Tag Archives: walkability

Jagoe street reopens with sharrows, wider sidewalk

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The freshly resurfaced Jagoe St block between Oak and Scripture reopened with new sharrows, bike signs, and a widened sidewalk. City engineer Noreen Housewright explained that road was narrowed to fit a 5’ sidewalk while keeping parking on both sides, and sharrows and “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs were added. Sharrows encourage riding outside of the car door zone, riding the right direction, and they signal to cars that “bikes belong here.” Anyone that’s ridden this road with car traffic can attest to the friction and confusion, if not outright driver impatience when people ride safely outside the door zone. As our first taste of what’s to come from the Bike Plan, Jagoe got these improvements from the proposed “shared roadway” designation in the plan appendix.

Jagoe improvements add to last year’s sharrow installation through the UNT campus and extend it northward, an eventual bike route to UNT’s Discovery Park campus and north Denton.

In the below photo, taken from the Mr. Chopsticks patio, you might remember that the previous sidewalk disappeared into the parking lot. All along the street, you can see the narrowed curb width and fresh sod where yards were extended. The sidewalk improvement is a big deal, since it was previously hard to navigate on foot and even less convenient in a wheelchair.

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Bell Ave gets crosswalk

Bell Ave gets crosswalk

The Bell/Hickory intersection between the square and downtown transit center has always needed a crosswalk. I wrote about it last year and this year.

The city installed it on Friday, and although there’s not a button and timer, the paint is a good start. The families who have been playing frogger with car traffic will appreciate it, as will the downtown businesses who will benefit from improved walkability.

Denton’s Transportation Director, Mark Nelson, made a video about it.

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Which City Is This?

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The Center For Transportation Excellence shows this ballot initiative up for funding:

Voters will be asked to approve an initiative to fund a diverse group of projects, including a new rail-based streetcar system, plus potential funding for other rail transit initiatives, such as commuter lines and a transit hub; sidewalks to be placed on major streets and near facilities used by the public and 57 miles of new public bicycling and walking trails throughout the city.

The so-called MAPS proposal calls for a seven-year, nine-month one-cent sales tax that will maintain the ________ sales tax rate where it currently stands.

Here are the hints.

It’s not Portland.

It’s not Austin.

It’s not Chicago.

It’s not Boulder.

It’s not Seattle.

It’s this city.

I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but at least it’s on the ballot.

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Interview with Todd Spinks, UNT Sustainability Director

Under the direction of current UNT president, Gretchen Bataille, the campus is noticeably evolving.  The landscaping trends towards low-water use and native plants, new buildings are planned out with sustainable goals in mind, and transit expands beyond the mere trickle of buses in years past.  In February of this year, UNT recruited Todd Spinks, a former EPA official and UNT alum, to head a new Sustainability department.  BikeDenton sought this interview with Todd to profile his job and get a feeling what changes lie ahead for UNT.

How would you describe the state of sustainability when you arrived at UNT?

In 2010, UNT will celebrate its 75th year as an environmental steward. Indeed, since 1935, the university has had a very proactive position in lessening its impact on the environment. As such, it was no surprise to find all types of activities related to sustainability going on when I arrived. However, I was very surprised to find the high number of activities that were taking place, from the individual level to the organizational level.

Because the President took such a progressive move, establishing an independent Office of Sustainability, UNT will now have the capacity to bring cohesion to all of the efforts related to sustainability, consequently, increasing its ability to affect change on campus and abroad.

What are some sustainability initiatives you expect UNT to implement, and over what timeline will they be implemented?

UNT has already begun to implement many projects and will continue to put forth a number of efforts in a variety of areas, to include:

  • UNT’s President signed the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC)
    • Commitment to move UNT toward reaching carbon neutrality
  • Completed a full Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory
    • 90% of UNT’s emissions come from the energy we use and from our commuting habits.
  • Currently drafting a Climate Action Plan
    • Will present project recommendations to the President to lessen environmental impact. The recommendations will be assessed by the President and upon her decision, certain projects will be implemented.
  • All new construction will meet LEED Silver standards. The buildings mentioned below will be completed within the next two to three years.
    • Life Sciences Building (LEED Silver)
    • Business Building (LEED Platinum)
    • Athletic Stadium (LEED Gold)
    • General Academic Building (Dallas Campus, LEED Gold)
  • Development of bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in sustainability
    • The bachelor’s and master’s degrees are intended to be launched within the next two years.
      • They will emphasize an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability and will be very applied.
  • Establish a Tree Policy
    • This goes into effect this summer. According to the policy, no tree can be removed without my approval.
  • University Operations
    • The Office of Sustainability is working with numerous programs across campus to increase environmental awareness and implement efforts that will lessen UNT’s impact on the planet. Many other initiatives will be instituted once the President has approved the recommendations.

