The future of transportation is “Complete Streets”

Transportation has been in the news a lot lately. Governor Hogan announced his intention to spend $9 billion on a massive highway project. Howard County is holding public hearings on how to upgrade our public transit system. Columbia Association just held its annual BikeAbout. And Horizon Foundation is holding its Open Streets event Sunday October 1st.

We need to think of these aspects of transportation as an integrated whole or else we’ll waste a lot of money without fully supporting our community needs. Contrary to Governor Hogan’s approach, Howard County has committed to a “Complete Streets” policy, and the Open Streets event will demonstrate what that is.  Here I attempt to make sense of it all.

Governor Hogan announces widening of I-270, Capital Beltway (I-495), and Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295)

Annapolis MD, Sept 21, 2017

Delivering on his commitment to provide innovative transportation solutions for Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan today announced the administration’s plans to add four new lanes to I-270, the Capital Beltway (I-495), and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295).

Baltimore-Washington Parkway (National Park Service – click on photo for source)

“These three massive, unprecedented projects to widen I-495, I-270, and MD 295 will be absolutely transformative, and they will help Maryland citizens go about their daily lives in a more efficient and safer manner,” said Governor Hogan. “Today, we are turning Maryland’s celebrated innovation into real action. These projects will substantially and dramatically improve our state highway system and traffic in the region.”

http://governor.maryland.gov/2017/09/21/governor-hogan-announces-widening-of-i-270-capital-beltway-i-495-and-baltimore-washington-parkway-md-295/

Howard regional transit public meetings continue

by Kate Magill (Howard County Times) Sept 14, 2007

The Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland and Maryland Transit Administration hosted the second of four public meetings Wednesday night about the upcoming transit development plan, meant to upgrade the public transit system in Howard, Anne Arundel and parts of Prince George’s counties.

The plan aims to address residents’ woes about issues such as lengthy wait times for service and indirect routes. . . . Some of the changes residents said they most wanted included increased weekend service and more frequent bus service throughout the day.

[Officials] hope to put the plan before the Howard County Council for approval by the end of the year . . . .  However, the council’s approval of the plan does not guarantee that it will be funded.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-ho-cf-transit-meeting-recap-0921-story.html

 

THE CHALLENGE IS:

  • THE MORE WE RELY ON AUTOMOBILES TO GET AROUND,
  • THE MORE HIGHWAYS WE HAVE TO BUILD,
  • THE LESS MONEY WE HAVE FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT AND PEDESTRIAN/BICYCLE ALTERNATIVES,
  • THE MORE WE’RE FORCED TO RELY ON AUTOMOBILES.

THESE NEXT THREE IMAGES EXPLAIN IT ALL: 

from Caltrans “Complete Streets Elements Toolbox” (click on photo for source)
from Caltrans Complete Streets Elements Toolbox (click on photo for source)
from the city of Gardner, Massachusetts (click on photo for source)

Howard County Complete Streets Policy – October 2016

“To ensure that Howard County is a place for individuals of all backgrounds to live and travel freely, safely, and comfortably, public and private roadways in Howard County shall be safe and convenient for residents of all ages and abilities who travel by foot, bicycle, public transportation or automobile, ensuring sustainable communities Countywide.” – Allan H. Kittleman, Howard County Executive, Council Resolution 35-2016.

The County shall approach every transportation improvement and project phase as an opportunity to create safer, more accessible streets for all users of all ages and abilities, including people who walk, bike, take the bus, and drive cars and trucks. These phases include, but are not limited to: planning, programming, design, right-of-way acquisition, subdivision and land development, new construction, construction engineering, reconstruction, operation, repair, and maintenance. This applies to both new and retrofit projects.

