February 29, 2012

Skyscraper History

I've been talking about the history of Columbus lately and specifically how Columbus has developed downtown. In the past I've focused on historic aerials and the current situation of parking lots in the downtown area. The question I'm trying to answer is what is the cause of the deluge of parking lots downtown: freeways, cars,  skyscrapers, or something else? I am using the site Historic Aerials which has aerials from 1957, 1971, 2004, and 2006.

I am still hard at work on some maps, but for now I have a table based on skyscraper construction information which I found on Wikipedia

ft / m
267 / 81
314 / 96
302 / 92
464 / 141
530 / 162
408 / 124
503 / 153
366 / 112
512 / 156
350 / 107
456 / 139
256 / 78
317 / 97
485 / 148
438 / 134
226 / 69
629 / 192
348 / 106
286 / 87
280 / 85
260 / 79
260 / 79
357 / 109
253 / 77
243 / 74
200 / 57.9
555 / 169
202 / 59.4
212 / 64.6
180 / 64.4

The first interesting point is that the Depression and World War II stopped skyscrapers from being built between 1933 and 1961. The second interesting point is that the 3 decades following 1961 was a period of time when skyscrapers were going up like gangbusters, especially in the '70s and '80s. Just FYI, I-70/71 was constructed in the '60s more or less.

Since I only have the aerials of 1957, 1971, 2004, and 2006, and the Columbus inner-belt was completed by 1971, I am going to mainly focus on the period between 1957 and 1971. During this time, only 4 skyscrapers were completed downtown and they were mainly located around 3rd Street and Broad:

Downtown Skyscrapers added in the '60s
With only 4 skyscrapers being built between 1957 and 1971, I think it will be interesting to look how the parking lots changed between 1957 and 1971 - and I will do that in a future post.

Cool dude-in-a-human-sized-hamster-wheel-for-whatever-reason link of the day:

February 28, 2012

Interacting with Cars

In my post about the bus driver who maliciously hit a bicyclists, commenter TomatoPie left this:
"I can't believe a bus driver would do that. I'm amazed at how many bicycles are seen in the video as well, it's not like this area of the city never sees bikers.

This makes me question, what should a biker do when they encounter a motorist who is unfriendly or even threatening? Perhaps the driver doesn't know they need to give a biker more room when passing, but there is no way to communicate that to them. 

When someone honks (especially a crazy long honk) i feel helpless because I want to respond but I can't for fear that they may push me off the road too. There is also not enough time in the seconds a car passes to respond verbally. I can only think of one hand signal I want to give to that driver and it may cause them to push me off the road. How should a biker communicate with unfriendly drivers?

Of if the answer is we can't communicate with them in the moment, how can unfriendly drivers be shown their actions are unacceptable? Or shown which actions are acceptable?"
This is quite a dilemma. If you are too vocal, you may be flirting with road rage like the bus driver. If you're not vocal enough the person will never learn. I guess I err on the side of caution and never communicate with drivers. I feel that the best way forward is just to keep biking consistently and that more and more bicyclists will join me. At some point there should be enough bicyclist that better education will be taught and there's potential for better laws and enforcement.

I also should note that some people are more vocal than me, but some bicyclists decide to try to talk to motorists at stop lights. Most people are pretty reasonable and I think most people would be surprised to hear that they were too close to a bicyclist. Talking is probably the best active form of communication a bicyclist can take.

Cool kid-in-a-plastic-ball-in-a-pool link of the day:

February 27, 2012

Bike Ride Lengths

I am a very utilitarian cyclist. I bike to get places such as work, classes, or hang-out spots. I certainly enjoy biking to some extent and am pleased that I get some exercise but I am primarily interested in my final destination. 

I don't know if guilty is the right word, but ever since I moved and increased my one-way commute from 1.5 miles to 6 miles, I've felt guilty (?) about not biking as much for errands. The nearest Kroger is 1.5 miles away, but for whatever reason I haven't felt up for biking there. On top of that, most of the happening places are 5-6 miles away which is a persuasive deterrent to biking because it's one thing to get somewhere, it's another thing to bike home at night, uphill, and against the wind. 

Enough complaining! I was curious about the distribution of bicycle trips so I went to Google armed with only a keyboard.

The first study* that came up was of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. The study was done based on 1993 survey data with a focus on seeing how much bicyclists diverted from the minimum distance to get to their final destination. In other words, to see how far a bicyclist would go to avoid potential conflicts like bridges, faster roads, etc. 

