Travel connections, eyes, and wool

It was interesting to see a blue KLM on the streets last night here in Holland. The Dutch airline apparently now provides complimentary bus service to more regional cities—cities that lack an airport. In the land of convenient and ubiquitous rail, the reasons for this seam unclear.

I fully understand that connections are widely considered to be an important bane of travel behavior. People may prefer longer bus or train routes at the expense of having to switch vehicles. Internet sites offer toggle buttons to search only for flights with direct routes. When a transfer involved, regardless of mode, a sigh usually follows. When a transfer is accompanied by the need to wait the sigh turns to grumble. The value of time is weighted even more so when uncertainty is introduced.

The Royal Dutch airlines (KLM) used to fly into Eindhoven, Rotterdam, Maastricht, and Amsterdam (Schiphol). Now they fly only to  Schipol. But apparently they want to claim that they serve a broader array of Dutch cities, seemingly without a major connection or train transport. For example, you buy a ticket directly to Nijmegen (a town lacking an airport). You land in Schiphol and a pimped-out bus will take you the central station in two hours.

But here’s the catch. The bus takes 2 hours; and it only goes 2 times per day (it leaves at 9:00 and 20:00; you might have to wait 12 hours?). The train, the other hand, takes 75% of the time (90 min) and runs, on average, on 20 minute headways.

My guess is that KLM is trying to: (1) play mind-games with customers, encouraging customers to think they are purchasing a seamless connection (i.e., pulling the wool over their eyes), (2) creep into the train market or (3) cater to a higher end customer, who possibly is train adverse but has spare time?  Am I missing something?

City versus sport cycling

CIK5973W8AAqGW2.jpg-largeFew events draw as much attention to cycling as the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong—love him or hate him—did wonders for bringing Americans from all walks of life into cycling; the lure included more people cycling in lycra, but also for city (utilitarian travel) purposes. A rising tide for all (of cycling) usually buoys both sport and city cycling. In many conversations, the two are undifferentiated, even though they demand wildly different infrastructure and (often) draw from different cultures.

But there are conditions when the two clash or  don’t exist harmoniously. I am thinking of: (1) cycle ways with speed restrictions (slower cyclists don’t like the fast ones whizzing by), (2) image issues (at least in the US) of “requiring” lycra to bike to work, (3) excessive gear requirements (e.g., special shoes, coats, types of bikes); and of course (4) the helmet debate (considered imperative for cycling for sport—even in the Netherlands—but never for city cycling). There are other examples where the two clash.

Utrecht (the Netherlands) will be hosting the first stage of the Tour de France on July 4 and one dimension of the clash between sport and city cycling is front and center. The city is banning all bicycles along the route for safety and other reasons (i.e., parked bikes or other, apparently).

Cycling for sport trumps city cycling, even in the Netherlands; at least in this instance.

Safest bike ever built

Yet another derivation of the bicycle was unveiled today, the Babel Bike, claiming to the safest every built. The prevailing worldwide research suggests that a huge impediment to spurring more cycling stems from the safety concerns of current (or potential) cyclists.  These populations are, rightfully so, worried of getting hit by autos. Reducing this psychological fear via any measure to—better protection via infrastructure planning or vehicle design—would likely go a long way.

But an outstanding question is how to retain historical, cultural, or efficiency qualities of the bike while making safety improvements. Newer better forms of bikes are emerging all the time. The protective quality of the Babel bike is a distinguishing feature of such, particularly the role bar.  Over the past two or three years, the cycling industry has been witnessing developments and innovations where bicycles are becoming more like cars and vice-versa. The two modes are migrating toward one another providing new transport opportunities and challenges.

However, relatively speaking, in-trepidation varies by culture and setting. Cyclist safety is considerably lessened in the Netherlands, for example. While realizing that safety concerns largely motivated the initial focused attention toward bicycling in the 1970’s, the overall bicycling environment in Holland is relatively safe. The ‘helmet-free’ habits are testament to this. The Dutch are already protected by the cycle-centric rules of the roads and the way infrastructure is designed. Traffic and other safety concerns (faster moving cars, trucks) are simply less of a nuisance on most streets and intersections, though certainly not all. One can therefore expect the safety benefits of the Babel bike to likely  have less appeal in Holland.

On top of this, the Dutch have developed a passion for the so-called “grandma” bike—cycling in an upright and comfortable manner. This is distinctive and a appreciated part of the social fabric (e.g., cycling next to one another; cycling on the back of the bike). These are traits which have historic and cultural significance which the Babel bike will not be able to replicate.

Thus, one can expect its strongest effect likely to be in those places where cycling presence is strong, cycling conditions are percieved relatively unsafe,  and  where people still are ok being exposed to the elements. Are there such places out of 3 or 4 places in Northern Europe?

 

Bike sharing woes

From an intellectual or research perspective, there is room for me to support bicycle-sharing systems more than I do currently. But my perspective is strongly shaped by personal experiences. In four cities in four different countries over the past four years, I have tried to use four different systems. I have been denied on all accounts.

  • I tried to do use the system Paris. The machine would not take my credit card because it did not have the requisite ‘chip.’
  • I tried to use the system in Seville. The access machine for pod accessible from my hotel was not functioning at the time.
  • I tried to use the system in London. No bikes available at my pod.
  • On Tuesday, I tried to use Capital Bike share in DC. 24 hour memberships were not available owing to software system upgrades. Then, I read the below (thanks to Chuck Kooshian @ CCAP for sending).

Am I missing something?

_____________

Capital Bikeshare to offer limited service as upgrade gets underway

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2015/02/03/capital-bikeshare-to-offer-limited-service-as-upgrade-gets-underway/?hpid=z4

By Dana Hedgpeth February 3 at 9:54 AM Follow @postmetrogirl

The popular Capital Bikeshare program is expected to offer limited service as its operational software that powers the system goes through a major upgrade.

It is the first time in the Washington are program’s four-year history that it has done such a significant upgrade, officials said. It promises in an announcement that the upgrade will “improve the user experience for our members.” The new software is also expected to allow the bike service to “begin testing new equipment for future expansion.”

For bike riders who use the program, the upgrade process will cause some inconvenience. The software work begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday and is expected to last from 16 to 24 hours. During that time, there will be a “significant impact” on users of the system, Capital Bikeshare said. Those temporary changes include:

  • No credit cards can be used at Capital Bikeshare stations.
  • Users of the program who have annual, monthly or daily key memberships will not be able to rent bikes from the same station more than once when the upgrade is underway. Users can rent bikes from one station and drop them off at the same or another station.
  • New memberships and renewals will not be available on the bike share Web site, www.capitalbikeshare.com.
  • There will be no updates for Web sites, maps and mobile apps on whether bikes are available.
  • Capital Bikeshare stations will not offer the “time credit” feature.

Users of the Capital Bikeshare program are encouraged to check on Twitter and Facebook for updates or changes in the process, according to the program.

The bikeshare program has become increasingly popular in the D.C. area. In Montgomery County, the program had about 35,000 trips in its first year, exceeding the expectations from county officials by almost 50 percent.

Help Cycling Scofflaw Science

In a project led by Wes Marshall and Dan Piatkowski, the Active Communities/Transport (ACT) Research Group is looking into the dynamics of the cyclist risk-taker who laughs at traffic laws versus the sucker who obeys them. The project was featured in the Washington Post,  picked up by MPR and mentioned in other places. More survey responses to help the research are always welcome by going here.

 

 

2014 EU BICI Series Exports | streets.mn

IMG_6387-375x500My 2014 EU BICI series at streets.mn featured reports, photos, and video accounts via personal observation of 13 cities within 8 different countries: Cambridge (UK), Berlin and Munich (Germany), Seville (Spain), Ferrara, Bologna and Padova (Italy), Zurich (Switzerland), Copenhagen and Odense (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden), Houten and Delft (the Netherlands). Individual posts highlighted structural and policy peculiarities of cycling in each city. Looking back, here are key take-aways and elements other communities can learn across Minnesota and beyond.

Velo-City 2017 to be held in Arnhem-Nijmegen

velocityThe European Cycling Federation just announced that the Arnhem-Nijmegen City Region in the Netherlands won the bid to host Velo-city 2017. As part of the bid (the city/region did all the work) –but in my new capacity with Radboud University in Nijmegen–I will have the privilege of serving as the scientific director for research component of the conference. Congrats to the region for their work in landing this decision. And, its never too early to start generating ideas and a buzz about what it means to gather what likely could be the world’s most robust gathering of cycling-related researchers in one space at one time. Let me know your ideas or expectations. See you in Nijmegen, June 12-16, 2017.