Posts by: JM Palacios

Have you ever gotten grease all over a good pair of pants while riding your bicycle? Well, those disasters can now be at an end with Trek’s replacement of the bicycle chain with a carbon-fiber belt. They have two models, the 8 speed Soho and the single speed District. Read the AP article here. According to the article, the District is supposed to begin selling in December; but my local Trek dealer expects a ship date of March if you order now.

Personally, I’ve been considering a single speed bicycle. That and my many pairs of greasy pants have me drooling over the District. While I normally ride in biking clothes, changing is pointless for short trips around the neighborhood.

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Many news sites have listed potential candidates that Obama may choose for cabinet positions. Since we’re most interested in the position of Secretary of Transportation, who might he choose for that all important post?

The Sun-Sentinel has R.T. Ryback, Mayor of Minneapolis, Representative James Oberstar from Minnesota, Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, and Representative Earl Blumenauer from Oregon as potential candidates for the job. That last name should have all of us jumping for joy if he is selected for the position. Blumenauer, from the great bicycling city of Portland, is the only congressman who rides his bicycle to work at the Capitol. The picture above conveys the idea that he is a man concerned about bicycles as a viable mode of transportation, and his development of the recently passed Bicycle Commuter Act gives him a record of seeking the betterment of bicyclists everywhere.

Obama, please pick Blumenauer! We’ll love you more for it if you do!

The Sun-Sentinel offers a voters’ guide for issues that will appear on Broward County’s ballot. While I am not familiar with many of the other issues, I would disagree with their recommendation to vote against Question 1, the creation of a Metropolitan Transit Authority. A letter to the editor of the Miami Herald sheds a little more light on the subject. Read it and consider carefully. I believe it would be in Broward County’s best interest to create a Metropolitan Transit Authority. The Sun-Sentinel thinks it is better to come up with a comprehensive plan first, then create the Transit Authority. I believe the Authority could help create a plan, however. Also, the first steps to creating a plan have been taken through the Transit Summits that Broward County has been having for about a year. Broward County Transit’s own headline says their purpose is to develop a Public Transportation Plan. So it’s not too early to create a Metropolitan Transit Authority. The time is right.

If anyone can come up with a better reason why we should not have a Metropolitan Transit Authority in Broward County, let us know. Otherwise, vote yes on Question 1.

Another important Broward County issue on the ballot is Question 5, amending the county charter to provide a regional focus. That way whenever the county commission considers something, they have to consider it at the regional level. This would help avoid fights with other counties such as the ongoing fight with Palm Beach county over the University Drive extension. Better yet, if this is incorporated with the transit authority, we might have some hope of providing a better regional transit network. So vote yes on Question 5.

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Starting today, Tri-Rail is now using biodiesel fuel in all their conventional trains. The Diesel Multiple Units (DMU’s) will continue to use regular diesel because of their warranty, but the rest of the trains will now be reducing their impact to the environment. Of course, I’m sure cost was the main issue here, with biodiesel costing enough less than regular diesel to offset the reduction in efficiency. Read Tri-Rail’s press release here.

I, for one, can’t wait until next week when I get to ride a train that smells like french fries. It’s got to be better than the diesel fumes that assaulted ones nose every time a train pulled in to a station before.

Remember that vote by Broward County Commissioners to remove funding for Tri-Rail feeder buses in Broward County? Well, the Sun-Sentinel reports that on Tuesday the commission will consider replacing the funding for shuttle buses for at least the coming year.

These shuttle buses are a crucial part of the Tri-Rail service, as the stations themselves are generally far from employment centers. The buses, funded by the county, provide the final link to work or home for many Tri-Rail riders. Until we get Tri-Rail service on the FEC tracks that pass closer to city centers, they provide the best connections. County bus service is not timed to the train schedules and often uses longer routes to get to key locations. Take the Fort Lauderdale airport, for instance. Right now we have a nice shuttle bus providing service from the Fort Lauderdale Airport station to the airport terminals. Without the shuttle, the alternative would be to wait for Broward County Transit Route 4, then transfer to Route 1 at US-1. I don’t even want to know how long that might take! Do you want to be able to get to FLL by Tri-Rail? Ask your county commissioners to keep the shuttle.

Find your commissioner and let them know you want to see Tri-Rail shuttles funded for the coming year. Also remind them that you want to see funding continue on a permanent basis.

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Yet another bicyclist was killed today, apparently on an I-595 exit ramp at SR-7. The Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald both have brief reports on the subject. Our sympathies to the friends and family.

My first thought after seeing the Miami Herald headline was, What on earth was this guy doing on I-595? Bicyclists aren’t allowed on the freeway and all that. But then I remembered how the area around this interchange is configured.

Continue reading »

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Remember ShuttlePort? The FLL shuttle service that had problems with drivers crashing? This LA Times article points out that it was owned by the same company that employs Metrolink engineers. Yes, that’s the Metrolink that had the commuter rail crash earlier this month.

Streetsblog had a post last week with a link to a document outlining McCain’s and Obama’s respective positions on transportation. Well worth checking out.

Much closer to home, Broward County is cutting funding for the Tri-Rail feeder buses. As a shuttle stops at my workplace, and my employer just built a bus shelter for it, this is particularly upsetting. We may have more to say about this later.

We have altogether too many sad reports of bicyclists being hit in this area. Even worse, the latest incident resulted in the death of the bicyclist. Thursday morning, a car driving east on SR 84 collided with a bicyclist heading south on SW 4th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. Our sympathies are with the family and friends of the bicyclist.

The Miami Herald reports that the driver of the car had a green light. If that was the case, then the bicyclist either ran a red light (if he was riding on the road) or crossed in front of oncoming traffic. Either one is a bad idea and should never be attempted while riding one’s bicycle. Judging by the photo, the bicycle seems to be on the east side of the intersection. Unless the bicycle was dragged across the intersection, then the bicyclist was either riding the wrong way on the sidewalk or the road.

To prevent sad tragedies like this in the future, we would encourage you to always ride your bicycle in the same direction as traffic, avoid riding on the sidewalk, and follow all the traffic laws. BIKESAFE has more information on why you should not be riding the wrong way or on the sidewalk, and I’m sure Google can turn up hundreds more sites that point out the dangers of riding on the sidewalk and/or riding against traffic. Please ride safely!

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Have you heard about this act that is about to get voted on in the Senate this Thursday or Friday? It seems like a good thing for those of us using alternative transportation. There’s a tax credit for plug-in “electric drive” vehicles, among other energy related rebates. My favorite is the bicycle commuter tax benefit that gives benefits for those who commute by bicycle.

For more information and to contact your Senator with a simple form, head over to the League of American Bicyclists’ Advocacy Center. You can also read the seven page PDF summary of the bill at the Senate’s website. If you want to see a small step to encourage more to commute by bicycle, then I suggest you contact your Senator now. I just did.

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Bicycles in Denver for the DNC

Bicycles in Denver for the Democratic National Convention

Bike sharing is alive in the U.S.! At the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Freewheelin is running a bicycle sharing program. Humana (a health insurance company—can you guess why they support people riding bicycles?) and Bikes Belong have partnered to put these bike sharing programs together. They seem to be catering to the delegates attending the convention with bicycle stations placed near the convention hotels, but the program will go on after the conventions end. See an article at Forbes.com for more info on the program.

So far, it looks like they had good success in Denver. They surpassed their mileage goal of 25,000 miles by logging 26,493 miles with 5,552 rides. That puts them well on track to meet their combined ridership goal of 10,000 riders by the end of the Republican National Convention. It will be interesting to compare the ridership between the two conventions to see if one party is more willing to participate in a bike-sharing program.

The good news for residents of Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul is that Freewheelin is leaving the cities some of their bikes as a pilot bike sharing program after the conventions end. It will be in the cities’ hands now as to what they do with it, but we can only hope for the best.

Now we just need to host a political convention in Miami or Fort Lauderdale to kick start a bike sharing program down here. Dave Barry thinks the bikes would get stolen down here, but it looks to me like Freewheelin has a pretty well-planned sharing program. If we can’t get them to come down here, at least we can learn from their example.

Photo by Flickr user kitseeborg.

If you’ve been too distracted by elections and Vice Presidential nominations this week, maybe you haven’t heard yet that Miami Dade Transit may be cutting bus routes. Larry Lebowitz at the Miami Herald has the details on the routes that could be cut. These are routes with plenty of ridership, so nothing to be taken lightly.

We are sorry we didn’t get this news out before Mayor Carlos Alvarez won reelection by a landslide. It seems these cuts are being proposed by him and County Manager George Burgess. Lebowitz says that they would be returning the total miles of bus service “close to the pre-sales tax levels of 2002.” That would just prove that the sales tax initiative has failed. I believe that Miller-McCune magazine was justified in putting the Metrorail expansion and the sales tax inititiative on their list of “The World’s Biggest Boondoggles.”

The county commission will be voting on this issue Sept. 2., along with the vote on the proposed fare increase. We urge them to clean up this mess by seeking new sources of income for existing transit service, and coming up with a solid plan to expand Metrorail and bus transit—not by cutting existing service or putting extreme burden on the riders. The Herald offered some suggestions in a follow-up editorial, and we agree with most of their points. Especially the one suggesting to stop handing out free rides before raising fares or cutting service.

