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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bicycling roundup

(Am behind, way behind, on lots of potential entries.)
Catchment area of public transit stops for pedestrians and cyclists

1. I know I keep writing about this, but I think that the bicycling as transportation community needs to be more focused about the arguments that favor bicycling. First, 51% of all household trips are 3 miles. Second, trips of this distance by bike compete favorable with cars. Third, the issue is that not all places have the right spatial conditions and connections to enable such trips by bike. Fourth, focus our resources on the places where the right spatial conditions and opportunities for mode change exist, rather than build the infrastructure hither and yon, where in many places it doesn't get used.

The problem is that only some places have great opportunities for capturing trips by walking, biking, and transit, and while those places do very well for those forms of transportation, most places in the US do not, providing opportunity for Congresspeople like John Mica to deride bicycling and justifying removing walking and biking improvements from federal transportation program funding.

Nationally, 5% of the population walks to work, 2.6% takes transit, and 0.9% bikes. But in DC proper, 37.1% of the population takes transit to get to work, 11.1% walks, and 2.2% bikes.

So whereas 8.5% of the population on average uses sustainable transportation modes, in a city with the right spatial conditions and infrastructure such as DC, 50.3% of the population uses sustainable transportation modes. Of course, that varies significantly across the region, as DC has significantly higher use of sustainable transportation modes compared to all of the other jurisdictions, including Arlington County. It's the result of spatial conditions, the transit system, especially heavy rail, and relatively short distances between residential districts and employment districts.

The point isn't to deride biking (or walking or transit), it's to focus the resources on the places where it can have the most impact more quickly.

2. In terms of reaching the under-reached, the New York Times had a good piece on women and biking, "Women, Uneasy, Still Lag as Cyclists in New York City." (With these letters in response, "Getting More Women to Bike in New York City.") From the article:

Bicycling in New York is not more dangerous for women than men, but women may be less inclined to engage in something that is perceived to be risky, experts said; high-profile bicycle fatalities, like the death on Saturday of Marilyn Dershowitz, a retired special referee in State Supreme Court in Manhattan and the sister-in-law of the lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz, add to the perception.

City officials and local bike advocacy groups say they have focused more on making cycling safer for all New Yorkers, not just women. One group, Transportation Alternatives, offers a women’s bicycle repair class, and it has also attracted more women to events for both men and women like group rides and its bike ambassador program, which pairs up cyclists, said Caroline Sampanaro, the group’s director of bicycle advocacy. The city’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, stressed its programs — like adding 250 miles of bicycle lanes over the past four years — help all cyclists.

And the Washington Post had a piece on black women and bicycling, "Black women take their place in D.C.'s bike lanes." There were lots of photos but I didn't think the article said much. At least, it didn't focus on transportational bicycling, which is what interests me the most.

As far as I am concerned, what we need are systematic approaches to reaching all demographics, based on the work of people like John Pucher (Rutgers), Anne Lusk (Harvard School of Public Health), researchers at McGill University in Montreal, and Roger Geller (City of Portland). See "Portland's Bicycle Brilliance" from The Tyee, Vancouver.

3. Similarly, this story from the Seattle Times, "Young people find cycling gets the wheels turning," discusses a program there focused on bringing minority youth into bicycling. Some of the participants end up riding in the Group Health Seattle to Portland ride, 200 miles, as part of the program.

4. I know that I've written about how Richmond, Virginia is working to redefine its quality of life and attractiveness through making the community better for biking. They're hiring a bike and ped planner, they're working on a citywide bike plan, and they are bidding to be the location of a major bike race in 2014. It's pretty impressive and demonstrates that quality of life and bicycle promotion efforts are mostly about vision--which is the point that DC seems to be missing, at least at the highest levels of government. The Richmond Times-Dispatch and Richmond.Com website have been covering this extensively.

5. Drivers education and testing and bicycling. According to "Bicycle Spoken Here: The State's Role in Safer Cycling" from the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

A comparison of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) manuals between Oregon and Virginia yields very different attitudes towards bicycling education. The Oregon manual mentions the word bicycle 54 times versus the paltry 14 times counted in the Virginia DMV manual.

Recently, Michael Gilbert, founder of bicycling education non-profit Ride Richmond, sent a letter off to Robert D. Holcomb, asking the Commissioner to update the DMV manual. The letter was signed by local and state bicycling saftey advocates.

I mentioned something similar as an issue in Maryland, in a supplement (not published) to the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan. The Maryland manual does mention bicycling, maybe not as much as Oregon either, but I suggested that people be regularly retested on pedestrian and bicycle related issues, as a kind of refresher and reminder of the rules of the road.

6. One of the ideas that I included in the original draft of the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan didn't make it into the posted draft. It was to have optional subcommittees of the County-wide bicycle and pedestrian committee at the Council District level. Paired with outputting the infrastructure recommendations by Council district, this is a way to foment local organizing and oversight, to push change forward more quickly.

But this recommendation made it into the law that was passed nonetheless. Nate Evans, the bicycle planner for Baltimore City, but a Baltimore County resident, wrote about the first meeting of the Baltimore County District 5 bike and ped committee in the Bike Baltimore blog, "County 5th District Ped Bike Group Kicks Off."

7. We know about "bikelash" in DC and elsewhere, including New York City. While DC appears to be dialing back on cycletracks, including on what could be the most important set of cycletracks that the city could create on L and M Streets NW, Christopher alerts us to the opening of a new cycletrack in Queens, linking the Queensborough Bridge and Manhattan, as reported by Streetsblog, "The Queens Plaza Protected Bike Path Is Open for Business."

As the film shows, it's BEAUTIFUL and shows how a city focused on quality of life can be uplifting.

Queens Plaza Protected Cycletrack is Open For Business from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

8. There has been lots of coverage of Chicago's new transportation director, Gabe Klein, who wasn't retained as transpo director in DC, and his focus on bike infrastructure development and promotion. Biking promotion was a priority of Mayor Daley too, so it's good to see that this commitment is not only being maintained but expanded under Mayor Emanuel. See "New head of Chicago transportation wants more biking" from the Chicago Journal blog.

Not unrelatedly, Ottawa, Ontario just added a cycletrack, see "Bike lanes earn rave reviews on first morning commute" from the Ottawa Citizen and already citizens want more connections, not unlike the point I made in this entry last week, "Thinking a lot bigger for DC's bikeways (cycletracks)."

9. While I feel like most articles published in newspapers seem to be whiny anti-bike screeds, it's not the case for the Los Angeles Times. Check out "Los Angeles needs an attitude adjustment regarding bicyclists."

10. The LA Times also two nice travel articles about biking, in San Francisco, "San Francisco's Valencia Street on bicycle: The Valencia Street bike corridor is a hip, mostly flat route in the Mission District. Here are some restaurants and other stops to explore along the way" and in other places, in "A healthy dose of American history: A writer explores historic landmarks in Boston, Philadelphia and New York by foot, bike and kayak" and by running, "Jog your way around New York." I gather the Travel section that week focused on active vacations.A family outing with four on a bike at 16th and Valencia St, along a new bike corridor created by the city of San Francisco

A family makes its way along the Valencia Street bike corridor in San Francisco. (Chris Hardy / July 10, 2011)

11. Hikers and horseback riders vs. bikers cartoon by Ted Rall from the LA Times.
Ted Rall hiker biker editorial cartoon, Los Angeles Times

12. Not really about biking, but how about urine management plans for the Olympic National Park in Washington State. See "Keep distance, don’t urinate: Olympic National Park revises plan in wake of goat-goring death" from the Peninsula Daily News. My understanding of the wide ranging nature of parks planning continues to expand.

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