GetAbout Columbia officials optimistic about program's future

Saturday, January 3, 2009 | 9:41 p.m. CST; updated 10:30 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 3, 2009
A bicyclist rides past a "sharrow" painted on Ninth Street near Kaldi Coffeehouse in Columbia. The sharrows are symbols painted on the roadway to alert motorists that the road is shared with bicyclists.

COLUMBIA — In the summer of 2005, the hard work of city officials and Columbia biking enthusiasts paid off in the form of a $22 million grant from the federal government to see if nonmotorized transportation could work on a citywide scale. The announcement was met with excitement and high expectations of just how quickly the grant would translate into tangible changes.

Three and a half years later, however, GetAbout Columbia has fewer years left — two — than actual trails constructed, which is zero.


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The first few years of the pilot project have featured lessons learned about the program and deciphering the bureaucratic triangle of the city, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the federal government.

City council members and city staffers say they regret the program’s pace. Some blame the bureaucracies; others say the process of designing a project and implementing the idea just takes time. A restart of the program would see more people involved earlier and an altered plan.

Some progress has been made. GetAbout Columbia has gained community recognition, and the city’s limited results have shown positive changes in behavior.

This is where the city finds itself with GetAbout Columbia less than two years before the city presents its final report to Congress: No trails constructed, intersection construction beginning and officials worried a major change in the way Columbia travels might not be visible by 2010. As a result, officials are trying to conjure up new ways to measure evidence of progress.

“You’re always optimistic about how much you can get done,” GetAbout Columbia manager Ted Curtis said. “I think we’ve been going as quickly as we can, even though it seems like it’s taking forever.”

When Columbia received the federal grant in July 2005, Mayor Darwin Hindman envisioned people riding their bikes daily on the newly constructed trails and intersection construction well on its way by late 2008.

“All of those things I would have hoped would have been done by now,” Hindman said. “I understand why they haven’t been. I am pleased that some of these projects are actually going forward.”


An 'arduous and long process'

Hindman is not alone in his frustration with the pace of the program.

“It's been an arduous and long process,” said Dan Smith, GetAbout Columbia programming subcommittee chairperson and executive committee member.

The bureaucracies involved have slowed the program, Hindman said. The money is administered from the federal government to the state to the organization.

Once the organization issues a contract for work, it has to be approved by the state transportation department and the federal government, said John Riddick, GetAbout Columbia executive committee member. Almost anything of value has to be approved by all parties involved.

“It’s a huge process that it has to go through,” Riddick said.

Curtis said the design-to-implementation process takes time regardless of how many bureaucracies have a say.

To help the process, Gabe Rousseau, bicycle and pedestrian program manager with the Federal Highway Administration, leads biweekly teleconferences with the federal pilot programs in Columbia and three other parts of the country.

Columbia’s specific plan has differed somewhat from the other three. The plan to get more people using nonmotorized transportation, Curtis said, began with the hope of creating awareness and understanding of the program. For the promotion and education aspect of the pilot project, the city hired Vangel Marketing, which created GetAbout’s Web site. GetAbout Columbia also works with organizations like PedNet in promoting biking and GetAbout Columbia’s efforts.

“It doesn’t matter if you have these facilities if you can’t encourage folks to change their ways and get out of the car,” Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said.

In total, GetAbout Columbia has $3.4 million budgeted for promotion, education and its downtown office, about 15 percent of the grant.

“That’s higher than any of the other pilots are doing,” said Curtis about the other three pilot programs in Marin County, Calif., Minneapolis, Minn., and Sheboygan County, Wisc.

Initially, staff also started chipping away on the expensive, slow-moving infrastructure projects, a strategy Curtis wishes he could tweak. Engineering firms in St. Louis and Kansas City conducted study after study, and workers designed possible plans for street marking and bike parking.

“We didn’t see much, and people didn’t see much happening,” Smith said, “and I think there was this concern from citizens that we had this money, but what were we doing with it?”

If Curtis could do it over again, he said, he’d give the community more information on trail standards — if a trail should be asphalt, concrete, gravel or a combination. He’d also push forward the on-street markings that should connect the city when the project is completed.

“It will be a real showcase to how we get people around," Curtis said of the about 100 miles of markings that will be completed by 2010.

A little more than $2 million has been budgeted to pay companies to mark the streets for bike parking and other bike-related symbols.

The trail standards have often become controversial and still haven't been resolved. Curtis said the Columbia City Council has decided that it needs more time to discuss trail standards and will do so at its spring retreat.

Skala said he also would have liked the program to talk with neighborhood associations and other citizens about their concerns earlier in the process.

Navigating the challenges

When the pilot project started, Skala said, little explanation about the project was given to members of the council and then city staff generated a proposal for the project. Changes started coming when the composition of the council changed in the April 2007 election, Skala said.

“This city council is a little different,” he said. “We want to know what that generation is all about and what the folks think about it initially.”

Lack of communication has prompted other problems for the project as well, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said.

