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Tracking Cyclists, Avid and Otherwise
Erica Barnett, 21 Aug 07

bike laneHow important are bike lanes to avid bikers, leisure cyclists and occasional bike commuters, respectively? Are dedicated pathways crucial, or is it more important that people feel safe on the street itself? What's more helpful: segregation of bicycles from cars or pavement markings and other wayfinding signals that help bikers navigate the same right-of-way as drivers?

These and many similar questions have been debated by transportation and city planners around the world for years, with inconclusive results. Some argue for what could be known as the Copenhagen model, in which bicyclists are separated from traffic and channeled onto "bicycle tracks" or "cycle paths"--bike facilities that are segregated from cars by a median or other grade-separating device. The model has been remarkably successful at promoting bicycle commuting—currently, more than a third of people in Copenhagen get to work by bike, and nearly two-thirds say they feel safe traveling on bike tracks.

However, the Copenhagen model is much more expensive than simply striping bike lanes on existing streets. Supporters of bike lanes also point out that lanes allow cyclists to follow roughly the same path as vehicular traffic and get cyclists accustomed to biking in the street with cars--making the streets safer for cyclists (who build awareness of biking by their presence) and drivers (who will, in turn, drive more cautiously if they expect bikers to be on the road.)

A new study currently underway at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, certainly won't settle the debate once and for all, but it will provide valuable information to help city planners make informed decisions about which kind of bike facilities best serve both avid and occasional or "timid" cyclists, and where.

In the first phase of her study, transportation researcher Jennifer Dill outfitted 130 frequent cyclists with GPS systems and tracked their movements throughout the city to see which routes they used and how quickly they got around. In the phase that’s now getting underway, Dill will track the routes that infrequent cyclists (those who ride fewer than four days a week) use to get around the city, seeing how their travel patterns mirror and differ from those of more frequent riders.

One goal of the research is to see how far out of their way infrequent cyclists will go to avoid cars. The study will also examine how weather influences route choices, whether bike lanes make much difference in getting people to ride on city streets, and which type of bike facilities are most popular (and with whom).

Dill's previous research has yielded a few somewhat surprising results. In an earlier study, she concluded that the number of bike lanes within a quarter-mile of a person's house had no effect on the amount of cycling the person did. She also found that more than half of non-cyclists said they would take up biking if they could avoid traffic. Dedicated bike facilities could help alleviate that fear; but then, it's also possible that bike lanes could do the same for a fraction of the cost. Dill's study, though limited to a single city in the United States, could have important implications for transportation planning in the US and elsewhere.

Image: flickr/wenflickr

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Comments

Don't forget those who use a Segway in the bike lane. It's often the only legal place to ride a Segway and also the safest as their speed and "riding" behavior is similar to a bicycle.

They're extremely energy efficient compared to a car and offers the business person in a suit going to a meeting a wonderful alternative to a sweaty commute. We've gotten down to a one car family and are exploring joining a car-sharing organization and getting rid of our last car because of the segway and our two bikes. The city here needs more public transit before we're truly ready to make the leap. But, don't forget the Segway users. We're watching out for the environment too and love the bike lanes!!


Posted by: Segwayist on 21 Aug 07

There's another interesting study, just published (July 2007) in London, England, by Transport for London (TfL).

Look at their web site www dot tfl dot gov dot uk

go to: Business and Partners>publications>cycling.

Essentially everybody on the routes surveyed would have used the route whether facilities were there or not, and only discovered that the route had facilities as they rode along it.

Jeremy Parker
London, England


Posted by: Jeremy Parker on 22 Aug 07

There's another interesting study, just published (July 2007) in London, England, by Transport for London (TfL).

Look at their web site www dot tfl dot gov dot uk

go to: Business and Partners>publications>cycling.

Essentially everybody on the routes surveyed would have used the route whether facilities were there or not, and only discovered that the route had facilities as they rode along it.

Jeremy Parker
London, England


Posted by: Jeremy Parker on 22 Aug 07

There's another interesting study, just published (July 2007) in London, England, by Transport for London (TfL).

Look at their web site www dot tfl dot gov dot uk

go to: Business and Partners>publications>cycling.

Essentially everybody on the routes surveyed would have used the route whether facilities were there or not, and only discovered that the route had facilities as they rode along it.

Jeremy Parker
London, England


Posted by: Jeremy Parker on 22 Aug 07

It is an interesting study, but I never thought of myself as an infrequent cyclist despite the fact I only commute by bicycle about twice each week. Well i guess i would be considered an outlier since I am one who does not avoid cycling on major thoroughfares. While i might be "infrequent," I am quite experienced and I don't feel uncomfortable in traffic while on my bike.



Posted by: rjlawrencejr on 22 Aug 07

Velo-city is a concept I am developing for a continuous sheltered bicycle highway network in Toronto. Check it out. http://www.velo-city.ca


Posted by: Chris Hardwicke on 22 Aug 07

In my experience the best conduits for cycling serve multiple motives for riding using one unit of infrastructure. This helps to promote cycling culture. In Columbus, OH, where I currently live, the Olentangy/Scioto bike path runs 20 miles N/S, through Ohio State University and downtown Columbus, bisecting the city (this is good for bike commuters). It is parallel to the the city's defining main street (good for using your bike to buy your groceries) and its defining waterways - right through the floodplain for the Olentangy River (it's esthetically pleasing). Since many public parks were also built on the floodplain, it's also provides easy to recreation (good for cycling from your house to your favorite park with your kid in tow). However it's also long enough (40 miles round trip) for local club racers and pros to get in a decent training ride (and they do). If the path served only one of those needs it would be a failure of good judgement.


Posted by: David R. Brown on 23 Aug 07



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