Friday, April 29, 2011

Bicycle Shorts

In late March, drivers who use the Ballard Bridge to cross the Seattle Ship Canal were treated to an extra hour to enjoy their morning radio show, thanks to Seattle Public Utilities and the Seattle Department of Transportation.

A contractor working on a sewer project missed his morning deadline and kept one of the two southbound traffic lanes closed well into the morning commute. Bicycle traffic was unaffected. The resulting gridlock stretched into the Ballard and Fremont neighborhoods and effectively closed the surface streets to traffic for as much as an hour and a half.

Much of the problem might have been attributable to the City of Seattle’s “road diet” program, which consists of taking vehicle lanes away from major freight corridors and arterials, including those which serve as “alternate routes,” and reassigning them as bicycle lanes.

Rick Sheridan, Communications Manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation claims that the removal of 50 percent of the vehicle lanes “doesn’t reduce capacity,” and says this is the official line of the City of Seattle. The City bases this belief on a study, conducted by the City after the fact to justify the program, which is championed by avid bicyclist Mayor Mike McGinn.

Another bridge, another port. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) has proposed several safety recommendations for bicyclists using the Golden Gate Bridge, including a 10 mph speed limit (5 mph around the Bridge towers and in construction and maintenance zones), a fine schedule of $100 per offense and a prohibition on bicycles whose seat exceeds four feet in height above the ground, and a prohibition against unicycles. Apparently the unicycle and velocipede lobby lost that battle.

As part of the Golden Gate Bridge Seismic Retrofit Construction Project, GGBHTD will be temporarily closing the Golden Gate Bridge sidewalks, one sidewalk at a time. According to GGBHTD, the west sidewalk will close on Monday, May 9 and remain closed for a 4-month period. During this time, bicycles and pedestrians will share the east sidewalk, and the GGBHTD has determined that bicyclists will have access 24 hours/day, while pedestrians have access sunrise to sunset.

If a bicyclist gets a flat tire halfway across the bridge after dark, suddenly becoming a pedestrian, will he be required to wait until sunrise to complete his journey?

Another port, more bicycles. California contributing editor Keith Higginbotham says California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer told maritime industry representatives last week that the California budget situation could affect a major bridge replacement project underway at the Port of Long Beach.

Lockyear, appearing as the keynote speaker at a Pacific Merchant Shipping Association annual luncheon in Long Beach, said that until the state budget for the coming fiscal year is approved by the state legislature, he can not issue bonds to cover the more than $250 million in state funds promised for the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project in Long Beach. Lockyear told the assembled businessmen that until the budget is approved, which is required under the state constitution by June 15, projects like the Gerald Desmond Bridge would remain on what he described as the state’s “wish list” of projects to fund.

In designing the new structure, Caltrans and the Port have asked the design-build teams to include plans and cost estimates for a bikeway to be incorporated into the design. Perhaps this would be a good time to ask the bicycle advocates in the Long Beach area to contribute some money to the cause.