Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bicycles as Transport-From Alternative to Mainstream

Last week was so busy and full of cool things in the cycling world, that I don't know what to share first. I think that I have to go with the best and share some of the other findings in later posts.

The AIA Center for Architecture has an exhibit called Our Cities Ourselves: The Future of Transportation In Urban Life, and last Thursday they had a guest panel give a presentation on Bicycles as Transport-From Alternative to Mainstream. The main goal of their presentation was to show that bicycles represent among most sustainable forms of personal transportation. Cities such as Amsterdam and Munich have integrated the bicycle as a key component of transportation modes, and have developed infrastructure, regulatory, and cultural changes as a part of this shift.

The main presentation was broken up into 5 main points, but was prefaced by the statistical data that the NYCDOT has been collecting since it started implementing the City's new bike infrastructure. They have created 200 miles of new bike facilities and plan on doing a minimum of 50 miles/year from now on. Their data showed that crashes have gone down 56% and volume is up 66%. They said that these stats were accomplished by designing safer streets and by increasing the ridership, increasing the awareness of the drivers.

This set up their first point, which was Protection. They didn't want to just put bike lanes on streets, but instead embraced the European and Portland models of road infrastructure. They have concluded that if they can get the ridership numbers up, that the crash statistics will automatically go down because of safety in numbers.

Their next point was to provide Bike Sharing. The goal for NYC is to get a system similar to Paris and have access to trains, buses, and bikes, all on the same Metro-Card. They felt that the bike rental program that is in the city right now is already a success and is a model that shows that adding more riders at all levels of experience and familiarity to the city hasn't been an issue because of the extent of their protected bike facilities.

Parking was the third topic and was the one that I had personally experienced. The city is already introducing hundreds of new bike racks and they are strategizing around metro stops to add new bike corals. They are struggling with the option to build bike lockers or bike stations, because they have such little available land and they are also limited underground because of the amount of utility infrastructure underground. They also emphasized their progress with passing the new legislation that required buildings with freight elevators to allow bike access and that any new or renovated buildings be required to add indoor bike parking and access.

The fourth point was Civic Bike Culture. The different city and advocate groups are trying to work together to build a better name for cycling and to push following the existing rules and get all user types out on the streets and on bikes. They are also working with businesses to create a "bike friendly business" program, that would allow businesses that participate to get a window sticker and give discounts to customers that come in on bikes.

The last point was a blend of the last point and was simply People. They are trying to shift the public opinion of cycling through marketing and sponsored events/rides. It again kept going back to the ultimate premise of the strength and safety in numbers and getting the ridership numbers as high as possible.

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