Breeze Launches in Britain to Increase Women Ridership

While in the U.S. the bike revolution is happening, women of all ages and children under 18 aren't equal participants. In fact in the U.S. (aside from pockets like Portland, San Francisco, New York, etc.) the number of women riders is barely holding steady, while the number of kids riding bikes is dropping. In the U.K. however, in 2010 women made up a decent 40% of of all journeys on the country's national cycling network. That's a 13% increase in women riding on the network from 2009's figures. How did they do it?

Well, the National Cycle Network (NCN) assumes that high gas prices had something to do with the exodus of drivers from their cars and on to the bike path. A "whopping" 420 million journeys were made on the country's network of cycle paths in 2010, and of those, approximately one quarter are estimated to be work commute trips.

The NCN carefully totted up the cost savings of all this cycling - stating that the walking and biking commuters saved £46 million in at the pump, and with a potential greenhouse gas savings of 657,000 tons.
However, while ridership and bike commuting among women is increasing, the overall gap between men who cycle and women who cycle is still wide. Overall, British male cyclists outnumber British female cyclists 3 to 1 (similar to U.S. figures).

And UK research suggests there are a million British women that would like to bike more often. Last week British Cycling launched a national network of rides called Breeze, and intends to introduce 80,00 additional women to the joys of cycling.

The effort is funded by the National Lottery. Breeze rides will be short, traffic-free, and casual rides aimed at working mothers and women who haven't been on their bikes in a while. British Cycling's survey of 1,000 women showed that safety concerns (sound familiar?), unfamiliarity of cycle routes, and having no one to cycle with were the three reasons they didn't do so.

British Cycling intends to train a network of female cyclists who will lead Breeze rides. Via the rides and support, the Breeze program hopes to convert 20,000 of the 80,000 women estimated to participate in rides this summer to "regular cyclists." Sounds awesome to me.

Trip to California

Sorry for the lag in posts, but I just returned from a trip to California. We had a great trip from San Diego to San Francisco. It is pretty awesome to see all of the progress that the state of California has made in their transportation choices. Especially in their correction of many of their poor choices in the past, and focusing more on complete street designs.

We started out in San Diego and southern California and the first thing that I noticed, which I have seen before out west but had forgotten until I experienced it again, was the priority that pedestrians and cyclists receive from motorists. If a pedestrian steps off of the curb, even without a walk signal, the cars automatically stop to let the people cross. I realize that is the way that it is supposed to be, but it is truly practiced out west and it goes for cyclists too. Riders were given plenty of room as vehicles passed them, and they facilities that have been provided has made it easy to get around by bike.

We went to a stage of the Tour of California while we were there, and that too helped me see the great culture that they have for cycling. Not only do many of the people out there cycle for commuting and recreation, but they also care about advocacy and making cycling better. I was also surprised when I would mention that I was from Florida, and many of the people would actually apologized and ask me if the drivers were as bad as they had heard or experienced. It was definitely unexpected and unfortunate that Florida's reputation precedes itself.

Fortunately I was able to visit several of the communities and small towns and was able to see how great their cycling environment is. Every town had new bike lanes, bike corral parking, and bike route signage. Cities like LA and San Francisco has made the jump into infrastructure with advanced separated bike lanes, bike boxes, and connecting all of their public transportation systems with bikes. Even though while I was there the temperatures were chilly and the weather was wet and dreary, the cyclists were out in full force. I could see where San Francisco could rival places like New York, Portland, Seattle, and Austin with the per capita ridership. Their critical mass was even escorted by police, which to me not only shows that the police are with the cyclists, but that the city embraces cycling and has all of their priorities invested in creating a great place to ride.

Planning with Bicycle Oriented Deisgn

I get several articles sent my way every week from other advocates and colleagues at work. I received an interesting article this past weekend that Nick Martens wrote in 2008 "The Problem of Biking in America," published in the online magazine The Bygone Bureau.