When engineering firms gather data about an area, they survey the land first by placing flags around the area. Wade said citizens in his ward have come up to him thinking the bulldozers were right around the corner.

“They’re learning, and I think they’re doing a better job in engaging with those that are directly affected,” Wade said of the GetAbout Columbia staff.

Kip Kendrick, president of the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association, said working with Curtis and other GetAbout Columbia staff has been exciting.

“They seem very open to working with the public, especially with our neighborhood and the Stephens neighborhood,” Kendrick said. “It’s just nice to hear that they’re willing to have neighborhood input.”

But talking with citizens also adds to the time it takes for projects to be completed. “All of these things that are connected with the democracy make it take time,” Hindman said.

The staff have also learned how to navigate through the bureaucracies at a quicker pace. Each project has to go through the same steps to be approved and takes about the same amount of time to be approved, Hindman said, regardless of its size. So the staff has started packaging smaller items as a large project rather than each small trail on an individual basis, Hindman said.

In total, $1.6 million is budgeted for planning, management and in-house design, including the planning and designing of bike lanes, bike routes and bike parking.

Along with the lessons learned, recent progress includes the beginning of construction on several intersections to make them more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, along with council approval of plans for at least three biking and walking trails. About a third of the on-street markings have also been finished.

Curtis said the project is heading to stage three of the experiment — getting more people riding bicycles or walking instead of filling the gas tank.

“We can build something. That’s easy. It’s a process,” Curtis said. “Getting people to change their behavior is probably the hardest thing in the world.”

The success of Columbia’s pilot program depends largely on whether enough people leave their cars parked. Peer pressure could help, much like it does when someone is trying to quit smoking.

“A car’s pretty addicting,” Curtis said. He also thinks an unwillingness to pay for fuel, worries about the environment and concern about personal health should increase the pilot project's chances.

Hoping for the best

 By the end of 2009, Curtis said, three intersection improvements — Forum and Providence, Stadium and Providence and Stewart and Providence — should be finished. About 90 miles of the on-street marking and parking should be painted. The Providence South Trail and Hominy Creek Trail should be completed, and crews should have at least started building the County House Branch Trail.

All trails and sidewalk projects — 56 percent of the budget, $12.3 million — are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.

After that, it’s up to Congress whether more earmarked money comes Columbia’s way.

In 2005, Congress earmarked $100 million to the four communities to prove nonmotorized transportation could be successful on a city-wide scale. The money was passed in a federal transportation bill that expires in 2010.

The goal for the next transportation bill, likely to be renewed in 2011, is to have 40 communities receive $60 million instead of four receiving $22 million, said Ian Thomas, PedNet’s executive director.

“We would obviously hope very much that Columbia would be one of the 40 communities,” Thomas said.

PedNet and other bicycle advocacy organizations have been writing to members of Congress asking for more funds, telling them the program has been working thus far.

Because Columbia officials are worried a big switch to bikes and walking might not be here by 2010, they, along with the other pilot programs, have been tracking progress through other routes.

“Everybody realizes this is too short of a time to see a major shift,” Curtis said.

For example, there were 5,000 bikes on city buses in 2007. In 2008, city officials saw at least 8,000 bikes. At least 133 people have taken the Confident City Cycling course through PedNet, which signed a $600,000 18-month contract that expires in April and plans to negotiate a new contract in January.

PedNet and MU conduct quarterly counts of bicyclists at six Columbia intersections. GetAbout Columbia also has installed mechanical counters at locations around town to track the number of bicyclists.

"I still think we got a ways to go," Curtis said of building a critical mass of people needed to see a change in transportation habits.

With an incoming presidential administration planning to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure, Skala likes Columbia’s chances of landing more federal funds.

“It depends how much money we have left once we’ve bailed everybody out,” Skala said. “I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job with the money we’ve been given.”

The first visible altering of landscape is scheduled for this month, Curtis said. Construction is scheduled to start in January on three of the five intersection projects.

About $2.6 million, or almost 12 percent of the $22 million federal grant, has been budgeted for those improvements. The city of Columbia also plans to fund the makeover of the Broadway and Old 63 intersection.

In Portland, the model city for Columbia, Curtis said, building the infrastructure took about 10 years, and the next five years saw more change each year.

But Columbia doesn’t have 10 or 15 years to show Congress evidence that the grant is leading to more nonmotorized transportation.

Its final report is due to Congress by Sept. 30, 2010.

“I’m confident that we’ll see results,” Hindman said. “The rest of the country is watching to see how we do.”

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Cantor Billows January 4, 2009 | 2:00 a.m.

GetAboutColumbia has been a huge disappointment.

What real changes have we seen? The new bike lanes are a victory and credit is due. But "improving" intersections and proposing to build trails, not to mention spurious bike safety classes which by my count cost a ridiculous $4500 per "student" (600K / 133) are little more than window dressing.

Come on, who are you kidding?

Most of the proposals I've seen do not not address the FUNDAMENTAL INFRASTRUCTURAL PROBLEMS which stand in the way of providing safe, alternative modes of transportation in Columbia.

