February 11, 2010 § Leave a Comment
(photo by BikePortland.org)
With the rapid pace US cities are beginning to adopt complete streets initiatives, each week seems to offer a new amazing story. This week, three areas took the headlines:
- Fort Worth city council unanimously endorsed the Bike Fort Worth plan, which will bring 900 miles worth of trails and bike lanes to the city. Hundreds turned out in support and the newest Bike Friendly group launched their inaugural group ride leading to City Hall.
- Portland’s city council unanimously adopted an ambitious 500+ Million dollar plan to develop 700 miles of bicycle infrastructure, with over 300 miles built as dedicated European styled cycle-tracks. The city initially invested 2% of its transportation funds to bicycling in the 90′s, and have seen ridership increase to some of the highest in the US due to this commitment. This latest move will vault the area to the ranks of the greatest bike cities in the world.
- Times Square in New York City will permanently remain car-free. Those who have been following the story on Times Square amazing genesis from a sea of yellow cabs and gridlock to a people-first plaza, may not have realized that the plan was an 8 month pilot project to test the waters of removing automobiles from the “crossroads of the world”. The results showed a dramatic decrease in pedestrian injuries, even as more people walked to the area.
As we noted in the past, including bicycle infrastructure has shown major decreases in accidents of all three transit types (bike/ped/auto). The reason planners have noted this is due to the fact that roads are being thinned, cars are having to slow their speeds, while more people are attracted to walking and bicycling, which in turn increases ridership levels thereby supporting the “Safety in Numbers” trends found throughout the world.
Alright Dallas…the gauntlets been laid.
November 19, 2009 § 2 Comments
(Santiago Calatrava standing next to a model of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas. Photo by Daniel Driensky)
The DJC in Oregon posted an article yesterday comparing Vancouver’s bridges with Portland’s, and the effect these structures have on their communitys’ livability. Since the Trinity Trust has hired Vancouver’s planner, Larry Beasley, this is a timely conversation for us, as we are about to open our newest suspension bridge connecting West Dallas to Downtown.
(Burrard Street Bridge, Vancouver)
An important factor to note, when studying livable cities, is that the planners in these areas do not consider congestion a problem…they welcome it. These planners have found that the reality is congestion is a direct contributor to slowing streets and making communities more walkable. The widening of roads to speed vehicle traffic has shown to have a detrimental effect on surrounding neighborhoods and the life that surrounds them. We know this first hand when comparing a road like McKinney Avenue, to Fort Worth Avenue. One has four lanes, a trolley and wide sidewalks, while the other has 6 lanes, and small sidewalks. One area is built to minimize congestion, the other is not. Obviously, of the two, people would much rather sit at a cafe table alongside the congested street. Small Businesses would rather setup shop here as well, as they bring greater foot traffic, and are more appealing aesthetically. People also prefer to live closer to streets that are not high speed thoroughfares. McKinney Avenue is not only safer to cross due to the thinner streets, but also has a heightened perception of safety due to the number of eyes on the street. One could be used on a postcard, the other is sterile, gray, and cold.
More from the article:
“…Gordon Price, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University and a former longtime Vancouver, B.C., city councilor, is glad to have a narrow, three-lane Lions Gate Bridge. “The conclusion I’ve drawn from looking at the history is that it’s one of the reasons we are one of the most livable cities in the world,” Price said, “on both sides of the inlet.”
Vancouver and its northern suburbs had a chance to see whether maintaining the size of the crossing would lead to increased congestion and a worse economy. “The answer, apparently, is no,” Price said. “If it were true that congestion would lead to an economic decline, you wouldn’t have the affluent area on one side and a vibrant urban area on the other.”
In any community, Price said, residents need clarity on transportation-planning decisions that determine where people live, where they work and how they commute. In Vancouver, people know there won’t be a new Burrard Inlet crossing.
“We said, ‘That’s OK; we will live with the existing capacity,’ ” Price said. “Once it became clear that wouldn’t change (and) we wouldn’t be overruled by the provincial and federal governments, then we took the other (transportation) options seriously and started to design cities to be walkable, to have more transit, and to be more bicycle friendly.””
