March 31, 2014

Automatic bike counters

This is what Arlington County, VA is doing for automated bicycle counters...similar to vehicle detectors that DOTs use for counting cars, except these are used for counting bicyclists and (in some cases) pedestrians.  A list of locations and equipment models is shown halfway down the webpage.

They're also about to unveil a real-time counter display that will display count information for passing bicyclists and pedestrians.

Perhaps other cities will pick up on this.  Looking specifically at you, Minneapolis

November 22, 2013

Bicycling as school curriculum

One Minneapolis elementary school has done it:

http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/minnesota-elementary-school-adds-bikes-to-the-curriculum

Wish we had this back when I was in grade school.  I took it upon my self to start biking to school once I hit junior high.

November 21, 2013

A letter to Alexandria

There's been much in the news lately about a proposal to add bike lanes to a portion of King St west of Old Town, from Russell Rd up to Janney's Ln.  This segment of King St is pretty narrow and is on a fairly long incline.  The existing road has 2 lanes plus a parking lane...the original proposal was to take the parking lane, restripe the road, and add bike lanes on each side of the street, making it much safer for cyclists.  It would also tie into the bike lanes on Janney's Ln.

This being Alexandria, of course, there is some small but extremely vocal opposition to removing the parking.  Enough to where the city has both toned down the original proposal to include sharrows in some locations, but also conducted a study to see how utilized the existing parking was.  They concluded that an average of 3 cars a day were parking on King Street.  Meanwhile, a recent Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee bike count noted 8 bicyclists on King St during a 2-hour period, suggesting that there are more than 8 a day.

(Apologies that I don't have sources for those counts...the parking count happened while I was still at sea.  If you know of sources I can link to, please let me know!)

Below is the letter I sent to the city, utilizing a webform offered by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, but modifying the language that CSG suggested:

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I support full, dedicated bike lanes on King Street between Russell Road and Janney's Lane.  These lanes will connect the bike lanes on Janney's to the Metro and Old Town, making it easier for Alexandrians to commute by bike and Metro, and are much safer for bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians than the sharrows option currently under consideration by city staff.

Furthermore, let's look at this by the numbers.  According to city counts, an average of 3 vehicles per day park on the on street parking.  Per bike counts done by the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, 8 bicycles were counted in a 2-hour period, suggesting that there are more than 8 bikes a day.  Simple math logic notes that 8 > 3.

I support the compromise proposed by the Alexandria BPAC and supported by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, that keeps the original plan for full bike lanes extending to Janneys Lane, while providing a significantly wider, five-foot bike lane on the north side of King St. The wider north-side lane balances the residents' interest in having a safe buffer to pull in and out of their driveways with the need to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

I appreciate what the city is doing with regards to promoting bicycling as an alternative means of transportation in order to reduce congestion and pollution.  But if the city bows down on this project or cancels it outright, it will prove that city leaders aren't even providing lip service to better bicycling, but are backtracking on their own policies and transportation plans.  That is an inconsistency the city can ill afford.

Thank you,

October 08, 2013

Catching up on Tales from the Sea

When I made my last post over a year ago, I didn't realize I'd take so long to get back to blogging.  Call it preoccupation.  Call it getting burned out from being at sea.  Call it life.  But since I'm about to return home from a SECOND deployment, I figured it was about time to get back into the groove so I can bore you all with cool and snazzy transportation tidbits and maps.

But first, a quick recap of the past year:  that Klakring trip was rough.  After Seychelles, we did another month of watching (but not busting) pirates, then hit Mauritius for a few days (another new country under the belt), then back to more pirate-watching, then a long trip home (almost a month!) broken up only by a couple of short ports.

And then Meaghan had to go and buy a house while I was gone.  So the $15K I saved on deployment?  "Gone in 60 seconds".  But one could argue it was for "a good cause"....having a roof over my head when I retire from the Navy would be a good thing.

