How to get a 400% increase in bike commuters in two months

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Lolly
Participant
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Vancouver has had a phenomenal increase in commuting since instituting separated bike lanes!

The car comes last. We don’t design anything exclusively for the car anymore,” Johnston said.

After installing protected bike lanes, the city saw a 400 percent increase in its morning bike commute within two months.


wayfinder
Participant
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…”If you build it, they will come”.

The insanity of a car-centered society seems so self-evident…, and mass hypnosis so impenetrable.

However, many people (not talking about dissidents, but rather the vast majority who will go along with “the program” no matter what), WILL opt out to some extent, if an alternative is made to seem more attractive. They won’t challenge the paradigm directly…, they won’t say “no” to insanity, but they will say “yes” to sanity where it seems approachable.

…and on a somewhat related note…

I had occasion to cross the Westinghouse Bridge for the first time today. Upon reaching the North Versailles end, I rode up a dirt path to the first light, so I could turn around and cross back on the other sidewalk. No can do. No dirt path even. So here is this magnificent bridge with a good sidewalk with an amazing view, and no way to get to it. The fact that no one finds that odd, nor presumably have for about 80 years, is very odd.

Of course, I ended up running across route 30 to get to the other side, but I can’t say that’s an adventure I’d like to repeat.


Lyle
Participant
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400% is an extraordinary claim. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of that sooner. Any documentation?


Lyle
Participant
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According to a paper I found on the web, Vancouver had a 3.3% mode share in 1999, steadily increasing to a 3.7% bicycle commute mode share in 2006. Obviously any 400% increase must have been after 2006, which would give them an incredible 19% mode share! Screw Pittsburgh, I’m moving to Vancouver.


Mick
Participant
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(*scratches head*)

+1 Lyle.


Lyle
Participant
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Well, I’m still looking into this, surely it’s just a narrow claim taken out of context. I have a letter in to the Vancouver City Council.


Marko82
Participant
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Be careful of small numbers. If four people pass your house and all of a sudden there is a 400% increase, you now have sixteen people passing by. Sixteen is an improvement, but it doesn’t seem as impresive as saying 400%.


Lyle
Participant
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Okay, here’s the actual claim from city councilman Geoff Meggs in an interview with a CTV reporter Shannon Paterson. Marko’s point is well taken, but these numbers are large enough to avoid that particular error – though not his math error.

Paterson: since the city’s first separated lane opened in June …

Meggs: … we’ve seen the number of cyclists quadruple to about 2000 a day from 500.

(nothing about “morning commute” here, but that’s a quibble. However, a quadrupling from 500 to 2000 is not a 400% increase, it’s a 300% increase, and that’s not a quibble.)

According to Paterson, an intern for the TV station counted bikes in the bidirectional separated lane on Dunsmuir St for 20 minutes at 8:15 AM during two subsequent weeks, counting 122 and 78, respectively. At 1:40 PM, she counted 21 bikes in 20 minutes. It’s not clear to me whether she was counting cyclists in both directions or only one. Extrapolating from that would plausibly support a claim of somewhere around 1200 a day in this location alone (though not if you’re trying to count unique cyclists instead of cycle trips).

Then she went over to another street and counted cyclists going in one direction in the “ordinary” bike lane over there, and found 42 bikes during one single peak 20 minute interval and 18 bikes during one single off-peak 20-minute interval.

So that’s the after, no idea on the before, and a pretty weak methodology in any event. The link that I posted earlier claims ~1200 cyclists / day in September 2009 on the Ontario bikeway which is apparently a signed, on-street “bike route”.

It would certainly make sense that the new facility attracted some cyclists from parallel streets (and hey, if it makes people happier, then that’s a fine reason to build the thing) contributing to a localised increase on one street and a localised decrease on another, but it’s another thing to claim that it dramatically increased mode share city-wide.

It’s funny how one offhand comment gets bounced around the Internet echo chamber and pops up in Pittsburgh. I wonder how many other mailing lists that “400% increase” number was on. Lolly, did you get that link from the APBP list?


ejwme
Participant
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I was born in Vancouver, and have resented being taken away from it for most of my life (and am spending an inordinate amount of my energy attempting to return to the Mother Land as an adult). This is just a drop in the Vancouver Is Teh Awesomest!!!!11111 bucket.

