk light it out...

There was a "don't walk" pedestrian light out as well at this intersection; yes I reported that too.

I hope to be here more frequently in 2013, I will work on better content and more consistent updates.  Happy New Year!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Seriously MBTA

Train on the Fitchburg line courtesy of mbta.com
Ok The T does a pretty good job considering what they are dealing with.  However, there are certain things that  just make me shake my head in wonder.
One would think that if shuttle service were running every weekend for 2 months it would be helpful for that information to be on the MBTA website and for it to be easy to find.  One would be very wrong.  I can sure as heck find out about elevator repairs but shuttle service which cause delays? nope nothing. (Try to find any information on this delay here, I dare you!)

I knew the weekend service on the Fitchburg line was suspended and shuttles running from all outlying stations to the South Acton station for continued rail service into Boston from an article I think on Universal Hub.  This was more than a month ago so I didn't remember the details.  When my girlfriend asked me about the shuttle service I thought it was still running but seemed to remember they were running trains as normal over Memorial Day weekend.

The reason for this is good, they are double tracking the line from South Acton all the way to the end to help speed up service and reduce/eliminate congestion.

I ended up being right, but it took two Google searches, plus fumbling around the MBTA site to find it.  Needless to say it was not on the T site but instead I found an article from Wicked Local Acton (division of the Boston Globe focused on communities) that talked about the closure and sure enough they were running trains as normal this weekend.

This service change was not just for one month, it was from April to June.  How can the MBTA in good faith not make this information available easily to riders.  It is not on the alert section for the rail line, all I get is Porter Square elevator work (important but not useful to me).

One of a myriad of examples of the T not doing the outreach and providing the information for train users that it very easily could be.  If folks show up to the station expecting a train at a certain time, and they don't see the signs for buses or shuttle what are they to think?  What if it was their first time using commuter rail?  Do you think they will try again?  No not likely.  Now the T just lost a customer all because of poor outreach and communication of major work closures.

To be fair this is an issue for the MBCR and not the MBTA proper but either way SOMEBODY should make sure the info is easy to find.  I shouldn't have to search so hard for it, at least I knew what I was looking for.

Lets do better MBTA.

UK Canal Path Photos: Part 12 Final

To see the other posts in this series Click Here or click on the label "Leeds-Liverpool Canal at the bottom of this post (or any other in the series).

This is part 12 and the last part of this series taken along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Enjoy!

Google Maps Link
Another one of those God-awful cattle gates meant to keep motorized vehicles out.  They do not work and are a major pain for anybody on a bicycle and heaven forbid you have a child trailer attached to your bicycle. 

Google Maps Link
Rather dramatic eh?

Google Maps Link
Filming for a movie was taking place in the courtyard outside during my visit, I was able to sneak a picture while everybody was on break.  I have no idea what the film was but I believe it was a documentary taking place during WWI.

That's it! (well for this series at least)

Until next time thanks for viewing.  If you would like larger copies of any of the pictures in this series please send me an email or add a comment and I will gladly provide.  All images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Death of a Dover Citizen

In many cases I will say pedestrian or cyclist but usually when it comes to a death or injury I try to focus on the fact that they are a citizen, a resident, and mattered to somebody.  Using the the term "pedestrian" or "accident" removes the human element from the situation and everybody can feel better.  An accident is when a wheel comes off, or the brakes fail, or when somebody falls off the curb because of a misstep.  An accident is not when somebody is struck by somebody else and killed due to negligence on any one or both of the somebody's.  Today we have a case that is not an accident but most likely was due to a number of factors.

An older gentleman was struck and killed in a crash today in Dover.  He was killed by another older gentleman driving a pickup while he was attempting to cross the street. Article from Fosters Newspaper on the crash.

