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A bikeable suburban highway? One Ohio town pulled it off

Wide suburban highways lined with big boxes and strip malls aren’t usually places one finds protected bikeways. But Stringtown Road in Grove City, Ohio is such a place. Check it out:


Stringtown Road.

Since a curb protects the bikeway from the road, it’s technically a sidepath, a sidewalk that’s for bikes instead of pedestrians.

And as you can see in photos from Google Street View, it’s nicer than riding in the street with fast-moving cars, but it’s still not exactly pleasant.

Huge curb cuts interrupt the bikeway, so cars don’t need to slow down much before pulling into the giant parking lots lining the road. There’s certainly a risk that careless drivers will turn without watching, and hit people on bikes.

But that’s a risk that will exist for any car-oriented highway. At least this one puts the bike lane front and center, just about as visible as it can be.

There are some sidepaths along large roads in the DC area, like Route 50 in Arlington or along Benning Road near RFK, but those aren’t commercial highways lined with shops, and their sidepaths aren’t right against the curb like Stringtown’s. This particular layout is pretty unusual.

As more and more suburban communities evolve to become more multimodal, experiments like this will help everyone around the country understand what works and what doesn’t. Grove City is near Columbus, where it’s not the only suburb experimenting with urban retrofits.

What do you think? Will this design work? Comment at Greater Greater Washington to talk about it.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

March 27th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation, urbandesign



The Dutch government is trolling DC over marijuana, bike lanes, and streetcars

As marijuana legalization took effect in the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser said DC would “not become like Amsterdam.” We talked about the differences yesterday, including on bicycling and transit, but the Embassy of the Netherlands has playfully responded with this infographic comparing our two capital cities.


Image from the Dutch government. Really.

The embassy also created a Q&A comparing marijuana laws in the two cities. But bicycling and transit supporters might focus more on the bike lane and streetcar disparities.

That “(almost)” hurts. Low blow, Netherlands.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 27th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, fun, streetcar, transportation



DC like Amsterdam? We can only hope

According to yesterday’s Express, DC is starting to look a lot like Amsterdam, and not just because of marijuana. That’s fantastic if true.


The top of yesterday’s Express story.

Among the reasons the Express cites for DC’s Amsterdamization are increasing bicycle use, the appearance of streetcars, and Georgetown’s improving C&O Canal.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s great bicycling and streetcar cities. It’s a joy to travel along its extensive bikeways, and even lanes where cars are allowed are amazingly bike friendly. And Amsterdam’s huge streetcar network (with streetcars in both dedicated lanes and mixed traffic) is a case study in successful urban transit.

DC’s nascent bikeway and streetcar networks pale in comparison, but Amsterdam is a superb model for us to aspire towards.

And if it’s true that we can never hope to have as many canals (short of a disastrous global warming-induced flood), we can at least ponder what might have been had the history of Constitution Avenue turned out differently.

Even more similarities

Transportation and canals aside, Amsterdam’s overall urban design is actually incredibly similar to DC’s. We’re both predominantly rowhouse cities, with plenty of brick. Even our street grids are similar: Amsterdam has a relatively small core with twisty medieval streets, but for the most part it’s a city of straight streets and radial avenues just like DC.

These scenes from Amsterdam wouldn’t look all that out of place in Dupont Circle, U Street, or Adams Morgan, apart from how little street space goes to cars..

 
Amsterdam, but could be DC.

Admittedly, Amsterdam beats DC in a lot of ways. But it’s not Paris or Hong Kong, not so thoroughly alien. And DC is not Las Vegas. Amsterdam and DC aren’t identical, but we’re the same species of city, which means Amsterdam is better in ways that DC can practically emulate.

Plus, we’ve got Amsterdam Falafelshop.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 26th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: architecture, bike, streetcar, transportation, urbandesign



DC streets will get seven new miles of bikeways in 2015

DDOT has released a list of new bikeways it will add in 2015. Although most of the additions this year will be short, they’re important. This year’s work will specifically focus on closing gaps in the network, in order to make existing bike lanes more useful.


Planned bike lanes in 2015. Image from DDOT.

In total there are about seven miles of new bikeways on the list, including three short protected bikeways, about four miles of striped bike lanes, and two miles of sharrows.

