Monthly Archives: November 2010

A timely commentary on vehicular cycling

Vehicular cycling gets run over by a European commentator who dissects the theory and pracitice at the fringes of cycling advocacy, embodied in this theocracy that poses a problem in so many cities across North America, Victoria included.

Video history of Dutch bicycle facilities

An interesting piece on the historical evolution of cycling facilities in the Netherlands.  Can’t argue with success – Holland has the highest per capita level of cycling of anywhere in the world and the narration attributes some of that success to the development of separated bike paths across the country.

There are some good lessons for North America.  An emerging trend is to separate bikes from other traffic, both vehicular and pedestrians, and it is meeting with some success.  Some key differences should be remembered, however, and we need to keep a variety of treatment options in our toolboxes.

North American cities will be difficult to retrofit with complete systems of separate bike path facilities.  In built up areas there is often not enough space and the repurposing of roadways or the opportunities of new development means it could take a long time to reshape many of our roads.  Still, we do need to be looking for those opportunities to create separate facilities.

The other significant difference in North America has to do with bicycle types and speeds.  The Dutch commute often on single speed, heavy klunkers that really do move at different speeds than does vehicle traffic.  The North American bicycle fleet is lighter and faster and usually multi-geared.  This is particularly important in cities where hills are a factor.  The “sit up and beg” Dutch bike is not a good fit for Victoria or Vancouver, except perhaps, for short trips in flatter neighbourhoods. 

Dutch commuters are also travelling shorter distances than the average North American, so, coupled with the terrain, those single speed heavyweights do serve.  We have a long way to go before land use, neighbourhood and urban design return us to the more neighbourhood oriented lifestyle (though peak oil and gas price escalations may speed that process). 

We also have to remember that for many cycling trips our road network, with the inclusion of bicycle lanes, sharrows or other approaches will remain the primary options for accommodating cycling.

Let’s dream a little though still.  Check out the video at:

Mileage Credits and bicycle travel

Business and government routinely pay expenses or mileage for staff travel via motor vehicle.  Personally, I turned in my free parking pass (in my gig as a Victoria City Councillor that is a benefit I don’t use).  I don’t hcarge mileage per se for my bike travel, but for conference travel and other journeys, I do submit my expense claims, and I’m sure my food costs are higher than the average councillor (I fuel up at bakeries, not gas stations), but still a bargain compared to the costs of fuel, parking or ferry trips for a car dependent traveler.

There is lots of discussion and often some good information on how different organizations compensate bicycle mileage or other active travel choices.  Bicycle parts distributor QPB (Quality Bicycle Parts) in the U.S. has a novel concept, rewarding sustinable commuters with product credits.  Any which way can works for me:

Time to get visible

Check out the “Let’s get visible” video starring Amy Walker of Momentum Magazine.  It’s a fun reminder of how important it is as a cyclist to light yourself up and wear bright colours during the long darkness of winter.

Cycling populations and the need for supportive infrastructure

Ashland, Oregon has replicated a Portland study that sorts the population into various segments.  The private study featured in an article in the Ashland Daily Tidings is helping local authorities to focus their efforts to grow cycling for transportation in the small city. 

Infrastructure that separates cyclists from traffic, gives them their own space on busier roads or helps them find low volume routes is key to growing participation according to this and other studies.  For years across Europe and more recently across North America, the relationship between supportive infrastructure and high levels of cycling are showing up in counts, surveys and studies analyzing the relationship between cycling and transportation and land use environments.

The “strong and fearless” that will ride pretty much anywhere, anytime makes up less than 1% of the population, supporting the premise that more substantive interventions in redesigning transportation networks and facilities are needed to attract new riders.

In Ashland, like Portland, the “enthused but concerned” at about 60% of the population, are much more likely to choose cycling as an option for many of their daily trips if bike lanes, “cycle-tracks”, quiet routes or off-road trails are available for their journey.  A growing network of facilities in cities all over the continent confirms the relationships.

Here’s the Ashland story:

For information on the Portland study go to:

Bike lanes in Victoria are growing participation:

Bike share comes to tiny Golden, BC

Find the story at: