Saturday, September 10, 2016

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Dear Sirs,
I am sure you are aware of the 30 August death of a cyclist on West Carson Street, only nine days after PennDOT opened the road after a complete reconstruction. In the 33 months the road was restricted to single-lane, 25 mph operation, there were few wrecks and no fatalities.

My beef with PennDOT requires your attention because it is supposed to be responsive to its superiors, namely state government leaders, the citizenry's elected representatives -- you. To do your jobs effectively, you need to be informed what the citizenry needs.

In that part of town -- McKees Rocks, the Bottoms, Esplen, Presston, Sheraden, Elliott, Stowe -- car ownership is far less than in other parts of the city and inner suburban areas. Able-bodied people are dependent on the bus system, and I need not elaborate upon the many service cutbacks in recent years. Using a bike to commute from the area served by West Carson, though, which would be a great way to get back and forth, essentially cannot be done using this road design. Even experienced cyclists like myself do not consider it safe to ride -- and I regularly ride on McKnight Road.

I need you to understand that people regularly commute by bike, some by choice, others by necessity. They need PennDOT to design roads to allow them to use the road system safely -- even if it means less capacity and lower speed limits, which they are adamantly opposed to.

That last point is critical: Roads like West Carson need to be posted 25, not 35, so that non-drivers can use it safely. We do not care if that is not popular, and we don't want you to care, and we don't want PennDOT to care. Safety is more important than capacity. We want to use the roads without fear of losing our lives.

Never mind bicycles. Simply put, would you change a left flat tire on West Carson?

PennDOT needs to think differently. YOU need to think differently, if you are not already fully on board with getting PennDOT to change.

I thank you in advance for your concern.

Sincerely yours,
Stuart Strickland

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Dear Sirs,
I am sure you are aware of the 30 August death of a cyclist on West Carson Street, only nine days after PennDOT opened the road after a complete reconstruction. In the 33 months the road was restricted to single-lane, 25 mph operation, there were few wrecks and no fatalities.

My beef with PennDOT requires your attention because it is supposed to be responsive to its superiors, namely state government leaders, the citizenry's elected representatives -- you. To do your jobs effectively, you need to be informed what the citizenry needs.

In that part of town -- McKees Rocks, the Bottoms, Esplen, Presston, Sheraden, Elliott, Stowe -- car ownership is far less than in other parts of the city and inner suburban areas. Able-bodied people are dependent on the bus system, and I need not elaborate upon the many service cutbacks in recent years. Using a bike to commute from the area served by West Carson, though, which would be a great way to get back and forth, essentially cannot be done using this road design. Even experienced cyclists like myself do not consider it safe to ride -- and I regularly ride on McKnight Road.

I need you to understand that people regularly commute by bike, some by choice, others by necessity. They need PennDOT to design roads to allow them to use the road system safely -- even if it means less capacity and lower speed limits, which they are adamantly opposed to.

That last point is critical: Roads like West Carson need to be posted 25, not 35, so that non-drivers can use it safely. We do not care if that is not popular, and we don't want you to care, and we don't want PennDOT to care. Safety is more important than capacity. We want to use the roads without fear of losing our lives.

Never mind bicycles. Simply put, would you change a left flat tire on West Carson?

PennDOT needs to think differently. YOU need to think differently, if you are not already fully on board with getting PennDOT to change.

I thank you in advance for your concern.

Sincerely yours,
Stuart Strickland

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Dear Sirs, I am sure you are aware of the 30 August death of a cyclist on West Carson Street, only nine days after PennDOT opened the road after a complete reconstruction. In the 33 months the road was restricted to single-lane, 25 mph operation, there were few wrecks and no fatalities.

My beef with PennDOT requires your attention because it is supposed to be responsive to its superiors, namely state government leaders, the citizenry's elected representatives -- you. To do your jobs effectively, you need to be informed what the citizenry needs.

In that part of town -- McKees Rocks, the Bottoms, Esplen, Presston, Sheraden, Elliott, Stowe -- car ownership is far less than in other parts of the city and inner suburban areas. Able-bodied people are dependent on the bus system, and I need not elaborate upon the many service cutbacks in recent years. Using a bike to commute from the area served by West Carson, though, which would be a great way to get back and forth, essentially cannot be done using this road design. Even experienced cyclists like myself do not consider it safe to ride -- and I regularly ride on McKnight Road.

I need you to understand that people regularly commute by bike, some by choice, others by necessity. They need PennDOT to design roads to allow them to use the road system safely -- even if it means less capacity and lower speed limits, which they are adamantly opposed to.

That last point is critical: Roads like West Carson need to be posted 25, not 35, so that non-drivers can use it safely. We do not care if that is not popular, and we don't want you to care, and we don't want PennDOT to care. Safety is more important than capacity. We want to use the roads without fear of losing our lives.

Never mind bicycles. Simply put, would you change a left flat tire on West Carson?

PennDOT needs to think differently. YOU need to think differently, if you are not already fully on board with getting PennDOT to change.

I thank you in advance for your concern.