I can say that since I was little, they’ve put in a fantastic mass transit system (sky train rocks), and in the past 5-10 years their bike infrastructure has gone from visibly non-existent to phenomenal, especially the past 2-3 years.

What I find personally upsetting is that Swalfoort & Co. can organize an official bike count, volunteers mobilize themselves to count all over the city in a formalized, efficient manner, so we have WAY better data than Vancouver does and WE STILL CAN’T GET MORE THAN 12 MILES OF BIKE LANES PAINTED IN A YEAR.

What the hell??!?!?!?!! Are Vancouver-ites really just sitting back and passively receiving the infrastructure manna from heaven that is falling in their laps? Or are they at year 50 of advocacy and we’re just at year 10 and in 40 years we’ll be in a similarly happy boat? I mean Bike-PGH has how many people working full time on just these problems, and theoretically has all kinds of community and municipal support?

I’m not ragging on BPHG, I’m just mystified at the apparent descrepancy I’m seeing. I’m sure there’s more to the Vancouver story, behind the scenes blood, sweat, and tears for years and years that I was oblivious to. At least I’m hoping, because there’s a whole lot of blood sweat and tears going on here and we get to celebrate 12 miles of lanes in a year. Maybe, if they put paint to pavement.

Meh, I’m cranky. I watched about 2 thousand people happily riding bicycles this morning while I was sardined into a train, smushed by people reeking of stale cigarette smoke and sleeping standing up.


scott
Keymaster
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Eleanor, I hear you. We’re frustrated too. But here’s the deal. MOST other cities have MANY traffic engineers on staff divvying up the work load. We have ONE. MOST other cities have an entire CREW of pavement marking staff. We have ONE maybe TWO guys who drive a paint truck and ONE maybe TWO guys who can paint stencils by hand. MOST other cities, if they can’t do the work themselves, put out the jobs to bid and MULTIPLE companies bid. There is ONLY ONE company that can do this type of work in our entire region other than the municipalities themselves. MOST other cities have a SLEW of people making signs in the sign shop. We have ONE guy knockin’ on heaven’s door if you catch my drift.

It’s all about allocation of very scarce resources. Unfortunately budget projections aren’t doing us any favors in this cash-strapped city of ours. That’s why we need to build our numbers and be vocal. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

So yes, I’m very frustrated. I hear all of you and your frustrations. But you have to believe me when I tell you that WE ARE CHANGING THINGS. Just look, the City’s nearly finished with it’s Route and Sign plan and is now looking for money to implement it. It’s about to embark on a multi-year Comprehensive Transportation Plan (MOVEPGH) that values all the same things we value: livable communities, complete streets, mulitmodal transportation and will include a brand new fancy Bike/Ped Master Plan. Well, “fancy” is my word.

The city is about to put in 20 more bike racks in the next week and has 60 more to put in of the 200 the Mayor’s office pledged to install a year ago. BikePGH is about to donate an additional 100 racks to Citiparks and the Parks Conservancy. That’s 200 more bike parking spaces in our major parks that weren’t there before.

Look, this work is slow-going sometimes and it drives us all crazy. There are some things that we all know can happen more quickly, and we’re trying to figure out exactly how to address them. I promise you, we are working on it. Your membership dollars are hard at work.

For all of you who are reading this who have not yet become members, please do so. This is what we are trying to solve.

Remember, Portland wasn’t built in a day. They started back in the 1970s. Most of our sister orgs across the country who are implementing amazing infrastructure have been around for decades with full-time staff. BikePGH is not even 9 years old yet and has only had staff for 5. These things take time.

Silver lining: In case you didn’t hear, Senator Casey was in town yesterday with the Mayor to announce a $2M plan (1.5M from the feds) to plan for a multimodal corridor from the edge of downtown to the edge of highland park (with the hopes of taking it all the way out to Oakmont). This corridor is to have passenger rail and a bikeway. Sure, they’re using the word “trail,” but we’re going to advocate more for a separated bike lane design. This study will be done in a year-18 months and will prequalify us for tens if not hundreds million more dollars in implementation funds from the feds. This is a big, big deal to say the least.


