As original organizers of the World Car Free Days movement, we are always attentive to finding ways to make real use out of these generally festive occasions. We have been working consistently on this task since the first program announcement in Toledo Spain at a major European conference in October 1994 under the title of “Thursday: A breakthrough strategy for reducing car dependence in cities“. (See http://wp.me/psKUY-U9)
This year we propose that considering cities may give some thought to the possibility of organizing on a pilot basis a special core Car Free Day event — specifically intended to examine, encourage and support cycling in cities. This makes sense: a Car Free Day is seen as an occasion to step back and think together about how your city is doing in the challenging transition from an essentially private car-based to an equitable and efficient mobility-based society. With this in mind we are proposing at the core of the other planned CFD events this year the tool of a “Civil Society State of City Cycling Audit” — in order to provide independent background and perspective on the state of safe and abundant cycling in their city. The following posting sets out the latest proposal for this “collaborative citizen self-audit”.
What is the simplest, cheapest and most reliable way to lay the base for a cycling strategy for our city?
There are many different auditing or reporting techniques used in different cities and countries, running from quick local surveys to ambitious technical benchmarking programs making extensive use of experts. After reviewing a number of these we took as our point of departure the 13 sets of criteria and 0-4 scoring system of the well-known Copenhagenize Index for Bicycle Friendly Cities, which they have developed over the last half decade for the purpose of their very successful triennial survey and benchmarking exercise looking at more than 100 cities on all continents. (World Streets recently published a summary article on this which you can find at http://wp.me/psKUY-3Gn.)
Bearing in mind that the approach proposed here has quite different set of objectives: as a (a) purely local, (b) user-oriented, (c) collaborative benchmarking activity in support of Car Free Day events this year, in this first instance on a pilot basis. Most important, it is intended to create a base for (d) an independent self-audit to be finalized and then lead by concerned civil society groups (NGOs, user and environmental groups, etc.) in each city that is wiling to give this a try. And beyond this there is also (e) the eventual possibility for sharing results with other cities and groups interested in and/or cooperating directly with the 2014 collaborative project (see below for cautionary remarks on that.).
Audit panel composition: (a) Local residents. (b) 100% daily cyclists. (c) Minimum 1/3, preferably 40% female. (d) Several seniors, several school cyclists.
Another characteristic of this approach is that the materials set out here are offered as simple suggestions. It is anticipated that while some cities and groups may shoes to work with the following more or less as it stands, in many cases we will be seeing different choices of categories, scoring and weighting systems. Toward the end of this article you will find background information on several other self-audit bicycle approaches which we urge you to have a look at.
In the event, each considering team will decide what works best for them. And what works best for them is what works best for all of us.
Criteria: Twenty Questions to Ask Yourself and Publicly Discuss on your Car Free Day
These first twelve issue areas if properly assessed will already give an excellent idea of the state of cycling in the city. Let’s start with them.
- Advocacy: How is the city’s (or region/country) advocacy NGO(s) regarded and what level of influence does it have when it comes to policy, investment and enforcement decisions?
• Rated from no organized advocacy to strong advocacy with political influence.
- Bicycle Culture: Has the bicycle (re)established itself as transport among regular citizens or only sub-cultures?
• Rated from no bicycles on the urban landscape/only sport/leisure cyclists to mainstream acceptance of the bicycle for daily transport use.
- Bicycle Infrastructure: How does the city’s safe, efficient bicycle infrastructure rate?
• Rated from no infrastructure/cyclists relegated to using car lanes to high level of safe, separated cycle tracks.
- Bicycle Facilities: Are there readily accessible bike racks, ramps on stairs, space allocated on trains and buses and well-designed wayfinding, etc.?
• Rated from no bicycle facilities available to widespread and innovative facilities.
- Modal Share for Bicycles: What percentage of modal share is made up by cyclists?
• Rated from under 1% to over 25%.
- Gender Split What percentage of the city’s cyclists are male and female?
• Rated from: overwhelming male to an even gender split or more women than men cycling.
- City Planning: How much emphasis do the city’s planners place on bicycle infrastructure – and are they well-informed about international best practices?
• Rated from car-centric urban planners to planners who think bicycle – and pedestrian – first.
- Traffic Calming: What efforts have been made to lower speed limits – for example 30 km/h zones – and generally calm traffic in order to provide greater safety to pedestrians and cyclists? Area access limitations for cars. Also strategic parking reductions?
• Rated from none at all to extensive traffic-calming measures prioritising cyclists and pedestrians.
