Shifting from Bicycle Boulevards to Neighborhood Greenways

While the following topic directly relates to my job because I consult for Arlington County, I’m hopeful I have some freedom to be an advocate during my free time. I love being an advocate but also want to keep my job so I’m feeling handcuffed. Even though I’m critiquing my client’s bicycle and pedestrian planning efforts, I’m not critiquing Capital Bikeshare so I assume the following topic is safe to write about.

With my background thoughts out of the way, what do you think of when you read “bicycle boulevard”? Did you only think of cyclists and wonder why I’m asking? Even though you may think only having cyclists prioritized on a slow speed neighborhood street is okay, I’m bothered by this. While Arlington has included several pedestrian projects in its bike boulevard plans, the public likely doesn’t realize that pedestrian projects have been included on a bike-specific project. This concerns me and should concern you!

While I’m not sure what percent of bike and ped projects are included in the overall bike boulevard plan, I assume that bike projects represent the majority of the projects because the title of the plan is bike boulevards. Even though I’m advocating for a shift from bike boulevards to neighborhood greenways, I have no idea whether this change will actually result in more focus discussions about ped projects. Since changing policy could result in focusing more on ped projects, I recommend Arlington adopt the green transportation hierarchy. According to the green transportation hierarchy, pedestrians should be prioritized over cyclists.

green-transportation-triangle

Source: BikePortland

While I’m not trying to insinuate that Arlington isn’t prioritizing pedestrians, I am stating that Arlington should use better language if it wants to prioritize pedestrians and attract pedestrian advocates to join the conversation. As the below video shows, Portland has been shifting from bicycle boulevards to neighborhood greenways. I believe one of the reasons why Portland chose to make this shift is because bicycle boulevards are seen as only for cyclists while neighborhood greenways are seen as multimodal. I hope Arlington will follow Portland’s lead and shift from bicycle boulevards to neighborhood greenways so pedestrians can be prioritized more.

Future Blog Post: Tactical Urbanism in Portland vs. DC

Since Catherine, who I have been dating for almost two months, thinks tactical urbanism events are awesome, I’m trying to find upcoming tactical urbanism events in the DC region. Even though I showed Catherine photos of tactical urbanism events, I feel you have to experience the event in person to fully understand and enjoy it. I’m hoping to take Catherine to a tactical urbanism event on a future date. While Open Streets DC has a website, I’m disappointed to read “One day a year, let’s open up those streets.” Only one day a year! Plus, I couldn’t find any upcoming open street events on the Open Streets DC website so I’m disappointed. I guess Portland spoiled me with five Sunday Parkways (open street events) each year!

Walking, Biking and Riding Transit in Portland, OR vs. Washington, DC

Since my car-free travel behavior has changed dramatically between Portland and DC, I want to compare how my walking, biking, and transit riding habits have changed between living in Portland and now living in the DC region.

Except for the few months in late 2015 and early 2016 where I fully depended on walking and riding transit in Portland because I felt too anxious biking, I mostly walked and biked for all my trips in Portland. I was planning to also mostly walk and bike throughout the DC region because transit is expensive (not as expensive as owning and maintaining a car). While I still walk and bike in the DC region, my boss provided me with a transit card for work trips so I have been riding transit much more than I planned to when I moved here. My boss also provided me with a Capital Bikeshare maintenance key (no time limits like normal keys) for work and personal trips so I haven’t been riding my private bike as often. Since I can’t carry my panniers on Capital Bikeshare, I have been mostly using my private bike for getting groceries and other shopping trips.

Biking in Portland vs. DC region

I don’t live in DC so, while DC has bike racks almost everywhere and the bike racks are usually designed correctly, I have experienced no bike racks or poorly designed bike racks often in Arlington. The below photo shows a ladder or wheel bender rack at a grocery store near my home in Arlington. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with bike parking issues when parking a Capital Bikeshare bike because I have always found an empty dock.

