Archive | February, 2012

Getting People to Walk, One Sign at a Time

28 Feb

Getting more people out of their cars and onto their feet is a complicated undertaking. You have to grapple with road design, sidewalk maintenance, peoples’ affection for their cars, weather, safety concerns, physical fitness (or lack thereof), and preconceived bias against walking…just to name a few.

But what about just basic lack of information and awareness? Would behavior change, at least a little, if people just had more information? One man in Raleigh, North Carolina, set out to find out just that. An urban planning student, Matt Tomasulo, installed 27 signs at three intersections in central Raleigh last month, with help from friends. People can scan the high-tech signs with their smartphones and get a customized walking route on Google Maps.

The unsanctioned “guerrilla” campaign, dubbed Walk Raleigh, has caught the attention of city officials and pedestrians alike. Walk Raleigh aims to introduce small-scale civic and social interventions to improve quality of life in the area. Their guerrilla wayfinding system of 27 signs at three intersections in town are intended to put walkability at the forefront of conversation about the future of downtown Raleigh and force people to reconsider how they get around by re-educating the public about its transportation choices.

Tomasulo’s project is getting international attention. BBC News recently visited Raleigh to shoot a story about his signs — you can watch the video here.

Tomasulo’s company, cityfabric, has worked to engage people with their surroundings before, by using city maps as fodder for clothing and décor. He’s also just undertaken a project in New York called North Is That Way, involving signs pointing north. These kinds of projects could go a long way to remind people where they are, where they’re going, and that walking is an option they might have overlooked.

On the Move readers, where in our region would you like to see signs like these? Are there any intersections where a similar sign campaign could be useful in getting people to walk more, or to at least think about walking more?

Complete Streets Rolling Through the State

23 Feb

We were excited to learn that this past Tuesday night, the Township of Maplewood adopted a Complete Streets policy. The policy, which was unanimously approved by the township committee, is intended to push the town to adopt measures that make streets safer for all users — cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. Maplewood joins a growing list of municipalities in New Jersey (and over 314 communities, counties, regions, and states nationwide) who are adopting Complete Streets policies.

Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that agencies think about, design, and operate rights of way to enable safe access for all users. In their Complete Streets Policy, the NJ Department of Transportation recognized these benefits of complete streets:

  • Complete Streets improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, children, older citizens, non-drivers and the mobility challenged as well as those that cannot afford a car or choose to live car free
  • Provide connections to bicycling and walking trip generators such as employment, education, residential, recreation, retail centers and public facilities
  • Promote healthy lifestyles
  • Create more livable communities
  • Reduce traffic congestion and reliance on carbon fuels thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Complete Streets make fiscal sense by incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes, safe crossings and transit amenities into the initial design of a project, thus sparing the expense of retrofits later

There is often some confusion about what is involved in the adoption of a Complete Streets policy. Some towns shy away from touching the issue out of fear that such a policy will make everything more expensive, or force them to retrofit all of their current streets for bikes and pedestrians. In reality, however, embracing transportation access for all users of our transportation system is a process that can happen over a very long time period. It can be done gradually, with simple measures, using existing funds.

Interested in learning more about Complete Streets or getting your community interested? GMTMA can help. Additionally, some good web resources include the National Complete Streets Coalition and New Jersey Department of Transportation.

 

Biking and Walking on the Rise

23 Feb

Findings from a new report by the Alliance for Biking & Walking are bound to make bikers and walkers all warm and fuzzy inside. The report, Bicycling and Walking in the US: 2012 Benchmarking Report, finds that more people are biking and walking in recent years. The report culls its numbers from over a dozen government sources and city and state surveys and is chock-full of evidence of the benefits of biking and walking as well as the importance of funding infrastructure to encourage more people-powered transportation.

While biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips in the U.S., they receive only 1.6 percent of federal transportation funding, according to the report. But Americans — particularly young ones — are getting tired of sitting on roads in traffic. Biking and walking numbers are up, and no doubt this spring’s rising gas prices can help increase those numbers. Nationwide, the number of people who bike to work is up 57 percent since 2000. It’s still a tiny fraction — 0.6 percent — of all commuters, but it’s still a big increase from where we were ten years ago.

The report also points out that 40 percent of all trips in the U.S. are less than 2 miles. That’s an easily bikeable distance, especially if our roads were made a little more bike-friendly so cyclists felt safer.

