Issue #27 / August 2008

IN THIS ISSUE:

  • StreetTALK: Gary Toth (Project for Public Spaces), "Transportation reform for the US- are Americans ready?" - Thu. Aug. 21 >>>
  • LivableStreets Phil Goff speaks at Comm. Ave. bike lane press event >>>
  • The Future of Crossing the Street - featuring Chris Hart (Globe Sunday Magazine cover story) >>>
  • Rethinking Boston's Mass. Ave. - featuring Ken Kruckemeyer (Boston Globe) >>>
  • New York City first of three "Summer Streets" road closures a big success! >>>
  • Staying stylish on two wheels - featuring Nina Garfinkle (Boston Globe) >>> or PDF
  • What's up with the Longfellow and BU bridges? >>>
  • BREAKING NEWS: Transportation officials meet to try to avoid toll, fare hikes >>>
  • EVENTS:
    • Bicycle Film Festival comes to Boston this weekend! - Aug. 14-17 >>>
    • MoveMASS "Extending the Green Line to Somerville" with Undersecretary Wendy Stern and Mayor Curtatone - Fri. Aug. 15 @ 8am >>>
    • Boston's "Bike Friday" morning commute convoy - Fri. Aug 22 >>>
       
  • Weekly StreetNEWS: Have you ever wanted to skim the news headlines every week for articles on the subject of livable streets? Now you can! LivableStreets Alliance board member and Director of Advocacy Charlie Denison compiles them weekly. SUBSCRIBE NOW! Either scroll to the very bottom of this email and click "Update Profile/Email Address", or Click Here to sign up and follow instructions to update your profile.

STREET TALK!
"Transportation reform for the US- are Americans ready?"
Thu. Aug. 21, 7 - 8:30 pm
by Gary Toth, Director of Transportation Initiatives for the Project for Public Spaces
@ LivableStreets office space, 100 Sidney Street, Central Square, Cambridge [ map... ]

free and open to the public, donation suggested, beer/sodas provided compliments of Harpoon Brewery!

"The decisions engineers make will affect people's lives. The street can't be looked at as just a vessel for cars. It's a place with many uses. What we want to do is try to help foster sustainable, livable communities," Toth says.

That's strong stuff coming from an engineer with 34 years experience inside the highway bureaucracy. And it's not just a line he throws out to soothe angry citizens' groups--Gary Toth during his tenure at NJDOT actually changed the way engineers think. In the old days, NJDOT would give most street widenings the green light, but Toth is dedicated to halting this vicious cycle. Instead of funneling all traffic from every residential and commercial property onto the strip, NJDOT is encouraging towns to create networks of streets with mixed-use developments, dispersing traffic over the whole system. The idea is to create livable corridors rather than endless sprawl. Sounds simple enough, but it's actually a revolutionary change in suburban transportation and land use planning. He notes how Kentucky, Utah, Florida, Vermont and other states are joining New Jersey in seriously studying Context Sensitive Solutions--the discipline's name for looking at streets and roads as something more than simply a way to move traffic. "It's becoming a national movement with 20 or 25 states already showing some signs of getting away from the same old myopia."

Gary has left NJDOT to focus on bigger transportation reform in America. He is an integral member of the T4America Coalition, which is working to shape the content of the next federal transportation bill. He is currently one of the eight instructors for USDOT's "Training Course on Transportation and Land Use." He is also a member of the Sustainable Urban Design Working Group of the American Public Transit Association and a member of the Strategic Highway Research Program’s Technical Coordinating Committee for Capacity. He was also part of the Sustainable Transportation Study Team charged with creating a conceptual plan for presentation to the US Congress, which ensures that the surface transportation system will continue to serve the needs of the U.S. throughout the 21st Century. Gary works part time for the Project for Public Spaces as Director of Transportation Initiatives.

Gary was featured in the article, "Rethinking the Urban Speedway," (For decades, highway engineers focused on designing wider, straighter, faster roads. Now, moving traffic quickly is no longer the sole goal), Governing Magazine, October 2005. "The traditional engineering solution to road problems is to make the road wider, straighter and faster," Toth says. "Well, wider, straighter and faster is not always better."

This event is sponsored by LivableStreets Alliance

Click here for more information


LivableStreets Phil Goff speaks at Comm. Ave. bike lane press event
[ Click here for TV5 coverage ]

My name is Phil Goff and I sit on the board on the LivableStreets Alliance, an urban-planning and transportation advocacy organization working to reshape notions of how cars, people and public transit can co-exist. Our group formed three years ago because we thought that when it came to designing and building streets in Boston, quality-of-life issues typically took a back seat to the quick and efficient movement of automobiles and trucks.