- Public transport collaboration: Bikes in buses, subways, streetcars Sharing of bus lanes. Joint monthly subscriptions. Driver training for awareness of cyclists. Last km collaboration
Rated from no collaboration, to full and enthusiastic partnership
- Perception of Safety: Is the perception of safety of the cyclists in the city, reflected in helmet-wearing rates, positive or are cyclists riding scared due to helmet promotion and scare campaigns?
• Rated from mandatory helmet laws to low helmet-usage rate.
- Enforcement: Is cycling system being supported consistently by the law with active participation of local government, the police and other community organizations?
• Rated from no support to strong active support including heavy fines, tow-away programs for mis-parked vehicles, laws and ordinances protecting cyclists. (In event of no/poor support we recommend deducting 5 points from final overall city total.)
- Sustainable development strategy : Is cycling seen and treated as a strategic component of the city’s overall sustainable development strategy?
• Rated from no strategy, to one of announcements with little real content and broken promises, inconsistent policies, all the way to a carefully articulated global sustainability policy I which cycling has its full place.
Further thought, detail and fine-tuning
- Political Climate: What is the political climate regarding urban cycling? Does the city enforce bike friendly amendments to the traffic laws? (e.g., two way streets for bikes)
• Rated from bicycle being non-existent on a political level, to active and passionate political involvement.
- Social Acceptance: How do drivers and the community at large regard urban cyclists?
• Rated from aggressive annoyance, to no social acceptance, to widespread social acceptance.
- Casualty statistics: Is up to date information publicly available on accident and casualty rates?
• Rated from no stats, no strategy, to one of hard to get at announcements with little real content, all the way to a carefully articulated global sustainability policy
- School/university cycling programs: Active support of cycling to school. Provisions and awareness of needs of young cyclists. Safe infrastructure for school trip. Cycle parking. Training courses, bicycle maintenance and repair. Low speeds zones.
• Rated from none to active partnership.
- Employer cycling programs: Active employer support of cycling to work. Cycle parking. Lockers and showers. Training courses, bicycle maintenance and repair. Other incentives.
• Rated from none to active partnership.
- Bike Share: Does the city have a comprehensive and well-used bike-sharing programme?
• Rated from no bike share to comprehensive, high-usage program. (Also full score for (those rare) cities that have so much quality cycling they have decided they do not need a public shared system.)
- Accuracy of modal split data: how accurate is the official data on mobile split and the role of city cycling?
• Rated from nonexistent, through inaccurate, all the way up to accurate and current.
- Media support: Is cycling program and city cycling generally fairly treated by the media?
• Rated from anti-cycle bias, no support, to thoughtful independent investigative coverage in print and electronic media
- Financial/tax incentives: Do cyclists received financial incentives or tax advantages if they regularly cycle to work?
• Rated from none, to direct payments by employers or local government with tax advantages to commuting cyclists (with payments per km. travelled)
- Modal Share Increase What has the increase in modal share been since 20xx?? – target year that urban cycling started to kick in?
• Rated from under 1% to 5%+.(Each city to make own decision for year of comparison. Cities with more than 20% modal share get era five points here as well. )
- Street Code: Has the city passed a “Street Code” ordinance (Code de la rue) which clearly assigns responsibility to drivers of motor vehicles to prove their innocence in event of an incident with cyclist or pedestrian (“stricter liability”)?
• Rated from no discussion, some public discussion, to full street code in the law.
A Proposed Scoring System (First cut)
We need to come up with something that is sensible, straight-forward and easy to apply without too much hesitation or troubling ambiguity. In the Copenhagenize and Ciclociudades audits cities are given between 0 and 4 points in each category.(In addition, the Copenhagenize approach offers is a potential for a maximum of 12 bonus points awarded for particularly impressive efforts or results. In short, a maximum of 64 points could be awarded. Then they translate the number to a number out of 100. You can see how all that works in the World Streets article and the direct references from the program (http://wp.me/psKUY-3Gn)
For now and until someone comes up with something better, we propose to at least start with this straightforward process (including the idea of a reservoir of bonus points), and then as we learn more through direct experience in different places, understand that we will probably get better at it as the different city teams go through their own learning processes.
 A quick not of thanks here to express our gratitude for the work of the team behind the Copenhagenize Index for Bicycle Friendly Cities which initially got us to thinking about this project. See http://wp.me/psKUY-3Gn for details.
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Have we missed anything that is important? Is further fine-tuning necessary? The answer is surely yes in both cases, but at this stage this is not important, because as each city team examines the usefulness of this audit approach or some variation of it for their city, they are likely to uncover points which are of particular interest to them. They will then handle the questionnaire and the process as they feel best. And then since we are all sharing our results, this additional information and perspective can be shared by others.
