Posts tagged ‘public policy’

May 13, 2012

The Ultimate Bikespedition: Support the US Bicycle Route System

May is National Bicycle Month and it’s also the third annual Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It. fundraising campaign for the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). The campaign kicked off May 1, 2012 and runs through May 31. What better way to celebrate Bike Month than by supporting the creation of a national system of cycling routes?

Last year, this effort raised more than $32,000 for the project—the goal this year is $50,000.

Here are the details:

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a visionary project similar to the national and international cycling systems blossoming across the globe. Adventure Cycling is working with dozens of state agencies, national organizations, nonprofits, volunteers, and the US Congress to realize this vision.

 Can you give $10 to help build the largest bike route network in the world, encompassing more than 50,000 miles?

You can already see the effects of last year’s USBRS campaign:

  • 6 new routes approved by AASHTO — the first new U.S. Bicycle Routes approved in over 30 years!
  • 11 new states coming on to develop routes. 41 states are now actively working to implement US Bike Routes. In my state of Washington the Bicycle Alliance of Washington is coordinating with Washington State Department of Transportation so you can join “Team Washington” with your donation.
  • The re-release of a Technical Advisory from the Federal Highway Association that advises DOTs on how to implement rumble strips without putting cyclists at risk.
  • 5,000 new fans of the USBRS on Facebook since last year’s campaign, now at more than 19,000 supporters.
  • Adventure Cycling now has a closer relationship with the National Park Service, aimed at improving bike travel and tourism in national parks as well as facilitating designation of US Bike Routes through parks as appropriate.

I have yet to go on any long bike travel but the lure of the open road does beckon. I’d sure love to take that ride on a route that’s signed, supported, and serviced to make it a better experience!

And imagine the benefits for small towns that will get stops from bike visitors who wouldn’t bother with those towns if they were burning carbon instead of calories zipping past on the interstate.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Have you done any touring around the United States?
  • What route(s) did you use?
  • Where would you like to see a bike route for travel?
  • Have you had a small-town experience as a bike tourist you’d like to share?
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February 13, 2012

Consider Adoption–of a Bike Lane, That Is

Now that our itty-bitty bit of snow has melted, the bike lanes are left with the detritus of road sand, leaf piles some of your neighbors pushed into the lane last fall, and all the rest of the things that accumulate over the winter.

On my way home I occasionally have to take the vehicle lane instead of the bike lane because of the amount of gunk piled up alongside the curb.

Herewith, an idea for something we could get rolling informally with the goal of a more formal program down the road (ha ha—transportation joke!): Adopt-a-Bike-Lane.

Back row: Casey Owens, Carolyn Cooke, Suzanne Richardson, Cory Bone, Linda Hartley, Margaret Mendoza, Lori Morrison, Merritt Riley and Bill Riley Front row: Althea Riley and Mike Bauer Bill Riley Communities Litter Crew has participated in the Adopt-a-Highway program since April 2005. The group adopted SR512 from Canyon Road to 94th Avenue. Mile Post 6 to 8.Many years ago I had a mile of highway adopted (in north Idaho on Hwy. 41). A few times a year I got out and picked up trash. It offered all the entertainment value of an Easter egg hunt except what you find is NOT chocolate and you DON’T want to put it in your mouth….

What I have in mind for bike lanes is kind of along those lines, but made a lot easier since the city already cleans streets every so often. (No one was off in the weeds alongside Hwy. 41 gathering empty generic vodka bottles and crumpled cigarette packs except me.)

What would be utterly fantastic as a starting point would be people adopting the stretch of bike lane (or designated bike route, or heck, even the two or three feet of a regular street closest to the curb) alongside our homes.

It’s essentially a small extension of yard work. When we go out to rake up pine needles or maple leaves in the fall, shovel snow in the winter, or clean off debris in the spring, we just extend our responsibility beyond the sidewalk (which is already our job, in case you didn’t know) and the bike lane. In cold conditions we make sure we’re not rinsing water into the lane where it will freeze and create a hazard. Then we take it a little further and pick up debris: broken glass, lug nuts, stray hubcaps, pieces of wire.

When it goes formal with signage, I can see local bike clubs, service clubs, organizations like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and others adopting stretches that aren’t in residential areas.

Part of the inspiration for this is, admittedly, a not-very-good neighbor down the road from me on Southeast Boulevard around Fourteenth. I’ve told a few folks about the encounters I’ve had in front of the house owned by people I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed “The Blockers.”

It hasn’t been bad in recent months. Maybe they moved.

