92% of students in new survey say there’s a need for safer streets for people on bikes
After the traffic deaths of Susan Hicks, Carol Christine Williamson, and Henry Walker last Fall, Kyle Bloser knew that he wanted to become more involved in advocacy. As a triathlete and daily commuter, Bloser is an experienced cyclist who has had a number of close calls with drivers in Oakland. “Too many cars and nowhere to go if there is a problem,” he surmised.
A data-gathering project for a senior course at Pitt turned out to be just that opportunity. When he and group member Sylvie Krause connected over their commuting woes, an idea for a student survey on how to improve safety for people on bikes came together. “BikePGH was a big part of my initial thought process because I knew how much they had done and continue to do for the city in terms of bike culture and safety,” he said. “I wanted to help any way that I could.”
Recently there’s been a cluster of independent efforts by local organizations and enterprising individuals to bring data to bear on our transportation challenges. In the past year, for instance, we’ve seen the advent of Healthy Ride’s data reports and the visualizations resulting from them, survey drives from neighborhood bicycle & pedestrian groups, Envision Downtown’s Public Space Public Life surveys, and smartphone-assisted speed monitoring on Forbes. Dovetailing with an official turn towards open data, City Planning organized the first city-wide bicycle/pedestrian count. Call it a “small data” approach to our streets: community-driven, ad hoc, and scaled toward specific neighborhood issues.
The Pitt-based survey conducted by Bloser and Krause in Fall 2015 is the latest front. The organizers wanted to gauge attitudes from the general student population rather than those already connected to bike culture, so they collected response data from street interviews and emailed questionnaires. They gathered 194 responses from students, three-quarters of whom live in Oakland.
Among their most interesting findings:
- We need safer streets. All respondents were strong on the need for measures that make streets safer for people on bikes, whether they bike regularly (97% “Yes”) or not (84%). They also believe that education is nearly as important as infrastructure in the safer streets equation. When asked if safe cycling techniques should be taught to drivers as well as bicyclists, almost all gave a firm yes (95%).
- Share the road? Yes we can. Though they believe that we have much more ground to cover, respondents still felt optimistic that drivers and bicyclists could share space on our roads. This includes 97% of bicyclists and 93% (!) of non-bicyclists.
- Oakland is ready. Filtering responses by neighborhood turns out to be quite interesting, particularly when one compares the attitudes of Oakland residents with those from other city neighborhoods. Oakland respondents are strong on the need for safer streets (92%) and optimistic about sharing the road (95%). However, what stands out the most is that 77% of Oakland residents said that they would consider biking more if it were safer — that’s compared with 56% of non-Oakland residents. The survey suggests that there is a strong desire among young residents for safer, people-centered infrastructure in Oakland.
Another survey is in the works this year from the Pitt Bicycle Collective. Naomi Anderson, a group organizer and student in Environmental Engineering, envisions the Collective as an advocacy and activity hub as well as a means to “create a stronger culture and community of cyclists at Pitt.” Anderson sees data collection as an opportunity to give voice to people who are otherwise “disconnected and disempowered” when it comes to issues like infrastructure. However, the new organization’s goal for their survey is more immediate — to make a case to university officials for a student-run bike co-op on campus. We look forward to seeing the results when they become available!
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