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City's safety improvement initiative steers toward finish


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The science and techniques used to keep bicyclists and walkers safe on the road have evolved in the six years since Columbus started work on its bike and pedestrian plan.

Now city officials and consultants are looking at places in Columbus where some of these modern techniques could help solve local transportation snarls.

About 20 people came out Wednesday night to learn what improvements are available and to give their thoughts on problem areas the city should address.

The Columbus bike and pedestrian plan was approved in 2010, but work started in 2007, city officials said.

 

In January, the city hired Rundell Ernstberger Associates LLC, of Indianapolis, for $72,212 to research and prepare a new version of the plan. Sprinkle Consulting, of Lutz, Fla., is assisting on the project.

The 2010 Columbus plan contained recommendations for several bike and pedestrian upgrades, including adding bike lanes, establishing bike routes with street markers, and expanding side paths and multi-use paths such as the People Trails, and more bike racks, said Rae-Leigh Stark, senior planner with the city-county planning department.

Among the new developments in biking and pedestrian safety presented by the consultants:

Buffered bike lanes set off from motor vehicles by several feet of marked roadway.

Contraflow bike lanes, which allow cyclists to ride against the flow of traffic.

Bicycle boulevards.

Pedestrian refuge islands which are raised paved platforms in the middle of crosswalks.

Speed humps and raised crosswalks.

Bike boxes, which are areas set aside at a stop light for bikers to queue in front of motor vehicles.

The consultants have completed initial field data collection in Columbus and used Wednesday’s workshop to gather public input for what needs improvement in the community.

Feedback

Jayne Farber, an attendee at the workshop and member of the Board of Public Works and Safety, asked about some of the bike-lane markers on the pavement, which have faded since they were first installed. City Engineer Dave Hayward said the originals were painted on the pavement, but those would be eventually be installed with longer-lasting thermoplastic once the plan becomes permanent.

Another participant commented that the pedestrian crosswalk signals in the city frequently change too quickly for some people to have time to cross the street. Kevin Osburn, a principal with Rundell Ernstberger, said the federal standards are changing, reducing the average walking speed for those calculations from 4 feet per second to 3.5 feet per second. He said that would help the aging population.

Beth Morris, an attendee, bicyclist and director of community health partnerships at Columbus Regional Hospital, said she thinks the city has a real problem with drivers who choose not to stop at mid-block crosswalks. She said she has seen drivers blow through the crosswalks behind the Cummins Inc. headquarters on Brown Street, even though they are marked and lit by flashing lights. Morris also suggested the city consider reverse-angle parking, where cars back into angled parking spaces, rather than backing out.

Near the end of Wednesday’s workshop, participants were each asked to post 10 sticky dots on large maps of the city, identifying problem areas for walking and biking. Results from the exercise will be compiled by the consultants and used in honing the final report.

A lot of “point-based” complaints were lodged by participants, indicating that

particular routes had good bicycling and pedestrian facilities to a point, but then those suddenly became unavailable, causing problems, Osburn said. Examples could include a particular block or stretch of street with needed improvements, he said.

The final version of the plan is due in September, but preliminary recommendations are scheduled for July. Another public workshop and input session will be conducted in August, but no date has been determined.

Peyton S. McLeod, a project planner with Sprinkle Consulting, said consultants have set the baseline for how good or bad things are currently for bicyclists and pedestrians in the community, but still need to pull together all of their data. Overall, Columbus seems to be doing well in cyclist and pedestrian amenities and is ahead of the curve on future plans, he said.

“There are bike lanes out there, there (is) plenty of sidewalk coverage. That is hopefully only going to get better,” McLeod said.

Osburn said he is not aware of many Indiana cities that have taken as deep of a look at pedestrian and cyclist safety as Columbus.

“I don’t think Indianapolis, the largest city in the state, has done a comprehensive level of service analysis for bicycling,” Osburn said.

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