This blog serves as the Ohio Bikeways forum for encouraging discussion and education regarding bicycle and trail-related topics. It will cover a number of on and off road bicycle subjects including: traffic laws, advocacy, bicycle infrastructure and more.
If you are passionate about bikes and/or trails and have something of interest to say, contact us regarding a possible guest blog post.
Where Do Bicycles Belong? - 4/18/13
By Matthew Stanfield
[The following is a cross-post by permission from the author's website, "Field 9: architecture."]
This post is a bit of a departure from what i normally post here. In an effort to be less detached and put more of a personal face to my Architecture practice, i have decided to include some non-architecture related posts. Of which this will be the first. For, in truth, in addition to being an Architect, i am a Father of seven, a cyclist / advocate, and gardner among other things.
I attended a Community Tune-Up event on Saturday, April 13 being hosted at a local Armory that is being repurposed as a community center. The event was wonderful, and we had a great turn out. There were several groups present including representatives of community gardens and the Armory Project. I was attending as part of Richland Moves, a bicycle / alternative transportation advocacy group, to help with the bike tune-up event. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 bikes come through to get checked and adjusted by volunteer bike mechanics. The riders also received bike helmets and bike lights while supplies lasted. It was a very successful event all in all.
Naturally, i rode my bike the 1.75 miles from my home to the event with two of my children. As the law allows and even mandates, i was riding in the street. Herein lies the irony. As i was helping get ready for the event, a police officer came up and asked if he could have a word with me. So he took me aside and proceeded to reprimand me for not pulling off to the side of the road and waiting for the car to pass me. The law does not require that, as a vehicle on the road, i remove myself from the flow of traffic to allow faster moving vehicles to pass. Clearly this is a courtesy i could afford to motorists. In fact i often do, when it is appropriate, but i am not required too. I certainly will not put myself, or my children in danger to do so. When the lane is not wide enough for both the car and the cyclist, i am going to exercise my right to take the lane. Putting myself in a position such that the operator of the motor vehicle must consciously reckon with my presence and creating a buffer for myself as well as my children who were riding with me.
Apparently the driver of a car had called the police because i was exercising my rights with respect to the law and the driver did not like that. As i was riding in downtown on Fourth Street towards the Armory, this car rolled up behind me and started laying on their horn before they even had to slow down. The driver proceeded to follow me the remaining .75 miles or so to the Armory refusing to pass me and periodically laying on their horn. At one point, they apparently were yelling at me to get onto the sidewalk, though i could not hear exactly what they were saying (my son asked me if someone was telling us to get on the sidewalk). I can only conjecture what exactly happened, but it seems this driver followed me into the parking lot of the Armory, called the Police, and then waited around for the police to arrive so they could point out this dastardly law abider to the officer.
To be perfectly fair, the officer was rather pleasant about the whole thing despite what was likely my evident aggitation, but he should never have even approached me. The conversation should have ended with him telling the driver of the car that i was perfectly within my rights as a vehicle on the road and warning the driver about harassing other vehicles on the road.
The definition of vehicle in Title 45 Ohio Revised Code includes bicycles so long as they have a wheel larger than 14? in diameter. It is true that local jurisdictions can regulate traffic (which includes bicycles). But according to 4511.07 of the Ohio Revised Code the local jurisdictions only have the right to regulate bicycles in such a way that it is consistent with regulations for other vehicles and such that bicycles are not prohibited on public streets or highways. So clearly the roads of Ohio are intended for use by bicycles. While there are many more laws that could be cited here, the final point i want to make is about impeding traffic. The police officer that pulled me aside had two main concerns. The first was for my safety. In which case he should have warned the driver of the car about harassing me. His second concern was that, as a user of the road, i am not allowed to impede traffic. Which is true. The problem is that i was not impeding traffic. Firstly the car could easily have passed me in the left lane had they so chosen to do. Secondly 4511.22 of the Ohio Revised Code, while prohibiting the operation of a vehicle at "unreasonably slow speeds", requires that the capabilities of the vehicle and its operator are considered in determining what constitutes an unreasonably slow speed.
I was not riding particularly slow. Maintaining a speed between 12 and 17 mph with two children is a reasonable speed for cycling.
If you would like to get involved with bicycle / pedestrian / alternate transport advocacy in Richland County, connect with Richland Moves on facebook.
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Richland Moves! Picking Up Speed - 11/20/12
By Pete Medek
Richland Moves!, for those unfamiliar, is a ped & bicycle advocacy group in Richland County, Ohio. The group has been in existence for about 2 years now and meets monthly in Mansfield. I attended the group's initial meetings and have since become a regular member. I thought it might be a good time to report on how the group is coming along and why you should consider getting involved if you live, work or play in Richland County.
Paul Bender & Ted Stiffler, from Richland Regional Planning, started the group meetings at the Mansfield Public Library. Those early efforts included discussion on potential local bike/ped & trail projects. Guest speakers chimed in from time to time and brought further interest that drew good attendance from the local community.
Once off to a good start, attendee's looked to Paul and Ted to lead the charge in making Mansfield and Richland County more bike/ped-friendly. (For those of you unfamiliar with Richland County, other than the very nice B&O Trail, there's not much bike-friendliness happening at the moment.)
However, Paul and Ted had been forthright in stating that their primary roles were as facilitators, that the group would need to be a community-based effort. So when no one stepped up to take over the reins, Paul diligently hung in there and continued to host the meetings. He even championed the group's first project, the Mansfield Bike Rack Plan, himself.
It took a while for the group to settle in and start to gel. But in recent months it has begun to find it's stride. Currently It has several important projects in-the-works and near completion:
I'm not going to suggest that the group is a well-oiled machine at this point, but it has made progress. And with the completion of more of the group's work expected soon, I can see momentum building.
For those of you in Richland County that care about bike/ped projects in our area, keep in mind that your fingerprints need to be all over these projects. How do you do that? Participate! Come to the meetings, or, if you're waiting for a particular project to sink your teeth into, be sure to keep up with what the group is working on.
There is no membership fee or long-term committment required. Come when you can, do what you can. Most importantly, stay in the loop regarding what's happening.
The group's email list is essential for that purpose. It cranks out meeting notices and minutes, occasional updates on current projects, and important alerts or calls to action when they arise. Check out the RM Facebook page. Select "About" to contact Paul and get on the list. Click "Events" for meeting times and dates.
Again, if you want to help shape new bike/ped projects in the Mansfield or Richland County area, you need to be dialed in to Richland Moves! Make a difference. Join the movement!
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New Ohio Bikeways Map Launched! - 9/25/12
By Pete Medek
The new Ohio Trails map has been upgraded to Google API V3. The changes between versions are significant. Let's take a closer look...
Pros Vs. Cons - How The New Map Stacks Up
Here's a punch list of the improved changes. Here are the Pros.
And now the Cons...
Yes, the trailhead and parking locations provided on the old map were handy. But that info is not far away. Each trail mini marker, when clicked, reveals links for more trail details.
The Downside Of User Submitted Data
Many of the depicted bikeways are derived from user submitted data and that does have some drawbacks. Sometimes the trails are overembellished (shown to go farther than they actually do). Or a corridor may be represented instead of a finished trail, such as the Tallgrass Trail in Marion which has only 1/2 mile of completed trail at this time. No distinction is made between its finished and unfinished segments. And of course, unpaved trails are not distinguished from paved trails. They all get the same green line.
How To Add/Edit Ohio Bikeways
However, Google does allow users to plot or edit bikeways. See the demo below to learn how-to make changes to the Google Maps bike layer!
Despite the lack of distinguishing details on the map, the benefit of the larger state-wide picture is undeniable. Now one can clearly see all bikeways and their proximity to one another and plan routes and rides accordingly.
Just remember to delve into the mini marker links to learn more about how many trail miles are open, etc., to confirm the representation you see on the map. This may also help you to avoid potential problems like construction closures that are not shown.
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The Trail Bollard Hazard - Part 4 - 7/17/12
By Pete Medek
(To start with Part 1, go here).
Now let's turn our attention to alternatives to the dreaded bollard treatment. The following designs are intended to demonstrate how trail builders can discourage motor vehicle encroachment without endangering trail users.
The Split-Trail Or Landscape Method
Since traditional asphalt trails can also resemble a paved one-lane road, inevitably some drivers will become confused and unwittingly drive onto a trail. Particularly if the entrance has no signs clarifying that motorized vehicles are not permitted.
The split trail method disguises the trail opening where it meets the road so that it no longer looks like a road, or perhaps even a trail! However, clever designs of this type do allow trail users and emergency vehicle access nonetheless.
The example shown above splits the trail into 2 - 5' sections. Next it uses low height landscaping to fill the median that's created between sections. The median is low and narrow enough for emergency vehicles to straddle to enter the trail when necessary.
Proper (& Effective) Signage
Drivers mistakenly turning onto trails are likely the most common reason for encroachment. To help prevent drivers from making this mistake, proper signage can be used.
The "No Motorized Vehicles" sign has been the old standby for this task. My only beef with this sign is that, though it provides the appropriate warning, it does little to draw attention to itself. It's a bit too generic. In these times where distracted driving is so commonplace, you're asking a warning sign with no pop or punch to get the job done. It will suffice for some, and I suspect fail with others who are more focused on figuring out where this strange one-lane road may lead.
The bright orange of construction zone signs or red for wrong way signs do a much better job of getting our attention. The newer bright green signs as well. The brightly colored reflective strips attached to sign posts can add to the effect. The premis is basic: Grab their attention to prevent the "wrong-turn" mistake.
Trails Without Bollards
If you've never been on a trail that has no bollards, you may not be aware that such trails do in fact exist! Let's look at one example.
A minimalist approach to discrouraging motor vehicles from entering trails can be found on the west coast. The concept uses visual cues to let drivers know cars are not permitted.