What we need are real transportation solutions.

The answer is painfully simple: MORE BIKE LANES in town and SHOULDERS on major biking arteries in and out of town.

So I ask:

Why so many studies when all we need is a few feet of extra pavement on the side of the road?

Why do so many of your projects entail removing bikes from traffic (the famous path / sidewalk solution) when all this does is increase travel time without reducing risks (e.g. blind driveways, turning cars, etc.)?

Why do we continue to build enclave subdivisions without making corresponding changes to the traffic infrastructure? (widen roads).

Why, to this day, are there no safe bike routes between many "older" neighborhoods and downtown? Benton-Stephens -- one of the closest -- is still not safely accessible, a glaring indictment and ample evidence that the first 22mil has, so far, left us with our wheels spinning.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 4, 2009 | 3:39 a.m.

Look to your Mayor who loves his bike trails more than his streets and sidewalks for all of the answers to your questions.

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte January 4, 2009 | 10:32 a.m.

Am I missing something here? One of the three intersections slated for improvement is Forum and Providence? Where do these two intersect? I liked Cantor's comments above BTW. So what have Minneapolis and Sheboygan County done differently with their allocations from us? Frankly I've biked along Fairview, Ash, West Blvd, and Stewart Rd and can honestly say that all of the green Bike Route signs haven't raised awareness in my view to sharing the road with the pickup truck and car-driving public who could care less about cyclists sharing the road. I have rotator cuff surgery coming up thanks to one of Columbia's "aware" drivers. For my purposes, I'd rather take the trails than have to contend with the "Bike aware" traffic on Columbia's streets. It also appears that our Mayor also does the same or he would be more familiar with the fate of cyclists on our City's streets. How long has he had to wait at Ash and Stadium (on his bike) for the light to change because there is no sensor to detect a cyclist? Also if you're a pedestrian, you'd better get your butt across fast because the light changes midway through and you're a hood ornament! Seriously, GetAbout wants change to occur overnight and in Columbia it won't happen because all of the signs and markings in the world won't change vehicular owner's perceptions of cyclists even in ten years as long as cyclists continue to ignore the rules of the road, travel at night wearing dark clothing, no lights, NO BRAIN.
That's why I stick to the trail as much as I can.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 4, 2009 | 11:00 a.m.

>>> as long as cyclists continue to ignore the rules of the road, travel at night wearing dark clothing, no lights, NO BRAIN. <<<

And there is one root of the over all problem. Thank you as a bike rider for admitting this one part of the issue. Many so called hard core PedNutz will not admit that and lay ALL of the blame on those in vehicles only.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 4, 2009 | 12:54 p.m.

"Why so many studies when all we need is a few feet of extra pavement on the side of the road? Why, to this day, are there no safe bike routes between many 'older' neighborhoods and downtown? Benton-Stephens -- one of the closest -- is still not safely accessible."

Because the city knows that most landowners -- including homeowners -- will throw a fit over any proposal to take several feet of their frontage in order to expand the road enough to add bike lanes or to add sidewalks. They'll cry, "I can't sell a house that has only a few feet of front yard!" or "I won't have any privacy!"

How many of you live in these areas and would be willing to have the street expanded to within a few feet of your house in order to create bike lanes?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 4, 2009 | 1:35 p.m.

"Along Ninth Street in downtown Columbia, a special on-street bicycle parking area has been installed by the city as part of the GetAbout Columbia campaign to encourage more physical activity in the community."

What an eyesore, and what a joke. I see one motorized scooter and two bikes taking up space meant for one or two disabled parking spots. Bikes can park on the sidewalk.
What a waste of money. How does this eyesore encourage more physical activity? People who want to ride a bike will. Those who don't, won't.
As a car owner, it just makes me want to avoid downtown all together.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 4, 2009 | 2:05 p.m.

One scooter and two bikes seems pretty good, considering that most students aren't in town. When MU is in session, I've seen those racks filled.

Now that Columbia is allowing development in alleys, why not put the bike racks there instead? After all, the restaurants and other businesses opening in the alleys means that fire trucks won't use them, so it's not as if the bike racks will block emergency vehicles.

(Report Comment)
alvin sweezer January 4, 2009 | 4:10 p.m.

The bike lanes are nice and Parking for bikes.We do have some bikes not follewing road rules. We do have bikes are following the rules of road and I hope more class for bikes will help. When people see one or two bike not following rules of road they think all bikes are bad . Theirs alots bike riding by rules of road. Its when sad you can not see all bad car drivers out their talking on cell phones and what ever they think of when driving and hunking at bikes just for fun thats bad thing to do;-(. The City has came long ways for bike and more bikes coming;-).Gas goes back you see more bikes and city will have safe place ride bikes or help make safe for ever body;-) Ps Byway
The 763 or Range line st. going be nice . When they get done yes bike lanes nice;-) and sidewalks nice;-) from
One biker following road rules ( keep eye out for these bike rider;-) on road and in bike lanes;-)

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich January 4, 2009 | 4:27 p.m.

