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Washington Post article on purposive (not recreational) bicycling around the world

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  • Eric Britton
    On Behalf Of Michael Yeates Sent: Monday, 1 September 2008 03:51 Great article in the Washington Post ... but Elle a Londoner ... mmmmmmmmmm??? Every so often
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2008

      On Behalf Of Michael Yeates
      Sent: Monday, 1 September 2008 03:51

      Great article in the Washington Post  ... but Elle a Londoner ... mmmmmmmmmm???

      Every so often a journal turns up with more than its fair share of good articles ... you know ... the ones you enjoy reading ... perhaps wish you had been able to change a few bits but basically agree with ...!

      "Transport Reviews" Vol 28 No 4 July 2008 was one of those journals and hopefully it is or can be made widely available by whatever means.

      There is an interesting case study of the Bogota Transmilenio ... and although there has been and is ongoing a huge concentrated promotional push for busways (many of which have all the same impacts and disadvantages of urban freeways), this is an informative review and illustrates many of the issues involved ... political and economic.

      Next is a really tempting morsel ... "Making Cycling Irresistible: ..". If only ...!

      This is an excellent overview of the many ways urban planning has significantly changed transport mode choices in selected parts of primarily northern Europe. Quite possibly indeed almost certainly, it informed the Washington Post article. John Pucher and Ralph Buehler provide both a tour through these various locations and a resultant comprehensive list ... indeed something of a wish list. But in doing so, does this really make cycling irresistible or (a point I raise often), do these vast arrays of options and the apparent extent of the changes perhaps risk or result in the ideas being put in the "too hard basket"? This article is certainly required reading as it really does provide a great overview ... but what then?

      Even with the increasing cost of oil and GHG etc, it seems those in control of the roads in the UK, USA and Australia (used for comparison with the best case scenarios) .... well, it seems like the "Dracula in charge of the blood bank" concept ... in part because while many of the good examples were implemented up to 20 and in some cases nearing 30 years ago, it seems we still learn slowly. Or to put it another way, as David Orr in The Campus and Environmental Responsibility, (1992,4) says ...

                                When the actions of educated people "ruin the world", for whatever cause, it is time to ask what went wrong in their education.....
                                The challenge before educators is that of developing in themselves and their students, mindsets and habits that enable people
                                to live sustainably on a planet with a biosphere.
      But it is also worth noting that in these types of articles, it is really important to describe particular facilities (rather than name them using local names) or better still, use a picture ... that saves a thousand words and possible misunderstandings. With increased interest (?) in cycling and writing internationally comes a raft of confusing terms ... footpath, bike path, shared path, pavement, sidewalk, bike lane, road, road reserve, etc and with them vastly varying regulatory controls. So perhaps a first step is to please let us try to develop some common understandings. Somewhere recently I read of "bike lanes" but they were shown on what we would call a footpath and thus such a facility is a "bike path" whereas it seems safe to suggest as an example of the necessary universal language, that "bike lanes" only occur on roads .... but is this really so?

      Another related aspect I really did enjoy in the Pucher and Buehler paper is their use of the terms safe and convenient. This is an example of how the same or similar common language can emerge in different places or in some cases, perhaps travel internationally. Some years ago in a conference paper presented in 2000 in Brisbane Australia, I emphasised the idea of "safe+convenient" having developed it in a series of earlier papers. The main aim was to create a catchy reasonably international phrase that encapsulated the five main requirements of a cycling network analysis and/or design viz Coherence, Directness, Attractiveness, Safety and Comfort (CROW 10, page 44) into a "formula" that can be used to audit existing or proposed cycling network components by in effect evaluating and off-setting or trading-off "safety" and "convenience" as in many cases something done is better than nothing done. (Further detail can be found with GOOGLE <safe+convenient yeates> or "<safety and convenience yeates> ). 

      It follows then by way of just one example that extensive areas of 30km/h residential streets result in the creation of a very fine grained network of cycling routes/facilities such that bike lanes may rarely be needed. It also follows that barriers to such networks eg high speed urban and suburban roads, freeways, train lines and busways etc require safe and convenient ie frequent and well located crossings and means for avoiding high threat locations if walking and cycling are to be useful and "attractive" ie convenient ... and safe enough ... whether or not this is to occur in such a way that traffic on the roads is delayed further. The question of  "attractiveness" also remains a major issue in urban areas as clearly this is about convenience as much as other forms of attractiveness.

      And then there is the third article of interest ... an exploratory article "Investigating Links between Social Capital and Public Transport" (which could also have included walking and cycling) ... also a "good read" and no doubt likely to be of great interest to those from the "soft side" of infrastructure and planning ..!

      Taken together, these papers may help explain why the "slow learning" problem is so important ... and to some extent, will help add weight to the efforts of Eric and the New Mobility Agenda et al.


      At 02:14 AM 1/09/2008, Richard Layman wrote:

      A "shocking" article on the front page of today's Washington Post discusses bicycling transportation policy, compares the U.S. to Europe and Japan, and includes some quotes from Rutgers professor John Pucher.

      • For Bicyclists, a Widening Patchwork World: U.S. Lags Behind Two-Wheeled Boom
      • Build It and They'll Come
      • Asia's Bicycle Cycle

      At the headquarters of Giant, the island-based bicycle maker, Antony Lo said that if gasoline prices remain high worldwide, government transportation policies will have to change. Then, he said, everyday cycling will sweep across the United States, and later China and India.

      "People are waking up," he said. "This is a long-term trend, not a fad."

      Correspondent Edward Cody in Beijing and special correspondents Karla Adam and Jill Colvin in London, Ayesha Manocha in New Delhi, Shannon Smiley in Berlin and Akiko Yamamoto in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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