Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Badgers, Packers, Mallards. Paddling, running, golfing. And bikes!
fennel
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3505
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 4:24 pm
Location: Inside the Green Zone, Madison

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby fennel » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:44 pm

Soon enough, the GOP will push through legislation that requires wombs to be fully illuminated at all times – for reasons of security, of course.
(A little-noticed provision of the same omnibus bill will require bike paths to be paved with shrapnel.)

Meade
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3341
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 6:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby Meade » Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:00 am

Here is the email message Shiva sent to my neighborhood listserve. Notice the $25K figure she cites as being budgeted for the project. Read the Mike Ivey story from Cap Times I linked to above and you'll see that the figure is now $250K to $300K. Also, notice how she cites unspecified "safety issues" and "some criminal incidents" but does not say what those incidents were and when they occurred.

Bidar-Sielaff, Shiva
Dec 2

to regentneighbor., regentneighbors
Dear neighbors,

Based on the dialogue on the listserve, here is some additional information regarding the proposed lighting:
Thank you for Richard, Robin and Ryan for raising the issue of light pollution and the need for down-lighting. That indeed was the subject of much of the discussion between city staff and Alder [Brian] Solomon and me since we wanted to make sure that the fixtures proposed would be the least disruptive possible. The City has looked at both the High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and LED lights, both are cut-off fixtures, which means that they do not emit light upwards. The LED light proposed has a significant reduction in back spill lighting (lighting behind the fixture), which is important to avoid any light shining into residences adjacent to the path. Staff favors the LED fixtures. The attached “Before and after LED test” pdf illustrates the effectiveness of the LED to reduce back spill lighting—note the LED light does not extend as far away from the pole on the backside as the HPS fixture does.
Cost of this project: $25,000 has been budgeted for it.
Safety issues: over the past few years, many users have been contacting city staff and alders with concerns about safety (in the broad sense) because of how dark the path is at night. There have also been some criminal incidents (certainly all reported in the newspapers). This is a very popular path for pedestrians, runners and bikers alike and safety is always a priority for alders and city staff.
The neighborhood meeting was specifically scheduled so neighbors have an opportunity to ask questions of staff, understand the proposal and the type of lighting being proposed, so I would really encourage you those of you that would like more information and/or would like to offer additional thoughts/suggestions to attend the meeting.

Best,


Shiva Bidar-Sielaff
District 5 Alder
(608) 220-6986

Meade
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3341
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 6:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby Meade » Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:46 am

Mentioned in that Mike Ivey article, is the fact that lights were withdrawn from the original design in 1999 in order to overcome popular opposition to opening the path at all. So the city (literally) buried conduit under the asphalt with the not-so-public plan of pushing the lighting project through later when citizen scrutiny faded. Later is now.

"Lights were included in the initial design -- the electric conduits are already under the asphalt -- but were never installed next to the residential sections. There was widespread neighborhood opposition to the bike trail concept originally, and adding lights at that time would only have made it more controversial, [city engineer Tony] Fernandez notes."

http://host.madison.com/ct/business/biz_beat/biz-beat-lights-planned-for-southwest-bike-path-draw-complaints/article_cafc3dba-26a0-11e1-83ab-0019bb2963f4.html

bikingguy
Member
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:25 pm

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby bikingguy » Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:23 am

The minimum estimated installation cost - not including extra ongoing maintenance costs, overtime costs, electricity costs, etc. - is not $25K, it is ten times that amount, i.e., $250,000. http://www.cityofmadison.com/bikemadison/documents/swpathlighting.pdf. And that would, as the 12/12/11 meeting confirmed, provide cones of light separated by dark places (increasing crime risks as a police officer present noted) even at the tighter distance between the poles of 190 feet. (The estimated distance is 190-240 feet, so installation at 190 foot spreads probably substantially kicks up the initial installation costs.) Installing more poles to reduce those dark spaces (or moving to a system of 4 foot high poles at frequent intervals as discussed at the meeting) would, of course, substantially increase the taxpayer cost.

I commute the SW path year round, using good, though not expensive, bike lighting in nighttime hours. It more than suffices (although walkers should use their heads and carry lights in those hours as well).

In 1998, the Mayor’s Committee for the Design of the Southwest Commuter Bike and Pedestrian Path promised that there be lighting on the path only when “most of the adjacent landowners request it,” that requests should be considered “on a block-by-block basis,” and that “the only exception to this is where lighting is needed for safety.” http://www.dmna.org/bikepath/bike_path_100298.shtml. Advocates admitted at the 12/12/11 meeting that there are no current crime safety concerns associated with the path. It was transparent at the meeting that adjacent landowners strongly oppose lighting the path.

