Structuring the conversation

August 4th, 2014 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

wpid-IMG_20110125_131341.jpgThe Bicycle Pedestrian Advocacy group facebook page is a great place to put observations and issues, but discussion gets rather quickly impossible as replies just stack up in facebook fashion. At least part of the problem, as I see it, is that we feel we have to keep all our issues simultaneously in play as we try to discuss any one issue. the result is that we wind up with a lot of polemics and very little substantive sharing. I don’t know where to carry on a better way of collaborating on ideas. But, for starters, I have tried to tease out some of the individual threads in the knotty fabric of our issues. I find all of these topics interesting; yes, all of them (or I wouldn’t have thought of them). No doubt there should be more topics. But, we can’t discuss them all at once in the same paragraphs. I’m just offering this listing as a step that we could take in making the task of advocacy more manageable. I think this is good pedagogy, but feel free to correct me.

If you think this enumeration of topics and subtopics is a good idea, and have more ideas, let me know (info@bikeithaca.org) and I’ll add them. Then, let’s set a venue for actually discussing some of them and working on solutions.

Topics that need discussion

How we ride, how we are treated

  1. Bicyclists ride “wild” because, as they say, the laws are written for cars, not bikes. I don’t know a lot of traffic laws that are really inappropriate for bikes, but there are definitely some. So, one topic should be to specify which laws present a problem, what that problem is, and what would make the law better.
  2. If we come to understand that certain laws are bad for cyclists, how can we go about getting them changed? (Might depend on which laws they are?) Subtopic — what are the obstacles to getting laws changed?
  3. Ignorance of good cycling practice is a real problem with respect to the general public, but a particularly serious problem with respect to law enforcement officers (LEOs). At least some of the hostility or indifference of cops toward cyclists might just be ignorance. How can we address that ignorance? What steps could we take in Ithaca toward getting the officers of the IPD educated on cycling issues? (I’m assuming we won’t conclude that it’s enough to hand them Section 1234 of the NY vehicle code.)
  4. There are a lot of cyclist behaviors that are illegal, that annoy people, that are dangerous. Can we distinguish between them? Does the cycling community have an interest in reducing or correcting these behaviors? If so, how would it improve things?
  5. Is it possible to form a cycling community — i.e., do cyclists have enough in common that they can form a common front in pursuing improved cycling conditions? Or are we an array of different interest groups with different or even incompatible needs?
  6. How bad are the conditions for cycling in Ithaca? Is it the same for all types of cycling and cyclist? Is there a “worst problem” that we should address?
  7. Enforcement — if we could set guidelines for enforcing traffic law for cyclists, what would they be?
  8. Since there are persistent reports of inappropriate police response to inappropriate motorist behavior, should we set up a reporting system and publicize it to all cyclists? Any redress has to begin with a gathering of evidence, no?

Facilities, infrastructure

  1. Bike lanes — do we want them? If so, what would be the priorites for where to put them?
  2. Maintaining existing bike lanes, can we improve over the fading paint?
  3. Routes through Ithaca –

o   Safe route from the TC Library to Cass Park and/or LACS?

o   Safe route from the TC Library and/or the Soutside CC to Buttermilk Falls SP

  1. Bike parking, sheltered parking, security, etc.
  2. Often things happen and most of us know nothing about it — should there be a notification system for the cycling community? (BPAC has encountered the same thing; solutions?)

Specific projects, wanted or unwanted — Stuff is planned that changes our city for cyclists as well as motorists. Often, these changes are unexpected, or they seem unnecessary or counterproductive. Projects we can think of are never considered for implementation. Can we create a discussion and see if we can influence the city? These are just some things I think about; please add more.

