Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 Bike Sharing Programs

With bike share programs popping up all over the world, it's easier than ever to skip the rental car and see a new city on two wheels -- or cut your carbon footprint by riding around town instead of driving. And as each city puts its program together, the focus is on one very important aesthetic: The bikes themselves.

washington dc bike share
From the all-American red of Capital Bike Share to the sophisticated muted tones of Italy's BikeMi, here's some of my favorite bike share bikes around the world. The patriotic red of Washington, D.C's Capital Bikeshare bikes is just part of what turned this 2008 upstart into the biggest bike-sharing program in the country: Though it already boasts more than 1,000 cycles at 114 stations around town, the group announced plans to add nearly 300 more bikes in the fall of 2011.

paris bike share
Paris launched its bike share program, Velib, in July 2007 with more than 10,000 bicycles placed around the City of Lights; by its fourth birthday in 2011, the program was offering more than 17,000 bikes at 1,202 rental stations. But who wouldn't want to pick up one of the sleek gray bikes -- complete with a front basket -- to avoid the traffic while picking up a baguette from your favorite boulangerie?
istanbul bike share
Istanbul isn't a city that's known for its friendliness to bicyclists -- one rider quoted in a piece on EurasiaNet said, "Other drivers on the motorway act as if they don't see you. You are a ghost." -- but if you're willing to brave the steep terrain and the vehicles, you can grab one of these royal blue bikes from Ispark.
melbourne bike share
Melbourne also chose a vibrant blue for its shared bike program, which launched in 2010 but didn't get rolling quite as quickly as organizers had hoped. A year after the program's beginning, Australia's The Age reported that riders were still making about 2,000 fewer trips each month than needed to subsidize the cost of the program, but that plans for additional bike parking locations could improve the ridership.
boston bike share
Hubway, the bike share program for Boston, Massachusetts, debuted in the city in July, 2011, with more than 600 cycles installed at 61 stations from Seaport Boulevard to Harvard Stadium. The city has also installed or has plans for a total of 12 more miles of bike paths to make it easier for residents to get from Point A to Point B on these metallic gray cycles with Green Monster-inspired detailing.
taipei bike share
There's no missing these bright green, red, and yellow bikes from the Taipei bike sharing program Youbike which began in March 2009 with a pilot program of 500 cycles that were used by 20,000 customers in the first six weeks.
montreal bike share
Following the success of the Parisian Velib program, Montreal also jumped into the world of bike sharing.
They started what the New York Times called "the continent's most ambitious" program, Bixi, in May 2009, with 3,000 cycles.
london bike sharing
Not sure you want to brave a rental car -- complete with driving on the wrong side of the road -- in London? Use the Barclay's Cycle Hire instead, where you can rent an appropriately sedate navy blue bike (and still feel like you're traveling like a local thanks to the Underground-inspired logo on the side).
minneapolis bike sharing
Nice Ride, the Minneapolis, Minnesota bike sharing program, has been offering up these flashy fluorescent bikes since 2010 -- with more than 100,000 riders hitting the streets in the first season alone. But don't expect to get a bike if you're visiting in the winter: The snowy season means the bikes are only out from April to November.
milan bike sharing
BikeMi, the bike sharing service that provides residents and guests of Milan, Italy, with their own two wheels, plans to fill the city with about 5,000 cycles -- making it easy to go from art museums and coffee shops to the Duomo and the flea markets sans car.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Look at the Asshole in the Bike Lane



The Speakeasy Tattoo establishment is on one of Toronto's busiest bike lanes, right next door to the Sam James Coffee Bar, said to be the best in town. People dash in for a coffee, but they take their time pulling a latte. The Sam James people try to encourage good behaviour among their customers with a sign outside their door,
 And the Tattoo parlour put up their own sign:

But that didn't work either; people still parked their Hummers in the bike lane, as in this photo. So they set up a camera in their shop and started a website, logically called Look at the Asshole in the Bike Lane. It is quite festive, as they shoot their photos through the Christmas decorations.

Some retailers and stores hate bike lanes, and complain constantly that they reduce their business. Here's a shoutout for two businesses that do the opposite, they recognize that there are a whole lot of people who rely on bike lanes every day.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bike Storage Getting Smaller and Better

More and more of us are riding bikes, and more and more of us are living in small spaces. This creates a problem of where you put the bikes, and what kind of bike you ride. In London, Quarterre Studios have developed a line of bicycle accessories.
Quarterre is looking to bridge the divide between furniture and interior design and the reality of everyday life on two wheels. They have used their backgrounds in the automotive industry to create design solutions that are functional, efficient and stylish.
The Shadow is a bent piece of steel with a bit of leather, not much to it at all.
The freestanding, cantilevered form needs no mounting and can accommodate most wheel sizes. Crafted in steel, it is finished with leather trim for hanging a helmet and a high friction base to aid bike stability.
The Hood is a wall-mounted hanger.
The architecturally inspired form is made from folded sheet steel that will support a bike securely by its top tube and can be mounted easily to any solid wall. It is trimmed in high quality leather to protect the bikes frame.
It's unusual in that it can hold two bikes, and just leans against the wall. It is all FSC sourced woods with leather trim.
Sculpted with wood and metal, its adjustable arms can be tailored to fit each bike frame’s geometry. The stand can be leant against any wall or inverted to clear floor area in smaller spaces.
None of these are cheap, but if you are living in small spaces it helps to have stuff that is nice to look at. It's also nice to see that designers are giving serious thought to how to deal with the problem.
More at Quarterre Products, via Book of Joe

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Infographics Comparing CO2 and Transportation Modes

A new study by the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) looked at the CO2 impact of biking, driving cars, taking the bus, and found - not too surprisingly, but it's good to have the hard data to back up any claims - that if the countries of the EU-27 reached a level of biking similar to Denmark's, that reductions of CO2 emissions of between 63 and 142 million tons per year could be possible by 2050. This would be 12 to 26% of the target reduction set for the transport sector by the European 2050 targets.

