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Calling All Artists Grades 3 – 5!

17 Feb

Greater Mercer TMA’s (GMTMA) fourth annual Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design contest is now underway.  Mercer County and Ocean County students in third through fifth grade are eligible to show their love of walking by creating a bookmark with the theme “I like to walk to … with….”


bookmark

Exercise your feet and your brain! Draw a bookmark of who you like to walk with and where you like to go. The winning bookmark designs will be printed and distributed to area schools and local libraries.  Each winner will also receive a $50 gift card.  For more information about the contest and the Safe Routes to School Program, go to gmtma.org.

Submission deadline is March 24, 2017! Bookmark entry forms are available at gmtma.org

Happy Birthday Bicycles Everywhere

10 Feb

How many of you remember your first bike? I fondly remember my first bike in spite of the scars I have to remind me of it! My first bike was a bright red children’s Pegasus with a silver Pegasus sticker on the frame.

When I was a kid I often wondered who made the first bike, but never really pursued the question because I was too busy riding my bike, acrobatic moves and all, and scraping my knees.

It turns out this year is a great time to learn more since the bicycle turns 200.  Information on who invented the first bike tend to contradict each other, and while some records date back to 1418, the bike as we know it today seems to be modeled after the 1817 machine made by Karl Drais. It was called the “dandy horse”, “velocipede”, or “the running machine.” It’s purpose—a replacement for the horse after a crop failure led to the starvation and slaughtering of horses. It was made of wood, front wheel steer, and it was propelled by pushing it off with the feet.  This first model was short-lived though and it would be another 50 years until the bicycle would get another chance.

bike1

Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons

 

A brief history of the evolution of the bicycle

  • In 1863 there was the “bone shaker” because it was made of hard materials with steel wheels and rode on cobblestone roads.
  • 1870 the “high wheelers” looked more like a circus bicycle and weren’t very safe, it’s no wonder they were not that popular either.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1878 first American bicycle, the Columbia Bicycle made by the Weed Sewing Machine Company and it was quite expensive, almost ten times more than a sewing machine.
  • 1880 women could also take a spin on a new model called the tricycle. Many men also adopted this machine because it was more practical than the two, high wheels model.
  • 1888 John B. Dunlop first used a pneumatic tire for the bicycle and made it more comfortable and safer to ride.
  • 1890 advances in metallurgy lead to the “safety bike”, a model that looked a lot like what we know nowadays, much safer and more popular. During this time, the bicycle also become more accessible to a larger number of people and many of them started using it as a means of transportation as opposed to an expensive leisure machine up to this point.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1890 was also the time when more women started riding bicycles.
  • 1894 a change in ladies fashion allowed them more freedom and increased mobility. This is also the year when bamboo bikes were manufactured.
  • 1894-1895, Annie Kopchovsky, finished a multi-modal trip around the world. She would ride her bicycle to and from the main ports.
  • 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. patented the first e-bike.
  • 1903 Sturmey Archer invented the internal hub gears.
  • 1920 after WWI, kid’s bikes were introduced to revitalize the bike industry at a time when the automobile was gaining more and more popularity.
  • 1958 the first World Championship on road and track included women.
  • 1965 Bike-share begins in Europe.
  • 1970 on Earth Day, the bicycle sees a comeback in light of increased awareness of air pollution.
  • 1973 the Oil embargo creates even more interest in bicycling.
  • 1978 high oil prices lead to more sales of bicycles than automobiles.
  • 1980’s we see an interest in health and fitness and the bicycle is embraced for both recreational purposes and commuting. Interestingly the middle and the upper classes lead the way in this trend.
  • 1986 bicycling was the third most popular sport.
  • 1990 Shimano introduced the integrated brake levers.
  • 2002 was the year when Campagnolo introduced the 10 cog rear cluster which allowed for 30 speed bicycles.
  • 2016, the U.S. had 2,655 bike share stations in 65 cities.

I can’t wait to see where the bicycle will go next! Hopefully it will have Complete Streets everywhere so it can go anywhere it wishes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of events. If you want to learn more check out the following sources:

https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/press_releases/bts020_16

http://www.ibike.org/library/history-timeline.htm

http://www.icebike.org/58-milestones-from-bicycle-history-you-must-know/

Active Transportation and the Health of Our Communities

20 Jan

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) released a new report, The Case for Healthy Places, in December 2016 in which they highlight key areas that support healthy placemaking.  According to PPS one’s zip code is a better predictor of health than genetic code. Where we live and where we work matters and we can see that from research highlighting health disparities among low-income communities and high-income communities.

