Monday, November 29, 2010

Switching Gears: More Commuters Bike To Work



This morning on NPR's Morning Edition, Allison Aubrey reported about how several of the US's largest cities have tripled their number of bike commuters. She specifically documents National Geographic in DC, and how DC has grown a strong bicycle culture and they have noticed the positive changes in the past few years.

National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey talks to Dan Westergren, who is also an avid cyclist.
One way National Geographic staffers in Washington, D.C., can get to know their company's CEO is to take him up on his long-standing offer: to go for a lunchtime bike ride.

"Anyone still downstairs? OK, so we ready to go, guys?" National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey asks a group of about 20 employees.

Fahey, an avid biker, says he's just trying to encourage a little exercise — and he wants the opportunity to get to know folks informally. As the group makes the 15-mile trek to Hains Point along the Potomac River and back, Fahey makes a point of chatting with everyone, staffers say.

At National Geographic — which is a hub of outdoorsy, adventure-seeking types who think nothing of biking busy city streets — lots of the staffers who join Fahey for the lunchtime rides also use their bikes to get to and from work every day.

"I've been riding in for 19 years," says senior photo editor Dan Westergren, adding that he has definitely noticed the boom — especially as bike paths and bike lanes along city streets have improved.

Westergren's commute is a combined 12 miles to and from home. And he says, given all the biking he does, he doesn't need a gym membership to stay fit.

"Really, to build it into your daily routine by commuting for me has just been the best thing," he says.


Cycling Culture
If you bike to work in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Chicago or San Francisco, you're part of a boom. Cycling has at least tripled over the past two decades in these — and other — big cities across the U.S.

"It's almost like a snowball effect," says researcher John Pucher of Rutgers University. "People see other people cycling and they say, 'Wow!' " As part of a three-year research project for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pucher has completed a preliminary report that documents the increase in biking in nine major North American cities.

"It's almost become a cultural phenomenon," Pucher says. "It's become the 'in' thing to do." For many city dwellers, it's a money saver, a time saver and a way to sneak in daily exercise.

Research shows that the extra physical activity that people get from walking and biking to work or school is not offset by less recreational activity.

"[Active commuters] actually double the amount of their total physical activity," says Pucher. And as a result, Pucher says cities with lots of "active" commuters tend to be healthier. The most recent evidence comes from a study Pucher and his colleagues published in the American Journal of Public Health.

They found that the U.S. cities with the highest rates of walking and cycling to work have obesity rates that are 20 percent lower and diabetes rates that are 23 percent lower — compared with U.S. cities with the lowest rates of walking and cycling.


Just 'Hide The Bike Grease'
There are, of course, a few daily obstacles. Take the weather. "In the winter it's just gross sometimes with the ice," staffer Julia Yordanova says. And there are also the dangers of traffic. "It's the cab drivers," says Jonathan Irish.

Not to mention the need to try to fit in a shower at the office. "You just try to hide the bike grease on your calf as you're sitting in a meeting," says Barbara Noe, an editor at Travel Books.

But hey, if the office culture tolerates a little sweat on the brow — or grease on the calf — take it a sign of good health. That's the way Pucher sees it.

Pucher says, "Most people understand that walking and cycling is healthy. They don't think as something they could integrate into their daily lives."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Power of Perceived Safety

While working in New York this past summer, I always noticed the window washers from my office window and thought, “who on earth would sign up for that job?” The reality was, the person washing the window was standing on a tethered platform, and had a second tether attached to themselves from the rooftop. There were three cantilevered arms over the building, two for the platform, and one for the worker. Though you do hear of deaths of plunging window washers, the reality is very rare, and considering the number of skyscrapers around the world and the amount of cleaning needed, the accident rate is extremely low. So why wouldn’t you or I choose this job? Quite simply, the perception of safety is so low that the idea of taking the responsibility is left to a small “fearless” minority. Would a major education campaign detailing the true safety of window washing, and citing the rarity of accident rates improve the number of window washers? Possibly, but by numbers so low as to be little worth the expenditure and effort. Some label the fear of bicycling in traffic as “Cyclist Inferiority Complex”, and tend to berate the population at large for having this wholly natural human vs. car concern.


In the 1960′s, the Netherlands and Denmark had developed their “car-first” infrastructure, and saw precipitous drops in bicycle modal share. By the 1970′s, efforts were made to focus on “people-first” planning, and to develop extensive bicycle infrastructure. This clip from Contested Streets details that switch, and shows areas in 1965 Copenhagen that look very much like Orlando now. The battle the planners faced was the assumption that “we’re not Italians, we’re Danes…we have no culture for walking”. Similarily, businesses fought the infrastructure tooth and nail, claiming traffic congestion and a drop in visibility. The reality is both cultures are now known as bicycle meccas. One would assume it’s always been that way when visiting, but according to planner, Jan Gehl, it’s only occurred within the last 30 years. Portland, Oregon would have never thought itself the bicycle capital of the US only 15 years ago, but the city’s massive redirection toward people first planning, changed the area in very short order.

Realizing the importance of the “perception of safety”, planners went to great lengths to make bicycling irresistable. Because of these major changes in Europe, statistics show massive increases in ridership for all age groups when compared to the US:

Women are more sensitive to safety than men, so separation of transit modes was a major push made by European planners to enhance the perception of safety. Because of this, Denmark and Germany have nearly 50/50 travel rates between men and women, and in the Netherlands, women actually exceed men in ridership:

This change in planning goes well beyond enhancing the “perception of safety”, and goes to great lengths to increase the overall safety by focusing on “people first” road calming. Soren Jensen’s study of cycle track installations showed increased ridership by 18-20%, and Peter Jacobsen’s study of safety increasing with the number of riders. What’s more telling is the fatality rates when compared to the US:

Between 2005 and 2007, bicycle trips in Amsterdam officially outpaced car trips. From 1990 to now, ridership has increased 36%. The only things changed infrastructure wise from then to now were increases in bicycle infrastructure and restrictions in parking measures. To see changes of that magnitude in the US, we’ll need to make similar adjustments to our road systems to place people over cars.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Globetrotting Layovers Provide Glimpse at Euro Facilities-Paris

One of the perks with working at an international company, is the vast number of projects that can send you across the globe. These kind of travel trips also create layovers in foreign cities for sometimes a day or so. Some recent such trips created stops in Paris France and Hamburg Germany for a few of my coworkers. Below is a recap from what they saw in Paris and the Hamburg post is in the works.


Few bicycling systems in the world have attracted more attention than the Paris’ Vélib, launched in 2007. With over 17,000 bicycles in circulation and a surprising degree of both permanent and provisional infrastructure, the Vélib is the crown jewel of European bicycle share systems, and has jump started a transportation revolution in this city of lights. But as fantastic and unprecedented as the Vélib may indeed be, the system is troubled by a number of distribution problems, and lacks the necessary scope of integral planning and infrastructure to make not only the Vélib, but bicycling in general a boundless success in Paris.


1. Success breeds mediocrity

The Vélib’s greatest success, and the baseline measure for any bicycle share system, is that it achieves critical mass. Quite simply, the bikes are everywhere. Stations appear every couple of blocks and often stock far more bikes than one might expect. Vélib’s system of 17,000+ bicycles and 1,200+ stations makes finding a bike, returning a bike, and enjoying a bike easy and carefree. Or at least, it ought to.

The Vélib, it seems, represents a strange case of success breeding mediocrity. Because such a critical mass of bicycles are in circulation and people actually use them to get around for short trips and errands, the system is plagued by a number of unprecedented problems. First of all, there is the inflow/outflow dilemma. During the day, there are a lack of bicycles in the perimeter districts (especially hilly areas) and an overabundance of them in the center- which makes parking a stressful and inconvenient affair. Since the Vélib is only free for the first 30 minutes, if you happen to arrive at your intended destination to find your station and the nearest one totally full, the result can be frustrating. True success could only be achieved if people in both the center and the periphery used the Vélib for all trips, long and short, constantly, or if bicycle redistribution were carried out so thoroughly that the the system could maintain its equilibrium- unlikely, though thought-provoking possibility. Secondly, as anyone who spends five minutes in Paris realizes rather quickly, walking is a great deal more pleasant than cycling in Paris, to take in the streets, smell, and architecture at a more relaxed pace.

