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Posts from the Bicycling Category

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10 Tips for Cities Ready to Replace Car Parking With Safe Space for Biking

Former parking spaces in Boulevard de Maissonneuve, Montreal. Photo: JasonParis

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

A curbside parking spot is just 182 square feet of urban space. But for advocates of better American bike infrastructure, few obstacles loom larger.

Right now in San Diego, a long-brewing plan to add better pedestrian crossings and a continuous protected bike lane to the deadliest corridor in the city is fighting for its life in large part because some merchants on four commercial blocks don’t want to risk removing any auto parking.

Before and after plans for University Avenue in San Diego.

The merchants aren’t wrong that private parking spaces have commercial value to nearby properties. But bike lanes, street trees and better sidewalks would have commercial value too — and creating San Diego’s first comfortable crosstown bike network would also bring value to the entire city, not to mention lessen retailers’ dependence on car parking.

For cities everywhere, converting on-street parking spaces into anything else is one of the greatest challenges in urban planning.

Though it’s probably never been done without a fight, many cities have succeeded. Here are the best approaches we’ve seen from North America and beyond.

Read more…

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AASHTO Chief: Don’t Blame Street Design for Cyclist Deaths

This is a pretty revealing (read: depressing) exchange between a U.S. representative and the president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which represents state DOTs.

The transportation agencies that comprise AASHTO essentially dictate how streets are designed throughout the U.S. They are aware that pedestrian and cyclist deaths are not declining as fast as total traffic fatalities. But don’t worry, says AASHTO President Jon Cox, because there is absolutely no problem with the design of America’s streets.

Around 49 seconds in to this clip from a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on Tuesday, Representative Rick Larsen of Washington State questions Cox about the rising share of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities:

A few of us asked the [Government Accountability Office] to look at this trend. And one suggestion we’ve heard is that we’re over-engineering or overbuilding roads so the posted speed limit may not match the size of the road. As a result that contributes to a more unsafe road for bikers and pedestrians. Has AASHTO looked at this issue — the relationship between design standards and road safety for bikers and pedestrians?

Cox, who runs the state DOT in Wyoming — the least populated state in the union! — gave this response (emphasis added):

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The First National Survey of People ‘Interested But Concerned’ About Biking

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

For 10 years, urban policymakers have been talking more and more about the so-called “interested but concerned” — people who would like to bike more but who are, for some reason, held back.

Make biking attractive to those people, the thinking goes, and great things can happen to a city: street capacity rises, parking crunches ease, auto dependence declines, development costs fall, public health improves.

Since then, several local studies have explored the opinions of these people, usually within cities that were already fairly bike-friendly. But since the “interested but concerned” concept was popularized, there’s never been a study of these people at the national level.

Until now, that is.

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Engineering Establishment Sets Out to Purge Deviant Bikeway Designs

This is the masthead for the website of the bicycle committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Apparently this group's attitudes about bike infrastructure are not much more advanced then its website. Image: NCUTCDBTC.org

This is the current masthead for the website of the bicycle committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Image: NCUTCDBTC.org

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices might be the most influential group of American bike policy makers you’ve never heard of.

The committee shapes street design standards in the United States to a large extent. Their recommendations become part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a guide to street markings, signs, and signals that many professional engineers treat as gospel.

The NCUTCD consists mostly of older engineers from state DOTs. In recent years, its bikeway design orthodoxy has been challenged by a new wave of engineers looking to implement treatments that the American street design establishment has frowned upon, despite a proven track record improving the safety and comfort of bicycling. Most notably, the National Association of City Transportation Officials has released guidance on the design of protected bike lanes that the MUTCD lacks.

NACTO’s guidance is gaining adherents. Dozens of cities have implemented protected bike lanes in the past few years. The Federal Highway Administration endorsed the guide in 2013.

All this progress doesn’t seem to sit very well with some members of the old guard. In January, the NCUTCD passed a resolution [Word file] establishing a “task force” to investigate “interest groups that may not be part of the NCUTCD” that promote street designs which don’t conform to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The MUTCD is supposed to allow for flexibility and deviation from the standard when conditions warrant, which often applies to “bicycle facilities in complex urban environments,” said Joe Gilpin, an expert on bikeway design with Alta Planning. NACTO designs are, according to Gilpin, “for the most part… created from standards already provided within the MUTCD, even if it’s being put together in a different way.”

