"The city plans to hold a forum on Saturday, Jan. 9, to get public input on developing strategies to improve bicycling in the community.
One goal, according to a release put out this morning, is to help Portland become a Bicycle Friendly Community, as designated by the League of American Bicyclists.
This fall, the release said, the city was awarded an honorable mention for its application to be considered a bike-friendly community. The league suggested a number of ways Portland could improve “bikability,” the release said, including an expansion of Bike to Work Day, increasing the number of bike lines along major arterials, improving public education efforts for safety, and incorporating bicycling issues/needs in planning and large-scale development.
The forum will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Merrill Rehearsal Hall at City Hall. Members of the public are encouraged to pre-register at http://www.portlandmaine.gov/planning/conferenceregistrationbikes.asp."
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
"One of my great interests is time reallocation in an urban system. All I mean by this is that when I walk across parts of London which I do most weeks it is quite clear that the amount of time I stand still and do not move as traffic hurtles past is very large. I estimate it is about 50% of my journey time. That means that even in a congestion charge best practice world my time is being stolen to reward drivers with time savings. I want the theft halted and the system re-prioritised to reward pedestrians and cyclists."
- John Whitelegg, Editor, World Transport Policy and Practice
I find this to ring very true in not only here in Portland, but in every city that has automobile traffic that I've visited or heard of. At a 'standard' street intersection, a pedestrian is likely to wait an disproportionate amount of time to move in relation to the movement of vehicular traffic.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
For the most part (I'm looking at you, Franklin Arterial!) the peninsula is home to pretty calm streets that enable and encourage pedestrian usage year-round.
At the Maine Personal Injury Law Blog (run by local firm Joe Bornstein) they recently had a post about an update to pedestrian safety law.
Here's a snippet:
I applaud the effort, and although we all know that traffic calming and common sense are more effective tools to enhance pedestrian safety in Maine, the law certainly means well. Fortunately, most roads in downtown Portland have adequate sidewalks, and this law seems to be more focused on pedestrians utilizing roads without sidewalks.
Pedestrians, by law, now have more room to run and walk when on the road. A new law protecting pedestrian safety states that drivers must leave at least three feet of clearance between their vehicle and a pedestrian when passing. The decree is a continuation of a similar law for passing bicyclists.
The new law went into effect on September 12th and is being considered by many as an awareness act. Known as “An Act To Improve the Health of Maine Citizens and Safety of Pedestrians," drivers must now be more cautious of their actions around pedestrians or they will be fined.
And back to the issue of safety in Portland, I rarely hear of fatal incidents involving pedestrian/bicycles. Most of the areas that pedestrians have access to in downtown Portland are low(er) speed areas, compared to the high-speed roads that connect the suburbs and rural areas that are purely designed for automobile use. In turn you rarely have incidents on the higher speed roads outside of cities and town centers because they are rarely used by pedestrians since nothing is within reasonable walking distance.
In a broader sense, the streets of Portland are relatively safe as far as crime goes. Despite the occasional crime spree, most people would report experiencing few serious problems. Perhaps more on this topic in the future...
Monday, September 28, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The seating will likely be gone soon, as the weather gets colder, but it was still set up this past weekend and I agreed that it was not a very good use of the sidewalk. This blog is not a place to complain about things or to be a whistle blower, but a place to bring these sorts of things to people attention, at which point people can form their own opinions and act accordingly. That being said, if I anyone can find any ordinances relating to this type of sidewalk use on the city website I would be impressed! (here is the city code site)
Does sidewalk seating work in some areas? Certainly. The picture to the left is from in front of Local 188 on Congress Street. This isn't a super-busy little stretch of sidewalk, though it's certainly not a dead zone, but the restaurant leaves enough unobstructed sidewalk to not cause any hassles for pedestrians. The restaurants in Monument Square with outside seating have plenty of room to spread out, also. The Empire Dine & Dance, on a pretty busy stretch of Congress Street at the corner with Forest Avenue has sidewalk seating installed, and it usually works fine except for really busy pedestrian times, such as first Fridays.
The title of this post, Sidewalk Seating, opens me up to exploring the topic of public seating on our sidewalks and in our parks. I'm all for places to sit and the only downside to the outside restaurant seating around town is you have to pay for a meal to sit there!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The city has a strong 'green' reputation, which is no small feat considering it rose to prominence as an industrial hub (notably steel) full of polluted rivers and smog. It is hosting a G-20 economic summit later this month which will put the city on the world stage for a few days. This website, aptly called Pittsburgh Green Story, chronicles the "...remarkable story of one of America’s oldest industrial cities. Pittsburgh, once declared "hell with the lid taken off," has undergone one of the most dramatic environmental transformations in American history and is now one of the greenest cities in the nation."
In addition to the overall green vibe, the city appears to have a pretty dense downtown and surrounding pre-war suburbs which make it a good place to explore without a car. There are not a lot of large American cities where you can literally start a hiking expedition from downtown.
That leads me to a selection of blogs and/or websites that have similar aspirations and mindsets to mine. (which is the basis of the 'out of town' series by the way)
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"Urban Hike is an informal, monthly-or-so walking tour of the Pittsburgh area. We learn a little history, take in some strange and beautiful sights, get some exercise, and wrap it all up with some delectable local cuisine."
