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November 2015

Franklin Street Feasibility Study—Phase 2

By | Our Position

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is pleased to offer the following comments on the Franklin Street Feasibility Study-Phase II.

  1. In general, the primacy and importance of motor vehicle travel seems implicit throughout this document.
  2. In general, especially in the opening sections of the study, the deficiencies of bicycle and pedestrian accommodation in the corridor seem under-stated. For example, on page 23, under the description of Bike/Ped Accommodations under Roadway Characteristics Section 2.4, there is no mention of the lack of bike facilities or even shoulders on Franklin Street; the first mention of those deficiencies is page 29.  The Bayside Trail Crossing is not called out as a completely deficient bicycle crossing (and frustrating pedestrian crossing) due to the two phase crossing and the smallness of the midpoint refuge.  It is not until page 30 that the study acknowledges that “the character of the roadway is generally felt to be appropriate only for experienced, confident cyclists and pedestrians” –this statement should lead the section on Bike/Ped Accommodations on page 23.
  3. The methodology for arriving at the count values for bike/ped usage in Section 2.5.3 is not mentioned. Electronic counts?  Manual?
  4. Regarding specific design features for the proposed reconstruction:
    1. We applaud the inclusion of bicycle lanes on the redesigned roadway, but we have some concern over whether a 5 ft bike lane with a 3 ft buffer may be treated like an additional lane by aggressive drivers. Some sort of vertical buffer treatment (e.g. tubular markers, or flexible wands like those at the Westbrook St./Rt 295 exchange) would provide an extra measure of separation and comfort for less experienced people on bikes.
    2. We have concerns over the location of a bicycle lane to the right of lane where right turns are permitted. We generally prefer bike lanes to the left of right turn only lanes, or on street guidance (SLMs, advisory bike lane) that encourages bicyclists to take a more centered position in combined through/right turn lanes.  Although the proposed design puts bicyclists ahead of motor vehicles by using bike boxes, the bike lane is still to the right of the combined lane and such a configuration puts the bicycle rider in a position where right hook collisions are possible (see, for example, the proposed design of the bicycle lane at the intersection of Franklin and Cumberland). We recommend a loop sensor in the bike lane that would activate a sign reading “Turning Traffic Yield to Bicycles”.  “No Turn on Red Signs” should be posted all locations where bike boxes are used to prevent motorists from entering the bike boxes before the signal turns.  For a possible alternative treatment, see the PACTS Guide on “Bike Lane Transition Through Turn Lane”, page 44.
    3. We have reservations about the use of bicycle boxes at intersections, as it is not clear how the problem of vehicles proceeding as a rider attempts to enter the bike box just as a signal changes will be addressed. These bike boxes are also of no help for left turning bicyclists, as vehicular cyclists will use the left turn lanes and no cyclist should make a left turn from a right lane.  We wonder if two stage turn boxes (aka “queue boxes”) might be considered for less-confident cyclists who wish to make left turns.  “No Turn on Red Signs” should be posted all locations where bike boxes are used to prevent motorists from entering the bike boxes before the signal turns.
    4. The BCM welcomes any design that can safely separate bicycle traffic from motor vehicle traffic, which we feel will have the most utility to less-experienced and less-confident bicycle riders.
    5. We applaud the re-connection of streets throughout the corridor.

 

Public Comment Yarmouth: Feasibility of Bicycles in the Pratt’s Brook Park

By | Our Position

Summary Statement

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is the statewide organization working to make Maine better for bicycling and walking. After a site walk in the park on November 4, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine finds that there are no insurmountable design or construction problems in Pratt’s Brook Park that would preclude bicycles from using the park. We believe that the permitting the use is feasible, and would have multiple benefits to the town with manageable downsides.

General Observations

The Pratt’s Brook Park in Yarmouth is 220 acre park with 7 miles of trail open to walking and cross country skiing. The trails that were observed on a site walk on November 4—Moose, Raccoon, Bear and part of Deer– were primarily “double-track” trails that averaged about 10 feet wide, and appear to have been maintained with a tractor equipped with field (rather than turf) tires and a brush-hog mowing deck. Some of these trails, at least, appear to have originally been roads at one time. These trails were in generally good condition, and exhibited typical features of established “legacy” trails in this part of Maine—some root elevation, some wet spots, some fall-line alignments etc. Soils appeared to be loamy or clay like.
The park is currently closed to use by bicycles and ATVs. It is our understanding that the prohibition on these uses is a discretionary management policy.

Feasibility Considerations

In assessing the feasibility of opening Pratt’s Brook Park to bicycles, whether just to create a single off-road connection between Granite Street and North Road, or to permit use of the park trails in general, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine considered conditions and potential impacts on representative trails of the park trail system. In general, there appears to be no compelling resource protection reason to ban bicycles in this park. The trails are currently maintained with large motorized vehicles that have compacted the treadways of most of the trails without visible damage. Using bicycles on the trails, even with higher frequency, is unlikely to cause more damage than tractors running field tires. From a resource protection perspective, we do not believe that permitting bicycles on trails such as the ones we examined during the site walk would adversely impact the park. Similar trail systems open to bikes exist on similar landforms throughout the region, e.g. Pinelands.

Limited Resource Impacts

Any negative effects resulting from opening trails to bicycles would be limited to impacts in a few wet areas and possibly some fall-line trail segments. The wet areas identified on the site walk were limited in size and would be easily improved with some trail hardening (techniques for which Yarmouth has considerable expertise in as a result of the town’s work on the West Side Trail). We recommend some hardening of treadways whether the policy regarding bicycles is changed or not. We also recommend that fall-line sections that exceed 10-15% grades (e.g. the steep slope down the bridge on the Bear Trail) be rerouted with climbing turns to reduce damage from erosion, which is already occurring.

Limited User Conflicts

Given the width and straightness of some of the trails in Pratt’s Brook, some user conflicts caused by speeding riders may occur, but with signage and some changes in trail design, these conflicts can be minimized and managed. Furthermore, because the trails are generally wide and smooth, they will be most appealing to newer off-road riders, who are unlikely to be riding too fast, and less appealing to faster, high skilled riders who prefer more narrow and technical trails.

Other Considerations

Beyond the inherent feasibility of permitting and managing bicycles in Pratt’s Brook, there are additional compelling reasons for the town to consider a change in management policy to open the park to bikes. The terrain in Pratt’s Brook is ideal for families and newcomers to explore off-road riding, which is a fun, healthy activity that builds bicycle-handling competencies useful for utilitarian and recreational on road riding. Yarmouth is currently engaged with encouraging and supporting bicycle use in town; opening Pratt’s Brook would be consistent with that effort.
Opening the trails at Pratt’s Brook to bikes would also help to disperse some of the concentrated use of the West Side Trail and thereby help protect and preserve another important town open space resource. In its current state, however, we feel that Pratt’s Brook Park is unlikely to be an important destination for higher skilled, faster riders, who prefer more challenging trails, so we do not anticipate that there would be significant user conflicts from this group.

There is a great need for introductory trails in the area, and if Pratt’s Brook Park was open, it is likely that both the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Off Road Education Program and the local chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, Greater Portland NEMBA, would become available as an additional maintenance resources. These organizations could commit funds, tools, and volunteer time to help preserve and improve the riding conditions to the benefit of all users, and at reduced costs to the town.
Should the management policy on bikes in the park change, BCM would be willing to offer Yarmouth two “Cyclists Must Alert When Passing” signs to post on the Moose Trail, which appears to be the primary route between North Road and Berryfield Road. These signs could help kick start the education process for this new user group in the park.

Recommendations

    • Inventory all areas in the park that require hardening and plan to address wet spots, whether or not the park gets opened for bicycles.
    • Inventory all areas in the park where trail alignments are causing erosion, and plan to reroute to mitigate such problems, whether or not the park gets opened for bicycles.
    • Open the Moose Trail as an off-road connection between North Road and Berryfield Rd.
    • Open the trails to bicycles on an interim basis for one season to assess impacts.

Thank you.
James C. Tassé, PhD

Assistant Director
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
http://www.yarmouthcommunityservices.org/maps/Pratts%20Brook%20Ledger%20aerial%20b lend4-12-13.jpg

Leg Work: Walkability tour targets dangerous places for pedestrians

By | Coalition News

This article originally appeared on PressHerald.com
If you live in southern Maine, chances are you’ve driven on Route 302 through the middle of Bridgton. But I bet you never noticed what I saw on a recent walking tour of its downtown.
There are snazzy streetlamps that shed light into the heavens, rather than down on the ground. They do a great job of creating ambience, but fail at lighting the sidewalks. There are misaligned curb cuts and crosswalks that force pedestrians to go several steps out of their way to traverse Route 302 or, more likely, risk crossing outside of the marked area.

 Every town in Maine has dangerous places like those. I happened to be with 15 town officials and residents who were looking for them. The goal of our walk was to identify problems facing pedestrians and how they might be solved.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine organized this “walkability audit.” AARP Maine helps residents do similar surveys, with a broader focus on making communities age-friendly. Since 2014, the two groups have conducted surveys and forums on pedestrian issues in Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk, Saco, Sanford, Damariscotta, Bar Harbor, Bangor and Portland’s Munjoy Hill.
Read More

Public Comment: Yarmouth Route 1 Bridge Bike/Ped Accommodations

By | Our Position

Summary Statement

It is the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s position that the Town of Yarmouth’s proposed bicycle and pedestrian accommodations on the replacement Route 1 Bridge and adjacent roadways are warranted and will create major improvements in the safety and utility of this road segment for non-motorized vulnerable users.

The current conditions of Route 1 in this area of Yarmouth are neither human scale nor accommodating for bicycle or pedestrian usage. Shoulders do not exist on the bridge, which is narrow and required the Beth Condon Pathway to depart from the Route 1 ROW, where it currently terminates in a parking lot. This situation compromises the Path’s utility as a transportation facility for thru bicyclists. There are no sidewalks on this stretch of Route 1. Posted speed is 40, and traffic likely exceeds that limit regularly. The roadway does not feel in any way safe or inviting to bicycle or pedestrian use.
The proposed facilities for this stretch of roadway and bridge in the center of the town will address all of these deficiencies, and vastly improve the access, safety and comfort of non- motorized users.
It is the BCM’s position that the accommodations proposed by the Town of Yarmouth meet the bicycle and pedestrian needs of the residents of the town, as well as the principles of Complete Street design adopted by the MaineDOT (which the Town is also in the process of adopting locally). We urge you to approve their application.

Design Discussion

After some decades of decline, bicycle and pedestrian behavior is now again becoming more prevalent in the United States and Maine, and as result, it is important to anticipate and accommodate walking and biking in transportation projects that will impact and shape communities for the next 50-100 years. In particular, roadway transportation projects in the immediate vicinity of village areas, schools, neighborhoods and businesses should be designed with the expectation that users besides motor vehicle operators will be present, and should provide vulnerable users with safe and convenient access to public roadways. This line of thinking informs transportation planning from Federal Highway down to the local level, and is increasingly institutionalized in Complete Streets policies adopted by Maine towns and cities, as well as by the Maine Department of Transportation.

Project Comments

The replacement of the Route 1 Bridge in Yarmouth is a project squarely in the heart of the village. It is located at the juxtaposition of a classic New England Main Street and a commercial strip along Route 1, and is adjacent to residents, schools, businesses, restaurants, a library, the town offices and police station. Given the project’s location in the town center, the Town of Yarmouth is proposing to include approximately 1000 feet of multi use path and nearly 1700 feet of sidewalk to accommodate foot and bicycle traffic that will inevitably be present in this downtown area. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine has reviewed the application of the town and finds the facilities proposed are warranted and reasonable, and will address deficiencies in current conditions.

Thank you.
James C. Tassé, PhD
Assistant Director
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Reference File: Town of Yarmouth “TA APPL Rt One Bridge Ped Imp’s 11-6-15”