A Collaborative Effort Between the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, New Community Project, Voluntary Gas Tax, City of Harrisonburg and Davis Bicycles. This trip is funded 100% by donations.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Spokes" on hburgnews

Here's a post on hburgnews.com, Harrisonburg's community news blog, about "Spokes" with some comments from Robb Davis and Paulette Moore.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Spokes - The Biking Movie

Check out the documentary of the Harrisonburg-Davis Bike Trip called "Spokes" by Paulette Moore. Its posted on Paulette's website in 6 parts, that in total runs about 30 minutes. Paulette truly peddled harder and further than any of us on the trip! To capture all this great footage she frequently had to bike ahead of us, quickly get out her equipment, film us as we rode past her, then quickly put her equipment away and catch up with us. Thanks Paulette for capturing this great trip and capturing moments with so many great people.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Presentation Tonight at 6pm and Posted Q&A

Tonight we are doing a presentation and Q&A for the Harrisonburg community about the trip to Davis. It'll be at 6:00pm-7:30pm at Blue Nile.

I'm posting here a collection of questions from city staff, councilmembers, citizens, etc. and answers we collected during our trip:

Questions & Preliminary Answers from the Harrisonburg-Davis Trip. Last Updated: March 23, 2010

Collected questions from Harrisonburg City Staff, Council members, Citizens, and others. Additional answers will be provided once they are received.

TRIP BACKGROUND

This trip was funded and organized primarily by the Voluntary Gas Tax Group, Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, New Community Project, Davis Bicycles! and members of the Harrisonburg and Davis communities.

The following individuals attended the trip: Mayor Kai Degner (City Council), Muawia Dames (Planning Commission), Thanh Dang (Public Works Department), Thomas Jenkins (SVBC), Tom Benevento (NCP/VGT), and Lara Mack (NCP).

A blog archiving reflections and pictures of this trip can be read at www.harrisonburgdavistrip.blogspot.com.

Photos and short videos of the trip can be found at:
Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 -

DAVIS/ UC DAVIS BACKGROUND

The City of Davis, California has a population of 64,000 people in 10 square miles. The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is located outside of city limits within Yolo County and is 8.3 square miles. Davis is bisected by one interstate and one freeway through the city. Davis has been planning for bicycles since the late-1960s and installed their first bicycle lanes in the 1970s. Most of Davis was developed after the 1960s. Davis climate is dry, hot summers and mild winters.

Davis has been awarded “Platinum” status as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. City of Davis Bicycle Map can be downloaded at, http://cityofdavis.org/bicycles/maps.cfm.

SACRAMENTO BACKGROUND

The City of Sacramento, California has a population of 465,000 and is 92 square miles. California State University, Sacramento is the major local university. The climate is characterized by cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Sacramento has been awarded “Bronze” status as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

SAN FRANCISCO BACKGROUND

The City of San Francisco, California has a population of about 800,000 and is 232 square miles. The climate is characterized by mild, wet winters and dry summers. San Francisco is also famous for its hills. San Francisco has been awarded “Gold” status as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. The San Francisco Bicycle Map can be downloaded at, http://www.sfbike.org/download/map.pdf. Notice contour lines on the map.
All three cities are considered by the US EPA as being in nonattainment areas for 1-hour ozone violation.

KEY TERMS

• Bicycle lanes – delineate the travelway for bicyclists on the road, separated from motor vehicle traffic by a painted white line.

• Greenbelts – In Davis, greenbelts are publicly owned, linear greenspaces with a shared use path. The goal of the greenbelt system is to provide connections between schools, neighborhoods, playgrounds, shopping centers, etc. Greenbelts are about 100 ft wide with variations in width depending on existing conditions. There are a few greenbelts that are private and a public access agreement between the city and owner exists. Davis city staff expressed that greenbelts are why property values are higher in Davis than in neighboring communities.

• Shared use paths – off-road corridors separated from the road system. Typically paved 10-ft wide. In Davis, most shared use paths are located within greenbelts.

PLANNING & FUNDING

1. How were/are Davis’ bicycle facilities planned for and funded?
Neighborhoods in Davis are planned around greenbelts (Davis’ network of shared use paths). Developers are required to put in shared use paths as part of rezoning or permits.

Davis uses new development as a big contributor towards leveraging new bicycle and pedestrian facilities developing "an ordinance to hold housing developers financially accountable for integrating greenbelts into new housing subdivisions." Davis has also established development impact fees to help pay for the improvements to transportation facilities, parks, sewers, schools, etc. that are needed as new developments put pressure on existing infrastructure. Roadway impact fees have been positive for the city and there is continuing policy discussions on using that funding not just for vehicles but to use for multi-modal transportation.

An observation made is that bicycle planning is integrated into every department and staff position in Davis. Davis has one full-time Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator but the planners develop plans and review plans with bicycle needs in mind.
Article on the history of Davis Greenbelts
Listing of Davis’ development impact fees.

2. How does the State of California fund bicycle facilities?
Davis city staff expressed that state funding is generally insufficient even when combined with local dollars. Noted are the gas tax, and Proposition 42. More information here.

Davis city staff explained that localities in California do not get allocations for roadways based on lane miles like in Virginia. Davis city staff noted that most other communities a lot of general funds go to street/roads, more so than in Davis.

3. How much did the bicycle bridge over I-80 and underpasses cost? When was it constructed?
Answer from Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming.

