Bicycling – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:55:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Capturing major DC events on bike and walking counters https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/17/bike-ped-counter-major-events-options/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/17/bike-ped-counter-major-events-options/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:18:27 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21595 Bike/ped traffic counter spikes for disruptive events emphasize importance of transportation options Arlington has 38 bike and pedestrian counters along its trails and bike lanes, six of which capture how many people cross the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., every day. Two counters are located on Memorial Bridge, two on Key Bridge, one on Roosevelt... Read more »

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Bike/ped traffic counter spikes for disruptive events emphasize importance of transportation options

Arlington has 38 bike and pedestrian counters along its trails and bike lanes, six of which capture how many people cross the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., every day. Two counters are located on Memorial Bridge, two on Key Bridge, one on Roosevelt Bridge, and one on the 14th Street Bridge.

The counters provide a look at what kind of bike/ped activity occurs on bridges into D.C. when there have been major events that disrupt street traffic and create crowding on transit. The bike and pedestrian daily counts can show how people are thinking as to when they resort to two wheels or their own feet.

How did the numbers of people in Arlington traveling by bike or foot compare to bike/ped ratios on normal weekends or holidays, when commuter traffic is more typical? Looking into this change could clarify how residents seek alternatives when major events disrupt transit and car traffic.

counter events

The events

Of the recent events captured in counters, the Women’s March induced the highest turnout by far, with a nearly 500 percent increase in bike and pedestrian traffic above the average weekend day or holiday. Meanwhile, Trump’s Inauguration doubled typical counts.

The travel ban protest, on January 29, 2017, drew about a 40 percent increase. As a small-scale event organized with little advance notice, the protest is still a notable recent event, as it drew thousands into the streets of downtown D.C.

The Pope’s visit to DC and Obama’s inauguration both induced a mild increase in traffic. In these cases, as with the Trump inauguration and Women’s March, much of the crowd likely came from out of town. It seems, though, that street closures around the Pope’s visit encouraged many to attempt a bike ride. Also notable: the Pope visited in September, when the weather was much more comfortable for riding.

Overall, pedestrian traffic seems less responsive to events than bike traffic. Perhaps the speed of biking allows bicycles to better replace transit and driving options. In each case, there are multiple reasons why more people might be biking or walking across the Potomac. In many instances the event closures force drivers or transit riders to switch modes in order to get to their usual destinations. In other cases, the events draw new visitors and curious Arlington residents into the District, who may augment normal counter figures.

The total attendance numbers are important to recognize: The travel ban protest, at an estimated 5,000 in attendance, was small, as a reactive protest organized in just two days. Meanwhile, Obama’s 2013 Inauguration drew 1,000,000 attendees, and Trump’s Inauguration and the Women’s March brought in at at least 250,000 and 500,000 respectively. The Pope’s visit to D.C. doesn’t seem to have cut and clear attendance numbers, as he traveled to multiple destinations within the District, but he spoke to a crowd of 11,000 people on the White House lawn on September 23, 2015.

Weather is another significant factor that should be recognized: Trump’s inauguration faced cold rain, and Obama’s 2013 ceremony was cool and cloudy. The Pope’s fall visit, however, was largely sunny and temperate.

The Memorial Bridge counters do not distinguish between bicyclists and pedestrians so that counter was only included in the total counts, but not in the individual bike and pedestrian breakdown. For the percent increase calculations, traffic counts on the day of the event were compared to weekend and holiday averages for the same month they occurred in (excluding the days of the events themselves).

Regardless of the exact reasons for the new biking and walking trips, the raised counts highlight the availability of additional travel options that can ease the impacts of major events on the D.C. area.

Photo: Pedestrians and a bicyclist on the Arlington side of the Memorial Bridge, looking eastward into D.C. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com)

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How often is that bike lane blocked? A crowdsourced tool takes a look. https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/13/bike-lane-blocked-crowdsourced-tool/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/13/bike-lane-blocked-crowdsourced-tool/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 15:46:24 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21490 It’s a common conversation topic among bike commuters: drivers block bike lanes all too often, and cities rarely seem responsive about it. This has been anecdotal for some time, but advocates in the Washington, D.C., region have been collecting some useful data and in order to develop a stronger case for better enforcement and safer... Read more »

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It’s a common conversation topic among bike commuters: drivers block bike lanes all too often, and cities rarely seem responsive about it. This has been anecdotal for some time, but advocates in the Washington, D.C., region have been collecting some useful data and in order to develop a stronger case for better enforcement and safer streets.

For example, an analysis of D.C. enforcement from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association found that “bike lane parking enforcement is perfunctory at best,” a situation that creates real safety issues for bicyclists and lessens the usefulness of biking infrastructure.

Across the Potomac in Arlington County, where this information is similarly difficult to find and quantify, biking advocate Chris Slatt built his own crowdsourcing site, “Parking Dirty.com,” to generate data where there was none. Slatt’s site asks users to check provided traffic cameras screenshots for infractions, with the goal of determining just how safe the lanes are for bicyclists and how often they are blocked.

Addressing a system problem

For drivers, momentarily blocking a bike lane may seem like a non-issue. But in practice, bicyclists encountering a parked car face the dangerous proposition of suddenly merging left into fast-moving traffic. Frequently blocked lanes create a stressful biking environment, which ultimately deters riders.

clarendon blvd evening

A sample screenshot from the site, pulled from a traffic camera. Note the car and FedEx truck blocking the lane.