As you all can see in front of you, this stretch of Comm Ave represent something different: a triumph of thoughtful design where the needs of pedestrians, transit riders and cyclists have been given equal standing with automobiles. The key to this development was that the City of Boston took the bold step to do something almost unheard of: remove a lane of traffic! This provided the space for wider trolley platforms, a tree-lined median, wide sidewalks and bike lanes. This multi-modal “complete street” is hopefully a harbinger for other projects throughout the City of Boston.

LivableStreets would also like to acknowledge the unique and successful collaboration that came about in the past two years between MassHighway, the City of Boston and advocacy groups including LivableStreets, MassBike, WalkBoston and the Institute of Human Centered Design. We would like to offer a special thanks to MassHighway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky for her help to broker this collaboration. Together, we were able to bring an already-good street design to another level by finding the space to stripe bike lanes throughout the length of the project including the deck over the MassPike.

Throughout the US, urban quality of life, walking/biking for health, and serious concerns about global climate change have taken center stage. To remain a truly “world-class city", Boston needs to become a world-class bicycling city. LivableStreets commends the city of Boston for its efforts over the past year to launch its new bicycling initiative, and we look forward to working with Transportation Department, the Mayor’s office, Nicole Freedman, neighborhood groups and other advocates to make this a reality.

I am extremely excited about the completion of this project and look forward to one day seeing students, commuters, families, the elderly and people of all stripes riding in bike lanes along the entire stretch of Comm. Ave. from Chestnut Hill all the way to the Public Garden.

[ Click here to read "Boston's bike lanes nearly set for riders", Boston Globe, Aug. 6 ]

[ Click here for the City of Boston's Press Release. ]


The Future of Crossing the Street.

Now some very smart people think they've got the answers to help everyone play nice on our roads.

EXCERPTS... [ Click here for the entire article ]

A few minutes before, I'd been sitting with Hart inside the Institute for Human Centered Design, a nonprofit advocacy group on Portland Street, just down from Causeway, where Hart is the director of urban and transit projects. We were discussing Shared Space, a street design concept becoming popular in parts of Europe (the German town of Bohmte started turning its entire main street into a Shared Space last fall), and I ask Hart if he thinks such a "wild" idea could ever work in Boston.

"It's not a wild idea," he counters quickly. "It existed for thousands of years. It was only with the advent of sewers and fast-moving vehicles - horses and trolleys and cars - where you start seeing curbs and really defining where uses go."

The curb is a big enemy in the Shared Space philosophy, because the curb is a separator, dictating what belongs to the pedestrian and what belongs to the vehicle. There are other enemies as well: signs, lines on the road, even traffic lights. Pioneered by Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, who died earlier this year at age 62, Shared Space gets the street naked, removes all physical and psychological barriers, and forces cars and pedestrians to share. The concept makes the street safe by making it dangerous to proceed without paying attention.

Wendy Landman, the executive director of the nonprofit pedestrian advocacy group WalkBoston, says, "One of the pieces that Monderman talked about is that you have to give responsibility back to the drivers and pedestrians to behave rationally." (An oft-quoted Monderman mantra is "If you treat drivers like idiots, they act as idiots.")

Drivers expect to have their needs served in due time. The pedestrian? Unsure. Do I have to push the button, or will it just give me the walk signal? And when? So what we do, Larson says, is serve ourselves. "Most of the time, it's safe if you're a rational person. That's when people jaywalk. But a car can come out of a driveway, and that's when trouble happens." The catch, according to Ann Hershfang, one of the founders of WalkBoston, is that studies have shown that pedestrians will wait just 30 seconds before they get restless and cross.

So is it really as simple as getting pedestrians and drivers to behave within the system? Thomas Tinlin, the city's transportation commissioner, thinks that's a big part of it. Everything they do, Tinlin says, is a trade-off . "Transportation commissioners of the past have always been about 'move the car, move the car.' The world is so different now. It's cars and bikes and wheelchairs."

Jeff Rosenblum sees the pedestrian walk button as a symbol of inequity. Four years ago, he founded the advocacy organization LivableStreets Alliance because he thought the discussion about streets was missing the human element. An engineer by training, Rosenblum [recently] took [a] job [with the city of Cambridge as a Transportation Planner] because he says he believes Cambridge is on the right track for human-centered street issues. When I ask Rosenblum to point me to other cities and towns in the region with strong pedestrian initiatives, he says the lack of them is what concerns him."Why do we make pedestrians jump through hoops? The assumption is, 'You tell us when you'd like [us to have] a little slice.' " Bicyclists and pedestrians are not fighting for space in the system, he says; they're fighting for scraps. "When the system is laid out such that it works for everybody, people will behave.

There is no silver bullet that will fix everything, Rosenblum says, but the first step is readjusting how we value things. "Part of the problem is that the study of traffic engineering is so numerical, it's easy to quantify. But how do you value something like a bike lane? When you start talking about value, that's when it becomes sticky," he says, his face telling the story of someone who's tired of losing this nuance argument. "It's more of an art than a science, which makes it difficult for people to handle, because they want numbers, they want proof."

