Skip to content

Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

8 Comments

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…

3 Comments

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.

8 Comments

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.

7 Comments

Boston Cyclists Excavate Massive Snow Tunnel To Restore Bike Path

This 40-foot snow tunnel, built by Boston cyclists, made a biking and walking path useful again. Image: Dragonbeard on Youtube

This 40-foot snow tunnel made an important biking and walking path useful again. Image: Dragonbeard on Youtube

For every pedestrian and cyclist who’s had your journey interrupted by an impassable mound of snow, we bring you this story from Boston. Earlier this month, Beantown resident Ari Goldberger found his journey to the Wellington Station T stop impeded by a ”15-foot mountain of snow.”

He registered his complaint to the powers that be, but he got the run-around.

“Rather than waiting on hold for a million years calling the MBTA, I posted the picture online and said, ‘If nothing is done about this, it’s going to take months to melt,’” he told BDC Wire.

So Goldberger and his friends took matters into their own hands, and after a long, beer-fueled digging session, tunneled their way through. Now people can use this route to bike or walk again, and the excavators are heroes. He’s a look at what it’s like to ride through it. Pretty awesome.

Update 2/23/15 1:27 p.m.: The tunnel was destroyed by an unknown entity late Saturday, according to Mashable. So this story has a sad ending after all. 

2 Comments

A Protected Bike Lane Network Springs Fully Formed from Advocates’ Brains

The City of Halifax didn’t have a plan for a connected protected bike lane network, so advocates made one themselves. All images: Halifax Cycling Coalition

pfb logo 100x22

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 supporters of cycling both inside and outside government, the playbook has become familiar.

Lobby city planners to make a bike network plan. Get it funded. Make it as forward-thinking and ambitious as possible. Once you’ve drawn a bunch of lines on the city’s official map, select the most important projects and start to fight political battles street by street, compromising every step of the way with those who argue that biking facilities don’t need to be that common or that comfortable or that direct — forcing elected officials to weigh the needs for this parking lane or that turn lane one block at a time.

It’s a time-tested strategy, and it can certainly get results. But this winter in Halifax, a handful of volunteer biking advocates decided to try turning the process upside down.

Working on their own time over two long evenings with a clipboard and a survey wheel, Ben Wedge and Matthew Eronoa mapped an entire 23-mile protected bike lane network themselves from the street up.

Read more…

32 Comments

What They’re Doing for Bike Safety in Wyoming: Mandatory Orange Vests

It could become illegal to bike in Wyoming without this accessory. Photo: Team Estrogen

It could become illegal to bike in Wyoming without this accessory. Photo: Team Estrogen

A bill introduced in the Wyoming statehouse would require cyclists to wear “two hundred square-inches of reflective neon” and carry a government-issued ID. The legislation would also require cyclists to have a rear light, even though another law already requires that, according to Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Brian Schilling, coordinator of Jackson Hole Community Pathways, told the paper he thought the measure was “a little onerous.” He said his 5-year-old daughter could technically comply with the ID requirement because she has a passport. But, he added, “I don’t think her entire surface area is 200 inches.”

The law would require at least 200 square inches of “of high-visibility fluorescent orange, green or pink color clothing visible from the front and rear of the bicycle,” whether the cyclist is riding during the day or night. According to the News and Guide, it has six sponsors: House Reps. David Northrup, Donald Burkhart, Hans Hunt, Allen Jaggi, Jerry Paxton, and Cheri Steinmetz, although none would comment for the newspaper.

Walkable City author Jeff Speck called it the “We are America’s biggest dorks and will never get it” cycling bill.

3 Comments

Anthony Foxx Challenges Mayors to Protect Pedestrians and Cyclists

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants mayors to step up bike and pedestrian safety efforts. Photo: Building America's Future

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors yesterday. Photo: Building America’s Future

With pedestrian and cyclist deaths accounting for a rising share of U.S. traffic fatalities and Congress not exactly raring to take action, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is issuing a direct challenge to America’s mayors to improve street safety. Yesterday Foxx unveiled the “Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets” at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Transportation Committee meeting in Washington.

