bicycle | 511 Contra Costa- Part 3

Copenhagen Goes Extra Mile For Bike-Friendliness

A familiar crosswalk
Lots of people biking (and walking) in Copenhagen. Photo credit: malouette
Copenhagen is indisputably one of the world’s leaders when it comes to being bike friendly, where bicycling is a beautiful part of everyday life. Already about 20% of all trips and 30% of all commute trips are by bicycle but apparently that’s not enough. Copenhagen is looking to raise the number of long distance trips made by bicycle with the recent completion of what’s been dubbed a bicycle super-highway.
But what separates a bicycle super-highway from other, existing wide cycle paths in Copenhagen? Well according to Danish urban planning consultant Copenhagenize, the super-highway follows existing routes but the path has been complimented with additional measures such as clear demarcation of the route and periodic bike pumps at intervals so cyclists can inflate their tires if necessary. There are also in-ground sensors to actuate signals as described by Copenhagenize Consulting CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen:

“Sensors under the cycle tracks that can register if there is a group of cyclists riding together. If so, the lights at the intersections will turn green in order to let them continue freely towards the city. “

Read more about (and see the accompanying video) Copenhagen’s efforts to become more bike friendly here.

Academia Bike Studies Gain Momentum

Typical scene in Malmö, Sweden – where bicycling makes up about 30% of all trips. Photo credit: Walk Eagle Rock
As an ever-growing sign that the bicycle is having a revival in mainstream transportation, comes the latest trend of bicycle-related studies gaining popularity in academia. With cities striving to become more bicycle friendly and with forecasts of  as many as 25% of all trips by the year 2030, it makes sense to study the bicycle as an utilitarian mode of transportation, as it is in other countries.
Over 100 bicycle related academic studies have been published thus far in 2012, including fascinating studies such as, The Health Impacts of Mandatory Helmet Laws– which found that mandatory helmet laws do little to improve safety of cyclists and may have unintended, negative consequences by discouraging cycling. Other interesting, bike related studies have looked at the health benefits of mass street closures (like San Francisco’s ‘Sunday Streets’) relative to their financial cost and the mathematical optimization of bicycle infrastructure. Some universities are collaborating with cities to study innovative bicycle infrastructure while other universities are offering  cycling as a minor area of studies.
Read more about the explosive growth of bicycle related studies over at Pacific Standard.

California Bike-Sharing!

Capital Bikeshare Launch Event
A fleet of bike-share bikes in D.C.v Photo credit: DDOTDC
It seems like not a week goes by without a U.S. city announcing plans for a bike-sharing program, a system which allows the public to rent bikes for utilitarian trips around urban cores – instead of waiting for a bus, walking, paying for taxi or driving in congestion and looking for parking. From New York City to Portland, bike-sharing fever is sweeping the nation, coast to coast.
Here in California, however, it wasn’t bike friendly San Francisco that was first to receive bike-share– it was rather the unlikely Southern California city Anaheim, home of Disneyland. As bike-share systems are planned in many cities and regions throughout California, the California Bicycle Coalition has offered three ideas on how to make the system work the best it possibly can here in the Golden State.
1. Bike share systems must be compatible on a statewide level
“Bike share systems must stress compatibility on all levels, starting with transit passes such as the Clipper Card used by transit agencies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Californians with a bike share account should be able to universally undock a bicycle, no matter the city or the vendor. Similarly, cities considering a bike share system should be free to select the vendor that works best for them – and not feel pressure to select the bike share vendor in an adjacent city because the systems may not match.”
2. Bike share must be ridership-driven, not advertiser-driven
“Many vendors make bike share pencil out by utilizing the ability of bicycles and docking stations to double as advertising space. While there is nothing wrong with that, bike share vendors in the past have been more interested in maximizing advertising dollars than ridership. Bike share will be sustainable only if ridership takes precedent.”
3. Vendors must adopt an open data format
Bike share bikes are all outfitted with a GPS unit or radio-frequency identification chips called RFIDs, which gather user data. Useful data about bicyclist travel patterns are few and far between; information gathered from bike share systems represent a quantum leap forward for bicycle planners and decision makers. 
Are you excited about bike-sharing opportunities coming to the Bay Area? Have you tried bike-share systems elsewhere that worked well?

