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Archive for the ‘community design’ Category

The Municipality of Anchorage has a world-class trail system, and over the next few weeks Anchorage will host four public meetings/open houses to work on an update of the Anchorage Trails Plan.

The Anchorage Trails Plan is the third part of Anchorage’s larger Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, which also includes the Anchorage Pedestrian Plan (adopted in October 2007) and the Anchorage Bicycle Plan (adopted in March 2010). The last time the Anchorage Trails Plan was updated was 1997.

According to AMATS/Transportation Planner Erika McConnell, the Municipality of Anchorage has been contacting local trail user groups to provide them with information and have them complete a survey about the plan. A list of the groups already contacted (bicycle, hiking, running, equestrian, sled dogs, ski, skijoring, snowmachine, water/canoe/kayak, etc.) is available on the Transportation Planning/AMATS Anchorage Trails Plan website, and the site encourages other trail groups to contact the Municipality to be included in the process.

The four public meetings/open houses are scheduled for:

  • Anchorage Bowl (#1) — Thursday, April 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Wendler Middle School, 2905 Lake Otis Parkway (south of Northern Lights Blvd)
  • Anchorage Bowl (#2) — Tuesday, May 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Spring Hill Elementary School, 9911 Lake Otis Parkway (south of Abbott Rd)
  • Chugiak-Eagle River — Thursday, May 3, 5:30-7:30 p.m., C-ER Community Room, Eagle River Town Center, 12001 Business Blvd
  • Girdwood — Monday, May 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Girdwood Community Room, Girdwood Library

The Anchorage Trails Plan website has links to the 1997 version of the plan, so people can review it before making their suggestions about what needs to be updated. If you have comments about the 1997 version of the plan and what needs to be updated, or if you have any other trails-related comment, please send it to amatsinfo@muni.org.

In an e-mail to members of the Alaska Randonneurs bicycle group, Kevin Turinsky wrote: “As cyclists, runners, skiers, and walkers, we use these trails, and we pay for these trails. Therefore, I encourage you to take an active role in the planning of Anchorage’s network of trails. More than just providing recreational and transportation opportunities to Anchorage residents and visitors, our well planned and maintained trail system benefits the quality of life for all residents. It makes Anchorage a more attractive and vibrant place to live and work, which is an important consideration for new and innovative businesses and employers considering locating here, as well as attracting productive talent to our community.”

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Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) is one of 12 U.S. Senators who have signed on to co-sponsor the Complete Streets Act of 2011, which was sponsored May 24 by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The bill was read twice on May 24 and referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The Complete Streets Act of 2011, aka S.1056, is “a bill to ensure that all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, children, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities, are able to travel safely and conveniently on and across federally funded streets and highways.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)

Sen. Harkin introduced similar legislation in 2007 and 2009. This time the introduction comes in the wake of the release of a new safety report, Dangerous by Design 2011, which finds that 67 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the last 10 years took place on federal-aid roads. Children, older adults, and minorities are especially at risk. The report notes that from 2000 through 2009, more than 47,700 pedestrians and thousands of bicyclists were killed in road accidents.

“In many places across the country, there is a complete lack of sidewalks and bike lanes. This not only makes our roadways more dangerous for pedestrians, it discourages people from being more active by walking or riding a bike,” Sen. Harkin said. “The legislation I am introducing today aims to address this issue by making streets safer for everyone and promoting healthier living. It is truly a double win for our communities.”

The Complete Streets Act of 2011 creates a national standard as 25 states and more than 200 communities in the U.S. have adopted Complete Streets policies. The National Complete Streets Coalition and many other public interest organizations support the legislation.

In addition to Sen. Begich, the Complete Streets Act of 2011 is co-sponsored by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.).

This bill comes three weeks after Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.)  introduced the similar Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011 (H.R. 1780) into the U.S. House of Representatives, co-sponsored by Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio). That bill has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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(Reprinted from the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage site)

The Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage (BCA) has been coordinating with Lori Schanche and Jon Spring, the drafters of the Anchorage Bike Plan, to identify top projects for implementation of the bike plan. We are seeking your input on what those projects are. To help identify these projects, we have set out the following criteria that we ask you keep in mind while filling the very short survey out:
(1) improving connectivity for major bike routes

(2) providing a safe and comfortable route for those new to bike commuting (routes that utilize streets with less motor vehicle traffic and slower speed limits).

(3) projects that are not costly (i.e projects that mainly require new painting, striping, marking and signage).

(4) projects that can be implemented relatively quickly to improve bicycle route connectivity, convenience, comfort and safety.

Please take the survey by Monday, Dec. 13. You may want to also take a look at the proposed routes from the recently approved Anchorage Bike Plan (file downloads as PDF) to see where these projects are.  If you have questions about a particular route, you can find more information about each project in Table 6 of the Bike Plan on Page 60 (file downloads as PDF).  If you see a proposed route that is not identified in our survey please let us know what that route is in the second survey question.

This information will be passed along to the Alaska Department of Transportation in an upcoming meeting. You can find the survey here:   BCA Bike Survey

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If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember walking or biking to school every day. As recently as 1969, more than half of all U.S. students walked or biked to get to school each morning. Now that percentage is less than 15 percent, and in some areas of the country it is against local laws or school district policies (students have to take the bus or be driven to school by their parents).

That’s why today, Wednesday, Oct. 6, is so important. Today is International Walk (or Bike) to School Day, and schools all over Alaska, the United States and in the rest of the world are promoting students walking or biking to school.

Local schools will hold a variety of promotions, including walking school buses (where students walk to school together with parents as a group), bike trains and the like. In addition to presentations on biking and walking safety, schools will distribute reflectives and other safety equipment. They also might offer door prizes to students who walk or bike to school, or there might be a special breakfast or lunch. Parents can get involved by participating in walkability studies around their local schools to see what barriers and safety issues need to be addressed to get more students walking or biking.

Why is it so important to get kids walking and biking to school again? For one, there has been a sharp rise in childhood obesity and that has resulted in more cases of Type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes) appearing in teenagers and even young children. Besides helping improve our children’s health, getting them walking and biking helps them reconnect to our communities and the land. There also is improved air quality, since fewer students rely on the bus or cars to get to school, and routes to school tend to be safer when more students walk or bike to school. One of the biggest issues is changing the culture to promote walking and biking to school, and according to this article in Grist, that starts with the parents.

The International Walk (or Bike) To School Day site for the U.S. lists schools in Anchorage, Wasilla, Cordova, Seward and Tok as places in Alaska with events scheduled today, and there are many more events that aren’t posted on the site. Some events are tied in with education projects, such as one as Anchorage’s Kasuun Elementary School called “Exercise your right to read,” where students are trying to walk/bike 26 miles over a period of time and read 26 minutes a day. There also is a statewide School Health and Wellness Institute meeting in Anchorage today, and many of the state’s injury prevention and health promotion workers at the event will go to Scenic Park Elementary School to assist with its program today.

Since today is International Walk (or Bike) to School Day, people may wonder if it’s too late to stage an event. In many communities, they are making this a year-long event and not linking it to just one day. The CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program has the Kids Walk To School campaign, which includes many of the concepts of International Walk (or Bike) to School Day.

The Safe Routes To School program, which has statewide and national initiatives, promotes International Walk (or Bike) to School Day in Alaska, and it also promotes community design to make walking and biking a year-long event. The program offers tools for parents who want to make their children’s routes to school safer, and it also offers grants to help them promote safe walking and biking to school.

Another good resource is the Safe Kids USA program’s “Safe Kids Walk This Way” initiative, which focuses on injury prevention. The WalkScore.com site is a good resource for checking out the walkability of your neighborhood.

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Since 2003, cities and towns across the United States have been able to apply for Bicycle Friendly Community awards offered through the League of American Bicyclists.

Starting in November, American cities and towns will be able to apply for Walk Friendly Community awards through a new program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. The new program will be maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, with the support of 17 national partner organizations.

According to the Walk Friendly Communities website:

Walk Friendly Communities is a national recognition program developed to encourage towns and cities across the U.S. to establish or recommit to a high priority for supporting safer walking environments. The WFC program will recognize communities that are working to improve a wide range of conditions related to walking, including safety, mobility, access, and comfort.

The new program currently is in its second round of pilot testing with five unnamed communities selected in July. The first round of testing featured three communities of varying demographics — a small town (Cedarburg, Wis.), a small town with a college and commuter population (Davidson, N.C.), and a large city (Orlando, Fla.).

The Walk Friendly Community program will borrow heavily from the Bicycle

Roof supports and a narrow sidewalk make for tight passage by Brenner's Store in downtown Sitka, especially on cruise days during the summer.

Roof supports and a narrow sidewalk make for tight passage by Brenner's Store in downtown Sitka, especially on cruise days during the summer.

Friendly Community award program, which already has been adapted to create a Bicycle Friendly Business, Bicycle Friendly State and, announced just this week, a new Bicycle Friendly University award program (by the way, 18 new and eight renewing Bicycle Friendly Community awards were announced on Wednesday).

The Walk Friendly Community program will use the same 5 E’s model used by the Bicycle Friendly Community program (Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation), in addition to other elements that affect a community’s walkability such as city planning and Complete Streets designs. Each of the 5 E’s heads a section where communities answer a series of questions about that topic within the application. By answering the questions using the 5 E’s model, communities are able to discover any barriers to walking that exist in their town and what they also learn what they do well when it comes to making it easier for residents to walk around town.

The 59-page Walk Friendly Communities Assessment Tool (see attached PDF file below) was released on Sept. 1 and will serve as the rough draft for the new program’s application, which will be filled out and turned in online. Even though the new program hasn’t been launched yet, there already are a multitude of excellent resources posted on the program’s website to help communities evaluate their community walkability rating.

Several communities won’t earn the Walk Friendly Community award on their first application, but the application is designed to help communities develop and document their pedestrian safety and encouragement plans. Only about a third of the more than 400 communities that have applied for Bicycle Friendly Community status earned awards at one of the five levels of that program. But completing the application served as a community learning process and that helped even non-winning communities improve their support and infrastructure for biking and walking.

Sitka and Anchorage already have earned Bicycle Friendly Community bronze awards, so they may be ahead of the game among Alaska communities when the Walk Friendly Community applications finally are released. But Alaska communities have some of the highest rates of walking in the country when it comes to walking to work and school, despite our snowy and icy winters, so this new program may be a perfect fit for many Alaska towns.

• Walk Friendly Communities Assessment Tool (released Sept. 1, 2010)

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Phillips Field Road in Fairbanks during the winter

Phillips Field Road in Fairbanks during the winter

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner columnist Dermot Cole wrote an interesting story for the Thursday, Aug. 26, edition of the newspaper, telling the story of a road construction project gone wrong for Fairbanks cyclists and pedestrians.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities recently rebuilt the east end of Phillips Field Road, which runs through an industrial section of Fairbanks between the Chena River and the Johansen Expressway, with part of the road next to some Alaska Railroad land (click here for map). But the upgrade did not widen the road or add shoulders to make things safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Even though this is an industrial area of Fairbanks, there also are some popular stores, such as Spenard Builders Supply, on Phillips Field Road.

Long before construction began on this project, local officials were pushing for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Alaska Railroad to figure out a way to make the road safer and wider.

But the road is not wider and the shoulders that are about eight feet wide near the Ice Park, dwindle down to nothing by the time you approach the main part of the railroad yard. The only concession for pedestrian and bicyclists appears to be the signs that say “Shoulder Narrows” and “Share the Road.”

From what I’ve found, it appears that the budget, the design schedule and a lack of cooperation between the state transportation department and the railroad combined to produce a result that is not what it should be.

Both agencies will dispute this. But they should look back at the decision-making process to see whether things could have been done differently to end up with a better situation.

Cole goes on to write about how it appears that the voices of several key stakeholders were not heard or considered when the road was planned. It also appears there were bureaucratic hurdles that weren’t cleared, especially regarding an expired easement the state had on some railroad land. Even though there were calls for a wider road with shoulders, the plan without these improvements went ahead for expediency’s sake.

The railroad and the transportation department should be called upon to not act like sovereign nations, but to make an overall judgment about what is best for public safety in the broadest sense.

What’s not clear to me is if there was any attempt by the two agencies to strike a balance in which rail safety and the safety of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists are considered. If not, the process is flawed.

What’s sad about this fiasco is that in March, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced a major change in national road project priorities.

“We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects,” he said. “We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.” LaHood also announced seven recommendations for state and local departments of transportation, including treating bicycling and walking as equal forms of transportation modes.

These recommendations obviously weren’t followed in Fairbanks and now there is about a half-mile of Phillips Field Road with “no shoulders to speak of,” even after this $2 million “upgrade.”

