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Posts from the "League of American Bicyclists" Category

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Talking Headways Podcast: Dear Bike People

podcast icon logoDo people of color and low-income people ride bikes? Not as much as they could, given all the great benefits biking offers, particularly to people without a lot of disposable cash. But yes, non-white and non-rich people ride bikes — in high numbers compared to the general population, by some measures.

Even though they’re biking the streets, people of color and those with low incomes are largely missing from the bicycle advocacy world. The League of American Bicyclists, along with many other advocacy organizations around the country, are out to change that. We covered the League’s report on equity in the bicycling movement last week — but there was still lots more to talk about.

So Jeff and I called up Adonia Lugo, who manages the equity initiative at the League. We talked about what local advocacy groups can do if they want to reach out to new constituencies, whether infrastructure design really needs a multicultural perspective, and how the movement can start “seeing” bicyclists that don’t fit the prevailing stereotype.

We know you have strong feelings about these issues. Tell us all about ‘em in the comments  – after you listen.

And find us on  iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed.

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8 Takeaways From the Bike League’s Study of Cyclist Fatalities

Track and field coach and mother Trish Cunningham, age 50, was killed while riding her bike in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2013. Photo: League of American Bicyclists

Track and field coach and mother Trish Cunningham, 50, was killed while riding her bike in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2013. Photo: League of American Bicyclists

When someone is killed while riding a bike in the United States, the most follow-up you’ll usually see is a newspaper article or two. There’s rarely a trial or a detailed examination of what went wrong.

The federal government tracks bike fatalities, but only to a limited extent. We don’t have great data about the wider story: who’s harmed and what factors are leading to these preventable deaths.

The League of American Bicycists wanted to go deeper. Between February 2011 to February 2013, the organization sifted through hundreds of cases from across the country. Using newspaper and television reports and blogs, they were able to get a closer look at 628 individual cases and tease out some patterns.

The cases they examined don’t account for every bike fatality during the study period (more like a third of them), but they are instructive. The League also supplemented its research with data from the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Below are some of the takeaways from the Bike League’s summary of its findings [PDF]:

1. Most fatalities occur on urban arterial roads

Fatalities were concentrated on high-speed “arterials” designed to speed motor vehicle traffic through urban areas. The second most frequent road category for cycling fatalities was local streets in urban areas.

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Bill Peduto: If Pittsburgh Can Make Streets Bikeable, You Can Do It Anywhere

Mayor Bill Peduto invited Bike Summit advocates to sample Pittsburgh bicycling in September. Photo: Brian Palmer

Mayor Bill Peduto invited Bike Summit advocates to sample Pittsburgh bicycling in September. Photo: Brian Palmer

Bike advocates from places like Portland, New York, and Boulder got a little Rust Belt envy this week when Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke to the National Bike Summit Tuesday morning.

Peduto took office in January with big plans for bike lanes, express bus service, and eventually an expanded light rail network. (He got sworn in during the “polar vortex,” which was symbolic, he said, because “a lot of people said it would be a cold day in hell before I was ever elected.”)

Before launching into his perspective on cycling, Peduto regaled the audience with a history of Pittsburgh’s rise as an industrial giant and its 30-year decline, during which unemployment hit 18 percent and the city lost more population than New Orleans after Katrina. At about the same time that Pittsburgh’s economy hit bottom, it was ranked one of the worst five cities in the country for bicycling.

That was the nineties. Now Bicycling Magazine rates Pittsburgh the 35th most bicycle-friendly city in America, and Peduto wants to see it shoot into the top ten. Thirty percent of Pittsburghers walk, bike, or take transit to work — only seven other American cities have a higher share. But “we can do better,” Peduto said.

In the past few years, Pittsburgh has built 30 miles of on-street bike infrastructure and 500 bike racks, and it has started to install bike corrals.

Don’t forget, Peduto said, what an unlikely place Pittsburgh is for these kinds of improvements:

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“Really, Dude? Opposition Is So 70s”: Local Officials Talk Bike Policy

Carolyn Szczepanski is the Bike League’s communications director. A version of this post was originally published on the Bike League Blog.

Last year, at the National Bike Summit, Douglas Meyer from Bernuth & Williamson unveiled new research on the perceptions of bicycling on Capitol Hill. Tuesday morning, at the 2014 Summit, Meyer was back with intel from the local level, revealing the results of 40 interviews with mayors and top city administrators from across the country (full presentation above).

The top-line take-away: “Everyone is bought in and support is increasing” for biking and walking in cities of all sizes. In city after city, Meyer emphasized, bicycling is supported, accepted, and acknowledged, and the opposition is in the minority.

“The idea of quality of life came up in every conversation — quality of life as defined by the millennial generation,” he said. Closely tied to economic development, city leaders see better bicycling as a means to attract young talent and the businesses that want to employ them. Bicycling fits into a larger shift to multi-modalism and, in a smaller numbers of cities, the effort to improve health measures.

