Tactical fixes that work

Sometimes the cost and complexity of making streets safer and more comfortable for riding a bike and walking can seem overwhelming. Curbs, drainage, and repaving are costly and take a long time to implement, so it’s easy to get caught in analysis paralysis and do nothing. But there are some great examples of simple, inexpensive fixes that work.

Barrels of flowers

Amazingly simple yet often overlooked are barrels of flowers. These barrels in front of the East End Market are set over old, fading pavement markings that say “no parking”. They keep cars out, create a nice protected courtyard in front of the store entrance. They are so effective that they barely get any notice.

Barrels of flowers at the East End Market (2011).
Barrels of flowers at the East End Market (2011).

Town uses barrels here in an attempt to define a pedestrian area at this crosswalk next to Town Hall:

Barrels of flowers at Town Hall in Provincetown (2015)
Barrels of flowers at Town Hall in Provincetown (2015)


Allowing people on bikes or people walking to cut through properties makes great sense. It shortens the trip distance to get from here to there.

The owners of the parking lot on Bradford St. added this fence with an opening to provide access through the parking lot.

Allowing cut-through bike and walking on Cowell St. in Provincetown (2018)
Allowing cut-through biking and walking on Cowell St. in Provincetown (2018)

Greening instead of paving

This grassy parcel at the corner of Shank Painter Rd. and Court St. is a nice example of a private parking lot that does double duty as a green space. In the busy summer months, it’s full of cars. The rest of the year, it’s a green space. You’ll see horses here from time to time and lots of people using it as a cut-through.

Greening instead of paving at Shank Painter Rd. and Court St. in Provincetown (2011)
Greening instead of paving at Shank Painter Rd. and Court St. in Provincetown (2011)

Islands of flowers

We have a lot of these odd islands in the middle of intersections. Since most have a telephone pole or tree in the middle, they’re not likely to be changed any time soon. The town’s volunteer Public Landscape Committee (formerly the Beautification Committee) does amazing work on making some of these islands beautiful.

Island plantings at West Vine St. in Provincetown (2011)
Island plantings at West Vine St. in Provincetown (2011)
Island plantings at Standish St. in Provincetown (2015)
Island plantings at Standish St. in Provincetown (2015)


Paint isn’t always pretty, but it’s cheap and it gets the job done. Here’s an example of a yellow crosswalk that the town painted to emphasize the crossing from the parking to the sidewalk on Ryder St. This is a congested and chaotic area in the summer, with transit and tour bus parking, the exit from the municipal lot, and the entrance and exit for Fishermen’s Wharf.

Yellow crosswalk in Provincetown (2016)
Yellow crosswalk in Provincetown (2016)

Sometimes good solutions are right there in the open, waiting to be discovered and replicated. Too often I realize I see the things that don’t work rather than the things that do. Here’s hoping some of these examples can be copied and pasted onto other problem areas around town.

There’s no space for bike lanes or sidewalks

Private parking in the public way. 48 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown. Google Streetview (2011)

I often hear people say that our roads are too narrow for bike lanes and sidewalks. In some cases that’s true. But there are many locations where property owners have intruded on the town’s right-of-way, placing landscaping and parking in what is actually part of the street.

Here’s a example that will be going before the town’s Planning Board soon. The property at 48 Shank Painter Road is proposed for use as a medical marijuana dispensary. For this use, they need to go through site plan review to get a special permit. That process reviews all sorts of details of a site, from parking and drainage to landscaping and utility locations. The proposed location is on a busy, two-lane road with a 25 MPH speed limit. There’s a bike lane on this side of the road heading south, which is actually now wider than what is shown in this 2011 image from Google Streetview:

48 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown. Google Streetview image (2011)
48 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown. Google Streetview image (2011)

From this picture, it looks like there’s no room to add a sidewalk. The pavement is only so wide, and there’s a grassy front yard and a fence. But what you don’t see here are the property lines.

The roadway is actually 60 feet wide, but only about 25 feet of it is paved.

Here’s the town’s parcel map that shows the property lines:

48 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown. Mapsonline image.
48 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown. Mapsonline image.

