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Permanent Lane Shifts Can Be Problematic

May 7, 2018 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Permanent Lane Shifts Can Be Problematic

St. Louis has numerous places where, if you drive, you know the lanes shift left or right. The recent work to raise Forest Park Parkway/Ave up to be an at-grade intersection with Kingshighway added two more: WB Forest Park Ave at Euclid Ave and SB Kingshighway at Forest Park. The other day I photographed the former.

Looking East toward Forest Park & Euclid — All 3 lanes of Westbound traffic must shift top the right while crossing Euclid
Looking East from the pedestrian refuge.
The planter protecting pedestrians has been hit numerous times, the yellow markers have been added to make them more visible.

On numerous occasions I’ve been on the #10 MetroBus in the left-turn lane from SB Kingshighway onto EB Forest Park and I’ve seen cars in the center of the 3  SB Kingshighway lanes just continue straight — not shifting to the right. This puts them in the left most of 3 lanes. The problem occurs when a car is also in the left lane and shifts to the right to avoid hitting the pedestrian refuge planter — suddenly you have two vehicles wanting to occupy the same space. I’m rarely in either intersection as a motorist though I have driven both since the change was made.

I have experienced our car nearly being hit in a similar situation on EB Chippewa at Meramec. When traveling EB on Chippewa you have two EB lanes until just past Morganford Rd when only the left lane continues EB and the right lane goes off right to Meramec St. Again, on numerous occasions I’ve seen vehicles in the right lane just continue straight ahead — nearly hitting our car at least once. When I’m driving I’m aware this intersection is poorly designed — so I anticipate other drivers might not be aware of what is expected.

Back ar Forest Park and Kingshighway & Euclid the volume of cars is much higher. Both pedestrian refuge planters have been hit/damaged by vehicles. I suspect traffic accidents have been caused when a motorist doesn’t shift to the right — going straight ahead which means they’re changing lanes in the middle of an intersection.

Most drivers who regularly travel these routes will learn/remember to shift. It only takes one driver not paying attention or visitor to cause an accident or hit the planter and damage their vehicle.

How will future autonomous vehicles handle these shifts? We can and should do better in our street design!

— Steve Patterson

 

 

A Look At Bike Sharing Now That It Has (Finally) Arrived In St. Louis

April 30, 2018 Bicycling, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on A Look At Bike Sharing Now That It Has (Finally) Arrived In St. Louis

After many years of trying to get bike sharing in St. Louis — the first of two companies has started service:

A docking system could have cost the city more than $5 million a year, Venker said. With the dockless model, companies instead pay the city $500 a year for a permit and $10 per bike per year to maintain services.

Typically, bike share users must first download a smartphone app that is connected to a credit card. To gain a permit in St. Louis, companies must provide smartphone- and credit card-free options. Some companies allow riders to pay in cash or use a prepaid card, then unlock the bike by phone call instead of app. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Docked & dockless? Let’s start in chronological order with docked bike share.

Divvy bike share on Chicago’s tourist-heavy Michigan Ave. However, Divvy is all over Chicago with 580+ stations & 5,800 bikes. August 2014 photo
The nearest rider is on a Divvy bike at 18th & Peoria in Chicago’s South Side, May 2015 photo. Click image to view location on a map

When we visit Chicago a few times each year we see the bike stations everywhere — not just in the tourist hot spots. We also see the bikes getting used all over the city. Chicago has a large biking community so it’s natural to see lots of use.

What about other, smaller cities? I’ve photographed docked bike stare stations in Cincinnati & Oklahoma City.

Cincinnati’s Red Bike docks, November 2015 photo
Spokies bike share in Oklahoma City, July 2012 photo
The Spokies station where you use your credit card to release a bike

Bike sharing has happened largely after my stroke, so I’ve not been a user personally. When I was in Cincinnati in 2015 for a Streetsblog event many in our group of bloggers would use Red bikes when we switched locations. Interestingly, I would often arrive ahead of them or about the same time — using my power wheelchair. This is because only one person can use a station at a time.

These docked bike share systems have largely been a success. Seattle, however, was an exception:

Perhaps the biggest issue, though, is how far apart Seattle’s bike stations are from each other. The National Association of City Transportation Officials found that station density is one of the biggest factors in the success of bike-sharing programs. The group has recommended that stations be no more than a five-minute walk apart. Seattle’s bike-share stations are located in two clusters: 42 stations downtown and eight in the University District roughly three miles away. (Governing)

So a station might be near your bus stop, office, or hotel but if there’s no station near your destination then it isn’t of any good to you. With the blogger group in Cincinnati a lot of their time was spent walking to/from stations to destination — in addition to waiting for others at the station.