Lyle
Participant
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No pedestrians, dog walkers, scooters or rollerbladers? If you can swing that (or even the first three) and good intersection design (not “something cool” like the penn ave sidepath), I will be a fan.

As for dealing with limited staff and funding, it’s better to do a few things well rather than many things badly.


scott
Keymaster
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Lyle, please tell me that wasn’t directed towards us.


Ohiojeff
Participant
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so we have WAY better data than Vancouver does and WE STILL CAN’T GET MORE THAN 12 MILES OF BIKE LANES PAINTED IN A YEAR.

What the hell??!?!?!?!! Are Vancouver-ites really just sitting back and passively receiving the infrastructure manna from heaven that is falling in their laps?

Can we host the Winter (or Summer) Olympics here in Pittsburgh? Get a lot of infrastructure spending that way, designed to move a lot of people around.


Ohiojeff
Participant
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@scott–just read your post and will +1 it.

I’ve said this before, but from the perspective of having lived and biked in Pittsburgh for 20 years, huge strides have been made. Sure there is a long way to go but Scott is right, a lot has been accomplished with scarce resources.


Lyle
Participant
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Scott – no, I didn’t mean to imply that BP is doing “many things badly”. I only intended to caution against spreading resources too thin.


Mick
Participant
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@ejwme

What the hell??!?!?!?!! Are Vancouver-ites really just sitting back and passively receiving the infrastructure manna from heaven that is falling in their laps?

It’s that Canadian Socialism that Fox news is warning you about. You better vote for right-wing extremists or IT COULD HAPPEN HERE!


erok
Keymaster
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yeah, vancouver has had an active bike community and advocacy community for years. they’ve had a citywide bicycle advisory committee since 1985 and a city government that is…ahem…efficient


salty
Participant
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i was going to say the main difference is vancouver isn’t millions of dollars in the hole, but apparently that’s not true…

http://vancouver.ca/fs/budgetServices/operatingBudget/cost.htm

Going into the 2010 budget, the City faced a funding shortfall of $61.7 million as a result of factors that included a decline in development-related revenue (which remains well below normal levels) and the need to deliver services approved in previous years, such as the hiring of additional police officers.


ejwme
Participant
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sigh. This is when that reasonable little voice in my head starts singing mockingly to me – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU7nG3KvZDA

I want bike lanes…

I want mixed use paths,

I want to cycle unfettered by traffic, riding’s fantastic, give it to me now…

I’m wonderful at articulating exactly what I think I want. I’m absolutely horrid at waiting patiently for it.

I’d been trying to figure out how PH could get Safe Walks To Schools money from the DOT once the transportation budget gets passed (did it get passed?), but maybe Pittsburgh could put it to better use. Heck, Moon even got some.

Yeah, I admit, if I could pay more taxes and get more bike lanes or mass transit options, I’d write an extra check in a minute. That’s what makes me such a lousy American…. I think I’ll give the money to BPGH instead.


edmonds59
Participant
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My impression, unfettered by facts, is that Vancouver would be a younger demographic, more immigrants, more cosmopolitan in general, going back even prior to the Olympics. Pgh is old, entrenched, which can be one of it’s attractions, but however Pgh approaches it will need to be completely different.

A good p.r. campaign might be to show how an old Italian lady in a babushka (jumbling ethnicities) could bike around town, given the proper facilities. Make a video with a bunch of guys dressed as old babushka’s? That would be fun.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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OK, variant on the Popsicle Index idea: If instead of your 10-year-old going to the store to buy a popsicle and returning home safely, it’s 67yo Aunt Martika climbing on a bike and rolling from Lower Larryville into the Strip for a basketful of produce and some jumbo, and returning home safely?

First, we have to get Aunt Martika on a bicycle. They do it in Amsterdam, they do it in Prague, they do it in Mexico City. Lville to Strip is dead level, and she may never bicycle anywhere but between 54th St and 18th St.

