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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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The Science (and Maps) Behind Finding Available Citi Bikes and Docks

Columbia University researchers have turned their attention to how Citi Bike can improve the availability of bikes and open docks.

Columbia University researchers have turned their attention to how Citi Bike can improve the availability of bikes and open docks. Image: GSAPP Spatial Information Design Lab

Coming across an empty bike-share station when you need a bike — or a full one, when you need a dock — is a disappointing experience, to say the least. While Citi Bike’s rebalancing efforts try to keep up by shuttling bikes around town, the company is working against a tide that shifts demand unevenly across its service area.

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, a researcher at Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Lab, mapped those demand imbalances as part of a project the lab is working on. ”Origins and destinations of Citi Bike trips are not necessarily symmetrical during the day,” he wrote. To untangle the patterns of bike-share riders, the team used weekday data from last October to create a matrix showing imbalances at every station by hour of day.

There are predictable patterns: Between 10 a.m. and midnight, stations around Union Square act as the center of much of the system’s activity. Not surprisingly, Penn Station and Grand Central become hotspots during peak hours. The worst imbalances occur from 6 to 10 a.m. and again from 4 to 8 p.m., though there a handful of outlier stations that either don’t experience major imbalances or see capacity problems outside those hours.

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FHWA: Bike-Ped Investments Pay Off By Cutting Traffic and Improving Health

Marin County rebuilt an old railroad tunnel and created a 1.1-mile non-motorized path, expanding transit access and increasing biking by 95 percent. Photo: ##http://parisi-associates.com/projects/non-motorized-transportation-pilot-program/##Parisi Associates##

Marin County rebuilt an old railroad tunnel and created a 1.1-mile walking and biking path, improving access to transit and increasing biking 95 percent on the road leading to the tunnel. Photo: Parisi Associates

Nine years after launching a program to measure the impact of bike and pedestrian investments in four communities, the Federal Highway Administration credits the program with increasing walking trips by nearly a quarter and biking trips by nearly half, while averting 85 million miles of driving since its inception.

In 2005, the FHWA’s Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) set aside $100 million for pedestrian and bicycle programs in four communities: Columbia, Missouri; Marin County, California; Sheboygan County, Wisconsin; and the Minneapolis region in Minnesota.

Each community had $25 million to spend over four years, with most of the funding going toward on-street and off-street infrastructure. According to a progress report released this week, about $11 million of that remains unspent, though the communities also attracted $59 million in additional funds from other federal, state, local, and private sources.

“The main takeaway is, we’ve now answered indisputably that if you build a wisely-designed, safe system for walking and biking within the context of a community that is aware of and inspired by fact that it is becoming a more walkable, bikeable place, you can achieve dramatic mode shift with modest investment,” said Marianne Fowler of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and an architect of the pilot program.

Columbia reconfigured a key commuter intersection to making walking and biking easier and safer, resulting in a 51 percent jump in walking rates and a 98 percent jump in biking at that location. In Marin County, the reconstruction of the 1,100-foot Cal Park railroad tunnel and construction of a 1.1-mile walking and biking path provided direct access to commuter ferry service to downtown San Francisco and reduced bicycling time between the cities of San Rafael and Larkspur by 15 minutes. Biking along the corridor increased 95 percent, and a second phase of the project is still to come.

The program helped jump-start the Nice Ride bike-share system in Minneapolis, which grew to 170 stations and 1,556 bicycles by 2013, with 305,000 annual trips. And in Sheboygan County, the ReBike program distributed bicycles to more than 700 people and a new 1.7-mile multi-use path was built, following portions of an abandoned rail corridor through the heart of the city of Sheboygan. “Sixty percent of the population of Sheboygan County lives in close proximity to that corridor,” said Fowler. “And the trail gives them access to almost anything in Sheboygan.”

FHWA could see the impact: At locations where better infrastructure was installed, walking increased 56 percent and biking soared 115 percent. Using a peer-reviewed model, FHWA also estimated changes in walking and biking throughout the four communities. The program led to a 22.8 percent increase in walking trips and a 48.3 percent increase in biking trips. Without the interventions, residents would have driven 85 million more miles since the program launched, according to FHWA.