4. How much did the Putah Creek Bike Path, tunnel under the freeway cost?
The Putah Creek Bike Path was completed in October 2000. Built over 18 months at a cost of $4.5 million, the 12-foot wide Putah Creek path crosses under Interstate 80, helping cyclists avoid a busy traffic interchange. The project was financed by $750,000 in Proposition 116 funds, $250,000 in development impact fees, and $3.5 million in redevelopment agency funds.

5. Are there any road facilities in Davis where bicycles are prohibited? Are there higher volume roadways that bicycles are discouraged from using and alternative facilities provided or routes designated?
There are no road facilities in Davis where bicycles are prohibited. Bike lanes are established on nearly all arterial and collector streets in the city.

In Sacramento, the goal appeared to also have bike lanes or routes established on major streets in the city. However, Sacramento also provides bicycle routes using share the road and shared lane markings on what they call “Class 3” routes, which are signed/marked bicycle routes where the traffic volumes are lower but there are a lot of stop signs which may be undesirable, typically residential collector-type streets.

6. Other Significant Findings
The City of Davis bought a house in a neighborhood, demolished it, and constructed a shared use path through the parcel to make a connection from the neighborhood street to the greenbelt.

The new connection reduced ¼ mile bicycling and walking commute for students and provided students with a travel route that kept them off of busy streets.

Sacramento reported that the City budgets $30,000 per year towards a bicycle rack program to add new bicycle racks on city right-of-ways.

FACILITIES & DESIGN

7. Are all shared use paths in Davis for bicyclists and pedestrians or are they only for bicyclists? How about skateboarders, rollerbladers, etc?
All shared use paths in Davis are for all non-vehicular modes including bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboards, and rollerbladers. Service vehicles are permitted on the shared use path. Davis city staff are exploring the use of smaller service/maintenance vehicles/golf carts/etc. for use on the shared use path rather than heavier pickup trucks which causes more pressures and pre-mature damage to the path’s pavement.

8. For those areas where bicycle facilities are designated on the roadway (area between the curb), how do the road widths compare to those of Harrisonburg particularly in Downtown or other high traffic areas? Downtown Harrisonburg generally has streets that are narrower than other downtowns and no reasonable means of gaining more width.

In Davis, the roadways are generally wider than compared to roadways in Harrisonburg because they had planned them with bicycle lanes in mind. All arterials and major collector streets have bicycle lanes on them with the exceptions of a few miles in older sections of the city where city planners, traffic engineers, and citizens have been working on a plan for improvements (i.e. 5th St. corridor). The 5th St. corridor is being planned to reduce a 4 lane roadway to a 3 lane roadway with bicycle lanes.

In Sacramento, the roadways are similar to the roadways in Harrisonburg and constraints with existing buildings, sidewalks, trees etc. prevents road widening for bicycle lanes. Sacramento staff noted many locations where “road diets” were done along heavy commercial corridors. That is, where a 4 lane roadway in two directions was reduced to a two-lane roadway in one direction with on street parking and bicycle lanes on both sides of the street traveling in the same direction. This example took over two years to plan with community involvement. There were also noted traffic calming benefits. Shared lane markings (aka “sharrows”) were also used on Class 3 bicycle routes where the traffic volumes are lower but there are a lot of stop signs which may be undesirable, typically residential collector-type streets.

In San Francisco, there appeared to be are much narrower (anecdotal observation not measured) than in Sacramento and although there were a significant number of bicycle lanes, there was more widespread use of shared lane markings (“sharrows”). Shared lane markings have been used in San Francisco since 2004. San Francisco is one of several localities who has been using shared lane markings on an experimental basis (requires FHWA approval). Shared lane markings usage was recently approved in 2009 by the new Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for use throughout the country.

9. How are bicycle routes signed?
Davis is exploring the use of wayfinding signage for bicycles through the city, but currently there are no bicycle “route” signs, but only “bike lane” signs where needed along a bicycle lane.

10. Can you provide some manufacturer, model, etc information or details about the traffic signal controller used in Davis that have the bike signals?
Answer from Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming.

11. Does Davis utilize any "leading pedestrian intervals" or advance walk for pedestrians? If so, has it been successful? Citizen feedback?
None were observed, but answer from Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming.

12. Does Davis coordinate its traffic signals with bikes in mind and if so, what special accommodations are made? Impacts to vehicular transportation?
Answer Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming.

13. Does Davis use bike boxes? If so, how are traffic signals adjusted (sensors, timing, etc)? What kind of paint/thermoplastic is used for bike boxes? What kind of maintenance and maintenance schedule is required?
Davis currently does not have any bike boxes, but San Francisco does. More information on bike boxes, http://www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki/bike-boxes. Harrisonburg city staff will inquire with San Francisco or other localities for answers. Note: Bike boxes are not yet FHWA/MUTCD approved.

14. What is your lighting policy for shared use paths? What criteria do you use to determine spacing of lights?
Answer from Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming.
It was observed that all or nearly all shared use paths on Davis had lighting on the path, although lighting did not brightly illuminate all sections of the pathway. Lighting (utility cost and maintenance) on shared use paths/greenways are paid for by the city.

15. Other special features?
Observed was a variety of traffic calming measures for vehicular traffic, ex. traffic circles, narrowed road widths to accommodate bicycle lanes, curb extensions, etc.

Also observed where traffic calming measures for bicyclists, ex. when a shared use path crossed a 2-4 lane roadway, the curb cut was placed to the side of the pathway requiring that a bicyclist slow down significantly to enter the roadway rather than to dart straight out.

Bicycle lanes in Davis are very wide, between 6 to 8 feet allowing two bicyclists to ride side by side. Bicycle lanes in Sacramento and San Francisco are typically the 3 ft minimum standard and larger where retrofits still make it possible.

