I received the following email inquiry this morning:
Some have questioned the wisdom of promoting bike use on roadways especially very busy ones or at busiest times because of the health hazards of heavy breathing in concentrated auto exhaust.
What can you say about that?
Here is a response, fresh off the press from the book recently edited by John Parkin of the UK:
Kevin J. Krizek (2012). Cycling, Urban Form and Cities: What Do We Know and How Should We Respond? Cycling and Sustainability; Transport and Sustainability, Volume 1. John Parkin, editor. Chapter 5; 111-130. Emerald Group Publishing, UK.
…from page 121
“Some recent research on cycling aims to better understand unintended consequences linked with increased exposure to air pollution (Panis, 2011; Zuurbier et al., 2010). Despite the many virtues of cities for cycling, including relatively high land use densities, a drawback to cycle use is related to air quality and this becomes more important when the activity in question requires significant amounts of oxygen intake. Air pollution can affect the respiratory system because of the deep draw down of air into the lungs and may even lead to heart rate variability (Weichenthal et al., 2011). Of particular concern are ultrafine particulates. Hazards from air pollution are extremely localized and require close proximity (a very few metres), which is just the position of cycle traffic in relation to localized air pollution problems caused by motor traffic. Various treatments have been proposed such as separating cycle traffic from motor traffic by more than the requisite distance, allowing and encouraging bicycles to wait for a traffic signal green light in front of the queue of motor traffic (in so-called bicycle boxes or behind so-called advanced stop lines, which also then have the advantage that they allow cycle traffic a head start before motor traffic accelerates from a stop), or, through appropriate area wide traffic management to create a tiered system of routes with cycle traffic and motor traffic encouraged to use adjacent parallel routes. Overall, however, the evidence suggests that there are potential consequences to cycling in urban areas dominated by motor traffic that need to be addressed in order to avert the potential for cycling in cities being increasingly associated with health risks (Zuurbier et al., 2010).”
Over the past few years, I’ve mentioned how there seems to be more than a general uptick in cycling-related “activity” out there. More coverage in the NY Times; more cities paying attention to cycling; more sales for bikes that allow us to get around town; more politicians mentioning bicycling as a platform; and, more academics studying elements of cycling. The list can go on.
A Report on the State of the Community and Future Challenges – Kevin J. Krizek
Kevin J. Krizek is Professor of Planning and Design at the University of Colorado Boulder where he also wears a variety of other hats, including:
-Director of CU Sustainability Research and Education;
-Senior Transportation Fellow for the Environmental Center;
-Co-Director, Active Communities/Transportation Research Group;
-Founding co-editor of the Journal of Transport and Land Use.
His research and teaching interests integrate transportation and land use. Krizek has been the Principal Investigator for close to $3 million of externally funded research; much of this activity focuses on transit, walking and bicycling. All of it aims to shape national policies on land use/transportation and advance local and regional planning efforts that further sustainable infrastructure. For example, the Design for Health project (www.designforhealth.net; US APA’s National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice) developed health impact assessments, research briefs and other tools for planners to assess policies. A report recently released by Kaiser Permanente documents a research and outreach project to identify a set of robust, consensus indicators for measuring Active Transportation in Colorado.
Krizek moved to Boulder in 2007 after serving on the faculty at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. He lives on the Hill with his wife and 6 year old son and blogs at vehicleforasmallplanet.com.
The 2012 summer Olympics are less than a week away. Read here to learn about and why London’s cycling culture bikesharing scheme might be comparable to an Olympic sport. According to the author, “nowhere else is a cycling culture so cutthroat, vicious, reckless, hostile, and violently competitive as London’s.”
Intersections are the source of more than half of all conflicts between motorized and non-motorized modes. We know that most non-motorized users really appreciate facilities that are separated from cars. But separate facilities—particularly those that are grade separated—requires space and money.
Boulder, Colorado has a strong tradition for coming up with the funding for these underpasses. In the city’s 25 square miles, they just finished constructing another adjacent to the University of Colorado Boulder Campus. The city has over 80 underpasses (I think) and this one is close to their most expensive. It came in at $7.4 million with $3.4 million in federal transportation funds. The local match for this project was composed of funding from five agencies.
As an owner of property less than 2 blocks away—and one who formerly crossed this intersection multiple times per day—I cannot help to be pleased. I no longer need to wait at the onerous light and have my child come anywhere close to the somewhat fast moving auto traffic on Broadway.
Having read and heard for years about bikesharing systems worldwide, I figured it was time to finally try it firsthand. I rented a BIXI while at the Conference of the International Association of Travel Behavior Research in Toronto.
The stations are convenient, though more are always welcome. The bikes are heavy (not surprising). It is liberating to use a vehicle for transport and not have to be concerned about what to do with when you are done.
Here are some other reactions, thoughts, and/or suggestions:
-Is there a systematic rationale for the location of the cargo rack? I see that most systems have the racks on the front; I assume this is because the riders want to have a constant eye on their belongings. However, when transporting heavier or larger cargo (e.g., a loaded backpack), this creates some instability when it comes to steering; furthermore, the size of the rack seems a bit limiting.
-It might be nice to equip the bikes with maps of return stations, particularly for those users without smart phones or knowledge of the locations for all the stations? I found myself circling several blocks trying to locate such.
-Downtown Toronto is far from a welcoming environment for cycling—an environment made even worse owing to the tracks from the streetcars. I am really surprised by the number of cyclists that do ride in the downtown area—a phenomena that is a combination of hearty Canadians and drivers who are largely respectful.
-As expected, the bikes are tanks. I guess they need to be but it kind of limits the overall fun on being on a bicycle.
-I understand that Montreal’s BIXI system is still reluctant to release their data. Interesting.
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.
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 transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1029.html.
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).
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.