Category Archives: value of research

Cycling safety feedback loop | streets.mn

My post, Cycling Safety Feedback Loop is up at streets.mn…

“Assuming cyclists have “safety in numbers,” the real question I posed in my last post is how can St. Paul or Minneapolis (or Anyplace, Minnesota) get more people on bikes?

Would you spur swimmers to the beaches of Amity Island? | streets.mn

My post: Would you spur swimmers to the beaches of Amity Island? is up at streets.mn…

“Jaws, the blockbuster thriller film from the mid 1970’s was the highest grossing film ever until Star Wars was released two years later. The mechanical shark, the beach scenes on Amity Island, and the music score brought it all together.  The dynamic between the obdurate mayor (Richard Vaughn) and the police chief (Martin Brody) largely revolved around a tension about how to address an activity that, in the public’s eye, has safety risks. Thirty years later, it’s a tension we wrestle with in bicycle planning.”

National Academies of Engineering, Frontiers of Engineering – the Future of Transportation

This past weekend I was at the US-EU Frontiers of Engineering Workshop in Paris. The National Academies of Engineering asked me to co-chair the session on “The Future of Transportation.” Three researchers who are well known in the U.S. dazzled the collection of 50+ other engineers who represented other engineering fields.

Why Traffic Management Works…And Why Coordinated Traffic Management will Work Even Better
 – Serge Hoogendoorn, Technical University Delft, The Netherlands

Nash-Stackelberg Games in Transportation Networks: Leveraging the Power of Smartphones for Traffic Monitoring and Management
 - Alexandre Bayen, University of California, Berkeley

Impacts of the Sharing Economy in Transportation
 - Kari Edison Watkins, Georgia Institute of Technology

Here are two observations based on the session:

1. The last speaker, Prof. Watkins, offered several perspectives in the her presentation that got most of the Q & A session talking about issues of how to harness car travel; there was even a focused discussion about the role of cycling in all of this. Yes, some of the world’s brightest engineers were talking specifically about spurring more cycling as part of our transportation system for almost 15 minutes  (really, I had little to do with this).

2. A key element of Watkins’ presentation stressed elements of the “shared economy” and implications for transportation—in terms of sharing space and information.

For us transport folks, there are seemingly endless implications of the shared economy. One framework might be to approach this by thinking about different elements of non-auto using behavior vis-à-vis different considerations that are important for adoption.

Different elements of transportation and transportation information, of course, include: Transit information (e.g., when is the next bus), Bike and Car sharing (e.g., where are the stations), Cycle tracks (e.g., how do people use the network), Ride sharing or slugging (e.g., sharing space in a conventional car), Destination knowledge (e.g., where is the closest pizza)…the list can go on.

Considerations that are important for adoption would include:

-Are there general safety fears of the transport device being used (e.g., am I using someone else’s car whose brakes don’t work)?

-Are there specific safety and security fears with procuring access to the transport device (i.e., do I have to meet someone I don’t know to get a hold of the device)?

-Are you concurrently sharing a physical space with another person (e.g., sitting shotgun in their car)?

-How much reliability of the trip is needed (e.g., you absolutely need to get there now)?

-To what degree can the information exchange be public, done via open wiki or otherwise open source?

-To what degree would my anxiety about sharing space (e.g., a spot in their car) be overcome via forms of social media (e.g., leveraging facebook and 6 degrees of separation.

…the list can also go on.

The main point: to successfully leverage all the different forms of the shared economy for transportation, different forms of transport information have different criteria to “make it work.”

The perfect is the enemy of the good; making lemonade is sufficient

Some bike paths serve as semi-icons for their city. The Creek Path in Boulder, Colorado (US) ranks up there with the Seattle’s Burke Gilman Trail and the Chain of Lakes network in Minneapolis (both US). But the origin of the path’s construction had some rough beginnings.

A bit of history: The area around the path was originally called for in Boulder’s Creek Corridor plan (1984), which stipulated the use of the creek corridor as a linear, topographically sensitive park. This park would incorporate riparian zones and wetland sensitive elements[1]. The creek comprised one of the primary watersheds for the city and a few years later, the city purchased adjoining land to the creek for a wetland and greenway program. This led to further integration of habitat restoration and water quality augmentation elements into the use of once forlorn features of Boulder’s ecological fabric. But over time, community-wide momentum was building for how the area could also enhance flood mitigation efforts together with more “mainstream modes” of transportation such as walking and cycling (in addition to kayaking)[2].