2. Infrastructure…
What is in some ways more surprising than the Vélib, is the degree to which the city of Paris, has, within a relatively short span of time, established a tremendous amount of permanent and provisional cycling infrastructure. On-street painted bicycle lanes, asphalt-paved sidewalk lanes and separated, at-grade pathways make the frenzied center of Paris a more than adequate environment for bicycling.

As far as infrastructure goes, the city of Paris has employed several consistent strategies to accommodate cycling and make it a safer activity.

1. Permanent separated lanes - On several main boulevards and wider streets, Paris has built in permanent or provisional, separated cycle tracks. These are often paired with share stations at regular intervals and represent the crem-de-la-creme of the Vélib’s infrastructure.

2.  Painted lanes and logos - A mixed bag overall, the painted lanes with frequently stamped bicyclist logos in Paris reflect safe bicycling environments 50 percent of the time. Though frequent on street painted signage and lanes are a constant reassurance to traffic-dodging cyclists.

3. The Bike/Bus Lane - Nowhere more than Paris have I seen the bike/bus lane strategy employed. Basically, the city creates a dedicated bus lane (sometimes even in the center of the street, and often accessible to delivery vehicles as well) and stamps a cyclist logo onto it. The idea being, that in the process of facilitating public transport, the city also creates a safe, luxurious, and spacious route for cyclists. In reality, however, the city takes bicyclists out of the piranha tank and puts them in with the sharks. They are a less populous breed, but interactions can be daunting, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous. In general, I find that these bike/bus lanes could benefit from a separate bicycle lane within the larger dedicated area in order to ease the potential space crunch and delineate space in the event of conflict.

4. The local/slow street - A more successful street prototype used in Paris is the local or calmed/slow street which is accessible to both cars and bicycles, but is separated from fast traffic.  These streets effectively separate bicyclists from heavy traffic and ease traffic by giving cars looking for parking a separate and comfortable space to do so. This concept is a familiar one used quite frequently in the Netherlands and helps to create a calmer space for bicycles, as well as a buffer between pedestrian sidewalks and heavy traffic.

4. Intersections - Where the bicycling infrastructure of Paris, and most other systems for that matter, falters is at intersections. Some would argue that an intersection in a cycling system serves the same purpose as a joint in the human body. Without the adequate articulation of these key pivot points, the skeleton loses its potential for connectivity and flexibility. Where cars, bicyclists and pedestrians come together and conflict, "That is the network." As much as Paris has succeeded in reassuring bicyclists of their place on the road and as part of the traffic hierarchy of the city, at its intersections (for bicyclists and pedestrians alike), the system fractures.
Though Paris has employed a number of interesting solutions in the realm of infrastructure, including checkered green painting at troublesome intersections, left and right turns remain treacherous and, at many junctions, bicyclists struggle to fend for themselves and must be quite aggressive. Of course, there is hardly a case for comparison between Paris and Amsterdam or Copenhagen in terms of urban scale, but the city needs to bolster their infrastructure at these busy intersections and roundabouts-with signals, signage, and color- to make the Vélib a safe as well as successful system.

3. Wayfinding in a city built for parades
Paris, like many grand European capitals, is a city built for parades, not people or traffic. This famous urban form, an amalgam of axial boulevards that meet at oversized roundabouts crowned by statuary and  pilfered obelisks, makes traffic planning and the creation of a better bicycling infrastructure a tremendous challenge. Unlike gridded cities in the United States or student cities of the Netherlands and Germany, the challenge for a capital on the scale of London, Paris, or Berlin is not only to create a more livable city for bicycles and pedestrians alike, but also to use these systems in order to enhance wayfinding/legibility and to clarify the city’s districts, main paths, edges, and nodes.

Bicycle signage has the potential to convey not only hierarchy and direction, but also structure. One critique of the Vélib, is that although the bicycle stations are generally paired to Metro Stations, there is no Vélib sign to indicate when a metro station actually has one nearby, where to find it from the station, or even a small V sign beneath the prominent and recognizable M. Additionally, though the ubiquitous green of the bicycle paths and logos in Paris is appropriately suggestive and easy to recognize, I would be interested to see whether or not the system could be more effectively paired with the metro line numbers, destination names, and colors, or have their own system cues involving colors, letters, numbers, and pictures. Since certain streets already have Vélib stations at regular intervals, why not give such streets a distinctive accent, so that those looking for parking know that such a path is a reliable Vélib parking route.

Part of the issue of a Vélib-type system is that unlike a subway, it allows users to move freely in all directions. As any Google map of Vélib stations will show, the system is the ultimate instrument of spontaneity and appropriately ascribes the situationist doctrine of derivé. But as much as this kind of freedom liberates, it also brings with it a strange, unknowable opacity that fails to suitably discern or guide not only how people bicycle through the city, but what might be the safest and least complex thoroughfares for them to use. After all, the Vélib offers a thirty minute ride, so in general, it is built for riders with a purpose.


The Vélib in Paris offers a sterling example of how a bicycle sharing system can change not only the perception of bicycling in a city, but also how bicyclists can move through and interact with an urban environment. As much as the Vélib should be emulated in capitals all over the world, the realities of bicycle sharing are limiting. In an ideal bicycling culture and environment, such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen, bicycle usage is widespread enough to render a share system redundant, relatively unnecessary or geared to tourists. As much as the Vélib has been successful, the regular Parisian bicyclist, whose pride for his/her old Peugeot is long-standing and mature, has hardly been afforded with more consistent parking at metro stations compared with the flashy Vélib. Bicycle sharing must in certain cases represent a transitional state that increases bicycling in the public imagination and encourages people to experiment with bicycle errands and commuting. Sharing concepts in general must also generate the interest of more niche markets and, as they are already, encompass a wider and more flexible range of vehicle types, including cars, mopeds, electric bicycles, segways, and cargo bikes.

As a final note, it must be mentioned that the Vélib, while successful and popular among the Parisian bourgeoisie, is not as widely accessible to the poor and immigrant classes, many of whom may not use a credit card, or may have never learned to ride a bicycle. This impedes the system from fully achieving its democratic aims and restricts user ship to a less-than representative cross-section of the Parisian population. Vandalism and theft, moreover, some arguably in reaction to these inequities, are all too common.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cycling's New Rules of the Road-WSJ Article

Below is a great article by Tom Perrotta, from the Wall Street Journal.He highlights many of the issues that have been raised and explained on this blog. New York City's building boom of bicycle infrastructure has increased bicycling. This article covers the many viewpoints and growing pains associated with with this positive change. It is just refreshing to see that people are taking notice and that progress is occurring.


BIKE
In the last three years, New York City has built 200 miles of bike lanes. Daily ridership is up—some estimates say it has nearly doubled since 2005—after years of tepid growth.





Some estimates say daily bicycle ridership in New York City has nearly doubled since 2005.

During each morning rush, thousands of riders cross the four main East River bridges. Bikes crowd the Hudson River Greenway and are on the rise along First and Second Avenues, where the city has installed lanes protected from traffic by rows of parked cars. The city's streets now include 482 miles of lanes and a total of 1,800 miles are planned by 2030.

What the city has discovered, though, is that remodeling its streets and increasing ridership is the easy part of building a bike town. It's a far greater challenge to change the habits of drivers, bikers and pedestrians in a dense urban environment with congested streets.

Drivers see bikers as a nuisance: "They think they rule the road," said Doru Rosca, a taxi driver from Astoria. "Are we supposed to stop because they are riding against traffic?" Pedestrians see bikers as faster, less predictable and more dangerous pedestrians. And cyclists, for all their gains in population and political clout, still feel besieged by cars and expect little help from the police. The result, as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer witnessed last month, is often mayhem.