This isn't some pipe dream. 2050 is far enough in the future that there's time to make infrastructure investments to bring up the level of "bike-friendliness" in cities where it is lagging, and it's long enough for smart incentives to work their magic and discourage car usage (especially in cities and for commuting).
As you can see in the picture above, bike LCA came to 21g of CO2 per kilometer, electric-assist bikes were 22g, buses scored 101g of CO2/km, and passenger cars got an average of 271g CO2/km (and that's just for short trips that could be replaced by bikes, which is what the study focused on).
Another thing to keep in mind when looking at the pictures in this post and in reading the numbers in the study (PDF) is that the ECF has been extremely conservative in its estimates, trying to avoid any accusations of being biased in favor of bikes. They went as far as not including infrastructure for cars, or things like parking and maintenance, in their calculations. This means that with a more realistic set of assumptions, bikes would come even more ahead.

Another thing of note in the study is the part where they discuss the life-cycle impact of cars (page 12 of the study). They found that 77% of the impact came from what they call 'tank to wheels', or the burning of the fuel. This means that fuel efficiency makes a big difference; while it isn't nearly as green as biking, if you have to drive a car, make sure it is the most fuel-efficient model that fits your needs and drive it sanely to keep MPG as high as possible.

Via ECF (pdf), BikePortland

Monday, December 12, 2011

Proof of If You Build it, They will Ride



Felix Salmon at Reuters notes that since Janette Sadik-Khan was appointed and started installing bike lanes, the number of cyclists on the road has more than doubled. This is good news for cyclists, but also for drivers; if they are on bikes, they are not in cars or trains. Salmon writes:
The lesson of this chart, then, is that if you build bike lanes, cyclists will appear to fill them. That’s fantastic news, since cities with lots of cyclists are always the most pleasant cities to live and work in — even for people who don’t bike themselves.
More in Reuters

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cool New Bike Rack with a Message



This hot pink bicycle stand occupies a space the size of one parking bay and holds 10 bicycles. Originally commissioned by the London Festival of Architecture, the Car Bike Rack is designed by Cyclehoop and popping up all over east London as a way to determine where the demand for bicycle parking exists and promote cycling.

The stand is an ironic take with a serious message. Cars cause pollution and congestion, and their parking spaces could be dedicated to bikes, not cars. The "car" bike rack is made out of steel and anchored into the ground with bolts so it is good and sturdy. At the same time, it is a flat pack design, so that it is simple to transport and set up at events. It can also include a bike pump and be used for branding.


The bike rack has been spotted in many places, and for fun the creators have inserted a QR tag so that users can scan it and find out more about the project, and leave their comments. This is cool, providing practical bike infrastructure, and a message and urban art, all at the same time.

Cyclehoop is a young, award-winning company launched by a designer who had his bike stolen, and started to think about how he could make a more secure lock. From those roots, the company grew to include designers and architects who specialise in producing innovative and original indoor and outdoor bicycle parking products.
Another of their ideas is the communal Bike Hangar, where local residents can safely store their bicycles. The local council has now placed four of them in housing projects in the area.
They can be parked on the street--it takes up half a parking space--or outside a building. The lockers hold five bicycles and each resident pays an annual fee and gets a key to secure the bicycle in the spot. The lockers are easily transportable and secure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Bicycle: It's That Simple

This is a beautiful video that makes you want to get on 2 wheels and ride around the city for an afternoon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicago's First Protected Bike Lane Opened

Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has said that he wants to make his city more bike-friendly, and to help with that he has pledge that 100 miles of protected bike lanes would be built during his first term. The first of those is now open to the public, and as far as I can tell, it has been a great success so far! StreetFilms has shot the video below about it. It's great and should be shown to the mayor and urban planners of all cities around North-America.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ever Wonder What Road Fatalities Look Like On A Map



A group of transportation specialists from the UK, ITO World, has taken US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and overlaid it on OpenStreetMap interactive maps to create a stark reminder of the importance of road safety. It also doesn't require a huge leap of the imagination to think that if our transportation system was greener - more mass transit, more separated bike lanes, more walkable neighborhoods - that a lot of those deaths wouldn't have occurred.
The data shows fatalities for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, etc, between 2001 and 2009.


For each incident you can see the person's age, sex and the year in which the crash took place. Where information is not available fields are left blank. (that's what the little colored squares show) Follow this link to check out the ITO map of road fatalities. There's also a similar map for the UK, and they want to create one for Canada.

