Reposted with permission from the League of American Bicyclists.
The number of bicyclists is growing rapidly from coast to coast. The National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of trips made by bicycle in the United States more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.
Thanks, in part, to encouragement efforts like Bike to Work Day, the number of bike commuters is on the rise, as well — especially in Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, from 2000 to 2011, the 39 Bicycle Friendly Communities among the 70 largest U.S. cities saw an 80 percent increase in bicycle commuting.
In contrast, the bike commuter rate in the 31 largest non-bicycle friendly cities grew only 32 percent, while the national average grew 47 percent. Download a PDF of the Growth of Bike Commuting infographic depicting the growth in bike commuting in a few key cities.
Bicycle commuting rates have skyrocketed by more than 400 percent since 1990 in some bicycle friendly cities, including cities as diverse as Portland, Ore., and Lexington, Ky.
Meanwhile, cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Denver have more than doubled their bike commuter share since 2000.
To find commuter data for your area, you can download 2010 bicycle commuting data (Excel spreadsheet) for all 375 cities included in the American Community Survey, and see the 2011 state commute rates (Excel spreadsheet) which include bicycle commuting by gender.
Illustration by League of American Bicyclists
One more daily object has joined the typewriter, jukebox and phone as an improved electric commodity: cars. Propelled by a soundless electric motor, these vehicles are able to convert about 60 percent of the electrical domestic energy from the grid to power at the wheels, whereas conventional gasoline vehicles usually can only convert 20 percent of the energy. Its tailpipes also do not produce polluting emissions.
While January sales proved that electric vehicles have had a slow adoption rate, accounting for only 4 percent of the U.S.’s light-vehicle sales, the pros of buying one of these cars can be financially and environmentally uplifting: zero/reduced emissions, the comfort of being able to charge it from home, and its ongoing fuel and maintenance savings. But people also say they find them too expensive and that the battery takes far too long to charge, nor can it last as long as a fuel-charged car.
One seeming pro has also been considered a dangerous con: its silence. Electric cars often catch pedestrians and bicyclists — especially the visually impaired — off guard when driving slower than 18 mph due to its soundless engine. According to a 2011 U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, electric vehicles are twice as likely to cause accidents while backing up, slowing or stopping, starting in traffic, or entering or leaving a parking space or driveway. The agency said a so-called “quiet car rule” could potentially save 35 lives and prevent 2,800 injuries each year, approximately costing an additional $35 per car.
The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, proposed by NHTSA, requires the U.S. Transportation Department to write a rule addressing this issue by Jan. 4, 2014. Automakers would individually decide what the car sounds like when going less than 18 mph while meeting certain minimum requirements.
Photo by Fotolia/Volker Witt
“3,000 Miles, 0 Gas, 6 World Records.” On July 4, eco enthusiasts will begin a 43-day cross-country journey in electric cars, scooters, motorcycles and other vehicles in the hopes of accomplishing this mission behind the Ride the Future Tour.
The trip will kick off in Charleston, S.C. and will come to a stop at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Travelers plan to visit 43 cities to recharge and build publicity on route to the west coast, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
“How inspiring would it be to make history together on our electric vehicles while ushering in a new era and a new way of clean living on our Planet Earth,” wrote Ride the Future founder Susan Jones in a Huffington Post column about the event.
Jones aims to bring attention to her message by breaking several Guinness World Records on the trip. Among the titles up for dispute: “longest journey on an electric scooter,” “longest journey on an electric motorcycle” and "longest journey in an electric car.”
Event organizers also plan to produce a documentary chronicling the tour.
For more information, including a list of cities on the route and how to enter the event, visit Ride the Future’s official website.
Reposted with permission from Treehugger
Doug Short, a financial analyst who blogs at Advisor Perspectives, has taken the US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Commission most recent data from its Traffic Volume Trends and combined it with population data to put together a great chart.
And the surprising bottom line is: not only has VMT (vehicle miles traveled) continued to drop in a trend that started in 2005, we're now in the U.S. back to driving stats of 1995.
As Short puts it: "Our adjusted miles driven based on the 16-and-older age cohort is about where we were as a nation in January of 1995."
As both Short and the Washington Post observe, a big reason for the drop is the fact that the number of vehicle miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) is falling pretty significantly, from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita — a drop of 23 percent.
The Washington Post notes that is also the aging of the baby boomers and the steadily rising prices of gas that are contributing to the shrinking driving stats. It is really the steadily rising cost of vehicle ownership, too. Gas is only part of the equation: cars cost a lot, sit around a lot, and cost a lot to insure and repair.
There's also the effect that ongoing urbanism is having — the city versus suburbs battle. People who do live in dense urban areas seem to be biking and busing it more instead of fighting traffic in their cars.
The interesting question is whether the trend will continue if the economy continues to improve and gas prices drop. Frontier Group, which studied the question, thinks the trend of younger people driving less is "likely to persist."
The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will launch the city’s new bike share system – called “Divvy” – later this year, with the goal of expanding to 4,000 bikes at 400 neighborhood locations over the next year.
“Bike sharing is another large step we’re taking to make Chicago the best big city in America for cycling,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We are improving our bicycling infrastructure to create the quality of life that will attract businesses and families to Chicago. Divvy bikes will provide Chicagoans and visitors with more options for getting around our neighborhoods.”
The system is dubbed “Divvy” to reflect the nature of bike share, where members “divide and share” the use of the bikes. The bicycles’ distinctive “Chicago Blue” paint is the same color as the stripes on the Chicago city flag, and will provide a high level of visibility on the street.
Divvy will give Chicagoans and visitors access to a bike when they want one, without having to worry about storage or maintenance. It also leverages Chicago’s public transit system to help commuters complete the first or last few miles of their trip. In comparable cities, half of all bike share trips are made to or from a public transit station.
Divvy will provide a convenient, easy-to-use transit option available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is envisioned for short point-to-point trips, or as alternative option for a multi-mode commute. Users will pick up a bike from a self-service docking station and return it to any other station nearest their destination.
The specially designed, heavy-duty bikes will be comfortable for all users. Features include a one-size fits all design, upright handlebars, wide seats, hand brakes, and a chain guard to protect clothing. The bikes feature headlights and taillights that automatically illuminate as the bike is pedaled.
Users will be able to purchase $75 yearly memberships or $7 daily passes, which will allow for unlimited trips up to 30 minutes each. Annual members will be able to enroll online and receive a personal key used to quickly unlock bikes from any station.
Divvy stations will be placed near transit stations, employment centers, shopping districts, schools and other popular destinations. They will generally be located on sidewalks or on the street near the curb. The stations are wireless, solar powered and modular so that they can be easily installed. Most stations will have 15-19 bike docks, with open docks at each station for returning bikes.
Divvy’s inspired logo indicates a sense of direction and motion through a distinctive double-V ligature. Marked on streets across the world, this double-arrow symbolizes the shared use of roads by both bicyclists and motorists. In transportation vernacular, this symbol is often called a “sharrow.”
Last year, Mayor Emanuel unveiled the Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020, which calls for a 645-mile network of biking facilities to be in place by 2020 to provide a bicycle accommodation within half-mile of every Chicagoan. Divvy bikes and solar-powered docking stations will be an integral part of this network.
Beginning in late 2012, CDOT solicited suggestions from the public on where the stations should be to be located through the Chicago Bicycle Program. As of April, Chicagoans have made more than 1,300 suggestions for station locations with more than 11,000 votes of support. The process is continuing and locations will be announced later this spring. The stations are modular and mobile, and can be moved or expanded in reaction to demand.
Initial funding for the program is from federal grants for projects that promote economic recovery, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, as well as additional funds from the City’s Tax Increment Financing program. The project continues on budget and schedule for a late spring rollout.
The system will grow in several steps after the initial launch of about 75 stations, expanding to at least 4,000 bikes at 400 stations in 2014. The Divvy service boundaries are roughly from 63rd Street to Devon Avenue, from Lake Michigan to California Avenue.
Chicagoans can find out more about the system by visiting Divvy Bikes and its Facebook page.
Reposted with permission from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
That a new trail will bring crime to an area and increase public safety concerns is an often-used objection to trail projects, particularly in communities without relevant examples close by. However, a mountain of experiential and recorded evidence in fact demonstrates the opposite — that public pathways bring activity, ownership and care to areas once abandoned and neglected, and provide a deterrent to crime and anti-social behavior.
Nevertheless, opponents of trails, biking and walking continue to use this disproved red herring to block trails that have the potential to greatly improve their community.
So it was great to see the Kentucky New Era newspaper tackle the issue head on. As the community of Hopkinsville in southeast Kentucky pursues its rail-trail ambitions, the New Era editorial board decided to respond to concerns about crime and safety by going to straight to an expert. The paper conducted and published a discussion on trails, crime and safety with Hopkinsville Chief of Police Guy Howie, who had experience with trails relationship to crime during his time with the police department in Ocala, Fla.