No sooner was I back in Norfolk (and invading #fridaycoffeeclub a couple of times) than I get tossed onto a watch rotation.  Well, not really a watch rotation...I was always on it.  Playing dayworker (and occasional babysitter...don't ask) on our METOC watch floor.  That didn't last long, as an expected June deployment got changed into an unexpected April deployment (funny how they always creep up on you).

So the past 5.5 months have been sent sailing the Mediterranean blue...certainly more port visits than last year on the Klakring, but many to the same place (I mean, how many times do I REALLY need to buy olive oil or rakomelo in Souda Bay?).  That said, it wasn't all that bad.  Got to tour Pompeii.  Saw a tram (European for Light Rail Transit) and rode an incline railway in Naples.  Saw another tram (but didn't get to ride it) in Rome.  Toured the Vatican and the Coliseum in Rome.  Got to ride on new roads (in a bus).  And now, as I type this from Augusta Bay, Sicily (though from the pier...haven't gotten to do much in this port), we're a couple weeks from getting back stateside.  Will be good to be back on dry land..."permanently".  As I retire in the spring, this is likely my last at-sea trip and definitely my last Navy deployment.

So here's to a good 2 week finish to #LifeAtSea...

September 10, 2012

Tales from the Seychelles

Land Ho! Land Ho!

Feels great to step foot on solid ground after spending 6 weeks straight at sea. Even if it's wet and raining part of the time here. It's what happens when one is in the tropics.

Pulled into port on Sunday, though. This place is dead on Sunday. Emptier than an out-of-service WMATA train. And only a few places open...most of which are along the beach at the hotels or casino. Good luck if you're near the port and need something on Sunday.

Mahe Island is tiny, relatively speaking, which is saying a lot since it's the largest of the Seychelles islands. The whole country has only 84,000 people, most of them on this island, which is maybe 15 miles long and 3 miles wide at the widest. But it's very hilly. Some steep rockfaces and a peak over 2,000ft high.

Very tourist-oriented (Sundays notwithsanding). Several hotels and resorts along the beaches. They get a lot of cruise ships during the tourist season (which thankfully for us hasn't started yet...we'd be anchored out instead of pierside otherwise).

A couple more days here...overnighting at one of the hotels. A real bed and real shower will be awesome compared to the ship, even if only for one night. If only the internet wasn't so expensive here...


It's a ship! And dry land!

July 28, 2012

More Tales From The Sand

The ship is coming to collect me today, so this may be it until the next port visit. It's been a fascinating, if hot and dusty, time here in Djibouti. Plenty of stuff on base to occupy one's time if they know where to look.

That said, it's still hot. It hit 112F yesterday. That's the temp, not the heat index. The heat index was much higher. Even though it's the desert, we're close to the water so there's still some humidity. No, I didn't try to fry an egg, cause there's no blacktop to fry an egg on.

And it's dusty too. Especially today. Wind kicked up early this morning off the desert so there's this hazy dusty pall over the sky today. And dust everywhere. Someone who's an OCD cleaner would have a heart attack in this place.

Forgot to mention before that there's NO overhead wires here. Everything electrical is underground. Since everyone's walking everywhere, it helps, but it's got a bit of an urbanist ring to it.

That's all from Djibouti. Our next installment will come whenever and wherever the powers that be allow it. Gotta love workin for the man every night and day...

July 27, 2012

A Sad State of Bollards

A couple months ago, cyclists along the Mount Vernon Trail in Alexandria noticed something disturbing beginning to happen. VDOT was starting to install bollards along the trail in the vicinity of the Wilson Bridge. First reported by Rootchopper (a regular bike commuter along the trail), these bollards have also been discussed on WashCycle and WABA.

And it's a mess. Besides being hard concrete (making them painful to run into), they considerably narrow the trail lanes, making it difficult to pass through at a normal rate of speed and VERY difficult for bikes hauling a trailer (i.e. a child trailer) or wide wheelchairs to pass through.


Bollards galore.

