Just a reminder of a free workshop happening this Wednesday on creating
basic baseline commuting surveys. RSVP is required, all are welcome!
[image: Inline image 3]
*II: Baseline commuting surveys*
*Wednesday, March 12, 12:00 - 1:30pm*
*Eco Centre Boardroom, 3rd Floor, 303 Portage Ave. *
Understanding how your co-workers currently get around will help inform
your next steps. This 1-1/2 hour workshop will help you plan and create a
basic online survey to determine existing commuting habits and what
programs, policies or incentives could have the biggest impact on commuting
choices at your workplace.
*Jessie Klassen* | Workplace Commuter Options
3rd floor, 303 Portage Avenue* | *(204) 925-3772
Green Action Centre is your non-profit hub for greener living.
Support our work by becoming a
PERCEPTIONS OF BICYCLE-FRIENDLY POLICY IMPACTS ON ACCESSIBILITY TO TRANSIT
SERVICES: THE FIRST AND LAST MILE BRIDGE (January 2014)
The coordination of bicycle and transit modes has received close attention
from public transit planners and researchers in recent years, as transit
agencies around the world have installed bicycle racks on transit vehicles,
implemented bicycles-on-trains policies, and made other efforts to
facilitate bicycle-transit integration. Many planners presume that the
catchment area for transit is enlarged by these efforts, but geographic
changes in the size of catchment areas have not been effectively
documented. This research project was designed to assess the distances
travelled on bicycle by cycle-transit users (CTUs), both those who use
bicycles as a means of access to transit stops and stations and those who
bicycle to and travel on transit with theirbicycles.
A mixed-methods approach was employed, using a literature review, a survey
of cyclist-transit users in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and telephone
interviews with a subset of survey respondents. Responses provided by CTUs
in the two cities allow us to define their characteristics and behaviors in
detail. What is more, they highlight two intriguing conclusions: that
transit catchment areas can be much larger for cycle-transit users than for
traditional transit users who access transit buses and rail on foot, and
that the very concept of a cycle-transit catchment area is quite complex
because of the variety of travel opportunities that cycle-transit
coordination policies present transit riders. CTUs take advantage of larger
catchment areas to reduce their travel costs, and they use those catchment
areas in curious, less predictable and more varied ways.
America's Cities Are Still Too Afraid to Make Driving Unappealing
The morning I wrote this I took public transportation to work. I hopped on
the bus around the corner from my house, then the train for a few stops
farther. I took mass transit because it was convenient, because my card was
already preloaded with the cash that diverts from my paycheck, and because
the ride gave me 20 minutes to start the day browsing Twitter.
Baked into this decision, however, were a number of other nearly subliminal
calculations about the alternatives not taken. I did not drive the car (yes,
my household has a car) because downtown Washington, D.C., is a hot mess at
rush hour, and because parking near the office costs the equivalent of a
fancy hamburger a day. I did not bike because it was snowing. (Again.
<http://www.theatlanticcities.com/topics/polar-vortex/> ) And I did not walk
because the distance was too far.
My commuting choices - just like everyone's - are the sum of the advantages
of one transportation mode weighed against the downsides of all other
options. Or, more succinctly: my feelings about the bus are mediated by what
I'm thinking about my car.
At a macro level, this decision-process implies that there are two ways to
shift more commuters out of single-occupancy vehicles and into other modes
of transportation, whether that's biking, carpooling, walking, or transit.
We can incentivize transit by making all of those other options more
attractive. Or we can disincentivize driving by making it less so. What's
become increasingly apparent in the United States is that we'll only get so
far playing to the first strategy without incorporating the second.
"One of the things I keep looking at is cities like Boulder, Davis
[California], and Portland - places well-known for walking and biking," says
Daniel Piatkowski, a recent graduate of the design and planning doctoral
program at the University of Colorado at Denver. I met him earlier this year
at the Transportation Research Board annual conference, where he was
presenting on what he's simply come to describe as the
"carrots" and "sticks" that might be deployed to get people out of their
"We're still not seeing any really significant mode shifts, despite decades
of investment," he says, still talking about the cycling capitals of
Portland and Boulder. "The crucial component that's missing is that we're
not implementing any policies that disincentivize driving."
"We're still not seeing any really significant mode shifts, despite decades
We can quibble over how to define "really significant" mode shifts. In
Portland, the share of commuters who get to work by bike is about 6 percent
s_it_a_go.html> , well above the national average (roughly half a percent
<http://traveltrends.transportation.org/Documents/CA10-4.pdf> ). But
Piatkowski's latter point is unquestionably true: relative to European
-more-car-dependent-europe/8226/> , it is exceptionally hard in U.S.
communities to implement real disincentives to driving.
There are ways to do it. We could reduce parking availability or raise
parking rates. We could implement congestion pricing
/315/> . We could roll back subsidies for gas and highways and public
parking garages. We could tie auto-insurance rates or infrastructure taxes
to how much people actually drive
ry-mile-you-drive/7113/> . All of these "sticks," to use Piatkowski's term,
would have a real impact on how people chose to get around. And that impact
would no doubt be larger than what we get from building new bike lanes,
sidewalks, or bus stops.