The image above shows nothing more than an offset curb cut to discourage vehicles from entering the trail. For those Ohio trail users that have become accustomed to bollards, this may hardly seem like a resonable solution. After all, haven't bollards like those on the B&O Trail been keeping cars at bay? What's a measly curb going to accomplish?
Take a look at this photo. This was taken in Lexington, Ohio. It's the former at-grade B&O Trail crossing on Main Street (Rt. 42). After an underpass of the busy 4-lane road was proposed for the bikeway, the curb cut on the north side of the street was never made.
As a result, we have a trail entry point for vehicles that has no center bollard and no "No Motor Vehicles" sign in place. The only thing preventing cars from entering the trail here is the high curb. This simple visual cue is doing the job of keeping cars out. With a slight modification of smaller curb cuts to allow bikes to enter and exit the trail, this visual cue can be left in place to continue to deter drivers.
This demonstrates how this technique works right here in Ohio. For trail builders that have become dependent on bollards or may be nervous about minimalist designs, "No Motor Vehicle" signs can be added for an additional deterrent.
But What About The "Crazies"?
But what of those who are determined to deliberately drive onto trails? As I covered in Part 1, it's virtually impossible to keep vehicles completely off many trails, even when trail bollards are used liberally. (Remember, the B&O has 49 sets, yet still allows 24 vehicle access points.)
Trail bollards have been shown to be largely ineffective as many can be easily driven around. The bottom line: if someone is determined enough to drive onto a trail, they will, despite bollards, fencing or whatever barriers you care to erect for them.
While this may seem tragic for some, I can assure you it is not. My research on the B&O Trail has yet to uncover 1 case of injury or death from a vehicle striking a trail user in the trail's 17-year history (at the time of this writing). But I did learn that vehicles can and do drive on the trail on occasion. It turns out the results are rather benign. The current scorecard:
Deaths from bollard crashes: 2
Known injuries from same: 16 & counting...
Trail users struck by vehicles on the trail: 0
Unfortunately many have used the bollard presence as a sort of security blanket over the years. They have seen them diligently holding their positions, supposedly keeping vehicles off the trail. Well, if you were to take a superficial look at them, yes, you might think they're doing good. You may even believe that those dangerous little poles are preventing chaos from breaking out on the trail. But if you've read all my posts in this series, you are better informed and you now have more than a superficial understanding regarding this subject.
But don't stop there, spread the word about this trail hazard! If you have these dangerous bollards on your trail, let the folks in your community know. If nothing else, refer them to this blog for further reading.
(Do you have a bollard problem on your trail? Or a trail bollard story? Send it in!)
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The Trail Bollard Hazard - Part 3 - 7/3/12
By Pete Medek
(To start from the beginning of this topic, go here).
So, why do trail builders place bollards in the middle of trails? The idea is to block motor vehicle entry, of course. By why is this dangerous method used? The short answers are: economical methods and an approach that equates with "trying to reinvent the wheel." Huh? Let me explain...
Trails can be expensive. Not when compared to roadways mind you, but that doesn't mean they are cheap to construct. It's been estimated that a mile of trail can cost anywhere from $330K to $1M to build. While the main focus may be trail construction, costs can be driven up by things like land acquisition and infrastructure such as fencing and yes, trail bollards.
What does that have to do with bollard placement, you ask? Everything. Envision a long parking lot that abuts a bike trail where drivers can literally drive onto the trail surface. If your goal is to stop motor vehicle encroachment, you have two choices: cordon off the lot with parking blocks and heavy duty fencing, or, just put a set of bollards across the trail at the far ends of the lot. It's obvious which treatment is cheaper.
I believe this explains the haphazard placement of at least 8 B&O Trail bollard sets. These are placed at random locations along the trail to try to address these vehicle access points, like the previous parking lot example. But attempting to cordon off a trail to all vehicle access is no small task. 24 vehicle access points remain on the B&O despite the use of 49 bollard sets. To close the "holes" one would have to add about 48 more sets! It's clearly an expensive undertaking, even when utilizing this less expensive barrier option. And most regrettably, this method is the most dangerous treatment for trail users.
Aren't there better ways to approach this problem? Yes. And I'll get to that in my next post. But now let's get back to trail builders who use the trail bollard approach.
Reinventing The Wheel
As I've mentioned, this dangerous bollard placement is probably the most cost effective approach for those that wish to use these barriers. But why use this approach in the first place? Ah, now that's the real question, isn't it? Let's examine that now.
I've followed bikeway infrastructure design in this country long enough to see a disturbing pattern. First, we come up with our own infrastructure concepts that we think will work on the road and trail. Next, we look to the "innovators" in the most progressive U.S. cities like Portland for the latest "cutting-edge" design advancements. Eventually, the rest of the country follows their lead. Eventually, is the key word here.
The problem with this process is that it's largely a waste of time, money and now lives thanks to design treatments like the bollard hazard. Rather than starting with an obviously flawed concept -- like placing a known hazard on a bike trail -- why not look to other parts of the world where they've been building trails for far more decades than we have in this country? Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel?
I'm a believer in American ingenuity. But wouldn't it be prudent to look to the most highly evolved bikeway designs in the world, rather than taking the Fred Flintstone trail bollard approach?
And once we get it wrong, we are not quick to make the proper fix. For example, the B&O bollards were installed in 1995. Earlier this year I visited the County Line Trail in Wayne County that also uses trail bollards. The trail was constructed in 2010, 15 years after the B&O. Yet, the only thing that has changed in that time is the size of the steel bollard. It's smaller. 15 years have passed and virtually no progress has been made regarding this hazard in Ohio. That's simply not acceptable.
Next up, we'll look to better alternatives that do away with placing bollards on a trail.
Go to Part 4.
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The Trail Bollard Hazard - Part 2 - 6/20/12
By Pete Medek
(To start from the beginning of this topic, go here).
Why are some trail bollards more dangerous than others? To properly answer this question we need to look at three aspects: bollard placement (location), visibility and type.
As already mentioned in Part 1, trail bollards placed in the center of a trail are an obvious hazard. But perimeter or trailside bollards also pose a threat. Many are close enough to the trail surface to allow a handlebar strike if a cyclist rides too close to the edge of the trail surface. Bladers may also find trouble with a poorly timed leg kick. And finally, riders who unintentionally drift off the trail surface (experienced riders can do this as well) are in for a shock should they drift into a trailside bollard.
The Most Dangerous Locations
When bollards are used, you can typically find them at road crossings. The idea being to stop car encroachment at its point of origin. The problem that bollard-using trail builders soon realize is that cars can often enter a trail at many other points as well. Their answer to this potential problem? Use more bollards -- of course!
As a result, they place them here and there, away from where trail users expect to see them, at road crossings. The B&O Trail has 8 such sets. At the time of this writing, 5 of those sets still have a center post. It was one such location that took the life of Guiseppe Maino in May. Another (pictured above) was the site of an accident in June that landed an 80-year-old rider in the hospital in serious condition.
Trail users do not expect to encounter center poles at random locations along trails. Therefore bollards at these spots are more likely to cause accidents, particularly with users that are not familiar with the trail. For those that ride trails without bollards, no placement would necessarily be expected.
Truth be told, it's virtually impossible to eliminate all vehicle access points on many trails. And that's not such a bad thing as many might imagine. After all, don't we expect rescue crews to reach trail users in an emergency? If so, consider that bollards slow their response time.
The B&O Trail has a total of 49 bollard sets. Despite this, there are 24 vehicle entry points where a vehicle can drive onto the trail without encountering any barriers and access 59% of the trail. For those that count on bollards to keep them safe on the trail, this is a disaster. Or is it? When one considers that these access points have been around for 17 years with no harm to trail users (to my knowledge) from any motor vehicles one has to ask, "How effective are trail bollards? And are they doing more harm than good?" In the case of the B&O Trail, they are clearly doing more harm.
When trail builders place bollards directly on a trail surface, they know they are creating a hazard for users. To attempt to minimize that hazard, they try to make them as visible as possible. There are many treatments used: stiping, bright colors, reflective treatments, etc. Though this may prove helpful, it cannot eliminate the hazard altogether. As mentioned earlier, the "multi-task" and "distraction" scenarios can still lead to serious and fatal bollard accidents despite their visibility.
Bollards come in different forms as well. The B&O uses the old steel version from 1995, when the trail was constructed. These posts are quite tall, wide and very robust. If you test them in a collision, you will surely lose. Shorter versions have been produced more recently that are smaller in height and diameter, but still unforgiving and solid.
Flexible versions have also popped up in other parts of the country. You might think that cyclists are happy to see those. Well, not exactly. You see, these more-forgiving versions, along with the collapsible models (fold over to lay flat), all have a fixed base. This base is essentially a trip hazard. So if you collide with one of these, you can still suffer a serious accident, albeit a different type.
So if your local trail swapped their rigid bollards for the more flexible type you might rightly wonder, "Did we just exhange one type of hazard for another?" "Isn't there a better solution?" Well, yes there is. But before we get to that, let's look at why trail builders place a known hazard on trails. That's coming up next.
Go to Bollards - Part 3
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The Trail Bollard Hazard: A Closer Look - 6/13/12
By Pete Medek
What's a trail bollard? It's those posts or poles that are deliberately placed on trails for your safety. "Your" as in you the trail user. Their original purpose was to keep cars off the trail. In theory that would make conditions safer for trail users. But this treatment has been backfiring around the country. The post in the middle of the trail method has resulted in serious user crashes on trails. We've had two such crashes on my local trail, the Richland B&O, that have resulted in fatalities.
I lost a good friend in one of those incidents. It prompted me to research and study the matter regarding why bollards are used, why trail users are crashing into them, and why we deliberately place a piece of infrastructure on a trail that we know is a hazard.
In this and upcoming posts, I'll visit various aspects of the bollard hazard issue to help educate and inform trail users. Let's get started.
Trail Bollards Are Clearly Visible: What's The Problem?