Bicyclists ride in a bike lane in New York City, a sight becoming more and more common as the number of cyclists continues to increase, creating safety concerns.

"We've got seniors who think bike lanes are walkways. We've got police cars using bike lanes as a quick way around town. We've got taxi cabs pulling up so close to the bike lanes that a passenger gets out and actually doors a cyclist," Mr. Stringer said in a recent interview in his office.

SPRTS_FEATURE1
This fall, Mr. Stringer sent his staffers to the streets to document the chaos. The results, recorded over three days, astounded him: 1,700 total infractions by drivers, bikers and pedestrians, many of them egregious.

"We have to do something about it," he said.

To this point, the Department of Transportation has largely taken a "build-it-and-they-will-come" approach to cycling, much as other cities in the United States and throughout the world have done in the last few decades. Next year, it plans to beef up its awareness and outreach programs to alert New Yorkers to the new rules of the road.

"We have to step up our game on the education front," DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in an interview last week. "There's a new street code out there and we need everyone to look out for one another and be safe."

In the next few months, DOT will unveil several campaigns for radio, television and billboards. One series of television ads will take aim at cyclists who ride on sidewalks, pedal through red lights and go against traffic.
The campaign, titled "Don't Be a Jerk," will feature prominent New Yorkers preaching bike etiquette. Mario Batali, the famed chef and restaurant owner, recently filmed a spot.

Biking in New York is safer today than during any time in the city's history. As daily ridership has increased (some estimates claim it has almost doubled since 2005 to more than 200,000 daily riders), the yearly number of cycling fatalities and injuries has remained flat or declined, and the percentage of riders who are injured while riding has fallen dramatically.

This year, however, the city will see a slight increase in the number of cycling fatalities and accidents in its year-over-year numbers, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the New York City Police Department.

There were 19 cyclist fatalities in the city through October 31, seven more than in all of 2009. In the same period, 3,505 bikers were injured in crashes with motor vehicles, more than last year's total and up 20% compared to the first 10 months of last year. If the current rate of injuries continues, the percentage of daily riders who sustain injuries in 2010 will rise slightly.

Such fluctuations are not uncommon when a city retrofits its infrastructure for bikes. Neither is conflict. In Portland, Ore., considered America's bike capital by many cyclists, there are still squabbles, especially on pathways shared by pedestrians and cyclists, according to Roger Geller, the city's bicycle coordinator.
But Mr. Geller said several factors have contributed to improved relations and safety in his city: Increased biking, better education and improved coordination among city agencies, especially between transportation and law enforcement agencies.

John Pucher, a professor of urban planning and public policy at Rutgers University, praised New York City for its infrastructure gains. "The cycle tracks, the signage and so forth, I think it's fantastic," Dr. Pucher said.
But Dr. Pucher said other cities have accomplished more, largely because of better intra-government cooperation.

Next year, Dr. Pucher will deliver a study, financed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, of cycling and urban transportation in nine cities: New York, Portland, Vancouver, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Minneapolis.

"All of these cities, without a single exception, are doing more than New York," Mr. Pucher said. "They have better and more promotional programs. They have more training and education programs. They have infinitely better bike-mass transit integration, and better enforcement." Those cities also have a larger percentage of women and elderly who ride bikes, a sign, he said, that cycling is seen as safe.

In Chicago, Dr. Pucher said, taxi and bus drivers are required to take courses on safe driving with cyclists.
In Portland, motorists ticketed for cycling-related violations can take education classes in lieu of paying a fine. Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, would like to see similar practices adopted in New York.

"Cycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation and there's virtually no access to education," Mr. White said. "Cycling has increased enough in New York to warrant a citywide institutional solution."

"I can't speak to what's going on in other cities," Ms. Sadik-Khan said. "We're working very hard to do as much as we can to improve the education that we're doing, to improve the outreach that we're doing, and to improve enforcement by working with our partners at the NYPD."

Lax law enforcement is a sore point among both pedestrians and cyclists. In the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, dangerous cycling is the chief quality of life complaint among residents, according to the NYPD.
In Park Slope earlier this month, a biker in his 40s ran a red light and crashed into 6-year-old Sean Frost as he and his nanny crossed Seventh Avenue in the crosswalk at the corner of P.S. 321. Jackelyn Frost, a psychotherapist, came home to find her son with a black eye.

"The cyclist was knocked off his bike, and he just got back up and rode off," Ms. Frost said.

At the same time, cyclists and cycling advocates say the police don't do enough to keep bike lanes clear or to punish speeding and inattentive drivers who endanger them.

The police department recently received a $150,000 federal grant to increase enforcement against drivers who speed and fail to yield to pedestrians and cyclists who violate traffic laws. The NYPD issued more than 29,500 summonses for bicycle infractions through October 31, up 7% from the same period in 2009.
But NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said there was no crackdown in the offing, either against cyclists or motorists who interfere with cycling.

"We're down 5,000 cops since 2001 and we've just been told that we have to get rid of 350 civilian places that were created to put cops who handled administrative duties on the street," Mr. Browne said. "That's a long way of saying, 'Yes, we want to do more in this area, but a grant of that size is not going to make a significant difference.'"

Cycling advocates say a lack of enforcement breeds contempt for the law.

Michael Green, the president of the Century Road Club Association, the largest bicycle-racing club in the country, explained by recounting the recent comments of a friend. "Her attitude was, 'The laws that protect cyclists are never going to be enforced, so why obey rules that aren't going to be used to help you?'" Mr. Green said. "It's amazing the people I see riding and not obeying traffic laws. It's across the board, from teenagers to 65-year-old women.''

The lawlessness Mr. Green and others described is easy to find: Pedestrians who routinely jaywalk and stand in bike lanes; a woman pushing a man in a wheelchair down the protected bike lane on Broadway; a bike messenger racing through a red light on Sixth Avenue; cars that use bike lanes as passing lanes; wrong-way cycling along the protected lane on First Avenue.

But there are signs of change, too. Ian Dutton, a commercial airline pilot and a member of Community Board 2, said his own behavior, and the behavior of fellow riders, has improved.

"I used to ride a lot more aggressively because I felt unsafe," he said. "When I'm in a protected lane, I feel like I can take my time. I say hi to people.''

A recent evening presented a sign that there's hope for a friendlier future for all commuters. At dusk, a food deliveryman stopped at a red light on Madison Avenue, despite no approaching traffic in the cross street. He was smoking a cigarette—and wearing a helmet. His bicycle even had lights. When the traffic light turned green, he rode off.

"We can do it," Mr. Stringer, the Manhattan Borough president, said. "Paris does it, Copenhagen does it. There's a way for all of us to get things right."

Friday, November 19, 2010

ThinkBike Workshops-Hit Miami

As I posted yesterday, the Dutch have been evaluating the American bicycle infrastructure, or the lack there of, for the past few months. They were in DC earlier this week and are in Miami this morning. The Consulate General of the Netherlands actively supports bicycling in South Florida and we are grateful to them for bringing three experts on traffic engineering and planning (which in their country includes bicycles) to meet with their counterparts here in the States. Below is the report from the South Florida Bike Coalition. They had the privilege to ride around the City of Miami with them today, pointing out difficult intersections, corridors and related challenges to bicycling here. The idea is to bring them back in the Spring and host a symposium and workshop with our local Department of Transportation, municipal planning and capital improvements offices and advocates to get everyone to ThinkBike.

It was a great ride and Herbert Tiemens of Houten took many more photos and geotagged them. Here’s the fun one:

They got a friendly welcome from a concerned City of Miami Police Officer. The exchange went something like this.

What are you doing?

We’re leading a bike tour.

uh… [pause, confused look] Well, you need to be careful. You’re riding in the street.

Yes, Officer. Where should we be riding?