But in the past, in the bike lane there on various occasions I have encountered—I kid you not—a cardboard box full of potted plants, a table full of glassware, and a stove—an electric four-burner stove. Talk about needing to be mindful–I need to be on the lookout for major appliances!

They routinely set their garbage and green waste bins in the lane. They rake their leaves into the lane (which is a violation of city code, by the way). The next step would be to just start throwing things out of the house windows directly into the lane without bothering to containerize first.

They have a perfectly good driveway and lawn that they ignore in favor of the bike lane for all their disposal needs. Those of you who utilize the bike lane going north on Southeast Boulevard probably recognize this description.

Since everyone has something to contribute to this world, I give them full credit for inspiring the adoption idea.

Cruising the Web I’ve found a few places with something called an Adopt-a-Bike-Lane program that’s really a problem reporting program: Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula and Fort Collins, for example.

Since when did adopting something mean you only call others to deal with the problems instead of dealing with it yourself? Sure doesn’t mean that for kids or pets!

I’m looking for more hands-on solutions in which we don’t just complain about this–we do something about it–and am hoping to see links to examples of working civic or government programs posted in the comments.

So what do you think? Would you take this on right now without the fanfare and hoopla? Would you be more likely to do so if you got a nice sign with your individual or group name for acknowledgement of your effort and commitment?

Your Turn

  • What weirdness have you encountered in the bike lane?
January 14, 2012

Seeing with New Eyes

Sometimes I Would Like New Eyes, by Andrew Coulter Enright. Used under Creative Commons license.

Taking up biking for transportation has given me the same experience that becoming a mother did. No, not endless anxiety, sleepless nights, and sh**—well, at least not too much of the latter—but rather the experience of learning just how much the world was designed not for you, but against you, by people who do not share your particular circumstances.

You chose these circumstances. You love these circumstances and they bring you joy no matter what. But better design would make it a bit easier to enjoy these circumstances.

Disclaimer: I do not present these thoughts under the assumption that the entire world should be redesigned for new moms and women on bikes (although heavens, what a civilized world that would make).

I ask you only to consider what it might be like for someone whose circumstances differ from yours—to try to look through their eyes a bit and consider whether you can make some adjustments that accommodate more ways of viewing the world. We all wear blinders; can you take yours off?

I have never taken part in one of those days where you take on a particular disability to learn what the world can feel like from that vantage point, the way City Councilman Jon Snyder did when he spent the day in a wheelchair. But wrestling a baby stroller into and out of buildings that lacked automatic doors certainly made me wonder how people in wheelchairs could possibly manage (and probably made me a better Idaho state legislator and later a better grantwriter for a disability rights organization).

When I had my first baby (who’s all grown up now!) I began a voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust would have it: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” 

Dealing with the needs of a baby or child when surrounded by people who don’t have one, as any parent can tell you, often gives you a new lens through which to view the world.

Riding a bike for transportation has taken me on another voyage and given me new eyes as well. Most parts of this voyage give me great joy. What I get to do on my bike:

  • See my city from a fresh vantage point, without the isolating barrier of over 3,000 pounds of steel, glass, and assorted petroleum products wrapped around me.
  • Make actual eye contact with people out walking, biking, or driving. smile, and connect.
  • Give directions to lost drivers who can’t ask another driver, because how would you?
  • Notice details I never saw in all the years I drove: architectural features on buildings, interesting signage, side streets that offer a different route to my destination.
  • Spot businesses I had no idea even existed that I make a mental note about so I can come back and check them out—or I stop on the spot because I don’t have to search for a parking place so I feel free to make these spontaneous decisions.

If you have never ridden a bike on streets you usually drive, you have no idea what you don’t see.

Then there’s the flip side—the one created by design that leaves you out.

I remember pushing my stroller into a crowded conference room and realizing there was nowhere to stash it—because women with babies were not expected in those particular marble hallways.

Similarly, taking your bike to a destination that has nowhere to lock your bike or store it securely presents you with something you have to figure out. People who don’t have strollers or bikes to deal with don’t see the lack of facilities.

While the vast majority of the time it’s easier to stow my bike than it was to stow my baby stroller (which I could never have left locked to a signpost on the street), I still encounter obstructions, lack of a good fixture to lock to, bike racks installed too close to the wall of the building to be usable, and other design barriers.

That’s just one example.

Then there are the other barriers: The ones not presented by design of things but rather design of events.

If you’re a new mom, is the event held at a location that permits you to step aside and breastfeed discreetly? (Somewhere other than in the bathroom, please—would you want to eat your lunch in the can?) Will the bathroom have a space for diaper changes?