Slatt, a member of Arlington’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and chair of WABA’s Action Committee for Arlington County, understood the challenge of documenting blocked lanes, and reached out to the area’s bicycling community tackle the task.

BAC members provided feedback on the most troublesome areas, from which Slatt chose the most-mentioned blocks, eventually looking into Arlington’s public traffic camera feeds to determine which ones have a reasonable view of the bike lanes in question. Relying on two cameras, one on Clarendon Boulevard at Wayne Street and one mid-block on Crystal Drive, the Parking Dirty site pulled one screenshot per minute for three 24-hour periods in September and October of last year.

The system then relied on participants to evaluate the screenshots, using majority rule to determine a photo’s status – at least two users must on whether or not a lane is blocked. Since he began promoting it, about 160 people have helped to build the tool’s dataset, which has revealed regularly blocked bike lanes. One block of Clarendon Boulevard was blocked from 25 to 47 percent of the time, depending on the day in question, and Crystal Drive’s bike lane was consistently above 60 percent.

Quantifying these obstructions does support bicyclists’ sense that this is a chronic issue. But there can still be a disconnect between concerns among cyclists and the police’s understanding of the issue. For example, one BAC member has brought up bike lane obstruction in the past with their police liaison, which the officer challenged by responding: if nobody is biking in a blocked lane, is it really blocked?

In practice, this means that the enforcement policy requires concerned citizens to report a blocked lane, at which point an officer is sent to fix it.

“That works if it’s an uncommon problem,” Slatt says. “But a systematic problem needs proactive enforcement. When the chances are greater than 50 percent that a lane is blocked … if it’s more likely than not the bike lane is obstructed,” then the call-to-report system doesn’t make sense, and proactive ticketing does.

parkingdirty-cc drive

Results from a September day on Crystal Drive. Source: ParkingDirty.com.

Informational barriers

Parking Dirty addresses part of a multifaceted campaign to improve bike safety in Arlington, part of which involves solving technological barriers to data collection.

For example, while it’s relatively simple for one to obtain D.C. traffic citation records, Slatt found barriers to doing so in Arlington. Slatt filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the county to view tickets police have written for blocking bike lanes. Unfortunately, only summary data is digitized, and anything related to drivers endangering cyclists is filed as “other.” Getting numbers on these citations would require digging through paper records.

While the numbers from Parking Dirty go a long way in articulating a common issue cyclists face, more complete information on how the police enforce road safety would provide a fuller picture that could better focus the conversation.

Towards safer lanes

Despite the barriers, Slatt believes Parking Dirty’s dataset is enough to kickstart a discussion toward more proactive enforcement of street safety, especially for people on bikes. He also explains that it’s important to remember that “this data is just for one or two blocks. But if one is blocked 30 percent of the time, and so are the two blocks before and after, it adds up quickly.”

Parking Dirty drives this point home by providing a data-based window into how biking feels for cyclists. At the very least, the information that Parking Dirty has collected creates a starting point to better examine and work with community members in a deeper push to create a bike-friendly, multimodal community.

Photo: Top, a sign at the beginning of the protected bike lane on South Hayes Street, in Crystal City, Arlington (Elvert Barnes, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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How far is too far to bike to work? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/27/how-far-bike-work/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/02/27/how-far-bike-work/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 17:36:20 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21344 A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Pinch-Flat.com. Taking the car is expensive, public transit can be cramped, and you’re feeling unhealthy. No worries, all of those issues are solved by the bicycle commute. But, how far is too far to bike to work? How long will it take? What should you pack?... Read more »

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A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Pinch-Flat.com.

Taking the car is expensive, public transit can be cramped, and you’re feeling unhealthy. No worries, all of those issues are solved by the bicycle commute. But, how far is too far to bike to work?

How long will it take? What should you pack? What about sweat? Here I share my experiences of when I commuted to work, which I hope inspires you to get commuting yourself.

The answer to the question “how far is too far to bike to work” is difficult. For some people, around the corner is too far, and for others a 30-mile trip one way is not far enough. After looking through many forums, and questioning veteran cyclists, here’s a chart that seems to be the general opinion of many the commuters.

bike distance chart

Current fitness level

Your current fitness level has a significant impact on the distance you’ll want to cycle. You may be fit enough to cover your commute, or you may need to build up to it slowly. One important thing to remember is how the miles add up. One day of cycling 40 miles is relatively easy for a fit person. Five consecutive days of cycling 40 miles are far more challenging.

My old commute was 10 miles long, and I started work at 7:30 am. While I’m not an athlete, over the course of a few months, I managed to improve my fitness drastically. When I first started cycling, my commute would take around 50 minutes, but I managed to get it to around 35 minutes. I probably had a tailwind to help me, but I still noticed a difference. Not only to my times but how I felt while at work and how I felt in general. However, covering the distance is only half the battle. Any seasoned bicycle commuter will tell you that you need a good plan.

Before you commute

Before you cycle to work you should make sure you ride the route the weekend before to see how long it takes. You can use my simple calculation when planning, but when it comes down to it, you’ll want an exact time. Strava or Endomondo are both great tools for this. I found writing everything down was a great place to start, because it gave me the confidence to start commuting by bike.

To be fully prepared, you should have a run-through before a work day. This way you can refine the process and get yourself ready as quickly as possible.

Compare your normal commute time

I thought that commuting by bike would take a lot of extra time, but when I looked at the numbers, it wasn’t that bad. My commute when driving took around 20 minutes door-to-door. My commute when cycling was around 40 minutes, plus an extra 10 minutes to get changed at work (I got everything else ready the night before).

My route was quiet country lanes and I cycled very early in the morning, which meant I encountered few cars. If you’re cycling through a congested city, it could be much quicker on a bicycle.

These times meant that my commute was an extra 30 minutes longer each way, but I was happier and healthier for it. In the evening, I would walk through my front door 30 minutes later than I would have if I had driven. Except I had already cycled 20 miles, and that was a great feeling.

Arriving at work

Previously, I lived in England and biked early in the morning. Early starts meant that it was too cold for me to sweat much. I worked for a big company, and they had facilities for people who wanted to take showers, and that’s what I did in the summer when it got a little warmer. If your office does not provide showers, here’s an excellent guide on how not to sweat too much on your morning commute.

However, I found the key to sweating less was as simple as just taking it a little easier in the mornings, and wearing fewer layers. In regards to appearance, I put a bit of wax in my hair and was ready to go. If you’ve got longer hair and can’t get away with a bit of wax, here’s a helpful guide on how to fix helmet hair.

I took my clothes with me to, and from work each day in an old rucksack. (A proper cycling bag or panniers would have been far better). I packed it each night, and I left it by the front door. If you have the option, I’d suggest that you take your clothes for the week to the office in bulk. For example, you could drive in one day of the week with all your clean clothes, and at the same time, pick up all your dirty clothes. This strategy stops you from having to pack your bag each night and is one less thing to think about.

Motivation

No matter how well you have everything else organized, nothing will help you if you don’t have the motivation to leave the house when it’s dark and cold outside. Organizing everything is a great way not to make excuses for yourself, but even the most iron-willed of people will start to slip after months of the same thing. Here are my tips to keep motivated:

  • Do not cycle every day of the week if you don’t have to. Sometimes it’s the constant changing and washing of clothes that gets old before the cycling.
  • I loved listening to music on my commute. An excellent playlist or podcast can help the miles pass on days when you’re feeling less inspired.
  • Change your route up. Looking at the same scenery each day can get boring. Keep it fresh and change up the route if you can.
  • Take the scenic route on days when it’s sunny.

In conclusion

So, to answer the question “how far is too far to bike to work?” I’d have to say that it’s largely up to you, but 10 to 20 miles seems to be a reasonable distance – any more than that and it starts to be too much. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and being prepared can help. If you’re a person I surveyed who commutes 30 miles each way, five days a week – you’re a true champ.

Photo: Commuters ride onto the Roosevelt Bridge from Arlington County, Va., into Washington, D.C. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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Paving the way toward walkability by kicking deadly driving habits https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/30/paving-way-walkability-driving-habit/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/30/paving-way-walkability-driving-habit/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2017 17:06:03 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20164 Long gone are the days of Mad Men, when smoke-filled offices were common place. If you had told anyone during that era that in 30 years, it would be illegal to light up in most public places, they would have laughed in your face. When smoking was identified as a preventable killer and a threat... Read more »

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Long gone are the days of Mad Men, when smoke-filled offices were common place. If you had told anyone during that era that in 30 years, it would be illegal to light up in most public places, they would have laughed in your face. When smoking was identified as a preventable killer and a threat to public health that had to be curbed, it was obvious it would require dramatic behavior change to shift social attitudes. Several decades later, we now find it hard to imagine that smoking in public places was ever allowed.

Re-imagining the future with different behaviors can be difficult, but we have to act now. 2016 saw a dramatic surge in travel deaths in the U.S. This included car-crash fatalities as well as a surge in pedestrian deaths by cars. Car-related fatalities have affected all of us taking any mode, but the good news is that this phenomenon is preventable.

International progress towards safer streets

In the 1970s, the Netherlands saw a dramatic increase in car-related deaths, and public outcry ensued. They created a campaign advocating for safer streets for the most vulnerable people in society, children, called “Stop de Kindermoord,” which literally translates to “Stop the Child Murder.” Dutch cities responded with traffic-calming measures and shared-space designs in neighborhoods called “woonerfs,” which dramatically decreased the number of fatal car crashes.

Along the same vein, the Danish decided that they wanted to have safer, healthier citizens, which could be achieved by creating a more livable city. They invested in creating more bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. By striving for this vision, the City of Copenhagen has transformed to become a place where more than 50 percent of people commute by bike every day.

U.S. driving in the future

Campaigns such as Vision Zero propose that no loss of life on our roads is acceptable. Such organizations re-frame the conversation to acknowledge that road deaths are preventable, not part of the game, and have helped us envision a safer and healthier future.

Several U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., are leading the way by adopting Vision Zero strategies and are actively making roads safer for all. The adoption of Vision Zero in D.C. has opened several doors, including collecting and making the District’s crash data open and more accessible to the public. This allows advocates and civic programmers, like Mobility Lab’s Transportation Techies group, to experiment with the data and gain new insights that can be used to identify specific locations that require new interventions and safety strategies. It has also included education and enforcement campaigns aimed to protect our most vulnerable road users.

A future that is dedicated to the goal of zero car-related fatalities will be a healthier, more productive future for everyone sharing the road. This future of safer roads with adequate space and facilities for pedestrians and cyclists will entail less congestion for motorists. The societal benefits that bicycling and walking produce are vast and cost-effective and reverberate to everyone who shares the road.

What you can do

Local, state, and federal governments all play a role in creating and maintaining our transportation system. All levels need to be involved in this re-visioning of safety and shift towards transportation planning practices that focus on all modes of transportation. They also need to be held accountable.

