What London can ! learn from ! America’s cycling cities! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Report of the Portland Oregon to Portland Place ride 2013!
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WHAT LONDON CAN LEARN FROM AMERICA’S CYCLING CITIES Report of the Portland Oregon to Portland Place ride 2013
WHAT LONDON CAN LEARN FROM AMERICA’S CYCLING CITIES Report of the Portland Oregon to Portland Place ride 2013
The P2P riders in Times Square. Photo Grant Smith
From April to July 2013, a team of British riders rode from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London. Part of the aim was to witness at first hand how cities are coping with the increasing interest in urban transport.
We rode through 12 major cities to experience their cycling facilities directly, and spoke with local officials and politicians, advocacy groups and the many people who stopped to talk and sometimes rode with us. America is increasing cycling infrastructure very rapidly and faces similar issues of cultural change as we do in London. We share many things in common with the US and as we jointly face major changes in the shape of our cities we can learn much from sharing our experiences too.
Cycling in London and US cities is growing. There are more riders than ever, and the bike is changing our streetscapes and our buildings. Cities across the world are increasingly promoting “active transportation” - cycling and walking - for its benefits to health, economic well-being and environmental quality, but also to ease the stresses and strains on established transportation systems and ever more crowded cities 70% of the world’s population are predicted to be living in cities by 2050. America’s car-centric culture and car-dependent society are changing fast. Americans don’t have a 40-year history of steady change like Denmark, and are impatient to get results. We feel that this momentum and the associated innovations are very relevant to London and other major UK cities, which are – at least until the latest round of announced but unclear initiatives – just freewheeling. The US is also the spiritual home of pioneers of place and liveable cities, like Jane Jacobs and William Whyte who would appreciate the role of cycling in modern (and historic) urban life. Cycling is about people and co-existence. P2P explored this while riding across the country, and we show how US cities are encouraging more people to take up cycling; how they have improved the cycling experience and how they are on the way to making it accessible to all ages and abilities.
In 2012, a group of professionals in architecture, planning, media and design came together around a shared interest in cycling. The aim was to create a ride across the United States from the American “cycling capital” of Portland, Oregon to Portland Place, London - the HQ of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The 7,000 km ride was to have two main purposes: raising money for charities and researching urban cycling in the US.
our observations as riders, according to the broad framework proposed by Jan Gehl in Copenhagen around how easy it is to cycle in the city.
The P2P ride carried several assumptions to the main US cities the group visited:
It is P2P’s special “view from the saddle” which adds a fresh, bike users’ perspective to our professional insights and conversations across America. We were keen to see the new and commendable ideas across the US, the challenges and obstacles faced, and to highlight good practice for wider application. Using interviews, conversations and the actual cycling experience together, this qualitative approach will freshen the debates and encourage successful solutions.
• That a cyclised city is a civilised city, in the sense that human scale and activity should shape and characterise the urban townscape more than buildings and cars do; and that the slower moving, easy access bicycle leads to positive changes in placemaking – and good design counts for a lot • That there may be an identifiable point when city cycling really starts to grow rapidly, and when riders of all ages and degrees of confidence are attracted onto the streets. Crucial to this is the perception of cycling as a means of safe, everyday transport – not just a recreational sport for the few • That we can learn from the American experience, and bring fresh thinking into the ways London and other UK cities provide for increased cycling It would take much more time and capacity than P2P had to fully explore these assumptions. We chose to look for their tell-tale signs by structuring our interviews with key people and
City culture is much about getting around, and we believe cycling is the mode best suited to creating liveable cities and tackling their widespread congestion, health and environmental issues – problems which other modes of transport tend to make worse.
This look at achievements in the face of problems that are encountered in cities everywhere will, we hope, generate renewed focus and enthusiasm in practical ways, for policy-makers and for delivery on the ground.