Does cycling fit into the sustainability initiatives, and if so, how?

Cycling is an extremely important activity supported by the Office. As mentioned above, a significant percentage of UNT’s emissions come from our commuters. Many of these commuters live near campus. An increase in cycling would therefore decrease our emissions level. Accordingly, the Office is working with other members of the UNT family as well as the City of Denton to promote increased cycling on and around campus.

We love the massive expansion of bicycle racks on campus. It seems like more and more people are riding near campus. Do you have any statistics to show if cycling ridership at UNT is increasing?

The Office of Sustainability is accumulating data on this. However, you might contact UNT’s police department. They may have some stats for you on this.

Employees and students often express frustration with parking at UNT, and driving and parking costs have been steadily increasing. The environmental and health benefits of cycling and walking are numerous.  Can cycling and walking help alleviate parking frustration at UNT, and should UNT promote cycling and walking?

As stated above, increased cycling would support UNT’s efforts to decrease its emissions. It would indeed also positively impact the parking conditions on campus. The Office fully supports cycling and walking to and from campus.

The DCTA A-train will soon provide service to downtown Denton. Do you anticipate that many students will use this, and do you think that the train is part of a greater multi-modal transit evolution in Denton?

The A-Train link will be invaluable in assisting those who commute from the Dallas area to UNT. The benefits are obvious and numerous. I do believe many students will initially utilize the A-Train, but like any other major initiative, efforts must be taken to ensure the benefits are highly visible. In addition, all stakeholders will need to continuously assess the use to ensure that the service and individual activities that are associated with its use are kept convenient in order to promote a culture shift. The hope here is that, if effective, UNT and its partners can impact behavior in a positive way.

UNT has some great talent in the environmental disciplines. Are these folks from the academic side being connected with administrative and logistical (i.e. facilities) staff to work towards sustainability goals?

One of the primary objectives of the Office of Sustainability is to bring cohesion in all that UNT is doing in sustainability. This is an area that is very important to me personally and I believe the result of a coordinated, cohesive focus on moving the institution toward its goal will increase the likelihood of us getting there. Indeed, UNT has much to offer, and over the next couple of years the university will be better able to leverage all of its intellectual and professional assets to address environmental challenges here in the region as well as across the globe.

Which other universities might you look to as models of sustainability, and why?

There are a number of universities around the nation, and world that are implementing substantive policies and programs to address environmental concerns. The Office of Sustainability has recently completed an analysis of all of the schools around the country that are currently putting forth such efforts. The interesting discovery that we have found, is that UNT is quite unique in that, not only is it incorporating sustainability in everything it does, but it is consciously addressing the three fundamental areas at the same time. That is, whether in research, daily operations, outreach efforts, or the educational programs UNT offers, the institution is considering concerns related to society, the environment, and the economy. UNT is quickly rising as a global leader in this regard.

Many of the projects you’re involved in will likely address large-scale institutional inefficiencies. What can individual UNT employees do to help UNT become more sustainable?

The Office of Sustainability will launch an initiative this fall. It is called the “We Mean Green Challenge”. Essentially, the Office will ask departments to identify activities they can put forth to become more environmentally friendly. They will then pledge to enact these efforts and allow themselves to be audited by students. Consequently, this will ensure that the programs and departments are all held accountable to the student body, not a particular office. This is quite logical as it is really the students’ university and so therefore we would like the students to help us guide it into the future.  As departments and programs become increasingly more “green,” they will receive recognition for the level of “greenness” that they are putting forth. When they reach the highest level, or the We Mean Green level, they will be allowed to exhibit their office/program name along with the new We Mean Green logo.

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Fort Worth City Planner, Don Koski

Bike Friendly Oak Cliff published an interview with Fort Worth City Planner, Don Koski, discussing how he incorporates consideration for bike/pedestrian planning into his overall design philosophy.  Fort Worth has committed itself to an incredibly ambitious people-first multi-modal transit plan, and Don is the key player who will oversee execution of the transit plan.

I have a lot of experience in the planning of bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems and the development of bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects. Bicycle and pedestrian planning has always just been one of the many duties that I have had, along with arterial street system planning, project identification and prioritization, capital program development, and others. I jumped at the opportunity in Fort Worth because of the tremendous challenges and opportunities the city has with its rapid pace of growth and evolving development strategies.

