Tagadvocacy

Dealing with the four-wheeled foe

My comment on the Streetfilms post. 

First, Streetfilms’s Clarence Eckerson posts a video showing Mazda’s support for the movie “Lorax”, which is based on the Dr. Seuss book about destroying the environment.

Then, I commented on Bikes Belong’s partnership with Volkswagen that was announced almost a month ago but I had just found the news yesterday.

It’s about as crappy as Bikes Belong partnering with Volkswagen.
In January 2012 they announced a “two-year partnership to help develop biking-friendly communities, foster healthy lifestyles and create a cleaner environment.”
I thought Volkswagen’s job was to market its cars, but it seems now it will market its goodwill which must have a calculable impact on increased car sales.

Bike Portland and road.cc both wrote about it. One commenter, Hart Noecker, wrote on Bike Portland:

Agreed. They recognize their oncoming irrelevance and are trying to re-image their brand while still promoting unsustainable automobiles that incentivize McStripmall sprawl.

And “9watts” replied:

As someone who has long felt that VW offered some of the most fuel efficient cars available, and was therefore to be lauded, patronized, etc. I’m inclined to agree with Hart. VW is really good at selling cars, and their commitment to fuel economy (which is a far cry from what we need now: a phaseout of car-dom, which isn’t going to come from the car industry anymore than a phaseout of coal consumption is going to come from the electric utilities) is only skin deep.

Crumbs for bikes, and a slick PR move that might even help them sell more cars. Never underestimate the middle class’s eagerness to swallow feel-good nostrums.

Today it seems the pact is getting attention again, brought to the forefront by the Mazda + Lorax (Universal films) deal – at least among a few people I follow on Twitter. Hopefully for its inanity. Car manufacturers, the bull in the china shop as Mikael of Copenhagenize talks about it, have been shutting down bicycles as a mode of transportation for decades. They’ve even thrown support behind making jaywalking criminal.

The Volkswagen deal with Bikes Belong is nothing more than buying goodwill. If there was a store for companies looking to improve their environmentally friendly image, partnerships with cycling advocacy organizations would be in aisle one.

As they are a company interested in making money by selling cars, I’d like someone to help me understand if there are any other reasons they should promote cycling (which they admit reduces congestion and lowers a traveler’s impact on the environment). Maybe they want to start selling bikes?

Car culture is carnage culture. The way out is a balanced transportation system that focuses the highest investments into sustainable and efficient modes, and one that educates system users on the costs and benefits of each mode, for every trip. Photo by ATOMIC Hot Links.

Too much talking, not enough documenting

I took this photo for several reasons: to show a sidewalk reconstruction project that forces people to walk in the street; to show that people bicycling will advance from where I took this photo to the location across Grand Avenue to get a “head start” on cycling across Halsted Street to Milwaukee Avenue. 

Or doing.

I talk to a lot of people about cycling in Chicago and they’ve good stories to share. Stories about positive experiences they’ve had, about negative experiences, or of problems they’ve seen others encounter. I always encourage people to do something about this experience. My advice almost always involves them documenting it in some way; things like reporting a bike crash to the police, even afterwards, or taking a photo of a major pothole. I might suggest they write down their thoughts to share privately with close friends. Or it might be as simple as calling 311 to report an abandoned bike.*

There are lots of things that we want to change. Keeping track of what they are can help focus energy on making that change happen. (That’s why I carry my camera with me at all times outside my home.) One way I’ve started to document and share is by writing about the good and “needs improvement” parts of Chicago transportation on my new blog, Grid Chicago.

If you cycle in Chicago, I implore you to attend the Streets for Cycling planning meetings – the first one is December 10th – so you can express your concerns and desires. There are one hundred other ways to be involved in supporting a change in Chicago, and I might be able to link you one you’re interested in.

Note: The CTA has started several online efforts to collect feedback from and communicate with customers, but they’ve always collected feedback through their email address, [email protected], where they always respond. These new efforts are Facebook, Budget Ideas, and Twitter.

Let’s do this for bike crashes: I guess I’ll start a bike crash documentation project right now (January 5, 2012). Write up a report and share me a link, or leave a comment on one of these pages:

Another person bicycles across Grand Avenue to get that head start. 

*These are all things I do, but I encourage everyone to think creatively and do what interests them.

