Sellwood Bridge the latest project for bicycling advocate

Merry Mackinnon, The Bee
When Dallas, Texas, decided to promote bicycling, the city invited Portlander Mia Birk to advise it about bikeway development.

Unlike Portland, Dallas had been a “notoriously bike-hostile city,” Birk writes, in her recently published book “Joyride: Pedaling Toward A Healthier Planet”. Her recommendation to Dallas officials was to start small, with bike lanes and bike boulevards.

That Portland has become known as a bicycle-friendly city is due to efforts of citizen bicycling advocates, and people like Birk, who arrived in Portland in 1993 to become the Rose City’s Bicycle Program Manager.

“Some have this assumption that Portland’s bicycle-friendliness has always been that way,” Birk told an audience at a recent book signing and talk at Portland State University, where she is an adjunct professor. “But there’s been a dramatic change in Portland’s tolerance to bicyclists in the last 15 years.”

…As Birk outlines, in her book, phase one of moving Portland toward bicycling nirvana involved securing bike trails, bike lanes, and bike parking, as well as building popular support for bicycling as a healthy activity…

…By 1994, Portland’s first major bike lane across the Willamette River was installed on the Burnside Bridge. To celebrate, the city held a party — “Bike Fest on the Burnside”. “Ten thousand people showed up,” Birk recalled. “We called that ‘the start to the revolution’. It showed that Portland was ready for this.”

She no longer coordinates Portland’s bike program but, through her current position as Chief Executive Officer of Alta Planning & Design, Birk is part of a consultant team on the Sellwood Bridge project. Once again, she is working on configuring a bridge that encourages bicycling. The question, as usual, is how to make everybody happy — the various types of bicyclists, as well as the pedestrians…
(3 Nov 2010)
Find out more about the book here. -KS
EB contributor Jan Lundberg writes:
Is the Sellwood Bridge the latest project for combining motor-vehicle domination and bicycling?

I lived in Sellwood for several months, car free, and never braved the awful bridge, partly because people said it was widely expected to fall down. (Additionally for me, avoiding most of SW Portland has always been easy.) But if heavy motor vehicles were kept off the Sellwood Bridge, could it stand just pedestrian and bicycle traffic for many more years?

To build a new expensive bridge to mainly accommodate motor traffic (not two lanes as the article implies, but four lanes total) AND satisfy bicyclists, will cost many millions of dollars, tons of energy-intensive materials, and take a lot of time. This kind of “win-win” compromise flies in the face of the reality of peak oil and the financial collapse that already hit in 2008. A multi-use bridge may allow people to call it “green,” but denial of petroleum reality and petrocollapse, while bowing to continued motor vehicle domination, only exacerbates the crisis that has barely begun.

Jan Lundberg, independent oil industry analyst, publisher of the former Auto-Free Times / Alliance for a Paving Moratorium (now Culture Change.

Peter Hendy interview

Crossrider, Cycalogical blog
Dave Hill has an interview with Peter Hendy, head of TfL, here. He talks mainly about the state of the tube system, but I’ve transcribed what he has to say about cycling, and – guess what – I’m going to shine a bright LED headlight on it and put it under the Cycalogical Fisher-Price microscope.

“One of the questions for the future of London is how does it grow and where does it grow..the higher the density of living and working, the more useful it is to provide public transport, because public transport thrives on density. Equally, if you can develop the city in a different way, if people can live close to where they work and where they go to school…then you can expect to see more walking and cycling. The other big question is what the future of the car is in a post-carbon world…transport is a consequence of land use and population…it can also drive it, as it did in the 1930’s, I suspect in the next 2 decades it will be a consequence of how the city develops.”

It’s unarguable that density is an enabler for public transport. However, I don’t believe it is true to say that people have to live close to where they work to get more people cycling. TfL have it wrong. They think that distances longer than 5 miles are not cyclable. This is factually incorrect, because thousands of people commute distances far longer than that in London every day. When you cycle, you start to think of travel in terms of cycling. If cycling is your preferred mode of travel, 5 miles is not a big deal. Hendy clearly things of the world in terms of motorised travel, where short distances such as from home to the bus stop are walked, and longer distances are motorised. He can see cycling being used for journeys that are too long to walk but where there’s no direct public transport, but he can’t conceive of a world where people voluntarily cycle longer distances in preference to public transport…

…Transport cannot follow the way the city develops. This is 20th century thinking. The city and the transport network need to be planned as a holistic entity that is correctly oriented for the coming era of scarce energy. Motorised travel of all sorts needs to diminish. Travel will likely be replaced by alternatives, such as telecommunications and different work models. As the price of manufactured goods tracks the price of energy and raw materials upwards, the economy will likely rebalance away from the current ‘replace and throw away’ model to a ‘reuse, repair and upgrade’ model. This will affect the way we do business, the way we shop, and the way we run our lives…
(3 Nov 2010)

European Cities Get the Bike Bug

Tanja Rieckmann, Spiegel
Call it what you like, Citybike, Vélib or StadtRAD. More than one hundred European cities have launched rent-a-bike projects allowing people to use pedal-power to whizz from Point A to Point B. But will the bike sharing fad last?

France is always good for a revolution. The bike rental system Vélib has managed to alter behavior patterns on Paris streets, at least a little bit. In the whole of Paris there are 1,451 rental posts with a total of 20,600 bikes available. You can jump on a bike for next-to-nothing: A day ticket costs €1 and a year ticket costs €29 ($40).

Locals, tourists and the city all stand to gain. Altogether, 46 percent of Vélib users drive a car less due to their new cycling habit. Meanwhile, 96 percent of Parisians say their home city has become more pleasant thanks to Vélib. Clocking up more than 50 million trips in three years, Vélib is the biggest bike rental business in the world — and serves as a role model for other cities.

Take London, for example, which has had its own bikes for rent since the end of July. Back in 2003, London implemented a congestion charge, a tax to reduce inner-city traffic congestion. The rental project Barclays Cycle Hire is, in the words of London City Mayor Boris Johnson, another attempt “to get people out of their cars.” Some 5,000 bikes stand at more than 300 parking stations around the city. The estimated running costs are £20 million a year (€24 million), a figure the city wants to reduce through rental fees. To be on the safe side, it has taken on Barclays Bank as a sponsor, which is prepared to pay out £25 million to bolster its green reputation.

Cooperating with big firms is a necessary step. After all, the rental income alone won’t keep the business afloat, especially since most cycle rental programs offer the first half hour for free, and people tend to cycle short distances. If you spend longer on your bike in Hamburg it costs €1.20 per hour, up to a maximum of €12 each day.

…But despite its enthusiastic advocates, the systems already in place do not dramatically improve air quality or ease noise and traffic jams. As a result, the German Transport Ministry is encouraging models of “innovative public bike rental systems,” which seek to link up rental systems with the local public transport network.

But not all cities have had the same phenomenally positive experience seen in Paris. In Helsinki, the Finnish capital, officials have announced they will shelve the city’s free bike program for the time being next summer. The city had hoped to recoup its expenses through advertising, but those goals proved to be overly ambitious.

At the end of the day, the financial burden could be reduced if all the bike-rental projects in Europe adopted the same model. In France, there has been talk about standardizing the bike rental system, at least regionally…
(27 October 2010)