Bike and Walk to School Week is May 19-23

Friday, May 16 by JerryFoster

WW HSS Track Team Running cropBiking and walking to school is good for children and good for the community.

Walk and Bike to School Week will be celebrated this year from May 19-23, 2014. Governor Chris Christie signed a proclamation encouraging state and local governments and school districts to promote active and healthy lifestyles by walking and bicycling to school.

Safe routes to schools is a priority for the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (WWBPA) because it benefits health and well-being of the whole community, from our youngest members to our oldest. Biking and walking to school is great for student health and academic success. Studies in Denmark and Spain have shown that biking or walking to school leads to higher levels of concentration that lasted throughout the morning hours – ?Walking and biking to school is also a great way for kids to get the physical activity needed for healthy minds. Kids who are more physically active have better academic performance. Studies are also beginning to show that exposure to nature and free outdoor play can reduce stress and relieve ADHD symptoms,? said Dr. Jennifer Rupert.

Not only is active transportation good for kids? school success, kids who get themselves around also know their neighborhood and environment better.? This study looked at kids in a high traffic neighborhood and a low traffic neighborhood and found that students who lived in the high traffic neighborhood, who were driven most places due to safety concerns, had a negative attitude about their neighborhood and could not draw a map of their street network. The children in low traffic neighborhoods had a high knowledge of their neighborhood and more positive feelings of their place. The study followed up with the adults and children in the same neighborhoods after the facilities for biking and walking were improved in the high traffic neighborhood. The children?s knowledge of their town improved once they were able to get around on their own. Previous studies had shown that adults living in high traffic neighborhoods felt more isolated from their community, too. Being able to get around outside of a car builds community and connection between neighbors.

Beyond the health and community-building benefits from walking or biking to students themselves, getting more kids and parents out of cars has congestion and air quality benefits for the whole community, especially for folks living near the schools. A traffic engineer interviewed by NPR noted that ?One of the biggest problems we have with schools in general is parents dropping off kids, buses, and kids walking, all converging in the same fifteen minute period,? says Lees.? In fact, 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic is children being driven to school, according to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.?

As Dr. Rupert points out ?think about the air quality around a school when dozens of parents sit in idling cars while their children jump out. Air pollution has contributed to childhood asthma rates doubling between 1980 and the mid-1990s. Asthma rates remain at historically high levels and cause 14 million missed school days every year. Walking and biking to school is healthy for kids, healthy for communities, and healthy for the planet.?

In New Jersey there are a number of organizations working to make biking and walking safer for students and their families. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes that safe routes to school has benefits New Jersey, ?Since 2005, $13.5 million of this grant money has helped pay for New Jersey projects, from the construction of a bridge and sidewalk system along Route 539 and Frog Pond Road in Egg Harbor, to new crosswalks and flashing school zone signs in Jersey City. In January, Gov. Chris Christie announced a new round of grants totaling $5.7 million for 25 communities, including some struggling areas such as Garfield, Jersey City and Brick, where many children don?t have access to safe places to be physically active. This is good news for our kids, for our communities and our health.?? New Jersey has a safe routes to schools organization which helps provide coordination and resources to folks wanting to organize and advocate for safe routes to schools. They run an award program to recognize schools making strides towards safer biking and walking. We also have a walking and biking resource center funded by NJDOT and run out of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers New Brunswick.

WWBPA supports biking and walking to school as a healthy, community building activity. We partner with students, parents and teachers in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district to host bikes and walks to school, biking and walking ?buses? and to advocate for safer routes to schools. Recent partnerships have included working on the Knight Trail as well as the Cranbury Rd Sidewalk and Safety Project. We know that safe routes to schools are an important part of a community active transportation network.? Want to plan something for bike and walk to school month in October? Check out this fact sheet from NJ Safe Routes to School campaign through NJ DOT. Contact us at wwbpa.org to partner with us as you plan an event at your school.

Thanks to former trustee Beth Zeitler for contributing this article, a version of which also appears on the Greater Mercer TMA blog.

 

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Bike Commuter Journal ? Blinking Winter Bicyclist

Friday, May 9 by JerryFoster

Our guest commuter this week is Mike McCormick – if you?d like to share your commuter experiences, please contact wwbikeped@gmail.com.