MAINTENANCE

16. What are the maintenance costs for the bicycle/pedestrian bridges, underpasses, shared use paths, bicycle lanes, etc?
It was learned that in Davis, bicycle and pedestrian facilities are well integrated into their planning and maintenance programs. Davis city staff could not provide data on how much they spent on annual bike lane maintenance because it’s integrated with their road maintenance program, and they could not provide how much they spent annually on shared use path maintenance because much of that is integrated into the park maintenance system.

It was noted by city staff that the budget for Park Maintenance is larger than that for Police.
Reported by the League of American Bicyclists, Davis budgets approximately $100,000 per year for bike path maintenance.

17. Where there is a shared use path (paved trail), what is the frequency of resurfacing the path? Are the paths wide enough that a standard asphalt spreader and roller can be used? Any tips?
Answer from Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming.

18. Example of Greenways in Davis? If yes, how long is the greenway and what kinds of areas does the greenway connect or pass through? Are they easements or city right-of-way? Who maintains the greenways?
Davis has a series of shared used paths and greenbelts that run extensively through several sections of the city and connect neighborhoods to each other, to schools, to shopping centers, to business districts, and industrial districts. There are path connections from street culdesacs in neighborhoods to greenways behind neighborhoods. With few exceptions, all greenways/shared use paths are city right-of-way and are maintained by the Davis Parks & General Services Department.

19. What have been your biggest maintenance concerns related to bicycle facilities, on street and off street.
Answer from Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming.

PUBLIC SAFETY & POLICE

20. For shared use paths, what is done to ensure that public safety vehicles can access them if needed?
It appeared that if needed, large emergency vehicles could mount a curb, cross over grassy areas, and gain easy access onto shared use paths.

21. If applicable, where shared use paths occur in areas away from motor vehicle lanes, has the city had to add lighting, bike patrol offices, etc. for safety purposes? If so, what are the costs associated with this?
Shared use paths in Davis are lighted (more details forthcoming).

There are bike patrol officers, but they do not exclusively patrol shared use paths.

No cost information was inquired while in Davis, but will be if the information is available.

22. Other notes:
The American Parkway is a linear park following the American River that includes 32 miles of shared use path. The City’s policy for the shared use path is daytime hours only and signage is placed occasionally around the park. There are no lights provided for the trail. In reality, people use the park all the time, and there has been little notable crime on the path.

Out of 775 accidents in 2009, 71 accidents involved bicyclists. Violations given to bicyclists include 500 for disobeying signals, 200 for not using bicycle lights, 200 for not wearing helmets, 100 for going the wrong way, and 60 for wearing headphones.

If a person receives a violation for not having a bike light, they can purchase a bicycle light and show proof of that purchase and receive a 10% discount (about $25 discount) on their violation (ticket). Also noted was that written warnings are most effective as positive enforcement.
Warnings are also recorded in a local database so an officer will know if the violator has already been warned and may give them a ticket the next time.

The Davis Police Department provides bicycle rodeo education upon request at schools.
The Davis Police Officers also noted that bike officers are more in contact with the homeless and transient populations in Davis. They have also found that more people open up to them and they have built more relationships which has helped with decreasing the crime and solving crimes.

SCHOOLS

23. How many public schools are there in Davis?
There are nine (9) elementary, three (3) junior high schools, one (1) senior high school, and one (1) high school. Schools are thought of as neighborhood schools rather than being located along the fringes.

24. When did Davis continue bus services and how did that happen?
This happened a long time ago, exact year could not be remembered. Contrary to “legend”, bus service was not discountinued as a means of promoting alternative transportation, but rather it was a budget issue. According to Dave Pelz, former Public Works Director, quoted from another source “The School District did run school busses at one time. It was a cost cutting measure and bicycling was the fall back along with parents car pooling. The Unitrans involvement came along slowly once they had figured out how to do it without calling it a school bussing program.”
For school field trips, parents drive their kids or buses are chartered.

25. Other significant findings:
Parents noted that greenbelts are good to get to school.
Parent advocates participate in the month of May’s Bike Month. Bike Loop event along greenbelt encourages whole community to bike together on one day. Stations are set up along the bike loop with volunteers to talk with parents about how to get from home to school, fit helmets, etc.
Save-A-Gallon Program. www.saveagallon.com, started with Bike Month. It is a competition between the schools on who uses the most non-car transportation to get to school, work, etc. At the schools, the program offers prizes to “winners”. Anyone can participate and catalogue their savings on the website.

One parent noted that her child’s school has at least 120 student bicyclists on a sunny day.
The Davis Bicycles! School Committee is only 1 year old. Davis Bicycles! is the local advocacy group.

Many parents and students utilize the “Bikepool” or “Bike Train” to get to school. These are self organized. For example, one parent can pick up students along the way to school and bike with the students to school. Parents might take turns to help share the burden.

Generally by 4th grade many students are riding their bikes to school in their own group without their parents. Schools have no minimum age policy for walking and biking to school alone.
One parent/teacher noted that kids are more alert in the morning after riding their bikes to school.

Parents noted that there is safety in numbers with more bicycles.

UNIVERSITY

26. Is UC Davis campus open to vehicular traffic?
UC Davis is closed to vehicular traffic except for occasional service and emergency vehicles. UC Davis features about one dozen traffic circles that aid in the movement of thousands of bicycles through campus during class changes. Campus has been closed to vehicular traffic since the 1960s.

27. How do service vehicles gain access to inner campus?
Access to inner campus is managed by card readers and sensors on vehicles.

