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Archive for the ‘German Village’ Category

I recently had the great opportunity to blog for one of my favorite organizations: Project for Public Spaces.  If you’re not familiar, you should be.  Project for Public Spaces is a non-profit dedicated to create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities.  There are some cities doing wonderful projects that are putting life back into under-utilized streets.  While I love reading blog postings on this site, I was always frustrated because we’ve been doing some pretty cool things here and more people should about them.  So, here it is.

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I am one of the “zealous nuts.” I live in Columbus, Ohio and I think about Placemaking and Streets as Places all the time. You can easily catch me out in the neighborhood observing street-life behavior, or taking photos of things like benches (without backs) placed randomly on isolated and ridiculously over-sized slabs of concrete void of life and asking the question, “…Why?”

I don’t remember exactly when this passion (mixed with mild-obsession) began with wanting to re-create a city prioritizing people instead of autos. I’m sure the birth of it began while living in San Francisco in the late 90s/early 2000s. I had no need to own a car; I biked, bused, walked everywhere, and everywhere you went, people were around. Life was constantly happening in the streets. I remember I experienced my first diagonal crosswalk on New Montgomery Street and I thought it was the coolest concept, but also such an “A-HA!” moment: Convenience.

I moved back to Columbus in 2002 and quickly realized I wasn’t in “convenience, multi-modal-land” anymore. I bought a used car. My car did its job for a good six years. During that time, I would attempt to bike to certain destinations, but quickly learned first-hand how unfriendly our streets were. I also realized that when I was living in San Francisco, I used my bike as a mode of transportation – not merely as a recreational item when I merely felt like it. I didn’t fully grasp this until I moved back to Columbus and experienced how much harder it was. You see, in a city as dense as San Francisco, with its various integrated modes and speeds, drivers always have to be aware and drive more cautiously. In Columbus during that time, you rarely saw a person walking or biking; cars were the dominant mode and like the majority of cities and towns across the U.S., streets were designed to seduce you to speed. I’m all for being seduced but not while biking on an arterial road that I have to “share” with cars going 40 mph.

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As it turns out, history ALWAYS finds a way to repeat itself. Adult onesies are hotter than before, video arcades are the “in” place to hang out, and also revitalization – yes, revitalization – to resuscitate a space that’s lost its vigor, is having a comeback in a major way. In the past ten years, we’ve seen a boom in Downtown Revitalization Projects that are attracting people to once again move in instead of out. Columbus is one of those cities and we’ve made incredible strides in the past ten years. We have an amazing urban park in the center of our downtown that fills with life and concerts and various organized sports during the spring, summer, and fall months. We have a riverfront that has been transformed into a destination (and is currently being expanded) for residents and tourists with a cityscape view that’ll take your breath away. And in 2014 our downtown living soared from 4,000 residents to 7,000. People are coming back and I’ve loved watching our downtown find its heartbeat again.

So, where do I come in? Well, I love Columbus but one thing has constantly nagged me about this city:  One of the most repetitive adjectives I hear when people describe Columbus is, “potential” – including myself. “Columbus has such potential if only…” I want to stop being an awesome city IF and start being an awesome city that IS, and that means DOING. So, with a little talent, hustle, and guts, I’ve been DOING.

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The concept of Placemaking here in Columbus is only about four years new. One of the “primer” projects that opened up people’s eyes and minds to the possibilities of what could be was a 2013 project called CBUS FOTO. This collective engagement project organized through Columbus’ Center for Architecture and Design, and led by the vision of Michael and Sarah Bongiorno with a group of talented young designers, asked citizens of Columbus to photograph empty, overlooked spaces and buildings in the city and come up with creative ways on how to fill them. The hope was to inspire citizens to understand that we are surrounded by under-utilized public spaces. These “overlooked” public spaces that we walk through every day and bike past everyday are blank canvasses awaiting rejuvenation. The value of this ephemeral project activated people’s imagination to see public spaces differently, as more than meets the eye.