 

Since I depended so much on the DC region’s great trail systems when I lived in the DC region during summer 2014, I was looking forward to depending on the DC region’s great trail systems again. Even though I rode a road bike last time I lived in the DC region, anxiety from my extreme fear of heights has gotten much worse so I have been struggling to ride on hilly trails like the Custis Trail and trails along steep cliffs like the Four Mile Run Trail. Since I doubt I will conquer my fear of heights soon, I’m planning to buy a $3-4,000 recumbent trike so I can reduce the anxiety I feel when biking on hilly trails and along steep cliffs.

 

While the trails are great for long-distance trips, they don’t go everywhere so I still have to use on-street bike routes. I forgot how bad most of the on-street bike infrastructure is in the DC region. Yes, I know DC has protected bike lanes, which are actually better than any protected bike lanes in Portland. However, protected bike lanes in the DC region are on very few streets so I rarely ride on them.

I’m missing Portland’s neighborhood greenways. I used to live at SE 27th and Salmon, which is on a neighborhood greenway, so I memorized the neighborhood greenways. I rarely had to ride on busy roads outside of downtown Portland because neighborhood greenways went almost everywhere. Thankfully, I have found one element of neighborhood greenways in the DC region. Sharrows are found throughout the DC region. Even though the DC region has installed sharrows, which is a critical and cheap element to Portland’s neighborhood greenways, the DC region has horrible wayfinding for cyclists so the sharrows aren’t part of a neighborhood greenway. Due to this, I feel sharrows are only used in the DC region to communicate to cyclists that the government believes that the street is safe enough for biking and to communicate to motorists that they should expect to see cyclists using the street. Sharrows do much more than this in Portland so I miss biking on Portland’s neighborhood streets.

Before I totally dismiss the DC region’s on-street bike network, I’m excited to share that the DC region has several Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) maps. As all the below maps show, the DC region has plenty of work to do to make their on-street bike network feel more comfortable and less stressful. However, I find these maps much more useful than normal bike maps. This is mostly because a normal bike map shows all bike lanes the same while a LTS map shows bike lanes by how comfortable or stressful they are to ride on.

Arlington County, VA 2017 Bicycle Comfort Level Map (click to download front and back of map)

Montgomery County, MD Bicycle Stress Map (click to view map)

montgomery-county-lts-map

According to a presentation by Stephanie Dock, who works for District DOT, at the Transportation Techies meetup in October 2016, District DOT will be publicly releasing their LTS map soon so I’ll add their map when it’s released.

This blog post is getting long. I try to keep my blog posts under 1,000 words and will go over 1,000 words if I keep writing this blog post. While I still want to compare how my walking and transit riding habits have changed between Portland and DC, I may have to write about them in a new blog post. Readers, do you want me to write about my walking and transit riding habits in this blog post or start a new blog post?

Reflecting on starting my first full-time, permanent job and my job search process

I’m excited to announce that I’m about to start my first full-time, permanent job in Washington, DC. I will be Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike, LLC. I copied the job description (removed compensation) below so you can get a sense of what I will be doing. The job mostly involves working with Capital Bikeshare on expansion plans in Arlington County, VA and Montgomery County, MD. Since MetroBike has a global client list, I likely will be traveling to other cities in the US and other countries. Maybe I will work in a city where you live!

metrobike-logo

Bikeshare Planner

MetroBike, LLC is an internationally known bikeshare consultancy and the first of its kind in North America. Established in 2004, MetroBike has a client list which includes local and federal governments, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and universities.

MetroBike is hiring a full-time Bikeshare Planner in the Washington, D.C. region to assist with planning for the Capital Bikeshare system.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • analysis of potential bikeshare station sites;
  • work with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to obtain input on proposed station sites;
  • develop a concept drawing for each station site;
  • coordinate construction of pads and bulb-outs on top of which stations will be installed;
  • direct station installations, relocations, expansions, and contractions with the operator;
  • coordinate signage, markings, and delineator placement; and
  • analyze data and write reports.

 Qualifications:

  • college degree in planning, transport, engineering, or related field, advanced degree a plus;
  • bicycle facility design experience;
  • 3 – 5 years of related experience;
  • excellent communication and organizational skills;
  • strong analytical and problem solving skills;
  • basic graphic design skills; and
  • passion for bikesharing and urban cycling.
  • GIS skills are a plus.

