Thursday, June 30, 2011

Study Finds Streets with Bike Facilaties Create Jobs

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A new report by the University of Massachusetts' Political Economy Research Institute confirms that on-street bike facilities are not just good for our health and for the environment, but they are also very good for the health of the economy. Some of the ways it brings benefits are: Tourism, more traffic to local businesses, increased property values, healthier citizens, etc.
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The reports says:
Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million. [...]

Economic benefits include tourism and recreation-related spending (which is a boon to businesses and increases local tax revenues), and a rise in real estate values. Other benefits include higher quality of life, environmental benefits such as buffer zones to protect water sources from pollution run-off, and mitigation of flood damage. A 2008 user survey of a multi-use trail in Pennsylvania showed that over 80 percent of users purchased "hard goods" such as bikes and cycling equipment in relation to their use of the trail, and some also pur- chase "soft goods" such as drinks and snacks at nearby establishments.
None of this is surprising, and bike lanes would still be worth building even if they didn't provide a direct economic benefit - the health and environmental benefits are enough - so this is just an added bonus.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Minneapolis Gets Self-Service Repair Kiosks for Cyclists

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After Minneapolis started being noticed as one of the nation's top cycling cities, I started taking notice of the innovations coming from there. Making cities more cycling-friendly is not just making biking desirable, it's also about making biking safe and feasible. And that means Bike Fixtation, a company offering self-service kiosks that cater to cyclists in need, which just opened its first location, in Minneapolis.

mpls-greenway.jpgLast year, Minneapolis was named the most bike-friendly city in the United States, and for good reason. The City has a year-old bike share program and a great network of bike trails, the star of which is the Greenway, a 5.5 mile long former railroad corridor that is now highway for cyclists and pedestrians. And the location of Bike Fixtation # 1 is perfect: in a transit shelter, directly above the uber-green artery.

The kiosk includes a vending machine that sells all the basics: inner tubes, patch kits, lights, plus snacks and drinks. It's also got an electric tire pump and a work stand with the tools to make repairs or adjustments to a bicycle. Open from 6am to midnight, 365 days a year, the Bike Fixtation provides a necessary service to cyclists, and removes one more obstacle on the road to becoming a a more bike-friendly world.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Highway System for Cyclists Being Revived


Back in the early 1980s, America started building a highway system for cyclists—a grand national grid of bike paths. The first two stretches of the U.S. Bicycle Route System were going to run from Maine to Florida and from Virginia to Oregon. But only small parts of those routes were ever made official and the idea lost steam. Why build infrastructure for a prehistoric mode of transportation like the bicycle? Who's going to need that in the 21st century?

Well, as it turns out, biking is on the rise. Americans made 4 billion biking trips in 2009, compared with just 3.3 billion in 2001. With this new interest in cycling, the idea of a national network of bike routes is back. As U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recently noted on his blog, the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials has approved the first new routes in the national bike system in more than 30 years. The six new routes are in Maine, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Alaska. The AASHTO has also released a map showing "prioritized corridors," to be developed as other states get on board. The idea is to eventually have a comprehensive network of routes crisscrossing America.

There might be a great Los Angeles-to-New York bike path you can use for that cross-country trip pretty soon. Now you just have to find three free months for it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Instead of Driving I...



A few months ago, Osprey Packs Blog challenged Facebook fans to convey what they do for their daily commute “Instead of Driving…” This video portrays some of best responses we received. Set in beautiful Portland, Oregon this will inspire you to leave your car at home and find a more aesthetic mode of travel. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bike Sharing Rapidly Expanding Across U.S.

Bike sharing is on the rise, particularly in Washington D.C. and New York City, the AP reports.
Officials warn that cities eager to jump on the bandwagon should makes sure they have good infrastructure, like bike lanes, before launching a sharing program.