"Those posts are clearly visible. Why don't others open their eyes and pay better attention when trail riding? I've had no problems avoiding them." This is a common perspective held by some cyclists. They have not had a bollard crash or close call, so they have no understanding as to how they occur. It's also likely that they haven't had a friend or loved one suffer such a crash.
I've found two common scenarios where one can crash into a clearly visible trail bollard: The distraction and the failure to multi-task properly. But before we get to those, we need to identify the "safe zone."
The Safe Zone
The safe zone is the area on the trail surface where your bike needs to be to avoid contact with a center or perimeter (trailside) bollard as you ride by. This zone will vary depending on your handlebar width and the width of the two bollards you're riding between. (For short bollards, measure from the outside of the lower leg or outside of the pedal on a standard bike, while low-riding recumbents may still require a handlebar measurement.)
On my wide-handlebar mountain bike, I measuerd and found the zone to be 2' 10" wide on a typical bollard set on the B&O Trail. Again, this zone will vary, but the point is you need to be in the safe zone or you'll risk a handlebar strike or worse.
The Multi-Task Failure
Now let's get back to the cause scenarios. The failure to properly multi-task error can best be seen at a typical road crossing. As the rider approaches the road and bollards, she begins to multi-task by assessing crossing traffic while also monitoring the bollards to find her safe zone. She takes on both tasks because she has been taught to do so. Whether it's riding a bike, motorcycle or driving a car, we're taught to look directly in front of our vehicle, while anticipating what's happening further ahead at the same time. This is normal behavior, not reckless or stupid.
If she fails to find the safe zone during her multi-tasking, she will risk a close call or crash. How could she fail at something that sounds so simple? Perhaps she's tired or dehydrated from a long ride. Maybe she's a novice rider that's still learning to hold her line. The possiblilites are numerous. If she doesn't get it right -- for whatever reason -- she's at risk of a collision.
Here's a video of what such a failure looks like.
The distraction scenario is more complex. Again, for those who've never experienced it, many cannot relate. I have experienced it myself. Here's how it works:
I was stopped on my bike at a trail stop sign, waiting to cross a rural highway that crosses the B&O Trail. I'd been having some trouble with my depth perception (yes, it's an age thing) and was attempting to be more vigilant at crossings. I started to cross, noting an approaching car in the far lane. I pushed off and continued to monitor the only car coming my way. It was at a safe distance, or so I thought.
I quickly realized that the car was either traveling faster than I anticipated, or was closer than I first thought. So, I stomped on my pedals to stay safe and not aggravate the driver unneccessarily. Within one hard stroke (or two) I was picking up speed and entering the trail again on the opposite side of the road.
Still fixated on the car, my head swung around after I entered the mouth of the trail. My speed still rising, I experienced a sudden start that caused my body to jump as my eyes confronted the bollards and I reflexively steered into the safe zone to avoid a collision.
Initially, I did not understand what had happened. I knew the bollards had taken me by surprise, but I didn't know why. I'd passed by them hundreds of times and both my conscious and subconscious mind were well aware of their presence. How could I be surpised by something I knew was there? It didn't make sense.
But when I thought back to the road crossing, things began to come clear. I was so focused on my depth perception issue, that I had momentarily forgotten about the bollards altogether. I (or the car, depending on your perspective) had managed to distract myself completely, putting me at risk with the immovable objects.
I had ridden the trail for about 15 years or more and just experienced my first distraction that could have easily lead to a bollard crash. In fact, if the bollards had been at the mouth of the trail, rather than backset by a number of yards, you could have flipped a coin as to whether I'd have gone down.
No Rider Is Immune
Here's what I learned: You will not know the time, place or form such a distraction may take. Therefore, you cannot prepare for it. It may be a hornet flying inside your jersey collar at precisely the wrong moment. It may be a blaring car horn from a nearby road that causes you to turn your head without thinking. I hope you are fortunate and never have such an encounter, but make no mistake, no one is immune.
But it didn't take this incident to make me realize that putting trail bollards in the middle of a bikeway is dangerous. I knew it the first day I laid eyes on them. The placement is an obvious hazard that cyclists, bladers and others have to try to avoid the dozens or hundreds of times they pass by them. For example, if you ride the entire length of the B&O Trail out and back, you will encounter 92 bollard sets. You'll have 92 chances to make a mistake that may result in a life altering or ending event... during one ride.
If you and those dearest to you have been fortunate enough to avoid a bollard collision, I'm very grateful that you have been spared. But for many of us who've ridden bollard-laced trails for many years, my experience has been quite different.
As I've mentioned, I've had a friend die from injuries he suffered after a bollard crash. Another friend was riding with her brother who also died from bollard injuries. I rode upon the scene of another bollard crash that bloodied a young man's face and of course I had my close call.
[Since I'd written this, I happened across a young man who told me about his recent bollard crash. He was alone and riding at night. He was knocked unconscious after colliding with a bollard and in his words, nearly bled to death. He showed me his stitches. I asked if he had reported the incident. Like many, he had not.]
Once local media picked up on this topic after the most recent tragedy, more people came forward to tell their stories. It turns out that many bollard collisions go unreported and more folks I know have either witnessed a collision or had one themselves. Its difficult to determine how widespread these accidents are, but one thing is certain. If you ride on trails that use this antiquated bollard placement method, it's only a matter of time until it affects you too.
Why are some bollards more dangerous than others? I'll take a closer look at that question in the next post.
Go to Bollards - Part 2
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The Transportation "Plan" - 3/1/12
By Pete Medek
As big brother presides over money that's in increasingly short supply in Washington, and the debt continues to skyrocket, politicians are making noises like they might actually do something about the mess they've created. (AKA government gone wild.) Talk of doing away with or combining government agencies is on the rise, at least among Republicans. Slash, cut and restructure talk is likely to pick up steam as the debt continues to rise.
Federal transportation funding is likely one of the first big targets for reorganization. As pump prices continue to climb, fewer gallons are sold and less tax revenue collected. Electric, hybrid and more fuel-efficient vehicles also spell trouble for tax collectors as those vehicles consume less fuel. As a result, we have a further shortage of available funds for transportation, compounding the problem.
But if the current discussions over the pending transportation bills in the House and Senate are any indication, politicians will continue to do the one thing they are well known for in the U. S. - get it wrong.
It appears from these talks that trimming the transportation budget means doing away with everything except car-centric projects. In other words, ignoring other forms of transportation, no matter how beneficial they may be.
One Representative reasoned that in effect, the federal government would be giving individual states the right to determine if they wish to continue funding ped/bike and other related transportation projects formerly known as "enhancements."
While the concept of letting states decide sounds good, I'm afraid the reality (at least in this case) would not be. If the politicians that run your state are pro bike & ped, mass transit, high-speed rail (or whatever your cup of tea) then you might get a bit of transportation funding. If they are not for any of these in principal, you can forget it. No soup for you.
Even bike-friendly state leaders may have to bow to pressure from majority constituents if any stink is made about giving up the tiniest bit of funding for silly bike & ped projects. That is, if those leaders care about their re-election. And what politician doesn't?
So, I suppose I'm arguing that a federal mandate to maintain enhancements sets a uniform outline for states to follow. Take that away and "complete streets" could easily go the way of the dinosaurs. And walkable, more livable communities with them.
I've blogged in the past of how beneficial trail projects are to the local communities they serve. How they help people commute, save money and energy, improve their health and bring revenue into local coffers. When you have a component that works so well for communities large and small on so many levels, why would you abandon it? Perhaps because you're a typical politician, rather than a true public servant? Or maybe you're simply too accustomed to getting it wrong.
Our government is well-known for throwing away or losing track of obscenely large sums of taxpayer money. Here's a crazy thought: Why not start government reform by addressing that, rather than abolishing transportation enhancements that consume a miserly 2% of the transportation budget and benefit communities across the country. No, that would make too much sense... another commodity that's in short supply in Washington.
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Top Stories/Trends For 2011 - 1/12/12
Reoccurring stories or themes defined the news scene for 2011. So, along with our usual countdown of the "top stories" comes several news trends as well.
1. Threats To End Federal Trail Funding
Several attacks were launched in D.C. to eliminate federal funding for Ped/Bike projects. Below is an RTC video that summarizes how the thinking behind these repeated attacks is flawed.
Here's another perspective from Jay Walljasper.
2. Sink Holes Plague Great Miami River Trail
A couple of 30' sink holes cropped up along the GMRT in Middletown, Ohio. The cause: corroded sewer pipes. After heavy equipment was used to fix the lines, the total damage to the trail approached $30k for repairs.
3. Towpath Floods For 3rd Time In 2011
2011 was a soggy year that saw many trails covered by flood waters. Low lying bikeways like the Ohio & Erie Towpath were particularly vulnerable. Some sections of the towpath flooded at least 3 times in 2011.
4. Ohio Trail Gaps Being Closed
With federal trail funding prioritizing trail connections and links, and a couple of decades of trail building already under it's belt, Ohio began completing and connecting trail segments around the state. Some of the noteworthy headlines included:
5. Parks Struggle With Minimal Budgets
Some Ohio park districts continued to struggle in 2011 with some closing facilities during the winter in an effort to save money.
A silver lining continues to shine through in areas where park districts actively work with volunteers to keep facilities open. Such was the case in Clark County, where thanks to public cooperation, trails were reopned in April.
6. Minneapolis Takes Top Biking City Award
For an area of the country that's known for cold weather, the fact that Minneapolis ascended to the top of the most bike-friendly cities was quite a surprise to some. And Minneapolis continues to surprise and impress by having the highest rate of women cyclists as well as their numbers continue to surge.
7. Legislation Helps Protect Cyclists
As the trend to integrate bicycling into traditional U.S. roadways continues, so does the effort to pass laws that protect cyclists. Ohio has taken a good first step by creating more awareness for road cycling by launching a "Share The Road" campaign. (Toledo also passed a version of the "3-Feet" Law in 2009.)
