Sunday, May 29, 2011

Philadelphia's Bike Progress - Top Gear to Coasting?

In their latest report, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia found that of the U.S. ten largest cities, Philadelphia ranked #1 for bicycle mode share (nearly two times higher than Chicago in 2nd place). According to the Coalition, "Bicycle commuting increased 151 percent from 2000 to 2009." Although the shift to cycling seems high, the mode share for bicycle commuting in Philadelphia only amounts to 2.16% of total commutes. Other cities are grossly outperforming the major cities, like Davis, California for instance with a bicycle modeshare of 17%, and 25% throughout the mid 1990's.

Needless to say, there is room for improvement everywhere. In the Coalition's report, they determined "streets with bike lanes have more bike traffic." Statements like these may seem straightforward, but it is important to have studies that support policy actions for better multimodal infrastructure.

Yet, amidst Philadelphia's success, City Councilman Greenlee wants to impose "legislation that would require City Council approval for installation of any bike lane in Philadelphia." The Coalition flatly opposes the legislation as it would stifle progress throughout the city and "delay making our streets safer." Alex Doty, Executive Director of The Coalition touts "We're #1 in big city bicycle commuting," but "do we really want to be #1 in bike lane bureaucracy?"

Image courtesy Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia |

D.C. Councilman proposes raising Parking Fees

Like many cities, D.C. is confronted with growing car ownership and limited parking spaces. Studies have shown "some households park five, six, seven and even more cars on residential streets" - which causes people to shape their lives around parking, in hopes to find a space close to home or their destination. D.C. Councilman, Tommy Wells, proposes an increase for parking permits; "fees would allow households that legitimately need several cars to continue using street parking, but it would also encourage them to seek alternatives." Right now, D.C. resident's are issued parking permits by house - the permit costs around $15 a year. Wells proposed an incremental increase per vehicle, "$35 for a first sticker and, because many households have two adult drivers, charge an only slightly higher fee of $50 for the second. Only after the second car would the cost of a permit double to $100." Wells argues that parking is undervalued especially when comparing the price paid for public uses - the annual fees for placing a dumpster ($1,676), moving container ($3,650) or moving truck ($18,250) is far higher. He also mentions the selling of alley parking spaces on craiglist at $250 a month.

The city could also use the revenue. Wells proposal will raise an additional $1.1 million for transit projects in D.C. Without the parking fees, D.C. will be faced with transit cuts - "That means the 37 percent of D.C. households that do not own a car and probably depend on Metro for their basic transportation would lose a city service, while those who own cars would continue receiving a tangible city benefit for only a nominal fee." As Wells puts it, sounds like a "win-win" to me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Unique New York" - Walking where it Counts

Most are aware of the benefits of moderate daily exercise. The New York City's Department of Health released the results of a recent survey announcing that most of the City's residents meet their exercise requirements just by commuting - to work, for errands, etc. For those who walk or bike to work, they were active for 68 minutes per day and they also walked an additional 14 minutes for recreation (on average). Even those that rely on private cars or taxi still have moderate activity levels of around 28 minutes per day. The DOH notes "just 30 minutes of walking or biking each weekday reduces your risk of premature death by 20 percent."

With New York City's unique infrastructure and culture, Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City’s innovative transportation commissioner, demands new measures to assess modeshare within the city. Sadik-Khan wants to shy away from the method provided by the U.S. Census, because it does not count non-commute trips or provide ways to chose different modes for commuting. For example, when the census asks, ‘How do you get around?,’ if you take the train three days a week, or bike three times a week, that’s not counted.” With more accurate reporting of modeshare, Sadik-Khan hopes to obtain more transportation support from the state.

Image courtesy New York City's Department of Health via |

ReDesign: Downtown LA in 2030

Grab your dancing shoes and prepare for this inspiring video forecast, "Downtown Los Angeles: What was, what is, what is to come" in 2030 by Gensler LA and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Downtown Los Angeles from tam thien tran on Vimeo.

Schematic - Vertical Bike Storage

Manifesto Architecture proposes a new vertical structure for bicycle storage for underutilized facades. "The bike hanger" will be made of recycled materials - metal, plastic and carbon frames. Each hanger can hold 20-36 bikes. The mechanics are powered by the cyclist at the base of the installation. "The human generator" helps turn the wheels within the structure, rotating the bikes until the owner's bike is released. Installations are schedules for Seoul and London.

Image courtesy Manifesto Architecture |

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

World's Busiest Pedestrian Crossing

Welcome to Tokyo's Shibuya district, where ten roads meet with five crosswalks and 2,500 pedestrians cross during rush hour. Known as "the scramble," the crossing actually seems far more organized and "reflects the pulse of Tokyo." The scramble developed over time, first originating in the Ginza district during the mid 1970s.

Kidical Mass - Atlanta!

Kidical mass is a family oriented bike event to promote cycling for children. Kidical Mass was created in 2008 during a "brainstorm was a combination of wanting to get more kids and families excited about riding." Events occur across the U.S. and Canada. The Atlanta event occured May 21st, check out the 2.5 mile route through Decatur and photos. Looks like a success!

Photos courtesy Jon Woodroof |

Friday, May 20, 2011

NPR - "When Bikes and Cars Collide, Who's More Likely To Be At Fault?"