Boston and San Francisco have bike share plans in their future and D.C.'s program is almost too popular, with bike's only available to early risers.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Portland's Naked Bike Ride Raises Awareness of Clean Transportation

My friend Brad just moved to Portland a few weeks ago, and although he has seen and done many things in his new place, nothing had prepared him for last night. On Saturday night he joined thousands of bikers in biking naked together to celebrate their World Naked Bike Ride.

According to The Portlander, the night was to be focused on raising awareness of “society’s gas guzzling ways.” 2010 saw an estimated 13,000 riders, which according to The Portlander, made it the largest Naked Bike Ride in the world to date.

FOX12 reports that nudity is legal in Oregon as long as a sexual act or attempted arousal is not involved. Additional police planned to station themselves along the route. Although nudity is legal, the police did ask that riders wear a helmet and shoes for safety.

Other biking events are taking place in Portland, Oregon for over two weeks during Pedalpalooza.

A Naked Bike Ride near Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles recently broke out in fighting between bike riders and the occupants of a car. Naked Bike Rides took place in New York and Chicago earlier this month.

Reports show that if the average American substituted one day’s worth of driving with riding per week, he’d cut auto emissions by 1,248 pounds of CO2, save over $800 on gas and maintenance, and burn enough calories to lose 19 pounds in one year. Nudity not required.

Friday, June 17, 2011

BikeShare Bikes May Be Safer Than Regular Bikes




Noah Kazis had a great article this week over at StreetsBlog. They are finding that riding on a bike through a bike share program is safer than riding a regular bicycle. His findings make total sense when you see the cities that they are occurring in and the amount of effort they have put into making cycling safer.

New data shows that people riding shared public bicycles appear to be involved in fewer traffic crashes and receive fewer injuries than people riding their personal bicycles. In cities from Paris and London to Washington, D.C. and Mexico City, something about riding a shared bicycle appears to make cycling safer.

Paris’s Vélib’ is perhaps the most iconic bike-sharing system in the world. Launched in 2007 with 20,000 bikes, its widespread popularity not only transformed how Parisians traveled across their city but set off an explosion of new bike-sharing systems worldwide. With a few years of practice at this point, the Parisian experience is particularly telling.

“The accident rate is lower on a Vélib’ than on ‘normal’ bikes,” a spokesperson for the office of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë told Streetsblog. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, Vélib’ riders were responsible for one-third of all bike trips in Paris but were involved in only one-fourth of all traffic crashes involving a bicycle.

The numbers are if anything more striking in London, where the Barclays Cycle Hire system — or “Boris Bikes,” to borrow the phrase locals have adopted in honor of their mayor, Boris Johnson — opened at the end of last July. Though the London government didn’t track the relevant safety stats of bike-share users compared to other cyclists, they provided us with the data to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

So far, after 4.5 million trips, no bike-sharing user in London has been seriously injured or killed in a traffic crash, according to Transport for London. Only 10 bike-sharing users were injured at all in the first 1.6 million trips on the system, a statistic that was compiled earlier. A spokesperson also told Streetsblog that they estimate that half a million bike trips take place across London each day, 20,000 of which are on Boris Bikes. Finally, during 2010, 10 people were killed, 457 seriously injured and 3,540 non-seriously injured while cycling in London.

Crunching those numbers, no people were seriously injured or killed on the first 4.5 million trips on Boris Bikes, while about 12 people are injured for every 4.5 million trips on personal bikes. And over 1.6 million trips, ten bike-sharing users received non-serious injuries, compared to an average of 35 such injuries for the same number of trips on personal bikes.

Here in America, transportation officials are seeing the same effect. Chris Holben, the project manager for Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare system, told the Boston Globe in May that bike-sharing users had a much safer rate of crashes than bike owners. He told Streetsblog that his observation was merely anecdotal, but it turns out that his instincts are likely correct.

In its first seven months of operation, Capital Bikeshare users made 330,000 trips. In that time, seven crashes of any kind were reported, and none involved serious injuries. In comparison, there were 338 cyclist injuries and fatalities overall in 2010, according to the District Department of Transportation, with an estimated 28,400 trips per weekday, 5,000 of which take place on a Capital Bikeshare bikes.

