May is National Bike Month too: Part 1 -- a good time to assess planning and programming
-- "May is National Bike Month too: Part 1 -- a good time to assess planning and programming"
-- "May is National Bike Month too: Part 2 -- Advocating for Vulnerable Road Users"
I've argued in the past that events like Bike Month are a good time for reflection and evaluation, as well as a time to call attention to new infrastructure and facilities. I haven't heard much about Bike Month this year, but I am not really connected to local information systems in Salt Lake the way I was in DC.
Typically, the biggest promotional event of the month is "Bike to Work Day." That's still messed up because of covid and the fact that a lot of large workplaces have for the most part shifted to work from home, so this has reduced the prominence of biking as an element of transportation practice and planning.
Except for the claimed significant increase in the sales of bikes because of covid--although here in Salt Lake I haven't seen much of an increase in transportational bicyclists ("Consumers Turn To Biking for Safe Fun and Exercise During Pandemic: Surge in Demand Prompts Bicycle Shortages, Higher Prices," Census Bureau) although there are plenty of recreational cyclists.
1. Building a mobility system that supports cycling in a manner that is systematic, complete, and structural. My biggest gripe in sustainable mobility planning is that when it comes to "biking as transportation," we're focusing on building lanes and trails--very important to be sure--but not on working in substantive ways to get people biking. What good are lanes and trails if few people are biking?
The German National Bicycle Plan, 2002-2012 makes this point of treating "Cycling as a system."
This includes equity considerations ("Urg: bad studies don't push the discourse or policy forward | biking in low income communities (in DC) edition," 2014).
2. Biking planning needs to have a higher profile as part of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the organizations tasked by the US DOT for area transportation planning. This should include the creation of regional bikeway networks, integrated maps and signage, support for area-wide bike parking initiatives, provision of facilities like repair stands and air pumps at transit stations and other public facilities, etc. This should include systematic marketing and promotion activities that cross jurisdictional borders.
3. Planning requirements need to require quality bicycle parking and other facilities to serve employees and residents. This is still hit or miss. Communities need to review their building regulations, zoning use requirements, and capital improvements planning processes to ensure that stated outcomes -- "sustainable mobility" -- are actually required.
Misters on Las Vegas Boulevard. Photo: Richard Brian, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
4. Plan for seasons and time of day. That means snow clearance in winter , shade and misters in summer, and lighting at night, especially in winter ("Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community," 2014).
In Maryland, certain state parks provide special permits for bicycle commuter access to trails when the park would normally be closed ("at dusk") which is so much earlier in winter.
A consortium of cities, the Winter Cycling Federation, has an annual conference. Boulder sponsors a Winter Bike to Work Day.
5. Independent advocacy efforts are still necessary. Government doesn't move very fast. Advocates can push change along.
One of my best ideas ever was setting up the Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee--each Councilmember appointed one member--so that each Council District could have a subcommittee, with the plan's recommendations as an agenda, such committees would bring the legislative and executive branches together with advocates. It was optional but the districts with the active subcommittees got more projects done than the districts that didn't.
Cities and counties need to do this. And still have independent advocacy organizations functioning at the city and county scale.
6. Communities need a set of systematic programs designed to assist people in direct ways in making the transition from driving to bicycling. Over the decades we've developed systems to support automobility, including driver's education so people can get licensed. We don't have comparable programs for biking. "Revisiting assistance programs to get people biking: 18 programs," lists various ways to work with people and places to support switching to cycling as a primary form of transportation.
Bike sharing systems can be great ways to introduce people to biking, especially when they include active promotion efforts with organizations, community tour events, etc. Most bike sharing systems aren't great at that but Chicago and London are particularly exemplary.
7. Besides paths and lanes, complementary facilities including a regional system of secure bicycle parking and facilities are required ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 2, building a network of bike facilities at the regional scale").
Most public schools fail to provide secure bike (and scooter) parking. Bonneville Elementary School, Salt Lake City.
If you're going to cycle for transportation, you need secure places to park your bike, free of fear from theft, complemented by other facilities that make bike riding convenient -- air pumps, repair stands, wayfinding signage, mapping systems, posted maps, trailheads, etc. -- comparable to the services provided for motor vehicles.
That includes K-12 schools, college campuses, workplaces, etc.
8. The model for secure parking systems is the Parkiteer program in Melbourne, Australia (Victoria State).
Apparently, Denver's RTD transit system is creating a network of "Bike-N-Ride" shelters that are a baby version of Parkiteer, but it's a start.
The stations are on RTD property, but administered by other organizations, such as Boulder County (which was the first to do these in the Denver metro area) and Commuting Solutions, the Transportation Management Association for the US-36 Corridor between Boulder and Denver.
Some communities have similar programs, Santa Ana California has a few small bike parking shelters in its Downtown, and the transit systems in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area have bike hubs at many of their train stations.
The next step is to expand protected bike parking facilities to activity centers that aren't necessarily transit stations, including office buildings, schools, parks, etc.
9. Trailhead system/bicycle hubs. As part of a cycling system major nodes in the transportation network need trailheads and bicycle hubs. Transit stations, central business districts, airports, college campuses, etc., need to be treated as bike mobility hubs the way Heathrow Airport is ("Why not a bicycle hub at National Airport?, focused on capturing worker trips but open to all) and the bike hubs at transit stations in the San Francisco Bay and Greater Los Angeles ("Los Angeles County Metro (MTA) understands biking").
Major train stations, airports, etc. should be anchor hubs.
10. Formalize bike and walk to school programs ("Safe Routes to School") especially because infrastructure for schools also supports neighborhoods ("Why isn't walking/biking to school programming an option in Suburban Omaha? | Inadequacies in school transportation planning," 2022).
Secure bike parking at schools is a way to begin to build wide area bicycle parking networks.
11. Annual Urban Mobility/Biking Expo during Bike Month. There are various forms. Years ago, Arlington County, Virginia used to sponsor a sustainable mobility expo. The UTA transit agency in Salt Lake City a Bike Expo. Berlin has an annual Urban Mobility Day ("Berlin’s Urban Mobility Day showcases E-Mobility and new Apps," Urban Transport Magazine), and some colleges have Bike Weeks ("This week is Bike Week at the University of Utah"). NYC sponsors(ed?) a Bike Expo in association with the 5 Boro Ride, which had more than 100 exhibitors and 50,000 attendees in 2014. Richmond hosted a Bike Expo in association with the UCI Race.
Such an activity should be a key event during National Bike Month, in every major metropolitan area.
Although major colleges should have a Bike Week/Bike Expo event during the first few weeks of the Fall Semester. And for K-12 schools, International Bike and Walk to School Day is October 6th.
During Bike Month, besides "Bike to Work" Day, some places sponsor a "Bike to Shop" day to neighborhood commercial districts, supermarkets, etc.
12. A program of "Open Streets" events, like CicLAvia in Los Angeles, "Sunday Streets" when streets are closed to cars should be organized throughout the year, but with at least one event during Bike Month.
Open Streets events and Mobility Expos should be anchor events as part of broader marketing and promotion of sustainable mobility.
They don't have to be "all-city" initiatives, which are more complicated to organize. But are a good promotion tool.
Think Critical Mass but not in your face. Kidical Mass, community rides, rides in state parks like the Antelope Moonlight Ride in Davis County, Utah, etc.
WalkArlington does community walks. It's the same concept.
14. Maps and trail signage/maps need to be posted and distributed widely. A few places have map signage along trails but not many.
Having area bikeway maps posted in transit stations, libraries, schools, and other public facilities is an easy way to encourage people to think more about biking as transportation instead of as a toy. The pocket sized Salt Lake City bike map is distributed through local libraries (as are transit schedules).
I recently came across a set of trail maps for Pocatello Idaho posted on the wall of a local brew pub. I've seen such maps very rarely posted in bicycle shops, never elsewhere.
The bicycle station at The Blairs apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland posted the area bikeways map.
One issue with maps is regularly updating them. For example, the Silver Spring Maryland bikeways map is 17 years out of date. That means that the sign at The Blairs isn't particularly useful...
15. Bike route signage should have a brand, and include contact information (e.g., a QR code, etc.) I really like San Diego's "Go By Bike" brand. Years ago, graphic designer Joseph Prichard created a signage concept called "Better Bikeways" which had some great ideas.