Tour East Aurora’s Main Street

Saturday, August 20 by JerryFoster

East Aurora, NY is a pleasant town outside Buffalo with a Main Street that might offer West Windsor a few pointers. See the photos and color commentary, and let us know if you think these design elements might work for our Route 571 Main Street!

Main Street, also US 20A, is a busy road on a Friday just past 5pm, but the roundabout seems to keep the cars moving. From this western end, Main Street extends east a little over a mile, similar to West Windsor’s Rt 571 from the tracks to about South Mill Rd. The roundabout has stores and driveways, including fast food outlets.

Looking east from the roundabout, notice the center two-way left turn lane, a key feature of the Route 571 design. Also notice that the bike lanes are maroon-colored pavement, to make them stand out, and that there is on-street parking on both sides. A new Rite Aid is on the left (familiar?) and just off camera on the right is the Sunoco station (might feel like home already!), below.

Note the nice street sign for the Sunoco station. East Aurora is known for a number of things, including being the home town of Millard Fillmore (he was a U.S. President, if you were wondering), the birthplace of Fisher-Price toys and a center of the 19th-century Arts and Crafts design movement. They take their signage pretty seriously as a result, though they apparently couldn’t get Sunoco to redesign their sign to fit the Arts and Crafts style font that graces many other signs around town, as well as their town’s web site.

Moving east, notice this building, currently a bistro (it’s been a number of other things in the 7 years we’ve been visiting regularly – our daughter’s camp is nearby). They have taken away parking spaces in front of their building to put in an outside dining area. Nice! There are also a number of bikes parked in front of the dining  area. I noticed a lot of bicyclists around town, including a spandex-clad road warrior in the bike lane and more casual bicyclists riding on the sidewalks.

Moving east, the road narrows to 2 lanes, but still includes colorized bike lanes and on-street parking. This shot is in front of the post office, so you’ll notice the drive-up mailbox, but also the attractive sidewalk and lamppost planters. Hidden behind the sidewalk planter is an artsy bike rack and a bench is just visible behind. Perhaps the road sign gives us an indication of what it takes to get a main street like this?

Still moving east, this picture shows the  railroad underpass. Notice the bicyclist on the sidewalk, and the people in the car waving to him; people are very friendly in East Aurora. The bicyclist and I had a nice chat, since he was very interested in why I was taking so many pictures. He alluded to some of the controversies that the town went through to get their main street, including a big debate about the number of on-street parking spaces (the snide comment about the street signs wasn’t just my editorializing). He couldn’t entirely grasp why I liked it so much. Please leave a comment below with your opinion!

Just under the railroad tracks and past an intersection, a two-block traditional downtown area has stamped pavement colored to look like bricks. This space includes the center left-turn lane even though there are no driveways to turn into, and maintains the bike lane (nary a bike symbol, sigh). But what is really interesting is the ADA compliant on-street parking on the right and across the street, where the sidewalk is ramped up at the two ends to meet the curbed sidewalk area.  There were several of these facilities along the roadway. Of course West Windsor’s main street is not planned to have on-street parking, so this type of ADA parking would not be applicable. What is significant is how they solved the issue of making an extremely wide roadway pedestrian-friendly by using the stamped pavement.  It’s not exactly the same, but a little similar to using these sorts of treatments in the shared spaces of West Windsor’s transit village: The message of pedestrian-priority space is conveyed.

Just past the bricked area, the roadway changes back to two lanes plus on-street parking again, and the CVS pharmacy anchors the eastern end of Main Street. Note the speed limit sign: 30mph, much more pedestrian-friendly than the proposed 40mph in West Windsor’s design.

What might be improved in this design? There is a lack of tree canopy, but that’s likely because the trees are all newly planted. It would be interesting to know the history of why the two-block bricked section is so wide. Google Street View shows it with asphalt still during construction, but perhaps there used to be angle parking, or way back perhaps even a trolley line from Buffalo.

Another issue is the bike lanes. No casual bicyclists seemed to be using them: The group of teenagers, the dad pulling a kid-trailer, the various others were all bicycling on the sidewalk.  This is likely because the bike lanes aren’t very wide, and place bicyclists between the heavy traffic and the parked cars, right in the way of opening doors (the “door zone”), which is dangerous.

Hope you enjoyed the tour. Let us know what you think!

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Cycle Tracks Safer than Shared Roadway

Friday, February 11 by JerryFoster

Photo: Pierre Obendrauf, Montreal Gazzette

A recent study of Montreal cycle tracks showed they attract 2.5 times more bicyclists and have a 28% lower risk of injury, compared to similar roadways with no bicycle facilities.

Cycle tracks, also known as buffered bike lanes, are placed between the curb and on-street parked cars, sometimes with a physical barrier and other times with a painted buffer area. These lanes are a key feature of the Princeton Junction Redevelopment Area plan, but were removed from the Transit Village area in favor of the shared space concept.

