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Posts from the Bicycling Category


How Much Can Bicycling Help Fight Climate Change? A Lot, If Cities Try

A new study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy attempts to measure the potential of bikes and e-bikes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Buenos Aires has been ambitiously building out a network of well designed, separated bike infrastructure. If this kind of commitment were employed worldwide, the environmental and financial repercussions would be enormous. Photo: ITDP

Buenos Aires has been building out a network of protected bike infrastructure. If this kind of commitment were employed in cities worldwide, the climate benefits would be huge. Photo: ITDP

ITDP’s conclusion, in short: Bicycling could help cut carbon emissions from urban transportation 11 percent.

The authors calculated the carbon emissions reduction that could result if cities around the world make a strong, sustained commitment to promoting bicycle travel.

In a scenario where 14 percent of travel in the world’s cities is by bike or e-bike in 2050, carbon emissions from urban transportation would be 11 percent lower than a scenario where efforts to promote sustainable transportation sidestep bicycling.

The ITDP scenario calls for 11 percent of urban mileage by bike by 2030 before hitting 14 percent in 2050. For many big American cities where bicycling accounts for a small share of total travel, that may sound like a high bar — and that was part of the point. The ITDP targets will require a significant public policy commitment. But the goals are achievable and aren’t as daunting as they might seem, the authors say.

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More Evidence That Helmet Laws Don’t Work

There was a correlation between living in an area with high cycling rates and low levels of hospitalization. Graph: University of British Columbia

Living in an area with high cycling rates is linked to lower levels of hospitalization for bicyclists. There is no similar link for helmet laws. Graph: University of British Columbia

If you want to increase cycling safety in your city, drop the helmet law and focus on getting more people– particularly women — on bikes, with street designs that offer separation from vehicle traffic.

That’s the finding of a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia [PDF] evaluating safety outcomes for cyclists across Canadian provinces and territories.

Lead author Kay Teschke and a team of researchers looked at cyclist injuries requiring hospitalization in 10 Canadian provinces and three territories between 2006 and 2012. They checked to see if hospitalization rates were linked in any way to helmet laws and cycling rates, and they checked for variations in hospitalization rates by sex and age.

Helmet laws were found to have no relationship to hospitalization rates. That was true even though self-reported helmet use is higher in areas of Canada that mandate it (67 percent) than in areas that don’t (39 percent).

But having a higher rate of cycling in one’s community does seem to have an impact on safety. Using Canadian government data on cycling activity, researchers found that men and woman were both less likely to be injured while biking in communities where more people bike.

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Funds for Walking and Biking Under Attack in Congress This Week

Funds for walking and biking infrastructure account for a tiny portion of federal transportation spending. Safer streets don’t cost much, though, so for the cities and towns that count on these programs, a few dollars from the feds can be a huge help. Despite the relatively small sums at play, walking and biking programs are a constant target for a certain breed of hardline conservative in Congress. This year is no different.

Three proposed amendments to the House transportation bill take aim at programs that fund walking and biking infrastructure.

Georgia Republican Buddy Carter is leading a charge to eliminate the small pool of federal money that helps protect and support cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Buddy Carter

Georgia Republican Buddy Carter is leading a charge to eliminate the small pool of federal money that supports walking and biking. Photo: Buddy Carter

Tomorrow these amendments will be considered in the Rules Committee, which will decide which get a vote by the full House of Representatives during a markup session Wednesday and Thursday, says Caron Whitaker, vice president of government relations for the League of American Bicyclists. People for Bikes, the League of American Bicyclists, and the Rails to Trails Conservancy are all urging supporters to contact their representatives and tell them to oppose these amendments.

Here’s a summary of what’s proposed:

Amendment 68 — Buddy Carter (R-Georgia)

What’s at stake: The flexibility to spend any funds from the Surface Transportation Program on walking or biking infrastructure.

What it would do: Amendment 68 would forbid funds from the $10 billion Surface Transportation Program from being spent on walking and biking projects. This program accounts for about one fifth of annual federal transportation spending, with a small fraction of that going toward biking and walking projects. In 2014, about $128 million from this program was allocated to walking and biking projects, according to FHWA.

