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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