Transition Whatcom

A week or two I started a thread with the same title in the Whatcom 2020 Initiative group, and it has been suggested that this discussion be wider than just that group, which I agree with. Here is part of the original thread, plus more from me:

If we want to reduce our carbon output 80% by 2020, one thing that needs to go soon are cars. I'm starting this discussion thread dedicated to ideas for future transportation options and improvements in Bellingham and Whatcom County, and hopefully together we can come up with some viable ideas and eventually take them to the city planners. I like to be ambitious in my goals, because it can be a great way of getting needed changes made.

For some light reading, here's an article from a few months ago or more: The Myth of the Efficient Car

One thing I would love to see is bikes getting top priority on streets, and somehow (this is where ideas are needed!) creating a system where there are less intersections that require stopping at. I believe that needing to follow the rules of the (car) road on a bike, which includes a lot of stopping and restarting, is one thing that prevents more people from going by bike more often.

I should add that, when I'm talking about transportation issues, I am never thinking about things such as electric cars, because in my mind, that is out of the question. I understand that a lot of people are hooked on the idea of keeping their cars in some way, but I see that point of view mostly as a hindrance in making major headway toward sustainability and resilience. I know it is a major undertaking, but what much of the problem today is is the layout of communities, and what we should be doing is figuring out how to restructure our communities so that cars are simply not needed. This means reducing distances to everything and making things far more local (to the neighborhood level).

(I wrote this relatively quickly and these thoughts are not complete, and I will add more later after more of a discussion starts.)

I know that with our collective thoughts, we can figure out a far better way to go in the future. Then we need to take action and make things happen in reality.

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The Bellingham Transportation Commission is forming now, with new members, 2 of which were on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). The BPAC is in the process of being dissolved as the Transportation Commission is formed. It was presupposed that this new commission would be composed of several bicycle riders, and there will be opportunities for community members to serve on issue-specific committees, or ongoing committees.

As a member of the BPAC for the last 2 years, I felt that a Bicycle Oriented Streets policy is the most important thing we could do for riders (Bicycle Oriented Streets parallel primary arterials, have signs that say LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY and BICYCLE TRAFFIC HAS ROW - otherwise, cars will drive on these streets because the stop signs are gone, and the adjacent parallel arterial can be slower moving traffic). I was glad to see that David mentioned it.

The city's current policy is this: When a street gets repaved, it is decided if it is a candidate for bike lanes. If so, the bike lane is proposed, there is a public hearing, and the fight between the motorists and the bicyclists ensues. It's ugly, i.e. Cornwall Ave. bike lanes. Since arterials are priorities for repaving, all of our dedicated bike travel winds up on arterials, an unpleasant ride for cyclists, and an impractical way to design a bicycle travel network. What is needed is a plan to develop bicycle infrastructure separately from car infrastructure, not merely as an addendum to car infrastructure - A BIKE PLAN! It's the only way our system will be developed with timelines and budgets, in a way that reflects the real needs of bicyclists.

I suggest we develop common language, a common specific cause (and I would certainly join with David to push for a Bicycle Oriented Streets policy, plan and set of steps for action) and get to work with the new Transportation Commission.
I fully support the idea of bike infrastructure separate from car infrastructure, as well as bicycle oriented streets. I think we should study the model of Amsterdam. Thanks to my wealth of links to articles of all kinds online, here is one describing the popularity of bikes in Amsterdam and how they remain successful:

In Amsterdam, The Bicycle Still Rules

It sounds to me like sooner or later we should form a group around these issues and begin to meet so that we can take this from merely talking about it to actually starting to do something about it.
Here is one more idea that could be used on select streets where there (in the future) is no better bicycle infrastructure nearby, or could be used now as a stepping stone to more bicycle infrastructure and awareness. It is a link off the Amsterdam article, but I think putting it here will give it more attention: "Bike Boxes": A Simple Idea that Could Save Lives
Some parts of the county have no bus service because the bus service was reduced years ago; or the bus service is 5 miles away (example would be areas in county by north lake whatcom & Squalicum/Steward Mt watersheds).......For runners, & bicyclers, & people with no physical handicaps, the 5 miles to the bus might be realistic, but it is not realistic for many parents, elders, or people with handicaps.

I can imagine that there exists electric buses that could be used that would not pollute the city's drinking water while being used in on the drinking-water watershed roads. I would advocate for that.

