Slideshow to Introduce Complete Streets

In my last post, I mentioned the Complete Streets concept. For a quick visual introduction I recommend leafing through the Complete Streets introduction slideshow:

Complete Streets

Here’s a PDF of the Complete Streets intro slideshow hosted by Madison County, Indiana where a Complete Streets resolution has already been passed. You can read more about Madison County’s Complete Streets efforts if you’d like. And if you like the presentation above and what to remix it for your community, you are welcome to do so with attribution to Complete Streets. The original PowerPoint for the files are here. If you’d like a rather technical argument for the approach, I enjoyed reading Eric Dumbaugh’s research on the safety of livable streets published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
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Complete Streets Policy needed in Richmond, Indiana

marking lanes for shared bike / pedestrian sidewalk
a shared use sidepath in Portland, Oregon.

Complete Streets refers to the concept of designing and operating roadways with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Yesterday I was leafing through hundreds of pages of documentation about the U.S. 27 renovation through Richmond, and the importance of this hit home.

The documentation showed the many kinds of coordination and considerations that the state must go through to complete something which to some could appear to routine maintenance. During the “Early Coordination Phase” there are required considerations for hazardous waste, air quality, water quality, wildlife, historic homes, social justice, and the list goes on. Incredibly, although the project at hand is for transportation, there were not signs of due consideration given how the road update could impact other kinds of road uses besides driving cars. A “Complete Streets” policy would require this basic consideration.

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Completing U.S. 27 piece of bike route network is essential

Critical Mass, Richmond, Indiana, August 2007

This message is a public comment on INDOT’s proposed renovations of U.S. 27 as it it passes through Richmond, a project budgeted at $21 million.

I support the City of Richmond’s response on DES#0100701 and offer the following in support of it.

What’s wrong with the current proposal

  • The current proposal would speed up traffic at North C Street as it enters downtown, without any consideration of the negative effects and reduced safety that higher traffic speeds have on pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Against current federal transportation policy, it makes no accommodations for bicycling.

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Charleston gets Chic

Charleston‘s got the right idea:

That’s what I’d like bikes-as-transportation to look like more cities in the US.

Embedded in the video you may see some mentions of Pedal to Properties, a real estate designation system based around realtors showing homes by bike. That’s another idea I love, I agree with their pitch that it could just the thing to help a realtor stand out in a challenging market. I know I certainly would have gravitated to such a realtor if one was using the program here in Indiana.

Against Mandatory Helmet Law proposed by Indiana Senate Bill 553

garden harvest by bike

Indiana currently has a significant bike bill under consideration, Senate
Bill 553. Bike Michiana, who helped draft the bill, has
a good summary. There’s also discussion
at Bike Richmond.

One of the many proposed changes in the law is a mandatory helmet law for those under 18 years of age.

Mandatory helmet laws are a point of controversy of cyclists, and many cycling organizations and cycling advocates, including myself, don’t support them. There are many well-documented reasons to not support a mandatory helmet law, backed up by research. Wikipedia has a good overview, and Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation has much to say against mandatory helmet laws, and the British Medical Journal has come out strongly against mandatory helmet laws.

A compelling proposal for mandatory helmets would at least address the major, well-documented reasons for not having such a law. Instead, this proposal offers only two weak justifications.

First, there’s the suggestion that we should make a law that is consistent with a minority of states. One could just as well argue that we should stay with the majority of states who don’t have such law. Then there was suggestion that would be good to be consistent with laws that apply to motorcycles, a vehicle that can travel much faster and thus more dangerous to operate. That’s like suggesting it would be a good idea to make motor vehicle safety laws that would be consistent with safety regulations of NASCAR drivers, who wear helmets inside their cars.

Helmets.org, a pro-helmet site publishes statistics about the number of fatal bike crashes that happen to kids to who would be affected by this law, during the hours which they may traveling two and from school. (Search on this page for Indiana). In that report they report zero fatalities for Indiana. That’s not the kind of crisis that sounds like we need new laws to address.

The reality here in Indiana is that beyond the general reasons for opposing mandatory helmet laws, we have other problems that complicate the alleged benefits. Most importantly, we have a lack of education among our cyclists, and among our drivers about cyclists. From what the Indiana Bicycle Coalition relayed to me fatal bicycle crash statistics in this area, a major contributor to these was not the lack of a helmet, but unsafe, and sometimes illegal, cycling which set the stage for the accident in the first place. Education can prevent accidents to happen at all, while a helmet cannot. Now on the one hand we lack bike safety education, on the other we lack enforcement of bike safety regulations.

A mandatory helmet law does nothing educate children about riding on the correct side of the road. And if our current bike laws aren’t being enforced, adding yet another just adds to the sense that the laws are meant to be followed, or are there to be enforced selectively against “bad kids”.

There are more effective ways for the Indiana government to support cycling and cycling safety, which I’ll cover separately.

As an experienced rider, a parent, and founder of Bike Richmond, I don’t support a mandatory helmet law. I find the rest of the proposed Indiana Senate Bill 553 to be a mixed bag. I’ll post more thoughts other details of the bill to Bike Richmond soon.

Effective bike advocacy in the face of declining city budgets

Sunrise over the Golden Gate Bridge

One approach to bike advocacy is to believe that persuading the the right people in government is the way to get things done.

Here in Richmond, Indiana, the issue is generally not getting the local government on board to support cycling, it’s that the city budget seems to be in an ongoing decline. There aren’t particularly funds for non-critical projects, and there may be less funds next year. It’s a tough time to launch any new government initiative that involves local tax dollars.

My approach to bike advocacy is to believe that a small group of committed citizens can create positive change. With strategy and creativity there’s plenty that can be done while the city budget is in decline. Here’s a summary of what we’ve done here in Richmond, what’s planned, and what’s possible.
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