Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oregon College Pays Students to Ride Bikes

Portland Cyclist on the Burnside Bridge photo

As a blogger about biking, I'm always mentally searching for what gets people to ride. Is it fashion, cool bikes, or tons of infrastructure? For me, the secret was huge savings in gas and vehicle costs, extra physical activity, and the simple realization that no matter the weather (and Florida's weather can get pretty warm) I feel better biking.

However, in Portland, one organization realized that money may speak louder than any words that a blogger can raise. Bike Portland reports on Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) going one better - giving students (and faculty) up to 50 dollars a month for riding their bikes.

Of course, the Bicycle Commuter Act lets employers provide a $20 monthly incentive to employee cyclists. OHSU's web-based system for logging rides to and from the university is for students, too, however, and thus is not quite the same. Anyone already with a parking pass program will get refunded one month's parking for 30 bike trips. Those with subsidized transit passes get a free month's pass for thirty trips, while those with neither of the above will get $50 dollars each month they log those thirty trips.

The program does have some caveats - the participant must be a OHSU "badge holder" and log trips of more than two miles. The school has more than doubled the payments to cycling commuters since 2008, and will pay out nearly $200,000 by mid-year this year.

How can the school justify that kind of money to bicyclists? Cycling commuters create less strain on parking resources - at some lots on the campus there can be a months' long wait for a car parking pass. OHSU's parking problem is not just a headache, however - the school must find ways to curb its appetite for parking spaces or face limits to future expansion. That's its internal incentive to having the program.

Always rising health care costs are another justification. More than 1,200 people - that's more than 10% of the OHSU population - are enrolled in the program. In spite of the success, OHSU isn't projecting that ridership will climb much beyond 10% at this time. Higher gas prices could change that.

The program does raise a question. If OHSU needed an incentive to create a program that pays a small but welcome cash incentive to cyclists, how do we create or recreate that carrot or stick at other companies and entities so that they will do something similar?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Moving Beyond the Automobile-Parking Reform



In the tenth and final video in Streetfilms' Moving Beyond the Automobile series, they are talking about parking reform. From doing away with mandatory parking minimums, to charging the right price for curbside parking, to converting on-street parking spots into parklets and bike corrals, cities are latching onto exciting new ideas to make more room for people in our cities and repurpose the valuable public space that lines our streets.
"Historically the parking problem was defined as there not being enough convenient places to put your car," UPenn professor Rachel Weinberger told Streetfilms, "but increasingly cities are starting to understand that the parking problem could be defined differently and it could be the case that there is too much parking."

Moving Beyond the Automobile-Correct Price of Parking


Yet another great installment in the "Moving Beyond the Automobile" series from our friends at Streetfilms. This episode explores the problems caused by under-priced parking spots in cities; how some of the most valuable land in the world is almost given away, meaning that free spots are hard to find and a large fraction of the traffic is cars cruising around, looking for a spot, polluting the air and emitting CO2... But there are ways to fix that, as the video above shows. Via Streetfilms.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Protected Bike Lanes are on the Way

I have been in Portland Oregon this week and it is an amazing place to say the least. The state of Oregon implemented policies that mandate and street that recieves improvements, to have to include multi-modal facilities, typically bicycle lanes. They are everywhere here, and have started to take on new designs as they adapt to their context and are influenced by higher ridership.

One of the new kids on the block have a euro feel and several names: Cycle Tracks, Protected Bike Lanes, Bike Paths. Bottom line is, most people won’t start riding until you take cars out of the equation. Why? Because even well-intentioned people do stupid or careless things, and when people do stupid or careless things while in a car, they could hurt or kill others. Even a cyclist’s own mistake can put them at much greater risk when riding alongside traffic.

So we have the classic chicken and the egg problem – you have to build great facilities first, then the people will ride. Current bike lane designs are ripe for abuse. There’s no way that police departments anywhere in cities will ever be able to effectively police bike lane misuse. In some cases, police themselves use them as parking lanes. Needless to mention, bike lanes also fail at protecting the cyclist. Visual proof follows.




Simple solution to avoiding all of the above:

Completely take cyclists out of harm’s way.

Dennis Hindman hits it right on the head with his comments on the “BPIT Top 10” LADOT Bike Blog article. It makes the case for the need of a “perceived barrier” that physically separates and protects cyclists from car traffic.  As a buffer, use planters, landscaping, bollards, or a row of parked cars.  You know, “experimental” stuff that most people would consider a no brainer. Vancouver gets it, Montreal gets it. 