28. Can you tell us about bicycle parking at UC Davis?
Bicycle parking is provided at every building on campus with some and few exceptions. There are over 20,500 bicycle parking spaces on campus. Most and all new bicycle racks are the “lightning bolt” design.

Bicycles are required to be parked on bicycle racks only.

29. Does UC Davis provide covered bicycle parking or bike lockers?
There a few bike parking areas that UC Davis was able to install under existing overhangs. There are no "purpose-built" covered bike parking areas except at some dorms. UC Davis has 76 rentable bike locker spaces on campus.

30. How many students and faculty (provide separate numbers if available) do you think are driving to campus versus bicycling to campus?
In FY 08-09 the student, faculty, and staff mode share overall was: Bike (40.4%), Drive Alone (24.4%), Bus (19.9%), Carpool (7.5%), Walk (5.6%), Train (0.8%) and Skate (0.3%). If interested a powerpoint slideshow of pie charts breaking down the mode share for different user groups at Davis can be provided from Thanh Dang.

31. How many on campus vehicle parking spaces do you have? How much are parking passes per semester/year?
See "Parking Inventory" here: http://taps.ucdavis.edu/parking/info/ . See http://taps.ucdavis.edu/parking/permits/ for permit rates.

32. Do you provide bicycle parking spaces inside dormitories? If so, how are they mounted? In ground/ on wall?
Some of the dorms have covered/enclosed bike parking areas. However, they are not secured. Anyone can access them, but there are bike racks in them.

33. Is there communication with incoming freshman concerning bicycles and transportation?
Most incoming freshmen live in campus student housing. The Housing office sends them links to our website during the summer before they arrive to provide them information about bicycling and transportation at the campus. In particular, there is a page on our website that summarizes what new UCD cyclists should know before they arrive. See "New UCD Cyclist" on this site: http://taps.ucdavis.edu/bicycle/education/

Most new students register their bikes with TAPS at the start of the fall term. That is another opportunity for us to provide bike info to them.

34. Is there a bicycle share program or rental program on UC Davis campus?
UC Davis does not have a bike share program yet, but they are looking into some options. The campus bike shop does provide traditional bicycle rentals.

35. Is there a bicycle store/shop/repair center on UC Davis campus?
There has been a campus bicycle shop since the 1970s. The bicycle shop is a full service shop and hires student mechanics. The bicycle shop may have received some financial assistance to start but now it operates as a non-profit and is self funded (it receives no subsidies).

36. How does UC Davis fund bicycle infrastructure including bicycle racks? Do you wait for grants or is there a specific budget outlined for bicycles “stuff?” How much is it per year?
Whenever a new building is being planned and designed, the project budget always includes money for new and sufficient bike parking. To replace old, obsolete racks, we seek grants and also expend at least $25K annually from our budget on replacement racks. That money comes from parking fines levied on campus.

37. What kind of Public Transit services are provided to UC Davis students?
Since public transit service is not provided for inner campus travel (students must walk or bike inside campus), public transit is only provided to and from student housing off campus to one of two terminals within campus. Buses arrive before the 10 minute class change and stay a little after before departing into the city. Many students ride the bus from home to campus and once on campus use the bikes that they have stored there to traverse campus.

Public Transit services for UC Davis and the City of Davis are run fiscally through a division of the University, although the City contributes funding. Public Transit does not run through the university.

38. Other significant findings:
It was reported that UC Davis has 1 bicycle officer and over 20,000 bicyclists per day.

MISCELLANEOUS

39. What are the tourism and economic development impacts of bicycling and bicycle infrastructure in Davis?
Davis has not yet done an economic impact study of bicycles, but anecdotally there was consensus among the people we met with (city staff from Davis and Sacramento, bicycle advocates, parents, etc.) that the benefits are all positive.
Noted were:
• Increased property values in Davis where greenbelts are located compared to neighboring communities.
• A recent century ride in Davis attracted over 12,000 riders plus many spectators from around the world.
• About $1 million is saved each year by the school districts by not providing busing service. The walking and bicycling infrastructure exists for most students to walk and bike to school. Admittedly there are also a lot of students whose parents drive them to school and there are efforts by school bicycle advocates to encourage more students and parents to walk and bike.

40. Do Davis city employees use bicycles to conduct business?
Yes, but it depends on the employee. Davis provides a fleet of bicycles that are distributed among various city corp yards and many employees do use them, or their own bicycles. Plenty of employees also drive, especially in inclement weather.

41. How has Davis conducted bicycle counts to determine baseline number of bicyclists on roadways/paths/ etc?
Answer from Davis’ Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator forthcoming. Davis bicycle count data available here, http://cityofdavis.org/bicycles/bikecount.cfm.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Coverage in the DNR

Here's a story about the trip from the Daily News-Record. Unfortunately, unless you have a paid account with the DNR you can't view this from the web. It was a good story.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Schedule of Upcoming "Davis" Presentations

  • Tuesday March 23 @ 7pm, Presentation to City Council at Council Chambers, 409 S. Main St. Or watch on TV from home on Comcast channel 3.

  • Friday April 23, 6-7:30pm @ Blue Nile, "Bike City". Cost: Free. Davis Delegation members will discuss their experience in Davis, CA: what they learned from the city's bicycle infrastructure and culture, what inspired them, and how they think we can apply these lessons to Harrisonburg. Discussion will be followed by a Q&A session. This event is part of our community's Earth Week Celebration (April 17-24) .

