I’ve heard Mayor Coleman speak dozens of times and there’s one sentence that has stuck with me for years. Yes, years b/c I heard it years ago during one of his ‘Bikin’ Mike,’ ‘Bike to Work Week’ public appearances. He said, ‘if we (as a city) remain status-quo, we’ll continue to get left behind.’ Obviously, this is in reference to bicycling within Columbus.
In 2009, Columbus received its first ‘Bronze Award’ for ‘Bike-Friendly Community.’ It’s an award given through the national bicycling organization – League of American Bicyclists. You have to apply for it, give very detailed information regarding all the bicycle facilities that have been implemented and projects that are currently in progress. In 2009, Columbus was awarded the Bronze. It’s 2013, four years later and guess what… we’re still a Bronze. Bicycling Magazine named the Top 50 bike-friendly cities in the country and we have remained in the lower 1/3 on that list – 34.
The top cities as you can gather: Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, D.C., Seattle, and Tucson to name a few. These cities are designing their streets with ‘8-80′ in mind. This means their planners and engineers are designing and inviting EVERYONE to ride and feel safe while they’re riding. They are installing protected bike lanes, bike boxes at intersections, dedicated bike signals, and painting their bike lanes green so that these lanes are clearly visible to all users on the road. They are clearly making biking a priority and they are showing with these types of infrastructure projects that there’s more to the 21st century transportation mix than just cars. These cities are at top of the list b/c they have the political will, they aren’t afraid to upset people b/c are noticing that many more ppl WANT alternatives to move around their city. And when you give them well-designed infrastructure to ride, they are going to ride.
We ARE being left behind b/c our political will is….lack luster when it comes to REAL bicycle infrastructure and the most recent / perfect example is South High St.
Yesterday, I was biking home, using South High and noticed something new. Sharrows placed north and south on S. High St. from Livingston Ave. to Thurman Ave. I was upset. If you all know S. High St. it is yet another inner-city freeway – CLEARLY in need of being slowed. I layed in bed last night tossing and turning b/c I know that S. High is yet another street we’ve lost an opportunity to redesign in the CORRECT way and I’m about to break it down for you all.
This morning, I went to S. High and I did some work. I took some chalk and photos and I’m going to show you that this street HAD every capability to have bike lanes in both direction and if the city really wanted to ‘WOW’ us, they could have created the city’s first protected bike lanes.
I took measurements in three different intersections of S. High to see if this street’s width altered at all. It didn’t.
S.High St. width- in all three intersection measurements that I did – spanning from Livingston Ave to just before Thurman Ave = 66ft wide (from curb to curb)
This is initial shot (image above) I took of where the parked cars are and one of the sharrows in the right travel lane
This is the intersection of S. High St and Frankfort St. As you can see from my chalk markings – the parking lane is 8ft wide (average parking width) however, from the blue chalk line to the boundary of the white-dotted lines that separate the travel lanes, the right travel lane is 15 ft wide. Completely UNACCEPTABLE that a lane is 15ft wide! When you have a lane 15ft wide, you are INVITING cars to speed! The left travel lane is 10ft wide. The same measurements going in the opposite direction.
A bike lane is usually 5 ft wide. Clearly, what SHOULD have been done was to reduce that 15ft travel lane to 10ft in both directions. This frees up 10ft (5ft in each direction) to be used to create bike lanes. Now, here’s where political will and being bold comes in, the city could have bumped the cars out from the curb 5ft creating a protected bike lane and slowing the traffic. The protected bike lane would essentially be protected from moving traffic due to the parked cars. And, this type of facility creates an even bigger buffer for the pedestrians. ‘Dooring?’ well, that issue / concern would be drastically reduced b/c the bike rider is traveling on the side -the passenger door and over 80% of drivers these days are ‘Single-Occupancy Vehicles, SOV’ – meaning driver only.
Just a shot of moving traffic. But this also shows the extreme width of this street. S. High St. has pockets of mixed-use buildings however, development is not increasing on this street and hasn’t b/c of the design of this street. It is clearly a street to move cars north and south at a minimum of 40mph. Let me also state that if bike lanes were installed and / or the protected bike lanes installed – there would have been no removal of parking nor the removal of any travel lanes.
Then there’ s this and I’m sorry its so small.
This image is our city’s ‘Bicentennial Bikeways Plan’ which was approved in 2008. The bottom of this page shows what the colors mean. ‘Existing and Proposed Bicycle Network Downtown Columbus’ and if you can see the dotted blue key means ‘bike lane.’ Scroll up to the image of the city streets and if you can read, S. High St. it shows ‘proposed bike lane.’ So, what has changed from 2008 to now?? The street width sure hasn’t. Now, S. High St. wasn’t an ‘automatic’ for getting bike lanes but clearly the individuals in charge thought in 2008 that S. High St was wide enough to get bike lanes and once again we’ve resulted in lack luster infrastructure i.e. sharrows. Our ‘Bicentennial Bikeways Plan’ is slowly turning into the ‘Bicentennial Sharrows Plan.’ Sharrows do not slow down traffic and they do not invite the mother who wants to hop on her bike with a trailor in tow with her kid to bike on a street this fast and this wide.
Why does Columbus continually remain in the lower 1/3 list of ‘bike-friendly cities,’ this is the a perfect example. We had an opportunity and took the easy way out. We’re keeping drivers happy with not changing the design of our street and we’re not doing anything to invite new bike riders to explore our city.
What new rider (man or woman) is going to feel ‘safer’ now that sharrows are placed on this street? It doesn’t change the fact that the right lane is STILL 15ft wide.
The speed limit on this street is 35mph however, due to the nature of this poorly designed street, the cars easily go 45mph.
Both of the images above are of the only real area where folks walk from the downtown buildings. This area is also the only cluster of businesses and half of these business turn over. I can guarantee that one of the main reasons there’s high turnover with these businesses is b/c of the street design. When you’re going 40mph, you’re clearly driving to your destination and nothing more. This area has every opportunity to develop. You have three neighborhoods that are walking distance yet you hardly see walkers on S. High St. and it’s b/c of this street design.
Question: Do you prefer to stroll down High St. in the Shorth North or Gay St.? Or would you want to walk down S. High St? Aside from this cluster of ever-changing bars/restaurants, there’s NOTHING to draw you, nothing to invite you to walk down S. High St. It’s not comfortable. And this will remain until the street scape is changed with all users in mind.
This post is about accountability. The tireless bike advocates can continue to teach safety and educate people on bikes but the fact remains that perceived safety and traffic speed are two of the biggest barriers that keep more people from riding. Our streets need to be changed and redesigned with an ‘8-80′ mentality. Sharrows are ‘status-quo.’