Cycling Explained

This is awesome and so true!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

UK Report Studies Infrastructure and Cycling Safety

Britain's Transportation Department just released a report which brings together all the existing data on cycliing infrastructure in the UK. It also says that it will take decades of sustained investment to achieve a functional urban cycle network across the country and a willingness to prioritise cycle traffic. The report also warns that piecemeal implementation of cycling infrastructure "is unlikely to be satisfactory".

Slowing down traffic, particularly at intersections, is identified as having the biggest likely impact on reducing cycling casualties with vehicle collisions, and also points out that this would also reduce casualties for all road users. Suggested methods of achieving this include physical traffic calming, redesigning urban streets in both their appearance and the way they are designed to be used by pedestrians and the wider use of 20mph speed limits.


However it is what the report has to say about other aspects of Britain's cycling infrastructure that will give food for thought to all sides in the debate on how best to provide the right environment for cycling in Britain and around the world. According to the report's authors there is little evidence for the safety benefits of cycle lanes, or advanced stop lines; and while segregated cycle lanes can offer greater safety to cyclists the points at which they connect with the road network can be so dangerous that they negate the safety benefit of segregation.
  • ASL - limited data, but limited evidence of benefit particularly associated with junctions. Notwithstanding this lack of evidence, ASLs may provide a priority for cyclists and might be applicable where there are heavy flows of right-turning cyclists.
  • Cycle lanes - There is little evidence in the UK that marked cycle lanes provide a safety benefit, although they may achieve other objectives. This lack of evident benefit may, however, represent a lack of quality and continuity in implementation. There is also extremely limited experimentation with, and no reported studies of, kerbed cycle lanes in the UK.
  • Segregated Cycle lanes – Providing segregated networks may reduce risk to cyclists in general, although evidence suggests that the points at which segregated networks intersect with highways can be relatively high-risk, sometimes of sufficient magnitude to offset any safety benefits of removing cyclists from the carriageway. However may be applicable particularly in rural settings.
Measures suggested as effective for improving safety at junctions include cycle pre-signals, continuing cycling lanes across junctions, raised cycle lanes at intersections, installing traffic signals at major roundabouts, and changing the design of roundabouts to slow traffic and to change the turning geometry to a sharper angle as on European roundabouts (thus eliminating the driver's blindspot). All of these measures have says the report had a measureable effect on improving safety for cyclists in other European countries most notably the Netherlands.

Interestingly while the report can seemingly find evidence for the safety benefits for cycle lanes in other European countries it finds little evidence for their effectiveness in Britain -  as the report notes "a lack of quality" may be a factor in that. Perhaps Britain's best know network of urban cycle lanes London's Barclays Cycle Superhighways is currently the focus of much criticism with poor implementation and the failure to heed safety advice.

The report also has interesting things to say about the design and implementation of both traffic calming measures and cycling infrastructure. While the authors say that traffic calming in general is beneficial to cyclists, they also advise road designers to be aware that features such as road narrowing and speed bumps have the potential for creating additional conflict between cyclists and other road users. Those designing infrastructure for cyclists also need to ensure that it meets cyclists needs otherwise warns the report it risks making a problem worse not better.

The report can be downloaded from here on the Department for Transport website.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Very Cool "Spoke Art"

If you're looking for an awesome way to add a little flair to your bicycle, you might want to consider this.

Katy Beveridge has tricked the eyes of thousands with her YouTube video, The Bicycle Animation, which depicts some of her most creative creations: bicycle wheel zoetropes. These spinning flip-book-like effects seem to produce moving images as the bikes gain speed.

A zoetrope is a series of still images that, when viewed in rapid succession, create the illusion of motion.

While this type of illusion isn't brand new (the graphic designer and animator credits predecessors David Wilson and Tim Wheatley in the video's description), the project itself is pretty unique in its application. The video took a few weeks to get right, and a few test shoots were uploaded to Katy's YouTube channel some weeks before the short production.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Activists Use Trash to Make Bike Lanes in Toronto


I have been keeping up with the tragic death of Jenna Morrison, a 38 year old pregnant mom squished under the wheels of a truck turning right in Toronto a few weeks ago. Her death has led many to question why there are not separated bike lanes; the usual response from the politicians and the engineers is that there isn't enough room, that you cannot give bikes their own lanes without taking something away from cars, and they don't do that in Toronto.

Two bike activists, James Schwartz of the Urban Country and Dave Meslin of the Toronto Bike Union, set out to demonstrate that this wasn't true. They went to the intersection where Jenna was crushed and built their own bike lane with recycled twigs, cups and general trash (the painted bikes were installed by other guerrilla activists earlier).

Here is a truck turning before the bike lane was installed; note that the painted bikes are pretty meaningless in their supposed message of sharing the road. The truck is going right over them.

And when there is a lane, just a little bit of garbage on the road in this case? The trucks all go around it, no trouble at all. Dave Meslin writes:
Would cars and trucks respect the lines? Is there enough room for a large truck to make a wide turn without impeding on the bike lane? Can all vehicles – bikes, cars and trucks – share this intersection safely with proper markings? Sadly, the answer is yes – on all counts. Too late for Jenna. But not too late for this to be a wake-up call. Bike lanes save lives. They create a safe space, they keep motor vehicles away from bikes, and most importantly, they raise awareness of all road users – that they are sharing space with others.