Lawyer Jim’s bike light recommendation

At Monday’s Moving Design meeting, Lawyer Jim Freeman spoke about bicycling, bike crashes, and the law.

“Be conspicuous” is half his motto. (I forgot the other half.)

During Q&A, I asked Jim, “If I had $20 to buy a bike light, which one should I buy?”

Jim had no trouble answering that bicyclists should have something at least as capable as the Planet Bike Beamer 3. I agree. It has three LEDs, comes with batteries, has a flashing mode, is easy to mount on your handlebars, and really costs just $20. Ride legally at night in the State of Illinois with it!

I’m a huge fan of Planet Bike products, as you’ll see on my bicycle product reviews page.

More information

Bike to work week now, but what about next week?

Groupon mentioned on its blog that 126 employees rode to their Chicago office Monday.

Since the city has a goal of having 5% of trips under 5 miles by bicycle*, how do we ensure those same 126 employees ride their bike next week? Or tomorrow even!

With more of this:

A protected bike lane on Kinzie Street. These have been shown to reduce the number of crashes as well as slow down car traffic.

And some of this:

A family riding their bikes on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, New York City. This bikeway is unique because it has both directions and is protected from traffic by parked cars. Photo by Elizabeth Press.

We’ll also need some left turn bays for bicyclists:

This will help cyclists make safer left turns across intersections. As seen in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Then we’ll see this:

Happy people riding together in our neighborhoods. With lights at night, for sure.

Oh, we’ll probably need additional bike parking, like this station at Amsterdam Zuid station (think Chicago’s Union Station or New York City’s Penn Station):

Free, underground, double-decker bike parking.

*We’re probably somewhere between 0.5% and 1.5% (of trips under 5 miles by bike). No data’s actually available on this; not for the baseline year of 2006 and most likely will not be available for the goal year, 2015.

Let’s keep talking about protected bike lanes

Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as mayor on May 16th, 2011.

On page 36 of the Chicago 2011 Transition Report (PDF) is a 100-day deadline for IDENTIFYING the first two miles of protected bike lanes.

That 100-day deadline is August 24, 2011.

You’ve read about my thoughts on CDOT’s plan for a Stony Island cycle track, my list of 13 locations for protected bike lanes (like Clybourn and Grand Avenues), and now Alderman Moreno’s F-bomb about parking preventing a protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue through Wicker Park.

And the latest news comes from Alderman Maldonado and the 26th Ward offices’s partnership with Humboldt Park Advisory Council, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, and the Active Transportation Alliance. At this meeting on Wednesday night, the consultant, Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE), presented its proposals to make the street network in and surrounding the park safer, mainly by creating pedestrian refuge islands, protected bike lanes, and slowing car traffic.  I never blogged about the Chicago Department of Transportation’s plan to calm traffic on the north-south Humboldt Drive, but John Greenfield discussed this road diet. To the disappointment of some residents, including myself, the road diet will not include any bike facilities, especially not this two-way cycle track I designed.

SSE displayed proposals for protected bike lanes and a road diet on a future version of Humboldt Drive from Palmer Square to Augusta Boulevard, and on Division Street between California Avenue and Central Park Avenue. I asked if they will share their slideshow online.

This is how some people voted. There were four identical poster boards. It’s up to SSE to count the votes. As you can see, because of the differing dollar amounts, votes are weighted. I put $50 on one and $30 on another ($20+$10).


This design will not be happening, nor will any bikeway appear on this street because “it doesn’t connect with the bikeway network.” But there’s a bike lane on Augusta Boulevard just two blocks south of Division Street! It’s a bad excuse. People ride on streets without bikeways all the time.

WE HAVE TO KEEP TALKING ABOUT THIS ISSUE.

A smarter marathon

What if you could use your smartphone to identify runners in a marathon, get their stats and home country, know why they’re running and donate to their cause?

It’s another idea from the geniuses at the School of the Art Institute’s “Living in a Smart City” class with professor George Aye.

Other ideas in this project included using a new kind of tracking method that pings your spectating family and friends about your current or upcoming location so they can more easily find you. Or grouping runners into “pods” at the end so runners can meet their parties at the end of the race, saving time and eliminating the need to get to a phone.

