James Davenport Transportion (Past, Present and Future)

26Mar/20Off

Why do I miss Biking-to-Work?

Given the current situation, you would expect me to write something about telework, right? Don’t I promote TDM to employers along the I-66 corridor, during construction on I-66 outside the beltway, as a major part of my job?

Yes, I do, however, I won’t be talking about that today. Besides, I’ve written enough about telework, and Veronica did a great job covering that subject last week in Making Telework Work. (Btw: don’t hesitate contacting me at 571-402-4313 if you have any questions about the Transform 66 telework subsidies. J )

No, I want to reminisce about jaunts on my bike as we are being encouraged to stay inside and practice social distancing if you do go out. I am referring more specifically to riding my bike on my commute to work. I saw MWCOG Commuter Connection’s latest  promotion of Bike-to-Work day which is scheduled for May 15, 2020. It made me realize how much I miss biking to work.

Strange I would be thinking about that since very few people are going to their office or place of work right now. Well, Bike-to-Work 2020 is less than two months away and I’m recalling the days I rode into work and participated in some of the early Bike to Work events in the mid ‘90s. (Oops! I inadvertently told you how long I have been living and working in the D.C. metro area.)

I know Bike-to-Work 2020 may be postponed, but since I haven’t ridden my bike to work in a long time, it got me thinking how much I miss it.

I won’t go into why I don’t ride to work currently, but when I worked downtown, I used to ride to work from Arlington, VA, during the summer months, though not every day. Yes, many of you hardcore bike-to-work commuters would scoff at riding only a few days a week, but I really enjoyed doing it when I felt it was right for me. During the day I felt refreshed and invigorated. It helped that I had access to a shower, of course. I would not have done it without one in consideration of my office mates. JJ

In a small way I thought I was doing my part to help sustain our environment while I was saving money on either gas, wear and tear on my car, or not having to pay metro fare. The thing I missed the most is the feeling of accomplishment. None of us like to admit it, but we do have days when we feel like we didn’t accomplish very much. Well, when I rode my bike into work, I felt like I accomplished something right away. It gave me a boost taking on the various challenges that the workday would throw at me.

I found my ride into work to be somewhat therapeutic, especially when my excursion led me along the Potomac River on a bright sunny morning. I don’t think you can do this anymore, but one of my routes took me through Ft. Myer and the Arlington Cemetery. I looked at it as my way of paying respect to those who fought for our country, and in many cases paid a dear price for our freedom. My route would also take me by the Jefferson Memorial, and sometimes past the Great Awakening at Haines Point when I felt frisky enough to ride a few extra miles. Sad to say, the Great Awakening is no longer there.

When I first started riding to work, I would cross the Memorial Bridge and ride past many of the tourist attractions we are familiar with including the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting pool. In fact, it was there that I remember hearing one of the most bizarre comments from a tourist I had ever heard. She said, “This is where Forest Gump was.” Sigh. Not quite how I envisioned why someone should remember the Lincoln Memorial.

As I rode along the Mall to the office, I saw the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capital, and, of course, I would sometimes take a jaunt to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms when they were in bloom. These are landmarks that most people see only a few times in their lifetime, if at all. I was seeing them up-close and personal all the time on my regular rides into work.

Flash-forward to today when experts are encouraging us not to go to our place of work, or anywhere at all, unless absolutely necessary. Well, there is no reason you can’t get out on your bike and go for a quick spin during the day, making sure you get your appropriate allotment of work hours in for the day, of course. You can bike alone or with a few friends. This is especially important when your gym may be inaccessible. If you don’t like to bike, go out and jog for a mile or two, or go out for a brisk walk. Just get outside and get some fresh air!

I had to admit I was feeling like I was in some sort of a funk over the past few days. But I got out on my bike this past Sunday, and it felt like I was alive and free for a couple of hours. It was great just to get some fresh air and not hear the constant barrage of bad news about the Coronavirus! Please check out what the CDC recommends regarding outdoor exercise during the coronavirus.

So, my recommendation to you is get some fresh air and consider signing up for Bike-to-Work day. Could be a good first step! Even if they do postpone or cancel the event, simply signing-up is a sign of commitment to biking and/or getting some exercise. Who knows, you may see me at one of the Pit Stops. But first I must figure out the best route to get to VDOT in Fairfax, VA, from my home in Arlington. In the meantime, stay safe everyone.

 

Why do I miss Biking-to-Work?

 

 

22Aug/19Off

The Galapagos Islands and Climate Change (Small Actions Matter)

Have you ever heard the phrase, “every little bit helps?” It is a shame there are things we want to accomplish but we get discouraged because certain goals seem insurmountable. We may not realize that some of the things we already do may help reach that goal.  For instance, I got back from a trip to Galapagos Islands a few months ago. And as I was thinking about the trip, it occurred to me that the Galapagos Islands are like a naturalist paradise. As we make commitments to address climate change (big or small), we are moving closer to the goal of reaching a naturalist paradise of our own.

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In looking as something as insurmountable as resolving climate change, it’s always a good idea to break a goal down to various phases or parts and strive toward intermediate steps of success. Even if solving climate change seems to be unrealistic, the various steps one can take to help reach that goal is not unrealistic.