So while only seven bike-sharing riders were injured in 330,000 trips, on average, 13 people riding personal bikes are injured over the same number of trips. And bike-sharing riders suffered no serious injuries, while riders using their own bikes suffered injuries that were sometimes serious or even fatal.
In other systems, apples-to-apples comparisons with personal bike riders are impossible, but extremely low injury rates among bike-sharing riders still stand out.

In Mexico City, for example, only three ECOBICI riders have required a trip to the hospital after a traffic crash in the 1.6 million trips taken so far. That’s an impressive safety record in a city known for its dangerous traffic. Mexico City does not, however, compile the necessary data to accurately compare the ECOBICI safety rate with that of other cyclists, said a representative of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which provided technical assistance on the city’s bike-sharing program.

Similarly, Minneapolis’s NiceRide system reported “no significant accidents or major injuries” in its first year of operation. In that time, Minnesotans took 37,000 NiceRide trips.

This is encouraging news for cities like New York that are eying bike-sharing systems of their own. Some have worried that bike-sharing would bring a flood of inexperienced new cyclists onto roads that are too dangerous, but if New York’s experience is anything like that of its peers, cycling will be safer overall once shared bikes are added to the mix.

For now, we can only speculate as to the reasons for this phenomenon. Streetsblog spoke with two experts on road safety, Professors Norman Garrick of the University of Connecticut and Ian Walker of the University of Bath. Each offered a number of possible explanations for the discrepancy in safety numbers.

“It’s shorter trips, maybe,” proposed Garrick. If bike-sharing users are generally taking trips of less than thirty minutes so as to avoid additional fees, each trip might be fewer miles, leading to a lower crash rate per trip.
Walker hypothesized that bike-sharing users might be less experienced riders than those who own their own bike. “They therefore avoid mixing with traffic as much as regular riders, and ride slower, and so have fewer serious collisions,” he theorized. That might be easier to achieve if bike-sharing stations are sited near bike lanes, added Garrick.

Garrick said that even apart from experience in cycling, people who have avoided cycling until bike-sharing presents them with the option might be, by their nature, less tolerant of risk and stick to safer cycling behavior. “It could be that they’re more cautious people.”

Or the other case may be true, said Walker — bike-share users could be more dedicated cyclists with an above-average skill level. “Most people don’t hire bikes from such a scheme, suggesting that the people who do hire from them might be those with a greater than average interest in cycling.” That could be especially true of the tourists taking them out, who might not have brought their own bike along with them.
The physical qualities of the shared bikes themselves might be responsible for their increased safety. “They are slower and they are very visible,” said Garrick.

That visibility might help motorists not only notice the bike-sharing user, but respect her as well, said Walker. “I suspect they are also, in most people’s minds, a sign of a novice or occasional cyclist. As such, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if drivers took more care around people using them than they do around ‘professional’ looking cyclists.” Walker’s own research has shown that drivers passed cyclists more closely if they were wearing helmets or appeared to be male.

Significantly more research will be needed to determine which combination of these factors actually explains the better safety record of bike-sharing users. But in the meantime, cities with bike-sharing systems on the horizon should be pleased to hear that the program will likely be a boon for street safety.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bike Thieves Cut Down Tree to Steal Bike


Reddit user TenThousandSuns posted the video above, which shows a group of men in Kensington at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning chopping down a ginkgo tree with an axe, seemingly in order to steal a bike. The initial post was titled, "How far will NY thieves go to steal a $50 department store bike locked with a $10 cable lock? This far." Here's a photo of the poor tree... Let this serve as a reminder not to lock your bike to a tree, and a plea to city planners to deploy more bike racks so people aren't tempted to do this.

Below are 2 of my favorite bike thief videos. It is just as shocking to me to see the lengths that people are willing to go to steal bikes, as it is for the bystanders that just sit there and watch it happen without lifting a finger.




Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Intentionally Bumped by Car

About a year ago, the driver of a BMW pulled up behind me, intentionally bumped my bike and drove away. I was unable to get the plate number, so Mr. Wonderful got away.