The bollards in this photo are at the bottom of the hill as one follows the MVT down from the Washington St Bridge Deck. With the downhill grade, cyclists are approaching these bollards at a higher-than-normal rate of speed, making it difficult to slow down and all but guaranteeing significant injury if they were to hit them. Furthermore, there is a curbed area of rocks just beyond the bollards on the left, an additional hazard in this area.

Who installed these and why was at one point a good question. At first it was hard to get clear information on who was responsible. NPS first said VDOT, since it's part of the Wilson Bridge project. Then VDOT said it was NPS, since Jones Point Park is under their jurisdiction. This tug of war lasted until WashCycle regular TurbineBlade (coincidentally a former neighbor of mine) received a letter from VDOT confirming that they were responsible for installation. The letter noted that because the bridge is considered "Critical Infrastructure", additional measures to prevent a terrorist attack were mandated by TSA/Homeland Security. The bike trail bollards are part of those additional measures. That it's VDOT's responsibility was also confirmed in a tweet to me by NPS.

This hasn't sat well with bicyclists and cycling advocates. A meeting at the site was coordinated recently between WABA, the Alexandria Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, VDOT, and Federal officials, discussed in WABA's blog post linked above. Officials acknowledged the bicycle safety concerns of the bollards but insisted that the bollards must remain and it's too late to make major changes. Instead, VDOT's response to the meeting was to add the plastic bollards on either side, additional striping through the bollards, and the warning signs that are still too close to the bollards:


VDOT's "solution".

While the threat of terrorists doing something to the bridge is understandable, the response from Federal and state officials is very excessive compared to the safety concerns the bollards and curbed rock area present to everyday users. In short, officials are sacrificing everyday safety to guard against what is really a very unlikely threat. If Homeland Security and VDOT insist on keeping the bollards, what they need to do is widen the space between bollards so there's less risk of bicyclists crashing into them. The rock curb area also needs to be reduced in size, something that VDOT has agreed to consider.


Second set of bollards on the MVT, north of the Wilson Bridge.


A third set of bollards exists on the connection to Royal St.

I have a full photo set from my "trip to the bollards" on Flickr. All the photos I used in this article are from that photo set.

July 26, 2012

Tales From The Sand

In the grand tradition of Tales From The Sharrows, it is my honor to bring you this unofficial subsidiary post. Perhaps it's the heat getting to me, or something about all this dust and sand, but here it is.

Nominally, this is a US Navy "Expeditionary Base", but there are so many other people from all the services, plus lots of contractors, that you really can't call it just a Navy base. Yeah, it's near the water, but not ON the water. It is, however, near the airport...so close you can smell the helicopters taking off and landing.

Security is pretty lengthy to get into base, as one can expect given this part of the world, not to mention that Somalia (in all its lawless glory) is almost within spitting distance. But once you're on base, you have just about everything you need here. Mess hall, showers, gym, coffee shop (open 24/7 at that). And an Exchange if you need to buy toiletries because the airline lost one of your bags (since recovered, but not until after spending $33 on "essentials").

There's even a suburb....Cluville. Dunno if that's because of all the clues to where people live here, or some super-secret Certified Likeness Unit project, but Cluville has a laundry shop, a mini-mart, and the MWR Internet center. It's also probably the only suburb in the world where you can get DC-style population density with a FAR less than 0.5.


BTW, it's dusty here. Photo by US Army Africa.

The living units aren't too bad. On the outside, they look like cargo containers, but inside there's enough room for 2 beds (or if you're an unlucky low-ranking junior sailor/soldier/airman/marine, 3 beds), adequate air conditioning, and some lights and lockers.

It's also one of the few places in the world where you'll see more pavement for pedestrians than you will for vehicles. Virtually every road/driving space on base is gravel. And we have 2 bus routes: the Blue Route and the Red Route. They look to be 15-20 passenger "mini-buses", but if you like vehicles it's your best chance for a ride since there are almost no private cars on base.