The solution was to ditch the docks — dockless:

The new “dockless” bike shares have arrived in places like Seattle, Dallas and Washington, D.C., since the summer. They’re run by private companies like LimeBike, MoBike and Spin. Riders locate and unlock the bikes using their mobile phones and they can leave them, well, almost anywhere. The bikes have kickstands and lock themselves, so most don’t even have to be next to a pole, rack or fence to attach them to.

That means hundreds of new bicycles have hit the streets in these cities in recent weeks. With no set parking spaces or docking stations, many residents worry that the bicycles are further cluttering already crowded sidewalks. But others are excited for a new transportation option, especially because the new services tend to be cheaper and more flexible than the dock-based systems that have proliferated throughout the country over the last seven years. (Governing)

Dockless bike sharing has also frustrated many as bikes are left anywhere and everywhere.

San Diego’s dockless bike experience has been more of a free-for-all than in most cities, because San Diego couldn’t make an exclusive deal with one operator without violating a previous exclusive deal with a rental company that requires bikes to be returned to docking stations.
 
Supporters of the dockless bikes say regardless of how the battle over potential regulations turns out, the bikes have been a tremendous success with the potential to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Even bike-friendly Amsterdam temporarily banned them — due to high demand for bike parking!

“We have invested to create more bicycle parking spaces, and we do not want these to be taken by the many commercial bike-sharing systems.”

The posting added: “Of course, you are allowed to park a bike in the public space, even a rented or shared bike. What is not allowed however, is using the public space as a place of issuance, which is exactly what a number of shared bike companies is doing now, while occupying scarce parking places badly needed by Amsterdam residents and visitors.”

The municipality has stated that all dockless share bikes will be temporarily banned. Talks have been initiated with the dockless companies, including oBike from Singapore, Donkey Republic from Denmark, Dropbyke and FlickBike from Lithuania and Urbee and Hello-Bike from the Netherlands. (Bike Biz)

Which brings us back to St. Louis and the introduction of dockless bike sharing from Lime Bike — one of the two private companies to get a permit from the city.

LimeBike aims to provide a sustainable solution to the first and last mile transportation problem by helping people move around their cities in an affordable and convenient way while eliminating their carbon footprint. We are here to empower future generations to change their behavior so we can save this planet together.

With that vision, we launched LimeBike in June 2017.

LimeBike is not just a tech mobility company. We are a people and relationships company first and foremost. And we?re committed to building with you. (LimeBike)

Here’s a video from LimeBike:

I’ve downloaded their app to see where bikes are located, they’ve been all over the city since day one. I’ve seen & photographed many:

The bikes are very colorful. All are single speed with hand brakes, a bell, and a basket. A phone clamp is on the handlebar.
The first day I spotted a couple of groups that had blown over in the wind
This was the closest to being in my way, but I still had room to get by.
Often I see them at bike racks, though they have built-in locks.
Three at the same rack on Locust on another day.
At a rack at the main library
At a rack attached to a parking meter pole on Olive
At the racks in front of Culinary on 9th
Once you’ve used the app on your smartphone this high-tech lock will retract the pin that goes through the wheel’s spokes.

Docked vs dockless, is that it? No, there are now hybrid business models:

Zagster’s hybrid Pace system, which it’s rolling out in places like Rochester, N.Y., and Tallahassee, Fla., lets riders use docks or park elsewhere. (Depending on the city, users may get charged more for parking without a dock.) But the bikes can’t be left free-standing; they have to be locked to something in order to end a trip.

“We believe that bikes should be locked to things,” Ericson says. “That whole dockless evolution of dumping your bike anywhere in the street is not good for cities and not good for riders in the long term.” (Governing)

I’ve seen lots of people riding these new LimeBikes. those I spoke to were all quite pleased. The true test will come once the initial newness (and $3 credit) have worn off. I don’t doubt someone will leave a bike in my way, but I’ve been dealing with business signs, cafe tables, and dog poop as a wheelchair user for a decade now — it was 10 years ago today that I came home from 3 months of hospital/therapy following my stroke.

While I can’t ride one of these bikes, I love seeing others riding them! It’ll be interesting to see how both do once the 2nd permitted company begins offering bikes in St. Louis.