Well, okay. Okay. Just be careful. There are cars behind you and they have to slow down.

Yes, Officer. Thank you.

Learning From the Dutch
In the Netherlands, traffic engineers don’t hire consultants to work bicyclists into plans – they themselves plan for bicycles. Every street, every development is planned with people in mind and pedestrians and bicyclists receive equal respect, if not priority. People bicycle all the time because it’s fun and healthy and green, of course, but also because it’s so easy.  In Houten, a city built up about 50 years ago (like so many of the developments in Florida), planners and engineers made sure that it was easy to get anywhere by bike. This is where Herbert is from and he has documented this bicycle city’s infrastructure and use here:
Our friendly experts listed some ‘Dutch Solutions’ for improving streets for bicycling. They include
  • Mixing traffic everywhere but highways and reducing speeds to reduce the speed differential.
  • Remembering bicyclists move like water – we wish to take the fastest, most direct route to where we are going and should be accommodated accordingly.
  • Two lane one-way streets can easily become: One Lane One Way for cars plus a contraflow lane (two lanes, both directions) for bicycles.
The Dutch support bicycling because it make economic sense. Government statistics in the country cite that following statistic:
  • Every mile by car costs $0.40
  • Every mile by bike gains $0.19
People who commute to work by bike tend to take 10-15% less sick days, they have reduced health care costs and have an increased life expectancy of 3 years. They experience less disease and as young people, significantly greater levels of confidence, independence and healthy weight.

For more obvious but positive information (in English), backed up with studies and statistics, visit the Dutch Center of Expertise on Bicycle Policy online.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ThinkBike Workshops-Dutch Planners Educate U.S. on Bikeability

The Dutch like their bike lanes to be continuous, two-way, and separated from traffic so that "bikes flow like water." Image: ##http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/do-bike-helmets-save-lives-or-do-they-hurt-cycling.html##Planet Green##
The Netherlands is a country committed to sustainability, where nearly 30 percent of trips up to 5 miles in distance are made by bike. A strong bike policy is integral to Dutch sustainability measures. There are 1.1 bicycles per person in the Netherlands, resulting in less traffic, less pollution and a healthier population.

Through a multi-city initiative called “ThinkBike Workshops”, Dutch experts have been visiting Canada and the US this year to discuss possibilities for increased bicycle use. The ThinkBike Workshops brought together Dutch bike experts, local politicians, planners, advocates, engineers and business people to plan and discuss how North American cities can become more bike-friendly.

The Washington DC workshop just ended on Tuesday, and workshops in Toronto and Chicago were held in September. The teams surveyed the cities by bike and discussed how streets, intersections and whole neighborhoods can be improved for optimal bicycle use. Other topics of discussion at the workshops included bike safety, bike commuting, biking to school, bike parking, bikes and public transport, law enforcement, etc. They give specific recommendations for specific intersections and corridors, guided by principles of continuity and bi-directionality. In DC, their suggestions included two-way cycle tracks (even on one-way streets) with buffers separating them from traffic, expanding public plaza areas, installing bike signals, bike-only connections where roads cut off, sharper turns at intersections, colored bike lanes and more.

What if our streets were as bike-friendly as theirs? We could get there. Our trip patterns aren’t dramatically different from theirs: most trips in this country are under four miles, or 20 minutes by bike. But here, people drive those short distances. What would it take to get more of us to go by bike?


As Cor van der Klaauw, a Dutch cycling planner, said, “I think most of the bikers from Holland, when they will cycle in your country, will think, ‘well, there are no facilities.’” But he also said he found some impressive bike innovations in DC – “We learned a few things which we can take back to Holland.”

On a national scale, there are things we can do to boost bike ridership. They’re not necessarily as sexy as cycle tracks but the Dutch visitors say they make a difference. They are all things that we know, and we can only dream of them actually being implemented. We make it too cheap to drive, getting a driver’s license is cheap, gas is cheap, parking is cheap, excise taxes on car purchases are cheap, etc. Plus, we get our kids started off wrong by driving them to school every day. The Dutch planners commented that the U.S. doesn’t invest enough in school buses, and our streets often aren’t safe enough for kids to bike to school. In the Netherlands, 50 percent of trips to school are made by bicycle.

Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), a co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus, told DC workshop attendees, “We are engaged in a bipartisan war against couch potatoes here in the United States. I think it’s been won for some considerable time, for a variety of reasons, in the Netherlands.”

Below are some PDFs that detail the innovations in Netherlands' cycling infrastructure.


Cycling in the Netherlands 2009 PDF
Bicycle Policies of the European Principles: Continuous and Integral PDF
The New Amsterdam Bike Slam 2009 New York PDF

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting Around Transportation

1.4 billion bicycles in the world make it the most popular form of transportation. We need to make it safer and convenient for everyone and the number will go up. Princeton's International Networks Archive has accounted for transportation means around the world and put the information in a comparative graphic. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Responses to Common Talking Points by Those Opposed to Bicycle Infrastructure

When I started blogging last February, and becoming more educated with bicycle advocacy issues, there were several points of contention that kept floating to the top. These points were especially repeated by those who appose building bicycle infrastructure. I kept a list off common debate points and what I felt my position was on these. Below are my answers to a few common debate points that seem to be the most contentious and yet the most crucial in improving cycling conditions for all riders.

For my points of view, I look at all design from the vantage point of the extreme users. If a bikeway is designed for the most novice and the most advanced of users, then the users in the middle will figure out how to use them. If children or elderly feel comfortable, and pro-road riders feel comfortable, then the common commuter should be fine. Admittedly it is a fine balance, but the main variables in bike facilities is vehicle speed, and level of separation between modes of transportation based upon their respected speeds. Regardless of how obvious some design solutions may appear, it is always good to compare other cities' solutions to similar problems and compare lessons learned. This not only improves the design solution, but can give some foresight into what to expect from a successful implementation.


1) Orlando isn’t dense enough for bike lanes, right?
Portland’s inner city density in the 1980′s (pre-bike lane years) was comparable to Orlando's inner city area now. This is THE time to build, not when more people arrive. When Orlando's housing market returns, the currently empty condos and high-rise apartments will fill with new tenants, and will potentially bring the density into the "top 50" status in the US.

2) Isn’t it too hot in Orlando to promote major bicycle ridership?
Tempe, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, and New Orleans have bike lanes and they’re hot. The latter three are extremely humid. Fort Worth just unveiled a plan for 490 miles of bikeways. Melbourne, Australia hit 108 degrees during their summer this year, and they have a very high bicycle ridership with all types of lanes. In the end, ALL cities have issues with climate (Portland – Rain, Minneapolis – Cold, Austin – Heat, Copenhagen – Freezing). This is not a legitimate excuse. Orlando has 8 months of extremely mild weather. Copenhagen “Bike Capital of the World” has 4 months of freezing weather.

3) Don’t Bike lanes bring out more inexperienced riders, who are fearful and actually pose a greater danger?
If this is the case, then one would expect to see an exponential increase in accidents/fatalities in cities with major bicycle infrastructure. Remember, a place like Portland has 150+ miles of bike lanes and 8% ridership (Orlando has 230 miles, and 0.2% ridership). Given the above assumption, the massive number of inexperienced students bicycling in lanes and crossing the path of cars at thousands of different intersection points would show exponential increases in accidents. In 2008, Portland had 0 fatalities…1 in every 6 US bicycle fatalities is in Florida. There is not a single study out that notes where the percent increase in ridership surpassed the accident rate in any US or European city. Multiple studies now show that the reason for the inverse relationship is due to “safety in numbers” and greater awareness.

4) Aren’t the “Safety in Numbers” studies flawed, because John Forester plotted numbers on a page using random phone numbers from a phone book to show how this test’s findings are inconclusive.
Actually, John Forester’s attempt at debunking the test was flawed. Here is a complete breakdown by the study’s author on where JF went wrong.