Even UPS drivers, who believe that bike lanes exist for their convenience, (at least for parking) drove the few extra feet to avoid the bike lane. All evidence that it is time that the traffic engineers got on a bike and started thinking about what they can do to reduce the carnage on the roads.

More at The Urban Country and the Mez Dispenser

Monday, November 21, 2011

B-Cycle is Coming to Baltimore


Baltimore is a significant step closer to introducing bike sharing, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has announced. The Board of Estimates approved a negotiating agreement between the City and B-Cycle, the company with bike shares in Denver, Chicago and eight other cities. Mayor Rawlings-Blake presents bike sharing as the latest in a series of efforts to promote alternate forms of transportation in Baltimore.

The plan is to install 250 bikes in 30 stations around the city next summer or fall. The system will work like most major bike shares- the first half hour is free, after that the user pays an increased fare for every hour or half hour. B-Cycle will raise the estimated $1.2m to build the infrastructure, so the City will pay next to nothing.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake has also introduced the Charm City Circulator, a fleet of hybrid-electric, free shuttle buses, welcomed ZipCar to Baltimore, installed electric car charging stations and increased the number of bike lanes.

Amsterdam's Cycling Culture

Amsterdam – it's not all clogs and windmills you know!
When you think of Amsterdam, one of the first images to spring to mind is the bicycle. The Dutch capital is a city where everybody seems to owns one, and the sight and sound of scores of cyclists whizzing up and down streets is something many take with them when they leave.

The video below explores the culture of bike riding in what's considered by many to be the cycling capital of the world. Paying a visit to the world's largest cycle parking lot, Kona's Mitchell Scott speaks to a few of the people who leave their bikes in the 10,000-capacity, multi-storey building. On the agenda is what makes riding in the city so special and how bikes are passed down through the generations.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Movement-Portlandia Style With Bike Swarm

Alexis Madrigal writes in the Atlantic, that the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York is best seen as an API (application programming interface) for a global movement, Portland has added a typically Portlandia twist to its Occupy activities. As police began to move in to evict Portland's encampment early Sunday morning, November 13, a swarm of bicycles continually encircled the two park areas, to serve, one organizer said:
"as another thing the police have to focus on, and a huge booster for the crowd."
Now, with actions such as occupying the New York Stock Exchange and the Brooklyn Bridge planned for November 17 in New York, Portland plans to occupy corporate banks in the city. And another bike swarm will be along for the ride.

A bike swarm, or large collection of bikes rolling along together in civil disobedience activities, is not an original Portland concept. In fact, says co-organizer Katherine Ball, she learned about bike swarms when at the Copenhagen COP-15 climate meetings in December of 2009.

At an event called the Bike Bloc, a group of activists lead by The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination put together a couple of bike-related strategies for civil disobedience. The first, the swarm, was simply a group of cyclists who, cycling together, attempted to circle around an area of protest in an organized fashion in order to provide diversion.

Another tactic was to create tall, easily erected platforms for a few people to rise above a crowd and relay information about what was happening ahead and behind to the middle of a group. At the Occupy Portland November 13 eviction, the bike swarm consisted of between 50 and 100 cyclists, circling around the two downtown parks where the encampments were being dismantled by police. Swarm co-organizer, Dan Kaufman of CrankMyChain, noted that bikes were just another means of demonstration.

As an individual swarmer commented at the BikePortland.org web site coverage of the event:
"When there is a massive show of intimidating armed force against unarmed citizens who are doing nothing worse than congregating in a large number, you have to be on the side of the unarmed people. You just do." - Daniel R. Miller
At some point during the eviction, police stopped the swarm from advancing, but no major clash between the swarm and police was reported.

In tomorrow's Swarm the Bank event, Katherine Ball said she hopes to have a swarm at least as big as the one that supported the eviction proceedings.
"Portland is the U.S. biking city, so it just makes sense that bikes are a part of Occupy here."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Battle Over Bike Lanes Hits the Press



Something happens when you put architecture and urban design critics on bikes; the tone of the articles change, they become almost poetic. Below are articles excerpts from New York and Toronto, which are in the middle of the battle of the bike lanes. The war on the car in New York and the war on the bike in Toronto, and architecture critic Michael Kimmelman writes a lovely piece about the Pleasures of life in the slow lane. He describes the aesthetic possibilities:
I don’t mean they’re great to look at. I mean that for users they offer a different way of taking in the city, its streets and architecture, the fine-grained fabric of its neighborhoods. Decades ago the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown wrote about how we see cities differently at different speeds. Las Vegas was their example, and they wrote about driving versus walking (skipping over the bicycle). But the point stands. On a bike time bends. Space expands and contracts.
He concludes his ride, and his story, in Central Park:
Aesthetics aside, the bike lanes are about urban livability and about encouraging the sort of street culture that, as Jacobs reminded us, a healthy and democratic city depends on. The Central Park Lake was an echo of the Hudson at the start of the day, bringing the trip full cycle. This was the only way to travel.
It would be nice if this elegy brought out the best in readers, but alas, it just brought out the usual comments:
Too many cyclists are nuts and indifferent to the rules of road that they are supposed to follow. I hope that when King Bloomberg finally leaves office, he'll take Khan and her bike lanes with him.
another wrote:
Bloomberg has become an object of derision for many, if not most, New Yorkers, for having forced his will down our throats for far too long. If the opinion polls are accurate, the majority apparently can't wait to see him go, and, as one poster said, take Kahn with him.