This being the desert, it's pretty dry. Except last night. It rained. A whole half-inch. But it was enough to turn dust into mud that lasted into this morning. I heard this was only the 3rd time it's rained this year.


It sorta looked like this. Photo by Flickr user strukanb.

It was also a brief respite from the 108F temperature we had yesterday. Think we only hit 107F today...it's a cooldown!

Signing off. Here for another day or so before I catch a ship to go bust some pirates. I wonder if it's dusty out there too?


Did I mention it's dusty here? U.S. Air Force photo.

A thought on bus shoulder lanes...

Last week, BeyondDC had a short piece on the potential for expanded bus shoulder use in the DC area. The area's Transportation Planning Board is asking for a working group to study the concept.

I'm sure BDC is aware of this, so I'm surprised he didn't mention it, but the Twin Cities metro area has a very extensive system of bus-allowed shoulders, where buses can use the shoulder during times of congested traffic. This is supported by state law, which governs the use and speed limits of bus shoulder use (namely a 35 MPH speed limit, but still faster than traffic going 10-15). MnDOT has been very supportive, and has undergone a program of shoulder improvements and minor shoulder widening to better handle the buses using the pavement. This improvement program isn't just for the freeways...several at-grade arterials have had their shoulders improved for bus use. These improvements helped out what was already a successful express bus system in the Twin Cities metro...the I-35W South (i.e. south of downtown Minneapolis) express buses alone carry 15,000 passengers a day.

Bus using the shoulder during heavy traffic. Image from Metro Transit.

MnDOT has also recently started implementing what they call a "Dynamic Shoulder Lane" on I-35W. They got the idea for the concept from VDOT and what they do on I-66. In their test case (which got UPA money a few years back from the Feds), the inside shoulder on northbound I-35W near downtown was reconstructed and upgraded...during normal times, it's basically a shoulder. During peak hours, it's basically a HO/T lane. Buses and HOVs can use for free, and solo drivers can pay to use if they have a transponder.

Unfortunately, most of the congested freeway segments in the DC area lack an inside shoulder, so similar application in DC may be limited. However, if VDOT can find a way to fully reconstruct I-66 between Fair Oaks and the Beltway (as they should've done 20 years ago), they could limit the major reconstruction to that segment and convert the wide inside shoulder west of Fair Oaks into a dynamic HOV or HO/T lane. This would allow for not just 1 but 2 HOV (or HO/T) lanes on I-66 in the peak direction between the Beltway and Gainesville (assuming the Fair Oaks-Beltway reconstruction allowed for 2 HOV lanes). The potential issue here would be enforcement, since I-66's HOV lanes are already heavily violated. But at the same time, MnDOT found that HOV violations on their I-394 and I-35W lanes dropped in half when they converted the lanes to HO/T lanes.

It's a concept that the DC area would do well to consider and implement.

June 17, 2012

An Eastern Shore ride

Since I'm about to get underway for awhile, I took advantage of the very awesome (albeit windy) weather yesterday to head up to the Eastern Shore for some biking. I'd noticed on my transfer down that there's a new bike trail near the southern tip of the shore. Indeed, last year the US Fish and Wildlife Service built a 2.5 mile bike/hike trail from their Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge north along the old Cape Charles Railroad. It's the start of what some hope to be a longer path connecting to Cheriton, although the farmers along the route are not happy about it.

From the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center (just off SR 600 near US 13), I followed the trail north to its end at Cedar Grove Dr (SR 645), then hopped over to Seaside Rd (SR 600) and up to Sunnyside Rd (SR 639) and over to the hamlet of Oyster, VA where I found a local beekeeper selling honey.

From Oyster, it was a straight shot back on Sunnyside Rd to the town of Cheriton. I only briefly brushed Cheriton before I moseyed my way back to Seaside Rd and back south to the Refuge and my car.

All in all, it was just under 28 miles with beautiful weather but a bit of wind, especially heading north.

Photos from the day are on my Flickr page.