TagBike 2015 Plan

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.

Commuting rates in Chicago – a conversation

I had this conversation last night with a friend from Chicago. Enjoy. Data is from the American Community Survey, Table S0801. If you were to rate how much we bike, from a “typical Chicagoan’s” point of view, he would be “eccentric” and I would be “psychotic.”

Photo by Joshua Koonce.

Me
A friend of mine in Europe asked for bicycle commuting statistics for Chicago.
Man, the numbers were sad.

Friend
No shit.

Me
if we look at the 3-year estimates for work trips, then it’s
-2005-2007: 0.9%
-2006-2008: 1.0
-2007-2009: 1.1

Friend
Chicago is also a gigantic, sprawling modern city of hundreds of square miles and wide roads designed for masses of cars.

Me
And if we look at the 1-year estimates, which Matt argued on my blog are useless, it’s
-2005: 0.7%
-2006: 0.9
-2007: 1.1
-2008: 1.0
-2009: 1.1
The 3-year estimate has a MOE of ±0.1 so essentially, it could mean no change from year to year.
And the 1-year estimate has a MOE of ±0.2, so again, it could mean no change from year to year
UGH

Friend
Comparatively, old European cities don’t have a lot of bandwidth for autos and have density where people take short trips.
That’s still probably two or three times the distance people in Copenhagen or Cambridge or Amsterdam.

Me
So let’s say 50% of trips are 5 miles or less, and 25% of trips are 2.5 miles or less.
Yet 1% of all trips are taken by bike
If we could just DOUBLE that, it would be a miracle
The Bike 2015 Plan’s goal is to have 5% of all trips under 5 miles by bike.

Friend
That’s an ambitious goal.

Me
We don’t have any baseline data to show how many trips under 5 miles in 2006, at the inception of the Bike 2015 Plan, are by bike. In the end, we’ll never know if our ambitious goal was attained!

Measuring gas prices and bicycling trips

From the Chicago Tribune: Gas prices continued to rise Monday, driven higher for nearly two weeks straight by the turmoil in Libya, with analysts expecting prices to keep climbing.

Active Transportation Alliance asks, “How can we make the gas price bubble permanent?” -Essentially the same topic I write about below.

I was thinking ever since I first read in the Chicago newspapers that gas will hit $4 per gallon this year (it already has in the City) that there’s a relationship between the price of gas and the number of people on bicycling or the number of trips people make on their bicycles.

As the price of gas rises, so does the number of people out bicycling on the streets. As the price of gas falls, bicycling declines as well.

Chart from GasBuddy.com showing average gas prices in Chicago for the past 3 years.

The data available to us doesn’t necessarily support this hypothesis, but the data available* is nearly worthless. Gas prices were over $4 per gallon in 2008. That was when Chicago started seeing tons of people on the street on their bicycles. The local Fox News affiliate interviewed Mike Amsden, a city planner at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), about the bike counts (first in five years) in a news segment about the influence of $4.65 and a “major peak, almost 350% in pedal pushers this year.”

Several newspapers published articles about the palpable increase in cycling, including a Time Out issue called “Bike Love” with messenger Jeff Perkins on the cover and interviewing 7 local cyclists inside. All of them published “how to get out and ride”-type articles. But despite the many new riders on the street in 2008, few came back the next year!

This graphic describes my point about gas prices up, bike trips up; gas prices down, bike trips down (but perhaps ending at a rate a little higher than where it started).

2009 came and the gas prices dropped – the modern heyday of Chicago cycling was gone. 2008 saw the highest numbers at 2 of 3 locations also counted in 2003, although the difference in study months makes the comparison suspect. I hope that 2011 is the start of annual and accurate counts of bicycling in Chicago.

But it’s reasonable to expect that some of the new people riding their bikes instead of taking expensive car trips will stick with it the following year, even as gas prices decline. Let’s keep these riders bicycling year after year, encouraging more to stay on the bike path than would normally otherwise with strategies like more urban-appropriate infrastructure (separated and protected bike lanes; secure bike parking at workplaces and train stations; traffic calming/slower traffic) as well as enforcement of laws that protect cyclists.

