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.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Better bike planning vis-a-vis Bike to work day and National Biking Month

Between Stanton Road and Pomeroy RoadRight: Suitland Trail between Stanton Road and Pomeroy Road, photo by Geoffrey Hatchard.

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day in the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

While I think it's important to celebrate those people who do bike for transportation, at the same time I wonder if we are failing to truly leverage the possibilities inherent in the "day."

Does it make sense to spend all year focusing on organizing for Bike to Work Day, or should we be figuring out how to leverage this event throughout the year, as a way to get more people regularly biking.

(The first place I worked in DC, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, used to be organized in the 1970s around supporting "National Food Day," but then the director figured it made more sense to focus organizational efforts on structural changes in food policy that would have significantly more systemic impact than a one-day event with various activities spread out across the nation.)

I'm not likely to get to either of two posts I intended to write this month in honor of Bike Month:

(1) an idealized agenda for biking as an element of sustainable transportation planning and practice shaped around what I call "inclusive cycling"

(2) a review essay on a bunch of books on biking as transportation (City Cycling, One Less Car, Pedal Revolution, In the City that Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, Reconsidering the Bicycle: An Anthropological Perspective on a New (Old) Thing).

So this will have to suffice.  And I'll get it together by next year to be able to run these two posts every Bike Month thereafter.

1.  One of the problems with biking policy and practice is that there are so many cleavages within the sector, ranging from the difference between recreational and transportational cycling, long distance and short distance cycling, mountain biking vs. on-road recreational bicycling, vehicular cycling proponents versus what I am now calling "inclusive cycling," etc.

My own focus is biking as transportation and on "inclusive cycling" (with some satisficing) and that's the piece of bicycling that matters most as it relates to sustainable transportation practice.

Left: this cycletrack in Cologne, Germany is placed in a zone between what we would call the "street furniture zone" and the street.  

2.  Inclusive cycling is my term for creating an environment that supports transportational cycling for all demographics.

It's an approach that is oppositional to the so-called vehicular cycling" approach which treats bicycles as vehicular traffic no different from cars, and therefore not requiring special infrastructure.

A key element of an inclusive cycling agenda is providing the right type of infrastructure that will maximize cycling take up for all potential segments--young, old, women, people of color, families as opposed to men, mostly white and between the ages of 20 and 50.

That means providing separated cycling infrastructure like cycletracks and shared use paths and focusing on shorter distance trips.

Research on people's willingness to bike for transportation (see "PSU research delves deeper into 'Four types of cyclists'" from the Bike Portland blog) finds that not quite 10% of the population will bike in almost any condition including mixed with high speed motor vehicle traffic; 33% have no interest in biking for transportation; and the remainder, about 60%, is willing to bike but not mixed with traffic.

L Street cycletrackRight: the L Street cycletrack in DC was created by removing a parking lane, and is similar in design to cycletracks created in other cities such as New York City and Chicago.

So if you want to increase cycling take up, the key is to provide the right kind of infrastructure.

Where there are differences of opinion or constraints have to do with where it is best to locate this infrastructure.

In the US, cycletracks typically are located in street right of way whereas in Europe, cycletracks, less separated, are typically located in an extended zone of the sidewalk, separated from both pedestrians and motor vehicles.

My sense is that in-street location of cycletracks likely limits cycling take up on the part of older and younger segments of the potential universe of transportational cyclists.
3 mile sustainable transportation zones, Baltimore County
3.  Another way to deal with the various cleavages is to plan--biking infrastructure, planning, and programming at different scales--to target investment to the best opportunities (a related point I make is "leading from success").

In the plan I did in Baltimore County, I laid out six different scales for planning an integrated network, but at the metropolitan scale there are seven scales:

1.  One mile walk and bike zones around transit stops and schools;
2.  Three mile zones around town centers/commercial districts/conurbations
3.  Along corridors, linking town centers (6-12 miles);
4.  Connections between corridors;
5.  the creation of a city-wide/county-wide integrated bikeways network;
6.  connections between jurisdictions;
7.  the creation of a cross-jurisdictional metropolitan bikeways network (e.g., "Maricopa Trail will eventually loop county" from the Arizona Republic, about the ongoing development of a county-wide trail network in Greater Phoenix and today's Post article, "Wilson Bridge trail encourages bike commuting between Pr. George's and Northern Virginia," about long-distance bike commuting, but can't happen without there being necessary connections across barriers such as rivers and highways, as is reiterated in this GGW entry "Suitland Parkway Trail is a mess. Will leaders seek change?").

(One of the problems with the DC Bicycle Master Plan for example is that it is very hermetic, and focused on "serving residents" mostly on intra-city trips, and fails to consider the trip needs of commuters riding into and out of the city.)

4.  Complementing the provision of infrastructure at different scales should be a hyper-focus on trip capture where it is possible to shift a greater number of trips to bicycling (or walking or transit) from motor vehicles.

In the US, 51% of all trips are 3 miles or less, and an additional 13% of trips are from 3-5 miles, so 64% of all trips are 5 miles or less--on a bicycle it takes 6 minutes (or less) to ride a mile.

Montgomery County, Maryland produced a "heat map" showing what I think of as best opportunity to capture trips by bicycle.  The darker areas on the map are those with conditions more favorable to bicycle trip capture.

I recommend that we focus our resources on building the infrastructure and programming in those places to capture the trips.

As far as building regulations are concerned, it means that requirements for the provision of bicycling infrastructure (parking and related facilities especially) should be weighted, and higher in those places where the opportunity to capture bike trips is higher.

Slide, action planning as systems integration5.  Relatedly, bike planning needs to integrate programming, and plans and programs need to be delivered at the sector/neighborhood level, because that's the only way people are going to be able to get the assistance they need to make the transition from driving to biking on a somewhat regular basis.  In other writings, I call this action planning.

Surprisingly, the Post has had a couple of good articles on this in the past couple weeks, "Biking boom prompts a wave of non-pedaling adults to sign up for lessons" and "Female bicyclists trying to close the gap on men."

Although I would be happy to start with regular programming organized at the level of recreation centers and parks, neighborhoods and wards.

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At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice job Richard- I know we can always count on you for rationality. What has always puzzled me is the knee jerk mentality of Vehicular Cyclists who are DEAD set against anything at all to do with sidewalks for bikeways. It is almost religious heresy among them to speak up for this and yet this is the standard in most of north Europe no matter what som eof these fanatics will say [ I have actually heard many VC guys claim that no one in europe rides on bikeways and they are ALL vehicular cyclists !!] they make preposterous claims about places and cities they obviously have never ever seen before which is appalling- and a lot of people actually buy what these fools say. It is similar to the arguements I hear against streetcars among the older folks on Capitil Hill- they have evidently never seen or have ignored streetcars on their European trips. They have blinders on.
A lot of people only seem to see what they want to see. Guess what- the truth is out now. Great work and keep these articles/postings coming. Glad I could help with the pictures of German cycle tracks.

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The VC people need to expand and start vehicular walking- lets make all pedestrians walk in the highways with the car traffic and let's institute harsh fines to make sure all walkers comply . None in their right mind would ever want to use a sidewalk for walking- why should they? It is not dangerous if you only take our WABA class in defensive walking- even small children and older folks can do it safely.

At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a bigot you are, to imagine that people of color and women are somehow unable to use bikes like white men. I'm unsurprised that you would work for crackpots like CSPI. Only on the coast would anyone be stupid enough to listen to your condescending blather.


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