"Of the many complaints an American cyclist can make, a concern over his or her safety is the most serious. It is also the best reason to stick with a car." 

In the article, Martens describes the common problem of a motorist unexpectedly opening a car door in the path of a cyclist properly staying in the bike lane on the right side of the street. Without question, fear of bike-auto collisions is among the most pervasive factors limiting bike use for U.S. commuting trips. In the United States, the driver-side door opens into the bike lane; in European streets designed for bikes it does not.

I have found that many factors seem to limit urban biking in the United States. For those older than 25, fear of losing in an encounter with a speeding car is probably the most important reason, with adverse weather being another. Relatively few of those who bike to work do so every day; bad weather requires a backup plan. Lack of convenient bike storage is common in city apartments, and there is a justifiable fear of theft. Commuting in America for so long has meant single-occupancy cars that the mindset is doubtlessly hard to break. Americans have grown accustomed to the $8,000 annual cost of auto ownership (including depreciation), so saving money by cycling is a less pressing concern. Plus, American streets have been designed and refined to facilitate automobile traffic at speeds of 30 miles per hour or more—and are less safe for bike traffic.

Freedom from Fear
In the Netherlands, the degree to which the safety of bikers is protected varies with development density. Outside city limits, some roads are marked for bike lanes, but many have no indication of where biking is encouraged. In cities, however, the Dutch have invested heavily in dedicated bike lanes with special safety controls—essentially a separate set of red, yellow, and green lights for cyclists. The most elaborate arrangement of roadways includes areas designated for four different means of transit. Those designations are:
  • the center lane, for cars, trucks, trams, and buses.
  • the next lane, for auto parking; the driver’s door does not open toward bikers.
  • the bike lane.
  • the lane next to the buildings, for pedestrians: the sidewalk.
The ability to make streets multimodal and widely used by bike commuters depends on the degree to which the dedicated lanes are made reassuring to potential users. To produce comfortable conditions for bikers requires clarity: what are the rules? how should bikers and drivers behave? what is our turf and what is theirs? Ambiguity breeds uncertainty, which in turn contributes to accidents and discourages potential bikers. Where European bicycle traffic is greatest, investments in clarity are most apparent. Clarity factors include separate, protected lanes; traffic signals dedicated to cyclists; and obvious signs signaling where bikes may go and where they should not.

The broad popularity of biking in dense European cities at peak periods has resulted from the infrastructure investments that produce a comfort level almost unimaginable in the United States. Gray-haired women pedal to go shopping; parents move their preschool children by bike through downtown traffic. On a scale of one to ten evaluating biker concern about possible injuries, conditions witnessed in northern Europe would generally rate an eight or nine, while U.S. cities would rate a two.

Prospects for American Conversion
Those who advocate planning for expanded U.S. use of bikes frequently cite improved health or expanded recreation, mixing these desirable goals with the most salient of the European gains, those related to bikes as urban transportation. Occasional recreational use will not contribute significantly to cleaner air, less-congested streets, or wider use of public transit.

Martens noted the political impasse associated with encouraging public investment in bike- friendly U.S. cities when there is so little daily biking occurring—a condition in large measure attributable to the lack of bike-friendly conditions. American bikers are predominantly young, male, and urban—not a powerful constituency. Most Americans are car owners, happy with that condition, and sometimes antagonistic to bikers.

Any jurisdiction contemplating a serious modification of streets to reduce fear of cyclist injuries and expand use of bikes for commuting and shopping should study the results in Copenhagen. Important options have already been tested there. Starting with specified goals would help planners avoid some expensive missteps. Copenhagen, for example, seeks to increase the share of bikers who feel comfortable or secure when biking to 80 percent, and is well along toward that goal.

The shift from cars to bikes in Europe can be traced to the steady, persistent, decades-long pace followed by governments there in adapting streets to create bike-friendly transportation routes. A cheap effort will not do it. An inexpensive stripe next to a parking lane does not produce comfortable biking conditions; in many cases it is a recipe for collisions with car doors. It is hard to imagine U.S. cities committing to two or three decades of block-by-block reconstruction and continued bike-oriented education and rule enforcement. Opposition could be expected to proposals to move car parking toward the center of the street and install special traffic controls and curbs designed to protect bikers.

