The Image That Explains It All

You’ve seen photos like this. A large group of people, with images comparing the amount of precious urban space they take depending on the mode of transport they use.  This new one is by Australia’s Cycling Promotion Fund.

6a00d83454714d69e2017d3c37d8ac970c-800wiThis photo makes at least three important points, two of them probably not intended. In this one image you can see that:

  • Bike racks on buses (and most other transit) can never be more than a niche market.

The rack on the bus in pic #1 carries two bikes, which is great for those two people. But if all the bikes in pic #2 try to get onto the bus in pic #1, we have a geometric impossibility. Bike racks are already as large as they can be if the driver is still to be far enough forward to drive safely. A non-folding bike inside a transit vehicle takes the space of several passengers, so could fairly be accommodated only at several times the fare. In the ideal sustainable future, you will have to park your bike at the station, or return your rental bike, just as Europeans do. If transit does accommodate your bike, you really should pay a fare premium that reflects the rough number of passenger spaces displaced, or the supply/demand ratio for 2-3 bike racks vs 20 people wanting to use them.
“Personal Rapid Transit,” or small demand-responsive buses, or driverless cars that work like taxis, will never, ever, ever substitute for surface transit in high-demand urban settings, such as where all these people want to travel.
Dreamers along these lines may well be right about many suburban areas, where demand is sparse and the land use pattern precludes efficient transit. But when all the people in this picture want to travel, driverless cars may take less space than the cars shown here, but they will still take far more space than a bus would. The scarcity of space per person is part of the very definition of a city, as distinct from suburbia or rural area, so the efficiency with which transport options use that space will always be the paramount issue.

(Of course, this very thought experiment presumes that we will actually achieve, and culturally accept, driverless cars that require very little space between them, in which the prevention of ghastly accidents — especially with pedestrians and bikes who may appear with zero warning and minimal stopping distance — is achieved through the absolute infallibility of human-designed hardware and software.)

To make the same point more generally:

In cities, urban space is the ultimate currency.
We spend too much time talking about what things cost in dollars and not enough about what they cost in space. That, of course, is because urban space is perversely priced to encourage inefficient uses of it and discourage efficient ones. If you’re going to claim to be able to visualize how technology will change the world of 2040 — as the techno-futurists claim to do — you should also visualize what a political system ruled by people now under 40 would look like. These people are much less emotionally attached to cars, care about environmental outcomes much more, and value urban space much more than their parents do. Given that the revolution in urban pricing has already begun (see the London and Singapore congestion charges, and the San Francisco and Auckland dynamic parking systems), isn’t it foolish to assume that today’s assumptions about how we apportion urban space will still rule your techno-utopia?

Original article publish by Human Transit.

Closing Streets to Cars for Walkers and Cyclists Is Getting More Popular by the Minute

More U.S. cities adopt Vision Zero plans and adapt to become more bike and pedestrian friendly, so are they closing down their streets to cars.

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While the country might have a long way to go to get to the car-free center city Dublin is planning, walkability and cycling advocates continue to score wins for a more balanced use of our urban streets. With worries about traffic congestion and safety on the increase, perhaps the “war on cars” really is winnable.

This fall, the City of San Jose and Silicon Valley Bike Coalition will close off six miles of streets from cars — leaving the road open for biking, walking, playing and skating. The inaugural “Viva CalleSJ,” announced this week, will take place on October 11th.

San Jose is joining a number of other cities that havealready hosted open streets events, including Los Angeles, Guadalajara, Mexico, and Bogota, Colombia.

“These events promote and encourage people to replace daily car trips with bicycling, walking and public transportation, which is an integral part of our mission,” said Shiloh Ballard, executive director for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, in a press release.

With street vendors and performers on the scene, the open roads will also give people an opportunity to better explore neighborhoods and local businesses.

“Viva CalleSJ will convert San José’s streets into a vibrant paved park where families can bike, walk or skate in areas they would normally drive through,” said San José Mayor Sam Liccardo. “They will be given the chance to explore these wonderful neighborhoods and discover local businesses while improving their mental and physical health.”

On the East Coast, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that he will close large parts of Prospect Park and Central Park to vehicles on weekdays. (The sections are already closed to cars on the weekends.) The New York Times reports:

“We’re creating safe zones for kids to play in, for bikers, for joggers, for everyone to know that they will be safer and they can enjoy the park in peace,” de Blasio said in a press conference.

For the full article can be found here.

Cities Where People Walk and Cycle are Healthier

Read full article here.

Cities with more physically active residents are financially healthier too, a study has found, with benefits being higher property values, economic productivity levels and school performance.

commuter pan_1Where walking, cycling and public transport are prevalent, the University of California studyhas found, there is a return of £13 for every £1 invested in these projects.

Benefits for the cities include more trade for local shops, less traffic congestion and reduced pollution. Workers are more productive too, taking on average a week less off work per year.

Chad Spoon, from the University of California’s Active Living research unit, said: “A city’s ability to compete depends on an active population. The research is clear on this – it shows how an active city can be a low-cost, high-return investment.”

The paper also suggests opening more parks and open spaces; providing bike lanes and public bike schemes; and helping ensure children live closer to their schools, the Guardian reports.

In Praise Of The Upright Bike: The City Bikes

NBIKEorth American bike culture is changing. Fast. And a big part of that shift is in the type of bicycles people are choosing to ride. Traditional upright city bikes have seen an explosion in popularity in recent years, with real implications to the way we design and experience cities.

While this trend may have started with images of stylish cycling Scandinavians circulating on blogs and social media, it is becoming increasingly clear these machines aren’t just a style or passing fad. Urban bikes interact with the city environment in a notably different manner, broadening the way we provide citizens of all ages with healthier, happier, more social, and less expensive means of mobility.

First and foremost, it’s important to clarify what we mean by upright city bikes, and how they differentiate from other styles you may see. With their high, sweeping handlebars and sometimes step-through frames (which are not suggested to be gender-specific anywhere but in North America — just practical, comfortable design), they are designed for a different posture: riding in an upright position — rather than hunching over — taking all strain off your back, shoulders, forearms, wrists, and hands.

Not only are they designed for comfort, they’re sturdier and safer, making them ideal for cruising at slower speeds, providing opportunities for an intimate, unfiltered awareness and experience of the people and places around you. They’re not meant for long distances or off-roading, but are the perfect means for a short, slow, non-sweaty jaunt around your neighborhood.

The most important thing about the growth of sit-up cycling is that it facilitates getting more people on two wheels, changing our perception of how we can move around our cities, making cycling more appealing to demographics that were traditionally left on the sidelines. These bikes help take cycling beyond speed and sport, making it a much broader, inviting, inclusive activity.

Read full article by Brent Toderian and Chris Bruntlett here.