ARCHITECTURE: Bicycles. Planning.

From: IN%"[email protected]" "Urban Planning Discussion List" 13-AUG-1992
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To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
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Subj: Planning Bike-Friendly Cities

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Date: Tue, 11 Aug 92 08:35:58 PDT
From: Dave Snyder <[email protected]>
Subject: Planning Bike-Friendly Cities
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To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
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. . . another article about urban planning for bicycles . . .

/* Written 5:34 pm Apr 3, 1992 by davesnyder in cdp:transport */
/* ---------- "Planning Bike-Friendly Cities" ---------- */
** Planning Bicycle-Friendly Cities **

This article appeared in the summer 1992 issue of *Urban
Ecologist*, the newsletter of Urban Ecology, an urban
environmentalist organization. Their address is P.O. Box 10144,
Berkeley, CA 94709 USA.

by Stephen Wheeler

Bicycles are an ideal vehicle for cities of the future. They
don't pollute, produce greenhouse gases, waste scarce fossil
fuels, or lead to suburban sprawl. They are affordable to the
vast majority of the world's people. Perhaps most importantly,
they help create a human-scale urban environment - one in which
people rather than machines predominate and streets become
quieter, cleaner, and safer for everyone.

Unfortunately, most cities have yet to create a bicycle friendly
urban environment. Although this is particularly true in
auto-oriented nations such as the United States, Australia, and
Canada, even many European cities have a long way to go to become
truly hospitable to cyclists.

Learning how to make bicycles a viable transportation option
will be one of the challenges in creating ecologically healthy
cities. Bicycle use is growing both in the U.S. and worldwide.
According to the WorldWatch Institute, more than three times as
many bikes as cars are produced in the world each year, and the
number of bikes worldwide has grown to 800 million. Ten to 55
percent of suburban commuters in some northern European countries
use bicycles to get to local train stations. Bicycle traffic in
Berlin has tripled since 1986, and even the Dutch are planning to
increase their already-high rate of bicycle usage so that up to
40 percent of all urban trips are made by bicycle. In many Asian
cities currently, two-thirds of the vehicles on the street during
rush hour are bicycles. "Bicycle congestion" has become a
serious problem on some Chinese streets.

Even in the U.S., capital of the car culture, bike use has
increased dramatically over the past decade. Time magazine
reports that the number of bike-riding Americans grew from 72
million in 1983 to 93 million in 1991. Some 3.5 percent of U.S.
residents commute to work at least occasionally by bicycle,
according to the Bicycle Institute of America - a sharp increase
from 1.5 percent in 1983.

One reason for this rise in bicycle popularity, in western
countries at least, appears to be the advent of easy-to-ride
mountain bikes in the 1980s. These now account for more than half
of North American bicycle sales, and mountain bikes are invading
Europe as well. However, a more important reason for rising
bicycle usage, both in the U.S. and worldwide, may well be
mounting frustration with automobile congestion, as well as the
rapidly rising costs of car ownership. Many people simply find it
easier and more pleasant to use bicycles for short in-town trips,
while others cannot afford cars or gas. In the developing world
particularly, automobiles have never been an option for most
people.

Considering the lack of attention to bicycles in U.S. urban
planning, it is a wonder that any Americans ride them at all.
Congested, unsafe streets in most cities frighten away would-be
cyclists. Low-density, segregated-use development patterns create
enormous distances between the destinations one might bicycle to
in the course of everyday life - homes, shops, schools, work
places, and recreational facilities. Bikeways have generally been
an afterthought for planners, and little funding has been
available for bicycle paths or other improvements.

Still, a modest effort to make U.S. cities more bicycle friendly
could have enormous results even now. According to a recent
Harris poll commissioned by Bicycling magazine, 20 percent of
Americans said that they would commute to work by bicycle if safe
bike lanes were available. Large numbers also said they would
commute more if employers offered financial incentives for
biking, if showers and bike storage facilities were available at
work, or if gas prices rose substantially.