Some brief information about Guelph. It was a town of about 90,000 people during the study. The current density of it is 3,422 people / sq. mile which is similar to Columbus at 3,556 people / sq. mile. It's current bicycle infrastructure also seems similar to Columbus in that a major bike trail follows a river downtown:

So what did the study show? The median one-way bicycle commute was 3.7 km (2.3 mi.) which sounds about right to me. 15 minutes is a good distance for a commute and you can definitely get 2.3 miles in 15 minutes. See below for a chart (converted from kilometers to miles) of the frequency distribution:

Another thing to pull out from the figure is that about 80% of the trips are slightly more than 3 miles in length. This makes me feel less guilty of only biking to work. 

As for the trip deviation from the minimum route distance, it was found that the average diversion was 0.4 km (0.25 mi.). This tells us that most bikers don't like going out of their way to take detours/specialized routes. However, a minority of people diverted by much more than that. Will cyclists we add in the future be similar to the cyclists in this study and deviate very little from a minimum route or will future cyclists be more willing to take detours to go on bicycle facilities? I'm sure there might be more data available for this, but for now, file this under the Great Bike Lane Debate.

Cool cats-in-a-running-wheel link of the day:

February 25, 2012

Icing a person

A few weeks ago, I was at a poker game showing off my l33t skills. For those of you not well-versed in l33t speak, that means elite skills. And by elite skills I mean I was the 2nd person out of the game of 8-9 people. But at the beginning of the game I saw something that I had never seen before.

There's a thing out in the world called being "iced." It is when someone gives a Smirnoff Ice to a person and the recipient has to kneel on one knee and chug the entire drink. There also involves a bit of hiding of the drink but Urban Dictionary doesn't contain this part of the game thing.

I was vaguely aware of the term but I was of the impression that it was more or less a fairy tale. Yeah, sure. Werewolves come out on full moons and ice people. Lo and behold I saw it happen. And it wasn't just a standard 12 ounce bottle of Smirnoff Ice. No, it was a 40 ounce bottle of Smirnoff Ice.

The guy being iced dutifully chugged the entire bottle. I was also surprised to hear that this group of friends regularly iced each other. Just remember kids, sometimes fairy tales are true.

Cool getting-iced-while-ice-fishing link of the day:

February 24, 2012


Biking takes confidence. A biker who isn't confident will have unpleasant rides. But on the flip side, it's alright to be nervous or scared occasionally while biking. I say this because some regular bicyclists might give the wrong impression of the awesomeness that is biking.

While trolling on the message boards on Columbus Underground, I was interested in a post made during a discussion about bike lanes (emphasis added):
You shouldn't be maneuvering around parked cars. If you are riding correctly, 3rd and 4th are a dream to ride on because people have plenty of lanes to go around you. Although it would still be intimidating to some that they are going so fast in some areas.
It's true that a straight path is the right path in most cases. Try not to maneuver around parked cars but depending on the conditions, maybe there's 5 blocks before the next parked car, you might want to be in the parking lane.

However, there is a misconception that riding correctly would make 3rd/4th, or any street, a dream. For those who read regularly, you may be aware that I take the lane. Once while on 3rd I had a scary incident as a driver tried to merge into my lane. 3rd suffers from too many lanes and a driver might not know which lane leads to what and will be more apt to change lanes last minute because he/she is in the wrong lane.

That's not to say that roads are inherently scary. It's to say that there is risk no matter where you are and whether you are riding a bike or driving a car. Crashes happen every day and riding as appropriately as possible for a situation will minimize the chance that you'll be in a crash.

I don't mean to scare anyone but it's better for a bicyclist to be very vigilant. Yes, worry about those cars who are slowly stopping at the next intersection. Worry about the people turning left in front of you. And in between the potential conflicts, enjoy the ride.

Cool stop-action-music-video of the day:

February 23, 2012

Biking at Night

On Tuesday I made a public service announcement about the Columbus Bicycle Subcommittee meeting and how the Green Lane Project would be discussed. The Green Lane Project will involve 6 selected cities to collaborate in bike planning, specifically for cycle tracks and protected lanes. The City of Columbus had until February 23 (today) to submit a notice of intent and has until March 9 to submit the application. At the meeting, Columbus announced that it would apply to be one of the 6 cities involved in the project. That's kind of cool.

After the meeting, I had to transport myself home in a stiff headwind at 7:15 PM. My first thought is always to take the bus home but then I remembered that COTA costs $2.00. I decided to bike down Broad Street because it is one of the more direct routes to my home.

First, I normally don't bike that often at night, especially on a multi-lane road like Broad Street. Per usual I highly recommend a lot of lights so you can easily be seen. I especially recommend this spoke light because it really makes you visible and it gives you street cred.