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2014 was a very fulfilling year for me as two of my passion projects were launched to the people of Columbus:  The Columbus Parklet Project and Open Streets Columbus. Our team piloted Columbus’ first parklet for one month in September, 2014 with the help of nine business supporters. The public and nearby businesses embraced the 4th St Parklet and in 2015, we plan on implementing two more. Fred Kent said it best, “when you give people an interesting place to gather, they’ll gather.”

I fell in love with parklets years ago. I remember when I was flying to San Francisco, one of my “to-do’s” was to “hangout” in a parklet. Let that marinate in your brains for a minute.I’m headed to another city and one of my destinations is a parking space. But, I was drawn to them and I knew people in Columbus would be drawn to them too. They were unique and exciting and I loved that people filled up the space in front of a business instead of one car.Life was added.  The Columbus Parklet Project creates small yet powerful actions that will continue to show people that streets have a “double-duty” responsibility – that they are necessary for getting us from point A to point B, AND they can be places.

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Another team I led was Open Streets Columbus. After three years of work and meetings and a lot of “no’s,” Columbus finally launched its first Open Streets event in September of 2014. We closed 0.8 miles of downtown streets and it became an urban playground for people of all ages (and wages). We’ve become submissive to the ‘Arrogance of Space.’ The Danish-coined term simply implies that there’s just too much space allocated to cars and drivers, and not enough for anything or anybody else. We’ve been told for so long that roads are made only to be driven on and outdated, myopic street design proves this. Open Streets initiatives turn the outdated thinking upside-down and gives the space back, allowing people to explore, connect, and realize on their own that equitable street design can happen.

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We had roughly 600 people come out and explore their city streets, free of all obstructions. It doesn’t sound like much but it was a great success, especially for a city that has a long way to go when it comes to bike/ped friendliness. The people who came out absolutely fell in love with Open Streets Columbus and in 2015, we’re planning to grow from one to two events. We are confident that with repetition and time, Open Streets Columbus will grow into a sustaining, thriving initiative every neighborhood embraces.

Years in the making and worth every moment.

I guess I wanted to write this blog for a couple reasons. I wanted to share some of our small successes here in Columbus because I’m proud of them and we’ve only just begun. I was tired of reading article after article about cities that are thriving, partially in part due to the presence of creative Placemaking projects and Columbus not being listed. Well, we now stand out, too, and I hope that can be an inspiration for other cities like ours. Lastly, Columbus has given me the support to take these risks. I say it’s a risk because for many people, especially decision-makers, as this is still uncharted territory. But, I believe these risks (and others) must be taken by everyone in order to not be a city that’s “status-quo.” I refuse to live in a city that’s “status-quo,” and I’m ‘all in’ to stand up to make the changes I want to see. We still have quite a ways to go but I think Columbus, and smaller and larger cities, are embracing the efforts of humanizing our streets again.

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Yesterday, while waiting at a bus stop in German Village, I, as I usually do, watched interactions between cars and pedestrians.  At this four-way stop, I observed how unsafe and how NON-functional this intersection is for pedestrians.

Design should always be about US – the end user.  How we use it, it is comfortable, is it uncomfortable, is it functional for everyone.

We’ve given complete control and power over to autos.  Even as pedestrians, when we have the lit ‘walk’ sign and someone is about to cross in a crosswalk and a car approaches- getting ready to potentially turn right, they inch their way into the crosswalk. The pedestrian hesitates and then once they see the car stop (in the crosswalk) the pedestrians gives the ‘thank you for allowing me to cross’ gesture.  They should never have to ‘thank’ the driver for allowing them to cross during a lit ‘walk’ as this time is deemed PEDESTRIAN CROSSING.  But, we’ve allowed this and we need to start taking it back.

I watch so many pedestrians be inconvenienced while crossing in a designated crosswalk b/c a driver has stopped beyond the ‘stop bar’ and into the crosswalk, or, the street has been designed for cars to excessively speed.  Pedestrians stay silent and remain inconvenienced.  There’s such an overwhelming dominance of letting cars overpower our streets and our safe places to cross that I’ve even been honked at, while crossing in a crosswalk.  I’m sure someone reading has as well.