Making a city bicycle-friendly involves a number of common-sense
steps, most of which are extremely cheap when compared with
automobile-related expenditures. Some of these initiatives
include:

-- Creating wide, safe bike lanes on city streets (lanes should
be at least 6-7 feet wide to make most cyclists, feel safe), or
if possible separate bike paths apart from city streets;

-- Adopting "traffic calming" measures where necessary to slow
and reduce traffic on bike streets;
-- Ensuring decent pavement quality and maintenance along bike
routes;

-- Modifying road hazards like drain grates and railroad
crossings to be safer for bicyclists;
-- Removing excessive stop signs along bike route streets to
speed bike traffic, while slowing auto traffic with filters,
diverters, and other devices;

-- Installing good bike parking at work places, public
buildings, and commercial areas;

-- Providing good signs, maps, and educational materials for
cyclists;

-- Supplying shower facilities at work for bike commuters; and

-- Providing financial incentives for employees to bike to work
instead of driving.

University cities such as Eugene, Oregon; Madison, Wisconsin;
and Davis and Palo Alto in northern California have generally
been in the forefront of U.S. bike planning.

In Palo Alto, a three-mile long ''bike boulevard" runs the
length of the city, with several vehicle filters eliminating
automobile traffic on this street while allowing bicycles to pass
through. A 1983 Palo Alto ordinance also requires that secure
bicycle parking and showers for employees, included in new
buildings larger than a certain size.

In Davis, 30 miles of bike lanes have been created on the city's
100 miles of street, with an additional 20 miles of separate bike
paths also built. A bicycle bridge conveys one bike path over a
six-lane expressway, while an additional bicycle bridge is
planned to eventually span a nearby interstate.

Eugene, a city of 105,000, began planning its bike program in
1970 when a far-sighted mayor and city manager established a
Bicycle Committee of city staff and interested citizens. Though
the staff members were initially skeptical, citizen activists
developed an ambitious bikeway plan which was then refined with
the help of outside consultants. Funding to implement the plan
was patched together from a variety of sources, with the City
Council contributing $75,000 a year. The city hired a Bicycle
Coordinator, and by 1981 had constructed 70 miles of bikeways.
Traffic counts showed that bicycle use had increased 76 percent
by 1978, and that the new on street bike lanes somewhat reduced
accidents involving bicycles.

Elsewhere in the world, other nations have been able to take
much more radical steps to enourage bicycle usage. China has
constructed bicycle avenues up to six lanes wide. The Dutch and
Germans have used a variety of innovated "traffic calming"
designs to slow and reduce automobile traffic on bike streets.
Legislation in Japan has helped created enough bike parking for
2.4 million bikes, including some multi-storied bicycle parking
structures with automated cranes to lift bikes. Japanese
automobile registration fees of up to $1,000 a year also help
encourage use of alternatives such as bicycles. The Netherlands
spent $230 million between 1975 and 1985 to build bicycle
facilities, and now spends on bike projects more than 10 percent
of what it spends on highways.

In the U.S. Congress, a bill introduced in 1991 by Rep. Joe
Kennedy (D-MA) calls for three percent of federal highway dollars
to be spent on bicycle facilities. Though this is unlikely to
pass, other proposed legislation seeks to increase federal bike
funding as well. State funds are increasingly available for bike
projects. Meanwhile, activists in many cities are working to
create bike paths and to convert unused railroad rights-of-way
into bike trails.

Around the world, creating ecocities will mean moving away from
automobiles and the auto-dependent pattern of suburban sprawl
toward compact, mixed-use urban centers in which walking,
bicycling, and good public transit become preferred methods of
transportation. Some streets will need to be designated as
bicycle, pedestrian, or transit priority routes. Market
incentives to use non-automobile transportation will need to be
increased, while cars are assessed their true environmental and
social costs. Patterns of development will need to gradually
change so that people are able to easily walk or ride to most
daily locations or to good public transit. Though the whole
process will take time, such steps can help create truly
bicycle-friendly cities.

<<Stephen Wheeler is a board member of Urban Ecology and
co-founder of the Berkeley Bikeways Coalition.>>
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