Tag Archives: city staff

Plan, Set, Match. Now what?

Of the many things Denton is known for, resident advocacy and passion for issues can certainly be considered the norm.

You see it with the public input towards the natural gas drilling ordinance rewrite. You see it with food trucks. And we most certainly saw it / participated in / reveled in the passing of the Pedestrian and Bike Linkage components to the Denton Mobility Plan.

Denton was passionate, Denton showed up, and Denton got a plan with funding.

But what happens after advocacy pays off?

Since the Bike/Ped Plan was unanimously approved by Council in late February, seemingly little has tangibly been put into effect. There has of course been time and energy spent in engineering of the plan, but where and when can we expect any infrastructure to be installed?

In August, we posted that the priorities of the plan were reshuffled following the slight debacle of Pennsylvania Drive. With last week’s Traffic Safety Commission meeting, we now have further details on the reshuffling from city engineers.

1. Windsor

After the stately residents adjoining Pennsylvania Dr vehemently expressed their disapproval of the free-per-county commissioner bike lane options along their street, the city backtracked. County Commissioner Hugh Coleman was gracious enough to stay his $50,000 contribution to the plan, as long as it went to a project still within his territory. Thus comes Windsor.

Windsor has a lot of great tenants to it: Safe Routes To Schools, in between a couple of parks, connects a few great Denton locations, etc., and represents a significant length of on-road infrastructure.

Staff’s update to the TSC last week is that the engineering is 90% complete on this project, and its implementation is shortly forthcoming. Awesome.

However, the last word we had on its installation (not mentioned last week) is baffling: 500 foot individual segments of bike lanes over the course of a few years. Not as awesome.

If its a matter of compliance with the grander Denton schedule of road-reconstruction, might we suggest striping the lanes now? A small redundancy of such will pay off better in the long run by setting the social and behavioral cues now of what will eventually be fully implemented.

2. Sycamore as UNT-DCTA connecting route (via Mulberry)

All parts of this are confusing.

The proposal calls for Sycamore to be accessed from Mulberry, because it has the stop lights at Carroll, whereas Sycamore does not.

TFC Commissioner Patricia Lyke pressed engineering Director Jim Coulter on how Sycamore ever came to be proposed as the connecting route between UNT and the DCTA Transit Center. Mr Coulter was a little ambiguous at first, but settled on the proposal coming from Council directive. This was quite puzzling, as it is our understanding that staff brought the proposal to Council who discussed it, but made no decision either way. We’re waiting on confirmation either way from Council on this one.

By Mr Coulter’s ready admission though, public input on the UNT-DCTA route has always been in favor of utilizing Oak/Hickory streets. More on this in a second.

3. To Be Determined

We can’t quite understand this one either, as staff indicated that there has not been anything offered, but they are open to suggestion.

4. Oak / Hickory

The DRC had a recent article prescribing Oak and Hickory streets as being re-signed and striped for uniform one-way directions, and that bike lanes were imminent. As hopeful as that is, it is a little misleading.

The re-directional striping and signage is effective only on these streets west of Ave C / Jagoe. The City is removing the parking on the north side of Oak, and the few spots on the south side of Hickory to accomodate bike infrastructure. All of this stems from a 2009 ordinance whose consideration was implemented into the Bike/Ped Plan.

Along this length, Oak will have a full bike lane. Hickory will likewise have a bike lane between Bonnie Brae and North Texas Blvd, but due to described spacing issues, will have an urban shoulder with signage between that point and Ave C. This all will supposedly be implemented by January 7, 2013.

This of course does not address Oak and Hickory to the eastof Ave C / Jagoe. According to engineer Frank Payne, additional spacing issues in these sections make it difficult to implement the infrastructure desired, unless the roads were reclassified as “commercial collectors” from their current designation as “arterials”.

This, again, does not make sense. Per the current Denton Development Code (in 35.20.2.A.4-5), arterials are supposed to have bike lanes attributed to them. It is not fully understood why any reclassification is in any way required.

Additionally, when TSC commissioners pressed Mr Payne on why $35,000 of the $200,000 available is needed for a study on whether its even possible to reclassify these streets, he answered with, “Well, since it is having to do with bike things, I would think it would come from that.” Given the current DDC, we’re inclined to disagree. It would not seem well to use significant portions of the funds set aside for the Bike/Ped Plan for anything other than physical implementation of infrastructure.

//

Other projects were additionally touched upon in last week’s meeting, such as the completed engineering for the Bonnie Brae and Mayhill road expansions. These two will also have bike/pedestrian components, though not necessarily on the roads themselves.