The other day I was thinking that I would like to take up hiking, but to get to some mountainous terrain near Portland without a car proved to be a challenge. By the time I walk/bike/run to a mountain I would be to tired to do any hiking. Pittsburgh's urban hike group looks like some good wholesome fun and their website is very well done.
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This is another great looking site. In addition to car-free Fridays and Bikefest, they seem to do a ton of advocacy on local biking issues, have a busy community calendar, and feature some very slick looking bicycle maps. Pittsburgh is a hilly city, and I am sure that riding your bike there is not only convenient but a great workout.
"Bike Pittsburgh is committed to making Pittsburgh increasingly safe, accessible, and friendly to bicycle transportation. The work we do is at the heart of urban environmentalism - raising awareness about oil dependency, pollution, congestion, safe streets, good urban design, and public health. We are partnering with local stakeholders to improve our streets, bridges, and trails in order to make riding to work, shopping, and exercising by bicycle safe and fun for everyone in Pittsburgh. "
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East Busway Blog
And last but not least, this blog provides some good insights into current transportation issues relating to the city. An interesting tidbit I learned about the author is that they currently commute via car to their job but look forward to the day that they would be able to have a viable public transportation option for their workplace or to live and work in a more mass-transit friendly environment. A snippet from the aforementioned post:
"My goal is to at some point take a job in Pittsburgh that is more commuter friendly. For now I am stuck. Even if I wanted to move to a location closer to work, where I could take public transportation, I would have to get in my car anyway to run errands because the area is so rural.What's my point? Plan development intelligently. The office park I work in was created for people to drive to individually, access to public transit was not even an afterthought, it was NEVER considered. Now we're paying. From a completely practical perspective, gas won't be cheap forever (thank god my car is fuel efficient). At some point $50.00 a tank for a small car will become the norm again. This is not to mention the other effects (the least of which not being my sanity)."
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So there you have it, some interesting stuff out of Pittsburgh. I very much hope to visit someday. What town should be next?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
It was not mentioned in any of their reports, but texting while driving can be a hazard even to those of us who don't own cars. In fact, it can be more dangerous since we are not surrounded by the body-armor of a car even though we walk on sidewalks and crosswalks that are mere feet from vehicles with texting and chatting drivers. Bicyclists are equally at risk, as well as any person not in a car or well-built building.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a study come out someday that also incriminates pedestrians and bicyclists for texting while on the move. (Do you think I could make any money by publishing such a report?) It is as easy to be distracted while walking as it is to get distracted while driving. The real issue in all of this is, of course, not the act of texting or talking on the phone but is instead the issue of distraction. Someone trying to walk across a busy intersection while filling out a crossword puzzle is just as dangerous as someone driving a car who is trying to figure out their exact position on the map.
While it is a serious issue since people can and have been seriously injured and even killed due to distractions, it is interesting that it is blamed on different media throughout the ages. I've heard anecdotally that when they first started putting radios in cars that it was considered as dangerous as texting is today.
So, the moral of this rant is to pay attention to your surroundings, no matter when or where you are (especially in the future when people will be playing Playstation 4's while driving and installing holodecks on the in their minivans!)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
"In this study, the Maine Department of Transportation is considering implementing either rail or Bus Rapid Transit service between Portland and destinations north of Portland. Bus service would be provided in the I-295 and I-95 corridors, and the following three rail corridors will be analyzed for potential funding... Portland to Yarmouth, Portland to Brunswick, and Portland to Auburn."
There is a wealth of information on the site, such as studies that have been completed, powerpoint presentations, and plenty of maps. I encourage you to spend some time looking around.
This map shows a couple of different options as far as rail service into Portland from the North. One option, using publicly owned land, would involve repairing the rail bridge that runs next to Tukey's bridge (which carries I-295) and would presumably have some impact on the Narrow Gauge Railroad attraction along the Eastern Prom. Another option would have trains coming in more from the northwest on rail that belongs to PanAm. Do note that the only currently existing train station in the map below is the Portland Transportation Center.
I don't have much to say about the project, except that I obviously support it and it sounds like they are on the right track (pun intended). While rail service (utilizing existing rails) would be my first choice, a bus rapid transit (BRT) system would have just as many benefits and would likely be easier to implement. I haven't read enough into it to determine how a rail service would work with the (eventual) extension of the Amtrak Downeaster to the north, but I'm sure that is somewhere in the notes. I would also be curious to know if there is any project like this for the southern side of Portland (currently served by a few shuttle buses and the Amtrak at Old Orchard Beach, Saco/Biddeford, and other points south).
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Who pays for [free parking]? Everyone. The cost of building all that parking is reflected in higher rents, more expensive shopping and dining, and higher costs of home-ownership. Those who don’t drive or own cars thus subsidize those who do.
Because [parking] surveys are often conducted in “pure” auto environments (malls or office buildings with free parking that are inaccessible by other modes), and because they measure the absolute peak of demand, these standards often result in an enormous abundance of parking. Malls, for example, are required to build sufficient parking for the busiest day each year – with the consequence that for the other 364 days, many parking spots stand empty, a poor capital investment...