Here’s are more of Meyer’s conclusions based on what city officials told him.

What messages aren’t working (or not working on a wide scale)?

  • Environmental protection: Not a major driver in the majority of cities
  • Safety: To bring up safety can backfire if it’s seen as questioning the city’s commitment to an essential duty
  • Equity: A positive impact and outcome, but not a critical issue
  • Congestion: Not a pressing topic in many smaller or mid-sized cities

What messages are backfiring?

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Talking Headways Podcast: Live (Well, Taped) From the National Bike Summit

This week, more than 700 bicycling advocates converged in Washington — despite a snowstorm that closed down the federal government on Monday cancelled thousands of flights — to learn from each other and compare notes from the past year.

Tuesday, as the summit wound down and participants started gearing up for Wednesday’s Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, Jeff and I were joined by Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke, Suepinda Keith of Triangle Bikeworks in Chapel Hill, and Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland for this very special 45-minute Bike Summit episode of the podcast.

The Women’s Forum is in its third year. The League’s Equity Advisory Council came into being just before last year’s summit. These voices, historically not at the center of the national conversation about bicycling, are coming to the fore.

The five of us talk in this, our lucky 13th episode, about how effectively the movement is transitioning to a more inclusive approach, and we share some of the highlights of the summit, including some truly incredible work happening everywhere from Memphis to LA to Afghanistan.

Tell us in the comments about your personal highlights from the Summit. Subscribe to this podcast’s RSS feed or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

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National Bike Summit 2014: United Spokes

Usually I limit conference wrap-up videos to right around four minutes in length. But there were so many great (and funny!) moments at this year’s National Bike Summit, it was important to pack in all of the coverage we could grab.

So sit back and enjoy many of the faces and fun that made this year’s #NBS14 a big hit.

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Sec. Foxx: Bicycle Infrastructure Can Be a “Ladder of Opportunity”

Sec. Foxx told hundreds gathered for the Bike Summit that he won't stand still and allow bike and pedestrian injuries and fatalities to increase. Photo: Brian Palmer, via the ##http://www.bikeleague.org/content/sec-foxx-shares-support-bikes##Bike League##

Sec. Foxx told hundreds gathered for the Bike Summit that he won’t stand still and allow bike and pedestrian injuries and fatalities to increase. Photo: Brian Palmer, via the Bike League

This morning, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s blog post is all about bicycling. He opens by touting the complete streets policy he helped implement in Charlotte (it passed before he was mayor) and the city’s bike-share system — the largest in the Southeast.

His post follows on his speech yesterday to the National Bike Summit, which began with this frank admission: “I’ve got big shoes to fill.”

Foxx’s predecessor, Ray LaHood, became the darling of the bike movement when he stood on a table at the 2010 Summit and affirmed his commitment to safe cycling, later declaring “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”

Foxx’s speech was less fiery but showed his commitment to the issue. He mentioned that he himself had been the victim of a crash while jogging in Charlotte, and while he wasn’t hurt, he’s aware how lucky he was that it didn’t turn out differently.

“All across our country, every day, there are accidents and injuries — and unfortunately sometimes even fatalities — that occur among the bicycle and pedestrian communities,” Foxx told the Summit audience. “I didn’t tolerate it as a mayor. And as U.S. secretary of transportation we certainly won’t stand still and allow this crisis to slowly build up over time.”

“Our roads should be safe,” he went on. “They should be easy places to travel no matter how we are traveling on them.”

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Suburbs Take Center Stage Among Bicycle Friendly Communities

Ferguson, Missouri: new bicycling powerhouse. Photo: Bike League

Where are the newest Bicycle Friendly Communities? Many of them are in the ‘burbs.

As we mentioned a few days ago, more suburban-style communities received the League of American Bicyclists’ BFC honor this week. That’s a shift from previous years. “The national boom in biking has officially found a pedal-hold in a previously unlikely place: the suburbs,” writes the League’s Liz Murphy. “Urban centers aren’t the only areas making biking better for millions of Americans.”

Facebook’s corporate home of Menlo Park, California, which neighbors Palo Alto, moved up to Silver status in this round. (Facebook itself is Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business.) Ferguson, Missouri, on the outskirts of St. Louis, gives free bikes to local youth with its Earn-a-Bike program, and is making other bike- and pedestrian-friendly improvements. And Murphy reports that in the Chicago ‘burbs, Elmhurst, Illinois, “has so many children who bike to school — between 10 and 20 percent — that they recently had to install hundreds of additional bike racks [at] local schools.” The town has been going after BFC designation for four years.

Maybe it shows the mainstreaming of bicycling across the country. Or maybe it’s just that all the usual suspects have been on the League’s list for years already and now the org is looking to the second tier.

