Research Rest-Stop │ “Sharrows” and Sharing the Road

Sharrows on Ridge Avenue close to the Lincoln Drive/I-76 Interchange

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy. This week’s Research Rest-Stop looks at the development of “sharrows” in the urban environment.

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“Sharrows,” which derive their name from the combination of “arrow” and “share the road,” provide visual cues to bicyclists and motorists to share roads with each other. While sharrows have gained popularity in the last several years, they received much support in 2009 when the Federal Highway Administration included the term in its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

As cities increasingly promote sharrows, concerns have grown. Some of the first cities to support sharrows such as Sacramento and Baltimore originally had the markings to the far right sides of the road, which placed bicyclists often in conflict with people leaving their parked automobiles. Today, federal regulations require a four foot space between sharrows and curbs without parking and eleven feet between curbs with parking.

Despite these concerns, sharrows are a relatively simple and inexpensive way to promote “road-sharing.” They cost roughly $229 each to install, including all labor and maintenance costs, and serve as good alternatives to more expensive bike lanes that can often run between $5,000 and $60,000 per mile depending on the design and construction.

The effectiveness of sharrows, however, is often a topic of discussion. A recent study demonstrates that sharrows slow down car traffic slightly and improve bicyclist safety while significantly helping drivers stay farther away from parked cars. Despite this, many argue that sharrows serve more of a way-finding purpose than a safety one.

No matter one’s opinion of sharrows, the markings clearly serve as the first steps in a city’s efforts to support walking and bicycling in neighborhoods. In Philadelphia, the Streets Department has established a sharrow installation program on major bicycle routes throughout the city. Sharrows now exist along Umbria, Main Street and Ridge Avenue between Manayunk and the Wissahickon. Sharrows also exist on Ridge from the Wissahickon Creek to Kelly Drive in East Falls, courtesy of PennDOT.

For more information, please see “Sharing Time: Tracking the ‘Sharrow’ on City Streets.” Image above can be found at “Sharrowdelphia – Streets Dept. Begins Its Sharrow Installation Program.”

MOTUnes Monday │ Please Hurry Home

Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. For the last MOTUnes Monday of 2011, we present “Please Hurry Home” by Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles. Stay tuned – more MOTUnes Mondays to follow next year!

Research Rest-Stop │ “Incidence Rates of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crashes by Hybrid Electric Passenger Vehicles: An Update”

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.

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This fall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released an update to a 2009 study that looked at the frequency of hybrid electric vehicles involved in low-speed pedestrian and bicycle accidents. The study compared this number against that of crashes involving automobiles with internal combustion engines. The updated study built on the 2009 NHTSA report by adding new years of crash data and expanding the study sample to 16 states.

NHTSA produced the original report as advocacy groups had expressed concerns about hybrid electric vehicles’ “quiet” operations, which can be more difficult for blind and visually impaired pedestrians to recognize. In order to address these concerns, Congress passed Public Law 111-373 “Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010,” which was authorized by President Obama in January 2011. The law requires “the Secretary of Transportation to study and establish a motor vehicle safety standard that provides for a means of alerting blind and other pedestrians of motor vehicle operation.”

The original 2009 NHTSA report found “that a hybrid electric vehicle was two times more likely to be involved in a pedestrian crash than a vehicle with only an internal combustion engine in situations involving certain low-speed vehicle maneuvers.” The updated report shows that “the odds of a hybrid electric vehicle being in either a pedestrian or bicycle crash are greater than the odds of an internal combustion engine vehicle being in a similar crash.” The report places the odds of hybrid electric vehicles being in such accidents at 35% and 57% for pedestrian and bicycle crashes respectively.

What do you think? How can hybrid electric vehicles better notify pedestrians and bicyclists of their presence?

MOTUnes Monday │ Downtown Train

Welcome to the start of a new week, which means a new MOTUnes Monday! Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we’re starting off our commute with Tom Waits and his “Downtown Train.”

Research Rest-Stop │ Biking and Saving Cities Money All at the Same Time

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.

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Given biking is a form of exercise, it’s not surprising that it has beneficial health impacts. A recent University of Wisconsin study on biking and its related health benefits shows us just how. The study, which looked at trips less than five miles in 11 metropolitan areas throughout the upper Midwest, found that if residents used bicycles for their trips at least half of the time, there was a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion a year. An additional $3.8 billion would be saved from reduced health care costs due to residents’ increased fitness levels and fewer mortalities stemming from fewer automobile accidents.

The study authors consider the estimates to be conservative as they only account for bicycle use during good weather, which equals about four months of a given year. Thus, estimates would likely be higher if calculated for more than just four months of good weather annually.

Do you often bike? What benefits do you find from using this mode of transportation?

MOTUnes Monday │ Jet Airliner

It’s that time again – MOTUnes Monday! Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we present Steve Miller Band’s classic rock anthem, “Jet Airliner.”

Research Rest-Stop │ Philadelphia Continues to be a National Leader in Stormwater Management

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.

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The City of Philadelphia has been recognized for its innovative stormwater management techniques in a recently-released report, “Rooftops to Rivers II,” by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The report presents 14 case studies that demonstrate different strategies used by cities to develop “green” infrastructure, manage stormwater, and encourage public participation in these efforts. The NRDC praises the Philadelphia Water Department as the only agency to employ all of the 14 examples evaluated, suggests that Philadelphia could potentially serve as a model for new federal standards.

The report looks the success of each case study in implementing the following strategies:

  • Designating a fraction of sewer and stormwater fees for green infrastructure implementation
  • Directing developers to consider green infrastructure over other methods
  • Requiring on-site stormwater management for new developments
  • Offering incentives to private land owners to plant trees, install solar panels, and limit impervious surface
  • Providing do-it-yourself advice to homeowners about “greening” their homes
  • Developing a comprehensive plan primarily focused on green infrastructure implementation

The report ranked Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, as employing the highest number of these strategies. Only Philadelphia, however, was found to employ all of the recommended strategies.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently updating the national stormwater regulations found under the federal Clean Water Act, and it is likely that these regulations will recommend that the current measures occurring in places like Philadelphia be widely replicated. Having these measures in place helps to reduce water pollution, make communities more attractive, and limit urban “heat island” effects.

The Water Department is leading the way to a more sustainable future on a nation wide scale.  You can learn more about their efforts in Philadelphia by checking out the City of Philadelphia’s “2011 Greenworks Progress Report.” To learn more about Philadelphia’s other “green” initiatives, visit the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability website.

MOTUnes Monday │ King of the Road

Today is not just Monday – it’s MOTUnes Monday! Every Monday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) showcases a transportation related song. This week, we’re crowning country singer Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” as our MOTUnes Monday song.

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