The Portland to Portland ride was a genuine exploration on many levels, and in particular to see for ourselves how the myth that we have little to learn from America might be dispelled. Indeed, we find that US cities have been taking European ideas and adding their own local solutions at relatively great speed. It’s not true of the whole country, of course, but almost every major city has better cycling on its agenda and the enthusiasm is clearly spreading to smaller cities and towns. The P2P riders looked closely at the larger cities they rode through, including how these are providing facilities and infrastructure for cycling. We started in Portland because it is a cycling city, voted America’s ‘most liveable city’, and then rode to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Cardiff, Bristol, Oxford and London. Earlier training rides to Freiburg, Copenhagen and Rotterdam provided baseline experience for sharing and comparing en route. However, this is not about bald comparisons. We have kept the ample data about the cycling infrastructure and other measures for each city in the background, mainly to help in balancing the physical, demographic, political and cultural differences between cities. The project is more about the innovative ideas and the quality of
provision which abound in the US as well as Europe: the American cities which have made huge advances in cycling have done so relatively quickly, and apparently with greater enthusiasm and determination than in many other countries. We were surprised by the popularity of cycling in US cities and by the extent of US cycling initiatives we think the UK might learn from. There seemed to be at least as much that the UK can learn from the US as we can from the advanced cycling countries around Europe. For the most part, the physical infrastructure we saw comes from a conventional palette of ideas, but several elements are very striking: • The greenways and “rails to trails” created from old railroad lines and riverside paths are generally well finished in tarmac or crushed soft stone, and offer quite long-distance routes directly into the centre of town. They often connect to much longer trails into the countryside, and are so popular that nearby real estate values are increasing 1
• An eye for placemaking, particularly in New York, where new bike infrastructure is “sold” as part of wider townscape improvements that increase safety for all modes attractively • A willingness to take the long view, using a ‘complete streets’ or ‘road diet’ approach to inserting bike infrastructure whenever scheduled maintenance includes total resurfacing. For a time this does lead to piecemeal lanes, etc, but eventually they will join up; costs remain relatively low and people get used to seeing the cycling provision in place – and use it more This infrastructure relies on recent funding opportunities, but just as much on political commitment, rapid consultation and delivery, and effective messages about the wider benefits. Some campaigns are very challenging for the American public because they attack car use vehemently; others are well attuned towards steady cultural change. The key points for us include: • Strong political leadership, looking for momentum to carry programmes forward
• High quality themed routes, like the cultural trail through Indianapolis
• Clear messages about the public health and local economic benefits of cycling
• Bike lanes placed inside the parking lane, so that the parked cars provide the separation from moving traffic, and the street frontage buildings benefit from all three slower modes (pedestrians, cyclists and local drivers).
• Constant reminders about what the law requires (e.g. safe passing distances) and what constitutes good driver – and cycling – behaviour
To be fair, Most rails-to-trails initiatives in the US have only been possible due to the complete demise of suburban railway networks which, of course, remain the primary mode of transport for commuters in the UK and Europe.
• The sheer number of public events around cycling, for fun and exercise; specifically those that take over streets for a day or more • A “can-do” enthusiasm – this might be a cliché in the UK but the energy and pride in results are visible reminders that your bike is an everyday object of great benefit to you and others The physical infrastructure also needs to be supported by education and training of many kinds – in schools, community centres, driver-training sessions and wherever the streets get discussed. We saw numerous examples of funded initiatives, some in partnership with the private sector, and often engaging with minority groups and regeneration projects. Finally, we were impressed by the role of advocacy groups such as the Transportation Alliance in
Minneapolis and Transportation Alternatives in New York. They are campaigners for better cycling, but do so in concert with the local transportation departments, often running projects and programmes alongside the formal street engineering. The UK needs an environment in which: • More bikes can travel on public transport vehicles • Complete Streets planning is commonplace – creating the policy for the city • The cultural perception of cycling is transformed • There are low speeds enforced on all city roads • There is, where necessary, a segregated cycling system
• Cycling and pedestrian education in driver training is institutionalised • All road users show care and consideration to others, ideally with a “3 feet” rule imposed And to do that, we need:
• Good leadership, with clear decisionmaking; and • Dedicated funding streams and mechanisms
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY The project starts from the notion of the “4 Cs” adopted by Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, as a way of framing how P2P would look at the cities visited and adding consistency in approach. These principles are: -
Comfort How easy is it to ride around, park, get up stairways, etc. In some respects this is the most important category, with its connotations of stress-free riding
Consistency Routes are simple to use, and deploy the same layout and signage
Connectivity Routes are continuous with few interruptions, and integrate easily with other transport modes
Culture Is cycling an everyday part of city life, integrated into where we go and how we get there so much that it doesn’t require a special thought. There are other, similar frameworks for looking at cycleable cities, mainly for comparison and “top tens”. After speaking with Jan Gehl and colleagues in Copenhagen, we chose the “4 Cs”2 because they are broad enough to organise most
inputs, easy to explain, and not associated with current ranking systems that might be distractingly contentious. We also discussed the overall methodology with Tim Stonor at Space Syntax in London. The 4Cs are also a step towards looking outside the purely riding experience. As architects and planners, the P2P riders extended their observations to include how cycling could lead or enhance local place-making, in both the design and uses of streetscapes and adjacent buildings. A fifth C might be added, “Cash”; we found that the availability of Federal and state funding has underpinned the relatively rapid progress made in the US over the last 10-15 years. Although this funding has now been diluted (e.g. no longer ring-fenced), the momentum has continued with partnerships of local government and advocacy groups being creative about resources, often tapping into public health budgets. Meanwhile, the cost of motorised transport has become an important factor for many people: for many, cycling is affordable transport that makes inner city living possible. The P2P approach blends three strands of inquiry: • a background look at some of the plentiful data on urban cycling in the US and Europe • interviewing officials, advocacy groups, clubs and individuals about local cycling provision and trends
• seeing at first-hand what is happening in the United States by cycling around the cities we visited and recording our impressions
Looking at the background data Our desktop research was aimed mainly at preparing us for informed discussions with local agencies, and seeing if there are useful indicators of cycling culture that could be used across the country. Core information includes whether there are up-to-date strategies or plans for cycling covering the next few years; the estimated amounts of bike lanes and other infrastructure, comparable per 10,000 population; any comparable budget information such as $$ per capita spent on cycling (although this proves hard to find reliably); monitoring in progress, etc.3 The cycling culture indicators are more diverse and include education and training programmes; the number of bike shops per capita; the contribution of cycling to the local economy and ridership trends.
Interviews and conversations The approach to each city followed broadly the same pattern. Initial contacts were made with city hall officials and local cycling agencies, which then led to other connections being made. The response has been very welcoming, often with local riders coming long distances out of town to meet us and show points of interest along a cyclingfriendly route to our motels.
An extended portrayal of Gehl’s thinking is at: http://www.slideshare.net/GehlArchitects/gehl-architects-presentations-from-workshop-21st-june-2010
These guided rides, formal interviews and social gatherings amounted to hours of conversation where hard data and personal opinions provided nuanced perspectives on cycling in US cities, a unique set of research inputs that would be hard to achieve from a desktop. Using the research structure, the P2P riders were able to frame questions and pull key points from these commentaries for summary in the rider surveys and notes. The formal interviewees included senior officials at the various Departments of Transportation; the Transportation Commissioners in Chicago and New York; and gatherings of active transportation advocacy and project groups in almost all the cities visited.
Reviewing infrastructure in Philadelphia We were able to visit specific infrastructure sites and attend several events that coincided with our visits, including: • a tour of the Portland Go By Tram facility, connecting extensive bike parking and servicing to a cable-car access to (and funded by)the university • a reception in Portland with various politicians, officials and groups followed by a lecture by Mark Gorton charting the return of the bicycle to cities • the pre-launch of Chicago’s “Divvybike” bikeshare scheme
• guided tours of cycling infrastructure in Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia • a “Fit Nation” event in New York of talks and discussion around cycling in cities, with a health dimension Of course, this is mainly talking with experts and enthusiasts, but they did not all share the same views about the ways ahead. There were many conversations with politicians, writers and “people in the street”, the passers-by who were curious about P2P; cab drivers, motel and shop staff and countless others freely offered their opinions – sometimes hostile – about cycling culture and provision.
Riding the cities The preliminary research showed that the cities we visited already have quite extensive programmes, plans and delivery of cycling infrastructure. We therefore chose to take this as given and to concentrate on how well things are getting done by riding around the cities, using the Gehl paradigm of
comfort, consistency, connectivity and culture as a common means of interpreting what we saw. Applying the 4Cs helps to answer the basic question of what deters people from cycling, like poor infrastructure and feelings of insecurity. However, there’s much more to providing the riding environment that people of all ages feel confident in, so that P2P riders had further thoughts in mind when exploring the cities. While the 4Cs provide indicators of a good cycling experience, they also start to address the role of cycling activity and infrastructure in placemaking. The P2P riders were using their architectural and design experience to find where areas and streets had changed alongside the biking provision, looking for examples of a more sociable, human-scale urban fabric.
The core information is changing all the time, so the tables are currently being updated from January 2013.
