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Posts Tagged ‘Complete Streets’

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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Last week, the League of American Bicyclists released its annual Bicycle Friendly State rankings as part of National Bike Month celebrations. Here is a USA Today story about state improvements in bicycling, with a sidebar listing the Bicycle Friendly State rankings for 2011.

“The good news is Alaska rose from 39th last year to 29th this year,” Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities bicycle and pedestrian coordinator Bob Laurie wrote in an e-mail. “The bad news is that the League gives Alaska a ‘D’ for its efforts, meaning there is still much work that needs to be done to make bicycling better.”

For the fourth year in a row, Washington leads the rankings. But Maine has moved into the No. 2 spot, followed by Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Jersey to round out the top five. The bottom five states are Montana at No. 46, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota and West Virginia at No. 50.

Alaska has made great strides to move up the rankings, where it ranked just 43rd in 2008 and a dismal 47th in 2009. Since 2008, Alaska has added three Bicycle Friendly CommunitiesSitka (2008, bronze), Anchorage (2009, bronze) and Juneau (2011, bronze). Alaska also has added six Bicycle Friendly BusinessesAnchorage Native Tribal Health Consortium (2009, gold), Southcentral Foundation (2010, silver), Green Star Inc. (2009, bronze), Providence Alaska Medical Center (2010, bronze), REI-Anchorage (2011, bronze) and Alaska Pacific University (2011, honorable mention).

These are great strides, but Alaska still has a long way to go before it really is a true Bicycle Friendly State. Like most of the states in the rankings, Alaska earned a D for its cumulative score in the 95-question survey the League of American Bicyclists gives to state coordinators each year to compile the ranking (which are verified by bicycle advocates). No state earned an A, and only the top six states earned B’s and the next 12 states earned C’s. The bottom 12 states earned F’s.

The survey ranks states in six different categories. Alaska received two F’s in individual categories (Policies and Programs, and Enforcement) and four D’s (Legislation, Infrastructure, Education and Encouragement, and Evaluation and Planning). Last year, Alaska received three F’s, two D’s and a C.

How can Alaska improve its ranking? Getting the Legislature to pass HB 57 (Alaska’s Bike Bill) will help. HB 57 passed the House Transportation Committee and will be in the House Finance Committee when the Legislature reconvenes in January. It needs to pass both the House and Senate next year, then be signed by Gov. Sean Parnell. Other ways  to improve our ranking include passing a three-foot safe passing law (found in 19 states so far), a vulnerable user bill (found in four states so far) and a Complete Streets law (just introduced on a national level).

• 2011 Bicycle Friendly State rankings and grades

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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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Preston Tyree with his travel bike during a 2007 Road I bike safety course in Sitka

Preston Tyree with his travel bike during a 2007 Road I bike safety course in Sitka

Come hear DC-based transportation expert Preston Tyree speak on ‘Complete Streets’ and how they increase transportation choices at The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center (625 C St.) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31, in the museum auditorium. This event is co-sponsored by Alaska Transportation Priorities Project, Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage, Anchorage Citizens Coalition, Alaska Center for the Environment and the Spenard Complete Streets Coalition (Facebook page).

According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, “Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street.”

Preston has more than 20 years of experience working on transportation issues. Currently he is the Director of Education for the League of American Bicyclists, the organization that designated Sitka a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community in 2008 and Anchorage a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community in 2009.

Come join us to hear Preston’s ideas on how to apply Complete Streets in Anchorage!

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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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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit on March 11, 2010, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland)

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit last week at the Dirksen Senate Chambers in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland)

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates from around the country received a pleasant surprise when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood jumped up on a hearing room table at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., to thank the crowd and to reconfirm his support for biking and walking. The next day, LaHood announced a major new DOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation, Regulations and Recommendations. “It is simply the strongest statement of support for prioritizing bicycling and walking ever to come from a sitting secretary of transportation,” the League of American Bicyclists noted on the group’s blog.

