CategoryMinneapolis

Some disjointed thoughts about bike commuting rates and how we get them

  1. In November 2010, I wrote that Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, have a higher percentage of workers (16 and older) commuting to work by bicycle.
  2. Yesterday, I updated an article about how the frequency of women in Chicago bicycling to work is decreasing.
  3. Today, I started updating the November Minnesota article to include the 2007-2009 3-year estimates from the American Community Survey (which shows that bicycling to work is growing faster in Minneapolis than Chicago). View the rudimentary spreadsheet. Bottom line: MPLS jumped from 3.55% bike mode share to 4.14% and Chicago only went from 1.04% to 1.13% (but again, only counting employed people!). Can we get some recession job statistics?
  4. Unemployment rate in Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI MSA is 6.5%; Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI MSA is 9.0%. See the table on Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But now I must pause and look at what I’m analyzing.

Someone pointed out in the comments on Chicago bicycling (and working) women that the sample size is low and the margin of error high meaning it’s hard to make accurate interpretations of the change in ridership from year to year. He suggested increasing the sample size.

Add this to the fact that the Census Bureau only collects data on trips to WORK and not everywhere else that people go daily. In this recession, fewer people are working. In fact, perhaps women lost their jobs more frequently than men. That could perhaps explain the drop in women bicycling to work. To increase the number of women bicycling to work, perhaps we just need to find more jobs for women. See points 3 and 4 above for evidence on the number of people who bicycle for transportation that we’re not counting.

After thinking these things over, my point is that gauging a city’s ridership based on Census Bureau home to work data is insufficient.

If these Phoenix bike riders aren’t going to work, they aren’t being counted.

To move from a bicycle subculture to a bicycle culture, we’ll need to know when we get there. We need a better picture on who is riding and for what purpose. CMAP rarely performs their household transportation survey (which gathers data on all trips on all modes and in many counties) and when they do, they don’t single out cities. In essence, Chicago doesn’t know where or why people are riding their bicycles (except for the limited and noisy information the Census or American Community Survey provides) – we have no good data!

Both New York City, New York, and Portland, Oregon, methodically perform bicycle counts annually. Both cities also count ridership on their bridges: Portland has at least 5 to count, NYC has over 10 (also called a screenline count). They can report how many people are riding bikes on the street, blind to their trip purpose and destination. It’s easy to note changes in ridership when you count all trips over work trips.

Chicago’s first protected bike lane!

UPDATE 04-28-11: I’ve written new articles about this subject. The first is “Put the first cycle track somewhere else.” Then there’s my list of proposed protected bike lane locations.

Chicago just got its first two-way protected bike lane! And all because of a construction detour for the next 17 months!

I’m sort of joking, but sort of not.

This detour from the Lakefront Trail onto a street for 100 feet should give Chicagoans a taste for what a protected bike lane looks like, until April 2012. You can see it’s quite simple to build: shift traffic over, install K-rail concrete barriers, paint a dividing line. But what’s simple to build is not always simple to implement.

But how can we get a real one constructed?

It’s not for lack of demand. But it could be that our demand for a safer bike lane is not well known.

The Chicago Bicycle Program has “proposed” a buffered bike lane on Wells Street (by merely displaying a rendering of it on the backside of a “public meeting” handout). They have no released any further information about this. It would most likely be paid for with Alderman Reilly’s Menu Program funding. (Each alderman gets $1.3 million annually to spend at their discretion and he spent some of it on new bike lanes on Grand Avenue and Illinois Street.)

Contact the Alderman to let him know you want to be able to bike more safely on Wells Street into downtown. And make sure he and the entire Department of Transportation (CDOT; contact Commissioner Bobby Ware) know that people who ride bikes want to be involved in its design; when it comes to informing the public, CDOT has a lot of room for improvement. They could do this by being more timely in providing project updates, like the status of awarding contracts or starting construction on streetscape projects (the website lists the names and locations, but no other information). A major project missing is the Lawrence Avenue streetscape and road diet between Ashland and Western.

Other streets in Chicago are ripe for protected bike lane similar treatment. Can you suggest some places? I’ll keep a list here where we can debate the pros and cons of each location. Through an educated and data-supported campaign, we can advocate for the best locations at which protected bike lanes should be installed.

The new two-way protected bike lane in Chicago on a Lake Shore Drive offramp. More photos.

The Sands Street bikeway becomes protected as you ride closer to the Manhattan Bridge ramp. More photos of biking in New York City.