  1. Waterfront Trail — where it goes, how fast it’s developed, what the pieces look like? The existing parts of the trail go through Cass Park and Stewart Park, and those parts are really nice. But, in other places, there may be options for the development that we might want to have input on; or even just advance notice. Should we try to get more involved?
  2. Bridge over the Inlet — one of the things that I feel regretful about regarding the development around the Inlet is that the bridges are built purely as utilitarian conveyances, to get cars over the channel. In some other cities I’ve seen bridges in comparable places where there are “bump-outs” in the center  of the bridge, places with benches, even tables, where people can stop and linger with a great view of the waterway. The trail is due to have a bridge built over the inlet. Should we have views on the matter? What do you think about using a bridge as more than just a roadway or walkway?
  3. Brindley Street bridge — I understand that the bridge leading from State St to Brindley is due to be demolished and replaced with a “proper” roadway/bridge. I love the Brindley St bridge because it incorporates “traffic calming” with a situation in which residents of the community come in connection with each other, negotiate priority, and manage their traffic flow. No signals or bumps or rumblestrips required. At the same time, the bit of a bottleneck insures that the route of Brindley – Taber – Cherry – Malone – South Titus can get a timid bicyclist from West Hill or Cass Park to the east side of NY 13 in relative comfort. Enlarging the bridge will bring more, faster traffic and that safe route will disappear. Agree or disagree?
  4. I hear that the State Street bridge over the flood control channel is due to be transformed into a bike lane plus reduced traffic lanes. Much to learn, think about.

 

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Info session on Gateway Trail

March 27th, 2014 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

This information session is at the Ithaca Town Hall, the old Post Office building on the corner of Buffalo and Tioga Streets, on Tuursday, April 3, 5:30-7:30 pm. There is no set presentation, so come whenever you can during that time.

The trail (red line) follows the Ithaca City/Town border along an old railroad grade, so it’s not too steep. The blue line is the East Hill rec trail; the part southwest of Stone Quarry Rd. is “Phase O ne,” and northeast of it is “Phase Two.” In the upper right, if you select “OSM Cycle mapping, it shows a lot of existing trails as well.

It will connect South Hill, Buttermilk Falls State Park, the retail/employment corridor along NYS-13, and the future Black Diamond Trail. When completed, the Black Diamond Trail will connect to Robert Treman State Park to the south and Cass Park, Allan H. Treman State Marine Park and Taughannock Falls State Park and Trumansburg. From Cass Park the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, when completed, will connect to the Farmers’ Market and Stewart Park. So, the Gateway Trail is another link in a great system of trails for our community.

The note from Mike Smith, town planner: The Town will be holding a public Open House on Thursday, April 3rd at Town Hall for the Gateway Trail project. The project proposes a new shared use path from the Home Depot area on Route 13 to the South Hill Recreation Way on Hudson Street. The corridor will follow an old railroad right of way. Please come anytime between 5:30 – 7:30 pm to view the exhibits of the project, share comments, and ask questions.

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Active Transportation, Lobbying in Albany

March 6th, 2014 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

albany1For quite a few years it was the custom for the New York Bicycling Coalition to hold a “Legislative Breakfast” in Albany. It was a gathering in the Legislative Office Building where state officials and legislators were invited to speak about — and listen to — the burning issues facing bicyclists in New York State. The “breakfast” was just in the genre of donuts and coffee, but it served to make the encounters feel less abrasive. I don’t know how much these gatherings influenced our government leaders, but I can’t but think that they returned to their work with at least some awareness that this constituency exists. A small, but worthwhile, outcome.

This year, after a year or so off, NYBC resumed the tradition in a somewhat Read the rest of this entry »

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Crossings, again

December 31st, 2013 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

SW corner, Taughannock and Buffalo

SW corner, Taughannock and Buffalo

Just a bit of followup on pedestrian crossings. My wife and I went for a walk in yesterday’s rain and, once again, I was struck by the consistency with which pedestrian crossings are messed up.

The photo is of the southwest corner of the Taughannock Blvd.–Buffalo St. intersection. The bumpy surface for visually impaired people to orient themselves to the crossing was mostly submerged in a puddle that got its deepest right at the curb line. At the far side of the puddle was the broken pavement around the sunken manhole, providing an unknown depth of water. I presume that, by today, that water is frozen with some decorative snow on it to make it good and slippery.

As I noted in a previous post, this kind of corner crossing is not at all uncommon; I haven’t taken a methodical survey, but it seems to be pretty typical. How can that be? Road building is not an unknown technology. With modern surveying and building tools, it’s routine to build surfaces of predetermined pitch. How is it that water drains from all along the side of a road except where it messes things up for people on foot? Murphy’s Law, I suppose.

I dwell on this, first, because it bothers me that the public investment in curb cuts and such is so often undone by careless disregard for other, necessary features. It’s one thing when we don’t have money to build and maintain roads; but it’s scandalous to see recent, expensive work that has ridiculous shortcomings.