According to this World Architecture News article, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas was designed to “not only create a new icon for the city’s skyline, but will also pump life back into the Trinity River.” Life or cars? Two very different concepts. The article goes on to state that “the structure will cross the Trinity River Corridor linking West Dallas/North Oak Cliff with the downtown area. At a length of 418.5m and a width of 36.7m the bridge carries 6 lanes of traffic across the water.”
Six lanes of traffic, which will then open up to another 6 lanes of traffic on the new Singleton Boulevard? Again, what are our aims? To create a highway, or a boulevard? What models are we seeking to replicate, and what is the end goal? If this is truly a signature bridge, it should have wide bike and pedestrian lanes, and streetcar rail that allows access into the park and along the boulevard. Otherwise, we’ll have 6 dedicated lanes to cars, which we’ll then need to build giant parking structures or worse, sprawling lots, to accommodate the traffic. This is not a livable approach to infrastructure development. We’re simply accommodating cars only, so we should expect another sterile, gray, and cold environment.
September 1, 2009 § 8 Comments
Was just forwarded this article from bikeportland noting the brand new Cycle Tracks being installed in their city. This project was championed by the Mayor, and uses parked cars as the buffer which creates a dedicated bike lane. You see these throughout Europe where they have been met with great success. This style of bike lane was also highlighted in the clip we posted from the film “Contested Streets”, where planner Jan Gehl stands in front of a sidewalk and describes the infrastructure, while bicyclists rush past.
Not to be slowed down, Portland is also introducing the Left Turn Bike Box, which are also seen throughout Europe. It’s incredible to see how fast momentum is building in the North West for these projects. If you visited Portland five years ago and went back last month, you’d see a night and day difference. The number of cyclists we noted on the streets was awe-inspiring, and as Roger Geller, city planner, explained to us last year, they merely took the “Build it and they will come” approach to their infrastructure. Obviously, it’s paid off. Accident rates are plummeting, ridership is skyrocketing, and an entire industry has been set in motion with local bike shops on many corners, and businesses on two wheels abounding.
(Portland Ridership Increases noted alongside Accident Rate Decreases)
May 23, 2009 § Leave a Comment
PBS released their latest documentary on the future of US transit planning titled Blueprint America: Road to the Future. In it, they profile Denver’s sprawl and contrast it with Portland’s multi-modal planning. They go through the process of federal spending which promoted car-only modes, where the US Government would give .90 cents on the dollar to any highway project. Conversley, Portland bucked the trend in the 1970′s, and through a lot of hard work, was able to get those federal dollars transferred into streetcar and bicycle infrastructure. The results are incredible. The show includes an interview with the head of bikeportland.org and New York City’s planner Janette Sadik-Khan.
April 13, 2009 § 4 Comments
“Most other U.S. cities are not seeing the same decline. But European cities are.”
Greg Raisman, with Portland’s Department of Transportation notes, “By really thinking about having a multi-modal system where people are walking and biking and taking transit. What that means is that car drivers really have to operate their vehicles as lot more defensively. Be a lot more aware and cognizant of what is happening around them. And it results in them driving more safely and as a result it becomes safer for the people in the cars as well.”
All of which confirms everything we’ve championed here at BFOC:
Bicycle infrastructure increases ridership.
Ridership increases awareness.
Awareness increases safety.
It’s as simple as that.
April 10, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Just ran across this via Boing Boing:
“I think the recent explosion in biking is both a return on our communities’ investments in encouragement programs and infrastructure – bike lanes, paths, bike boulevards, etc. – and a sign of increasing concern about economics, health, and the environment. We are seeing a much greater diversity of people out biking and even bike commuting these days,” says Stephanie Noll, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Programs Manager. Noll also points out that the reason for choosing cycles over cars is multi-faceted. “The increasing cost of driving or concern about the environment alone are generally not enough for most of our communities’ members to imagine themselves on a bike.”
April 3, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Another friend of BFOC forwarded us this great article from the New York Times about taking a bicycle vacation to Portland.
March 5, 2009 § Leave a Comment
The January 2009 issue of “Oregon Business”, wrote a cover story on the highly successful bicycle industry which has grown throughout Portland since the advent of bicycle infrastructure.
