Copenhagen Bike Highways

I am in Toronto at the 13th Meeting of the International Association of Travel Behavior Research. The delegation is almost 250 people strong and extremely international. It is interesting to hear the tenor of planning and research efforts worldwide. It is always fun to hear the European’s impression of the transport-land use culture in North America.

In conversing with Danish colleagues, I relayed how the bicycling culture in the US has really taken off in the past few years. I queried the degree to which there is an analog in Denmark (i.e., while their cycling culture is very strong, have they also noticed more than a general uptick in use and attention). The answer is yes—even the Danes are enjoying considerable increased attention to cycling.

What is the current focus of their planning aims? More bicycle highways, as the type recently publicized in the NYTimes via text and video.

North American bikesharing (one word) report released

A new and very “up-to-date” report is out on bikesharing systems in North America, Susan Shaheen (of car sharing fame) was the PI.

The Mineta Transportation Institute ( has released a peer-reviewed research report, Public Bikesharing in North America: Early Operator and User Understanding. It documents the state of public bikesharing in the U.S. and Canada, including key factors such as essential attributes and business models; economics and insurance issues.

The best contribution of the report (other than being thorough, recent, and having many different forms of data–including surveys, interviews, etc.) is that they spend time looking at the funding and financing of these systems. Almost all of the systems receive sponsorship; most are non-profits. And, they are expensive. es; evolution of IT-based bikesharing; impact of bikesharing on walking, bicycling, public transit, and exercise; and other key factors. It also offers public policy recommendations. Principal investigator was Susan Shaheen, PhD, with Elliot Martin, PhD, Adam Cohen, and Rachel Finson. The free 138-page report is available for download at

Also, of the almost 30 systems that are reported in mainland North America prior to June 2012, it is stunning that none are west of Boulder (outside of Golden, BC)–the absence (for now) is particularly noticed in progressive hotbeds like Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco (thought some of these places are still trying to figure out the helmet issue and others are planned).



GP-RED think tank — school travel and too much organized play for kids

I spent Monday at the GP-RED Think Tank schedule. The topic from my 20 minute talk that seemed to gain the most traction related to school travel. The basic point is that we can talk until we are blue in the face about getting kids to walk to school and the need for safe routes to school programs. But, as is becoming increasingly realized, the open enrollment issue is really shooting such programs in the foot. Kids don’t go to the neighborhood school; they go to school across town–too far to bike or walk.

People love talking about this matter. It merges travel (which anyone can relate to), kids (people love talking about children), schools (parents are manic about discussing the ins and outs of school involvement), and the environment (which everyone supposedly cares about, but really only nominally).

Here is another big take-away message from the spending the day at the “Think Tank.” Kids—and parents for that matter—are spending too much time in organized play. Parents have to supervise. Kids lose the ability to do whatever. They now get bored too easily in the absence of organized play and don’t know how to address the squabbles internally, always resulting in turning to an adult for this. We need to bring back entire afternoons hanging out on the block with no agenda.

Do you live in a city?

A couple of observations about the following diagnostic chart that was  recently released on NPR. Its a really good start. It would be fun to have a few more cultural or socially constructed elements as criteria–as opposed to the primary elements being those of the built environment. Right now, there are more or less three that are not built-environment centrci: starbucks, applebees, pets as livestock. But, notice that it all starts with transportation: how do you get to work. This is telling.

And, from bike you go straight to having animals? I guess there is some psychological/sociological research out there about such? Then, I question if the Applebee’s criteria is all that telling?

Do You Live In A City? Hm. Let's Find Out

Bike to Work Day – 30% first time participants

Most communities around the US celebrate bike to work day and week in May. The idea is to celebrate and promote the whole concept and get more people on-board. In Colorado, the Front Range communities wait until the 4th Wednesday in June. It is quite a celebration with the Regional Council (DRCOG) playing an active role. There are over 45 breakfast stations in  city of Boulder alone–that’s almost 2 stations per square mile of town.

The whole idea, it seems, is to get people to “register” for the event and thereby “pledge” to do more of it–almost 1,800 of them across the Front Range. I’m not sure I fully follow the wisdom of such, but it seems harmless. Relative to previous years, it seemed that attendance was a bit down in Boulder, likely owing to the obsessive heat for several consecutive days prior and the onset of pretty dramatic forest fires.

The ACT Research Group will be partnering with DRCOG analyzing some of the survey results. Some positive university press has already been generated. Our central research question is going to focus on those who do it this day but not the rest of the day–drilling down into the strength and duration of the “lag effect” of such an intervention. Supposedly 30% were first time participants.

Krista Nordback dissertation defense

The bicycle research community will further benefit from the addition of a great researcher with soon to be “PhD” credentials behind her. Krista Nordback of UC Denver Civil Engineering successfully defended her dissertation, ESTIMATING ANNUAL AVERAGE DAILY BICYCLISTS AND ANALYZING CYCLIST SAFETY IN URBAN AREAS.Picture

Using Boulder, Colorado as a case community (mainly because of the wealth of data available), she created a method to estimate annual average daily bicyclists (AADB) and bicyclist safety at intersections.

Krista employed continuous automated bicycle counts to create a statistical model of bicycle use considering external factors, such as temperature, month, and day of the week. This model allowed her to estimate the average daily volume of bicyclists on a given roadway over a year, analogous to Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) for motor vehicles.

Quantifying bicycle use per roadway and path is an important step to assessing which bicycle infrastructure is most used and establishing a baseline for studying other issues such as safety and physical activity.  Specifically, she combined use data with bicycle-related collision data to provide a comprehensive assessment of bicyclist safety by infrastructure type (i.e. bicycle lanes, bicycle paths and shared-roadway bicycle routes) at the community level. Let’s wait for the final, final, final version of the dissertation (20 more days) and then further report on the “elevator pitch” take-away conclusions.

Krista provided a guest blog here last month and is also a member of the Active Communities / Transport (ACT) Research Group.

Congratulations, Krista, on a job well done!

Top three things for Denver Regional Council Scenario Planning

I was privileged to participate as an expert panelist in Denver Regional Council’s  Scenario Planning Workshop earlier in the month. During my 20 minute presentation to the “public” group session, I stressed three points–further demonstrated by the below slides.

1. As it relates to urban planning and future scenarios, we need to scrutinize trends (socio-demographic, travel consumption, etc) prior to hanging one’s hat on those trends that favor particular outcomes.

2. Accessibility should unquestionably be a guiding “Measure of Effectiveness” for scenario planning.

3. There might be a large potential by aiming to increasing land use mix and density in certain key areas around Denver to better “internally capture trips and maximize likelihood for cycling.

Professor, Environmental Design and Transport, University of Colorado