As I transition into my first full-time, permanent job, I would like to reflect on my initial reactions to the job, work environment, and living car-free again in the DC region. I plan to write a follow-up post after moving back to the DC region to reflect on how true my initial reactions were. I plan to also reflect on what surprised me about my new job, work environment, and living car-free again in the DC region. Since my blog is public and can be seen by my current and any future employers, I’m aware that I need to be careful about what I share so I don’t risk losing my job.

Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike

While I am sure I will struggle with transitioning into my new job and may not enjoy every aspect of the job, the Bikeshare Planner position feels like a dream job so I’m thrilled to start working. I’m especially looking forward to using GIS and an equity lens to analyze potential bikeshare station sites. Since Capital Bikeshare has social and economic equity problems, I look forward to working with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to resolve the social and economic equity problems.

capitalbikeshare_logo

I have so far only mentioned how my job involves neighborhood, citywide, and regional thinking. My job also involves site planning because I will be developing concept drawings for each bikeshare station site. Even though I just starting learning graphic design skills during graduate school, I hope my graphic design skills are good enough to create concept drawings for each bikeshare station site. Since I have seen many bike share stations installed in a manner that blocks pedestrian and wheelchair movement and limits how much space is available for sidewalk cafes, I look forward to coordinating construction of pads and bulb-outs for the stations. I also have seen bike share wayfinding, markings, and delineators installed poorly so I look forward to helping to coordinate this process as well. Since I’m a data nerd and enjoy writing, I look forward to analyzing bike share data and writing reports. Hopefully, some of the data will show the economic impact and traffic congestion relief of bike share.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • analysis of potential bikeshare station sites;
  • work with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to obtain input on proposed station sites;
  • develop a concept drawing for each station site;
  • coordinate construction of pads and bulb-outs on top of which stations will be installed;
  • direct station installations, relocations, expansions, and contractions with the operator;
  • coordinate signage, markings, and delineator placement; and
  • analyze data and write reports.

Home-Based Job

MetroBike doesn’t have office space so my boss and I will be working from our own homes and meeting probably at least weekly to check in on work projects. Yes, my boss only has one employee. I have never worked a home-based job before so I’m definitely nervous about how it will feel. Since I have always had a roommate, I’m debating whether to try and find a new roommate in DC or live alone. I get depressed when I’m alone for too long so I enjoy talking with a roommate. However, I’m not sure how easy and comfortable it will be to do a home-based job with a roommate that I just met. In case you’re wondering, my job isn’t 100% home-based. I will have to travel to meetings and check on bike share station installations.

Living Car-Free Again in Washington, DC

As my previous Washington, DC blog posts show, I enjoyed living car-free in the Washington, DC region during summer 2014. I home was located in Silver Spring, MD and Tacoma Park, MD so most of my car-free experiences were based in the Maryland side of DC. I haven’t decided where I plan to live in the DC region yet. My boss said he is open to me living anywhere within close proximity of Capital Bikeshare so I basically have freedom to live almost anywhere in the DC region.

My biggest transportation concern about moving from Portland, OR to Washington, DC is how quickly I can ship my hybrid and road bikes using Amtrak Express Shipping. I was considering whether to sell my bikes and buy new bikes in DC. Since I’m a bike snob and haven’t been able to so far find the specific types of hybrid and road bikes I wanted at affordable prices, I have decided to ship my hybrid and road bikes to DC.

Transitioning from Portland, OR to Washington, DC

My flight from Portland, OR arrives in Washington, DC on Friday, October 7. I have arranged short-term housing with Michael Schade, who I met in 2014 and is also a transportation nerd, until I can find long-term housing and possibly a new roommate. As some of you know, I was a transportation planning intern at Toole Design Group in the DC region during summer 2014 so I am already familiar with the region. I know the DC region has changed in the past two years so I look forward to seeing how it has changed. I also look forward to writing blog posts about my reactions to living and working in the DC region again.