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Portland Newscast Offers Biking Conditions With the Weather Report


Here’s a local newscast that’s getting something right. FOX 12 in Portland, Oregon, has taken to reporting the conditions for cycling along with the weather report.

“They’ve been doing it for a while now,” says Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland. “Just responding to market demand.”

The station reported on June 24th: ”Not a bad day to take the bike out for a spin. Roads should be dry most of the day.”

On June 19th: “Looking to get out on the bike? Ideal riding conditions Thursday.”

Is this the future of the local nightly news?

Steven Vance at Streetsblog Chicago reports that local cyclists have been lobbying the local NPR affiliate to broadcast conditions — including construction updates, wind speed, and wave conditions — on the Lakefront Trail, the busiest biking and walking path in the country.

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Eyes on the Street: More Pedestrian Space at Deadly UES Intersection

The crowded intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

The intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue now has a bit more space for pedestrians. Photo: Stephen Miller

Last September, 16-year-old Renee Thompson was struck and killed by a turning truck driver at the intersection of Third Avenue and 60th Street. Now, the crowded intersection has painted curb extensions on two of the intersection’s four corners that shorten crossing distances and tighten turns.

A DOT proposal in January to Community Board 8 had them on the west side of the intersection, but the curb extensions were striped on the northwest and southeast corners of the intersection last week. Pedestrians could use the extra space: Sidewalks in the area are narrowed by subway entrances, tree pits, and enclosed sidewalk cafes.

Two blocks to the east, the neighborhood received another improvement with the final touches on the two-way bike path on First Avenue beneath the Queensboro Bridge. The concrete barrier separating cyclists from pedestrians was painted last month in a pattern mirroring the tiling on the bridge’s archways above.

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

The two-way bike path on FIrst Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets now has a concrete barrier to match its tiled, arched ceiling. Photo: Stephen Miller

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Surprise! People Aged 60-79 Are Behind More Than a Third of the Biking Boom

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

The national surge in bicycling since 1995 may have more to do with hip surgeries than hipsters.

More than a third of the increase is coming from people between the ages of 60 and 79, an analysis of federal data shows.

As recently as the Clinton administration, biking was for the young. Riding a bicycle over the age of 55 was very rare; riding over the age of 75 was almost unheard of. Even today, the rapid drop in car use among young adults sometimes leads to assumptions that millennials are driving the nationwide boom in bike trips.

Nope.

There’s no question that Generation Y’s tendency to favor city life and declining enthusiasm for car ownership has boosted bike transportation. But as the older civil rights generation and the baby boomers who followed them have entered their golden years, they’ve quietly transformed what it means to be the kind of person who rides a bicycle.

biking rates by age

Vertical scale measures share of all trips taken by bicycle. Graphs: National Household Travel Survey

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Glen and Trottenberg Predict Growth for Citi Bike, Plazas, and Bike Lanes

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT will focus on bringing pedestrian plazas to more outer borough neighborhoods like Corona, Queens. Photo of Corona Plaza: Clarence Eckerson

Two key de Blasio administration officials sounded optimistic notes today about the expansion of the bike lane network, public plazas, and bike-share.

While bike infrastructure and public space projects haven’t been high-profile de Blasio priorities, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg indicated that they intend to make progress on both fronts.

Speaking at a Crain’s real estate forum today, Glen said initial investors in Citi Bike are satisfied, despite the program’s financial troubles, and that more private financing may soon be secured to help the bike-share network expand:

Ms. Glen said that she is in the process of working with an investor team to infuse more capital into the bike share program and “get it back on the road.” There are no plans to include public funding for the program in the 2015 capital expense budget, she said.

“Citi Bike has fundamentally changed the gestalt of lower Manhattan and parks of Brooklyn,” she said.  “The mayor and I are fully committed to seeing the program expand.”

