Why paint shines (colored and white ) | streets.mn

At streets.mn, I posted the second of a three part series discussing the value of using paint for bicycle facilities and planning.

“City officials make transportation planning decisions under financial duress and scant information. Will rezoning land uses in the neighborhood encourage walking? Will the new bus line decrease car use? Should the city build a protected bike path in the middle of the city? Answers to these questions come slowly as changes in cities take time to mature. People’s travel habits evolve even slower. It is difficult to know what “works” in the transportation business.”

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.”

The trademarking of “Copenhagen” cycling nomenclature

Utilitarian cycling is exceptional in Copenhagen for a variety of reasons. The global cycling community has rightfully adopted their many of their innovations. But I am mostly intrigued in how the cycling community has accepted the Copenhagen “trademarking” in common nomenclature. We have:

Copenhagen bike lanes. [Has this term slight fallen out of favor, being replaced with "cycle tracks?"]

The Copenhagen left.

The Copenhagen Greenwave. 

Are each of these indeed invented in Copenhagen? Is there a “machine” behind their naming? At what point in having other communities adopt such practices should they no longer have the “Copenhagen” label?


Learning from Bologna’s off-street bicycle network: tolerance, safety, thanks | streets.mn

At streets.mn, I have the following post: Learning from Bologna’s Off-street Bicycle Network: Tolerance, Safety, Thanks, complete with a vivid three minute video from the user perspective of the cyclist.

“The characteristics of a city’s off-street cycling network vary widely by culture. Expectations are adjusted accordingly. The most progressive cycling communities in the U.S. have set  high standards for what they consider to be suitable bicycle facilities…”

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.”

Diminishing returns of off-street bicycle facilities | streets.mn

At streets.mn, I have the following post: Diminishing returns of off-street bicycle facilities.

“Some attention to my previous post seemed to stem from the incredulity of implying anything negative about the Midtown Greenway—one of America’s most beloved darlings of a bike path […]“

Eyeing two unintended outcomes of the bicycle facilities arms race | streets.mn

At streets.mn, I have the following post: Eyeing two unintended outcomes of the bicycle facilities arms race. 

“In less than a decade, the Minneapolis Midtown Greenway (Minnesota) has quickly risen to one of America’s most beloved darlings of a bike path[1]. Similarly, the short stretch of the Cedar Lake Trail to the Twins Stadium provides much needed closure over an important stretch for cyclists in downtown Minneapolis. Both are critical assets for […]“



A Flying Pigeon in every household

…continuing the recent history theme, this time in China…

Owing to sheer numbers, nowhere else in the world has cycling played such a prominent role as in China. The important position the bike plays in this country can be traced back to April 1949 when Chairman Mao’s heir apparent, vice president Liu Shaoqi, visited a bike factory in Tianjin, 100 km south of Beijing. Shaoqi reportedly commanded that this Tianjin factory become the first bicycle manufacturer in New China[1]. With bicycling now an “approved form of transport” the nation quickly became zixingche wang guo, the Kingdom of Bicycles.

The bike was now one of the three “must-haves“ of every citizen, alongside a sewing machine and a watch—essential items in life that also offered a hint of wealth in dour times. Cycling use increased into the 1960s and 1970s and the Tianjin factory became the predominant bicycle manufacturer in the country. To the tune of up to 10,000 per day[2], the factory rolled out a model called the “Flying Pigeon,” a label that soon was used synonymously to refer to almost all bicycles in the country. The model was a sturdy all-steal colossus that looked as if it would last a lifetime. It was available in only one color, black (reminiscent of Henry Ford’s model T’s). It became a symbol of an egalitarian social system that promised little comfort but a reliable ride through life[3]. After all, it did come with a sprung real leather saddle.

These factory bikes became so ubiquitous that Deng Xiaoping, the post-Mao leader who launched China’s economic reforms in the 1970s, defined prosperity as “a Flying Pigeon in every household.” (The phrase vaguely reminds me of Herbert Hoover, in his presidential campaign, promising Americans a “chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”) Over the years, the “Pigeon” humbly assumed its role as one of those few nostalgia-inducing artifacts of China’s postrevolutionary era, a period darkened by the Cultural Revolution and intense poverty”[4]. In 1994, China’s National Administration Bureau of Industry and Commerce named it a “national key trademark brand under protection,” enshrining the “Pigeon” as a national treasure[5].

[1] Approved form of transport: www.flying-pigeon.eu/historia.htm

[2] Rolling out 10,000 pigeons per day, see: http://empirecyclery.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/the-cult-of-the-flying-pigeon/

[3] The pigeon’s role in social egalitarianism, see: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Pigeon

[4] The pigeon as a nostalgia-inducing artifact, see: www.bicycling.com/news/featured-stories/flight-pigeon

[5] Enshrining the pigeon, see: www.bicycling.com/news/featured-stories/flight-pigeon

Professor, Environmental Design and Transport, University of Colorado