An update was also given in regards to the Education component of the Bike/Ped Plan. Police Lt. Tom Woods is tasked with providing these components with the League of American Cyclists certification program – the same “vehicular cyclist” course used to certify our police force. I will be taking the next offered course in December, weather permitting, and will give an assessment of its effectiveness then.

//

So Denton, what happens when advocacy pays off? Great things, but it is still up to those advocates to push and see that those great things happen in a timely and sensical manner.

If you have opinions or concerns on such, we certainly invite you to message your local Council member or staff engineer about it.

- Christopher

Tagged , , , ,

Recycle Ride recap

Cans, bottles, boxes, paper, etc. We throw them all into our blue bins, but where to do they go after that? Who sorts them, and how?

On May 5th, Querencia and the city partnered to host a Recycle Ride out to the newly functional recycling center at the landfill. The ride was hot but not too long (at 4 miles each way), and we had people of all ages riding along. For those of us with a burning curiosity to know what happens to stuff after we recycle it, the recycling plant tour was a real treat. Thanks to Querencia and Alana Presley for hosting the ride. Should it be yearly? Anyone miss it and want to do it next year?

Check out the combined weight of 8 or so riders on this truck scale. Less than a car, and I’m pretty sure this scale is way off for this low!

P1100929.jpg

P1100949.jpg

P1100931.jpg

P1100934.jpg

P1100940.jpg

P1100942.jpg

P1100943.jpg

P1100946.jpg

P1100948.jpg

P1100951.jpg

Tagged ,

City to host public Bike Plan input meeting – April 13

logo for City of Denton

Per an official release this week, the City of Denton will host a public input meeting for the “Pedestrian and Bicycle Accommodation Plan” next Wednesday, April 13, at the Civic Center from 5:30-7:00PM. City staff will present a preliminary bicycle route map, and citizens are encouraged to give input. As far as we can tell, this is the only official input meeting for the Bike Plan, so don’t miss this opportunity to help shape Denton’s bike-friendly future.

The inclusion of pedestrian-related input is a surprise, so spread the word that this meeting won’t apply only to people who ride bicycles. Facebook event for RSVP.

For more information, contact Noreen Housewright at 940-349-7121 or at Noreen.housewright@cityofdenton.com.
Tagged , ,

Bike Plan update

freese-logo

Last November, we learned that Denton hired a bike consultant for $69,564 to research and propose bike-friendly changes to Denton’s Mobility Plan. We hadn’t heard much since then, so we asked for an update last week.

City engineer Frank Payne says that during December and January, consultant Kevin St. Jacques identified bicycling destinations, residential routes, the Trails Master Plan (absent from city website), and Kevin prepared reports and street concept designs for the Bicycle Plan Task Force. Once the task force is assembled, it will interface between the city and the public, possibly to include the city council Mobility Committee.

The task force will review Bicycle Plan goals, theology of on-street accommodations, public input, plan framework, and facility financing.

In addition to the ongoing Bicycle Plan, the soon-to-be-reformed Traffic Safety Commission will explicitly include bicycle and pedestrian safety in the commission’s charge. Although we don’t see paint on the ground yet, these two developments indicate a much needed level of conversation about bicycling and pedestrian facilities in Denton. Progress seems slow, but the public will very soon be able to provide input and participate in the discussion.

Tagged , ,

Meet Peter Koonce, Portland traffic engineer

Maybe this video is only interesting to transportation wonks (hand raised), but it’s too good not to post. This is Peter Koonce, Portland traffic engineer, discussing the limitations of the MUTCD (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) – the guiding text of American road design.

Tasty quotes:

  • [Capacity] is one of those elements that they suggest widening the roadway as the solution, when in reality that may just be exacerbating the problem.
  • It’s ingrained in us as engineers that pedestrians may be an impediment as opposed to important users that we should prioritize.
  • At our downtown Portland streets, we’re progressing cars at 15-16mph.
  • If you’re walking most of the time, then when you get in your car you’ll be more respectful.
  • The easiest mode to serve is a pedestrian. Once the sidewalks are poured, you don’t have to repave. The sidewalks in my neighborhood are from 1907.

via Intersection911.org via BikePortland:

Peter Koonce, Portland traffic engineer riding a cargo bike

 

Tagged ,

City hires consultant for Master Bike Plan

This Thanksgiving weekend brought some exciting news from the Denton Record Chronicle that the city has hired a consulting firm to develop a Bicycle Master Plan.  We’ve requested the contract details from the city and should have more information to share this week.

