A recent story on WCAI radio claimed that there were over 65 bicycle crashes in town this year through September and that there has been a 25 percent increase in crashes over the past five years. The Bicycle Committee requests crash data from the Provincetown Police Department on a calendar year basis, so we can’t yet verify this. I’ve reached out to the committee’s police liaison to find out what numbers were provided to the reporter.
Here’s the data we do have:
If the 65 crash number for 2016 is accurate, that’s a whopping 88 percent increase from last year.
Every fall the Provincetown Board of Selectmen hold their annual traffic hearing where town residents, town boards, selectmen and town staff can submit requests for changes within a town road right-of-way.
This year’s hearing on October 25 had the usual requests for signs and crosswalks as well as a number of bike-related items.
Here’s how the bike requests fared:
The Provincetown 365 request for bike racks was partly approved, with the selectmen agreeing to swap out three parking spaces at the Johnson Street lot for bike racks. They also approved a rack for the Gosnold Street landing near the Julie Heller Gallery and provisionally approved a rack in front of the Police Station on Shank Painter Rd. pending the police chief’s review. The approved bike racks will provide year-round parking for over 40 bicycles.
The Bicycle Committee request to add a fine to the parking regulations for “Obstructing a marked bicycle lane” was approved, with the fine set at $100. There was surprisingly little discussion about this.
The Bicycle Committee request for clarifying signage for the 2-way bike travel on Commercial Street got mired in discussions of prior efforts to put sharrows on the street and in the end the entire proposal was voted down. This was despite staff support for adding “except bicycles” to the “Do not enter” signs and two “no turn” signs along the street. The general attitude seems to be that any sign is unwelcome despite the vast sign clutter that already exists. I was specifically asked if there were signs that could be removed, and indeed I do have a list of outdated, confusing, or plainly unnecessary signs that I will bring back to a future selectmen meeting.
The Bicycle Committee request for climbing lanes on the section of Bradford Street from Franklin Street to Prince Street was tabled. Department of Public Works director Richard Waldo said earlier in the meeting that this section of road will be repaved and the sidewalk repaired in 2017, so there will be an opportunity to consider a new layout as that project moves forward. I asked specifically for guidance from the selectmen on removing parking to make the street safer and was asked to locate alternate parking spaces for those vehicles. The Committee attempted a similar project back in 2012 and had support from over 300 people on a petition, but it never went anywhere.
Finally, a citizen request to restripe the section of Bradford Street Extension where it meets Province Lands Road was supported by the selectmen. There are signs at this location that say “Private Parking” even though the cars are parking in the town right-of-way. The selectmen voted to remove the parking and define the wide bike and pedestrian shoulder with paint.
The next annual traffic hearing will take place in the fall of 2017.
There’s been lots happening this summer here in town bikewise.
New pavement markings
In June, the new bike lanes and sharrows were painted on Shank Painter Road, and the new sharrows went in on a short, narrow segment of Conwell Street. Other than the occasional complaint of delivery vehicles parking in the newly-marked lanes and some people who continue to bike in the wrong direction, response has been overwhelmingly positive.
New bike racks
In August, racks for 60 bicycles were installed at Court Street and Pearl Street landings. They were immediately filled with bicycles, and my brief chats with folks who were using them were positive. The racks installed are Saris corral racks, which are five inverted-Us mounted to channels. They’re also angled on the channel at 30 degrees, so they take up a little less space than regular perpendicular racks.
Each rack can hold up to 10 bicycles, but the demand for bike parking at Court Street landing had over 60 bikes attached to its four new racks. Previously people locked their bikes here to a railing along the wall, and no more than 25 bikes could fit in that configuration. Concerns about motor vehicles being able to squeeze through past the racks were unfounded, and residents who live on the landing had positive things to say.
The two new racks at Pearl Street Landing were well utilized, though their off-the-beaten-path location meant they were not as heavily used as the Court St. racks.