Also, there are stronger competitors for America’s infrastructure funding. The highway lobby has a 50-year lock on gasoline tax revenues. Other claimants—subways, buses, and commuter rail—may receive a larger share of these funds as the country tries to cut petroleum dependency. There is also the newly recognized need to repair and upgrade thousands of bridges and tunnels that elected officials pray will not collapse on their watch.

Probably the best prospects for financing conversions would follow use of appropriations for a larger public cause, such as reducing global warming or employing jobless workers. Two or three good examples in American cities might influence others. New York City is modifying some streets to favor biking. Philadelphia might create a bike connection linking the convention center, seven museums, and the Schuylkill River trail, connecting Drexel and Pennsylvania universities with existing bikeways reaching Norristown and beyond—more a recreational than a transportation benefit, but it would produce substantially more people on two wheels than at present. Broad Street and Market Street may be wide enough for bike lane protection, with some loss of curb and delivery parking. Requiring bike storage facilities in new residential buildings and fewer car parking spaces would help. A gasoline price of $10 per gallon would boost bike use, but do little for the comfort level in peak-hour traffic.

In a nation attuned to quick and cheap solutions, the widespread replacement of cars by bikes as accomplished in European cities will be seen as a long-range and expensive objective.

Bikes Make Life Better

One thing we all know as riders it's this: bikes make life better. Bikes keep us healthy and happy, and fill our lives with adventure and excitement.
In honor of National Bike Month, People For Bikes created a short film that celebrates what we all love: bikes. Their video shows not only the ways that bikes transform the lives of people who ride them, but also how they help change and beautify the communities we call home.
Check it out and share it with your friends. Don't forget to ask them to take the pledge. Every name gets us closer to more bike lanes, paths and trails - a better world for all who ride.

Check out how they made the video below.

Study Finds That Men Are Riding More-Let's Work on Everyone Else

Guys On Bikes photo

I think anyone in a major metropolitan area can attest that there is a bicycling renaissance in North America. A new study found that it's not an equal opportunity cycling revolution, nor is it evenly spread. Worst of all, is what the data shows in terms of gender equality in the cycling stream (or lack thereof).
"Almost all the growth in cycling in the United States has been among men between 25 and 64 years old, while cycling rates have remained steady among women and fallen sharply for children." - Ralph Buehler and John Pucher, "Bicycling Renaissance in North America? An Update and Re-Appraisal of Cycling Trends and Policies"
Skirt Girl On Bike photo

Buehler and Pucher set out to to expand and update a study they did nine years ago (scroll all the way down for 1999 paper) pointing out the trends in North American cycling.

What they found in looking back at the last decade is that bicycling has continued to increase, with the total number of bike trips tripling between 1977 and 2009, and cycling's share of total trip rising from 0.6% of trips to 1.0% of trips. (National Personal Transportation Surveys and National Household Travel Surveys data).
As far as where cyclists are clustered, looking at American Community Survey (Census) figures shows a big difference in cycling in Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia, where 0.1% of commuters go by bike, and Oregon and the District of Columbia, where 1.9% of commutes are by bicycle. In both Canada and the U.S., the authors note, cycling is higher in the western areas, and on the coasts. Bike-to-work commutersare especially sparse in the southeastern U.S.