Let’s concentrate less on the “insane”  numbers of people cycling on Milwaukee Avenue at Ohio Street (3,121 bikes on September 15, 2009) and more on how to raise the number of people cycling on our other streets. Milwaukee Avenue doesn’t need anymore attention (except for its intersections). Getting people off Milwaukee and safely and efficiently onto east-west and north-south routes should be the priority. -Photo shows Halsted/Grand/Milwaukee, just 300 feet southeast of the Ohio count location.

*Available data

The American Community Survey (ACS) 3-year estimate for 2006-2008 tells us that 1.0% of working Chicagoans 16+ took their bikes to work (nevermind the tinny sample size that makes this data near worthless – it’s the only thing we have*). The 3-year estimate before (2005-2007) says 0.9% took their bikes to work. Not much of a peak or increase! For 2007-2009, the data shows 1.1% cycled to work.

Also ignore the fact that the ACS only asks about the mode you spent the most distance on. It does not collect data on multi-mode trips. So if you bike 3 miles to the train and the train is 30 miles to your destination, the ACS would only record “public transportation.”

Emanuel releases plan for safe bicycling in Chicago. I reconsider.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention in the original post that Rahm gave a press conference on Sunday at Rapid Transit Cycleshop in Wicker Park (the bike shop doesn’t endorse any candidate for mayor). More photos from the event here and here.

Before Sunday, January 30th, 2011, when candidate for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel released details of his plans for bicycling in Chicago, I was a big fan of Miguel Del Valle (read my earlier posts).

I was excited by what he included and it made me think that someone’s been to New York City recently (or knows someone else who did), or Rahm watched Randy Neufeld talk about ten great ways to make bicycling great in Chicago.

So what does Rahm say? (Specifics in bold.)

  • Chicago lags behind many other cities in the rate of new bike lanes each year and providing bike parking in buildings. – Yep, check San Francisco, Portland, and New York City.
  • He will build 25 miles of new bike lanes each year and prioritize protected bike lanes. Great, Chicago will finally catch up on this sought-after bikeway over 12 years after one was installed in Davis, California. New York City installed several miles of this (“cycletrack”) in Manhattan in 2008 and continue today.

New York City’s first protected bike lane, or cycletrack, on 9th Avenue in Manhattan’s west side. Will Rahm’s administration install something like this in Chicago before 2015?

  • “…initiate a review of [the Bike 2015 Plan’s] goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.” Right on. This needs to be done so we know our progress.
  • “…create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.” Hey, that’s exactly what Randy said: Make bicycling for everyone, “from 8 to 80.”
  • Rahm will have the Bloomingdale Trail open and functional by the end of his term. The abandoned, elevated rail line promises to be an important part of the bikeway network, but also a neat recreational facility.

The Bloomingdale Trail is an elevated railroad viaduct (at 1800 North) running from Lawndale Avenue east to Ashland Avenue (possible to Elston Avenue). It is just under 3 miles of uninterrupted, car-free transportation for people walking and bicycling. Photo by Kasey D.

  • Make an ordinance that says buildings with over 200 workers must install indoor bike parking. More than their desire for workplace showers, people who bicycle to work (or are considering it) want a secure place to store their bike for 8+ hours.
  • Double the number of on-street bike parking, including in neighborhoods. This is another point Randy made – there must be a place to park one’s bike at home!

There are many opportunities in Chicago to install bike parking for neighbors. Not everyone can fit their bike inside or bring it up to the fifth floor. Bike parking could occupy a section of a wide parkway, or be in the street, providing space for 16 bikes where only 1 car can fit. Photo by Jonathan Maus.

So far, no other candidate for mayor has released such a detailed and specific plan to include bicycles as a part of Chicago’s transportation system.

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.

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