Today is Day Three of the Transportation Research Board’s annual conference. Interested in pavement composition and performance? There are 200 workshops with your name on them.
Interested in bicycling? There’s quite a bit for you too. Yesterday, 13 scholars presented their research on cycling. Here are a few highlights:
Take Your City Engineer to Copenhagen. Cortney Mild of the University of Oregon studied the impact of study trips led by Bikes Belong and FHWA to cycling cities in Europe [PDF], showing policymakers and transportation professionals the potential of better infrastructure. They found that the tour participants were overwhelmed at the sheer number of cyclists and the “normalcy” of it in everyday life, with people of all ages, athletic abilities, genders, and economic statuses getting on bikes.
Dave Cieslewicz, former mayor of Madison, realized that the Netherlands achieved high rates of cycling not just “because the price of gas is so high and the land is flat,” but “by making conscious decisions about bicycle infrastructure and policies.” He said that what “hit [him] over the head” was that the U.S. “can make conscious policy decisions that dramatically change the mode share.”
The most common improvement these participants implemented in their home towns upon returning was colored pavement to call attention to complicated intersections. But they also returned excited about opportunities to build cycle tracks.
Connectivity Does In Fact Boost Mode Share. Jessica Schoner of the University of Minnesota found that bike route connectivity was a significant factor in increasing mode share in the the 74 U.S. cities she studied – but, surprisingly, “fragmentation” is not. I asked if fragmentation wasn’t just the lack of connectivity. She said fragments were “little islands of bike facility everywhere.” The size of the bicycle network was also not a significant factor in mode share, according to her research.
The Mineta Transportation Institute studied this issue recently, looking at high-stress and low-stress streets for biking in San Jose. They found that while 67 percent of the city’s streets were “low-stress,” that didn’t help if, to get between them, you have to risk your hide on wide, arterial streets with speeding traffic.
Schoner also found that households with seniors or children were far less likely to ride bikes. I suppose this isn’t shocking, but it is disheartening. She said parents often have “more complex trip-chaining needs” and she’d hoped greater connectivity would ameliorate that problem some, but it didn’t appear to.
Biking Uphill Is Satisfying. It’s an established fact that cyclists rate their commute as more “satisfying” than others.