Cities spending millions on master plans in hopes of keeping vehicles parked at home

“Share the road,” is a phrase most people have seen on a roadway sign or may have heard in a commercial brought to you by your state’s transportation agency. We all own the road, but are we doing a good job of sharing it with those who drive, walk or pedal their way alongside of us? How much of a wide berth are we giving the vehicle in front of us and the pedestrian or cyclists that we will eventually pass? Even when we do our best driving it still won’t stop a cyclist or pedestrian from darting into traffic or abstaining from the use of reflective gear or lights.  Whether its four wheels, two wheels or no wheels, everyone must do their part to keep down deadly statistics.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 5,376 pedestrians and 818 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2015. This represents the highest number of pedestrians killed in one year since 1996.  Though total traffic fatalities in the United States fell by nearly 18 percent from 2006 to 2015, pedestrian fatalities rose by 12 percent during the same ten-year period.

Walking, bicycling and using public transportation can help your wallet, health and community. Cities are trying to alleviate road congestion by implementing projects or campaigns that may entice drivers to keep their vehicles parked at home.

Bicycling provided a list of the top 50 bike cities for 2016. At the top of the list is Chicago, that added 100 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes in 2015 at a cost of $12 million. When its protected bike lanes are completed in 2017 in conjunction with its Loop Link transit project, Chicago will be the first major U.S. city with a downtown network of protected bike lanes. The city also replaced a 75-year-old walkway with a 620-foot suspension bridge. The 35th Street pedestrian bridge opened in 2016 after two years of construction at a cost of $18 million from the federal government and $5 million from the state of Illinois.

Coming in at a close second is San Francisco with many miles of new and high-quality cycling facilities. The city implemented 800 new bike racks and there are plans to add raised and protected bike lanes on 2nd Street in 2017. San Francisco has one of the nation’s densest bike share networks, with 4,500 bikes in the city itself and more than 7,000 across the region. Portland, Ore. receives third place for their “out of the vehicle” efforts, fourth is New York, N.Y., fifth is Seattle, Wash., sixth is Minneapolis, Minn. and seventh is Austin, Texas.

More and more cities across the state are developing a bike and walk master plan and investing millions of dollars to make the vision a reality. Fresno is doing just that and for good reason. The Federal Highway Traffic Administration lists Fresno as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation for pedestrians and bicyclists. The city’s Active Transportation Plan calls for adding 947 miles of bike facilities and 661 miles of sidewalks throughout Fresno in the years to come, at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. It also identifies a priority network that could feasibly be built in the next ten years, which includes 28 miles of Class I bike paths and 45 miles of sidewalks, at a cost of$114.7 million.

Cities are creating bikes paths on the east coast too. In November 2016, Rhode Island voters approved a $35 million Green Economy Bond. Ten bikeway projects around the state, totaling $10 million, will create over ten new miles of path and improve safety and connectivity across the state’s bikeway network. There are more than 60 miles of bike path in the state. Bond-funded projects will connect and extend segments of the Blackstone River Bikeway and the South County Bikeway, make the Jamestown Bridge bicycle accessible, establish new bikeways in Westerly and in Newport, and improve on-road connections in Olneyville and other urgent locations. Completion is expected within three years.

It will take a lot longer than three years to complete the East Coast Greenway, which was conceived in 1991. It’s the nation’s most ambitious long-distance urban bicycle and walking route. The route connects existing and planned shared-use trails and will stretch 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. A linear park, the East Coast Greenway is planned almost entirely on public right-of-ways, incorporating waterfront esplanades, park paths, abandoned railroad corridors, canal towpaths and pathways along highway corridors.  Roughly 30 percent of the route is completed on off-road sections.

Bike station with tools connected to wires and an air pump. Photo courtesy of Paul Niedermeyer.

What happens if your bike breaks down? Cities are now implementing bicycle repair stations that provide basic bicycle repair capability to business districts and corridors that cater to bicyclists. Repair stations feature a stand to mount a bicycle and contain the basic tools needed to perform do-it-yourself bicycle repairs including screwdrivers, wrenches and hex tools. Repair stations also feature a heavy duty bicycle pump and connect users to detailed instructions for a wide variety of bicycle repairs-just a smart phone scan away.

In 2014, Los Angeles launched its repair station pilot program with the purchase of 11 Fixit stations. Purchase of the repair stations was made possible through a public-private partnership which included the city, a maintenance sponsor and a local business that had the station on their street.

What about storage for your mode of transportation? More and more cities are now passing zoning laws requiring the addition of bike rooms in apartment buildings. They want to see support for their investment in bike lanes around town. Architects are creating bike rooms that are not only equipped with convenient,  bike racks, but also with amenities such as showers, lockers, bike repair stations, bike washing stations and air pumps.

The state-of-the-art spaces often have their own entrances, saving wear-and-tear on the lobby and passenger elevators. They also offer their own gear by way of pumps and repair stands, and, sometimes, homey touches like hooks for hanging helmets. In the fancier buildings, porters and door attendants act as bike valets. Bike rooms in buildings coming to market now are being tricked out with compression air pumps, of the sort found in bike shops and gas stations, and work stands to which one can clamp a bike while oiling a chain or fixing a flat. Tools are often on hand, and sometimes there’s a hose for washing bikes down after a muddy ride.


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Ensuring safety on college campuses – becoming more difficult each day

Campus safety has never been easy or simple. Now, the responsibility is truly awesome.

In the last few years, there have been dozens of horrific incidents and now that a number of states allow guns on campus, the job of providing for campus safety has become increasingly more difficult and complicated.

