Monday, January 29

Access through Mt Tabor Park

The Mt Tabor safety committee is working on several issues to improve safe access between 60th and 76th avenues. Among them is the novel idea of creating an 'elevation friendly' path through the south side of Mt Tabor Park. This is an idea that I wish I had thought of, but credit actually goes to John Turner who is an active member of the Mt Tabor community. I had the opportunity to hear some thoughts from him on the proposed path.

In a few words, what first got your attention that there was a need for a new path through Mt Tabor?

Two issues; the number of auto-related deaths in the neighborhood, and my own increasing sensitivity to hills.

First of all, there have been three bicyclists killed on Bellmont. As a cyclist myself, when I looked for a safe route through the neighborhood, I found that there was none. Secondly I was myself hit by a vehicle and this has caused mobility issues for me.

I've seen a few women in the neighborhood pulling kids along with them in trailers, xtracycles, or tag-alongs, and I want them to be able to safely travel to the local schools or to Mt Tabor Park itself.

I realized that for people who are not physically confident, when they come to terrain such as cyclists are forced onto, they're not willing to try it.
On the other hand, many handicapped and less physically strong people head over to the Oaks Bottom Trail to get some outdoor time because it's flat and very accessible.

How would you respond to the people who say that the people who ride a bicycle are strong enough to go over the hill, and there's no need for another path?

As I get older, it's harder for me to get over such hills, so I can sympathize with other people who have a harder time traveling over difficult terrain. Whether they are children, handicapped, elderly, or innexperienced.
Everyone benefits from a comfortable recreational trail.

What groups are you looking to connect with in order to get support for a project like this?

I'm mostly talking with people in the bike community, parents, neighbors and the Mt Tabor neighborhood association. I plan to speak with folks at Warner Pacific College, Glencoe School, Mt Tabor School, and Atkinson School.

Do you have ideas yet about where you are going to look for funding?

I don't. I'm not terribly familiar with all of the different types of funding that is out there. Since we're currently in the exploratory phase on the project, I've kept my focus on garnering support.

What is the greatest challenge or unanswered question that you have about a Mt Tabor path?

The greatest challenge is bringing all the different interests together (property
owners, Warner Pacific, the Parks Dept., dog owners, etc) in order to build a will to get it done.

I still need to connect with more people (such as handicapped folks) and there are many resources there that I am waiting for. Certain interests have to fall into place. At this point we need to build an understanding of the benefits that a path like this has for people of many different interests.

What is your next step now?

I plan to attend a meeting with Warner Pacific College to discuss options for running part of the path on their property. The college is looking at ways to create a stronger connection with the neighborhood, and I believe that this will be an ideal course for both of us.

The meeting is at 6:30pm on February 12th at Kardetzke Hall, 2219 se 68th

Here's a map with car directions. Or you can take the existing path to the college by following this route.

Thursday, January 18

How to Make Streets Safe

Tabor Traffic Safety
The Tabor Traffic Safety group had an interesting meeting today to hear from Bill Ross about how to create successful traffic safety. Bill is the Transportation Chair for the Foster-Powell neighborhood. He was a critical element in creating safer crossings of Foster Road in the 60s blocks.

The Foster Streetscape Plan was set up in 2003 among a group of residents who were embarassed at how meager the pedestrian environment was. They set up to create a solution to the dangerous barrier.
First of all they analyzed and defined what the problem was, namely that pedestrians attempting to cross Foster were terrified. In defining the problem it is also important to understand the whole situation.

  • What type of road is it (arterial, local collector, residential) what uses does it have (freight, emergency, etc)
  • Who uses it (auto, transit, bike, pedestrian)
  • Where is the traffic coming from and where is it going to
In order to do this there are many resources. Find someone who can both provide the information and also help bring the issue to the right ear.

Then it's necessary to look at all safety concerns
  • pedestrian
  • bicycle
  • speeding
  • visibility

The more concerns that are brought to the table, the more potential allies will be interested. Understand that transportation concerns cross neighborhood boundaries. A dangerous road is going to going to have a ripple effect through several towns. Be sure to get contact info for any potential volunteer. Keeping people involved is critical.

With everyone at the table, brainstorm different solutions which will improve the situation. For example physical bariers to speeding are more successful than signs or enforcement.

Look at funding sources. There is money out there, but generally the 'big pools' have been used up. Look for small sources which can fund one aspect of the project. For example if a project will improve a street crossing and it's near a school, than look at funding from pedestrian safety programs, safe routes to school, bike safety programs, and business improvement sources. Get the media on your side to spread the word. Talk to your resources in planning, they can point you to other funding opportunities. Get several people to call about the issue. This has a greater impact than one person.
Keep in mind; it took 50 years for us to get stuck in this mess, it will take a lot of work to get out of it.

Monday, January 8

What is a safe street?

Some people travel by car, some by bus, some by bike, and others walk. All of them have different ideas about what makes a street safe and comfortable.
Most people who are not traveling in large vehicles find that streets which are less wide (such as neighborhood streets) are the safest.

The contradiction is that everyone wants to get to their destination as quickly as possible and with the fewest interruptions. What happens is that urban planners (following the Robert Moses model, which in turn followed the Nazi autobahn) have long been creating straight roadways designed for higher speed and fewer stops. This allows people to go very fast (assuming there are few other people using the road). However by going fast, there is less time to react to emergencies. So a small problem, can result in a fatal crash very quickly.

On the other hand roads built through residential areas are smaller and designed for slower speeds. These roads are exactly what most parents want in order to allow their children to play safely. Unfortunately as traffic backs up on arterials, people feel that it's acceptable to head down these smaller roads to get around traffic. This scares the residents and parents who now are afraid to let the kids play outside.

With roads primarily designed for car travel, there are few places where people feel safe. The main roadway is a throughway for vehicles, the side is a parking area for the same vehicles, and even sidewalks are sometimes used for vehicles.
So what is the solution to this conundrum?
Well the main issue here is space. The more of it there is, the faster people will go and the more will be consumed. (2) So to keep people safe, the throughway for vehicles must be constricted. Some solutions which have been built are diverters, choke points, and islands. This results in a smaller area for cars and thus a reduction in speed. However since these are expensive to build, they are used in only a few places. The other issue is that "any restriction on the boundless use of the auto is political suicide."(1) So what is the best way to build a safer neighborhood?

The answer is neighborhood activism. Getting out in the street, writing letters to both the politicians and the media en masse is the only way to create sympathy for the children, handicapped, and elderly users who are the most compromised.

The other side of the coin is simply to use transportation which is safer for other road users, such as busses, bicycles, and walking. By combining modes, trips can be made in nearly the same time as the standard model.
So be a part of the solution and learn more about creating a positive lifestyle.