Shifting transportation goals, policies, and laws from a focus on the throughput of vehicles (which entails a certain percentage of crashes) to safely moving people to the places they want to go aligns with the mission of transportation-demand-focused agencies. Therefore, as constituents, it’s important to push for the adoption of Zero Vision policies and a shift to Complete Street design strategies, particularly at the local level. These will save lives.

It’s high time we commit to curbing our dangerous driving addiction and enjoy the benefits of safe streets.

A version of this post first appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog.

Photo: Pedestrians navigate an intersection in Arlington County. (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com)

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A closer look at Arlington’s bike counters show how riders are using the trails and bike lanes https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/19/closer-look-arlingtons-bike-counters-show-riders-using-trails-bike-lanes/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/19/closer-look-arlingtons-bike-counters-show-riders-using-trails-bike-lanes/#respond Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:25:55 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20089 Other developers at Bike Hack Night VII presented sensor and mapping projects to understand the experience of urban biking Arlington County, over the past several years, has strategically placed 30 permanent EcoCounters, bike- and pedestrian-counting sensors, to determine how many people are riding bicycles and walking on major trails and routes. Permanent counters at these... Read more »

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Other developers at Bike Hack Night VII presented sensor and mapping projects to understand the experience of urban biking

Arlington County, over the past several years, has strategically placed 30 permanent EcoCounters, bike- and pedestrian-counting sensors, to determine how many people are riding bicycles and walking on major trails and routes.

Permanent counters at these sites allow planners to understand the year-over-year trends of biking and walking in the county, according to EcoCounter’s Fraser McLaughlin. At January’s edition of the  Transportation Techies, sponsored by Mobility Lab, he also presented his data showing how special events, weather, and even the day of the week affect ridership.

FM counter type

Sensors by bicyclist type. Click to enlarge.

These counters have come to provide years of valuable data on bicycling behavior for the county. By focusing on annual data from April through October – since the colder months would skew the numbers – McLaughlin used the seasonal average daily traffic to identify different types of cyclists and where they ride.

McLaughlin found that access points to Washington, D.C., especially Key Bridge, were primarily commuter routes, with high volume during peak hours and major lulls in afternoons and weekends. Areas deeper within the county, in contrast, appeared to be more recreational, and had more consistent volumes on the weekend. Counters in the middle detected more mixed usage.

McLaughlin also noted that a major benefit of a network of permanent counters is the ability to fill in gaps in data for other locations. With this knowledge, he explained, planners can better understand how people are using bike infrastructure throughout Arlington to make informed decisions for future route developments.

Brain games

Other presenters at the meetup, the first time Techies has taken place in conjunction with the annual Transportation Research Board conference, showed off a mix of tools and visualizations that planners and hobbyists alike can use to better understand cycling in their community.

Andrew Lovett-Baron shared Pedal Pedal Club, an app he built to game users’ behavior and encourage them to bike more. Using route-mapping app Strava to track miles, Pedal Pedal allows users to set incentive benchmarks – achievements at which the app encourages them to treat themselves. In Lovett-Baron’s case, he uses it to discipline himself from impulse-buying bike parts, but he also explained that for people like his wife, the app reassures them that they deserve a treat with hard work. Regardless of motivation, he hopes Pedal Pedal can create a bridge for folks outside the bicycling community to create structured motivations to ride more.

Tom Lee shared the results of his do-it-yourself project, which measures the distance at which cars passed him during his bike commute. Using an ultrasonic sensor and a WiFi chip, Lee built a small device that attached to the side of his bike’s frame. Despite having a small dataset and plenty of moments when cars passed within D.C.’s legal minimum of three feet, Lee was surprised to find that, on average, drivers gave him about 3.5 feet when passing.

Drew Dara-Abrams of MapZen explained how the mapping platform’s “Turn-by-Turn” can help developers with routing and navigation for bicyclists. With Valhalla, an open-source routing engine, the service incorporates MapZen’s TransitLand and local elevation data into Open Street Map. It allows users to optimize directions based on the type of rider they are, accounting for numerous factors like elevation change or road surface. From a wider perspective, Dara-Abrams described how these tools explore the potential of the local bike network, and where it might take cyclists, such as in his isochrone map visualizing bike sheds based on riders’ different stress tolerance levels.

miovision test

Timo Hoffman and Justin Eichel of Miovision explained their video-based traffic-counting technology (right), which uses a machine learning algorithm to classify types of street users, including bikes and pedestrians, by their outlines. By combining this with analysis of each vehicle type’s directional volume in key areas, this tool could help cities develop solutions to traffic problems, regardless of the modes involved.

Maps are especially useful for understanding the environment bicyclists deal with. Stuart Lynn, a map scientist at Carto, shared bike experience maps that cover this information. From an animation of three days of Barclays bikeshare volume in London to phone measurements of road quality from a bumpy bike ride through New York City, these visualizations can fill in gaps on how bicyclists typically travel. They can also provide valuable insight into traffic behaviors and infrastructure that affect them, such as a map of bike crashes throughout London.