Along with the new racks, a series of new bike parking signs were installed along Commercial Street to help direct people to the bike parking areas with the most capacity.
These racks were funded by the Bicycle Committee and the Finance Committee and assembled and installed by the Department of Public Works.
We purposely did not mount them to the asphalt so that the Department of Public Works will be able to remove them if need be for snow plowing operations over the winter.
Planning for the bike racks was done by volunteers with Provincetown 365, and that group has a long-term plan that would install up to another 300 bike spaces around town in the next two years.
Education & Outreach
The Bicycle Committee redesigned its bike map & safety guide brochure, and 25,000 copies were printed for the summer season. It includes new cover art, a new map, and updated safety info. They’re available at the bike shops and all over town. The fantastic new cover art Brandon Michael will be used throughout future campaigns.
A series of educational stickers were deployed on all of the town bike racks, with three messages: Did you lock your bike?, Bike Racks Map with a QR code and URL to the online map, and a Public Bike Rack logo to identify the town racks. The stickers faded and scraped off over the course of the summer, so we’re experimenting with a transparent UV film to cover the stickers to see if that will extend their life.
Provincetown 365 designed a sharrow education poster to let people know that sharrows were coming and distributed over 2,000 sharrow postcards around town. The cards were printed thanks to the financial assistance of the Tourism Office and the Planning Department.
The Bicycle Committee tabled at Firehouse #3 several times during the season and gave out over 100 bike lights, reflective straps, and other swag to anyone who completed the bike safety quiz. The new committee tablecloth made its debut and some extra bike parking signs on hand to show off.
There’s lots of planning work coming up this fall, with the anticipated release of the Outer Cape Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, the Fall Traffic Hearing with requests for more bike racks, bike repair stations, and more.
Bike month is here and there’s a lot going on around town! May is officially National Bike Month, and has been since 1956. Here’s what we’re up to in Provincetown…
Bike Parking Signs
New bike parking signs are now up along Commercial St. to direct riders to the bike racks at the following locations:
Joe Coffee (170 Commercial St.)
Ryder St Ext
Lopes Square & MacMillan Pier
Tourism Office (330 Commercial St.).
The Provincetown Department of Public Works developed these sign designs in collaboration with Provincetown 365 and the Bicycle Committee. We looked at signs from Europe, signs from US cities (which are very few), and the MUTCD standard design and made a recommendation for something that would be graphically identifiable and used as little text as possible. DPW came up with this design as something that could be produced in-house at a low cost. It works well with the existing (also green) Bike Route and 2-Way Bike Traffic signs that are already installed around town.
The signs come in two versions – a long one that goes on the top of a street sign pole and a tall version for regular sign poles. The sign installations are double-sided so that people on bikes can see them when riding either way on Commercial Street.
Getting support from elected officials and town staff for little efforts like this really shows how bike-friendly town is.
New Bike Racks
New bike racks that will hold 60 bikes will get installed this month. Bike parking signs will be put up on Commercial St. to indicate the locations of these new racks. They will be installed near the beach behind Wired Puppy at Pearl St. Landing and adjacent to the firehouse restrooms at Court St. Landing.
Additional racks from the Department of Public Works inventory are being redeployed around town, so it looks like we’ll have over 100 new bike parking spaces available this summer.
Bike Lane Ribbon Cutting
During Bay State Bike Week (May 14-21), town will be celebrating the new bike lanes and sharrows on Shank Painter Rd. with a ribbon cutting and short bike ride. Rain is delaying the painting crew from getting out to do this, so keep an eye out for an update on when this will take place.
To go along with the new bike lanes and sharrows, an education campaign is being put together by Provincetown 365 to let people know what these new pavement markings mean. Keep an eye out for flyers, posters, and rack cards.
Children’s Bicycle Rodeo
The Children’s Bicycle Rodeo is being organized by Cape Cod Children’s Place in partnership with the Provincetown Police Department. There will be an obstacle course, tune-up stations, and safety drills. Children are asked to bring their bike, a helmet, and an adult. Fun for the family and community! It will take place at the Veterans Memorial Community Center (the old elementary school) of off Winslow St. For more information, contact Anna Swaby at 508-240-3310.
Updated Bicycle Map & Safety Guide
The Bicycle Committee is in the process of redesigning its bicycle brochure with new art by a local artist, a new map, more information on taking your bike on the buses and ferries, and updated bike safety guidelines.
Here’s a preview of the new map…
Twenty-five thousand copies of this brochure are printed every year and distributed for free around town. You can pick one up at the Chamber of Commerce, Town Hall, the Tourism Office, the bike shops, coffee shops, or inns. There are a handful of last year’s version still available at Town Hall, but when they’re gone, they’ll be a collector’s item.
Bike Education Days
The first Bike Education Day of the summer will kick off over Memorial Day weekend at Firehouse #3 next to Town Hall. Bicycle Committee members will be on hand with the bike safety quiz, bike brochures, and free giveaways. Stop by and say hello on Saturday, May 28 starting at 4 PM.
A New Bike Shop
Mike Riley is opening a new bike shop this month at 136 Bradford Street in the center of town. Provincetown Bike Rentals will be renting Jamis bikes. This will be the fifth bike shop in town, so it’s pretty clear that there’s a big demand for bike rentals in the summer.
That’s it for May, and the season doesn’t get in full swing until mid-June. The Bicycle Committee is back to meeting twice a month for the summer. Check out the Bike Provincetown page on Facebook for more up-to-date information on those meetings, WorldFest in June, and the many charity rides that take place in town. See you out on your bike!
At the spring Traffic Hearing on Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen approved the proposal by Provincetown 365 to stripe a bike lane and paint sharrows on Shank Painter Road. This will be the first marked bike lane to be installed by the town.
Town staff recommended the proposal with some changes to the size and placement of the sharrows, citing the narrow road width and speed of traffic on the road as factors. Both the town Bicycle Committee and the Cape Cod Commission were in favor of the proposal.
A bike lane will be painted southbound from Route 6 to Province Road, sharrows will continue southbound to the second Stop & Shop entrance, and then the bike lane will continue to Bradford St. Sharrows will be painted along the entire road northbound from Bradford St. since the existing pavement, while wide in some places, is broken and unsafe for riding.
No budget was identified to pay for this improvement, so that puts into question when it will actually be executed. The selectmen didn’t specify a timeline for the project, either, but in the past the changes approved at the spring traffic hearings tend to get implemented before the summer tourist season begins.
You can watch the entire traffic hearing (including the Cape Cod Commission’s presentation of its Parking & Circulation Study) here on Provincetown Community Television:
The selectmen also approved sharrows in both directions on Conwell St. from Bradford St. to Cemetery Rd. where the planned bike lanes will continue to Route 6. They also directed the DPW staff to request permission from MassDOT to paint sharrows on the section of the road that is controlled by the state.
A draft of the parking and circulation study prepared for the town by the Cape Cod Commission has been making the rounds, and it includes a number of recommendations for improving bicycling.
The report is long at 80 pages and goes into detail on a number of questions that have been asked about traffic flow in town. It also addresses the need for more analysis of parking demand and developing a complete parking management plan.
The short-term suggestions for improving biking are primarily paint:
Paint sharrows on Shank Painter Rd. from Bradford St. to Route 6
Paint sharrows on Bradford St. from Commercial St. to West Vine St.
Continue installing bike racks as recommended by the town Bicycle Committee
Medium term suggestions:
Survey Conwell St. from Bradford St. to Harry Kemp Way to see if it’s possible to squeeze in a sidewalk or bike lane
Construct the Conwell St. Bicycle Improvement Project as designed
There are lots of ideas that have been kicked around for a number of years, and the Commission evaluated a number of them to provide recommendations.
What it says town shouldn’t do:
Don’t make Conwell St. one way
Don’t reverse High Point Hill Rd.