Advocates of lighting argue that they're motivated by energy savings - i.e., taking cars off the road. They cite no data actually predicting any significant increase in commuters. A recreational rider who does not commute would not take a commuting car off the road. I bike commute all year, and love it, but recognize that many people say they'd like to do it but wouldn't regardless of lighting, once it gets cold and/or snowy. But even if there were data, energy-savings arguments are questionable on several grounds.

For example, the National Energy Foundation confirms, on a middle schooler study sheet, that a “100 watt light bulb uses 1 kw of electricity per hour” and asks how “many pounds of coal are needed to run one 100 watt light bulb for 6 hours? 8 hours? 10 hours?” The answers - “Six hours = 0.6 pounds, eight hours = 0.8 pounds, ten hours = 1 pound.” http://www.coaleducation.org/lessons/twe/ctele.htm. The City intends to use electricity from the grid. With 84% of grid electricity produced by coal, this suggests that, spaced at 190 feet over 21120 feet (4 miles), 53 watt light poles along the SW path would consume nearly sixty pounds of coal during each ten hour period they are lit. A major reason I bike commute is to reduce my carbon footprint. It would take a lot of extra year-round bike commuters on the SW path to offset that energy consumption.

Low cost solution: periodic signs on the SW path that say "See and be seen - light your own way." If the City wants those signs visible at night, it could fuel the signs with very low-wattage solar.

Meade
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3341
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 6:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby Meade » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:28 am

snoqueen wrote:So give the lighting project a chance before you ridicule the idea or reject it out of hand. The designers may come up with options that please nearly everyone and measurably increase safety and comfort even for people whose night vision is not perfect.


Yeah. Why don't we give every project a chance before rejecting it?

Because - who knows - expert designers and urban planners may come up with options that will measurably please and make people measurably more comfortable?

Price is no object - just raise taxes and anything can be paid for. And if, after giving the project a chance and we don't like it, we can just remove... well, maybe not remove it... but we can certainly just move... on... to the next project and pay for it with... well, more taxes!

Meade
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3341
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 6:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby Meade » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:36 am

@bikingguy: Thanks for all that information. Very well done.

DCB
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3261
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 5:08 pm

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby DCB » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:29 am

bikingguy wrote:Low cost solution: periodic signs on the SW path that say "See and be seen - light your own way." If the City wants those signs visible at night, it could fuel the signs with very low-wattage solar.

Are you suggesting we should save energy by eliminating all street lights in Madison? or just the small fraction that would benefit bicyclists?

bikingguy
Member
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:25 pm

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby bikingguy » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:28 pm

As a year-round biker on the SW path (from the Odana access to downtown and back) year-round since it opened 11 years ago, I oppose lighting it for many reasons, but seek to focus on the facts and the data as much as possible.

My prior comments go solely to what is best for the SW path, a special place for now in this urban environment, and its many diverse users. Lighting on streets is justified under entirely different analyses, although energy efficiencies in that lighting do cry out for action (e.g., solar-powered street lights should certainly be pursued wherever there is adequate daytime charging potential and, feeding into the grid, could actually give back).

I have an experience-based (not data-based) view on what is "beneficial for bikers" on the SW path from my daily commutes over many years. My night vision drastically improves when I head west from Breese Terrace (with occasional blinding by glare lighting on houses) and that night vision, aided by good lights, make it far easier to bike safely on the path between Breese and Odana at night than would a path lit under the current plan. My experience tells me that the alternating light and dark spots now proposed by the City would make effective night vision much less likely.

What is surprising, however, is that, after eleven years and though aware that residents adjacent to the path strongly disfavored lighting it, advocates of lighting the SW path still do not cite data in their favor. In this world-class research university town, the inability of advocates to cite data - much less powerful data - speaks volumes.

Good data seems to all be to the contrary. For example, there is a lot of data on the strong connection between light pollution and increased crime: "Light Pollution Endangers Our Security and Our Safety, "
http://physics.fau.edu/observatory/lightpol-security.html.

The proposed lights are certainly not in the "glare pollution" category, but the alternating light/dark sequence would create crime opportunities that do not now exist. Hypothetical criminals waiting by the SW path hoping to assault a female biker would, without City lighting, just see a bike light coming towards them and not know gender, weight, physique, etc. With City lighting, hypothetical criminals waiting in a dark zone could detect all of those things as bikers pass through light zones.

The City and the Bike Fed say that many bicyclists strongly support lighting the path. What questions were posed: "Would you favor lighting the path if it would take more cars off the road?" "Would you favor lighting the path if it would make you and your neighbors feel safer?" Would you favor lighting the path in ways that resulted in alternating light and dark places?"