Here are some other notable headlines from across the U.S.
California also proposed a "3-Feet" law that the governor refused to sign. The bill is being re-worked and will be proposed again.
8. Cleveland Struggles With West Shoreway Project
Bike/ped controversies in Cleveland seem to be the norm. In 2009 Cleveland cyclists were left out of an important bridge project and now they are being removed (in large part) from an important restructuring plan that is intended to make the lakefront more accessible.
A bit of a dubious circumstance, when you consider that Cleveland approved a "Complete & Green Streets" in 2011 as well.
9. (Re)Building Bridges
More aging infrastructure along older Ohio trails will continue to be a challenge for trail managers. Trail resurfacing, along with bridge structural restoration, will be among the most expensive costs.
9. NYC High Line: A New Greenway Concept
A unique greenway concept is gaining national attention. Abandoned elevated rail lines in urban areas are being reclaimed as green space.
10. 20,000 Trail Miles Mapped
RTC announced that it has mapped 20,000 miles of trails across the U.S.
Garmin works in conjunction with the RTC and its trail data and released its Trail Maps Ver. 3 in November.
11. Land Acquired For Athens Countywide Trail
"Through private donations and grants, an Athens organization purchased more than $300,000 worth of land to continue work on a project that would create a countywide bike path." more...
12. U.S. Bicycle Route System Resurrected
"You might be surprised to hear that there's an actual, official interstate "highway" system for bicyclists. Although there's a pretty good reason that you're probably not familiar with it: after the first two routes on the U.S. Bicycle Route System were designated in 1982, the whole project has essentially been neglected and ignored by officials.
"Until now, that is." more...
13. "The Bike Rack" Opens In Cleveland
"...The City of Cleveland and The Downtown Cleveland Alliance offer the region's first full service bicycle parking and commuter center. The Bike Rack demonstrates a collective effort to create a more bike friendly environment in downtown Cleveland, welcoming bicyclists with the convenience of secure bicycle parking and fulfilling everyday commuting needs with individual shower/changing facilities, lockers, and a full service bicycle repair shop." more...
14. OSU Earns Bike-Friendly Bronze
"In the last three years, Ohio State has invested more than $2 million into efforts to promote and provide a bicycle-friendly environment for students and visitors, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
"The LAB has honored OSU as a Bicycle Friendly University for transforming its campus into a friendly bicycling culture. OSU is the 26th university to be nationally recognized and is the first in Ohio." more...
15. $1.7M Awarded To Ohio Trail Projects
In a struggling economy and with so many threats being levied against trail projects, the annual awarding of federal grants for ped & trail projects has become a precious prize. more...
16. Toledo Purchases Trail Corridor For $6.5M
"After decades of use as a working railroad, a mostly inactive stretch of track from West Toledo to Perrysburg Township passed into public ownership Monday. The ultimate use for the 11.6-mile right of way: a bicycle and pedestrian path." more...
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An Important Message - 12/21/11
We'd like to thank you for visiting Ohio Bikeways. And to thank the many folks that have taken the time to email to say how much they enjoy and appreciate the website.
It's because of visitors like you, that visitation numbers at Ohio Bikeways have never been higher and continue to grow each year. We thank you and appreciate your patronage!
Giving Is Good!
This is the point where we're supposed to ask you for a donation. Well, we're not here for a hand out. But there is something you can do to help trail users that visit these pages. Let me explain...
If you've visited us in the past, chances are you know that Ohio Bikeways has been evolving and growing over the years. Your emails, along with the visitation stats, indicate that we're doing well. Perhaps too well.
We noticed a puzzling trend that appeared as we improved the website: While kudos and visitor numbers went up, user submitted trail updates and reviews went down. We scratched our heads at that one for a while.
We asked ourselves, is Ohio Bikeways a finished product? Is it that good? The answer is "no." We feel it's lacking most in user feedback. The day-to-day perspective from the trail that is so valuable to other users.
Without this user input, this resource cannot reach its full potential. So if you appreciate Ohio Bikeways now, imagine how much better it could be with more trail feedback from users like you!
Please help us improve Ohio bikeway coverage by becoming a contributor. Here's a list of things we need on an ongoing basis:
Without healthy doses of user input, Ohio Bikeways can never be as content rich as originally envisioned. So explore the website and get what you need for your next trail ride. Enjoy the maps, news coverage, reviews and more. Then give something back from time to time.
Got nothing special to give? No problem. Send in some comments / impressions from your last trail ride. It's all good!
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Huron River Greenway Battle Part 3 - 11/25/11
(To start at the beginning of this discussion, go to Part 1.)
Ohio Bikeways: Tell us about some of the other dynamics that were in play during this time, like the local news coverage.
Steven Myers: Other factors include that the Sandusky Register newspaper, always supportive of the trail and the park district when they were winning, started taking the side of the property owners after the 2007 Supreme Court of Ohio case.
Finally, while the park district was without a director (he retired in August, noting his frustration with the legal fighting as a factor), the Register brought out a special section expose' against the trail. The reporter "discovered" all the stuff the CPPR has been saying for years on their web site. The reporter never used any information from Erie MetroParks -- if the reporter even bothered to ask for any.
Perhaps it was the reporter's political bent, or the paper smelling the anti-tax/government winds now. It feels like the paper went out of their way to poison the trail just to sell papers.
The Lorain Journal, having previously been anti-trail, has actually been very fair and informative of late.
OB: You'd mentioned to me that a 2.5-mile trail section will be left intact in Milan. How long is the northern section that will remain open? I'm trying to determine how many total trail miles will remain open and how many (previously) existing trail miles have been lost.
Myers: The northern section will be just over one mile long (about 1.3 miles according to an old railroad track chart). A short, undeveloped part of the right-of-way north of the current entrance will now be developed, providing a new trailhead that connects directly to River Road.
The southern trail I still don't know much about. I am waiting for the park district's official statement about it (where the new entrance/exit is, and how much of the former right-of-way was obtained, etc.).
An internal park document I was provided mentioned "2.5 miles" of trail. Whether this is the old railroad right of way or a combination of the rail right-of-way and other spur trails that have been formed in this area is undetermined. The document mentioned that a boundary will be established and a barrier erected along the old railroad, but also that an easement was given to the park district to provide an outlet along Riley Road, just north of the Village of Milan.
The park district also will obtain ownership of the last surviving former Milan Canal-era warehouse at the foot of Main Street. Erie MetroParks already manages the grounds of the Thomas Edison Birthplace, just behind and up the hill from the Greenway/warehouse. I can envision that the trails and the warehouse will be incorporated into the Birthplace grounds.
OB: Having worked for so long on this project, what is your take now that this is all finally wrapping up?
Myers: As much as my dream of a trail along the Huron River is now no more, I think the agreement they hammered out is for the best.
We still preserve some trail on either end and some of the historic Canal area on the south end. It effectively returns the Greenway to its extent in 2003.
I spoke to one of the park commissioners and he was happy that all the litigation was going away, that they could get back to being a park district again. Considering it could have all been lost, I am thankful we got this.
It may also open up other opportunities for us, such as extending the trail south to Norwalk and connect to the NCIT.
OB: If you were to do this again, what would you do differently?
Myers: If I had to do it again I'd be absolutely sure we could obtain the land, and (one more time) not go public too soon.
OB: Any final thoughts?
Myers: I am concerned with the fate of the historical markers, for which I had a hand in their design and purchase, being returned to the park district and erected in new locations.
Like it or not, I am relieved it is all over.
OB: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Steven.
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Huron River Greenway Battle Part 2 - 11/18/11
(To start at the beginning of this discussion, go to Part 1.)
Ohio Bikeways: Was Erie MetroParks simply given bad legal advice regarding ownership of the trail corridor? Or was this controversy created by an overzealous park district or director?
Steven Myers: I don't think there was "bad" legal advice. It had been title searched several times and if there was clearly a problem I would not think the park would have gone through with it, or would have found another way to work it out.
But, controversy was driven by a determined former park director and board of directors members (now gone or deceased) vs. equally determined, well-heeled property owners that drove and financed the opposition.
The railroad felt they owned the corridor outside of the old Milan Canal route and that the original lease of the Canal property by the railroad was still in effect. This was upheld as such in an early appeal.
I felt from the beginning that the lease of the former Milan Canal to the railroad would be the biggest problem. At least one property owner had taken possession of a portion of the leased right-of-way before the park district's involvement (the portion that blocked the Greenway south of Mason Road). That portion was never involved in this whole fight but it turned out to be a key to the property owner's arguments.
However, the Court, in the appeal mentioned above, held that the old canal land was privately owned, and that there was a valid lease that was still in effect and that the park could continue to build the trail. The fight then became where the private property started, and the leased property ended.
This whole experience could really be a test case for study in law schools. It had every conceivable twist you could think of. It was an unbelievable legal maze that both sides got trapped in at times.
OB: Was any of the vandalism and trail damage over the years thought to be a part of the dispute?
Myers: The most serious vandalism, allegedly performed by adjacent landowners, was when a bulldozer actually dug up portions of the trail north of Milan in 2003. The trail there had not been developed or opened yet; but after the damage was repaired it was opened in an unfinished state, if only to keep eyes on it.
There were some tacks in park district vehicle tires and super glue in a lock at another time. Vehicles were occasionally parked on the corridor, and some were towed.
The major vandalism to the Kara Deering Overlook in 2005 was caused by juveniles and was not considered anti-trail. The opposing property owners group, Citizens for the Protection of Property Rights (CPPR), actually co-operated with the park district, sweetening the reward for those responsible--who were turned in and confessed.
Of course, the opposition pointed time and time again to when the park district cut down portions of wooden stairwells built down the hill from property owners' homes in 2002. These stairs were built before the railroad tracks were removed and were so close to the tracks that if a train ever went down the track, the locomotive would have taken them out. The park district offered to modify the stairs. but the property owners did not respond to repeated letters.