Most universities have focused on incident prevention and quick response.  Many have gone through extensive planning sessions to find ways to ensure safety, but it would be hard to find a university official anywhere who feels confident that security and safety are under control. Perhaps the greatest impediment to ensuring a safe campus environment is a lack of adequate funding.
In spite of funding issues, physical security has definitely been improved. Most new buildings have access systems that provide officers the ability to centrally lock down facilities if there is an active shooter incident. Surveillance camera technology also continually searches for abnormal activities that could pose a threat. Other emerging technologies have also made inroads on college campuses.

Most campuses have invested in walkway lighting and “blue light” emergency call boxes. Outreach programs aimed at informing and educating students and faculty of what they can do to protect themselves have been implemented.

Taxpayers care about the campus safety issue and they are involved. Voters approved a $14.5 million bond issue in December to improve safety and security measures at Iowa Western Community College. The bond package that was approved will fund new cameras, secure doors, enhanced locks and other security improvements.

Kansas State University (KSU) is installing upgrades to security systems. The additional investment in security is in response to a new Kansas law allowing for concealed handguns on university campuses. If an exemption for public universities is not granted by the legislature, KSU is considering the use of wands and portable metal detectors for events. The new security measures are expected to cost more than $1 million.

Voters approved a measure late in 2016 to provide the Southwestern Community College District $400 million for campus facility improvements. A new building will be constructed to house all campus Security and Risk Management functions.  Other security enhancements will also be implemented.

In January 2017, the Atlanta University Center Consortium announced that it will team with the Atlanta Police Department to implement security measures to prevent and reduce crime at its four member institutions – Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College. The $700,000 project will include the installation of 35 new security cameras and the utilization of five license plate readers. The camera feeds will be monitored 24/7 by campus police and at the Atlanta Police Department’s video integration center.

Officials at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., have proposed the replacement and expansion of the university’s access control system. The project will convert all existing access-controlled doors to a new system and expand electronic control to major academic buildings. The system will also be able to provide centralized lockdown functionality in response to active shooter incidents, which are increasing on university campuses at an alarming rate. This $7.2 million project is expected to beginning with the 2018 school year.

Virginia State University (VSU) hopes to spend $3.26 million in campus-wide safety and security improvements. After a series of events involving VSU students, the university hired a security consultant to perform a campus evaluation and make recommendations for improvements. If funded by the Virginia Legislature, the project will install new LED lighting at educational and general-use buildings, parking lots and sidewalks/paths. The university will also install a new traffic/security gate to curtail campus access. Additionally, the university has plans to provide electronic card access at all academic and administrative buildings. The funding of these projects is currently scheduled for 2018.

It’s a new world – and a more dangerous world.  More resources and funding are critically needed to ensure campus safety for students, instructors and visitors.

Sanctuary cities in danger of losing federal funding

Since president-elect Donald Trump promised to end federal funding to sanctuary cities many city and county leaders around the country have been wondering what that might mean for them. The term sanctuary city doesn’t have a legal definition. Jurisdictions that consider themselves sanctuary cities generally have policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has identified 364 counties and 39 cities that have policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration officials. For many jurisdictions, this means declining to hold suspected undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release dates. Some jurisdictions have laws preventing police officers from asking the immigration status of residents. Often this policy is implemented to encourage immigrant communities to report crimes or cooperate with police.

The president-elect and many other proponents of tougher immigration enforcement have said sanctuary city policies allow criminals to go free. Undocumented immigrants could commit more crimes that would have been prevented if they had been deported.

The federal funding in danger of being pulled has not been specified. Federal law currently prohibits any agency from restraining the exchange of information among federal, state and local agencies regarding the immigration status of individuals. The code specifies jurisdictions in violation could be denied grants from the justice department. The federal funding in question could be limited to some justice department funds for police departments or a new federal policy could be created to include all federal funding going to jurisdictions designated as sanctuary cities.

San Francisco is a high-profile sanctuary city with $1 billion, or 10 percent of the city’s budget, coming directly from the federal government or from state programs using federal funds. The city has had laws in place to protect undocumented immigrants for 27 years. In 2005, in a case Trump has referred to multiple times as a reason for ending sanctuary cities, an undocumented immigrant allegedly killed a San Francisco woman after being released from sheriff’s custody.

“We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at a recent unity rally.

The San Francisco Police Department receives around $52 million from the state and $2.8 million directly from the federal government. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department receives around $27.5 million from the state and $100,000 from the federal government.

Federal funding accounts for 25 percent of the budget for the District of Columbia, which makes it the sanctuary city with the largest percent of its budget in danger. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser reaffirmed the District’s designation as a sanctuary city in November. The city has a policy not to ask residents about their immigration status.

Denver received $175 million of its city budget from federal funding. Of that $5.4 million has come from justice department funds. The police department released a recent statement that read “Immigration enforcement is handled at the federal level — not by local law enforcement. The Denver Police Department has not participated in those enforcement efforts in the past and will not be involved in the future.”

Critics of sanctuary cities were quick to respond to statements issued by many jurisdictions indicating no change in policies that could be considered providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke recently wrote an opinion column, published in The Hill, in which he took on the leaders of sanctuary cities. Suggesting leaders of sanctuary cities could be prosecuted for their policies.

“It’s time for stand up for the existing federal rule of law. We must have zero-tolerance for people coming into the United States illegally and setting up residence. The first prosecution and conviction of one of these governors, mayors or university presidents vowing to be a sanctuary for illegal aliens will cause all but those wanting to be sacrificial lambs for the cause to cease this dangerous and willful disregard for our nation’s sovereignty.”


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