Posts Tagged ‘RCOC’

Oakland County Complete Streets resolution & meeting

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

** Note that the Complete Streets meeting is Tuesday, August 9th **

Oakland County Commissioners David Woodward and Craig Covey are introducing a Complete Streets resolution tomorrow, Monday, August 8th.

From the resolution:

“…increasing active transportation (e.g. walking, bicycling, public transportation) offers the potential for improved public health, economic development, a cleaner environment, reduced transportation costs, enhanced community connections, social equity, and more livable communities. ‘Complete Streets’ can also reduce traffic congestion and reliance on foreign oil.”

No, Oakland County Government does not own, build or manage roads. That is done by the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC), a completely separate county government operation for just roads.

(In Michigan, county governments by default can have health departments, cemeteries, courts, airports, parks and more – but they can’t have a road department. Roads are handled by a separate county government called a road commission. In order to consolidate these two county governments, state law needs to be changed and a county needs to become chartered — neither are easy.)

However, Oakland County government does have some pull over the RCOC. They do give them money and every two years they appoint a road commissioner.

We’ve had discussions with Commissioner Woodward over the past few years about a Complete Streets resolution, including making it a prerequisite for those county funds.

We’ve also brought up Complete Streets during the most recent road commissioner appointment process. That seemed to gain traction among the Democratic minority. It will be interesting to see whether Monday’s resolution gets votes from the Republican majority. There’s some discussion that it will.

It also is worth mentioning that we’ve been meeting with the RCOC regarding Complete Streets issues, including bike accommodations. It’s too early to say how that will play out. Current RCOC policy is to not accommodate bicycles on county roads, i.e. no bike lanes, no sharrows, no four-foot paved shoulders.

Complete Streets public meeting in Ferndale

On Tuesday, August 9th both Woodward and Covey are speaking in Ferndale about their resolution. This free meeting is at 6:30 PM at the Ferndale Public Library.

There more event information on Facebook.

Milford Township and Complete Streets

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

It seems that Milford is the first township in Oakland County to have passed a Complete Streets resolution.

According to the Spinal Column:

Milford Township Planning Commission members are reviewing design features as part of the township’s “complete streets” policy to make streets more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

This comes after the commission passed a complete streets policy resolution in January, which was then adopted by the Milford Township Board of Trustees in February.

The policy allows the Planning Commission to review all street plans to ensure all public and private street projects, including reconstruction, are built to follow the guidelines of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials to accommodate all users of the rights-of-way or private road easements.

“This allows the township to be more involved in street improvements with help from the county and state planning process,” said Milford Township Building Official Timothy Brandt.

The Township is also looking to “adopt a non-motorized transportation network plan.”

What’s interesting about this development is Michigan townships generally aren’t in the road business. They don’t receive state or federal road funds. They typically rely on their county or county road commission for road design, construction, and maintenance.

And to date, the Road Commission for Oakland County does not support Complete Street designs. How this gets resolved given the Township’s resolution remains to be seen.

One interesting note: the newest Road Commissioner for Oakland County is from Milford. From what we hear, he gets Complete Streets and might help push the organization forward.

An unnecessary exception?

Below is the Milford Township Complete Streets resolution, which includes this interesting exception:

Where non-motorized network improvements are contrary to the community’s intent to preserve areas having or perceived to have a low density pattern of development, being generally void of man-made improvements such as paved roadways, and exhibiting open Fields, farmland or woodlands as common elements of the visual landscape; and,

To us, this looks like unnecessary. Complete Streets are context sensitive. There is no singular design. Low density communities have designs that make sense for that area. Complete Streets are not incompatible with low density development nor open space preservation.

Perhaps this was added to allay fears that it would lead to paving roads and removing roadside trees for sidewalks.

And the Village of Milford?

Milford Township and the Village share the same planner, who has offered to help the Village with a Complete Streets policy. Tow Village Planning Commissioners attended a Complete Streets introduction last fall and “found it to be very informative” but that’s all we know.


Complete Streets: a bitter pill for the Road Commission

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

We recently wrote about the Road Commission for Oakland County and their unwillingness to follow the national design guidelines for safe bicycling facilities.

That unwillingness is going to make  Complete Streets a bitter pill.

One doesn’t have to look too far to confirm that. Here’s the text they’ve had in the Oakland County’s Oak Routes Map.

The Road Commission for Oakland County is a member of the Oakland County Trails Advisory Council in order to accomplish two goals. First, our goal is to encourage and facilitate the movement of people throughout the county by non-motorized means as a way to promote healthier living and reducing the number of trips required on the road system. Secondly, the Road Commission wants to create the best possible nonmotorized network by contributing technical expertise to the location and design of the pathway system. This will create fewer conflicts with the motorized network and result in the safest possible trails for all users. Accomplishing both goals is in the best interest of our residents’ health, safety, and quality of life.

Yes, they refer to roads as the “motorized network.”

Yes, they are trying to gets bikes off the road.

