Progress on the Bike-Ped Master Plan

An impressively detailed draft version of Portsmouth’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was unveiled during a session June 5 at the public library. (Watch video)

With perhaps 75 people looking on, city officials and Toole Design Group, a planning firm that specializes and bicycle and pedestrian planning (and was the consultant for Boston’s bike-pedestrian master plan) described techniques for improving walkability and bikeability and displayed about about a dozen maps on the Levenson Room’s walls. The maps showed where people walk and bike today, where there are opportunities for improvement, and where there are constraints on making improvements.  (For a short while, more public input can be added to the city’s Bike-Ped Wikimap.)

Fully implemented, the plan could result a sophisticated walk-bike network for the city. However, absent a sudden infusion of cash, bike-ped improvements will evolve slowly. City planner Juliet Walker and the Toole Design Group plan to rank potential projects by their importance for safety, availability of funding, ease of implementation, public enthusiasm and other factors.

Many of of the master plan materials are available on the the city’s PlanPortsmouth.com website.

 

 

‘Walkable City’ Discussion – June 3

After a group discussion of Jeff Speck’s Walkable City on June 3, participants at the Portsmouth Public Library (about 35) were invited to:

  • write a comment about Walkable City’s ten steps
  • write a question for Jeff Speck that Sean Moundas, who leads the Portsmouth Public Library’s nonfiction book group, might ask in an upcoming interview. (The questions for Speck often were as interesting as the comments. It will be up to Sean to choose which ones to ask.)
  • make a general comment about the meeting or PS21.

The comments and questions are below. Since participants were not asked for permission to use their names, the authors are not shown.

COMMENTS ON THE 10 STEPS TO WALKABILITY

STEP #1: PUT CARS IN THEIR PLACE

  • More free or reduced parking for residents w/in 10 min walk.”
  • “Narrow Maplewood!”
  • “Keep in mind that for many, many people, being able to walk somewhere is not just a nice-to-have, but is absolutely essential. For whatever reason, a lot of people do not drive. We have a moral obligation to support them with public transportation as well as safe places to walk. We spend a lot of money supporting cars – we need to do more (for people who don’t drive).”

STEP #2: MIX THE USES

  • Keep the West End mixed.”

STEP #3: GET THE PARKING RIGHT

  • “Bring back in lieu payments.”
  • “Have parking revenue dedicated to improvements in the neighborhood (downtown) where it is collected.”

STEP #4: LET TRANSIT WORK

  • (Traffic and parking are) not frustrating enough to gain general support for buses —“loser cruiser.”
  • “Do we need more density in neighborhood hubs/nodes to support it? (Also, vibrant retail?”)
  • “Aging demographic (makes transit important).”
  • “Regional transit for the modern commuter will cut traffic/parking problems and address non-driver population needs.”
  • “Frequent (bus schedule is important for transit success.”
  • “Appealing”
  • “Keep buses even if under-used.”

STEP #5: PROTECT THE PEDESTRIANS

  • “Lafayette/Woodbury” (can/should be improved)
  • “Not just walkability, also accessability”
  • “No bikes on sidewalks.”
  • “Brick sidewalks are dangerous.”
  • “Jay-walking: need an ordinance. Need a sign on Market Square.”
  • “‘A-Signs’ can interfere with walking on Congress.”
  • “Trees in grass strip between road and sidewalk give the motorist visual clues to slow down and make the sidewalk feel safer and more interesting.”
  • “Always plant at least a 2-foot green strip next to road with trees.”

STEP #6: WELCOME BIKES

  • “No debris in bike-way”
  • “Wider bike lanes.”
  • “Opportunity on Lafayette/Maplewood.”
  • “Shared bike and car lanes is a problem.”
  • “Problem and need (to improve) Middle Road by high school.”
  • “Education: Everyone knows what side of the road to drive on. Biking rules are much less universally known. A sign would help.”
  • “Explain bike lane laws to residents. Be a little flexible with lane if possible to provide some parking.”
  • “At the High Hanover Parking Garage, there is a highly under-utilized ground floor space that could be bike parking; near the south side entry gate.”

STEP #7: SHAPE THE SPACES

  • Refresh Market Square.”
  • “Consider a building-to-street ratio of 1:1.”

STEP #8: PLANT TREES

  • “More birch trees; (they are) known well in NH; clump the trees”
  • Maplewood and Woodbury, as well as Marcy and South St.”
  • “More birch trees in clumps.”
  • “Why do we cut down the trees when they reach a certain height?”
  • “Encourage private/public grass strip tree planting with residents!”
  • “As we plan to beautify the entrance to the city (Market Street), we should think about preserving something that is natural along the way. I am referring to the sumac (over 200 years old) on the left side (east side) of Market Street.”
  • “I wonder if the grounds of the historic houses might be made accessible to people walking in the city. These would offer beautiful comfortable places for people to visit and pause. Sitting in the gardens would be great.”

STEP #9: MAKE FRIENDLY AND UNIQUE FACES

  • “Build streetscapes for visual interest.”
  • “Not just building but also natural environment, including enhancing natural landscapes. How to harmonize our way with natural environment. Example: don’t pull out natural vegetation or sumac for park on Market Street.”: Good Example: Memorial Bridge as promenade.”

STEP #10: PICK YOUR WINNERS

  • “Area leading to high school.”
  • “West End and Islington: small blocks are good!”
  • “Parking shuttle: keep making more appealing.”
  • “Neighborhood nodes: should we aim for more mixed use?”
  • “More interesting and safe link between Atlantic Heights and Downtown. Increase interconnectivity of all neighborhoods: fix broken links.”
  • “Demand a higher aesthetic in design!”

QUESTIONS FOR JEFF SPECK

How do you facilitate “Making Friendly and Unique Faces” when it’s all privately owned and developed?

How do you get “buy-in” in a community?

What kind of transit is appropriate for a small city with a successful downtown (4-5 stories, mixed use), but surrounding neighborhoods and shopping strips with lower densities (from 10 units/acre down to 3-4 units/acre)?

How does a group interested in, say, getting a sidewalk in, overcome the “it’s too expensive” attitude of those decision makers who could care less about those who need it because they are not part of that group themselves?

In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote that towns, suburbs “or even little cities” are totally different from great cities and need to be studied and treated differently. Do you agree — does walkability, density and street design have different considerations in Portsmouth (pop. 22,000, downtown ¼-mile square) than in, say, Boston or Washington DC? If so, what is different?

GENERAL COMMENTS

“Good discussion. Well-run program.”

“Appreciate the positive/constructive tone of the presentation, of facilitators.”

“Great that this type of discussion is taking place.”

“(This  is a) beginning … Would like to understand where we go from here – who/how do we influence decision- makers, etc.? Who decides what the ‘winners’ are?”

‘Pop-Up’ Bus System Debuts in Boston

A hi-tech bus company seeking to capitalize on the demand for new and better options in transit has debuted in Boston.

Bridj will use ‘big data’ to dynamically determine routes for its chartered, upscale buses, which will cost significantly more than city buses fares or the subway, but will take riders directly where they want to go.

“Users in Brookline can take a Bridj that goes to Downtown, Kendall, Harvard, or Back Bay. On average, this saves our users about an hour each day compared with public transit,” according to the company’s website.

More on NYTimes.com

 

 

‘Walkability’ the Focus of June Events

Portsmouth SmartGrowth 21st Century1‘Walkability’ is suddenly a hot topic in Portsmouth with many opportunities in the next few weeks to affect the city streetscape. Be prepared — read Walkable City! It’s still only $12 at Riverrun Bookstore.

 

MAY 29 – PORTWALK III AND WALKABILITY
The Planning Board and interested citizens will take a field trip to Portwalk III this Thursday, May 29 (6 p.m. next to the BRGR Bar) as it considers approval of 25 changes to the project’s site plan. Some changes affect the pedestrian experience,  such as the brick wall on Maplewood Avenue. The public will subsequently be able comment at a June 19 board meeting.  The HDC also has jurisdiction over Portwalk, and will consider changes and possible mitigation efforts on Wednesday, June 11.

JUNE 3 – PS21 ‘WALKABLE CITY’ DISCUSSION
walkable city by jeff speckTom Holbrook, owner of Riverrun Bookstore, will moderate a PS21 discussion of the principles in Jeff’s Speck’s book, Walkable City, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 3 at the Portsmouth Public Library.  The best-selling design book of 2012, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time, is relevant and accessible. Speck shows why walkability matters to livability and lays out a 10-point plan for making it happen. Planning magazine writes that Speck “make[s] a 312-page book on a basic planning concepts seem too short … For getting planning ideas into the thinking and the daily life of U.S. cities, this is the book.” The plan is to break up into small groups to discuss the book’s relevance to Portsmouth, then reform as single group to consider priorities.**

JUNE 5 – BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN MASTER PLAN
PS21 participants should be well-prepared two days later when draft recommendations for the Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan are reviewed. (Thursday, June 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Portsmouth Public Library).

JUNE 11 – HDC
The Historic District Commission considers what to do about the Portwalk III unauthorized changes to the site plan, including the brick wall, landscaping and other alterations.

JUNE 12 – COMPLETE STREETS
Paul Zykofksy, a national Complete Streets expert, will be the keynote speaker at an information session and discussion 7-8:30 p.m.  Thursday, Jun. 12 at the Little Theatre of Portsmouth High School. His appearance is part of a grant to the city from Smart Growth America.

FYI
— A DVD of the film ‘The Human Scale,’  which 75 people watched at the PS21 event May 13, is now available from the Portsmouth Public Library.

— Read a PS21 take on “smart growth.”

** For people who can’t attend June 3, there will be an independent discussion of Walkable City beginning at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 28 at the library, moderated by Sean Moundas, who leads the library’s nonficton book group.

PS21 – Portsmouth SmartGrowth 21st Century – is a nonprofit group that aims to present ideas and encourage discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouth. Our goal is to support the creation of a vibrant, sustainable, livable, and walkable community, compatible with the principles of Smart Development, the historic nature of Portsmouth and the context of the 21st century.