Something similar happened to Kate in Washington DC last February. She stopped at a red light while biking home from work. The driver behind her stopped. Maybe this driver is a fan of Tony Kornheiser — the ESPN announcer who told his listeners to “run them [cyclists] over” — because the driver pulled up and nudged Kate, pushing her forward into the intersection. The car occupants started laughing and bumped Kate again. Then things got interesting for the driver.


Kate pulled over, whipped out her police badge and ordered the driver to stop where he was. The driver tried to run, but this is DC traffic, and Kate catches him a couple of blocks away. That’s when the driver tries to run Kate down. Kate by this time has radioed for help, and half of the DC Metro police force show up to apprehend the idiot driver.

I bring this up because Kate has an update: she talks having to overcome Grand Jury bias against cyclists and police officers to even bring this assault to trial, and then her assailant eventually pled to other charges. In exchange for the plea, the vehicular assault charges were dropped, but Kate asks cyclists to show up en masse at the sentencing hearing to let the judge know that harassment of cyclists is important to us.
Read Kate’s full story at her Girl And Her Bike blog: Victory (Sort Of).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

72% of Toronto Citizens Demand Separated Bike Lanes

Sitting next to a Canadian at work has many perks, and one of them is that he keeps me in the loop on cycling happenings with our neighbor to the north. 

Forum Research, Canada’s largest survey firm, conducted an automated telephone survey that found strong support for Mayor Rob Ford’s physically separated bike lanes on downtown streets. Out of 1,050 survey participants, 72 percent said that they want the bike lanes, the Toronto Star reports.

This month, Ford’s bike plan is to be unveiled, proposing separated lanes on Sherbourne, Wellesley, Harbord, Beverly, John and Richmond streets (see plan). The parallel routes running in all directions will help Toronto have a grid of options for their cyclists.

Cities across North America, including New York and Montreal, are building more separated bike lanes, the amenity non-cyclists say would allay their safety concerns about biking in the city.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cyclist Protests Bike Ticket with Funny Civil Disobedience

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Casey Neistat was ticketed for not riding in the bike lane in New York City and had to pay a $50 fine. It brings up an important issue about how cities need to keep bike lanes safe if they're to require cyclists to ride only within the narrow white lines. I think this cyclist makes a strong, and admittedly funny point when he illustrates why cyclists sometimes don't, or rather can't, ride in the bike lane. Somehow, running into the obstacles rather than just pointing them out makes the problem a lot more apparent. And the last scene of the video...well that just brings it all full circle.

There is some ambiguity about what exactly is legal when riding a bike. In a summary of New York City's bicycle laws, rules and regulations, the New York City Department of Transportation says that "Bicycle riders must use bike path/lane, if provided, except for access, safety, turns, etc." But it also says that there is "No parking, standing or stopping vehicles within or otherwise obstructing bike lanes."


Regardless whether or not the police officer was justified in giving Neistat his ticket, he certainly accomplished his goal of making a hilarious video about the perils of New York City's bike lanes.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

World's Largest Bike Demonstration



The event that was organized under the slogan 'Free rides for free bikes' coincided with the World Environment Day. This is the 35th time the event is organized in Berlin. This year, however, saw some 150,000 participants, making it the largest so far.

19 different bicycle routes -- in a star shaped pattern which covers an overall length of more than 1,000 kilometers -- led into the city center all the way to the Brandenburg Gate, where thousands gathered for a festival on World Environment Day. The aim of the event was to raise awareness to improve urban cycling conditions, as according to the Federal Statistics Office, the number of bike-related accidents has increased.

Julian Fischer, one of the participants and a member of the German Cycling Club said as there is an increase in people riding bikes “we need a better infrastructure for bicycles.”

“The interesting situation is, the more people go by bike, the more safe it becomes for going by bike,” Juergen Trittin, chairman of Greens-Fraction said.
Further, with the hike in fuel prices, and people concerned about climate change, the Star-Ride hopes bicycling can become a new trend.

