Vote on new bike projects in the Miami Valley

Protected bike lane on 15th Street in Washington D.C. Photo from People for Bikes

Protected bike lane on 15th Street in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of People for Bikes

If you’re interested in what gets built in your community for people on bikes during the next eight to 10 years, you might want to take a look at Miami Valley Bike Plan Update.

The update not only has a list of proposed projects, but it also brings in new ideas and approaches to improving bike and pedestrian friendliness that have taken hold in the U.S. since 2008, when the original Comprehensive Local-Regional Bikeways plan was adopted.

The final draft of the update, complete with maps of proposed projects, will be the subject of an open house Weds., Sept. 2, from 4 – 6 p.m. at the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission’s offices on Courthouse Square downtown. Parking in the City Hall parking garage will be validated at the open house.

Thing is, when the original plan was approved by the MVRPC – the regional body that doles out federal money for transportation projects – the list seemed a little like pie in the sky. Good ideas and all, but would we ever see them?

Only eight years later, lo and behold, 19 of the top-priority projects have actually been built!

That’s why I say you might want to take a look and weigh in on what you think are the most important projects.

Staff will be collecting more comments on the final draft at the open house, and written comments will also be accepted through Sept. 11, and can be mailed to the offices at 10 N. Ludlow St., Suite 700, Dayton, Ohio, 45402 or can be emailed to Kjirsten Frank Hoppe, MVRPC’s Regional Planner, at kfrank.hoppe@mvrpc.org.

The plan, which can be downloaded at www.mvrpc.org/bike-plan-update, also describes the state of cycling in the region and makes recommendations for future programs and policies that – along with the new construction – aims to get “more people biking more often to more places in the Miami Valley.”

To do that, the region will have to use more on-street corridors to fill the gaps in the region’s bikeway network, Frank Hoppe said. That’s not the new part, though.

ProtectedBikeLanesSeattle_alki

Protected bike lane in Seattle. Photo courtesy of People for Bikes

“The new idea now is we need to look at the level of user comfort and traffic stress when we make these streets user-friendly, bike-friendly,” she said. “Bike-friendly isn’t just paint on the road. It’s the experience the cyclist is having.”

That experience is both a feeling of safety, that you’re not going to get run over, she said, but also that you know how to get where you’re going, on a bike. People know how to get places in a car, but what’s the safest, most comfortable way to get there on a bike? Not everyone knows.

To help evaluate that experience, the Frank Hoppe and agency staff used a new tool, developed in 2012, called a level of traffic stress analysis. Basically, the agency took traffic data and ranked the region’s streets and roads on a four-point scale based on how safe they would be for bicyclists.

A map of the region shows that while many local subdivisions and neighborhoods are low-stress places for people on bikes, they are essentially islands cut off from each other by high-traffic, high-stress roadways.

The bike plan update wants to enable people to be able to ride out of those islands and get anywhere they want to go.

Another new idea is the growing emphasis across the country on protected bike lanes that are buffered – with or without physical barriers – separating riders from traffic and parked cars.

Protected bike lanes existed in 2008 – but not in this country, Frank Hoppe said. Since then, however, protected bike lanes have been installed in cities from New York to Los Angeles, and they’re working.

“They are proving themselves now in the United States as being really functional, much more comfortable,” she said. “And both the perceived and actual safety numbers are being proven.”

Surveys, both local and national, have shown that close to 93 percent of people interested in riding would ride more if they felt safer and could do it in a way that was more separated from traffic.

No community in the region has applied yet to fund a protected bike lane, Frank Hoppe said, but the update includes some suggestions. The city of Xenia, she said, could be the first with a project they’re working on along Detroit Street.

“It’s a tool we’d like to see get started in the area,” Frank Hoppe said.

If the region is going to achieve the goal of getting more people riding bikes instead of driving cars, she said, it’s going to have to make riding bikes safer and more comfortable.

About 1 percent of riders will ride on roads, she said. If you add bike lanes and paths beside roads (glorified sidewalks) you can get maybe another 6 percent of potential riders.

“If you really want to get the extra 60 population of the population the way they do in European communities,” Frank Hoppe said, “you just have to make it much more comfortable and deal with the safety issues.”

Ken McCall is the database reporter for the Dayton Daily News and an avid cyclist. He is a member of Bike Miami Valley, where he serves as co-chairman of the Regional Advocacy Committee; the Dayton Cycling Club; the Ohio Bike Federation; and the League of American Bicyclists. If you have any story ideas or bike news, contact him at ken.mccall@coxinc.com or call (937) 225-2393.


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