I was intrigued by Fort Worth’s walkable downtown, investment in mixed-use urban villages, relatively unconstrained growth potential, and interest in improving its bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems.

Cool, that sounds like Denton too: rapid pace of growth, evolving development strategies, walkable downtown, mixed-use investment, unconstrained growth potential, interest in improving bicycle and pedestrian transit.

Fort Worth has had some great recreational trails along the Trinity River and elsewhere for many years. What was lacking was a way to make connections for people interested in cycling for transportation purposes. In 1999, the city worked with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to develop an on-street bicycle route network plan that would create linkages between downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. The City came across some difficulties implementing the plan and the bicycling advocates in Fort Worth became frustrated with the lack of progress.

That reminds me of the Denton Mobility Plan, which proposed ambitious changes.  The bicycle component was never fully realized.

When I came on board in December 2006, I was immediately approached by the late Dr. Byron de Sousa – a community leader who had been Chair of the Fort Worth Plan Commission and was an avid proponent of bicycle transportation infrastructure – to develop a truly comprehensive bicycle transportation system plan encompassing infrastructure, education, encouragement, city policies and programs, and law enforcement. That was when we kicked off the effort that led to the Bike Fort Worth plan.

Excellent!  A comprehensive program touching all aspects of a properly planned endeavor: infrastructure, education, encouragment, city policy, and enforcement.  Bike lanes alone won’t do it, this holistic approach is the most likely to succeed, and the only logical choice.

However, there are a number of streets that are oversized for the level of vehicular traffic that they experience today or are likely to have in the future. In some of those cases, a “road diet” may be possible that could provide dedicated space for cyclists. We look at these on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to accommodate cyclists, based on the criteria established in the plan.

Bike lanes are a nice accomodation, bike racks are a nice accomodation, road diets would show incredible commitment to the growing Denton cycle community.  Does Carroll Blvd need to be 6 lanes wide?  I don’t know, but perhaps that could be asked of every huge artery which squeezes out cyclists and pedestrians and encourages traffic congestion and high speeds.

Regarding temperature, I don’t buy the argument that people won’t bike because it’s too hot/cold/wet/etc. Look at the cities that have the highest bicycle commute rates in the country: Portland (wet), Minneapolis (cold), Seattle (wet), and Tucson (hot). Certainly there are many cyclists who won’t bike for transportation purposes when it’s hot, but there are other ways to address that, like by promoting the provision of shower and change facilities at major employers. In fact, I would say Fort Worth has great potential as a bicycling city: relatively flat, decent street block pattern, great trail system to which to make connections, great cycling weather 8 months out of the year, etc.

Ditto.  Here, Denton has an advantage over Ft Worth in smaller size, reducing complexity and cost of cycling infrastruction improvements.

From the city’s perspective, the impetus behind this effort today are many, but include making transit service (bus and rail) more accessible and attractive, making the city more attractive to the creative types who want to live and work in bicycle-friendly communities, helping residents lead more active and healthy lifestyles, and giving people more transportation options – especially those that help alleviate air quality problems and that are easy on the wallet during these tough economic times.

All true, and very reassuring to see a comprehensive, progressive, sustainable vision from the transportation head.  I’d like to do an interview with the Denton transportation czar for comparison.

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Times Square Goes Car Free

photo courtesy of nytimes.com

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has officially designated Times Square as car-free, for a period to last at least till the end of 2009.

Newsday asked onlookers what they thought:

“It’s great,” Hance said. “Usually we are trying to just jump out of the way of cabs.”

Said Villaran, “I have seen shops and signs I have never noticed before. You can see people are more relaxed. They are not pushing and shoving. It’s great.”

For street vendors, store owners and shoppers, the freedom meant happier customers and easier window gazing.

Dawn Fowler, 24, of Crown Heights, who wears a bulky sandwich board to urge people to see the Holocaust-era play “Irena’s Vow,” called her newfound freedom “incredible.”

“Normally you feel like a sardine on the sidewalk,” Fowler said. “I usually take people out with my sandwich board. Not today.”

NYC Transportation Commissioner of the last two years, Janette Sadik-Khan, has created 200 miles of bicycle paths (many protected/separated from traffic lanes), public esplanades, and effectively pursued a vision of civic amenities instead of utilitarian corridors.

Too much of the time I think pedestrians have been seen as guests in this space. Putting a prime role for designing for people — designing for pedestrians, designing for cyclists, designing for buses, designing for better mobility, designing for a more sustainable city — is all part of the package. 

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