Now let us have a look at possible scoring systems for each the criteria eventually selected by each city team.
2014 Car Free Day Organization with City-Cycling Self-Audit?
Latest details on this key matter now available at CFD 2014 City Cycling Self-Audit Organization (Working notes). As you will see this is a pretty compact approach which does not require a lot of resources or time. It is a real citizen project.
And while this is a matter for each city team to work out for themselves, you will find here some for suggestions based on our past experience.
What would we learn?
Think of such an exercise in terms of your city. If you execute the project carefully and share these results widely, there will be increased awareness of the fact that there are many things that can be done to improve not only city cycling but also sustainable mobility and quality of life in the city.
To what extent do the key players, including policymakers, cyclists and the general public understand these issues? Certainly a great deal more after such a self-audit has been organized and carefully scrutinized.
Moreover since Car Free Days are in many places organized on a regular yearly basis, it will be clear that if such an exercise is run on several successive years that understanding of what is going on and what needs to be done will be substantially clarified.
What about intercity comparisons?
We tend to be somewhat conservative at this point when it comes to the possibility of comparing scores among cities. Since it is proposed that these are organized as “self-audits” and even wear the same basic criteria and scoring techniques are propose, it is clear that there will be considerable subjectivity in the scoring from city to city. As far as the as far as the bottom line is concerned, this is, because the primary goal of the entire project is to improve understanding by all of those concerned within each city of how they are doing relative to these criteria.
On the other hand, where cities within a given country or region have some kind of collaborative framework, comparisons might turn out to be very interesting and instructive. As far as international comparisons are concerned, it can certainly be interesting to see are your scores stack up against those of other cities, but the literal comparisons will not be the main value in these cases. Still, we always have a lot to learn by looking around and seeing how other places are confronting these challenges , for better or worse.
Other Bicycle Self-Audit approaches
CHAMP: Cycling Heroes Advancing Sustainable Mobility Practice
The EU-supported CHAMP program at http://www.champ-cycling.eu/ is built on the exchange of good practice and lessons learned in leading cycling cities. They have developed a Performance Analysis-tool tool to help cities gain insight into their strengths and weaknesses in terms of current cycling practice, available at http://www.champ-cycling.eu/en/upload/PDF/Performance_analysis_final.pdf
The performance analysis tool consists of three steps. The first step, the self-analysis, is easy to conduct, and provides a good basis to improve the cycling policy, by identifying its current strengths and weaknesses in a structured way. The peer review and gap analysis are complementary to the self-analysis, providing a more tailor-made approach and giving the opportunity to add external knowledge from other cycling cities to the process. Involving a network of cycling cities allows a mutual exchange of knowledge on cycling topics, while avoiding the costs of external advice.
BTPAD – Bicycle Policy Audit
BYPAD is a flexible tool and can be implemented in towns, cities & agglomerations and regions. BYPAD has already been carried out by almost 200 cities, towns and regions in 24 countries. More than 100 BYPAD auditors from different countries have been trained and certified in order to guide the towns, cities and regions to implement BYPAD. Check the website for the contact details of the national auditors. After the implementation of the audit all cities and regions receive from their national auditor the official BYPAD certificate together with a bicycle action plan. More at: www.bypad.org
ISEMOA – improving seamless energy-efficient mobility chains for all
The team behind this project sponsored by “Intelligent Energy Europe” developed in 2012 a Self-assessment questionnaire for municipalities and cities which forms the basis of ISEMOA audit procedure: “It is a tool to assess the quality of the accessibility work in your municipality or city. It is meant to be a helpful instrument that provides insight into the accessibility work of your municipality/city, its strengths and weaknesses, and gives inspiration for improving the accessibility work. It is not meant to be used as a comparison between municipalities or cities, nor as an evaluation tool only revealing weaknesses. The 2012 22 page questionnaire and guidelines are available at https://worldstreets.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/isemoa_self-assessment_questionnaire_for_municipalities_cities-2013.doc
Completing the questionnaire: The self-assessment questionnaire contains 57 statements concerning each element of the ISEMOA quality cycle, 2 to 6 statements per element. Each statement needs to be evaluated individually by each member of the ISEMOA team on a 0-5 scale by circling the appropriate number. Completing the self-assessment questionnaire might be challenging for municipalities/cities that have just started working on accessibility.
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As you can see from the above, there may be better approaches to this than the one we propose to you here. The basic point is to put the existing Car Free Day events specifically to support the cause of more, better and safer cycling. We are 100% open to other and better ways of carrying out a speed self-audit along these lines. So get in touch if you have other candidates or ideas for changes or additions. Thank you.
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About the editor:
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France
Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .