We've lately seen a ideas we thought discarded or quaint return to prominence. From streetcars to windmills, clotheslines to back yard gardens, the early 21st century has a lot more in common with the early 20th century than people expected. Another retro move that is taking place is getting children to walk and bike to school more often.
The cost of putting a school bus on the street is approximately equal
to keeping a teacher on staff, said Linda P. Farbry, director of
transportation for Fairfax public schools.
It also doesn't hurt that the campaign -- especially the "Walking
School Bus" that encourages parents to coordinate neighborhood routes,
wear safety vests and share escort duty -- fits with the baby boomer
habit of reviving childhood practices. An oft-quoted study found that
in 1969, 41 percent of students walked or bicycled to school. By 2001,
that figure had dropped to 13 percent.
Two years ago, a district study suggested that extending the distance
that middle and high school students walk by half a mile would save
$975,000 a year.
Montgomery County's school board also explored a similar maneuver to
save money, voting in June 2008 to grant officials emergency powers to
extend the bus boundaries if fuel prices rose further.
Some leaders think it's a great way to leverage the investments already made.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said she supports the
idea of having more children walk if they can do so safely and said
that considerable sums have been invested in trail and pedestrian
Besides savings, there are all the other positive externalities to health, congestion, pollution and community.
"I think it fosters a sense of community," said Christine Morin, 39, a
Laurel Hill parent who has coordinated a schedule with four other
families to escort their children to school, including her
second-graders, twins Ben and Chase.
Meghan Wommack, 8, braving puddles in sneakers and a fuchsia slicker,
said she liked walking, even in the rain, and certainly more than
taking the bus, as the kids used to. For one thing, she didn't have to
bother with older kids.
The proposed health reform bill recognizes the health benefits in walking and biking and includes funding for "Community Transformation" aid, despite protests from some that it's "wasteful."
[Since 2005], over $13 million has been allocated to Virginia
for the program, of which about $7 million has been designated for
projects. Fairfax County has requested, and received, $17,000, less
than 1%. Fairfax is the largest school district in the state, 12th
largest in the country,
FABB also reported on a meeting of the County Board of Supervisors and School Board on this subject.
Supervisor McKay noted that the county was not taking advantage of grant opportunities such as CDC health grants or the Safe Routes to School Program to educate the public and to help build infrastructure.
Supervisor McKay noted that all schools should have bike racks. Dean
Tistadt of Facilities & Transportation Services (I think that's who
it was; there were no introductions) said that any principal who wanted
a bike rack could "get one instantly."
It was agreed that providing Kiss & Ride areas was not the best use
of school resources; facilitating parents driving kids to school makes
walking and biking less safe, and contributes to air pollution and
congestion around schools. As Mr. Tistadt said "This is lunacy. What we
should be doing is putting up barriers for those who drive kids to
The group agreed to 1. Find examples of successful
programs for getting more kids to walk and bike to school, and use
those as examples for the rest of the county and 2. Determine where
there are gaps in the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and provide
funds to fill in those gaps.
FABB also has a post on a Herndon Middle School's Bike Program where students repair bikes which are then donated for needy children within the local community.
Finally, this subject was discussed - ever so briefly - by Tom Vanderbilt when he was a guest on the Diane Rehm show last week with John Porcari and Robert Puentes. (They also discussed biking in Amsterdam and Roundabouts)
Dominion Virginia Power is building a 12-mile power transmission line from the Pleasant View
substation east of Leesburg to a new substation just east of the
Purcellville town boundary. 1.8 miles of the power line will be buried along the W&OD Trail ROW, so a detour is being built for trail users during the construction.
The detour between mile markers 36 and 38 will be completed in mid-December and the trail then closed for about one year. There was an open house on this in mid-November, but I missed it.
Haefner urged trail users to use caution, as some segments of the
detour trail are sloped, and the half-mile paved section on Cannongate
Drive at the far southern end of Shenstone is shared road-trail space,
with no sidewalk. On either end of Cannongate the trail is a single
lane, shared by cyclists, equestrians, skaters and walkers.
most of the new route crosses private property, users are asked to
respect owners' privacy and stay on the trail. They also are reminded
not to enter the construction zone.
"As of now, we're planning
no shut down of the trail. It should be a smooth transition," Haefner
said, in which the 1.8-mile segment of the W&0D closes
simultaneously with the opening of the detour.
The new detour is a bit more circuitous, but it does mean - I think - that many trees along the trail can be spared. Not an ideal situation, but a good compromise.
Back in October, I mentioned the plans that Toole Design was putting together for DDOT the Capitol Riverfront BID on possible configurations for M St, SE/SW. Of the four being considered, the BAC facility committee preferred the cycle track (so-called Montreal Style) and it appears that this is the one being proposed. JDLand has a post on a briefing of the project given to the Capitol Riverfront BID.
the main recommendations are:
the two curb lanes on M Street as "cycle tracks" with flexible posts, a
temporary measure suggested because of the "unknowns" of any future
streetcar implementations along M Street. There would also be a
widening of the sidewalks between Half streets SE and SW, moving the
cycle track onto the widened sidewalk, because this area is where the
"most intense traffic on the corridor occurs."
