Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thursday night bike/ped meetings

The planning commission meeting scheduled for Thursday night includes reconsideration of the Nonmotorized Plan, part of which will entail discussion on signs peppered throughout town encouraging cyclists to use the sidewalk. WBWC has been advocating the removal of these signs for some time now. City staff recently issued an official response to this request.

The staff's response was a straight-forward "yes, but no". The staff has determined that while signs encouraging cyclists to use the sidewalk are a bad idea and increase pedestrian-cyclists conflicts, they must remain for now. They defer to the legal/engingeering excuse:

Sidewalk Bike Route signs are a traffic control device and as such they have the potential to be scrutinized in accident litigation. Removing all of the signs immediately without any change in the physical conditions is not aligned with sound engineering practice.

The response continues to point out that, while the 1992 Bicycle Master Plan repeatedly recommends eliminating such cycling routes, the city will not do so until other accomodations are made for cyclists, because it isn't safe to ride on the road.
There have not been any changes to the environment where these signed routes remain. The traffic speed and density remain high and the physical space is insufficient to define a shared or separate facility for bicyclists.

We see two problems with this argument:
1) The signs contradict all other bicycle policy goals of shared use. They directly contradict other signs downtown indicating that sidewalk cycling is illegal. They suggest that it is safer to ride on sidewalks even though studies repeatedly show this riding location to be more dangerous than on-street. Thus, we think the signs are at best confusing, and at worst a serious safety risk.
2) The response states that the signs cannot be removed until other accomodations for cyclists are made, then states that there is no way to provide other accomodation given the limited road space. The response also completely overlooks the importance of education and enforcement in making roadways safe for cyclists. The response seems to imply that the city cares enough to maintain the current, questionable safety of cyclists, but not enough to actually find an effective solution.

Cyclists may be torn over the issue, especially since many Ann Arbor cyclists do use the sidewalk. But keep in mind that this is not an effort to ban sidewalk cycling, only to stop encouraging it through signage. Pedestrians are more likely to see this issue in terms of blatent apathy to their safety.

Email from WBWC recommends:
if you didn't get a chance to attend the last Planning Commission meeting, please consider attending and saying a few words on this subject. Many of us who spoke at the last meeting will be at the WBWC meeting this week, and it's really effective when a number of people actually show up and speak on a given topic.

which brings us to the next announcement. WBWC is also meeting on Thursday night at the Ecology Center and will vote on board positions. Their email indicates that they'd much rather you speak at the Planning meeting. But if you've always wanted to get involved with WBWC, they are open and welcoming to everyone.

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