Bikes are the new toilet paper

Bikes are the new toilet paper, almost completely sold out wherever bikes are sold in many places around the USA right now. This was the bike section in the Target store less than four miles from my home yesterday. This store straddles two metro-Atlanta cities: Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. There is no safe route for all ages and abilities to get to the store or to any of the parks, post offices, supermarkets, or city halls in either of the cities. Sobering fact: A motor vehicle driver killed a 57-year-old man in a too-narrow unprotected bike lane not far from the store last Friday.

Here is a short clip of  two children who passed me on their bikes when I left the store. They looked about 13 and 10- years old, probably brothers. The older boy rode mostly in the street, which is the legal requirement over the age of 12. The younger boy switched between the sidewalk and the street.

More kids are riding bikes in cities that don’t provide separated and/or protected access. (I also saw the first “bakfiet” cargo bike, with a mom and two children, two days ago on a main road in my city.) Yes, I know your city has “plans.” Mine has had them for years. I showed up at city hall and advocated for them over and over again. But kids don’t wait— they grow up. (I don’t know these kids — my kids are both adults now.)

Safe access for all is needed now. I asked (yet again) for it on March 20, 2020, and was told a firm no by the mayor. A city councilor has since asked the public works director and was told a firm no as well. (FYI, that public works director is the same person who told me in paragraph-after-paragraph that Pointy the Bike Lane was a good idea, and failed to meet me out there when I asked him to ride it with me so he could see the rubber-hits-the-road reality).  I keep hearing it over and over again — No time. No resources. No money. No priority. Oh, and by the way, all three bus lines in my city have been suspended and every single bus stop has this sign now.

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Well, here ya’ go. A technology platform named Populus is offering its assistance to select cities that want to join others that are already answering the historic call during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide safe access for all ages and abilities. It is accepting applications through May 15. See below.

Populus to help cities manage open streets during pandemic

Smart Cities Dive

April 21, 2020

By Cailin Crowe

  • Populus, a technology platform for cities to manage mobility and transportation demands, launched the Open Streets Initiative to assist select city officials with designing and implementing new street policies, like closures, amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

  • To complement this effort, Populus launched its Street Manager to help city leaders facilitate and communicate open streets and temporary street closures, construction activity, special events and more.
  •  Only a select number of cities and public agencies will be given access to the platforms. The Open Streets Initiative will accept applications until May 15.

Transportation planners and public officials have used Populus’ platform to access data from micromobility companies like Spin, Bird and Uber, and to create data-driven strategies to effectively manage their streets, sidewalks and curbs. Baltimore and Buenos Aires, for example, have used the technology to manage and share mobility policies.

Street policy management has taken on a new sense of urgency for cities during the coronavirus pandemic as local leaders adjust to new traffic patterns and work to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.

Changes to mass transit service are among the top challenges for transportation planners, according to Populus CEO and co-founder Regina Clewlow. As public transit service becomes potentially less reliable, city leaders need to ensure alternative modes of transportation — like micromobility — are safe for residents or essential workers to move throughout the city, she told Smart Cities Dive.

Tactical urbanism initiatives like widened sidewalks, pop-up bike lanes or closed-off streets can help reinforce that safety.

Cities including Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Oakland have opened their streets to pedestrians and cyclists since the pandemic began. Other cities like Washington, DC are widening their sidewalks to create more space between pedestrians. And New Zealand recently became the first country to offer cities 90% funding for tactical urbanism projects like temporary bike lanes or widened sidewalks.

Prior to the pandemic, construction or special events were two of the main causes for a street closure, according to Clewlow. There was an application process, a review period and various communications about the closures to the general public, she said. Now, cities are moving at much a quicker pace to make these changes.

Many cities are taking their “Sunday streets” programs and transitioning them to function every day of the week, she said. In Oakland, for example, many of the city’s current street closures are based on pre-existing plans, Clewlow said.

There are some silver linings to the changes in mobility caused by the coronavirus. Some of the potential benefits include the improved air quality and reduced emissions due to less traffic and congestion.   However, public transportation systems are facing daunting challenges.

As of April 13, 45% of public transit agencies had eliminated fares. And as of April 21, nearly 70 New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers have died from COVID-19 complications, while at least 2,400 workers have tested positive for the virus, The Guardian reports.

“The world that we lived in two months ago is not coming back,” Jarrett Walker, president of Jarrett Walker + Associates and author of Human Transit, said in a webinar held earlier this month. “Whatever is on the other side of this pandemic is a different world.”

There’s also concern that city residents might shift back to using cars due to personal safety concerns, Clewlow said. But the rapid changes to streets to keep residents safe, could help deter people from gravitating toward cars.

“How we allocate space on our streets is the most effective tool cities have for shifting transportation behaviors,” she said.

Read the Original Story

Learn more about Populus Street Manager