Bicycling – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:55:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 See how space for cars, trains, and bikes stacks up in New York City https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/23/space-cars-trains-bikes-nyc-moovel/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/23/space-cars-trains-bikes-nyc-moovel/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:10:02 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22827 How much space cities provide to different transportation options is an easily-visualized hint into how they prioritize different ways of getting around, a relationship made even more evident through the basic geometric inefficiencies of driving. As an exercise to investigate just how unfair this allotment of space can be, Moovel Lab, the creative side project of... Read more »

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How much space cities provide to different transportation options is an easily-visualized hint into how they prioritize different ways of getting around, a relationship made even more evident through the basic geometric inefficiencies of driving.

As an exercise to investigate just how unfair this allotment of space can be, Moovel Lab, the creative side project of app company Moovel, released a project that categorizes and directly compares all of the car, train, and bike space in New York City.

“What the Street!?” identifies and measures parking, rail, and street space from OpenStreetMap across New York City. Users are asked to input their guesses as to the percentage of public space given to each mode (hint: it’s stark) and can see the shape of each parking lot and street stacked in a graphical comparison.

Click on the individual bike lane, train right-of-way, or street, and OpenStreetMap opens to show you where it is. Scrolling through the 107 million square meters of New York “car space” makes quite an impression when compared to the small stacks of “bike space.”

Source: Moovel Lab.

Most interesting, perhaps, is the above triangle chart, which compares how much space is provided per mode against how people in that city actually get around. For New York, for example, the majority of residents get around by subway, hence the long differential down the rail side of the triangle. When you move people more efficiently through transit and bike infrastructure, the saved space becomes available for uses open to more people than just drivers. And on the flip side, Moovel Lab notes that the existing highways and parking lots are a strong incentive for many to choose driving over transit or biking.

Moovel Lab acknowledges that the project is limited by a number of factors and is not meant to be a scientific analysis of infrastructure. For one, the identification of different types of space depends on the accuracy of contributions from OpenStreetMap volunteers. Nevertheless, the project is a fun look into recognizing a relationship that’s often taken for granted.

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Closing gaps in low-stress networks to bring bicycling to more people https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/20/close-gaps-low-stress-montgomery-bike-plan/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/20/close-gaps-low-stress-montgomery-bike-plan/#comments Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:43:03 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22758 Montgomery County, Md., revisits how it plans bike lanes Creating safe biking connections between low-stress streets can pay off in improved access to a broad network of bike lanes. Montgomery County, Md., is seeking to do just that in its forthcoming Bicycle Master Plan. It includes about 1,000 miles of separated bike lanes in the next... Read more »

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Montgomery County, Md., revisits how it plans bike lanes

Creating safe biking connections between low-stress streets can pay off in improved access to a broad network of bike lanes.

Montgomery County, Md., is seeking to do just that in its forthcoming Bicycle Master Plan. It includes about 1,000 miles of separated bike lanes in the next 20 years and examines specific neighborhoods block by block. The plan will apply “a level of analytical rigor that has previously been reserved for large transportation infrastructure projects like highways and transit systems,” says Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson.

The program was conceived in 2010, when Anderson approached the Montgomery County Planning Board (he was not then a member) with sophisticated heat maps from the Capital Bikeshare program, then just launching. He suggested applying the same technology to county planning. A bicycle heat map – which represents data as colors – shows projected demand for bicycling. The idea inspired a new ambition in Montgomery County, a plan that would begin with heat maps that define where bicycling is most needed, where residences might be hooked up to jobs, transit hubs, schools, or other activity centers.

From heat maps to stress maps

The next step was devising bicycle stress maps – which won a national planning award – to define where bicycle riding is already comfortable for the majority of potential riders. These employ a four-level scale (previously discussed on Mobility Lab), with levels 1 and 2 acceptable for the majority of adult cyclists. The idea was to find ways to create routes that the 51 percent of “interested but concerned” potential bicycle riders would feel comfortable taking.

The 2011 heat map projected demand for bicycling, especially along the Rockville Pike and Georgia Avenue corridors. Source: Montgomery County.

Although some 78 percent of roads and trails in the county are already low-stress, biking is still difficult because of blockages along many potential routes. People “might want to ride a bicycle from White Flint to downtown Bethesda,” says Anderson, but cannot “if the Beltway is cutting off access.”

Metrorail right-of-way and high-stress roads are among a series of obstacles. For streets that may seem insurmountable, with multiple lanes of high-speed traffic and few crossings, the Bicycle Master Plan Framework, approved in October 2016, recommends separated bikeways on both sides of the street (or on nearby parallel routes). These types of streets, narrow unusable sidewalks, and other obstacles discourage what should be easy rides.