  • Saturday May 22, @ Court Square Theater (time to be announced later). Cost: $7. Showing of "American Flyers" & Harrisonburg/Davis Bike Trip Documentary by Paulette Moore, documentary filmmaker/professor at EMU. The Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition will also be accepting donations for local advocacy efforts & canned food for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. A social and dialogue will occur after the movie showings at Blue Nile Cafe. This event is occurring as part of Bike Month. Bike events happening throughout the Month of May! More information or to volunteer during Bike Month contact Lara Mack at lcmack4286 [at] gmail [dot] com or Thomas Jenkins at tj [at] shenandoahbicycle [dot] com.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Reflections from Davis, CA


This is being posted on behalf of Tom Benevento.

Thanks to Harrisonburg's Voluntary Gas Tax group and Rob Davis, It was such a gift to be in Davis, California! I was inspired to see the infrastructure for bicycles and to experience the spirit and positive energy that comes with this kind of transportation infrastructure. Bike paths and lanes were networked in almost every direction connecting schools, parks, shopping, and entire neighborhoods. This infrastructure facilitated community interaction in ways I have not seen in other US cities. We could say hello to passer-bys, talk with each other easily as we biked, connect with nature, and feel the power of our bodies. In a car, this level of community interaction would not be possible.

I happend to stay in a co-housing community in the heart of the city of Davis. My two hosts, Jason and Robbie, both worked at the Davis Bicycle Collective. Jason is completing his PhD studies of bicycle motion. As we talked late into the evening about places that have transformed themselves into bicycle friendly cities, I learned that not only Davis can do it , but almost any city can. Transformation is not dependent on the right climate, topography, or the age of a city's existing infrastructure. It is more about a city's willingness to step out of our common notions of what is possible and try something new, creative and exciting.

I learned that in the late 1950's the US had no bicycle infrastructure, so Davis set out to push for the very first bike lane in the country. It was hard work and required significant risk-taking. Now, thanks to their efforts, bike lanes are common across the US. Davis also has the country's first traffic signals specifically designed for bicycle crossings. The delightful green and white silohette bicycle image now helps 1,100 cyclists every 15 minutes cross one intersection in town.

My hosts also taught me about Portland, Oregon. Portland is another great example of a city that is willing to try new things despite obstacles. Portland has steep hills, old infrastructure, and rain eight months out the the year. Some of those eight months are very cold and "yucky". Yet, Portland has become a national epicenter of the growing movement in bicycle commuting. The city has built over 300 miles of bike lanes and paths for the same cost of a quarter mile of freeway and is earning $80 million dollars each year through its bicycle economy.

During my the last night in Davis, Jason told me how he spent last year in the Netherlands studying that country's bike culture. He explained how Davis, though impressive for US standards in bike-ability, would not even be considered a bike-friendly city in the Netherlands. Some cities in that country boast more than 30% of trips done by bicycle. At nearly midnight, Jason pulled out his laptop with excitement and showed me time lapse photos of Netherlands city scape. He showed me photos from the 1950's. They were dominated by cars. By the 1990's those same streets were transformed into bike and pedestrian havens. Cars were a side note in the photos.

In the end, I learned that a perfect environment or ideal topography are not necessary to make a more livable, bike-friendly city. We can do it too in Harrisonburg. I am excited to join the energy and enthusiasm of so many citizens in our city who will make it happen!

Tom Benevento

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Funding Questions

So as I have been working on settling back in Harrisonburg and I have all new these ideas, I am challenged with questions like: "How are new bike lane painting, sharrow markings, and shared use path construction going to be funded?" and "Where's the money for long-term maintenance going to come from?"

There is no doubt in my mind that investment in bicycle facilities will pay off very well in the future and it will pay off in many ways. But like all investments they require capital, money, funding from somewhere. Harrisonburg has taken it upon itself to fund new bicycle and pedestrian facilities in capital projects like:
  • Port Republic Rd. Phase I and II bicycle lanes and sidewalks
  • Neff Avenue bicycle lanes and sidewalks
  • Linda Lane shared use path
  • Arboretum Trail (shared use path off Neff Ave.)
And Harrisonburg has been lucky with grants to help fund the construction of new bicycle and pedestrian facilities like:

... the list goes on... and we have several more projects that have been awarded and are currently under design to be constructed in the near future. However, these city capital projects and outside grants are a one time deal for design and construction and they don't change the allocations (annual funding) Harrisonburg receives from the Commonwealth of Virginia in transportation maintenance funding.

So how will we pay for future repair of sidewalks and shared use paths when there are cracks and potholes in them? And how are we going to pay for the additional personnel and equipment needed for timely snow removal? Wayfinding signage repair and replacement?

For every new sidewalk, path or bicycle lane that is constructed in Harrisonburg, the City does not receive any additional state dollars for maintenance. However, over the years the city has put in its own local dollars towards maintaining our existing transportation facilities (streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signals, etc.) to keep them in the good shape they are in today.

The state's allocation of annual maintenance funding to localities is based on the number of vehicular lane miles there are within the local jurisidiction (city limits). (Read VDOT's 2009 letter about further reductions of maintenance funds due to the current economy.) Citizens could push their state representatives to change the allocation formula, maybe sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and shared use paths should be given a dollar value per mile and given maintenance funds too. At the local level, citizens could push their local council members to allocate local dollars towards new construction and maintenance of bicycle and pedestrian facilities...

But both of these ways run into the same problem: Current taxes (e.g. state and city revenues) collected are covering the costs of services that we currently are receiving (like trash collection, maintenance of existing streets and transportation facilities, police, fire, public safety, schools & education, etc.). If we want additional services whatever they might be, either less funds will be available for other services or we need to find a new funding source to add to the pot.