Overall traffic deaths are on a downward trend in the U.S., but the reduction in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities is not keeping pace with improvements for car occupants. Pedestrians and bicyclists now account for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities in the U.S., and most of these deaths are in urban areas, Foxx noted.

Back in September, Foxx told the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh that U.S. DOT is “putting together the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative U.S. DOT has ever put forward on bike/ped issues.” The Mayor’s Challenge fleshes out that initiative to some extent.

Foxx wants mayors to implement seven key recommendations from U.S. DOT. In March, mayors and local leaders will convene at DOT headquarters to discuss how to put the recommendations into practice. Participating cities will implement the strategies in the following year, with assistance from U.S. DOT.

Read more…

5 Comments

Philly Urbanists Launch Political Action Committee to Shake Up City Council

In a move that may mark, in the words of Philadelphia Magazine, ”New Philadelphia’s political awakening,” a group of Philly urbanists launched a political action committee earlier this month to support candidates who will reform local land use, transportation, and taxation policies.

One of the planks of The 5th Square’s platform: getting the city to follow through on its protected bike lane plans. Image via 5th Square

The new organization is called The 5th Square, a reference to the public space at City Hall, and it was founded by Geoff Kees Thompson, who writes at This Old City. The platform, which is still in development, urges the adoption of a Vision Zero policy to eliminate traffic fatalities, the construction of 40 miles of protected bike lanes in four years, and tripling the city’s parks budget.

The 5th Square will use its candidate surveys, political donations, and volunteers to influence City Council races. ”What [the city] needs now more than ever are better leaders who think progressively about our city, not retrograde candidates stuck to our decline-filled past,” Thompson wrote in the manifesto announcing the PAC’s launch.

So far the group has raised about $3,500 toward its first-month goal of $5,000, a figure Philly Magazine called “pretty much the pizza budget of the mayoral campaign.” But as StreetsPAC has demonstrated in New York City, money is just one of many factors that determine a PAC’s influence.

In 2013, StreetsPAC spent only about $40,000 in its first election cycle, a pittance compared to the real estate interests that dominate the NYC political scene. What it lacked in money it more than made up for in media savvy and grassroots enthusiasm, with 13 of its 18 endorsees going on to win. StreetsPAC organizers credited their success to a hardworking volunteer network and the ability to broadcast endorsements to a large, committed constituency.

2 Comments

Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett Joyously Bikes to the Super Bowl

Following a thrilling comeback win for the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday’s NFC championship game, defensive end Michael Bennett had to express his euphoria. So he grabbed a bike from a police officer stationed on the field and did a celebratory cruise in front of the fans.

The image was broadcast to millions: The pure joy of riding a bicycle combined with joy of victory beaming from Bennett’s face and his whole demeanor.

For Bennett, it was a chance to express his love of biking. ”I bike all the time,” he said, according to the Seahawks. ”I’m a real biker. I’ve got three bikes at my house, so I was just having fun.

“Best bike ride I’ve ever had.”

54 Comments

Dutch Suburbs Are Like America’s, and Protected Bike Lanes Work Fine There

pfb logo 100x22

This post is part of The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

This is the first in a two-post series on Dutch suburbs.

People the in U.S. street design world — sometimes even people who write for this very website — regularly say that U.S. development patterns mean that Dutch street designs can’t be immediately adopted in the States.

That’s a lot less true than you might think.

Of course some ideas can’t/won’t port over wholesale. But especially by European standards, the Netherlands is actually probably one of the most spatially similar places to much of the U.S. Guess where this is:

Count the fast food signs, the car lanes all leading up to a big freeway underpass. If not for the protected bike lane this could be Anywhere, North America. But this is actually in Amsterdam proper.

The reality is that only a minority of Dutch people live in the medieval centers of Amsterdam, Gouda, and Utrecht. Though many tourists visiting Amsterdam for a couple of days don’t typically see this, many Dutch people’s daily reality includes stuff much more like this:

Read more…