Second, the meeting was somewhat heated about bike lanes and cycle tracks, and the commute allowed me to use the Broad Street bike lane which normally I avoid.  I still have conflicted feelings about them. On one hand I liked having my own space to bike in. On the other hand I didn't like all the grit and debris which collects in the lane. On the one foot I like how there's no parked cars in the bike lane. On the other foot I don't like dealing with intersections and potential conflict points, with I-70 being the biggest concern.

But hey, I made it home without incident using a main road w/ and w/o bike lanes, and residential streets at the end. There's a wide realm of possibilities and really you just need to make it work for you. That's what I did and I feel fine.

Cool bike lane educational video of the day:

On the Right Track from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

February 22, 2012

Parking Lots in Downtown

Last week, I looked at historic aerials of downtown Columbus since 1959. I also implied that skyscrapers were to blame for parking lots along with the freeway. I didn't research it so I think it would be interesting to investigate how much destruction came from the freeway construction and how much came from the skyscrapers. This first post on the subject will look at the current parking situation.

What do I think of parking? I understand that people will drive places and that parking is a necessity. In urban areas which are densely populated/visited, parking lots are a poor use of space. If a person has to walk for multiple blocks to get past surface lots, it negates part of the purpose of living in a densely area. So overall, I am of the opinion that parking garages are alright; parking lots are bad.

Cbus Cycle Chic had an interesting post about parking spots in the downtown article. According to the post, there are 100,000 downtown workers and 73,000 parking spaces. She also included a map of where parking spaces are located.

Slightly less related, Columbus Underground recently had a post about whether Long Street and other streets should become 2-way streets. Long Street and Spring Street have some of the most egregious offenders of amount of surface lots.

Anyway, I've made a map of where surface parking lots are. The methodology is pretty simple although I chose a odd boundary for my "study" scope, but it covers most areas that are considered downtown. I used Google Maps satellite view and made shapes around surface lots. Parking garages or buildings with parking lots on top of the building are not included. It took enough time as it is to draw 272 shapes for parking lots.

Without further ado, here's my map:

Surface lots in downtown circa 2010. See here for interactive map.
In the future I plan to update this map to include parking garages. It's interesting in the skyscraper mecca of Riffe / Huntington / Leveque / 5/3rd / Rhodes there are few surface lots. Instead, there are mainly only parking garages. I also plan on making a similar map based off of the 1971 aerial to see how things have changed.

Cool Scrubs-what-come-before-part-b link of the day:

February 21, 2012

Another Subcommittee Meeting

This is a quick public service announcement for the Columbus Bicycle Subcommittee meeting which will be held tomorrow, February 22, 2012, between 5:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M. at 109 N. Front Street on the ground floor. Of note on the agenda is the Green Lane Project. The project is sort of a collaboration of 6 cities selected based on an application and a focus will be for cycle tracks / protected bike lanes. Grant money will also be available to the 6 focus cities. Free money is always kind of cool.

Below is the agenda of the meeting:

  1.              Call to Order
    2.       Previous Meeting Notes
    3.       New business
    a.       Henderson Road Shared-Use Path
    b.      Green Lane Project
    c.       Traffic Signal Detection of Two-Wheel Vehicles
    4.       Old Business
    a.       Downtown Action Plan
    b.      MORPC Regional Bikeways
    c.       Update on Dublin/Urlin/Watermark Spot Improvement
    d.      Bike Parking Shelter Update
    5.       Parking Lot Issues
    6.       Other Business
    7.       Adjournment

    Cool how-to-pronounce-Haute-Couture link of the evening:

Public Transportation - Elementary School Edition

The Hilltop has a surprising amount of small parks. In this episode, I investigate Lindbergh Park and adjacent school, Lindbergh Elementary - home of the Lions!

Lindbergh Park is on Briggs Road and is more or less across the road from Briggs High School.

Red Square is the point of interest. Also, Google spells it "Lindberg." Oops!
The park is not super fancy or anything like that. It is a large open field with some trees on the perimeter.  It also has a soccer field and an asphalt path with several entrances encircling the playing field. But something crazy that I saw was this half fence that was outside the front of the elementary.

The only purpose that would make sense for this fence would be some kind of child corral in which students wait for their buses. Wouldn't it be weird if they made adult bus riders wait behind a fence like that?

Cool how-to-pronounce-Chipotle link of the day:

February 20, 2012

The Fear of Cars

It's surprising the amount of honking which comes out of cars. If you're stopped at a red light and wanting to turn right, the car behind you is liable to honk at you to start turning faster. You could have totally turned then! Now I've gotta wait another 15 seconds to get home!