I'm not suggesting that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will need or should have their own separate pot of money or budget line items for maintenance. In Davis, we learned that bicycle and pedestrian facilities are well integrated into their planning and maintenance programs. Davis city staff couldn't tell us how much they spent on annual bike lane maintenance because its integrated with their road maintenance program, and they couldn't tell us how much they spent annually on shared use path maintenance because much of that is integrated into the park maintenance system.

Davis also uses new development as a huge contributor towards leveraging new bicycle and pedestrian facilities developing "an ordinance to hold housing developers financially accountable for integrating greenbelts into new housing subdivisions." (This is a great article about the history of Davis' greenbelts.) Davis has also established development impact fees to help pay for the improvements to transportation facilities, parks, sewers, schools, etc. that are needed as new developments put pressure on existing infrastructure.

Your thoughts on how we can make Harrisonburg a bicycle friendly community?

Coverage on WHSV

See video of WHSV story by following this link.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3-days without a car and pictures from San Francisco

Sunday was Day 4 of our trip. Believe it or not we had spent 3 full days in California and none of us had stepped foot into a car since driving from Sacramento Airport to our host homes in Davis Wednesday night. We biked everywhere we went while in Davis and when we visited Sacramento (except for the train ride).

I had such a great time bicycling everywhere and it was great for touring too because we could stop when we wanted to to discuss what we were seeing; it was easy to pull all our bicycles to the side of the road or path. There were about 15-20 of us bicycling together on the first day tour. Can you imagine 4-5 cars of 5 people each trying to stop to discuss things while on a tour? It just wouldn't happen. When we had a question (like needing directions when we couldn't find the Pepper Peddler's building), we could just stop and ask anyone who was walking, biking, or outside a nearby shop. We even had conversations while stopped in our bicycle lanes at a traffic light with some high school students who were in their car also stopped at the light. Their substitute teacher happened to also be bicycling in our group and so we all exchanged "hellos". And while on our bicycle tours and someone made a request for coffee, it was an easy ride and stop to get some. It was wonderful.

This feeling of freedom was appreciated even more when drove into San Francisco, a little more than an hour drive from Davis. Our wonderful driver and acting tour guide (and my host for the week) drove us in his Sprinter and we toured a few communities (like Hercules) by car. And then we did a driving tour of some San Francisco bicycle facilities and stopped to see two wonderful murals - The Women's Building and the Duboce Bikeway Mural. More on the murals in a future post.

The honest truth though is that traveling this way, by car, in San Francisco confirmed again for me that you see and experience so much more by bicycle than you do by car. And helps me better understand and able to provide examples of how bicycles can be good for business - it was so easy to stop.

Finally, here are pictures from our day in San Francisco. We did rent bicycles in San Francisco and experienced the famous hills which contested the hills of Harrisonburg. And there were thousands of novice bicyclists that day who rented bicycles to ride the hills up and around the Golden Gate Bridge because it was the cool, fun touristy thing to do. All those hills! I was proud of all of everyone, including myself. It can be done. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Initial Reflection from the Mayor

Wow, what a trip! The trip to Davis, CA, to see what a decades-long commitment to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure can make possible in a community similar to Harrisonburg was more educational than I expected. The Davis team was tremendously generous with their times, homes, experiences, and advice.

I come away from seeing Davis, Sacramento, and San Francisco with a heightened understanding of the value of such infrastructure, a clearer understanding of the challenges Harrisonburg faces to get there, and knowledge of a range of valuable resources to help overcome those challenges. I also can better appreciate the good work already completed and underway in Harrisonburg – we’re on the right track, it’s just a matter of refining our approach, and kicking it into a higher gear (pun intended).

Here’s an overview of what I learned, which won’t cover everything.

On Day 1, we took a bike ride through Davis, which is roughly the same size of Harrisonburg. The 15-mile ride was all along the greenbelt and marked bikes, which is rather impressive. What struck me most was all the parts of the community we passed through: commercial, manufacturing, neighborhoods, recreation and parks, government buildings, and schools. That level of interconnectivity multiplies that value in such a system because it makes the system available and useful to significant cross-section of the community. Bike lanes only in a park, or only in neighborhoods, or only near schools, or only along main roads miss orders of magnitude of value compared to systems with such interconnectivity.

It’s not about bikes. It’s freedom.

I came away with an important realization: framing the need for this infrastructure around biking and pedestrian travel is shortsighted and ineffective. It’s not about biking. It’s not about paths and lanes, or striping and traffic circles, or bike parking and traffic calming.



It’s about what that kind of infrastructure makes possible. 

Healthy kids, fewer accidents, saved time and saved money are some expected examples.

But one benefit that struck me is the increased individual freedom and ability to be self-reliant and exercise personal responsibility. Without safe and easy ways to travel around a city on bike or foot, we can’t be as free to travel, to get to work, to trust our kids can get to school safely, save money for our family, spend time with friends, and spend money in local businesses. I don’t think I would have come to that realization without experiencing firsthand this increased sense of freedom in Davis.

There are a number of next steps, the first of which will be a report to city council on March 23. There are some immediate, cost effective ways to improve safety and parking. There are opportunities to bring focus to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the upcoming Comprehensive Plan review. See you there!

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Returning with more than an Orange

The following is being posted on behalf of MuAwai.

After four packed days touring 3 cities in California and more importantly learning from a wide spectrum of folks out in the West Coast, I'm ready to get back to the 'Burg to share all the great information the delegation was exposed to. Coming out to California is not the comparison of Apples and Oranges I expected--besides I could only carry one Orange back in my luggage to share with everyone.