As we noted from a past interview with Portland’s bike coordinator, Roger Geller, cycling as a main form of a transit has risen to 8% modal share since the advent of bike lanes throughout the city. Seeing the economic development that has sparked from this infrastructure is highly notable and promising for our own city’s future.
November 13, 2008 § 26 Comments
Image from Gunnisal on Flickr
So you’ve probably been on vacation in some uber-cool city like Portland or Boulder, and/or overseas to Amsterdam or London, and noticed hundreds of residents, young and old, on bicycles meandering slowly around bike lanes built through the heart of their respective downtown’s. Then you hopped on a plane, landed in Dallas and sat in rush hour traffic, while thinking, “Where the hell are our bike lanes?”. Good question…and a complex one. This is a topic that I began researching several months ago in my efforts to work with the city to bring a more walkable environment. My studies have taken me to all of the cities listed above, and on each occasion, I came back to our home in Oak Cliff and wondered, “Why?”. When I spoke to representatives in the cities I researched, they all cited the same reason for their progressive bicycle initiatives: An elected official, be it a mayor, or city councilperson, took a stand to champion the bicycling cause, and refused to take “No” for an answer. That’s all. Nothing more.
The Split in the Advocacy
The one thing I never anticipated when beginning my dedicated bike lane research was that the opposition was from within. Those new to the world of cycling, or even those of you who are leisure riders (which is by far the majority of riders), would assume that it would be obvious that all people promoting bicycling as a major mode of transportation would be for bike lanes. Not so.
An article released earlier this year by BikePorland.org summed up the opposition to bike lanes as “a persistent and vocal group (commonly referred to as vehicular cyclists or “VC’s”) who favor equal integration of cars and bikes (instead of finding ways to separate the two modes) and think anyone who throws a leg over a bike should be highly trained to play on a level playing field with motor vehicles.” When meeting with Portland’s transportation adviser, Rick Gustafson, in late August, he shook his head and sighed, “Oh yeah…we had those guys here too…we called them the ‘Invincibles’. They’re the die hard riders that cycle every single day rain/sleet/or hail, expect all drivers to obey the laws and don’t want anyone confining them to a lane.” A lane advocating blog commenter noted, “I prefer to follow the 8 and 80 rule…if you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting an 8 year old or an 80 year old in the lane, then it needs to be reworked”.
Attend a local Dallas bike advocacy meeting, and you’ll immediately see the divide. People passionate on both sides of the equation, will speak at length as to why their point of view is correct, and the other is faulty. It’s a partisan battle that rivals any political division you can imagine. To the point where lane advocates will fire off salvos noting the recent swath of bicycle accidents due to lack of separated lanes, while VC advocates will forward pictures of cities attempting to install bike lanes, and critique in dismay why the work is doomed to colossal failure. And in some cases the attempts are failures. “We constantly had to tweak our programs in the beginning…sometimes we’d make lanes too small, or they’d pose a danger that hadn’t been anticipated,” stated a Portland official we spoke to, “but we remained undeterred. If something didn’t work, we learned from our mistakes and tried again…and eventually, we got it right.” The largest point of contention for those opposed to lanes is the “placebo” effect created by riders who are lulled into a false sense of security, and get hit while riding in lanes through intersections. Intersections are by far the most common areas for all transportation accidents, whether it be bicycles, cars, or pedestrians. Portland has recently adopted Bike Boxes, which has proven to dramatically improve visibility and safety to riders.
Dallas city bicycle coordinator, PM Summers, is a VC advocate, and Dallas is prime example of a VC city. In a recent Dallas Morning News article, PM stated his objection to striped lanes and the false sense of security they create by noting , “I haven’t seen the paint that will stop a car”. Dedicated lane advocate, Zac Lytle, returned with “I haven’t seen the traffic light that will physically stop a car either, but VC riders expect drivers to obey the existing laws…we do too, we just want them to adapt to laws with lanes…they’re doing it in Boulder and Portland as we speak”.