More evidence of your bicycling culture transition

Low numbers of people in “your” cycling organizations and advocacy groups. From the comments on “Why I’m not a ‘cyclist’ anymore,” a story about moving from a bicycle subculture (United States) to bicycle culture (Copenhagen):

In Amsterdam, 700,000(?) people cycle, only 4,000 are member of the Fietsersbond (cyclist’s union). We always explain this comparing it to the non-existing vacuum-cleaners union. Everybody owns and uses a vacuum cleaner, no-one feels the urge to unite themselves around this.

People riding their bicycles in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The power of the letter

If you want something changed, chances are you’re going to have to write to someone about it.

I wanted a few things changed last year. I first wanted Dominick’s (Safeway) to install a bike rack at their store after they removed the shopping cart gates (which was doing a decent job of serving as bike parking). If you follow the blog, you saw the positive results from my letter to the CEO. When you want something done and you need someone else to do it, the first step is to tell someone (like calling 311 to report a pothole). But even that has its own prerequisites: You have to know what to say and who to say it to.

A friend and I wanted a bike lane “pinch point” removed from Halsted just north of the 16th Street BNSF viaduct that separates University Village and Pilsen. It wasn’t just us who wanted it out, though. We talked to our friends and I talked to some bike shop employees – they were aware of the issue and supported its removal.

It’s in the 25th Ward – my friend lives in the 25th Ward but at the time I lived in the 11th Ward). So he sent a letter explicitly and calmly describing the problem and a proposed solution to Alderman Danny Solis (now in a runoff against Cuahutemoc Morfin), cc’ing Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Ben Gomberg, coordinator of the Bicycle Program.

Demonstrating the pinch point. Not as dramatic as it is when there’s a bus or semi-truck or when the driver doesn’t drive as far to the left.

A before and after photo showing where cars could legally park and now where they cannot. The City added a tow zone sign next to the “no left turn” sign to mostly eliminate the pinch point at the start of the bike lane.

“Fast” service

The letters were mailed on October 13, 2010. The sign was installed on or before December 13, 2010. The change was felt immediately. Drivers simply stopped parking their cars in the newly created tow zone and the bike lane and this part of Halsted Street became just a little bit more pleasant to use – so thank you, Alderman Solis!

I’m finally writing this blog to tell you about the experience on March 4, 2011. Sorry – I got delayed!

I value photography

I’ve made photography a very important feature of this blog. The photos help me tell the story. I spend an equal time taking and processing photos for the blog as I do writing it. I take over 200 photos each week. When I travel, I take 1,000 photos. Of 5,814 published photos, almost 64% have been added to the map, bringing more context to the subject and allowing it to be discovered geographically.

I think photography (and photos) is an important aspect of quality urban planning. When talking to the public and trying to get across your ideas, photos and other graphics make a vision come to life. They demonstrate what is and what could be. The right photo will invoke, without prompting, passion and enthusiasm – support you might need. The wrong photo may do the opposite, or have no effect at all. Take as many photos as needed so you ensure they will intimate the feelings you need for your project, or story.

What’s the story here? It could be several things. Simply, that it snowed recently. Or complexly, that while growth in this area has been phenomenal and immediately recognizable (most of the visible buildings starting at the blue-topped one and going south did not exist 10 years ago), our 100 year-old electric interurban train still runs.

I take photos for two reasons: to share on my blog, and to share them publicly, worldwide so that anyone who needs a photo can find it. A variety of my photos have been used to narrate events and ideas in organizational publications (with and without attribution), websites, and even a book!

I want my readers to take photography seriously. I don’t want you to be discouraged by that term, either. Don’t think you need a good camera or know how to take good pictures. Begin today and take one photo per day for a year. In one year, you will be an extremely proficient photographer (or “picture taker”). You’ll be able to tell your story, without a caption, in little time.

Read more about my photographic arsenal:

This photo tells us about the practice of designing malls, and designing malls for dense cities (like Chicago, where it’s located). The escalators are designed to get you in fast, but getting out requires a bit more walking.

Frequency of Chicago women riding their bikes to work is down

UPDATE: I added data from years 2005-2007 to complement existing 2008-2009 data in Table 1 as well as a visual representation. I have also added data from the 3-year estimates to Table 2.

UPDATE 01/20/11: Added the most recent 3-year estimate that the Census Bureau released in January 2011 to Table 2.

