Even More Evidence That Bike-Friendly Cities Are Better Cities

Bicycles are wonderful contraptions that help people be healthier, have better commutes, and are a wonderful solution to car-based traffic jams. Yet, there are still cities out there that hate cyclists (like Toronto and it’s crack-smoking mayor). In a more civilized place, Aukland, they are embracing bike-friendly infrastructure to make the city better for people and for businesses!

The researchers looked at Auckland, New Zealand, which is currently not a particularly bike-friendly place, and used computer simulations to model different scenarios for new bike-related investments, including regular bike lanes, lanes shared with buses, and fully separated lanes.

They found huge differences: If the city built a network of separated lanes and slowed down traffic speeds, it could increase cycling by 40% by 2040, but adding a few lanes in a few places might only increase bike traffic by 5%. The more people ride, the more the cost savings would add up for Auckland–the biggest factor being a reduction in health care costs. A smaller investment would have little impact at all; the city is so bike-unfriendly that major changes are needed.

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Swedes Get Free Bikes if They Promise to Drive Less

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Car traffic cripples cities and destroys them. For the last hundred years the common solution to transportation issues was to cater to car drivers and this has left us with endless traffic and awful pollution. The solution today is a mixture of public transit and encouraging people to ride bikes.

In France, they are paying people to ride bikes. They figure it’s cheaper to pay cyclists than to pay for car-only infrastructure.

In Sweden, they want families to get rid of their large vehicles and hop on bikes. In an interesting pilot study people who promise to drive less and ride their bicycle instead will get free bikes. This will lower demand on roadways while improving the health of participants.

Sweden faces some of the same infrastructure problems as the U.S. Most cities have been planned with cars in mind, so cycling to Ikea to run an errand might not seem easy.

“In some cases, it can be challenging to use a bike to, for example, do your shopping, or take your children to preschool and then get to your workplace in the morning,” Waern says. “And while this is absolutely true in some cases, the fact of the matter is that this can be more a mental barrier than an actual one. Most people can, with the right bike and a bit of planning, manage to do all these things and more.”

The project hopes to start to break down those mental barriers by sticking with each participant for six months.

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A Call to Think Bigger About Transit

The way we get around in North America is changing from a work-home orientation to a node based network with multiple destinations. At first cars were used to fulfil this but as traffic worsens we need to rethink how we all get around. The solution, of course, is to kick the addiction to owning cars.

This raises bigger questions about the role of TOD in shared transport networks. One of the reasons services like Uber and Lyft, not to mention autonomous cars, make some planners nervous is because they don’t have a fixed node associated with them. So how do we continue to plan around them and for them? What is their relationship to transit? And, by extension, to transit-oriented development?

To answer these questions we need to re-think what transit is, just as we’re re-thinking what TOD is. If a chain of autonomous vehicles with vehicle-to-vehicle communications operate in a train-set type format, is that functioning just as transit would? Is that more or less efficient than the current local bus systems in some cities? I know this scares some people to talk about, and the answer often seems to be some sort of litmus test as to whether or not you really support public transportation, but I think to have an honest conversation we have to get rid of the sacred cows.

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France Pays People to Cycle to Work

France is experimenting with new way to subsidize transportation by getting more people to bicycle to work. Traffic in Paris is particularly awful and with ongoing population growth and car-focused infrastructure the transportation problems are only going to increase. France is hoping that getting people to ride bicycles will stymie the growth of transportation issues.

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.

The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million km, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.

In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.

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More Americans Are Biking to Work

Bicycling in urban areas has increased in the developed world over the last decade and the USA is no exception. The obvious health benefits from riding a bike and the increased attention to bike infrastructure contributes to the growth in riders. More people bicycling the better as it gets people out of their cars and cleans the air.

The increase comes as cities add bike-share programs and lanes to encourage cyclists. Portland, Ore., which boasts 319 miles of bikeways, has the largest share of bike commuters among big cities, about 6 percent. (Insert Portlandia joke here.) Madison, Wis., (5 percent) and Minneapolis (4 percent) are right behind. In some smaller cities, bike commuting is even more common: One in 10 Boulderites ride to work in Colorado, and the number approaches 20 percent in Davis, Calif. The trend is good news for the bike industry and the people who make this suit.

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