buildings-1853891_1920

We already know that Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and certain cancer types.  Americans also suffer from poor mental health and all of these conditions are linked to insufficient physical activity among other factors. Insufficient physical activity is directly related to the way our communities are designed.   PPS states issues such as sprawl, unwalkable communities, poor air quality, unsafe street design for walking and biking, all have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

One of the key areas named in the PPS report is Walking and Biking. According to research cited by PPS, placemaking supports more walkable and bikeable communities which leads to improved safety  and accessibility of streets,  a sense of community, increased physical activity, support of local economies, and reduced air pollution. And we now have enough evidence that physical activity helps reduce the risk of chronic disease.

street-351548_1920

So what would encourage more physical activity? According to the American Planning Association cited by PPS report, there are nine features that encourage active transportation:

  • Sidewalks
  • Bike lanes and racks
  • Traffic calming measures
  • Crosswalks and signals
  • Aesthetics and placemaking efforts, such as public art and fountains
  • Public space including parks and plazas
  • Street trees
  • Green infrastructures, including greenways and rain gardens
  • Street furniture, including benches, bus shelters, and signage

The report shows that active transportation is not only good for our health but also for the health of our local economies. And studies show that physically active kids have better concentration, mood, self-image, self-confidence, and fewer chronic health problems.

What do you think about the walking and biking conditions in your community?  What do you like? What would you like to change?

Let us know; you can comment on our social media or write a guest blog.

You can find the full report here and the report release article here.

Using Your Commute to Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions!

13 Jan

new-yearresolutions

Resolution #1    Lose weight, get in shape, exercise more (you get the idea) 
If too many holiday parties and goodies have you making this resolution then look no further than your driveway…and leave your car parked!  Try walking or biking to work or to the bus or train.  If that’s not possible you can still swap some of your car trips to run errands with biking or walking.  Did you know that on average people who commute using active transportation and by transit have less body fat than those who drive?

Resolution #2    Spend less, save more, stick to the budget, etc. 
You will see immediate savings if you switch from driving alone to walking, biking, carpooling, vanpooling or using transit.    According to the American Public Transportation Association’s Transit Savings Report, on average a person commuting by transit rather than driving will save $803 per month.  Gas prices are creeping up, and carpooling and sharing the ride with just one person cuts your cost by 50%! Feeling bold and want to save even more?  You can go car free and use a service like Zipcar for the times you must have a car.

Resolution #3    Enjoy life to the fullest, have more fun!
Add a dose of happiness to your day by biking or walking to work!  According to a study  from Portland State University, commuters who bike to work enjoyed their commutes the most, followed closely by those who walk.  Least satisfied…folks that drove alone.

Resolution #4    Learn something new
When you let someone else do the driving you’ll have lots more time for reading (or writing) the great American novel.  Plenty of extra time to do research on the internet too!

Resolution #5    Spend more time with family and friends
Nothing can shorten your commute time like telecommuting!  If it’s an option for you—even just one day a week, you can add a little extra time to the day to spend with your family.  Or take advantage of your company’s flex time and commute during less congested hours to cut down on your commute time.

Make 2017 a year of smart commute choices!  Let your commute help you keep your New Year’s resolutions!  GMTMA can help you reach your goals.  Visit us at gmtma.org for more information.

Welcome 2017

6 Jan

Goodbye 2016!  What a wild ride we’ve had this past year—in self-driving cars and buses, on bikes and trains, walking and driving.  Let’s take a look back on the good and not so good.

transport-219811_960_720

Technology and its potential took a front seat in transportation news this year.  Uber launched its first fleet of autonomous vehicles for use with its ride-hailing service in Pittsburgh this year and it seems clear that this is just the beginning. US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx predicted that “By 2021, we will see autonomous vehicles in operation across the country in ways that we [only] imagine today… Families will be able to walk out of their homes and call a vehicle, and that vehicle will take them to work or to school.”

There was increased interest on how the autonomous vehicle industry should be regulated, especially after Tesla cars using the autopilot feature were involved in three crashes, one of them fatal. The feature was in the testing phase, and the drivers were supposed to have their hands on the wheel.  At the end of 2016, Michigan became the first state to pass self-driving regulations.

In 2016 we also saw the first self-driving buses. Helsinki started testing two of the world’s first self-driving buses, and they are looking into using them as a “last mile” solution to ta take commuters to larger transit hubs.

Looking to use new technology to improve transportation, the US Department of Transportation launched the Smart City Challenge, challenging cities to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.  Columbus, Ohio walked away the winner.

Smart bikes ruled with more cities and towns, both large and small adding bike share as an option in their community.  Locally, Princeton University expanded their Bike Share program in 2016, and anyone can use the bikes by signing up for an account with Zagster.  The Bike Share system also exists beyond campus with stations at Princeton Forrestal Center, Princeton Shopping Center and the Institute for Advanced Studies.