But the recent resolution is a not-so-veiled attempt to impede that flexibility.

Not every member of the NCUTCD wants to hinder change. Bill Schultheiss, a consultant with Toole Design Group and a long-time member of the committee, was alarmed by the resolution. He says the structure of the committee leads to unnecessary foot-dragging.

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National Bike Summit 2015: Talking “Bikes Plus”

From Streetfilms:

The theme of this year’s National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, is “Bikes+” or, as the League of American Bicyclists puts it, “how bikes can add value to other movements and how our movement can expand to serve broader interests.” We decided to have some fun with the theme and ask attendees what they would add to that equation and why.

The answers were quite eclectic and showcase just how broad the topic of bicycling can be. Bikes+ is getting us psyched for a great year of advocacy!

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12 Illuminating Facts About Race, Ethnicity, Income, and Bicycling

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

As hard as we try to avoid doing so, humans tend to base racial assumptions around our personal experiences.

This can sometimes lead us to odd conclusions. As Homer Simpson once put it: “White people have names like Lenny, whereas black people have names like Carl.”

This shows up everywhere in American life, including bicycling policy. One goal of the new report about race, ethnicity, class and protected bike lanes by PeopleForBikes and the Alliance for Biking and Walking was to help more people (including us) think more clearly about the actual differences between Americans of different backgrounds when it comes to biking. In addition to interviewing and profiling experts and advocates around the country, we gathered statistics and studies that helped us understand how these issues intersect with good street design. Here are 12 of the most interesting findings in the report.

1) Bicycling is growing faster among people of color

Last year, we showed how bicycling has continued to grow among young adults, but not nearly as fast as it’s been soaring among older adults. There’s a similar story when you look at our racial and ethnic backgrounds: Bicycling has become a more important travel activity for white Americans, but not nearly as fast as it has among Americans of color.

In part, this is because people of color were harder-hit by the Great Recession, which caused all racial groups to scale back expensive car trips as the number of inexpensive bike trips increased.

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“Race, Ethnicity & Protected Bike Lanes” Report Explores Equitable Streets

Austin, Texas.

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

Almost as soon as PeopleForBikes selected its first six Green Lane Project focus cities, we started hearing from their staffers that they wanted to better understand how the values of diversity and equity — of race, of ethnicity, of class — could improve their work to make bicycling mainstream.

The four of us on the Green Lane Project team share those values. But we’re not diversity or equity experts; we’re infrastructure experts.

So, to help city staffers and advocates across the country think about these issues, we’ve teamed up with the Alliance for Biking and Walking and spent the last eight months talking to people who live and breathe this work: people like Nedra Deadwyler, an Atlanta business owner working to make her street’s stoops and sidewalks places for social gathering, or Jocelyn Dicent, a teen activist working to reconnect New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula so she and her friends can get to school safely.

Today, we’re releasing what we’ve learned.

Building Equity: Race, Ethnicity, Class and Protected Bike Lanes is a 36-page “idea book for fairer cities,” and it has three main ingredients:

  • Profiles of 10 very different people of color from around the country who are, for diverse reasons, advocating for protected bike lanes in their communities.
  • Data-rich explorations of the role protected bike lanes have played in advancing equity in Colombia, Denmark and China.
  • A collection of statistics, new and old, about the intersections of race, ethnicity, income and bike infrastructure, including some from a major new statistically valid survey of U.S. biking habits.

We were guided in this project by a review committee of eight transportation equity experts from around the country who work in city government, transportation consulting, advocacy and academia. We were also inspired by, and aimed to keep building on, the groundbreaking work of our friends at the League of American Bicyclists.

We hope this report can be a tool to help people of every stripe advance their thinking about equity, diversity and their connection to urban infrastructure.

Read more…

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Survey: 100 Million Americans Bike Each Year, But Few Make It a Habit

Many Americans have bikes at their disposal and go for a spin at least once a year, though few bike regularly for transportation, according to a survey [PDF] conducted by Breakaway Research Group for People for Bikes, the industry-backed advocacy organization. While most Americans want to bike more, 54 percent said that fear of getting hit by a car or truck holds them back.

The findings are important because solid information about Americans’ bicycling habits is hard to come by. The Census tracks only bike commuting — and commute trips are a relatively small share of total trips. The more detailed National Household Transportation Survey is conducted infrequently and has its own set of limitations.