Ray LaHood Bikes to Work


Ray LaHood Bikes to Work from Jay Mallin on Vimeo.

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Monday morning a friend of mine biked to work with a group of DOT commuters from the Washington Monument to DOT's headquarters building.  The route was safe and well-marked; they enjoyed some exercise; and they didn't burn a drop of gas--which saved money. That's what I call a successful commute.
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President Obama understands that high gas prices are pinching family budgets across America.  And it is good to see that DOT is committed to providing people with convenient, affordable, and healthy transportation options.

That can help ease the pain everyone feels at the pump these days.  It can lower the burden of tailpipe emissions on our environment.  And it can create economic opportunities.  We know that building bicycle, transit, and rail facilities creates jobs.  And we know that businesses will pop up where streets are friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians.
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Finally people can commute by bike in Washington, DC, because this city has worked hard to make it easier and safer for people to use their bicycles--not just for recreation, but for transportation.  Washington has become a bike-friendly city.

The League of American Bicyclists recently recognized the city's efforts with its Silver award.  In fact, there's an informal race on the East Coast to see which large city can be first to achieve the Gold award. When we have cities competing to be acknowledged for their livability, that tells me things are going in the right direction.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has played its part in DC's bike-volution. For example, they helped fund development of Capital Bikeshare, a program that makes more than 1,100 bikes available to its members throughout DC and Arlington. People can hop on a bike at one station and drop it at another. With 110 stations at transit stops, grocery stores, office buildings, and more, it's a very convenient way to get around.

In May 2010, DOT bicycle commuters were given a new benefit that allows reimbursement for qualified commuting costs similar to that provided to employees who commute by public transportation.
Around the nation, USDOT is working hard to help state DOTs and communities integrate the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians in road projects.  And through their TIGER program, they have funded major projects that allow Americans to safely and conveniently get where they need to go on a bike or on foot. This shows the country that DOT is out there continuing to lead in helping Americans use whatever methods of transportation they can to get where people need to go.  Plus, it was a lot of fun.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chicago Gets First Protected Cycle Track

There is good news for cyclists coming out of Chicago today. A half-mile stretch of Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street will be used to test out the city's first protected bike lanes.

42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly announced the pilot program in his newsletter Friday. The cycle track, places all motorized traffic to the left of the cyclist, with the lane protected either via a construction barrier (like these), a raised median or other divider; the Kinzie pilot program will use flexible posts.

The program is being funded by a $3.2 million federal grant awarded to the Chicago Department of Transportation, who were originally going to test the program on a stretch of South Stony Island Avenue where bicycle traffic is infrequent before switching to Kinzie.


Bicycle transportation advocate Steven Vance is cautiously optimistic about the location. Others think it's a bad idea to place the cycle track in an area they feel won't attract new cyclists and, given some of the inclines along the route, may lead to a logjam of cyclists at points.


By looking at it on Google Earth, I'd be more inclined to see it in an area that sees some serious bike traffic, like the intersection of Grand, Milwaukee and Halsted. Or maybe near the area of Wicker Park where the city will get its first designated Bike parking area. Regardless, it's a start and I am optimistic to see the results. It could be the beginning of making Chicago even more bike-friendly, coupled with legislation awaiting Gov. Quinn's signature that will allow bicyclists and motorcycles to make "slow stops" at red lights and stop signs.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hangzhou Cina's Bike-Share



File this one in the category: "Learning from China". Hangzhou's bike-sharing system is an inspiration for the rest of the world. The fundamentals aren't so different from what is being done elsewhere (like Vélib in Paris), but the ambition is on another scale. The Hangzhou Public Bicycles are well integrated into the other mass transit modes, the number of bikes and stations is growing very rapidly, and the bikes are essentially free on most trips.They currently provide 2,000+ Stations, 50,000+ Bicycles Now, and 175,000+ Expected by 2020. Check out the video above to see just how great the system is and how satisfied local residents are. Via Streetfilms.