Meanwhile, Trottenberg told a New York Building Congress forum today that the challenge for DOT is keeping up with requests for pedestrian and bike improvements. Kate Hinds at WNYC reports:

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Three Years After Voting Down Bike Lane, CB 10 Weighs Bay Ridge Bike Plan

Three years ago, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio cheered as Brooklyn Community Board 10 helped kill a bike lane proposal. Tonight, there’s a very different story unfolding: Responding to CB 10′s request for new bike routes, Mayor de Blasio’s DOT has proposed a bike lane plan for the neighborhood.

Our plan is your plan: DOT is proposing bike routes (in light blue) after receiving suggestions from CB 10. Map: DOT

DOT is proposing bike routes (in light blue) after receiving suggestions from CB 10. Map: DOT

The plan under consideration tonight [PDF] is different than the one from 2011, which attracted media attention at the height of the “bikelash.” Back then, DOT proposed adding bike lanes to extra-wide Bay Ridge Parkway. Even though it wouldn’t have taken away car lanes or parking, local politicians and community boards objected to the idea of making room for cyclists on a busy road. DOT ultimately folded and ditched the plan.

Bay Ridge Parkway is not part of the new proposal, which covers more miles than the previous plan but does not reach into Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst. DOT is considering bike routes on Fort Hamilton Parkway, 68th Street, 72nd Street, and Marine Avenue, which were requested by CB 10 in 2012. The board also asked for bike lanes on Seventh Avenue near the Gowanus Expressway, but DOT is suggesting an alternate route on Sixth Avenue instead.

Like the plan from 2011, this proposal doesn’t change the underlying geometry of streets very much. It includes a mix of shared lane markings and painted bike lanes, not protected lanes, and it does not remove any car lanes or parking spaces. Shared lanes would be added on Sixth Avenue from 67th Street to Fort Hamilton Parkway, on Fort Hamilton Parkway from 92nd Street to 101st Street, and on Marine Avenue from Colonial Road to Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Painted bike lanes would be installed on Seventh Avenue from 66th Street to 67th Street, on Fort Hamilton Parkway from Sixth Avenue to 92nd Street, on 68th Street from Third Avenue to Sixth Avenue, and on 72nd Street from Colonial Road to Sixth Avenue.

The CB 10 transportation committee unanimously recommended a vote in support at its meeting last Tuesday. The committee asked DOT to study safer intersection designs on Fort Hamilton Parkway at 65th, 86th, and 92nd Streets, as well as at 65th Street and Seventh Avenue, according to notes from the meeting posted by Transportation Alternatives volunteer Michelle Yu.

DOT says it will install the bike routes next year, and according to committee member Bob HuDock, the agency will return to the committee to address those intersections this fall.

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Will New Yorkers Get Doored by de Blasio’s Taxi of Tomorrow Opposition?

As Mayor de Blasio weighs the potential $100 million cost of converting his opposition to the Taxi of Tomorrow into official city policy, New Yorkers on two wheels should remember one key feature of the Nissan NV200 selected as the city’s next taxi: It will all but eliminate the possibility of getting doored by an exiting taxi passenger.

The Taxi of Tomorrow would be a win for cyclists. Image: TLC

If it survives the courts and Bill de Blasio, the Taxi of Tomorrow would be a win for cyclists. Image: TLC

The vehicle has sliding doors for backseat passengers, reducing the need for Taxi TV public service announcements reminding passengers not to whip open their doors into the path of a passing cyclist — something that’s not just dangerous, but also against the law.

That improvement and others, including built-in GPS for drivers, rear-side lights to indicate when passengers are entering or exiting, a front-end design that reduces the severity of crashes with pedestrians, “lower-annoyance” horns, and rear cameras drivers can use while backing up, would be lost if the mayor decides to scrap the design.

On Tuesday, a state appeals court reversed a lower court ruling against the city’s Taxi of Tomorrow plan. The case could be appealed to the state’s highest court, and de Blasio said on Wednesday that, although the city’s law department continues to defend the project, he is opposed to it:

I think it is not right to have a single vehicle approved instead of a variety of vehicles that meet certain standards. I don’t like that we’ve lost an opportunity to create jobs here in New York City. I don’t like Nissan’s involvement in Iran. I don’t like a lot of things about this. I think it was a broken process on many levels.

Other criticisms of the Nissan vehicle are that it is not a hybrid and it is not wheelchair-accessible by default. London, which has also selected the NV200 as its new taxi, will have a fully-accessible fleet. A modified accessible version will be made available in New York.

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WaPo Is Wrong: Head Injuries Are Down, Not Up, in Bike-Share Cities

Image: Washington Post headline, at 1:39 p.m. Friday, showed a headline that said, incorrectly, that bike sharing cities saw an increase in head injuries. Image: Washington Post

The Washington Post ran a headline today erroneously claiming that cyclist head injuries increased in bike-share cities, when in fact head injuries declined more in bike-share cities than in cities without bike-share.

A Washington Post headline proclaimed today that cyclist head injuries have increased in cities with bike-share systems, based on a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But University of British Columbia public health professor Kay Ann Teschke is challenging that conclusion, pointing out that the data cited by the WaPo actually leads to the opposite conclusion: In cities with bike-share systems, head injuries and injuries of all kinds have gone down.

“The message that bike-share is increasing head injuries is not true,” Teschke told Streetsblog. “The tone of the article suggests that head injuries go up. Really what is happening is that head injuries went down, non-head injuries went down, but non-head injuries went down more.”

The study was based on injury data from trauma center databases and registries in American and Canadian cities, collected over the same time period from both bike-share cities and control cities. A press release for the study said the “risk of head injury among cyclists increased 14 percent after implementation of bike-share programs in several major cities.” But to put the finding in plainer language, what the researchers actually show is that head injuries as a proportion of overall cyclist injuries rose from 42 percent to 50 percent in five cities after the implementation of bike-share.

As for the overall safety of cyclists following the introduction of bike-share, Teschke says the data in the article actually show that total head injuries fell more in the five cities that implemented bike-share than in the control group. Head injuries just didn’t fall as much as total injuries.

The AJPH article’s authors make cautious assertions that their research might build the case for helmet requirements with bike-share. The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein, meanwhile, wasn’t cautious at all:

A few weeks ago, in honor of annual Bike to Work day, I asked a simple question about why those terrific bike share programs don’t provide helmets to riders. There were a lot of understandable reasons — hygiene, cost, liability — but one thing all the cities I checked seem to argue is that bike share programs are very safe, much safer than, say, crusing around on your own bicycle. Their evidence was anecdotal, based on the tiny number of reports of injuries to cyclists who have taken millions of bike share trips nationwide.

Well, it looks like they are wrong.

A look at the raw data doesn’t support Bernstein’s gloating at all.

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CB 6 Supports Murray Hill Bikeway If DOT Will Move It to Other Side of Street

A proposed two-way bike path on 37th Street would be safer on the north side of the street, but CB 6 asked DOT to move it to the south side after opposition from condo owners. Image: DOT

Last night, Manhattan Community Board 6 threatened to stall bikeway improvements connecting the East River Greenway with Murray Hill, because a group of condo owners opposed one piece of it. But a last-minute compromise seems to have cleared the way for the project.

The plan [PDF] would improve the surface of the East River Greenway near Glick Park, add shared lane markings to crosstown streets, and convert a block of the First Avenue bike lane to a two-way path. It would also add a two-way bike lane on one block of 37th Street to connect First Avenue with the East River Greenway.

At last night’s meeting, residents of The Horizon condominium tower testified against the 37th Street path because it would remove a loading zone on the north side of the street, immediately outside their building. Supporters of the plan were outnumbered. Intimidated by the opposition, a CB 6 member offered a resolution to send the issue back to committee, where it would have to wait until the community board resumed meetings in September.

Things looked bleak until the end of the meeting, when board members began to discuss a compromise: moving the path to the south side of the street.

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