For Your Viewing Pleasure: More BART Stats

Digital map-maker Eric Fischer is at it again! 511CC previously highlighted a fascinating, Twitter data driven map Fischer had created that clearly showed the majority of people tweeting about BART are riding BART. This time we would like to share more compelling and intriguing data Fischer has put into digestible map format. All images below are from Eric Fischer’s Flickr page.
Pedestrian Mode Share on the way to East Bay BART Stations
Pedestrian mode share on the way to East Bay BART stations

  • The blue lines represent where almost all people on their way to BART are walking. Yellow lines show where almost all BART passengers are on bikes, on transit, or in cars.

Number of People Who Walk Various Distances from BART
Number of people who walk various distances from BART
How BART Riders get to the Station, By Distance
How BART riders get to the station, by distance
BART Pedestrian Origin Outliers
BART pedestrian origin outliers

  • Dot size is the number of people who walk to BART from there, divided by the overall likelihood of walking that far. The larger gray dots are just so you can see the smaller dots they overlap with

See more interesting transportation maps and pictures on Eric Fischer’s flickr page. And if you’re interested learning more about Fischer’s data maps, check out this interview with him in the SF Gate.

Building Community, Opportunity and Fixing Bikes in East Oakland

The Bike Oven
The exterior of Bike Oven, a volunteer-run bicycle repair collective in Northeast Los Angeles. Photo credit:Mike Wally
In the Bay Area, when discussing the role of the bicycle in daily life it is easy to get fixated on the environmental and health benefits this humble machine brings to the urban environment.  However, as the bicycle cooperative ColectíVelo shows us in the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland, there are other facets and benefits of bicycling which are perhaps too often overlooked. ColectíVelo, like many other bicycle cooperatives, offers an environment where one can repair bicycles, get guidance in bike repair, and even build a bicycle for free or in exchange for volunteering.
However, there are a few things that set ColectíVelo apart from your typical bike-coop. As mentioned in an East Bay Express profile of ColectíVelo:

The idea for the shop was conceived five years ago, when a public health nurse and her social worker colleagues saw a need for affordable, efficient transportation among the day laborers they served in Fruitvale. [The founders] dreamed of a bike shop for them, and for the other low-income residents of the neighborhood.

These days when the image of a cyclist as someone who is hip, well-off and perhaps even a little smug is circulating, it may worth noting that many people cycle out of necessity. Bicycle cooperatives don’t just serve the hobbyist, they can be valuable resources to people with little money or who have no other means of transportation, as emphasized by ColectíVelo’s main organizer, Morgan Kanninen in the East Bay Express’ recent coverage:

The shop’s eschewing of money is very purposeful: She [Kanninen] pointed out that even sliding-scale systems can contribute to a feeling of inequality among participants. For some, asking to pay at the lower end of a sliding scale can create a “sense of alienation or shame that just does not need to be involved in this bike shop,” she said. “I think it would only hurt the growth of community here, and the real sharing and learning from each other.”

ColectíVelo values the sense of community the collective fosters over monetary profit. It strives to be a welcoming place to people and caters to the local community, being one of few fully bilingual bike cooperatives– the shop provides bike repair training in Spanish and English, and all signage is bilingual. English and Spanish speakers happily work on bikes, side by side and are often able to help each other despite not speaking the same language.
ColectíVelo brings to light the unique opportunity to help build relationships and unify a neighborhood in a safe environment through exchanging knowledge and time, something many other communities could benefit from. Also, as this bike cooperative further illustrates, the bicycle is more than a trendy mode of transportation– it is perhaps the most accessible tool available to all people, of all ages, abilities and incomes – and thanks to ColectíVelo and similar bike repair operations, the bicycle is made that much more accessible.
(Read more about the bike-cooperative in the East Bay Express’ coverage or check out ColectíVelo’s website for more information)

Bicyclists Push for Their Rights

The Cyclists’ Rights Movement is yielding results. Just within the past 2 months, extraordinary leaps and bounds have been made for the expansion of the rights of bikers within the Bay Area.
In Berkeley, a new law just passed, giving cyclists the ability to file civil suits against bellicose drivers on the road. Drivers who assault, threaten, injure, or intentionally distract a person cycling could face a $1000 fine, or pay three times the damages of the victimized cyclist.This is a huge stride for people cycling, further extending their rights. In addition to criminal law, a driver can be held to a civil law.
The Bicycle Movement also has recently garnered support in San Francisco. A new law, expected to receive final approval within a few days, will require San Francisco property owners to allow bikes inside their buildings, unless they can provide alternative, secure off-street parking. The law is predicted to help the City of San Francisco reach its 20% bike commute goal by 2020.  As more legislation comes into fruition that favors biking, it is apparent that the momentum for Bicycling Rights is only beginning. This blog post was written by Luther Kuefner, 511CC’s high school intern.

Have You Tried BART's Bike Friday?

Bikes on Bart Pilot Aug. 3, 2012
So far, bikes seem to be doing just fine on BART during rush hour. Photo credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
We’re about two weeks into BART’s month long Bike Friday pilot, in which people are allowed to bring bikes onto BART during rush hour, and while it is too early to draw conclusions so far the program seems to be running smoothly.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been documenting the exciting, momentous month for bike commuters, here are some scenes they’ve captured:
Bikes on Bart Pilot Aug. 3, 2012
Waiting at the turnstile
Bikes on Bart Pilot Aug. 10, 2012
Boarding BART
Bikes on Bart Pilot Aug. 10, 2012
Using the bike space once boarded
Have you tried commuting with your bike on BART during rush hour this month? Do you plan to try it before the month is over? Read full details of the pilot program over on BART
(All above images from San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, see their full set of pictures on their Flickr page

What's A Bicyclist's MPG?

It seems not a day goes by without hearing which cars on the market have the best mileage, and how efficient electric and hybrid vehicles of the future will be. But what about the world’s most efficient vehicle, the humble bicycle?   Some like to joke that bicyclists run on burritos or other quick eats instead of gasoline– but is it possible to calculate some sort of miles per gallon (MPG) equivalent for the bipedal bunch powered by food?
Santa Cruz Bike To Work Day
How many miles per gallon is she getting? Photo credit: Richard Masoner
Do the Math recently tackled the task and arrived at  a surprising figure– apparently a person riding a bicycle gets the equivalent of 290miles per gallon riding around town, and 190 miles per gallon on the open road. Not bad for a vehicle over a hundred years old, right? And if humans were as aerodynamic as trout, that MPG would be even higher!
If you have the time, or consider yourself a math whiz, the full article is well worth a read.

Amsterdam's Amazing Parking Problem – And The Solution!

Amsterdam is frequently touted as the bicycle mecca of the world and rightfully so– more trips are made by bicycle than car and an estimated 40% of residents use the bicycle as their primary means of transportation there.
View From A Patch Of Grass
A typical scene in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Marc van Woudenberg
Amsterdam truly is a sustainable city inspiration but even this fair city struggles to accommodate bicyclists. There are an estimated 300,000 bikes in public spaces throughout the city at any one time, however there are only 200,000 official bicycle parking spots. This means that about 100,000 bicycles are stored unofficially or illegally. So what’s the solution?
Floating Bike Parking at Amsterdam Central Stations
A bicycle parking structure by Amsterdam’s central station. Photo credit: portlandtransport
Amsterdam has put floating bike parking on water, underground and the latest attempt is to put bicycle parking on rooftops!
Dutch company Velominck is working on this inventive solution, here’s how it would work:

When you arrive at your destination, you find a Velominck station and swipe a transport card a little like one of London’s Oyster cards against a terminal so it knows who you are. A door opens, and you clip your bike into a robotic arm, which then pulls it up a transparent elevator to the roof. It can then be safely stored there until the owner returns and swipes the card again — which summons the bike down from the rooftop.

Sound incredible? Learn more about this project (and see a picture of what it could look like) over at Wired. And if that weren’t enough, the Dutch are even thinking about converting empty office buildings into bicycle parking structures!