Reflecting On My Job Search Process

Since my job search process was frustrating, I want to reflect on what lessons I learned during the process. From January 31 to September 27, 2016 (I graduated in June so I applied for most of the jobs after graduation), I applied for over 100 jobs, was invited to interview for over 25 jobs so far (I’m still receiving more interviews), and received two job offers. My other job offer was for part-time, temporary GIS Technician at Tigard, OR.

Even though I definitely feel prepared to start working as the Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike, I almost didn’t apply for the job because I wasn’t sure if I met the required qualifications for the job. MetroBike’s Bikeshare Planner qualifications require 3–5 years of related experience. While I have worked multiple internships that involve working on bike sharing, including for Charlotte B-cycle (Charlotte’s bike share) and consulting on Indego (Philadelphia bike share), both of these internships were only a few months so they didn’t add up to 3-5 years of related experience. I don’t think the sum of all my work experience, which includes mostly part-time internships, is at least three years of experience. The lesson I learned is don’t be afraid to apply for a job because you don’t think you meet the required years of work experience.

As my previous blog post discussed, I kept being asked during many interviews about whether I have more than just bike planning experience. I tried to convince interviewers that I have multimodal planning experience, but my resume is full of bike planning experience so this proved challenging to accomplish. Since most interviewers assumed I was living car-free because I lived in Portland, OR and my resume is full of bike experience, I was also asked during many interviews whether I am comfortable driving an automobile. I believe MetroBike was the only employer who asked me whether I am comfortable with city biking. The interviewer from MetroBike actually saw my bike during our Skype interview so he knew the answer to his question before having me answer it. The lesson I learned is even bicycle and pedestrian planning jobs that don’t directly involve automobile planning still often require driving an automobile. The Bikeshare Planner position at MetroBike may be the only job I was interviewed for that doesn’t require driving an automobile so I am feeling lucky.

Ray Does Have Multimodal Experience

While I still plan to write more about my study abroad trip last summer to the Netherlands, I have been surprised by how some people think I am only focused on bike planning. I want to resolve any confusion people may have about my multimodal experience. Since my resume mostly shows bike planning experience and this blog is mostly about biking, I have been asked during job interviews whether I have any transportation planning experience beyond bike planning. Some of my bike friends in Portland have told me that they have also been asked this question during job interviews and believe it is a common question for any Portland-based transportation planners applying for jobs outside of Portland. They told me the question is most likely due to the fact that Portland is known mostly for bike planning outside of Portland. Yes, I have extensive experience in transportation planning beyond bike planning. Through this post, I plan to show a variety of transportation planning projects I have worked on.

Pedestrian Planning

“Whether you live in a city or a small town, and whether you drive a car, take the bus or ride a train, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian.”
Anthony Foxx
United States Secretary of Transportation

I believe in prioritizing people and creating human-sized cities. In case you are wondering what I mean by “prioritizing people”, read my previous blog post about advocating for people. Since everyone is a pedestrian and pedestrians are a vulnerable road user, I feel it is important to showcase my pedestrian planning work first. While I have worked on many pedestrian planning projects, the biggest pedestrian planning project was my planning workshop project during winter and spring terms at Portland State University. My planning workshop group, which consisted of a total of four Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students, worked with Tigard, Oregon and State of Place to create a walkability and economic development plan for the Tigard Triangle.

 

If you don’t have time to read the entire plan, I would like to highlight the below map because it shows the importance of the plan. The State of Place Raw Score shows walkability scores for every road segment in the Tigard Triangle. Value per Acre shows economic development opportunities. Through the plan my group created, we prioritized walkability and economic development improvements in the Tigard Triangle.

Tigard Triangle Walkable Small Business

Map from Ray’s Workshop Project

Bicycle Planning

Since everyone already knows I’m passionate about bicycle planning and most of my blog has already been devoted to writing about biking, I’m not going to write much about my bike planning experience. This previous blog post shows a map I helped create during my Transportation Planning Internship at Toole Design Group.