On his own Welcome to the Fast Lane blog, LaHood wrote:

Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. 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.

To set this approach in motion, we have formulated key recommendations for state DOTs and communities:

• Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
• Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
• Go beyond minimum design standards.
• Collect data on walking and biking trips.
• Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
• Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
• Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

Now, this is a start, but it’s an important start. These initial steps forward will help us move forward even further.

If you want to see and hear LaHood’s tabletop speech, here are video links from the League of American Bicyclists and the StreetsBlogSF channels on YouTube.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit on March 11, 2010, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jeffrey Martin of the League of American Bicyclists)

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood addresses the National Bike Summit on March 11, 2010, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo © Jeffrey Martin of the League of American Bicyclists)

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates around the country praised LaHood’s announcement, which some think might lead to a national Complete Streets policy. The new DOT policy even addresses concerns such as snow removal from sidewalks and shared-use paths, which is a major issue during Alaska winters. In addition to praising LaHood’s announcement, the National Complete Streets Coalition blog noted that the Institute of Transportation Engineers at its conference Monday in Savannah, Ga., announced a new recommended practice for designing multi-modal urban streets, Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach.

Unfortunately, not everybody was happy with LaHood’s announcement and on March 17 several Republicans ridiculed bike lanes and even LaHood (a former Republican Representative from Illinois) during a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. The Courthouse News Service reported that Ohio Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette even asked during the hearing if there still was mandatory drug testing in the Department of Transportation.

A blog post on the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage site said LaHood’s announcement couldn’t have been more timely, since the Anchorage Assembly and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan are working on the Anchorage Bicycle Plan, which is up for additional public hearings and a possible vote during the Tuesday, March 23, meeting of the Anchorage Assembly (5 p.m. at the Assembly Chambers at Z.J. Loussac Library, Agenda Item 13-C, click agenda link for supporting documents). The Anchorage Bicycle Plan previously was discussed during the March 2 meeting of the Anchorage Assembly, and video is available from this link. If you can attend the meeting, take your bike helmet to show your support. If you can’t attend, the meeting is televised on Channel 10 in Anchorage.

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The Anchorage Bicycle Plan comes up for a public hearing in front of the Anchorage Assembly at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, at the Anchorage Assembly Chambers at Z.J. Loussac Library.

Longtime Anchorage community trails activist Lanie Fleischer wrote an excellent opinion piece about the Anchorage Bicycle Plan in last week’s Anchorage Daily News. Brian Litmans of Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage and Municipality of Anchorage non-motorized transportation plan coordinator Lori Schanche were guests last week on KSKA-FM’s “Hometown, Alaska” show where they discussed the plan with host Kathleen McCoy.

The Anchorage Bicycle Plan deals with improving bicycle facilities, bike paths, trails, bike racks, safety and other aspects of biking around Anchorage. The Municipality of Anchorage was named Alaska’s second Bicycle Friendly Community (behind Sitka) by the League of American Bicyclists in October 2009, but the plan will make Anchorage more bicycle-friendly.

It’s not part of the bike plan, but one area of concern is a Municipal Traffic Department Title IX rewrite being done by the Anchorage Police Department. This rewrite reverses current code and requires bicycles other non-motorized users to yield to cars at all intersections. Thomas Pease wrote a nice editorial in the Anchorage Press about how this will have a negative impact on cyclists. This rewrite goes against the principles of the plan.

So far several of the local community councils in Anchorage have come out in support of the plan and passed resolutions to show it. So have many local bicycle clubs, such as the Arctic Bicycle Club. Most Assembly members and the mayor also appear to support the plan. If you do show up to the Assembly meeting to show your support, please bring your helmet so the Assembly can see how many bikers are in favor of the plan.

By the way, Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage is hosting the Anchorage Winter Bicycle Festival and Fundraiser from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the BP Energy Center. If the Anchorage Bicycle Plan passes on Tuesday, Saturday night’s event could make for a nice celebration.

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