Friday, October 26, 2012

Transportation Trends + Bikes

On my way home the other night, I was thinking about the transportation mode shift that's been happening across the country for several years and how that's affecting young people:  people are driving few miles every year.  There was a study done by the US Pirg's and others that shows some pretty interesting trends. Translate that study into policy and infrastructure needs, and the take away result is we don't need more miles of new roadway. Let's take a closer look.

1. Decrease in vehicle miles traveled by the average US citizen.  Why is this important?  From World War II up until just after 2000, the rate of vehicle miles traveled was on a pretty steady upward trend. In 2004, that rate dropped - and that was before the economy tanked in 2008. In 2011, the average US citizen drove 6% fewer miles than in 2004. That's an increasingly downward trend.

2.  Decrease in vehicle miles traveled by young adults.  What does this mean? Young adults are the age group of 16 - 34 year olds. This means the youngest generation that can drive is driving less - and the study shows that they are riding public transportation, bicycles and walking more.

3.  Fewer young adults are getting their license.  Why does this matter? Those who are 14 - 34 years old are choosing to forfeit the right to drive. From 2000 - 2010, the rate of those who did not have their license went up from 21% to 26%. The study cites all kind of reasons for this change - technology making alternative transportation choices and modes more convenient, increase in fuel prices and changes in driver licensing laws. Graduated licenses, more restrictions behind the wheel and the cost of private classes and tests are all barriers that have contributed to this trend.

These, along with other factors cited in the report paint an interesting picture of our national transportation trends. Especially for young adults - teens, college students and young professionals are all more likely to chose an alternative way to move around than their parents. Cars are less appealing to younger people. I'm sure that getting carted around at a young age in an SUV from school to soccer practice to play dates to piano lessons for many in this generation influenced this trend. Not to mention the increasing cost of living - and the rise in higher education cost and debt. It seems like people today are looking at unconventional ways to stretch a dollar or save a penny. Not buying a car (or having to pay for gas or car insurance) is a huge investment towards the "dollar saved is a dollar earned" mentality.

Using a bicycle to get around is fast, inexpensive and healthy - and addresses some of the concerns listed above. With increased public awareness and concern about the obesity epidemic, climate change and college debt, young adults today are responding to the outcry by changing their behavior in a pretty radical way. They are taking to their bikes in a way that future generations have not. It's a pretty cool and noteworthy trend.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bicycle Friendly Across Borders

That was the theme of the two state Bike Summit in Augusta, GA this past weekend. And reach across borders it did. Folks from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and other places gathered to discuss, listen and share in the excitement of the rise of biking in the Southeast.

Georgia-lina Bike Summit
The idea for Georgia Bikes! third summit naturally took form when the conference landed in a border city. And it really makes sense - when riding, rarely are border or boundaries recognized. Sometimes there's a change in the pavement, but otherwise most people on bikes don't know when they are entering or leaving one city to the next.

Topics covered included how the advocacy community can respond to tragedy when it strikes, mountain biking club meetings, learning more about bike share for the southeast, effective advocacy ideas, bike data collections, learning how to put on a bicycle ride or tour, how to be a Bicycle Friendly Community, a women's cycling forum, bikeway planning at universities and the Safe Routes to School program. Guest speakers from the East Coast Greenway and the Alliance for Biking and Walking also gave inspiring speeches.

There was a nice demographic representation, too. It was nice to hear stories from the young and the young at heart, city folks, country folks, mountain bikers, cyclists, guys, girls, planners, advocates, students, professionals - anyone and everyone that loves bikes!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

(A sample of) Bikeways in Greenville

A while back, I had the opportunity to visit some of the bikeways in Greenville. Greenville has bike lanes, shared roadways and paths that are built for cyclists to use.

Heritage Historic District. Greenville, SC.
The narrowed road and "sharrow" treatment provide an entry point feeling into this residential area just a few minutes from downtown. The streets speed limit is slow and there's light residential traffic, so having a shared roadway makes sense here. What a great addition to the Heritage Historic District neighborhood.

Bike lane to shared roadway. Greenville, SC
Near Main Street off of downtown, on North Spring Street there's a creative example of retrofitting the existing road to accommodate bikes. The road was wide enough to accommodate a bike lane - until near the intersection. Watch this short video to see how traffic reacts.

The idea is that neither a biker nor a car has the right of way. As the sign state, "Share the Road." This kind of development is intended to build awareness, slow down traffic and let folks know that bikes are allowed to be here. I like the take on the share the road sign that's found near the intersection. It would be interesting to watch how a car and bike interact when approaching this intersection.

What a view! Greenville, SC
Looking north on North Main Street, bike lanes have transformed the street! Bike lanes can be seen on either side of the road. Street parking was retained, a middle turn lanes allows for traffic flow and folks who want to get around by bike have a way to do so. This road is particularly compelling because it comes into view over the crest of a hill.

Greenville's has done a good job of implementing the network of bikeways proposed in their master plan for cyclists of all types to use. Keep up the good work leading the Upstate.

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's what Women Want

This is a (video) story. About a woman. And her life. How she went from having a suburban to pedaling her (six) kids. It's simple. It's funny. It's interesting. And it's inspiring. Here's Emily Finich:  In her own words.