MDT is underfunded, and the county has been using this expansion sales tax to make up the difference. Commissioners need to find another dedicated funding source to keep the trains and buses moving, and then get the expansion back on track with the originally committed funding source. How about raising property taxes to fund the budget deficit? If you have a better idea, let us know.

Tomorrow, Broward County Transit is having a public hearing on changes to some bus routes. Instead of the service cuts that South Florida sees too often, it looks like their changes mostly consist of service improvements and the addition of a new express route. See their press release for more details, and head over to room 422 of the Broward County Governmental Center on August 12 at 2 PM to put in your two cents’ worth.

There’s aso a Transportation Development Workshop this Thursday, August 14, from 3:30 to 5:30 PM at the Broward County Lauderhill Towne Center Library. Again, hit up the website for more info on the Transit Development Plan and the workshops.

And don’t let the bus hit you on your way there.

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An article in the Sun-Sentinel focuses on the shift in commuting habits that has occurred and will continue to occur with our ridiculously high gas prices. We’ve seen this clearly for some time now, so it’s good to see someone other than us transit freaks recognize that solo driving is unsustainable. Some of us will be dragged kicking and screaming into this “brave new world,” but there’s no sense in trying to stay in the last century.

Do you hear that, Mary Peters? Transit needs more money, not less!

Read the print copy if you can, where you can see the above photo on the front page of the local section (at least for Broward County). Yours truly in the picture, riding to work last Friday.

Update 8/1/08: Found the online version of the photo here after some digging around the Sun-Sentinel’s website. It wasn’t connected with the article like it was in the paper.

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Forget red light cameras like Fort Lauderdale and many other Florida cities want to install. If anything, evidence has shown that they make traffic lights worse, as the cities or the contractors decrease yellow time to hand out more tickets. No, we want to see useful technology come to our traffic lights.

Thankfully, Germany has some innovation to offer in this area. As reported on Kicking Tires, Audi has partnered with the local government of their hometown Ingolstadt to make their traffic signals smarter. The signals themselves will adapt to traffic patterns to maximize the efficiency of the network. You know how cars seem to move in bunches, or platoons, from one red light to the next? I assume this system would give a green light for the platoon and wait until a gap to switch to red.

The signals are actually communicating with the cars, so they provide the optimal speed at which the cars should be driving to catch the light on green. Unfortunately, at this time it seems to just display the speed on a screen in the dash. The driver is ultimately responsible for whether or not he will follow the suggested speed. We anxiously await the day the vehicles and the traffic signals control the speeds independently. Just bringing the technology as is to this side of the pond wouldn’t hurt, though.

Photo from Kicking Tires.

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Artist Rendering of SR 84 Greenway

The Not-In-My-BackYard syndrome rages on in Broward County. If there is one facility that seems calm, sedate, and most likely to be desired in one’s backyard, it would be a shared use path for bicycles and pedestrians. No engine noise, no fumes, no rushing traffic. Just some neighbors going for a leisurely stroll or a quiet bike ride. It sounds pretty relaxing, right? Apparently residents in Plantation Acres don’t think so.

The Sun-Sentinel reported last week that some residents near a proposed multi-use path that is part of Broward County’s Greenways fear it will cause a rise in crime. One resident even offered a long list of things that were recently stolen from cars in his neighborhood. The article points out some data supporting that bicycle paths do not cause rises in crime, but fails to point out common sense.

First, if there’s crime now, that doesn’t mean a shared-use path will increase the level of crime. If crime went up after a path was put in, it would be a post hoc fallacy to assume that because of the path the crime went up. But the residents’ reasoning doesn’t even go that far! The residents are talking about a future project and doing nothing more than expressing their paranoia. They are seeing a rise in crime in their neighborhood now. Naturally, this is creating a little nervousness for them. They happen to see a project that might bring outsiders into their neighborhood, so their nervousness increases. Normally there might be something to it, but not so if you stop to think about it.

How are crimes committed? How do criminals get away with the loot? Generally, not by bicycle or on foot. If they want to steal electronics and weapons from cars or houses, they will need a vehicle to stash the goods. It ensures a quicker getaway without attracting attention. So where could anyone even get the idea in their head that a path for bicycles and pedestrians will make it easier for criminals to enter their neighborhood?

I honestly cannot figure out why the Sun-Sentinel even bothered to publish an article based on the opinion of a few paranoid people! To make it even more ironic, they point out that Plantation Acres is an equestrian community. Broward County’s Greenways page makes it clear that the paths are for equestrian use as well as bicycle use. These people will have a chance to ride their horses across the county on this and connecting trails, yet they still rise up against it.

It looks like FDOT will be installing fences to quell the fears of these residents. If the residents have any sense, they will take the time to install their own fences now to avoid the crime issues that are happening now. Their crime problems are happening now, and they have no reason to take out their frustration on one of FDOT’s better projects.

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