ACROSS AMERICA The P2P group spent over two months in the US talking to experts and bystanders along the way, and observing and discussing the cycling conditions we saw. There is no doubt that these places have made visible and rapid progress towards better cycling in the last 10-15 years, against the backdrop of a very strong car culture. Several general features can be picked out as advantages or issues quite typical of what we found:• Wide streets in some cities offer many more opportunities to insert bike lanes and landscaping without reducing vehicle capacity significantly • The grid street pattern allows more opportunities to create “express” bike routes and bike
boulevards – although not many of these were seen in practice. Signal timings set at bike speed would work better • Federal funding was ring-fenced to cycling and pedestrians in 1996, which both spurred and enabled the individual states to implement many projects (although similar progress was made in Canada without national financing). In 2012 Congress passed a new transportation bill (MAP-21) which dismantled dedicated funding for biking and walking by combining Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails into one and cutting the funding by 30%. However, the bill included a local control provision to ensure that mayors and communities could get access to these dollars to support local transportation priorities.
Since state governments seem to be some way behind the main cities in their thinking about cycle provision, funding for cycling is now falling away unless individual cities choose to keep it up from local sources. • In a typical instance of how cycling becomes political football, Republican Senators have just (July 2013) lodged amendments to prohibit local mayors from using these funds for cycling improvements. This sounds an extreme case, but we heard many examples of just how political cycling can become, and how inexplicable the opposition can seem. Previously, local politicians went to Washington and successfully lobbied for federal funds on grounds that cycling is a real and better alternative to the car. Now the messages must focus only on health and safety benefits if they are to be heard.
• Advocacy groups play an important role. In most of the cities we visited, there is an “Active Transportation” group working quite closely with local government officials but also able to campaign freely for better cycling. They see the benefits of being the “reasonable” voice, which includes access to funds for projects, and access to the formal delivery of transport solutions. There are two main national organisations: the League of American Bicyclists and the Adventure Cycling Association. • There are also, of course, more strident lobbying groups which may be vehement in challenging the car-centric status quo; while many cycling clubs place more recreational/sporting riding facilities over basic provision for a wider population. • One of the main divisions of opinion amongst cycling groups and providers of infrastructure concerns how to get more riders on bikes. Enthusiasts favour the “share the road” approach with slow streets and no separate cycling provision, but most government agencies are keen to implement as many segregated lanes as they can, because of a much higher perceived level of safety for inexperienced riders • Many of the Americans we met seem to have boundless enthusiasm and optimism in general, for anything from a town fete to political rallies. This positive energy goes into their descriptions of what they are doing and want to do for cycling. The community messages are colourful, upbeat and encouraging, along with
innumerable events across the country for cyclists of all kinds. Portland especially has a “bikes are fun” attitude, and there is strong emphasis on the necessary cultural shift towards cycling. However, we came away feeling that there can be a gap between the talking up of projects and the actual level and quality of provision. The city where provision and take-up seemed to be working best and in tandem was Minneapolis. • What also shines through is the uphill struggle to get cycling accepted widely. We found cities to be at various points on a simple scale to more riding: 1. People on bicycles are allowed to use the roads 2. Cycling is a valid mode of transport, and not just a recreational activity for enthusiasts in tight clothing 3. Cycling gets legislative support, placing duties of care on both drivers and riders, rules of the road, funding, etc 4. Cycling provision gets designed into street layout, eventually on an equal footing to motor vehicles Each stage sees a perceived reduction in the freedom and space for drivers. The resulting “pushback” can take many forms, including legal challenge (as currently in New York where a new bike lane is being resisted by an affluent neighbourhood), fears about loss of trade, and simply hostile driver behaviour. The cities’ responses to this cultural, political (and sometimes ideological) resistance are equally
varied. Some cities take an incremental view, putting in cycling infrastructure as and when the street gets its regular resurfacing: this results in bike lanes starting and ending abruptly, but in the longer term the city achieves its goals. Others are more insistent in imposing change but, as the DoT in New York commented, they are still quite restricted to “picking the lowhanging fruit”. • Our interviewees were quite clear that every step towards better infrastructure does bring more people out on bikes and that, even if the change is small, each measure raises awareness of how accessible cycling can be; the Minneapolis Greenways are an example of good provision encouraging more cycling generally. Other beneficial effects of bike lanes and increased ridership include lower vehicle speeds, fewer accidents and increased pedestrian safety records. On the other hand, we felt drivers in Portland appeared to drive faster and closer to cyclists than elsewhere, and wonder if this reflects a potentially unfortunate consequence of greater familiarity with bicycles.
