Thursday, March 29, 2012

April 5th Agenda Reading Area Transportation Committee

 There will be a meeting of the Reading Area Transportation Study Technical Committee on Thursday, April 5, 2012 beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the offices of the Berks County Planning Commission, Berks County Services Center, 633 Court Street, 14th Floor, Reading, PA 19601

The agenda for the meeting is as follows:
1.    Call to Order – 1:30 p.m.
2.    Review / Approval of Technical Committee Minutes of March 1, 2012
3.    Business from the Floor
4.    Update on Federal Transportation Funding
5.    PennDOT Requested Amendments / Modifications to FFY 2011 – 2014 TIP
6.    Update on Draft FFY 2013 – 2016 TIP Development
7.    BARTA Report on Transit Development Plan Update
8.    PennDOT Update on Highway Projects
9.    Commuter Services Update
10. Other Business
11. Adjournment

Next Meeting: Joint Technical / Coordinating Committee - Thursday, May 17, 2012 1:30 P.M. at BARTA Executive Offices, 1700 North 11th Street,
                           Reading, PA  19604-1505
The Reading MPO is committed to compliance with the nondiscrimination requirements of applicable civil rights statutes, executive orders, regulations, and policies.  The meeting location is accessible to persons having disabilities.  With advance notification, accommodations may be provided for those with special needs related to language, sight, or hearing.  If you have a request for a special need, wish to file a complaint or desire additional information, please contact Alan Piper, Transportation Planner at 610-478-6300 or by e-mail at:

Drivers vs. Bicyclists

Why it’s hard to share the road

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New 4 Foot Bicycle Passing Law

 A law that sets new rules for Pennsylvania motorists to follow when encountering a bicyclist will take effect . on Monday, April 2.
  • The new law requires motorists to leave a 4-foot “cushion of safety” when passing a bicyclist. To achieve this cushion, drivers may cross a roadway’s center line when passing a bicycle on the left, but only when opposing traffic allows.

  • Drivers attempting to turn left must also yield the right of way to bicycle riders traveling in the opposite direction.

  • The new law also calls for bicycle riders to use all reasonable efforts to avoid impeding the normal flow of traffic. When there is only one travel lane, bicyclists may use any portion of the lane to avoid hazards on the roadway, including maintaining a safe distance from stopped and parked cars.

  • As always, bicyclists and motorists should obey all traffic signs and signals. PennDOT also recommends bicyclists always ride predictably and signal their intentions before proceeding so that motorists have a chance to react.

  • For more information on bicycling safety, visit

  • Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Five Great Berks County Walks and Rides this Spring

    WalkBikeBerks Board Members share their favorite springtime walks and rides in beautiful Berks County.

    1. Thun Trail / Union Township Loop :: Easy :: 2 miles

    This loop off of the Birdsboro to Pottstown segment of the Thun Trail circles an old Schuylkill River silt basin. Access is via the trailhead behind Tim's Ugly Mug Bar & Grille on Rte 724. Here you will find restrooms with flush toilets, a large, lighted parking lot, a picnic pavilion, pedestrian bridges over the former Schuylkill canal, and a boat ramp into the Schuylkill River—all handicapped accessible. The trail is wide enough to allow three bicycles to ride side by side and families to walk together.

    After finishing the loop, continue south along the Thun Trail toward Douglassville to visit Berks County's first settlement, Morlatton Village. The picturesque historical site features several eighteenth century buildings open during special events.

    2. Thun Trail / Reading to Gibraltar :: Easy :: 5.8 miles

    This relatively flat segment of the Thun Trail crosses a number of old railroad bridges. There is access to the trail at several points. The Reading Riverfront trailhead has parking along Riverfront Drive, near Reading Area Community College. The trailhead is at the pedestrian bridge. Just south of the city of Reading, the Brentwood Trailhead on Rt. 10, Morgantown Road has parking for almost 30 cars and is a paved segment of the trail.

    For a real treat, add a stop in Gibraltar at the 1950s-themed burger and shake shop, Scoupe de Ville. Turn left off the trail onto Rte 724 at the Turkey Hill. Scoupe de Ville is less than a mile from the intersection on your right. This trail does not loop, so you will need to retrace your route back to Reading.

    3. Muhlenberg Rail-Trail :: Easy :: 1.75 miles

    Bustling on any fair day with a mix of walkers, joggers and bikers, the newly paved community rail-trail in Muhlenberg Township is state-of-the-art. What the trail lacks in dramatic scenery, it makes up for in appetite stimulation. After a vigorous walk or ride, you might wish to reward yourself with some famous Reading Fair mushrooms at Oliver's Place across from the Mount Laurel Road trailhead and parking area. Or you may be enticed by the warm scent of sugar and yeast as you ride behind the Dutch Maid donut bakery on Kutztown Road. Or take the Montrose Avenue ramp and walk or ride a few yards up to Elizabeth Avenue to enjoy a slice of pizza out on the terraza at Carini's restaurant.