What Is Smart Growth?

One reason PS21 included “smart growth” in its name was because the term was being so loosely used that it had started to mean “growth I think is smart.”

“Smart Growth,” with capital letters, is a set of policies and approaches to development arose over the past five or six decades as a response to the negative social and environmental effects of sprawl and automobile dependency.

Parris Glendening, the former governor of Maryland, is generally credited with being the first to use the term, in 1996.

The Smart Growth Manual (2010) says,  smart growth is “the opposite of automobile-based suburban development.” The book then takes 240 pages to summarize and illustrate dozens of smart growth policies.

Meanwhile, the EPA suggests there are ten principles to Smart Growth.

For additional takes on Smart Growth, see: Smart Growth America, NOAA’s Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth or “Smart Growth”  according to Wikipedia.

What aspects of Smart Growth apply to Portsmouth? To Portsmouth downtown? How you define “smart growth.”

 

 

Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

Notes by Jerry Zelin

Approx. 75 people attended, and there was a moderated discussion after a showing of the movie ‘The Human Scale’ at the Portsmouth Public Library.

Tom Morgan (PS21): What lessons from movie are applicable to Portsmouth?

Steve McHenry and Margaret Robidoux of McHenry Architecture make a brief presentation and lead the discussion.

Steve McHenry: The movie focused planning for big cities. In China, the pace of growth is so quick that creates sense of urgency regarding need to plan. Ditto in Portsmouth. Portsmouth has been growing over the past 20 years, but growth has exploded recently.

Not all the development has been top down. Early on, it was lots of people investing in their own homes, historic preservation. Some elements require critical mass to be successful, e.g., Portland’s Public Market project lacked critical mass of housing in city to succeed.

Portsmouth’s growth of as a center for dining and restaurants arose from individuals willing to invest and the city then reaching a critical mass as a destination.

Margaret Robidoux:  We need to consider buildings, but must also consider the streetscape and what moves through it — cars, walkers, bikes, buses. Example, recent changes in New York City, such as in Times Square and on Broadway, involved in consideration of pedestrians as well as cars.

Portsmouth’s fixation on “where will I park” should change to “how and where will I walk?” Ditto re: bikes.

Audience member: But must park car before walking. Why not establish a rent-a-bike program? Drive car to satellite parking, then rent a bike to ride to downtown.   It’s an alternative to carrying bike on the car.

Continue reading Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

Walkable City – June 3rd

Walkable City by Jeff SpeckDiscussion 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 3
Levenson Room, Portsmouth Public Library
Available at RiverRun Bookstore at a 25% discount thru June 3
Several copies available  at the Portsmouth Public Library

CommuteSmart Seacoast Launches

The project to get Seacoast commuters to carpool, bike or walk, and use transit has launched with a well-attended press event and a slick website (www.commutesmartseacoast.org).

CommuteSmart Seacoast is a Transportation Management Association. Membership is free to Seacoast employers, and services include:

  • Online carpool or vanpool matching service for employees, including tracking of commuter trips and internal employer commuter contests
  • On-site promotional events and materials about carpooling/vanpooling, bicycling/walking, transit, and telecommuting
  • Surveying and analyzing employee transportation patterns and needs
  • commuteSMARTclubregistered commuters are eligible for the Emergency Ride Home program (up to 6 free rides home if an emergency occurs during work or carpool driver has emergency) and drawings for prizes.
  • Quarterly e-newsletter and email blasts
  • Regional commuter events and contests (e.g. “Bike to Work Week”, “Try Transit Week”, “Dump the Pump Day”)
  • Workshops (e.g. bike safety, bike maintenance)
  • Advocating on regional transportation issues
  • Roundtables on commuting options and topics of common concern to members

Some of the initial 20+ participating employers include Lonza, the City of Portsmouth, Redhook Brewery, the Courtyard by Marriott-Portsmouth, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Bicycle Adventure Documentary Screens in Portsmouth

Redhook Brewery is hosting a screening of The Long Bike Back, and the subjects of the film, Pearson and Pete Constantino, will bike to the event on their way from New York to Maine on a New England tour to promote safer roads.  The screening is followed by a Q&A with Pearson, Pete, and the film’s director, Julia Wrona.

The Long Bike Back chronicles Pearson Constantino’s recovery from a devastating hit-and-run crash and his exciting bike ride across America with his brother Pete advocating for safer roads and reminding people of the joy of riding a bicycle.

Now Pearson and Pete Constantino are traveling again by bike, this time across New England to celebrate National Bike Month and share the documentary.

Where: Redhook Brewery, 1 Redhook Way Pease Intl Tradeport, Portsmouth, NH, 03801

When: Saturday May 10th at 7pm

Realtors Discover Walkable Places Are Preferred

Most Americans want to live an single-family detached house, but a 2013 Community Preference Survey undertaken by the National Association of Realtors also found a strong and growing preference for walkable places.

“Most Americans now want to live in a walkable neighborhood where they can walk to shops and restaurants and parks, and many are willing to give up a large yard to do so. There is also a strong interest in having access to public transportation,” the NAR’s Joseph Molinaro writes.

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