The three photos below show poor and unsafe design for pedestrians at a four-way stop in German Village.  The first image.  Take note of where the stop sign has been placed, the stop bar for where cars are ‘suppose’ to stop and the crossing ramp.  The stop bar should be IN FRONT of the stop sign a few feet so that FIRST, the car stops and yields to pedestrians and second, the pedestrian has safe space to cross the street.  This is unsafe and poorly designed.  It also creates confusion on the pedestrian end.  The pedestrian waiting to cross should always have the right-of-way.  This image gives the perception that since the stop bar is ahead of the pedestrian ramp that the car has the right-of-way.  Wrong.  And as you can see with the car stopped here, it’s completely overtaken the pedestrian crossing space.

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Image two:  This is the stop sign looking west from that four-way stop.  Notice the stop bar that’s INSIDE the space where pedestrians cross.  This is an easy collision between a driver and pedestrian.  I’m sure the stop sign is placed where it currently is due to the lack of sight from the right side however, all cars must stop here.  The stop sign and the stop bar can be placed back a few feet to create safe crossing for the pedestrians.

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This third image is just plain lazy and dangerous.

Instead of the stop sign having its own pole, it’s slapped on the utility pole.  Look at the placement of the stop bar.  The utility pole is encroaching the ramp of where pedestrians are diverted to cross.  I cross this portion of the four-way stop, ALL the time and I’m angered by it.  It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.  Again, this kind of poor design is not functional for strollers, people walking their dogs, etc.  This.  Is. Dangerous.  It also puts forth the perception that cars are first, pedestrians are second.  Wrong.

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This is just one four-way stop intersection.  I’m bringing this to light to show that design must be usable, SAFE, and functional for ALL users of the road.  Think about other places in your neighborhood that have been designed based up creating comfort FIRST for the driver and THEN for the human being.

Fish swim.  Birds fly.  People walk.  We are ALL pedestrians before we are drivers.  We MUST be more vocal when it comes to safe spaces to walk and cross.  The images below are just a few images of how many cars stop INSIDE crosswalk, potentially creating unsafe and dangerous space, in the space that’s ‘suppose’ to be safe for us to cross.  This is a BIG reason why so many ppl cross at mid-block (its safer).

Next time you’re crossing at a crosswalk, take note of where cars are stopping, and if they are in YOUR pedestrian ‘safe’ space, educate them!  Next time you’re driving, I hope you properly stop and provide safe distance for pedestrians to cross.  And take a look at where other cars are stopping.

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The pedestrian is IN THE ROAD crossing!

 

 

 

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The weather for our ride was perfect, the evening of our Halloween Ride.  And to make it complete, my pals from Paradise Garage let me use their awesome Surly to which we strapped a wireless amp to the front and we jammed to music through the streets of Columbus.  Below are just a few of the incredible images that the amazing Jennifer Grimm took of our evening.  Our costume theme was simple:  black skirts and fun, crazy tights!  The girls had a blast and now I’m hooked on having music on every ride 🙂

Keep riding and be safe.

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We had a fantastic evening ride last night.  We began at Camelot Cellars (thanks, Janine) for our ‘meet & greet.’  As we rounded up, I walk outside and look to both my left and right and bikes were locked up to meters, trees, you name up; up and down the entire block.  It was a beautiful sight!

We rode about 9 miles and through a variety of neighborhoods.  As we were biking east on Long St. I stopped and counted 51 women riders.  I’m really excited to watch the ride continue to grow throughout the summer and beyond.

Enjoy!

Be safe and keep riding

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There’ve been previous updates on this but I just wanted to refresh y’all.  I saw these bicycle signs pop up in German Village yesterday and I was thrilled.

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More of these will continue to be installed along with the bike symbols on the ground to guide you on where to stop your bike at intersections.  Once you place your bike ontop of the symbol on the ground, it acts as a detector to change the light.  The city of Columbus’ Public Service Dept. plans to install both the signs and bicycle signals on the ground when you place a 311 request.  This is why it is so important to utilize this easy service-request system (http://311.columbus.gov/).  Our streets cannot get better unless we ALL are proactive in making them better.  I recently placed three requests through 311 and one of them is already in progress.

Next subject.

People constantly ask me ‘where is the best and safest place to ride my bike?’  The honest answer is, is that there is no real answer but there are better practices than others.  I tell people that if there are multiple travel lanes going in each direction, I always take the far right lane b/c there’s still another full lane(s) of travel.  Now, what about a street like High St.  There’s one travel lane, sometimes a dedicated left turn lane, and a far right lane that has buses, right turns, and now – parked cars.  Engineers reinforce that this lane can be ‘shared’ and let’s face it, most drivers DO want us on the most far right lane as possible, so they can continue about their destination, not having to slow down.  The fact is, is that that far right lane is 12ft wide (I counted) and clearly NOT enough for both a bike rider and an open car door to safely exist together.  Take a look at the pics below:

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Many car windows these days have tint to them leaving it as either a guessing game or a ‘Hail Mary’ for us bike riders riding in this lane.  As you can clearly see, there’s a variety of width of these cars.  I don’t care what people say, this is clearly not enough room.  I’ve been door’d and I’m still intimidated at times.

We learn in drivers education to be ‘predictable’ when driving.  Having drivers be able to anticipate your next move is both courteous and safe.  You dont want a driver to abruptly turn right and not signal or a car to change lanes with out adequate space and time.  The same goes with us on bikes.  We want drivers, buses, and walkers to be able to anticipate our moves.  Weaving in and out of lanes isn’t predictable.  I would rather anger the driver behind me b/c I’m slow and predictable than create this bike rodeo of weaving in and out of lanes and parked cars.  I know it’s engrained in us (slower traffic stays right) but when it comes to safety, drivers are just going to have to deal.  I hope these images help along with my quasi-clear explanation.  Again, its really difficult to answer b/c there are so many different levels of confidence when riding however, I hope these images give you a better idea of why its always not in the best interest to appease the cars behind you and for you to maintain the lane until the far right lane frees up for you to move into.

Be safe and keep riding.

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So, finally the clouds parted – the sun was shining and the temperature wasn’t bone chilling.  This past Saturday was our winter Tweed ride  which was a fantastic success.  I’m guessing there were close to forty riders eagerly wanting to get back on their bikes.  Prior to the Tweed ride, I hadn’t ridden my bike in five days b/c of the ice still coating the side streets of where I live.

Beginning at Cup o’ Joe in the Short North we then hit off to Franklinton Cycle Works.  We hung out, I took more photos, and had coffee and fruit that was donated by Green Bean Delivery.  On to German Village we rode.  Every Tweed ride, we have a group photo at Schiller Park.  This group photo was one of my favorites taken b/c of the snow covered grounds.  It set a nice tone to our ride and of course, the picture.

Thanks to everyone who joined in on the ride.  I think everyone had a wonderful time.  One of the things I absolutely love about bikes and social bike rides is how it brings people together and how it creates friendships.  I notice that immediately and it puts a smile on my face.

Another Tweed ride will happen in the Spring so stay tuned.  Enjoy the photos

Be safe and keep riding.

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This past Wednesday, I believe around fifty ladies ended up riding together ( I keep forgetting to take a head count).  It was such a beautiful sight.  We rode passed a handful of parks that evening, praising public parks and green space and all its beauty.  A lot of the gals had not been over either of the Main St. Bridge or the Rich St. Bridge – they all loved it.

We had an interim rest stop at the ‘walk up’ Jeni’s in German Village where it was one of the evening’s highlights.  Lori at Caffe’ Apropos LOVED that we began at the Caffe’ and said we were welcome back, any time.  Ya see, bicyclists are a very big positive to a neighborhood and a business.  What is more visually appealing:  cars parked all along the sidewalk blocking the scenery of the patrons lingering at the cafe tables outside OR bicycles of all kinds and colors, locked up and PEOPLE filling the sidewalks with laughter and conversations?  Which one brings life to a neighborhood??

Here are some of the photos taken from Wednesday.  I look forward to next month’s ride which I believe will be a tour of Bexley and the beautiful streets and homes.  I hope the trees will have begun to change as this was my reasoning for waiting.

Be safe and keep riding!

 

 

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