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Old 03-15-10, 12:18 PM   #1
RTC_Kartik
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Critical new federal program for walking and bicycling

In early March, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced the "Active Community Transportation Act of 2010." The bill, a direct result of our work at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy through our Campaign for Active Transportation, would create a $2 billion program (still less than one percent of overall federal transportation spending) to which communities could apply for targeted funds to make significant progress on their active transportation networks. The ultimate goal is to shift substantial percentages of trips from driving to walking and bicycling.

This is a really exciting initiative -- one of the most forward-thinking pieces of transportation legislation I've seen. I encourage everyone to support the bill by encouraging their representative to co-sponsor the legislation, at http://support.railstotrails.org/ACT.

The opportunity this bill presents to biking in communities all over is really impressive. Please let me know if you have any questions: kartik@railstotrails.org. Thanks!
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Old 03-15-10, 03:39 PM   #2
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We already have an active transportation system that I ride my bike on everyday, it's called the road. $2 Billion would go a long way getting them back into shape for everybody to use.
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Old 03-15-10, 08:56 PM   #3
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I would like to see the money used for traffic calming, bicycle-sensitizing traffic signal loop detectors, and re-engineering of pedestrian- and bicyclist-hostile intersections and interchanges.
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Old 03-16-10, 07:37 AM   #4
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Maryland's policy is that Federal funds cannot be used by the localities for on-road bike accommodations (The State uses some federal funding for on-road accommodations on State roads but we have little influence on where (urban state roads are major death zones.)) Don't get me wrong, I like trails but they can't provide a decent utilitarian route network.

Until the feds get tough on states with low modal/trip shares and/or high accident rates, places that get it will continue to improve and places that places that don't will continue to get worse.
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Old 03-16-10, 03:17 PM   #5
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I just sent the message to my representative in hopes that he will co-sponsor the bill.
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Old 03-16-10, 03:21 PM   #6
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Our (D)reps are on board with this, but our (R)senators are another story. Non-commit from one, another was pretty blunt: state DOT is not on board as it is now written, get them on board and she might go for it. State DOT will not get on board while there's still a maintenance clause in the bill--meaning if you are maintaining a road, even patching it, you have to bring it up to complete streets spec.

I suspect the bill will need to be amended before it gets too much further.
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Old 03-16-10, 03:49 PM   #7
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Until the feds get tough on states with low modal/trip shares and/or high accident rates, places that get it will continue to improve and places that places that don't will continue to get worse.
Waiting for the Feds to get tough on states about bicycling infrastructure may a long road traveled, and cyclists may have to rely on other means of getting states to comply. Here's an excerpt from the January 2010 California Bicycling Coalition's newsletter.

"CBC is also considering legislation to add a bicycling representative to the California Traffic Control Devices Committee, which adopts statewide standards for traffic-related signs, signals and pavement markings. Although the committee's work affects all roadway users, committee membership is limited to motor vehicle interests, including two representatives of AAA. This month the CTCDC rejected a proposal to add a non-voting bicycling representative."
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Old 03-16-10, 04:21 PM   #8
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Waiting for the Feds to get tough on states about bicycling infrastructure may a long road traveled, and cyclists may have to rely on other means of getting states to comply.

From the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood

By now you may have heard about my "tabletop speech" at the National Bike Summit last week.
If you missed the summit or want to relive the excitement, here's some footage courtesy of Streetsblog SF; it's a bit jumpy, but that seems entirely consistent with the scene.
Somewhere in the frenzy, I managed to thank summit-goers for being such effective advocates for livable, sustainable, bike-friendly communities.
Well, that was fun, but the dust has settled and I have news. The crowd's enthusiasm was so contagious, the idea of introducing a major policy revision in that setting quickly evaporated.
Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.
We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
To set this approach in motion, we have formulated key recommendations for state DOTs and communities:
  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Go beyond minimum design standards.
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips.
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
  • Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.
Now, this is a start, but it's an important start. These initial steps forward will help us move forward even further.

Photo by Jeffrey Martin courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists.