"What an eyesore, and what a joke. I see one motorized scooter and two bikes taking up space meant for one or two disabled parking spots. Bikes can park on the sidewalk.
What a waste of money. How does this eyesore encourage more physical activity? People who want to ride a bike will. Those who don't, won't.
As a car owner, it just makes me want to avoid downtown all together."

Bike riders pay taxes too...

(Report Comment)
Cantor Billows January 4, 2009 | 4:31 p.m.

Wait a minute. Let's tone down the alarmist rhetoric. Ayn, no one is advocating taking away "several feet" of homeowners' front yards. I am proposing that a few streets be retrofitted with bike lanes to accommodate safely people who ride. We need to connect communities and neighborhoods. When we do, your property values will go up. There are solid economic reasons to make this town more livable, more attractive. Besides, more riders = fewer cars on the streets which is good for your quality of life, your commute times, the safety of your children, etc. It's win-win.

Which leads me to a second comment in response the the implication that somehow bikes don't belong on the streets. You complain, Andy, about the bike racks on 9th and Cherry, which take up all of two spaces. What about the hundreds (thousands?) of spaces allotted to cars in the District? Is is not somewhat disingenuous to complain about 10 feet of bike parking while failing to recognize the manifold problems and costs associated with car parking? Think of it this way, every bike you see on that rack (which is often full) is one more parking space freed up for you. Again win-win.

If you gave me the 22mil, I would have immediately done two things:

1. Strategic transportation routes to connect different areas of town (bike lanes, shoulders and bike-dedicated paths), and

2. invest in a city-wide bike program, where citizens can grab a bike at dozens of different locations (24/7 with electronic card), ride it where they need to go and drop it off at another location. These programs have been HUGELY successful in London, Paris and smaller cities like Lyons.

check it out:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 4, 2009 | 4:32 p.m.

It's so nice that you like using the word nice.
Do you also own a nice bike?
Is it nice to ride it in the snow?
Could you, would you on the ice?
Could you, would you let me know?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 4, 2009 | 4:38 p.m.

"Ayn, no one is advocating taking away 'several feet' of homeowners' front yards. I am proposing that a few streets be retrofitted with bike lanes to accommodate safely people who ride."

But in older neighborhoods, such as Benton-Stephens, space already is so tight that retrofits would take several feet. You can't simply restripe the street if it's already barely wide enough to meet minimums for cars. That means you have to widen the street and take part of adjacent homeowners' yards.

"When we do, your property values will go up."

Not necessarily. Just look at the backlash every time there's a proposal to put a trail near a subdivision. Homeowners there freak out because they don't want strangers in their back yards. Yes, it's misguided, but it's widely held and guides choices when buying a home.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 4, 2009 | 4:55 p.m.

Cantor B.

Bikes are a seasonal device and gas is a lot cheaper in the U.S. of A.
["One of the big questions for budgeting a European vacation is the price of gas. In short, European prices are considerably higher than they are in America, about 2.3 x higher."]
If college students and a few "health nuts" want to ride their bikes all year, it doesn't mean that the entire city needs to be "revamped."
The "French" also gave us the roundabout.
["French Driving Basics: Kilometers, Roundabouts and $10 a Gallon Gas"]
I'm not too crazy about those "popping up" throughout Columbia, either.
As far as I'm concerned the only good thing France ever gave us was the Statue of Liberty, (which has turned green), and my beloved "French Fries."
(And those are usually too salty.)

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich January 4, 2009 | 5:05 p.m.

The French also helped us win our independence in the Revolutionary War.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 4, 2009 | 5:10 p.m.

sacre bleu!

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 5, 2009 | 4:26 a.m.

Bikes are only seasonal if you treat them that way. I don't have an MU parking permit. I don't need one. I've never missed work due to ice or snow.

It's not that hard. The big problem here is people love to make excuses.


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 5, 2009 | 5:07 a.m.

Mark Foecking I do not really think anybody wants bikes slipping and sliding all over icy or snow covered roads anywhere in front of them when they have to already watch out for those other fast moving idiots in other vehicles on the roadways.

Nobody is that crazy to want that type of a road hazard on those types of roads. You might believe so but I can guarantee alot do not. They you have the issue of plow trucks and bikes getting in their way too.

It is great you ride all year long but the concerns of the many must always out weight the concerns of a "select group of people" when it comes to road safety in Winter road conditions.

That is what ray is talking about and bunny too over on Trib Board.

(Report Comment)
Jay Lindner January 5, 2009 | 8:06 a.m.

As a motorist and strong beliver that bikes belong on sidewalks and not on the road with me, until bicyclists can come up with a way to supplement gasoline taxes they are not paying, which please keep in mind are what fund a good portion of road improvements in this country, they should be restricted to sidewalks only!

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich January 5, 2009 | 10:07 a.m.