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Local bicycle and pedestrian advocates have two new resources that will help them get Complete Streets for their communities.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking this week released a new edition of its Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns, a 117-page book that updates the 2006 edition with Complete Streets policy examples and other tools for local advocates. To learn more about the book, click here.

The book was made possible with support from Planet Bike and assistance from the National Complete Streets Coalition. Since 2006, more than 100 state and local jurisdictions have adopted new Complete Streets policies that require transportation projects include safe accommodations for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

According to a press release from the Alliance for Biking & Walking, Alliance President/CEO Jeff Miller says this new manual could be a catalyst for groups to kick-start or super-charge a successful campaign in their area.

“This updated guide is a key resource for grassroots advocates pursuing Complete Streets policies for their states and cities,” Miller says. “This compilation shares the step-by-step actions and lessons learned from peers across the country, making it the most up-to-date and on-the-ground advice for winning Complete Streets.”

The press release also includes the following book description:

Book Description: Our nation’s transportation system poses significant challenges for the third of our citizens who do not drive. A full 13 percent of traffic deaths are bicyclists and pedestrians, yet most roadways are still being built with only motor vehicles in mind. Complete Streets policies require that future transportation projects ensure safe accommodation of all users. Bicyclists, motorists, transit vehicles and users, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities safely and enjoyably travel along and across complete streets. The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns compiles a blueprint for winning a complete streets policy in your city, region, state, or province. Filled with models from past and current campaigns and tips from advocacy leaders in the field, this guide is an indispensable resource for the new or seasoned advocate working towards complete streets.

The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s Guide to Complete Streets Campaigns is part of a series of Alliance guides, which aim to build the capacity of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations. To purchase the guide online visit http://www.PeoplePoweredMovement.org/publications.

Also released this month is a new book from the National Complete Streets Coalition and the American Planning Association, Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices. The book was partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s STEP program.

Barbara McCann, one of the book’s writers, wrote this description of the project on the National Complete Streets Coalition’s website. “The report is based on thirty case studies of states, cities, counties, and MPOs that have adopted and are implementing Complete Streets policies. Suzanne Rynne, Stefanie Seskin, David Morley, myself, and a number of other APA and Coalition staffers talked to dozens of planners, engineers, and other insiders about what it took to adopt a policy in their state or community and the techniques they are using to fully integrate multi-modal planning into every transportation project.”

The case studies showed the researchers what strategies were working and also added new information about how communities go about getting Complete Streets policies implemented. They also learned how advocating for Complete Streets policies helps communities communicate their transportation priorities to local and state governments.

McCann adds:

A few of the case studies really stand out; their thoughtful and thorough implementation practices can almost be a guide unto themselves. Charlotte, North Carolina (already the basis for our Complete Streets Workshop system) is one of these, as is Seattle, Washington. In fact, Seattle has come up with an elegant answer to the frequent question of what to do when a project budget simply won’t allow full realization of a Complete Streets design. In Seattle, they make sure that this need is added to a future projects list, and they look for ways to fulfill it.

Perhaps the most inspiring theme in the publication is the way that Complete Streets policies have empowered planners and engineers to tackle a new challenge with creativity and innovation. In almost every case study, planners and engineers have invented new ways to consult with partners, deal with limited right-of-way, and save on costs.

You can get an idea of the breadth of the report from the table of contents; the first two chapters focus on policy adoption, and the next two on the steps to integrating Complete Streets into transportation planning processes. Chapters Six and Seven expand on the issue of paying for Complete Streets, and the many different ways communities have tackled design considerations. The final chapter summarizes twelve lessons learned; readers will undoubtedly draw many more. You can get a sneak peak by reading Chapter Five: Making the Transition, which we have posted to our website (as a PDF file). The full report is available for purchase from the American Planning Association, and please let us know what you think of it.

At this point, no Alaska communities nor the State of Alaska have adopted Complete Streets policies, but several Alaska groups are encouraging their implementation. The Alaska Public Health Association passed a resolution advocating for Complete Streets at the Alaska Health Summit in December. The Anchorage Bicycle Plan unanimously passed by the Anchorage Assembly in March includes several proposals based on the Complete Streets model, but doesn’t fully implement Complete Streets. The Alaska Transportation Priorities Project also promoted Complete Streets principles when it released its Alaska Campaign for Active Transportation: Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla in 2008.

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