When it came time to start working on the trail, the park district removed them to the point where they no longer encroached on the corridor. I could understand why it had to be done, but I now wish they had not done it. It was a public relations disaster for the park district.
OB: Can you walk us through those ongoing attempts to settle this issue?
Myers: Settlements between property owners and the park district started after the 2007 Ohio Supreme Court decision. These were on the very north end and were fairly reasonable in cost because the lands weren't as attractive (i.e. not along the river) and these property owners weren't being influenced by the most vocal opponents, who had formed the "Citizens for the Protection of Property Rights (CPPR)."
But as they moved down the valley and riverside parcels came up for review, they started running into these more-firebrand property owners, or those who were being influenced by them. Appropriation actions would grow bigger and more expensive, culminating with the last property owner probably feeling they could either stop the trail or bankrupt the park district if they couldn't. These property owners would not abide with a trail, no matter what was offered.
The second and last purchase of a riverside parcel went to a jury trial and their attorneys were skilled in finding jurors who would suit their side. That jury awarded the property owner $130,000 for 6 tenths of an acre of land, with legal fees and other costs that could have easily exceeded $300,000. The park district realized that they were in jeopardy and would have to lay off people and cut programs that had nothing to do with the Greenway to pay for this. The last levy barely passed; and a protracted fight would not bode well for the next one.
OB: And now that the landowners have been given a hefty final settlement, when one factors in previous court and attorneys fees, as well as trail building costs, what is the total cost to local taxpayers?
Myers: The paper estimates over $3 million dollars cost to the park district, well above the park district's estimate of $1.7 million, not including the final settlements.
OB: When one adds the $1.935M final settlement to the park district's estimate, it totals $2.635M. Though there may be some disagreement here, we are beginning to approach the $3M reported in the local press.
Myers: Fortunately, only a small percentage of what was spent prior to the agreement was spent in the portion that will go back to the property owners. If this fight continued, the potential costs literally had no upper limit.
We wrap up this conversation in Part 3.
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E-Store Launched! - 11/11/11
By Pete Medek
Ohio Bikeways has opened its new e-store. Along with virtual maps and all the informational resources you've come to love and expect, we're now offering products as well!
Our e-store features one of the largest and most repected online retailers in the business, Amazon.com.
I have been shopping online for years and have probably purchased more goods through Amazon than any other single online source. Their selection is HUGE and their prices are frequently the best I can find anywhere.
Great selection on name brands at great prices is good news for us all. But Amazon's business model goes the extra mile and throws in great service ta boot!
Of course, nothing's perfect. Many years ago I remember being frustrated by a "third party" seller experience with Amazon. As I recall, most of the items on one particular order were coming directly from Amazon, so no problem. But another one or two were coming from a different seller that was partnering with them. Well, I didn't find out until after my purchase that these other items were "out of stock." And I couldn't find any way to opt out of those purchases, so I could try to find them in stock somewhere else. I was not happy.
I had a similar transaction with Amazon more recently. This time it was made more clear which items were coming from Amazon and which weren't. And I was provided info on availability and shipping on the third party items. I had no problems at all.
As I said, nothing's perfect. But Amazon.com continues to strive to improve the way it conducts business. I admire that.
Recent Website Changes
Along with the new store, we're also launching a FAQs page this week. The questions have been taken from the last year and represent the most recent queries to Ohio Bikeways.
Last but not least, we've moved the 'Trailside' section. Since the e-store was given a new spot in the header menu, the trailside articles were moved to the Main and Review pages margin menus (left-hand column). They are listed as 'Articles' there.
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The HRG Battle: A Closer Look - Part 1 - 11/4/11
By Pete Medek
In September it was reported that the 15-year feud between Erie MetroParks and affected landowners along the Huron River Greenway had come to an end.
The trail manager, Erie MetroParks, had thrown in the towel and agreed to pay the landowners $1.935M. As part of the settlement, part of the existing greenway would be closed. (Read the full article.)
We're taking a closer look at this long-running dispute. Hopefully we can learn some lessons from a battle that strained the relationship between a local parks board and its residents and siphoned off local taxpayer money in legal fees and settlement costs.
I contacted Steven Myers, who had been involved with the trail project and had managed a website about the trail.
Ohio Bikeways: Thanks for joining us, Steven. Can you tell us how you became involved with the trail project and the role you played?
Steven Myers: In 1988, when I had first learned about rail trails, I wrote a letter to the then-director of Erie MetroParks and told him that the railroad track between Huron and Milan would be abandoned before long, and that it would make an excellent trail.
In 1991 I obtained permission from the railroad to walk the right-of-way and invited the director, someone from Rails-To-Trails Conservancy and the public to walk the right-of-way on April of 1991.
This might have been my first mistake, going public too soon. When I made a presentation before the park board later that year; the meeting was filled with angry property owners. This was at a point when nothing but a walk of the right-of-way had taken place.
The same thing happened when I called a meeting to form what became the non-profit Huron River Greenway Coalition in 1992; angry property owners outnumbered those interested and literally shouted most supporters out of the room.
Fortunately, I gained the support of Jody Lee Ritter who encouraged me to continue my efforts and we formed the Coalition. We continued to work in public and private and, in 1994, the Erie MetroParks Board of Park Commissioners adopted the project. While we were in their corner, they did most of the fighting.
OB: I can appreciate that in hindsight you feel the concept was taken public too soon. But at some point it does need to be presented to locals for their input.
Generally speaking, trail projects are developed in communities that embrace the concept. That's not to say that literally everyone is on board. But by your description of those early meetings, it sounds as if locals were more opposed to the trail than in favor. If that was the case, why did you continue to pursue this project?
Myers: I was convinced this project had merit and felt that if I put the right information out there, that it would gain support, not only among the public but among the adjacent property owners.
We quickly got over 100 members in the Coalition from our membership brochures and publicity. In surveys; at least one commissioned by the park district and another conducted by a university, trails in general and the Greenway in particular were supported by large margins.
OB: Tell us more about the land dispute and why the park district gave the green light to this trail project.
Myers: I thought the most important property owner to deal with was the railroad that owned the corridor. So did the park district who received a quit-claim deed from the railroad for land supposedly not part of the Canal lease.
However, many of the adjacent property owners were of the belief that it became their property as soon as the trains stopped running. Both the park district and I could not find any evidence that the railroad signed over property to any more than one or two property owners.
Initially, the park district was winning in the courts. I don't know when it turned, or how it turned, but the opponents finally came up with a winning argument. Once they got the courts on their side, they could ratchet up the battle as much as they needed to.
OB: How many times did this go to court?
Myers: I have copies of 7 state court cases and their associated appeals in a folder in front of me. Only the first one against Key Bank had the Board of Park Commissioners as plaintiff. The remainder were filed by property owners as plaintiffs and the park board or director as defendants. They had all been upheld for the park district except the final one, the "2007 Supreme Court of Ohio (SCO) decision" that ordered the park to pay affected property owners.
There were 3 federal cases, two that were held in abeyance pending the outcome of the state court cases. After the 2007 SCO decision, these cases were re-opened but had not been adjudicated yet. A third federal case was opened earlier this year by the property owners who were shut out of another SCO case by not filing in time. These three cases were dropped as part of the final settlement.
[Go to part 2 of this interview.]
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How NOT To Spoil A Great Trail Ride - 9/25/11
By Pete Medek
I'd been refraining from exploring the trail until it was nearer completion. Building a 22-mile bikeway through a metro area is a long, slow process. Building one that has no established corridor to follow -- like an old railway bed -- is tougher yet. In fact, it's hard to imagine a much more difficult scenario for trail builders.
All the effort and expense will hopefully produce an important trail corridor that will be around for a long time. At this time, two small gaps totaling 1.6 miles are all that remain to completing the trail.
[My visit to the trail rekindled a pet peeve of mine: inadequate trail signage. While the Alum Creek Bikeway may be the whipping boy in today's blog, bear in mind that the majority of Ohio trails typically fail in this regard at the present time.]
The efforts to clarify navigation along the Alum Creek Trail are both encouraging and disappointing. The existing signs show destinations and distances. The proverbial 'You Are Here!' maps give a larger perspective for mapless riders. This is worthwhile and done very well.
But the ball gets dropped for riders on the main bikeway. The signage doesn't allow new visitors to cruise by spurs and connectors fully confident of their direction of travel. And that's unfortunate, especially when you consider the money already spent on clarifying navigation.
The current signs may provide enough clues to figure out these confusing junctions. Perhaps all I needed to do was stop at every spur and look at the signs that were welcoming users from different directions. Signs that were facing away from me! But I had no interest in that. I wanted the information presented as I rode along, not as a puzzle to slow me down unnecessarily.
I'll admit that I'm spoiled. I'm used to highway exit signs telling me everything I need to know about turn off options. Even residential roads that branch off or intersect with the lane I'm traveling on reveal different names, clearly distinguishing themselves. Is it so hard to sign a trail to accomplish the same thing?
No. We can fix this... quite easily, in fact. The trail already has most of the needed signs in place. Now it's a just a matter of adding the missing element.
A Simple Fix
Trails offer the opportunity for elegant, simple solutions. Like this one: Why not distinguish the main trail with an identifier? Paint a bold "ACT" (Alum Creek Trail) or "ACB" (Alum Creek Bikeway) onto the main trail surface near any spur junction. The paint grabs your attention, as signs do, and should be equally effective.
Or, existing markings could be used instead. As I was riding north from Three Creeks Park, I began searching for easy clues that might keep me on the main trail. I noticed that initially, directional arrows were painted on the main trail near spur junctions. Thinking this may have been done deliberately to distinguish the main trail, I began following them. Unfortunately, the pattern was later broken.
It's understandable that most locals have no navigation woes on trails on or near their home turf. They know the area well and have no need for signs. As a result, many bikeways leave them out because they miss the obvious, the visitor's perspective.