    To extend your workout beyond the short, level trail, take what WBB board member and Temple resident Emily Weidner calls the Tour d'alleys—a peaceful ride among Temple's network of back alleys. But be cautious if crossing busy Kutztown Road.

    4. Oley Valley :: Easy to Moderate :: Variable Distance

    Rolling hills, bucolic farmland, and well-maintained roads with low traffic volume make the Oley Valley a premier location for road riding in Berks County. The best way for first-timers to experience the roads may be with a group like the Berks County Bicycle Club. The BCBC regularly hosts rides through the Oley Valley aimed at varying skill and fitness levels. Their "social stay together" rides are especially designed for beginner and slower riders. View their ride schedule on the BCBC website.

    5. Mount Penn Trails :: Moderate to Challenging :: Variable Distance

    Along the east side of Mount Penn from the Antietam Dam to the firetower lies a network of single-track trails winding through dense forest that is growing in popularity among mountain bike enthusiasts. Starting from the dam parking area, the main trails are not technical, but there is approximately 400-500 feet of elevation gain in the first mile. Although you'll encounter some technical climbs and exhilirating downhills, says one rider, "there's no reason to be intimidated if you're willing to walk a tough spot here and there." Many of the secondary trails are unmarked to promote exploration, but the whole system of trails is well-maintained by local volunteers. We recommend packing your cell phone and, if you have one, a GPS.

    Now it's your turn:

    Click to tell us where you'll be walking and riding this spring.

    We'll share your responses in an upcoming newsletter and here on our blog.


    Wednesday, March 21, 2012


    Tomorrow, more than 700 walking and bicycling advocates (Business Owners, Town Planners, Engineers, Mass Transit Representatives, Moms and Dads, and Adults with Mobility Challenges, plus many more) will be in our nation's capitol for the National Bike Summit.

    I am writing to ask for your help. I invite you to join state senators and representatives across PA for a state-wide call-in day to support local advocates like me who are rallying in DC on Thursday, March 22. We'll be meeting with Congressmen and women in scheduled appointments as part of the National Bike Summit.
    Please support our efforts to protect Complete Streets, Safe Routes To School, Rails-to-Trails, and all walking and bicycling funding and policies at the federal level. PA Walks & Bikes has created some excellent information sheets, which can be found online by clicking here. The League of American Bicyclists have also provided some information specific to Pennsylvania, by district, here: Pennsylvania.

    1.  Call Your Congressman:
    • Gerlach    Phone:  (202) 225-4315 | FAX:  (202) 225-8440
    • Holden     Phone: (202) 225-5546 | FAX: (202) 226-0996
    • Pitts          Phone: (202) 225-2411 | FAX: (202) 225-2013
    • Dent         Phone: 202-225-6411 | Fax: 202-226-0778
    2.  Call Your Senators:
    Casey, Robert P., Jr.   Phone:  (202) 224-6324
    Web Form:
    Toomey, Patrick J.   Phone:  (202) 224-4254
    Web Form:

    We will be saying:
    • Keep dedicated funding for biking and walking in the House Bill
    • The Senate Bill keeps dedicated funding for biking and walking
    • Vote for the Senate Bill or any House Bill or Amendment that keeps dedicated funding for biking and walking
    • Dedicated funding for biking and walking are good for Berks County
    • Biking and walking projects create more jobs than road only projects

    I will be rallying support for walking and bicycling here -- in Berks County, PA. We need dedicated funding for biking and walking in Berks County so that:
    • The region can complete a premier network of trails to provide more transportation choices
    • More residents can have access to trails and bike lanes that lead to healthier lifestyles
    • The region’s streets can be made safer for:
        o Kids (Safe Routes Berks)
        o Cyclists & pedestrians (including ADA, Bus and Train riders, Commuters,  and recreational Tourists)
        o Motorists (Crashes dropped 45% on Spruce & Pine in Philly)