Don’t reconstruct the intersection of Route 6 and Howland St. to allow left turns onto Route 6
Don’t connect Alden St. to Route 6.
Don’t paint bike lanes on Commercial St.
A couple of things were surprises:
An engineering design to reconfigure the intersection of Bradford St. and Standish St. makes its first public appearance
A suggestion to a sidewalk along Route 6 from Dunes Edge Campground to Race Point Rd. to provide better pedestrian access to town from the north side of Route 6.
Some detail was missing that I expected to see:
No data on bicycle counts (not even the counts that the Bicycle Committee completed in 2015 or the Commission’s own counts)
No suggestions for regularly counting traffic to keep an eye on how it changes over time
No data on pedestrian counts
Nothing about developing a comprehensive sidewalk plan despite recommendations for a pedestrian wayfinding system
No mention of extending the sidewalk on Harry Kemp Way or improving the sidewalk on Howland St.
No analysis of the free on-street parking in the East End, on Bradford St., and elsewhere, though this is recommended as part of a parking management plan.
The report included the results from an online survey that about 125 people completed.
The projects that received the most “strongly supported” votes were:
Improve Shank Painter Road for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians
Shuttles to/from remote parking areas
Parking maps and apps.
Overall, the study focused on circulation to/from the entrance to town from Route 6 to the MacMillan Pier parking lot and overall utilization of the town parking lots.
Much of the results reinforce what residents already know from experience — there’s too much traffic on Conwell St. in the summer and the downtown parking lots fill up quickly, causing visitors to drive around looking for parking spaces. That results in lots of cars milling around, causing congestion.
The short-term, bike-specific recommendations are simple, inexpensive things that can be done quickly without any changes to the roadway layouts. My hope is that the study report will kick-start town into prioritizing some of these transportation projects rather than waiting for the results of yet another study.
It’s not clear how town will move forward once the study is presented (which I expect to happen at the Traffic Hearing on March 15 but don’t have that confirmed yet). Does the Board of Selectmen need to vote to adopt the study’s recommendations? How will potential projects be prioritized? Will there be a follow-up public process to get more input from residents? It will be interesting to see how the study is received and whether town takes this as an opportunity to act or sticks the study on the shelf to gather dust.
The study’s title is “The Relative (In)effectiveness of Bicycle Sharrows on Ridership and Safety Outcomes.” I was curious about the conditions that the study’s authors looked at and wanted to find out the road configurations (lane widths, number of lanes) and the speed limits on those streets. The blog post didn’t mention those details and didn’t link to the actual study, so I reached out to Nick Ferenchak — one of the study authors — to find out more about the study’s details.
I asked specifically about his perspective on putting sharrows on low-speed (25 MPH) two-lane roads with narrow travel lanes (11 ft), which are the conditions on Shank Painter Road, and he said: “If shared lane markings are used on bicyclist-friendly roads (it sounds like your narrow and slow roads may be bike-friendly) or as way-finding, they may very well be beneficial.”
In looking at the Chicago data used in the study, it was interesting to see that the rate of bike commuting here in Provincetown is 4x that of Chicago (we are at 8% and Chicago is at 1.6%).
I tracked down the study online for more details. In short, the study looked at wide, multi-lane urban roads with 35 MPH speed limits. And it compared sharrows to on-street bike lanes. Their analysis was based on census commuter data, not actual observed trip counts, and didn’t account for destinations or bicycle-friendly locations with bike parking.
The authors recognized the limits of their work and gave a caution about misinterpreting its conclusions. Here’s the section on page 15: “While the conclusions of this work may be misconstrued by some as primarily a call to reduce the number of sharrows, the true goal of this research is to instead ensure that resources are focused on providing more bike infrastructure that has been proven to be effective at meeting its goals. This will most likely translate into more bike lanes in many scenarios.”
The study didn’t say sharrows were unsafe. It said that they weren’t safer than bike lanes. That’s like saying walking in the street isn’t safer than walking on a sidewalk. Seems like common sense.
