Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Paradigm change and setting goals for mode split for biking (and transit)

One of the biggest problems in pushing either bicycling or transit as legitimate and substantive modes for mobility is that because people are so accustomed to thinking and believing that you can only get around by automobile, that they can't take the "idea" of other modes very seriously.

Since something like only 4% of the U.S. population gets around by transit, of course people think that transit is mostly just something for people who can't afford to buy cars.

However, transit can work very well in many cities, provided that there are relatively tight connections between housing and employment and activity centers, such as in cities like New York or Boston or Chicago or DC.

For biking, most people think that it's for recreation only, a toy either for children or for weekend cycle warriors.

But in the right spatial conditions, biking can be a real and substantive means for getting around. In the Netherlands and Denmark, some cities have close to 40% of all daily trips being performed by bike.

I think that in our bicycle plans (and transit plans) we need to set substantive mode split goals. Given that 51% of all household trips in the US are 3 miles or less, and that trips of these distances are easily accomplished by bike--if the proper infrastructure is present--I think it's reasonable to set the following mode split goals:

-- for center cities, 25% mode split for bicycling
-- for suburbs, 15% mode split for bicycling

In cities, especially when a grid pattern is present and there is adequate density, many more trips can be captured by bicycling than currently.

In the suburbs it's harder, because uses are separated by greater distances, and the road network is skewed to traffic engorged arterials and high speeds, and there isn't a good set of parallel roadways which would be better situated for bicycling. Plus, many communities are dis-connected from each other, because there aren't road connections between subdivisions.

That's why I think in the intermediate term, it's reasonable to set a lower mode split goal, even though in some areas in most suburban counties, there are areas with similar spatial conditions to center cities, and therefore these areas are capable of achieving higher mode split numbers than 15%.

Notions Capital
sends us a link to this video of bike and transit rush hour in the Netherlands. Imagine if rush hours in the US functioned more like this... But note the movement of articulated buses and trams as well as the large number of bicyclists.

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