Since July, 2007 I’ve commuted just about 25,000 miles by bicycle from my home in Allentown (NJ) into Trenton – about a 25 mile round trip each day. ?I’ve found it to be a great way to begin and end each day, with a few notable exceptions due to bad weather, and/or worse drivers. ?For the most part, I’ve remained unscathed, thanks to some brightly colored clothing and a lot of lights.

During the winter months, it’s been said that I’m a cross between a Christmas tree and a Las Vegas casino, blinking and flashing my way down the street. ? I do draw the line at ice or snow covered pavement, of which there has been plenty this past winter. ?I’ve been reminded of how much I dislike traffic, interstate highways and parking lots that seem to be a mile away from my office door.

There are many instances when my bicycle is the fastest vehicle on the streets of Trenton, and to date, no one has taken my indoor parking spot: ?a sewage pipe in the basement of the Hughes Justice Complex, to which I chain my bike each day. ?After almost seven years, it is hard to imagine how – or why – others insist on driving to work each day!

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal ? Where to Ride

Friday, May 2 by JerryFoster

Alexander Road Bike CommutersLet?s say you?re tired of winter, especially this winter, and you can?t wait to get back into shape for the beach (or whatever). Maybe you want to ride your bike to work to start working off the winter weight, but there?s a dicey road section, perhaps a 5 lane arterial, between your house and work. What are some of the strategies to ride safely?

Strategy 1 ? avoidance ? do some exploring and you might find a quieter road section, a trail, or a series of linked driveways and/or parking lots. Be aware that driveways and parking lots require 360 degree vigilance, but are generally low speed so you have decent reaction time. Like sidewalks, trails require vigilance at intersections.

Strategy 2 ? the sidewalk ? it?s legal to ride on the sidewalk in New Jersey, unless the municipality has an ordinance restricting riding on a specific section, typically in downtown areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic. ?The sidewalk can be more comfortable if pedestrian traffic is minimal, but care must be taken at driveways and intersections since motorists do not usually look for bikes on sidewalks.

Strategy 3 ? the road ? New Jersey law grants cyclists the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of a motor vehicle. ?Experienced cyclists prefer the road for predictability and getting there faster, but care must be taken to actively manage the traffic around you. This means being aware of the road and whether there are safe places for motorists to pass, and positioning yourself so that you are visible to motorists, both those approaching from behind and those at intersections looking for gaps in traffic.

It?s worth quoting the New Jersey Statute verbatim:

?39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; provided, however, that any person may move to the left under any of the following situations:

(a) to make a left turn from a left-turn lane or pocket;

(b) to avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway;

(c) to pass a slower moving vehicle;

(d) to occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic;

(e) to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise shall ride in single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.?

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has an excellent website for bike commuters – see the Frequently Asked Questions for good advice regarding riding on the road safely.

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal ? Cycling Rekindles Your Youth

Friday, April 25 by JerryFoster

Don Rekindles his YouthGuest commuter Don Pillsbury joins us again – if you’d like to share your bike commuter experiences, please contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

Most people assume as a bike commuter I’m some sort of “eco-warrior.” While there might be some merit to that, my reason for riding is much more personal. When I first started cycling to work 16 years ago, the original intent was to build activity into my otherwise sedentary life. My very first trip to work was just a couple of miles – and it took me exactly 1 hour. I drove to a park near the office, pulled the bike out of the car, left the car behind for the day, and pedaled a very short distance. Over time, and as the park commission improved the conditions of the D&R Canal tow path, I was able to eventually do the full 35 miles from Trenton to New Brunswick. For the round trip I developed the habit of driving to work (with the bike), leaving the car there overnight (the building had security), riding home, and cycling in the next day – after a restful night of sleep.

While my original goal was to combat a bulging waistline, other health benefits quickly became apparent. I didn’t fully comprehend the chemistry behind it until I read an article in Bicycling magazine entitled “Riding is my Ritalin.” I’ve since seen other scientific articles demonstrating a link between cycling and happiness. So, as I like to say: “Rekindle your youth; hop on a bicycle.”

http://www.bicycling.com/news/featured-stories/riding-my-ritalin

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – Cycling, a Moving Experience

Friday, April 18 by JerryFoster

Blessing the Bikes NYCPlease welcome back guest commuter Don Pillsbury – if you’d like to share your commuting experiences, please email us at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

I have to admit, some cyclists hold a lofty self-image of their noble pursuit to reduce their carbon footprint. But could cycling ever be a religious experience?