We wanted to hear more about this suburban bicycling renaissance, so we checked in with the League’s Bill Nesper, director of the Bicycle Friendly America program. He said suburbs often have more work to do than bigger cities to become bike-friendly because of the challenges implicit in their land use. “Places that don’t really have the density, the average trip distance might not be as short as in a place like New York or Chicago,” said Nesper, “but that isn’t stopping them from making improvements to make bicycling easier for everybody.”

In many places where the car is king, you often hear people saying, “My child’s school is so close we can see it from our house, but the streets don’t connect,” or “you have to cross a six-lane highway,” or “there’s no sidewalk.” So it’s not all about distance. Sometimes all that’s needed is a retrofit. Nesper said when these communities create pedestrian cut-throughs in cul-de-sacs or calm traffic to make busy streets friendlier for people walking and biking, that can go a long way. Some also draw attention to quiet, bikeable streets with signage and “bike boulevard” designation.

A simple striped bike lane that might be sufficient on a narrow city street with slow-moving traffic might be inadequate on a suburban arterial, and the League takes those differences into account. Nesper notes that their evaluations of BFC applications aren’t just by the numbers. “We rely on local reviewers who are in the field to say, ‘This bike lane is substandard,’ or ‘This road is not a low speed street,’” he said. In those places, a buffered bike lane might be called for.

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Winning a Campaign for Better Walking and Biking at the Ballot Box

While transit groups have been campaigning for, and winning, ballot measures for years, walking and biking advocacy groups are newer to the ballot referendum game. But as demand for safer streets grows in cities around the country, more and more active transportation groups are seeking voter support for special funding measures.

Citizens for Modern Transit in St. Louis used aspirational messaging in its appeals to voters. Image: Advocacy Advance

Living Streets Alliance in Tucson, for instance, partnered with the Regional Transit Authority on a 20-year, $2.1 billion package that included $80 million for biking and walking improvements. The East Bay Bicycle Coalition was part of the group that worked for Measure B in Alameda County, which would have extended a half-cent tax to fund multi-modal transportation projects, but fell just shy of the two-thirds super-majority needed to pass in California. BikeWalkKC is currently part of a coalition planning a 1 percent sales tax to support multi-modal transportation in Jackson County, Missouri.

In many cases, these efforts are succeeding. According to a new report [PDF] from Advocacy Advance — a partnership of the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking — in 2012, 79 percent of ballot measures that included some dedicated funding for walking and biking were successful at the ballot box.

So how can your community pass a ballot measure that supports bike lanes, trails, sidewalks, and other measures to make walking and biking more appealing? Advocacy Advance asked experienced campaign leaders around the country to identify the keys to success. There are a few strategies that these winning campaigns share.

Timing: One thing the report stresses is the importance of timing. Do you want to plan your campaign for a presidential election season to maximize turnout? A special election might be a better choice in a more conservative community, experts say. Bad timing was cited as a leading problem for groups that failed to win voter support.

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Old Solutions: U.S. DOT’s Proposed Strategic Plan Falls Short

Andy Clarke is the president of the League of American Bicyclists. This article originally appeared on the League’s blog.

On Tuesday, August 27th the U.S. Department of Transportation released a draft strategic plan for public comment. The 94-page document lays out how the U.S. Department of Transportation proposes to manage our transportation system for the next five years — guiding the work of some 57,000 federal employees and heavily influencing some $205 billion of annual spending on highways in this country.

Unless the "new generation" is going to look like this, maybe U.S. DOT should put some different ideas in its five-year plan. Photo: Cycling Savvy

The comment period closes September 10. (You can read our comments on the draft strategic plan here.)

The bold title of the plan, “Transportation for a New Generation,” suggests some exciting changes and a new direction… and the numbers are certainly there in the plan to back up a decisive new transportation strategy. Consider:

  • 32,367 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2011
  • Driver behavior causes or contributes to 90 percent of crashes
  • The economic costs of traffic crashes –- in 2000 -– was $230 billion
  • One-third of Americans do not drive
  • The U.S. population is expected to increase from 310 million in 2010 to 335 million in 2018 and 439 million by 2050
  • Traffic congestion creates a $121 billion annual drain on the U.S. economy
  • The average American adult aged 25-54 drives 12,700 miles a year and spends one month in his or her car each year; and each car costs $7,658 to buy, maintain and operate
  • Cars and trucks are responsible for 83 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, which are 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have increased 21 percent since 1990 — 60 percent of that increase is due to transportation.

That all certainly points to the need for a new direction in transportation –- these problems are huge, the costs are staggering, and we’ve got $205 billion annually to spend on highways alone to do something about these problems.

Alas, that’s not what “Transportation for a New Generation” offers. Not at all.

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