While the debate on safety rages on, one thing is undeniably clear: bike lanes increase ridership. In an email to Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, Portland’s lead bike coordinator, Roger Geller, stated “Bike lanes and other bicycle facilities have been absolutely instrumental to the success we’ve had in increasing ridership. Our city auditor now reports that 8% of Portlanders identify the bicycle as their primary commute vehicle and another 10% identify it as their secondary commute vehicle. That’s up from 6% and 10%, respectively last year.” Anyone who visited Portland 10 years ago, and returned recently, will note the change. “It’s astonishing”, said Oak Cliff resident Robert Ramirez, “I’m planning on going back every year now, and have no need to rent a car.” Imagine saying that in Dallas. Conversely, a recent study released by Portland notes the percentage of accident rates has dramatically dropped.
In a phone interview, Adam Gross, a bicycle lane advocate in Indianapolis said, “We had a lot of old guard city staff members, who would bristle when we’d bring up these new ideas about creating lanes and say things like ‘”Don’t question us, we’ve been doing this for 30 years…”‘, we’d fire back ‘”That’s the problem!…you’re building the city infrastructure the same way we did in the 1970′s!”‘, he went on, “It got pretty heated at times…we were really wanting some fresh blood in there that wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo.”
Other challenges include keeping lanes clear of debris, and finding areas where lane or parking reductions can be made to adopt the systems. “No business in Dallas likes to lose parking”, states Oak Cliff Chamber Board member Rob Shearer. The former issue has been resolved in many cities by the creation of non-profit “Friends of Lanes” groups, that hold fundraisers to help maintain their city’s bicycle facilities.
So the question remains, why, if these are such major failures as many VC proponents suggest, are cities throughout the world implementing them? And if these lanes truly lead to rashes of accidents, wouldn’t places like Portland be removing them, and not adding more each year? and Boulder? Also, why is Dallas rating at the bottom of government census lists for bicycle ridership? And why are major bicycle periodicals consitently rating our city as the worst for cyclists? You can immediately see why some local officials might be on the defensive when being compared to city’s that rate higher, and begin to nitpick their progressive programs.
Copenhagen, the indisputable Bicycle Capitol of the World, has seen bike accidents drop to decimal point levels. This is quite an accomplishment considering the number of cyclists overlapping with cars. As time goes on, more data can be gathered to show a true representation of the success or failure of North America’s young systems.
Annie Melton, a Dallas transportation consultant, noted the problem being that some cities attempt putting in bike lanes, but do it halfway, and end up causing more problems than they solve. According to Melton, if you’re going to implement a successful lane strategy, it has to be a wholesale approach, and not piecemealed. She went on to say that lanes aren’t always the solution, though they can be used effectively. “In the end”, notes Annie, “Your city has to have the will to change.”
November 10, 2008 § 6 Comments
Bike lanes and other bicycle facilities have been absolutely instrumental to the success we’ve had in increasing ridership. Our city auditor now reports that 8% of Portlanders identify the bicycle as their primary commute vehicle and another 10% identify it as their secondary commute vehicle. That’s up from 6% and 10%, respectively last year. – Roger Geller, Portland Bicycle Coordinator
Roger Geller, Head Bicycle Coordinator for Portland, Oregon, forwarded us a recent presentation he’d created which outlines what his city has learned is necessary to create a successful bicycle infrastructure, that not only focuses on safety, but also increases ridership. Portland recently attained the The League of American Bicyclists highest rating of “Platinum”, due to the successful bicycle infrastructure that has been placed in the city. In August, a team of us went to Portland to review the planning and work this group had put together, and we were left in awe. Not only were cyclists everywhere, but it was actually easier to get around by bicycle rather than car. The increase in economic development related to cycling was all too apparent, and made obvious how a similar approach to bicycling in Oak Cliff could radically improve our community.
The following chart from the presentation notes the exponential growth in ridership, and compares it to the percentage drop in accident rates:
The driving points of Portland’s presentation are exactly what Bike Friendly Oak Cliff plans to achieve for our area:
• Cycling Requires Bicycling Infrastructure
– to achieve world class levels of cycling you’ll need a world-class
• Bicycle Infrastructure Must Appeal to the Average
– (though appealing to “cyclists” is a good start)
• Bicycle Facilities, Bicyclists & Bicycling must be
• Make Bicycling Irresistible