But, I dwell on these things also because I would like to see policies and practices encourage more people to walk or bike around town — for their health, for the environment, for the community contact, etc. To make that happen, it is essential that the community be an attractive place to do these things; it should be inviting and pleasant to go for a walk in Ithaca. When so many corner crossings have rubble and puddles, I marvel that anyone walks. And, when it snows, those corners are soon filled with ice and slush, often in a puddle.

We must demand better.

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Solstice 2013, SRSD6

December 21st, 2013 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Solstice cyclists at Cayuga Lake

The Solstice cyclists at Cayuga Lake

Today, amid the pageantry of the great international Rutabaga Curl at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market, a group of cyclists set out on the sixth annual Shortest Ride on the Shortest Day. It was quite a contrast to past winter solstice rides that had to contend with numbing temperatures and a snow-covered world. Today, the market’s drives were all mud and the parks’ grass all green. Thirteen of us set out just after the convocation of curlers, heading north along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. At Stewart Park, after securing the group photo as evidence of participation, we continued to Lake Street, past the roaring Ithaca Falls, back to Day Street and the Waterfront Trail back to the market. Halfway through the ride, a light drizzle commenced, just enough to make everything wet but not anything to change plans for. When we got back, the curling was in full swing as the crowd’s wild shouts and entreaties rang over the waterfront. We hadn’t missed much. Those who wanted to see the crowning of new champions still had a while to wait. We all agreed it was a great Shortest Ride — warm temperatures for a change (high 50s). We’ll all enjoy the extra 2 seconds of daylight tomorrow.

 

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December “Courteous Mass” ride

December 17th, 2013 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Courteous Mass gang at Ithaca Falls

The Courteous Mass gang at Ithaca Falls

It was really chilly last Friday, close to the shortest day of the year, but December’s edition of Ithaca’s “Courteous Mass” ride (2nd Friday of every month!!) went off like clockwork. There was quite a bit of snow around, including patches of it on many streets; and many a black spot on the pavement turned out to be ice. But, the group of people who turned up for the ride was winter ready! Several had studded tires on their bikes, one had gigantic-fat tires, those who had lights had them so bright that those without lights could easily see anyway. And everyone was bundled up suitable to the weather.

Our itinerary was a modest one, given the weather: we’d go over to Ithaca Falls, confirm it’s still falling, and return to downtown, perhaps ending at the Bandwagon brew pub. And, so it was. An interesting bit on the outbound leg was that one of the riders in the lead took us into a tiny alleyway running parallel to Aurora. I had no idea it was there, the map doesn’t show it; it made a lovely passageway out of the paths of cars. At the falls, we stopped, chatted for a bit, and headed out Lake Street to Cayuga Street. By the time we got downtown, I was finally a bit warmed up, but it was time to head into the Bandwagon to celebrate the accomplishment of yet another Courteous Mass!

Next month, the days will already be longer and we’ll expect a lot more people for the ride — it will be on January 10, 2014, 6:00 pm at Gimme, corner of Cayuga and Cascadilla. Be there!

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Ithaca 8 to 80* — Thursday, 12/5

December 3rd, 2013 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Ithaca 8 to 80* – Active Transportation For Everyone

On Thursday, December 5th, the Sustainability Center will offer an Intergenerational Dialogue about providing safe, accessible and enjoyable places in our community for 8 year-olds, 80 year-olds and everyone in between to walk, bike and be active as part of our daily routine.

Join us from 6:30-7pm for a Utility Bike Demonstration and Networking, and from 7:00-8:30 pm for the Interactive Panel Discussion. The Sustainability Center is located at 111 N. Albany Street, Ithaca, NY.

The event will inlcude a Way2Go transportation info table and youth bike helmet giveaway (sponsored by Way2Go & Sustainable Tompkins)

Panelists will include: Muj Powell, President of Cornell Big Red Bikes; Sonya Hicks, Pastor and bicycle commuter; and Vikki Armstrong, Streets Alive Ithaca! Organizer and Interim Coordinator of Creating Healthy Places, a program of the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County. The dialogue will be moderated by Tom Knipe, Senior Planner and Tourism Coordinator for Tompkins County and former director of the Community Cycling Center in Portland, Oregon.

 *8 - 80 Cities is a Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to transforming cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks, streets and other public places. The title of this event is inspired by this organization, but is not affiliated directly with it.

