A transportation network is a complex thing. Millions of people walking,biking, and driving in all directions, brushing past each other in various weather and light conditions. Even if everyone is doing their very best, and sadly, they aren't always, there's bound to be some serious accidents. Making things worse is that most cities, especially in North-America, are way too car-centric and treat pedestrians and cyclists are second-class citizens. This makes things more dangerous than they have to be...
But it's not the case everywhere.
Portland is one of the shining examples of what can be done to make the streets as safe as possible for everyone. One notable fact is that in 2013, there hasn't been a single cyclist fatality in the city. Michael Andersen at Bike Portlandwrites:
There were several serious collisions, covered here on the site, including one major hit-and-run that remains unsolved. But the number-one reason Portland is the country’s best big city for biking is that this is, compared to any other large U.S. city and lots of the smaller ones, an extremely safe place to ride a bicycle.
This isn’t a new feat for Portland: the city also avoided any bike-related fatalities in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010.
In a perfect world this wouldn't be impressive, it would just be normal. But we aren't there yet, so kudos to Portland and all the urban planners, activists, and every day commuters who have worked hard day in and day out to make the streets safer for everyone.
Elected officials and urban planners everywhere need to study success stories like Portland, but also Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Groningen, Houten, etc, and import these best practices to their cities.
To celebrate a great 2013, check out some of the great things that Portland has been doing to improve the city:
The full list of bike corral locations in Portland is available here.
Last week, the bike share guide was released by the IDTP and lots of buzz online and in the bike world ensued. In the report, a few charts about bike sharing are shown, the first one, above, shows the tipping point that was reached a few years ago, and the massive growth since then. At a scale that shows the recent increase in number of bikes in bike shares, the previous growth basically looks like a flat line. That's how different the past few years have been!
A catalyst has been the launch of Velo'v and Vélib in France, but new bike shares have popped up all over and the number of stations and bikes has steadily climbed, which has helped increase usage, as the chart below shows.
There definitely seems to be a correlation between how many bikes are available and the number of trips, which makes sense. It's all about convenience: Can you find a bike when you need one? Can you drop it off at a station close to where you're going? Do you see many other bikes from the bike share riding around the city (creating social proof)? All these help keep the boom going (for example, bike-sharing in the U.S. expected to reach 37,000 bikes in 2014 (4x more than in 2012!)).
If your city has a bike share and you haven't yet tried it, I encourage you to do so. Bring some newbies with you (friends & family) for a casual ride. It's trying it the first time that is hardest. Once people are familiar with how it works, they're much more likely to ride again.
This year the Copenhagen Index evaluated 150 cities for qualities including bicycle advocacy, gender split, and infrastructure. Beating many other top contenders, Montreal was ranked the most bike friendly city in North America. It was also the only city in Canada and the USA that made it into the top 14, coming in at #11 internationally.
Montreal saw it’s first bike paths as early as 1980, and now boasts 589 km of paths. Cyclo-toursim plays a role in the local economy as outfits like Fitz & Follwell give tourists a chance to experience Montreal bike culture through guided biking tours.
In 2008 Montreal pioneered a new public bike sharing system known as Bixi. The model has worked so well that it’s now being adopted by cities all over the world including Boston, Melbourne, London, Toronto, New York and Washington, D.C.. The systems are all fabricated in Montreal and then sold worldwide, making it simple for other cities to become bike friendly as well.
Additionally, city residents don’t just use their bikes to get to work and back, biking is part of a broader culture. Events like Friction Montreal showcase bike friendly artists creating instruments from bike parts, and the annual Tour de l’Île race features a 100km ride, opening many main roads to cyclists for the event. Artisans like Rose Pedals create earrings out of used bike parts, and community bicycle Co-ops throughout the city allow cyclists to share tools and resources to keep their bikes in tune. Montrealers like to have their fun as well; this year they participated in the World Naked Bike Ride for the 9th time.