I must commend Fosters for not using the term "accident" because this was not an accident (unless it turns out the driver's brakes failed or the gentleman crossing tripped while trying to move out of the way of the truck).  The crash happened at this location:

View Larger Map

Approximately 42 Main Street.
I have created a location mock up in ArcGIS using 2010 1 foot imagery:
As you can see the likely spot of the crash is almost halfway between two crosswalks and is very close to one of the entrances to the older brick buildings in the lower left of the image.  As you can see from my road section mock up the parking area is to the left before the travel lanes.  My best guess based on risk and other typical crashes of this nature was the man killed was partially obscured by parked cars as he attempted to cross the street.

What you don't see here but you can see in Street View is what appears to be old crosswalk markings in the road that go from the building entrance/sidewalk on the left to the sidewalk on the right.  Take a look and tell me that they don't look like a faded crosswalk (which a large majority of crosswalks in Dover are).

In the above image I have marked the official crosswalk in white, but even these are faded and unless you noticed the pedestrian crossing sign you might not know they are there.

You may notice another issue with this road while looking at the cross section.  Look at those lane widths.  16 feet and 15 feet, wowe!  Those are typical widths on freeways with speeds over 50mph.  This is a downtown with an already too high 30mph speed limit that in this section most people exceed by 10+mph.  Also note from the Google Map above that this is a State road and thus even less likely that the speed limit would be reduced or road changes implemented.

Finally if you read the article the man crossing was an older gentleman at 77, however the driver was older still at 84.  Was age a factor?  I would bet so.

We have study after study that shows as drivers get older their reflexes and skills go down, in terms of crashes they are nearly on par with first time drivers.  Why are they still allowed to drive?  Why do we allow them to renew their licence as long as they can see/have a correct glasses prescription?  There is a heck of a lot more to driving than just if they have 20/20 vision.

However, we have built a system of communities that does not provide safe ways for older residents to get around with out a car.  If you live outside of the COAST bus service route you are pretty much out of luck.  Maybe you can walk somewhere, but that means your town has sidewalks by your house to wherever you want to go.  That is unfortunately highly unlikely (Dover does a reasonably good job though).  You have no choice but to continue driving if you want to maintain any sense of independence.  Many families will refuse to take the licence away from a grandparent for fear that that person will hate them or will be unable to go anywhere.  I don't blame them one bit, but what it means is we have older drivers on the road who do not have the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle at the speeds required in an urban/rural setting.

If we provided good bicycle paths, safe and complete sidewalks, and reasonably accessible transit I think many would feel more comfortable about giving up their drivers licence, because at least they still have options to get around.

The exact cause of course is still under investigation and we may never know but a combination of age of the  man driving and age of the victim, the width of the road, the speed limit of the road, the distance between crosswalks, old markings in the road, as well as potential shadow from the building all contributed to this man's untimely death.

You should not have to take your life in your (or somebody else's) hands if you wish to walk downtown.

There are solutions though!

  • Reduce the road width.  Reduce each travel lane to 10 feet, use the additional 9 feet for a buffered bike lane (hey it could even by two-way) and curb bulb-outs (you can see a bulb-out in the lower crosswalk) or sidewalk expansion
  • Remove a travel lane and reduce remaining lane to 10 feet.  Use space created to expand sidewalks on both sides, plant trees, and provide a buffered bike lane, along with curb bulb-out, and provide better transit stops
  • Reduce speed to 15-20mph.  This is a downtown, not a freeway.  The goal in a downtown is to slow auto traffic down so people can park and visit shops safely without worrying if they will get run over by a semi doing 45.  This can be done by pavement changes, raised crossings, and will naturally happen if the lanes are narrowed.
  • Better marking of pedestrian crossings.  It is not all about the drivers, sometimes a bit of signage in the form of bright white thermoplastic crossings can help folks walking find a safe crossing place.  Increase the number of crossings too.  People will not walk out of their way by very much before they jay-walk wherever they see fit, increase the crossings and this risk is reduced.
  • Make drivers over 65/70 do a motor response test at various speeds in addition to eye tests and update on current laws.
  • Restrictions on mobile devices through an engine lock type feature and/or hefty fines.
  • Provide more rigorous drivers ed training with regard to interactions in the urban environment.  Looking at the red light/stop sign or for traffic in the other lane is not all that is required.  Bicyclists, kids, pedestrians, buses are all interacting in the urban environment.  Learners must interact with these things as part of their learning process.  The Dutch traffic gardens are a perfect example of this type of education.
With a little bit of work and dedication and perhaps even some push back against "the State DOT knows best" we can make our urban environments safer and prevent deaths like this from happening.

