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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 09:14 PM UTC

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Meet the Obscure Unelected Agencies Strangling Many U.S. Cities

Biking in the Metro Area[B' Spokes: Did you know that there is a vacant bicycling advocate position in our MPO? (or was last I checked) the significance of that is hinted at by the quote below. ]
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by Angie Schmitt

Do you know the name of your local Metropolitan Planning Organization or Council of Government? Most Americans don’t. In fact, most people probably have no idea these agencies even exist, let alone what they do. Yet they are surprisingly powerful and play a substantial role in shaping the places where we live and work.

Led by unelected boards, MPOs and COGs, as they’re known, are a special breed among government agencies. They lack the authority to issue taxes or impose laws. As such, they go largely unmentioned in the media and are mostly unknown to local residents, outside of the most wonkish circles. But the low profile of MPOs and COGs belies their considerable power.

Despite their limitations, they represent the strongest form of regional governance we’ve got in the United States, crossing city and county lines. More importantly, they disperse hundreds of millions of federal transportation dollars annually. MPOs and COGs are powerful forces shaping metro regions. While these agencies often distribute transportation funds more fairly than state DOTs, many of them are structured in a way that favors sprawl and undermines cities.
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[B' Spokes: CMAQ is one fund that our MPO has been highlighted as spending a big fat ZERO on bike/ped projects.]
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Teen Cyclist Hit on College Parkway

Biking in the Metro AreaA pick-up truck hit a 16-year-old boy on a bicycle on College Parkway near Pennington Lane around 3:31 p.m. Sunday. According to Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Steve Thompson, the teen was taken to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore with serious, but not life-threatening injuries.
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Boy Flown to Trauma Center after Edgemere Accident

Biking in the Metro Area[B' Spokes: So sad no one taught the kid to ride with traffic and not against traffic. ]
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By Ron Cassie
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"The child was riding northbound in the southbound of North Point Road on a bicycle," Batton said. "He was struck by a car in the southbound lane, driving southbound."

The boy suffered "very serious" injuries, Batton said, adding that no more information is available at this time.

The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene. Police investigators arrived on the scene and the investigation is ongoing, but no charges are expected to filed at this time, Batton said.
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Rash of Pedestrian, Bike Accidents in Last Week

Biking in the Metro AreaBy By Tim Lemk of Odenton Patch

Since July 9, county emergency crews have responded to at least five incidents involving a pedestrian or bicyclist struck by a moving vehicle.

Firefighters and police in Anne Arundel County have been busy in recent days responding to several incidents involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Here are five incidents just in the last 10 days. 

July 9 – A firefighter from Station 26 in Glen Burnie was hospitalized after being struck by a car while on the scene of a fire on Telegraph Road. Police are looking for the driver of a black Mercedes-Benz.

July 12 – Kara Micciche, 17, of Pasadena died after being struck by a car while crossing Ritchie Highway nearly the Earleigh Heights Fire Station in Severna Park. Another teen, 19-year-old Sean Snyder, remains hospitalized. The teens were reportedly not in the crosswalk. Police said they do not anticipate handing down charges on the driver.

July 13 – Robert Ashworth Brown died after being struck by a pickup truck near Montevideo Drive and Montevideo Road in Jessup. Charges are pending against the driver of the truck, Keith Edward Harrell of Jessup. Police said speed and alcohol may have played a role in the accident.

July 14 – Baltimore resident Alex Canales Hernandez, 25, was killed after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle on Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn Park. Police are looking for the driver of a black midsize sedan, possibly a Hyundai Sonata or similar vehicle.

Also on July 14, a Glen Burnie man was struck while riding his bicycle north on Crain Highway. Mario A. Garcia, 41, was taken to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and police are still searching for the driver of a small gray sedan, described as a white man with a beard wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a baseball cap.