Once you realize that the fence is the approximate location of the property line, you can see the extent of the takeover of public space for private use. The tree, brick walk, and grass are in the roadway! Here’s another Google Streetview image just a few feet to the right:

Private parking in the public way. 48 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown. Google Streetview (2011)
Private parking in the public way. 48 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown. Google Streetview (2011)

This property owner has a nicely landscaped parking area for four cars, with gravel and cobblestone edging. But it’s in the road! At some point in time, the use of this public space was claimed for private parking.

There have been a couple of other recent examples of this where it’s come to the attention of the Board of Selectmen. One was at 212 Bradford Street (the East End Market), where they discovered that their six parking spaces were mostly in the road layout for Howland Street. Through a licensing process I don’t quite understand, the owners of the market were granted a license for “improvements in the public way”. I wouldn’t consider parking an improvement, but that wasn’t my decision. The market has agreed to pay the town a fee per space per year to use the road as private parking for their business.

Another location with a similar situation is at the end of Bradford St Ext near where it intersects with Province Lands Rd. The condo association put up “Private Parking” signs on their fence and were parking their cars “next to the street” — but in what is actually the public roadway. A neighbor brought this to the attention of the selectmen at last year’s traffic hearing, and the selectmen agreed to install “no parking” signs there and reclaim a swath of asphalt for a wide marked bike/walk shoulder.

In a town where private parking spaces sell for $40,000 and up and condo units sell for over $1,000 per square foot, public roads are a valuable asset that need to be maintained for the use of the public. It’s time for the town to take an active role in asserting its rights over public roads to make them safe and comfortable for everyone to use.

Bradford St Climbing Lanes Hearing

Update: The Board of Selectmen voted at the hearing to approve Alternative 2, a permanent uphill climbing lane! The lane will be installed when the road section is repaved in the spring of 2018.

Public Hearing: Monday, January 8, 2018, during the 6 PM Provincetown Board of Selectmen meeting in the Judge Welsh Room in Town Hall, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown. Download the Public Hearing Notice | Download the Meeting Agenda | Download the Meeting Packet

The Provincetown Board of Selectmen are holding a public hearing on Monday to solicit public feedback on some options for bike improvements to Bradford St. from Central St. to Carver St. This section of the street is scheduled be repaved and re-striped in the spring.

The Bicycle Committee has been advocating for uphill climbing lanes, and this segment of Bradford St. is one of the areas most in need of improvement. Back in 2016, the committee requested climbing lanes at the fall Traffic Hearing, and the selectmen chose to defer any decision until the street was set to be repaved. Since that time, the selectmen have adopted the Outer Cape Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan as the bike master plan for town. I’ve also done some analysis on crashes throughout town, and this segment of road is one of the top 4 in the number of crashes that town reported to the state from 2002-2015.

Crash Hot Spots in Provincetown (MassDOT data)
Crash Hot Spots in Provincetown (MassDOT data)


The Hearing

The town’s Department of Public Works will be presenting their recommendations at the hearing and members of the Bicycle Committee will be on hand to provide public comment in favor of a climbing lane up the hill.

The meeting packet contains three alternative concepts put together by the town’s consulting engineers:

Alternative 1

The first scheme is essentially no improvements, just adding sharrow pavement markings on the street. It retains the 3 ft sidewalk on the northern side of the street, two 10-foot travel lanes, and a parking lane (of variable width from 7 to 9 feet).

Alternative 1: Bradford St Provincetown road section
Alternative 1: Bradford St Provincetown road section

The sharrows would be placed in the center of each travel lane, and according to the notes on the plan, “share the road signage shall be provided as appropriate.”

Alternative 1: Sharrows in both directions
Alternative 1: Sharrows in both directions

Alternative 2

The second concept is closer to what the Bicycle Committee recommended at the 2016 Traffic Hearing. It retains the sidewalk, has two 10-foot travel lanes, and includes a 5-foot climbing lane. Oddly, the layout indicates a “2-foot offset” between the sidewalk and the southbound travel lane, which effectively makes the travel lane 12 feet wide. I’d rather see those two feet on adjacent to the bike lane and striped to create a buffered bike lane.

