Its getting easier being green

Last month I suggested it is not easy being green, for a bike lane. Apparently, it is getting a lot easier–especially if you are one of the 6 focus cities for the new green lane project…though, this effort is a bit more than putting down a bunch of paint. Even the USA Today is on board, complete with a photo of Kelly Clifton (colleague and fellow bicycle researcher) riding alongside Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.



This is how we ride….quite a rousing endorsement from Byrne

In case you missed it, the NYTimes gave David Byrne (yes, of the Talking Heads) some prime real estate in the Sunday Review section (May 27) writing about bikes and the NY bike sharing system.

He was pretty emphatic. It was good to read.

He claims that bicycling provides “emotional gratification” and this is the primary reason for riding (I suppose that is true if you are not really time constrained and have most of your destinations within a few miles; how many people does this apply to?).

In the end he writes: “Look around you. Bikes are everywhere: in glamorous ads and fashionable neighborhoods, parked outside art galleries, clubs, office buildings. More and more city workers arrive for work on bikes. The future is visible in the increasing number of bikes you see all over the urban landscape. This simple form of transportation is about to make our city more livable, more human and better connected; New Yorkers are going to love the bike-share program; culturally and physically, our city is perfectly suited for it.”

With big-time celebrity endorsements like this, he might be right.


Freeway lids…still making news

NPR (in San Diego) reported yesterday of the potential for freeway lids to re-connect communities. The idea–which obviously carries a high price tag (but not ridiculously so considering other transport projects)–still holds good value because it provides land and space (in places without land and space) in addition to the connectivity benefits. Oh, and it also provides endless pedagogical benefits

Colorado Active Transportation Mile Markers Project

I understand a really thorough report is now available on strategies to measure Active Travel.

Kaiser Permanente is proud to report on the results of the Colorado Active Transportation Mile Markers Project Measuring Active Transportation: Recommendations for Colorado documents a research and outreach project intended to identify a set of robust, consensus indicators for measuring Active Transportation in Colorado. The report includes an inventory of best practices in Active Transportation measurement and the criteria by which a set of preferred indicators was generated. The resulting eight preferred indicators create the Active Transportation (AT) Mile Markers, which will help public and private agencies throughout Colorado partner in their efforts to monitor progress in Active Transportation. This information was presented in a webinar on April 19, 2012 and the report is available here

Maybe youth is not all wasted?

One of the best scenes from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is when George is flirting with Mary after the dance:

(George): What do you want, Mary? Do you want the moon? If you want it, I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down for you. Hey! That’s a pretty good idea! I’ll give you the moon, Mary. 
(Mary Hatch Bailey): I’ll take it! Then what? 
(George): Well, then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve see, and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair… am I talking too much? 
(Man on Porch): Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death? 
(George): You want me to kiss her, huh? 
(Man on Porch): Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people! 

(Clarence): One man’s life touches so many others, when he’s not there it leaves an awfully big hole. 

Well, maybe youth is not all wasted? At least when it comes to travel.
For many years we have been urging the need for research efforts to focus on (a) the youth as an important travel submarket, and (b) the process by which youth learn their travel habits. We are now seeing a slew of efforts tackling the first; I don’t see too much activity about the latter.

A new report released by the CoPIRG Foundation demonstrates that Coloradans and Americans have been driving less since the middle of last decade. The report, Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy, shows that young people in particular are decreasing the amount they drive and increasing their use of transportation alternatives

The “analysis” is pretty straightforward, relying exclusively on descriptive statistics from elsewhere. It is pretty aggregate in its geographical focus. I am not sure I believe all they say about why these patterns will persist (people do regress). But, it does hint at a consistent story: maybe youth is not all wasted; if patterns continue, we might see a big hole in VMT? 

Gravity model no more ?

If Nature and Science are the proclaimed “rock star” journals, then it behooves us to pay attention to how some of the research published there might pertain to our specific field (It is not often that transport or other planning applications appear in these venues).Here is an idea that might grow some legs: A universal model for mobility and migration patterns.


Marta C. González,Amos Maritan


484,96–100 (05 April 20 doi:10.1038/nature10856

Unveiling the hidden self-similarity in human mobility.

The authors appear to rightfully “taking down” the tried and true gravity model based on, among other things:

-the size or “attraction” component of either the origin or destination matters less,
-the often used K-factors are site specific,
-impedance functions are too often borrowed,
-it is too difficult to calibrate to local settings and if you don’t, it is prone to big time error.

I have not read the details of their prescribed solution. It sounds good. But, it is interesting (and refreshing) that these improvements are coming from fields not directly tied to either land use or transport. We need more of that. 

Active Transportation Indicators Webinar

Please join us for the Kaiser Permanente Active Transportation (AT) Indicators Webinar. During this one-hour meeting, we’ll report on the results of a four-month research and outreach effort to identify exemplary efforts in measuring various aspects of Active Transportation. It will include recommended indicators and monitoring techniques for three aspects of AT: the demand for AT at both the population and facility levels; the provision and quality of AT facilities; and and how well different places support AT. Following the Webinar, the final report: Measuring Active Transportation: Recommendations for Colorado will be made available for download. Please contact Vickie Jacobsen at Charlier Associates, Inc. ( or Jessica Hernandez ( with any questions and to receive an invitation.

Guest post: Adjusting for variation in bike counts (contribution from Krista Nordback)

The following is a guest post from Krista Nordback, PhD Candidate in Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado Denver and member of the Active Communities / Transportation (ACT) Research Group——-

PictureWith the bicycle arms race underway (which is a good thing because peer pressure always helps communities do more), it’s really hard to know who is winning.  If you read the blurbs, every city claims to be winning because every city is seeing gains in their bicycle counts. But how consistent are the counting approaches? How robust are the counting approaches? Even with consistent and robust approaches, how does one account for geographic or climate variations. Does a high bike count in Minneapolis during a sunny and 70 degree day ensure the same in mid January?  Probably not.

What is the best way to  compare cities with high counts in the summer, and low counts in the winter to cities with balmy weather all year round?  One way, borrowed from the motorized traffic world, is to calculate an average daily count for the whole year (aka AADT).  The National Bike and Pedestrian Documentation Project has done just that, offering factors to annualize your hourly bike and pedestrian counts.  While this was a notable step forward 4 years ago, it’s far from definitive. 

First, the idea that we can create one set of factors for the entire country leads to major inaccuracies.  Clearly, cultural, climate and terrain vary from city to city, which impact riding habits.  Furthermore, it may lull cities into thinking they don’t need their own continuous automated counts at all since it’s being done at the national level.

Second, annualizing counts based on a one or two hour count inherently lead to more inaccuracies.  There’s a reason traffic engineers abandoned the practice decades ago.  Even with relatively stable traffic counts, one or two hour counts leads to wildly varying estimates.  Basing estimates of annual average daily bicyclists (AADB) on one hour counts can be off by as much as six times actual AADB! 

Here’s the good news!  Cities around the country are installing their own automated bicycle and pedestrian counters that capture traffic 365-24-7.  Permanent automated counts sites provide cities the data they need to create their own, city specific annualization factors.  And, portable automated counters can count for a week at a time at various locations around the city giving a much better estimate of volumes at the location than an army of well meaning volunteers.

The time has come for the bicycle community to realize what motor traffic engineers have known for decades.  Too small a sample size (e.g., a 2 hour bike count) can be WORSE than nothing.  Let’s put those well-meaning volunteers to work doing something more meaningful, like moving, protecting, and maintaining our automated bike counters.  Only then can we robustly compare bike counts on the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis to those on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway in Austin.

Yellowstone bicycling "study tour" – roads closed, but still stay to the right and ride single file

Every spring Yellowstone National Park opens select roads to bicycles only for a month (after the winter plowing and prior to the hoards of tourists). I participated this past weekend. It is amazing. No cars for hundreds of miles, no tourists. Really, no people. Just flora, fauna and the largest geyser basin world–all to yourselves!

But here is an outstanding question from my Yellowstone study tour–a question that my colleagues I could not fully resolve. What “rules of the road” are in effect? The National Park Service owns their roads and polices them with their own forces. This suggests that the roads are not under typical statutory guidelines. The park is technically open, but the roads are closed to vehicular traffic. This suggests there might be some seasonality issues to any rules that are adopted? But, possibly the traditional “rules of the road” (as defined by the National Park Service) are still in effect? The reason I ask is that on a blissful 60 degree Sunday, a day when we saw–at most, 10 people over our 50 mile journey–the Park Ranger reminded us of the importance of riding single file and staying to the right. 

Professor, Environmental Design and Transport, University of Colorado