According to DDOT’s Darren Buck, “We’re hoping to address several short but valuable network connection links that are easy to overlook on a map, but people have been requesting for years.”

The new protected bikeways are all in Northeast, on M Street, 4th Street, and 1st Street. Collectively they’ll begin to stitch together Northeast’s existing patchwork of disconnected cycletracks into a more useful and cohesive network. An unprotected contraflow lane continuing along M Street will help that effort too.


Basemap from Google.

Besides the Northeast protected bikeways, other notable additions include a normal bike lane on 12th Street NW downtown, along with several east of the Anacostia and in Capitol Hill, and short but important connections on 11th Street NW, Ontario Road NW, 2nd and 3rd Streets NE, and crossing I-695.

This project list is separate from the list of ten car lane to bike lane conversions that came out in January. The bike lanes in January’s list are still in planning, and will likely happen in future years.

Here’s the complete street by street list of DDOT bike lane additions for 2015.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 20th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



America’s largest bikesharing systems, ranked following 2014

As US bikesharing continues to boom, it’s fun to look back each year and see how systems have grown. Now that we’re into the grind of 2015, let’s look back on 2014 and see what changed.


2014 was a modest year for US bikesharing expansion, compared to the incredible boom of 2013. Overall, the number of bikeshare stations nationwide increased about 20%, from 1,925 in 2013 to 2,345 in 2014. San Diego launched the largest new system, with 117 stations.

Washington’s Capital Bikeshare regained its crown as largest overall network, growing from 305 stations to 347 stations. Last year’s champ, New York’s Citibike, actually lost two stations and dropped from 330 to 328. Chicago rounds out the top tier, with the same number of stations it had last year: 300 exactly. No other system tops 200 stations.

14 new bikesharing systems opened nationwide, and four small existing ones closed, bringing the US total up to 50 active systems.

The west coast began to catch up to the rest of the country. In addition to San Diego, Seattle opened the next largest new system of 2014, with 49 stations.

Here’s the complete list of all US systems. New ones are marked in bold. Previous years are available for comparison.

Rank City 2013 Stations 2014 Stations
1 Washington (regional) 305 347
2 New York 330 328
3 Chicago 300 300
4 Minneapolis (regional) 170 169
5 Boston (regional) 132 140
6 San Diego 0 117
7 Miami Beach 97 94
8 Denver 81 83
9 San Francisco (regional) 67 70
10 San Antonio 51 53
11 Seattle 0 49
12 Austin 11 45
13 Boulder 22 38
14(t) Fort Worth 34 34
14(t) Miami 0 34
16 Chattanooga 33 33
17 Columbus 30 30
18(t) Madison 32 29
18(t) Cincinnati 0 29
20 Houston 29 28
21 Indianapolis 0 26
22 Omaha 8 25
23(t) Nashville 22 24
23(t) Charlotte 21 24
23(t) Phoenix 0 ~24
26 Ft Lauderdale (regional) 25 21
27(t) Kansas City 12 20
27(t) Salt Lake City 12 20
29 Aspen 12 15
30 Long Beach, NY 13 14
31 Washington State Univ (Pullman, WA) 9 11
32 Milwaukee 0 10
33 Greenville, SC 6 8
34(t) Oklahoma City 7 7
34(t) Tampa 0 ~7
36(t) Des Moines 6 6
36(t) Ann Arbor 0 6
38 Univ of Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) 4 5
39(t) California Univ – Irvine (Irvine, CA) 4 4
39(t) Spartanburg, SC 4 4
41(t) Tulsa 4 3
41(t) Louisville 3 3
41(t) Stony Brook Univ (Stony Brook, NY) 3 3
44(t) Kailua, HI 2 2
44(t) Roseburg VA Hospital (Roseburg, OR) 2 2
44(t) Hailey, ID 2 ~2
44(t) Rapid City 0 2
44(t) Savannah 0 2
44(t) Dallas 0 2
44(t) Orlando 0 ~2
Fullerton, CA (closed) 10 0
Georgia Tech (Atlanta, Ga) (closed) 9 0
George Mason Univ (Fairfax, VA) (closed) 7 0
Lansing (closed) 4 0

Systems marked with a ~ are stationless bikeshare networks, in which each bike contains a lock and can be docked anywhere. The number of “stations” reported for three of these four systems (Phoenix, Tampa, and Orlando) is approximate and is was calculated by dividing the overall number of bicycles by 8. The fourth system, Hailey, has only six bikes but they’re located in two distinct clusters, so it seems most appropriate to report two stations.