His comments will not surprise those who have experienced the impact of public pathways in their communities, and echoes that of other law enforcement officers interviewed about the connection of crime to local trails. The full story online requires a subscription to view, so here's a sampling of Chief Howie's responses:
"What's there now, it's already being used by some for both legal and illegal purposes. Once we improve that and it's being utilized by law-abiding citizens, and it's maintained and kept up, the people who are using it for illegal purposes now aren't going to want to stay because they don't want to be discovered."
"Every place that we looked or I talked about, or had personal knowledge of, any time those facilities are used, there's generally not a problem. Nowhere could we find where crime went up along those areas to any significant extent. ... There are projects like this all across the country. Nobody has come up with any research that we're aware of to the contrary, or to the negative. It's just a perception, and where it comes from, I don't know."
KNE: "Do you think people who have property that abuts the trail should be concerned?" Howie: "No. I think they should be ecstatic. Right now, it's already being used by those people. ... It's deserted and that's why they're using it. If I owned a piece of property and it backed up to the rail-trail, I would be excited that it's going to be improved."
"There is evidence out there that shows things like this improve property values. I know the one in Springfield, Tenn., it improved the property values there."
"I did talk to Greenville's chief of police, and he said they've had little to no issues with the one that runs from Greenville to Central City."
"I'd actually like to see it in an ordinance, that the trial is closed from dusk till dawn, unless there's a special event and it's monitored."
"I think some of the bigger cities, and I like to compare Hopkinsville to a small city with some big-city problems at times, I think there's probably a concern about sexual assaults. Again, how do you defeat that? Well, you use it. You have hours of operation for the trail. You don't go out for a walk at midnight, or you don't go for a jog at 9 o'clock at night after dark. You make sure the trail is monitored and that it's accessible enough for police to get down it."
"I think the more recreational opportunities that a community can offer to the public, the healthier the community becomes. If you have activities for kids to do, they are able to do that instead of hanging out and getting in trouble. Where can a dad in some of these neighborhoods teach his kid to ride a bike? I certainly couldn't do it on Remington Road with the way some of those cars come through there. People could go for a walk and not have to worry about traffic. I just think it would help the overall health and welfare of the community and improve the quality of life."
Photo by Folotia/Brocreative
George Carlin, the comedian, had a routine about all of the ‘stuff’ we have that we can’t live without. He could have been joking about me preparing for my cross country bicycle trip.
I started out like Santa Claus: making a list and checking it twice, just to find out what’s needed and nice. Then I gathered everything up and spread it out on the living room floor, and the dining room floor, and the dining room table, and . . .
My wife finally asked if the mechanical popcorn popper, the big cuddly pillow, the cellphone music speakers, my favorite frypan, and the small portable TV was really necessary. Adding insult to injury she then asked what everything weighed. Huh? Who was taking this trip: me or her?
Suddenly it dawned on me; I was the one pedaling all of this ‘stuff’ across the country. Maybe, GULP, she was right. My first weigh-in came to 72.6 pounds; not bad for two month trip. Then I discovered information recommending 30-40 pounds (no fuel, food, or water) to minimize bicycle and knee joint failures. Oh, no! She was right.
So, I separated everything into two piles: needed, and nice. The needed items came in at 43 pounds. I will be traveling through towns almost everyday so replenishing items like soap, insect repellant, sun tan lotion, first aid items, bicycle parts, and personal hygiene should be easy. With this in mind I drastically reduced the quantity and different types of consumables: 37.8 pounds.
The next place to look included repair tools, the tent, sleeping bag/pillow/mattress, and food preparation. Saving weight in this area meant spending money on lighter equipment. A lesson learned: lighter gear = more expensive gear. I bit the bullet, spent almost $400, and got the weight down to 33.4 pounds.
The only thing left was clothing. Riding a recumbent has some advantages: you don’t need special riding apparel. Also, you can get by with two sets of clothing if you wash every night. I decided to go with three sets of clothing: one on me, one drying off, and one ready to use. All of my clothing can be layered on top of each other to minimize the need for extra warmth in cooler weather. I am taking long sleeve (versus short sleeve) shirts to minimize sunburn, and also, I find them cooler in the hot sun. Many of my clothing items are nylon, which tends to weigh less and dry faster than cotton.
The final weight came to 31.04 pounds. Some people do not include the items they will be wearing as part of their ‘stuff’. Using this criteria the weight is 26.5 pounds. It took a lot sacrifice, suggestions from other people, and some money to get there, but I think George Carlin would be proud. Here is a copy of my gear list.
Next time I will talk about my practice rides and how everything is coming together. Talk at ya later.