Of special note is the fact that (dispelling the myth that cycling is a fair-weather activity) the highest levels of commuter bikers is in Canada are in the Yukon (2.6%) and the Northwest Territories (2.1%).
Buehler and Pucher studied the data for gender trends, and what they found was a male-dominated picture. Men have always been the majority in both commuter and sport cycling, and those trends are actually accelerating. Men aged 25 - 64 made up the bulk of the growth spurt of cycling. From 2001 to 2009, in fact, the percentage of all bike trips made by women in the U.S. dropped from 33% to 24%. What's behind the drop? Pucher speculates only that perceptions of safety may have much to do with it, as women seem more sensitive to ideas of personal safety than men.
Kids On Bikes photo

In addition, a very pertinent piece of data from the study, in light of U.S. obesity rates, is the drop in younger cyclists. The share of all bikes trips made by persons younger than 16 fell from 52% in 2001 to 39% in 2009.
While women and younger people aren't getting on their bikes at the same rates as adult men, they should be. For the good news from Buehler and Pucher's analysis of the data is that cycling safety continues to improve both in the U.S. and in Canada.

Fatalities per 10 million bike trips fell by a massive 65% in the U.S. between 1977 and 2009, from 5.1 to 1.8 fatalities per 10 million trips. In Canada, fatalities per 10,000 riders dropped from 4 in 1996 to 3 in 2006.
What do Buehler and Pucher conclude about the "bike renaissance" in North America? It is growing, and has become more widespread since the pair's 1999 research. The boom is limited to "a few dozen" cities, and these, the authors say, are islands (of primarily male cyclists) in a sea of car dominance.

Complete Streets: It’s About More Than Just Bike Lanes

Complete Streets and Clarence Eckerson, Jr. have produced another great video that demonstrates that making improvements for bikes and pedestrians, improves the safety and comfort for everyone. It also shows how New York has taken control of some of their streets and have shifted the priority away from the car and share the streets for all users.

Over the last four years, New York City has seen a transportation renaissance on its streets by not only striking a more equitable balance in providing more street space for pedestrians, bicyclists and buses, but also creating much-needed places to just linger and gaze around in a safe spot, sit down, or meet friends amid the sometimes-chaotic pace of the city.

The video above looks at three of New York City's most recent re-designs: Columbus Avenue, 1st & 2nd Avenues, and Prospect Park West (in Brooklyn) and show you how almost everyone (even drivers!) benefit from the safer, slower streets. They interview transportation engineers (with nearly 100 years of combined experience), elected leaders, community board members, pedestrians, cyclists and business owners to get their take on the newly configured roads.

The truth is: no matter how hard the news media tries to convince you otherwise, these new projects have tremendous community support and the benefits go beyond just cycling. The physically-separated bike lanes bring with them traffic-calming improvements; shortened crossings for pedestrians, a more predictable street for drivers, the chance for more greenery and - in the case of the East Side - dedicated bus-only lanes with camera enforcement.

One of our longest Streetfilms at 11 minutes, I urge you to sit back and take this all in no matter what side of the issue you think you are on. You're likely to be enlightened.

NACTO Urban Bikeways Design Guide Released for Download!

nacto urban bikeway guide photo
The National Association of City Transportation Officials has released its Urban Bikeways Design Guide (you can download it in PDF format). This reference guide should be on the bookshelf of all urban planners, and even if they don't follow its suggestions exactly, they should at least know about them. Cities shouldn't constantly have to reinvent the wheel, and bikeway best practices should spread all over the world from the places that "get it" (like Copenhagen).
nacto urban bikeway guide photo

Infrastructure is crucial if cycling is to become more popular in the US. Many cities have shown that if you build it, they will come...
NACTO encourages the exchange of transportation ideas, insights, and practices among large central cities while fostering a cooperative approach to key national transportation issues.
  • Sharing data and best practices, through research projects and peer-to-peer sessions
  • Communicating regularly, through conference calls with the Cities and via an annual meeting with the USDOT Secretary and other federal agencies
  • Advocating change in transportation laws, regulations, and financing to enable large cities to better provide the integrated transportation services envisioned by Federal transportation law.
The web version of the guide will be updated to reflect the latest changes.

Orlando's Bike to Work Day

Friday was Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer's Bike to Work Day and he had only one rule for the 200 cyclists who joined him Friday morning for National Bike to Work Day.

"No one pass the mayor," Dyer joked.