Counting the number of bikes rather than stations would be a more accurate way to rank systems, but that information is more difficult and time-consuming to obtain.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

February 12th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



Best way to protect a bikeway? How about a bikeshare station

How’s this for a natural idea: Locate bikeshare stations between a street’s protected bikeway and car lanes.

That’s exactly the arrangement in Crystal City, where the Capital Bikeshare station at 23rd and Eads helps to form part of the bikeway’s protective barrier.


23rd and Eads. Photo by Euan Fisk on Flickr.

DC has at least one example, on 6th Street NE next to Union Market. You can also find this arrangement in New York, Paris, and a ton of other cities.

It’s just a nifty, straightforward idea that’s too sensible not to use.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

January 28th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation, urbandesign



“Unstealable” bike transforms to become its own lock

What if instead of carrying around a hand-held bike lock, your bike was its own lock? That’s the premise behind the Yerka Project, an attempt to design an “unstealable” bicycle.


Image from the Yerka Project.

The ingenious design works like this: The bike frame’s down tube splits into two pieces, each of which then twists so it’s perpendicular to the rest of the frame. Once the two pieces are turned 90 degrees, the bike seat pulls out of its tube, and slides into the down tube pieces, like a giant lock.

Thus, the frame of the bike becomes its own lock. The only way for a thief to break the lock is to break the entire bike.

There is a weakness, though: Individual components of the bike are still vulnerable. It’s only the frame itself that’s unstealable.

So far the designers have only produced a prototype, but the concept is straightforward enough that it could easily find its way to an assembly line. There are fewer moving parts than on a folding bike.

Still unsure how it works? Watch this example video:


Video from the Yerka Project.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

January 15th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



“Park-Its” now protect the Pennsylvania Avenue bikeway

As of last week, rubber parking stops called “Park-Its” now protect a half block segment of the Pennsylvania Avenue protected bikeway, between 9th and 10th Streets NW.

The Park-Its are intended to protect cyclists from drivers making illegal U-turns across Pennsylvania Avenue’s median bike lanes.

DDOT crews installed the first Park-Its yesterday around 11:00 am. Workers will add more in the coming days, until Park-Its line the bikeway for the two block stretch from 9th to 11th.

Full installation of Park-Its all along Pennsylvania Avenue could eventually happen, but for now DDOT hopes to determine if this initial installation works. According to DDOT’s Darren Buck, the Park-Its on 1st Street NE sometimes pull up out of the pavement.

Park-Its succeed the zebras that DDOT installed in 2013, but which proved only partially effective. For now, the zebras between 12th and 13th Streets will remain in place.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

December 22nd, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



The Lincoln Memorial just became Capital Bikeshare’s busiest station

For most its history, Capital Bikeshare’s busiest individual station has been at Dupont Circle. Not anymore. As of this summer, the Lincoln Memorial station is the new king.

This animation shows trips coming and going to the Lincoln station.


Video from Mobility Lab.

Capital Bikeshare’s most recent usage data is from its third quarter report, and covers the period from July 2014 through September.

During that period, the station at Massachusetts Avenue and Dupont Circle NW (historically the busiest) served 42,237 total trips. That’s an average of 459 per day.

But the Lincoln Memorial station served 44,177 total trips over the same period, averaging 480 per day.

Follow the tourists

Dupont Circle is usually the busiest station because it combines a nearly perfect storm of bikeshare ridership ingredients: Lots of nearby bike lanes, a Metro station feeding transfers, high job and population density, and a busy nightlife. It’s hopping at nearly all hours.

The Lincoln Memorial has virtually none of those things, but does have its own advantages. It’s one of the most popular parts of the National Mall, and is a far walk from convenient transit. For tourists who don’t want to drive and aren’t part of a group with a tour bus, bikeshare is an obvious way to access the Lincoln.

The animation shows how tourists drive most of the station’s usage. Blue lines show trips from regular members, while red lines are trips from short term users more likely to be tourists. Aside from a spike of blue around rush hour, the animation is a flood of red lines.

It probably won’t last

Will the new champion hold its spot, or will the Lincoln’s dynasty prove fleeting?

Tourists flock to Washington in the summer, but there are far fewer of them in the winter. When data for autumn comes out, it’s extremely unlikely the Lincoln will still be the busiest station. Odds are that honor will return to Dupont.

And next summer, bikeshare will face added competition from the new DC Circulator route scheduled to run along the National Mall beginning in 2015.

So this may well be the Lincoln’s only moment in the sun. It will be interesting to follow.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

December 12th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation



Capital Bikeshare needs smaller stations, but more of them

The most successful bikeshare systems in the world have dense networks with stations every few blocks, according to bikeshare guru Jon Orcutt. That suggests that as Capital Bikeshare expands, the agency should focus on adding small infill stations rather than adding more docks to make existing stations bigger.


Bikeshare station in Montreal with only seven docks.

More stations are better

In a recent Streetsblog interview, Orcutt points out there’s a clear (and probably causal) correlation between bikeshare station density and bike usage. He cites the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy’s (ITDP) bikeshare planning guide, which bluntly states “increasing station density will yield increased market penetration.”

Simply put, systems with denser networks get more riders per bike per day.

That makes sense. Most bikeshare trips cover short distances, so the closer stations are to cyclists’ final destinations, the better. Conversely, it’s a major disincentive if riders have to walk more than a block or two to get to a station, and dockblocking is much more painful when the next closest station is many blocks away instead of right around the corner.

Since there are destinations on every block, the ideal bikeshare network would have stations on every block. That’s probably not practical even in the densest part of the city, but the best bikesharing networks seem to be those that come the closest. ITDP’s guide says to shoot for 10-16 stations per square kilometer.

And though Capital Bikeshare is one of America’s leading bikeshare systems, CaBi and nearly all its American peers lag world leaders in station density. That strongly suggests American bikeshare networks aren’t attracting as many riders as they could.


Image from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Politics matter, especially in the Washington region

With distinct clusters of stations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, Capital Bikeshare is one of the most spread out systems in the world. But while that undeniably reduces the number of riders per bike, it clearly benefits CaBi politically, and therefore financially.

We’re lucky in this region to have a strong regional consensus on the benefits of bikesharing. It’s not just something that DC and Arlington do, which the suburbs grudgingly ignore. Alexandria and Montgomery take part. Fairfax and Prince George’s soon will. It’s a regional network that benefits everyone, and everyone has a stake in its success.

So it’s OK to spread stations out into distinct clusters in multiple jurisdictions, or even multiple wards of the same jurisdiction. But within each cluster, a large number of small stations is better than a handful of large ones.

There’s a catch

If smaller stations are better, why does Capital Bikeshare expand existing ones so often, rather than pour those resources into new station locations?

Simple: Because that would cost more.

Bikeshare stations are prefabricated. They come in basically three components: The kiosk section with the map and credit card terminal, snap-on docks, and the bikes themselves.

Each individual bikeshare station needs all three components, including the kiosk section. But expanding an existing station only takes more docks and more bikes, no kiosk. Thus, by expanding existing stations, CaBi reduces the need to buy expensive kiosk components. They can put out slightly more bikes and more docks with fewer, bigger stations.

Peak capacity versus peak access

Maximizing the number of bikes and docks is important too. The key question is whether it’s more important for a bikeshare agency to maximize peak capacity or peak access.

Putting out the most possible docks and bikes at a smaller number of stations makes the system more useful for rush hour commuters, but less useful for other trips. On the flip side, a system with slightly fewer docks but more stations would be less convenient for commuters, but would put more of the city within reach of a station.

Different bikeshare systems might rightly prioritize different expansion models at different times. But Capital Bikeshare is one of the more commute-oriented large systems in the world. It may be time to think about maximizing infill.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

December 4th, 2014 | Permalink
Tags: bike, proposal, transportation



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