On Tuesday night Metro Council unanimously passed a bill to make it harder for construction sites to close sidewalks and bikelanes. A big thanks to Councilwoman Allen and Elrod for their work moving the bill forward over the last 6 months; and for Councilmembers Bedne, Johnson, O'Connell and Sledge. This bill, which we've taken to calling the #DontBlockMyWalk Bill is accompanied by a new set of Public Works Regulations, seen here, which together are intended to ensure the safe accommodation of people on foot and bike at construction sites.
The Bill, ORDINANCE NO. BL2016-240, is fairly straightforward, mostly allowing Metro Works to adopt regulations to protect people around construction zones. It also requires a traffic control plan, addressing the flow of pedestrians and bikes, be submitted for any permit for a closure of a sidewalk or bikelane greater than 20 days.
Most of the actual requirements are found in the regulations, which lay out the specifics for what's required in the traffic management plan and what is meant by "reasonable accommodation".
We are thrilled that Metro Council and Metro Public Works has taken this step to protect all road users, and we hope to see a significant reduction in sidewalk and bikelane closures as a result. While this bill and set of regulations were long in coming and included several compromises to the construction industry, we hope that, taken together, they will help prevent the widespread practice of closing sidewalks and bikelanes (while car travel and parking lanes are untouched) in the many construction zones around the city. Here are some highlights of what the bill and regulations will, and will not do.
What they WILL do:
- Give the Public Works department more leeway to require construction sites provide safe accommodations to pedestrians and bikes.
- Require contractors have a plan (in the form of a Traffic Control Plan) to address the "reasonable accomodation" of people on foot and bike.
- Further emphasize the (already existing) requirement that all construction sites use clear, well-placed and standardized signage when a closure or detour exists
- Require sidewalk or bikelane closure permits be displayed at the site so the public knows how long the closure will last.
- Make it harder (though not impossible) to close a sidewalk or bikelane for purposes not directly related to construction, like storage of materials, parking of vehicles or placement of toilets
- Ensure that the required "accommodation" shall maintain the most desirable aspects of the existing facility
- This includes a path that is: Direct and Convenient, Obvious, Separate, Coordinated with Signals, ADA Complaint
What the WILL NOT do:
- Require any sidewalk or bikelane already closed be reopened (sorry Demonbreun pedestrians).
- Prevent all closures of sidewalks or bikelanes in construction zones.
- Prevent short term closures.
- Provide for increased enforcement of regulations once the permit is issued