As noted a week ago, the inaugural meeting of the restructured, regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee convened for the first time, yesterday. For those desiring an overview of the history and additional comments, please read my earlier summary or visit this link at Cycle*Dallas.
Prior to the beginning of the meeting proper, COG staff arranged for those interested to participate in a web-based seminar (note: I refuse to use the idiotic term webinar) on developing a Bicycle Master Plan. Initiation was delayed due to technical difficulties and, once resolved, we joined the session in progress.
The featured speaker was Peter Lagerwey, instructor with the National Center for Bicycling and Walking. Sponsored by the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, “Bicycle Master Plans” provided an overview of what municipalities and transportation districts should consider when creating a BMP. Without going into to much detail, here are some interesting points to mention.
- Under the section entitled “Create a BAC” in part I, special note is made that any Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) should include a wide variety of cyclists with varying degrees of experience. Evidently, COG did not participate in this seminar prior to restructuring the BPTTF, as they have all but excluded the beneficiaries of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure from the BPAC (see below and earlier commentary.
- Under the section entitled “Objectives to support goals”, the presenter suggested the installation of at least twenty (20) miles of bike lanes, per year, for ten years will show the general public the project is progressing as desired.
- Under a section entitled “A Bicycle Facility Network for Everyone” and admittedly added in hindsight, the inclusiveness principle highlighted above was reiterated with a comment the audience should be identified and representatives included at all stages of the process.
- Toward the end of the presentation mention was made that “paint is your friend … put some of that down and there you go”; followed by “always be putting product on the ground …to show you are successful.” With comments like this, engineers will be laying something on the ground, alright.
A series of resources from this seminar is included with meeting documents at the NCTCOG website.
The BPAC meeting commenced pretty much on time, but immediately got off track when the agenda was modified. Introductions were initially scheduled to consume five minutes. However, the moderator, Karla Weaver, decided she wanted everyone in the room to introduce themselves and identify their affiliation. The additional seven to ten minutes lost were never recouped.
Attendance was among the most bountiful I have seen for a BPTTF/BPAC meeting in quite some time. While the room was not packed, it was more than three-fifths filled. There were a few familiar faces and a bevy of new ones. Notably missing were representatives from some regional advocacy groups. Present were two individuals from BikeDFW, one from DORBA, one from Lockheed Martin Recreation Association and one from Pegasus Flyers. Meanwhile, Greater Dallas Bicyclists, Friends of the Katy Trail, Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, Texas Trails Network and Texas Bicycle Coalition were all MIA.
Several revisions to the committee composition have taken place since distribution of the last draft in January. The number of “potential members” has been shaved from 55 members to 49 members. That seems like a good change. The seven “transportation providers” has been reduced to six; the thirty-six STTC Cities have been reduced to thirty-four (sorry Euless and North Richland Hills); and the number of STTC Counties remained unchanged at nine. Perhaps most notable was the fact the four Regional Focus Groups had been sliced from the committee structure altogether; removing any and all advocacy groups from official representation. They have now all been reclassified as “interested parties”. Don’t despair, though; “Interested Parties” are now “partners” and are “no less important”. Yeah, they just can’t vote and have no permanent seat at the table.
During the Regional Veloweb Update, the group was provided an update regarding progress of this recreational boondoggle. Following over a decade of work, only 200 of a planned 644 miles have been built or funded. The design speed is rated at 25mph. (I guess no one has ever attempted to use The Katy Trail as a commute route) Comments from earlier public meetings have been compiled and evaluated; additional public meetings for comments leading to final plan approval will take place this summer.
I will skip comment on the 2009 Sustainable Development Call For Projects (CFP), as this does not apply directly to bicycle transportation directly. The existing roadways are entirely sufficient for any support of vehicular cycling. Anything else is simply recreation or segregation.
The balance of the meeting was consumed with three show-and-tell presentations by the newly minted Chair and Vice-Chair.
Don Koski kicked things off with an overview of “Sidewalk Survey and ADA Pedestrian Curb Ramp Study”. Results indicated there is a need for 457 miles of sidewalks and 330 ADA ramp installations at estimated costs of $41,856,210 and $1,014,500, respectively. Despite Steve’s interpretation that “[Fort Worth] now considers 5 feet the minimum width for a sidewalk along an arterial/collector road”, that is only a recommendation and is unfunded according to the survey. Their “next steps” are to “develop a work plan” and “seek partnership and funding opportunities”. Basically, don’t look for anything anytime soon.
Koski next provided an overview of “A Comprehensive Bicycle Transportation Plan [for the] City of Fort Worth”. Several photos throughout the presentation illustrated egregious examples of poorly implemented bike planning. One showed a door zone bike lane; another a cyclist riding between the fog line and the curb face. Actually, it could very well have been an eighteen inch bike lane. All but one or two appeared to be stock photos. One would think Fort Worth would make an effort to at least stage photos from around the city to promote their plan. Steve mentioned “the bullet about 295 miles of bike lanes by 2020 flashed out” at him. That did not strike me as jumping out so much as the notations that a) all of their funding is based upon 2008 dollars and b) maintenance costs are not included in the estimated financial burden. One final disappointment was Koski’s emphasis on the importance of “complete streets”.
It bears reiteration that all this talk of the Bike Fort Worth plan is both unfunded and unapproved. Many changes may exist down the road and there is no guarantee any of this will come to light – especially under the current economic climate. ‘Tis all much ado about nothing until approved by the City Council and funded.
A comment from Paul Hakes (DORBA) after the presentation highlighted the propensity for bike lanes to become filled with debris and hazards. He then asked what would be done to ensure clear lanes. Koski simply stated his department had been conversing with Streets to ensure that would not be the case.
Another question came from Gordon Sander (Pegasus Flyers). He wanted to know how ordinances would be changed to legally accommodate inline skaters’ use of bike lanes, since they are now classified as toy vehicles. The response from the moderators was that this subject had never been considered. (This is actually a state issue. He will need to lobby the Legislature to revise the Transportation Code.)
Renée Burke-Jordan followed Koski and provided an overview of the “Plano Bicycle Transportation System”. Hers was at once slightly more encouraging and disappointing. Encouragement came from the standpoint that bike lanes were not mentioned at all. She illustrated plans to make use of sharrows to help guide cyclists with proper positioning on the roadway and educate motorists about the presence of these alternative vehicles.
The primary disappointment was the glacial pace at which Plano appears to be implementing its plan. Burke-Jordan showed three revisions through time. The first was dated 1985, another 2001 and the last 2009. I am not sure she intended this impression, but, in commenting on the final plan, she suggested there were still five revisions to the map in store. If it has taken twenty-four years to get through three revisions, one can only imagine how long the remaining five will take. She also mentioned that, of all the designated bike routes which exist on paper, only three of them have actually had signage installed. No explanation was offered as to why, but she indicated her group was working on resolving that deficit.
Overall, the presentations by the Chair and Vice-Chair left much to be desired. There was little in the way of inspiration conveyed to the audience. As Steve stated, it was pretty sterile and ho-hum. Status quo, unfortunately, in terms of BPTTF meetings of the past.
Following the presentations, Bill Hammond (BikeDFW) asked about resources the COG or BPAC might generate to help novice cyclists determine routes to commute between home and work. Furtive glances ensued among COG staff and the executive officers. Ultimately, no satisfactory response was forthcoming. Burke-Jordan quipped that following the five remaining revisions something would be available on the Plano website. Deborah Humphreys suggested using “BikeMap” (though there was no designation as to .org, .net or their own internal resource) to derive possible routes.
Of course the best resource for those residing in Dallas is the online version of the Dallas Bike Plan.
One Yahoo (whose name and affiliation I did not catch) wanted to know if ordinances would be changed to allow cyclists to perform rolling stops at traffic control devices so as to maintain momentum. The moderators responded, correctly, that all vehicles would be required to follow the rules of the road.
The final presentation ran right up to the designated 16:30 end of the meeting. Various individuals began leaving as soon as 16:25 and fully half had skipped out by 16:35. (This is a pet peeve of mine. It is especially aggravating at the opera and symphony. If you come, be prepared to stay until the end or do not come at all.) In keeping with past committee practice, the overpacked agenda left little time for questions or discussion; the belabored introductions did not help with this shortcoming. Karla Weaver mused with respect to the tight agenda, “maybe there will be a little more time on the agenda [in the future]; there was so much this time.”
The future of the BPAC is an open book. There was similar enthusiasm in the early years of the BPTTF. As time went on, meeting attendance diminished considerably. Unless COG staff can create a compelling agenda for each meeting and an overall, longterm plan of relevance, I see this group following the same path. Representatives will attend only when it serves their best interests to do so. Pedestrian and bicycle transportation issues are simply not a high priority for most governments in North Texas. They will certainly give it lip service, but little more.
Stay tuned for more information. Future meetings in 2009 have been slated for 14:00- 15:30 on 19 August and 21 October.