5) There’s a study in Denmark that shows the following: Cycle tracks increase cycling 18-20%, Cycle tracks increase accidents 9-10%, Cycle lanes were less effective at increasing cycling and it was unclear if they raised accidents more than cycle tracks. Isn’t that proof that bicycle infrastructure is a failure?

Look at the numbers again. The Jensen study referenced does not show a greater percentage increase in accident rates over ridership. That’s the key. In other words, if you had 1 accident with 100 riders one month, and 2 accidents with 1000 riders the next month, you’d have an increase in accidents of 100% (a great example of how percentages can be used to scare), but an increase in ridership of 1000%. As long as the accident rate stays below the ridership level (which it ALWAYS does, and by great margins), then the accident ratio drops. My conclusion is that Orlando should add cycle tracks. Ridership will definitely increase. Accident ratios will definitely decrease.

6 a) Bicycle Ridership will never be high because Orlando doesn’t have a "large urban university". That’s why the other cities can have high turnout.
We have UCF.

b) UCF is in a suburban campus, not Orlando proper.
UCF is 1400+ acres, 15 miles from Downtown, and surrounded by the suburbs of Orlando. Also, UCF has over 70,000 students and staff which is enough to consider it a small city in itself.


c) UCF is a commuter school and they prefer to drive by car
There isn’t a city in the US that has completely removed its bicycle infrastructure. The reality: All cities with bicycle infrastructure have not only successfully attracted riders, but they’ve all added or are in the process of adding more lanes. Also, this argument goes completely counter to the “bike lanes bring out more inexperienced riders” talking point constantly returned to. If a city has 50,000+ students that you provide bike lanes for, you’d have a greater number of inexperienced riders, thus an assumed greater numbers of accident ratios.

Lastly, I'm not advocating for only 18 to 21 year old users to ride, but for seniors, children, young adults, mothers, fathers, and more to ride. Amsterdam’s successful ridership has come from focusing on safety of women and children primarily, not college students. They’ve proven that if those two demographics feel comfortable riding, all others will as well.

7) If you implement bicycle lanes, drivers will expect you to ride in them, and become more hostile if you drive on the street.
Automobile drivers are already hostile to bicyclists in the road and expect them to stay off the road. I’ve been honked at, encroached on, and had brakes squealed/engines revved on more occasions that I can count in Orlando, with or without bike lanes. The people in charge of informing the Orlando public at large that bicycles are allowed on the road are still working on spreading that message.

8 ) Orlando doesn’t have the culture for bicycling that other cities do.
According to Mia Birk, former planner of Portland, Oregon, neither did they. Ridership started out only slightly greater than Orlando. Roger Geller, the new planner stated, “If you build it, they will come.” Now, the city has built a 120 Million dollar industry surrounding bicycling, including a major tourism, and production industry. Also, Critical Mass has proved that the culture can be fostered and grown.

9) So where exactly are you going to build these bike lanes. Orlando is sprawled out, and it’s going to cost a fortune.

You wouldn’t create bike lanes throughout the entire metro area. A major bicycle infrastructure should largely be developed within an urban zone (ie. The No Excuse Zone). Beyond that, the sprawl is an obstacle. As the inner city grows, you can’t add more car lanes. The only option is to accommodate multi-modal traffic. This is exactly what Chicago, Seattle, NYC, DC, Portland, Phoenix, Atlanta, Boston, et al. have begun doing, and to great success.

10) There’s debris in the bike lanes. No one’s going to clean them.
Orlando already provides street sweeping once every 10-14 days on Downtown streets, and once a month on all major thoroughfares.

11) Aren’t bike lanes far too expensive to implement?

Bicycle lanes in most cities are installed when the City happens to be resurfacing a road anyway. This allows the money to come from the regular budget for repairing a road and requires very minimal costs. Plus, less wear and tear occurs within bike lanes, requiring far less maintenance on the surface, since the cause of most pot holes is due to heavy trucks. Also, the return on investment for streets with bike lanes, and businesses surrounding these has proven to far offset any cost. Remember, you’re not building roads to move people as quickly as possible (that’s what highways are for), you’re building them to allow interaction between commerce and individuals, as well as transport. Forsaking the former for the latter has shown drastic effects in increased accidents, crime, and health.

For roads that aren’t being repaired, but lane implementation buildout was sought, cities around the US have opted for the following funding methods:

Capital Improvement Program Fund - CIP This fund represents a specified portion of property tax revenue set aside each year for capital improvements. The Capital Improvement Program Fund is a competitive funding source since many different departments within the City compete each year for capital improvement program dollars to fund capital projects. For purposes of the Capital Improvements Element, recreation and open space capital projects will be the primary beneficiary of this fund.

The proposed Bicycle Plan will provide opportunities for city residents to use bicycles as an alternative transportation mode. Further, the Bicycle Plan implementation will enhance the area’s recreational opportunities providing recreation and open space facilities on a citywide basis.

Federal Aid - FA An example of federal funding includes funds provided through SAFETEA-LU and distributed through the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Metroplan Orlando, to projects that enhance transportation systems.

Six-Cent Local Option Gas Tax Funds - GAS The six cent local option gas tax generates millions in revenue annually within Orange County. Six cents from every gallon of motor fuel sold in Orange County goes to the County and to its municipalities. By interlocal agreement, the City of Orlando’s portion is thirty percent of the total net revenue, equivalent to approximately $8 million each Fiscal Year. The revenue received can only be used for transportation related expenditures.

Proceeds must be used toward the cost of establishing, operating, and maintaining the transportation system, including the cost of acquisition, construction, reconstruction, and road maintenance. Approximately half of the revenue received is used to support LYNX. $25,000 is earmarked annually from Gas Tax Revenue exclusively for bikeway improvements.

Contributions through development review There are opportunities for contributions to the City’s Bikeway System through development review. The State of Florida requires that Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs) provide for other modes of transportation such as sidewalks, bus shelters and bicycle facilities as a development condition.

The City Land Development Code allows for negotiations when there is a Planned Development planned, Masterplan, or increase in density/intensity and resulting from a rezoning or land use change. Contributions are negotiated with the developer to construct or upgrade bikeways as a measure to mitigate a development’s impacts.

Grants Trail projects can be funded through various grant programs including the Office of Greenways and Trails/Florida Department of Environmental Protection Land Acquisition program, Florida Communities Trust, Bikes Belong, Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program and several others.

12) Why are you comparing Orlando to Northern European cities? We’re nothing like them.
Portland used Copenhagen and Amsterdam as its model when developing its multi-modal infrastructure plan. NYC just completed its street redevelopment program with the aid of Gehl Consulting from Denmark. Currently Gehl is working with Mexico City on a plan for its downtown. So yes, European cities are a fair model. Watch the following clip where you’ll see Copenhagen streets in the 1960′s that looked much like ours. Full of parking lots and high speed roadways. Year after year, they began rolling these back and creating a more pedestrian friendly environment. Note that, the interviewee states “When we implemented this, everyone said ‘we’re Danes not Italians…we don’t have a culture for walking!’. 40 years later…

13) Do you just hate cars? Taking away a lane for bicycles will cause a nightmare for traffic.

We own one car, but I understand that we can’t continue to build our inner cities for automobiles only. Also, every study has shown that an increase in ridership occurs when you accommodate multi-modal traffic, and that the end over end volume levels out, and capacity remains unchanged.

14) Don’t Bicycle lanes increase accidents due to Right Hooks, confusing left turns and more?
First thing to note, a study of auto/bike crashes from Jan. 1, 2007, through June 30, 2009 in Fort Collins, Colorado noted that “Right Hooks” accounted for only 13% of accidents on bicycles and no fatalities. Left hand turns accounted for 9.3%. Where did the bulk of accidents occur? Broadsides, or collisions where a cyclist is running perpendicular to the flow of traffic accounted for over 60.5%.