Sincerely yours,
Stuart Strickland

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Turzai and Vulakovich letter, first draft

Dear Sirs, I am sure you are aware of the 30 August death of a cyclist on West Carson Street, only nine days after PennDOT opened the road after a complete reconstruction. In the 33 months the road was restricted to single-lane, 25 mph operation, there were few wrecks and no fatalities.

My beef with PennDOT requires your attention because it is supposed to be responsive to its superiors, namely state government leaders, the citizenry's elected representatives -- you. To do your jobs effectively, you need to be informed what the citizenry needs.

In that part of town -- McKees Rocks, the Bottoms, Esplen, Presston, Sheraden, Elliott, Stowe -- car ownership is far less than in other parts of the city and inner suburban areas. Able-bodied people are dependent on the bus system, and I need not elaborate upon the many service cutbacks in recent years. Using a bike to commute from the area served by West Carson, though, which would be a great way to get back and forth, essentially cannot be done using this road design. Even experienced cyclists like myself do not consider it safe to ride -- and I regularly ride on McKnight Road.

I need you to understand that people regularly commute by bike, some by choice, others by necessity. They need PennDOT to design roads to allow them to use the road system safely -- even if it means less capacity and lower speed limits, which they are adamantly opposed to.

That last point is critical: Roads like West Carson need to be posted 25, not 35, so that non-drivers can use it safely. We do not care if that is not popular, and we don't want you to care, and we don't want PennDOT to care. Safety is more important than capacity. We want to use the roads without fear of losing our lives.

Never mind bicycles. Simply put, would you change a left flat tire on West Carson?

PennDOT needs to think differently. YOU need to think differently, if you are not already fully on board with getting PennDOT to change.

I thank you in advance for your concern.

Sincerely yours, Stuart Strickland

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Safety should be a pre-condition, not a goal

Pre-Script: I wrote the following as a comment on a Bike-Pgh message board thread on 30 August 2013, three years to the day before Dennis Flanagan was killed. Fresh in mind was PennDOT's mis-handling of the West Carson Street project. It is almost the same message I started to say at the Oakland Forbes Ave meeting last night. My, how little has changed.
Original thread: 
http://www.bikepgh.org/message-board/topic/do-you-have-bike-safety-concerns/
*
I guess I better get my pen busy.

Safety should not be a goal of any road project or transportation maintenance plan, but rather a pre-condition. The distinction is critical. To have safety as a mere goal means it’s a thing you strive for, instead of something that’s flat-out-assured before you push a pencil, a lever or a shovelful of dirt.
The other side of it, and I’d better give this a good solid scouring before I say anything to them, but I’ll air it here, is that I am sure they are all about maintaining congestion free roads, disrupting traffic as little as possible, getting cars and trucks to and from efficiently.
I dispute this approach. I think we really want the opposite, to make it slower, make it harder to get around *by car* *so that* safety is assured when getting around by any other means, like crossing a street getting off a bus, like bicycling. 
* Road diets
* “Twenty Is Plenty” campaigns in residential areas
* Dropping every speed limit on every non-superhighway by 5 mph
* Getting rid of multiple lanes
* Stricter conditions for getting and keeping a driver’s license
In short, pretty much everything they wanted to do in 1972, do the exact opposite. My guess is that all these white-haired senior managers all got their driver’s licenses in or about 1972 (I got mine in 1976 and I’m 54), so their entire mindset, their whole philosophy of life, their entire careers, is built on how things worked back then. I use the year 1972 because it was just before the 1973 Arab oil boycott, the first time in over a generation (WW2 rationing) anyone had to think about gasoline.
And that’s what we’re up against.
*
In a later comment, I added this:
I think the short version of my message is, if you’re within the Blue Belt, and are in a car, you’re doing it wrong. For PennDOT, plan your capacity accordingly.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Can we please not build the MFSoB?

Again there is a big push to spend billions of dollars to build another piece of the Mon-Fayette/Southern Beltway project, or MFSoB, for short. [Insert a long string of deleted profanities here in which I offer my opinion on the project. But that's not the point of this post.] I want to talk about why nobody is offering a viable alternative. I have to go back 25 years to explain myself.

From 1990 to 1994, I reverse-commuted to Monroeville from Robinson and later McCandless, almost every day, by bus. This is why and when I developed an interest in promoting public transit.

During this period, I had plenty of opportunity to compare travel times between downtown and Monroeville, going both directions, at all different times of day and days of the week. I would compare the difference in travel times between driving there and busing there. I would also compare relative comfort of travel between car and bus.

Physically, nothing is different between an August 1990 trip and an almost-August 2016 trip via the two modes. Same roads, same bus routes, same travel times and conditions, same brick streets in Wilkinsburg. True, there are a couple more miles of East Busway now vs then, but that extension is not used by the Monroeville express bus.