Jay, much of the tax you pay for gasoline goes towards highways, so if you want cyclists to start paying gasoline tax, then I assume you will have no problem with them on the highway right?

(Report Comment)
Todd Guess January 5, 2009 | 10:13 a.m.

Re: gas taxes

Gas taxes fund state and federal road projects - Like Stadium Blvd. and I-70, exactly the kinds of roads that you do not see cyclists riding on. The majority of local and county roads are funded by sales and property taxes, which cyclists pay exactly the same as motorists. Further, a bike and rider have a negligible - almost invisible - impact on the roads in terms of damage. Why would they be expected to pay the same expense as the cars and large trucks that necessitate the majority of the maintenance? Besides, the majority of state and federal infrastructure is so heavily subsidized, above and beyond gas taxes, that every (income) tax paying American foots part of the bill. So, those few cyclists out there who don't pay any property taxes and NEVER buy anything are obviously freeloaders, the rest of us pay for local roads as much as the rest of you. This whole tax argument is tired, and when exposed to logic or fact, is utterly ridiculous.

Re: acknowledging that not all cyclists follow the rules and acknowledging that it is part of the problem.

Absolutely, that is why education is so important. Getabout is doing a great job with education and it is having an impact on reckless riding. Now, my biggest pet peeve is red-light runners, even though the majority of the people stop like they are supposed to, I still see every light runner because I look for it. Even though the reckless cycling has improved, you still see the bad riders because you are looking for it. I know for a fact that PedNet and Getabout do not have a policy of denying the impact of bad cycling. Quite the opposite, they are the only two organizations that are actively doing anything about it.

Re: Cycling's viability in the Winter.

If you look up the most successful cities in the US in terms of percentage of population that commutes to work by bike, in the top 10 you will find Minneapolis, MN and Madison, WI. Two cities that are both significantly colder than Columbia, and experience significantly more winter precipitation. Portland is the beacon of US bicycling cities, and though they do not experience dramatic Winter weather often, they do experience nearly continuous rainfall during the Winter months. Clearly weather is not a good predictor of a city's likelihood to have a large number of cyclists.

Re: Ray's cute little "nice" nursery rhyme.

It must make you feel really smart making fun of other people's writing. Way to go, Ray! You are obviously a smart guy, thanks for reminding us all by making fun of Alvin.

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson January 5, 2009 | 10:22 a.m.

Is that the same Jay Lindner that is on the GetAbout committee?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 5, 2009 | 10:49 a.m.

LOL. Ask Paul Sturtz what he thinks of bikes on sidewalks. Brotemarkle arrested him for riding on a sidewalk earlier this year. He was in a holding cell for a few hours.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 5, 2009 | 10:54 a.m.

Ayn Rand all over refusing to show his I.D. when requested. He earned his time he spent in there. lol

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dugan January 5, 2009 | 1:09 p.m.

I sincerely wish that our voting public takes note of this article. $3,500 per person for bike lessons so far is the most insane waste of money I have ever seen in my life. Our elected council people and specifically our Mayor need to be held responsible for such a large waste of taxpayer money. Not only should everyone in Columbia stand up and voice there disgust, but the rest of the country should as well since they helped fund this madness. It's time we treat the city with fiscal responsibility. We need to pay our Mayor and our Council people so that we can get quality candidates instead of what we are forced to deal with currently. We are the largest city in America that does not pay it's Mayor or Council people........ The Mayor is a full time job, and it currently pays $0. So it's no wonder that the only person we have is a radical like Darwin..... Let's all stand up and fight for our money and our future jobs in Columbia.

(Report Comment)
Michael Scott January 5, 2009 | 1:21 p.m.

In regards to the comments about gas taxes, as this is a federally funded program that is overseen by MODOT, it seems like there is some validity there. What this article has done is brought to light just how much waste goes on in our city government. I would be curious to see how many positions Get About Columbia now has that are funded with this federal grant.

On a side note, why not require license plates for bicycles so they can be pulled over by the police and caught by red light cameras as well.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 5, 2009 | 1:50 p.m.

Who cares if it's federally funded? Waste is waste, and we all have to pay for it at some point. (Or at least those of us who go to work every day instead of living on the dole.) In fact, add up GetAbout and all of the other federal pork, and it's no wonder the deficit is huge.

(Report Comment)
Todd Guess January 5, 2009 | 3:30 p.m.

Well, according to this website the Department of Transportation requested 9.4 billion for fiscal year 2008. $9,400,000,000.00! If the 0.002% of that budget that Columbia received over a FIVE YEAR period makes this a better city - and despite what you may think, more people walking and cycling in Columbia, as opposed to driving, WILL make it a better city - then it is money well spent.

I suspect that a lot of this talk about fiscal responsibility, deficit, and waste is a thinly veiled guise for what is really a dislike of cycling and cyclists. If the entire transportation budget were opened to the kind of discussion and scrutiny that Gtabout has faced, there would be much more appropriate examples of true waste.