City Manager George Campbell approved a $69,564 contract last month with consulting firm Freese and Nichols Inc. to help develop plans for improving pedestrian and bicycle mobility. A draft report is expected by next summer.

Kevin St Jacques, the consultant, will moderate public meetings with citizens, staff, and the Traffic Safety Commission, we’ll have more announcements about public meetings as the contract moves forward.  Kevin St Jacques recently worked in Denton on the Safe-Routes-To-School contract to improve cycling and pedestrian conditions near Denton’s elementary schools.  We’ve asked the city for any results or findings from the study.

A well executed Master Bike Plan with realistic and implemented results could transform Denton’s streets into a safer, more livable place.   But as we learned from the Downtown Implementation Plan, unrealistic results (like the Sycamore bike route proposed by Jacobs) breed mistrust and skepticism.  This is a huge opportunity to improve Denton; and the plan’s success is contingent on public involvement and willing implementation.  Stay tuned for future announcements and chances for public input, and we’ll share any information we hear.

Tagged , ,

City engineers to present bicycle accommodation findings to council

Mark your calendars, and come show support on April 5 and April 13 as staff presents findings from the input hearing last week. Community support at this moment in time is critical to keep this topic progressing through city bureaucracy and politics.  If you’re shy, then these are perfect meetings for you, as there is no chance for public commentary.  Your silent presence will help immeasurably.

Via email from Clay Riggs of Utility & CIP Engineering, the staff engineers will present information on bicycle accommodation to both the Traffic Safety Commission and City Council:

Attendees of the Bicycle Public Meeting held 3-22-2010,

City staff wants to keep you informed of what is going on.  A copy of the power point used during the public meeting is posted on the City of Denton Utility & CIP Engineering website.  City staff is still processing the questionnaires that were collected during the public meeting.

Two important meeting are coming up.  The meetings are:

Traffic Safety Commission

Date:     Monday, April 5, 2010

Time:     5:30 pm

City Council Meeting

Date:     Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Time:     4:00 pm (Time could change depending on number of agenda items)

At the Traffic Safety Commission meeting city staff will present to the commission the presentation that  was given during the public meeting held March 22, 2010.

At the City Council meeting city staff will present to council a staff position paper for bicycle accommodation.

This is a positive indication that staff are actively thinking about cyclist accommodation, and as we heard at the input hearing last week, they are listening as the community articulates what folks want to feel safe and comfortable while cycling.  Both the Traffic and Council meetings are open to the public, and showing up in person goes a long, long way to indicate to politicians, staff, and commissioners that the community is really paying attention to how this plays out.   If we stay involved, we increase our chance of seeing this result in some lasting, positive change for Denton’s livability.  Given the other hot topics for livability: increasing walkability, obstructive dumpsters, traffic calming for neighborhoods, the fight for cycling infrastructure only helps coalesce the audience which can fight for all of those things, and we maintain open dialogue with city staff to collectively voice community concerns.

Tagged

Cyclist Input Hearing recap

Last Monday eve, 54 citizens showed up to give input to the city Engineering staff about cycling infrastructure in Denton.  54!  They included all age ranges and walks of life: parents with children, seniors, middle agers, college students, etc.  We noticed the pastor of First United Methodist, Rick Leisner (Jacobs Group consultant for the Downtown Plan), Brian Lockley (head of Planning), Parks and Rec director Emerson Vorel, Police Lieutenant Tom Woods, and council members Dalton Gregory and Jim Engelbrecht.  In other words, people in power were paying attention to the input we gave.

City engineer Clay Riggs kicked off the meeting with a presentation on the general state of cycling facilities in Denton, a several page survey on what types of facilities cyclists prefer, and then he got to the heart of the meeting: blank maps!  At several tables around the room, citizens used markers to draw desired bike routes on large city maps.  I noticed similar routes on most of the maps, and major arterials in central Denton were all similarly marked as desirable for facilities.

Clay Riggs came across as straightforward and interested in citizen input, as quoted in the NTDaily:

We want an increased use of bicycles, and we want people to be safe doing it.  The city staff wants your input. We want to know what you want in bicycle facilities.

Riggs mentioned that the city wants to hire a bicycle consultant  after the existing infrastructure has been assessed.  He also explained that as drainage and utility easements are upgraded, he hopes that bicycle/pedestrian paths can be included.