The Alliance’s report details the way walking and cycling becomes more popular: More cyclists and pedestrians let governments know that those modes of transportation are popular and deserve more attention. Then, the improved infrastructure encourages more people to bike and walk. The cycle continues. This is why the cities with the most biking facilities (Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, and Seattle) generally rank high for biking and walking levels. Places at the bottom of the rankings, like Fort Worth, Dallas, and Jacksonville, have little infrastructure.

The report’s findings on cyclist and pedestrian fatality rates are also of interest. Counter to what one might believe, as the percentage of people who walk and bike goes up, fatality rates actually go down — not up. Oregon, for example, the state with the highest percentage of people biking to work, reports only 1.4 bicycling fatalities per 10,000 daily cyclists, while Mississippi, in the bottom five for bike commuting levels, reports 14.1 fatalities per 10,000 daily cyclists — the highest of any state. Five of the 10 safest cities for cycling are also in the top 10 for rates of bike commuting. The same pattern applies to pedestrian safety: seven of the 10 safest cities for pedestrians also rank in the top 10 for levels of walking to work. The least safe place to walk, Fort Worth, also comes in last for pedestrian commuting.

This makes sense. If it’s safe to walk or bike to work, you’re more likely to do it. But if you feel unsafe walking or biking, if the design of the road doesn’t feel welcoming or pleasant or safe, you’re going to get into your car. Furthermore, the report also suggests that in places where walking and biking are common, walking and biking are safer simply because drivers are used to sharing the road.

The report identifies some things besides infrastructure that influence biking and walking. Density is one: if most of your daily destinations are within a few square miles and parking is limited, you’re much more likely to walk. This explains why people living in large U.S. cities are almost twice as likely to walk or bike to work than the national average. But density isn’t the only factor — the list of the top 10 biking/walking states also includes several non-urban states, including Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Maine.

The report also shows that where bicycling and walking levels are higher, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes levels are lower. Memphis, eighth from the bottom in combined biking and walking rates, is the fattest city in the country. San Francisco, the thinnest, has the third-highest biking and waking levels.

Finally, the report looks at numerous measures to promote bicycling and walking, and concludes that a variety of policy measures and provisions are likely needed to make communities more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. Obviously, greater investment in bicycling and walking is the primary recommendation of this report, although it also recommends numerous other measures that must be taken to simultaneously strengthen public policy, infrastructure, and behavior toward bicycling and walking, including complete streets policies, which require that roadways be designed and built with all users in mind. In the absence of a national complete streets policy, the Alliance encourages states and jurisdictions to pursue local policies to begin to transform their local transportation culture and guarantee access for all road users. New Jersey happens to be one of the states that does have a state-wide Complete Streets policy.

Other policies featured in this report, such as education for police officers, the inclusion of bicycling and walking safety in driver education, adult and youth education programs, public awareness campaigns such as “Share the Road,” and other promotional efforts, are also recommended as tools to help raise awareness and change attitudes around bicycling and walking.

Presidents’ Day Schedule Reminders, and Kids Ride Free!

16 Feb

Monday February 20 is Presidents’ Day. You might have off of work, your kids might have off of school. You might be thinking of doing a little local day trip. There’s no better way to get around on Monday than via train! NJ Transit has holiday service schedules in effect on Monday, as follows:

  • TRAIN:  Weekend/major holiday schedule on all lines, with additional trips on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, Raritan Valley, Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton and Port Jervis lines
  • LIGHT RAIL:  Hudson Bergen Light Rail on weekend schedule;  Newark Light Rail on Saturday schedule;  River Line on modified schedule. Visit njtransit.com for details.
  • BUS:  Schedules vary by route—check timetables or visit njtransit.com for details
    • Mercer County Buses:
      • 600 Trenton – Plainsboro (US 1 Corridor): Holiday Schedule
      • 601 College of New Jersey-Trenton-Hamilton Marketplace: Saturday Schedule
      • 602 Pennington – Trenton: Holiday Schedule
      • 603 Mercer Mall-Hamilton Square-Hamilton Marketplace: Saturday Schedule
      • 604 East Trenton – Trenton Transit Center: No Service

And families with children take note: you can take advantage of savings ALL weekend long — from 7 p.m. on Friday February 17 until 6 a.m. on Tuesday February 21 — through NJ Transit’s “Family Super Saver Fare” which allows up to two children 11 and younger to travel for free with each fare-paying adult.

For schedule and fare information, visit www.njtransit.com or call 973-275-5555.