The transferable experiences we set out below are doubtless to be found in Europe and elsewhere, although perhaps not in one place. While we would like our recommendations considered everywhere, we have London specifically in mind as a city with high aspirations and currently debating (again) about how to cater for more cycling. Of course, London has a very specific set of constraints and pre-existing conditions, but individually none of these are unique. We can still learn and share from smaller cities
Over the 7000 km, our research ambitions were stretched by the logistics and strains of the daily riding, and by the “day jobs” left behind but which still inevitably intruded. But in response to the obvious question “Did we, could we, All transport and learn from America? planning policy-making the answer is a should have liveable resounding yes. cities as their priority, We have met some world leaders in with walking, cycling and promoting cycling in cities, people public transport as the who have been grappling with the issues for years, enthusiastically principle modes. and effectively. The US cities we visited are determinedly trying to raise cycling’s share of urban transportation. They are drawing on European models, and use a mix of approaches to make sure that solutions are tailored to succeed. There were very few tales of unsuccessful projects. The Americans are asking the right questions – how do we make our cities more cycleable and so more liveable for all to benefit from. They are driven by the same forces and concerns – public health, pollution, congestion, higher density and crowding, demand for better cycling provision, economic pressures on transport – and riders’ – budgets, insufficient public transport, political contests, etc.
In looking for an overarching policy aim, we take from the Danish and US experiences the notion that people should be able to take bikes so much for granted – like vacuum cleaners – that many of the perceived problematic issues are ultimately inconsequential. The bicycle is a fully fledged, economic and healthy means of getting around, perfectly adapted to complex and congested cities. In the C21st, the car is better suited to rural transit. In medieval cities with limited space available, you have to prioritise; you have to discuss cycling and private cars on an equal footing. “This is a concept that is still nascent in the UK. But the same sort of thinking is going on in the Netherlands:
Amsterdam has its new “Action Plan for Mobility”4. The document talks about how “Until now the guiding principle for almost every [street layout] reorganisation has been to guarantee the accessibility of all the functions for all modes of transport.” That sort of thinking is very much the case in the UK. You have town planners trying to squeeze in buses, bikes, motorbikes, taxis, white vans, lorries, pedestrians. It’s a fairly hapless task”5.
All transport and urban planning should become fully integrated, so that the street and the place, the activities and the architecture are considered holistically In creating and rediscovering a more human scale, the liveable city approach offers the best chance of making our burgeoning cities better now and more sustainable into the future. Placemaking – codes, complete streets, etc.
Active transportation should be seen as the structure for communities and policymakers working together and using available resources effectively, including empowered advocacy groups to assist in local delivery Active transportation (AT) means integrating walking and cycling and public transport. It makes the leap from petty arguments about
bike lanes to the real public health, economic and social benefits of cycling. New York’s Center for Active Design further extends this dominant thread of healthy living to include all aspects of buildings and places. Many US cities have AT alliances or groups which operate “within the system” by being responsible sounding boards that are reasonably well funded, running agreed programmes and publicity. The groups do this without compromising their campaigning roles. The title reflects public health, safety and getting around efficiently. The rapid growth of American urban cycling seems to owe much to the collaboration between advocacy groups and local government. Transport departments maintain full working relationships with AT groups without losing the powers and responsibilities of their job. The combination of these resources, and their enthusiasms, suggests that local government and communities elsewhere could adopt less stilted working ways, without hindering the campaigning enthusiasms of some rider groups. This and AT itself rely on the shift in policy approaches recommended above, but are wholly in line with, for example, the stated role for UK Health & Well-being Boards.
Strong political leadership and a clear vision create momentum and positive expectations, and a pride in progress. 5
The American cities showing the most rapid and extensive cycling growth have strong mayors and senior officials, leading from the front and pursuing continuous programmes for infrastructure, innovation like bikeshare, consultations and communication. Moreover, they aren’t going to take 40 or 50 years to do it. They are effective fundraisers and lay the foundations for future implementation, in part by keeping expectations high to exert political pressure on their successors. They also have a clear vision of what can be achieved: the transport plans are ambitious and long term; the pictures are of a better-looking, healthier city. They are pragmatic – in their own words “picking the low-hanging fruit”— and choosing the right campaigns to follow. In a national culture where the car has been entrenched for 75 years or more, it is always going to be slow progress towards car-free cities. During this period, the car industry has successfully maintained that cars – or at least car-owners – have ‘rights’ to virtually limitless mobility and persuaded society to turn a blind eye on the collateral damage caused by motor vehicles (death and serious injury, noise, pollution and climate change, etc). A conversation about increasing cycling is prone to provoke defensive reactions. However, when the objective is put in terms of healthier, safer, liveable cities that are attractive to live in, cycling is a key part of that vision – and increasingly understood as such. Americans show enthusiasm and pride in their public activities and works, and achievements are often
volubly recognised. One plausible effect of this is that, despite some grumbling, bike infrastructure and placemaking are locked into the city psyche as often recognisable landmarks, used to navigate by. We aren’t going to change a national psyche, but there is a lot of potential pride in improving cycling in London and enjoying all the associated benefits.
Invest in communication and marketing. We were struck by the constant reminders of what’s on offer for cycling in the US. These messages cover the whole system, from what the law requires and good driving etiquette, to advertising where to try new infrastructure and the hundreds of events for biking all year round. These positive reinforcements are often associated with family life, safe streets and good health, i.e. that riding has tangible, worthwhile benefits as well as getting you around town. Invest in education and training in schools, motoring and other driving roles Liveable city policies and visions depend on cultural change taking place, and the outreach and discussion this implies. Likewise, physical infrastructure needs supporting with “softer” measures and public messages that overcome some of the “cultural” barriers to cycling. The range of activity includes learning in classrooms and during consultation exercises how cities can be more liveable
See Danny William’s full comments at http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/amsterdam-announces-plan-to-create.html
with active transportation; focused training on safety and use builds riders’ confidence for where the streets are shared; school training reaches the first-time riders and reduces the school run; and requirements for cycle awareness training should be built into driver training and testing – including bus and cab drivers and the police. We found every city we visited in the US to be running some, and in one case, all of these programmes.
Dispel the myths about cycling and the effects of the infrastructure Because of the strong pushback against reducing road capacity for cars, it is no surprise that American transportation agencies work hard to counter some of the misleading arguments used to block provision for cycling. A recent study in New York indicates businesses and real estate values benefit from the greater and slower footfall of pedestrians and cyclists using new lanes and urban spaces designed around them. Others show that overall traffic flows are not impeded, while lower speeds result in fewer accidents. Elsewhere, Copenhagen demonstrates a net saving in health and other costs per kilometre cycled compared with driving, and a recent estimate for the Australian government suggests major benefits to the economy from riding and walking, mainly savings in transport infrastructure and health costs.6
Central government public investment is essential Bicycle infrastructure and promotion cost a fraction of other transportation modes’, and the benefits are very high in comparison. The health, business and other dividends are considerable, and a study of cycling provision compared to conventional regeneration projects would be very interesting. In the US it is clear that without major pump-priming funds from Federal resources much less would have happened in the cities we visited. As Federal funding has receded, other sources have come into play in response to the Active Transportation agenda. We see that the APPCC recommends that “More of the transport budget should be spent on supporting cycling, at a rate initially set to at least £10 per person per year, and increasing as cycling levels increase”.
Invest more in physical infrastructure for cycling and pedestrians, to help shape our cities into pleasant, sustainable environments capable of absorbing population growth. As urban populations increase, more spatially aware planning and better use of the large areas given over to movement and parking become essential. Our streets have to respond to
increasing demand and squeezing primary modes of walking and cycling into the margins is no longer an option. The vision of liveable cities relies very much on good cycling infrastructure, with adequate and stable budgets: cycling infrastructure is relatively inexpensive and should be funded from both national and local sources.
Invest more strategically in infrastructure. Part of any strategy should reflect spatial thinking about the city. It is suggested that many people will ride if their journey is less than, say, 20-30 minutes or up to about 10km. The corollary of this is that if longer trips can be made physically or psychologically shorter, then more people will come within a given riding catchment – i.e. shrink the city by providing more direct routes where possible.7 Perhaps the most visible “shrink the city” investments we saw in US cities are in the longer-distance Greenways and rail-to-trails. Not only are these high quality bike/ pedestrian corridors, but they go directly into the heart of the city as prime commuter routes, often supplemented by riverside and canalside routes as local distributors. Significant cyclecarrying capacity on trains and buses increases the ability to cut journey times and make cycling easier. In suburban areas where there is greater car usage, cycling can be encouraged by sharrows and bike
The World Health Organisation has a model (HEAT) for estimating health cost savings from active transportation
boulevards, and by focusing on recreational cycling infrastructure to encourage more ridership. We saw many examples of this in the US, particularly in Minneapolis and Portland; and these can be used to develop orbital routes connecting suburban centres.
