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.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Biking as transportation roundup

1.  The Winter Cycling Congress, an annual conference focused on promoting biking for transportation in winter, was held earlier this week in Minneapolis.  Montreal looks to host the conference in 2017.

-- "Winter Cycling Congress: Tackles Infrastructure, ‘Wimpification’ On Bikes," Gear Junkie
-- "Why public health advocates are getting behind winter cycling," Calgary Herald

I don't know if there were any attendees from the DC area.

Cyclists in central London, where they could soon outnumber car drivers. Photograph: Steven Vidler/Corbis.

2.  The Guardian reports ("‘The cycling boom is fantastic – but I miss having London to myself’") on the rise of biking in London, to the point that--because of how the congestion charge reduces car traffic in the core of the city--there may be more bicyclists in the core of the city in an average day than automobiles.

3.  Who knew, there's a book on winter biking, Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling by Tom Babin of Calgary.

4.  One of the drills run at the Winter Cycling Congress was on the appropriateness of bikes for disaster response in winter ("Can bicyclists provide better disaster relief?," Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

I am told that the DC Fire Department is now using bicycle-based paramedics when covering large special events.  Also see this press release.

5.  A new all-city bike riding event called DC Bike Ride is being launched by a for-profit business, Capital Sports Ventures, with the participation of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association along with Events DC, a DC Government agency, and CareFirst, a health organization.  See "D.C. to launch massive bike ride around monuments, landmarks," Washington Business Journal.

The first edition will be May 22nd, on a 17-mile route.

This is the kind of event I've recommended that communities should offer, to bring greater attention to biking as transportation, not unlike the Open Streets events that close off streets to traffic, modeled after Bogota's Ciclovia.

The biggest Open Streets event in the US is CicLAvia in Los Angeles County, which happens in the Spring and Fall and shifts to different places around the county.  The county transit authority is the primary sponsor of the event.

A typical CicLAvia brings out 100,000 to 200,000 participants, and communities and organizations along the route often leverage the event to bring more attention to their communities and issues.

But CicLAvia is free, and the DC Bike Ride will cost $50 to participate, which I think is a mistake.

Although it must be acknowledged that NYC's TD Five Boro Bike Tour | Bike New York costs $94, although all of the proceeds go to the nonprofit organization holding the event.

6.  WABA has a "new" executive director, Greg Billings, who has worked for WABA for a long time.  The article also mentions that:
A portion of the proceeds of the for-profit event will go to support WABA’s campaign around Vision Zero, a national initiative to end traffic fatalities.

The association will use the money to run eight D.C. neighborhood events surrounding traffic deaths, one for each ward of the city, as well as to host a regional summit to get other jurisdictions to sign on to Vision Zero. (So far, D.C. and Montgomery County have committed.)
which I think is a great development (and something I've also suggested in past blog entries--doing sustainable transportation programming at the sub-city scale).

DC needs an organization more focused on sustainable transportation--biking and walking as well as transit--than strictly biking.  Groups like Transportation Alternatives in NYC and the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago, which is the repositioning of the Chicago Bicycle Federation. Maybe WABA is moving in that direction.

7.  For going on one year, the Des Moines Register has been running a series of stories on biking, "Iowa biking: Welcome or not."

Imagine such a series in the Washington Post, which to my way of thinking, is more focused on throwing gasoline on the fire when it comes to "discussing" sustainable transportation.  Compare columns by Courtland Milloy ("Bicyclist bullies try to rule the road in DC") advocating that drivers hit bicyclists (although similar writings have also appeared in the Boston Globe) to the DMR article, "Why Iowa isn't as bike friendly as you might think."

Amy Oberbroeckling, an Iowa transplant living in Minneapolis, approaches a bicycle boulevard on her commute home from work on Dec. 10. The bicycle boulevard on Bryant Avenue, which covers more than half of her 3.5-mile ride to downtown, includes lower speed limits, speed humps and other traffic calming features to help cyclists feel safe on the road. Timothy Meinch/The Register.

The latest pieces in the series are about Minneapolis, "How frozen Minneapolis became a biking mecca" and "6 lessons biking mecca Minneapolis can teach Des Moines." Minneapolis has created "a 225-mile bike[ways] network with protected on-street lanes, off-street paths and bike/pedestrian bridges."

The articles discuss how to build structural change in a systematic way. From the second article:
Find a voice: An active bike advisory committee or council creates a crucial advocacy presence in City Hall. Des Moines has no such group.

Make it a priority: Designated city staff positions overseeing bike and pedestrian coordination and planning make it much more likely that progress will be made. Des Moines has none.

Think big: Building a network of strategically placed bike lanes and trails is key. Target corridors with high concentrations of young people and connect them to the urban core, such as Drake University.Ingersoll Avenue is a good example.

Make votes count: Elect officials who prioritize biking and pedestrian improvements to spur rapid headway and change.

Forget the weather: Cold winters doesn’t disqualify a city from being bike friendly. They just require more planning and support from the public works department.

Think differently: Building a bike-friendly culture requires a paradigm shift for traffic engineers and public works officials who need to stop viewing urban streets as beltways for speeding vehicles and start viewing them as gathering spaces and destinations serving the entire community.
The first article ascribes success in Minneapolis in part to (1) moving cycling from the fringe to the mainstream; (2) integrating street cycling infrastructure with parks and trails; and (3) creating a set of highly visible elements of a core biking infrastructure, especially the Midtown Greenway, a 5-mile long dedicated bikeway constructed in an old railroad "trench," which means it is mostly free of road crossings.

Note that using the example of Minneapolis by the DMR is a good one, a kind of illustration of the point I make that elected officials are most comfortable with examples from elsewhere in their state, and comparable cities elsewhere in their multi-state area second, and never with examples from what we might call outlier cities like Portland or New York City, which don't ever seem comparable, and definitely not from Europe, which really don't seem to offer comparable experiences.

8. BikeMaryland's annual Bike Symposium in Annapolis, focused in part on lobbying the state's elected officials, is this week, on Wednesday February 10th.  It's free.

9.  Yesterday there was a weekend meeting on bike lanes in the Shaw neighborhood, which some churches, in an attempt to protect their parking privileges, called anti-religious (see this previous blog entry).  According to the Post ("Can prominent black churches agree with newer residents on bike lanes?") some participants remain intransigent:
Pastor Robert Price III made it very clear Saturday afternoon: His position had not wavered, and he would still not support a protected bike lane that could jut into his church’s parking spaces and make the streets more congested for his congregants.

“We are not going to allow someone’s pastime to destroy our lifeline,” Price, a pastor at the United House of Prayer church in Washington’s Shaw neighborhood, said at a D.C. Department of Transportation community meeting Saturday. “We have to protect what’s ours. We are going to be peaceful, but we are going to stand.”
Ironically, I have no problem with providing to churches special accommodations for parking during services, but recognize this is a privilege, while many argue, with seemingly no capacity for self-reflection, that they are advocating for the privileging of automobile usage and parking over all other uses of scarce public space.

Note that WAMU Radio, reports that not everyone is so intransigent and entitled as "Three African-American Churches Open To Compromise On Shaw bike lanes."

A cyclist enjoys the first five-kilometre (three-mile) stretch of a bicycle highway in Mulheim an der Ruhr, which will connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum and Hamm and four universities.

10.  Meanwhile, in the Ruhr Valley in Germany (next year, Essen will be the designated the European Green Capital), they are creating a 100+ kilometer long "bicycle superhighway." See "Germany gives green light to bicycle highways,"   From the article:
As a glimpse of a greener urban transport future, Germany has just opened the first five-kilometre (three-mile) stretch of a bicycle highway that is set to span over 100 kilometres.

It will connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum and Hamm and four universities, running largely along disused railroad tracks in the crumbling Ruhr industrial region. Almost two million people live within two kilometres of the route and will be able to use sections for their daily commutes, said Martin Toennes of regional development group RVR.

Aided by booming demand for electric bikes, which take the sting out of uphill sections, the new track should take 50,000 cars off the roads every day, an RVR study predicts.

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At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this bike DC event is a non starter with a hefty fee up front like that. It will keep people away from participating


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