If we take Davis, Ca a Platinum City example with a comparable size city and a prominent University-- we can draw similarities to learn from. If we take a city like Sacramento, Ca who recently has made a comprehensive commitment to retro-fit their infrastructure-- we to can create a better community. If we take a look at San Francisco, Ca who's climate and topography are as, if not more challenging than Harrisonburg's-- the possibilities are endless....

After experiencing the advantages of bike/pedestrian friendly streets that made for a system of complete street options for its citizenry, I am convienced we have a huge opportunity to enhance the quality of life in Harrisonburg.

To do this we create connectivity between neighborhoods, we provide a sense of community utilizing our green space, we create a sense of meeting your neighbors with walkways, etc.... Thinking into the future, we reduce the sense of dependence and impact of relying on one mode of transportation. Advantage include developing a sense of safety and self reliance for our children.

This will only be made possible with community input to the City of Harrisonburg's Comprehensive Plan which will be taking place this Spring/Summer. This can be achieved by taking a close look at our city's draft of the Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan. This will only happen if we have a cultural, political and engaged community open to the possibilities. We plan to make presentations as forums present themselves; including a presentation to City Council, the Planning Commission, during Earth Week and again in May during nation bike month.

While I could only pack one orange to share I believe we learned about a great recipe for taking the "people" Friendly City and adding a "complete street" Friendly City as well.


'The Commish'
(MuAwai Da'Mes)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

On the Train From Sacramento

Members of the Harrisonburg delegation continue their journey through Northern California with a bike and train trip to Sacramento to meet with city officials and cycling advocates. Harrisonburg Public Works Planner Thanh Dang and Mayor Kai Degner discuss the bike and public transportation infrastructure they are here to study.
video

Pictures and a Quick Overview of Saturday

Here are pictures from Saturday's travels. And what follows is a very quick, and dirty overview of our day. Hopefully some of us can find time to blog more details about each thing later. :)

We spent some time that morning at the Davis Farmers Market, which makes me yearn for when Spring comes to Harrisonburg and our market is bustling with people once again (of course, the Downtown Harrisonburg Farmers Market is open on Saturdays throughout the winter so I encourage you to stop by!). It was National PIG Day, so the farmers market theme was pigs (check out the ballons, pink pig bandannas, etc. in the pictures).

Next, we took a 15 minute train with our bikes to Sacramento where Ed Cox, City Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, Walt Seifert of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA), and Lorena Beightler a local fashion/bicycle blogger who "bicycles with style" and writes at Sac Cycle Chic (do check out the pictures of Lorena's high heeled bicycling!) took us on a morning tour of bicycle infrastructure in Sacramento. Sacramento experienced retrofitting bicycle infrastructure much more than what Davis had.

Some of us road our bicycles from Sacramento to Davis and I hope that they will blog about their experience, and some of us took the train back to Davis to meet with Grace Garden, where the community gardeners and Tom Benevento spent some good time sharing ideas. Later in the afternoon we all met up and met with Alex Rother owner of Pepper Peddler, a coffee roasting and delivery business run on bicycles! Check out the picture of his bicycle powered coffee roaster.

And lastly, we stopped by the Davis Food Co-Op where we grabbed some dinner and headed back to Steve Tracy's house and again reflected on our travels and how we can bring back our experiences to share with you all in Harrisonburg. More on that later...

Today we're off to San Francisco.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pictures from Friday

Friday was another packed day and so is today. But it has been wonderful. No time to write a post this morning, but here are some more pictures! Also, check out the videos, particularly the ones through UC Davis Campus, about 20 seconds each.

A Campus without cars, a beautiful thing!

The first morning in Davis I woke up early for a little run to get my bearings around town. I had stumbled upon some security gates and immediately thought I was in DC already (heading there next week for the National Bike Summit), but I was wrong, I had just entered the campus of UC Davis. These gates were not so much security gates but a means to allow only buses, service and emergency vehicles onto the campus. The importance and value of these gates did not come into play until yestereday when our group was cycling through campus to go to a volunteer fruit harvest picking event (volunteers pick fruit from permissioned homes and donate this food to shelters, we happen to be doing it on bikes with trailers). Previously we had been on campus only before or during class times, today we entered during the unchaining of the bicycles and what a beautiful site, bicycles everyone, riding to their destinations, cars were not an option, and smiles of concentration were overwhelming. Could this be the future of JMU? Think of the traffic reduction that would occur in Harrisonburg.

Ever seen a traffic circle for bicyles? I had not scene it in action until yesterday and it was an orchestration of beauty. Riders would entered these traffic circles and then travel clockwise and then exit depending on their destination. I felt much more safe (but one must pay attention)with these thousands of cyclist (some traffic circles have counts of over 1000 riders in 10 minutes)then on a campus of cars with folks texting and phoning.

As we, along with other cyclist, came to the point to make contact back into the town of Davis we came to the first installed (In Davis and maybe the US)traffic signal just for bicycles (I am sure Thanh has photos of this on her ealier post). How this works: all the cyclist from campus come to a single point at this intersection, the traffic signals have a set of light for cars and a seperate signal for bikes. When the bike signal (actual bike graffic on light cover) turns green all these scores/hundereds of cyclist enter the intersection and head in their desired direction (North, East or West) while cyclist from this respective directions funnel to this entrance of campus, more art in motion.

Today we are heading to Sacremento to see how a larger City (350,000) with older infrastrutue is learning to incorporate bicycles into their transportation system. Tonight will be our last evening together on this trip (I will be departing a day ealier then everyone else), hopefully we will be able to get together and figure out a plan to bring all this information back to Harrisonburg to share with citizen, community members and City Staff.

Off to the Farmers Market.

Thomas

The Challenges of Bike Infrastructure

Day two of Harrisonburg delegation's visit to Davis, CA, bike activists Thomas Jenkins and Robb Davis and Tom Benevento discuss the challenges of creating and maintaining a bike infrastructure.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Kai Degner Interviews Young Davis Cyclist

Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner interviews young Davis, CA cyclist at Davis Bike Collective - a non-profit, volunteer organization which promotes bike use, community building and owner-maintenance.

Yesterday's Infrastructure and Pictures

As you all have probably gathered, yesterday's time in Davis included a Bicycle Tour in the morning, meeting with Bicycle Police Officers John Neeves, Peter Faeth, and Frank Tenedora, meeting school bike activists, Cristal Waters, Cliff Dimond and Sanne Fettinger, a meeting with Jonathan Woodley (and many others) at the Bike 4th Bicycle Collective, and a history lesson about Davis' bicycle history with Ted Beuhler (who traveled all the way from Portland OR to share his time with us!).

I could write a lot in individual posts about each meeting and related conversations our group had, but I will start with the Bicycle Tour during which I took lots of pictures of. You can see the pictures I took on my flickr website. I have done my best to add captions under many of the pictures to give viewers a sense of what they are looking at.

Davis' population is about 64,000 and its size is 10 square miles. The University of California Davis has a student population of about 30,000 which is plus or minus included in Davis' total population. Compared to Harrisonburg's population of about 45,000, a plus or minus James Madison University population of about 18,000 students , and 17 square miles.

Davis' motto is "The most bicycle friendly town in the world" and it was obvious how proud the citizens of Davis are about their community. They were very excited to share their story/ their experiences with us. However, they were also quick to point out that there was still much more that they wanted to do in Davis and shared with us their challenges and new ideas they had regarding planning and design for new infrastructure, education & encouragement in their community to promote safe and more walking and bicycling, building community, etc.

We all reflected on how the terrain here in Davis is significantly flatter than Harrisonburg, that the weather is "nicer" here in Davis, and that much of Davis was built with bicycles in mind (rather than retrofitts). But we were encouraged, inspired, and shown throughout the day that although we can't do things 1 for 1 in Harrisonburg like what was done in Davis, there were many things Davis has done that can be replicated in many other places including Harrisonburg.

Davis has a variety of underpasses, tunnels, bridges, etc. that accommodated bicycles and pedestrians with and without vehicular traffic. Many of these were "retrofits" constructed under or over the roadway or interstate costing significant money and requiring traffic to be rerouted temporarily through detours while they facilities were being built. The traffic circles at UC Davis, we were told, were tested by using old fire hose laid in a circle in the middle of the intersection before the yellow blocks were installed. Traffic calming measures for both vehicles and bicycles were observed. The traffic calming used to slow down bicyclists as the come off a shared use path and enter into a roadway with bicycle lanes was a great idea.

There is so much to be shared and a new day is ahead of us... Feel free to ask us questions by commenting on this blog or by sending us a message on Twitter via #hburgbikes!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quick Post

There is so much to write about, and many of us are still processing everything that we've seen today. A few things that I wanted to bring your attention to:

  • You can follow us throughout our trip and follow related conversations by following our Twitter hashtag #hburgbikes
  • Here is a map of Davis's bicycle facilities. It was amazing to experience the interconnectivity between destinations like parks, schools, and neighborhoods.
  • Here is a map of the Bike Tour we took this morning, approximately 20 miles from 8:30am-12noon. We were led primarily by UC Davis Bicycle Program Coordinator David Takemoto-Weerts, but there were many others from Davis who road with us and who we were able to talk with and ask questions throughout the ride. I think there were about 20 of us all together.
  • Paulette Moore, professor at Eastern Mennonite University, is traveling with us and making a documentary of the trip. Here's her blog and her post as we began the trip.
  • Post on hburgnews.com about the trip by Rebecca Martinez.
  • Post on bikedavis.org about the trip by Rob Davis. Here's more with a copy of the letter Mayor Kai Degner sent to Davis' Mayor Pro Tem.

Pictures coming soon...

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An Evening to reflect.

The evening is coming to a close for most of us Harrisonburg/Davis participants. After a potluck style dinner the Harrisonburg crew was able to sit around the table and reflect on the past 13 hours, it was overwhelming to say the least. I know for me the one thing that kept coming to mind was the value of todays interaction, not just with Davis bike advocates, the Davis Police, the families of Davis but also with each other as citizens of Harrisonburg. Today was not just about biking but more importantly about community, and how each and everyone of us can play a role in making our communities better, bikes can just be a means to this process. I look forward to tomorrow, meeting with the Davis City Staff and thinking of more ways to bring all this valuable information back to the Friendly City.

Safety: Afternoon at the Police Department

After a morning 15-mile bike ride around town this morning, we are now in an hour or so question and answer meeting with police officers. We'll be here until about 3pm California time. Feel free to send us questions about law enforcement and safety via the comments, during or after this meeting.

Hburg Citizens Arrive in Davis...

...to host Robb Davis and some great gift bags. What a welcome sight! We are excited and ready for our meetings. We likes bikes!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Harrisonburg-Davis Participants

Three Harrisonburg citizens (Tom Bennevento, Thomas Jenkins and Lara Mack) will join City of Harrisonburg Mayor (Kai Degner), Thanh Dang (Public Works Planner) and MuAwia Da'Mes (Planning Commission) on a trip to Davis & Sacremento CA to study their bicycle infrastructure and culture. More info and blogs will be posted just prior, during and after this trip.