Use the whole range of infrastructure options to innovate and encourage more to cycle There are many other American choices of infrastructure that have the potential for much wider use in the UK and elsewhere. We noted, for example, the frequent use of sharrows – arrows on the road surface indicating bikes and vehicles share the street, and advisory cycle signs on posts where road markings are not used. In almost every city, the aspiration is to introduce segregated cycle lanes as simply the safest and most attractive option for riders. The ingredients that draw more people into cycling are those that make the journey comfortable and complete. On the street they include plentiful and secure parking, and the ability to use other modes easily; the buses in every major city we visited have bike racks on the front. Bikeshare schemes have been eagerly adopted in the US as both transport option and “starter kit” for people riding their own cycles. Within buildings, the emphasis is on adequate storage, showers, etc – and with a culture of supporting cycling. There was a strong recognition amongst cycling advocacy groups and enthusiasts that more needs 7
to be done to promote cycling to women, low income groups and ethnic minorities. Bike shops are a critical part of the cycling infrastructure in this respect, and we saw examples of cycle shops dedicated to female riders. Correcting the gender imbalance amongst cyclists is an important task and would help to tackle associated issues such as clothing for cyclists being notoriously more oriented at male than female riders. All types of infrastructure have one valuable aspect in common: they serve as visible proof that cycling is a transportation option anyone can use. In fact, the Americans use every available tool in the box knowing that this visibility is crucial to increasing ridership.
Adopt high standards of maintenance and enforcement Riding around New York and Chicago, it was clear that the weight of traffic takes a heavy toll on road markings and surface conditions, in contrast to Minneapolis. This makes for uncomfortable and vulnerable cycling, and an obvious deterrent to would-be riders. Our recommendation is that – regardless of the regular routines of road maintenance - all bicycle markings and infrastructure should be maintained as new; they will stand out better in consequence, and the city places and spaces they help to create and sustain will remain attractive. Similarly with road use enforcement. Poor cycling
One of the P2P riders, Simon Henley, has already proposed a model for such a shrinkage, see “Park + Jog” at http://www.hhbr.co.uk/projects/regeneration/006.htm
behaviour attracts the same ire as bad or dangerous driving, and again deters would-be riders. Firm but not draconian enforcement, backed by police training, is a visible sign that safe street movement is the priority, and is an issue that our American consultees referred to frequently.
Reduce urban speed limits to 20 mph/30kph This is a regular aspiration in US cities, again drawing on European experience as well as their own. In practice, small streets and grid patterns (and the four-way-stop culture) already achieve this in cities like Philadelphia, and there appears to be little impact on overall traffic speed (yet another myth to be dispelled). Instead, road safety is much improved and more people turn to cycling.
AFTERWORD We see the resurgence of debate about cycling, although it seems dully functional and without real vision; the sums are modest and the measures limited. Although there is occasional dramatic progress in some places, overall these are meagre responses to pressure from users, and all about squeezing cycling in rather than redesigning our roads around sustainable transport. In September 2013, the House of Commons debated the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report “Get Britain Cycling”; the House duly endorsed the target of 10% of all journeys being by bike by 2025, and 25% by 2050, and called on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycling Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling.8 MPs talked a lot about the recent improvements in their constituencies, but rightly felt that there is too little happening and the government response to the report was unhelpful in lacking leadership and investment.
The other striking aspect of the debate was that it could have been scripted by our research. The points raised and generally agreed on are the same, which suggests that the messages we carried back from the US are all the more relevant. At the outset, the Minister was asked to explain how these two promises can be taken seriously when the Netherlands spends £25 per head on cycling while the UK spends just £2 per head, and when the highways budget in the UK is £15 billion, but the funds announced for cycling are just £159 million, with no dedicated funding stream that allows local authorities to plan for more than two years. The response was that the Government is spending nearly twice that during its term of office – not exactly champion material. The debate then referred to the health, economic and other benefits of cycling; and issues of safety, public transport connectivity, cycling behaviour and the reluctance to get on two wheels… …these are the same topics being debated across the northern USA.
There are many people to thank for helping directly in this research, especially all those in America who not only talked but rode with us a while as guides and entertained in the evenings. In Portland we met Mia Birk (Alta), Chris di Stefano (Rapha), Roger Geller (Bureau of Transportation), Mark Gorton, John Landolphe (Go by Tram), Jonathon Maus (BikePortland), Ann Morrow and the Portland Wheelmen, Richard Potestio (Bicycle Transportation Alliance).
Travelling eastwards, Arthur Ross, Mark Opitz (City of Middleton), Tom Klein (Wisconsin Bike Federation Madison), Jessica Binder, (WBF Milwaukee), Kristin Bennett, Kurt Zimmerman and others in the Madison – Milwaukee area.