If you’re riding your bike to a destination, did the organizers send out any transportation information other than where to park your (assumed) car? Say, telling you about the availability of bike racks or the transit route and stop that serve the destination? Is the location even served by transit? If there are no bike facilities will you be allowed to bring your bike inside for safe storage?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you end up with a fussy child or an expensive babysitting tab?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you’re biking home in the dark? I enjoy riding in the dark but it can present more hazards than daytime riding and not everyone is comfortable with it.

The next time you’re designing something, whether it’s a building or a meeting, take a look at it with new eyes. If you weren’t you­—if you were someone with very different circumstances—how would it work for you?

And if you haven’t gone out to take a look at your world from the saddle of a bicycle, I highly recommend it. That’s a set of lenses you may just never want to take off.

(As for parenthood, that’s a call you’d better make on your own.)

Afterthought: Perhaps this metaphor has particular power for me because I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old. I’m terribly nearsighted–and now have the joy of adding farsightedness to the mix as I get just an eensy-teensy bit older. Being able to see clearly is not something I can afford to take for granted.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What design issues have you encountered–of places, events, or other things?
  • What parallels between biking and some other activity do you see?
November 13, 2011

My Fan Girl Moment with Mia Birk

As I mentioned in a previous post, I got to meet Mia Birk in person last Tuesday. I’ve been a Mia fan for quite a while. I don’t know when I first heard about this woman who helped turn Portland into a bike-friendly mecca, but I’ve read her blog and followed her on Twitter for a while now.


Birk went from working as Portland’s bike/pedestrian coordinator to being a principal of Alta Planning and Design, which helps communities design and activate safer and more walkable, bikeable networks. She’s the author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward A Healthier Planet, in which she tells her story.

By the way, she didn’t use the phrase “bike-friendly mecca” to describe Portland! In the workshops I attended–one for campus planners, administrators, and transportation folks, and another one for community advocates, and I fall into both categories–she showed plenty of photos of existing conditions in Portland that no one could describe as bike-friendly.

She also showed the impressive statistics for their gain in percentage of people riding a bike at least part of the time for transportation. Note to planners and engineers: Build it and they will ride.

(And when they do, they cut down on wear and tear on the roads, competition for parking, air pollution, and the many health problems that arise in a population that isn’t active. How many wins can you line up for a relatively small investment?)

Her story isn’t one of total triumph and perfection. It’s a story of persistence and progress, accepting that you’re not going to change everyone’s mind.

A few tidbits I tweeted during her talks, which were full of practical advice:

  • Bike parking=chicken/egg. If you wait for more people to bike & THEN put in bike parking you won’t see demand. Build it & they will bike.
  • Try biking 1 trip/week. Don’t make it your hardest one! Make it short, easy, not the one w/steepest hill.
  • Individualized mktg to help people think about mode shift: Highly effective in Portland where 10-13% of people change when they have info.
  • (last tweet) Refers to individ info on how to consider biking, walking, using transit from your neighborhood to your typical destinations.
  • All Portland’s improvements came @ cost of 0.7% of their total transportation budget. They have $100M bike industry now. ROI!
  • What about winter? When Minneapolis=#1 bike-friendly city in US, obviously snow doesn’t stop biking. Ck out http://bikewinter.org for ideas.
  • (Note: The bikewinter suggestion was my addition to her point about Minneapolis. She also noted that if cold or wet conditions discouraged people, no one in Portland could do anything, let alone ride bikes for transportation. So don’t accept the weather excuse as a reason not to invest in bike infrastructure.)
  • What’s a bike advocate? A person who rides a bike & cares about creating safer conditions & healthy community. –@miabirk
  • Biking challenges people think of: Safety, weather, distance, hills, theft, carrying stuff, hygiene. <–All can be addressed!
  • Good advice in any setting: Try not to piss off the crazy people. (part of a story from @miabirk)

I can’t do better (especially in 140 characters) than Mia herself, so here’s her TEDx talk.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Who would you like to meet from the world of biking?
  • Who have you met?

 

 

 

October 29, 2011

Making Soup–Er, Bike Networks

Mia Birk, the author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward A Healthier Planet who will be speaking at WSU Pullman next week, wrote a blog post a while back, “The Bikeway Network Recipe.” She describes several communities, all of which took different routes to achieve increased levels of bike infrastructure and bike use.

Birk concludes that the specifics matter less than simply getting under way and moving quickly. (Kind of like a bike ride, when you think about it—the sooner you start riding the sooner you arrive.)

I’d like to extend the recipe analogy a little more. I make a lot of soup, especially this time of year, because it’s easy to include lots and lots of veggies and healthy grains and beans, it helps me use up leftovers although I can also just start from scratch, it freezes well for lunches, and my whole family is crazy about soup, although of course each person has his or her favorite.

I generally just start with whatever I have on hand. That could be leftovers or it could be a trip to pantry and freezer and a little cooking to prep some kind of grain/protein ingredient such as quinoa, rice or barley.

In thinking about Spokane’s recipe for bike infrastructure I conclude that we are making soup.

Cutting board with knives, open cansStarting with what we have on hand: This is where every improvisational recipe bike network has to start.

Including healthy ingredients: That’s kind of a no-brainer when you’re talking about riding a bike.

Using up leftovers: In a manner of speaking, yes. People on bikes often get the leftovers: the bit of shoulder or lane the driver doesn’t occupy (that day. You hope.).

This is also true in the positive sense of the word. Out of some “leftover” asphalt and paint you can create something wonderful by giving someone on a bike a travel lane.

The cost of adding bike infrastructure elements to a street project is mere pennies on the dollar, in return for which you get transportation that doesn’t create any wear and tear on the roads.

Street engineers will tell you that it isn’t coming up with money for new construction that’s the hardest part of the budget–it’s the maintenance. So a little bit of infrastructure that lets them reduce the hit to the budget and still move people? Magic.

To me this is the strongest parallel to the soup-making process. A magical transformation takes place when you chop up onions, potatoes, and other vegetables, choose some seasonings from the spice drawer, and throw in some leftover rice. Out of elements that others might not have thought of in quite this way you have created something wonderful that people appreciate.

But it doesn’t happen if you don’t start, and it doesn’t happen without any ingredients.

Tomato soup in potStarting from scratch: We need to do this too. In the case of something like the Centennial Trail or the Fish Lake Trail, people had the vision and put together the ingredients to create a new treat for everyone.

Creating something useful both in the short term and in the long run (like the leftovers that remain after a good dinner): Absolutely. In the short term we are piecing together individual stretches of bike lanes and other markings and signage that in the long run will come together in a connected network that provides access across the city.

When you’re in mid-soup sometimes it doesn’t taste like much. In similar fashion the appearance of short stretches of bike lanes in downtown might not appear to represent a huge step forward—it doesn’t take us all the way from raw veggies to soup. But given time those stretches of bike lane will get connected.

The important thing is to remember the goal and stay focused on making soup. Sometimes you don’t have quite the right mix of ingredients and you need to add a little balsamic vinegar or garlic (always garlic). The way the soup changes as the ingredients come together draws on a cook’s skills to keep adapting along the way.

Making different kinds of soup for different people: This will be essential to the long-term growth of bike riding in Spokane. We are not a one-soup-fits-all town.

The “fast and fearless”—those of us who know how to take the lane and who will assert our right to use the road for transportation—get out and ride with only minimal ingredients at hand.

The “interested but concerned” need the support of a more fully detailed recipe that takes into account their allergies (say, to close encounters with careless drivers) and special dietary needs (wayfinding, for example, to encourage the use of bikes on the short trips of 1-2 miles that constitute the majority of U.S. transportation trips).

The “no way no how” people just don’t like soup. But that’s no reason the rest of us can’t have our soup and ride it too.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Have a better metaphor? Do tell!
October 22, 2011

Everyday Riders and Unseen Cyclists

I’m thrilled to see more bikes on the street every day. The signs are everywhere that bikes are big.

Local symptoms include:

I see more people–and in particular more women–riding Spokane’s streets. That’s good for all of us on two wheels, since collision rates decline as the number of riders increases.

On the national and global scale bikes are hip, bikes are chic, bikes are photographed because movie stars ride them.

This fashion trend isn’t as substantive as the policy wonkish stuff I care about, but it puts bikes in front of mainstream America, strips them of their Spandex and sweat image, and makes them more approachable, more everyday, than the elite zero-body-fat racing images. (As long as we don’t just replace those images with elite zero-body-fat movie star and model images.)

The increase in bikes isn’t just nice road bikes and well-dressed commuters, though. It’s also people hit hard by rising fuel prices that affect not only transportation but also food, and increasingly—as winter sets in—the ability to heat your home.

I would write more about this, but it’s already been said, and said well, by Dave Steele on these “Unseen Bicyclists” at Next American City.

Read it, and let’s talk about inclusion.


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