Arlene Ducao describes her MindRider project, which evaluates bicyclists’ stress levels as they bike, as a “location intelligence product.” Originally hoping to understand the experience of novice female bicyclists in Manhattan, Ducao developed a helmet fitted with biosensors, which measure brain activity and skin conductivity during a ride. On a map, this data is represented as colors, where red means high concentration and green is relaxed. Analyzing this information against municipal data, Ducao could could pick out regular hotspots and sweet spots that suggested higher- and lower-level stress areas.

chrome_2017-01-19_13-10-31

This has led to the Ducao’s Multimer Experience Map (above), in which different colors represent specific mindsets, and the project has expanded to other modes beyond biking. Ultimately, Ducao would like to analyze the built environment around these routes, which would be immensely helpful to finding what spaces are most enjoyable for bicyclists.

By getting into the patterns and conditions that affect biking behaviors, planners and advocates are building tools that can contribute to better bike infrastructure and a better understanding of how people ride.

Graphics: Arlington counter maps by Fraser McLaughlin. Multimer screenshot from http://dukodestudio.com/mindriderdata

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Hands-on with a new standard for safer biking intersections https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/18/hands-on-with-a-solution-to-safer-biking-intersections/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/18/hands-on-with-a-solution-to-safer-biking-intersections/#respond Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:14:59 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20079 The last decade has seen bicycling rates double or triple in major metropolitan areas, helped in part by the modern consensus around what kind of on-street facilities are best at protecting and encouraging riders. While sharrows and signage have given way to protected, separate lanes, the designs of intersections – often the most stressful part of... Read more »

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The last decade has seen bicycling rates double or triple in major metropolitan areas, helped in part by the modern consensus around what kind of on-street facilities are best at protecting and encouraging riders. While sharrows and signage have given way to protected, separate lanes, the designs of intersections – often the most stressful part of biking – still pose a major problem.

Currently being adapted from successes in Denmark and the Netherlands, the protected bike intersection is one avenue of solving that. Rather than have protected bike lanes convert to mixing zones or indicate two-step turns, both of which can be confusing for drivers and bicyclists, the protected intersection aims to reduce conflicts and keep bicyclists in a dedicated space as much as possible.

Speaking in a session at TransportationCamp DC this month, transportation planner Emily Thomason and Nicholas Smith of Richmond, Va., modeled the protected intersection design for attendees, transforming a paper, four-way layout on the carpet with the addition of curb bulbouts and a delineated, green bike crosswalks (see above photo). As a bicyclist approaches the intersection, they can either move straight through the bike crosswalk, curve right along the protected lane, or take a left by first crossing straight, then left.

The main aim of the design is to eliminate sudden conflicts between bicyclists and drivers. By moving bicyclists closer to pedestrians, the intersection operates on the idea that bike-pedestrian conflicts are much easier and safer to negotiate than bike-car ones. And while left turns will take bicyclists longer to perform, Thomason and Smith explained, the easy right turns that require no traffic negotiation will create some time savings.

dutch intersection, northeasern delft

A protected intersection in the Netherlands. Note the driver turning right forced to yield to bicyclists, who cross parallel to the crosswalk.

Not only do the concrete islands protect people walking and biking, but they force drivers to take wider, slower, and more deliberate turns. Using a phone as a makeshift car in his diagram, Smith walked the session through the varying ways a driver can enter the intersection. The concrete islands are long enough so that a driver turning right can enter, clear the crosswalk, then make a right turn when they have a chance. Adding another paper cut-out and folding back the corner pieces, Thomason and Smith showed how the logic applies to low-traffic roundabouts, too.

The proposed intersection in Silver Spring. Source: MCDOT, via The Wash Cycle.

In the D.C. region, Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction with a protected bike intersection in its near-term bike plans. Part of a new network of lanes in downtown Silver Spring, the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Wayne would have concrete curb cuts on each corner.

While there are only 12 in the United States now (up from zero just two years ago), Green Lane Project’s Brad Anderson notes that the intersections make safety sense as a priority for cities, as they can be applied to conventional bike lanes too, not just protected ones. Protected intersections now exist in cities such as Davis, Calif., Austin, and Salt Lake City. Just as protected bike lanes are making streets more in line with the 8-through-80 year-old-friendly biking streets, protected intersections offer a way to complete those network gaps and simplify safer biking.

Photo: Top, the paper design laid out during the TransportationCamp (photo by author). Middle, an intersection in the Netherlands (Northeastern Delft, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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My personal case for safe and joyful transportation https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/17/case-safe-joyful-transportation-introduction/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/17/case-safe-joyful-transportation-introduction/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:32:57 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20060 Introducing our data storytelling intern, Angela Urban Hi! I’m the data storyteller intern at Mobility Lab and a civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. Over the next few months, I’ll be reporting back with stories about ongoing research in Arlington and beyond. I’m interested in transportation, since I commute by bike, bike for... Read more »

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Introducing our data storytelling intern, Angela Urban

Hi! I’m the data storyteller intern at Mobility Lab and a civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. Over the next few months, I’ll be reporting back with stories about ongoing research in Arlington and beyond.

I’m interested in transportation, since I commute by bike, bike for fun, fix bikes for fun, use public transit as needed, get car rides from family and friends if we are going places together, and walk to near-to-home locations for a nice change of pace. I also have a particular interest in pushing sustainable transportation options forward, after getting hit by a distracted driver in 2016.

The story is such: My sister and I are biking for fun one night, with our bike lights on. The driver behind us is texting, and fails to see our lights. The driver behind us runs over me, runs into my sister, hits a parked car, then stops. A nurse who happened to be walking by calls the police and an ambulance, a crane pulls the SUV off me, and I get taken to the hospital. My sister’s wrist is broken, and I am in a coma for a month. The driver gets a negligent driving citation instead of a criminal case because I didn’t die.

