Tag Archives: complete streets policy

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/

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Is It the Low Gas Prices?

9 Sep

The latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures show a large increase in the number of traffic fatalities in the last year. A total of 35,092 people lost their life in traffic crashes, an increase of 7.2% since 2014. The total number includes drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.  The previous trend of declining traffic deaths has been reversed in 2015 and the main reason cited was increased driving due to the low fuel prices. And according to a CDC study, U.S. now has the highest traffic deaths when compared to other high-income countries.

So is it really just the low gas prices? Not really. Low gas prices led to an increase in the number of people driving, but it didn’t cause the crashes. The CDC study shows that too many people are behaving recklessly, speeding, driving while intoxicated and not always using their seatbelt.

In addition, poor transit options and street design that prioritizes cars over humans also play a big role. And that’s why supporters of Complete Streets policy and Vision Zero are gaining ground in more and more places across United States. Designing our streets to be safer can reduce the instances of traffic deaths by lowering the speed limit, giving pedestrians and bicyclists safe access, and allowing public transit to run on time.

Until we have safer streets and better transit options, we can help change the trend by driving carefully and looking out for each other whether you are a driver, a cyclist, or a pedestrian.

Sources:

http://nacto.org/2016/08/31/traffic-deaths/

https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/motor-vehicle-safety/index.html

http://www.curbed.com/2016/9/1/12737230/streets-traffic-deaths-pedestrians

http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/traffic-fatalities-2015

Step it Up

11 Sep

The US Surgeon General issued a Call to Action this week, asking Americans to #StepitUp and  start walking more.

This Call to Action is needed and is well timed to coincide with Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and Healthy Aging Month …and coincidentally with the launch of GMTMA’s walk to school smarthphone app.

CTA_Infographic_community_walkability_FINAL

According to the Surgeon General, “one out of every two U.S. adults is living with a chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.” Healthfinder.gov states that one in three children in the U.S is overweight or obese and at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  All of these health issues can be prevented with regular activity, but many adults and many children do not meet the guidelines for daily physical activity.

The most popular form of physical activity is walking and it can be done with a purpose, such as getting to work, to the train station, running errands, or walking to school.

Walking has many benefits for your health and your community.   More walkers improve safety in your neighborhood, slow down traffic, reduce pollution, and encourage social interaction.  Walkable communities are making it easier for older adults to age in place, and for young children to walk to school.

So what can be done to improve walkability in your community?  And how can GMTMA help?

  1. Make it easier for students to walk to from school, and one of the report’s recommendations is to “Implement Safe Routes to School or similar walk-to-school programs.”

GMTMA’s  Safe Routes to School coordinators can implement walk-to-school programs, and we have recently launched a free app to help busy parents set up walking groups to school.  We can also do walkability audits, school travel plans and assist with infrastructure grants. Just call us, we are happy to help.

  1. The report also recommends implementing work programs and policies that promote walking. Employers around Mercer and Ocean counties, your TMA can help with that, just call us. Employers that work with us and implement programs and policies to promote walking, biking, carpooling, and reducing congestion and pollution, get recognition with the New Jersey Smart Workplaces award. Check out our current awardees.

These are just a couple of the recommendations found in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, which is available here.

Bottom line, we have to start doing something about our health and the health of our communities and walking is a good start. Start walking,  get to know the people in your community, start the conversation, talk about changes that can be made to improve walkability, and who knows, next step could be walking or biking to work.

And as usual if you have any questions or comments, or you want to be a guest blogger, please contact us.

Greater Mercer TMA recognizes local students in Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design Contest

1 May

Greater Mercer TMA (GMTMA) sponsored a Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design Contest with the theme “My favorite place to walk/bike is…”. The contest was open to all 3rd through 5th graders in Ocean County, NJ. This year we had more than twenty schools participate in the contest and received 300 bookmark contest entries.

Creativity was abundant making it very difficult to pick the winners. Just look at some of their artwork on our Pinterest page! We would like to thank the schools, teachers, parents, libraries, and superintendents for such a great collaboration. Also, we would like to thank all the students that submitted artwork, the response was amazing.

Winning designs Mercer and Ocean counties

Winning designs Mercer and Ocean counties

The winning bookmarks will be printed and distributed at local libraries and schools. Congratulations to the winners!

MERCER COUNTY

  • 3 rd and 4 th grade category Angelika Gorecka, Slackwood Elementary School, Lawrenceville NJ
  • 5 th grade category Evenly Vasquez, Woodrow Wilson Elementary, Trenton NJ

Honorable mention, Shaila Sachder, 5th grade student at Littlebrook School, Princeton, NJ and Samantha Gunton,4th grade student at Lawrenceville Intermediate School, Lawrenceville.

OCEAN COUNTY

  • 3 rd and 4 th grade category Anna Claire Willmot, Ocean Road School, Point Pleasant, NJ
  • 5 thegrade category Isabella Wade, East Dover Elementary, Toms River, NJ

Honorable mention, Julie Lees a 5th grade student at East Dover Elementary, Toms River, NJ and Olivia L. Smith, 3rd Grade student at Lucy N. Holman Elementary, Jackson, NJ.

Honorable mention designs

Honorable mention designs

 

Honorable mention

Honorable mention

“The entries were terrific and really captured the essence of what makes walking and biking so wonderful.” said Cheryl Kastrenakes, Executive Director of GMTMA.   “When we walk and bike we get to use all of our senses, we enjoy our surroundings in a way that just doesn’t happen when we are in a car. The students reflected this in their entries with detailed pictures of such places as their neighborhood, the boardwalk, and parks.”

