Posts Tagged ‘RCOC’

Incomplete Roundabouts

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

We’ve noticed two tendencies when roundabouts are discussed in the transportation world.

Not all the same

First, they’re often all treated the same. But just like roads, we can’t make gross generalizations about all roundabouts. Some roundabouts are pleasant one-lane affairs that are easy to navigate by bicycle. At the other end of the spectrum are multi-lane, multi-roundabout disasters.

It seems some road agencies building roundabouts to handle a much greater vehicle capacity. That means simple one- or two-lane roundabouts turn into bigger monsters. An example of this is at W. Maple Road and Farmington Road. Both are two lane roads that expand to 5- and 6-lane roads before entering a triple-lane roundabout. Not only is it not bicycle friendly, it’s not designed to let cyclists easily transition on the adjacent pathways to avoid it.

AASHTO‘s latest bicycle design guidelines say roundabouts should not be built like this. They should be designed for current needs and made easily expandable for future needs.

Single‐lane roundabouts are much simpler for bicyclists than multilane roundabouts, since they do not require bicyclists to change lanes, and motorists are less likely to cut off bicyclists when they exit the roundabout. Therefore, when designing and implementing roundabouts, authorities should avoid implementing multilane roundabouts before their capacity is needed. If design year traffic volumes indicate the need for a multilane roundabout, but this need isn’t likely for several years, the roundabout can be built as a single‐lane roundabout, and designed to be easily reconstructed with additional lanes in the future when and if traffic volumes increase. In 1 addition, where a roundabout is proposed at an intersection of a major multilane street and a minor street, consideration should be given to building a roundabout with two‐lane approaches on the major street and one‐lane approaches on minor streets. When compared to roundabouts with two lanes at all four legs, this design can significantly reduce complexity for all users, including bicyclists.

MDOT even made a video of an apparently overbuilt roundabout and suggests bicyclists would want to use it. Of course they fail to show bicyclists having to move to the center lane in order to exit at other intersection legs.

Ignoring Bicyclists

The other major roundabout issue is bicyclists as well as pedestrians are often ignored when they are designed and discussed.

We Are Modeshift recently wrote this fine article on this topic.

When roundabouts are placed appropriately, they increase traffic flow and provide motorists with well-documented safety benefits. However, for non-motorized users — bicyclists and pedestrians, and especially those with disabilities — roundabouts present unique challenges to safety and accessibility.

Speaking of safety, a recent survey from a Wayne State/MDOT roundabout study found that 47% of bicyclists and almost 50% of pedestrians found them “very unsafe”. Interestingly enough, 57% of all the survey respondents had purposefully avoided a roundabout.

An example roundabout design that ignores bicyclist and pedestrian safety is on the cover of MDOT’s How to Use a Roundabout brochure (see photo). How are pedestrians supposed to use this facility? There are no sidewalks, even on the bridge. The pedestrian instructions inside the brochure fail to address the roundabout design on its cover. As for bicyclists? They have to cross over a travel lane that becomes a entrance ramp to I-75. Though it’s not shown, there’s another roundabout on the other side of I-75 with the same lack of accommodation. If bicyclists want to avoid this roundabout, there are no sidewalks available.

This is not a Complete Street nor a Complete Roundabout. It’s not something we should continue to build much less highlight.

MDOT’s office of Research and Best Practices shows the same incomplete intersection under the title, “Roundabouts: How to get around a safer intersection.”

Apparently they forgot to add, “So long as you’re in a car.”

 

 

Courts reduce road agency liability

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

It’s already difficult to sue road agencies under state law for the quality of the road beneath your tires.