Condolences to his family.  His death should not have happened like this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

UK Canal Path Photos: Part 11

To see the other posts in this series Click Here or click on the label "Leeds-Liverpool Canal at the bottom of this post (or any other in the series).

This is part 11 of the series taken along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Enjoy!

Google Maps Link

Google Maps Link
Another more colorful bicycle route marker

Google Maps Link
I love these little markers.  They are the original markers along the canal when it was first built.  This one has been restored.

One more part and we will be in Saltaire!

Until next time thanks for viewing.  If you would like larger copies of any of the pictures in this series please send me an email or add a comment and I will gladly provide.  All images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Ominous Observation...

This does not bode well (or could bode very well depending)

I was riding into work today along Western Ave in Brighton(you can't see the bike lanes in Google) right by the Harvard campus.  A buffered parking protected bike lane was installed in late 2010 (click for Boston.com article) on a small stretch of this road.  There has been a daily problem of cars parking too far over the buffer zone into the bike lane as well as on the leading and exiting buffer zones on either side, sometimes reducing the useful width of the lane by half (in extreme cases).  It was also frequently blocked by cab drivers and every once in awhile a semi (a major truck loading and distribution center is to the south of the road.)  Minor annoyances for what is otherwise a very nice stretch that feels much nicer than the surrounding sections.

I ride by this morning and crews had blocked off all spaces and looked like they were removing paint in the buffer zones.  I thought they might be repainting or clarifying the parking section a bit better.  I was not terribly concerned.

I ride back this evening and its all gone.  The buffer, the parking, the bollard/wands that designated the buffered zone.  All that remained was a super wide road and a meager 5 foot bike lane.

I then thought about the pending departure of Nicole Freedman, Director of Boston Bikes who has done so much for the city in the past few years, bike lanes and racks, bike sharing and bridges etc.  She has made Boston a better place in a short time.

I think of that and I hope it means some of the projects and innovative designs won't simply go away because she is not keeping an eye on things.  I hope that while this particular buffered lane needed some improvement, we don't start loosing bike lanes suddenly...paint is pretty easy to remove...  I hope that they will be redesigning this stretch with full protection on both sides (there is tones of room!) and that this is one small step in that process.  I am still not sure why there is on street parking here, seriously there is a HUGE Harvard lot on the north side and Genzyme has plenty of parking on the southeastern edge.  There is nothing else along this stretch to warrant street parking...Though it was always full (where did they go today, the parking area was closed all day, could it be the 18 people were able to find something else among the see of parking?)

The Cambridge redesign looks amazing, and MassDOT is working to include cycletracks on the bridges so it would be a real shame if we lost out on the Boston side.  Hopefully that will not happen.

Here is a video of the lane just installed in November of 2010.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Discussion on how I am a "fucking moron"

Ok I apologize for profanity in the post title but let me explain.  I suppose I should consider myself lucky in the first place.  I have not really had any problems bicycling around Boston/Cambridge except an almost dooring about a block from my apartment and the interaction today.  To set the stage:  I don't run red lights (sometimes yellow but rarely) I don't run over pedestrians, I don't travel at a high rate of speed, I have brakes and gears and I try not to act like an idiot, I am just going (or coming) from work leave me alone.

Apparently my interpretation of right-of-way laws must be out of date.  Apparently you are always suppose to yield to the man compensating for something by driving a large pickup truck and turning left at an intersection.  No matter what, you yield to the pickup driver.  I must have missed this in driver ed/bike training.  Needless to say I did not yield to the large truck who was trying to make a left turn at the intersection of Harvard and Brighton Ave..  I was going straight on with the green and he was turning across my path from the other direction.  I was clearly being uppity wanting  the right-of-way; clearly.

He stops and creeps forward, I slow down presuming he will be turning in front of me, no he does not.  He clearly sighs and waves me through, yelling out his window to my back as I clear the intersection that I am a "fucking moron."  My pathetic response "right-of-way buddy, come on" I am sure was lost in all the V-8 power rush rush I delayed him 6 seconds macho truck he was driving.

It is good practice to not play chicken with a pickup or a truck of any kind and usually a good idea to let them do their thing and hold back.  However, in this case I presumed there was a car moving straight that was to my left in the auto lane, I was not looking in my mirrors but I did hear a car back there.  I was not sure if he would yield or gun it across, which is why I slowed down.

Oh well, I was never in any danger we stopped maybe 30 feet from each other with a clear sight-line.  I guess I will continue to watch out for large pickups which are clearly at the top of the yielding hierarchy, meaning everybody and grandma better yield to them or else.

In other news I saw a pedestrian almost get creamed by a Mercedes driver moving way too fast in central square while the pedestrian was crossing in the cross walk.  The car came within a couple inches and the younger man in a suit smacked the trunk of the car a couple times before he continued on his way home (presumably).  The driver did stop for a minute or two but then proceeded on.  I am sure the driver was shaken up and likely not paying attention, but come on its central square.  If you think you can do anything but look at where you are biking/driving/walking you really have another thing coming because that is just asking for trouble.  The pedestrian did not have a helmet on, so clearly he was at fault.  (No earphones either, nor was he on the phone/texting!  Ok I take it back, clearly not a Cambridge pedestrian, must have been a foreigner)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

UK Canal Path Photos: Part 10

To see the other posts in this series Click Here or click on the label "Leeds-Liverpool Canal at the bottom of this post (or any other in the series).

This is part 10 of the series taken along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Enjoy!

Google Maps Link
Another four locks and some cyclists taking a break.

Google Maps Link
The tour jumps quite a distance to this image most because there was really nothing terribly interesting that I decided to take a picture of.  Though overhead wires are not that exciting either really...

Google Maps Link
Just entering the more urbanized area of the town of Shipley, Saltaire is just on the other side.  The stone bridge on the left leads to the abandoned stone building you see without a roof.  I explored a little bit but there was not much to see unfortunately.

We are almost at Saltaire!  I will not regal you with pictures of my return since it was more of the same but I will mention some more about Saltaire once we arrive.

Until next time thanks for viewing.  If you would like larger copies of any of the pictures in this series please send me an email or add a comment and I will gladly provide.  All images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Friday, March 30, 2012

Update on Dover Parking Meters

I figured it was time to do another update on my post from last year regarding the parking meters in downtown Dover.  (to see the original post Click Here) I created a Google Map of the meter locations last year.  It is now updated with new meters and locations.  The city did put together a map (caution PDF) which is what I used to place the markers.  It is however, hard to figure out specifics, especially if you are not a resident.  I figured a better map was in order.
(this map can be used as is or click below for a larger version in a new window.)
View Dover, NH Parking Meter Locations in a larger map

First, charging for parking is a great idea.  This is the public space (not the motorists space) and if you are using it for the storage of your private vehicle than the space is limited for other uses, and thus a price should be payed for that use.  One could argue that bicycles should pay too, however the amount of space a bicycle takes up vs the amount of space a car takes up makes that sound ridiculous.  A typical bike coral placed in a car parking spot can hold 12-16 bikes, that is 12-16 people (yes cyclists are people too!) vs the average of 1.8 people per car. (ok when was the last time you saw a 12 passenger van parked full of people?).  I understand the point and in The Netherlands a number of long term facilities charge for parking, but these are usually guarded and have bike shops on site.  Some places in the US charge for parking in bike lockers to recoup the high cost of installation, this makes sense.