But these are the options we almost never choose. For his research,
Piatkowski looked at four cities that won grants each worth $25 million to
increase biking and walking as part of a federal Nonmotorized Transportation
Pilot Program <http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/ntpp/>
. Unanimously, those cities spent almost all of their money on "carrots."
Piatkowski couldn't even find much literature on the impact of driving
disincentives in the United States because so few are implemented.
"On a scale of getting to a place that is like Zurich or Freiberg, one of
these really epic walkable, transit-friendly, bikeable places," he says.
"We're just so far away from that."
. . . . .
Piatkowski and his research collaborator, Wesley Marshall, aren't arguing
that cities shouldn't deploy carrots like striping bike lanes or improving
bus service or paving shaded sidewalks for pedestrians. After all, driving
disincentives won't be all that effective if commuters don't have viable
alternatives. More likely, these would just harm low-income commuters by
increasing the burdens of driving without decreasing the burdens of
The question is really how far we can get down the path of least resistance,
pursuing only the politically easy tactics. If the goal at the end of the
day is changing behavior, how much can you really achieve by showing people
a nice new bike lane?
"It's going to be marginal," says Marshall, an assistant professor in the
College of Engineering and Applied Science at UC-Denver. "You can't expect
to put in a bike lane and for it to be a magical elixir in most of the
That's not always the case. Carrot-like improvements to transit in New York
City have significantly changed behavior
<http://www.schallerconsult.com/pub/modeshft.pdf> because disincentives to
drive are already built into the environment. New York is expensive and
crowded, which means that parking is costly and congestion is bad. But
elsewhere - in cities where driving is systematically subsidized in so many
ways - the disincentives would have to come from more explicit policy.
In the absence of such policies, Arlington County, Virginia, offers a good
case study for the upper bounds of what's possible with incentives alone.
The county's commuter services office runs one of the most advanced travel
demand management programs in the country, just across the Potomac from
"We're afraid to push the disincentive lever too hard."
"The stuff we focus on is much more mundane, ground-level tactics," says
Chris Hamilton, chief of the county's Commuter Services Bureau. "The Bike
Arlington <http://www.bikearlington.com/> guys are just trying to help so
many adults over the hump of riding a bike for the first time again."
The county runs commuter stores and bike clinics. It teaches people how to
swipe transit cards and find the bus. It works with building managers to
coax them into putting bike lockers in the basement, and transit screens in
the lobby. It prods local employers to subsidize transit cards and
Through all of this work, Hamilton's office calculates that 42,000 trips a
day in the county that would otherwise take place in a single-occupancy
vehicle now occur in other modes instead. Three-quarters of those trips are
taken by mass transit. All of that has come through lowering the barriers or
increasing the appeal of alternative transportation.
That's an impressive number. But when asked if he wouldn't rather the county
just tax the heck out of parking, Hamilton laughs. He knows that would make
his job much easier. "We wouldn't have to do any of this," he says.
A creative city might be able to make a disincentive feel like an incentive.
Piatkowski points to a
<http://www.arb.ca.gov/planning/tsaq/cashout/cashout.htm> "parking cash-out"
law in California that requires employers to give workers a cash allowance
to not use parking.
"The stick then becomes missing out on the reward," Piatkowski says.
But why not just wield disincentives as what they honestly are? "Behavior
change" sounds vaguely manipulative (whether we're talking about behavior
involving automobiles or thermostats
y-use-through-peer-pressure/384/> ). But in this context, the disincentives
are really about removing subsidies and distortions from the market. Parking
isn't really free
tax-2014/7974/> don't actually cover the costs of maintaining our roads. So
why is it so hard to disincentivize driving at the same time that we
incentivize the alternatives, at least until they're in some better kind of
"Because we're afraid," Hamilton says. "Because we don't have the guts to
pull the levers on what we want. We know that we want a walkable, bikeable,
transit community. We're building it. But we're afraid to push the
disincentive lever too hard."
Cycling in cities: the search for the world's most bike-friendly metropolis
Is urban cycling worth the risk? Only one way to find out: saddle up and plant two wheels in seven cities around the world
A cyclist passes a steam vent in the financial district of Toronto; not a welcoming city on two wheels. Photograph: Andy Clark/Reuters. Story courtesy of Mosaic <http://www.mosaicscience.com>
It was just another morning commute. That is, until a bus driver ran a red light, turned right, and drove straight into Ann-Doerthe Hass Jensen. The bus knocked the social worker off her bike, trapping her underneath, a wheel pinning down and crushing her left foot. It was a school bus heading to a Copenhagen kindergarten, and the children aboard were screaming. Ann was rushed to hospital in excruciating pain, every bone in her foot shattered.
In the six weeks of hospitalisation that followed, part of Ann's foot was amputated. Salvageable bones were wired back into place and skin grafts were taken from her thigh to replace the torn and missing flesh. "I'm pretty lucky," says Ann. "People normally die when this happens."