I mention all this because the primary difficulty in getting people to use transit instead of driving is the level of difficulty and lack of comfort in traveling between the Parkway East and the East Busway. Inbound morning riders still have to sit on a bus stuck on the Parkway East tunnel traffic from the Penn Hills exit to the Wilkinsburg off-ramp, then get tossed about for almost 15 minutes on brick or unevenly paved Wilkinsburg back streets, when you’re moving at all. Yes they bypass the rest of the tunnel backup, but it isn’t much faster. Outbound, much the same — the Busway bypasses the daily tunnel backup, but it takes almost 15 minutes to get from the Busway ramp to the outbound Parkway, and it isn’t pretty.

All in all, when including the time necessary to transfer downtown and wait for the Holiday Park bus to show up, travel by car is still 20 minutes faster than by bus, even with the tunnel backup. That’s a doorknob-to-desk comparison — my house to my desk at the Westinghouse Energy Center (or whatever it is now). Absent all other reasons, the only figure that matters to anyone is elapsed travel time. Nobody ever asked me how much it cost me to travel from A to B — about one-fourth what the car was — or that I could get plenty of work-work done on the way home, or pleasure reading done on the way in. Irrelevant. No, the only thing that mattered was 45 minutes by car, 85 by bus, each way.

BUT THE FIX IS WITH TRANSIT, NOT HIGHWAYS. The solution to the problem is not to spend one or two or five billion for a new major expressway, tolled or not, but to improve the means of transfer from Busway to Parkway. Look at the connection from the West Busway to the Parkway West. That’s a direct hookup which takes only a minute or so. That is what’s needed east of town. One minute, not 15; a short, smooth ramp, not two miles of warbly brick streets.

THE PROBLEM IS EDGEWOOD. Edgewood Boro has always been a pain in the ass about transit. The whole East Busway could have been built to McKeesport and Murrysville in 1982 if Edgewood had played nicely. They didn’t then, so the Busway ended at Wilkinsburg until 2003. They didn’t again in 1997 when the extension to Rankin was being laid out. The extension got built despite Edgewood’s stupidity — which, by the way, was based almost exclusively on racism and fear. But no station, no park & ride, no linear park like exists along the entire rest of that extension.

THE SOLUTION IS TO BULLDOZE A PIECE OF THE TOWN. And nobody wants to do that. Somewhat justifiably. To make a connection, they’d have to either take a large chunk out of the back of Edgewood Towne Center, or eliminate a street bridge, Elm/Chestnut Street, cutting a neighborhood in half.

So, the boo-fucking-hoo part of this is that in order to fix a transit problem, they’d have to cut a wealthy, lily-white boro in half RATHER THAN a down-and-out, black/brown/mixed bit of the county — Duquesne, Rankin, Braddock. Again, flat-out racism.

Fix THAT.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Think of the children

As a 9-year-old, I discovered the word "unconstitutional". Knowing me, I probably read it in a newspaper. Little 4th or 5th grade me found it neat that I could say, and spell, a six-syllable, 16-letter word. I didn't quite know what it meant, but neither did I have to use it very often, so it didn't matter. I could continue being a kid.

As I grew up, I started to understand more about how government works, how laws are made, and how all that related to not just the U.S. Constitution, but various state constitutions. The concept of being able to pass constitutional muster was a bit tougher to wrap my mind around than spelling big words in elementary school. Now, it mattered.

Well into adulthood, I can clearly see how bad rules are made, and why they are bad -- or to be clearer, that they are unconstitutional. As Anne Feeney sings, "Laws are made by people, and people can be wrong." Later in the same song, she sings, "A rotten law stays on the books till folks like us defy it." We'll get to that later.

Which brings us to the matter of a bare-chested woman in a park. The PA Constitution says the sexes are to be treated equally. The indecent exposure law says genitalia must be covered. All well and good, so far, and we have established that a bare-chested woman can toss a frisbee in a city park. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police legal department agrees with this and told us so in writing.

However, Point State Park is not a city park but a state park, and state parks have their own set of rules. Among these rules is the explicit wording that a female may not bare any part of a breast below the top of the areola. To me, this is clearly unconstitutional. It is a rule that only applies to females. The areola and lower half of a man's breast area are perfectly OK to show. Note that a good many men have mammary tissue the same size or larger than an A-cup woman. Doesn't matter. Men OK, women not OK.

One of the first and fiercest objections to a woman bare-chested is "Think of the children!" OK, let's ask that question. A child does not need to be able to spell 16-letter words to be able to understand fairness. Even a five-year-old understands fairness. Having laws means that everyone plays by the same rules. Having a constitution means that all the laws themselves have to play by the same rules. It would not be fair if one law said you can do something but another law said you cannot.

Well, guess what? Here we have two parks, directly across the river from one another. You can see one from the other. Riverfront Park is a city park, which adheres to state law, which adheres to the PA Constitution. Point State Park has its own rules which overrule state law, but do not adhere to the Constitution. In the space of five minutes, a woman riding her bike with a man, neither wearing a shirt, can cross the Fort Duquesne Bridge southbound, and go from law abiding to law breaking, because of an unconstitutional state park rule. The man is not breaking the law in either place.

So think of the children, indeed. Try explaining to your kids how that's fair.