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.

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 Atlantic Cities:

It’s no secret that American cities are trying all kinds of things to encourage bike commuting. Some are building bike lanes even if it means taking space away from cars. Some have authorized bike-share programs. Some are requiring workplaces to designate bicycle parking or, failing that, compelling them to allow bikes inside the building.

All of these efforts have resulted in varying degrees of success. But there’s a hidden factor in some decisions to ride or not to ride to work — or, if not quite hidden, at least overlooked by most statistical analyses of bike commuting — and that’s the presence of office showers and changing facilities. In an upcoming issue of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, Ralph Buehler of Virginia Tech quantifies just how important these seemingly small amenities can be.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo source: TransLink)

From The Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles held its first CicLAvia in October 2010, when 7.5 miles of streets were blocked off to motor vehicles from East Hollywood to Boyle Heights. Sunday, which marked the fourth version of the event, tested the city’s flexibility as cyclists invaded downtown, Dodgers fans attended a home game up the hill and the Lakers faithful poured into L.A. Live — all at roughly the same time. And somehow the city still seemed to function.

The idea of booting cars off the roads and turning the asphalt over to cyclists and pedestriansfirst took hold as a weekly ciclovía in Colombia more than 30 years ago and was later adopted by cities elsewhere in Latin America and in the United States.

The festival was an immediate hit in L.A. and quickly became the city’s marquee event for pedestrians and cyclists.

"Angelenos are aching for a day without a car. CicLAvia provides us one of those days," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Sunday before joining in the ride.

"But the change doesn’t have to be temporary, so we are taking steps to make it easier for Angelenos to get from point A to point B — with or without a car," he said.

Villaraigosa used the platform Sunday to unveil a privately funded $16-million bike-share program that aims to put 4,000 rental bicycles at 400 kiosks across the city.

Check out the rest of the article and news video of the event here.

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Times)

Getting Around: ‘Paris EV and Bike Sharing Programs’ 

From Translogic:

In a city as densely populated as Paris, driving your own car around is about as good of an idea as speaking English to every French person you encounter. Fortunately, Paris and similar cities are setup with substantial public transit systems. But for those moments when you need a car or bike, Paris has you covered.
Vélib’ is a new bike-sharing program that started in 2007 and has since grown into a city-wide alternative transit system. There are now almost 20,000 bikes that live at about 1,200 bike stations. These stations are scattered all around Paris’ city center, on average about 1,000 ft from one another. This kind of availability allows for quick and easy transportation, without having to hunt down bikes or places to lock them up.
If something bigger than a bike with basket is required, Paris also has an extensive car-sharing program called Autolib’. Launching in December 2011, Autolib’ operates similarly to Vélib, but for cars. Bolloré’s Blue Car is the vehicle of choice because it is cheap and all electric. The design comes from Pininfarina, an Italian design firm noted for their work with Ferrari.
At launch, 250 cars were placed around Paris in small convoys. All the cars connect to a terminal for charging and accounting. The terminal is used to rent and unlock the vehicle. Drivers can go up to 150 miles on a single charge and speeds can hit 80 mph — but don’t ever expect to go that fast around Paris. These cars are more for commuting, when you need to carry a lot of things, or need to go somewhere that public transit doesn’t go.
When drivers are finished, they bring the car back to an Autolib’ station and plug in. The car can fully recharge in 8 hours. The 30 kWh lithium-polymer battery is designed with frequent use in mind and can stand to last a long time.
Check out the rest of the article here. (H/ T Huffington Post)
(Photo credit: Translogic
‎Every additional trip we take on foot, on a bicycle or by public transit frees up significant space for drivers, since the “footprints” of these other modes are so much smaller. The cyclist beside you is not the car in front of you; the bicycle locked to a ring at curbside means one less parking space is taken. Driver, cyclist and pedestrian are complementary rather than mutually exclusive categories. Most of us are all of these at different times. What’s crucial is the proportion of time we use each mode, and creating communities where the car is needed for only certain types of trips. For other trips, we can make more efficient choices.
A key paragraph from a recent Globe & Mail article, Drivers, want more space on the roads? Push for bike lanes’. Co-written by urban planners Ken Greenberg and Trent Lethco, the article explains why increasing walking, cycling and transit use are central to improving the efficiency and sustainability of our urban transportation systems. It also serves as a great compliment to an iconic image from Muenster, Germany showing the amount of urban space occupied by different modes of transport. 

From Canadian Business:

Susan Shaheen heads the Innovative Mobility Program at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has been researching transit’s role in the "collaborative consumption" movement for the past two decades. The phenomenon encapsulates the rapid expansion of swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting that has emerged in recent years — especially in the online realm.

"I definitely sense some sort of cultural shift away from ownership," she says, noting that a confluence of technology, environment and economy have precipitated a spike in recent years.

The summer of 2008 — when oil and gas prices reached record highs — was a turning point. A similar rise in gas prices, which averaged 125.84 cents a litre Thursday in Canada, combined with shaky consumer confidence is again driving more consumers toward shared transport, she said.

"We definitely tend to see, anecdotally, changes in uptake for car sharing and shared modes when we see gas prices rising, but I think another factor in addition to that is economic decline."

There are 17 car-sharing networks in several Canadian cities, largely dominated by the Boston-based car sharing pioneer Zipcar. Smaller local competitors also exist across the country, mainly co-ops aimed at urbanite commuters.

Bike sharing programs are still more rare but are rapidly proliferating. In May, Toronto became the latest Canadian city to house Montreal-based Bixi’s bike sharing network. There are seven programs in North America.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Geist)

From Reuters:

Public bicycle sharing schemes such as Barcelona’s “Bicing" program or London’s "Boris Bikes" save lives and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study on Friday.

Bike schemes are becoming increasingly popular in cities around the world, with more than 360 already running, but their main aim is usually to ease congestion rather than boost health. 

Researchers at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona found in a study, however, that around 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution are averted and some 12 lives saved each year by Barcelona’s scheme, which was introduced in March 2007.

“Active transport policies such as bike sharing systems promote physical activity among the population and are a good means to improve public health and also reduce expenses in public health services,” said David Rojas-Rueda, whose study was published in the British Medical Journal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week and says this could be done by walking for 30 minutes five times per week, or by cycling to work every day.

The researchers said this initial assessment suggested it was important “to encourage cities to change car use by cycling and stimulate the implementation of bike sharing systems in cities to improve the health of the population.”

Check out the rest of the article, including details about London and Barcelona’s bike share systems, here. For an overview of the rapid growth of bike sharing programs around the world take a look at National Geographic’s recent article, 'Bike share Schemes Shift Into High Gear'. Ride on!

(Photo credit: Inhabitat)

Reuters Video | Eco-Transport System Gives French City Clean, Green Travel Alternatives

The pioneering city of La Rochelle, France has had a bike share service since the 1970s. Now electric cars have been added to the program and the city has plans to build a clean, green future through other infrastructure improvements and citizen support. The video clip highlights these efforts before hearing some encouraging words from a couple of locals. Good stuff!