Another common honk is when someone doesn't start moving when the light changes to green. I'm more sympathetic to a quick honk for this purpose but occasionally a person will lay on the horn which is ridiculous. 

For car to bicycle interactions, motorists sometimes honk prior to passing. This doesn't concern me too much, but it can be jarring to be biking along and then suddenly hear a honk. 99% of the time I know if a car is behind me and I always assume that the car is preparing to pass me. No need to honk. I get it, I'm slower than you.

Bicycle to car interactions aren't as audible. There can be hand waving, shouting, and the possible hitting of a car door with a fist, but overall these are rare. I only condone actions which will prevent crashes and as such I have only shouted out "Ahiuhwieoj!" (nonsense) a couple of times.

One reason I'm not keen on road rage is that I'm pretty patient. I know that I'll get to my destination eventually as long as I don't crash. The second is that there is an uneasiness of yielding the right-of-way to bikers/pedestrians. A car is 3,000 pounds. A person is 150 lbs. A bicycle is 30 lbs. We rely on laws and social norms to have a functioning traffic system but if a motorist doesn't want to yield to a biker/pedestrian, the motorist won't.

This long post all leads to a sickening video that was shot in England. According to this article from the BBC (the NPR of Britain), a bus driver and bicyclist were having a heated exchange about the bus driver driving too close to the cyclist. During a stop, the bicyclist propped his bike against the bus while arguing. The bicyclist starts to ride again and then the bus swerves and hits the cyclist.

It's kind of hard to tell what the bicyclist is doing so close to the center of the lane, but you can definitely see how much damage a motorist can do if the intent is there:

February 17, 2012

Historic Columbus

As some of you may be aware, Columbus is turning 200 years old this year. To celebrate this occasion, I thought it would be cool to look at some historic aerials of Columbus.

Thankfully, the internet has a site called Historic Aerials. Since planes weren't discovered/invented/perfected until the 20th century, the first historic aerial of Columbus on the site is from 1957. The population was likely around 450,000 people at the time and people were loving life despite not having freeways. What did Columbus look like?

Columbus in 1957 - Historic Aerials
It's hard to tell, but the only sign of a highway is freshly dug soil on the Whittier Peninsula around where Scioto Audubon Park is located. But time stops for no one and we will next flash forward to 1971 when the Columbus Innerbelt (70/71/315/670) is complete.

Columbus in 1971 - Historic Aerials
So right away you can see that some of the connectivity of the houses has been lost, especially along the I-70/71 split. I-670 largely ends after intersecting with I-71 and I-70 stops on the other side of the river. SR-315 was doing surprisingly strong already. But time again kept ticking to 2006 to bring us this:

Columbus in 2006 - Historic Aerials
The freeways are even more developed. If you go to the sight and zoom in on the aerials, you will notice that the amount of parking lot space increases. This is probably largely attributable to skyscrapers but also partially due to cars coming to complete prominence. 

I have nothing profound to say but the Columbus of 45 years ago looks much more attractive to this biker and to an urbanite in general. It's kind of sad at how many properties were necessary to destroy to create the highway systems. But don't worry, we'll be spending a total of $1.6 billion to make sure this freeway keeps chugging along.

Cool link of the day:

February 16, 2012

Ask some Bikers

I want to try out a new feature called: Ask some Bikers. I sometimes get set in my ways but there are certainly multiple ways of choosing a route which works for you. In this post, I'm asking my readers what they think I should do or if there are any improvements to my route.

On my evening commute, I bike from downtown Columbus (near Columbus Commons) to the Hilltop (near Mound and Hague).

My evening commute is different from my morning commute (which is a lot more direct) because I don't like going uphill and against the wind on major arterial roads (i.e. west on Mound or Broad St). Instead I take the Scioto trail to Souder Avenue to McKinley Avenue to near the Hilltop-Scioto Connector and get shot out on Steele Avenue which is a parallel road to Broad Street in northern Hilltop. I don't really have a route I've been 100% comfortable with, although I do feel safe on all I've tried. Below is a map of sample routes that I've taken in the past after I turn off of McKinley.

Google map of my routes.
You can play around with the map at Google. The thing about Hilltop is that there are a lot of one-way streets. Broad Street and Sullivant both contain commercial districts which include a lot of on-street parking. Mound Street is beat up by the COTA buses and is uncomfortable riding west.

So with that said, does any one have any suggestions? Preferences? I'm doing it wrong altogether? 

Cool Yeah Yeah Yeahs Maps video of the day:

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