Below are some of the American examples that have popped up and are already wrorking at increasing ridership and safety.

The "controversial" Prospect Park West bike lane, NYC



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Moving Beyond the Automobile-Road Diets


What’s a road diet? Quite simply, traffic-calming expert Dan Burden responds , “A road diet is anytime you take any lane out of a road.”

The first time people hear about a road diet, their initial reaction likely goes something like this: “How can removing lanes improve my neighborhood and not cause traffic backups?” It seems counter-intuitive, but taking away lanes can actually help traffic flow smoother while improving safety for everyone.

Road diets are good for pedestrians: They reduce speeding and make vehicle movements more predictable while shortening crossing distances, usually through curb extensions or center median islands. They’re good for cyclists: Many road diets shift space from car lanes to create bike lanes. They’re good for drivers: Less speeding improves safety for motorists and passengers, and providing left-turn pockets allows through traffic to proceed without shifting lanes or waiting behind turning vehicles.

And here’s something to keep in mind during this era of lean budgets: Road diets are a highly-effective infrastructure improvement that can be implemented quickly and at low cost.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Design for Bike Racks on the Sides of Buildings

Bike parking in most big cities is a tough battle for available, usable space. There's never enough of it for the simple reason that parking (especially the good kind, like sheds) hogs precious real estate that dense regions either don't have or can't afford to cede. One architect's solution: Stash bikes in something cities have in abundance -- the air.
Bike Hanger is a proposal by New York-based Manifesto Architecture to hang bikes clear off the side of buildings. A ferris wheel-esque frame latches onto to under-used facades -- the back of apartment towers, underpasses, etc. -- and works like a human-powered conveyor belt. Pedaling on a stationary bike nearby powers the wheel, forcing it to rotate. Cyclists then hoist their bike up on a T-shaped rack. When they're ready to take it down, they (or a bike-rack assistant, it's not clear who'd do the work here) would cycle away on the stationary to return their bike to the ground. In short, it's the two-wheel equivalent of stack parking, only greener; the architects say it wouldn't require any extra mechanical juice.
Manifesto Architecture came up with the concept explicitly for Seoul (a city that's almost twice as dense as New York!) though clearly, it'd work in any big metropolitan area where bike parking is in short supply.
Mind you, there are details to hammer out. For one, Bike Hanger would need some killer locking mechanisms, otherwise it's a just a thefts' paradise. Secondly, the wheel holds only 20 to 36 bikes. As a comparison: Many of the bike lockers in the San Francisco Bay Area can hold 100 sets of wheels or more.
So it's a lot of work for not a lot of storage. But when you think about all the weird, interstitial areas of a city, it starts to make sense. If the big push is to put more bikes on the street, then it's only logical to work with the character of the city you've got.

More images and info at ArchDaily.com

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Greatest Encourager of Cycling-Peak Oil

Most of the time I write about bike facilities, cycling education, safety programs, and interesting things that are happening with bikes in cities across our country and the world. I just read a great interview in Spacing with economist Jeff Rubin, and forgot that I hardly ever discuss what really drives increased ridership - costs related to driving motor vehicles.

In the article Jeff Rubin talks about peak oil, energy prices, urban planning and city building, and cycling. In particular, why so many people cycle in Copenhagen. If you follow my blog, or read many cycling blogs that talk about Copenhagen, you would think that the infrastructure that is there is what makes people want to bike. Actually the automobile policies there, are what drives people to bike, and the infrastructure is a necessity to hold the capacity of the numerous cyclists.
In Copenhagen, every major street has bike lanes. But why do people in Copenhagen ride bikes? I originally thought it was because they are physically active or environmentally conscious people. I then inquired about how much it costs to buy a car. It turns out that in Denmark you pay a surcharge which, depending on horsepower, can be anywhere from 50% to 150% of a car's sticker price.
It shows that government-levied taxes on car ownership and higher oil/gasoline prices can be huge factors in getting people on bikes. In Copenhagen, you can pay upwards of three times the amount for a car as in North America. If you want to see more bikes on American roads then wait until oil prices make it that much more expensive to own a car.