What it all really boils down to is that bicycling is legally defined as equal to driving in terms of the granted rights and responsibilities. Like it or not, that is what the statutes say in every state. And as bikes are recognized as legal vehicles, it is appropriate and necessary for their to be certain amount of funding for bicycle infrastructure and education. A lot of bike haters use this as a cornerstone for an ineffective argument for requiring bikers to jump through certain hoops that drivers have to, but when these arguments are tested against logic, fact, and common sense, they fail.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 5, 2009 | 4:34 p.m.

Dear Todd:
"...fiscal responsibility, deficit, and waste is a thinly veiled guise for what is really a dislike of cycling and cyclists...
I don't use it as a thinly veiled guise for my dislike of too much interference from extreme-bikers. I do think that too much cash flow and accomodation is made for a small group of overly-enthusiastic health freaks who over do it.
You all can die as healthy corpses. Bikes are primarily for kids, teenagers on campus and for occasional fun. In the mainstream, they are nothing more than a novelty. I'll keep my car for main transportation and a bike as a rare ride around town, as a bit of enjoyment and not as a neccesity.
Responses to “Anti-Bike Event Law Proposed In California” ... so Alameda Co. can now focus on the “problem” of how to control bike riders. ...
"A major component of the Democrats' energy legislation and the Democrats' answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle.

Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pumps, is: Ride a bike.

Democrats believe that using taxpayer funds in this bill to the tune of $1 million a year should be devoted to the principle of: "Save energy, ride a bike.'' Some might argue that depending on bicycles to solve our energy crisis is naive, perhaps ridiculous. Some might even say Congress should use this energy legislation to create new energy, bring new nuclear power plants on line, use clean coal technology, energy exploration, but no, no. They want to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike. This is absolutely amazing.

Apparently, the Democrats believe that the miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil. I cannot make this stuff up. It is absolutely amazing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Democrats, promoting 19th century solutions to 21st century problems. If you don't like it, ride a bike. If you don't like the price at the pumps, ride a bike.

Stay tuned for the next big idea for the Democrats: Improving energy efficiency by the horse and buggy."

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 5, 2009 | 4:44 p.m.

And, Rob Anderson is my hero...
San Francisco Ponders: Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution?
City Backpedals on a Cycling Plan After Mr. Anderson Goes to Court
New York is wooing cyclists with chartreuse bike lanes. Chicago is spending nearly $1 million for double-decker bicycle parking.
San Francisco can't even install new bike racks.
Blame Rob Anderson. At a time when most other cities are encouraging biking as green transport, the 65-year-old local gadfly has stymied cycling-support efforts here by arguing that urban bicycle boosting could actually be bad for the environment. That's put the brakes on everything from new bike lanes to bike racks while the city works on an environmental-impact report.
Mr. Anderson helped convince a judge to halt implementation of a massive pro-bike plan. In the past year, bike advocates have demonstrated outside City Hall, pushed the city to challenge the plan's freeze in court and proposed putting the whole mess to local voters. Nothing worked.
Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, he reasons, so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution. Mr. Anderson says the city has been blinded by political correctness. It's an "attempt by the anti-car fanatics to screw up our traffic on behalf of the bicycle fantasy," he wrote in his blog this month.
Mr. Anderson's fight underscores the tensions that can circulate as urban cycling, bolstered by environmental awareness and high gasoline prices, takes off across the U.S. New York City, where the number of commuter cyclists is estimated to have jumped 77% between 2000 and 2007, is adding new bike lanes despite some motorist backlash. Chicago recently elected to kick cars off stretches of big roads on two Sundays this year.
Essentially, he's saying that narrow streets cause air pollution from vehicles stuck in traffic idling. Sooo, we should bulldoze some buildings and widen streets, Mr. Anderson? Sorry, been there, done that. And all we got was even more vehicle traffic. This case should have been tossed immediately, if not for the city's inept and sloppy defense of the bicycle plan.

The temporary delay has for the moment prevented any on-street improvements in San Francisco. But as Leah Shahum indicated at the Car Free Cities Conference in Portland, important planning and preparation work for bicycle infrastructure has continued at the city's transportation agency, and many projects will be ready for rapid implementation once the stay is lifted. And the SFBC's cultural efforts have continued: Bike to Work Day was a huge success this year, and the coalition's membership continues to surge.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 5, 2009 | 5:04 p.m.

Todd, when thousands of communities -- and their Congressmen/women -- argue that their pet project is only 0.002% of some large budget, it ignores the fact that all of that adds up to a pretty big number. That's why the proposed stimulus package includes pork such as $6 million for snow-making equipment at a ski resort and $50 million for a museum about organized crime. "Everyone else is getting what they want, so why shouldn't we?" Because we -- all of us -- have to pay for it.

And BS for your comment that "a lot of this talk about fiscal responsibility, deficit, and waste is a thinly veiled guise for what is really a dislike of cycling and cyclists." I'm a cyclist, and I think that the sharrows are not only a waste of money, but an absolute joke. The people who signed off of funding those ought to be ashamed of themselves. Same thing for the stripes, which accomplish nothing. Any cyclist and drive with two brain cells to rub together knows who goes where.

