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IPENZ study tour blog
Submitted by megan on 2 October, 2016 - 06:12Read more...
After enjoying a stunning conference, I had the highlight of my trip yesterday afternoon, which was spent with Dongho Chang, Seattle's chief traffic engineer. After all that I've seen here so far, I had a lot of questions about how they choose their various treatments and what the legal implications are. For example, I've been surprised to find that Seattle (and other places in the USA) operate filter-turning of motor vehicles across two-way protected bike lanes with filter turning, giving only a head-start to cyclists. That's something we've been advising against in NZ, due to the risks associated with cyclists in the contraflow direction. Apparently, it seems to be working here, although they're still not in a position to say where the thresholds between priority control, filter turning and fully protected turns lie. Although they definitely don't recommend 2-way protected bike facilities on 2-way streets, due to the inefficiency of operation, especially at locations where turns must be fully controlled.
My first 45 minutes with Dongho were gold, and I'd have been more than happy with just that, but when Google Maps decided to do a go-slow on us, he suggested we just visit the next site he wanted to talk about. We went to Roosevelt Way, where they've recently installed one-way protected bike lanes on each side of the street, with some in-lane bus stops that he's particularly pleased with. They think about the detail, right down to the policy of having bike racks near each bus stop so that people can leave their bikes there safely if the three bike racks on the bus are already full.
After that, going via the University District (where the students were preparing for the homecoming game) I tagged along to a meeting at Starbucks HQ (side note: Starbucks originated in Seattle, and there seems to be one on every block, if not every corner) where Dongho spoke to a group of staff who are interested in cycling, gave them an overview of what's going on in the city and listened to their concerns about their ride to work. He does this with a lot of commercial and community groups.
I've also enjoyed meeting some folk at the Alta office, talking about their projects and staying with a staff member for a couple of nights, which has been a great opportunity to learn more about the local culture. Like the fact that Seattle has a lot of micro-breweries and there seems to be a trend to associate beer and restaurants with bicycles. (Note to ViaStrada staff: I haven't been converted to beer, but did enjoy a cinnamon cider!).
A few other interesting things I've noticed in Seattle:
• It's super-hilly. But that doesn't seem to bother them. They adjusting the signal timings at steep locations, but not other parameters like cycle facility width.
• They use 4-way stop controls a lot, at what seem to me to be rather busy intersections.
• I knew about the right turn on red rule, that's generally present in some form in most states, but it always strikes me as unusual.
• There's a lot of use of signs to remind people to obey traffic lights and apply the standard give-way rules etc.
I'm on the train now, heading up to Vancouver; I'm quite excited about what I'll be seeing there, as Dongho told the Starbucks crew that "Vancouver is light-years ahead of Seattle"!
Submitted by megan on 29 September, 2016 - 20:26Read more...
The adventure begins in Seattle (after a somewhat sleepless flight) with the NACTO (National Association of City Transport Officials) Designing Cities conference. With over 800 participants, I was expecting everything to be super-sized in comparison to IPENZ Transportation Group conference... I wasn't disappointed on that front, but was also pleasantly surprised with a gentle kick-off. Before the opening plenary I attended a workshop on the new Global Street Design Guide, led by Skye Duncan (a kiwi currently on loan to New York) with three case study presenters - including Kerry Gallagher from Sydney and Ludo Campbell-Reid from Auckland. Plus, the design exercises were scaled in metric units. Although I did manage to draw a couple of bikes on the wrong (i.e. not right) side of the road.
I've had a few geeky engineer fan moments - like being "this close" to Jeanette Sadik-Kahn, actually meeting Roger Geller and happening to sit next to a certain Luciano Rabito, who it turns out managed the new MassDoT guide, which I'd wanted to find out more about and later heard Roger Geller acclaiming it as the best manual for planning and designing separated bike facilities. It's actually pretty exciting putting faces and stories to the names of the people whose reports and manuals I've been studying on the other side of the world.
I tailored my workshop, walkshop and break-out session choices to suit my study focus of mitigating conflict between motor vehicles and people on bikes at signalised intersections with protected bike lanes. Super-size and left/right confusions aside, my general feeling so far is that the challenges faced in North America are very similar to what we're grappling with in New Zealand. There's definitely no silver-bullet for this one - having seen many examples and heard it from others, I'm even more convinced about the necessity for site-specific treatments - but there are a lot of useful tips to be learned (often from those who've made the mistakes already).
Some more general takeaways (the healthy kind) I'd like to share at this point came from a "goldfish bowl" session (i.e. the panel was in a circle surrounded by attendees) entitled "Engineers: Your City's Problem Solvers". The panel was asked "what advice would you give yourself as a young engineer?". Here's my summary of their responses:
- Don't design in a bubble. Know why you're doing what the book tells you to do. Talk to the people who live in the location you're designing for.
- Empathise. Understand what people (end-users, clients and colleagues) really want. Work on networking and inter-personal skills to empathise with the people you work with.
- Go the extra mile to make sure your proposal is water-tight under all scrutiny.
- Get internal support within your agency. Get your "great" ideas properly vetted. Make sure you have the support of your supervisor before you take your project to the client / public / elected officials.
- Know the rules... so you know how and when to break them later on.
- Get involved. Join that committee. Submit comments on documents / proposals.
Some very pertinent advice for me as I continue on this tour.