Why do Americans drive everywhere? Because everything’s far apart. Why’s it far apart? Often because there’s so much parking in between! In the end, creating bright green cities will require undoing the damage created by mandating free parking. But it won’t be easy. Urban form is path dependent. If municipalities just changed the zoning ordinances tomorrow, many drivers would raise political hell over their lost right to free parking, and many developers would go on providing free parking because that’s what the market expects. Fixing the problem will require not only a regulatory change, but also a behavioral change.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Closer to home, it was recently reported at the Bangor Daily News that Maine, although only the "35th most obese state in America," is the most obese in New England. From that article:
"...24.7 percent of Maine adults are clinically obese compared with
23.7 percent in last year’s report."
I have always had a hunch that people in urban areas and those don't drive cars
on a regular basis are generally in better health, and this associated
press article backs me up. A few highlights:
"New research illustrates the health benefits of regular biking, walking or taking public transportation to work, school or shopping. Researchers found a link between "active transportation" and less obesity in 17 industrialized countries across Europe, North America and Australia."
"The authors say it's more than lifestyle choices that lead Americans to use their cars more. Europe's compact, dense layout and infrastructure are more conducive to getting around without a car."
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
NYC DOT and our partners are proud to present Summer Streets. We will temporarily close Park Avenue and connecting streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park to motor vehicles and open it up to people on three consecutive Saturdays in August (August 8, 15, & 22).
Saturday, July 11, 2009
- Formed in 1992, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has some great resources available on their website. The group's aim is to "advocate bicycling safety, education, and access..." throughout the state. Be sure to check out the many events on their calendar.
- The city has created a nice google map with locations of bike racks, check it out here.
- A public meeting on the proposed Long Creek Bike/Ped bridge in South Portland will be held during the South Portland City Council Workshop on Monday, July 13th, 2009. FMI about the meeting. Check out the presentation on the project here (opens up a .pdf file). This connection would integrate with a new Bike/Ped route over a new Veteran's Bridge (connection between Portland and South Portland) which is in the works. Exciting stuff and a great opportunity.
- Also, it was announced in June that you can park your bicycle inside the Spring Street parking garage (owned by the city) for free. I hope they start allowing this at all the other city garages, too.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Let's start with some photographs:
Overall Size - This stop is always busy when I go by it in the morning (I apologize for taking pictures of it when no one was around). A larger shelter would be good for keeping more people dry and might make the area a bit more attractive. This stop serves three bus lines according to this map from the Metro website, and would make a great 'hub':
Aesthetic value: This stop is on a corner in a neighborhood that could use a fresh coat of paint. Why not start with a new shelter? This is a lower-income area and it sounds silly to represent neighborhood pride with a bus stop, but it would be a start. It's right next to Deering Oaks Park and a shiny new shelter could invite people to the area and serve as an information gatheringg resource with local maps, guides, advertising, etc.
Signage: The stops could use much larger and better signage of the metro routes. The current Metro schedule isn't overly complex compared to most cities, but the small maps that are on the back of this shelter could use some enlarging and clearer language.
Revenue: This isn't a walkability issue, but why aren't there any advertisements on our bus stops? I know Maine doesn't allow billboard advertising (I still have mixed feeling on this) but I don't see any harm in having a McDonald's ad on the side of a bus stop. It would bring in a little bit of much desired revenue for the system. I've even heard of larger cities which sell advertising rights on bus stops to private corporations and in return the company is responsible for the upkeep of the structure.
Here's an example of a pretty nice bus shelter, on Congress Street. This photo was taken from the side so it doesn't fully do it justice.
I think this shelter even features a heating component during the colder months. While it doesn't take care of several of my points I've mentioned, it does have plenty of seating and is large enough to serve the amount of people that use it. It also is unique and that counts for something. I don't want a clone made of this one, but it shows that Portland can have a proper bus stop away from the Pulse on Elm Street (the main hub).
Friday, July 3, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
"Make a request or comment to the City of Portland. We want to hear from you! If you have a request, suggestion, question, or a comment, you can contact us any time that is convenient for you via this form. If you have a public safety emergency, please call 9-1-1."
- Is there a sidewalk that needs repairing?
- Should they repaint that crosswalk?
- Do you want a bike rack outside your favorite coffee shop?
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I do believe it would be educational and entertaining to share stories of these people (I know there must be some of you out there) with the blog's audience. Maybe it would inspire others to give the car-free commute a try every now and then and it would help people 'put a face' to the issue.
Volunteers (if I could afford to pay people for their time I would, maybe I can get you a cup of cofeee) should be open to answering a few basic interview questions and having a picture or two taken. The whole ordeal will take less than 15 minutes and A few easy sample questions would be:
- How long have you been using mass transit in Portland?
- What is the biggest challenge of living car-free in Maine?
- Have you convinced anyone you know to get out of their car every now and then?
Any volunteers? If you or someone you know has any interest in participating, reply to this post with your contact information or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org .