Eliminate all parking along M Street at all hours, though "after a
period of evaluation it may be appropriate to allow parking adjacent to
the cycle track if it is desired."
Move all transit stops to the far sides of intersections, where buses
and bikes can more easily cross and where buses can still pick up and
drop off passengers at a curb rather than on street level.
Reconfigure all traffic signals to allow bikes time to get through
intersections before vehicle traffic gets a green light (the bikes and
the pedestrian "walk" signals would go green first, followed then by
the vehicular greens).
The leading pedestrian interval mentioned above would be at least 7 seconds. This design has two options that differ in the separating material. In option 1, it's flexposts; in option 2 it's a surface mounted concrete curb. Option 2 is more expensive.
Unfortunately, the concept drawing is in Appendix B and JDLand doesn't have that up. While the report goes into several options for separating material - including granite curbed islands and planters - they don't recommend the more expensive options because M is likely to be rebuilt when streetcars are built.
Near bus stops, the curb will extend across the cycletrack to the bus/traffic lane. Cyclists will ride up a slight ramp to curb level before dropping back down to street level. Think of a very long speed table - with more gradual ramps. You can see it in the background of this photo.
Between Half SE and Half SW, they recommend incorporating the cycletrack into the sidewalk, possibly with separate light phases for cyclists (and peds).
JDLand also reports on the reception of the plan.
There apparently were some business owners at the BID meeting who were
displeased with the plans, centering mainly around the traffic
implications of the loss of one lane in each direction, which during
rush hour and ballpark events are travel lanes and which are parking
for customers/workers/residents/etc. the rest of the time. This could especially be an issue during events at Nationals Park,
a scenario which isn't mentioned at all in the feasibility study and
which has the Nationals particularly concerned (as apparently voiced by
the Nats' Gregory McCarthy at the briefing), since it's not out of the
realm of possibility (my words, not theirs) that attendance at the
ballpark could rise substantially if the team's fortunes improve,
making the backups that are seen when the stadium is sold out--such as
during the Red Sox series this summer--considerably worse.
Unlike the Montreal Cycle Track pictured here, I think these would be one way, with one on each side.
GGW has a roundup of cyclist assaults. The N.C. firefighter who shot at a cyclist's head because he disagreed with the cyclist's parenting skills got his charges reduced and then a weak sentence.
Convictions on such a charge result in an average 20-39 months in
prison for the defendant. But in the sentencing, Superior Court Judge
James Downs found that Diez’s military service, along with testimony
colleagues about his good character, were mitigating factors, and chose
to sentence him to 15-27 months instead. Downs suspended all but four
months of that sentence unless Diez breaks the law again in the next 30
The AP put out a story about trends in cycling. On the list: stylish utility bikes[doesn't "stylish" mean trendy?], fitness bikes, pedal-assisted electric bikes, eco design bikes, folding bikes and the Xtracycle. I'll give them those. But this one made me laugh.
AERODYMANIC ROAD BIKES (High-End): Bikes are already very light, but they can be made faster with aerodynamics, said Mooney.
Another recommendation is creating a new bicycle route from 39th Street
to Idaho Avenue and Porter Street. Additionally, the report recommends
adding new bike racks along the Wisconsin Avenue commercial corridor
and other key locations in Glover Park.
Montgomery County Maryland has three very nice bicycling-sustainable transportation maps for White Oak, Silver Spring, and the Medical Center (National
Institutes of Health and the Bethesda National Naval Hospital). These
maps are models for promoting bicycling and optimal mobility in key
17th St, NW will soon get a bike lane between Massachusetts and New Hampshire Avenues.
The reconfigured 17th Street will maintain two traffic lanes and
parking on both sides of the street, with a new five-foot wide bike
lane on the west side of the street. One resident observed that it
would be safer to place the lane on the east side of the street, so
cyclists are not in the door zone on the driver's side of parked cars.
DDOT staff at the meeting stated that "striping is the last thing we
do" and that the location of the bike lane could be subject to change,
but did not make any promises.
The other bike-related news for 17th Street is that individual
parking meters will be removed, to be replaced by multispace meters. To
make up for lost bike parking, new U-racks are included in the plan,
but DDOT staff last night were unable to say whether this change will
result in a net gain or net loss of bike parking on the street.
Those of us who don't pay gas taxes (i.e. users fees) still pay quite a bit for roads. So reports Subsidyscope.
in 2007, 51 percent of the nation's $193 billion set aside for highway
construction and maintenance was generated through user fees—down from
10 years earlier when user fees made up 61 percent of total spending on
roads. The rest came from other sources, including revenue generated by
income, sales and property taxes, as well as bond issues.