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A bikeable suburban highway? One Ohio town pulled it off

Wide suburban highways lined with big boxes and strip malls aren’t usually places one finds protected bikeways. But Stringtown Road in Grove City, Ohio is such a place. Check it out:


Stringtown Road.

Since a curb protects the bikeway from the road, it’s technically a sidepath, a sidewalk that’s for bikes instead of pedestrians.

And as you can see in photos from Google Street View, it’s nicer than riding in the street with fast-moving cars, but it’s still not exactly pleasant.

Huge curb cuts interrupt the bikeway, so cars don’t need to slow down much before pulling into the giant parking lots lining the road. There’s certainly a risk that careless drivers will turn without watching, and hit people on bikes.

But that’s a risk that will exist for any car-oriented highway. At least this one puts the bike lane front and center, just about as visible as it can be.

There are some sidepaths along large roads in the DC area, like Route 50 in Arlington or along Benning Road near RFK, but those aren’t commercial highways lined with shops, and their sidepaths aren’t right against the curb like Stringtown’s. This particular layout is pretty unusual.

As more and more suburban communities evolve to become more multimodal, experiments like this will help everyone around the country understand what works and what doesn’t. Grove City is near Columbus, where it’s not the only suburb experimenting with urban retrofits.

What do you think? Will this design work? Comment at Greater Greater Washington to talk about it.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 27th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation, urbandesign



Breaking: Review says H Street Streetcar will be able to open

An outside review of the H Street Streetcar found no fatal flaws in the project that would prevent it from opening.

The American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) peer review of the streetcar on “whether there’s a pathway to passenger service” is in, and the answer is yes, the streetcar can open.

In its letter to DDOT, APTA recommends a list of additional training and new procedures for the streetcar, but none appear to be major problems. The list includes more training for maintenance staff, reviewing operations and maintenance procedures, and augmenting DDOT staff with more experienced personnel.

DDOT is now analyzing the results and establishing a schedule to complete the recommendations.

There is still no opening date for streetcar passenger service, but it appears likely that question is now one of “when” rather than “if.”

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 20th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: streetcar, transportation



Check out DC’s charming but incomprehensible 1975 bus map

Washingtonians hoping to catch a bus in 1975 consulted this friendly-looking hand-drawn map. Charming as it may be, the map has no lines. Rather, designers wrote the name of each bus route over and over along its path through the city.


Image from DDOT.

Transit riders and cartography experts can’t fault the map designers too much. It was more challenging to illustrate detailed networks before the days of computers, and even in recent years some WMATA maps have been just as hard to follow.

Legibility aside, the map actually includes some very progressive elements considering its vintage. According to the legend, it only shows “all-day routes with frequent service,” an incredibly useful idea that’s picked up a lot of steam in the past five years.

Other progressive elements shown on the map include bike paths, although the Mount Vernon and Rock Creek trails appear to be the only ones, and much of its text is translated into Spanish.

The map also includes a fun vignette of the Metrorail system, which had yet to open but was less than a year away.


Image from DDOT.

On the other hand, some things never change. The legend for the Metrorail vignette notes Metro’s first phase was scheduled to open later in 1975. In actuality it didn’t open until 1976.

Finally, there are several other vignettes on the reverse side:


Image from DDOT.

Architecture firm John Wiebenson & Associates produced the map for the Bicentennial Commission of the District of Columbia.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 13th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, fun, history, maps, transportation



The Dutch government is trolling DC over marijuana, bike lanes, and streetcars

As marijuana legalization took effect in the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser said DC would “not become like Amsterdam.” We talked about the differences yesterday, including on bicycling and transit, but the Embassy of the Netherlands has playfully responded with this infographic comparing our two capital cities.


Image from the Dutch government. Really.

The embassy also created a Q&A comparing marijuana laws in the two cities. But bicycling and transit supporters might focus more on the bike lane and streetcar disparities.

That “(almost)” hurts. Low blow, Netherlands.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 27th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, fun, streetcar, transportation



DC like Amsterdam? We can only hope

According to yesterday’s Express, DC is starting to look a lot like Amsterdam, and not just because of marijuana. That’s fantastic if true.


The top of yesterday’s Express story.

Among the reasons the Express cites for DC’s Amsterdamization are increasing bicycle use, the appearance of streetcars, and Georgetown’s improving C&O Canal.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s great bicycling and streetcar cities. It’s a joy to travel along its extensive bikeways, and even lanes where cars are allowed are amazingly bike friendly. And Amsterdam’s huge streetcar network (with streetcars in both dedicated lanes and mixed traffic) is a case study in successful urban transit.

DC’s nascent bikeway and streetcar networks pale in comparison, but Amsterdam is a superb model for us to aspire towards.

And if it’s true that we can never hope to have as many canals (short of a disastrous global warming-induced flood), we can at least ponder what might have been had the history of Constitution Avenue turned out differently.

Even more similarities

Transportation and canals aside, Amsterdam’s overall urban design is actually incredibly similar to DC’s. We’re both predominantly rowhouse cities, with plenty of brick. Even our street grids are similar: Amsterdam has a relatively small core with twisty medieval streets, but for the most part it’s a city of straight streets and radial avenues just like DC.