— Steve Patterson

 

More Frequent Bus Service Should Begin Next Year

April 23, 2018 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on More Frequent Bus Service Should Begin Next Year

A year from now transit service in St. Louis City & County will likely be different than it is today. Metro, AKA Bi-State, has held informational meetings and hearings on their new plan they call Metro Reimagined. Light rail (MetroLink) will be largely the same, the plan focuses on the bus system. Wheeled (non para-transit) transit will be divided into four categories:

  • Enhanced Frequent: MetroBus routes with 15-minute or better service from morning to evening hours
  • Local: 30-minute service from morning to evening hours on most MetroBus routes
  • Commute Express: Regional service connecting Park & Ride lots to key employment destinations
  • Community Mobility Zones: Service areas using smaller vehicles, vanpools or shuttles, or mobility on-demand options

Right now only the #70 Grand is considered “enhanced frequent.”  Here are the routes that could see improvements to frequency:

  • 4 Natural Bridge
  • 10 Gravois-Lindell
  • 16 Metro City Limits
  • 61 Chambers Rd
  • 70 Grand
  • 73 Broadway-Carondelet
  • 74 Florissant
  • 90 Hampton
  • 94 Page
  • 95 Kingshighway

The 73 isn’t the current 73 — it has been straightened out to improve efficiency. This less circuitous route means this line will not go down all the side streets it currently does.

The other big change comes to niche areas — called Community Mobility Zones, The colorful wrap on the 99 Downtown Trolley buses, shown below, has already been removed. These full length low-floor buses weren’t being driven as many miles as others in the fleet.

In 2014 new buses replaced the ones used since 2010

Most of the routes I use will get increased frequency, but I’m concerned about the wheelchair accessibility of whatever will replace the 99 Downtown Trolley. When that route began it used short high-floor buses, but later switched to full-length low-floor buses. A ramp is better than a lift — I was stuck on a malfunctioning lift once. But many smaller vehicles have a high floor which means a lift, increased boarding time, and may require securements due to a higher center of gravity.  The convenient downtown circulator I use may not be so convenient anymore.

— Steve Patterson

 

We Bought a Newer Car With Lots of Technology

April 9, 2018 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on We Bought a Newer Car With Lots of Technology
The 2007 Honda Civic EX we bought in April 2014.

Last month my husband David and I bought a newer used car to replace the 2007 Civic EX we bought four years ago, see No Longer Car-Free.  This is my 15th car in the 35 years I’ve been driving. I’ve seen a lot of new automotive technology be introduced end become mainstream.

I took my drivers exam in 1983 in my mom’s 1974 Dodge Dart. It had manual windows, door locks. I don’t think it even had a right side mirror. It was 9 years old but it seemed ancient. At 15 I bought a 1974 Mustang II  — sold it before I turned 16. After I got my license I began driving my brother’s 1971 Dodge Demon — nothing like today’s Demon.

Here’s a summary of when I got new automotive technology

  • 1983: power seat & moonroof in a 1975 Mercury Monarch
  • 1984: power windows, flip up sunroof in a 1979 Ford Fairmont Futura
  • 1986: manual transmission, front wheel drive in a 1984 Dodge Colt (Mitsubishi)
  • 1993: central locking, manual steel sunroof, turbo, 4 wheel disc brakes, fuel injection in a 1987 Volvo 740 Turbo
  • 1998: Side marker  turn signals on two 1986 Saab 900S — one S 4-door and one Turbo 3-door
  • 2000: ABS brakes, airbags, remote locks in a 2000 VW Golf
  • 2004: All wheel drive in a 1999 Audi A4 Avant

There were many more cars, but they didn’t offer any new technology that I hadn’t had before. Basically new cars have added one or two new things. Last month we got lots of new tech all at once.

Our newish car in front of Broadway Oyster Bar

Our 2015 Sonata is the top trim level — Limited — with both optional packages: tech & ultimate. The only option ours doesn’t have is a more powerful turbo engine.

We first saw this car at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. The primary feature we wanted was memory seat & mirrors.  Since we share one car we’ve spent the last 4 years adjusting the driver’s seat and both mirrors each time we get into the car after the other drove it.  Competition like the top level Accord has had a memory seat since 2013, but no memory mirrors even in 2018 models.  The Camry still doesn’t have either.

