The rest is here
Included are quotes from the Secretary of Transportation and a recap of the Grand Rapids, MI bike summit.
I've read quite a bit about Mia Birk in Portland. I believe that she is the City's Traffic Engineer who helped to launch Portland to the forefront of most bicycle friendly communities. Enjoy.
By JOEL CONNELLY
A backstage hero of Jeff Mapes' book "Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities" is an intense young bureaucrat named Mia Birk, who put Portland on a "road diet" and created bike lanes across the Rose City.
"The motto was, 'Better to ask forgiveness than permission," joked Mapes.
It sums up why a sweeping change in transportation policy has caught hold from New York City to Louisville, Ky., to such "Left Coast" cities as Seattle, Portland and Davis, Calif.
In Portland, where he is a political writer with The Oregonian, Mapes' bike commutes were made safer when the city shut down one entrance ramp to the Hawthorne Bridge that was causing bike-car conflicts.
"A movement has grown slowly, under the radar screen, which people are hardly aware is going on," Mapes told a Tuesday night forum sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club.
In any list of the best biking cities on the continent, Portland, Oregon, would certainly come out on top (with some cries of foul from San Francisco cyclists). But there are plenty of other North American cities where people move on pedal power. And in the wake of the 2008 spike in gas prices and boom in bike sales, municipal governments are attempting to make things easier for riders. We’ve measured everything from the League of American Bicyclists’ comprehensive Bicycle Friendly Community ratings to the frequency of informal street races to bring you snapshots of seven places where the gears are turning.
Accustomed as I am to hearing everyone complain about their economic woes – I do, after all, work in the besieged newspaper industry – it was a pleasant shock to hear from a friend that his bicycle accessory company had its best year ever in 2008.
Yes, it’s true that those expensive carbon-fiber bikes aren’t exactly flying off the shelves these days as the lycra-clad, ectomorphic road warriors decide that maybe they can live with last year’s model.
But it’s a pretty good business to be selling lights, fenders and even bike bells to people who are hauling their old bikes out of storage or bringing home cheap two-wheelers from Goodwill. Now that dozens of cities around the country are starting to see cycling as a serious form of transportation, it’s become more inviting than it used to be to bike to work, the store or the neighborhood pub.
SOMETIMES, when I am biking, I remember the ’80s, and I shudder. I remember, in other words, when biking was an extreme sport, when, if you were a biker, you had a lot of locks and a lot more nerve
Just the other day, when I was enjoying the bike lane down Clinton Street in my neighborhood, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, I stopped at a red light. And after the crossing guard smiled and chatted with me, after the cars pulled up alongside me and did not honk, I experienced a flashback from 1987: my regular trip from West 113th Street to Central Park, navigating honks and taunts, the mayhem that was then on Cathedral Parkway.
Wayne and Berry streets: A lane on each of the one-way streets from South Anthony Boulevard (near the Maumee Pathway) to Thieme Drive and the St. Marys Pathway
Rudisill Boulevard: Lanes in each direction between McMillen Park and Foster Park (and the Rivergreenway)
: Lanes along Reed Road, Vance Avenue and other residential streets to the Tennessee Avenue bridge and the Rivergreenway.
Mayor Tom Henry’s administration is taking a promising step for the city: creating bicycle lanes on city streets.
If other midsize cities in colder climes can make bike lanes work, surely Fort Wayne can. Henry is rightly rolling out the lanes gradually, with three pilot projects on the drawing board for this year.
Despite plans for a dramatic expansion of local trails this year, many portions of the city are still far away from off-street paths, where bicycling is safest. Bike lanes have potential to significantly increase safety for bicyclists and help address the conflicts between motorists and cyclists that have been expressed in letters to the editor. All three of the projects would connect with trails.
The three lane projects Henry has announced will be planned and, if money is secured, completed this year.
The most significant – both in terms of cost and effects on traffic – is most likely the Rudisill Boulevard project. The city plans to reduce Rudisill to one lane in each direction, with a center turn lane and bike lanes on both sides of the street. Existing lanes would be preserved in the busy stretch between Lafayette and Clinton streets.