Spurred by a challenge from a friend, two years ago for Lent I “gave up my car.” Truth be told, I was not “car-free” but I did make a concerted effort to rely more on the bike and less on the auto. Before hopping in the car to run an errand I developed the habit of evaluating whether the bike could be used. As a result I rode in conditions I would normally avoid. At the end of the 46 day period I pedaled 700 miles.

In the spirit of Lent, the cost savings of almost $200 were donated to a disaster relief charity. But more than the financial benefits, the experience was priceless. Time spent in the saddle had an increased focus on my faith and what it means to me. Would you believe me if I said it was a very moving experience?

Photo from “Blessing of the Bikes” at St John the Divine in NYC on April 30, 2011.

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – To the Train Station, All Winter Long

Friday, April 11 by JerryFoster

Melinda bikePlease welcome another guest commuter, Melinda Posipanko, this week ? if you?d like to share your commuter experiences, contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

I seem to have had this conversation with someone almost every day this winter:? Question: “Did you ride in today?”? My answer: “Yeah.? It wasn’t too bad out.” Reply: Either 1)”Wow”, 2)”You’re insane”, 3) “Impressive”, or 4) a sad shake of the head.

Now to be completely transparent, “riding in” for me means a 1.5 mile ride from my house to the Princeton Junction train station.? Not exactly a grueling bike commute.? And I’m nobody’s idea of a “cyclist”; more tortoise than hare and riding an el-cheapo bike I bought at Kmart 5 years ago.

Let me be clear.? I HATE COLD.? So why have I gotten layered-up every morning to bike commute?? It’s not a simple answer.? I’m not crazy (at least not completely), but I really love using my body to move itself from one place to another.? I ride my bike, I take the stairs when practical, and I usually take the easy-to-find far out parking space at the mall.? Moving my body feels good.? And even a short bike ride in the morning can make a huge difference in my overall energy level for the day.

It makes some practical sense, too.? It used to take me just about the same amount of time at the end of the day to walk to my permit parking space as it now takes for me to ride home.? I don’t have to clean off my car when it snows.? Now, I pay $22.50 /quarter to rent a bike locker instead of $120/quarter for a parking space.

But really, I think it’s mostly the sense of accomplishment I have when I make it to the train under my own power no matter what Mother Nature throws at me.? Me against the world…that sort of thing.?? I’m proud of the fact that I’ve driven into the station fewer than 10 times since October – and only then on days when the roads were clearly not safe.

And I’m obviously not alone.? I’ve seen bike riders and empty CitiBike stalls all over NYC even on the coldest days.

So I’ll continue to suit up and head out every day that I can.? And keep looking forward to spring!

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – How Things Change, or Not

Friday, April 4 by JerryFoster

Please welcome Steve Kruse as our guest bike commuter this week ? he chairs the Princeton Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and bike commuted from Princeton to Plainsboro through 2005. Steve joins us via an article he wrote almost 17 years ago, Two Wheels To Work, which appeared in the U.S. 1 Newspaper, May 28, 1997, used here with kind permission of author and publisher.

It’s great to get a view from last century, to see what has improved, and what hasn’t. Steve’s article mentions road conditions, policies, motorists both considerate and not, and several planned improvements to the area.

Steve noted that “New Jersey does not spring to mind as an especially bicycle-friendly place.” Is that still true? Maybe, but NJ DOT adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2009, so future improvements should include accommodations for biking and walking, transit users and those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As our readers know, the state has jurisdiction over only the federal highways and interstates and a few other major arteries. Fortunately for today’s Princeton to Plainsboro bike commuters, Mercer and Middlesex counties, as well as Princeton and Plainsboro have all adopted Complete Streets policies – click here to see everyone in New Jersey who’ve adopted Complete Streets.

Significant improvements have also been made to onstreet bike lanes in West Windsor, which are beginning to form a network. Steve mentioned staying out of the “door zone” of onstreet parked cars on Harrison – Princeton’s shared lane pavement markings (“sharrows”), including on Harrison, guide cyclists (and notify motorists) to the safe lane position away from cars. Plainsboro continues to extend it’s network of paved multi-use paths. The League of American Bicyclists have designated West Windsor and Princeton Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Communities, and Princeton University earned New Jersey’s first Bicycle Friendly University award.

