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Tag Archive: bike infrastructure

Low-income commuters and bicycles

The following article came out about a month ago, but it’s worth a read. It’s about a preliminary study conducted in the Washington D.C. metro area, where low-income commuters were asked a series of survey questions about “mobility barriers” and how cycling fit into the overall picture:

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau offers encouraging news for cyclists: Nationally, bicycle commuting increased 61 percent between the 2000 Census and a 2008-2012 survey. But there’s considerable work to do before we bike ride into the sunset. Our research shows that in some places, the people who ride are mostly wealthy and white.

Take Washington, D.C., for example. American Community Survey data show that D.C. bicycle commuting increased an astounding 208 percent between 2000 and 2012. Yet biking to work is far less common in the lower-income areas east of the Anacostia River. Despite the recent additions of substantial cycling infrastructure, many mobility challenges remain.

The highlights are pretty interesting, even if not much of a surprise to many of the article’s commenters or anyone who follows transportation policy. Take a look at the full article by clicking here.

I have long had real concerns about the development of bike infrastructure in many cities, and have seen firsthand that a lot of new bike lanes, bike racks, and other bike-friendly amenities tend to pop up in more affluent areas and business centers. That same infrastructure rarely penetrates into lower-income neighborhoods. Despite Tampa, Florida’s poor track record with bicycle fatalities and a general disregard for two-wheeled travelers, some of the city’s main cycling thoroughfares (laned roads and ample signage) serve low-income neighborhoods within the “urban corridor”, and this was part of the design all along, not just a coincidence. This is a positive development, obviously, and I have seen similar initiatives in neighborhoods closer to where I live (suburban DC metro area). Still, the focus on developing bike infrastructure tends to be on areas that are more affluent.

Also, as the article points out, the car is still a powerful status symbol in American culture. The dream of owning a private automobile is strong among lower-income populations, and that’s a harder problem to address. So, it’s not as simple as just building bike lanes and saying, “ok, now get on your bikes and ride”. Along with that infrastructure must come tailored programs to educate people on the benefits of bicycles-as-transportation…something to break the car-centric stranglehold.

Your thoughts on this? We’d love to hear them — just hit us up in the comments below.

Growing pains in our nation’s capital

We’ve written about “bicycle backlash” before here on Bikecommuters.com — the continued friction between motorists and the growing ranks of cyclists on city streets. Some of this is happening in cities that have seen recent surges in bike infrastructure and the people using that infrastructure, including our own Washington D.C.

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been an acrimonious back-and-forth in the Washington Post consisting of editorial columns, one of which resulting in a two-wheeled protest in front of the newspaper’s offices. Here’s a good roundup from another WP columnist so you can catch up on all the action:

The great bicyclist-driver clash of Washington is so on.

Bottom line: Everyone is right. And wrong. Too many cyclists ride the streets and sidewalks like they’re above the law and own the place. Too many drivers haul around town in a ton of metal, oblivious that a careless right turn can kill someone.
As Rodney King once asked: Can we all get along?

Apparently not.

Read the rest by visiting the Washington Post page here.

Highs and lows for NOLA

Here’s an article that caught our attention the other day. Having spent many a weekend bicycling in the city of New Orleans (N’awlins, or NOLA if you prefer) long before it was really safe to do so, I’ve been watching the city’s development of infrastructure with a keen eye. They’ve got some highlights to share, but also some real bummers going on:

New Orleans is a top 10 city for bike commuting, but also ranks in the top 5 for bicycle fatalities, according to a new report. The Alliance for Biking and Walking’s recently released Benchmark Report compiled data for 52 U.S. cities. The Crescent City jumped from 10th to 8th in the number of people who biked to work. According to a repackaging of the data by Vox.com, New Orleans ranked 5th in the number of bicycle fatalities over a two year period.

According to the report, 2.3 percent of cyclists in New Orleans commute to work.

Read the full article by visiting the NOLA Defender page.

Any NOLA commuters out there who might care to comment? Let’s hear it.

Bike infrastructure = must-have for today’s cities

A couple of news items and an associated report caught our attention this week — based on a study jointly conducted by advocacy groups PeopleForBikes and the Alliance for Biking and Walking, cities simply cannot afford to go without modern bike infrastructure:

It isn’t window dressing. Or a “hip cities” thing. Bike infrastructure — not the watered-down stuff, but high-quality bikeways that get more people on bikes — is becoming a must-have for cities around the U.S.

That’s according to a new report from Bikes Belong and the Alliance for Biking and Walking. Researchers at these groups interviewed 15 business leaders from around the country about what impact bike facilities are having on their bottom line.

Read the article covering the release (including important key points) by visiting the D.C. Streetsblog page, or download the PDF report directly by clicking here. Although the report focuses its attention on protected, separated bike lanes, there are important lessons here for city planners and politicians to learn.

In any case, it’s an interesting and eye-opening read…but what I liked hearing from the report is that people who use a bike to get to and from work are smarter, healthier, and more creative. No surprises there, of course — we’re smarter and better-looking on two wheels than the average car-bound citizen!

Copenhagen’s growing pains

I’m sure you’re all aware of the tremendous cycling savvy of the people of Copenhagen, Denmark — one of the places that U.S. cities try to emulate when pushing for increased bicycle ridership. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 35% of Copenhagen’s residents use a bicycle to travel to and from work/school; contrast that with our own #1 bike city of Portland, Oregon, where only 6% of residents are bike commuters.

Copenhagen is discovering that they may have hit a “glass ceiling” when it comes to increasing the number of bike users, however.

Copenhageners are proud of their biking habits. “It’s like brushing your teeth — it’s something everyone does,” says Marie Brøndom Bay, a representative of the city’s bicycling division. But those numbers have been hard-won. And to Brøndom Bay and other city officials charged with minimizing car traffic and air pollution, and promoting public health, even a third of the populace on bikes is not nearly enough.

Greg Hanscom is in the midst of writing a short series on Grist about the city of Copenhagen and the bicycle highs and lows they are experiencing. The quote above comes from part 2, and part 1 is available by clicking here. Part 3 should be coming along soon.

The article series is a refreshing look at a city who seems to get everything right when it comes to transportational cycling, but the city has struggled at times to keep the spirit alive. Take a look at the articles; they are worth reading.