Cyclists riding mountain bikes, 10-speeds and beach cruisers pedaled alongside the mayor for the eighth annual event, which promotes the use of bicycles as an alternative way to get to work.

May is National Bike Month, and hundreds of communities across the U.S. are having events focusing on bicycles and two-wheeled transportation. Dyer wanted to emphasize how easy it is to ride a bike in Orlando. Dyer, who sported a pair of black shorts, black shades and a white bike helmet, added that riding bikes is both healthy and friendly to the environment.

The 15-minute, police-escorted ride, which many bikers called "steady," began at Infusion Tea in College Park and weaved its way through the streets of Orlando. The group rode south on Edgewater Drive, east on Lakeview Drive and then south on Orange Avenue toward City Hall.

Along the way, the bikers were greeted by honking horns and waving pedestrians. And none of the bikers tried to get ahead of Dyer.

Dyer has hosted a Bike to Work Day event every year since becoming mayor in 2003. The League of American Bicyclists has designated Orlando as a "Bicycle Friendly Community" each year since 2000.

Think Bike Returns to Miami

Earlier this week, several members of the Dutch delegation came to Miami for a two-day ThinkBike workshop. The purpose of the ThinkBike workshop was to learn from the expertise of Dutch planners.  They came to teach us how we could improve downtown Miami’s bikeability. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the actual workshop, but I was able to get the full download of their thoughts from a co-worker that attended. The feedback I recieved was extremely positive.

Those that participated in the seminar were invited to ride a bicycle through the streets of Miami on Monday afternoon, although not everyone chose to ride. Those that opted not to get on a bicycle included several FDOT officials; I sincerely wished they had taken the opportunity to ride the streets of Miami. Nonetheless I consider it a huge success that four FDOT District 6 officials attended this seminar.  This is a big step in the right direction and a huge success in and of itself.

On Tuesday attendees were divided into groups. Each of the groups was invited to design a bicycle lane on a designated street within the city with the help of Dutch planners.

The Orange Team came up with a bike lane design that will actually be implemented on North Miami Avenue.  Although the plans haven’t been finalized, North Miami Avenue-from NW 14th Street to NW 36th Street-will likely see bike lanes as wide as 6 feet in some sections, with a 2-3 foot soft buffer and perhaps travel lanes as narrow as 10 feet. The County Public Works Department quickly came up with money and support for this project after the plans were presented.

The Blue Team was assigned the task to design a bicycle lane for 14th Street, from North Miami Avenue to the Health District. One of the ideas the Dutch presented for a section of this project was to separate the cycle track from the cars using parallel parking. This is a successful technique already used in New York City, San Francisco and Portland.

It should be noted that some attendees were at first skeptical that bike lanes could be implemented as initially proposed by the Dutch.  By the end of the seminar even some of the skeptics had a change of heart. It was very informative for the FDOT.  Hopefully the Dutch were able to change the FDOT mindset a bit, to “Think Bike” rather than only cars.

Thanks to the initiative of the Dutch Consulate we have been bestowed with a cool concept bike lane in the heart of the city. This is a major North-South bike connection; this is awesome, but a bit concerning at the same time.  Why does it take a Dutch delegation to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to get a bike lane installed in Miami?  Not to sound bitter, but Transit Miami’s recommendations are very similar to what the Dutch have proposed. Unfortunately, progress has been very slow.  Miami should be ecstatic to potentially be getting a world-class bike lane. Perhaps the Dutch brought the spark that will light up Miami with properly designed bike lanes? I hope so, because it is desperately needed in South Florida and the rest of the state too.

Everyone should be grateful for what the Dutch have done for the cycling world; including everything they accomplished in Miami during their short stay here. It sounds like the City of Miami and the County Public Work Department are willing to consider innovative bicycle infrastructure in future projects.  Let’s just hope their can-do attitude doesn’t fizzle in a couple of weeks. Let’s also hope that the FDOT begins to consider some of the ideas the Dutch have presented. The world is changing in front of our eyes. Gas prices are rising and people are driving less. We can’t continue to design roads to move cars faster; bicycles need to be part of the transportation mix.