Why it’s a bad idea: States and localities have been choosing to invest more STP money in biking and walking — especially since MAP 21, the current transportation law, reduced the dedicated pool of funding for those activities. That $128 million spent in 2014 represented an 83 percent increase over STP funding for biking and walking in 2009.

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A PSA About Biking to Work That Needs No Translation

Give it up for the Directorate General of Traffic, a.k.a. Spain’s DOT. The agency produced this PSA about biking to work, which gets the message across pretty clearly, no subtitles required.

The DGT doesn’t mess around with its messaging. Check out these two powerful spots from a safe driving campaign the agency released earlier this year.

Hat tip: Aaron Naparstek


Salt Lake City Cuts Car Parking, Adds Bike Lanes, Sees Retail Boost

The new 300 South, a.k.a. Broadway. Photos: Salt Lake City.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Protected bike lanes require space on the street, and removing curbside auto parking is one of several ways to find it. But whenever cities propose parking removal, retailers understandably worry.

A growing body of evidence suggests that if bike lanes and parking removal contribute to a street with calmer traffic and a better pedestrian environment, everybody can win.

In an in-house study of its new protected bike lane, Salt Lake City found that when parking removal was done as part of a wide-ranging investment in the streetscape — including street planters, better crosswalks, public art, and colored pavement — converting parking spaces to high-quality bike lanes coincided with a jump in retail sales.

On 300 South, a street that’s also known as Broadway, SLC converted six blocks of diagonal parking to parallel parking and also shifted parallel parking away from the curb on three blocks to create nine blocks of protected bike lanes on its historic downtown business corridor.

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Massachusetts’ Bikeway Design Guide Will Be Nation’s Most Advanced Yet

Images from MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Bikeway design in this country keeps rocketing forward. The design guide that Massachusetts is planning to unveil in November shows it.

The new guide, ordered up by MassDOT and prepared by Toole Design Group, will offer the most detailed engineering-level guidance yet published in the United States for how to build safe, comfortable protected bike lanes and intersections.

“It’ll be a good resource for all 50 states,” said Bill Schultheiss, a Toole staffer who worked on the project. “I think it’ll put some pressure on other states to step up.”

There are lots of details to get excited about in the new design guide, which is scheduled for release at MassDOT’s Moving Together conference on November 4. But maybe the most important is a set of detailed recommendations for protected intersections, the fast-spreading design, based on Dutch streets, that can improve intersection safety for protected and unprotected bike lanes alike.

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Protected Bike Lanes Even More Useful in Snowy Cities Than in Warm Ones

7th Street, Calgary, Alberta. Photo: City of Calgary Bicycle Program

pfb logo 100x22Annie van Cleve is a guest writer for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Here’s the best argument not enough people are making for protected bike lanes: Winter.

Hear me out. If you have ridden your bike through snow or ice, you know your speed goes down as you negotiate crusty and uneven roads, often in the dark. In these conditions, not every driver takes care when passing or understands when they are stuck behind a bicyclist on a snow-narrowed street. On streets with lots of high-speed motorized vehicles, it can be especially dangerous to mix cars with vulnerable road users like bicyclists. Protected bike lanes and off-street trails and paths are needed to make bicycling safe enough to be an accessible mode of transportation for people of all ages and abilities in all seasons.

Unfortunately, this picture of winter bicycling appears grim to some people and winter has too often been used as an argument against investing in bicycle infrastructure and proper maintenance in Northern cities. Why invest in infrastructure that will go unused for half the year? Who wants to risk life and limb to pedal a bicycle through the dark and frozen winter landscape? No one, it is assumed.

Those of us organizing the Winter Cycling Congress 2016 — to be held 2-4 February in Minneapolis-Saint Paul — disagree. That’s not just because we’ve observed more and more bicyclists on the streets of the Twin Cities — the coldest large metropolitan area in the United States — over the past couple of years. Even with less than ideal on-street conditions, 20 percent of bicyclists keep riding all winter in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

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House Dems: We Won’t Support a Transpo Bill That Cuts Bike/Ped Funding

House Democrats won’t stand for any cuts to federal funding for walking and biking infrastructure. That was the gist of a letter signed by every Democratic member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week.