However, paying someone to design signs (and workers to install them) should produce acceptable results for all users. Theoretically they're paid to do a proper job, so some thought should go into the process, no?
Attention Metro Parks! I'm available as a consultant to solve your trail signage woes. Drop me a note and I'll bring your trail navigation system up to par with the high quality trail and bridge infrastructure that's already in place. (Or, you could use a simple identifier as already mentioned and be done with it.) Trail signage should complement the Alum Creek Bikeway and enhance the user experience, not detract from it.
Today more people are beginning to view Ohio bikeways as the alternative transportation routes for which they were intended. Isn't it high time we signed them accordingly?
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The Holmes County Experiment: How Practical Are Twin Trails? - 8/31/11
By Pete Medek
On a recent ride I made an out-and-back pass along the finished 15 miles of the Holmes County Trail. It was interesting to note how the twin trails are being used by cyclists and horse-and-buggies.
For those of you that are unfamiliar, much of the trail actually consists of two side-by-side pathways, one for bikes and another for horse-and-buggies.
The completed section of the Holmes County Trail extends from Killbuck north to the county line where a single trail (that does not allow horses) continues into Fredericksburg.
The two side-by-side trails are about 16' in width, creating a wide berth for users. The design was intended to give horse-and-buggies a separate trail. The asphalt surface was given a thin chip-n-seal coat to help protect against wear from horse hooves.
Now that the twin trails have been in place for several years, one might ask, "How well is it working?"
Cycling was the primary mode of transport on the Sunday I visited. Most oncoming riders gave me an unusually wide berth by moving completely off the bike trail and onto the buggy path to pass by. I found myself overtaking riders in the same way. I'd swing wide onto the buggy path, rather than call out a warning and pass in closer proximity on the bike trail.
As a result, riders were all over both trails. (I found myself following a smooth wheel track on the buggy path for a few miles as well.) This didn't pose any problems as there is more than enough room on both trails to yield to buggies and peds, when necessary. It felt like a more freestyle type of trail travel.
Although travel on traditional trails is pleasant and doesn't feel restrictive, you are generally staying in one 4-5' wide slot along the right-hand side of the pavement. The extra room afforded by tandem trails creates a more open feel as you travel.
As previously mentioned, part of the original concept was to give horse-and-buggies their own trail. By giving other users their own path as well, the buggies travel unimpeded and surface wear is confined to one trail. But is it?
Well, not exactly. Though the center of the buggy path shows the most wear from hooves, similar wear (to a lesser degree), as well as horse droppings, can also be found on the bike trail in some areas. Are these simply a consequence of two buggies passing each other on the trails? Perhaps.
And perhaps the freedom of space feeling that cyclists experience is also shared by buggy drivers, despite the large white letters affixed to the bike trail that read, "No Horses This Side." If that's the case, the surface wear issue may become more of a maintenance cost than originally thought.
The building of the Holmes County Trail has already taken hits from the economic downturn. The newest trail segment, in Killbuck, is essentially 1 trail wide, despite the "No Horses" paint suggesting otherwise. Resurfacing costs are high, and while chip-n-seal tactics may be adequate for the buggy path, it would not be welcomed by road bike riders on the bike trail.
As this is the first trail in the country to use the twin trail concept to accommodate buggies, it will be interesting to see how trail use continues to play out on the Holmes County Trail in the years ahead.
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Trails: A Waste Of Taxpayer Money? - 6/6/11
By Pete Medek
A popular criticism levied against trails is that they are a waste of taxpayer money. Oh, really? Funds completely wasted, like that $15 you advanced little Billy to mow your lawn and he never showed up? That was a waste, I agree - you got nothing for your cash.
Trails, however, give a lot in return. They provide recreation and transportation avenues for local residents and help youths get to school or the local park more safely. They also bring tourism revenue to communities. For people that use them regularly, they build better health and save users real dollars in transportation costs.
In fact, these "wasteful" trails are used to attract young professionals and improve the quality of life in communities all across our state. They are regularly included in city and township bike plans. Isn't it an incredible injustice that all these communities are clamoring for such waste?
Typically, those that don't use trails only see the recreational aspect.
Big Government = Real Waste
Our government is growing larger all the time. And as it does so, it creates layers upon layers of red tape. The bureaucratic quagmire that results is the farthest point from lean and thrifty that a governing body can be. As a result, virtually everything it does is unnecessarily complex, extremely expensive and frequently wasteful. And, yes, that includes how it builds roads and trails. But that's small potatoes.
Let's look to the king of waste, Uncle Sam, to show us how it's done. In this 2009 article, 50 examples of government waste are listed. Here are a few:
That's billions with a capital "B" and this is just a sampling of how Uncle Sam handles your money on a regular basis. That's real waste -- like hiring little Billy, only on a ridiculously grander scale.
Value For The Money
Trails cost considerably less than roads to build and maintain. When properly constructed, a trail surface typically lasts years longer than a road surface that's subject to heavy automobile and truck traffic.
Trail costs are often deferred by volunteers, private funding and in-kind donations by the communities that value them. A good example is the Friends of the Little Miami State Park volunteers that help maintain the Little Miami Trail. These volunteers mow, remove downed limbs, fundraise and do whatever is necessary to keep their trails open for use. In recent times, more trail groups have begun to follow this model, while others have done so for many years, in one form or another.
Another impressive example is the 13.4-mile Kokosing Gap Trail which was built, resurfaced and is maintained by private funding and the tremendous work of its volunteers.
For comparison sake, what do drivers do for their precious roads? Maybe pickup some litter?
Anyone who is genuinely concerned about the waste of taxpayer money in this country should start by doing their civic duty to chop down the size of government. Vote out any and all representatives that perpetuate the status quo. It's leading this country down the path of financial ruin.
Or perhaps I'm mistaken. Maybe it's our investment in bike infrastructure that's really doing that.
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Learning To Ride My BikeÖ Again - 5/19/11
By Pete Medek
The cold, wet and longer than normal spring season has hampered many Ohio cyclists on their road back to top form and fitness -- myself included.
Currently Iím preparing for a 2-day endurance ride later this month. To get ready Iíve been increasing the miles on my long rides and throwing in a bit of higher intensity training during the week. Iíd done a few hill climbing workouts on the trainer earlier in the season, but it was time to do them on the road, especially since hills would be a part of the 2-day ride.
So off I rode to get the legs used to climbing real pitches, instead of those on a stationary machine with the front wheel propped up by a couple of old phone books.
The strategy was to get a full warm up and spin easily between climbs to keep the legs fresh and the heart rate down between vertical efforts. The pitches and lengths of the climbs would vary, but most were stacked into the first half of the ride, so I would be fresh and ready to climb.
The first few climbs went ok, but I didnít feel particularly good. On the first moderately long climb (moderate pitch), I stayed planted in my granny gear and crawled up to a false flat roughly in the middle of the climb. I noticed that I was suffering and couldnít spin up my small gear. Iím no climber, so the suffering was familiar territory. But when Iím fresh, I can spin up most climbs in my area, barring the steeper pitches (none of which I was tackling today).
After a bit of respite between climbs, it became clear on subsequent slopes that my climbing legs were AWOL.
Iíd been babying my legs and lungs between climbs and only riding (or attempting to) a steady climbing tempo, yet I was toast. My mind searched for answers, ďAm I tired? Was that ride yesterday harder than I thought? Is my climbing fitness light years behind my base fitness? Whatís going on here?Ē
I took a snack break and thought back to a similar experience Iíd had last season. Iíd purchased a new road bike and dialed in the geometry for a very comfortable riding position. But whenever I tried to climb, I had no power. After moving the seat ever so slightly forward, suddenly I could climb again!
We all have different physiques and riding styles, particularly on climbs. Some like to sit way back in the seat and drop their heels and power over the top of the pedal stroke, ala Jan Ullrich. Some, like me, like to slide forward on the saddle and force the pedals down to spin them up using a quick downstroke. Others may have a rounder pedal stroke and/or sit more in the middle of their saddle.
The bottom line is, if you spend enough time on your bike and put in the miles, youíll eventually find the most efficient pedaling style for your body type.
Thinking back to my poor saddle position from the year before, I wondered, ďCould I be making that same mistake again?! I got back on the bike and eventually rolled up to one of the last climbs of the ride. I moved forward on the seat and started to punch out the downstrokes. My spent legs suddenly came back to life as I methodically churned over the climb.
Once on flat terrain again, I slid back on my seat, but not all the way back. I had a hunch to try. I settled my hands over the brake hoods and watched as my speed and cadence moved slightly higher than earlier in the ride, while my heart rate dropped down a bit. My spin felt more effortless now and a smile came back to my face. I would finish the ride feeling strong, not spent.
Just getting out to ride, run or walk is a good thing. But always remember to utilize the efficiency youíve perfected over the years to make your outing even more enjoyable. So if youíre having a bad day on the bike, remember to check your position and technique. Perhaps, like me, you forgot how to properly ride your bike!
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Bike Boxes - How Well Do They Work? - 5/10/11
By Pete Medek
For the record, Iím all for bike infrastructure that improves safety and travel for cyclists on the road. I find many of the newer concepts interesting and admire those that are working diligently to create and improve upon them.
But the real test for any design is how well it works in practical terms, not just in theory. That brings me to todayís topic: bike boxes. How well do they work?
The obvious disadvantages of bike lanes are the notorious ďright hookĒ and the dilemma a cyclist faces when trying to turn from a lane on the far side of the road. In other words, traditional bike lanes can make intersections a nightmare.
The bike box is intended to help eliminate these problems at intersections. The idea is to allow the cyclist to move to the head of the line at a stoplight. Here he is more visible to make a safe turn in either direction, or simply continue riding straight through the intersection.
In theory (and demo videos) it all works smoothly. And I must admit, Iíve never encountered a bike box on the road to try out myself. But after mulling over the concept and design, I have a few doubts.
To my knowledge, the bike box consists of pavement markings and signage. So the cyclist has no warning as to when the light will change. (Unlike the flashing hands that peds see that warn them to clear the crosswalk before a light change.) So, visualize our friendly neighborhood cyclist rolling up alongside cars stopped at a light about to pull in front of them to enter the bike box when Ė oops -- the light suddenly turns green at the worst possible moment.
Whatever type of driver one considers, itís not likely to be one that is looking for a cyclist approaching from the rear and making a short turn in front of them just as theyíre stepping on the gas.
And what happens when the light is green and there is no opportunity for cyclists to slide into the bike box ahead of traffic where they can be more visible? If they continue on in the bike lane, they are just as vulnerable as if the box didnít exist.
And a final point concerns large vehicles like buses or box trucks stopped at red lights behind (hopefully) bike boxes. Iím cycling up from the rear in the bike lane and am trying to determine if the box at the approaching intersection is full of fellow cyclists or if the truck at the light has left room in the box (as opposed to stopping on top of it). I have to commit myself by riding up alongside the truck and hoping it has left a spot for me. If it hasnít, Iím stuck in the worst possible position before the light change.
So, to summarize the potential problems I see:
The bike box concept, as I see it, is simply trying to integrate cyclists back into the traffic lane prior to them entering the intersection. Thatís a worthwhile goal. Iím just not sure the box is the best approach.
One obvious improvement would be to create a warning just prior to the light change to eliminate one of the dangers. A flashing red light could warn the cyclist that itís about to go green. But that may also encourage impatient drivers to start into the intersection a bit early.
A better solution may be to integrate cyclists into the lane prior to the intersection stop line, rather than once there. Imagine a bike lane that dissolves before an intersection, then reforms again after. The advantages to this strategy are worth considering:
It might look like this Ė
Note that the diagram is only a concept and would need to include markings or signage that informs drivers that cyclists are merging to use the full lane.
Vehicularists may be screaming, ďJust ride in the traffic lane and forget the bike lane!Ē I agree that on some streets itís better to put down some sharrows and ask everyone to play nice. On others, it doesnít work so well. As with most good designs, itís all in the details. What is the lane width? What about traffic flow? Speed limit? Sight lines? On-street parking allowed? Bike lanes definitely have their place and encourage more people to ride. The trick is to eliminate their shortcomings.
And in that regard, the bike box is a good start. Now letís continue to improve on it or devise something better.
How well do you think bike boxes work?
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Q & A With Dan Rice, CEO, Ohio Canalway Coalition - 4/27/11
Daniel M. Rice is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, headquartered in Akron, Ohio.
"...Since 1994, Mr. Rice has worked with over 100 community partnerships and raised over $25 million in development funds for the preservation of historic structures, the development of the 101-mile multi-use Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the conservation of natural resources along the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway." (Read more of Mr. Rice's bio here.)
He was kind enough to take some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.
Ohio Bikeways: For those not familiar with you or your work, tell us a little about yourself and how you became involved with the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.
Dan Rice: I have been with the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition since 1994. Our organization promotes the interpretation, development and conservation of the natural, historical and recreational resources along the Ohio & Erie Canal. We work with over 150 public/private partners on a variety of regional resource conservation projects including the popular 101-mile Towpath Trail, 110-mile Scenic Byway, implementation of the Summit County Trail and Greenway Plan and the Tuscarawas County Trail and Greenspace Plan. Through our community collaborations, we have developed 82 of the 101 miles of the Towpath Trail and stimulated over $300,000,000 of community and economic development along the Ohio & Erie Canalway from Cleveland to New Philadelphia, Ohio.
My involvement with the organization started as a volunteer Board member in 1990, and when the organization decided to hire professional staff, I became the first employee in 1994, and I have been with the organization since then. Currently, we have 4 full time and 1 part time employee. Some of our recent projects include the restoration of the Richard Howe House, the former home of the Engineer of the Ohio & Erie Canal, in downtown Akron, restoration of the Limbach Buildings in the Village of Clinton and the purchase of canal lands in Tuscarawas County.
OB: Do you cycle? If so, are you a roadie or trail rider?
Rice: I ride on both the roads and trails. However, I prefer to ride on trails.
OB: What's your preferred method of travel along the towpath?
Rice: I enjoy hiking and bicycling on the Towpath Trail. Both modes of transportation are great ways to experience the unique natural and historical resources of this outstanding regional legacy project.
OB: Finishing the northern end of the towpath is a complex puzzle thatís slowly being pieced together over many years. Is the picture any clearer today as to exactly where the trail will go and end, and when that might happen?
Rice: Yes, the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail from Harvard Avenue to Canal Basin Park is defined, and the local partners are working on the final design and development of this important linkage.
One of the great challenges of developing the Towpath Trail in our urban areas is that the original canal resources are gone, and we need to define a route through an industrial and urban landscape. We are very fortunate that our local partners, including the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County government, Cuyahoga County Engineer, Cleveland MetroParks and Ohio Canal Corridor are working hard to complete this important and critical linkage.
OB: Can you hazard a guess at this point as to when the towpath might be completed in Cleveland?
Rice: The goal is to have the Towpath Trail completed by 2020.
OB: Summit and Stark Counties expect to complete the trail within their jurisdictions soon. This will essentially complete the trail with the exceptions of both ends, north and south. What other progress can trail users look forward to in the next few years?
Rice: Through the leadership of the City of Akron, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, and Summit County Government, the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail will be completed through the City of Akron and the City of Barberton by 2012. Currently, construction is underway on these critical sections.
We are working with our partners in Tuscarawas County and we recently submitted a grant application to the State of Ohio for development of the Towpath Trail between Zoar and State Route 800.
With the continued support from the Tuscarawas County Commissioners, Tuscarawas County Park Advisory Committee, City of Dover and City of New Philadelphia, our shared goal is to complete the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in Tuscarawas County by 2020.
OB: News regarding the Bolivar trail section has been hard to come by. There have been reports that the trail will be routed through town, so local businesses can take advantage of the tourism factor. Can you shed light on how much of the original towpath route will be used in the Bolivar area?
Rice: Yes, you are correct. Our local partners in the Village of Bolivar decided to develop the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail through the downtown business area so trail users will be able to take advantage of these trail amenities.
The original prism of the Ohio & Erie Canal and Towpath Trail is visible and some sections of the historic resource remain between Interstate 77 and the Village. The route of the Towpath Trail will parallel this historic resource and connect to Fort Laurens, where the Towpath Trail connects to the Village of Zoar.
OB: Is there a definitive southern endpoint for the towpath trail at this time? Or is it a matter of whether communities further down the line show an interest in being a part of the project?
Rice: Yes, the current southern terminus of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail is Waterworks Park in the City of New Philadelphia. We would like to get to Lock 13 and the turning basin on the south side of State Route 250, since that is a historic resource.
For the time being, we will utilize an existing recreational resource in the City of New Philadelphia, which is an excellent trailhead for the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
We have a couple of events to kick off 2011 including:
For more information, please visit our website at www.ohioeriecanal.org.
OB: For those that may wish to make a donation to the towpath project, what's a simple way for them to do so?
Rice: Individuals can visit our website, ohioeriecanal.org and make a contribution to our organization via Paypal, join us as a member and receive our quarterly newsletter, invitations to our events and receive our bi-weekly e-newsletter.
For more information about our organization, please call us at (330) 374-5657.
OB: I appreciate your taking time for this interview. Thank you.
Rice: Thank you and take care.
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Part 3: Bike Scofflaws & Laws & Education - 4/17/11
By Pete Medek
[To start at the beginning of this topic, see Part 1.]
The oftentimes competing behaviors between drivers and cyclists produce an environment that too frequently results in finger-pointing and the labeling of villains. Iíve joined the mud-slinging as well, putting the black hats on prejudiced drivers. Sorry folks, but hatred directed against a person or group simply because they ride a bike on the road is wrong. So is vilifying a driver for owning a big SUV... unless you donít believe in freedom of choice, of course. (In this case, freedom of transportation choices.)
Time now to make some sense of these competing behaviors. Letís look at the bike lane placed in the door zone on a typical street. Some of you are already raising the red flag at this dubious placement. But this example illustrates how complete streets differ from traditional ones that try to include cycling infrastructure as an afterthought or add-on. Indeed, traffic planners donít always get it (bike infrastructure) right.
It starts with the drivers parking their cars. Will they look out for cyclists before exiting their vehicle? As a general rule, many of us are less mindful and more distracted these days. Many will forget to look before flinging open the driverís door.
The potential victims in this case, cyclists, are familiar with this behavior and compensate accordingly. If they feel thereís enough space, they may ride along the far left edge of the bike lane to avoid getting doored. If space is not adequate, or cyclists arenít sure, they are likely to ride with traffic and ignore the bike lane.
Unfortunately, inexperienced cyclists may perceive the bike lane as a safe haven and ride there without giving thought to the potential hazard. (One could suggest they are not being mindful as well by not considering an obvious hazard.)
The final link in this chain is the drivers who encounter the cyclists ignoring the bike lane and riding in the road. Seeing the bike lane going unused, they may feel that:
In this example, what appears to be scofflaw attitude is in fact self-preservation at work. Thatís not to say that all bike scofflaw behavior is justified. Nor is passing a cyclist in your car without leaving a safe buffer zone. But that is also a common practice.
Fortunately, laws are being drafted with these behaviors in mind. After all, they establish the real dynamics of whatís happening on the public tarmac.
The 3-Feet Law is becoming more popular since drivers routinely brush by cyclists at close quarters.
Texting-while-driving has become routine enough for many cities to ban this practice of dangerously, distracted driving.
The really interesting laws deal with catering to the cyclists behavior on the road. The Idaho stop is one example.