It was a year before she could walk again. During that year, she had to take a taxi to work every day. "I hated it," she says. "Here, the taxi drivers are a menace, and I was really scared of accidents." She also hated having to wait. Travelling by bike in Copenhagen is often the fastest way to get around, which is the top reason that Copenhageners cycle.
Ann's physiotherapy was tricky. The missing portion of her foot is a crucial stepping point, and its absence affects her balance. But walking wasn't the only part of her rehabilitation.
In Copenhagen – where people own 5.2 bicycles for every car – over a third of residents pedal to work, school or college. So rehabilitation often literally means getting you back in the saddle. The city helped Ann get a specially adapted Nihola cycle: a sturdy, stable threewheeler that has allowed her to regain independent mobility.
In cities <http://www.theguardian.com/cities> across the world, researchers, planners and policymakers are examining the many potential plus points of cycling <http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/cycling> . Increasing the proportion of people who cycle or walk, rather than drive, could not only reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but also lower people's risk of developing a number of diseases. But at what cost? To what extent does cycling in cities expose you to the risk of injury or death? What makes some cities so much safer and attractive for cyclists than others?
The drastically different design and policy approaches taken by large cities in Europe and North America provide some stark comparisons on cycling safety, equity and its impact on public health. To weigh up the risks and benefits of city cycling, and explore what can be learned where public health, urban design and transport engineering meet, I did what I had to do: I hopped on a bike.
Paris has become accustomed to bicycles
In Paris, new bike lanes are pervasive. Though many of the streets are centuries old, sometimes cobbled, and claustrophobically narrow, bike lanes have been prominently marked. There are also some segregated cycle paths, often crazily disconnected – disappearing and appearing again in a seemingly random fashion.
Skinny one-way streets might have bike lanes on the right, so you cycle with the direction of the traffic, or on the left, so you're in the contraflow. On some major streets, like Boulevard Saint-Michel, there are special lanes shared by bikes and buses. Though I felt less squeezed cycling in these wide lanes, where traffic was much lighter than the adjacent lanes for cars, I did feel a little intimidated about sharing the lane with buses.
That said, the Parisian bus drivers gave me plenty of space, and didn't behave aggressively. I did get a sense that traffic here has become accustomed to bicycles. There are some off-street cycle paths too. Zooming alongside the Seine on the elevated bike path, totally segregated from motorised traffic, was pure delight.
Vélib bikes, from Paris's bicycle sharing system, were in use everywhere. I saw men in suits, teenagers, women in chic business attire, pensioners, and female university students riding side by side on the bikes. Posting celebrity Vélib' sightings on social media has apparently become something of a local pastime. The bikes are such a fixture that I saw one young man taking a break on a parked Vélib', feet on the handlebars, chatting on his mobile phone.
In the midst of Paris's cycling revolution, it seemed fitting to meet Ari Rabl at Le Procope, a city restaurant where some of the leaders of the French Revolution gathered. With Audrey de Nazelle, a lecturer at the centre for environmental policy at Imperial College London, Rabl, a consultant and retired scientist at the centre energétique et procédés of the École des Mines in Paris, has looked at the health benefits when people move from cars to walking or cycling.
Rabl explains that they found that the population-level costs due to fatal accidents are outweighed at least tenfold by the health benefits of walking or cycling. Monetising the costs and benefits, Rabl and De Nazelle estimated that for a driver who switches from driving to cycling for their 5km commute, the overall health benefit from physical activity is worth about €1,300 (£1,070) per year. Of course, it's important to point out that while fatal accidents might be reported as small "population-level costs" in public health studies, they have tragic, catastrophic costs for individuals and their loved ones.
Many Danes don't even consider cycling exercise
Four days earlier, and some 1,000 or so kilometres north-east, I'm sitting in a conference room at the University of Copenhagen's department of public health, overlooking the picturesque Lakes area. Around the table are health researchers Astrid Ledgaard Holm, Henning Langberg and Henrik Brønnum-Hansen.
Ledgaard Holm, a doctoral student, has modelled the health impacts of increased cycling. Accounting for physical activity, exposure to accidents and air pollution, she and colleagues found that the overall burden of disease – including heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer – was reduced in people who cycled. The positive health effects of increased cycling were more than a third larger than the potential loss of health from bicycle accidents and air pollution.
Other studies investigating the health impacts of cycling have found similar positive benefits, although the magnitude varies. In a different study based in Copenhagen, researchers analysed data from over 13,000 women and 17,000 men to explore the impact of physical activity on mortality. Even after adjusting for other factors, such as physical activity in leisure time, they found that people who did not cycle to work experienced a 39% higher mortality rate than those who did. In other words, cycling improved longevity.
One of the most interesting insights the Danish researchers share is how they've discovered that many Danes don't consider cycling exercise. "People here can easily be riding back and forth 5 km per day, and if you ask them on a questionnaire if they are physically active, they will say 'No, I don't do any exercise'," says Ledgaard Holm. For many here, she says, it's not a choice of activity, but your mode of transport.