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TAKE THE TEST

Biking in the Metro Area[B' Spokes: Some more great material from the Annapolis Department of Transportation (now if we could get the MVA to be even half this good.)]
1.     When making a right turn:

A. Look for young cyclists who may be using the sidewalk and crosswalk.
B. Check for pedestrians crossing the street.
C. Check to see if there are cyclists behind or on your right that may be going straight.
D. All of the above.

2.     Passing a cyclist is acceptable:

A. Whenever you need to keep up your speed.
B. When you are in a hurry.
C. When you are sure that there is ample space between you and the cyclist and there are no blind spots or dangers by moving over to allow safe passage.
D. When the bicyclist is going slower than you are.

3.     You must be extra vigilant of cyclists when:

A. Opening your car door after parking on the road.
B. Backing in and out of driveway.
C. Making left and right hand turns.
D. All of the above.

4.     When making a left turn:

A. You can always be faster than a cyclist so you don’t have to be so concerned about the potential cyclist approaching since a cyclist man power is no match for your horse power.
B. Make sure you can see into the distance to make sure no motorists or cyclist are in a close proximity and never assume you can turn faster than an approaching cyclist.
C. Just make sure no cars are approaching.
D. It is safe to go when the light permits.

5.     A good response when you witness a cyclist making a traffic error

A. Honk your horn.
B. Hate all cyclists for the rest of your life.
C. Realize that this individual made a mistake and not make blanket assumptions on the cycling community at large.
D. Run them off the road to teach them a lesson about disrespect.

True or False:

6.     True or False: Cyclists are allowed to ride in the flow of traffic.

7.     True or False: It is customary to honk at cyclists to let them know you’re approaching.

8.     True or False: Cyclists have the same rights to the road and motorists and must adhere to the same road rules.

9.     True or False: Cyclists must hug the right side of the road, be in a bike lane or be on bike paths at all times.

10.   True or False: Cyclists are a menace to motorists.
 
Answer Key [you'll need to follow the link for that.]
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SHARROW [Good and bad advice.]

Biking in the Metro Area[B' Spokes: Sharrows are used when there is not enough space for a bike lane, sometimes sharrows can create a quasi safe place for riding side by side with motoring traffic and sometimes not. But it is noteworthy to point out that in Maryland sharrows are used on roadways where it is legal for a cyclist to use a whole lane. So use your best judgment, avoid the door zone of parked cars which means avoid the sharrows as well (if minimal guidance is followed, which it usually is, see pic)
image by Dan Gutierrez

So without further ado here is the City of Annapolis' take on sharrows (but major kudos for being the first government agency to try to get at least this much info out there):

What does a SHARROW mean for motorists and bicyclists?

Motorists

  • Expect to see bicyclists on the street
  • Remember to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing
  • Follow the rules of the road as if there were no SHARROW

Bicyclists

  • Use the SHARROW to guide where you ride within the right hand side of the lane and with the direction of traffic
  • Remember not to ride too close to parked cars
  • Follow the rules of the road as if there were no SHARROW

SHARROW diagram

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Encourage bicycle travel with more dedicated lanes

Biking in the Metro AreaI am a member of the Boy Scouts of America, and I am writing to you about how Columbia should advance its pathway system. We have a great community, and far better pathways than most cities, but the cycling community is growing, and it would be beneficial to Columbia to add more places for bicycles to travel.

Gas prices are going through the roof, and more people who have relatively close jobs are switching to biking to work. Other countries have made cycling one of the main modes of transportation, and it is working very well. We need to start making that switch for ourselves. With the increased number of cyclists, we should have more paths by the roads or, for road cyclists, a bike lane on the shoulder.

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COEXIST – GIVE/GET RESPECT

Biking in the Metro Area

Encouraging motorists and bicyclists to share the road
Sponsored by the Annapolis Police Department and the Department of Transportation

The Give/Get Respect campaign educates motorists and bicyclists in the City of Annapolis on how to participate in proper road conduct. Choosing a bicycle for transportation is a great idea and it has never been more important to learn to share the road. Promoting calmer, safer, more respectful behavior by all road users in the City of Annapolis is an important part of the City’s ongoing campaign for safer streets and more livable neighborhoods.