GMTMA serves as the NJ Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School coordinator for Mercer County and works with schools, communities and PTO’s to encourage more students to walk and bike to school safely and to improve the areas where it is not safe. If you would like more information about the Safe Routes to School Program please visit gmtma.org.

The Walkable City – A Cure for What Ails Us?

13 Feb

So, you want an affordable, good-sized house.  To get it, you have to move far away from the city.  This was the prevailing direction of housing migration in our country for many years, and it is the birth of what is now called the “suburban sprawl”.  But along with the sprawl in the suburbs came the need and the dependence to our cars, and this, according to Jeff Speck, was the beginning of a decline in our health, an economic instability, and significant environmental consequences.

In this TED talk, Jeff Speck is talking about how rethinking the design of our cities (and suburbs) is going to make a difference in the way we live, how the disappearance of the “useful walk” is linked to obesity rate among adults and at an alarming rate among children.

Besides the diabetes, asthma, and heart disease linked to a car-centric lifestyle, he also mentions the fact that many people die in car crashes.   He says that a city designed around cars is “good at smashing them into each other.”

He also talks about one city in America (can you guess which one?) that moved away from that model and how that changed the quality of life of the people living in that city and the advantages of moving away from a car-centric way of life.

He makes a very persuasive argument and I really enjoyed watching this.  I would like to see more people having access to walkable / bikeable places and more complete streets where everyone can share the road while feeling safe at the same time.

This is just a preview; there is a lot more learn in his talk. Hope you enjoy it too!

If you want to tell us what you think or have a commuting story you want to share, please contact us.

Mercer First to Complete Streets (Policies)

9 Jan

Five years after Montclair and NJDOT adopted New Jersey’s leading Complete Streets policies, this week Mercer County became the first to have all roads covered – state, county and every municipality. Congratulations to Mercer County for reaching this very important first milestone toward making our roads friendlier and more complete!

Complete Streets policies require road improvements to support biking, walking and transit for users of all ages and abilities as the rule rather than the exception, and provide for incremental improvements without mandating retrofits.

Complete Streets benefit everyone, e.g. better safety (not just for cyclists and pedestrians, but mainly for motorists), higher property values (see walkscore.com) and improved security (more eyes on the street). Those who walk or bike feel better, are healthier and live longer – students who bike or walk to school score better on standardized tests.

Realizing these benefits will take time, as responsibility for our roads is divided between the state (for federal and state roads), counties and municipalities. Even a short trip can include roads and/or bridges under the care of many jurisdictions – for example, biking around Princeton’s Carnegie Lake involves traversing 3 counties and 5 municipalities, plus a state and maybe even a federal road.

What does a Complete Street look like? It depends – Complete Streets are not cookie-cutter. All of these pictures might be considered examples in some sense, while each may have additional possibilities to make them even more complete.

See if you can pick out which picture shows which Mercer County municipality – Trenton, Hamilton, Ewing, Hopewell Township, Pennington, Hopewell Boro, Princeton, Lawrence, West Windsor, East Windsor, Hightstown and Robbinsville.

biking on the sidewalk w adult Hightstown Stockton Dutch Neck nb Robbinsville Pond Rd MS 56 cycles ped xwalk Hamilton Estates G Dye Roundabout Cyclist East Windsor Dutch Neck Dorchester 4 xwalks Nassau Sharrows

Lawrence Johnson Trolley Trail Xing Hopewell Denow Roundabout 1 Pennington Cyclist Texting Hopewell Boro Broad St Xing

Ewing Presbyterian Church Xing

Trenton Bike Lane Paver and Asphault

Bike Commuter Journal – How Things Change, or Not

18 Mar

Please welcome Steve Kruse as our guest bike commuter this week – he chairs the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, and bike commuted from Princeton to Plainsboro through 2005. Steve joins us via an article he wrote almost 17 years ago, Two Wheels To Work, which appeared in the U.S. 1 Newspaper, May 28, 1997, used here with kind permission of author and publisher.

It’s great to get a view from last century, to see what has improved, and what hasn’t. Steve’s article mentions road conditions, policies, motorists both considerate and not, and several planned improvements to the area.

Steve noted that “New Jersey does not spring to mind as an especially bicycle-friendly place.” Is that still true? Maybe, but NJ DOT adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2009, so future improvements should include accommodations for biking and walking, transit users and those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As our readers know, the state has jurisdiction over only the federal highways and interstates and a few other major arteries. Fortunately for today’s Princeton to Plainsboro bike commuters, Mercer and Middlesex counties, as well as Princeton and Plainsboro have all adopted Complete Streets policies – click here to see everyone in New Jersey who’ve adopted Complete Streets.

Significant improvements have also been made to onstreet bike lanes in West Windsor, which are beginning to form a network. Steve mentioned staying out of the “door zone” of onstreet parked cars on Harrison – Princeton’s shared lane pavement markings (“sharrows”), including on Harrison, guide cyclists (and notify motorists) to the safe lane position away from cars. Plainsboro continues to extend it’s network of paved multi-use paths. The League of American Bicyclists have designated West Windsor and Princeton Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Communities, and Princeton University earned New Jersey’s first Bicycle Friendly University award.

As you read Steve’s article, what do you notice has changed? What has not?

If you’d like to share your commuter experiences, please contact jfoster@gmtma.org.