John Pucher reports on “City Cycling”

John Pucher (cycling guru and Professor of Transport Policy at Rutgers university) gave a public lecture on cycling in cities in LA earlier this week, introducing his new book “City Cycling” to an attentive audience.  Kent Strumpell of the City of LA Bicycle Advisory Committee was there taking notes.  Which he kindly shares with us here:

John Pucher talk at UCLA Lewis Center Transportation Lecture Series
Oct. 31, 2012
Promoting Cycling and Walking for Sustainable Cities:  Lessons from Europe and North America
Introduced by Martin Wachs

Great presentation, good turnout. Of course many of us have heard much of this before, but still, it was good to hear it well-compiled by a respected and passionate academic on the subject. My notes below.

Pucher (Rutgers Univ) has a book that just came out, City Cycling (and affordable at $17). Much of the presentation was from the book.

 Cycling is the most sustainable transport mode

  •  Cited a litany of well-known benefits: environmental, health, infrastructure cost, personal cost, etc.
  •  Better cost benefit ratio than other modes.
  •  A study shows personal health benefits of walking and cycling more than offset added time spent cycling, in healthy years added to life.
  •  Countries with low rates of obesity are correlated with high levels of active lifestyles, including cycling.
  •  Public policy more than anything else is responsible for this.

 It IS possible to increase. levels of cycling

  •  In fact, many of the cities with highest levels of cycling have had their most significant increases occur in the past 20-30 years (on the order 2-5X). Same is true of US cities.
  •  Canada rate of bike commuting is 3X US, despite climate. Reason: more compact land use patterns.
  •  27% of trips in US are 1 mile or shorter; 41% shorter than 2 miles.
  •  Euro cities far exceed US in bike-ped use for these short trips, even controlling for other factors.
  •  Only 10% of bike trips in Denmark are recreational.

 Women and cycling

  •  55% of bike trips in Denmark are by women.
  •  Positive correlation between cities with the highest levels of cycling and % of cyclists who are women. *** The lesson: ask women what they want and give it to them!
  •  In No Europe, as people age, their rate of cycling goes up. In NL, ages 70-84 make 23% of their trips by bike.
  •  Goal: Make walking and cycling safe for everyone.

 Safety is key

  •  Injury and fatality rates are many times lower in No. Europe despite far higher % of trips made by bicycle than in US.
  •  While both regions saw a drop in injuries and fatalities in recent years, US drop was far less than Europe.
  •  As levels of cycling increase, injury / fatality rates drop dramatically (probably due to increased visibility and empathy of motorists who cycle). This phenomenon seen in No. American cities too.
  •  Collisions between motor vehicles and bikes and pedestrians, at speeds over 30km / 20mph there is an exponential increase in cyclist and pedestrian fatalities.
  •  *** 60-80% redux in child fatalities where traffic calming present (good factoid for Michigan Greenway outreach).

 Separated bike facilities

  •  The degree to which bikes are separated from cars correlates with high levels of women cycling.
  •  The US cities with highest levels of cycling also have the most availability of separated bikeways, also bike facilities on bridges.
  •  *** Without extensive networks of separated bikeways, we’ll be stuck with low levels of bicycle usage.

Public policy to spur cycling and discourage auto travel were prominent in No. Europe, such as:

  •  - better bike facilities
  •  - integrating bikes w/ transit
  •  - education, enforcement
  •  - measures to discourage driving, etc.
  •  - German law requires motorists to proactively anticipate possible hazardous behavior of cyclists and peds and take steps to avoid injuring them, or will be found liable if they collide.

 Practices and innovations in various cities

  •  Montreal has the largest cycle track system in No. America
  •  Quebec bike and ped paths locate the peds closer to waterfront attractions than the bike path (maybe that’s why our beach path has so many bike-ped conflicts?)
  •  Dutch make wide use of raised speed tables (one photo looks like they use separate pavers on top of asphalt to create the raised section; a cost effective way to implement?)
  •  Berlin has ~ 5000km of traffic calmed streets or roads w/ bikeways and has achieved 10% bike mode share.
  •  Portland uses a diagonal bike crossing through an intersection, all cross traffic stopped like a scramble, triggered by sensor or button.
  •  Variation on a bike box: cyclists allowed / encouraged to move ahead of stop bar in bike lane, so motorists can see them better.
  •  Illuminated bollards pulse in progression to show best bike speed to sync your speed with signals
  •  Big woonerf symbol applied to pavement in some countries.
  •  Portland has the most bicycle boulevards in the US (possible examples for Michigan Greenway)
  •  Bike corrals: in many commercial districts where they’ve been installed they’ve seen a boost in customers and merchants are clamoring for them.

 Integrating bikes with transit

  •  Bikes on board transit vehicles, secure parking, bike share (Montreal saw a big boost in biking when Bixi was introduced).
  •  Best bike stations are full service (like SM bike center).
  •  Bike parking areas should have direct ramp access to platforms, bus stops, streets.

 Traffic education is crucial

  •  *** Much more emphasis needed on how motorists can avoid endangering bikes and peds.
  •  Compulsory traffic safety lessons for all school. children (3rd and 4th grade) in many Euro countries, sometimes with a test at completion by a real cop.

 Encourage promotional events like street closures, bike to school, bike to work, rides for seniors, social rides

 Implementation strategies

  •  - publicize both individual and societal benefits,
  •  - ensure citizen participation in all stages of planning and implementation to assure community support.
  •  - develop long range plans and update them regularly.
  •  - implement controversial policies, projects in stages.
  •  - combine incentives for cycling when disincentives for driving are introduced.
  •  - build alliances with politicians, cycling orgs, and other bike friendly groups.
  •  - coordinate advocacy and planning with local state and fed orgs (and agencies?)

 Re question about use of helmets, Pucher cited the test a guy did where he donned various outfits to see how he’d be treated by motorists. A grey haired woman w/out helmet weaving a bit got the most room; male with helmet in lycra on expensive bike got treated worst.

# # #

About the author of the notes:

Kent Strumpell
City of LA Bicycle Advisory Committee
CD 11 representative
310-215-0114
6483 Nancy St.
Los Angeles, CA 90045
kentstrum@aol.com

About the author of the book:

John Pucher – pucher@rci.rutgers.edu
Professor of Transport Policy
Rutgers University
33 Livingston Avenue, Room 363
08901-1900  New Brunswick  NJ

# # #
eb-bio note 1jun14

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