One good example of this in the transportation world is  the “Vision Zero” campaign. I remember when it was called “Toward Zero Death” way back when. The idea is to set a goal of achieving no traffic fatalities and serious injuries from car crashes over a certain number of years. One’s first reaction is that it is an unattainable goal. OK, but then you tell me if there is a group of people whose life we can accept losing on the highway or local streets, since this goal is so “unattainable?” Could that be your wife/husband or significant other, child, parent, good friend, even an acquaintance? You can’t really identify someone to fit into that particular group. So we set about working with key partners and stakeholders to redesign dangerous intersections, install traffic calming devices such as roundabouts, reduce the speed limit, install pedestrian road crossings, etc. We may not reach the ultimate goal but we will probably see success in reducing traffic fatalities.

Again, the Galapagos Islands are a place where humans and animals live mostly in perfect harmony in the natural environment. If that is the ultimate goal of completely addressing the impacts of climate change, any steps toward doing that is well worth it.

My trip to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador in South America, was in the early part of May, 2019. We visited the islands of North Seymour, Bartolome, Rabida, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, and Santa Crua. I was excited to see many species of plants and animals and had various opportunities to see them both on land and in the water. I will also say that some of the islands had very little transportation infrastructure, if any at all. In other words, I didn’t experience any rush hour unless you count the group of Orcas we saw one morning as we crossed the equator on the fourth day of our trip.

 

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I went on this trip with my sisters Virginia and Karen and my brother-in-law Stephen. I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised with the sights and the activities of this trip, and will always remember it. We were able to witness nature whether from a shoreline tour on a zodiac boat, snorkeling along some of the inlets, doing a short hike along some of the natural trails and beaches or kayaking along the shores. One thing I like about traveling is being able to share my experiences with friends and colleagues. And boy did I take many pictures.

I won’t kid you, Galapagos has had its own issues in the past in which humans have introduced invasive species that have threatened the islands. But many foresighted naturalists and scientists have been able to mitigate some of those impacts, preserve the Islands and closely manage human interaction through limited tours. The wildlife is so used to visitors they don’t view humans as a threat and rarely scatter when you approach them. Nothing like being up-close and personal with a Blue Footed Boobie. Or a Sea Lion.

In fact, when we arrived at the hotel in Guayaquill, Ecuador and as we were about to take the trip from Ecuador to the islands, we were issued a transit control card. This card was given to all of us and was issued by the Government Council for Galapagos as a measure towards “sustainable human development and conservation of the Galapagos Islands.” I looked at the card as similar to a permit to enjoy the entire this natural paradise while at the same time maintaining its integrity and natural beauty.

What can this trip teach us about the importance of climate change? Whether you believe in the impacts of human behavior on climate or not, any action you take or day-to-day practice you follow that helps reduce the carbon footprint is a good thing. It surely doesn’t hurt.

Now, I am not pushing major policies, such as Cap and Trade, that are being hotly debated right now. It is clear to me we will have to make critical decisions in the future and we need to understand what are the ramifications of action and inaction in addressing climate change.

For the sake of this blog, I just want to point out that you yourself may already be doing your part in addressing climate change. Whether you carpool to work over driving alone, or compost food scraps instead of throwing it out into a landfill, recycle cans and bottles, walk to the store instead of drive, we are all doing our share to maintain natural integrity of our environment as best we can. Can we reach the ultimate goal of a Galapagos Islands in your neighborhood? Of course not, but in these actions, we are doing our small part in making the world a little more sustainable and a little more pleasant to live. We are helping to preserve our environment for future generations.

By the way, my favorite part of the trip was the last day when we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station, located near Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, to see the big turtles.

We went to the center not only for the big turtles, but to see how the station raises young giant tortoises and then releases them into the wild. We saw some of the small turtles in their pens. This program is run in conjunction with the Galapagos Park Service. Since 1970, more than 2,000 tortoises have been hatched, raised and released. Later we went to a nature preserve in Puerto Ayora and were able to see the large turtles in their natural habitat. Again, we were able to be with the turtles, up-close and personal.

 

Written by nspiregreen on August 21.

 

 

 

9Oct/17Off

What Are the Benefits of Children Walking to School?

Quite a bit has been made these days of the increasing obesity in children. The rate of type 2 diabetes has increased and parents, elected leaders and health officials are trying to come up with various causes of this epidemic and some potential solutions.

One common cause is the fact that children simply are not getting enough exercise. They are staying inside too much playing computer games or watching TV. The question, though, is how to encourage kids to exercise more; how to instill in them the desire to get outside and exercise.

One idea is to provide the opportunity for kids to walk, or bike, to school. It may seem like a strange idea to some of you, especially if you grew up in the 80s or 90s when, in most cases, your parents drove you to school or you took a school bus. In fact, I've heard stories of parents driving their children to school even if the school is only a few hundred feet away or simply across the street. Parents say it is a safety issue; they don't feel comfortable with their children crossing a busy road unaccompanied. I can understand that. There is also the chance of the horrible instance in which children are abducted or kidnapped.