Rather than scour for the pennies that were available at the time to build bicycle facilities, the city tapped into federal grants for flood control and environmental remediation; these coffers were three to four times larger. The city creatively parlayed bike trails into this process. The flood mitigation efforts were considered to have largely passed the extreme test that the city experienced owing to biblical floods in September of 2013.

But the specific planning of the bike portion of the Boulder Creek Path was somewhat of a separate issue. And, Gary Lacy, a recreation planner for the city at the time, approached it with vengeance. He focused on ensuring it got built—not planned for—but built. Lacy considered formal permits a nuisance; conscientious and collaborative plan-making was too time consuming. He relied on a “Robert Moses-esque” philosophy and sometimes took a page out of Chicago Mayor Daley’s planning playbook[3]. Rather than abide by city protocol, he went solo and blazed sections of the trail by moonlight. He took to the backhoe to move obstinate boulders along the way. Where the earth would not move, he built the path around it.

Lacy’s semi-barbarian approach to make the path is etched into local folklore. And the path itself would have made the hair stand up on the neck of the authors who penned the 4th edition Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities by the American Association for State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO)[4],[5]. Sight lines are jeopardized, travel lanes were inconsistently wide, and some right-angled turns (frowned on in bike path planning) continue to be sprinkled throughout. Friends in town claim the trail is hazardous and a downright safety hazard. But the path got built—the city has since smoothed out some of the path’s rough edges—and it now serves as a beacon for the city and a seminal spine for the rest of the its cycling network.

The development of Boulder’s Creek Path represents a planning story where the perfect was not the enemy of the good. Things got done, despite not being perfect. There were some issues along the way—some of them safety oriented, others process oriented. But its evolution begs the question in the world of bicycle planning, when is a facility “good enough.”

Similarly, the “so-called” bicycle facility outside my home in Bologna (Italy) is a meandering stripe that bobs and weaves, literally at right angles between newsstands and trees. It sometimes pinches the rider down to mere inches. I presume it was laid by an Italian public works employee after too much grappa. But do these sketchy attributes warrant it as a non-useful facility? Is providing substandard bicycle facilities worse than none at all?

The dilemma reminds me of a scene in Cher’s 1987 Academy award winning film, Moonstruck (the movie, likewise shares Italian origins). The father, Cosmo Castorini, is a plumber who is explaining to a client in his deep Italian accent his philosophy of preferred plumbing materials.

“There are three kinds of pipe. There’s what you have [aluminum], which is garbage – and you can see where that’s gotten you. There’s bronze, which is pretty good, unless something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong. Then, there’s copper, which is the only pipe I use. It costs money. It costs money because it saves money.

Did Cosmo have it right? Are there problems in the bike planning world that stem from constructing the equivalent of ‘aluminum’ or ‘bronze’ facilities?

The biggest risk of substandard facilities are the unmet expectations that they create. Cyclists, seeing signs, markings or other might are comforted into letting down their safety guard, for example. There is subsequent confusion about the role, rights, and responsibilities in the transportation hierarchy. Cyclists are all too familiar with the bike lane painted within mere inches of the impending car door opening. Or the bike facility that, in a pinch, mixes you with pedestrians and then switches the side on which bikes are supposed to ride. Then there is the blissful cycling corridor that abruptly dumps you into four lanes of auto traffic. In my own research, I found that users particularly struggle with these later situations when facilities end at bigger intersections, locations with on-street parking, and locations with relatively narrow travel lanes[6].

With most transportation networks being surface oriented, mainly along streets and primarily occupied by cars, it is useful to have prescriptions, guidelines, and even sometimes standards to guard against these situations. In an ideal world, a planner would take stock of the context, consult the guidelines, prepare the design, and execute. If only it were that easy. History gets in the way. Cultural peculiarities get way. Nature gets in the way.

There are many cities—almost all of them in industrialized countries—who are moving toward this consistent model. If you ask Dutch cycle planners, they immediately pull off the shelf their tattered Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic[7]. They leaf to dog-eared section 4.4.2 where they point to a figure with two axes—how many cars are along a particular route (e.g., traffic volume) and the speed of those cars. Five different types of suggested facilities are depicted based on these two factors alone. Adhering to some core principles put forth by the prototype model is gaining steam in the US[8] and cycling treatments are approached with increasing method and consistency.