MCL 691.1402 GOVERNMENTAL LIABILITY FOR NEGLIGENCE

Each governmental agency having jurisdiction over a highway shall maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it is reasonably safe and convenient for public travel. A person who sustains bodily injury or damage to his or her property by reason of failure of a governmental agency to keep a highway under its jurisdiction in reasonable repair and in a condition reasonably safe and fit for travel may recover the damages suffered by him or her from the governmental agency. The liability, procedure, and remedy as to county roads under the jurisdiction of a county road commission shall be as provided in section 21 of chapter IV of 1909 PA 283, MCL 224.21. Except as provided in section 2a, the duty of a governmental agency to repair and maintain highways, and the liability for that duty, extends only to the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel and does not include sidewalks, trailways, crosswalks, or any other installation outside of the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel. A judgment against the state based on a claim arising under this section from acts or omissions of the state transportation department is payable only from restricted funds appropriated to the state transportation department or funds provided by its insurer.

Remember that in Michigan bicycles are not vehicles, therefore road agencies can’t be sued for defects in bike lanes or on paved shoulders.

That’s both good and bad. It’s good for countering road agencies arguments that bike lanes raise their liability. They don’t. In fact, they can reduce it. That’s not our opinion. That’s the opinion of the Michigan State Attorney General’s office.

The bad part is this lack of liability removes a motivating factor for keeping them well maintained. Then again, the roads aren’t in all that great a shape either.

Gravel doesn’t count

Last week the Michigan Supreme Court clarified the road liability a little more. They said the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) could not be sued for gravel that accumulated on a road. That gravel allegedly caused a motorcycle crash.

From the Spinal Column:

“Basically the law states that a defect must be in the traveled portion of the road and the higher courts interpretation is that it must be in the road bed itself and the gravel was simply a dusting on the surface of the road that you would see anywhere on a daily basis,” [RCOC attorney Paula] Reeves explained.

Michigan law established that if snow and ice are on a roadway, the RCOC is not liable for any damages. Subsequently the Supreme Court last week issued an opinion stating under Michigan Law the agency is not culpable in this incident since RCOC is responsible for keeping the roadway in “reasonable repair,” and loose gravel on a roadway does not fall under this definition.

“The courts took this logic and extended the law to apply to gravel,” Reeves noted.

This ruling could likely be applied to a bicyclist crashing on gravel in a vehicle travel lane.

Again, this is good and bad for the same reasons mentioned earlier.

However, if reducing the liability means more bike lanes, we’ll take it.

We’ll deal with the occasional gravel.

 

Combining County boards and road commissions

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Governor Rick Snyder said back in October that he’d like to reduce the size of government by allowing counties to manage roads. He called road commissions “unneeded.”

We agree. As we’ve mentioned before, by default counties cannot manage roads. That must be handled by a separate county government called a road commission. It’s archaic and not cost effective.

House Bills 5125 and 5126 will make it possible to consolidate these separate county governments. While both the House and Senate have passed variations of the bill, the House must approve of the Senate’s legislative changes.

According to a Detroit News article:

The Michigan House has approved measures that would allow county boards of commissioners to take over the powers and duties of county road commissions.

Appointed county road commissions could be dissolved by a majority vote of a county’s board of commissioners. Voters would have the final decision on whether to dissolve road commissions in counties where road commissioners are elected.

Ingham County is looking to absorb their road commission. Macomb and Wayne Counties went through the onerous county charter process which let them absorb their road commissions earlier.

What about Oakland County?

The Spinal Column has thorough coverage on this topic.

“(Oakland County Executive L.) Brooks (Patterson) has no desire to take us over, and if anyone studies the issue, they wouldn’t want to,” [RCOC Spokesperson Craig] Bryson said. We don’t think there would be an immediate response, but there could be in the future.”

One conclusion from reading the article is that some government officials are against it and willing to make rather outlandish claims as to why.

Bryson claims it “By moving the jurisdiction to the counties, it forces counties to raise property taxes to fund roads.” Not true. Roads are paid for through a separate funding stream. If this were the case, why would tax-averse Macomb County absorb their road commission?

County Commissioner Jim Runestad said,”In Oakland County, if (the county board) were to take over the RCOC, it would be highly politicized and the politics would weigh in on every decision.” Every decision? Is that what happens now at the local, state, and federal levels, all of which manage roads without a separate governmental body? Of course not.

The current system of electing Oakland County road commissioners is highly political. The Republican majority chooses a road commissioner every couple years and controls the process. It’s a separate county government that’s fully controlled by the Republican majority, and that is the likely reason why the Road Commission for Oakland County will continue in the near future.

Commissioner Runestead told the Spinal Column, “If there was a change in leadership on the county board, the RCOC’s days could be numbered.”

Transportation key to young staying in Michigan

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

The Detroit News ran a commentary last month written by members of the Millennial Mayors Congress, which is “a partnership of city officials and rising leaders working together to address regional issues.”

Michigan’s transportation system is not getting young people where they need to go.

As citizens under 35, we know that not all of our peers can afford the $8,500 a year it takes, on average, to own a car. Some of us are looking to reduce our carbon footprints. Whatever the reasons, young people want to see a transportation system that gives everyone the freedom to get around, with or without a car. Unfortunately, failed transportation policies have been holding Michigan back.

Every year thousands of us leave for places that have functioning transit, safe biking and walking conditions, and convenient transportation between cities.

They also give support to Complete Streets.

We need to adopt a truly comprehensive “complete streets” policy, so Michiganians do not have to risk their lives to walk or bike.

It’s worth the time to read the entire opinion piece. It focuses mostly on public transit, which is expected since it was released during the recent Detroit light rail/bus rapid transit news.

Still widening highways

One minor correction? It speaks about MDOT widening highways in the past tense. MDOT is still widening highways.

Where did a majority of the transportation stimulus money go in Michigan? Widening an expressway. MDOT plans to spend well over a billion transportation dollars in Detroit over the next 20 years… to widen an expressway. Widening roads are still a funding priority for MDOT and many Metro Detroit municipalities.

Want to lose faith in Metro Detroit’s transportation decision makers? Take some time to review the road projects in SEMCOG’s transportation improvement plan (TIP).

Let’s look at the Road Commission for Oakland County’s 2012 TIP projects. They have $30.7 million in projects of which $21.8 million involves road widening.

Road agencies, SEMCOG, and others don’t like to publicize road widening projects because at the same time, they’re asking for more transportation funding.

They need the funding to continue building sprawl, but that’s not a good sales pitch — especially to millennials.

The Millennial Mayors Congress is also on Facebook.

ACTION ALERT: Oakland County Complete Streets

Monday, August 15th, 2011

As we mentioned last week, Oakland County Commissioners Dave Woodward (Royal Oak) and Craig Covey (Ferndale) were introducing a Complete Streets resolution. That resolution was passed out of committee on a 5-4 vote and now goes before the entire commission for a vote this Thursday.

The entire resolution is on Commissioner Covey’s web site, but the resolution’s actions are:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners hereby declares its support for Complete Streets and requests the Road Commission of Oakland County (RCOC) adopt a Complete Streets into its strategic planning process.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners hereby requests the Road Commission of Oakland County to develop a Non-motorized Transportation Plan that will include, at a minimum, accommodations for accessibility, sidewalks, curb ramps and cuts, trails and pathways, signage, bike lanes, and shall incorporate principles of Complete Streets and maximize walkable and bikeable streets within Oakland County.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners hereby requests the Road Commission for Oakland County plan for, design, and construct all transportation improvement projects, both new and retrofit activities, to provide appropriate accommodations for bicyclists,

Oakland County residents take action

While there is some optimism this resolution will pass with all Democrats and a handful of Republicans on board. However, those R votes could disappear. We need to make sure they don’t.

We need residents to contact their commissioner and voice your support for the Complete Streets resolution before the Thursday vote. This is especially important for those with Republican commissioners.

Also, in case you missed it, the Ferndale Patch ran an article on Complete Streets last week.