I remember when I was a child growing up in Newport News, VA in the mid 60s. We lived in a neighborhood at the time that was relatively undeveloped and I walked to school, usually with a companion, which was a mile away. At that time nobody thought I was in any particular danger or vulnerable to any type of malevolent strangers. Maybe some precautions should have been taken, I don't know.

Why is this a planning or transportation issue? Well a part of the Transportation Act - The Safe Affordable Flexible Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU) - created the Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in August of 2005. By the following year, most States had established full-time State SRTS Coordinator positions. This led to the opportunity for states to create and put forth an evaluation program that would provide State SRTS Coordinators standardized school travel data collection forms and a centralized data management system.

Soon after the establishment of the Federal SRTS Program, in 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School launched a data collection system to support and evaluate local program planning  and to monitor student commute patterns nationwide. Seven years after the start of the Federal program, the National Center analyzed more than 525,000 parent surveys from nearly 4,700 schools to look for changes in travel patterns and parent perceptions about walking to school. A full report, Trends in Walking and Bicycling to School from 2007 to 2012, reviews the findings from these surveys. www.saferoutesinfo.org. Some key findings over that period include:

  • The percentage of parents who stated that their child's school supported walking and bicycling between home and school increased from 24.9 to 33 percent.
  • Students attending low-income schools were the most likely to walk to/from school, whereas students attending high-income schools (defined as enrolling fewer than 40 percent of students who were eligible to receive free or reduced price meals) were the most likely to bicycle to/from school.
  • Walking to and from school increased significantly. From 12.4% to 15.7% in the morning; and from 15.8% to 19.7% in the afternoon.

Overall, the study recommended that communities, schools, and parents not only support kids walking and bicycling to school but help publicize the effort and establish innovative ways to allow parents and/or adults to monitor/chaperone kids in their walk to school.

One particular successful program resides in Champaign and Urbana IL. Champaign and Urbana Safe Routes to School Project (C-U SRTS Project) started approximately ten years ago. C-U SRTS Project is an organization with representatives from the

  • CU Mass Transit District,
  • Champaign County Regional Planning Commission,
  • CU Public Health District,
  • Urbana and Champaign planning, engineering and law enforcement agencies,
  • Champaign County Bikes,
  • Urbana and Champaign School Districts,
  • Individual educators, parents, and community members.

The project came about after four years of organizing Walk & Bike to School Day in Champaign and Urbana schools and stakeholders deciding that there was more that could be done to educate the community on pedestrian and bicycle safety issues.

Rebecca P. Nathanson served as a planner for the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District. The district has established safe route to school plans for a number of elementary schools in the district and a number of promotional activities include bike to school day, bike on bus, etc. According to Ms. Nathanson, "it is important that people in the community are encouraged to drive less and feel comfortable in letting their children walk or bike to school."

Planning such a program encompasses the 3Es approach to program success:

  • Enforcement - Working closely with the police department
  • Engineering - It is important that the infrastructure be in place for such a program. Principles behind Complete Street programs are a good starting point.
  • Evaluation - Collecting data results from the parents and engaging them in the program.

The key is to have volunteer parents, PTA members and even college students serve as chaperones to accompany the children when they bike or walk to school

Ms. Nathanson further explains that the PedNet  Coalition is the leading model for Walking School Bus Programs. Walking School Bus is a program in which a group of children walk to and from school under adult supervision, and funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health. "We worked with one of their staff to help design ours in Urbana.  The program served one school, Leal Elementary, in the pilot, but we are hoping to expand to two additional schools this fall of 2014."

Additionally "there was some resistance to the C-U SRTS Project and some schools were more difficult to engage into the program. You need champion (s) who know the community and are able to provide leadership in promoting a change in thinking."

Success in safe routes to school is not exclusive to the Champaign Urbana area. National Safe Routes to School in 2010 reported as follows.

In Alpine UT, Alpine Elementary saw a reduction of morning traffic at the school by 59 vehicles.  In Boulder CO, they experienced a 36% reduction in traffic at the Bear Creek elementary school. Atlanta GA's Oak Grove Elementary School witnessed a 10% reduction in student drop-off traffic at school. Longmont CO Eagle Crest Elementary saw a 40% reduction in traffic and 60% reduction in students arriving to school by car. Other results and more detail behind some of these success stories are available at the SRTS Evaluation Guide http://guide.saferoutesinfo.org/evaluation/index.cfm

The big issue, of course, is money. These programs are supported quite a bit through federal grants and there is no guarantee that money will continue. Communities have to decide if it is worth the money and the time to plan and implement these programs. From my personal experience, I believe the students who participate in a SRTS program would benefit now and potentially later in life.  Their experience of walking or biking to school can stay with them as they learn to live a more healthy and sustainable life. It will take some effort and a serious reconsideration of priorities for the future but communities can integrate these programs any way they want. It takes a little motivation and, as always, a champion to support and promote the effort.

I want to thank Rebecca P. Nathanson for her thoughts behind the C-U SRTS Project and some of the statistics for this blog.  More information is available at www.cu-srtsproject.com.

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