With that being said, even with intersection conflicts, there have been multiple engineering techniques applied to overcome right hooks and left turn issues, including bike boxes, the Copenhagen-Left, no-right turn exclusions, and more. There was a rudimentary attempt at drawing a right-hook failing point by a bike lane opponent, but her methodology would have also shown how a jogger on a sidewalk could also be injured by crossing an intersection via sidewalk. Again, Portland had 0 fatalities in 2008 with 150+ miles of on-street bicycle infrastructure and 8% ridership. Copenhagen, the world’s bicycle capital, has the highest ridership levels (over 50%), and lowest accident rates (decimal point levels). New York City just released its 200+ page guide on street design. Multiple examples of how to overcome many intersection issues are noted there.

15) Experienced Cyclists do not want bike lanes.
Not so. Read multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong’s take on bike lanes. Also read Boston’s new bicycle coordinator’s, racing champion Nicole Freedman, take on bicycle infrastructure. Lastly, League Instructor Paul Dorn gives a great account of the failure of Vehicular Cycling advocates position on bicycle infrastructure.

16) So you expect to put bicycle lanes on every streets?
No, I am for a mix of infrastructure build-outs including bicycle boulevards for some residential (mixed car and bike roads, that discourage pass-through traffic, and make safer for children in neighborhoods), and separated bike lanes on streets at 35 mph or greater, but not all streets. Separated (ie. dedicated) bike lanes have proven to bring the highest increases in ridership. Also, intersections are key areas to focus on for traffic calming. If an intersection feels unsafe, a bike lane will fail at increasing numbers to a high degree.

17) The Cady WayTrail is expensive, and no one rides to work on it.
The Cady Way is actually highly successful for being a long connector of trails, which is why it was built…not as a commuter bikeway (even though several riders use it as such, they are lucky enough to live and work close to the trail). Because of this, there are very few connection points onto the trail from the streets it crosses, and at its terminus, you are dropped onto streets that direct riders to urban areas. It would be no different than building a long highway with no ramps onto it except at a distant end and beginning point, and at its end you were dropped on a one way going the wrong way. You would expect little commuter traffic.

18) Why are you so adamantly for this?
Several reasons. 1) Our generation demands this type infrastructure, and our friends and family are leaving in droves for cities that adopt them like Portland, Chicago, and Austin. Some originally claimed these cities have a different culture, but we’ve proved through Critical Mass and other group rides, that a major culture exists in our area, and it just needs to be fostered and cultivated. 2) The infrastructure allows a more pedestrian friendly business environment, that allows for more “eyes on the street” which increases safety, and improves the environment, all while supporting more local business. We’ve already lived through the alternative. 3) The main reason is that my wife and I both commute on Orlando's streets and I want a safe, comfortable route for everyone.

19) We only need education. Everything else is far too expensive.

First of all, education for whom? All drivers? All bicyclists? Most likely both. So a statewide education campaign that educates all drivers and bicyclists wouldn’t be expensive? I’ve never seen a vehicular cyclist ever quantify the actual number required for a successful education campaign that will both increase ridership and safety. Also, all drivers go through testing currently, and we still have 42,000+ fatalities on the roads a year. And to be successful, wouldn’t you have to regularly reeducate (ref. the number of drivers receiving tickets and regularly being re-educated via defensive driving courses)? So when developing a cost for education, you’d have to find a number that first educated all drivers, and second, reeducated them on a semi-regular basis, you’d then fold in a added layer of bureaucracy via the DPS to manage testing and the overall statewide administration of this program. The proven option for cities to increase bicycle ridership and safety is to create facilities and educate.

20) Painted bike lanes create a false sense of security. Do you really think that “magic paint” is going to stop cars from hitting you?
First of all, my preference is for completely separated bicycle lanes, physically divided with bollards, curbs, or step ups. With that being said, even a painted lane would be a step in the right direction. To follow the “magic paint” thought process, one would also be an advocate of removing traffic lights as well, because they do nothing to physically stop cars from hitting others.

21) It’s irrational to fear being hit by a car. Rear end collisions are rare, and riders just need to get out there and conquer their Cycling Inferiority Complex.
This is THE most common talking point developed by Vehicular Cyclists, and is usually followed with some kind of condescending “Man Up”, or “Grow a Pair” kind of 1950′s weak attempt at getting timid cyclists to feel confident about having a truck bare down on them. This is not only childish, it completely disregards the natural feelings of a large population that is naturally averse to risk, like mothers, the elderly, and children. The idea that an SUV pounding down your back at 40 mph with a texting teen behind the wheel, while you pedal with your child on a booster seat down a road to the grocery store, is not something one simply educates away. The key to increasing ridership is increasing the perception of safety, as well as the actual safety. If something is perceived as unsafe, it will be left to a fearless minority.

22) Who supports bicycle infrastructure on a national level?

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended cities implement bicycle lanes to curb obesity trends along with the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Ray LaHood, citing Portland as THE model for 21st century US city planning. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently reference complete street implementation by name or in principal, and the much anticipated Moving Cooler report released by the Urban Land Institute discusses the impact CS have on lowering greenhouse gases. There are now 108 US cities officially ranked as Bike-Friendly, with major bicycle infrastructure in place, and hundreds more are online now or in various stages of development.

23) By “forcing” bicycles into their own space, you are relegating me to a second-class citizen.
For this argument to be legitimate, two things would have to be noted:
a) Since no state allows bicycles on all roadways (ie. highways/tollways) with automobiles, you’ve already attained the self-anointed title “second-class citizen”
b) This automatically lumps all pedestrians and handicap people in wheelchairs on sidewalks as “second-class citizens”.

I will add to this list as my growth in advocacy evolves. Please add to this list or inform me of where I have gone astray. In some cases we may agree to disagree, but I always have an open mind in seeing the facts laid out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oak Cliff Texas Bike to School Program Gets 100 Kids In First Week


I saw this video earlier today and had to share it. This was created by the advocacy group Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, in Texas. They noticed that their local elementary schools had little to no children bicycling to school, and after doing some research learned that this is an alarming trend occuring throughout the nation. According to the FHA, 50% of children bicycled to school in 1969. Today, it’s under 15%. At their local school, it was rare to ever see a child on a bike…in fact, the line to drop kids off by car stretches a half mile through the neighborhood (which is ironic given that 90% of the children live within a half mile radius of the school). After reading up on Safe Routes to School programs, and other initiatives to promote getting kids to walk and bike more, BFOC decided to try and put together a “Bike to School” week initiative to see if we could turn things around.

They set to work creating punch cards for the kids, making “I BIKE Rosemont” t-shirts, and partnering with the school’s art teachers to have children make bike posters. Their goal was ambitious: to have 100 kids bicycle to school by the last day.  On the first day 21 kids biked in…their fear was that it might hold steady throughout the week.  On the second, they were shocked to see the number double to 54.  On the third day they hit 82 and realized they might make their goal earlier than anticipated. By Thursday 100 children were bicycling to school.

Friday afternoon, Oak Cliff's Kiddical Mass ride went to Eno’s for Root Beer floats. Nearly 75 kids joined the one mile ride, laughing and smiling the entire way. The most exciting part was hearing the kids say that they wanted to ride to school everyday now. The money raised from t-shirt sales is going to install a bike rack (none exists at the school campus).

BFOC asked parents why they hadn’t let their kids ride to school, the fear cited most often was fear of being hit by a car. After reviewing the infrastructure around the school, it was noted that the road fronting the upper campus school (grades 3-5) had been converted to a one-way/three lane during school zone hours, which gives higher priority to cars and dramatically decreases the perception of safety for those considering walking or bicycling. It also reduces safety when crossing the street at intersections.  The lower campus (grades K – 2) had three dedicated lanes built to front the school, and a two lane slip lane which allowed entrance into the campus. All total, 5 lanes of auto traffic came in and out of this campus, making the area feel all but hostile to kids even considering getting on a bike.