What's immediately striking about cycling in Copenhagen is the incredible diversity of individuals on bicycles. Embedding myself in the morning rush-hour traffic on Nørrebrogade, one of Copenhagen's busiest cycle routes, I see a woman in a long flowing black jilbab pedalling a cargo bike with two small children in the basket. I see men of all ages in suits; women in dresses, high-heeled boots and smart coats, flowing garments protected from the spokes by metal skirt guards on the wheel hub. I see university students and children cycling to school; toddlers strapped into child seats on the front or back of mum or dad's bike; and baskets of children pedalled along in sturdy Christiana or streamlined Bullit bikes. Some children ride the cycle paths independently. Others are shepherded by parents cycling alongside, who guide their charges with the occasional gentle hand on the back.
While cycling to interviews at the University of Copenhagen one morning, I happen upon a makeshift memorial on the side of the street. At the intersection of Store Kongensgade and Dronningens Tværgade in the city centre, a stretch of tarmac the length of a body is adorned with fresh flowers and candle jars inscribed with handwritten notes. I discover later that it's where a 20-year-old woman on her bike was struck and killed several weeks earlier by a tourist bus making a right-hand turn.
Decades after streets were first painted with white crosses to mark fallen cyclists, cycling accidents, although rare, are still not taken lightly here. Only one Copenhagen cyclist was killed in 2012, and no year from 1998 to 2012 has seen more than seven cyclists killed in the city, according to Statistics Denmark. These figures are quite something in a city where the population cycles an estimated 1.27m km every day. The risk associated with being a cyclist in Copenhagen "has dropped by more than 70% over the last 15 years" according to Niels Torslov, the city's traffic director. "And it's a very strong story about finding the right measures, and designing a road space in a way that protects the users, especially those cycling."
The use of cycling helmets is growing among Copenhageners, noticeably more than in Amsterdam, where helmet wearing is still very much an exception. At the time of her accident, in 2006, Ann-Doerthe Hass Jensen was wearing a helmet, though clearly, as she says herself, a helmet protects your head but not your feet. She says that working at Copenhagen's Centre for Rehabilitation of Brain Injury, as she does, makes you fanatical about helmets. "There is no way I would not have a helmet on," she says. After several days of exploring Copenhagen by bike, I meet Ann at the centre, where she leads me outside to see her specially adapted tricycle. Her sense of pride is palpable. It takes her between 30 – 40 minutes to make the trip from home to work. "The first few times I got back on a bike again, it was hard. Really, really hard," she says. "There was a lot of crying."
Now, though, there is no stopping her. In her first year of recovery, Ann's rehabilitation team felt she needed to re-establish both the freedom of mobility and the quality of life that her bicycle had previously allowed. It wasn't easy. Beyond the physical challenges of getting Ann back in the saddle, there was another hurdle: her enormous fear. "I had to work with a psychologist … because I was scared like hell," she says. Using cognitive therapy, she and her psychologist worked through the entire experience, going over the incident report in excruciating detail. Pushing through that fear was tough. "It wasn't my perception that was off that day. It was somebody who actually did something wrong. And it took me a while to get my confidence again," she says. Ann's fear was not unreasonable. Her experience wasn't just an accident. It was the action of a negligent driver, whose licence was revoked when the case came to court two years later.
Of all the cities, London was the most terrifying
Research shows that perceived safety is at least as critical as measured safety to the willingness of citizens to hop on a bike. For me, of all the cities I cycled in, London was the most terrifying.
Cyclists were prevalent in the centre of the city, and what immediately struck me, beyond the dense, fast-moving traffic they were attempting to navigate, was the rapid speed they were cycling at. In impromptu interviews with cyclists stopped at traffic lights, I asked one woman why she cycled. Her answer: "I hate the tube, it's really unhealthy and sweaty and overcrowded." Asked if she felt safe cycling, she said, "No. That's the honest answer." But her sentiments weren't shared by everyone I asked. A student who had just moved to London said, "It's about five to 10 years ahead of New York," adding that she felt quite safe cycling on London's cycle superhighways.
I, on the other hand, did not. I spent some time watching cyclists crossing the Southwark bridge section of one of the cycle superhighways. Riding along CS7's blue-painted bike lane on a "Boris bike (Mayor Boris Johnson's cycle hire scheme was introduced in 2010) largely unseparated from mixed, fast-moving traffic, made me anxious and uneasy. What's more, I suffer from asthma, making me a bit of a human canary for air pollution. After the noticeably clean air of Copenhagen, the polluted air of London made for laboured breathing. London is beginning to make progress on provisions for cyclists, and there are good sections of the growing infrastructure, but I saw plenty of room for improvement. On both sides of Southwark bridge, the short, separated span of blue bike lane, protected by a concrete barrier, fed straight into a bus stop. This forced cyclists to choose between two unappealing options: wait like a sitting duck behind the bus while it stops, or pull out into traffic to overtake, and risk being in one of the bus's many blind spots when it pulls out from the kerb.
Peter Wright is the delivery planner for cycling at Transport for London (TfL), the local government body chaired by Johnson. Wright explains that bus-stop bypasses are planned, "to try and avoid conflict so that cyclists don't have to come out into general traffic". A similar hazard was delivery vehicles parked in bike lanes, a common sight in London and Paris.