I survived a broken femur, fractured ankle, broken jaw, lung contusion, and traumatic brain injury. The coma was not medically induced. Doctors said that the percentage likelihood of an adult surviving what I went through was in the single digits. My parents and my sister were right beside me this whole time. My parents flew back, as soon as they heard what happened, from a family visit in Hungary that they had just started a couple of days before the crash.

After three weeks, I started to wake up. I don’t remember this because I couldn’t remember beyond a couple of hours. Over the next month, my memory slowly built back up, as I recovered in the Rehabilitation Unit of a hospital, and learned how to walk again. I continued to recover at home with my parents for the next month, and went to outpatient therapy. Then I started school again, and still passed my classes with flying colors.

After all that, I’m still riding my bike through the streets whenever I can, and you better believe I am motivated to make a change in transportation. So, after connecting the dots directing me towards transportation engineering (bike commuter, biker-for-fun, dangerous roads), I focused on transportation engineering as a sub-unit of civil engineering, and sang out of joy that I chose the right major.

The dream I had created for myself: To make transportation a joy, not a drag of sitting in rush hour alone. To make all forms of transport easily accessible, safe, practical, and affordable. To have everyone feel comfortable with their mode of transportation, with its time commitment, consistency, and flexibility.

Thus, I came to Mobility Lab to pursue my dream of promoting sustainable transportation through TDM, and here I am, storytelling. I brought my trusty bicycle steed, Rusty, to take me through the streets whenever I’m not writing. Keep an eye out in the next few months for more stories from me.

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How did SafeTrack affect Arlington biking rates in 2016? https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/12/safetracks-impact-biking-arlington-2016/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/01/12/safetracks-impact-biking-arlington-2016/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2017 20:17:47 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=20026 Since SafeTrack began back in June 2016, Arlington transportation planners have been collecting and analyzing walk and bike data by using the county’s extensive network of counters. In reviewing Surge 11 data, the effects of Metro rail disruptions on the bike traffic seem to be diminishing, while still remaining above last year’s averages. Looking at... Read more »

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Since SafeTrack began back in June 2016, Arlington transportation planners have been collecting and analyzing walk and bike data by using the county’s extensive network of counters. In reviewing Surge 11 data, the effects of Metro rail disruptions on the bike traffic seem to be diminishing, while still remaining above last year’s averages.

Looking at three key counters in the Arlington trail network (Rosslyn Custis, Mount Vernon South, and W&OD Bon Air West), there was an immediate spike in Surge 1, which saw daily bike traffic increases over 2015 averaging between 75 percent and 35 percent.

Over the next waves (Surges 2-6), the increases above 2015 counts stayed, but were a more modest overall average of just 17 percent, with a range of 0 percent to 34 percent. The downward trend continued in the later waves (Surges 7-11), with an average increase of 9 percent, and a range of -9 percent to 28 percent.

Interestingly, it’s very difficult to draw conclusions about the direct impact on Arlington ridership. For example, the huge increases in Surge 1 were almost certainly a reaction to the promised decrease in rail service, with the high ridership increase seen at the Rosslyn counter very near the Orange/Silver Line with the diminished service. And in Surge 3, with repair work and service disruptions on the Blue/Yellow, there was a spike in ridership along the Mount Vernon trail.

However, two of the more dramatic spikes in the chart below (Surges 6 and 10) were during phases when the repair work and disruption was on the Red line at stations far away from the county. This could be a result of below average numbers from previous years due to weather, events, or any number of other likely considerations.

The good news is we are still talking about increases, and of the 33 select data points we’re discussing, only four were not increases. For the second half of 2016, ridership was definitely up across the county.

To look at the data in more detail, take a look at our Bike Counter Dashboard and feel free to do your own analysis. What do you think?  Are we on the right track? We’d love to hear what you find.

This post originally appeared on the BikeArlington blog. Head over there to see a chart of counter rates broken down by SafeTrack surges.

Photo: The Bikeometer in Rosslyn on the Custis Trail (Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab, www.kittner.com).

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Virginia’s new Capital Trail spurs biking investments along its route https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/12/virginia-capital-trail-spurs-investments-biking-along-route/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/12/virginia-capital-trail-spurs-investments-biking-along-route/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:28:11 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19760 This is part two of contributor Gabriel Morey’s coverage of the year-old Virginia Capital Trail. Read part one here. The Virginia Capital Trail offers one of the best cases of how well-designed bike and pedestrian infrastructure can transform communities. The trail – a serene, 55-mile path from Jamestown to Richmond – has brought numerous economic changes... Read more »

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This is part two of contributor Gabriel Morey’s coverage of the year-old Virginia Capital Trail. Read part one here.

The Virginia Capital Trail offers one of the best cases of how well-designed bike and pedestrian infrastructure can transform communities.

The trail – a serene, 55-mile path from Jamestown to Richmond – has brought numerous economic changes to the cities and towns along its route. It’s lured large corporations like Stone Brewing to Richmond, and boosted business at mom-and-pop establishments like Cul’s Courthouse Grille in Charles City County. However, economic benefits are only part of the success of the trail: it has also brought a renewed push for bike infrastructure and an increased quality of life in the communities around it.

“We’re thrilled about the added value it brings to the Historic Triangle and the opportunities it offers for residents and tourists alike to enjoy the area,” said State Senator Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg), a supporter of the trail.