Protected bike lanes are all the rage in New York City. They have several miles of buffer and barrier separated bike lanes. Portland, Oregon, also has a diversity of protected bikeways. Minneapolis has several miles of off-street trails going to and through neighborhoods (which is why they’re key to the overall network).

How many people ride bikes in Minneapolis and St. Paul compared to Chicago?

I applied for a job on Tuesday in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (Twin Cities).

I had heard that more people, as a percentage of all commuters, commute by bike in Minneapolis and St. Paul than in Chicago and many other cities. If you’ve been reading Steven can plan for a while, you know that I visited Minneapolis in September 2009 and rented a bike for 24 hours.

I used the American FactFinder to get the details. And now I know what I heard is true.

Chicago Minneapolis St. Paul
Workers over 16 1,230,809 190,814 131,798
Ride bikes to work 12,755 6,770 1,567
Bike mode share 1.04% 3.55% 1.19%

Permalink to data results. Data from the 2006-2008 3-year American Community Survey estimates, table B08301.

Knowing these figures led me to question the nothing that Chicago is a bicycle-friendly city. If it’s so friendly to riding a bicycle, how come there aren’t more people riding their bikes to work?

One of my ideas: There are many trails criss-crossing Hennepin and Ramsey Counties that go to and through major neighborhoods and employment centers. These are essentially bike highways without the threat of a automobiles.

What’s up with bicycling in Minneapolis, part 2

Part 2 of What’s up with bicycling in Minneapolis:

  • I feel better knowing that Metro Transit has a similar bike parking problem like Metra and the Chicago Transit authority. Metro Transit doesn’t provide bike parking at the Mall of America light rail station so several bicyclists locked their bikes to the most secure object at the station: the platform handrails. Thankfully, the bicyclists had the sense to lock far away from the trains – locking to handrails can be dangerous in emergencies, and trains occasionally have emergencies. I think I know what the station designers thought when they planned (or didn’t plan) bike facilities at the Mall of America station: “Who will need to park their bike here? This is a trip destination, not origin.” Don’t underestimate the needs of bicyclists who use transit. Every station needs bike parking, no matter its location or perceived use. I imagine at least three reasons these bicyclists locked here (ask me).
  • I experienced a little shock when I finally found the Intercampus Transitway I initially viewed from Google Maps satellite view. The roadway serves exclusively bicyclists and buses traveling between the busy University of Minnesota campus and the busy State Fair (when operating). An off-street trail matches most of the length of the roadway, but I had to enter the transitway when the trail ended but the road continued. The 10 buses who passed me (the State Fair must be popular) respected my space and safety, a very appreciable behavior.
  • One of the many bridges spanning the Mississippi River connects both campuses of the University. The upper deck carries bicycle and foot traffic where bridge designers installed a completely enclosed walkway.

What’s up with bicycling in Minneapolis, part 1

I present you a synopsis on what I observed about bicycling in Minneapolis. I visited the city (surfing someone’s couch) over the Labor Day weekend, rented a bike, rode the train and spent 9 non-stop hours exploring the city.

Sorry if it seems I only noticed the off-street trails and paths. Please read my experience in two parts, part 1 below:

  • Residents like trails. Trails connect residents to suburbs, several neighborhoods, cut across the city, get bicyclists downtown, to the light rail, and help preserve open space. Many of the trails are converted railroad rights of way. Some of the railroads are still active. I liked seeing railroads and bicyclists and other trail users traveling together. I wish I had
  • Hennepin County takes care of the trails. The trails’ pavement quality and their signage exhibited supreme guardianship. The designers of the trails obviously went to great lengths to keep low the number of bicyclist-pedestrian conflicts, provided restrooms, and when most convenient for riders, made a trail carry only one-way traffic (a loop around the Lake of the Isles).
  • I enjoyed Minneapolis’s crown jewel trail: the Midtown Greenway. I liked not only how the trail stretches uninterrupted (save for one at-grade street crossing) for 5 miles, but also the respect citizens give it. The 20+ (what’s the official count?) bridges crossing the Greenway give users a neat view.
  • Minneapolis has implemented several ways to remove conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians and bicyclists and motorists. The Martin Sabo bridge over Hiawatha Avenue and the Hiawatha segment of Metro Transit’s light rail lets trail users ride continuously from trail to trail, making the connections easily, quickly and best of all safely.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

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