Which is exactly what happened in Toronto; The suburban hordes rose up and elected Rob Ford, who famously has said about cyclists who get killed: "In the end of the day, it's their own fault." He has been pulling up bike lanes all over town. Elected on a platform of cutting spending, he is in fact spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put things back the way they were before the bike riding pinkos messed it up. A lot of people have buyers' remorse these days, as this bull in a china shop is breaking everything that people love in Toronto, from libraries to museums. Former urban issues reporter and now book reviewer John Barber writes about the the war on the bike with its nastiness and vitriol, in the Globe and Mail.
The more bicycling becomes the “right thing to do,” it seems, the more that doing it becomes a dangerous provocation. Everybody is angry. Half the people who say “Good for you” at the sight of a bike helmet actually mean, “Bully for you, you planet-saving prig.” And once behind the wheel, they get their revenge.
That's one reason I rarely wear a helmet any more, which is bound to be the second thing newscasters will mention in the event that my legs are crushed under the wheels of a 12-tonne truck. When the Toronto Sun begins referring to cyclists as “helmet heads,” de-personalizing individuals to make them easier to hate, the uniform becomes uncomfortable.
He concludes:
Are there more idiots than ever riding bicycles in Toronto? It's undeniable. But God does not distribute His idiots disproportionately, according to their choice of transportation. And idiots on bicycles are largely harmless. The truly dangerous idiots – the ones Toronto is unaccountably willing to tolerate, given its disgraceful traffic safety record – are the ones driving.
As annoying as the proliferation of idiots on bicycles may be – both to motorists and to other cyclists who get lumped together with them – it should be seen for what it is: a simple function of more bicycles. A good thing.
Or not, if you prefer. Because in the end, morality doesn't matter. Bicycles will continue to swarm the city in ever-greater numbers. They are inevitable because they are useful.
And of course, the letters to the editor think otherwise:
All downtown cyclists should be required to pass a licensing test, just like motorists, and wear a vest with a license number on it over their clothes, just like motorists must display licence plates on their car.
Finally, just to back up John Barber's point, Joe Peach at This Big City actually documents the environmental benefits that make cycling so inevitable. They include

Embodied Energy, The amount of energy required to produce a bicycle is tiny compared to many other forms of transport. A 7.2kg road bicycle with a carbon frame uses 11,546,658,000 Joules of energy during its production compared to 118,284,466,000 for a ‘generic car’ produced in America in 2008.

Air quality A bicycle’s environmental sustainability is about more than just low embodied energy. If enough people switch from polluting transport modes to a bicycle – a zero emission form of transport when in use – there is potential for reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality in our cities.


Noise pollution Pollution is about more than just emissions. Noise levels in cities can also be considered a pollutant, with associated long term health risks.

Add to the fact that every person on a bike is one less person in a car or on an overcrowded transit system that costs those taxpaying drivers a bundle to subsidize, it is pretty surprising that there is so much antagonism.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rules of the Road for All Drivers

Driving Cycling Safety
Before I begin, this isn’t an anti-driving post, I'm not lambasting drivers. As much as drivers need to be more cyclist aware, follow road rules and drive safely, vica versa always applies!

Learn to share

As a car driver you may think the road belongs to you, but nobody owns the road. Everyone has a right to pass and re-pass on public highways. By law, a bicycle is a vehicle, so treat it like one.

Appreciate that cyclists are helping you

Counter-intuitive to what you may believe, cyclists actually reduce congestion on the roads by not driving cars. They ‘re reducing the time you spend in traffic jams as they’re taking up so much less space. Cyclists have a phrase for this, often seen on t-shirts and posters: One Less Car.

Avoid dooring cyclists

It’s illegal! It can also be fatal, and happens more than you’d expect. Don’t  open any doors without checking there aren’t any cyclists behind you. You could easily sweep them clean off their bikes and it won’t be pretty. Think about the breadth of your door, it’s easily 3' wide.

Driving with cyclists

Realize cyclists are vulnerable

You’re driving a vehicle hugely heavier and more powerful than theirs. In any impact, they will be the losers. Perhaps it’s best we take after most European countries which operate ‘strict liability’. These regulations result in the motorist’s insurance usually being deemed to be responsible in any crash involving a cyclist. In the same way that a cyclist would be at fault in a smash with a pedestrian. With the driver always at fault in any accident, drivers become evidently more cautious around cyclists.

Helmets don’t equal guaranteed safety 

Of course they’re definitely worth wearing, it’s just that drivers often think a cyclist with a helmet is 100% safe. Well, they’re not.

A helmet is designed to withstand head-on impacts of no more than 13mph! Some cyclists choose not wear to wear helmets and studies showed they are given more caution by drivers. A cyclist with a helmet, however, is by no means invincible.

Exercise some caution and be patient

90% of cyclist casualties in recent years were caused by careless inattention, firstly by drivers, secondly by cyclists. It’s your responsibility to avoid hitting the cyclist, not the responsibility of the cyclist to avoid getting hit by you.

