Monday, November 3, 2014

Oct. 22 Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting notes

The Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee met in Richmond on October 22 and FABB's Howard Albers took the following notes:
In September 2014, VDOT completed its Pedestrian Policy Plan. As stated on the VDOT website, the purpose of the plan is to establish a vision for the future of walking in the Commonwealth and to advance the walking element of the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations consistently, appropriately, and cost-effectively. The recommendations in the plan will advance the policy more effectively and will involve a wide variety of partners within various divisions of VDOT, as well as stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth.

Considerable discussion was held about the US Bicycle Route 1 in Northern Virginia. The new route location and sign plans have been submitted to the approving authorities. As many as 80 new signs will be needed to keep riders from getting lost. Funding, however, for the signs could be a problem. Champe Burnley commented it would be good to have all the signs installed in 2015 so the upcoming bicycle visitors could enjoy the route to Washington, DC. Champe asked if donations could be made to pay for the signs. VDOT staffers said they would have to see if accepting donations for signs was legal.

Mack Frost from the Federal Highway Administration spoke about the USDOT Secretary’s new safety initiative. USDOT will select one city in each state to illustrate that bike and pedestrian safety is important. Congressional leaders and the public need to know that bicycle and pedestrian travel modes are just as important as driving, flying and riding trains and subways. The Federal Transit Administration will be coordinating the effort within Virginia. Location for the one-day program and publicity tour will most likely be in Hampton Rhodes, Richmond or Northern Virginia. See the handout with more details of the safety initiative.

John Bolecek commented that the easiest bicycle improvement is to restripe lanes when repaving or to widen road shoulders on high priority roads. He encouraged everyone to look at the roads to be repaved to see if a change to accommodate bicycles would be appropriate. He told participants to call him if they needed help with the process.

A discussion was held concerning how the progress made in Virginian since 2004 when bicycles and pedestrians were to be given equal consideration. Some suggested that VDOT internal audit would be the best group to evaluate the progress. Others commented that since John works for the State Engineer it may be hard to ask that such a review be undertaken.

John reported he was asked to update the state highway plan. He plans to include bicycles and pedestrians in the plan, and will focus on long distance bicycle trails and those that parallel state bike routes, and include other projects that make good sense.

As a performance management tool, John is suggesting that a new data field be added to VDOT planning documents to capture information showing how bicycle and pedestrians were included in projects. VDOT participants said measuring accomplishments would be much easier if the information was recorded. John said he would talk to others at VDOT to see what could be done to have the new data field developed.

The longstanding, continuing debate of reducing maintenance allocations when road diets are used in towns and cities was again discussed by the committee. Champe Burnley suggested the committee write a letter to the VDOT Secretary outlining the committees concerns. John commented that the committee advises him and that he advises the State Engineer, who advises the VDOT Secretary. Charlie Shrunk suggested maybe state legislators needed to become involved to help resolve the dilemma. John said he would again raise the committee’s concern with the State Engineer.

A discussion was held about the importance of getting bicycle and pedestrian counts to monitor the use of bicycles. VDOT has permanent continuous count stations at many places in the State as a requirement of getting Federal funds. Sometimes a bike counter can be added to the counters at little or no cost.

Bicycle counting systems are relatively new and rely on differing technologies e.g. video tapes that are scanned and counted, a light based system that detects turning wheels, or a GIS application that some cyclists use to monitor various cycling activities. Strava has interesting features but does not capture all bicyclists. Each counting station costs $5,000 to $6,000 which includes batteries, maintenance and data management.

A detailed presentation based on a University of Virginia doctoral dissertation was given illustrating how bike data could inform local transportation decisions. The speaker stressed the need for getting more data about bicycle data into nationwide records systems.

Details about the next committee meeting will provided once a date is selected.



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