The Dutch have set the bar for cycling infrastructure.  We should aspire to make cycling as safe as they have. We have plenty to learn from their 40+ years of experience in designing bicycle infrastructure. As the Dutch say “Think Bike”. Hopefully the County Public Works Department, the City of Miami, and the FDOT will pursue innovative projects like the Dutch have already proved to be successful.

Got Bikes...Ride 'Em? 2011


It seems like this spring has been crazy busy, but May is now upon us and May is National Bike Month.  few weekends ago, I was asked to help out in this year's installment of the Got Bikes?...Ride 'em! program. Our team met at the Dr. James R. Smith Center, with Commissioner Samuel B. Ings, during the Kid's Health Fair & Field Day. There were a few hundred kids there to participate in multiple events and learn about proper exercise and diet. The day included an Easter Egg Hunt, live music, food, "bouncy houses", and our obstacle course and bike training rodeo and bike raffle.

We set up an obstacle course and that let the children take turns making bike signals at stops and intersections, weaving through cones, looking back at signals, and finally riding while avoiding obstacles. After they had completed the course, they were given a raffle ticket for one of the ten bikes and helmets we gave away.

As usual, the children had fun winning the bikes, but today was also cool to see them ride bikes and learn about proper riding techniques. It makes it all worth while when you can see kids retain things that you are telling them, and that a few kids get a brand new bike to ride home. It was also cool to see a few of the kids that won last year, stroll in on the bikes. They had kept their bikes with pride and were happy to come by and ride through the obstacle course too. It is always good to share bike handling skills and to give kids bikes of their own.

NYC Biking and Safety Still Increasing

Biking continues to go up in New York as driving and transit ridership stays nearly flat, according to a report being released today by the New York City Department of Transportation. The report found that bicycle commuting into Manhattan increased by 13 percent in 2010. During that same period, subway and bus ridership dropped by a little bit over 2 percent, while car traffic rose slightly.
The report, the department’s third annual Sustainable Streets Index, showed other biking trends pointed upward. Commuting by bike in New York City is up 262% in the past ten years, and bicyclists now make up a third of the evening rush hour traffic along major bike routes in Brooklyn and Manhattan. On top of that, more than half a million adult New Yorkers ride bicycles at least several times a month.

The report comes after several other reports, including reports out of NYU and Rutgers, say cycling is only a small percentage of commuters. But the NYC DOT says that is based on older data gathered by the US census, and that census data is an inexact measure of bike commuting because it only measures “primary” methods of commutes.  The DOT says its methods are more accurate because they measure actual bicycle riders, consistent with national traffic management measures.

Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said a big part of that growth came from cyclists using bike lanes. “I think if you build it they will come,” she said about lanes. “They’ll come if you build a safe, effective network that connects neighborhoods where people want to bike.”

Critics say bike lanes take up too much road space and make it harder for cars to navigate the city. But the report says in addition to bike lanes, expect the installation of traffic-calming features like pedestrian malls, street-narrowing, and removing through-lanes for turning bays. Sadik-Kahn said all of those changes have reduced deaths and injuries from crashes.

Other findings:
Traffic speeds in Midtown Manhattan improved by six percent between the fall of 2008 and the fall of 2009, and then leveled off in 2010.

Ridership on crosstown buses dropped 5 percent–except on 34th Street, which has dedicated lanes and countdown clocks.

After the city began a pilot program that allowed businesses to take late-hour and early morning deliveries, delivery companies saw vehicle travel times improve 130% compared to evening and midday travel speeds. Sadik-Khan said the program will be made permanent and expanded.

New parking meters in Park Slope that raise prices during times of high demand reduced parking duration by 20 percent, enabling more drivers to find metered spaces and reducing overall traffic volumes on the neighborhood’s main commercial avenues.