Bicycling – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:01:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Capital Bikeshare heat map visualizes 2016 rides, first look at Fairfax ridership https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/27/capital-bikeshare-heat-map-visualizes-2016-rides-first-look-fairfax-ridership/ https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/27/capital-bikeshare-heat-map-visualizes-2016-rides-first-look-fairfax-ridership/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:20:21 +0000 https://mobilitylab.org/?p=21685 Earlier this month, Mobility Lab tech advisor Michael Schade shared a look at the latest Capital Bikeshare ridership data with his new heat map. Not only does the map grant an easy way to create a more detailed look at how individual neighborhoods use bikeshare, it also includes the first few months of ridership in... Read more »

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Earlier this month, Mobility Lab tech advisor Michael Schade shared a look at the latest Capital Bikeshare ridership data with his new heat map. Not only does the map grant an easy way to create a more detailed look at how individual neighborhoods use bikeshare, it also includes the first few months of ridership in Fairfax County, which joined the system in October 2016.

A common issue with heat maps is that they do not easily allow for a nuanced view of data. Switching from the “heat map” view, which displays the spread of stations, to “weighted by trips” showcases where the majority of trips took place. In this case, the default “weighted by trips” view shows a trend that’s already well-understood with regards to the geographic spread of bikeshare trips. The vast majority of Capital Bikeshare rides take place in an area that encompasses downtown D.C., the National Mall, and Dupont Circle. Trips also gravitate toward the denser urban villages along Metro lines, such as Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

arlington cabi 2016

That behavior is shown to continue in the 2016 data, supported by the preference of Capital Bikeshare members who use the system as a way of connecting to transit.

On most heat maps, places that do not draw as many trips as those most-popular areas generally do not depict any noticeable coloring. But this visualization of Capital Bikeshare data allows users to isolate the trip visualizations by jurisdiction. Where, in the same view of downtown D.C., Arlington may only show a few trips on the R-B and Crystal City corridors, the “Arlington-only” view shows a more nuanced view of bikeshare ridership extending into the Columbia Pike area and the more suburban parts of the county.

By selecting only “Fairfax County” under the jurisdiction, it becomes more clear how the county’s first bikeshare riders used the system in the fall of last year.

fairfax trips

At the 19 stations split between Reston and Tysons, a heat map weighted by the number of trips highlights a general preference for the former, despite the three Metro stops near the Tysons bikeshare stations. It is likely that the more biking-friendly street grid in Reston Town Center is encouraging more riders there, while others are making the last-mile trek from the Wielhe-Reston station, currently the terminus of the Silver Line, to the commercial and residential center.

fairfax overdue

Trips in Fairfax weighted by overdue rides.

While the maps for “registered” and “casual” (unregistered) riders are virtually the same for both areas of Fairfax, a heatmap weighted by overdue rides suggests that riders may be taking longer, more recreational rides around the Town Center. It is also worth noting that Reston’s stations are closer to the multi-use Washington & Old Dominion trail.

Even for large jurisdictions, it’s possible for advocates and the bikeshare-curious to zoom in on the adjusted heatmap of any area they select. Using the adjustable circle and square selection tools, users can select certain parts of the system, highlighting specific areas and weighting them across multiple variables. These make the site a versatile tool for understanding how riders used Capital Bikeshare in 2016.

Are there any new insights you can spot? Let us know below in the comments.

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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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