City officials hope to use federal stimulus money for the lane markings and to repave Rudisill.
The northeast project would connect St. Joseph Township, underserved by trails, with the Rivergreenway system.
Henry announced the proposals at last month’s bicycle summit, and they come at the cusp of an exciting time for local cyclists, walkers and runners. The city and Aboite New Trails hope to build about 10 miles of trails this year, plus state highway projects should add six miles of trail along Indiana 3 and two miles along Indiana 14.
A key project will be the Towpath Trail, connecting the city’s trail system with Aboite trails on a new path along the route of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Much of the work between Rockhill Park and the Lutheran Hospital campus will be completed this year, though it will probably be 2010 before the project is final.
Other key trails planned for this year will be along Covington and Homestead roads. If funding is secured to finance the full projects, they will fill missing links to tie together most of the Aboite trail system.
While the trail plans will greatly expand the opportunities for safe, off-street bicycling, walking and running, many people still must use city streets in areas where trails don’t exist or are inaccessible. Henry is right to launch the bicycle lanes, and city officials should be open to adding more if they are successful.
But while warm weather and the start of the racing season have lately caused many to saddle up again, for some people and some neighborhoods, it seems the fear of theft just isn’t there anymore.
Around Union Square and in Williamsburg last Wednesday, there was a lackluster quality to the way some had their rides locked up.
Maybe Hal, of Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette, needs to do another round of video chastisement for StreetFilms. (”I could probably chew through this,” he said of one particularly lightweight lock when he canvassed Lower Manhattan last spring.)
Having one’s bike stolen is a part of our collective experience as urban riders. It provides the rationale for a Web site, “Someone Stole My Bike,” that appeared recently and features video testimonials from riders about the day their beloved bikes were taken away.
“In one way, it’s a deeply personal experience which makes you feel singled out and which has very real repercussions for your daily commute as well as how you spend your leisure time,” said Susie Cooley, a television producer and one of the creators of the site, the genesis of which was, not surprisingly, the theft of a producer’s bike.
“And on the other hand, you realize that having your bike stolen is almost inevitable, especially in a city like New York,” she said, adding, “Despite the ubiquitous nature of bike theft, every case is unique to the victim.”
Quantifying the number of bikes stolen off city streets is not a simple task.
Official statistics are difficult to come by in part because the police don’t separate bike thefts from other types of petty theft. The Department of Transportation and others studied the problem a decade ago, but have not recently returned to the problem, which has most likely diminished from its formerly epic proportions. (A Transportation Alternatives survey from 1992 found an average of one bike theft per rider.)
Exact numbers are hard to pin down from other sources as well. The Kryptonite company, which makes a “New York” line of heavy duty locks and chains, releases a yearly ranking of the top 10 worst cities for bike theft. But their exact formula and underlying data are “proprietary,” according to a spokeswoman, Karen Rizzo.
She would say only that “a key factor is the number of bicycle theft claims we receive from people who believe their bike was stolen while using” one of the company’s locks.
For the past three years, the company said it received theft claims most often from three ZIP codes in Lower Manhattan, 10002, 10003 and 10004, and one in Brooklyn, 11217, which includes parts of Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill and Clinton Hill..
Nevertheless, New York fell from its top spot on the Kryptonite list last year to No. 3, behind Philadelphia and Chicago.
Even so, the company said it had no plans to change the name of the “New York” product line, or to begin marketing “Philly” locks. “Cyclists all over the U.S. still consider New York to be the toughest place to own and ride a bike, despite a one-year blip in our chart,” Ms. Rizzo wrote in an e-mail message.
Others echo that sentiment. “New York has always been the capital because we have the most bikes,” said Wiley Norvell of Transportation Alternatives. “And the most pernicious thieves.”
Which raises the question: With an economic downturn and so many nice fixed-gear and road-racing bikes pedaling around hundreds of miles of new paths, will thieves be even more pernicious this summer?