Senator Mason’s hometown of Williamsburg recently won a state grant to build a similar multi-use path along Monticello Avenue, which connects the historic town to the Capital Trail. The Capital Trail Foundation has not slowed down its work either. Since the trail’s completion, the group has been busy installing amenities such as benches and portable toilets for riders. Most importantly, it has begun adding electronic bike counters to the trail to better gauge ridership and help the group advocate for expanding and maintaining the trail.

In Richmond, the city is proposing adding 25 miles of new bike lanes, including one to connect its weekly farmers market with the Capital Trail. Finally, VDOT and the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization are studying a 60-mile long expansion of the trail to Fort Monroe. While some of these projects might have gone through without the trail, its success smoothed opposition by proving the value of such infrastructure. As Beth Weisbrod, executive director the Capital Trail Foundation, put it, “Now [grade]-separated, multi-use trails are being discussed as transportation.”

Possible extension routes (red) for the Capital Trail. Image from the Hampton Roads Transportation Commission.

Possible eastward extension routes (red) for the Capital Trail. Image from the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization.

This infrastructure is going in not just because localities want it, but because residents have demonstrated growing desires to have access to such facilities. Dot Boulware owns and operates the Edgewood Plantation B&B with her husband, Julian. While the trail has only minimally affected her business, it has added new life to her part of Charles City County, southeast of Richmond.

She said, “It’s not just [benefiting] the bikers, but it also [has benefits] for people that are older that can just walk the trail. People are not just sitting in their chairs anymore, or watching their televisions anymore. People are riding it, people are walking it, and are being very cordial to you. You don’t have to walk very far; you can judge your own time. It’s fun.”

Cullen Jenkin, one of the owners of the trail-adjacent Cul’s Courthouse Grille, shared a similar sentiment. “It got me off the couch,” he said. “It’s had a huge impact on me.”

Perhaps the most impressive impact of the trail can be seen at Charles City Public Schools, which has added a cycling program to its middle- and high-school physical-education curricula.

“The Capital Trail project really provided the initial inspiration for starting a bike program at our schools,” said Superintendent David Gaston. “Business and residents all noticed quickly that there was more activity as cyclists and citizens began to take advantage of the trail. If there had not been a Capital Trail built, I’m not certain that we would have thought about establishing a bike program, as these are extremely busy roads with a lot of fast-moving traffic.”

So far, CCPS has bought 24 Giant hybrid bikes for its classes, which feature both a riding component and a maintenance and safety component. The school system is also working with a local vendor to get classes on safety and technique taught to elementary-school students. While many students live far away from the trail, Dr. Gaston said that student interest in the trail has definitely increased. To further integrate the two, he hopes to get a connector built between Charles City High School and Route 5.

The economic benefits of the Capital Trail are impressive, but perhaps not as potent as the cultural changes it has brought. Just as the railroads and interstates re-shaped the American landscape, the Capital Trail is re-shaping Virginia’s Lower Peninsula, albeit at a slower and smaller pace, but as it continues to expand, one can expect to see more bike lanes, paths, and riders in places like Richmond, Williamsburg, and Hampton Roads.

Already the trail has surpassed its projected first-year ridership, drawing 550,000 riders from all over the nation. More than anything else, the trial has proven once again that if you build it, riders will come.

Photo: A couple rides along the Virginia Capital Trail near Sherwood Forest, Va. (D. Allen Covey/Virginia Department of Transportation, Flickr, Creative Commons)

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Virginia’s new Capital Trail has brought biking, business to Richmond and historic communities https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/06/virginias-new-capital-trail-brought-biking-business-richmond-historic-communities/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/12/06/virginias-new-capital-trail-brought-biking-business-richmond-historic-communities/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 17:05:24 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=19695 Stretching between Richmond and Jamestown, the Virginia Capital Trail is a powerful example of how bike and pedestrian infrastructure can encourage economic growth and sustainable living in diverse communities. The 55-mile paved, multi-use path dances along historic Route 5, connecting small towns, bucolic farmland, historic sites, and high-rise apartments. First proposed in the 1990’s, groundwork... Read more »

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Stretching between Richmond and Jamestown, the Virginia Capital Trail is a powerful example of how bike and pedestrian infrastructure can encourage economic growth and sustainable living in diverse communities. The 55-mile paved, multi-use path dances along historic Route 5, connecting small towns, bucolic farmland, historic sites, and high-rise apartments.

First proposed in the 1990’s, groundwork for the trail began in 2003 when Virginia Secretary of Transportation Whitt Clement made the trail a priority. The following year he helped found the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation – the non-profit that manages and promotes the trail – and in 2005 VDOT broke ground at Jamestown. Since its completion in October 2015, the Virginia Capital Trail has provided more than just a safe place to ride, walk, and run: it is also quietly changing the life and the economies of the communities that it passes through.

va-cap-trail

Map of the Virginia Capital Trail, via Terrain360. Click to see a trail-level view of the route.

No place is that more evident than in Richmond, Va., where the trail is helping power that city’s revitalization. Beth Weisbrod, executive director of the Capital Trail Foundation (based in Richmond), sees the trail as a major economic engine for the city, citing packaging company WestRock’s 2006 decision to move to downtown as based partly on the then-incomplete trail. She also pointed out that smaller businesses have benefited from it as well. “When the trail opened,” Weisbrod said, “there was no place to rent a bike in Richmond. Now there are at least three.”