Pay attention and be on the lookout for cyclists at all times, especially when reversing. Use your mirrors as cyclists may overtake slow-moving traffic on either side. They may sometimes need to change direction suddenly, so just be aware of this and observe any indications they give such as looking over their shoulder. Don’t tempt them into taking risks or endanger them.

Allow plenty of space

When overtaking a cyclist you’re required to give them as much room as you would a car. They may need to swerve to avoid hazards. Always anticipate that there may be a pothole, oily, wet or icy patch or some other obstruction. Cyclists endanger themselves by cycling in straight lines!

Don’t drive too close behind a cyclist as you may not be able to stop in time if they come off their bike or do something abruptly. Unless you have an entire clear, empty lane in which to pass, slow down and wait until there is room to pass. Pass them slowly!
Cars and cyclists

Drive slowly on low-vis roads

On rural roads or those with limited visibility remember that a cyclist could be around the next corner. It could also be an elderly person, a child or an animal. Reducing your speed reduces the risk of something happening.

You can’t see ahead of hills and curves, slow down as you don’t know what’s on the other side. Make sure you can stop the car at all times. At night the need to do so is more exaggerated. You need time for the headlights to shine on the road ahead and recognise that there’s something there.

Cyclists have a right to claim the lane

That’s correct. They have as much right as you do to take up the entire lane. You may think they’re being utterly selfish by doing so, but in fact they are preventing having an accident. They really aren’t trying to slow you down, it’s just the safest way for them to cycle particularly if there’s a blind bend, a narrowing of the road, a high risk junction, pinch point or traffic lights ahead. Additionally if there’s a narrowing of the road, they’re stopping you squeezing through far too closely beside them.

Cyclists should never cycle in the gutter as it gives no room for avoiding obstacles and leaves them no room to fall if an accident occurs, meaning they could go straight under your wheels. Not nice.

Beware a right turn

Turning right is how most accidents occur. A cyclist may sneak up, perfectly legally, beside you while you’re waiting impatiently at a red light. It’s not at all illegal for cyclists to filter on the left or right of lanes but it is often difficult to spot them, especially when hidden by your blind spot. You’ll hit the cyclist as they carry straight on and you’ve made a right, into them. Also be vigilant when pulling out of a side street, or parking space/lot.

Get on a bike!

Not until you experience what it’s like to be a cyclist on a busy road will you truly be able to empathize with them and realize how careless drivers can be at times. Cyclists can too be careless, but it usually ends in them getting hurt, not you!

Guerlla Bike Lanes in Mexico City


The citizens of Mexico City have been demanding bike lanes for years now, and despite promises made in legislation passed nearly four years ago, they've barely seen any. So, since the government has failed to provide the city's cyclists with safe lanes to ride, those cyclists banded together to make a powerful public statement -- they painted their own bike lanes on the streets right out front of the Congress building in Mexico City.

Jimena Veloz, one of the activists engaged in the project, explained the motivation for the project on This Big City: "Mexico City’s government pledged in 2007 that it would build 300 km of bike lanes around the city by 2012. However, the city still only has 22.2 km because most money is allocated to car infrastructure, leaving aside non-motorized mobility."

Be sure to read Veloz's account of how the cyclists took matters into their own hands, soliciting funds for the project on a crowd-funding site and taking to the streets with paint and rollers. They completed 5 km of bike lane -- which they called Wikicarril, or 'Wikilane' -- in a single day. Veloz writes, "We worked for 8 hours. We painted 5 kms. We spent less than 1000 dollars. How much would it cost to actually build the bicycle infrastructure the city needs?"

Kudos to Veloz and co. -- this was a powerful, peaceful, and visually appealing way to rally support to an overlooked cause. And Mexico City, with its perpetually choked roadways and streets thick with smog, could use the push towards more sustainable transportation options more than almost anywhere.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The True Cost of Commuting



Even forgetting the huge environmental damage caused by car-commuting for now, the monetary costs are high -- usually higher than most people expect.

Financial blogger Mr. Money Mustache crunched the numbers and a company called Streamline Refinance created the infographics above to make things clearer (and probably to convince you to move closer to work).

The 10-year costs are particularly impressive, and they show how just a few miles more add up over the years to a huge amount of extra money spent and fossil fuels burned. There's a pretty strong correlation between money spent on car-commuting and CO2 emitted, since the biggest operational cost of a car is the fuel, so the money figures in the infographics would also map pretty closely to CO2 numbers (proportionally speaking).

Not only that, but it's also costing commuters so many hours of their lives. At least if you take mass transit, you can read, and if you bike or walk, you are keeping yourself healthy.

Top 20 Bicycle Friendly Cities 2011



Mikael Colville-Andersen, who many of you know as the man behind the Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic blogs, also runs Copenhagenize Consulting. They've just released a very cool index of the most bicycle-friendly cities around the world, ranking the top 20 based on a pretty exhaustive list of criteria. Despite having the word "Copenhagen" in its name, the overall winner for 2011 is Amsterdam with 54 out of 64 possible points (one of its bike parkings is pictured above).


To see the whole index, check out the official website: The Copenhagenize Index 2011. Each name in the list is clickable and has a short writeup.