In November 2013, when asked about the spate of cycling deaths, Johnson told the Guardian <http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/14/boris-johnson-london-cycling…> that if cyclists did not follow the rules, "there's no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people's lives." To be fair, London's Mayor – a cyclist himself – is making gradual progress. In 2013, TfL announced its safe streets for London plan, which aims to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured by 40% by 2020. Ben Plowden from TfL surface transport said: "In 2015, we will be spending £145m a year on cycling, or roughly £18 a head, up with the best in Germany and almost on a par with the Netherlands. This represents around 2% of TfL's overall expenditure and is roughly proportionate to the current 2% mode share of cycling." He added that cycle spending would total £913m during the next 10 years, more than treble previously planned levels.
Safety in absence?
It is not completely clear how and why accident rates change as the number of cyclists varies, but a safety in numbers effect seems to occur: safety improves in a city as the total number of cyclists increases. This effect has been seen in studies in Denmark, the Netherlands, 14 other European countries, Australia and 68 cities in California.
"It is likely that causation runs in both directions: safer cycling encourages more cycling, and more cycling encourages greater safety," writes John Pucher, professor of urban Planning at Rutgers University, New Jersey, in his recent book City Cycling. Motorist behaviour probably contributes to this phenomenon. In places like Copenhagen – where four out of five individuals have access to a bicycle – most drivers are also cyclists, and so are accustomed to sharing public space with bicycles.
It can be difficult to compare safety between cities because of the lack of consistency in data collection and because of the need to frame injuries and deaths within the context of exposure – the overall numbers of trips, total distance or time spent cycling. Under-reporting of cycling crashes is also a well-documented problem. Nevertheless, Pucher's 2012 book written with Ralph Buehler listed figures for annual fatalities per 10,000 daily cyclists: Copenhagen 0.3, Amsterdam 0.4, Vancouver 0.9, Toronto 1.3, Portland 1.9, Montréal 2.0, Paris 8.2, London 11.0 and New York 37.6 (all 2010 except Paris, London and New York, 2009).
Unless you are travelling at breakneck speed, though, there is nothing inherently dangerous about cycling – it's the environment you're in that creates danger. Ian Roberts, a professor at the nutrition and public health intervention research unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, began his career as a paediatric trauma doctor. "I saw lots of children hit by cars," he says, "and it really is awful." He describes these deaths as "kinetic energy disease" – a reference to the idea of mismatched masses in motion. When one of those masses is protected by metal casing, but the other isn't, it's clear who is more likely to be hurt.
One of the trends Roberts has puzzled over is the long-term decline in the death rates of British pedestrians, despite an increase in motorisation. "Road safety people would point to it as an example of how roads are getting safer. But I was a little bit sceptical … because [the] volume of kinetic energy on the road was going up." An alternative hypothesis was that in industrialised countries, there were fewer people walking, something investigated in research he conducted while working in New Zealand. "Over the years it became obvious that people were walking and cycling less than ever before in the history of humans on the planet," says Roberts. "The world was not getting safer, it was getting more hostile, and people were voting with their feet by getting out of the way."
The bicycle-as-vehicle philosophy
In North America in the 1970s, cyclists – or at least the most vocal advocacy groups purporting to represent them – did not want to get out of the way. So-called vehicular cycling was emerging, a philosophy that has influenced transport policy in both North America and Britain.
Fathered by the Californian industrial engineer and cycling activist John Forester, vehicular cycling encourages cyclists to travel on the road in mixed traffic. On his website, Forester writes: "Vehicular cycling, so named because you are acting as the driver of a vehicle, just as the traffic laws require, is faster and more enjoyable, so that the plain joy of cycling overrides the annoyance of even heavy traffic."
In 1970s California, lots of athletic cyclists were forming touring groups for riding fast on roads, explains Anne Lusk, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health. Back then, she says, such groups may have legitimately feared that US adoption of Dutch-style cycle paths would restrict bike access to roads. "At the time, paths were becoming crowded by joggers, walkers, inline skaters and baby-carriage pushers," says Lusk, so cycling advocates fought forcefully against proposals for cycle paths.
The vehicular cycling philosophy became incorporated into US guidelines for transport design, and its influence was felt for decades, limiting the building of physically separated cycle tracks and putting cyclists on the road with cars. "It's something that really stuck in North America," says Meghan Winters, assistant professor in the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, Canada. Asked if the philosophy of vehicular cycling is evidence-based, she says no. "But it's something that was sticky and was adopted very broadly for very, very many years," she adds.
Forester's teachings included how to operate as a motor vehicle, with skills like not riding in the door zone (the area next to a parked car where an opened door could hit a moving cyclist). They were useful, says Lusk, in that they did teach people how to bike with cars if they had to. But she does not endorse Forester's view that there should be no cycle lanes painted on the road, no separate cycle tracks and no cycle symbols.
