Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1

Last year, pr people reached out to me to write about BTWD and the Commuter Connections program of the MWCOG, which I did ("Bike to Work Day, May 20th/May is Bike Month -- revised") and it made me realize that May/Bike Month is always a good opportunity to consider where we are in terms of overall questions about biking for transportation, planning, accommodations, etc.

-- It happens in late March I wrote a kind of assessment of the state of biking as transportation in the DC area, although it isn't exhaustive. See "Making cycling irresistible in DC 2.0 | Revisiting a post from 2008."

-- This piece, "Eight mutual assistance programs that can build support for biking as transport," discusses ways to promote biking for transportation amongst low income populations and earlier in the week I listed a set of programs that could assist people in making the transition to biking for transportation more generally.

-- I'd forgotten this post, from 2011, "Rethinking the best way for urban apartment buildings to support biking."

-- And "What should a US national bike strategy plan look like?," "Are developers missing the point on eliminating parking minimums?: it's to promote sustainable transportation modes," and "More bikes: elements of a Bicycle Friendly Community."

Some recommendations

1.  From Bike to Work Day to Bike Month.  As mentioned earlier in the week, May is designated as National Bike Month, and some places take the opportunity to focus their activities throughout the month, rather than just one specific day--in our case, Bike to Work Day.  All areas should focus on Bike Month just as much as they focus on Bike to Work Day.  That means Greater Washington definitely.

2.  Transit agencies should have a set of model practices for participating.  In the Quad Cities communities in Illinois, during Bike to Work Week, local transit systems are offering free rides to bicyclists, space permitting ("Local transit systems support cyclists," Quad City Times).

In the past, the Utah Transit Authority has had a bike expo, called Bike Bonanza.

3.  In the DC area specifically, there needs to be greater focus on the opportunities to work with large employers, especially the federal government, and college campuses.   Especially the federal government!  Converting 10% of the workforce to bike commuters could have tremendous positive impact in many ways.

One correspondent who works for the federal government argues that while federal government provision of free parking and transit benefits can be quite high, what's offered to bicyclists is paltry.

At the very least, local governments could step up and create a set of model benefits for bike co4mmuters, that go beyond the paltry amount provided by the federal government.

4.  Bike Month should be used as the "launch month"/target date for the launch of new infrastructure and facilities, and bike map reprintings.  In the DC area, most jurisdictions are very very good about printing and updating maps, whereas in many places, printed maps are being discontinued.  That being said, most places aren't good about updating localized maps (e.g., the Silver Spring Bikeways map is 9 years old and out of date).

5.  Sustainable mobility street closure event.  One of the points made by Nick Ramfos of Commuter Connections is that he would like to see a real "Open Streets" program--where a street/streets are closed off and open to walking, biking, and related activities, modeled after the Ciclovia program in Bogota, Colombia.  (Also see "Speaking of Sunday Streets" from 2010.)

It doesn't have to be during Bike Month, but it ought to happen.  In DC, it can happen on Massachusetts Avenue, between 9th Street NW and Dupont Circle, and even beyond Dupont Circle.  In Montgomery County, it can happen on Fenton Street in Downtown Silver Spring.  I'm not sure where the best, most visible places could be in the other counties.

CicLAvia logoLA's CicLAvia is the model.  They sometimes get as many as 150,000 participants.  The title sponsor is the transit authority, they have an event in both the spring and fall, and it shifts to various locations around the county.

Parking Day in September can also be better leveraged to support sustainable mobility.

6.  There should be a bike/sustainable mobility expo during National Bike Month.  Tomorrow's Bike to Work Day in Boston is also called a Bike Festival. 

-- Boston's National Bike to Work Day Festival

7.  There is a new "Capital Trails Coalition," organized by WABA. While it's great that such a "voluntary" group has been formed, I argue it should be formalized as a transportation planning function of the Metropolitan Washington Transportation Policy Board.

8.  Membership for the League of American Bicyclists and local and state bike advocacy groups should have special pricing during Bike Month

9. Special pricing for subscriptions to magazines like Bicycling, Momentum, Bicycle Times, etc. should be offered during Bike Month.


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Some interesting best practice planning publications (this isn't an exhaustive list)

-- American Trails resource website
-- Bicycle and Pedestrian Data Collection Manual, Minnesota Department of Transportation
-- BIKESAFE: Bicycle Countermeasure Selection System
-- CREATING WALKABLE + BIKEABLE COMMUNITIES: A user guide to developing pedestrian and bicycle master plans, Portland State University
-- Cycling for Everyone - A Regional Cycling Strategy for Metro Vancouver
Translink Vancouver.  This plan is rare in that it sets high numerical goals for the number of bicycle trips for transportational purposes.
-- Additional cycling resources, Translink Vancouver
Their studies on bike parking and other support facilities are probably the best of any such study in North America.
-- Guide for Reviewing Public Road Design and Bicycling Accommodations for Virginia Bicycling Advocates, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling
-- London Cycling Design Standards
-- Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan
One of the best, although I prefer the previous version
-- Federal Republic of Germany, National Cycling Plan 2002-2012: Ride your bike! Measures to Promote Cycling in Germany, this is the old plan, but it's excellent
-- North Carolina Department of Transportation Bike and Pedestrian Policies Master Webpage
The key policies for each functional area of the department are accessible from this page.  This model should be extended across a Department of Transportation as a whole.
-- Shared Use Path Level of Service Calculator, Federal Highway Administration
AASHTO guidance is out of date on how wide shared use paths should be.  Better to build for expected use, rather than sanction too puny of a width.  It's really hard to go back in and widen a path.
-- Sidewalks and Shared-Use Paths: Safety, Security, and Maintenance, University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration.
-- Smart Transportation Guidebook
it needs to be updated, but it is an important step forward in how it defines roadway characteristics, roadside characteristics, and desired operating speeds in terms of specific land use context (along the lines of the New Urbanism Land Use Transect). However, the bikeway recommendations are out-of-date and urban desired traffic speeds can still be too high.
-- Utah Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Design Guide, Utah Department of Transportation
-- Urban Bikeway Design Guide, NACTO

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