These scenes from Amsterdam wouldn’t look all that out of place in Dupont Circle, U Street, or Adams Morgan, apart from how little street space goes to cars..

 
Amsterdam, but could be DC.

Admittedly, Amsterdam beats DC in a lot of ways. But it’s not Paris or Hong Kong, not so thoroughly alien. And DC is not Las Vegas. Amsterdam and DC aren’t identical, but we’re the same species of city, which means Amsterdam is better in ways that DC can practically emulate.

Plus, we’ve got Amsterdam Falafelshop.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 26th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, bike, streetcar, transportation, urbandesign



DC streets will get seven new miles of bikeways in 2015

DDOT has released a list of new bikeways it will add in 2015. Although most of the additions this year will be short, they’re important. This year’s work will specifically focus on closing gaps in the network, in order to make existing bike lanes more useful.


Planned bike lanes in 2015. Image from DDOT.

In total there are about seven miles of new bikeways on the list, including three short protected bikeways, about four miles of striped bike lanes, and two miles of sharrows.

According to DDOT’s Darren Buck, “We’re hoping to address several short but valuable network connection links that are easy to overlook on a map, but people have been requesting for years.”

The new protected bikeways are all in Northeast, on M Street, 4th Street, and 1st Street. Collectively they’ll begin to stitch together Northeast’s existing patchwork of disconnected cycletracks into a more useful and cohesive network. An unprotected contraflow lane continuing along M Street will help that effort too.


Basemap from Google.

Besides the Northeast protected bikeways, other notable additions include a normal bike lane on 12th Street NW downtown, along with several east of the Anacostia and in Capitol Hill, and short but important connections on 11th Street NW, Ontario Road NW, 2nd and 3rd Streets NE, and crossing I-695.

This project list is separate from the list of ten car lane to bike lane conversions that came out in January. The bike lanes in January’s list are still in planning, and will likely happen in future years.

Here’s the complete street by street list of DDOT bike lane additions for 2015.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 20th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



America’s largest bikesharing systems, ranked following 2014

As US bikesharing continues to boom, it’s fun to look back each year and see how systems have grown. Now that we’re into the grind of 2015, let’s look back on 2014 and see what changed.


2014 was a modest year for US bikesharing expansion, compared to the incredible boom of 2013. Overall, the number of bikeshare stations nationwide increased about 20%, from 1,925 in 2013 to 2,345 in 2014. San Diego launched the largest new system, with 117 stations.

Washington’s Capital Bikeshare regained its crown as largest overall network, growing from 305 stations to 347 stations. Last year’s champ, New York’s Citibike, actually lost two stations and dropped from 330 to 328. Chicago rounds out the top tier, with the same number of stations it had last year: 300 exactly. No other system tops 200 stations.

14 new bikesharing systems opened nationwide, and four small existing ones closed, bringing the US total up to 50 active systems.

The west coast began to catch up to the rest of the country. In addition to San Diego, Seattle opened the next largest new system of 2014, with 49 stations.

Here’s the complete list of all US systems. New ones are marked in bold. Previous years are available for comparison.

Rank City 2013 Stations 2014 Stations
1 Washington (regional) 305 347
2 New York 330 328
3 Chicago 300 300
4 Minneapolis (regional) 170 169
5 Boston (regional) 132 140
6 San Diego 0 117
7 Miami Beach 97 94
8 Denver 81 83
9 San Francisco (regional) 67 70
10 San Antonio 51 53
11 Seattle 0 49
12 Austin 11 45
13 Boulder 22 38
14(t) Fort Worth 34 34
14(t) Miami 0 34
16 Chattanooga 33 33
17 Columbus 30 30
18(t) Madison 32 29
18(t) Cincinnati 0 29
20 Houston 29 28
21 Indianapolis 0 26
22 Omaha 8 25
23(t) Nashville 22 24
23(t) Charlotte 21 24
23(t) Phoenix 0 ~24
26 Ft Lauderdale (regional) 25 21
27(t) Kansas City 12 20
27(t) Salt Lake City 12 20
29 Aspen 12 15
30 Long Beach, NY 13 14
31 Washington State Univ (Pullman, WA) 9 11
32 Milwaukee 0 10
33 Greenville, SC 6 8
34(t) Oklahoma City 7 7
34(t) Tampa 0 ~7
36(t) Des Moines 6 6
36(t) Ann Arbor 0 6
38 Univ of Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) 4 5
39(t) California Univ – Irvine (Irvine, CA) 4 4
39(t) Spartanburg, SC 4 4
41(t) Tulsa 4 3
41(t) Louisville 3 3
41(t) Stony Brook Univ (Stony Brook, NY) 3 3
44(t) Kailua, HI 2 2
44(t) Roseburg VA Hospital (Roseburg, OR) 2 2
44(t) Hailey, ID 2 ~2
44(t) Rapid City 0 2
44(t) Savannah 0 2
44(t) Dallas 0 2
44(t) Orlando 0 ~2
Fullerton, CA (closed) 10 0
Georgia Tech (Atlanta, Ga) (closed) 9 0
George Mason Univ (Fairfax, VA) (closed) 7 0
Lansing (closed) 4 0

Systems marked with a ~ are stationless bikeshare networks, in which each bike contains a lock and can be docked anywhere. The number of “stations” reported for three of these four systems (Phoenix, Tampa, and Orlando) is approximate and is was calculated by dividing the overall number of bicycles by 8. The fourth system, Hailey, has only six bikes but they’re located in two distinct clusters, so it seems most appropriate to report two stations.