Automobile Planning

Even though I am mostly passionate about pedestrian and bicycle planning, I do have automobile planning experience and do care about motorist safety. After all, motorists are people. During my Transportation Planning Internship at Charlotte DOT, I calculated Level of Service (LOS) for many intersections. One of my goals of calculating LOS was to improve motorist safety.

Transit Planning

All of my internships have involved pedestrian, bicycle and automobile planning so I don’t have too much experience with transit planning. However, as the below map shows, I did some transit planning during my workshop project.

Transit in Tigard Triangle

Map from Ray’s Workshop Project

I hope I have convinced you that I have well rounded transportation planning experience.

It is not the destination, but the journey.

I’m probably one of the few master’s degree graduates who has been looking forward to using some of my newfound free time to keep writing. Since I didn’t have enough time before fall 2015 term started to finish blogging about my study abroad trip last summer to the Netherlands, I want to keep blogging about this trip. Due to how much interest there is in the United States to learn from the Netherlands, I plan to use specific examples from the United States and the Netherlands to show how the United States can learn from my experiences in the Netherlands.

My graduation cap was inspired by my study abroad trips to Denmark and the Netherlands in 2012 and the Netherlands in 2015. The words, “It is not the destination, but the journey”, were inspired by The Slow Bicycle Movement.

2016-06-11 13.44.05

Ray Atkinson’s 2016 Graduation Cap

As I discussed in my previous blog post and the below video shows, most cyclists in the United States are too concerned about arriving at their destination as fast as possible that they forget about enjoying their journey. My study abroad experiences in Denmark and the Netherlands showed me that most cyclists in these countries enjoy their journey and don’t care too much about arriving at their destination as fast as possible. Through my bicycle advocacy work at UNC Charlotte and Portland State University, I tried to advocate for cyclists to shift from focusing on arriving at their destination as fast as possible to focusing on enjoying their journey. Wherever life takes me after graduation, I plan to continue advocating for this shift and hope to someday see most cyclists in the United States enjoying their journey.

I realize world-class bike infrastructure alone cannot achieve a culture shift in the United States from fast to slow biking so we need local, regional, state, and national comprehensive bike plans. Through my next blog posts, I plan to show how the Netherlands created and has been implementing local, regional, provincial, and national comprehensive bike plans. Since the United States is light years behind the Netherlands when it comes to local, regional, state and national comprehensive bike planning, I also plan to show how the United States can learn from the Netherlands.

Should bike map be used to show off or keep cyclists safe?

I’m tired of reading news reports about cyclists dying. While I feel most people feel hopeless about how to prevent more deaths, I have been thinking about easy, cost-effective ways to help save people’s lives. As a geographer and transportation planner, I believe bike maps can help save people’s lives. However, bike maps must show the correct information. Metro, which is the MPO for the Portland region, edited its bike map after someone died while using a Portland bike map to find what the cyclist thought was a safe route. Metro’s bike map didn’t show the correct information to keep cyclists safe. However, as this cyclist asks, should a bike map be an important safety tool?

The current approach most cities in the United States are using is to build as much bike infrastructure as possible and show all of their bike infrastructure on a map. As the below figure shows, cities are using their bike infrastructure to show off to other cities and attract cyclists to move to their cities. Since there are glaring inaccuracies with the figure, which you are welcome to ask me more about, I’m not sharing the figure so you can compare cities. Instead, I’m sharing the figure so you can see how cities are competing with each other for the most miles of bike infrastructure. While it is great to see bike infrastructure, how much of the infrastructure is actually safe?

Bike infrastructure per square mile in large cities 2014

Source: 2014 Bicycling and Walking in the USA Benchmarking Report

For the rest of this blog post, I will discuss two bike maps, which I found in the Appendices of Charlottesville’s 2015 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The first bike map shows all of Charlottesville’s bike infrastructure. The second bike map shows Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) analysis for Charlottesville’s entire road network. You can learn more about LTS analysis in this blog post. While bike infrastructure is used to create the LTS bike map, bike infrastructure isn’t the only measure used in the LTS bike map. Which bike map do you feel makes Charlottesville look like it is trying to show off to other cities and which bike map shows Charlottesville as trying to make its road network safer for people to bike?

Charlottesville Bike Map

Since many cyclists depend on maps to direct them along safe routes, bike maps need to only show bike routes that will keep cyclists safe. This blog post demonstrates my point. While Jonathan Maus doesn’t mention LTS analysis, I believe LTS analysis can be used to create a safer bike map. During my transportation planning internship at Toole Design Group, I helped create the below LTS map. Note how no bike infrastructure is included in the map legend. This is the critical difference I’m trying to make between a bike infrastructure map and a LTS bike map.

Charlottesville LTS Map

Even if a bike lane was installed on a road with LTS 4, which means it is very uncomfortable to bike on, the LTS bike map would continue to show the road as LTS 4 until the speed limit and/or annual average daily traffic (AADT) are reduced. The bike infrastructure map shows the road as having a bike lane regardless of the speed limit and AADT. This difference is why I’m a huge advocate for LTS analysis. To learn more about this difference, watch this video by Sam Schwartz Engineering and this video by Peter Furth.

The below graphic shows how LTS analysis compares with the four types of transportation cyclists. Through using a LTS bike map, “interested but concerned” cyclists can easily understand which routes they should use. A traditional bike infrastructure map forces cyclists to guess which bike lane is actually safe enough to use. What I mean by this is that a bike lane on a 45 mph road is not the same as a bike lane on a 25 mph road. Unfortunately, a bike infrastructure map doesn’t show the difference between the two bike lanes. A LTS bike map does show the difference because speed limit is included in a LTS bike map. Which bike map do you want to use when planning your next bike trip?

who does the bike facility serve

What should I do to avoid being left and right hooked?

I was almost left and right hooked several times last week while riding in bike lanes in downtown Portland, Oregon so am planning to buy a $65 Orp. The below video and photo show how an Orp works.

Unfortunately, I can’t use the Orp to communicate with motorists waiting at a stop light that I’m planning to continue straight from the bike lane. The Orp just alerts motorists that I don’t want to be hit. It doesn’t inform motorists whether I will be turning or continuing straight. Since I can see whether the motorist’s turn signal is on, I know when I need to communicate with the motorist that I plan to continue straight. In order to inform motorists that I plan to continue straight, I have been pointing straight, trying to make eye contact with the motorist and yelling “straight”. Even with all of this, I had two motorists almost hit me while I was biking in the door zone bike lane on SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland on Thursday, October 22. I kept trying to make eye contact with the motorists and yelling, but their windows were up so they couldn’t hear me and they didn’t see me until I heard their brakes squeak. Thankfully, they both were going slow, which allowed them enough space to stop in time. However, I felt my heart beating very fast so know it was way too close for my safety and comfort.

Since my strategies aren’t working to keep me safe from being left and right hooked, what should I do to avoid being left and right hooked in the future? Vehicular cyclists (according to this discussion, I have now learned that they prefer to be called bike drivers) keep telling me in the Cyclists are Drivers! facebook group that I need to “just line up with the rest of the traffic that’s going straight.” Unfortunately, as I wrote in this blog post, Oregon law requires me to use the bike lane in most situations and doesn’t allow me to impede traffic so I am forced to feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the bike lane. I have copied the Oregon statutes to show you why the law needs to be changed. Section 814.420.3.e is copied below.

“A person is not in violation of the offense [of leaving a bicycle lane or path] under this section if the person is able to safely move out of the bicycle lane or path for the purpose of: (e) Continuing straight at an intersection where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.”

Note the phrase: “where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right”, as this only applies to bike lanes to the right of right turn only lanes, and not lanes where motorists can go through or turn right, which is the overwhelming majority of cases on the streets.

After receiving more advice from the Cyclists are Drivers! facebook group, I am planning to break several Oregon laws starting on Monday by controlling the full travel lane on roads with a bike lane and impeding traffic. Since I value living another day more than following unsafe Oregon laws, I am open to being arrested and receiving a ticket. Do you see any safe and comfortable options that are permitted under Oregon law so I don’t risk dying while biking?