[ Click here for the entire article ]

[ Click here for a PDF with all the images ]


Rethinking Massachusetts Avenue in Boston

EXCERPTS... [ Click here for the entire article ]

How do you reconstruct a major, urban artery notorious for its traffic congestion and safety issues, but do so in a way that pleases not only neighborhood residents but supports the street's many users - cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, and buses?

To some, the rehab constitutes a major improvement. Others, particularly those groups behind the new "complete streets" design concept that gives pedestrians, bicyclist, and mass transit users equal footing with car traffic, have serious reservations.

In fact, some bicycling advocates feel the Mass. Ave. plan flies in the face of Mayor Thomas Menino's own agenda to put in bike lanes across the city - Menino announced last week that the city's first lanes on Commonwealth Avenue and in the Franklin Park area are just about ready. Bike advocates don't understand why a key street like Mass. Ave. would not be redesigned to also make room for traffic other than cars. The current plan widens travel lanes and inserts several left-hand turn lanes, but includes no dedicated bike lane.

"We are disappointed that the City was unable to incorporate the latest thinking on bicycle, pedestrian, and disabled access into the design, instead choosing to focus on moving cars through the corridor faster," commented David Watson, executive director of MassBike, in an e-mail. "Over the many years that this project has been in process, standards for road design, both nationally and here in Massachusetts, have evolved to become less car-centric and more inclusive of non-motorized users."

"Mass. Ave. is really the most critical connection in Boston for bikers," said Ken Kruckemeyer, a 41-year South End veteran and former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Works who now sits on the board of LivableStreets. "This is setting the stage for the next 50 years on this street," he added. "I think it's a huge missed opportunity."

"This is a major point of travel for residents of two groups: older people, and people with disabilities," said Valerie Fletcher, a 26-year South End resident and executive director of Adaptive Environments, which advocates for accessible human-centered design. She feels cars are given too much room in the Mass. Ave. plan, and that wider sidewalks would be better use of the space.

"We're going to live with a street torn up for three years and end up with a street that is not better," she added. "It will be cleaner and prettier but not better." Neither Fletcher nor Kruckemeyer was on the task force, but both recognize the difficulty in pleasing all constituents.

[ Click here for the entire article ]

Citizen information sheet, published June 22, 2008.

Click here for more history on advocacy involvement in this project, dating back to 1995.

 


New York City first of three "Summer Streets" road closures a big success!

Nearly seven miles of Manhattan became traffic-free for six hours Saturday, creating a weekend playground for bikers, walkers and loungers.

Feeling remarkably similar to Bogota's Ciclovia, the New York City Department of Transportation held its first Summer Streets event on Saturday by opening 7 miles of city streets to pedestrians and bike traffic only. From 7 AM to 1 PM, roads were car-free from 72nd Street to the Brooklyn Bridge with Park Avenue serving as the backbone of the route. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spent the entire day riding a bike around the course. This will occur on three consecutive Saturdays in August (August 9, 16, & 23).

[ Click here for a 4 minute StreetFILM on the event by Clarence Eckerson ]

[ Click here for links to media coverage ]


THURSDAY AUGUST 14
7:00 PM | BFF Opening Night Party!!!
After Party at Alchemist Lounge

FRIDAY AUGUST 15

7:00 PM | Program 1 - BFF Greatest Hits
9:00 PM | Program 2 - Bike Car
After Party at RedBones

SATURDAY AUGUST 16

1:00 PM | Program 3 - Road to Roubaix
4:00 PM | Program 4 - Pedal

6:30 PM | Program 5 - Fun Bike Shorts
9:00 PM | Program 6 - Urban Bike Shorts
9:00 PM | Bikes Rock After Party!!!

SUNDAY AUGUST 17
11:30 AM | Urban Bike Ride and Bike-in Brunch

[ Click here for more information ]


CITY OF BOSTON'S new bicycle program welcomes you to the second BIKE FRIDAY! August 22

SAFE, GUIDED CONVOYS WITH POLICE ESCORT Lead by experienced cyclists and escorted by Boston Police, convoys follow a fixed schedule and route and originate at locations throughout metro- Boston. All convoys finish at City Hall Plaza Boston.

FREE BREAKFAST, BIKE EXPO AND MUSIC Whether you ride in with a convoy or ride along, join us at Boston City Hall for free food and fun, courtesy of 100.7 WZLX, Mass Commute, Mass Bike, and all our sponsors.

All convoys depart at 7:00 am. Rides start from various locations in metro-Boston. Cyclists can join the convoy at start location, or at any point along the route. See map for locations and times. Police escorts only available within Boston. Click on the map below for details.

Click here for more information...