You and the rest of the GetAbout gang need to get off your high horse. It's a shame that people think you speak for all cyclists or even most of us. You don't.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 5, 2009 | 5:18 p.m.

I can respect common sense cyclists' comments, such as yours.
Thank you for distancing yourself from, what appears to be, another "large black hole" where priorities are skewed.

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson January 5, 2009 | 5:44 p.m.

Ayn and Ray,

Do you consider all earmarked projects pork or just the ones that have to do with bicycling.

Many of our road projects are funded that way. Here is one example.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 5, 2009 | 5:59 p.m.

Coming from "Jewish roots," I'm not big on pork.
But for purposes of this article, my answer to your question is yes, only if it has to do with bicycles.
(Ask me again, tomorrow morning at breakfast. I just love a big bacon and eggs breakfast before I get on my exercise bike. It's so much warmer in my garage.)
I hope Ayn has a better answer for you. Ayn keeps better track of where taxpayer money goes.

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson January 5, 2009 | 6:16 p.m.


I respect your opinion and its a fine one to have. I hope that your responses to me will be fair and have a hint of respect to them as I am not going to argue with you. I only drive a car recreationally and maybe about 4 times per year. For me the bicycle is my main form of transportation that I use approximately 5,000 miles per year. So I feel that our positions are exactly opposite in terms of bicycle use and car use.

My initial reaction to my tax dollars being used on primarily automobile transportation is a negative one so I understand where you are coming from on the opposite end. Things like the Stadium extension drive me crazy as something I feel as being unnecasary and maybe even harmful to the City in general. Again, that is because I bicycle everywhere. You would probably feel the opposite and thats totally understandable.

The airport subsidy that the City receives from the Federal Government is another example. My tax dollars are being used for something that I will never utilize. That is a tough pill to swallow but that is part of living in a democracy.

You chose to drive and I chose to bicycle. Our taxes are used to fund both.

Have a nice evening.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 5, 2009 | 7:07 p.m.

Robert, it's pork when it's superfluous, which is what the sharrows and stripes are. For more than a century, cars and bicycles have shared the road just fine without them. They're solutions to non-problems.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 5, 2009 | 7:09 p.m.

From the San Francisco article:

"Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, he reasons, so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution."

Well, except each cyclist is usually a driver who is not driving. Since bicycles use up so much less road space than cars, it seems to me that having more bikes would mean fewer cars, and therefore less congestion.


(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson January 5, 2009 | 7:20 p.m.


I appreciate your comment. It does seem that there are an awful lot of road markings out there.

They are not needed for you because you are an admittedly secure and confident cyclist. They are also not needed for me although I have noticed a significant decrease in the amount of harassment since they have been painted. You are among the 1% or 1.5% of Columbians who say that a bicycle is their primary mode of transportation. The sharrows and bike lanes are not for you. They are for the thousands of potential cyclists out there. In other cities where they have made this shift and now have over 5% of all trips made by bicycle they have done so with bicycle lanes and other road markings.

Also, Ayn, I'm surprised to hear a "bicyclist" say that cars and bikes have shared the road fine for a century. Surely you have been harassed for riding your bicycle. I have been honked at, yelled at, cursed at and even had things thrown at me for riding my bicycle on the street. If a sharrow helps send the message to folks that a bicycle does in fact belong there then its a plus in my mind.

My all time favorite was me riding across the Walmart parking lot while pulling a cargo trailer (obviously going shopping) when someone in a pickup truck coming from the opposite direction rolled down his window and screamed, "STAY ON THE KATY TRAIL!!"

Admit it.....many motorists are going to need to hear the message 100's of times before getting it.

Good conversation.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 5, 2009 | 8:01 p.m.

No, in decades of riding in Columbia and other cities, I've never been harassed or hit by a motorist.

Another reason why the sharrows are ridiculous is that they're everywhere. Take Berrywood: Why on earth does this wide, lightly traveled street -- I live on it -- warrant sharrows? That tells me that GetAbout had way too much money to spend. A limited budget would have forced GetAbout to prioritize and paint them only on major thoroughfares or tight streets. But even there, I don't see what value they provide.

I would rather see this money spent maintaining stripes such as the center line, so I don't have motorists in the rain or at night swerving to avoid a wreck and crashing into me.

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson January 5, 2009 | 9:00 p.m.

HI Ayn,

Good talking with you. I'm checking out for now.


(Report Comment)
Todd Guess January 6, 2009 | 8:51 a.m.


The research has been done by smart, qualified people, and what it says is that bike lanes encourage less experienced, on-the-fence cyclers, to take the leap and consider their bicycles as an occasional transportation device as opposed to simply a recreation device. And despite what Ray believes, a bicycle can be and in some cities, very much is used as a transportation device.