After the route mapping session, Clay turned the microphone over to citizens, who made articulate and compelling statements supporting Denton’s new interest in cycling accommodations. Up first, local mom Amber Briggle and her daughter Gracie made the case for bike facilities that accommodate all user types, including children.

All of the speaking citizens expressed dissatisfaction with the WOL’s (Wider Outside Lanes), and all citizens spoke in favor of striped and separated bicycle facilities.  Longtime Denton cyclist Ken Royal talked about the disparate trail segments around town and his wish that they should all be connected. I mentioned that Austin engineers Nathan Wilkes and Jason Fialkoff are a great, willing resource, and they’re implementing great facilities at low cost.  We at BikeDenton are happy to share any contact info and research with city staff.  Denton citizen, Joe Gregory, offered to take the staff engineer on a ride around town to experience the streets from a cyclist’s perspective.

In general, Clay Riggs of Engineering seemed genuinely interested and willing to work with the cycling community to improve facilities in town.  Emerson Vorel, Director of Parks and Rec, stated that a way to fund cycling infrastructure would be through the CIP bond election process, a cycle which is due to come up soon (and is apparently overdue).

After the meeting, city engineering staff is to deliver results from the input hearing to the city council, and early in April we can expect a city council work session to discuss how they’d like to pursue improved cycling infrastructure.  All in all, this is a really good sign that if citizens continue growing cycling interest and advocacy, we could see some real potential for positive change.

We’ll post details on the followup council work session when we know a solid date.

Tagged ,

Cyclist Public Input Meeting – Monday, March 22

After a couple of recent cyclist input meeting reschedules, the Denton city engineering staff have committed to a March 22 (Monday) public input meeting for cyclists.  When I say cyclists, I don’t just mean people who already ride bikes.  I also mean people who would ride bikes if they felt more comfortable on the roads.  As far as I can tell, the listening staff work for the Streets engineering department, and if bike lanes, sharrows, and cycletracks are to be built, these folks will be planning and doing the work.  The purpose for this input meeting is so staff can deliver our input + staff’s conclusions to city council in early April.  That council meeting in April will set the tone for future action and any kind of cohesive planning.  Ideally, if Denton city council calls for a Bicycle Master Plan like Fort Worth, then staff could design facilities to match the guiding document.

The timing for this input hearing is perfect.  We are one year from having a commuter train station downtown, and we have about 40,000 college students at two university campuses.  Our roads inside Denton cannot expand to accommodate our rapidly growing population.  Denton is out of federal air-quality compliance.  Neighborhoods and the square are oft concerned with parking woes.  Denton neighborhoods want improved bike/pedestrian connectivity across town and safe routes for children to get to school.  The inertia for Denton’s bike/pedestrian discussion is very real, and at least half the city council and the mayor believe in this cause.

If you care about this topic, this is THE time to make your opinion heard.  This may be the first time in the city’s history that staff has held a dedicated cyclist input meeting, and we shouldn’t let it go to waste.

7PM Monday, March 22, 2010

Denton Civic Center

321 E. McKinney St

flyer PDF | 4X handbill PDF

Tagged ,

Bike Lanes Vs Wider Outside Lanes

Which do cyclists prefer?  Does one encourage more use than the other?

For starters, TXDOT seems to prefer painted bike lanes:

“In particular, one general conclusion that leaps out from the results is that for both cyclists and motorists, bike lanes provide greater comfort and a better operating environment than wide outside lanes.”

In Denton’s case, traffic engineering staff clearly favor Wider Outside Lanes (WOL), which staff publicly stated are good for “experienced cyclists”.  As BFOC previously mentioned, Lance Armstrong, an experienced cyclist says:

“There are times I ride in Austin, and I’m afraid of cars, imagine what the beginner cyclist must feel like?

Lance Armstrong’s statement echoes our sentiment that the overall goal of implementing on street facilities like bike lanes, sharrows, cycle-tracks, etc is to safely encourage riders of all skill levels to feel comfortable.  We aim to encourage children, college students, parents, and grandparents to all feel comfortable and welcome, as the spirit of the Denton Plan insists that we should reduce the number of vehicle trips. Increasing bicycle, pedestrian, and bus transit mode share is the only way to offset motor vehicle use, and accommodating experienced cyclists clearly doesn’t get us any closer to the stated goal of the Denton Plan.