And the Obama Administration hasn't been sitting idle on the bike front this past year either.
Just last month through our TIGER program, we funded major bicycle projects in Indianapolis and in the Philadelphia-Camden-Trenton region.
And our ongoing inter-agency DOT-EPA-HUD partnership on sustainable communities actively encourages planning for walkability and bikability. We think livability means giving folks the flexibility to choose their own mobility.
Look, bike projects are relatively fast and inexpensive to build and are environmentally sustainable; they reduce travel costs, dramatically improve safety and public health, and reconnect citizens with their communities.
So, thank you to the League of American Bicyclists and all those who gave me such a raucous welcome the other night.
Last year's summit was something; this year was something else. I can't even imagine what next year's gathering will produce, but I know I want to be part of it.
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Old 03-16-10, 04:49 PM   #9
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Last year I was excited about CLEAN-TEA and this year I am not hearing anything that isn't already a law in Maryland. Biking and walking must be considered in all transportation projects, we got that, Smart growth, emphasis on multi-modal accommodation to transit stops, yep we got that too, but over all Maryland stinks, very low bike modal share and very high pedestrian fatality rate.

Last year there was talk about States not being able to handle the needs of the localities well so administration of Federal funds would be taken from the States and handed to the MPO's. There was talk about states being given a time frame to meet certain criteria like reducing vulnerable road user road crashes or increasing modal share and if goals are not met an increasing amount of Federal funds would be required to be used to meet those goals. And this year I am not hearing anything that will really change the system we already have.
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Old 03-17-10, 07:18 AM   #10
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Somehow, I thought my post wouldn't be responded with simple "sure thing!" replies. :-) Good comments below, so please bear with me as I try to address everything...

My overarching comment is that I really hope all of you will speak up for this bill (H.R. 4722) and encourage others to do so as well. The ACT Act really does hold the potential to dramatically change transportation patterns in dozens of communities across the country. Really. Applicant communities themselves (local/regional gov't, speicial districts, tribes, MPOs) would be the arbiters of what infrastructure, programs and other investments are most needed to encourage walking and cycling to result in mode shift.

BTW, we now have 22 co-sponsors (including lead sponsor Blumenauer). It's picking up momentum, fast!

RacerOne - roads are certainly a piece of the puzzle, and the legislation does not specify trails must be the chosen infrastructure. Bike lanes, sidewalks, it all counts. The key point is connectivity -- right now, a beltway connects an entire region seamlessly, but cyclists and even pedestrians are often left to fend for themselves when the road, bike lane or sidewalk ends. And while you personally might be comfortable taking the lane on a 6-lane arterial, research clearly shows that the vast majority of folks will not bike under those conditions, but need trails or other quieter, safer amenities.

The Human Car -- "trails...can't provide a decent utilitarian route network." Check out Minneapolis as just one of several great counterpoints. The Midtown Greenway has completely changed the commuting landscape; trails are now plowed as soon as, if not before, roads, since those are the primary commuting and transportation corridors for many. Here in DC, the W&OD trail sees immense commuting traffic (I want to say tens of thousands of daily trips, but don't quote me). When I lived in Portland, about 1/2 of my commute was on the very busy Eastbank Esplanade trail, and folks traveled great distances on the Springwater Corridor and other facilities. If you're saying that trails can't be the be-all and end-all, you could be right; that's why we need safe on-road connections as well.

To your last post, you're absolutely right -- CLEAN-TEA, smart growth, transit accommodations... all help, but ultimately until we create a change in societal thinking we aren't going to see serious mode shift. But the exciting thing is that we are seeing change; calls for new transportation systems are coming from large and small communities all over the country; see www.railstotrails.org/case_statements for a list of communities that have already engaged in the campaign calling for this competitive program, or www.railstotrails.org/ACT for a link to a letter signed by 300+ local, regional and national organizations, including dozens of mayors & electeds. Completing networks that safely and conveniently allow people to walk and bike is really exactly what it takes to make this happen. That's precisely how Portland, Minneapolis, Boulder and Davis, among others, have started seeing mode shift, and how dozens of cities all over (including DC, Baltimore, Boston, NYC, Cleveland, Rochester, New Orleans, San Diego, Grand Rapids, Chicago...) are working to make that a reality. And they all feel confident that this legislation will help them reach that goal.

GraysonPeddie - Thank you!

mconlonx - in what state are you? I'm curious which senators you're referencing (note that the bill has only been introduced in the House so far; Senate introduction coming soon, hopefully). This bill bypasses state DOTs entirely and goes directly to communities, as above. But perhaps you're confusing this bill with another? There's nothing about maintenance or complete streets in this one. You're also exactly right to post LaHood's new DOT bike/ped policy statement. Thanks.