Lusk, and other researchers who have studied the particular needs of certain groups of cyclists – such as women, children, elderly people and parents transporting children – point out that many of these riders cannot operate as a vehicle as confidently as, say, a fit young man on a racing or touring bike. Utilitarian cycling, with bike-specific transport infrastructure, is about being inclusive, addressing the needs of cyclists young and old, male and female. The need for speed is not universal among cyclists, nor is feeling comfortable cycling in heavy, motorised traffic.
It's precisely the recognition that cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, and with all kinds of needs, that has driven the last several decades of cycling infrastructure and policy in Denmark and the Netherlands. Tom Godefrooij of the Dutch Cycling Embassy writes: "Cycling is too important as a mode of transport to leave it only to the daring helmeted cycle warriors in conspicuous jackets. Cycling should not be elitist, but for all."
How northern Europe shunned the car
Outside Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, I see a worker giving his colleague a lift to a plane on the back of his bike, an example of just how deeply embedded cycling is in Dutch culture.
A bicycle is by far the best and quickest way to get around Amsterdam, local journalist Bennie Mols tells me. One new hazard he laments is tourists on bikes, who lack the understanding of how and where to ride. His description stirs a guilty pang. I learn quickly (but too late) that the hand signal for stop is essential in busy bike traffic. Failing to use it as I slow down to navigate, I cause a near-collision as a herd of bicycles behind me screeches to a halt, one woman yelling "seriously?" at me multiple times as she skids to a stop on the grassy verge. Wishing I could dissolve into the bike path, I sheepishly review the hand signals in my guidebook. It's a mistake I don't make again.
Amsterdam and Copenhagen weren't always the cycle-friendly cities they are today. In the Netherlands, as car-buying wealth grew in the postwar era, cycling rates dropped precipitously from about 85% of all trips in the 1950s to about 20% in the early 1970s. As the numbers of cyclists fell, discontent grew over the increasing numbers of cyclists and pedestrians killed in traffic accidents. A journalist whose daughter had been killed in traffic launched the 'Stop Kindermoord' (stop the child murder) movement. There were widespread street protests.
Danish transport policy reached a tipping point in the 1970s and 1980s, when the nation veered away from urban planning dominated by provisions for motorised vehicles, towards the establishment of cycling-specific infrastructure and traffic calming. As Stop Kindermoord emerged in the Netherlands, a corresponding movement grew in Denmark. The public rose up against a proposal to build a major motorway alongside a picturesque area of Copenhagen known as the Lakes. Massive demonstrations ensued. It was during this era that protesters began painting white crosses on the streets where cyclists had been killed in traffic.
So while most other developed nations continued through the 1980s and beyond with road transport design that prioritised the needs of motorised vehicles, a dramatic change was taking place in northern Europe. The shift in thinking catalysed by public protest was that, rather than requiring children and cyclists to adapt to motorised traffic, traffic should adapt to children and cyclists. Northern Europe's shift towards a safer, more convenient infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians created an unplanned natural experiment – albeit one fraught with uncontrolled variables including car taxes, climate, topography, political differences and dependence on the car industry for employment. Nevertheless, in cities orientated towards motor vehicles, the limited provision of transport routes that safely accommodate bikes and a default assumption that riders will adopt vehicular cycling have resulted in stagnantly low numbers of (mostly male) cyclists, for the best part of three decades.
"There are dramatic differences in terms of cycling rates and cycling safety between those two places [northern Europe and North America]," says Meghan Winters. "So I think the evidence clearly illustrates which one of these strategies is effective if your goal is to get large segments of the population cycling, and cycling safely … In a sense, this is a global experiment on that, and I think North America may be coming around now," she says. Perhaps. But there's a long road ahead.
Montréal is the most cycle-friendly Canadian city
It's the summer of 2013, and Toronto traffic is a mess. In the midst of major street reconstruction and resurfacing, traffic queues bumper to bumper heading south on Bay Street, near City Hall. There are a few demarcated bike lanes, and only one separated bike path (not including completely off-street routes such as the largely recreational path along the lakeshore).
Taxis weave in and out of lanes, sometimes coming very close to the kerb – the space shared with bicycles. It feels like a hostile environment for cyclists, and I do not sense much tolerance of bikes from motorists. One of the cyclists I speak to in an impromptu interview says that it's pedestrians rather than vehicles that he worries about most. Other hazards for Toronto cyclists include streetcars. Their tracks, which can trap a bicycle wheel if crossed in parallel, are particularly nervewracking. Toronto is not an unfamiliar city to me – I lived here for more than a decade – but returning to cycle downtown is not a pleasant experience.
In Vancouver, however, there's a shift in transportation thinking. I note a growing number of bike lanes, segregated bike paths, and painted bike boxes at junctions, which give cyclists a safe place to await a green light and turn safely, ahead of motorists. Though recreational cycling in places like Stanley Park has been possible for decades, it's cycling as transportation that is the focus of the Vancouver city council and mayor Gregor Robertson, who cycles to work.
Some of the new separated bike paths feel very safe and easy to use. But there are still places where lanes end in a fairly hazardous way, such as one junction where the bike lane ends abruptly only to reappear a few metres later in the middle of two lanes of car traffic. Cycling along Dunsmuir and over the bridge viaduct on the fully segregated bike lane feels incredibly liberating. Perhaps I'm pushing my luck riding a bike around downtown Vancouver on Friday the 13th, but where the bike routes are marked, or traffic is calmed, I feel relatively safe.
The science of urban cycling is messy, but the case for separated bike lanes combined with traffic-calming measures (to reduce vehicle speed) is mounting. A 2009 paper that examined findings from 23 studies from across the world suggested that "purpose-built bicycle-specific facilities reduce crashes and injuries among cyclists". Recent research in Vancouver and Toronto by a collaboration of 14 researchers, including Winters, found that "at local street intersections, traditional stops are safer than traffic circles [roundabouts], and at non-intersections, cycle tracks alongside major streets and traffic diversion from local streets are safer than no bicycle infrastructure". Many more studies are forthcoming from the Canadian Cycling in Cities research group.
Montréal is the most cycle-friendly Canadian city I visit. Even where bike lanes are not explicitly marked, motorists are generally patient and considerate in terms of sharing space with cyclists. Though definitely more hilly than Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the undulating topography doesn't seem to be an impediment to Montréalers.
Montréal means 'Mount Royal', referring to the steep – if not entirely mountainous – hill and park near the centre of town. The Plateau area, an uphill climb from the city centre, is one of the most heavily cycled parts of the city. It hosts the city's oldest major bike path, along Rue de Brébeuf, a route that spans the entire island of Montréal. During morning rush hour, I see a steady stream of bikes along Boulevard de Maisonneuve, one of several bidirectional, fully segregated bike paths with bike-specific traffic lights. Bikes are also allowed in Montréal's parks, many of which have trails for recreational or commuting use. It was in Montréal, the only large North American city to have cycling infrastructure dating back to the 1980s, that Anne Lusk and colleagues tested the safety of separated cycling infrastructure versus road cycling. They found that separated cycle tracks have lower crash and injury rates (or at least no higher) than the street, and have seen a similar trend in the USA. And research by Winters and colleagues adds to the evidence, finding that bicycle-specific infrastructure that reduces interactions between cyclists and motor vehicles can reduce the occurrence of injuries, potentially by more than 50%.
So, how do we make our cities better for cyclists? Safe-cycling cities, policies and legislation already exist, and can inspire others. In Oregon, Portland's vulnerable user law, for example, is modelled on a European safety concept, says lawyer Ray Thomas, a partner at Swanson, Thomas, Coon and Newton – who specialises in cycling law.
In Copenhagen, in one of many chance interviews with cyclists on city streets, I happen upon a young American student – Mike Milan, from Greenville, South Carolina – who is studying architecture there. "As I've learned in my urban design class here, Copenhagen has tried to slow down the city to a human pace, and a human scale," he says. His thoughts conceptually crystallise the city's transport philosophy, and are equally applicable to Amsterdam.
"Making people feel safer on bikes should not mean equipping them with high-vis and reflective helmets," says Jack Harris, owner of London's Tally Ho! Cycle Tours. "We need infrastructure that allows a broader cross-section of society to get onto a bike." The places that are serious about encouraging cycling as a safe, accessible and pleasant mode of transport have some tough decisions to make about vulnerable users, including cyclists, in the allocation of urban space.
At the Copenhagen rehabilitation centre where Ann-Doerthe Hass Jensen works, her physiotherapist colleague Daniel Thue Bech-Pedersen says: "Our main goal of rehabilitation is to allow any individual to be more active again." This can mean being active for work, for leisure, for getting yourself around. "When you can transport yourself and make sure you lower your risk of having another stroke or whatever," he says, "then one plus one equals three."
Ann suffers chronic pain from her foot, wears special orthopaedic shoes and walks with a cane, so getting back to cycling made a massive difference to her mobility. It also gave her back her independence. On her cargo trike, she can take her two-year-old niece out on excursions, something that would be impossible on foot or by bus.
Asked how she feels at this point along her recovery and about riding to work each day, she replies without hesitation: "I love it." Her tricycle has given her much more than just a means of getting about. Being mobile means being independent, but even more, it means being free.
[Really nice to see the mention of Peg City Car
to this article but we actually have 9 cars now and will be expanding again
this spring. -cheers, Beth]
'Peak Car' is upon usSeveral analysts believe auto sales growth has
reached its limit as an increasingly urban world rejects hassles, expenses
of car ownership
By: Jeff Green and Keith Naughton
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- The world that Henry Ford put on wheels is poised to
Several auto-industry analysts predict "peak car," a point at which annual
global sales growth will top out, in the next decade. Researcher IHS
Automotive, for one, sees annual sales cresting at 100 million within that
Pollution and gridlock are putting a damper on driving in the globe's
growing megacities. More young North Americans are opting for public
transport, bikes and vehicle-sharing. Cars on the road are lasting longer
All of that may herald a new era for an auto industry weaned on a century
of global growth.