Friday, November 12, 2010

San Francisco is Planning for a Bike Future

Bicycling in big U.S. cities has been on a major roll in recent years, from the explosion of next generation bicycle infrastructure (paths, lanes, trails, etc.) in New York, to the visionary planning in Portland that aims to make bicycling a comfortable, convenient and mainstream transportation choice for anyone who wants to ride.

San Francisco, which packs 815,000 residents in just 231 square miles (only Manhattan boasts a higher density in the U.S.), is joining its metropolitan peers with a bold plan that would triple bike use in the city during the next decade.

Despite a temporary legal injunction that prevented San Francisco from building any new bike facilities, bicycling in San Francisco increased 53% from 2006 to 2009. Now with the injunction behind it, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new transportation policy goal last week: 20% of all trips will be made by bike by 2020. Today, about 7% of all trips in the city are made on two wheels.

The goal is ambitious by design — an increase of that magnitude in such a short time will require significant investments in infrastructure and education campaigns — but the change in policy is a rational approach to a very challenging problem. The city is facing a saturated road network, a public transit system at full capacity and ever-shrinking transportation budgets; bicycling may be the most cost-effective solution for San Francisco’s leaders eager to find more ways to help people move from A to B in the near future.

Portland was able to triple the percentage of trips taken by bicycle by spending roughly $50 million on bicycling infrastructure. Although this sounds like a lot, it's actually less than the cost of one single mile of freeway. San Francisco is now ready to replicate this cost-effective investment.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Power of Paint Part 2


 A few months ago I posted about the new stripes that were put down as an experiment on Livingston, here in Orlando, in my post Power of Paint.

This is one of the main routes on my daily commute, and it has some interesting issues/conditions. The entire streets is considered a bike route/lane and most of the way is asphalt with 5' bike lanes painted on them. For about .5 mile through one of the historic districts in the city, the street surface is the original brick pavers. The city constructed a 4' concrete gutter curb through this section and had signed it as the bike lane, but hadn't put a stripe along its edge.

This seemed to result in cars driving in the concrete gutter to give them a "half smooth" drive. For cyclists this created conflicts when cars would pass around riders to get back into the gutter, queue up in the lane at stop lights, and create a feeling of worry that drivers would see you and cause a crash from behind.

Last week the city repainted the experimental stripes and finished out the stripes along the entire brick section of the street. In the few days that the paint has been down, I have already noticed that cars have started respecting the lane and driving out of the concrete gutter. It honestly seems like the drivers had no idea that the gutter was the bike lane until now. Either way, I am happy that the paint has been implemented, and I applaud the city for finishing this important east-west connection through the city.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bike Miami Days Returns to Downtown Miami

 
Party begins and ends at Mary Brickell Village, anytime between 9am-2pm.

Bring your family and friends and try out a decoBIKE for free this Sunday in the heart of the City of Miami. The Bike Miami Days Team is back to open Flagler Street and South Miami Avenue to pedestrian traffic for five hours on Sunday, November 14th. Bring your kids, your parents, your friends from out of town, meet up with your colleagues, your cousins… the City of Miami welcomes everyone to the free, family-friendly Bike Miami Day!

They are still seeking your fully tax-deductible donations and sponsors. Please contact Collin Worth if you can help.


Volunteers! Emerge Miami will be leading our crews of volunteers – you can be a big help just by spreading the word. They are on Facebook and Yelp already. Help make sure no one misses Miami’s largest free and family-friendly street party!

No one needs to have a bicycle to enjoy Bike Miami Days – everyone is invited to walk, roll, dance or otherwise play in the open streets of Downtown Miami on Sunday.
 
DECOBIKE is the newest community supporter and will be launching the first true city-wide bicycle share program in the country in the City of Miami Beach this Fall, but you will be able to ride a DECOBIKE for free at Bike Miami Days.

DECOBIKE plans to set up at Mary Brickell Village where they will be providing 100 brand-new DECOBIKES for you to ride. So far, DECOBIKE only has bicycles for adults 18 and over, but don’t worry! BuddyBike will also be on hand for those of you with younger adults.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Portland’s Bike Boulevards Become Neighborhood Greenways



Transportation planners in Portland, Oregon are taking their famous bicycle boulevards to the next level. By adding more routes and stepping up the traffic calming treatments, the city is not only making these streets more attractive and usable for cyclists, but also for pedestrians, runners, children, and anyone else who gets around under their own power.

These next-generation facilities have been christened “Neighborhood Greenways,” and by 2015, over 80 percent of all Portlanders will live within half a mile of one. The city is counting on these re-engineered streets to reach its goal of increasing bicycle mode share from eight percent to 25 percent by 2030.

Just about anybody who’s biked one of these routes can testify to the safety and peace you experience. You’ll see scores of families and children riding to school with regularity. At any time of day, there’s a constant buzz of activity, and during rush hours you’ll see many more bikes than cars. As Portland Mayor Sam Adams points out, “They’re on a quiet street, where that bike boulevard is prioritized for the bike, not the car.”

On a final fun note, one day Portland may also be able to lay claim to being the birthplace of the “sharrow flower.” What’s that? You’ll just have to take watch this Streetfilm and find out.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rich Guy Hits Cyclist And Runs, Gets Off Because Charges Might "Jeopardize His Job"

The rich are different from you and me; they get to hit and run, almost killing a cyclist, but get off without serious charges because it is hard to be money manager for Smith Barney if you have a record. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert is not charging Martin Joel Erzinger with a felony, because "Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession," which is managing billions for rich people.

Dr. Steven Milo, the victim, is not impressed.
Mr. Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway," Milo wrote. "Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case."
Dr Milo's lawyer notes that the accident had some pretty serious job implications for his client:
He will have lifetime pain,' his lawyer Harold Haddon told the court. His ability to deal with the physical challenges of his profession - liver transplant surgery - has been seriously jeopardized.'

According to the Vail Daily,
Milo was bicycling eastbound on Highway 6 just east of Miller Ranch Road, when Erzinger allegedly hit him with the black 2010 Mercedes Benz sedan he was driving. Erzinger fled the scene and was arrested later, police say.
Erzinger allegedly veered onto the side of the road and hit Milo from behind. Milo was thrown to the pavement, while Erzinger struck a culvert and kept driving, according to court documents.
Erzinger drove all the way through Avon, the town's roundabouts, under I-70 and stopped in the Pizza Hut parking lot where he called the Mercedes auto assistance service to report damage to his vehicle, and asked that his car be towed, records show. He did not ask for law enforcement assistance, according to court records.
At Cyclelicious, Richard Masoner is organizing a boycott of a race in Vail next August.

At Change.org, a petition has been started, asking DA Hurlburt "Don't drop felony charges against hit-and-run wealth manager."
Traffic laws exist to motivate all drivers to act in a manner that is safe for other users of the road, including pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. To those of us who rely on bicycles for transportation and recreation, enforcement of laws that ensure our safety on the road is vital. The enforcement of traffic laws should not differ depending on a driver's ability to write a check, but rather on the ability of the law to motivate drivers to drive safely. What Martin Joel Erzinger is accused of doing is clearly criminal, but dropping felony charges will set a message to drivers that the penalties for neglecting the welfare of others on the road, causing life-altering injury, and showing no concern for the victim might not be as serious as the law indicates.
Read the petition here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Should Sidewalks and Bike Paths Have a Designated Slowpoke Lane?