BART To Pilot Bike Fridays Program

BART is lifting the bicycle black out every Friday during the August allowing morning commuters greater access to Transbay service.
Bikes On Bart
The move is a pilot program allowing bikes on trains all day, including rush hour, to measure the affects of the pilot on passengers and train operations. The pilot does not change bicycle rules for Monday through Thursday, or BART’s prohibition of riders boarding with bikes in the first car or crowded trains remain in place. Evaluation of “Bike Fridays” will occur on each Friday and will help determine if the pilot is extended or if BART continues to restrict bikes during peak periods. The evaluation will include feedback from riders, both cyclists and non-cyclists, and an analysis of operational issues, such as the amount of time a train remains at each station to accommodate bicycle boarding.  Any suggested changes to BART’s bike rules will go to the BART Board for discussion. Read the full story.
Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks

Saving Money by Pedaling Miles

We hear plenty of the environmental and health benefits of cycling from individuals and cities that have embraced two-wheels, and understandably so, the bicycle is an impressive tool (in fact, it is the most efficient vehicle man has invented). But a benefit we hear less often about when talking bicycles is the monetary one. However, given the price of motoring and a struggling economy maybe this should change…
Leah Shahum and Mayor Ed Lee bike on the JFK Drive separated bikeway
Bicycling in San Francisco. Photo credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
A new report has found that American cyclists save a collective 4.6 billion dollars by avoiding driving.
Other significant findings include:

  • The average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308 — versus $8,220 for the average car.
  • If American drivers replaced just one four-mile car trip with a bike each week for the whole year, it would save more than 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year
  • For $60 million—the cost of a single mile of urban highway—the new city-wide bicycle network earned Portland, OR, the highest possible platinum rating as a Bicycle Friendly Community.

The report states the case that cities and individuals alike can help reduce economic struggle by bicycling. Head over to treehugger for the full article or click here to download the full .pdf report.

Bay Area Goes Dutch, Embraces Bicycling

With people of all ages hopping on their bikes to get around, it is evident that bicycling is on the rise across the entire Bay Area. Bicycling has become so popular that elected officials from San Francisco, San Jose, and Marin County visited the Netherlands – bicycling capital of the world where 27% of trips in the entire country are made by bicycle – to learn from the experts how they made bicycling such a success.
Everyday bicycling in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Marc van Woudenberg
On the Commons recently looked at how the Bay Area cities are utilizing knowledge gained from a visit to the Netherlands and moving forward with projects to help make bicycling safer, and more convenient.
The Bay Area group visited a primary school where 95% of students arrived by bicycle and saw the streets of Amsterdam where 41% of trips are by bicycle. But perhaps the most inspiring to the Bay Area visitors was the most American-like Dutch city, Rotterdam:

Even more than Amsterdam or Utrecht, the Bay Area visitors were excited by what they saw in Rotterdam, which has recently boosted biking to 22 percent of all trips in a city that is reminiscent of the U.S. with wide roads crowded with speeding traffic. While not considered exemplary by Dutch standards, the industrial port city is a great role model for the U.S. because of its post-war, car-centric planning and urban design. “This is what we’re up against back home,” explained Bob Ravasio, a realtor and council member in Corte Madera.

In Rotterdam and throughout the Netherlands key measures for encouraging bicycling are: 1) Separating bike lanes from motorized traffic by physical barriers and visually through paint 2) Traffic calming devices 3) Special treatment at busy intersections to allow safe crossing like bicycle only phases. Together these elements not only make bicycling safe and convenient but they also make bicycling accessible and comfortable to people of all ages.
Taking cues from the Dutch, progress is visible in San Francisco

San Francisco officials have installed 2.5 miles of protected bike lanes similar to separated Dutch bikeways on stretches of four streets. Another 2.6 miles are in the works right now, and separated bike lanes on Market Street, San Francisco’s main commercial thoroughfare, have been expanded.

Meanwhile San Jose is busily implementing bike path river trails  and “bicycle boulevards”, residential streets that prioritize bicycling and walking over cut-through traffic. In Marin County a new bike-pedestrian trail that connects the northern part of town to the rest of the city via a newly opened rail tunnel to Larkspur, which cuts 20 minutes off the trip between the two communities.
Read the full On the Commons article for more about how the Bay Area is embracing bicycling.