I welcome any offline questions as well, at kartik@railstotrails.org. Thanks!
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Old 03-17-10, 10:16 AM   #11
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RTC_Kartik, I have ridden DC and use the trails a lot and they are great but even so look on the NIH Bicycle Commuter Club (which I believe is the largest bike commuter club) website on how to bike to the campus, Does one direction mention a trail, sure but then it goes on about how harrowing the remaining roads are. In places like DC where they have a rail trail that connects to the stream valley trails that's a sweet deal (not available everywhere) but even so without a on-road network it does not perform as well as it should. I really do not have data to compare to other states but I swear MD has the highest ratio of miles of trails that people a mile from the trail do not feel comfortable riding to, I have reports of kids killed trying to get home from a trail but have to cross roads with no bike/ped accommodations so it's their fault for trying to cross a car centric road. I'm sorry but if there is no effort to start feathering out bikability from the trails to connect adjoining communities, trails are sort of like like freeways with no on or off ramps, that is to say a flawed transportation concept. I have always asserted that trails that function well for both transportation and recreation are the most utilized but in Maryland we use federal transportation money to build primarily recreational use trails in violation of current Federal policies. So speaking from a state that refuses to follow Federal policies as well as being the lowest in spending Federal money on bike/ped projects, Federal policies no matter how good, if they do not have any teeth what so ever will not do us any good. So our (MD) political priority is to get the State to get what the Feds got over a decade ago. For states that have already passed this mile stone they should strongly support what you are doing but for us in MD it's going to be business as usual. There is a reason why MD's bike modal share is below the national average.
I will also note that in Baltimore due to the draconic State polices all our bike trails have to be funded by Federal earmarks. While I will not fault those involved with Federal legislation for patting themselves on the back for their successes but till some attention is paid to the failures Federal bike legislation will always be for those states that get it and do nothing for states that want to remain car centric.
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Old 03-17-10, 10:34 AM   #12
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This is a really exciting initiative -- one of the most forward-thinking pieces of transportation legislation I've seen. I encourage everyone to support the bill by encouraging their representative to co-sponsor the legislation, at http://support.railstotrails.org/ACT.

The opportunity this bill presents to biking in communities all over is really impressive. Please let me know if you have any questions: kartik@railstotrails.org. Thanks!
Rails to trails?

Replace one of the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation with a friggin bike path?!!

Replace one of the few options to do long-distance travel with bicycles with a strip of tarmac littered with roller-bladers and dog-walkers?

Are you serious?

What a completely negative, backward-looking and stupid idea.
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Old 03-17-10, 12:14 PM   #13
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Rails to trails?

Replace one of the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation with a friggin bike path?!!

Replace one of the few options to do long-distance travel with bicycles with a strip of tarmac littered with roller-bladers and dog-walkers?

Are you serious?

What a completely negative, backward-looking and stupid idea.
Ahh one of their newest campaigns is having bike trails alongside current rail lines. Their are many aspects of promoting cycling that lets people have their cake and eat it too.
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Old 03-17-10, 12:15 PM   #14
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Ahh one of their newest campaigns is having bike trails alongside current rail lines. Their are many aspects of promoting cycling that lets people have their cake and eat it too.
In which case I give them back their cake and eat a large helping of humble pie.
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Old 03-17-10, 12:45 PM   #15
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Replace one of the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation with a friggin bike path?!!
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought they were only replacing unused railroad tracks.

Edit: I actually just found it here:
http://www.railstotrails.org/ourWork...ing/index.html
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Old 03-17-10, 12:47 PM   #16
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Once I take action, how do I know if my representative co-sponsor the H.R. 4722? I'm in Florida.
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Old 03-17-10, 02:55 PM   #17
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Rails to trails?

Replace one of the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation with a friggin bike path?!!

Replace one of the few options to do long-distance travel with bicycles with a strip of tarmac littered with roller-bladers and dog-walkers?

Are you serious?

What a completely negative, backward-looking and stupid idea.
Rails are only converted to trails when the rail lines are abandoned.

On the other hand, why are so many rail lines being abandoned? Especially if they are "the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation."

One issue I have with rails to trails is that this country has a long history of shooting itself in the foot with regard to replacing one form of transportation with another.

We need transportation diversity... so we are not dependent on one single form of energy, or method of using energy, for transportation use.
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Old 03-17-10, 05:42 PM   #18
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Rails-With-Trails, anyone? How about it?

Rails-with-trails do exist, some of them have seen considerable use by bicyclists, pedestrians, and even x-country skiers where it gets cold and the snow flies. Perhaps there is one near where you live. Rails-with-trails connect communities, provide good recreational bicycling, and also reduce some of the risk on heavily congested roads. And if the use of the rail line is needed again, everything is still there.

Rails-With-Trails starts out as a railroad line which is abandoned by the railroad company. However the trackage and bridges remain in place in hopes that a railroad service will once again use it. The idea came by the Department of Transportation and private groups to use these lines as routes for hikers, bicyclists and others by building paths alongside the rail lines in the railroad corridors. For some rails-with-trails, the bridges
have been widened to accomodate both trains amd bicyclists safely.

