SHORT TAKES: FROM DESIGN ABSTRACTION TO DAILY FACTS: Bridges Aren’t Highways; Who Are We Designing For; The Impact of Surfaces; Why “Bike Sharrows” Aren’t Enough.
A few quick thoughts….Even in the city, some bridges contain long stretches of uninterrupted pavement; does that mean that they are a kind of “highway?” Or are they better seen as part of the urban network, just another city street? But even then, a bridge is not “just” a city street, especially if its over a river it is also a special place in itself – a place that people, if given the chance, would love to walk over, sit down on, and look out from.
In a parallel vein, its time that the American cycling community stopped using the wanna-be racer as the “model user” for bike design. Speed and sleekness are not what every bicyclist is looking for – sturdiness, ease of use, the ability to carry packages or children are top priorities for an increasing percentage of the market.Read more
Creating change requires awareness and good intentions. It also requires muscle.
Massachusetts now has a long list of laws and regulations requiring the transformation of our transportation system from car-centric to multi-modal, from speedways to pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly “complete streets”, from polluting to clean, from energy-wasting to sustainable, from green-house-gas emitting to climate-friendly, from disease and obesity facilitating to active and healthy.
But it’s not clear how much muscle all the new laws and regulations provide for those who seek to create the 21st century transportation system our political leaders have promised, either in mass transit or in road design (which is the focus on this post). Transportation Secretary Jeff Mullan seems committed to change and MassDOT has begun a major civic input effort. But little has yet been done to change the existing transportation decision-making process to give increased leverage to groups with a stake in moving away from our car-centric status quo.Read more
With GreenDot, Massachusetts has placed itself among the national leaders on climate-protecting, sustainable, healthy transportation. And the challenges MassDOT has to deal with as it moves from general policies to effective action under fiscal constraint will create a path that other state’s will need to follow.Read more
Some more thoughts about how to make it safer for cyclists to get through intersections, how we walk/ride on paths, and how to speed bus traffic through congested streets.
IMPROVING INTERSECTION SAFETY — Let Bikes Go When an Early Walk Signal Flashes
GETTING PEOPLE OFF CENTER — Paint Center Lines in Multi-use Paths
THE VEHICLES OF CHOICE – Why Buses and Bikes Are the Only Modes That Will Solve Urban Transportation Problems.
SPEEDING UP THE BUS: PrioritizationRead more
One of the core insights of political strategic is the need to set expectations. Right now, the state is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the Charles River bridges from falling into the river and (after being pressured by advocates) to re-align the surface layout to provide greater access and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic on all the bridges has been congested for years, from long before the repair work began. Actually, the problem is mostly caused by the crazy intersections and rotaries at the entrances and exits to the bridges, rather than on the bridge span itself – although we tend not to think of it in this way.Read more
We all know that being physically activity is good for you — good for your weight, good for your overall health, good for your mood, and good as a way to get around. But recent research suggests that bicycling is particularly good — even better than other forms of physical activity. This is important because, other than public transportation — whose routes are limited and expansion is very expensive — cycling is the only real large-scale alternative to cars for short, every-day trips and commutes. It is also important because it means that we need to be prioritizing bike facilities in every transportation plan and road design.Read more
How Can We Avoid Ending Up With Bridges That Are Structurally Sound But Functionally Obsolete?
State Highway Division officials say that the Accelerated Bridge Program legislation requires that they focus on fixing structural deficiencies. Their mantra is “no scope creep, no schedule creep, on time and within budget” meaning that roadways around the bridges are not to be dealt with and bicycle or pedestrian facilities only added if extra funds allow. Advocates say that the ABP legislation has significant flexibility and that subsequent passage of the state’s transportation restructuring act totally changes the context for bridge and road work – making improved mobility for all the core value and therefore requiring that bicycling and walking be given equal consideration as car traffic from conceptual design to construction.
Who is right? Give the speed at which the bridge work is supposed to occur, the decision will have to come from the new MassDOT Board or from Secretary Mullan. But the Board tends to see itself as a fiscal watchdog rather than a policy-making body – so the ball is in the Secretary’s court!Read more
It’s good that road designers are professionally conservative – you don’t want bridges falling down because someone just thought it would be fun to try an off-beat idea. But the world is changing, even though some traffic engineers aren’t always comfortable letting go of the car-centric, suburbs-oriented, Interstate-model of transportation they were trained to create.
Massachusetts’ Secretary of Transportation, Jeff Mullan, has said that he wants to create a new MassDOT that fully implements the Healthy Transportation Compact aspects of the act creating the unified agency. The restructuring act requires MassDOT to “…encourage the construction of complete streets, designed and operated to enable safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and bus riders of all ages to safely move along and across roadways in urban and suburban areas…[and to] increase bicycle and pedestrian travel…”Read more
The Charles River is one of the defining features of our region. From the time humans first arrived, we have used it for sustenance, pleasure, and travel. While the basin feels like a refuge of nature in the midst of our urban lives, nearly every inch of the river – from the shore to the deepest channel – has been shaped by human activity. The river and the structures around it need to be managed to preserve their value to the life cycle while maximizing their human functionality.
In particular, the bridges over the river can help connect our communities, provide access to the riverbank, and be an aesthetic asset. Or they can make travel difficult, even dangerous, block us off from the river, and serve as walls preventing movement on or beside the water. As the state begins a once-in-a-lifetime process of repairing and improving almost every bridge along the Charles, we need to make sure that it’s done right.Read more
Aren’t we already walkable? We’ve got short blocks and a decent amount of mixed-use development, which encourage using your feet. Nearly 5% of our adult population walks to work, second only to New York. But most of our advantages are the dwindling remains of our colonial and immigrant inheritance – narrow winding streets, buildings fronting the sidewalk, three-decker density, scattered neighborhood business districts. Unfortunately, we have done our best over the past 50 years to catch up with the rest of car-centric America.
It should not be surprising that pedestrian accidents in Boston have jumped by 21 percent since 2006, reaching 776 last year according to police statistics. Fatalities have increased to 20 in 2008 from eight in 2005. Jaywalking is a local sport, and no one feels safe.Read more