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Transportation/Complete_Streets

Examples of Complete Streets in Howard County

CENTENNIAL LANE, ELLICOTT CITY

Design for Centennial Lane that was implemented June 2017 (by Howard County Government)

Says Chris Eatough, Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Office of Transportation, Howard County Government:

“Centennial Lane is a good example, and the improvements were made recently.  Buffered bike lanes and a new marked crosswalk with pedestrian refuge island near Centennial Elementary School. The crosswalk makes crossing the road much more comfortable and has created a much improved community feel, with many more people out and about on foot and on bike.”

Centennial Lane at Breconshire Road (photo by Chris Eatough, Howard County Government)
by Howard County Government

LITTLE PATUXENT PARKWAY, COLUMBIA

Columbia Multi-Use Pathway, Little Patuxent Parkway (photo by Downtown Columbia Partnership – click photo for source)

Says Chris Eatough, Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Office of Transportation, Howard County Government:

“Another example is Little Patuxent Parkway in Downtown Columbia. The big improvement there is the new shared use pathway, which runs from Howard County General Hospital to Blandair Park. Much of it is parallel to Little Patuxent Parkway, changing what was previously an auto orientated area to what is now a pleasant, comfortable, and convenient route for walking and biking.”

OLD STOCKBRIDGE DRIVE, WATERLOO

Old Stockbridge Drive at Falling Leaves Court, Waterloo (photo by Chris Eatough, Howard County Government)

Says Chris Eatough, Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Office of Transportation, Howard County Government:

“This is a street that works well for everyone. Wide, well maintained sidewalks on both sides with grass buffers between the sidewalk and the road. Bike lanes on each side of the road. Marked crosswalks with bump outs to calm traffic, shorten the crossing distance, and improve visibility of pedestrians crossing.”

Learn more at the Open Streets event — Sunday Oct. 1st, 11 am – 3 pm

Bring your bikes and walking shoes and see how better street design can make getting around easier, safer and more comfortable for everyone at the Open Streets Howard County event on Sunday Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting at Dunloggin Middle School and Northfield Elementary School, extending to Dorsey Hall Pool and the Dorsey’s Search Village Center. Sponsored by the Horizon Foundation, the event will include action-packed stops with bicycle and pedestrian facility demos, food trucks, kids’ activities and more.

http://www.thehorizonfoundation.org/openstreets/

Featured image at top of post

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Transportation/Complete_Streets

My thanks to Chris Eatough, Howard County Office of Transportation, for his assistance with this blog post.

Advertisements

Howard County is a bicycling community – Join the fun!

As temperatures cool, more and more people are bicycling, for fun, exercise, and basic transportation. Howard County provides numerous opportunities to join the movement. There are several events coming up in the next few weeks and organizations that are devoted to cycling. Our transportation infrastructure is changing to support a more walkable and bikeable community. Bicycles are now available on demand for short trips around Columbia.

Come join the fun. There are no excuses not to.

Columbia Bikeabout — Saturday Sept. 23rd

Columbia Association’s (CA) annual BikeAbout will be held Saturday, Sept. 23rd, with riders setting off from the dock at Lake Elkhorn. The free, fun and informative tour presents Columbia’s history and showcases the connectivity of its pathway system.

This year’s route is 10 miles long and winds through the villages of Owen Brown, Oakland Mills and Long Reach. In celebration of Columbia’s 50th Birthday, the theme of this year’s BikeAbout is “Appreciate the past and imagine the future.” To accommodate families with young children, a shorter ride is available around Lake Elkhorn with enjoyable activities and fun facts about Columbia.

https://www.columbiaassociation.org/facilities/columbia-archives/bikeabout/

Howard County Bikeshare

Howard County Bikeshare is public transportation on your schedule. Grab a bike, go for a ride, give it back. . . . Launched in 2017, the Howard County Bikeshare system offers electric-assist bicycles to their users. It’s easy, fun and comfortable. Howard County becomes a leader in active transportation by offering both electric-assist and traditional options for residents and visitors to explore the region. Howard County Bikeshare is available 24/7 and is perfect for errands, commuting, or recreation.

Bikeshare Program

Going for a ride is simple – with a network of 7 stations and 70 bikes, riders can register for a Yearly, Monthly and Go Pass on the website (Go Pass also available on the app), or for a Single-trip at a station kiosk and start riding within minutes. Try one out today!

https://howardcountybikeshare.com/

Open Streets event — Sunday Oct. 1st

Bring your bikes and walking shoes and see how better street design can make getting around easier, safer and more comfortable for everyone at the Open Streets Howard County event on Sunday Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting at Dunloggin Middle School and Northfield Elementary School, extending to Dorsey Hall Pool and the Dorsey’s Search Village Center. Sponsored by the Horizon Foundation, the event will include action-packed stops with bicycle and pedestrian facility demos, food trucks, kids’ activities and more.

http://www.thehorizonfoundation.org/openstreets/

Open Streets Howard County

Open Streets Howard County is an initiative of the Horizon Foundation that seeks to promote a more bikeable and walkable community where everyone can safely and easily travel by bike or on foot.  Open Streets Howard County starts with the simple and proven idea that the design of our streets and neighborhoods should support and promote healthy living. Residents of communities that are built to encourage walking and cycling typically enjoy improved health outcomes, as well as many other benefits.

Nearly half of adults in the United States fail to meet the recommended amount of physical activity. But people living in areas with safe, comfortable, healthy transportation options — like bike lanes and sidewalks — are far more likely to meet those guidelines. Reimagining our roads as “complete streets” that accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and drivers will help us more easily integrate walking, biking and other healthy transportation choices into our daily lives.

http://www.thehorizonfoundation.org/openstreets/

Cycle to Health, Howard County Office on Aging and Independence

Cycle2Health Howard County is a non-competitive, peer-led, bicycling club for adults of all ages and riding abilities, coordinated by the Health & Wellness Division of the Howard County Office on Aging and Independence (OAI).  You must register to participate.

Rides take place during the week and on some weekends, during daytime hours, and depart from various locations in and around Howard County.  Rides depart in the morning, with the exact departure time varying by route and season. To provide an opportunity for safe and enjoyable riding for all C2H participants, three to four different level rides are offered each week throughout the riding season:

  • Casual rides are rides of less than 12 miles on relatively flat terrain at a relaxed pace. These rides are on pathways, trails or quiet residential streets with frequent re-grouping.
  • Moderate rides are rides of less than 20 miles at 10-12 MPH with some moderate short hills and maybe a longer hill.  Moderate riders should be comfortable riding in some traffic and should know basic group riding etiquette.
  • Moderate-Advanced rides are rides of 16-25 miles at 11.5-13 MPH, depending on the climb rate (slightly slower than the advanced rides). They include some moderate short hills and some moderate to steep grades. Riders should be comfortable riding with traffic and knowledgeable of group riding etiquette.
  • Advanced rides are rides of over 20 miles at 13-15 MPH and will include moderate to steep hills with limited rest stops. Riders should be aware of their riding ability and limitations before participating in an advanced ride.

Cue sheets will be made available in advance of the ride and riders are encouraged to drive the route to determine if the route is appropriate for them. Riders just getting back to riding or those who haven’t had experience riding in a group venue are encouraged to start with the Casual Ride group.

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/C2H

Bicycling Advocates of Howard County 9th Annual Bike HoCo/All-Club Ride — Saturday October 7th

Time again to join other Howard County bicyclists and cycling clubs on BAHC’s 9th Annual Bike HoCo (All-Club) Ride. Enjoy a GREAT Fall ride (63/45/34/26 mile routes) and post-ride social (beer/soft drinks). Start location will be at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory adjacent to the softball field on Sanner Road; check-in starts at 8:30am.

The Bicycling Advocates of Howard County (Bike HoCo) is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization founded in 2008 as a coalition of cycling clubs and bicycle riders in Howard County, Maryland. Bike HoCo advocates to improve the visibility and safety of bicycling, supports bicycling education programs for adults and children, and promotes a vision of bicycling and sharing the road as part of a healthy, energy efficient, and environmentally sound transportation system to help achieve a sustainable future for Howard County and for Maryland.

https://bikehoco.org/

Howard County Bicycle Master Plan

In April of 2016, Howard County adopted its first Bicycle Master Plan. The Bicycle Master Plan provides guidance for both transportation and recreational bicycling, both on-street and off-street. Recommendations are provided in the general areas of infrastructure improvements, policy and programs.

Goals and objectives are:

  • Identify and develop countywide system of bicycle facilities to foster connectivity within and between the following: villages, communities and neighborhoods throughout the County, as well as neighboring cities and counties, parks and recreation centers, schools and educational institutions, commercial and employment centers, and regional and local transit facilities.
  • Facilitate recreational and transportation trips by bicycle in the County and improve safety for all types of bicyclists.
  • Recommend County policies that will support bicycling, including bikeway facility design.
  • Build public support for implementation of the Plan.

The approved version of Bike Howard is presented below. You can view the Plan on-line, print it or download it. You can magnify and zoom in on the detail in the maps and the Plan by using your mouse wheel with the PDF menus View/Zoom and then Dynamic Zoom.

https://bikehoward.com/

Columbia Recognized As “Bicycle Friendly Community”

The community of Columbia, Maryland, has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists with a bronze Bicycle Friendly Community award, joining more than 370 other visionary communities that are transforming our neighborhoods in all 50 states.

This bronze award recognizes the commitment by Columbia Association, the Howard County Government and other community stakeholders to improving conditions for people who bicycle through investments in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.

A report card issued by the League of American Bicyclists recognized the community’s miles of bicycle networks, bike-to-work events, an active bicycle advocacy group and advisory committee, bicycle-friendly laws and ordinances, committed bike program staff and an up-to-date bike plan that is in the process of being implemented.

The improvements that have already come out of these master plans include new on- and off-road bike lanes and pathways, the addition of wayfinding signage, expanded educational and safety programs, a dedicated police pathway patrol squad, the widening of highly used pathways to 10 feet to increase comfort for all users, and a smartphone app for Columbia pathway routes.

https://www.columbiaassociation.org/columbia-recognized-bicycle-friendly-community/

Featured Image at top of the post

Bicycle rush hour in Copenhagen, where 37% of the population ride their bikes each day (by Mikael Colville-Andersen)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Urban_cycling#/media/File:Bikecultureincopenhagen.jpg

Howard County has a “Dakota Access” pipeline right in our back yard

Who knew we have petroleum pipelines running through Howard County MD? On a recent doctor visit out Dorsey Hall Drive in Ellicott City, I discovered these signs for a petroleum pipeline managed by Colonial Pipeline Company. Surprised by my finding, I decided to do some research. Come to find, there are numerous natural gas and hazardous liquid (petroleum) pipelines throughout Howard County and the USA.

Colonial Pipeline right of way (ROW) looking south across Dorsey Hall Dr. and US29 (left) and headed north to Marriottsville and Dorsey Junction in Woodbine (right) [photo by Harry Schwarz]
Map showing pipelines traversing Howard County, MD; The Colonial pipeline is indicated by the red line (map by National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) Public Viewer)

Pipeline Basics

by The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, US Dept of Transportation (PHMSA)

The energy transportation network of the United States consists of over 2.5 million miles of pipelines. That’s enough to circle the earth about 100 times. These pipelines are operated by approximately 3,000 companies, large and small.

Most hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipelines are located underground in rights-of-way (ROW). A ROW consists of consecutive property easements acquired by, or granted to, the pipeline company. The ROW provides sufficient space to perform pipeline maintenance and inspections, as well as a clear zone where encroachments can be monitored and prevented. Continue reading Howard County has a “Dakota Access” pipeline right in our back yard

Our car-centric culture endangers people and our planet

We allocate an awful lot of space to accommodate the automobile and they are a major cause of global warming. To create a sustainable future, we will need to lessen our dependence on cars and develop alternative means of transport. 

Howard County is beginning to build this future with consideration of  public transportation, development of bike trails, and implementing shared usage of roads. Columbia is grappling with the same issue as we plan for downtown development and rejuvenation of our village centers.

The United States had a very different infrastructure about 100 years ago, until cars took over the roads. How we became a car-centric nation, and what it might look like to share our roads and encourage alternatives to the car are the subject of these articles.

Howard County Complete Streets Policy (DRAFT – October 2016)

Vision: “To ensure that Howard County is a place for individuals of all backgrounds to live and travel freely, safely, and comfortably, public and private roadways in Howard County shall be safe and convenient for residents of all ages and abilities who travel by foot, bicycle, public transportation or automobile, ensuring sustainable communities Countywide.” – Allan H. Kittleman, Howard County Executive, Council Resolution 35-2016.

Scope:  The County shall approach every transportation improvement and project phase as an opportunity to create safer, more accessible streets for all users of all ages and abilities, including people who walk, bike, take the bus, and drive cars and trucks. These phases include, but are not limited to: planning, programming, design, right-of-way acquisition, subdivision and land development, new construction, construction engineering, reconstruction, operation, repair, and maintenance. This applies to both new and retrofit projects.

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Transportation/Complete_Streets

When city streets were a public space

By Nov. 4, 2015

Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side
Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side

It’s strange to imagine now, but prior to the 1920s, city streets looked dramatically different than they do today. They were considered to be a public space: a place for pedestrians, pushcart vendors, horse-drawn vehicles, streetcars, and children at play.

“Pedestrians were walking in the streets anywhere they wanted, whenever they wanted, usually without looking,” Norton says [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City]. During the 1910s there were few crosswalks painted on the street, and they were generally ignored by pedestrians.

As cars began to spread widely during the 1920s, the consequence of this was predictable: death. Over the first few decades of the century, the number of people killed by cars skyrocketed.

As deaths mounted, anti-car activists sought to slow them down. In 1920, Illustrated World wrote, “Every car should be equipped with a device that would hold the speed down to whatever number of miles stipulated for the city in which its owner lived.”

The November 23, 1924, cover of the New York Times shows a common representation of cars during the era — as killing machines. (New York Times)

The turning point came in 1923, says Norton, when 42,000 Cincinnati residents signed a petition for a ballot initiative that would require all cars to have a governor limiting them to 25 miles per hour. Local auto dealers were terrified, and sprang into action, sending letters to every car owner in the city and taking out advertisements against the measure.

Most notably, auto industry groups took control of a series of meetings convened by Herbert Hoover (then secretary of commerce) to create a model traffic law that could be used by cities across the country. Due to their influence, the product of those meetings — the 1928 Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance — was largely based off traffic law in Los Angeles, which had enacted strict pedestrian controls in 1925.

Ultimately, both the word jaywalking and the concept that pedestrians shouldn’t walk freely on streets became so deeply entrenched that few people know this history. “The campaign was extremely successful,” Norton says. “It totally changed the message about what streets are for.”

[For more on the auto industry’s campaign to assure that cars had primary use of roads, read the whole article at the link below.]

http://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history

Murder Machines: Why cars will kill 30,000 Americans this year

by Hunter Oatman-Stanford (Collectors Weekly), March 10, 2014

“If a kid is hit in a street in 2014, I think our first reaction would be to ask, ‘What parent is so neglectful that they let their child play in the street?,’” says Norton [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City].  In 1914, it was pretty much the opposite. It was more like, ‘What evil bastard would drive their speeding car where a kid might be playing?’ That tells us how much our outlook on the public street has changed—blaming the driver was really automatic then.”

1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)
1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)

As cities attempt to undo years of car-oriented development by rebuilding streets that better incorporate public transit, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian needs, the existing bias towards automobiles is making the fight to transform streets just as intense as when cars first arrived in the urban landscape.

“The fact that changes like redesigning streets for bike lanes set off such strong reactions today is a great analogy to what was going on in the ’20s,” says Fried. “There’s a huge status-quo bias that’s inherent in human nature. While I think the changes today are much more beneficial than what was done 80 years ago, the fact that they’re jarring to people comes from the same place. People are very comfortable with things the way they are.”

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/murder-machines/

The U.S. Ended Up Much More Car-Dependent Than Europe

Between the 1920s and 1960s, policies adapting cities to car travel in the United States served as a role model for much of Western Europe. But by the late 1960s, many European cities started refocusing their policies to curb car use by promoting walking, cycling, and public transportation. For the last two decades, in the face of car-dependence, suburban sprawl, and an increasingly unsustainable transportation system, U.S. planners have been looking to Western Europe.

The numbers show the need for change. In 2010, Americans drove for 85 percent of their daily trips, compared to car trip shares of 50 to 65 percent in Europe. Longer trip distances only partially explain the difference. Roughly 30 percent of daily trips are shorter than a mile on either side of the Atlantic. But of those under one-mile trips, Americans drove almost 70 percent of the time, while Europeans made 70 percent of their short trips by bicycle, foot, or public transportation.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2014/02/9-reasons-us-ended-so-much-more-car-dependent-europe/8226/

How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths

by Mark Wagenbuur, who blogs at BicycleDutch

[The Dutch became a car-centric nation similar to the United States, but then they chose a different road.]. 

Featured image at top of post

From Greater Aukland (2014) – http://transportblog.co.nz

The BRT is coming to US29 in Montgomery County. Should Howard County be next?

Howard County has few transportation options for people traveling into DC. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may be a relatively inexpensive option.

Montgomery’s bet on an ambitious Bus Rapid Transit system hinges on Route 29

By Luz Lazo (Washington Post), May 13, 2017 – ABRIDGED

Montgomery County’s years-long plan to build a 14-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on one of Maryland’s busiest commuter corridors appears to finally be moving from idea to reality.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who has championed BRT as the county’s next major transit undertaking, included $21.5 million for the project in his capital budget. A County Council committee earlier this month signaled its support for the BRT project, voting to send the plan to the full council for approval of funding for the design phase, putting the project one step away from construction — and closer to a 2020 opening.

The plan as it stands would put buses on shoulder lanes for a portion of the route, but also in regular traffic. This decision, which sacrificed earlier plans to have a reversible HOV lane in the southern portion of the route, cut capital costs by more than half to $31.5 million. Officials say the money will pay for new stations, buses, and new bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The county’s portion will be matched with a $10 million federal grant.

For the complete article, go to:  https://is.gd/cgXjJC

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy – ABRIDGED

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities. It does this Continue reading The BRT is coming to US29 in Montgomery County. Should Howard County be next?

How we got those highway signs with mileage of distant cities

I-70 west, at I-695 in Woodlawn

“Go West, Young Man”
June 04, 2007|By Rob Hiaasen (Baltimore Sun)

. . . . Tom Hicks, a state highway administrator in Maryland, decided to immortalize Cove Fort [the western terminus of I-70, in Utah] in the minds of Marylanders heading west out of Baltimore toward Frederick, Hagerstown and across nine other states connected by I-70. He and another highway man, Paul Farragut of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, got to thinking about a different kind of mileage sign, one with a bit of geographical whimsy and one that, for more practical reasons, would test a new type style. It’s not often an act of traffic engineering captures the imagination of, well, anyone.

“I was just excited that we have an interstate that ends and begins in our region,” says Farragut. He had never been to Cove Fort but was always amused by a sign Continue reading How we got those highway signs with mileage of distant cities