One of those places is The Kickstand, a non-profit founded by the Richmond Cycling Corps that advertises itself as “the easiest (and coolest) way to get on a bike and enjoy the Virginia Capital Trail.” Opened in July, The Kickstand does more than rent bikes – it also teaches kids from low-income households how to bike and fix bikes. Those students are then employed as mechanics for Kickstand.

To Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Bike Walk-RVA, the trail is both a cause and an effect of increased cycling in Richmond. “I think it’s done a great job generating excitement around biking and walking” he said. “Once the snowball starts rolling, it just keeps getting bigger.” The stats from Richmond are certainly not small. The city has nearly doubled its bike infrastructure in the past three years, announced a bikeshare program, and hosted the UCI World Cycling Championships.

Furthermore, the trail has served as an anchor for new businesses. “Stone Brewing is one of the biggest examples,” Hepp-Buchanan said. “They are literally building their bistro on top of the trail.” While not all recent economic development can be attributed to the trail, Hepp-Buchanan argues that it has helped make Richmond an attractive place for corporations like Carmax, which recently moved downtown. “You can’t deny that having the Capital Trail right there is one of the biggest reasons why a company like that would locate downtown,” he said.

Cul's and bicycling patrons

Cul’s Courthouse Grille in Charles City, mere feet from the Capital Trail

The trail is also making an impact outside of Richmond. There is no better place to see that benefit than at Cul’s Courthouse Grille, a charming restaurant managed by mother-and-son team Bonnie Whittaker and Cullen Jenkins. Cul’s opened seven years ago when Whittaker, recently retired, decided to create a space for community gatherings near the historic Charles City Courthouse. Although Cullen stresses that Cul’s focuses on the community, not “dollars and cents,” it is impossible to ignore the business the trail has brought. “We’ve just tried to hold on and do the best we can,” Cullen said. “Recently, Channel 12 did a nice piece on the impact that the trail has had on small business, and they focused on us. My mom said that [business grew] by 30 percent in the interview, but she meant to say 300 percent.”

clip_ins_signThe increase in customers has meant more than just money for the restaurant. “We’ve been able to hire 10 folks because we needed them for the business,” Cullen said. Ten jobs might not seem like many, but in a small community like Charles City County (population 7,000), they make a huge difference. “These women are holding their families together with the jobs they have here,” Cullen said. “We can give someone a decent living wage where they can pay their bills and have a couple of bucks left over to improve their quality of life.”

Cul’s isn’t the only business to capitalize on the trail. Nearby Shirley Plantation recently added a large dining room to its outbuildings, placing in front of it a chalkboard sign reading “Welcome Cyclists: Please remove your clip-ins. Thank you!” Closer to Cul’s, rumor is that an old schoolhouse is being rehabilitated into a coffeehouse. And according to Beth Weisbrod, the Capital Trail Foundation is planning a connector trail to the Blue Heron Restaurant, another local eatery slightly off Route 5.

The money and cyclists flowing along the Capital Trail come from all over the world. Rich Thompson is a staff member at the College of William and Mary, where he helps lead the College’s Bike Alliance. (Full disclosure – the author was a founding member of the Alliance.) A regular cyclist on the trail, Thompson has met folks from D.C. and farther.

“I recently ran into a son and mother cyclist from Germany and Great Britain,” Thompson said. “They were vacationing here and biking in Surrey and Isle of Wight County,” and told him that they were planning on riding the trail later.

One of forces driving this tourism is the ever-expanding number of companies offering bike tours of the Capital Trail, including Road-Tested Tours, Carolina Tailwinds, Trek Travel, and Vermont Tours. Additionally, the Williamsburg Winery has added weekly 40-mile bike rides to its list of offerings, and Cullen Jenkins, for his part, is renting bikes out to Cul’s customers.

The market isn’t saturated yet either. Jennifer Billstrom is the founder of Velo Girl Rides, a North Carolina-based touring company that hopes to launch a Capital Trail tour. “The unique thing about the Capital Trail, in my opinion, is that it is fairly flat, and it is fairly doable by anyone. And it’s also just a ribbon that runs through a very rich historical area. So using this can be an educational experience … that engages people both physically and with a history lesson, and that’s very unique,” she said.

If other examples hold true, the Capital Trail is only beginning to spark growth around it. Wendy Lyman would know: as the owner of the cyclist-oriented Swamp Rabbit Inn in Greenville, South Carolina, she has seen her region’s Swamp Rabbit Trail revitalize entire towns along its route. She recently traveled up to visit the Capital Trail, and saw ample opportunity for future growth. “I was really impressed with it” she said. “That midpoint destination hub – there’s a lot of development opportunities there, and I think that would make that trail even more vibrant.”

She has observed this type of development before – the trail is built, several businesses take off, more entrepreneurs follow, local residents discover new ways to use the trail, and a new economic and transportation ecosystem is built. The Capital Trail isn’t at that point yet, but with 550,000 trips along the trail last year, that type of development is likely. The question isn’t a matter of if, but when.

Read part two of this article, about the increase in biking that the Virginia Capital Trail is generating in adjacent communities.

[Ed: a previous version of this article stated incorrectly that Richmond’s B bikeshare had already launched. The city is currently aiming for an official launch in fall 2016 or spring 2017.]

Photos: Top, the VA Capital Trail as it approaches downtown Richmond along the James River (Al Covey/VDOT, Flickr, Creative Commons). Middle, the Bike Alliance at Cul’s Courthouse Grille (Bill Horacio). Lower, a chalkboard sign for bicyclists at  Shirley Plantation (Rich Thompson).

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