David has experienced many of these before via Enterprise CarShare and rental cars. For me, these are very new:

  • Proximity “key” allows me to open car doors without removing the fob from my pocket. Approaching the locked trunk and waiting a few seconds will open the trunk lid. Some cars require you to wave a foot under the back of the car — I couldn’t physically do that. Inside the fob stays in my pocket. This lets me use my one good hand to worry about my cane.
  • On a related note, when you press the off button the seat moves back to give you more room to exit — very helpful for me.
  • Still adjusting to the back up camera and how the rear view mirrors tilt down while in reverse.
  • The rear cross traffic alert is helpful when backing out of parking spaces. It detects vehicles and pedestrians.
  • The blind spot detection warning is amazing. Whenever a vehicle is in a blind spot an orange light displays on the appropriate side mirror. If you signal to get into a lane with someone in the blind spot the car beeps at you. Last year we test drove a 2013 Honda Accord EX-L with Lane Watch. We weren’t impressed with Honda’s blind spot system — nothing on the left and for the right you don’t look at the right mirror — you look at the center screen to see if there’s a car. Huh?
  • Lane departure warning is good on well marked roads when it’s dry out.
  • Front collision warning will beep at you to stop before hitting something in front of you. David says it went off when a car changed lanes right in front of the car in front of him. Impressive. What baffles mw is Hyundai didn’t include emergency braking in case the driver doesn’t hit the brakes in time — this was added the next year.
  • I used the adaptive cruise control for the first time yesterday — driving to/from St. Charles, Remarkable.  While using the cruise control it van automatically stop the car, so I’m told.

For more on my first time driving this car see a feature on Curbed.

The amount of new tech is a bit overwhelming. The list above isn’t complete, there is more. As I get more miles behind the wheel I’ll post addition thoughts. I’ll also compare the car to competition and tech offered from other manufacturers. In addition to lacking emergency braking, I wish it had start/stop technology. The hybrid version of the current generation Sonata didn’t come out until the next year, 2016. When we replace this car in about 5 years I hope to get a plug-in hybrid.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Bike/Pedestrian/Smoke-Free Advocate Martin Pion (1936-2018)

March 30, 2018 Bicycling, Featured, Smoke Free, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis Bike/Pedestrian/Smoke-Free Advocate Martin Pion (1936-2018)
Martin Pion’s Facebook profile pic

This week St. Louis lost a great advocate, visitation was last night.

Martin Pion, 81, passed away on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at his home.
Dear husband of Joyce Pion; dear father of Jerome (Sarah) Pion; Loving grandfather of David and Katie Pion; beloved uncle of Nicola (Kim) Teoh, Stephan (Jenny) Williams and Karen (Stacey) Williams dear great uncle to James and Andrew.
Martin and his family came from England in 1977. He loved the environment, bicycling and was a founding member and president of GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution).
Memorial visitation will be Thursday, March 29, 4-7pm at HUTCHENS Mortuary, 675 Graham Rd, Florissant.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to charity of choice. (Hutchins)

Martin and I shared many interests including bicycling and smoke-free environments. Though we didn’t always agree, our disagreements were some of our best conversations. More often, we did agree — because of our shared beliefs we both supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary.

I first met Marin in the late 90s when I took his Road 1 bicycling course — he was the only instructor certified by the League of American Bicyclists teaching in the region. Later, while we were both serving as board members of the now-defunct St. Louis Bicycle Federation, he got me and other board members to also become certified instructors.

Martin in Ferguson, 2012

Even after my 2008 stroke he pushed me to not give up on cycling. I went to their home in Ferguson where he filmed me riding one of his English trikes.

Martin helped get me on the trike then used my iPhone to record the video. Afterwards, to get me off the trike, he had to tip me over onto a bed of ivy them help me up. We determined it would take a trike made from a bike with a very low cross bar to work for me.

We also spent many hours discussing technology and blogging. I got him to move from a static website to a WordPress blog — see ThinkBicycling!

Martin invested in cameras and posted numerous videos to YouTube and Vimeo. Martin was a huge advocate of bicycling within traffic, not being pushed off into inadequate bike lanes. Both videos below feature mutual friend Karen Karabell.

And a look at the protected bike lane on Chestnut.

It’s so great to hear Martin’s soft voice. Here’s how he described himself on Vimeo:

Scientist, majoring in Physics & Math., with environmental interests and sustainability, including promoting smoke-free air and proficient on-road bicycle transportation.

You’ll be missed friend.

— Steve Patterson

 

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