Also, re our American addiction to independent travel, I know that there exists 2-person electric vehicle-carts(4 wheels & protection from wind & rain), that folks could use to commute to work & obtain supplies when they do not have means to bicycle, sail, kayak, walk, hitchike, or take public transpo to their destination. I saw them being used at the national park campgrounds by the campground hosts. I know many folks who would like to have access to these 'enclosed golf-cart' type vehicle if the road regulations were changed to allow them, and if the regulations were changed to allow their import or to be built locally.

We are planning to research & purchase an electric bicycle and add a cart...but it will be such a challenge to stay warm & dry in the wet winters using it 20 miles, and difficult to use on the hills and through the elder years. The brand we are looking at is Olhm (sp?) and made in Canada.

In our 20/20 Initiative Group, Trinstan mentioned his having a conversation with Tom A. on putting anaroebic digestors in Whatcom farms and using the methane from Cow Waste to turn into biogas, with the possiblity of then convert all our buses to biogas and making WTA a free 24 hour system. Is there an employee at WTA working on this?

Walter, your CSA -bicycler discount offer rocks! Soon there will be a Transition Ferndale group and may the wise flock to your farms with carts behind their bikes!
David, do you have any links that describe the "bicycle oriented streets?" I like the concept very much, but wonder what it looks like in reality.

I'm also thinking that if we as a nation embrace the 2020 zero carbon emissions goal (admittedly less likely than a certain mythical region freezing over), we will need to park/abandon our cars en masse. In order to accomplish that, we will need to re-conceive the SUV driving-as-long-as-I-can-buy-gas-I'm-entitled-mentality that there are transportation alternatives and they aren't that awful. But the bike safety concern is a big issue toward accepting the bike as a legitimate transportation alternative. Separating bike traffic from car traffic would make a wonderful invitation to consider the biking alternative.

David Waugh said:
I fully support the idea of bike infrastructure separate from car infrastructure, as well as bicycle oriented streets. I think we should study the model of Amsterdam. Thanks to my wealth of links to articles of all kinds online, here is one describing the popularity of bikes in Amsterdam and how they remain successful:
In Amsterdam, The Bicycle Still Rules
It sounds to me like sooner or later we should form a group around these issues and begin to meet so that we can take this from merely talking about it to actually starting to do something about it.
Rob Olason said:
David, do you have any links that describe the "bicycle oriented streets?" I like the concept very much, but wonder what it looks like in reality.

...But the bike safety concern is a big issue toward accepting the bike as a legitimate
transportation alternative. Separating bike traffic from car traffic
would make a wonderful invitation to consider the biking alternative.


I don't have any such articles in my list yet, but there are many that I have read and will have to search for again, which I will do soon enough and post them here.

I see bike safety concerns in a few ways. First of all, educating more people about biking will be key to reducing accidents and injuries. Also, I believe cars play quite a role in accidents around here (I'll need to check the numbers on that, though). One thing I really get out of the Amsterdam article is that, with so many people riding bikes over there, they have a much reduced rate of accidents and injuries. I'm sure that has to do as much with the number of people riding and their biking awareness as it does with the bike oriented, car discouraged infrastructure. I would like to see both here.

It would be nice if the government were to tax drivers more, and give a good incentive for people to get rid of their cars. Part of the increased taxes for drivers could be used to help pay for bike infrastructure. A little bit could go a long way, as bike paths, etc., must cost only a fraction of what a road costs to build and repair (and not all of them need to be paved).
Next WTA meeting may possibly be this Thursday Oct 22nd.

I read in the Herald that our sales taxes funded the WTA...My family pays a large amount of property tax and it amazes me that our community still does not fund a county-wide bus system that is run on renewable energy....I surely don't want property taxes to be raised, but I do want the priorities of how resources are used changed for the good of the earth & people....Whatcom county was on the cutting edge back in the 80's with having recycleables be part of our 'waste' system; we are way behind on the transportation issue.

Here is a cut & paste from what I found online.
Whatcom Transportation Authority Board Composition Review
http://calendar.bellinghamherald.com/bellingham-wa/events/show/8877...
Thursday, Oct 22 10:00a
at Whatcom Transporation Authority Administation Office, , Bellingham, WA
Representatives from Whatcom County and each City within the County will meet for a review of WTA's Board Composition. This review is required by law every four years.
Phone: 715-4501
Representatives from Whatcom County and each City within the County will meet for a review of WTA's Board Composition. This review is required by law every four years.



Comment by Tristan Jens Bach in 20/20 group. We need to transform our bus system to run on sustainble energy (algae oil?) and make it 24 hours so no one would have to worry about commuting and noone would have to drive their car within the county again. If we could make the bus system free, then that would be another milestone.