NPR presents an interesting collection of studies trying to determine who's more at fault in automobile and bicycling collisions. Numbers vary, as well as documentation methods. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety found "that in 2009, cyclists were at fault in 49 percent of crashes, while drivers were at fault in 51 percent." The most frequent cause for collisions, "failing to yield to right of way." Having motorists and cyclists share the burden may put some at ease, however, a study by the Transportation Research Board examining collisions in Hawaii between 1986 and 1991 found that "motorists are at fault in approximately 83.5% of incidents, bicyclists are at fault in only 16.5% of incidents," yet "bicyclists... are much more likely than motorists to disregard traffic controls."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

50 Ideas for a New City - My Favorites

Urban Omnibus collected responses over the last two years and published this fantastic list of 50 Ideas for a New City. Although, primarily focused on New York City - here are a few of my favorites, what are yours?

#4 Make a small difference in a community you know

#11 Enliven schools to engage children

#13 Let the city tell you it's stories

#31 Consider public transit options beyond rail and road

#38 Ask citizens how they want to improve their cities

#46 Celebrate the urban beauty of the overlooked

Monday, May 2, 2011

Challenging the Quarter Mile Rule for Pedestrians in D.C.

According to planning literature, pedestrian trips rarely exceed 10 minutes or ¼ mile in distance. Yet, according to the 2009 National Household Transportation Survey (when performing simple linear regression analysis on TRVL_MIN and TRPMILES variables for trips under sixty minutes), the average pedestrian travel time in the District of Columbia is 12.4 minutes and the average trip in more than twice the expected travel distance – 0.58 miles. On average, pedestrians are traveling 2.16 miles per hour. For every extra minute of travel, the average person walks between .031 and .041 miles (with 95% confidence). Therefore, the average person completes roughly one mile in 27 minutes!

Note, there are a few outliers skewing the data. These respondents cover more than two miles in a short period of time, which may be due to athletic activities or collection errors. However, with several respondents, I am 95% confident that for every 10-minute trip, the average distance covered will be between 0.446 and 0.534 miles - well above the quarter mile cut-off. Upon conducting a hypothesis test to confirm a linear relationship between travel distance and time, I reject the null hypothesis at .01 level, however there is a 1% chance that the travel time and distance does not have a linear relationship. The coefficient of determination (R2) is 0.6589, therefore 65.89% of the variation in derived trip time (X) is explained by the regression of travel distance (Y) – trip duration and distance are highly correlated.

The average pedestrian trip in the District is more than double the expected distance proposed by classic planning literature. Pedestrians are moving swiftly, where the average person completes roughly one mile in 27 minutes. Also, the mode share for pedestrian trips is abnormally high – 27% for trips captured in the 2009 National Household Travel Survey. The increase in distance and frequency of walking trips may be, in part, due to the District’s urban nature where it is difficult to own a vehicle and where property values are high – forcing people to live farther from the places they need to visit.

Creative Reuse - Mountain Bike Course beneath the I-5 Overpass

Volunteers constructed the Colonnade Mountain Bike Park beneath I-5 in Seattle. The two acre site has a variety of features for all types of off-road cyclists. The eclectic design allows bikers to ride the circuit "hundreds of times in hundreds of different ways." The post-apocalyptic site is uniquely carved into various trails and chutes adorned with ramps and planks galore.

Grant Proposal Submitted - Walking in Washington

In collaboration with Stephen Wheeler, Ph.D. AICP, we laid the foundation for my (unofficial) dissertation proposal this week by submitting an application for a faculty grant with the University of California, Davis' Sustainable Transportation Center for the following project. We are very excited and look forward to hearing the results!


Although the character of built environments is widely acknowledged as an important factor in promoting walking and other forms of physical activity, knowledge of specific environmental determinants of pedestrian travel is still evolving. The recent spread of transit-oriented development in major U.S. cities, often influenced by movements such as the New Urbanism, offers an opportunity to study the effect of detailed urban design strategies on pedestrian activity. This study will analyze pedestrian behavior in correlation with built environments of three neighborhoods around recently built stations of Metrorails’s Green and Yellow Lines in Washington, D.C. These neighborhoods share many characteristics of historical built form and socioeconomic diversity, but have experienced differing amounts and types of redevelopment. Following methods pioneered by Whyte (1980), Moudon et al. (1997), Neckerman et al. (2009) and others, the research includes detailed analysis of urban design characteristics at a block scale, systematic observation of pedestrian activity, and (in a later phase) interviews with pedestrians. The overall intent is to shed light on the following question: What factors, including recent urban design and built form innovations, affect the quality of the pedestrian environment and individual decisions to walk or take transit?

Moudon, Anne Vernez, Paul M. Hess, Catherine Snyder, and Kiril Stanilov. 1997. Effects of Site Design on Pedestrian Travel in Mixed-Use, Medium-Density Environments. Transportation Research Record: The Journal of the Transportation Research Board 1578: 48-55.

Neckerman, Kathryn M., Gina S. Lovasi, Stephen Davies, Marnie Purciel, James Quinn, Eric Feder, Nakita Raghunath, Benjamin Wasserman, and Andrew Rundle. 2009. Disparities
in Urban Neighborhood Conditions: Evidence from GIS Measures and Field Observation in New York City. Journal of Public Health Policy 30: 264-285.

Whyte, William H. 1980. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Washington D.C.: The Conservation Foundation.