As you read Steve’s article, what do you notice has changed? What has not?

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – Wake Up and Smell the Bakery

Friday, March 28 by JerryFoster

Don Pillsbury bikePlease welcome another guest commuter this week, Don Pillsbury ? if you?d like to share your commuter experiences, contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com

How far is your commute? For me it is almost a trick question. The first half of my commute is 35 miles – snaking through Trenton, Bordentown, Mt. Holly and eventually to my office in Mt Laurel. For the trip home I “cheat” and use the RiverLine train for half the journey. The ride from my office to Riverside Station is 8 miles and then there is another 8 miles home from the Trenton Transit Station. The round trip is 50 miles.

Except for this winter, I typically do this twice a week. I’ve come to cherish each piece of the route for what it is. The early morning ride on car-free roads that I would not normally be brave enough to travel. The smell of the Guatemalan bakery preparing the day’s treats. Watching the sun rise over Burlington County farmland. The trip home is the antithesis. Passing schools and playgrounds bustling with activity. Pausing for 40 minutes to read on the train and enjoy the camaraderie of regulars. And finally, riding through the City of Trenton with all of its urban vitality.

It was Ernest Hemingway that said: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them.” Perhaps my route is too flat to fully appreciate Mr. Hemingway’s point. But then I think his observation misses the nuances of life that can be witnessed and appreciated by riding a bike.

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – My Moment of Commuter Zen

Friday, March 21 by JerryFoster

whit at workPlease welcome Whit Anderson, our guest commuter this week – if you?d like to share your commuter experiences, contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

I love my commute. Rarely a weekday goes by when I am not appreciative of how lucky I am to have it. I bike commute from Hopewell Borough to Princeton University?s Forrestal campus, four or five times a week, all the year round. For the most part, my route is quite idyllic – lovely bike lanes on most of CR518 (I am working on Mercer County to address the parts lacking), scenic bike path on the Kingston Branch Loop Trail and a quick turn up to Mapleton where I give the bald eagles a nod if they happen to be nesting.? When I get to my lab, a suite of bike lockers and racks are waiting for me, and inside we have showers and changing facilities.? Yep, it is a pretty sweet deal.

Even after describing my commute to people I still get the ?you are crazy? comments. Most of the time I laugh and shrug it off – too bad for them, they will never know what they are missing. ?Me crazy? They are crazy? – that?s what I would always say to myself.

Then this winter happened. A few times this winter I caught myself agreeing with them – even with the multiple layers of wool and synthetics, the studded winter tires and a large thermos of steaming coffee I found myself thinking, ?I am crazy?.? But the thought never lasts long. As soon as I get to my destination the feeling of accomplishment washes away any lingering negativity. That, and the hope that spring is just around the corner. Come on spring.

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – Accessorizing the Commuter Bike

Friday, March 14 by JerryFoster

Commuter Bike AccessoriesLet?s talk commuter accessories ? those extra bits that let you enjoy your work life on the bike. At only two miles, it?s easy for me to bike in work clothes without overheating, especially in winter. Pictured hanging from the handlebar is helmet, safety glasses with rearview mirror, plus a reflective velcro leg band.

A handlebar bag is held with a quick release system, and is large enough for planner and personal effects, along with a small first aid kit and snacks ? it has a shoulder strap and functions as a briefcase. We won?t talk about all the extra ?stuff? that ends up rattling around in there. The same quick release system is on all my bikes, with several compatible bags and backpacks that can be attached.

Permanently attached to the back rack is a lockable plastic trunk box ? both the handlebar bag and trunk box are dry in a rainstorm, and the box is large enough to hold dress shoes and the helmet. Inside the trunk box is a saddle bag (off my road bike), with spare tube, foldable tire and multi-tool, which lives in the box along with a tire pump and bike lock. The pump can move to the handlebar bag if it?s rattling around too much in back.

The platform pedals don?t require special bike shoes, and this very cold and snowy winter I?ve enjoyed nice warm dry feet, thanks to rubber-covered neoprene shoes. If it?s dry and not too cold the dress shoes are OK to bike in.