Counting the number of bikes rather than stations would be a more accurate way to rank systems, but that information is more difficult and time-consuming to obtain.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 12th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



Where to go wireless: The next big streetcar question

Now that DC’s oft-delayed H Street streetcar is hopefully near opening, DDOT officials are planning the next wave of lines. One of the biggest emerging questions (besides the role of dedicated lanes) is where the streetcars should run without wires.


Current law prohibits wires under the Whitehurst Freeway. Should that change? Image from Google.

DC has important monumental views that wires could impact. Therefore, DDOT has been promising hybrid streetcars that can run off-wire for part of their route since 2009. It could mean wires along some roads but not at major intersections, crossing state avenues, or across the National Mall, for example.

DC Councilmember Mary Cheh is convening a public hearing today to discuss the question with District Department of Transportation (DDOT) officials including new director Leif Dormsjo.

Where wires are legal

Current DC law prohibits overhead wires in the central L’Enfant city (basically everything between Florida Avenue and the Anacostia River) and Georgetown, except on H Street. In 2010, the council exempted H Street from the law, specifically to permit streetcars there.

But only exempting H Street was never a permanent solution. It was a stopgap to let H Street move forward while giving DDOT time to study wire-free planning in more detail. Now it’s time for a broader plan.


Wires on H Street.

Is wireless technology ready?

The 2010 law also required DDOT to study wireless streetcar technology before building any other lines, so leaders could make an informed decision about other exemptions.

DDOT completed that study in mid-2014, and in it concluded that off-wire technology is still only practical for short distances. Batteries, ground-based power supplies, and various other wire-free systems do exist, but they’re vastly more expensive and vastly less reliable than traditional overhead wires. Hybrid streetcars that operate on-wire part of the time, and off-wire at other times, remain by far the best option.

Moving forward, the DC Council could opt to change the wire law in one of four ways: 1) Keep the existing law allowing wires only outside the core; 2) Prohibit wires everywhere; 3) Allow wires everywhere; or 4) Allow wires in certain additional locations, but not others.

DDOT’s report proposes an approach in line with option 4:

In the near term, proven overhead contact system (OCS)-based technologies will form the basis of the system, with limited application of off-wire technologies in the most sensitive areas to the extent possible. As technologies advance, the amount of off-wire operations will be gradually increased.

This option makes sense. Most people agree that the north-south streetcar line should be wireless when it crosses the National Mall, but it would be absurd to demand the K Street line be wire-free when it runs under the Whitehurst Freeway.

Others worry that DDOT will not actually “gradually increase the amount of off-wire operations” once wires are in the ground. If DC buys streetcars that can handle only limited off-wire operation, it would cost money to upgrade, and that might not happen for a long time.

But wire-free technology still only works for short distances, so a hybrid is still the way to go. Modern streetcar wires can be relatively unobtrusive and won’t mar the streetscape. Allowing overhead wires in some other areas while prohibiting them in the most sensitive spots is the rational solution.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 4th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: events, preservation, streetcar, transportation



Best way to protect a bikeway? How about a bikeshare station

How’s this for a natural idea: Locate bikeshare stations between a street’s protected bikeway and car lanes.

That’s exactly the arrangement in Crystal City, where the Capital Bikeshare station at 23rd and Eads helps to form part of the bikeway’s protective barrier.


23rd and Eads. Photo by Euan Fisk on Flickr.

DC has at least one example, on 6th Street NE next to Union Market. You can also find this arrangement in New York, Paris, and a ton of other cities.

It’s just a nifty, straightforward idea that’s too sensible not to use.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

January 28th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation, urbandesign



Ottawa has a four mile ice skating highway

Ottawans probably don’t get a lot of snow days off work. Not with winter commuting options like the Rideau skateway, a four mile long highway for ice skaters


Rideau skateway. Photo by Ted Court on Flickr.

The skateway runs along the Rideau Canal, from downtown Ottawa to the south, cutting through some of Ottawa’s densest urban neighborhoods.


Rideau skateway. Basemap from Google.

During most of the year, Rideau Canal is liquid. It’s an actual, functioning canal. But in the winter it naturally freezes over, so Ottawans take advantage.

For the most part the skateway is recreational. Crowds of teenagers and happy couples play there, and advertisers bill it as the “world’s longest ice skating rink,” not as a commuter route.

But at least one person commutes on it, and that’s such a cool idea that there are surely many others.

It’s almost enough to make you wish DC winters got a bit colder.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 

January 27th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: fun, parks, transportation



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