The sharrows and bike lanes proposed by Provincetown 365 are a tactical, interim solution until the road can be reconstructed with sidewalks and permanent separated bike lanes. (The town’s FY2017 Capital Improvement Plan has funds earmarked for this in 2021.) The Cape Cod Commission’s 2012 Shank Painter Road Corridor Study and the 2015 DART Report both recommend adding bike lanes and sidewalks, but those improvements are years – and millions of dollars – away.
It’s important to note that the current proposal isn’t just sharrows. It’s a combination of marked bike lanes, sharrows, and “bikes may use full lane” signs. It’s a baby step toward a goal of making town more bicycle-friendly through simple, inexpensive improvements that take our local context and experience into consideration.
Adding sharrows makes no change to the road’s current layout. All that sharrows do is help educate everyone to expect bicycles. The proposed bike lanes fit in the existing layout where the road’s fog lines were repainted a number of years ago. So adding bike lane markings helps reinforces the existing use.
I’ve discussed the idea of sharrows on our local roads with Lou Rabito (MassDOT’s Complete Streets Engineer), Glenn Cannon (Technical Services Director at the Cape Cod Commission), Barbara Jacobsen (Program Manager at MassBike), and Josh Zisson (a lawyer who specializes in bicycle law).
These experts all concur that sharrows are appropriate on our local roads where posted speed limits are 25 MPH or less. And from a technical standpoint, all current guidance from AASHTO, NACTO, and MassDOT indicates that sharrows should be placed in the center of the lane where lane widths are 12 ft or narrower.
Demand overrides conditions
I’ve been surprised at how people characterize some of our roads as “fast” or “highways” or “unsafe”. Shank Painter Road, where we proposed this combination of bike lanes, sharrows, and “bikes may use full lane” signs, is used by lots of people on bikes and on foot despite its current configuration. It’s not a comfortable street if you’re not in a car, but people use it anyway.
There are numerous destinations here with lots of bike parking — Stop & Shop alone has six bike racks for customers. The dog park has bike parking, as does the bank, church, the two housing developments, the gym, and most of the restaurants. (Oddly, the police station, fire station, and municipal pay parking lots are devoid of any public bike parking.) According to the property manager at Province Landing, the largest housing development on the street, residents own many more bikes than cars.
It seems that sharrows are an effective tool when used to remind everyone to expect bicycles on our streets. Most of our year-round residents took their drivers license exam decades ago before these treatments became common, so they seem foreign (they’re in the current Massachusetts Driver’s Manual). But to our hundreds of thousands of visitors from out of town, sharrows and bike lanes are part of the streetscapes they experience every day.
If town wants to increase biking and walking (which the Local Comprehensive Plan and town-wide policy goals do indicate) and educate everyone that biking is welcome here (which is an objective of the town’s Bicycle Committee), pavement markings are a cheap and easy way to get started while continuing to plan for more substantial and permanent road improvements.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) recently released a forward-looking design guide for bike infrastructure. It’s really a big deal, since MassDOT is in charge of lots of roads and intersections all over the state that have pretty meagre bike provisions.
Here in Provincetown, the biggest opportunity to apply the new guidelines are at the three crossings of Route 6, a 50-mph highway with one signalized crossing and two completely cross-your-fingers and run intersections. When Route 6 was cut through town in the 1950s, is was laid out as a 4-lane highway with a wide median. And little has changed since then. Even the single traffic light has no bicycle detector loop, so it’s easy to get stranded in the intersection at a red light (Note: Our intrepid deputy director of public works managed to include a bicycle detector in the upcoming Conwell St. Bicycle Improvements Project).
Sunsets here in Provincetown are always beautiful, but this one was so much more surreal than usual that I had to try to capture a picture.
I was on my way home from the grocery store and the light outside was so spectacular — everything was draped in a soft glowing pink and orange. So I took the long way home up through the cemetery to the highest point on the path and took a few stills and a little video with my iPhone.