In September 2009, I wrote about “what the Census tells us about bicycle commuting” and a couple of days ago I compared Chicago to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

I want to update readers on the changes between the 1-year estimate data reported in that article (from 2008) and the most recent 1-year estimate data (from 2009). Percentages represent workers in the City of Chicago aged 16 and older riding bicycles to work.

Table 1 – Bicycling to work, 16 and older, 1-year estimates

Year Total MOE Male MOE Female MOE
2005 0.7% +/-0.1 0.9% of 621,537 +/-0.2 0.4% of 541,013 +/-0.1
2006 0.9% +/-0.2 1.2% of 645,903 +/-0.3 0.7% of 563,219 +/-0.2
2007 1.1% +/-0.2 1.4% of 656,288 +/-0.3 0.7% of 574,645 +/-0.2
2008 1.0% +/-0.2 1.5% of 657,101 +/-0.3 0.5% of 603,640 +/-0.2
2009 1.1% +/-0.2 1.8% of 651,394 +/-0.3 0.4% of 620,350 +/-0.1

View graph of Table 1. MOE = margin of error, in percentage points.

We should be concerned about the possible decrease in the percentage of women riding bicycles to work, especially as the population size increased. The margin of error also decreased, thus suggesting an improvement in the accuracy of the data. There have already been many discussions (mine, others) as to why it is important to encourage women to ride bicycles and also what the woman cycling rate tells us about our cities and policies. If the decrease continues we must discover the causes.

But Table 1 doesn’t tell the full story.

As Matt points out in the comments below, the number of surveys returned for 1-year estimates is smaller than that from the Decennial Census. Therefore, I took a look at the two 3-year estimates available, each having a larger sample size than the 1-year estimates (see Table 2). The data below seem to show the opposite change than seen in Table 1: that the number of women bicycling to work has increased. The crux of our quandary is sample size. The sample size is the number of people who are asked, “How did this person usually get to work LAST WEEK?”

Table 2 – Bicycling to work, 16 and older, 3-year estimates

Click header for data source 2005-2007 2006-2008 2007-2009
Total workers 1,203,063 1,230,809 (+2.31%) 1,291,709 (+4.71%)
Males bicycling to work 7,549 9,014 (+19.41%) 11,014 (+18.16%)
Females bicycling to work 3,474 3,741 (+7.69%) 3,542 (-5.62%)

The number of discrete females who bike to work has decreased in the most recent survey (2007-2009) while the total number of workers 16 and older has increased, giving females bicycling to work a smaller share than the previous survey (2006-2008). We must be careful to also note the margin of error for females bicycling to work is ±499.

Matt suggested that sustainable transportation advocates “push for higher sampling” to reduce “data noise” and increase the accuracy of how this data represents actual conditions. I agree – I’d also like more data on all trips, and not just those made to go to work. Household travel surveys attempt to reveal more information about a region’s transportation.

One of the two overall goals of the Bike 2015 Plan is “to increase bicycle use, so that 5 percent of all trips less than five miles are by bicycle.” Unfortunately, the Plan doesn’t provide baseline data for this metric, but we can make some inferences (there will probably be no data for this in 2015, either). The CMAP Household Travel Survey summary from 2008 says that the mean trip distance (for all trips) for Cook County households is 4.38 miles (under five miles). The same survey says that for all trips, 1.3% were taken by bike. These can be our metrics. *See below for men/women breakdown. Note that no data for “all trips” exists for the City of Chicago.

We will not achieve the Bike 2015 Plan goal unless we do something about the conditions that promote and increase bicycling. Achieving the goals in the Bike 2015 Plan is not one group or agency’s responsibility. The Plan should be seen as a manifestation of what can and should be done for bicycling in Chicago and we all have a duty to promote its objectives.

Please leave a comment below for why you think the rate of women who bike to work has stayed flat and decreased, or what you think we can do to change this. Does it have to do with the urban environment, or are the reasons closer to home?

*The same survey also said: Cook County males used the bike for 1.9% of all trips. Cook County females used the bike for 0.8% of all trips.

Table 1 data comes from the 1-year estimates from the American Community survey, table S0801, Commuting Characteristics by Sex for the City of Chicago (permalink), which is a summary table of data in table B08006. Table 2 data directly from American Community Survey table B08006.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