Results from Active Transportation Workshop

I participated in (and helped organize) the Kaiser Permanente Active Transportation Indicators Workshop on March 15. The purpose of the workshop was to help establish a set of consensus indicators for measuring various aspects of Active Transportation (AT) in Colorado that meet the needs identified by the attendees’ organizations and other organizations with which they work. It was one data collection process, which is part of a larger project sponsored by Kaiser Permanente (KP) to: identify model examples of how to measure active transport; a particular focus is on those currently being used in Colorado; convene experts and stakeholders to advise the best data collection methods to use at a larger scale in Colorado; and recommend a menu of instruments or tools for gathering data for those indicators.

The Workshop was held at the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theater Program Facility in Englewood. There were 30 participants and 7 Project Team members.

After considerable discussion and vetting of different ideas, the following question was posed for voting after the morning session: what are the needs for which AT indicators should be developed. The top three responses are:

  1. For AT data to be better standardized (like we do for cars that would enable comparison and scaling), 18 votes
  2. To better assess the impacts of various AT projects (before and after evaluation), 14 votes
  3. To understand the needs of disadvantaged groups or other small areas, possibly focusing on key demographic populations, 13 votes
A full report and webinar of the project will be held April 19 at 8 am. Details to come.

External image of unicyclists

I realize that unicyclists are not bicyclists, but it would be interesting to think about the external image of different types of cyclists. In this report, just released:

Shuster, S. (2012). The evolution of humor from male aggression. Psychology Research and Behavior ManagementDOI: 10.2147/PRBM.S29126 

…admiration and concern in women; physical aggression in older boys, which matured into repetitive, aggressively humourous remarks from adult men are the primary thoughts that are expressed about unicyclists.

Best Produced Bike Video yet – How Bikes Make Cities Cool

Vintage Cruiser, by Ryan Wiese–on display at
the Bike Art Exhibit (Dairy Center) through March

The most professionally produced promotional bike video just came out from Kona Productions. It obsesses over Portland (really, again?). The cutest quote is from the kid at 2:38, “bicycling helps my community because it helps the air around…[affrmative nod] and it helps the polar bears [while dancing with his shoulders]…polar bears are epic!

Mineta report on promoting bicycle safety

The research reports keep coming in. Here is another one with lots of secondary data and sources, prepared in a manner that crosses between advocacy and research, and is pretty accessible. The focus in the title suggests safety but it is a bit broader in its coverage. Warning: it is a big long. 

Just released: The Mineta Transportation Institute recently published a report that leverages literature review and case studies in the San Francisco Bay area and Portland OR to recommend ways to improve safety for bicycle commuters. Promoting Bicycle Commuter Safety includes chapters on risks, application of social psychology to bike safety, dimensions of effective practices, and more. The report also includes illustrative tables and photos. Principal investigator was Asbjorn Osland, PhD, with several chapter contributors. The 157-page report is available for free PDF download from  

Robustly testing the effect of bicycle network quality

Most are familiar with the “go to” studies pointing to correlations between the quantity of bicycle facilities and use[1]. These are certainly a good starting point; but there are always more layers to the onion.
In particular,
-what do we know about the overall “quality” of the facilities?
-what is the role of network characteristics?
-what are different ways to operationalize characteristics of the network?
-how do these aspects relate to different ways of measuring key dependent variables?
Jessica Schoner from the University of Minnesota just received an honorable mention from APA’s Transportation Planning Division for her paper Shifting Gears: A cross-regional analysis of bicycle facility networks and ridership. This is a remarkably impressive piece of work for a class term paper at the master’s level—not even a thesis or dissertation! Said one reviewer: “Of all the years doing this contest this is by far the best on bicycling I’ve seen.”
The following attributes and reflections are of particular interest:
-She digs deep into elements of general network qualities and examines size, connectivity, directness, and fragmentation,
-She hones in on using percent of bicycle commuters that are women as one of the dependent variables. This is interesting not only because it helps shed light on the gender balance of bicycle commuters but also because women are often considered an indicator species for building bike-friendly cities[2].
-The findings suggest that connectivity, and to some extent fragmentation, are important factors associated with both bicycle ridership and the percentage of female bicycle commuters, even when controlling for household size and structure, vehicle ownership, and city size.
-While we all cry that there is not reliable data when it comes to cycling, there is a lot you can do with secondary data. She did a lot of work to uncover such for 74 communities.
It is comforting to see yet another example of really robust cycling research.

[1] Often referred to, aggregate multi-city cycling studies: Nelson, A. C. and D. P. Allen (1997). “If You Build Them, Commuters Will Use Them.” Transportation Research Record 1578: 79-83, Dill, J. and T. Carr (2003). “Bicycle Commuting and Facilities in Major U.S. Cities: If You Build Them, Commuters Will Use Them.” Transportation Research Record 1828: 116-123, Forsyth, A. and K. J. Krizek (2010). “Walking and bicycling: what works for planners? .” Built Environment 36(4): 429-446, Buehler, R. and J. Pucher (2011). “Cycling to work in 90 large American cities: new evidence on the role of bike paths and lanes.” Transportation July.
[2] Women as indicator species: Baker, L. (2009). “How to get more bicyclists on the road.” Scientific American.

Won’t Somebody Please Stop This Guy Stealing Bikes in New York City?

This video depicting Casie Neistat (of HBO fame) stealing his own bike is interesting from a human nature standpoint. Sure, it is a bit unsettling to see that no one in New York cares about bike theft, even when it is under their own nose. Sure, it is funny to see that the only comment he receives is from Hector providing tips on how to steal a bike more quickly.
But what is going on here?
Is it that bikes, as material possessions, are too plentiful for anyone to care?
Is that New Yorkers are so brash and too busy to care about such miniscule petty crimes, generally?
Is it that New Yorkers don’t care about cycling?
Is it that social capital in New York really that low?
What is the transferability of this story? Surely it would not have the same outcome in North Dakota.

Choking the choke points

For much of the population, a bicycle route is only as good as its weakest link. An average commuter can bliss out for 90 percent of their ride along an off-street path; but if the remaining 10 percent involve a particularly unsafe intersection or a troubling bridge crossing, it could be a show stopper. I call these choke points; they are often thought of as the weakest link in the chain of bicycle facilities for a city.
They represent an often glossed over, but important tenet of bicycle planning; ironically, they are also one of the most difficult to stay on top of. They come in two varieties. We can refer to them as (1) facility disruptions and (2) naturals.
Facility disruption: It’s simple for a city with no facilities to have no chokepoints; the whole city is a choke point. There are no real facilities that end prematurely. The more facilities a city brings on-line, the more likely choke points result. Every new lane or path needs a starting and ending point[1] and unless they are seamlessly woven into the existing fabric, there is likely some discontinuity that will result.
Naturals: Some cities are naturals for choke points. Seattle, comprised of labyrinth of water barriers which serve to funnel cyclists to select routes, is littered with them. In most communities the ordinary constriction of roadway space owing to bridges over railroads or rivers provides good fodder for where chokepoints fester. And, oftentimes the worst choke points are temporary, resulting from detours owing to construction[2], which is probably best labeled a natural occurance.
The best thing a city can do about choke points is threefold: identify, address, and minimize them.
One of the more systematic efforts to address these comes from Minneapolis, Minnesota. As of 2010, they had 54 gaps in their system[3]–one for each square mile of the entire city[4]. What other cities are taking formal and detailed inventory of the discontinuities and reporting on them?

[1] Starting and ending point: Krizek, K. J. and R. W. Roland (2005). “What is at the end of the road? Understanding discontinuities of on-street bicycle lanes in urban settings.” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 10(1): 55-68.
[2] Choke points owing to construction: Krizek, K. J. (2002). Even Here, A Failure to Respect Cyclists’ Needs. Minneapolis Star Tribune,. Minneapolis: A2 (commentary).
[3] Gaps in the Minneapolis system: see chapter 7 in Pflaum, D. (2011). Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan. Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Works.
[4] One gap per square mile in Minneapolis: The city’s area is 58.4 square miles; once you account for the fact that 6 percent of that area is water, it comes to 54 square miles.