  The Sustainability Center is a project of the Center for Transformative Action

CONTACT:

Jackie Mouillesseaux-Grube, Director
Sustainability Center

111 N. Albany St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 227-7329
jackie@sustainabilityctr.org

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Crossings

November 7th, 2013 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

While walking around lately, my attention fell particularly on the condition of pedestrian crossings. I’m a member of the age cohort that can be expected to have mobility problems, so it has some special significance to me that so many crossings are in terrible condition.

It’s particularly distressing that so many of the features put in place at considerable cost to make street crossing safe are in such disrepair that they constitute additional obstacles. And, the crossing of the railroad tracks by Fulton — what a masterpiece of impediment! Really, is there some reason that the tracks on Buffalo (and State) present such rough going? I’ve seen hundreds of RR crossings much smoother — why does Ithaca put up with it?

Winter is approaching and snow will add to the difficulty of getting around. I’ve noticed for a long time that many curb cuts at corners are made at the exact low spot on the roadway so that there is a guaranteed puddle (or ice patch) just where pedestrians are funneled for their street crossing. Why, oh, why? Road builders seem able to control the height and pitch of the roadway to really close tolerances, so I assume they could tell you where water will accumulate before work begins.

Well, “just saying,” as they say.

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Courteous Mass —

November 5th, 2013 Andrejs Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Ithaca Courteous MassWe’ve all heard about “Critical Mass” bike rides — they’re held in cities all over the world, sometimes getting very large groups of bicyclists taking their place in traffic. When motorists or the police are upset by their presence, the message from the cyclists is: “We’re not impeding traffic, we ARE traffic!” In Ithaca, there have been a number of attempts to initiate regular CM rides, but it has never really caught on. The imprimatur of Critical Mass was often seen as a problem by many, who associate the name with provocative, unlawful behavior.

Courteous Mass — Second Friday, monthly

Thanks to Daniel Keough, currently the chair of Ithaca’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Council, Ithaca is starting fresh with this idea, hopefully freed of its belligerent reputation. Inspired by several other cities who have faced the same issues, this is going to be a monthly ride called “Courteous Mass” — an idea that has already earned a place in the Urban Dictionary:

“A group of people who ride bicycles together while obeying traffic laws, and showing common polite behavior for roadway travel. Similar to “critical mass”, only with a positive attitude, pleasant phrases, and very little spitting. Examples include the Bike Party in San Jose, CA, and the Maroon Bike Project Courteous Mass in College Station, TX, and many other polite group bicycle rides in other cities.”

Details will get worked out as we get under way, but the commitment is to hold a ride every second Friday of the month, year round. Bikes must have good lights and/or reflectors during the winter months.

The ride won’t be about speed or strength, just a pleasant spin around on the flats. We’ll obey all traffic regulations — stop signs, traffic lights, lane positions, etc. If a light catches the back of the group, the leaders will wait up. We won’t deliberately place ourselves in the way of cars, but neither will we shrink and retreat into positions that are unsafe and impractical. Perhaps some learning materials can be developed to help orient people to this kind of cycling. (The League of American Cyclists has a very good curriculum.)

In doubt about the dates? Courteous Mass rides are on the calendar on this website, over on the right side. See you there.

 

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Accountability for Ithaca Police Officer harassment of Cyclist

July 22nd, 2013 Daniel Keough Posted in Advocacy, BPAC, Hazards, News, Urban Life | 1 Comment »

On July 3, a few days after hearing back from the Community Police Board who had investigated my incident on March 20 of this year, I spoke at the Common Council and our Mayor. Though in this incident where off-duty IPD officer Greg Firman harassed me on my bicycle while he was driving, then body checked, handcuffed and later ticketed me–in this statement at the Common Council meeting I only briefly spoke to our public officials about the driver harassment and the lack of accountability for this off duty officer and the disappointing stance where our Chief of Police told the CPB Officer Firman did ‘nothing out of protocol or procedure’ in that incident.

After what I had to go through that morning at the hands of a member of law enforcement who has been trained to de-escalate situations and protect and serve the public, after getting slammed to the pavement and being a road rage victim, I wonder what would have happened if the on-duty officers showed up to see a civilian on top of me, instead of a member of a protected class. I feel compelled to report and pursue this abuse of power, and one has to wonder if there have been previous unreported incidents. For the good of this community and to protect the good service of the members of our Ithaca Police Department this we need to have accountability for the deliberate, reckless behavior of this officer. Read the rest of this entry »

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