Layers are key to commuting comfort ? single digit temperatures or wet conditions bring out the rain pants, while a weather-proof shell parka and fleece mid-layer keeps the cold at bay. You can fine tune your comfort by having a variety of knit caps of different thicknesses (for under the helmet), as well as a waterproof helmet cover for rain. For your hands, the running companies make fleece liners and stretchy shell fabric mittens, which can then be used inside a larger waterproof mitten shell for very cold conditions. Bright colors and reflective trim add visibility on the road, a plus for outer layers.

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – The Commuter Bike

Friday, March 7 by JerryFoster

bike-at-work-3This post marks the debut of a new series for our blog, based on bicycle commuting. As a longtime cyclist but a newbie bike commuter, I?ll look at the issues faced by those who want to explore bike commuting as a fun, healthy and sustainable lifestyle choice.

Let?s assume for the moment that you know why you want to bike commute, but want to know what bike is right for commuting? The great news is that any bike will do, especially for short distances over relatively flat terrain.

Some vital components necessary for commuting safety and comfort may be missing though on typical recreational bikes; such as a kickstand, fenders, bell and lights. Fortunately, reasonably priced after-market choices are readily available from your local bike shop or online.

Since I?ve enjoyed my various bikes for many years, however, I bought a new, full-featured commuter bike (pictured). The bike features a relatively light and stiff aluminum frame, fixed fenders, a light capacity rear rack, disc brakes and gearing for hills, and includes a sturdy kickstand and a bell. Most of all, I wanted the electricity-generating front hub that powers permanently mounted front and rear LED lights.

The lights are key to enhancing visibility on the road, since most motorists don?t expect cyclists, and as a commuter I don?t have the advantage of riding in a group, as on a club ride. The front light is powerful enough to see the road at night, and I won?t need to worry about battery life.

And don?t underestimate the utility of fenders?just one ride in the rain or snow and you will understand their benefit!

In the next post I?ll address some additions to the bike, but in the meantime please feel free to comment!

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Movie Afternoon at the Arts Center – Bicycle Dreams

Wednesday, January 29 by JerryFoster

bicycle-dreams-movie-posterPlease join us Sunday February 23 at 5:00pm for a showing of Bicycle Dreams at the West Windsor Arts Center. Admission is free for WWBPA or WWAC members, $5 otherwise.

Bicycle Dreams (2010) covers the 2005 Race Across America, described as ?having more drama in eight days than an entire Tour de France?. Considered the most challenging sporting event in the world, Race Across America is an epic 3,000 mile bike race from the Pacific to the Atlantic, with top riders finishing in under ten days. Riders cycle over 300 miles per day and sleep only a few hours a night. This award-winning film follows several riders, capturing every emotional and physical breakdown, late-night strategy session and great moments of personal triumph as they overcome searing desert heat, agonizing mountain climbs and endless stretches of open road, all while battling extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation. What starts as an adventure of a lifetime is transformed when tragedy strikes the race. As the race unfolds it?s clear that sometimes it?s not all about the bike.

Hope to see you there! The West Windsor Arts Center is at 952 Alexander Rd, at Scott Ave, an easy walk from the train station, which offers free weekend parking for Arts Center events in the West Windsor commuter lot.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Standards

Wednesday, December 11 by JerryFoster

Using Desired Operating SpeedTo learn to love our traffic engineers, we have to understand why they don?t feel they have the authority to design roads to meet citizens? needs ? the standards won?t let them.

Marohn notes that standards are ?the engineering profession’s version of defensive medicine.?

Gary Toth invites us to ?marvel at how thoroughly the transportation establishment delivered on its perceived mandate?, including ??language/terminology; funding mechanisms; curriculum at universities; values; and policies. Common professional organizations? reinforce and standardize this? at a scale that has rarely been matched by any other profession.?

Citizens should note that engineers are required to follow the standards for traffic signals (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) – the others are guidelines.

Toth advises ?Design manuals often present standards in ranges from minimum to desirable. Has the designer selected the desirables instead of minimums?? Residents will want the minimums, as the ?desirables? are from the point of view of creating a wider, straighter and faster roadway.

Conventional DesignIn this series, we?ve set up a ?straw man? based on traditional engineering practices. The critique reported here comes from within the profession, however, and context sensitive standards such as NJDOT?s Smart Transportation Guidebook have been published that, if implemented, will significantly improve livability, which is the goal of the WWBPA.