The key messages of the campaign are as follows:

  1. Reminding motorists to leave at least 3 feet of space when passing bicyclists, and to pass slowly and carefully.
  2. Reminding bicyclists to ride predictably in the roadway and ride with traffic, not against it.
  3. Reminding motorists to check their side mirrors for approaching bicyclists before opening their car doors after parking.
  4. Reminding bicyclists to ride at least 3 feet outside of the dangerous door zone - the area just next to parked cars, where doors can suddenly and dangerously fly open.
  5. Reminding motorists that blocking a bike lane or SHARROW is illegal and forces bicyclists to swerve into moving traffic.
  6. Reminding bicyclists to yield to pedestrians and stay off the sidewalks.

The three goals of the Give Respect Get Respect campaign:

  • Educate motorists to share the road — and give cyclists the space we deserve.
  • Educate cyclists not to ride on the sidewalk, ride in the direction of traffic, not to ride in a way that threatens pedestrians.
  • Educate Police Officers about the laws that protect cyclists.

Give/Get events will happen several times a year. The Department of Transportation joins with City police officers to educate cyclists and motorists about proper conduct on the road.

Police Officers hand out information to motorists detailing activities that endanger cyclists, and pass out multi-lingual educational flyers to educate cyclists. The first of these events for 2010 occurred on Wednesday May 19th at the intersection of Bay Ridge Avenue and Madison Street/Eastport Shopping Center. Over 700 flyers were handed out to motorists and cyclists. Further events will be scheduled, stay tuned for upcoming locations.

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Annapolis Bicycle Master Plan - July 20

Biking in the Metro AreaSince the May 26 kickoff, the City of Annapolis Bicycle Master Plan, Toole Design Group and the Steering Committee have been hard at work. The public meetings and the community walk website generated more than 500 public comments, all of which have guided the master plan process to create a long-lasting bicycle transportation program.

Now is the chance to make sure that the master plan has covered all of your needs and those of your community.

A public open house, including a presentation of the draft plan, will take place at the Roger W. "Pip" Moyer Recreation Center, 273 Hilltop Lane, between 4 and 8 p.m. July 20. The presentation will take place at 6 p.m.

The public is urged to come out and review the DRAFT Plan Recommendations including:

* Bicycle network maps.
* Early action priorities.
* Programs and policies.
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Annapolis, Maryland calls in outside bike planner

Biking in the Metro AreaBike Radar Has a nice article about the development of Annapolis' Bike Master Plan but I would like to take a moment to contrast what good planning considers as an economical and viable Enhancements to our road network to include comfortable accommodations for bicyclists versus what the State will spend Enchantment funds on.

First form the article:

“The biggest challenge is something you see everywhere and that is funding. As a country we don’t do a great job of funding that type of transportation.”

Instead the funding often is part of other projects, and TDG is looking to include bicycle paths, bike lanes and other improvements in those other projects. “We have to look at capital improvements and resurfacing and include bicycle paths into those.” Cruse says, “It is just hard to make it about bikes unless it is part of a larger project.
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Maryland with $31 million available in just Transportation Enhancement funds that could go to projects like those described makes the following ADDITIONAL requirements over and above the federal requirements: From Maryland's Transportation Enchantment Program Eligibility:

[Must] Be independent projects unrelated to planned or existing highway projects or routine highway improvements [such as resurfacing].
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I sympathize with Toole Design Group {TDG) as they work all over the country and Maryland is certainly the odd man out when it comes to following the recommended federal policy but I really have to question MDOT on it's policies of accommodating bicyclists any time SHA adds accommodations for bicyclists it's ALWAYS related to planned highway projects and NEVER a stand alone project. So why is MDOT putting this requirement on the localities?

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