In Montana, Adam Reel (Adventure Cycling America, Missoula).
Then there are Jamison Hutchins (City of Indianapolis) and Jim Coppock (City of Cincinnati), and in Pittsburgh Scott Bricker (Bike Pittsburgh), Roger Cranville, Lou Fenberg (BikePGH), Stephen Patchan (DoT), Patrick Roberts.
In Minneapolis, Simon Blenski (City), Nick Mason (Bicycle Alliance), Prescott Morrell (Transit for Liveable Communities) and all those who came for an evening beer- and then to guide us out early on a Sunday morning, and the Spokes community bicycle centre.
In Chicago, the Active Transportation Alliance team, Gabe Klein (Transportation Commissioner), Lynn Osmond (CEO Chicago Architecture Foundation), Peter Scales (City of Chicago).
In Philadelphia, Charles Camault, and in New York Josh Benson (Director Cycling & Pedestrian Movement), Stephen Fleming, Eric Lee (Bennett Midland
consultancy), Ryan Russo (Assistant Commissioner), Janette Sadik-Khan (Transportation Commissioner), Paul Steely-White (Transportation Alternatives), Tom Vanderbilt. In the UK, Matt Bates (Oxford City Planning), Richard Mann (cycleox), Sophie Morris & Leanne Tritton at IngMedia. “Mentoring” help came from Jan Gehl and colleagues in Copenhagen, and Tim Stonor (Space Syntax) in London. This report has been compiled by P2P riders Robert Cohen, Ben Hockman and Bob West, with editorial help from riders Peter Murray & David Taylor and technical support from Ben James and Max Putnam of IngMedia. Photos © riders Robert Cohen, Grant Smith & Bob West, and BikeNYC.
THE KEY LESSONS FOR LONDON We must actively change the culture of driving and its relation to cycling. One way to do this is to increase public information about safe cycling. Having police on the streets following the spate of deaths in November has had a marked impact on behaviour. We must do all we can to make these changes permanent using advertising and digital media to inform road users about appropriate behaviour.
We should continue the move to separated cycle lanes where appropriate.
The Golding Rule The P2P team has been much affected by the death of Francis Golding, the planning consultant, who was killed on Southampton Street in November. The group proposes the Golding Rule which promotes the idea of consideration by all road users and right of way of the more vulnerable. Francis Golding was killed by a left turning coach. As part of the Golding Rule we must address the behaviour of left turning vehicles who should give way to cyclists on their inside, in the same way that London buses generally do.
What London can ! learn from !
Through their involvement with the construction industry the P2P group will work with contractors to improve the safety record of lorries servicing sites.
America’s cycling cities!
However these can only cover a fraction of London’s road network. It is changing behaviour that will provide the safest environment for both cycling and walking. Drivers must learn to live with an increasing number of cyclists on the streets.
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Areas of central London are ideally suited to use as shared spaces. The example of Exhibition Road was regularly mentioned by observers in the US; Villiers Street at Embankment has become a shared space through the volume of pedestrians and Monmouth Street in Covent Garden provides a civilised urban space where pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles share the space. The Mayor and boroughs should actively seek more areas where shared space can be implemented. Soho, Fitzrovia, the City of London and many of London’s towns could benefit from shared spaces.
! ! ! ! Report of the Portland Oregon to Portland Place ride 2013!
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We should implement the ‘Three foot rule‘ or ‘One Metre Rule’ where vehicles should give adequate space when passing cyclists. This is law in 22 American states. In Pennsylvania it is 4 foot. We must learn to share the road. In Canada and the US the ‘sharrow’ marks where a cyclist has the right to ride - this will be in the centre of the road where there is too little space for a car to pass. We should replace the current meaningless single bike symbol used on many of London’s roads with sharrows.
We should implement a Complete Streets policy so that TfL and boroughs design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including cyclists, buses, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
P2P: Peter Murray c/o NLA 26 Store Street London WC1E 7BT or Leanne Tritton c/o Ing Media 44-46 Scrutton St,EC2A 4HH, United Kingdom +44 20 7247 8334
This is the Final Report of the Portland Oregon to Portland Place 2013 cycle ride. From April to July 2013, a team of British riders cycle...
Published on Dec 10, 2013
This is the Final Report of the Portland Oregon to Portland Place 2013 cycle ride. From April to July 2013, a team of British riders cycle...