One rails-with-trails corridor currently being built is the Mountain Division Line in Maine. It's partially funded by a TIGERS grant and by contributions from the private sector. Once a branch rail line owned by the Pan Am Railway, it was abandoned in 1983. In the present day, the abandonded line was purchased by the Maine DOT finding a railroad company to use the line for passenger and/or freight use. Construction of the trail began by cutting to build a trail next to the railroad tracks. The bridges along the line are being rehabilitated to safely accomodate both a train and people on the trail. Sections of the trail are currently finished and and being used. Once completed, this path will be 50 miles in length connecting nine towns from Fryeburg to Portland, ME.

To read more about and see photographs of this, see: mountaindivisiontrail.org

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Old 03-17-10, 07:32 PM   #19
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On the other hand, why are so many rail lines being abandoned? Especially if they are "the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation."
Because a unionized workforce on a rail line has a lot of power.
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Old 03-17-10, 09:02 PM   #20
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I would like to see the money used for traffic calming, bicycle-sensitizing traffic signal loop detectors, and re-engineering of pedestrian- and bicyclist-hostile intersections and interchanges.
Hell no.
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Old 03-17-10, 10:22 PM   #21
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Rails are only converted to trails when the rail lines are abandoned.

On the other hand, why are so many rail lines being abandoned? Especially if they are "the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation."

One issue I have with rails to trails is that this country has a long history of shooting itself in the foot with regard to replacing one form of transportation with another.

We need transportation diversity... so we are not dependent on one single form of energy, or method of using energy, for transportation use.
Locally, our rail service lines were abandoned due to excessive maintenance costs from unstable terrain which caused countless derailments, and also from dwindling freight. Many sections of our rail line are littered with numerous abandoned rail cars from those derailments.
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Old 03-17-10, 10:34 PM   #22
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Like Human Car has pointed out, trails are nice, but one still has to ride on sometimes hostile roadways in order to get to the trails in the first place.
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Old 03-19-10, 04:41 AM   #23
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Sorry for the silence, was out of my office all day yesterday.

Human Car and others - you're absolutely right that on-road connections to trails are a necessary and crucial piece of any bicycle / pedestrian network. I see I wasn't clear in my previous post about that; apologies. If we don't provide good on-road connections to trails, folks either don't use the trails, get there in an unsafe manner as you suggest, or drive their bikes there for primarily recreational riding. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it's not our ultimate goal. Thanks for hammering that point home.

To the rails-to-trails / rail-with-trail discussion (somehow anytime I post about anything this comes up, regardless of the relevance to my post!) :-), yes, rails are only converted once the rail line is no longer in use. We're actively pro-transit, and work closely with several national organizations for the advancement of rail service. In addition to being good for a balanced transportation system in general, well-designed transit dramatically improves the range of walking and bicycling as well. Many rail companies are the entities that actually start the process ofconversion, particularly through the federal railbanking process that allows the corridor to be used as a trail for interim use until the rail company deems rail service feasible again.

Rail-with-trail... another great evolution of the movement. DC's Metropolitan Branch Trail is shaping up to be a stellar example. Powerhouse - thanks for the Mountain Division Trail mention, will check that out.

GraysonPeddie and others - I try to keep the list of co-sponsors of the legislation up to date daily on our action page on the bill, http://support.railstotrails.org/ACT . You can also always search http://thomas.loc.gov/ for more on any legislation, including co-sponsors: just click the bill number search and, in this case, type in "H.R. 4722". No Florida rep's have co-sponsored yet.

Again, I hope you'll all ask your representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 4722, through their page, a phone call, or at http://support.railstotrails.org/ACT. Thanks all!
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Old 03-19-10, 05:34 PM   #24
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Rails to trails?

Replace one of the most energy-efficient means of long-distance transportation with a friggin bike path?!!

Replace one of the few options to do long-distance travel with bicycles with a strip of tarmac littered with roller-bladers and dog-walkers?

Are you serious?

What a completely negative, backward-looking and stupid idea.
I think you mean:

"Preserve a right of way that can easily be turned into rail again later with cheap asphalt."

Rail trails don't go over active lines, not in any case I've heard of yet. And, eventually, these inactive lines can become segmented private property again. Never again to be a street, bike trail, or rail.

I think you're overly angry about rail trails.
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Old 03-19-10, 05:51 PM   #25
GraysonPeddie
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I will keep an eye on the list of co-sponsors.

Thanks.
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