If you're curious about the criteria that were used to rank the cities, that information is available here. Some of those are inherently subjective (perception of safety, social acceptance), but a well-defined point system made it as close to objective as possible. For example, social acceptance was on this scale:
0 points: Bicycle users have no social acceptance in the city and are regarded as complete outsiders. Very few people use their bicycles apart from on weekends for a bike ride.
1 point: There is some social acceptance but it is mainly focused on recreational cycling. Bicycles are still not accepted as feasible transport in cities. Still a lot of antagonism towards cyclists and the simplest of bike lanes or tracks generate public outcry.
2 points: Cyclists are not an uncommon sight on the streets. Motorists generally watch out for bicycles but the public doesn't always back infrastructure or traffic calming.
3 points: The onus is on drivers to watch out for cyclists and they are largely respectful of them. Bicycle infrastructure and facilities such as traffic lights for bicycles are accepted. There is limited public outcry when new lanes or tracks – or traffic calming
4 points: Drivers are accepting of cyclists in all situations, and most are cyclists themselves.
In general, having such an index (and updating it every year using comparable data) can only lead to good things. It's similar to how many NGOs rank corruption or ease of doing business. Nobody wants to be at the bottom of the list, and those that do well end up incorporating that into their self-image and don't want to fall behind. It's a great motivator -- a carrot and a stick at the same time!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bike/Ped Projects Under Attack Again by KY Senator

When I first started blogging, I thought "How in the world can biking and walking be controversial?", but I soon found that there are adversaries everywhere. They are good exercise, fun to do and -- as an alternative to driving everywhere -- helps us save money and the environment. And even though both biking and walking are increasingly popular for transportation and recreation today (thanks in large part to a recent flowering of federally-funded trails, bikeways and pathways that make getting around on two wheels and two feet safer and more convenient) they are still under attack.

In these antagonistic political times, bikers and walkers are now being targeted by some members of Congress. In September Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn proposed stripping all designated federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects from the pending Transportation Bill. After an outpouring of opposition from citizens coast-to-coast, Coburn withdrew his amendment.

Now bicyclists and pedestrians are under attack again, this time in an amendment from my old home state, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. He wants to redirect every last penny of money dedicated to bicycling and walking to bridge repair instead. It is scheduled for a vote next Tuesday. (Here's how to contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives to save federal bike and pedestrian programs.)

Now we all agree that safe bridges are important. Look at the tragic bridge collapse four years ago in Minneapolis that took 17 lives. But safety for the millions of kids and adults that bike and walk every day is important, too. Since 2007, 2800 cyclists and 20,000 pedestrians have died on America's roads--many due to the lack of sidewalks, bike lanes and other safety measures that federal funds provide.


We shouldn't have to choose between safe bridges and safe streets. Here's why:
*First of all, Senator Paul's amendment will not even come close to fixing America's bridges. Biking, walking and the other so-called "transportation enhancements" that Paul wants to kill account for less than two percent of the total Transportation Bill. It would take 80 years using money saved from scrapping these programs to finance the backlog of current bridge repairs--not to mention future needs.

*States are not spending the money already allocated for bridge repairs. Last year, they returned $530 million to the federal government. That represents a big chunk of total bike and pedestrian projects.


*Federal money to make biking and walking safer and more convenient is a great investment in America's future that pays off in safer streets, reduced environmental damage, greater energy security, improved public health and more resilient, neighborly, pleasurable communities.

To get a picture of the importance of federal bike and pedestrian funding to local communities, take a look at Minneapolis, which last year was named the #1 Bike City in America by Bicycling magazine. Federal funds through a special federal pilot program to promote walking and biking for transportation is a major reason for this honor, which was met with shock by many around the country who could not believe that a place in the heartland, famous for its ferocious winters, could outperform cities on the coasts.

But that skepticism fades with a close look at the facts. Close to four percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work according to census data. That's an increase of almost 33 percent since 2007 when the federal Non-Motorized Transportation Program began, and 500 percent since 1980. At least one-third of those commuters ride at least some days during the winter, according to federally funded research conducted by Bike Walk Twin Cities (the local organization coordinating the $25 million Non-Motorized Transportation grant). Even on the coldest days about one-fifth are out on their bikes.

Minneapolis also launched the first large-scale bikesharing sytem in U.S.--called Nice Ride--and boasts arguably the nation's finest network of off-street bicycle trails. It's largest source of start-up capital came from the federal grant. "Biking has become a huge part of what we are," Mayor RT Rybak declared to a delegation of transportation leaders from Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, on a Minneapolis tour sponsored by the Bikes Belong Foundation this summer. "It's an economical way to get around town, and many times it's the fastest. I frequently take a bike from city hall across downtown to meetings."

This year the city is adding 57 new miles of bikeways to the 127 miles already built, again with a substantial share of the funding coming from Non-Motorized Transportation programs. An additional 183 miles are planned over the next twenty years. All of this in a city where bicyclists of all ages and backgrounds already ride recreational trails the goal is to encourage people to hop on their bikes for commuting or short trips.