The problem with bike lanes is that they are often implemented poorly. Most commonly they are painted right up to an intersection which leaves a cyclist sitting directly beside a car that could potentially be turning right. Forget bikes for a second and imagine a road where there is a straight through lane and to the left of it a right turn lane, that is exactly what this bike lane scenario creates. Fortunately, because of the federal grant, Columbia was able to have traffic engineers and bicycle travel experts, well-trained, smart, and qualified people assess the bike lanes in Columbia and prevent his from happening. The Solution is to end the bike lane before the intersection. To do this without ambiguity, the nationally accepted symbol is the sharrow. This indicates to the cyclist and the drivers that although the bike lane is ending, the space between the end of the lane and the intersection is to be shared by all road users.

Obviously Ayn, you are a comfortable and experienced cyclist, but a lot of folks who are willing to consider riding their bikes to work or on a short errand would not do so without this kind of encouragement.

I think that the sharrow has been a bit overused in Columbia thus far, but the real shortfall is that there has not been enough information disseminated about the purpose of the sharrow, of course spending any additional money on literature or advertising explaining this new symbol would raise the hackles of folks like yourself who think this whole system is a waste.

On one hand experienced cyclists like you, Ayn, react to all of this stuff by saying it is unnecessary, and on the other, the drivers of this comment section who would never consider a bicycle for transportation, and essentially consider it a character flaw of anyone who does, would not get behind this program either. But if you take it as what it is, a program to encourage more people to consider cycling and walking for short errands and commuting, then it is clear that things are getting done as quickly as they can be, given the bureaucratic constraints that Getabout has had to deal with. If you don't even support the idea of encouraging more people to bike and walk, then regardless of what getabout does, you aren't going to be happy, short of them putting up an oil derrick in Cosmo Park.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 6, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.

Todd, how is GetAbout quantifying the success of its initiatives? You do have some smart, qualified people doing research to determine whether the sharrows, lanes and other initiatives are actually increasing bicycle usage, right?

One reason I ask is because it's reasonable to expect some measurement of outcomes to determine whether GetAbout is achieving its goals -- and thus putting taxpayer money to effective use. Another is because when I'm out biking and walking, I don't see more people doing likewise -- even when gas was $3+/gallon.

So is GetAbout actually encouraging more people to bike and walk? And how many more? (Don't count people who pledge to walk or bike one week to get a T-shirt because GetAbout didn't verify those pledges.)

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson January 6, 2009 | 2:31 p.m.


I think that is addressed in this article. There are surveys being conducted and traffic counts being conducted.

It all has to be reported back to congress in 2010 as stated in the article.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 6, 2009 | 4:22 p.m.

Todd Guess:
You say: The research has been done by "smart, qualified people," and what it says is that bike lanes encourage less experienced, on-the-fence cyclers, to take the leap and consider their bicycles as an occasional transportation device as opposed to simply a recreation device.
I say: These same smart qualified people also know how to skew a survey using the words... "consider" using their bikes ocassionally for transportation...
Apparently, these people are already recreational riders. (Not a great argument to redo a city for a few city-wide bicycle users.)
I also don't need to wait for 2010 for research on increased year-round bikers throughout town. (I can see the sparse numbers with my one good eye.)
I also suggest that most bicycles in Columbia are driven by College Students. Is that what GetAbout & PedNet's real agenda is all about? To make visiting college students say, "Bicycle sharrows, awesome dude!
Send in the bikes...No send in the clowns...Don't bother, there here.

(Report Comment)
Todd Guess January 6, 2009 | 7:21 p.m.


You've convinced me. The whole idea of bicycles is clearly a liberal ploy to get more pot-smoking college students into Columbia and waste tax dollars. Here I was thinking that they were a legitimate alternative form of transportation legally recognized as such, and deserving of well designed, accommodating streets, but you have opened my eyes. I was skeptical at first when you were making fun of other folks on the board and their writing abilities, then you started swaying me with your links to articles about nutjobs that believe more bike riders will cause more pollution, and now that you've pointed out the likelihood that the traffic engineers whose job it is to design safe bike lanes are probably skewing survey data while there at it, you've convinced me. Good work, Ray, you have managed to expose the insidious true agenda of the dangerous, liberal bike-riding terrorists.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 6, 2009 | 7:43 p.m.

Hey, it read pretty well as I typed it up. (Creative writing was always my favorite part of English class.)
I also knew if I kept making stuff up, something would "ring" true.
Just remember to bundle up before you venture out.
It is cold out their, pednut.

The advantage of biking over driving in winter is that you get all bundled up in the warm house and then go out on your bike. So you start off warm and then stay that way because you're riding.

When you drive, you first have to go out to the cold, cold car and warm it up. And then either you opt to watch the car burning gas going nowhere or you sit in a cold, cold car for 10 or 15 minutes. Sitting still. Shivering. Oh yeah, and scraping frost off the windshield. That rocks. Or filling up the tank on a raw cold day. Gimme some of that!"

Bob Foster, of the St. Louis Bike Federation

(Report Comment)

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