Perhaps next year the city will climb even higher in the ranks. For now it’s amazing to be featured so close to the top! Here’s how the rest of the world stacked up:
I have written a lot aboutbike-sharing, and I work at a company now that designs and studies these systems every day. I especially love when it'sintegrated into a larger multi-modal system(trains, buses, etc). But if you had been there when bike-sharing was born (probably in many places in parallel at different times...), you might not have believed that it would ever work, at least not at the scale that can be found in some cities (Hangzhou in China has about 65,000 bicycles, and Wuhan about 90,000!). That's because, while bikes are relatively low-tech, managing the memberships and stations without getting all your bikes stolen is a pretty high-tech endeavor, and we're still figuring out the best way to do things (no two bike-shares are exactly alike).
It took many iterations before bike-sharing became truly viable:
Bicycle-sharing has come a long way since the 1960s, when 50 white “free bikes” were scattered around Amsterdam, only to be promptly stolen. A second generation of coin-operated bicycles still got nicked. A third generation solved that problem with electronic docking stations and credit-card payments. (source)
And now a fourth-generation is emerging with technologies like mobile solar-powered docking stations, smart software handling the distribution of bikes, more mobiles apps, etc.
Growth in bike-sharing is strong, even in more difficult markets like the U.S.:
According to a study by the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, Europe accounts for most of the programs, but Asia has the largest number of shared bicycles, with over 350,000 in China alone. Even in often bike-hostile America, which in 2012 had 21 schemes with 8,500 bicycles, the EPI expects the fleet to more than quadruple by 2014, to 37,000. In London, which has 8,000 shared bikes, another 2,000 will be added later this year. In Paris the Vélib scheme, which opened in 2007, has already racked up 173m journeys. (source)
So if there's a bike-sharing program in your city but you haven't tried it yet, I encourage you to! Go for a ride with family and friends!
If you're curious about bike-sharing around the world, there's a pretty complete list here with number of stations and bikes.
The city of Portland, Oregon, has reached the impressive milestone of100 bike corrals. That's 9 years after the first one was installed, and the city expects to reach 150 within 5 years and has 98 additional applications under review. As far as I know, that's a lot more than any other city in the US, though I hope that others will give Portland some competition.
Why are bike corrals so great? Because in a dense urban environment, the are very space-efficient; where 1 or 2 cars could park, dozens of bikes might fit. ThePortland Bureau of Transportation(PBOT) said that their bike corral program "has helped Portland businesses increase on-street customer parking ten-fold." That's 163 car parking spaces swapped for1,644 bicycle parking spaces!
They also allow cyclists to park right in front of where they're going to eat or shop, making cycling more convenient. And in their own way, they're great marketing for bikes. People see these big clumps of bikes and get used to the idea that cycling is something normal.
FlyKly founder Nino Klansek seems to have internalized one of the great problems of city cycling and bike commuting - sometimes you just don't want to sweat. Along with a team, Klansek worked two years to develop an e-bike concept that would solve that problem, allowing cyclists to add pedal-assist electric power to their existing bikes easily via a wheel-based e-motor.
According to the company, when installed, the FlyKly Smart Wheel will be able to zip cyclists along at up to 20 miles per hour, with users able to actually choose a riding speed via the smart phone app. Additional features with the FlyKly system include a battery that recharges from pedaling and downhill coasting, GPS, and a security system that allows riders to lock their bikes' e-wheel as well as get tamper warnings from their iPhone or Android phone.
The FlyKly Smart Wheel adds approximately nine pounds of weight to the average bike, and can fit on any bike that accommodates a 26" or 29" wheel. The e-bike's speed is controlled via pedaling effort as well as setting top speed via the application. Once the Smart Wheel is installed, the bike's existing gear system is converted to FlyKly's single-speed, fixed gear setting. The battery recharges in about three hours and is expected to be good for 1,000 charging cycles.
Via the smart phone app, FlyKly will also store and track a rider’s biking stats, to allow the rider get feedback from the system on efficient routing and also to create and share routes.
The FlyKly's range will average 30 miles, and thus far the FlyKlyKickstarterhas been a resounding success. A $550 pledge gets a rider one Smart Wheel and the dynamo-driven Smart Light. The company plans to make the hub motor in eight colors.
This could be the type of easy-install e-motor that brings e-biking to masses of new city cyclists.