Kent Larson: ‘Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city’

From TED Talks via YouTube:

How can we fit more people into cities without overcrowding? Kent Larson shows off folding cars, quick-change apartments and other innovations that could make the city of the future work a lot like a small village of the past.

From The Economist:

MORE and more Americans are taking to the road on two wheels. Between 1977 and 2009 the total number of annual bike trips more than tripled, while the bike’s share of all trips rose from 0.6% to 1%. Commuting cyclists have also increased in number, with twice as many biking to work in 2009 as in 2000.

The growth comes thanks to cycle-friendly policymaking and increases in government spending. In Portland, which brought in a comprehensive programme, cycling levels have increased sixfold since the early 1990s. In Chicago the motivation is to improve the quality of life, and thus encourage both businesses and families to move there.

In a forthcoming book, “City Cycling”, John Pucher and Ralph Buehler argue that the bike boom needs to be expanded to a broader cross-section of people. Almost all the growth in cycling in America has come from men aged 25-64. Rates of cycling have actually fallen slightly among women and sharply among children, most probably because of nervousness about safety. But in fact cycling is getting safer all the time. According to a paper by Messrs Pucher and Buehler with Mark Seinen, fatalities per 10m bike trips fell by 65% between 1977 and 2009, from 5.1 to 1.8. In their book, the authors claim that the health benefits of cycling far exceed the safety risks.

As 48% of trips in American cities are shorter than three miles, there is big potential for further growth.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: City Cycling)

The single most important issue facing cyclists today is the absence of proper infrastructure to allow cycling to prosper, as it should, as it must, in a civilized community. If we accept as a general proposition that our societies would be healthier if they had fewer cars and more cyclists, then it follows we need to dedicate our resources to infrastructure, change and development.

Accidents do not happen because cyclists were not wearing a helmet. Accidents happen because there is an unacceptable proximity between automobiles and cyclists. Until this changes, and our particularly North American consciousness evolves so that our minds can better anticipate the presence of a cyclist on a roadway, we will continue to see an unacceptably high level of cycling casualties.

We need to embrace physically separated bike lanes designated bikeways with traffic diversion, bike paths not shared with pedestrians and reduced speed limits on residential streets. These are but a few examples of progress achieved in jurisdictions with much lower rates of cycling casualties and fatalities

Above are few paragraphs from bike injury lawyer David Hay’s recent op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, 'The great debate over bike helmet laws'. There’s been quite a controversy stirred up over recent months here following news from that Vancouver will be joining more than 165 cities worldwide in getting a bike sharing system in 2013. The concern on the part of a lot of people here is that we have a provincial mandatory bike helmet law and in the two cities with bike shares and mandatory helmet use, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia, the systems have not been very successful. Mexico City had a mandatory helmet law, but provided an exemption after the first year of their bike share system. There have been some workarounds proposed here in Vancouver, but nothing that seems like a sure thing at this point. That said, I think Hay makes a good point that the critical factors for improving safety for cyclists and making cycling a more mainstream way to get around is through better infrastructure and a change in thinking on part of drivers and cyclists alike. 

(Photo source: Open File)

From The Washington Post:

Is there anything cities can do to encourage cycling? Portland, for instance, has twice as many bike commuters per 1,000 people as Washington. But maybe that’s just because Portland has nicer weather or more young people. It’s not clear that there’s an actual policy issue here.

Yet in a new new study (PDF) in the journal Transport Policy, Ralph Buehler and John Pucher suggest that cities might actually be able to influence how many cyclists are on the road. Perhaps all they have to do is — and this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise — build more bike lanes and bike paths.

Buehler and Pucher found that the presence of off-road bike paths and on-street bike lanes were, by far, the biggest determinant of cycling rates in cities. And that’s true even after you control for a variety of other factors like how hot or cold a city is, how much rain falls, how dense the city is, how high gas prices are, the type of people that live there, or how safe it is to cycle. None of those things seem to matter quite as much. The results, the authors write, “are consistent with the hypothesis that bike lanes and bike paths encourage cycling.”

Check out the rest of the article here. You can read more coverage of the study here, here and here

(Photo credit: Atlantic Cities)

Here’s a shot of one of the bike specific traffic signals on the Hornby Street separated bike lane in downtown Vancouver. The signals guide cyclists across busy intersections and help to avoid conflicts with motorists and pedestrians. Details here.                                                      
-> i’ve got some more photos here if you’re interested.

Here’s a shot of one of the bike specific traffic signals on the Hornby Street separated bike lane in downtown Vancouver. The signals guide cyclists across busy intersections and help to avoid conflicts with motorists and pedestrians. Details here.                                                      

-> i’ve got some more photos here if you’re interested.

Even if you will never ride a bike in your life, you still see benefits from increased levels of biking. More bicyclists mean less congestion in the streets and less need for expensive road projects that divert government money from other important problems. Off-road paths, bike lanes, sidwalks and other bike and ped improvements cost a fraction of what it takes to widen streets and highways. It’s proven that bicycling and walking increases people’s health and reduces obesity, which will translate into huge cost savings for government and a boost for our economy.

Policies that are good for bicyclists actually benefit everyone on the streets. Good conditions for bicycling also create good conditions for pedestrians. And what makes the streets safer for bikes, also makes them safer for motorists.

Higher gas prices (which have topped four bucks for the third time in four years) means more Americans are looking for other ways to get around. Bikes offer people more choices in transportation. This is especially true for people whose communities are not well served by mass transportation or where distances are too far to walk to work or shopping.

A quote from the Shareable article, 'The Boom in Cycling Benefits Everyone, Not Just Bicyclists'

(Photo credit: Shareable)

In general, a perfect climate or geography does not always mean an increase in cycling. San Luis Obispo, for example, has very steep hills along main corridors. Copenhagen and Amsterdam, are very cold. All of these locations, however, have a high cycling mode share. Some important factors for cyclists, beyond infrastructure, are the presence of a supportive bike culture and bike education. Even in a city like Davis, which is flat, has a good climate, and has many biking facilities, bike mode share went down for a number of years until a concerted bike campaign effort was put into place.

I was also surprised to find—because it often seems dangerous—that people generally prefer to use bike lanes on major roads. People are also willing to walk and bike longer than planners generally assume. While aesthetics along a route sometimes get more focus from planners, they are actually secondary considerations for everyday users.

These findings show that in places of high biking and walking mode share, people use these modes just as they would use cars in a high car mode share area. Distance to key destinations, connection and lack of barriers matter the most for everyday users. These are the main issues planners need to address to increase biking and walking.

A few paragraphs from the CityFix article, 'User Preference Key to Implementing Sustainable Transportation', highlighting some important lessons for improving the walkability and bikeability of cities. The article profiles a new report, 'Integration of Biking and Walking Infrastructure into Urban Communities', which “highlights best practices and identifies program characteristics associated with high levels of non-motorized travel.” You can check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: TheCityFix)

The advent of bike lanes in some American cities may seem like a big step, but merely marking a strip of the road for recreational cycling spectacularly misses the point. In Amsterdam, nearly everyone cycles, and cars, bikes and trams coexist in a complex flow, with dedicated bicycle lanes, traffic lights and parking garages. But this is thanks to a different way of thinking about transportation.

To give a small but telling example, pointed out to me by my friend Ruth Oldenziel, an expert on the history of technology at Eindhoven University, Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.

This in turn relates to lots of other things — such as bread. How? Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread.

There are also in the United States certain perceptions associated with both cycling and public transportation that are not the case here. In Holland, public buses aren’t considered last-resort forms of transportation. And cycling isn’t seen as eco-friendly exercise; it’s a way to get around. C.E.O.’s cycle to work, and kids cycle to school.

A quote from the New York Times article, 'The Dutch Way - Bicycles and Fresh Bread', which highlights the cycling culture in the Netherlands in search of lessons for building more robust cycling cultures in North American cities and towns.

(Photo credit: Amsterdamize)

From The National Post:

Following recent high-profile cycling deaths in Ontario, results of a poll suggest four in five Canadians think until more cyclists respect the rules of the road, they won’t be able to gain the respect of motorists.

"What Canadians are saying is that there needs to be more understanding between motorists and cyclists," Ipsos Reid associate vice-president Sean Simpson said.

Simpson pointed to Europe as an example of co-operation because bicycles are more common and both parties are accustomed to each other on the road.

The poll’s results also indicated Canadians are vastly in favour of more bike lanes.

Findings of the poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid exclusively for Postmedia News and Global News, show four in five (or 81 per cent) of those surveyed think Canada’s cities don’t have enough lanes devoted to cyclists, while nearly three in four (73 per cent) feel cyclists are right for demanding more respect from drivers.

Simpson said ordinarily, when a large number of people support an issue, more of them will say they somewhat agree, instead of strongly agree. In the case of bike lanes, the situation is reversed, with 43 per cent strongly supporting additional bike lanes, and 38 per cent of respondents saying they somewhat support the proposal.

More than half of all university graduates surveyed said they strongly supported bike lanes, with another 34 per cent said they somewhat supported them. The results show that younger people are more likely to support bike-lane expansion, but only by a margin of five per cent.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Globe & Mail; infographic credit: Globe & Mail)