Not riding NJ Transit? Here’s information on other local service providers:

  • Greater Mercer TMA:  No service (RideProvide, Princeton Crosstown, Hopewell Valley Rides)
  • Bank Of America (Hopewell Campus): No Service
  • SEPTA Regional Rail: Regular Schedule
  • Mercer County – T.R.A.D.E.: No Service
  • Mercer County – Route 130 Connection: Regular Schedule
  • Princeton University – Tiger Transit: Regular Schedule
  • East Windsor Princeton Jct. Shuttle: No Service
  • Middlesex County Area Transit: Saturday Service

Look, even presidents ride transit!

Be (Car) Free with the FreeB!

14 Feb

This article in the Princeton Packet reminded us of a very cool, and often overlooked, free shuttle service in Princeton — the Daytime FreeB.

The Princeton Daytime FreeB is a free — that’s right, free! — shuttle bus service that goes around the two Princetons. The bus makes a loop through the Princetons on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Pickup locations include Elm Court, Harriet Bryan House, Suzanne Patterson Building, Spruce Circle and Borough Hall, various spots along Nassau Street, the Public Library, Community Park Pool, and the Princeton Shopping Center. Anyone can ride the handicapped-accessible bus for free.

Note: The Daytime FreeB is not to be confused with the Commuter FreeB, which is designed to serve people trying to get to and from the Dinky train station Monday through Friday from 5:30 AM to 9:30 AM and 5:30 PM to 9 PM.

We’re happy to hear that the shuttle bus service has been gaining ridership recently. According to the Packet article, an average of 30 people use the shuttle service on each day it is run; some days, the bus attracts over 40 riders. Saturday is the most popular day. And this success is happening even though the shuttle has not been promoted or marketed in any way. We’re hoping that by getting the word out, more people in the community will become aware that the service is available. If you’re hopping around town, be sure to leave the car at home (or on the edge of town) and be car-free with the FreeB!

For information, maps, and schedules for the Daytime FreeB, visit the Princeton Senior Resource Center website. For information, maps, and schedules for the Commuter FreeB, visit the Princeton Borough website.

Want to learn more about ways to get around without your car in our region? Check out GMTMA’s website.

News from GMTMA: Member Spotlight, Event Calendar, Ride Provide, Holiday Service, and More!

14 Feb

Do you get GMTMA’s email newsletter, EConnections yet? If you don’t, you’re missing out! Sign up today by emailing us.

In our most recent issue (PDF), you’ll read about:

  • Long-time GMTMA member and supporter, Princeton University, and their regional leadership in providing Transportation Demand Management for their employees and students;
  • GMTMA’s outreach program and how to invite us to attend any upcoming events you have planned;
  • Giving the gift of love by supporting our Ride Provide program;
  • President’s Day holiday service;
  • …and more!

So sign up today.

Coolest. School Bus. Ever.

9 Feb

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or if you follow bike culture at all, you probably already know that the Dutch love their bicycles. Cycling has become a huge part of their culture. For example:

  • Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind.
  • Every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school.
  • Almost 30 percent of all trips in the Netherlands are made by bike, compared to a paltry 0.9 percent in the United States. Furthermore, 55 % of journeys to jobs less than 7.5 kilometers are done on two-wheeled, no emission vehicles, and 60 percent of inner city trips are bike trips.
  • People in Amsterdam use their bikes more than their cars, figures from 2005-2007 show. Inhabitants of Amsterdam used their bikes .87 times per day during that time, while they used their cars .84 times a day.
  • Biking is dramatically safer in Holland. In the U.S., there are 35 cyclists injured per 10 million kilometers traveled. In Holland, that number is only 1.4!
  • The Netherlands was the first country to establish an official national bicycle policy.
  • The country’s bike fleet comfortably outnumbers its 16 million people.

So it should come as no surprise that the Dutch have now outdone themselves by launching the world’s first bicycle school bus. The bicycle school bus runs entirely on the power of the legs of the kids on the bus (with a backup electric motor for tough hills). There is one adult driver and three pedal-free seats for kids who can’t pedal. An awning keeps the sun and rain off of the kids. It comes in a rainbow of colors and only costs about $15,000 — much less than a “regular” school bus.

On the Move readers, what do you think? How about starting up a movement to buy one of these for your school district? We at GMTMA think this school bus is just about the coolest thing in the history of, well, ever. Want to learn about this, and other, ways to get kids to school in a safe, healthy, and eco-friendly way? Check out our Safe Routes to School initiative and get your school district involved TODAY! Email Rebecca Hersh at rhersh@gmtma.org for more information.