The following photo, which we recently took in Austin, shows parents riding with their child, clearly feeling comfortable and safe in a new bike lane added to 12th st (and existing car lanes shrunk to 10.5′).  This family is a great example of a cycling demographic we never see in Denton: parents and children riding together on the roadway.

austin family cycling

Some people might say that lanes offer no protection, as Denton’s traffic engineer Frank Payne openly stated:

“Bicycle lanes will not shelter or provide protection to pedestrians, or bicycles for that matter beyond hopefully a greater visual recognition.”
While we agree that the statement is true, it is also true that traffic lights, cross walks, lane markers, and warning signs also offer no physical protection for drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians.
As witnessed last May at the Oak/Hickory bike lane hearing, staff seemed immovable on their preferred wide (11-12′) lane width for Oak and Hickory.  As several in attendance pointed out, slightly less lane width (10′) would actually calm traffic and allow for bike lanes and parking stalls, thus leaving all parties satisfied.  The Oak/Hickory neighborhood has long desired traffic calming measures, and getting more cyclists on the roadway would significantly calm traffic, thereby making the area safer for all transit modes.
Countless examples from other cities show lane widths much smaller.  This example from the Chicago Bike Lane Design Guide shows that Chicago has no problem with 10′ lane widths, even with the far greater density and traffic load of the metro Chicago area.  If you subtract 12′ for one side of parking and bike lane, then you’d be at 32′ total, or 2′ less than the narrowest point of Oak/Hickory (34′, we think).  Now there’s a nice surplus to increase the bike lane size and/or include a buffer between the bike lane and traffic lane.
Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for platinum-level bike friendly Portland, OR, speaks directly to this wide-outside-lane topic in his response to former Dallas traffic staff:
Your bicycle coordinator is representing an older system that works for perhaps only 1% of the population: what we call the “strong and fearless” cyclist. Basically, we credit the development of our bicycle infrastructure with encouraging more people to ride bikes. There will always be a small fraction of people willing to ride on the roadway in a shared travel lane. But more people will ride if they can get out of the traffic stream and ride in their own dedicated space. Those people are still a small minority–perhaps 7-10% of the population, but they create a presence. In Portland, that’s the group that’s largely responsible for Portland being such a bike-friendly city. They wouldn’t be there without bicycle lanes on the street and other dedicated bicycle facilities. It’s the same story in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Muenster and Beijing: build great facilities where people feel safe and comfortable and people will ride.
There is a difference between “safety” and “comfort”. A person riding in the middle of a busy travel lane is likely quite safe. They are not likely to be rear-ended. However, it is also more than likely that the average person is anything but comfortable in such a situation. Likely, they are intimidated by the cars streaming around them, or following them closely while waiting for an opportunity to pass. The cyclist feels like they are holding everybody up. The Dutch emphasize both comfort and safety in the development of their facilities (as well as attractiveness). Comfort is different from safety.
One story I like to tell is that I’ve ridden the same street to work for years. Before it had bike lanes I wore lycra, rode my road bike, carried my work clothes in a back pack and rode like hell. Once we striped bike lanes on the street I took out my clunker, wore my work clothes, slowed way down (so I don’t work up a sweat) and feel very comfortable doing so because I then had my own dedicated space. It felt great. Our story is build it and they will come. We’ve built it and we now are approaching 6-8% mode split.

We recently rode the new striped bike lanes in Austin, TX, especially on Dean Keaton, MLK, 12th street, and Chestnutt, and our feeling of comfort was dramatically different than when we last rode these streets on wide outside lanes.  The painted lanes seem to inform the drivers as much as the cyclist that “this space is designated for cyclists, and they have a right to be here”.  Austin traffic engineer, Nathan Wilkes, explained that the traffic counts for autos stayed the same before and after auto lanes were slightly narrowed and bike lanes were added.

The perfect comparison exists here in Denton, and we challenge all city staff and politicians to ride the city streets on a bicycle, as we do.  Ride Oak St from the square to UNT.  Then ride Hickory St from UNT to the square.  There is a dramatic increase in comfort when using the bike lane on Hickory, and traffic flows smoothly past the bicycles.  However, on Oak the traffic often changes lanes to pass the cyclists (thus disrupting smooth traffic flow), and the cyclist feels crowded and out of place.  A simple observation of the exponentially greater cycling traffic on Hickory concludes that an overwhelming majority of cyclists seek out a painted facility rather than a wide outside lane.  Comfort, safety, and increased ridership are clear goals of the Denton Plan and citizens.  A policy of wide-outside-lanes will never meet all three goals, and it certainly won’t encourage cycling in Denton.

Tagged , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers