Vanderbilt on Capital Bikeshare

Bicycles are seen in a rack at a bike sharing station January 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. Tom Vanderbilt writes in Slate about Capital Bike-Share. In response to his first question–what city would you have expected would have the best success?—it is not surprising to see that DC takes the cake. The density is right. DC is flat. There are lots of people making small business-type trips across town. There are tourists galore. Weather is usually not prohibitive. But empirically speaking, the analysis reported in the article suggests the the success of stations depend on:

-the age of its nearby population;

-the density of retail outlets (and in particular liquor licenses);

-the proximity of Metrorail stations;

-distance from the center of the system itself;

-essentially, the presence of a lot of white people.

Health tradeoffs (some of them) hitting popular press

The Atlantic Cities has a diddy exposing some of the pollution ill-effects of cycling. But, the larger question is still left open. Even considering the air pollution burden from cycling–and perhaps even the safety risks owing to crashes–is it healthy? We need to look at the larger context. The prevailing evidence, I would argue, suggests that cycling is healthy–overall–because of the physical activity benefits.

Stop being an S O V

Welcome SOV's
I am listening to the radio. The holiday advertisements are rolling. Then a new ad rolls out. It is quick, pithy, and pointed. It draws our attention to the environmental and other costs of driving. Then it jumps right to urging you not to be an SOV (single occupancy vehicle).

The tagline is edgy, no doubt. It is surprising. It catches you (or at least, me) off-guard. I thought: who really is behind paying for the creativity of such much less the air-time. As it turns out, it is sponsored by a partnership led by Denver the Regional Council of Governments.

The campaign is clearly playing to the moral suasion argument—a strategy I have suggested that, in the past, has had very little success in the past in triggering behavioral change. I guess we can keep trying. Maybe more “edgy awareness” will help.

Top planning books of 2012…including the Bikeway Design Guide?

Planetizen just announced its 11th annual list of the ten best books in urban planning, design and development published for 2012. The list selected by Planetizen’s editorial staff covers a range of urgent topics. A couple of reactions:

-Popular press and journalistic authors dominate (not academics and researchers). This is to be expected, but I did not recognize a single academic. I suppose our writing style (or our findings?) really are boring.

…but, speaking of boring:

-Of the ten books listed, the 329 page Urban Bikeway Design Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials is one of them. Seriously? A technical manual as a “best of”? Apparently, the editorial staff is stacked w insomniacs. It is great to see a bike reference among the list. And, it is a really useful guide, don’t get me wrong. But still.

Mixite and Development of the Hippodrome de Montreal area

Hippodrome Project Logo.I am currently in Montreal as part of a forum of experts invited by the mayor’s office to help the city determine the strongest development potential for a 100+ acre development project (the old horseracing track).

Sure, it exciting to pretend like one is going to Europe for 2 days. But one of the best things I acquired on this trip is the use of a new word from my Francophone colleagues: mixite. Wikipedia tells me, “The diversity in general, refers to the presence or the context of individuals of both genders in a group or a concept. The word specializes in specific contexts: 1. The diversity , training and education together boys and girls in mixed groups. 2. In sociology , we talk about social mix , heterogeneous nature of society .”

…and, based on its use these past two days, I am guessing it can also mean the co-mingling of different items (e.g., people of different socio economic class, different ideas, or even different travel modes). I like it.


Heated paths — which first and what of salt?

Snow season is coming (at least in northern places in the northern hemisphere). I have read two accounts in the past week calling for heated bike paths and heated sidewalks.

Heating coils are one option. Retaining summer heat is the other. Both seem pretty expensive. But it does beg two questions, assuming it can be done and paid for,

1. Is it best to start with the sidewalks, bike paths or roads? I am less convinced the roads need it. The cars are relatively stable in moderate snow.

2. Can we really kick the salt habit?

Bicycle Urbanism Symposium

Inline image 1Here is another unique opportunity to advance bicycle planning on a national/international stage. I am on the International Program Committee for this event and it looks to be good. Late June in Seattle is not quite as good as September,  but its not bad…

The International Bicycle Urbanism Symposium will take place at the College of Built Environments, University of Washington, Seattle from June 19-22, 2013.

You are invited to submit abstracts for papers dealings with:

  • Ways that cities can best encourage and accommodate bicycle use 20-30 years in the future
  • Leading research that addresses bicycle use and effects of innovation in infrastructure and programs
  • Best practices and how these can inform long-term planning for bicycle use.

Intended participants include planning and design professionals, researchers, bicycle advocates, and public officials. Selected papers will be edited for one or more referred books.

A fuller description of the Symposium and its program can be found at Questions can be addressed at

Warning: Next “generation” of bicycle advice forthcoming

We have been hearing for the last few years of the bicycle renaissance worldwide. The visibility is undoubtedly helping bicycling. The cries have been upbeat, reassuring, and feel-good: bicycling is good and cities are changing themselves to better accommodate such.

We are starting to better weigh the opportunity costs of different strategies and where there is room for improvement. In a positive step forward, we now have representatives in leading cities questioning some of their initiatives. We are reeling back some of the enthusiasm with a critical eye. This is healthy. Here are some examples:

I offered some thoughts for Boulder, Colorado a few months ago.

We apparently have some hiccups in Copenhagen’s bicycle-sharing system (note: each trip is a whopping $4.50?)

Seattle is apparently getting lots of press for cycling (owing to its Mayor?), but little traction.