We need neutral and carefully obtained data.
Last edited by bikingguy on Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

green union terrace chair
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3022
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Memorial Union
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby green union terrace chair » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:07 pm

bikingguy wrote:For example, the National Energy Foundation confirms, on a middle schooler study sheet, that a “100 watt light bulb uses 1 kw of electricity per hour” and asks how “many pounds of coal are needed to run one 100 watt light bulb for 6 hours? 8 hours? 10 hours?” The answers - “Six hours = 0.6 pounds, eight hours = 0.8 pounds, ten hours = 1 pound.” http://www.coaleducation.org/lessons/twe/ctele.htm. The City intends to use electricity from the grid. With 84% of grid electricity produced by coal, this suggests that, spaced at 190 feet over 21120 feet (4 miles), 53 watt light poles along the SW path would consume nearly sixty pounds of coal during each ten hour period they are lit. A major reason I bike commute is to reduce my carbon footprint. It would take a lot of extra year-round bike commuters on the SW path to offset that energy consumption.

No, a 100 watt light bulb uses 100 watt-hours of electricity per hour. That site's got a typo. The rest of the math works out though.

The rest of your math is pretty close, too, though with a 16% non-coal discount, your answer should be 49.4 pounds of coal used in a ten-hour period.

jjoyce
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 12168
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2001 4:48 pm
Location: Madison, WI
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby jjoyce » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:19 pm

Maybe somebody could explain to me why these types of lights can't use solar power. I'm sure those lights are more expensive to buy and maybe even to install (even though they wouldn't need to be attached to the grid, right?), but it seems to make obvious sense to me.

Also, why not just install waist-high lights that you often find on walking paths in other cities?

Doesn't the UW-Madison have one of the best civil engineering schools in the country? This sounds like a great project. Give them the specs, the budget and let a class go to town on coming up with something that works.

jman111
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3630
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:43 pm
Location: Dane County
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby jman111 » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:39 pm

jjoyce wrote:Maybe somebody could explain to me why these types of lights can't use solar power.

I'm guessing the issues include cost, efficiency and the potential for theft and/or vandalism.

snoqueen
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 12960
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2003 11:42 pm

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby snoqueen » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:39 pm

The portion of the bike path that runs alongside University Ave. on the way to Shorewood does in fact use solar panels on its lights. You can see 'em from University.

Regarding better lighting increasing bike traffic: I would ride more often at night if the eastbound bike path were better lit. It's got lights (unlike the western part under discussion) but it's also very isolated from residences in certain stretches and I don't feel totally safe out there alone. This doesn't necessarily apply to all riders (I am an older woman) but you might see a slight increase in some sectors of usage if you went from pitch-dark to somewhat-lit. I have frequently spoken to other women who just use the path in daylight, which is easy in the summer.

I use my car instead of my bike for the nighttime trips I'm talking about, and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid.

Why don't we give every project a chance before rejecting it?

Because - who knows - expert designers and urban planners may come up with options that will measurably please and make people measurably more comfortable?


My thoughts exactly -- along with saving fossil fuel, reducing auto traffic, reducing the need for more highways and paved parking lots, having cleaner air, and having a healthier populace. What would be better societal goals? Thanks.

jjoyce
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 12168
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2001 4:48 pm
Location: Madison, WI
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby jjoyce » Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:44 pm

Many years ago, when I lived on Morrison Ct. off Baldwin, I was at a friend's party near Whitehorse Middle School in late August or early September. It was one of those amazing, crystal clear nights. When it was time to go (maybe 1 or 2 am), I hopped on my bike and was soon on the path that runs behind Olbrich Gardens with nothing to light my way but the moon. I was flying and it felt great... until the thought of a big raccoon stumbling onto the path crept into my brain and I slammed on the brakes and made my way home slowly, staring into the darkness, listening for the slightest rustling.

Pathetic.

snoqueen
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 12960
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2003 11:42 pm

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby snoqueen » Mon Dec 19, 2011 5:59 pm

We should put little red flashing lights on all the raccoons, so they look like tiny ambulances.

Meade
Forum God/Goddess
Posts: 3341
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 6:26 pm
Contact:

Re: Lights on the Southwest Bike Path

Postby Meade » Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:59 pm

snoqueen wrote:I would ride more often at night if the eastbound bike path were better lit.


Oh. Well. Let's all just pony up $300,000 so welfaresnoqueen can ride her bike more often at night. Because, after all, isn't that the purpose of government - to tax the people and then spend for the general welfare of the snoqueen?


Return to “Sports, Recreation & Biking”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests