TagMinneapolis

Chicago may get its first on-street bike parking corral today

Well, it won’t actually be built or open for “business” today.

The Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA (#33) will vote Tuesday at 7 PM on a motion (PDF) on whether or not to spend $4,000 to pay CDOT to install the city’s first on-street bike parking corral on Milwaukee near Damen in front of the Flat Iron building in Alderman Moreno’s 1st Ward. I plan to attend the meeting.

This location will serve Bank of America customers, Debonair clubgoers, and artists and gallery visitors at the the Flat Iron Arts Building. Note that the bike parking would be paid for by the Special Service Area’s revenue, which comes from taxing businesses in the district.

This won’t be the first bike parking corral in Illinois – that honor probably goes to Oak Park, a village east of Chicago. And it won’t be the first in the Midwest. Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, and Milwaukee will have beat us. In fact, Milwaukee’s first bike parking corral opened last Friday, May 6, 2011, in front of an Alterra café.

See list of cities around the world with bike parking corrals.

Oak Park’s on-street bike parking corral at 719 South Blvd., next to David A. Noyes Company and Anthony Lullo’s hair designs. I probably wouldn’t have selected this location, but it’s also across the street from the Oak Park Green Line station, so it can serve as overflow parking. Notice that at least 12 bicycles can park in the same space a car can park.

Milwaukee’s first on-street bike parking corral at 2211 N. Prospect Ave.,  designed by Chris Socha of The Kubala Washatko Architects and fabricated by Ryan Foat, Principal of Oxbow Studio. Photo by Dave Reid of UrbanMilwaukee.com.

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.

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.

Whose light rail train do you prefer?

In just one year, I’ve traveled to the grand opening for the Phoenix Valley’s (Arizona) first light rail line, visited the light rail lines in Salt Lake City, Utah, (opened before the 2002 Winter Olympics), and took the Megabus to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to check out the Hiawatha light rail. My devotion to monorail is unphased, but in the United States we build monorail lines at a rate of one per decade. To get my train fix, I ride light rail trains around the country. Each of the systems I mentioned uses rolling stock from different manufacturers.

Here you get to pick the best looking cars:

Kinki-Sharyo, a manufacturer from Japan. LF LRV (low floor light rail vehicle).

A Valley Metro train waiting at the Roosevelt/Central Avenue station in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 28, 2009, for the grand opening festivities. Kinki-Shary makes many commuter and shinkansen trains for Japan.

Bombardier, a Canadian builder. Flexity Swift car.

The Metro Transit Hiawatha line (route 55) travels northbound along the Hiawatha corridor multi-use path, approaching 24th Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Siemens, a German company. SD-100 or SD-160 car.

UTA’s TRAX light rail in the Salt Lake City valley operates trains from the Canadian-originated Urban Transportation Development Corporation (now part of Bombardier) and Siemens SD-100 series trains. The UTDC trains have butterfly doors (like some cars on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line); an example from TRAX.

Tuesday roundup: Getting around

These are the posts about “getting around” I found interesting today. Blogs and the links to the referenced articles are in bold.

“Nowhere does transportation happen for transportation’s sake.” – Professor DiJohn, UIC.

Discovering Urbanism

Have you ever noticed from an elevated train or an airplane the dirt paths and small trails through parks and vacant lots? Like water and electricity, people travel the path of least resistance, with or without a dedicated facility. (Is that why flooding’s so difficult to control?) In the most recent “Google Earth Travelogue,” Discovering Urbanism points out the innumerable walking paths in the quarter mile park or mall between two highways and building corridors in Brasilia, the master planned capital of Brasil. Selected quotes:

I added this comment about how planners can use this “route choice theory” (path of least resistance) to determine where to install paths for bicyclists: “Where should cities build bikeways? Where people want them. And how might we figure where people go, aside from a stated answer survey, we could tag 1,000 random bicyclists with GPS and track where they go. It would probably give us an image like the second one in your post: with yellow lines criss-crossing the city’s street network.”

Jennifer Dill’s study of Portland, Oregon, bicyclists did just that! She asked, “How does the built environment influence bicycling behavior; and what routes did they take?” The project wasn’t used to determine where routes should be built, but how existing routes affect trips. I think the same data the project collected could also be used to answer my question, “Where should cities build bikeways?”

Human Transit

The City of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is in the midst of a major transportation upgrade in downtown. They’re converting one-way streets to two way streets with bike lanes and off-peak parking. What a way to “unlock downtown,” says Human Transit.

And they tripled bus capacity on new transit malls with two regular travel lanes in one direction, and two bus-only lanes in the opposite direction. The malls also mixing in staggered bus stops, or groups of stops targeted at a specific area of the city, making “service more legible.” Selected quotes:

  • “…every bus was as slow as the slowest bus.”
  • “Doubling the width triples the capacity.”

I visited Minneapolis in September to explore the Midtown Greenway and Hiawatha light rail. I also rode my rental bike through downtown to get a feel for how another Midwestern city’s downtown lives.

The Transport Politic

Dubai seems to grab way more headlines than its Persian Gulf neighbor, Qatar. But Qatar, with the fastest growing economy on Earth, has decided rail (both passenger and freight) infrastructure is a “crucial element to economic viability.” Some might say the Dubai Metro heavy rail transit line is too late to battle congestion (Reuters). Can Qatar avoid the same fate?

The plan the Qatari government signed with Germany’s Deutsche Bahn is ambitious: “The project will incorporate 180 miles of local light and metro rail for Doha city center, rapidly expanding public transportation offerings for what is now a car-centric place.” Selected quotes:

  • “Deutsche Bahn is laying its reputation — and its money — on the line for this project, which will be its largest-ever foreign investment.”
  • “If a country is defined by the spending it commits to its future, the U.S. is falling behind rapidly.”

I don’t think the United States will start comparing itself it to any Middle Eastern country anytime soon – many in this country still think Iraq was involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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.

Midtown Greenway at Chicago Avenue in MPLS

Open space advocates and planners should investigate the development, design, and construction of the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Greenway opened up acres of green space to residents, and created new spaces, like this ramp to the multi-use trail between Chicago and 11th Avenues.

Sorry, I won’t do the research for you, because the bicycling facilities component of the multi-use trail and corridor interest me more. Start here: http://www.midtowngreenway.org/

I will continue sharing photos of my trip to “trail city.”

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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