The Montreal study, published in Injury Prevention Journal, is consistent with a recent New York City study, which showed 21% fewer injuries, a near tripling of bicyclists, and a reduction of bicyclists using the sidewalk from 46% to 4%. Click to read more coverage of the New York City study.

We have to confess to wishing these studies were available at the time Township Council was deciding to accept the proposed  lawsuit settlement with Intercap against the township.

Is it too late for West Windsor’s transit village?

Click here for the Montreal Gazette’s coverage of the Montreal study.

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Shared Space: Safe or Dangerous?

Wednesday, December 15 by JerryFoster

from Shared Space: Safe or Dangerous?Township Council recently adopted the shared space concept as fundamental to the lawsuit settlement with InterCap over the new Princeton Junction Transit Village. Under this concept, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians share the roadway as peers. But is it safe?

Four European experts reported results of their studies of the shared space experience in the Netherlands in 2007 at the Walk21 Conference held in Toronto. Shared space was implemented several locations between 1998 and 2001, with studies published between 2003 and 2007.

Overall, “reported accidents have decreased substantially.” In one location, however, minor injury collisions persisted, and “bicyclists were overrepresented”.  Significantly, “police report only a (minor) part of the accidents. Particularly bicycle and pedestrian accidents are often not reported to the police. This means that reliable and valid conclusions regarding the safety of cyclists and pedestrians cannot be made.”

What makes shared space work? “At low speeds people have more time for communication and the interpretation of verbal and non-verbal utterances.”

What keeps it from working? “Children and people with a visual or mental handicap cannot be expected to comply. Also, the elderly are not always able to anticipate and react in time, especially not when it is crowded and many things happen in a short period. This group (in total 25% percent of the population!) runs a substantially raised risk.”

How do people feel about shared space? “Most respondents do not think the situations are safe. Both car drivers and bicyclists and pedestrians are critical about it. In Haren remarkably many people (90%) demand a clear choice regarding the position of the bicycle: either on a bicycle lane or on the carriageway. The experts prefer the bicyclist on the carriageway; the public prefers a separate recognizable lane.”

The WWBPA supports the shared space concept, but recognizes that to work, all roadway users must be provided with subtle guidance as to the preferred positioning within the space. Bicyclists must be encouraged to stay out of the way of opening car doors (the “door zone”), such as through the use of a special color or pattern of pavement to guide where they ride.

The current (pre-settlement) language in the redevelopment ordinance calls for buffered bike lanes to achieve this goal. This goal can be achieved in the shared space concept, but the language regarding bike lanes is proposed to be removed. Please contact our public officials with your questions or concerns regarding the safety of our proposed new shared space.

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Tale of Two Engineers – One Visionary, One Recovering

Thursday, December 2 by JerryFoster

A revolution is underway in how towns are being redesigned for livability, and it’s playing out right here in West Windsor. The late Hans Monderman launched a movement for better safety without signs and signals, while in the Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, another engineer realizes that “Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), recounts the work of the late Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer who held to a maxim: “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.” In appropriate settings, he removed the signs and signals that tell drivers what to do. His goal? “I don’t want traffic behavior, I want social behavior.” His work underlies the design for the promenade in the new transit village west of the train tracks.

In Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, Charles Marohn relates his professional experience “convincing people that, when it came to their road, I knew more than they did.” Why? “I had books and books of standards to follow.” Finally, “In retrospect I understand that this was utter insanity. Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

This realization is slow in coming to our Rt 571 Main Street design, where the state guidelines are in place but the design hasn’t taken them into consideration.

Please help the county engineers learn from the transit village engineers by supporting the WWBPA’s recommendations for Rt 571 Main Street – slower speed, medians with pedestrian refuges and a pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic at the crossing at Sherbrooke Drive.

This redesign is our chance to make drivers comfortable with the slower speed – just posting a lower speed limit will not effectively slow traffic. Our tale of two West Windsors might have the happy ending of a pedestrian-friendly Main Street and transit village promenade, leading to higher property values for us all.

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July 11   Monthly Meeting 7 pm – WW Municpal Bldg (Rm D – Lower Level)

July 13  WWBPA at the WW Farmers Market

July 27  WWBPA at the WW Farmers Market

Aug 8    Monthly Meeting 7 pm – WW Municpal Bldg (Rm D – Lower Level)

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Sept 07 WWBPA at the WW Farmers Market

Sept 12 Monthly Meeting 7 pm – WW Municpal Bldg (Rm D – Lower Level)

Sept 21  WWBPA at the WW Farmers Market; Bike Drive – Collecting bikes to support Trenton Boys & Girls Club

Oct 10   Monthly Meeting 7 pm – WW Municpal Bldg (Rm D – Lower Level)

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Oct 26  WWBPA at the WW Farmers Market; Halloween parade

Nov 14  Monthly Meeting 7 pm – WW Municpal Bldg (Rm D – Lower Level)

Dec 12  Monthly Meeting 7 pm – WW Municpal Bldg (Rm D – Lower Level)

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