Thursday, November 16, 2017

First in Bellingham, a bike lane on right side of parked cars. Past Bellingham Gather Apartments



I've heard about this being done in Europe and seen it in Portland, OR. but this is the first time I have seen this in Bellingham. A bike lane on the far side of parked cars that's protected from the traffic lane. It's on Forest Street going by a big new apartment complex.

That stretch of street has an interesting history. Built in the early 1980s as the "Ivy Street Connector." Connects northbound Forest Street to the Boulevard. It was designed as part of a one way system as State Street takes the southbound traffic.

About 15 years ago, the lanes were reduced on State Street from 3 lanes to 2 lanes and a bike lane. Better for bikes. Also, who needs 3 southbound lanes leading to 1 when it gets to the boulevard? Later that improvement also came to Forest.

Then they decided to build this large apartment complex. Only part of it is shown in the picture. Density, which is often better for bikes, pedestrians and transit. Bellingham has a housing shortage. Population growth.

Now Ivy Street Connector to northbound Forest is down to one lane plus the bike lane and parking. Seems to work good. Maybe drivers will grumble that there is only one lane, but there's also need for more parking with all those apartments. There's parking garages in the apartment complex as well, but there's, of course, never enough of anything. That's true in this life, I guess.

Seems like the setup works pretty well. More housing and now we have a protected bike lane behind the parked cars. First one of these I've seen in Bellingham.

Some people grumble that the apartments are too "cookie cutter dull," but that's yet another story.

Back in early 1980s, some people in the neighborhood complained about the building of the Ivy Street Connector. I lived on Forest Street, then and wrote a letter to Bellingham Herald. Surprising some folks, I was kind of justifying construction of the connector, but blaming the whole thing on people's over dependence on automobiles.

Here is letter text from my archive. Early 1980s.

Now that the Ivy Street connector is finished noise and traffic has arrived here on Forest Street. It would have been nice if we could have preserved quietness in this neighborhood by keeping through traffic out. Some of my neighbors tried to stop the city from building the connector; but their opposition did not do much good.

The opposition could not contend with the fact that there is no other viable place to route excess State Street traffic; and State Street; itself; has become too crowded. Efforts to stop construction of a street in order to preserve quiet in a local neighborhood are no match against the overall circulation needs of the city.

Underneath this dilemma lies a deeper issue: There are too many cars on American streets. If we could get thousands of local people to agree on drastically reducing the number of trips they take in their cars; the bottleneck on State Street could have been solved without ever needing to build the Ivy Street connector. If thousands of people could agree to walk; bike or ride the bus instead of using their cars; Forest Street could have remained a quiet residential street.

We tend to blame our city planners when a quiet neighborhood is disrupted by a noisy street; but planners are often just as helpless as we are. If State Street is too crowded; while Forest Street is the only other economically viable place to route the traffic; planners must follow inevitable circumstances. The best way we have for preserving quiet neighborhoods is to get our people using their cars less. This is something we cannot look to our city planners to do for us. It is something the people; themselves; must do. We may not be as helpless as we think.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Where was God?

Many people ask where was God during something like the recent church shooting in Texas. While I still don't consider myself a total atheist, it does seem like the atheists have the most logical answer to that question. Where was God? What god? Things like that happen because there is nothing watching out for us; nothing beyond us, ourselves. I find that to be a very depressing conclusion even though I have never believed, that much, in the traditional idea of a "God the father;" so to speak. I grew up in a very liberal Christian church where unanswered questions were par for the course. I still think that there could be things that some folks would define as supernatural which are beyond our logic. Obviously we still don't know everything, of course. The church I grew up in is very welcoming to my kind of people.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Health education may be more important than technical expertise for today's job market

I got to thinking that physical fitness is more important in today's job market than technical expertise. For years, there's been lots of talk, in the media, about how we need more technical education to prepare for the "jobs of the future." Technical education is important for a certain percent of the jobs. There are the folks that invent new apps for your phone or work in high places at companies like Facebook and Google. Maybe even 20% of the people, which is actually a significant number, but that still leaves 80% working at jobs like coffee barista or janitor. A little technical understanding helps, but being able to stand on one's feet without sore ankles or a bad back makes a bigger difference. Even in tech companies, like Amazon, I hear that a lot of the rank and file jobs are in the warehouse. Standing, walking and lifting. Robots are doing much of this, but people are still doing a lot of it, at least in the foreseeable future. In jobs like nursing, there's quite a bit of expertise, but having a good back for lifting patients is a big factor also.

Technology has been a boon to the consumer to be able to use things like Google at one's fingertips. On the other hand, it seems like it hasn't really revolutionized most of the job market.

Bellingham is kind of a backwater for jobs compared to places like Seattle, but it still seems like education for healthy lifestyles means more than education for high tech in most cases.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The jail, a big ticket item



Most ballots have probably already been cast, but here's some thinking for posterity at least. Also, if you haven't cast your ballot yet, remember to vote.

Normally I wouldn't agree with anti tax signs that are out in fields in the county, but this one I agree with. Raising the sales tax to build a large jail off Slater Road seems like a bad idea. We do need a better jail, in Whatcom County, but there are better ideas.

Vote on many local issues Nov. 7th 2017.

As for the jail, I've commented on the irony that the tax would max out our county's taxing authority for many years due to a state imposed tax limit resulting from (I think) I-601. That state wide initiative passes a few years back putting a limit on taxing authority. This jail is a big ticket item. Some folks in law enforcement have worried that hitting that tax lid could jeopardize funding for other needs that could come up; like new fire stations. That was a big concern in 2015, at least, when a similar proposal was on the ballot.

Quite a few liberal minded folks think the jail is too much a jail and there needs to be more things like restorative justice in the proposal. Here's a place where concern about taxation and liberal politics come together.

This vote may be a hard choice for some people as our current jail is inadequate. We do need improvement there, but there are other ideas.

Among the other ideas is building a somewhat smaller jail expansion on land already owned by the county in downtown Bellingham. It's near the courthouse. Easier access than the proposed Slater Road site.

There is a lot of thinking out there on this difficult problem. Various alternative proposals and so forth.

Update, November 10 2017

I'm happy, but also a bit troubled to report that the Whatcom County jail tax failed again. I voted against the jail tax. The reason I say a bit troubled also is that we do need a new jail. Just a better plan and I would say a more equitable tax if possible; like making part of the tax a property tax rather than having it totally reliant on regressive sales taxes. Of course a lot of what's wrong with our taxes is that we are a sales tax state with no income tax. As we do need to improve the jail, from what I can gather, we will, somehow, have to find enough consensus among our citizens for some kind of plan. That is difficult in this day and age. I wish us the best of luck, but I am glad the jail tax was defeated. Glad with a bit of reservation.

I think the vote outcome was an interesting coalescing of what is normally thought of as "conservative" opinion against taxes and liberal opinion for alternatives to incarceration.