The problem is often on small stretches “that might not seem meaningful until you realize it makes a difference for local bikers,” says Hans Riemer, a county councilmember and bicycle advocate [Editor: And past Mobility Lab contributor]. The framework shows that low-stress streets “are often surrounded by high-speed and high-volume roads” that discourage biking. The plan will connect these islands into a cohesive, bikeable network, often by using separated bike lanes on otherwise high-stress roads.”

“Wherever you are, you should be able to get to your destination on a low-stress bike route,” Riemer says.

The stress maps formally displays conditions that the majority of bicyclists (or would-be bicyclists) actually experience daily. The idea, says Anderson, is to “understand where there are obstacles, find where there is likely latent demand,” and efficiently build the routes that will serve the most people. The framework employs a “weakest-link” logic in which any one stressful feature, like a frequently blocked bike lane, means the whole street is categorized as stressful.

Putting it together

An overlay of the heat maps and the stress maps leads to the most useful, cost-effective solutions and is the basis of the preliminary recommendations currently being discussed in community meetings across Montgomery County, informing an update of its 2005 plan.

The current bicycling plan also moves beyond the traditional planning split between recreational and commuter bicyclists, explained David Anspacher, project manager for the Bicycle Master Plan, at a Bethesda community meeting. Forthcoming plans will assume that bicycling is for innumerable daily tasks, errands, school trips, recreation, and other utilitarian trips.

Though the process may seem abstract so far, the Bikeway ReactMap graphically shows the planned network and allows users to make specific comments about individual roads and intersections, a process that is ongoing through July 15.

Feedback by locals who actually know neighborhoods is crucial. Anderson explains that “everybody who regularly bicycles in an area finds informal connections that aren’t officially part of public right of way.” Comments already on the ReactMap, for instance, warn of particularly dangerous stretches of road or intersections, point out existing alternative routes, and suggest priorities.

Bicyclists have plenty of comments – denoted as text bubbles – on the ReactMap’s proposed bike lanes (dotted lines) in Bethesda. Source: Montgomery County.

The forthcoming plan is also meant to facilitate public transit, to solve not just the first-mile, last-mile problem of getting to transit, but the first three-mile, last three-mile problem. Networks of low-stress streets mean a bigger bike-shed. To further encourage bicycle-transit connections, the framework includes major bicycle stations that shelter and secure bikes at transit hubs, such as the Silver Spring Metro Station. To increase neighborhood connections, the framework recommends bike racks at local bus stops that might currently appear unfriendly to bicyclists. Advocates also hope to convince local businesses to provide bike racks, showing that bicycle facilities are not just an obstacle to parking but actually bring in customers.

Finally, countering stereotypes of white, middle-class bicyclists in spandex, the framework calls for an emphasis on providing low-income communities with low-stress routes that are at least equal to the rest of the county. These neighborhoods, after all, can benefit the most from bicycle accessibility, facilitating a low-cost form of transportation.

New thinking and faster progress

Biking cities such as Amsterdam may be far advanced in terms of sheer number of separated lanes and scope of infrastructure, but Anderson believes Montgomery County’s process will lead to the greatest bang for the buck, the “most meaningful and useful [routes] per dollar expended.”

Much previous bike infrastructure planning has been haphazard. It “would throw in a bunch of bike routes, where people might want to go – low hanging fruit, what’s cheap to build,” says Anderson. Often, these routes would be sparsely used when completed. Politics and the wish to appear proactive often led to fragmentary, underutilized bike infrastructure.

The stress maps “try to stand in the shoes of someone not comfortable biking in heavy traffic, taking the lane, not in great physical condition,” says Anderson.

Given widespread support for improved bicycling infrastructure, the county has been able to allow communities to begin building separated bike lanes well before the master plan has been approved. “Three years ago, we created a funding category at the county council in order to enable us to move projects more quickly,” explains Riemer, referring to the a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Areas budget category.

This mechanism has already borne fruit. In 2016, the county’s first separated bike lanes opened on Woodglen Drive and Nebel Lane in North Bethesda, with a similar lane planned for Silver Spring this year. “A lot of protected bike lanes and infrastructure are coming in over the next few years, rather than a 20-year horizon,” says Riemer. That’s good news for those of us used to thinking of Montgomery as the “paralysis by analysis” county.

Still, prioritizing which routes to build first in a complex, countywide plan is a difficult task. As the plans are approved, deciding those first lanes is the next step. The same analysis that has gone into planning will make it easy to build first based on greatest need. Widespread use of new bicycle infrastructure is thus likely early in the process, ultimately building greater support among the public.