But whatzitgonna take to put Aunt Martika on a bicycle? You get that demographic on wheels, and we’ve got this bicycling thing solved, big time.


Lyle
Participant
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No, you’ve just traded one problem for another.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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Aunt Martika on a bike? – you can’t even get her out of a motorized chair to walk through Wal-Mart. Maybe they should paint lanes for motorized chairs.


salty
Participant
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have you *been* to florida? :)


Tabby
Participant
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honestly, it’s probably too late for Aunt Marti unless she was an avid rider in youth. Can you imagine the liability of starting a geriatric cycling course? Well, it could be done, just for most older people they would need to do quite a bit of conditioning before they’re riding utilitarian trips to the strip for groceries.

plus to get this kind of rider we need some shops to carry the type of bike they’d need. comfy, but not a total cruiser preferably with step-thru design and integrated basketry and lights (less decisions and less to worry about).

I’d start younger, like getting the people on this board to keep riding as they get older.


edmonds59
Participant
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I was thinking more in terms of a distinctive image or “mascot” for Pgh cycling, not necessarily actual old women.

Anyway, there are boatloads of old cyclists out there already. Last Sunday we went over to Ohio for a thing called the “Red Flannel Metric Century”, an organized tour, they probably had 500 people. The demographic was probably about 50% tense youngish lycra dudes, but the other half was at least 50 years old and up, in various stages of lycra. Ohio has TONS of cycle “tourists”, but you see very few over here in PA. These people are passionate about bicycle TOURING, but they think in terms of putting the bike on the car to go ride somewhere. So it’s a matter of getting people like that to realize that they can go get groceries on a bike or go get a coffee, AND they can help support infrastructure so they don’t have to load their bikes on a car to go ride.

Also this, http://www.bikingbis.com/blog/ActiveSeniorCycling


Lyle
Participant
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My grandmother used to ride a trike in her “adult community” while she was able. But that was only because she was a menace behind the wheel. The place to push for Aunt Martis on bikes is in those Floridian trailer parks – they are very low traffic, low speeds, good weather and relatively high density.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I see what you mean. Tabby and edmonds59 are probably close to the mark. Identify the 40-60 crowd who haven’t been on a bike in 20-40 years (probably haven’t been on a bus since high school, either, but that’s a different argument), and figure out what it takes to encourage them to get on two wheels. Especially those who already are in the city, not 10 miles out in the ‘burbs like me.

When I came up with Aunt Martika, I was thinking Babushka Power, i.e. the Sophie Masloff sort at about the time she became mayor.

Perish the thought of trying to fit 25 adult trikes into the madness that is Penn at 20th.

@lyle, you’re right, trade one problem for another.


eMcK
Participant
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I spent about 10 days in and around the Vancouver area of BC this summer.

If I was able to create a perfect place for me to live it wouldn’t be much different than this area.


Lolly
Participant
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The Portland Office of Transportation has a program to get older adults on bikes and to provide them with trikes. It was a pilot program a few years ago when this video was made.

Maybe a foundation here would be interested in sponsoring some bikes for a program like that here. We could organize bike caravans from Lawrenceville to the Strip on Saturdays.

This would be particularly great if it was more of a safe pedestrian area and once there they could walk around to shops.

Maybe this sort of thing could be done with different churches. Safe Routes to Church or Bike to Church Day…


ejwme
Participant
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As my dad was dropping me off at the airport yesterday in Vancouver (stopped off on my way home from Japan) I spotted the seperate bike lane to the airport. Like all the way to the terminals, from downtown. Actually, there were bike lanes from the suburbs all the way to the airport. There were just bike lanes everywhere.

Eric – Vancouver is perfection without jobs. Though I’m pretty sure that’s a myth to keep people like me from jumping off that immigration cliff. ‘Cause somebody’s paying the taxes and voting for those bike lanes, and it’s not just the Sikh farmers selling the best berries on the planet in the Delta.

Lolly – maybe that’s a Flock of Flocks event?


edmonds59
Participant
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Flock to Bingo. That might do it.


Lyle
Participant
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It’s the oil sands in Alberta. Nobody makes jokes about Canadian Tire Dollars anymore.

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