    As many of you know, walking and bicycling are important to Pennsylvanians:
    •2.6 million Pennsylvanians will bicycle at least once a month this summer!
    •Pennsylvania has more rail-trails than any other state and has the 4th highest number of rail-trail miles! We have 146 rail trails totaling nearly 1,413 miles. In addition, 56 more trails and 428 miles are under development.
    •13.8% of Pittsburghers walk or bike their commute, and 10.9% of Philadelphians do. Among the 60 largest cities in the country, these two are ranked number 2 and 7 respectively!
    •Among the 10 largest cities in the country, Philadelphia has the highest mode share of bicycle commuters. From 2002 to 2009, bicycle commuting went up 151% in Philadelphia and 206% in Pittsburgh.
    •Pennsylvania is home to 704 retail bike shops with gross revenue of $277,880,000.
    •Three national bicycling magazines, a distribution plant for Cannondale, and the world headquarters of Advanced Sports, Inc. (parent of Fuji Bicycles and other brands) all call Pennsylvania home.
    •The Allegrippis Trails near Raystown Lake have become a regional destination for mountain biking. In just two years, trail use at this project has more than doubled pre-construction projections.
    •57% of the visitors to the Pine Creek Rail Trail included an overnight stay in conjunction with a trail excursion.
    •11% of PA households do not own a vehicle and 34% have only one vehicle. They rely in part on walk and bike friendly communities to meet their transportation needs.
    Please join us in telling our United States Congressmen and Senators to support livable, sustainable growth in our towns and cities in Berks County. Call your congressman on March 22 and ask him to vote for pedestrians and cyclists.
    Thank you.

    Map Your Congressional District:
    Don't Forget: Call Your Congressman:

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Bike lanes may be good for bicycling, but are they safe for bicyclists?

    Bike lanes may be good for bicycling, but are they safe for bicyclists? Road Warrior Dan Hartzell discussed the issue with two advocates as Allentown mulls replacing a motor-vehicle lane with a dedicated bike lane on Linden and Turner streets in a plan to link parks and neighborhoods and to promote exercise.
    Steve Schmitt, head of the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation in Bethlehem, prefers painting streets with "shared lane" markings, or "sharrows," to remind motorists bikes share the right of way.
    Q: You believe that bike lanes are more dangerous than sharrows, in part because they promote a kind of false sense of security among bikers, and because of conflicts with turning vehicles at intersections. If this is true, why are New York and other major cities forging ahead with bike-lane installations?
    A: [Bike lanes] are good for very young kids or older people … they allow for low speeds. [But] few cyclists want to travel that slow. [Bike lanes] are completely unnecessary and inadvisable … [particularly] in a built-out urban environment like Allentown's. The cops didn't like the bike lanes in Bethlehem in the 1970s, and that's one reason they disappeared.
    Q: Why are bike lanes more dangerous than bicyclists' riding directly in the motor-vehicle lanes?
    A: The main problem with any kind of separate facility is the intersections. By pretending you're in your own space, you've magically created a false safety zone. What about cross-traffic? The most dangerous [situation] is a left turn coming at you." Right-turning vehicles can hit cyclists as well, Schmitt said, but left turns across a cyclist's path are more dangerous.
    Q: What do sharrows offer? Why are they superior to separate bike lanes?
    A: The option we could all get behind is [bicycling] education and sharrows. The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials [and] the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices [endorse] "bikes may use full lane" signs. [The safest way to ride is] to stay way from parked-car doors, riding almost in the center of the right lane where the bike is best able to do that. Yes, some motorists become annoyed, but keeping to the right [in a bike lane] is more dangerous. Sharrows give cyclists a genuine sense of safety; when they ride over the shared-lane marking, they'll say, "Oh, the city agrees with me, I'm not a second-class citizen, I'm part of the traffic."
    Q: If sharrows are actually safer than bike lanes, why are the latter promoted by PennDOT, its New Jersey counterpart and other state agencies? The Smart Transportation Handbook developed by the two states generally recommends bike lanes first in the proper applications, with sharrows as a secondary application only if bike lanes are not feasible.
    A: It's not unusual to have misconceptions in the public mind. We are undergoing a grand experiment here in this country, and I see a lot of confusion in terms of bike facilities. … People automatically think if there's a bicycle facility, it's a good thing. Separate but equal is not safer. Keeping to the right is dangerous … it's inherently unsafe. … The worst possible thing in the Lehigh Valley is to train cyclists about these separate bike lanes, that it's OK to pass stopped traffic [at an intersection], then [ ride] in the "door zone" and pass all the cars, [infuriating motorists and creating more possible passings and conflicts with the same cars]. It's called filtering forward, and it's extremely dangerous.
    Q: Anything to add in conclusion?
    A: We look forward to seeing shared-use markings and "bikes may use full lane" signs on Linden and Turner streets and elsewhere in the Lehigh Valley. To me, a bike lane is a street lane. Every street, unless it's prohibited for use by a bicyclist, is a bike lane. I don't recognize the term "bike lane" as being something separate. So the question of which is more dangerous becomes moot. It's the same thing.
    Douglas Adams, director of Active Transportation Planning for Schwartz Engineering, says bike lanes are safer and promote greater use of bicycles, an aim of Allentown's Connecting Our Community effort.
    Q: Steve Schmitt says bike lanes can give people a false sense of security. Is he wrong?
    A: I think there's the potential for that, but I wouldn't agree [that it's a widespread problem]. Sharrows have been demonstrated to have some safety benefits, [including] encouraging cyclists to ride far enough from parked cars to avoid being "doored."
    Q: OK, if sharrows have safety benefits, why not opt for them on Linden and Turner, retaining the vehicle lanes as well?
    A: There's plenty of evidence that cities with bike lanes … have lower crash rates for bicycles, pedestrians and motorists, because [traffic generally slows and] the streets are calmer. The safety benefits have been shown for all users. In addition, sharrows don't grow cycling populations.
    Q: Why do bike lanes lure more riders than sharrows?
    A: Growing the cycling population is about adding facilities that increase cyclist comfort, and sharrows don't do that. Strong and fearless riders make up about 1 percent of the population — folks that will ride regardless of the facilities provided. Enthusiastic and competent riders will ride with some segregated facilities; that represents about 6 percent of the population. … The bulk, about 60 percent, falls into the interested but concerned category [for whom] bike lanes will add to their comfort level. That's who we're designing for; we want to see increases in this population [riding bicycles in Allentown].
    Q: But if sharrows provide at least some safety benefit, and don't require the loss of traffic lanes, why not opt for them on Linden and Turner?
    A: Sharrows haven't been shown to increase the rates of cycling at all. Schmitt is advancing a notion that's been promoted by vehicular cyclists [those who feel comfortable riding in the vehicle lane] that no facilities for bikes is appropriate. That has been shown for 30 years to be untrue. It's just not borne out …. This is an old argument that really needs to be put to rest. When you provide safe, separate facilities for different users, you get safer streets. … There's no municipality that's making the case that sharrows are safer than bike lanes.
    Q: Schmitt says the favoritism shown by PennDOT and other agencies for bike lanes is simply misplaced. He's an extremely experienced road bicyclist. How could he be wrong?
    A: I would say, what evidence … does he have that bike facilities are putting cyclists in harm's way? PennDOT, for instance, a very conservative organization, recommends bike lanes [based on American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials and Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices guidelines]. I'm not aware of any government [agency] that recommends sharrows and no other bike facilities. You might consider sharrows for connecting two [separated] bike facilities, [for example] if there's a gap between bike lanes."
    Q: What about bikers going straight at intersections and being struck by right-turning motorists they are coming up to from behind, or worse, bikers going straight and being hit by oncoming traffic turning left across the cyclist's path?
    A: Intersections are not a major problem. It's a matter of cyclists … and drivers being aware of each other. If you're driving a car and you need to make a right turn, you need to maneuver slowly [alerted in part by the painted bike lane]. It's similar with the left turn. Just because I'm riding a bike doesn't mean cars aren't going to be turning across my path. In that sense, there's no difference between sharrows and bike lanes. Anyone riding a bike [on the street] needs training and [a sense of] caution. Just putting down a bike lane doesn't mean you should just ride [carelessly].