Photo, top: A man waits to cross the street in Bethesda, Md. (Eddie Welker, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Bike parking and the bottom line https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/05/bike-parking-bottom-line/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/06/05/bike-parking-bottom-line/#comments Mon, 05 Jun 2017 16:06:33 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22554 5 reasons why retail business can no longer afford to ignore bicyclists Once, providing a secure bicycle parking infrastructure was an option that was only considered by socially-conscious business owners in bike-friendly communities. But with bicycle commuting rapidly growing, that has changed. Now, business owners in almost all communities must face the reality that a... Read more »

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5 reasons why retail business can no longer afford to ignore bicyclists

Once, providing a secure bicycle parking infrastructure was an option that was only considered by socially-conscious business owners in bike-friendly communities. But with bicycle commuting rapidly growing, that has changed. Now, business owners in almost all communities must face the reality that a significant portion of consumers now pedal their way to shop and dine. Although it was once thought to be an extra feature, the provision of bike parking has become a necessity for successful retail businesses and workplaces.

Let’s review why:

1. The numbers

Have you noticed more people pedaling past your business lately? There’s no doubt that bike commuting and bicycle tourism are growing trends in North America’s largest urban centers. Bicycle commuting rates increased by 62 percent nationally between 2000 and 2013, and, in some communities, the increase has been even more drastic. Not catering to this growing demographic means missing out on their business.

2. Revenue

Providing accommodations for cyclists has the potential to not only boost the number of people who visit your business, but also to boost revenue. While many business owners have voiced concern that bicyclists tend to spend less money than their automobile-driving counterparts, research shows people on bikes visit businesses more frequently, and, as a result, in many cases generate more overall revenue. In fact, with all the money they save on gas, maintenance, and parking, some bicyclists spend even more than drivers. In New York, for example, a 2012 study found that bicyclists spent the most among commuters, on each shopping trip.

3. Job satisfaction and employee performance

A bike parking infrastructure isn’t only a benefit for customers; it also increases employee happiness. With secure bike parking at their workplace, employees are more likely to ride to work. Bicycling is a vigorous cardiovascular activity that increases physical fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It can also improve mental health which has a positive effect on the workplace. One study found that bicycling before work can increase productivity by up to 15 percent, while also reducing sick days by 15 percent.

4. Brand image

Today, image is everything for businesses. A commitment to sustainable transportation will help businesses promote both their progressive change to a more responsible lifestyle and their commitment to supporting a diverse customer base. Providing secure bike lockers or bike racks is an effective way for a retail business to help shape the culture.

5. Reduced expense

From the reduced cost of parking maintenance to the decreased cost of health insurance for cycling employees, the installation of secure bike storage options can lead to savings for your business. Often, in situations where vehicular parking must be shared, bike-friendly businesses can save the expense of renting or validating the spaces the bicyclists would otherwise use if they drove. Businesses that encourage bicycling may also save on the expense of compensating short-distance business travel for their employees. On top of it all, the provision of bike racks allows businesses to add parking capacity in space they already own.

Having parking infrastructure that accommodates bicyclists offers numerous benefits to business and requires little in terms of investment. Bike parking requires far less real estate than parking spaces for automobiles. As well, a single bike rack can offer parking for multiple bikes at a convenient location, granting prime access to a building entrance.

Municipal support has also grown with the popularity of bicycling. Many community programs now offer financial assistance to businesses looking to increase bike parking at their locations. Through these programs, community groups and government representatives can help plan for bike racks – and in some situations, may even offer free hardware and installation. With business incentives and many signs indicating that bicycling rates will continue to increase, providing secure bicycle storage is an investment that retail businesses cannot afford to miss.

Ed.: For business and property owners interested in adding bike parking, Arlington County’s TDM for Site Plans team has a detailed explanation of bike parking best practices.

Photo: A busy bike rack in Arlington County, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab; www.kittner.com)

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For safe, separated bikeways, look to… 1930s Britain? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/26/separated-bikeways-1930s-britain/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/26/separated-bikeways-1930s-britain/#respond Fri, 26 May 2017 18:58:50 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22458 Hidden alongside some otherwise unremarkable roadways across the United Kingdom are bicycle highways that today’s riders would envy. At CityLab, Feargus O’Sullivan reveals the research currently being conducted into these separate bike highways, all of which were built in the 1930s. As historian Carlton Reid conducted research for a new book, he realized that a... Read more »

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Hidden alongside some otherwise unremarkable roadways across the United Kingdom are bicycle highways that today’s riders would envy. At CityLab, Feargus O’Sullivan reveals the research currently being conducted into these separate bike highways, all of which were built in the 1930s.

As historian Carlton Reid conducted research for a new book, he realized that a network of decades-old bicycle lanes existed along streets of many UK cities, many of which having since been adapted to parking, ignored, or left to be reclaimed by nature.

“In fact, as Reid discovered, Britain went through something of a cycle lane boom in the late 1930s. Between 1937 and 1940, Britain’s government demanded that any state-funded scheme to build an arterial road must also include a 9-foot-wide cycle track running the length of the road.

“… This enlightened official approach chimed with the times. Cycling was still a vital means of transit in a country where car ownership only became common in the late 1950s. Many of the new, broader roads that would ultimately take the burden of Britain’s car boom were still being planned and constructed between the wars. The cycle network grew up as part of this new road network, rather than by scraping existing lane space away from motor vehicles.”

The eventual loss of the lanes to time and memory, explains O’Sullivan, likely came about due to a lack of use, as the bike lanes had to compete with the adjacent traffic lanes, and due to Britain’s recovery in the postwar era. (See Reid’s Kickstarter video for images of some of the current conditions of the lanes.)

Though the shift from transit, walking, and bicycling toward personal automobiles happened differently in the United States and the United Kingdom, historic bike infrastructure shows how bicycling investments are far from a new idea for cities and towns. In the late 1880s, the Good Roads Movement in the U.S. was a key proponent for paving and expanding country road infrastructure to support the spread of bicycling.

And other cities had expanded dedicated bicycling infrastructure around that time, too, to support the mode. In Southern California, for example, a turn-of-the-century “California Cycleway” connected Los Angeles to the city of Pasadena, nine miles away.

As historian Peter Norton has explained on the Mobility Lab blog before, a return to “understanding our multimodal past” can play a key role in reshaping our transportation choices of today.

Photo: A modern “cycle super highway” in London, not dissimilar to the ones discovered by Reid (J Mark Dodds, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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People who work near Seattle’s protected bike lanes ride to work more often https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/23/employers-near-bike-lanes-seattle/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/23/employers-near-bike-lanes-seattle/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 19:40:41 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22438 There’s no question about it: comfortable, safe bicycle infrastructure plays a significant role in encouraging people to ride. In Seattle, an analysis from nonprofit Commute Seattle recently demonstrated how that pays off for commuters: the seven employers with the highest rates of bike commuting are all within one block of a protected bike lane. Zooming... Read more »

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There’s no question about it: comfortable, safe bicycle infrastructure plays a significant role in encouraging people to ride. In Seattle, an analysis from nonprofit Commute Seattle recently demonstrated how that pays off for commuters: the seven employers with the highest rates of bike commuting are all within one block of a protected bike lane.

Zooming out some, of the companies with the 15 highest biking rates, all are within five blocks of a protected bike lane or trail, writes David Gutman of the Seattle Times.

Of course, a number of other transportation demand management practices play a role in helping employees decide to choose biking. Seattle’s commute trip reduction program mandates employers take steps to reduce employee drive-alone commutes, and offers a number of resources for bike-friendly workplaces, such as adding bike parking spaces and showers. The Seattle Times explains how these work together with lanes to support biking:

Jonathan Hopkins, executive director of Commute Seattle, said that a company’s culture in encouraging bike commuting makes a big difference. He noted that for the price of building one underground parking spot, a company can usually supply sheltered, secure bike storage for all its employees.

Transit and TDM investments have helped Seattle reach an impressive mode split, boasting a drive-alone rate of 30 percent for commutes downtown. And the employee biking rates, which run up to a high of 20 percent, are well above the broader downtown average of 3 percent. That protected bike lanes can bolster biking in specific areas supports Seattle Bike Blog’s Tom Fucoloro’s point that the city could encourage more riders by connecting its currently-disconnected array of cycle tracks.

In reverse, the proximity of safe bike infrastructure to residences can work the same way, too. Last year, Mobility Lab’s former research director Stephen Crim looked at the rates at which certain Arlington neighborhoods biked to work. Mapping bike commute rates to census tracts revealed neighborhoods near Arlington’s trail network biking at higher rates than the county average.

Photo: Seattle’s 2nd Avenue protected bike lane (SDOT, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Bike to Work Day 2017 sets new records for the D.C. region https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/19/bike-to-work-day-2017-dc-arlington/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/19/bike-to-work-day-2017-dc-arlington/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 19:08:55 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22427 When hundreds of people and their bikes appear bright and early at Rosslyn, Arlington’s Gateway Park, it can only mean one thing: Bike to Work Day. The biggest stop by far in Arlington, pictured below, was part of the 85 pit stops offering coffee, T-shirts, and good vibes to bike commuters in the broader D.C.... Read more »

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When hundreds of people and their bikes appear bright and early at Rosslyn, Arlington’s Gateway Park, it can only mean one thing: Bike to Work Day. The biggest stop by far in Arlington, pictured below, was part of the 85 pit stops offering coffee, T-shirts, and good vibes to bike commuters in the broader D.C. region during Bike Month’s main event. (See more photos here.)

According to BikeArlington, this year more than 2,900 people registered for pit stops in Arlington, a new record for the county’s commuters. Rosslyn, where several key trails join together at the Key Bridge path into the District, drew more than a third of those participants. Across the entire D.C. area, 18,700 commuters registered, making it the largest in its 16-year history.

Broadly, Bike to Work Day is an important reminder of the inclusivity of biking. Stop by any pit stop, and you’ll see every kind of bike, ridden by riders both new and veteran. Several of us at Mobility Lab and our sister programs had the pleasure of joining BikeArlington, a sponsor and organizer of Bike to Work Day in Arlington, at the Rosslyn and Columbia Pike pit stops this morning, and got to take in the crowds. Whether someone rides every day, or just once a year, the pit stops create a place for riders to share tips, learn new things, and be part of a community that supports sustainable – and fun – transportation choices.

https://twitter.com/WalkArlington/status/865584915223412737

And Bike to Work Day isn’t over yet. There are still afternoon stops in Rosslyn and Shirlington in Arlington, and in Southwest, Columbia Heights, West End, and Riggs Park in the District.

Did you participate in Bike to Work Day for your commute today? How did your ride go? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter at @MobilityLabTeam.

Photo at top: Sam Kittner for BikeArlington; www.kittner.com

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Low-stress streets mean more biking, greater transit access https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/17/low-stress-streets-biking-transit-access/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/17/low-stress-streets-biking-transit-access/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 15:46:22 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22384 New study examines how bus and bicycling travel times interact in stressful street networks As cities move forward with ambitious plans to revamp bus services and add dedicated bike infrastructure, which in turn will help draw riders and bicyclists, the level of comfort in nearby streets still play a large role. Streets free of the... Read more »

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New study examines how bus and bicycling travel times interact in stressful street networks

As cities move forward with ambitious plans to revamp bus services and add dedicated bike infrastructure, which in turn will help draw riders and bicyclists, the level of comfort in nearby streets still play a large role. Streets free of the stress from dangerous, fast-moving traffic can not only support bicycling, but also expand the accessibility of nearby transit stops.

For planners, the solution is to create a network of roads with moderate traffic, fast enough for buses but comfortable enough to encourage bikes and pedestrians. So concludes a new report, “Improving Livability Using Green and Active Modes,” from the Mineta Transportation Institute. “Our study looks at a classic trade-off between livability and mobility as it relates to green and active modes, specifically between bicycling and transit service,” explains Dr. Bruce Appleyard of the San Diego State University School of Public Affairs, one of the report’s authors.

The research relied on detailed information about specific cities, neighborhoods, and streets, including their “transit travel times, frequency of service, and access networks.” The authors used a 2012 model, “Low Stress Bicycle Network Modeling,” also developed by the Mineta Institute, to compute the study areas’ Level of Traffic Stress, or LTS.

The scale of levels begins with LTS 1, which is generally too slow for bus and other traffic, and goes as high as 4, with crowded, speeding traffic in multiple lanes, which only a few fanatical bicyclists will brave. LTS 2 proves ideal for modes that mix biking or walking with buses, as well as for entirely non-motorized trips. The main conclusion is that a street network should maintain a LTS 2 to encourage bicycling and walking in a mixed-mode environment.

Levels of stressful streets mapped in Denver, Colo. Source: MTI.

Levels of street stress mapped in Denver, Colo., show low-stress neighborhoods separated by thoroughfares. Source: MTI.

Importantly, the report shows how high-stress streets make it hard to access transit, while low-stress streets create larger catchment areas for pedestrians and bicyclists. In other words, networks of LTS 2 or LTS 1 streets support higher bus ridership, because they allow people to bike or walk to stops. Of course, LTS 1 is too slow for most bus service, making LTS 2 ideal for all modes.

While less appropriate for children on bikes, LTS 2 appeals to the majority of bicyclists and potential bicyclists while creating a safe, pleasant walking environment. An LTS 2 road is one where “cyclists are either physically separated from traffic or are in an exclusive bicycling zone next to a well-confined traffic stream … or are on a shared road where they interact with only occasional motor vehicles with a low-speed differential.” Turn lanes are configured to give bicycles priority, and safe street crossing are available for pedestrians. Depending on conditions, car speeds should top out at around 30 mph – which, in practice, means a posted speed of 20 or 25 mph – and street width should be limited to two or three lanes.

Along with achieving LTS 2, the report suggests other enhancements to encourage walking and biking, including connectivity, effective transit, and accessible stations. Specifically, the report recommends “transit-only lanes, transit priority lanes at the intersections, transit-stop bulb-outs, and integrated networks of pedestrian and bicycle routes.”

The idea is to create a network that will appeal to “interested but concerned” bicyclists, that large group who would bike to work if only it weren’t so difficult and dangerous. As the report puts it, “The single most important factor for bicycle travel is safety.” Creating a safe and comfortable biking environment would draw out more women riders, as well as younger and older people, conditions that currently exist in Denmark and the Netherlands. In the United States, by contrast, the much smaller number of bicyclists consists largely of young men.

Separated bike lanes are an additional improvement, one strongly encouraged by bicycle advocacy groups, that can help create safe, bikeable networks. Explains Appleyard, “Creating separated bike paths that would increase comfort for cyclists through greater separation from traffic, would be an effective solution for improving Level of Traffic Stress.”

The caveat to such improvements is that making a street network safe and inviting for bicycles means some ridership competition with buses, as it will often be as fast simply to bike. Since buses and bikes both maintain a speed of around 12 mph, she who begins a trip on a bike might choose to stay on a bike, if conditions permit.

As Appleyard puts it, “lower levels of traffic stress (LTS 1 or 2) make the choice between a bicycling/bus transit and bicycle-only modes become equally attractive and substitutable.” He adds that, “There are health benefits to consider, as well as a bicyclist’s sense of independence.” (It is, however, important to maintain bus service as an alternative mode when bad weather makes bicycling difficult or impossible.)

LTS3 service denver

The street network along a bus route in Denver, if one considers all streets up to LTS 3. The report explains that differing colors near bus stops mean either the “stop may not be used because it is not connected at that level, or its travel time is more than another accessible stop at that access speed.” Source: MTI.

The report examines the cities of Denver, Colorado and Oakland, Calif., in detail. It finds a majority of streets to be LTS 1 or 2 in both cities, with Denver particularly navigable by bike, possessing a whopping 81 percent of LTS 1 roads. The problem comes with main thoroughfares at LTS 3 and 4, which block access to other streets, fragmenting networks.

While the report concentrates on buses as a public transit mode, higher speed transit is available, including rail and bus rapid transit. In such cases, people are willing to travel a greater distance to access transit, greatly increasing coverage area. Future research is needed for such situations, but this report lays the foundation.

As Appleyard puts it, “policymakers can make choices that work for all modes. It is important, however, that they consider the needs of these modes comprehensively.” “Improving Livability Using Green and Active Modes” offers an important lesson for decisionmakers wishing to design a pleasant, multimodal city in which low-stress streets support multiple non-driving options comfortably.

Photo, top: An ART bus and a bicyclist share the street in Arlington County, Va. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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Solidifying the Rosslyn-Georgetown connection with current travel options https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/02/solidifying-rosslyn-georgetown-connection-current-travel-options/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/05/02/solidifying-rosslyn-georgetown-connection-current-travel-options/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 19:33:20 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22234 Whether a gondola happens anytime soon, options still exist for better connecting Georgetown to the Rosslyn Metro station Georgetown is known to have some “public transit gaps,” most notably the lack of a Metro station. To fix this, the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s 2028 transportation plan included the cross-Potomac gondola as a possible solution, creating... Read more »

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Whether a gondola happens anytime soon, options still exist for better connecting Georgetown to the Rosslyn Metro station

Georgetown is known to have some “public transit gaps,” most notably the lack of a Metro station. To fix this, the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s 2028 transportation plan included the cross-Potomac gondola as a possible solution, creating a connection to Rosslyn’s Metro station. While a Georgetown BID and Rosslyn BID-funded study found the project feasible last year, the Arlington County Board voted in February not to fund the gondola over the Potomac River.

Yet, the Georgetown-Rosslyn connection is not without its transportation options today. The DC Circulator, Metrobus, and biking all provide access to each of the neighborhoods.

So how can these options already in place be made to sound as attractive as something as splashy and new-sounding as a gondola? A survey of how these options connect might reveal why the trip over the Key Bridge is generally regarded as difficult and offer lessons in better wayfinding and information.

Key Bridge, left, connecting Rosslyn and Georgetown. The Metro station is the red dot. Source: Open Street Map.

Key Bridge, left, connecting Rosslyn and Georgetown. The Metro station is the red dot. Source: Open Street Map.

Buses

The D.C. Circulator and the 38B Metrobus already cross Key Bridge on their east-west routes. The Circulator picks up a block from the Rosslyn Metro station, while the 38B goes directly to the bus bays outside of the station entrance.

For Georgetown staff and students, the Georgetown University Transport Shuttle connects Georgetown University to Moore St. in Rosslyn. One of the rationales for the gondola was improving traffic between the university and the Metro system.

On Georgetown’s M Street, there are Circulator and Metrobus stops within blocks of the bridge and can take riders quickly to Rosslyn.

Coming from the Metro station, there are indications that inter-agency mode switches are more difficult to identify. There is a sign with an arrow to the GUTS, but there is no GUTS sign at the stop, which is on the same corner as the Circulator’s stop. Also, near the Metro station there is no mention of the Circulator. So how is one supposed to find the GUTS or Circulator coming out of the Metro?

There is a screen mounted on the Metro main exits, displaying live information on the buses entering the bays. This only applies to the Metrobuses and Arlington Rapid Transit buses, though.

Bus ridership

The Key Bridge buses are generally not running at full capacity. Looking at Table 1’s metrics, from last year’s gondola feasibility study, there is still plenty of bus space for riders looking to make the connection to the Rosslyn Metro.

Making the transportation options already in place better and ensuring commuters and visitors already know about them would be a would be a more-quickly implemented starting point than a gondola.