Alternative 2: Bradford St Provincetown road section
Alternative 2: Bradford St Provincetown road section

Sharrows would be painted in the center of the southbound lane and again the engineers are suggesting more “share the road” signage.

Alternative 2: Sharrows downhill, climbing lane uphill
Alternative 2: Sharrows downhill, climbing lane uphill

Alternative 3

The third alternative at first glance seems strange, but the engineer’s notes clarify what they are intending. This layout is for a seasonal bike lane that would revert to on-street motor vehicle parking in the winter. Here a 2-foot buffer is painted as “no parking” hatch marks along the southern side of the street. The engineer’s notes explain:


Alternative 3: Bradford St Provincetown road section
Alternative 3: Bradford St Provincetown road section

Again, sharrows get painted in the center of the downhill lane. But there are no bike lane pavement markings. There is more detail on signage:


Alternative 3: Sharrows downhill, seasonal climbing lane uphill marked with signs (parking allowed in winter)
Alternative 3: Sharrows downhill, seasonal climbing lane uphill marked with signs (parking allowed in winter)


While all three alternatives are pointing in the right direction, the Alternative 3 seasonal bike lane seems like the one that would be easiest to do as a pilot and have less permanent impacts on parking. I have been unable to find any examples of seasonal bike lanes elsewhere, so this creative solution may be  completely nonstandard but does a good job of addressing local concerns.

Putting up more signs goes against the Board of Selectmen’s policy to reduce sign clutter (they favor pavement markings), and there are very few sign posts on this stretch (Google streetview is old but still accurate) and the overhanging trees and shrubs will likely block any new signs.

The one major downside of this entire repaving project is the lack of improvements for people walking. The crosswalks will get re-striped, but there is no plan to provide any ADA compliance for the sidewalk. The curb cuts won’t be improved, and the incredibly narrow, un-level asphalt sidewalks that are interrupted by telephone poles remain as-is.

It will be interesting to see what pubic comment is like at the meeting. Hearings are usually poorly attended, and if they are attended they only seem to bring out people who are against anything new. Hopefully we’ll see some support from the selectmen to at least try something new on this stretch of roadway and make a small step toward improving safety on Bradford Street.


Bradford Street Climbing Lanes Poll

This spring, the Provincetown Department of Public Works is planning to repave a stretch of Bradford Street from Central Street, past Shank Painter Road, and up the hill to Carver Street.

We’re asking that the roadway configuration be re-evaluated to provide some improvements for people on bikes.

Below is a quick one-question poll on possible configurations. Which would you like to see?

Public Hearing: Monday, January 8, during the 6 PM Provincetown Board of Selectmen meeting in the Judge Welsh Room in Town Hall, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown. Download the Public Hearing Notice


Repair Stations Coming Soon

The repair stations are here!

The Bicycle Committee is working with the town’s Department of Public works to nail down the details for their installation.

They will be installed at the West End and Johnson Street parking lots adjacent to the parking pay kiosks.

These are Dero Fixit Stations that the town purchased through the Cape Cod Commission’s Bike Rack Grant Program. We also picked up a pair of Air Kit 3 outdoor air pumps that will be installed alongside the repair stations.

These new public repair stations will be available year-round, unlike the five bike shops that open in the spring and shutter in the fall. They will also provide a platform for teaching people simple bike repair tasks.

Unfortunately, the cold weather and holiday schedules make it look like installation won’t take place until sometime in early 2018.

While you’re waiting for these to come online, take a look at Dero’s map of repair stations – they are all over the world!

Dero Fixit Map

Dero Fixit Map

Does this feel safe?

The number one reason people don’t ride their bikes is that they just don’t feel safe. In the photo above, created with the Cycling Embassy of Greater Britain’s Insert Loved One Here image creator highlights the failure in road design that keeps people in their cars and off their bikes.

