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 I was specifically asked if there were signs that could be removed, and indeed I do have a list of outdated, confusing, or plainly unnecessary signs that I will bring back to a future selectmen meeting.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.
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!
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.
There are three important bike-related meetings coming up in November, all in one week.
Conwell Street Bicycle Improvements Project Monday, November 9, 6 PM, Judge Welsh Rm. at Town Hall
This is the public hearing on the long-delayed Conwell Street Bicycle Improvements project, which seeks to add bike lanes on both sides of Conwell Street from Route 6 to Cemetery Road.
The “preferred alternative” design also includes a sidewalk on the western side of the road that would connect to the signalized pedestrian crossing at Route 6. Discussion of improving safety on this stretch of roadway have been ongoing for at least 15 years, so it’s great to see something actually getting close to construction.
Town has started enforcing the bicycle parking bylaw that prohibits locking bikes to street trees. A bike found locked to a tree will have its lock cut and be removed immediately. Plus there’s a $50 fine for violating a town bylaw.
According to the town’s beautification committee, trees get damaged by having bikes repeatedly locked to them. There are very few street trees in town — Commercial Street has only nine street trees, and they’re all relatively recent additions to the streetscape.
This week’s Provincetown Banner reported on the Board of Selectmen meeting where they approved the scope of work for the upcoming town-wide parking, circulation, and bicycle study. Reporter Peter Brown talked to Glenn Cannon of the Cape Cod Commission, and Cannon is quoted saying that a kick-off meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 18 at 5:00 PM in Caucus Hall at Provincetown Town Hall.
Selectmen Tom Donegan and Raphael Richter both chimed in with their perspectives. Donegan expressed interest in getting a better handle on the traffic flow at the intersection of Conwell St. and Bradford St. and at the Lopes Square entrance to MacMillan Pier and the waterfront municipal parking lot. He also said he’d like to have more data so the selectmen would have some backup for reviewing citizen proposals for traffic changes at the town’s annual traffic hearings. Continue reading Traffic study kick-off to take place June 18
Another member of the Bicycle Committee posted a picture of one of these signs on Facebook recently, and the discussion there was lively. Should these signs be removed? Probably. Will they be? Probably not.
There are a number of these “No Bicycles on Poles” signs on the poles along Standish St. next to the beach taxi parking spaces for Art’s Dune Tours. They’ve been there as long as anyone can remember. And they’re completely unenforceable. Continue reading No Bicycles on Poles?