Some of their best work is in Oakland County townships such as West Bloomfield. West Bloomfield has partnered with the Road Commission to get bikes of the roads and onto side paths, which they call safety paths.

Township officials have acknowledged to us that these paths are not safe for many bicyclists. That said, they’re still committed to building them.

One of their engineers admitted that these paths do not follow AASHTO bicycle design guidelines, but insisted it’s okay because the township only labels them as pedestrian facilities. That doesn’t explain the path’s bike routes signs or much of their safety path documentation.

Given all this, it is a major disappointment that the League of Michigan Bicyclists is giving its 2010 Community Award to the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission, for among other things, “activities that support making Michigan a better place to bicycle.”  The Commission has been a supporter of this safety path program and calls for more of them in their master plan.

Safety paths are not making Michigan a better place to bicycle.

And safety paths in nearly all cases do not make a Complete Street.

Oakland County puts window salesman on road commission

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Blame the cyclists from the 1890s.

Back then, counties weren’t involved in building roads, but farmers were. That was a problem for bicyclists. These roads weren’t well engineered, didn’t drain properly, and were hub deep in mud during the spring.

But the roads were good enough for horses.

And at that time, a popular sentiment was that county government had no role in building and maintaining roads.

Cyclists began the Good Roads movement and one of their first victories in Michigan (thanks to Edward Hines) was an 1893  state law that allowed the creation of county road commissions. These commissions were separate from county government and had enough autonomy so that they could ignore the naysayers in the farming community and improve the roads.

By the 1920s, according to Horatio “Good Roads” Earle, the cyclist who founded MDOT, the debate over the importance of good roads was over. Even the farmers agreed that building good roads was a good investment.

However, the road commissions that were separate from county government remained.

Unified form of government

All but Wayne and Macomb Counties operate on what’s called a “unified form of government” which is defined by state law. This law allows Michigan counties to hire a county manager to oversee departments for planning, economic development, health, environmental protection, parks, libraries, sewage, airports, garbage collection, human services, and more.

See what’s missing?  (more…)

Tienken Road plans ignore cyclist safety

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

The Road Commission for Oakland County and the city of Rochester Hills are hosting a public meeting tomorrow night to discuss their Tienken Road improvement plans. It would be great to see some cyclists attend and provide comments.

Wednesday, July 21st, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Rochester Hills City Hall Auditorium

As m-bike readers know, the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) has a long history of ignoring the safety of bicyclists. They’ve continued that streak by failing to provide bike lanes in their Tienken Road plans.

We submitted comments to the RCOC a year ago regarding bike lanes on Tienken and provided justification. Those comments were never responded to and altogether ignored based on the latest Tienken Road Environmental Assessment which recommends three vehicular travel lanes and sidewalks.

No bikes lanes. No wide curb lanes. Not a Complete Street.

Our preferred option should be three 11-foot lanes with two five-foot bike lanes (or wider, buffered bike lanes.) That would be a Complete Street and support Safe routes to School.

Why 11-foot lanes? Studies show there is no safety advantage for having 12-foot lanes and they induce speeding.

Former Rochester Hills City Councilman Scot Beaton has gone even further with his suggestions and developed an alternative cross section that includes bike lanes. He’s left his comments at the end of this Oakland Press article.

We must also mention that the RCOC plans failed to include any discussion of bicycling safety despite the nearby parks, trails, and schools. Three has been three bicycling-vehicle crashes in this road corridor since 2006 — all three occurred on safety paths. RCOC’s response? Build more safety paths.

City of Rochester Hills guilty too

Just as the RCOC ignores AASHTO guidelines for bicycle facilities and best design practices, so too does the city of Rochester Hills — which helps explain why it is one of the least safe places to ride a bike in Oakland County based on crash data. Their “safety path” network does not meet AASHTO guidelines. In fact, John LaPlante, a primary author of the guidelines called the term “safety path” an oxymoron. LaPlante said the guidelines were clear that “safety paths” (or the correct term, sidepaths) are rarely an appropriate bicycle facility.

According to the Oakland Press, “Mayor Bryan Barnett said he’s happy with the outcome.”

It’s frustrating that cities like Rochester Hills and others (e.g. Oakland Township, Orion Township, West Bloomfield Township) refuse to follow the national design guidelines. It’s really up to cyclists to turn this around. Taxpayer dollars are being wasted on off-road bicycle facilities that would be much less expensive and safer on the road.

Friends of Tienken Road

And finally, it seems the Friends of Tienken Road are no fans of safe cycling or Complete Streets either. This is the group that fought against widening Tienken to five lanes.

We sent them emails with the regards to bike lane proposal, but they never responded. This is despite that fact that we helped them with their community outreach, paid for their web domain name, developed their web site, and provided free web hosting.

It seems their priority is in limiting the RCOC’s plan to three lanes of motor vehicle travel, rather than bicyclist safety (or responding to emails.)

Unable to attend?

According to the Free Press, “Those unable to attend the meeting may send concerns about the proposal in writing to the Road Commission for Oakland County, Permits and Environmental Concerns Department, 2420 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford 48328.”