Ride a bike, share your experience and love. When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart. ~Diane Ackerman

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Complete Streets, Equal Access for Bicycles

Complete Streets: It's About More Than Just Bike Lanes from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Eco Man - Taking Action on Law Requiring Equal Access for Bicycle, Pedestrians
The News of New Canaan, Connecticut
By Richard Stowe
Link: http://www.acorn-online.com/joomla15/ncadvertiser/columns-letters-to-editor/117802-eco-man--taking action-on-law-requiring-equal-access-for-bicycles-pedestrians.html

No matter where the destination is in New Canaan, or Fairfield County — a gym, 5K race, grocery store, work, art exhibit, restaurant, country club, movie theater, Fourth of July fireworks, or school sporting event — the trip will most likely be made by motor vehicle.

Fifty-two percent of trips one-half mile or less in the United States are by motor vehicle. Almost 70% of Americans' car trips are two miles or less and 90% of Americans' trips two miles, or less are by car. Social conditioning is the driving force behind the transportation choices we make, and that is reinforced by institutional bias — driver's education, but no bike education; state DOT policies that prohibit bike access on key bridges and highways and designs and streets designed for vehicles not people.

Complete streets is an inclusive transportation planning paradigm that allows for "safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation" within the entire right-of-way of roads and streets. The goal of complete streets policies is to create a level playing field for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation users. Advocates suggest complete streets make it easy to bicycle, or walk to downtown shops, work, or train stations.

Complete streets are not constrained by a single design prescription. Complete streets respond to community context. Complete streets may result in, but are not limited to, narrower travel lanes, wider paved shoulders, bike lanes, sidewalks, roundabouts, median islands, or curb extensions.

David Goldberg of Smart Growth America coined "complete streets." In 2003, Barbara McCann asked the America Bikes board to substitute the term "routine accommodation" with "complete streets." America Bikes set up a Complete Streets Task Force composed of the American Society of Landscape Architects, American Planning Association, American Public Transportation Association, AARP and the American Heart Association.

Today America Bike's Complete Streets Task Force is the National Complete Streets Coalition Steering Committee. In 2005, the task force member groups provided funding to establish the National Complete Streets Coalition to foster the adoption of complete streets policies at municipal, state and federal levels. Substituting the wonky term "routine accommodation" with "complete streets" has paid off in spades. As of March 2012, complete streets policies have been endorsed and adopted by 26 states and 343 jurisdictions in the United States.

Connecticut is one of those states. In 2009, then Gov. Jodi M. Rell signed "An Act Improving Bicycle and Pedestrian Access" into law. The law established the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, which has met monthly since its inception in December 2009.

One group that played a role in the passage of the legislation was Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance. The alliance was the brainchild of Sandy Fry, principal transportation planner at Capitol Region Council of Governments. Fry formed the alliance "to provided a vehicle to carry forward the bike to work program" — which she had initiated, "and to provide a central Connecticut bicycle advocacy group."

The alliance reinvented itself as Bike Walk Connecticut and held two Bike Walk Summits in November of 2010 and 2011.

In 2010, Tim Blumental, president of Bikes Belong, was the keynote speaker. Then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now U.S. Senator) argued that bicycle infrastructure is cost effective. Other speakers suggested low-cost means to achieve complete streets, such as re-striping roads with 10 to 11 foot travel lanes (a benefit to bicyclists), raised crosswalks, curb extensions, refuge islands and roundabouts. The causality between high rates of bicycling and walking and lower rates of disease and high rates of obesity and auto-dependency was noted, as was the medical complications and costs of obesity. Fry stressed the importance of teaching bike education principles, such as proper positioning, bike control and hazard avoidance.

In 2011, Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, gave the keynote address. Clarke pointed out that there is safety in numbers. He cited the growth from 2,850 to 14,563 in daily ridership during a 16-year period on four main bicycle bridges in Portland, Ore., while the bicycle crash rate (the ratio of reported crashes to bicycle commuters) declined from 544 to 128.

He pointed out that bicycle commuter rates are three to four times higher in the league's designated "Bicycle Friendly Communities" than the national average. In bicycle friendly communities, 48% of arterials have bike lanes; in other communities the rate is 5%. (New Canaan has no bike lanes.)

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