Peak Car is at odds with the ambitious expansion plans of global
automakers, which IHS says are gearing up to produce more than 120 million
vehicles by 2016 -- almost 50 per cent more than last year's worldwide
sales mark of 82 million.
Driving this upheaval is a rapidly emerging reality: The vehicle that
ushered in an unparalleled era of personal mobility in the last century is,
in many cases, no longer the most convenient conveyance, particularly as
more of the world's population migrates to big cities.
No one is predicting car sales will suddenly fall off or that today's car
companies are now dinosaurs. What experts do see is a reckoning for car
companies, which may have to adapt to a world with less car-buying and more
car-sharing, more cars that drive themselves and fewer hot rodders on the
"The key question is: Do you sell cars or do you sell mobility?" said Tim
Ryan, New York-based vice-chairman of markets and strategy for consultant
PricewaterhouseCoopers. "If you ignore these megatrends, you run the risk
of becoming irrelevant."
Many automakers are preparing for changing markets with cars that can be
shared, or speak to one another in a bid to keep traffic from jamming.
General Motors' EN-V autonomous two-seater, a vehicle engineered jointly
with Segway that can detect and avoid obstacles, is being tested in
"We have looked at the urbanization trend very closely," said Jim Cain, a
spokesman for Detroit-based GM. "It's driven experiments like our EN-V
program in China and our involvement in services like car sharing."
The case for growing gridlock has been presented by PricewaterhouseCoopers,
among others. Today, half the world lives in urban areas. During the next
decade, there will be a 25 per cent to 50 per cent increase in urban
dwelling, as about 1 billion people move into cities, PwC estimates.
In 25 years, there will be 9 billion people living in urban areas -- more
than the entire population of the Earth today. If they are all driving
cars, gridlock could block the path of food, water and emergency medical
treatment in urban areas, said Ryan.
"People won't stand for spending 25 per cent of their life commuting. The
way they will get around will be different."
In the U.S., 44 per cent of people would prefer to live in a city with
automated "driverless" cars that would reduce congestion, according to a
new survey from Intel. Already in the U.S., where automotive ownership has
long seemed a birthright, almost one in 10 households doesn't have a car,
up 5.7 per cent over the last five years.
More young people aren't getting a driver's licence, once a rite of
passage. In 2010, 69.5 per cent of 19-year-olds in the U.S. had a driver's
licence, down from 87.3 per cent in 1983, said Michael Sivak, director of
sustainable worldwide transportation at the University of Michigan
Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor.
Better-built cars are damping demand for new ones: The average age of autos
on the road today has reached a record 11.4 years, researcher R.L. Polk &
Alternatives to auto ownership are emerging, such as ride-sharing
companies. In Winnipeg, Peg City Car Co-op operates a fleet of eight cars
that's shared among more than 140 members.
Ultimately, urban dwellers will order a ride to work on their phones, get
picked up by a driverless car and whisk through traffic controlled by
satellites and sensors that get them to the office safely and quickly, said
Thilo Koslowski, auto analyst for researcher Gartner Inc. of Stamford,
Conn. U.S. regulators said this month they've begun working on rules to let
vehicles communicate via wireless chips while on the road.
For the world's automakers and suppliers, that means making cars won't be
enough anymore, Ryan said. They have to transform into
transportation-service providers that cater to consumers who don't want the
hassle and expense of owning a car and instead just want to rent one that
comes when summoned.
Many are laying the groundwork. Preparing for driverless cars and vehicles
that talk to each other makes up a significant portion of the $100 billion
the global auto industry spends on research and development, a study last
month by the Center for Automotive Research, or CAR, found.
Ford executive chairman Bill Ford, great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, in
2009 formed Fontinalis Partners to invest in mobility technology such as
bike-sharing service Zagster and ParkMe parking-assistance software.
"We're going to have these megacities and they are going to have lots of
infrastructure issues, not just transportation, but clean water and food
distribution," Ford said in a July 2011 interview, outlining issues the
Dearborn, Mich.-based company said this month it's continuing to examine.
"If you look at every auto company's business plan and extrapolate it out
over the next 10 years, it certainly didn't take me long to start asking
the question: Where will all those cars and trucks go?"
One answer: For every vehicle that is used in a car-sharing fleet,
automakers will lose 32 vehicle sales, a study by AlixPartners concluded.
The Southfield-based consulting firm, which advised GM on its bankruptcy,
estimates car-sharing has cost makers 500,000 vehicle purchases since 2006.
Self-driving "autonomous" cars will be the "killer app" that enables
car-sharing companies to blossom, AlixPartners said. By 2020, it said, four
million Americans will car-share, up from 1 million now.
That coming boom in autonomous cars has created an opening for technology
companies that view mobility differently than automakers do. Google Inc.
has logged hundreds of thousands of miles road-testing its own driverless
cars, CAR says.
"The auto manufacturers may need to have a different generation of senior
executives and CEOs because today's generation gets more excited about the
sheet metal of a production car versus the bits and bytes," Gartner's
Koslowski said. "If the industry doesn't work fast enough, the Googles and
Apples of the world will fill the void."
*-- Washington Post-Bloomberg*
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2014 D5