We?ve seen how standards? flexibility enable engineers to design bike and walk friendly roadways, so in our next installment, we?ll look at liability concerns.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Cost

Wednesday, December 4 by JerryFoster

NJ.COM Picture

NJ.COM Picture

To learn to love our traffic engineers, we must understand why they prioritize cost least when designing roadway improvements. Cost varies a lot – $1M / lane mile is a general rule of thumb, but the NJ Turnpike?s current expansion costs $14.7M / lane mile and Boston?s Big Dig cost $136.2M / lane mile.

Standard engineering practice is to build for more speed, which means more and wider lanes, plus expanded roadside sight distances, which may require purchasing right-of-way, etc., all adding to the cost. Also, engineers are required to forecast volume 20 years into the future and build for anticipated increases.

But other factors are at work – e.g. a 1961 bridge in Washington State cost $159M in today?s dollars, but the replacement is projected to cost $4.6B, including 2 additional lanes.

This dramatic $4B increase over inflation points to issues on the process, financial and political sides, including the revolving door between government and private industry, politicians? dependence on corporate contributions to get re-elected, government dependence on borrowing to finance road projects, even ?commonplace? corruption, according to a New York State report.

If nobody has an incentive and/or is held accountable for cost containment, neither politicians nor engineers, it?s easy to see why it?s not a priority.

We?ve finished examining how citizens prioritize safety, cost, volume and speed differently than traffic engineers, so our next installment will look at one reason engineers use to convince us that they know best – because of the standards.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Safety

Wednesday, November 27 by JerryFoster

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Not only do traffic engineers prioritize safety lower than residents, the designs that supposedly increase safety cause more death and destruction. Why? Because motorists behave differently than engineers expect.

In 2012, there were 33,561 traffic fatalities, including 4743 pedestrians and 726 cyclists.

Traffic engineers? safety improvements include paving wider lanes and shoulders, removing roadside trees, straightening tight curves, etc.? According to AASHTO standards, ?every effort should be made to use as high a design speed as practical to attain a desired degree of safety.?

Traffic engineers believe that designing for high speed will provide safety.

The crash data, however, show ?wider lanes and shoulders were associated with statistically significant increases in crash frequencies.?

Noland reports that traditional ?road ?safety improvements? actually lead to ? increases in total fatalities and injuries,? because ?this type of approach tends to ignore behavioural reactions to safety improvements?.

Dumbaugh reports that ?a behavior-based understanding of safety performance is supported by research and literature in the field of psychology, which has focused on the subject of traffic safety as a means for understanding how individuals adapt their behavior to perceived risks and hazards.?

Marohn calls the traditional approach to safety ?professional malpractice?.

Despite WWBPA recommendations, the design for Rt 571 in downtown West Windsor follows the traditional approach – 45mph design speed, another lane and wide shoulders – all in the name of bicycle and pedestrian safety.

We?ve seen that traffic engineers might improve safety by becoming better social scientists. Before following that, however, our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer will look at cost.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Speed and Volume

Wednesday, November 20 by JerryFoster

us-vmt-projectionsUnlike residents, our traffic engineers prioritize speed and volume over safety and low cost ? why? It?s how they were trained.

We?re long past the era where roads provide orders-of-magnitude improvement, e.g. from walking to motoring, but policy still encourages speeding, e.g., engineers design for 5-10mph over posted speed, so 74% of drivers on Rt 1 in Plainsboro exceeded the speed limit recently.

Going faster means getting there faster, right? Only if you?re on the mythical open road – in densely populated New Jersey, we have traffic.

Speed can work against getting there faster in traffic, since cars stay further apart – the best volume throughput is at 30-46mph. Improved signal coordination and speed harmonization allow people to get there faster even though they?re going slower, by delaying the onset of stop-and-go congestion.

Historically, traffic increased year after year, but in 2004 per capita volume (vehicle miles traveled) declined (!), followed in 2007 by a total volume decline as the recession took hold.? Though the Great Recession ended June 2009, total volume remains at recession levels, and per capita volume continues to slide.

Is it the end of ?build it and they will come?? If so, engineers will have one more reason to change their priorities. In our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer we?ll look at safety.

 

 

 

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – What the Public Wants

Wednesday, November 13 by JerryFoster

It?s hard to learn to love our traffic engineers ? they don?t see the same world we do, and don?t want to talk about it. Why not? Have you been to a public meeting?