Comment by David Waugh in 20/20 group. Instead it looks like they will be cutting bus service and the fares have gone up. In the end, what I really believe we need to do is, instead of changing the way, or the fuel for how we go from point A to point B, we eliminate the need to go from point A to point B (and back). It's all a part of permaculture. However, in the short term during transition, it would be best to fuel buses (and more of them) with the least polluting of fuels.
Note that Transition Whatcom member Jim McCabe has been nominated for the new Transportation Commission. Jim is also serving on the Energy Resource Scarcity/Peak Oil Task Force (report coming soon, including a section on transportation issues).

City Transportation Commission members selected

Posted: October 15, 2009 09:53:56 PST

Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike has selected nine Bellingham residents to serve on the new Bellingham Transportation Commission. They will be considered for appointment by the Bellingham City Council at its regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 19.

This new City advisory committee is expected to help shape the future of Bellingham by taking a long-range, strategic look at transportation issues and providing recommendations on policy choices and investment priorities.

Pike said he received more than 30 applications for the nine commission seats. He said he chose members with a range of perspectives and expertise to represent the community's long-term vision for mobility options throughout the City. Pike selected the following people to serve as the first Bellingham Transportation Commission, subject to Council approval:
Name Term
James Gebhardt 1 year
Carol Berry 1 year
Tim Hostetler 1 year
Therese Kelliher 2 years
Jim McCabe 2 years
Frank Ordway 2 years
Claudia Kelley 3 years
Dan Burwell 3 years
Wes Frysztyacki 3 years

Pike said the Transportation Commission also will form partnerships with transportation agencies and seek additional technical expertise as needed, such as from the Whatcom Transportation Authority, Whatcom Council of Governments, higher education and others.

Formation of the nine-member commission was approved by the Bellingham City Council on Aug. 10, 2009. Providing safe, well-connected transportation options is among the City's top priorities, as described in the Council's Legacies and Strategic Commitments. Priorities for the new commission will include making recommendations on how to achieve these and other transportation-related goals, such as those described in key policy documents such as the City's Comprehensive Plan and the Climate Protection Action Plan. The new commission also will absorb the advisory responsibilities of the City's Parking Commission and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, both disbanded effective at the end of 2009.

Members of the Transportation Commission are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

###

Additional information:

* Oct. 19 City Council Agenda: Agenda Bill regarding recommended Tran...
* City Council action: Ordinance and related materials establishing B...
* Information about all City of Bellingham Boards and Commissions



Media Contact:
Janice Keller, Communications Manager, Mayor's Office, 778-8100 or jkeller@cob.org


View this document online
City of Bellingham News Site
David Waugh said:
I fully support the idea of bike infrastructure separate from car infrastructure, as well as bicycle oriented streets. I think we should study the model of Amsterdam. Thanks to my wealth of links to articles of all kinds online, here is one describing the popularity of bikes in Amsterdam and how they remain successful:

In Amsterdam, The Bicycle Still Rules

It sounds to me like sooner or later we should form a group around these issues and begin to meet so that we can take this from merely talking about it to actually starting to do something about it.

When we begin forming Transition Work Groups, to prepare an Energy Descent Action Plan (an old, but useful site to read about the EDAP concept: http://www.eatthesuburbs.org/edap-primer/), Transportation will be one of the important work groups to get formed.

FYI, Mike McCauley, now a candidate for Bellingham Port Commissioner (http://mikeforport.com/vision.htm) has put a fair amount of work (over several years) into a proposal he calls the "Multi-Purpose Street Initiative," to give priority to walkers, bikers, segway-riders, etc. on certain Bellingham streets. I don't know if that proposal has stalled or been put on hold. He gave a presentation on this at the Sustainable Bellingham Transportation Fair in 2005.
Here's a video that was put up on Energy Bulletin today. It's a video guide to New York City bike lanes and upgrades. In the middle of a city even the size of Bellingham, these ideas could be useful when there is nowhere to create separate infrastructure. I especially like the Class 1 bike lanes which follow the roads, but are separate.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/10/guide-to-new-bike-lanes-in-...
Great video! It covers a lot of bike lane design options. Many of them could be implemented in Bham. Like the Copenhagen biking story, it drives home the point that if we are to get people out of cars and on to bikes, extensive infrastructure is the key ingredient--along with making car usage more difficult!
I also think it's time for a meeting to get our minds working more and to meet with one another. I can coordinate it, but I wouldn't mind some help on organizing the meeting itself. I'll aim for a week night in the first week of November.

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