Rick Larsen, a congressman representing parts of Washington State, rallied Democrats to support funding for biking, walking and transit. Photo: Rick Larsen

Rick Larsen, a congressman representing parts of Washington state, rallied Democrats to support funding for biking, walking, and transit. Photo: Rick Larsen

Groups aligned with the Koch brothers and their organization Americans for Prosperity have pushed to eliminate all federal funds for walking, biking, and transit. While Democrats are in the minority in the House, by coordinating as a bloc around this issue, they’re making it harder for the extreme elements in the Republican Party to roll back active transportation funding.

The letter, initiated by Washington representative Rick Larsen, states that Democratic committee members won’t support any bill that undermines the “Transportation Alternatives” program — the small pot of money dedicated to walking and biking.

“For the House transportation bill to be bipartisan, it must not cut funding for TAP or make policy changes that undermine the local availability of these dollars,” reads the letter, addressed to the committee’s two ranking Democratic members, Peter DeFazio (OR) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC):

Communities of all shapes and sizes — rural, urban and suburban — are clamoring for TAP dollars to give their residents lower-cost transportation options that reduce road congestion, improve safety for children and families, and boost quality of life. These types of projects are also essential to helping cities and counties increase property values, grow retail sales and attract tourism. While MAP-21 gave states the option of transferring up to half of TAP funds to other transportation priorities, just 10 percent of TAP funds have been transferred — clearly showing the demand for these funds across the country. This is a good program and it deserves to continue.

Congress has yet to make much progress on a long-term transportation bill to replace the previous bill, MAP-21, which expired last year. During the last transportation bill reauthorization process, biking and walking programs took a big hit. In an email to Streetsblog, Larsen said, “I do not want to see that happen again.”

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You Won’t Soon Forget These Photos of Ghost Bikes. That’s Exactly the Point.

All images from ##'t Forget Me## by Genea Barnes.

All images from Don’t Forget Me by Genea Barnes.

You’ve seen them, locked to signposts on the side of the road. Maybe you’ve helped install one. Maybe you’ve cried at the sight of them.

Ghost bikes memorialize people who have been killed while riding bikes. The bikes don’t usually stay up for more than a few weeks or months before the city removes them or they get stolen. Artist Genea Barnes has found a way to keep the memory alive a little longer.

Her photo book, “Don’t Forget Me,” is a sad and beautiful commemoration of those who have lost their lives to traffic violence. Barnes went on a road trip around the United States to find and photograph ghost bikes before they disappeared.


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Binge Watch This Video Series Profiling Unsung Bike Heroes

From the creative minds of bike activist and filmmaker Joe Biel and feminist bike ‘zine writer Elly Blue comes a new project that I bet you’re going to love.

Groundswell is a series of videos that spotlight grassroots bicycle activists who don’t normally get much glory. Eight videos have been completed — the one above is the first and only to be posted online so far — with four more in production, and the duo has dreams of doing several dozen more. Biel and Blue have been showing the videos to audiences on their Dinner & Bikes tour, but they haven’t published any until now.

“The idea behind Groundswell was to recontextualize bicycling as a social movement and also to look at all the different people that have been excluded from that,” said Biel. “It is often people at a ground level that are the ones that create social change around bicycling movements.”

In the first published video, above, Groundswell introduces its themes by looking at the formation and disintegration of the League of American Bicyclists’ equity initiative.

“It seemed like a good centering point to begin with, because we’ve heard that same story so many times,” Biel said. “Admittedly, by their own words, the League is trying to catch up with where the national conversation about race, class, ability, and gender is already at.”

While Biel and Blue prepare to roll out the next batch of Groundswell videos, they put together some short clips to give Streetsblog readers a preview of what they’re doing. First up: Meet Portland’s Dave Griffiths, whose disability led him to depend on his hand-cycle like others depend on a wheelchair.

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