Monday, December 12, 2011

On Bike-Riding

Today, I saw three stories on the benefits of increased amounts of bicycling. The first (on Treehugger) - Graph of the Day: Proof that Bike Lanes Attract Bike Riders - described the benefit of having a transportation manager who is partial to bike lanes: if you build them (bike lanes), they (bike riders) will come.

What's interesting to my nerdy mind is that of the background trend occurring prior to Janette Sadik-Khan's (JSK's) appointment: four years of decline followed by seven years of increase. One point is that the two periods of decline (1986-1989, 1996-1999) have slopes that are not too dissimilar (-7 and -5.3, respectively). What's interesting is that 2006 ought to have been the start of another four-year downward trend (based on the previous years' trend). Taking the average slope of the two decline periods (-6.15), we could (somewhat reasonably) assume that the trend of NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator should have looked more like the blue line:

Therefore, the role that JSK has played in the increased bike presence in NYC is well above the expected. (Well, "expected" here means that things during the 2006-2011 period following the trend of 1986-2005, which - itself - is problematic, since there has been a major push nationwide since the mid-2000s toward greater "greenness".) For those people who want to rip out all the bike lanes, I'm sorry, but - as was asserted (and to which I am inclined to agree, even when you include the annoying cyclists):
The lesson of this chart, then, is that if you build bike lanes, cyclists will appear to fill them. That’s fantastic news, since cities with lots of cyclists are always the most pleasant cities to live and work in — even for people who don’t bike themselves.
To this article, I wrote the following response:
In much of the US, one more person on a bike means one less person in a car, which - for most drivers - means one less car on the road and one less car in the parking lot.

Furthermore, even if 20% of car trips are to destinations within 2 miles from the home (estimates run as high as 40%), taking a bike to those destinations will mean that there will be a significant drop in the amount of gasoline consumption, which ought to also lower gasoline prices somewhat.

Finally, if there is - nationwide - a greater movement toward bikes transport, then there will be a greater understanding among weekend cyclists and non-cyclist drivers alike that a bicycle is a valid form of transportation and not a mere "hobby".
In addition - according to a previous article at Think Progress - adding bike lanes creates more jobs than adding car-only roads. The math apparently comes out as 11.4 jobs created per $1 million for bike lane installation as compared to 7.8 jobs created per $1 million for car-only roads. Why? Because of the tourism, maintenance, and quality of life benefits that are associated with bike lanes.

The second article on this topic of the benefits of cycling came up on ecogeek: EU Could Meet Emission Requirements Through Increased Bike Ridership. It makes the point - thanks to the new world politics of carbon emission reductions - that increased bicycle ridership could have the benefit of allowing countries to meet their carbon-emission-reduction requirements:
A new report released by the European Cyclists' Federation says that a quarter of the required emissions reduction target for 2020 could be met if all of the European Union had bike ridership levels like Denmark.

The Danish people ride on average 2.6 km per day. If all of the EU hit that mark, it would reduce emissions by 55 million to 120 million tons a year. By 2020, that would represent five to 11 percent of the emissions target of a 20 percent reduction below 1990 levels. If that level of ridership continued, by 2050 it would represent a slash of 63 to 142 million tons or 12 to 26 percent of the transportation sector targets.

The third article (on Treehugger) - Bikes Will Save You and the Planet (Infographic) - provides a really nice, multi-part infographic that shows some interesting things that not only talk about the "usual" things of saving the planet, but also includes a lot of information about improved public health and serendipitously links to some of the points that I wrote about in response to the first article. (Infographic at the end, because it's quite a long one.)

It's important to recognize that - if we are going to start taking the advice of an ever-increasing number of public policy actors around the world - all efforts that we take that minimize the amount of carbon-emitting energy that we utilize, and - in the United States - this includes our use of personal vehicles. Also, if we are wanting to create societies that are more robust and more resilient to economic slumps, then investing in infrastructure that creates more jobs per dollar would be a good thing. As well, if we start to change the way that we (in the US) think about health care - that we are all in this together as a society - then the manner in which we operate our lives would also change (slowly, perhaps, but in the "right" direction, hopefully). Would that we could increase the benefits of car-pooling to make it more attractive, would that we could implement greater amounts of convenient public transport, and would that we could have greater ability to live closer to where we work so that cycling can be as easy for most people as it is for me. However, until we can realize better ways in which to do these things, small steps - such as taking short trips by bikes that can be used for utility and recognizing that bikes don't have to be only for spandex-wearing fitness gurus and downhill daredevils. ... and all that won't really be done unless and until greater amounts of bicycling infrastructure is built. (Which takes us back to the first article.)

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