Rubin talks about peak oil and how it doesn't have anything to do with us running out of oil, but rather it becoming too expensive for us to feasibly use it for fuel.
For me, it doesn’t mean the world is running out of oil in some absolute geological sense. For example, there's over 170 billion barrels of the stuff in the Alberta Tar Sands. The real question is can we afford to burn it? We’ve exhausted our supply of easy-access, conventional oil and now we’re turning to unconventional sources in shale, tar sands, and deep water. It’s unconventional sources of oil and the prices required to facilitate extraction that are problematic for us. Therefore, to me, “Peak Oil” means the cost of extracting oil is gradually becoming greater than what our economies can tolerate. It’s going to take $150-200 per barrel oil prices to turn the Oil Sands into a 4-5 million barrel per day producer that would meet our needs. Those are simultaneously the kinds prices that when translated into pump prices take millions of people off the road.
As a bicycle commuter, I have seen the financial benefits of not driving a car and using a bike and public transit for transportation. I believe people respond in rational ways to prices and when they feel the financial benefits from going by bike, they won't want to stop. Triple-digit oil prices will show us how to respond and hopefully our politicians get it. The fact is that, in the future, more people will be taking public transit and less people will be driving. That change won’t be a result of any alleged “War on the Car.” The biggest war on the car is coming from $4/gallon fuel.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Great Bike Maintenance Site!

how to fix bike videos

Alex Ramon is a proud bike geek who used to work in a bike shop. He doesn't anymore, but he has decided to share his knowledge of how to do various kinds of things with bikes (maintenance, repairs, modifications, etc) on BicycleTutor. There are currently 48 video tutorials on the site, and chances are there's a video in the archive that answers some of your bike questions.
how to fix bike videos

From the About page: "The purpose of this site is to help people learn how to fix their own bikes. While I don't work in a shop anymore, I still have all of my tools and some parts so I might as well share what I know (and learn from you). I'm on the lookout for different kinds of bikes so I can cover as many different jobs as possible. I'm keeping a tidy list of all your requests and I imagine we'll have 1-200 videos on this site over the next two years."
If you know other good sites with bike how-to/tutorials, please let us know in the comments below. Thanks!

You can also 'like' BicycleTutor on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moving Beyond the Automobile: Traffic Calming



What’s the most effective way to make city streets safer? As Chicago Alderman Mary Ann Smith told Streetfilms, “Signs don’t do the job, even having police officers on the corner does not do the job.” To prevent traffic injuries and deaths, you need to change how the street functions and make it feel slower for drivers. You need traffic calming.

Traffic calming takes many forms and can describe any measure taken to reduce traffic speeds, improve safety, and make using the street a better overall experience. The most effective traffic calming measures are those that influence drivers to “behave in a civilized manner,” as Smith put it.

Changes like curb extensions, neck-downs, and bike lanes are all traffic calmers that save lives by sending the signal for drivers to slow down. This Streetfilm highlights some exemplary traffic calming projects from cities across the country.

Beauty and the Bike Project

Beauty and the Bike is a project established by Darlington Media Group in 2008, to explore more deeply the reasons why girls stop cycling in the UK. They began with a small group of teenagers and young women in the northern English town of Darlington, most of whom did not cycle on a regular basis. They told them why - cycling is not cool, friends don’t cycle, it isn’t safe, and not very pleasant. The lack of cool had a lot to do with the image of the lycra and helmet clad nerd, so dear to the risk assessment world of official UK cycling promotion.

The Darlington Media Group then put them in touch with a similar group of girls in Bremen, Germany, where most young women cycle, another image presented itself - relaxed cycling on dutch bikes, dressed in whatever you want. So they decided to raise funds to buy some dutch bikes, the sort that were, and still are, unavailable in local bike shops. The girls were wowed by the style and ease, and together began to establish what for Darlington was a cycling avant garde.

Then a number of them visited Bremen. For the first time in their lives, they found an urban environment designed with cycling in mind. Cycle routes were direct, traffic free, quick and pleasant. Car drivers were considerate and drove at appropriately low speeds in shared streets, and gave way to cyclists on cycle paths.

Back in Darlington, when the girls from Bremen  came to visit, they were shocked at the lack of quality infrastructure, how much road space was allocated to motorised traffic, and how aggressively motorists used “their” space.

Throughout the project, Darlington Media Group followed the girls from Darlington and  Bremen, filming and photographing their experiences. The result is a book and DVD that can now be bought online from this website. Buy them and use them to help campaign for a more cycling-friendly urban environment. Check out the trailer below to see a good taste of the DVD and gets the point across.

Why do girls stop cycling? It’s the infrastructure, stupid!

League of American Bicyclists-Bicycle Friendly Universities

Avid cyclists, take note -- the country's dreamiest school, Stanford, is also the most bike-friendly, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

This year, the league released their first-ever list of universities most friendly to cyclists, determined according to performance in five areas: Engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning.

Of the 32 schools that applied for consideration, 20 earned designations. Only Stanford received the top-level platinum rating. UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara earned gold-level ratings, and the remaining schools received silver or bronze classifications.

According to a press release, Stanford earned top marks thanks to its large number of bike-related programs and resources -- like route maps, safety classes and safety repair stands -- and because a whopping 21.7 percent of Stanford students, faculty and staff commute via bicycle.

Check out the full list below.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Momentum's Top 10 North America Bicycle Destinations

Minneapolis, MN
Momentum Magazine just released it's annual top 10 cycling destinations and like many of these type of polls, Florida still comes up empty handed. How can one of the best states with a comfortable climate, not be great for cycling? Oh yeah, I forgot that our state has put driving automobiles ahead of all other forms of transportation. Hopefully as the cycling culture in the US improves, Florida will become more progressive with their infrastructure and their thinking about bikes.

Travelling to any city on a bike makes it a great place to be, but some cities prove better than others. The urban centers below were judged using the following criteria: the percentage of commuters; the presence of online bike resources and advocacy groups; the level of support for cycling at the municipal level, and the quality of their public bike share system, if applicable. The prevalence of bicycle-friendly businesses, including hotels with loaner bike services; a high number of group rides and events; and the amount of things to see and do by bike were also factors in determining the top 10.

Portland, OR
Portland has the highest percentage of commuters and kids that ride to school. A 12-mile trail connects the airport to the city. Cyclists can get discounts from businesses, loaner bikes from local hotels and information about everything bicycle-related from BikePortland.org.

San Francisco, CA
Critical Mass started here in the early 1990s and so did (Park)ing Day in 2005 – a project that transforms one metered parking space into a temporary park for a day. Since 2006, the number of commuters has increased by 58 percent, and as of 2008, there were 200 miles (322 kms) of bike networks in the 49-square-mile (127-square-km) city.

Minneapolis, MN
Take the 11-mile (18-km) trail around the lakes and then jump in on a hot day! If you’re new to the city or just there for a visit, join the inclusive cycling community on MplsBikeLove.com.

Montreal, QC
Montreal’s BIXI bike share system revolutionized the bicycle sharing experience in North America in the spring of 2009. The Montreal Bike Fest is in its 26th year and includes a ride that takes you through 30 miles (48 kms) of car-free streets.

Boulder, CO
There are over 300 miles (483 kilometers) of bike trails in this town of 100,000 people, you can get anywhere on a bike. On Thursdays, cyclists get together and cruise around the city sometimes in costume, shouting “Happy Thursday!” to passersby.

Seattle, WA
Find a plethora of coffee shops to park at and explore Seattle-based bike websites to find things to do on two wheels. Stop by this year in June for the second Spoke & Food event, billed as an evening of dining and bikes.

Chicago, IL
Bike-centered events include an overnight ride through Chicago’s neighborhoods. Bike the Drive in May has drawn close to 20,000 cyclists. The McDonald’s Cycle Center is a bike station that offers repair, rentals, showers, lockers and parking for 300 bicycles.

Vancouver, BC
Vancouver’s seawall is the perfect place to take a leisurely cruise along beaches. Two weeks in June are devoted to Velopalooza, a yearly cycling event featuring group rides, food and movies.

Davis, CA
In 2005, Davis received the first platinum-level-city designation in the US by the League of American Bicyclists. Last year, Davis residents set a world record for the longest single line of bicycles during the World’s Greatest Bicycle Parade – over 1,000 bicycles in a row!

Austin, TX
Pedal from street food vendor to vendor, tasting the local delicacies. Join one of the group rides taking place every day of the week and visit Lance Armstrong’s very own Mellow Johnny’s bike shop.

Notable Mentions:
Madison, WI
New York City, NY
Berkeley, CA
Washington, DC
Ottawa, ON
Emerging Cities:
Boston, MA
Mexico City, Mexico
Winnipeg, MB
Philadelphia, PA