To cross this intersection of Conwell Street and Route 6, the signs tell you to cross to the left side of the road. Then you have to cross an unsignalized slip lane get off your bike and walk 10 feet to press a beg button to get a light to cross this four lane, 50 M.P.H. highway.  You have to ride on the left hand side of the road against traffic on sand to get to the crossing. It’s not obvious how to get there and it certainly isn’t safe.

The town’s design to improve Conwell Street with bike lanes and a sidewalk doesn’t improve the intersection for people on bikes. It just merges them into motor vehicle traffic at the intersection and adds a new loop detector so that the lights will (hopefully) change for bikes.This intersection really wants to be a modern roundabout. For a great video showing a very safe roundabout in Europe, take a look at the video below (courtesy of A view from the cycle path). This is what we should aspire to:

Did you lock your bike?

In small towns, people seem to think it’s okay to leave their bikes unlocked. But like leaving your keys in your car or leaving your front door open, you do those things at your own peril. I used to leave my bike unlocked until the day I went to get it to ride home and it was gone. It showed up a few days later a few blocks away on another bike rack, but I was lucky. Stolen bikes usually disappear and are never found.

Did you lock your bike? sticker - Provincetown Bicycle Committee
“Did you lock your bike?” reminders on bike racks in Provincetown.

Bicycle theft is a crime of opportunity. The bike that’s unlocked is the one that will go missing. You don’t need the biggest, baddest bike lock to deter a thief. You probably don’t need two locks like urban bike folks recommend in places like New York where thieves have power tools to cut through just about anything.

Here are the most common types of locks used around here:

Cable lock. Cables come in all shapes and sizes, with varying lengths and thicknesses and either a combination or key lock. I use combination locks since I don’t like to carry yet another key with me. Long cables are better than short so you can pull it through both the wheel and the frame when locking to just about anything (even a tree or telephone pole, though that’s against local regulations).

cable locks - good
A cable lock through the front wheel and frame in Provincetown.

Chain lock. Chains are harder to cut than cables, but they’re heavy and expensive.

chain lock
A chain lock through a front wheel in Provincetown.

There are a few that are seen occasionally:

U-lock. These locks are common in urban areas, but they don’t work well on the schoolyard-style (wheelbender) bike racks that are everywhere. They’re fine when you’re locking up to a post on an inverted U rack or a street sign pole.

Frame lock. These are common on Dutch bicycles, so you see them on imported bicycles like Gazelles, Workcycles, or cargo bikes that are European-made. They’re not very secure, but they meet the basic deterrent requirements since you can’t turn the wheel when the lock is engaged. I like these since the lock itself can’t be stolen and you can’t leave home without it since it’s attached to the bike. A chain or cable lock can be added to lots of these to make them more secure.

Frame Lock
A frame lock secures through the rear wheel with a metal bar to keep the bike from moving.

Regardless of the type of lock, it’s important to actually attach the bike securely to the bike rack. It’s important to lock through the frame and through a wheel to deter theft. Here’s an example of a cable lock that could easily be removed:

cable locks - bad
This cable lock could be easily removed from the handlebars without cutting the lock.

All you need to do is slide the cable off the handlebars to steal this bike!

As John Waters has said, “Two things get stolen in Provincetown — boyfriends and bicycles.” He has lots of experience with both, so I’d heed his warning and encourage everyone to lock their bikes.


Analyzing bike crashes

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:bicycle-committee-crashes-2013-2015-001

If the 65 crash number for 2016 is accurate, that’s a whopping 88 percent increase from last year.

Continue reading Analyzing bike crashes

Traffic Hearing Results

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.

These cars are parking in the public way on Bradford Street Extension, but the signs say “Private Parking”. Google Maps Streetview, 2011

The next annual traffic hearing will take place in the fall of 2017.


Provincetown embraces bicycle culture, Provincetown Banner, October 31, 2016.
2016 Annual Traffic Hearing Results, Town of Provincetown web site.

Super busy summer!

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.

shank painter bike lane conwell street sharrow

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.

2016-bike-racks-phase-2-008Each 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.

2016-bike-racks-phase-2-009Along 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.

Sharrow educational postcardProvincetown 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.