Bicyclists Slow sign photoI am a big proponent of bicycle commuting and it is nice to see a lot of new - and welcome - company on the bike lanes. But then I think about my own morning commute. In Florida, it's almost always the ideal riding conditions - warm and dry weather. I have a super-simple 2.3 mile commute, nearly all on bike lanes. But being out in commuting prime time of 8:00 am and 6pm, means several slower cyclists come in contact with speedier folks like me. Sometimes slower commuters are an irritation to faster walking and biking commuters. The problem is acute enough, reports the WSJ, for a group of London businesspeople to plan to create a slowpoke shopping lane on Oxford Street sidewalks.
Separated Bike and Ped Lanes.jpgThe New West End Company, a group of merchants, won't likely paint the lines on the street - though knowing the unpredictable behavior of most pedestrians and riders (myself included) this might be a good idea. Instead, according to the WSJ, the group of business advocates of New West End Company will use employees people wearing special red caps to help direct walkers to walk in a "shoppers lane" close to store fronts, while other more determined and faster pedestrians keep to the left.
I see no problem in saying, 'Excuse me, it might be easier if you rode/walked on the right". Not everyone thinks segregating pedestrians is a good idea. The WSJ story concentrates on the potential conflict on sidewalks between slow and fast walkers, thought there's a similar conflict between fast and slow cyclists, and a definite strain between faster cyclists and slower pedestrians when their paths cross.

So how about slowpoke lanes? While the idea may seem overly prescriptive, we live in an era where the need for civility between the different members of the travelling public - the peds, cyclists, drivers, even electric scooter users and wheelchair drivers. Yet agreed-upon etiquette rules (and peer pressure reinforcement of these rules) are practically non-existent.

For slow traffic to keep to the right is long-standing idea for vehicular traffic, and it is an assumed idea for pedestrian and cyclist traffic. Should we reinforce the idea with extra painted lines or designated slowpoke lanes? Let me know what you think/prefer.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Consequences of the Mid-Term Elections On the Bike World

National Bike Summit 2010 - Lobby Day-22
Given what happened Tuesday night, things are likely to fundamentally change for how bicycle advocates nationwide frame their arguments from here on out. But just what exactly does this all mean for bicycling? Leaders from several major bike advocacy groups have already stated what they thought and I think you'll be scared, surprised, and inspired by what they said. From taking a cue from the Tea Party, to a frank assessment of what could be a bumpy bikeway ahead, read their reactions below... 

Kevin Mills, Vice President of Policy for the Rails to Trails Conservancy:
Rails to Trails Conservancy meeting-3.jpg
Will bicycling be impacted by the shift in power?
"Bicycling is not traditionally a partisan issue, so it’s unfortunate that there have been some occasions where bicycling has been used as an issue to divide rather than unite. However, we take heart in our support from across the political spectrum in communities across the country..."
Is the Transportation Enhancements program in jeopardy?
"The Bureau of National Affairs recently reported that Rep. Mica may take transportation funding ‘back to basics’ and that Transportation Enhancements may be among the programs cut. However, Mr. Mica has vocal constituents and political allies back home for whom trail systems and bicycling are high priorities. He has expressed support for trails and participated in ribbon cuttings on numerous occasions, and he supports robust transportation spending overall. If there is an attack, it is likely to stem from House leaders directing committee chairs to push for aggressive cuts in programs that they do not perceive as core federal functions.

On the role for bike advocates going forward:
"It is critical that bicycling advocates make the case for the cost-effectiveness and mainstream importance of federal active transportation investments. We need to convince decision-makers on both sides of the aisle that investment in bicycling and walking is more important in times of fiscal constraint, not less. That is why Rails-to-Trails Conservancy feels so strongly that AAA’s call for restricting the use of federal gas taxes for highways alone has to be challenged (see our petition). When money is tight, balanced transportation investments are more important than ever. Our past gains and future needs could be in jeopardy if we don’t convince decision-makers of this truth."

Tim Blumenthal, Director of the Bikes Belong Coalition
OR Bike Summit - Saturday opening-10.jpg
"I think emphasizing the cost effectiveness of government investments is going to be absolutely crucial. I think there's a perception among some elected officials that bicycling is an enhancement or an add-on, that it's a nice thing and you do it when budgets are flush and everything else is taken care of; but we know from experience - especially in Portland - that a small amount of money invested in bike infrastructure gives people a viable alternative to driving, saves cities on infrastructure construction cost, saves money on new parking construction and all the other benefits we stack up all the time.


What I've been hearing from the new majority is talk about any infrastructure investments being focused on building new lanes on highways. In some cases that makes sense... but we'll have to really sharpen our arguments about dollar invested/dollar returned. If this election was all about people saying 'we want smaller, more efficient government' than bicycling should be a higher priority.

The other thing is we have to be clearly more bike-partisan than ever. We've got to be very careful out of the gate not to be branded as a Democrat thing or a solution that's supported by just one party — if we did that we'd lose half the population out of the gate.
We have two choices now as a movement: One is to be discouraged and say the sky is falling, the other is to get back to work and get better, and that's what we're going to do."

Jim Sayer, Executive Director, Adventure Cycling
Jim Oberstar was a key champion for your U.S. Bike Route System project. What are your thoughts after his defeat?
"It's shocking. It's stunning really. In general it's a tremendous loss for America to not have Jim Oberstar working on transportation. He was a champion not just for us [bikes] but for a truly integrated transportation system. To not to have Oberstar's leadership on the US Bike Route System is a setback; but the project now has 27 states working on projects, which is far beyond anything we expected.

To some extent, the work we've all done has spread projects far and wide and has generated interest at state and local levels that I think will help move the bike movement forward. I think it's early to say what impact the elections will have... but I do think we have an incredible ecosystem of organizations and people that will help keep the bike movement going forward no matter who's in power in D.C."
What about working in a bi-partisan fashion?
"I hope we can bring both parties around on this issue. There's got to be some incentive for both Republicans and Democrats to have an issue they can work together on, an issue they can work on where they haven't already had harsh words. Bicycling and transportation could be one of them. You have all these groups - the Chamber of Commerce, labor, transit, and so on, all saying we need a long term investment plan for transportation, so it seems there's more pressure to act here than in other areas. How that plays out for biking, who knows."

Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists
National Bike Summit 07
"We are going to be playing a lot of defense in the months ahead and – not to push the analogy too far – we lost a star player in yesterday’s elections: Congressman Jim Oberstar.

The bicycling movement has to hone our message, get back to basics, and start working with a lot of new members of Congress to make sure they know about our issues. Thanks to our successes over the past several years we have a lot more to lose now… so it’s going to be more important than ever for folks to show up in Washington at the National Bike Summit in March and to meet with their elected representatives at home to make the case for continuing the Federal investment sustainable, livable, healthy communities. Bicycle-friendly communities."

Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, former ED of the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago and Board Member of the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

Oregon Bike Summit 2010-18
On the loss of House control:
"There's going to be a lot of fears with Oberstar's departure. There will be a little battle over positions, but locally we might gain as DeFazio could gain stature in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and become the ranking minority member.


The biggest concern with House shift is the Republicans have almost across the board taken a pledge to not fund projects through earmarks. While earmark funding on surface appears to be a poor way of managing a democracy, our projects, particularly trail projects have historically done very well through earmarks.
In order for us to convert to a transportation policy truly abased on merit, we need a reform of the transportation bill, and with a split congress it will be difficult to get reform inside that bill (like a complete streets policy for example). We may not do as well in project funding in the future.

On other hand, we had two years to build a great transportation bill and we didn't get that done either... so maybe sitting down around a table trying to build consensus with two parties is what it's going to take to get incremental changes now that will help build for the future."
So, why do you think we didn't get that done?
"I think one thing we saw last night was a lack of vision. If you look at what's going on right now, there's a lot of vision coming from the White House and the DOT. Some Democrats embraced that, but as a party, maybe this will get them to embrace a real vision of hope and livability and not be afraid to run on that campaign.

One thing the Tea Party movement shows us is that yes, fear and loathing can trump hope and vision, but it also shows that people with very little experience - and in some cases very little money - can build a campaign and win. The lesson we can take from this is we need to find our own candidates. We need to show up at town halls and be just as angry and loud, but instead of being loud about fear, we need to be loud about traffic justice, street design, connectivity...

We need to not be complacent, we need to say 'This is our country!' We need to not sit around."

Some important takeaways from some very smart people.

There's a lot of great reporting about what the election means for national transportation policy. Two of the best I've come across are from Streetsblog and from The Transport Politic.