The public has issues – many residents have not learned to disengage knee-jerk thinking, do their homework or propose constructive suggestions. Some are hostile to any government action, including road projects.

We choose to live in West Windsor because of the promise of safety, good schools, open space and convenient train commuting. We love our cars, but don?t want traffic in our neighborhoods.

Charles Marohn, an engineer and planner, identifies the different values of residents and engineers. In order, residents prioritize safety, low cost, traffic volume and speed, while engineers prioritize speed, volume, safety and cost.

Value divergence shows in the effort to improve walking and biking along Cranbury Road. Despite WWBPA recommendations, residents? public comments and numerous yard signs asking motorists to Drive 25, traffic calming was rejected as a project goal.

We?re determined to learn to love our engineers, so in our next installment we?ll focus on the most divergent values ? speed and volume.

 

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Social Scientist

Wednesday, November 6 by JerryFoster

Cranbury CarletonNew Jersey traffic engineers don?t see suburbs, destroy downtowns with arterials and have refused to adopt road designs for neighborhoods. How will we learn to love them?

We have to understand that traffic engineers love solving problems, just not social problems. They?ll design how to move cars through an intersection, but not how to preserve or create a downtown, increase property values or reduce pollution ? yet the intersection design can affect all these other goals, positively or negatively.

Although we?ve been building roads for millennia, we?re just realizing how motor vehicle traffic affects society. Using a computer analogy, traffic engineering is moving from the green screen to the graphical user interface ? people want a richer experience, including multiple ways to get where we?re going.

Traffic engineers must learn to see themselves as social scientists, concerned with how people in addition to motorists interact with the roadways ? residents, runners, dog-walkers, cyclists, etc.

People are puzzling ? we love our cars, but hate traffic ? how can engineers solve the dilemma? Find out in the next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? What the Public Wants.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Context Sensitive Solutions

Wednesday, October 30 by JerryFoster

Clarksville Pedestrians 2In our previous posts, we?ve seen that traffic engineers see urban where we see suburban or rural, and destroy downtowns by putting fast and wide arterials through them. As a result, conversations between residents and engineers are fraught with possible misunderstandings, making it very difficult to find the love.

Fortunately, this problem is well known, so the traffic engineering profession (Federal Highway Administration) developed Context Sensitive Solutions, to ?develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility.? ?In other words, it encourages engineers to see farms and neighborhoods where we already see them, and to build appropriate roads for those places.

NJDOT and PennDOT even published the Smart Transportation Guidebook in 2008, which provides flexible roadway designs, e.g. for a community collector through a suburban neighborhood, 100% compatible with existing design standards (the flexibility was already there, who knew).

Problem solved? Not quite ? NJDOT didn?t adopt the principles and practices in the Smart Transportation Guidebook. Why not, and how can we learn to love our traffic engineers if we can?t even agree on neighborhoods? Stay tuned for the next installment ? Social Scientist.

 

 

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Collect Local Arterials

Wednesday, October 23 by JerryFoster

NJ Turnpike Crash Stops Rt 1The last installment showed that traffic engineers see West Windsor?s roads as urban, even when bordered by farms. To learn to love them, we need to speak their language, so let?s look at the roadway functional hierarchy. Arterials are major roads, Local roads are self descriptive, and Collector roads connect them.

So what? Each type has its own design, e.g. nobody would live on an interstate, the design precludes driveways.

Princeton Sharrow Nassau Witherspoon 2Let?s look at our Principal Arterials – US 1, Princeton Hightstown Road (CR 571) in downtown West Windsor and Nassau Street (SR 27) in downtown Princeton. How can such different roads be considered the same? Traffic engineers don?t see places, but they do identify ?traffic generators?. Downtowns aren?t relevant, except that they generate enough traffic to warrant an arterial to connect them.

As traffic engineers ?improve? CR571 and SR27 to design standards like Route 1, they destroy the places they don?t recognize, favoring getting through over getting to a place. It?s up to residents to demand local arterials that preserve places for people.

571 East speed 40 1Traffic engineers are an enigma ? they don?t see suburbs or downtowns, and destroy the places they don?t see. How will we learn to love them? Find out in the next installment ? Context Sensitive Solutions.

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