None the less there are proper ways to charge for parking, ways that get community support and positive engagement.  Dover did not do it properly, and instead have dedicated revenue after meter infrastructure payments toward the building of a parking facility in the downtown.  This is to be fair, the most idiotic idea ever.  At $10,000-$20,000 per space (give or take) a parking structure is a colossal waste of money.  A good bike rack costs $120 and parks 2 people (bikes).  If you want to go crazy and install covered secured parking, the costs very but the Bike Hanger model from the Netherlands runs $5,000 and holds 5 bikes.   Even at $1,000 per space we are not coming anywhere close to the $10,000/space of an auto parking facility.

Due to the lack of proper engagement and proper revenue dedication, there has been some noisy push-back from some area residents.  Threats to never shop downtown again, to the downtown is a ghost town, to the city councilors being godless communists (ok ok they were not called that as far as I know).  That culminated on Wednesday night with a proposal from the youngest councilor on the removal of the meters.  He had "promised his constituents that he would bring it up for a vote."  Thankfully it was killed 8-1, but I doubt we will hear the end of it at least for a little while longer.

How could Dover have avoided this or partially avoided this?  I will take from Donald Shoup the renowned parking expert and professor at UCLA (speaking of godless communists...).  His idea is that in many places the market can handle a price for parking, but that the funds raised should not go toward general budget things or revenue for other projects.  It should instead go back to the neighborhood or district being tolled.  Ideally separated out by street.  It could go towards beautification projects like trees, benches, trash/recycling.  It could go toward street or sidewalk repairs and infrastructure improvements like lighting.  It could go toward small grants for business or home improvements that benefit the streetscape, like a new porch or new business awning.  It could also be used toward paying interest on or subsidizing low/no interest loans for business or home upgrades. For a video of Dr. Shoup talking about his ideas with the great folks at Streetfilms Click Here.  For another great video on parking from Streetfilms Click Here
Image from  theexpiredmeter.com

A number of communities have gone this route and if a town or city wanted to, I am sure with a bit of research they could figure out the legal requirements needed to be able to do that.

It makes more sense too.  When you use the revenue and invest back in that street or block you get support.  You get support because individuals can see the benefit and know that it is going right back into where they work or live.  When something is far off or nebulous you start to encourage the naysayers.  Once people start seeing the benefits (and it can be small at first, new flower pots or benches) they will support the project even more, that gives it a broad base of support within the community which allows it to expand to new areas and allows other residents to successfully counter the naysayers, instead of the city or planning department having to defend the initiative.

It is not too late for Dover, the council can shift where the funding will go (revenue is still being used to pay infrastructure installation and purchase costs).  It can work with the planning board and planning department to develop street zones for dispersal of revenue.  It can work with the Chamber of Commerce and local credit unions/banks to set up a loan or grant structure for businesses and residents.

This is seen as a negative by a number of vocal opponents, however it does not have to be.  I encourage Dover to do research and find some mechanisms that will work to the benefit of everybody, I don't know what that would look like but I can tell you a parking structure is not it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

UK Canal Path Photos: Part 9

To see the other posts in this series Click Here or click on the label "Leeds-Liverpool Canal at the bottom of this post (or any other in the series).

This is part 9 of the series taken along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Enjoy!
Google Maps Link

Google Maps Link (approximate)
There are a number of these markers on the trail, a photo can not do it justice you simply have to find one and look at it up close.  It also gives distances to nearest cities along the route (cycle route 66 in this case) We are going to Shipley, another 4 miles.

Without a doubt this is the worst section of the trail.  Not because it is bad or dangerous but because it runs next to a sewage treatment facility.  You can see the fence over to the right, but technically it is on both sides of the canal.  The place sticks!  Zoom out a bit in Google and you will see what I mean.  I recommend passing through her are quickly as possible, seriously it was pretty bad.

Until next time thanks for viewing.  If you would like larger copies of any of the pictures in this series please send me an email or add a comment and I will gladly provide.  All images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License