At the other end of the spectrum lie cases where bicycling treatments are less than satisfactorily completed. That might be an overstatement. They are downright dangerous. These might consist of the cavalier bike path that was laid through a stretch of road—lacking attention to its connecting points—to enable a politician could deliver on a promise to a constituency. It might be the case where road engineers are blindly following a city’s guidelines; they might measure three feet from a street curb’s edge, lay a stripe, and call it a day regardless of the context. It might be the proverbial case where a bike facility passes over a storm sewer with drainage slots that miraculously measure the same width as a bicycle tire. No self-respecting transportation professional would endorse these outcomes. They present unexpected conditions, safety hazards, and problematic signals to both cyclists and car drivers.

In the broad spectrum of bicycle facility planning contexts, there are environments that are shy of falling into the above category. But, they don’t lend themselves to rigid standards (or expectations) offered in guidebooks. Try finding room for a bike path in the historic center of any city that was inhabited by the Romans. The typical right-of-way might be three meters wide and shared between five or more different modes each traveling in two different directions. While most situations are not this stark, the bulk of planning contexts—especially in historic cities across the globe—are in situations where the bike planner is dolled a bunch lemons. Cosmo might have had it wrong. Realizing that not everywhere in a city can be built with ‘copper pipe’ cycling conditions, bike planners must make due and prescribe treatments that are far from perfect. They must make lemonade, even thought it carries some risks.

Otherwise, what are their options? They could sharpen their pencils designing the perfect intersection which might come to fruition once the political will arrives. Alternatively, they could do nothing.

Making lemonade means that formal standards might be abandoned. Cyclists need to adjust their expectations. Car drivers need to acclimate. Life goes on. Bike facilities need to start somewhere. They need to be granted freedom to experiment without backlash. What might be considered a substandard intersection treatment today will eventually graduate to something more mature. For example, a painted stripe that winds through a parking lot, might be upgraded to a perimeter route next year, which would then eventually be dovetailed into a larger separated network. A green swath at an intersection now would convert to a bike box next year which would then be complemented with a prioritized cycling traffic signal in the following year. Doing “something” provides a much-needed nod to the cyclists. It is usually better than doing nothing at all and helps set in motion a process whereby facilities can mature. Cities are constantly evolving. This includes their transportation infrastructure. That is, over time, the lemonade gets sweeter and sweeter. Cycling treatments usually pale in comparison to the costs of auto or transit infrastructure. As long as lives are not gravely put at risk and accidents largely avoided—a big caveat, I admit—cycling treatments are inexpensive experiments. If they succeed, they are built on and further developed. If they clearly fail, they can be erased.


[1] A portion of the creek was reconfigured as a white water recreation park, thereby incorporating another level of complexity to the flood mitigation strategy. Gary Lacy, a recreation planner for Boulder and an avid kayaker, would reportedly boat to his downtown work location along the creek.

[2] Greenways Master Plan.   City of Boulder2001 update.  http://bouldercolorado.gov/files/Utilities/Greenways/MasterPlan.pdf. Accessed January, 2012

[3] Daley’s playbook: Meig’s field was a fully functioning private airport runway strip on Chicago’s pristine lakefrong. Citing security concerns in 2003, Mayor Daley ordered the bulldozers tear up the runway and they did so in the middle of the night to avoid obstruction and protesting efforts.

[4] American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (2012). Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 4th Edition. ISBN: 1-56051-527-2.

[5] This is a document that ASHTO was so proud about that they produced a video for its release, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeE62AGXQZg

[6] Krizek, Kevin J. and Rio Roland (2005). What is at the End of the Road? Understanding Discontinuities of On-Street Bicycle Lanes in Urban Settings. Transportation Research, Part D. 10(1): p.55-68

[7] This report is the world’s most authoritative manual on bikeway design and is published by CROW—a Dutch acronym of the Information and Technology Platform for Transport, Infrastructure and Public space, a Dutch non-profit collaboration between government and businesses.

[8] As is evidenced by AASHTO publishing their 4th edition, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (2012). Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 4th Edition. ISBN: 1-56051-527-2.

International Workshop on Urban Transport and Sustainability (Santiago)

I am in Santiago, Chile delivering one of the keynotes for the International Workshop on Urban Transport and Sustainability. Here are the key points from my presentation titled, “The Next Frontier of Travel vis-à-vis Urban Travel:” (1) Accessibility needs to be the primary aim for the development and evaluation of planning projects in cities, (2) Cycling can provide a valuable part of this aim (and there are various things to be aware of in getting more people on bikes), (3) Analyzing the digital traces left by people provides a fertile research efficiency to better dial in the effectiveness of (1) and (2) above.

World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research 2014

Call for Papers (note subsection below on active transport)

World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research 2014

June 24-27, 2014 in Delft, the Netherlands

About the Symposium

We are pleased to announce the 2014 meeting of the World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research (WSTLUR) to be held in Delft, the Netherlands, June 24 – June 27, 2014. The conference provides a unique international forum for academics and practitioners at the intersection of economics, planning, design, engineering, and other relevant disciplines. The Conference is aimed at developing a better understanding of the interaction between the dynamics of land use and transport, with an emphasis on the way in which the built environment can contribute to more sustainable transport in a rapidly changing world. Papers are welcome on a wide range of topics covering all modes of transport, both passenger and freight transport, at all spatial scales.

The Delft University of Technology hosts this conference in the bicycle friendly city of Delft in the heart of the Randstad Holland. In addition to the technical program, the conference provides a day tour through parts of the Randstad, including transit-oriented development in the city of The Hague’. Hotel rooms are pre-booked in the historical city center; within walking distance of the university campus (public transport is also available).

In addition to presentations based on peer-reviewed papers, the conference program will include confirmed plenary presentations from:

  • Glenn Lyons (Professor of Transport and Society, University of the West of England, and founding Director of the Centre for Transport and Society);
  • Patricia Mokhtarian (Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology effective August 1, 2013); and
  • Bert van Wee (Professor in Transport Policy ,Delft University of Technology, faculty Technology, Policy and Management).

Submission of Papers

WSTLUR seeks papers on the interaction of transport and land use. Welcome domains include: engineering, planning, modeling, behavior, economics, geography, regional science, sociology, psychology, health, architecture and design, network science, and complex systems.

Original papers must be submitted electronically November 30, 2013 for consideration. Full papers should be uploaded for peer review at http://jtlu.org prior to midnight (Pacific Standard Time) in the above mentioned date. See http://wstlur.org for more details related to the conference.

All papers accepted for WSTLUR will be considered for publication in the Journal of Transport and Land Use.

WSTLUR welcomes all papers on the topic of transport and land use. In addition to this general call, special calls are listed below in alphabetical order.

  1. Accessibility Analysis and Evaluation, led by Karst Geurs (k.t.geurs@utwente.nl; University of Twente) and Ahmed El-Geneidy (ahmed.elgeneidy@mcgill.ca; McGill University). This is a special session on accessibility modeling and analysis organized by NECTAR (Network on European Communications and Transport Activities Research) Cluster 6 and WSTLUR. Although accessibility analysis has evolved from simple calculations to complex and detailed methods at fine levels of spatial resolution, there are many outstanding questions on accessibility analysis and modelling – and its practical use in transport planning. We particularly welcome papers on the use of accessibility measures in impact evaluations of transport investments, e.g. economic and social impact assessments, also in the light of network vulnerability and resilience issues.
  2. Active Transport and Land use: led by Kevin J. Krizek (krizek@colorado.edu; University of Colorado Boulder). Ideal papers for this special issue will explore detailed aspects of non-motorized travel and its interface with existing transport networks and urban form, policy, or other relevant dimensions of travel behavior or health. Selected papers from this session will be included in a special issue of JTLU. See the WSTLUR paper submission web page for detailed instructions.
  3. Children and Youth Transport and Land Use Theory, Method and Applications: Led by Ron Buliung (ron.buliung@utoronto.ca; University of Toronto) and Raktim Mitra (raktim.mitra@ryerson.ca; Ryerson Univeristy).. A broad call for papers intended to draw attention to the connection between children and youth mobility and land use/ built environment. We invite international research focused on theory, innovative survey methods and applied research.
  4. Empirical Studies of Automobile Parking and Travel: led by Dan Chatman (dgc@berkeley.edu; University of California, Berkeley): The strong influence of the supply and cost of automobile parking on automobile use is both intuitive and theoretically well-established. But there have been fewer empirical studies of how on-street and off-street automobile parking affect auto use or the use of other travel modes. A related issue is whether built environment characteristics like density, diversity, and design have been ascribed influences upon travel that are actually due to variations in the supply and cost of parking, Ideal papers for this special issue will address any aspect of parking supply as a built environment characteristic and its empirical relationship to travel patterns, or novel theoretical relationships that have not already been established in previous literature.
  5. Integrated Land Use and Transport Models: led by Zachary Patterson (zachary.patterson@concordia.ca; Concordia University, Montreal). The past two decades has seen the development and application of increasingly advanced integrated transport and land-use modeling systems. Papers on the application of these models into emerging areas (e.g. social equity), innovations in submodels of these complex modeling systems and their incorporation in the planning process are welcomed.
  6. Network Structure: led by David Levinson (levin031@umn.edu; University of Minnesota), Stephen Marshall (s.marshall@ucl.ac.uk; University College London), Kay Axhausen (axhausen@ivt.baug.ethz.ch; ETH Zurich), and Basil Vitins (basil.vitins@ivt.baug.ethz.ch; ETH, Zurich). The structure of transport networks depends on, and shapes both demand for travel and patterns of land use. Empirical and theoretical analyses of rules or grammars for generating networks and places, systematic characterization of networks, studies of the development and evolution of networks, comparative network analysis, and the relationship between network structure, land use, and travel behavior are welcome.
  7. Transit Oriented Development (TOD): led by Kees Maat (C.Maat@tudelft.nl TU Delft). TOD principles have been developed in metropolitan areas, in order to promote more sustainable travel behaviour. Papers providing empirical evidence and discussing implementation and governance issues are welcomed.

When submitting your manuscript please verify which session stream you are interested in.

Key Dates:

  • Papers Due: November 30th, 2013
  • Decisions for included papers: Early March 2014
  • Final Papers Due (subject to acceptance): Late April 2014
  • Early Registration Deadline: March 15th, 2014
  • Conference: June 24-27, 2014

Questions?

For questions regarding the conference please direct them to

Active Communities / Transport (ACT) Research Group Scholarly Workshop

The Active Communities / Transport (ACT) Research Group (co-directed by Kevin J. Krizek) will be hosting its first “Scholarly Workshop;” April 18-19 on the Boulder/Denver campuses. Daniel Rodriguez, PhD, of UNC-Chapel Hill will be the first distinguished scholar. The workshop is intended to provide insights and feedback on research currently being pursued or proposed by student and faculty members. All members of the CU community are welcome to attend with complimentary registration.

Please consult the schedule and book of abstracts.

Current ACT students will present their well-developed research proposals to ACT faculty and student members, as well as to Dr. Rodriguez, and receive feedback from the group. The central purpose of the event is to learn from close interactions with a proven scholar, and to elevate the quality and depth of the group’s work through constructive and critical feedback. In addition, there will be opportunity to reflect on perspectives and experiences about transportation-land use research and scholarship. Please email with questions or further interest. If you would like to attend or for further information, please contact Professor Krizek.

Infographics and gamification

The following infographic from Active Living Research recently came across my email. It is nicely presented; it is a fair representation of some of the research.  But……

…while it might satisfy some central purposes of an infographic, we have argued elsewhere, it is best to to consider the balance of the research and not rely on what one study here or there has to offer about a particular factoid.

Illustration of points for completing sustainable activitiesThe larger issue is that based on an article in the recent issue of ensia, knowledge and information have little to do with behavior change. Moral suasion does not work either (my favorite quote from the article: “If educating people about an issue would solve the problem, we would have no obesity and no smokers in our country”).

Two reactions: First, competition (what they call “gamification”) and peer pressure are paramount. We are getting there with the both–in terms of cycling, at least–but these elements take time to engender in society. Second, talk is cheap. Most everyone says they want to save water and the planet; action is less so.

 

Leopold leadership program fellows announced for 2013

The Leopold Leadership Program Based at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Leopold Leadership Program provides academic environmental researchers with skills and approaches for communicating and working with partners in NGOs, business, government and communities to integrate science into decision‐making.

The Leopold program just released the list of 20 individuals receiving fellowships in 2013 and I am fortunate to be a part of this crew and the first planner to boot. Read more here and from CU.