Ridesharing became easier than ever this year with apps and other options for the occasional ride-share, and there are also the more traditional commuter options like your TMA’s ride matching programs. They are free, and you can be matched with someone who lives/works near you and has same the schedule.

Safety unfortunately took a backseat this year.  New Jersey saw an increase in the number of traffic fatalities, 607 people lost their lives in a crash last year, 8% higher than in 2015.

New Jersey’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund resulted in a work stoppage on state transportation projects this summer, but the passage of a $.23 increase in the gas tax has given the State a dedicated source of funding for infrastructure projects and improvements.

Infrastructure was a winner in the 2016 election; many cities passed transit-oriented and biking measures—a hopeful sign  for 2017 that people are willing to reduce their driving  and looking for other options!

What do you think? What have we missed?  Let us know; we want to hear from you.

Bicyclists Outnumber Drivers In Copenhagen

2 Dec

When we think bicycle friendly city, we think Copenhagen.   And these days Copenhagen is getting a lot of attention and envy because it just reached a milestone; the number of bicyclists surpassed the number of drivers.

You can’t help but wonder how did it get here?

It turns out Copenhagen started as a city of bicycles, and then people embraced car ownership in the 1920’s. In a simple twist, bicyclists were seen as slightly annoying to motorists and the number of traffic accidents involving bicyclist and motorists increased.

Copenhagen was headed in the same direction as many other cities, congestion, traffic accidents, and pollution. People riding bicycles kept being pushed to the side of the road or off the road and they took the streets; they wanted to be able to ride their bikes safely again. Copenhageners protested and asked for a change in street design, putting bikes first and cars second and asking for safe bicycle infrastructure.

There was, as you might expect, some back and forth about design, cost, and how to pay for the new bicycle infrastructure.

In the end, city planning gave space to bicycle lanes, bicycles experienced a comeback, and it is now once again seen as a symbol of health, freedom, and the symbol to clean and lively cities. Most people in Copenhagen, even kindergarteners and a large number of politicians, bike year round.

I guess the answer is good planning, starting young and keep the wheels spinning until it becomes such a big part of your life that you are no longer willing to tolerate pollution and traffic accidents anymore and would rather leave the car behind.

Sources:
https://cleantechnica.com/2016/11/28/people-bicycling-driving-copenhagen-now/
http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/bicycle-culture/how-denmark-become-a-cycling-nation
http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/bicycle-culture/copenhagen-bike-city-for-more-than-a-century
http://www.copenhagenize.com/2012/02/danish-bicycle-infrastructure-history.html
http://www.copenhagenize.com/
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2012/04/why-streets-copenhagen-and-amsterdam-look-so-different-ours/1849/

Street Smart Campaign Launch

28 Sep

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Police Department are holding a news conference with the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) Thursday, September 29 to kick off its participation in Street Smart New Jersey, a pedestrian safety initiative focusing on outreach and education designed to change unsafe behavior by pedestrians and drivers on our streets.

zerogrpah

The event is being held at Hinds Plaza at the intersection of Witherspoon and Hullfish Streets during the Princeton Farmers Market at 12:30pm.

Speakers will include Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, and GMTMA Executive Director Cheryl Kastrenakes.

The Street Smart Campaign is launching in early October to coincide with the start of local schools and the return of Princeton University students for the fall semester.  The campaign focuses on compliance of traffic and pedestrian safety laws.  The Princeton Police Department is partnering with GMTMA, a non-profit transportation organization serving Mercer County.

“We want everyone to be safe whether they’re walking to school, to work, to the store, or out for some exercise,” said Mayor Lempert. “Princeton has lots of pedestrians because we’re a great, walkable community, and that’s why this safety campaign is so important. It’s an opportunity to remind both pedestrians and drivers of the rules that are designed to keep everyone safe.”

Street Smart is a collaborative effort between the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), Federal Highway Administration, New Jersey Department of Transportation and New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.  GMTMA is working with NJTPA to coordinate Street Smart campaign in communities in Mercer and Ocean Counties.

Street Smart aims to change pedestrian and motorist behavior to reduce pedestrian-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities.  The campaign uses the slogan “check your vital signs” to remind motorists and pedestrians of safe travel roles and responsibilities.  Vital signs are displayed on tip cards, posters, and temporary street signs throughout the community as a visual reminder for drivers and pedestrians.

In the state of New Jersey, from 2010-2014, 750 pedestrians were killed and 17,000 were injured.  Between 2013 and 2015, there were 55 pedestrian-related crashes in Princeton.  Of those accidents 52 pedestrians were injured and there was one fatality.

For more information on GMTMA and the Street Smart campaign in other municipalities, go to gmtma.org/street-smart.