The results of the People for Bikes survey echo Census data in some ways and reveal similar attitudes as local surveys (Portland famously found that 60 percent of residents are “interested but concerned” about biking in traffic), but the data is unusually broad and deep, and it includes some surprises.

The responses come from an online survey of 16,000 American adults, which was then weighted to correspond to national demographics. The respondents also answered questions about the biking habits of 9,000 children ages 3 to 18 who live in the same households. The survey controlled for positive response bias by eliminating participants who said they have visited a fictional website.

Here are the big findings.

About 100 million Americans bike each year, but only about 14 million bike at least twice a week

The study found that about 34 percent of Americans over the age of three rode a bike at least once in the last year. For adults over 18, the share was a slightly smaller 29 percent. But of everyone who bikes, less than half ride more than twice a month, and just 14 percent bike at least twice a week.

Slightly more than half the people who bike made only recreational trips. About 15 percent of Americans — or 45 million people — made at least one bicycle trip for transportation in the last year.

The biggest obstacles to riding 

There’s a good deal of interest in biking among Americans, even from people who haven’t logged a trip in the past year. Of everyone surveyed, 53 percent said they would like to ride more often.

Read more…

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Safety in Numbers: Biking Is Safest in Nations With the Most People on Bikes

The more people bike in a country generally the safer it is for cycling. This phenomenon is called "safety in numbers." Graph: International Transport Forum via Amsterdamize

Countries with high cycling rates also have low rates of fatalities per distance biked. Graph: International Transport Forum [PDF] via Amsterdamize

The more people get around by bike, the safer it is, according to the “safety in numbers” rule first popularized by researcher Peter Jacobsen.

This chart from the International Transport Forum [PDF] shows how the safety in numbers effect plays out at the national scale. As you can see, biking is safer in the countries where people bike the most.

There was, however, some variation country to country. The report noted that Korea’s cycling fatality rates were greater than what its biking rates would suggest. Researchers speculated that might be due to a rapid recent growth in cycling. Perhaps, they write, “neither cyclists nor other transport participants have had time to assimilate each other’s presence.”

Meanwhile, in some nations with high cycling rates, biking has become even safer over time. That was the case in Denmark, where cycling rates have been high but fairly stable for the last decade, but fatality rates have dropped 40 percent during the same period.

The safety in numbers effect has been observed at the scale of cities too. Recently, for example, bicycle injury rates in Minneapolis have declined as total ridership has risen. The same trend has played out in New York, as cycling has increased while total injuries and fatalities have not.

Do more people on bikes cause cycling to become safer, or does safer infrastructure attract more people to bike? There’s no conclusive evidence either way, but the answer is probably a mix of both. Safer infrastructure entices more people to ride, and more people riding instill greater awareness on the part of motorists and increase the demand for safer infrastructure.

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Utah Restaurants: If You’re Not Driving, Spend Your Money Somewhere Else

Restaurants in Salt Lake City are winning their battle to keep people without cars from ordering at drive-thru windows.

Salt Lake City restaurants banded together to prevent customers without cars from purchasing products through drive-thru windows. Photo: WIkipedia

Salt Lake City restaurants banded together to prevent customers without cars from purchasing products through drive-thru windows. Photo: Wikipedia

Lawmakers in Salt Lake City had passed a law mandating access to drive-thru windows for people walking and biking. Drive-thrus often stay open later than the indoor restaurant, and serve customers faster.

The law was met with a major lobbying effort by the Utah Restaurants Association, which apparently feared it would leave them open to lawsuits, according to the trade publication Associations Now.

“We cannot mix bikes and pedestrians with vehicles in our service lanes,” URA CEO Melva Sine told the National Restaurant Association in August. “What if someone slips or gets run over? The city doesn’t get sued, the restaurant gets sued. Restaurant owners need the flexibility to manage their own risk, just like the city manages its own risk.”

State legislation overruling the city law was introduced by Rep. Johnny Anderson, a Republican representing Taylorsville, a Salt Lake City suburb. The bill has cleared the legislature but the governor could still choose to veto it, according to Associations Now.

It says something about the system we’ve designed when it’s perceived to be so dangerous that business associations lobby to prevent people from buying their stuff.