This is not a far-fetched dream, since nationally half of all automobile trips are three miles or less--a distance easily covered on bike in twenty minutes.Mayor Rybak, who gained national prominence with his leadership during the 2007 bridge collapse and rapid rebuilding project, stressed that in these lean economic times, cities across the country need to be creative about how they spend transportation dollars. Big-ticket road engineering projects to move ever more cars must give way to more efficient projects that move people by a variety of means--including foot, bike, transit. "We need to get more use from all the streets we already have," Rybak said.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Changing Perceptions by Just Riding a Bike



Earlier this year Jack Lakey of the Toronto Star, AKA "The Fixer", went on a rant: Are cyclists alienating drivers by being selfish and rude?. He was complaining in particular about how cyclists "chronically break the law" , blow through stop signs and ride on sidewalks. James Schwartz responded with a video on his blog, the Urban Country.

After an exchange of emails with James, the two of them went for a bike ride together, so that "the Fixer", whose gig at the Star involves solving reader's problems, could learn about the problems cyclists face. The result was a surprise to both of them. Lakey writes:
The idea was to provide us with examples of the perils encountered while riding, and to show us the need for and advantages of infrastructure that makes cycling safer and more viable. But an unintended consequence of our journey was soon apparent: Cycling is an immensely enjoyable way to get around, especially on a fall day when moderate exertion results in minimal sweat.
The Fixer concludes:
By the time we were done, we'd seen so many examples of crumbled asphalt and sunken sewer grates near the curb that we had a new appreciation for cyclists' complaints about having to mix with traffic to get around them. It was a revealing experience for a guy who had thought of bikes as more of a toy than a real vehicle, one that should be tried by any driver guilty of making the same mistake.
Most cyclists also drive, and understand the frustrations that face drivers; that is probably why they got a bike in the first place. When I am in a car I know to check my right mirror before I turn, to look before I open my car door, to never, ever park in a bike lane. Perhaps if more drivers occasionally got on a bike, we would all get along a little better and would have fewer squished cyclists.
More in The Star and The Urban Country

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Mo" Bike Sharing Cobines Zipcar and Bike Share


Introducing mo from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.
What do you get when you cross a Zipcar model of car sharing with a bike sharing system and a public transport pass on steroids? You get Mo. Mo better. Mo convenient. Mo mobility.
Mo Mobility System cargo bike photo

Developed by Munich-based design firm Lunar Europe, Green City e.V. and the University of Wuppertal, Mo is supposed to fulfill people's actual mobility needs.

Mo's creators studied Munich's inhabitants - noting that more than 50% of all trips are still taken by personal car (although 80% of citizens own a bike). Once they had the stats, Mo's makers tried to create more attractive mobility options than those cars. According to its designers:
"Mo provides alternatives: the appropriate means of transport is available for any occasion and in any situation, even spontaneously."


mo - mobility for tomorrow from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.
Mo's smartphone app is the brains of the system, keeping an accounting of each member's use of public transport and of rentals or 'shares' - of a bicycle or cargo bikes, e-bikes, and cars. All of these options can be accessed through a single car, or also through a member's smart phone. The app also features train and bus timetables.

Mo tries to encourage users to take the most sustainable option by offering positive incentives. Depending on the transport option chosen, the Mo user might accrue miles for later use. Even if a user is using her own bicycle (fitted with a special RFID tag) he or she can earn award miles. Those miles can later be used, for example, to get car sharing, or to charge an e-bike. Accruing larger Mo mile balances reduce a user's membership and usage costs.


Mo's creators, who tested and piloted the concept in Munich, are hoping Mo will also function as a kind of social network by letting users stay connected via the software and announce rides and events. While Mo is definitely a step forward in car and bike sharing, it seems like a really effective system would also involve pedestrian activity in some way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths

How did the Dutch get their cycling infrastructure? This question keeps coming back because it is of course relevant to people who want what the Dutch have.


Road building traditions go back a long way and they are influenced by many factors. But the way Dutch streets and roads are built today is largely the result of deliberate political decisions in the 1970s to turn away from the car centric policies of the prosperous post war era. Changed ideas about mobility, safer and more livable cities and about the environment led to a new type of streets in the Netherlands.

The recent video to introduce the Dutch Cycling Embassy explains this very briefly, but there is a lot more that can be said about it.


The Netherlands’ problems were and are not unique, their solutions shouldn’t be that either.

I think the Dutch could and should be copied. If you look at the key factors for the change in Dutch thinking, you see these are just as valid today. The world is still too dependent on fossil fuels and many cities in the world have congested streets. Streets and roads which are also very dangerous, especially for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. And that is even more so when these road users are elderly or children.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Green Phase Bike Traffic Signal


No Longer Stuck in the Middle, Waiting for Left Turns
I've said it again and again: To increase cycling as a main form of transportation, our roads need to be modified to make it safer and more convenient for people on bikes to get where they're going. This means physically separated bike lanes, safe bike storage/parking, and more bike-friendly traffic signalling. A good example of the latter is the 'green phase' signal used in Groningen, in the Netherlands (see the video below).

Groningen: Green Phase for Cyclists from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
When the 'green phase' signal is on, cyclist from all junctions of the intersection can cross, in any direction, including diagonally. Of course, you probably don't need to put this on every intersection. But all along a main bike lane/bike boulevard, it can make a big difference in safety and reduce an important bottleneck in the flow of cyclists.