GT-R ridership

Table 1: Existing Travel Trends between Rosslyn and Georgetown. Source: Georgetown Gondola Feasibility Study

Biking and walking

Coming from the District, there is no signage on Georgetown’s sidewalks that the Rosslyn Metro station is just across the river. Even in Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, in front of the bridge, there are no maps or resources of any kind. Biking or walking across, a map posted in front of the Marriott Rosslyn, only visible after one has already crossed to Arlington.

In Rosslyn, the Key Bridge sidewalk connects to two trails, the east-west Custis and the north-south Mt. Vernon Trail. A map of the “Arlington Loop” is posted next to the bike counter. In Georgetown, bicyclists heading east-west are spit out onto M Street, which is fast, frequently congested, and lacks any bike facilities.

There are even Capital Bikeshare stations on both sides of the bridge within blocks, though no indication of how to reach them. Bikeshare signage at the Metro station is similarly nonexistent. There is a map of Rosslyn, but the map has no indication of the bikeshare station on it.

Improvements

A Rosslyn street improvement plan is currently being implemented, which will improve bicycle and pedestrian access to the Key Bridge from Rosslyn. The Lynn Street Esplanade project will make the North Lynn & Lee Highway intersection safer, expand space on the nearby Custis Trail, and make the blocks connecting to Key Bridge more welcoming to pedestrians.

Small improvements could also be made: improved signage, or providing easily accessible resources at the end or along the bridge (a map stand on the D.C. side, for example).

Information about the D.C. Circulator and GUTS could be included on the screens outside the Metro Station, as well as the status of the bikeshare docks. The screens could also be placed in a more visible area, near the Metro fare gates. There is also more to do in educating visitors about how Capital Bikeshare works: where the key dispensaries are, how to pay, what the overage charges are, etc.

The more initiatives done to educate the public about the availability of bus transit, bikeshare, and walking connections, the more likely visitors and commuters alike will be to try them in crossing the Key Bridge.

Photo: The entrance to Key Bridge as seen from Lynn Street in Rosslyn, Arlington. The GUTS bus is visible traveling southbound (at left). (Sam Kittner/www.kittner.com for Mobility Lab).

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Biking education books spread to Arlington’s free libraries https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/21/little-free-libraries-bike-arlington/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/21/little-free-libraries-bike-arlington/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 16:31:49 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=22011 Little free libraries present a chance to share awareness of transportation options Educating people about transportation options – even in a place like Arlington, Va., where there is an abundance – is a never-ending quest. Something I’ve learned through my time at Mobility Lab is that its local partners never stop trying to think of... Read more »

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Little free libraries present a chance to share awareness of transportation options

Educating people about transportation options – even in a place like Arlington, Va., where there is an abundance – is a never-ending quest.

Something I’ve learned through my time at Mobility Lab is that its local partners never stop trying to think of new, creative ideas to connect with people where they are. One example is a project with BikeArlington director Henry Dunbar: to experiment with distributing bicycling education books throughout the county at “little free libraries.”

The goal was to educate residents and support a community biking culture through these books. Along the way, I was to gauge Arlington’s interest in biking and commuting and see if interest in the books connected to the geography or the type of establishment (school, church, house, etc.) at which it was located.

I distributed Bikenomics, Surviving the Crash: Your Legal Rights in a Bicycle Accident, Bike There, and Everyday Bicycling to 18 little free libraries scattered across Arlington. Checking up on them over the past three months, I replenished them as needed.

Bike There and Everyday Bicycling focus on bike commuting. They elaborate on bicycle interactions with traffic and provide tips to move effectively and safely. Surviving the Crash looks at the legal side of bike crashes, covering the surrounding culture and related safety topics. Bikenomics focuses on transportation costs, monetary and otherwise, and how cycling fits in to the picture. All these books together provide a thorough overview of bicycle commuting and what it entails.

Little libraries that received bike books. Expand the menu on the left to see the legend.

In the end, this little experiment showed that Arlington’s interest in reading about bicycling is not necessarily correlated to geography (Figure 1) or type of establishment.

Either way, we do know that a total of 26 Everyday Bicycling, nine Bikenomics, 28 Bike There, and 16 Surviving the Crash books were taken. Assuming a different person took each one, 79 people now know more about bicycle commuting and safety than they did in 2016. Maybe they’ll even be inspired to start bicycle commuting or discuss it with a neighbor as a result.

Here are some other interesting things I noticed as I meandered through Arlington on a cargo bike, checking up on the libraries.

People were amazed by the cargo bike I borrowed from BikeArlington to distribute the books – they often threw glances or did a double-take. Some were amazed by the fact that I was going as fast as a car at times with the electric assist feature. Two people in a U-Haul chatted with me at a stop light, asking me how I kept up with them uphill on such a big bike. Interestingly, drivers frequently gave me much more passing space when I was on the cargo bike as opposed to my normal bike.

Some little free libraries seemed untouched, as though people visited them to deposit their old books and never took any, or just flat-out never came by. I wonder then whether this is an issue of awareness of free libraries in general, or those specific ones. How do you publicize a neighborhood free library?

Arlington is well-known for its excellent network of biking and walking trails, but as I noticed on my journeys, there weren’t any little free libraries readily accessible from them. There were some close by, but always just out of reach: across a parking lot, over a wall, down a couple of streets. All just out of the way enough to ensure that no trail riders would notice.

One personal recommendation would be to install additional free libraries along trails, at a bench or pavilion or such, and fill it with bike- and pedestrian-themed books. This could further educate the individuals who already bike and walk – including recreational bicyclists and walkers – so that they might one day do so for transportation, too.

Photo: A free library in Ashton Heights neighborhood of Arlington (hewy, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Biking in Arlington gets a boost from Safetrack and warmer winter weather https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/biking-arlington-gets-boost-safetrack-warmer-winter-weather/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/18/biking-arlington-gets-boost-safetrack-warmer-winter-weather/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 19:21:06 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21964 Has there been an increase in biking in Arlington due to Washington D.C.’s region-wide SafeTrack initiative to repair Metrorail? It’s a difficult question to answer at this point. BikeArlington has already reported that there were increases up to 75 percent over 2015 daily averages in bike traffic at the Rosslyn-Custis Trail bike counter during the... Read more »

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Has there been an increase in biking in Arlington due to Washington D.C.’s region-wide SafeTrack initiative to repair Metrorail? It’s a difficult question to answer at this point.

BikeArlington has already reported that there were increases up to 75 percent over 2015 daily averages in bike traffic at the Rosslyn-Custis Trail bike counter during the first surge back in June 2016.

How much were this and other increases caused by SafeTrack or simply a product of a trend of bicycle traffic building up steadily over the years?

I took a look back at 2013, 2014, and 2015 data (see the graphs I created at the bottom of this article) in order to compare cycling daily averages from these times to the SafeTrack surge averages in 2016 and 2017. I controlled for weather to some extent, since it has such a significant impact on cycling and walking.

It seems that the only major difference from previous analyses is that increases in later surges are attributable to trends over the years of increasing winter ridership.

For the Surge 8 through 11 time period (in 2016, from August 27 to December 20), trail use had shown a decrease over the same time period from 2013 to 2014, but then it steadily increased after 2014 (except during Surge 9 on the Mount Vernon Trail). This could be attributed to some of the increase in winter ridership during SafeTrack to overall increasing trail use since 2014.

Ideally, this is the desired effect too. As transportation options become more plentiful and more well known, it makes sense that, over the years, cycling numbers increase.

Looking at the Surge 12 (which ended in February 2017) time period, however, all previous years showed a decreasing trend, with the SafeTrack surge creating quite an increase in ridership, going above even the 2013 numbers. Part of this can be attributed to an unseasonably warm February.

How much of this increase can be attributed to SafeTrack versus summer-like weather?

In the fall, trends stay fairly steady. SafeTrack caused quite an increase in traffic, and David Patton, Arlington County’s bicycle and pedestrian planner, says, “[Over] seven years of data for [the Custis Rosslyn bike counter], there is about a 3.5 percent compounded increase [for bikes]. It’s not a straight line – highly conditioned by weather – but on a slow upward trend.”

Henry Dunbar, program director of Bike Arlington, added, “It’s really difficult to pinpoint how much direct effect SafeTrack had on bike ridership. A lot of the original mode switching likely went back to riding Metro after the early surges proved to be not that disruptive, but we won’t know for certain until some more in-depth surveys are done. For now, the bike counter data alone can only tell us so much.”

The pattern over the years is very curious too: decreasing ridership in the summer, followed by stable ridership in the fall, and increasing ridership in the winter, until January.

Stable and increasing ridership are understandable, as Americans become more multi-modal.

The decreasing summer trends are questionable, also because they are not steadily decreasing. This means that there could be an anomaly in one of the years that is causing this shift. Is it really decreasing as people choose not to bike, or is it all due to external factors not accounted for?

The patterns surrounding Surge 12 are quite curious as well. The initial surge was thought to have caused such a large increase due to its novelty, but Surge 12 has none of this novelty, and compares in magnitude to the increase of Surge 1.

“This is interesting,” said Dunbar. “I have to wonder if that wasn’t aided by a stretch of really nice weather.”

W&OD Cyclists

W&OD Bon Air West Counter Cyclists

Rosslyn-Custis Cyclists

Rosslyn-Custis Counter Cyclists

Mount Vernon Trail Cyclists

Mount Vernon Trail South Airport Counter Cyclists

Photo: Capital Bikeshare user in Arlington by DOT DC; Graphics by Angela Urban.

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