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    AMERICA WALKS: Call to Action!

    We are one step closer to a federal transportation law that makes streets safer for all users.

    Dear Walk Bike Berks,        

    After several long weeks of intense work from advocates around the country, the Cardin-Cochran Amendment has been accepted as part of the base Senate transportation bill, MAP-21. If MAP-21 becomes law, the language from this amendment will ensure that local governments, school systems, and metropolitan planning organizations are able to access much-needed funds to make walking and bicycling safe and accessible.

    The list of who we need to thank for this important victory is long, but our most immediate "thank you" goes to the following US Senators - Please take a minute to click on their name and thank them:
    • Senators Cardin (D-MD) and Cochran (R-MS) for championing this amendment and ensuring that local governments have a voice in transportation planning and projects; and
    • The leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sens. Boxer (D-CA), Baucus (D-MT), Inhofe (R-OK), and Vitter (R-LA), for including this amendment.

    What you can do to ensure continued support for walking and biking:
    • Please e-mail or call the Senators listed above with a simple message, "thank you for including the Cardin-Cochran Amendment into MAP-21."
    • Ask your state's US Senators to "support the Klobuchar/Burr/Shaheen/Risch Amendment (#1661)." This amendment supports the Recreational Trails Program that has built and maintained thousands of miles of trails across the United States.
    PA Senators are:
    America Walks thanks everyone who called and emailed in support of the Cardin-Cochran amendment. Your voices made this possible!

    Scott Bricker, Executive Director
    America Walks