But new laws take time to develop and implement. And once they're on the books, compliance and enforcement are not guaranteed. So how does one approach this behavioral conundrum? Education.
While many cycling advocates believe "driving" your bike like a vehicle is the best educational approach, [Some of these advocates also oppose trails.] I disagree. Education can change the dynamics on the road, but not when it's directed primarily at those at the low end of the pecking order. Until all road users are better educated on how to share these public corridors, you won't find many cyclists there.
Until 'Share The Road' was launched in recent years, virtually no such effort existed in this country to better educate drivers regarding bikes on roads. It's no wonder that road cyclists have been vilified for decades. Perhaps more of this "in your face" marketing (signs, sharrows, etc.) will prove to be effective and go a long way to changing antiquated, adverserial behavior. It's certainly a good starting point.
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Part 2: Bike Scofflaws & Drivers Against Bikes - 4/10/11
By Pete Medek
[To start at the beginning of this topic, see Part 1.]
Before I delve into the psyches of drivers and cyclists, let's clarify a few points and perhaps dispel some myths:
"Drivers also break traffic laws (see video). I wonít waste time on who is more expert at this. It serves no useful purpose.
In many cases where a cyclist is injured or killed by an automobile, the legal system delivers justice by handing the driver a traffic ticket. While cyclists are sometimes ticketed for Ďtaking the laneí in a legal manner, in order to ride safely on the road.
These last two examples help forge the mindset of many roadies. They realize the legal game is often played against them. And the lack of legal repercussions for taking them out (dooring or running them over) only emboldens many drivers, thereby making the almighty automobile even more threatening and dangerous. The roadie quickly learns that the golden rule on the road is survival. Traffic laws are secondary at best, for some. Not even on the radar for others.
The driverís perspective is easier to understand. After all, most of us log more miles driving than riding. And we've spent time sitting alongside those that demonstrate their attitudes and skill (or lack, thereof) while driving.
For many, their real beef is that they wish to buzz around in their cars and trucks as quickly and as unimpeded as possible. Anything that interferes with that plan is a pain in their neck, including: orange barrels, detours, traffic jams, farm machinery, rising fuel prices, and of course, the beloved cyclist.
When drivers scan the roadscape to assess various obstacles in their path, they begin to rationalize: The orange barrels are a plague, but at least the road will be fixed, so it serves my needs. The traffic jams are a pain, but thereís nothing I can do about infrastructure. The idiot traffic planners didnít design a proper system / didnít build enough roads. Farmers, well, their hay wagons and combines are usually on country roads and I suppose they have a right to earn a living and grow my food. High gas prices are the governmentís fault due to their allowing us to become slaves to foreign oil. Nothing I can do there but pay through the nose. But cyclists, ho ho! They have no right, reason, excuse or need to be on my road. Get them the hell off!
These rationalizations speak for themselves. But a key difference here is that when it comes to cyclists, many drivers become irrational.
Bike Advocate: You know, cyclists are legally permitted on roads.
BA: Cyclists do commute to work and school.
BA: Thatís illegal in many places.
BA: Not all roads have sidewalks.
These attitudes are not uncommon. They are ďan irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.Ē Sound familiar? That's right, prejudice, in all its glory. For those bike advocates that seek to change these attitudes, I wish you well. But fully understand what you are up against.
Now, letís take a guess at how many drivers on our roads today share these opinions Ė 10%, 20%Ö more? Considering the large volume of auto traffic on many roads, even 1 in 10 would be a crushing number for cyclists that have to deal with these drivers.
But thereís more. Technology has pushed distracted driving numbers to record heights. So, letís factor in ďgoodĒ drivers that are no longer paying proper attention on the road. Then toss in drivers with bad or eroding skills due to advanced age or other factors. Only then is the picture made clear regarding this public ďsurvival zoneĒ that challenges cyclists on a regular basis.
When one views this big picture through the cyclistís glasses, itís not hard to fathom why many pay little attention to traffic laws. But remarkably, some bike advocates still donít get it. Are they idealists? Perhaps. Realists? Perhaps not.
So, now that weíve examined attitudes, letís look closer at the dynamics on the road. And the behaviors that determine riding practices and how laws are being drafted to accommodate them.
I'll sum things up in Part 3.
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Part 1: Bike Scofflaws & Breaking The Law - 4/4/11
By Pete Medek
I felt it was time to take a look at a hot topic: bike scofflaws. You know, those evil law-breaking cyclists that supposedly snub society -- especially drivers -- in their quest for anarchy on roadways and sidewalks across the U.S. They run lights and stop signs, ride on sidewalks and cycle against the traffic on roadways. They are incorrigible and must be stopped!!
Surprisingly, some bike advocates join in and pile on these supposed "rogue" riders in an effort to convince them to toe the line, respect all traffic laws, set a good example and perhaps not give the haters more to scream about. This misguided attempt demonstrates a flawed premise: that strictly following traffic laws will improve cyclists' safety and relations with drivers on the road. In a utopian society where everyone is looking out for each other and holds the law in high regard, that should work. Unfortunately, our society does not qualify.
For decades cyclists have been vilified on U.S. roadways. They have been buzzed, screamed at, targets of hurled projectiles and even deliberately run over. Many drivers have made it clear that they have no tolerance for cyclists, do not want to see them on the road and feel that they do not pay equal taxes (presumably because drivers that don't cycle buy more gas and pay more gas tax).
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more widespread, open prejudice in this land than the one against road-riding cyclists. That's right. Think about it. The anti-bike fervor is so great in this country that many make no attempt to be politically correct about it. In fact, they proudly extol their beliefs online and on the radio that bikes do not belong on roadways. Check the comments section on most any article on the subject of bike and car conflicts. The bike bashers unashamedly swoop down, like vampires to fresh blood.
I got news folks; the law is not the gold or universal standard here that idealists would like you to believe. If it were, the bike-haters wouldn't have a leg to stand on. For you see, bikes are legally permitted on most roadways and that is a law that many drivers have absolutely no use for. So much for common ground among law-abiding citizens.
The underlying (real) issue here is one of differing attitudes and their respective behaviors and the prejudices that can result. Not necessarily what's wrong or right (that can vary widely), or even legally correct. I'll take a closer look at these differing mindsets of bike "scofflaws" and anti-cyclists in part 2 on this topic.
[Go to Part 2]
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Changing Of The Guard... er, Blog - 3/16/11
Ohio Bikeways has been evolving over the years. Steadily reshaping its content, organizing its layout and introducing new features and tools from time to time as it continues to evolve and grow.
And with that growth has come some glitches (failures) that signal needed changes. (We think of them as learning opportunities.) Our latest glitch can be summed up in six words, "Maybe we should start a blog?"
The o-so obvious response came quick, "We already have the Map Blog. You want to start another one... how many do you need?" And thusly the issue was laid bare upon the table.
Ok, so the Map Blog, tucked away in its corner of the Maps section, had its time. We're big on maps and were more than excited with our Google map project, the Gmap. As well as recent advances in Google mapping tools such as Bike Directions and Bicycling Mode. The blog gave us a forum to expound on those subjects.
While maps are an important part of Ohio Bikeways, they're not the whole enchilada. We still needed a place to rant on other topics or to give our take on what's happening in the news, such as the thorny Clark County Trail Closures topic. (Here's our take on that, in case you missed it.)
To make due, we squeezed the occasional editorial comment into the News page or pushed an opinion piece into the Trailside section, hoping readers would find it. But when you've got something to say and no designated slot on your web site in which to say it, well, that's a glitch, for sure.
So after very little deliberation, we've decided to commandeer the Map Blog and change it to the Bikeways Blog -- ta da! We've also given it a prominent spot on the main overhead menu. The broad umbrella of the new blog format will still cover maps, as well as numerous bike and bikeway related topics.
And while we're in the mode of making changes, we're also opening up the blog for comments. So take advantage and put in your two cents when the mood strikes you.
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A Brief History Of Google Mapping Of Ohio Trails - 11/15/09
The growth and popularity of bike trails has been on the rise across the country as more communities are preserving greenways as they strive for more livable, walkable neighborhoods and city centers. As bikeways become more pervasive, it was only a matter of time until their popularity was reflected in business products. The most logical starting point being the mapping industry, since people want to explore new trails when they learn about them. And to do that, one needs to know where they go and how to find the trailheads.
A look back through our news archives reveals that Ohio trails were not being Google mapped until the summer of 2007. The first (to our knowledge) was the Ohio & Erie Canalway site's rendering of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath. The Ohio-to-Erie Trail followed shortly thereafter at Ohiotoerietrail.org. We happily joined the band wagon later that same year.
In the meantime, 'create-a-map' web sites were becoming popular and allowed users to map their runs, rides or hikes. The popularity of trails, combined with the obvious advantages of these interactive mapping platforms, was a logical fit. It was only a matter of time until the big boys took notice.
And now they have. You may have noticed that Google and Bing Maps have begun plotting Ohio Bikeways on their maps. These efforts are in the early stages, so don't expect a comprehensive trail collection that's seamlessly integraged with their map tools.
We did a few tests on Google with their local search feature and were able to pull up about 6 or 7 ohio trails that were plotted. But if we didn't get the syntax perfectly matched with the name Google used, we'd often strike out. I.e. "Kokosing Trail" would miss, while "Kokosing Gap Trail" would find its target.
Along with Google, Bing and perhaps some other mapping platforms, GPS companies like Garmin will be following suit and integrating Ohio trails into their product lines. This is great news for Ohio trail users, who until a few short years ago, were relying on trail books and a handful of sometimes crude, homemade online maps as their primary trail map resources.
Google 'Street View' Trike Goes Trail Riding
Google recently asked for public recommendations for non-road landscapes to photograph with their street-view trike. 5 trails were nominated, along with other categories that included: University Campuses, Landmarks, Theme Parks & Zoos and Pedestrian Malls. Visit their web site to vote on the nominees and see a video of the Google Street View Trike.
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